Three Unpopular Opinions About The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(One of the best games I’ve ever played)
1. The Voice Acting is Bad
The only thing in the game that I think is bad is the voice acting.
It’s not so much that it’s unconvincing (which it is), but that its presence changes a fundamental part of the Zelda “feel” in a way that doesn’t appeal to me.
Something has been lost by adding it in, and I can’t think of anything that’s been gained. Link is still the strong silent type, so why does everyone else suddenly need a voice? The more emotive character models would be just fine expressing their dialogue the way the series has always done it.
This is the way Zelda dialogue should be. It just feels right.
I know this because the vast majority of the game’s interactions still unfold the old-fashioned way, which makes the transition to and from voice acted parts all the more unpleasant. It highlights the sub-par quality of the voice acting, and makes the characters sound like they’re having a stroke when they suddenly go from talking to grunting and hooting at you.
I cringe every time there’s a cutscene and if I could change just one thing about the game, removing voice acting would be it.
2. The Story is Uninteresting
This is not so much a complaint as an observation: the plot is shallow and un-engaging.
Zelda games have rarely been bastions of robust plot, but somehow previous entries in the series have kept me more engaged with the overarching story, with just enough unique flavour to hook me.
Majora’s Mask was dark and brooding, with fascinating characters and a menacing pace. Wind Waker was vast and quirky. Even Minnish Cap revealed a part of the universe that hadn’t been explored before.
Breath of the Wild takes a different approach, aiming for breadth over depth. It is patient, quiet. There are individual moments with more emotional nuance than ever before (I’m thinking specifically of certain Zora memories here), but I’m not sure yet that those glimpses add up to a more satisfying catharsis in the end.
Exploration is clearly the focal point, and Breath of the Wild delivers the most satisfying game world I’ve ever explored. It may not be as densely packed as others, but it’s more consistently delightful.
I’m not bothered by this though, because the appeal lies in exploration and the discovery of many small, interconnected stories rather than the pursuit of a single thread. There are so many things to see, people to meet, small story moments to witness…it seems like a more natural fit for a Zelda game, to be honest. Many smaller stories weaving into a quilt depicting a wondrous land.
I’ve made little progress on the main plot so far, largely because there’s very little pressure to do so. Ganon—excuse me, The Calamity Ganon—is just a radioactive snot slug snuggling the castle somewhere off in the distance. He’s not really causing any immediate harm, people don’t seem terribly worried, so neither am I. He can wait.
3. The Music Is Underwhelming
If you had asked me before its release what aspect of Breath of the Wild I would expect to be a resounding success, I would have unhesitatingly offered its music as my candidate.
I stand corrected. Surprised too, and not a little disappointed.
Look, I understand that it’s an atmospheric game and that it demands a different musical approach. But if there’s one thing that Zelda scores have always excelled at, it’s finding ways to weave clever, memorable themes into underscore that fits the gameplay.
Breath of the Wild’s gameplay is different, yes, but not so different that it necessitated such a dramatic departure from the scores of old.
The game’s visual glory is let down by a chilly, curiously understated musical score. The sound design, on the other hand, is excellent.
We can characterize the main theme as being more classical, perhaps more sophisticated, but fundamentally it still lacks the level of melodic stickiness that we know from and love from the series, even in its grander orchestral rendition. Gone is the Celtic lilt of Wind Waker’s theme, the uplifting grandeur of Skyward Sword’s.
The overworld cues are sparse, almost pointillistic in their deployment of piano flourishes and very little else. They’re not ineffective, but they feel like a step too far in the direction of neutrality. Yes, this is a game where you make your own story, but there are ways to score atmosphere without influencing mood. This approach is definitely emotionally neutral, but we also lose the comfort and inspirational energy that underscore can provide.
This is Nintendo, so I expect they tried a more melodic approach to things and didn’t like the result. We’ll never know. I’m just not used to this feeling of exploring a Zelda game and not having to pause all the time to enjoy the various musical cues.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some stand-out tracks, but so far I’ve come across depressingly few that evoke the glory days. One that comes to mind is the delightful Korok Forest theme:
As I progress through the game, I hope to discover more, and I reserve the right to change my mind about the score as I spend more time with it, but I’ve seen enough to know that Breath of the Wild will not go down as one of the finest musical showings in the franchise.
I guess something had to give in what is otherwise such a fantastic presentation, but of all the things it could have been, I’m sad that it was music I ended up disappointed with.
Anyway, I’ve got to go finish climbing that next mountain peak before it starts raining again.