My Hylian Summer Vacation

Yesterday, I finally completed my quest to play through Breath of the Wild, completing every shrine and finding every. single. Korok seed along the way. I just happened to sit down to play some Switch and felt like playing Breath of the Wild. I had been meaning to play the game some more as, there was still plenty I could cross off the list from my first play through, such as the Master Sword Trials or the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 quest. I had also just finished a weekend blog listing some of my favorite Summertime Games and had mentioned BOTW as a game I distinctly thought of the summer months, as I spent the summer of 2017 playing through it my first time. So I decided to begin the game a second time with the thought that if nothing else, I would gain a deeper appreciation for the game. There are games that you always wish you could go back and experience for the first time all over again, usually epic games like Breath of the Wild, Fallout 3, GTA IV, etc. While I knew that you can never go back to your “first time” with a game, but I do enjoy going back and revisiting games like this and note what still stands out about the game or what is it that you still dislike; I seem to do this with Zelda games in particular as I played through Majora’s Mask a few months ago with that intent. I wanted to play through BOTW again to see what parts of the game stand out or plain irritate me a second time around. As someone who by nature(?), seems prone to making things more difficult than they would normally be, I had the brilliant idea, “I’m gonna finish every shrine…and get every Korok seed too!”. Here I am today, 26 days and roughly 140 hours of gameplay later – 4 Divine Beasts, 120 Shrines, and all 900 Korok Seeds. I also thought it would be interesting to take some notes as I go through the game and write up a summary of my experience afterward.

I spent the next few weeks playing Breath of the Wild, marking out areas on my Sheikah Slate locations of shrines and Korok seeds. I will make it perfectly clear that I was using the giant fold-out map of Hyrule that came with the player’s guide I got shortly after buying the game, as well as the interactive map from Zelda Dungeon(one of my favorite sites! ). There is no way I was going to be able to find every Korok seed completely on my own, some of the locations were incredibly cryptic and it’s a wonder how some of them were ever found in the first place. I also learned that you can only place 100 stamps on your Sheikah Slate map at any given time…yeah, ONLY 100. At one point I zoomed out a bit to look at the map and it was overrun with little stamps showing the location of seeds in a specific region, and noticed it looked a bit like a map from just about any Ubisoft game. I tackled one region on the map before moving on to the next, beginning with the Great Plateau and then making my way through the Dueling Peaks region. I approached the game like a job essentially, I would wake up and try to chip away what I could after I woke up and before I would go to sleep at night. I don’t want to make it sound like I was miserably grinding away, I truly enjoyed the many, many hours spent mindless chasing marked areas on my map. It was like I just couldn’t stop, one of the highest praises I can usually give a game.

Upon finally completing all the shrines you receive a new “quest” from the monks to go retrieve your reward from the treasure chests located at the Forgotten Temple located at the northern end of Tanagar Canyon. Your reward for completing all 120 shrines is the “Outfit of the Wild” which includes cap, tunic, and trousers that resemble Link’s attire from the very first Legend of Zelda game and looks pretty cool. The “reward” from Hestu however, for scouring every nook and cranny throughout Hyrule for all 900 Korok seeds is simply called “Hestu’s Gift” and appears to be several Korok seeds layered precisely in a way to make it look like a “poop emoji” …yup…that’s right. Upon further reading, I found that indeed, the joke all along is you were collecting Korok poo…umm…great? The symbol itself is known in Japan as Kin no unko, which translates to “golden poo” and is considered a good luck charm. Adding to this wondrous discovery is also a glitch that was found in the game which makes it possible to “collect” infinite Korok seeds, it’s a good thing I like the game that damn much upon realizing the goal of collecting all the seeds was simply a fool’s errand.

In a break from my ramblings of golden Korok poo, I have listed some of my favorite aspects of Breath of the Wild, as well as things about the game that I still don’t love and would like to see changed by the time the sequel to BOTW is released. The things I loved about BOTW…

  • Hyrule – I absolutely love the giant sprawling landscape of BOTW’s Hyrule! While playing there were many regions that reminded me of areas of Tamriel while playing Skyrim, but liked even more. The rocky coastal areas of the Akkala region, with its hills and cliffs overlooking the sea are my favorite. The Wasteland and Gerudo regions providing a mostly barren, arid landscape where you deal with temperature extremes and the occasional sandstorm, making travel difficult. I also loved the Lake region of Hyrule; one of my consistent favorite areas in any given Zelda game would have to be Lake Hyrule – I first fell in love with the idyllic scenery surrounding the giant lake in Ocarina of Time, where I spent much of my time fishing. In BOTW, the massive Bridge of Hylia spans the entire distance across the lake. I also really like the Faron region with the lush, tropical environment that really reminded me of Link’s Awakening and The Wind Waker (even if it’s home to many violent thunderstorms and lightning striking). The Hyrule that Nintendo created for BOTW is probably my favorite aspect of the game.
  • Intro/Setting – The opening of Breath of the Wild is probably my favorite of any Zelda game, beginning with Link’s awakening(get it?…ok, sorry) in the Shrine of Resurrection. You are then given first views of the Great Plateau and the vast land of Hyrule spread out in front of you, in one of many epic moments of the game. The overall setting of the game is great, providing a cryptic eerie sense as you survey the ruins of Hyrule after your hundred-year slumber, piecing together your forgotten memories of just what happened before you were placed in the Shrine of Resurrection. I loved just wandering around the ruins of forts and villages, risking attack by numerous enemies, including the dangerous mechanical Guardians. This reminded me a lot of the Fallout games where you emerge from a stasis chamber to a world completely foreign to you.
  • Combat – I know the combat in the combat has been ridiculed by some after the game was released, with the majority of that I believe rested primarily on the fact your weapons are breakable(still NOT a fan). I really enjoyed the combat and felt it does stress tactics and strategy in choosing which enemies to engage and which to simply avoid; rushing at an enemy and trying to hack your way through has a very low success rate in this gameI would come across a blue-maned Lynel and think, “no way…he’s WAY too strong of an enemy to engage at this point in the game” – as I’m already pecking away at it with arrows from my Boko Bow… that didn’t end well. As much as I hate using this as a reference for anything with the slightest difficulty curve, the combat in BOTW DID in many ways remind of Dark Souls.
  • Princess Zelda – There was a greater resonance to Zelda as a sympathetic character in Breath of the Wild than in other games. In other entries, she seemed essentially a priceless artifact to be rescued, like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. In BOTW, she’s more of a three dimensional character; her frustration from the expectations placed upon her to contain the darkness threatening Hyrule and the consequences of failure to do so. We may have played the game through Link’s eyes, but the heart of the story was Princess Zelda. The irony that the title of the series has always been Legend of Zelda.

