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The Best Game of 2017

/ Jan 24th, 2018 No Comments

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

One of my earliest video game memories was when I was four years old at my cousin’s house — It wasn’t even a memory of me playing a game. My cousin pulled me into his room and showed me this magnificent gold cartridge that shimmered brilliantly in the dim room when the rays of Orange County sunshine streamed in from the blinds. I didn’t quite know what it was, but it left a lasting mark.

It would be a decade and some change before I finally got to play The Legend of Zelda. Ocarina of Time opened my eyes to how transformative gaming could be. It also made me rabid to consume all the games that came before and every game that came after in the series.

Sadly, The Legend of Zelda’s more recent history had been marred by two major entries that stumbled in terms of gameplay and innovation. Many longtime fans felt the series was getting too complacent. It was too eager to recapture what made Ocarina of Time resonate without realizing it was its bold new direction into 3D.
 

Breath of the Wild GOTY

Breath of the Wild is our Game of the Year

Fortunately, Nintendo learned from this, favoring to push forward instead of continuing to look back. For The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the bold new direction for the series was to break with all previous conventions. This philosophy resulted in a bombshell of a game, which has delighted fans and critics alike, and is hugely responsible for the Nintendo Switch’s major success.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a major change for the series in terms of storytelling, gameplay and creativity. It is a game that you could spend more than a hundred hours playing and feel disappointed when there isn’t anything left to do.

For its many achievements in game design, art direction, storytelling and audaciousness. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Gaming Illustrated’s 2017 Game of the Year.

The Princess Survived…

As a series, The Legend of Zelda has always spun a good yarn, but more often than not the game’s stories were focused around satisfying plots with interesting mythology around Hyrule. Rarely did the player get much depth into the main characters.

A lot of the tautly plotted stories before Breath of the Wild made sense given the linear nature of the series until now. Because Link was asked to complete dungeons, temples and odd jobs in a specific order, it was difficult to find moments to explore backstory. Frankly, there was no reason to explore it as no game in the series until now focused on Link failing in his bid to vanquish Ganon.

As a result of Link losing to Ganon in Breath of the Wild, Princess Zelda uses her powers to seal him away in stasis for 100 years. Additionally, Ganon also defeats the Champions of the Hyrule’s four regions and their Divine Beasts.

With little hope and less recourse, Princess Zelda musters all her courage and the last of her power to face off with Ganon in a stalemate. The hope is that the pyrrhic victory can buy Link time to come back and finish what they started.

When Link awakens he has lost most of his memories of the past. He slowly realizes he must defeat Ganon by reclaiming the power of the Divine Beasts and save Princess Zelda and Hyrule in the process.
 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Storytelling in a Zelda game reached new levels.

Early on he is tasked with recovering his lost memories to recover his true power. All he (and the player) is given are pictures of locations around Hyrule. By visiting these different spots, he can regain his memories and his true power.

The beauty of finding these memories is they aren’t mandatory to enjoy the game. Players can fully enjoy the game by defeating the Divine Beats, completing Shrines, surviving Hyrule Castle and defeating Ganon without ever coming across Link’s memories. In fact, the story is perfectly fine that way, with some sublime moments of reflection on the lives of the Champions.

However, for those that track down these memories are treated to some poignant moments between Link and Zelda. We get a lot of insight into both characters. Most of what defines Link in the game is how he reacts and deals with Zelda’s doubt, sorrow and triumphs.

Since memories can be regained in any order you choose, the backstory is most likely going to be jumbled. It is up to the player to construct and add depth to the main narrative. The reward of finding these memories is a unique examination of an all too often symbolic character as a vulnerable and idiosyncratic person struggling with the weight of her expectations.

Herald a Newborn King!

We could go on and on about what we loved about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Overall, focusing on the story is what made it such a refreshing, bold new take on the series. With incredibly mature storytelling, Breath of the Wild is the richest narrative experience in the franchise.

The year 2017 was full of great games that redefined what their respective genres could be, reinventions of classic franchises, charming indies and plenty of surprises. Despite some stiff competition, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild left a lasting impression and an extremely large shadow.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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