Good news, everybody! The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is out, and it’s no secret that it's a masterpiece. No need to be skeptical, folks. Just go ahead and take every critic’s word for it, and ignore all of the articles and videos to be published in the following months that argue that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is, without a shred of doubt, actually crap and possibly even the worst The Legend of Zelda game.
If you’re a gamer and on Twitter, then you probably are unable to avoid the discussions surrounding the game. It’s been a week, and I can tell all of the lucky journalists who have it are still feeling the afterglow. However, I have noticed a few - just a few - users who have tweeted their concerns. To sum them up, The Legend of Zelda games are often graded with leniency that doesn’t seem to stand the test of time. For instance, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword also received perfect scores, but it’s received a bad reputation since then. Why should these folks take critics for their word when they’ve been burned before?
I understand their concerns. I haven’t played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild yet, but it is the first The Legend of Zelda game I’ve been looking forward to in a long time. However, even though the game looks like it’s hitting all of the right notes for me, even I’m skeptical of the reception. You know, considering the frame rate dips, among other things. I don’t think a game has to be completely flawless to warrant a perfect score, so long as it offers a unique experience, raises the bar, or nails every goal it set out to accomplish. Nevertheless, I’m wary of the aftermath for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I’ve written about the phenomena of delayed reception before. The power of hype is capable of manipulating the most ardent critics and consumers alike, especially when everyone is trying to publish their reviews by the embargo date. On the consumer’s end, buyer’s remorse is something nobody wants to admit when everyone else seems to love the product. But I want to posit a theory for why all AAA games, not just The Legend of Zelda, seem to enjoy such leniency.
We’re getting better at criticizing games, but only because we have more standards to compare them to. Think about the original The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was among the first of its kind and set a benchmark for not only the series, but also 3D adventure games to come. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, can be compared to Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Horizon: Zero Dawn, among many other open-world games. It won’t be long until somebody releases a game that improves upon open-world gameplay, and not much longer until writers and vloggers upload pieces that nitpick the hell out of this one. With a little more time, we will eventually get either more in-depth reviews or nuanced critiques.
Try as Nintendo might, nothing it creates will ever usurp The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s legacy. Sure, if I look it up on YouTube, I could find several CinemaSins-style videos that tell me everything that’s wrong with the game now, but I would never have noticed those flaws when I was in elementary school. Remember, game design is a relatively new field professionally and academically. We have ideas about game design now that we didn’t back then, which makes it fun for us to revisit the classics under a new lens. Nevertheless, gamers around my age will likely hold a brighter, hotter, and nostalgic torch for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time over The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
None of this will help you, the consumer trying to make an informed purchase. Perhaps by now your expectations for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are loftier than you’re comfortable with, which raises the odds of your possible disappointment. It’s hard to get out of that mindset. But, much like the ruined land of Hyrule, there’s still a light of hope, so long as you play the game to your own standards.