As for the things I still dislike about Breath of the Wild…there isn’t too many things. This is also some things that I didn’t hate about the game, but merely would prefer changed around a bit for the sequel announced back at E3.

  • Breakable weapons – Let’s get this one out of the way first…I dislike breakable weapons in any game, I end up spending the majority of the game cautiously avoiding the better weapons I have hoarded to that point, out of fear that they’ll just break after a couple enemies(if that). I don’t think it ruined the game by any means, it’s simply something I have never liked in a video game.
  • RAIN! – I love the traversal in Breath of the Wild, then a rain shower inevitably comes along to bring any progress to a screeching halt. In specific areas like the tropical Faron region, I understand the frequent rainstorms, but it happening at nearly that frequency just about everywhere else got a bit tiring. This is probably my biggest annoyance in BOTW, more even than breakable weapons. You are encouraged to climb just about anything and explore the land, but it becomes incredibly difficult when it’s always raining. This made me appreciate the Gerudo, and Wasteland regions, I will gladly take a sandstorm over the rain.
  • Dungeons – I really like the Divine Beasts and Shrines throughout the game, however I would like to see a more traditional dungeon layout for BOTW 2. The length and sheer number of Shrines in the game don’t provide as much cohesion compared to other titles, like Twilight Princess or Majora’s Mask.
  • Boss Battles – This may be equal parts boss battles AND combat, actually. The boss battles in the game with the different “blight” incarnations of Ganon didn’t seem to be quite as memorable as other Zelda titles. Another thing I thought was strange in BOTW is how much easier the boss battles feel than some of the higher level Bokoblins, Moblins, or Lizalfos. The boss battles can be defeated primarily by spamming arrows, and occasionally using the Runes on your Sheikah Slate, whereas the sub-bosses like Hinox or Lynels, take a much more time and strategy to bring down. This makes certain elements of combat seem a little off-balance.
  • Fishing – One of my favorite and most enjoyable activities in Zelda games has been fishing. It was curiously absent in Breath of the Wild and I would love to see it implemented in the upcoming sequel.
  • Hookshot – A favorite weapon since A Link to the Past, I really hope to see it in the next game

Over the 140+ hours I spent playing Breath of the Wild, I kept track of some of my favorite moments of the game…

  • Master Sword – The moment you pull the Master Sword has been one of the defining moments of a Zelda game since A Link to the Past.
  • Typhlo Ruins – The Shrouded Shrine quest is located in the Typhlo Ruins just north of the Lost Woods. You land on a small island covered in darkness, you must feel your way around the island and light torches along the way. The path eventually leads you to the center of the island where you find the shrine orb, hanging around the neck of a sleeping Hinox. Finding my way through the pitch black with only the light from the occasional torch felt similar to the eerie, cryptic puzzles of early Zelda games.
  • Eventide Island – The Stranded on Eventide quest begins the moment you set foot on Eventide Island. The quest takes away all of your items and equipment and challenges you to activate three shrine pedestals which are being protected by an assortment of enemies. This shrine quest, as well as most of the Faron region provided many Link’s Awakening vibes.
  • Shield Surfing – Once I finally learned how to do it, the shield surfing in Breath of the Wild is a blast!

At the end of the day, was it worth it? yes and no. Experiencing everything the main game has to offer was as great as my first time through, if anything I have an even greater appreciation for what Nintendo accomplished in creating Breath of the Wild. If you’re the type of gamer into collecting Achievements and Trophies, then you will most likely be quite disappointed in what lies at the end of your journey to 100% the game; you’ve earned bragging rights if nothing else. I did also take a few pictures to remember my “summer vacation” in Hyrule.

Wow! that was a bit longer than I had planned. Has anyone else out there played finished every shrine and seed in Breath of the Wild? What other games have you played so obsessively you felt at times that you couldn’t stop? I am quite satisfied to have this completed and will be shortly setting my sights on the new Fire Emblem game next.

Keep on playing…

2 thoughts on “My Hylian Summer Vacation

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