The Nintendo Switch, The Legend of Zelda, and the Power of Video Games
I was six years old when I got my Nintendo 64. I had all the classic games: GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, Star Fox, Donkey Kong 64, every single game with Mario or Bros in the title, and way too many more to list. You name it and I pretty much had it. That’s the console that got me hooked on gaming for the rest of my life, and I know I’m not the oldest gamer here on the Toilet. I’m sure many members of our community remember getting hooked on the SNES, the original NES, SEGA consoles, or even various arcade cabinets from the “Golden Age.” I’m not ignorant of history. I’ve done my research and even gone back and played many of those classic games. For me, however, it’s the Nintendo 64 that started my obsession with vidya. Slight problem: at six years old, I was pretty shitty at most of the games.
So now, imagine elementary age Rusty, bald spot and cigarette included (okay, maybe no cigarette), trying to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a struggle. I loved the world, the characters, and the story, but was clumsy in combat and failed at even the most basic puzzles. I sought help constantly from friends, cousins, and basically anyone older who offered it. I probably annoyed the shit out of them, but how else was a six year old noob supposed to beat the Water Temple? Impossible! Majora’s Mask was a similar experience, but by then I was using guide books and the internet on my own. Flush me, dear Toileteers!
Fast-forward to 2017. Honestly, I’m still a pretty shitty video game player despite how much I’ve played. In high school and college I gravitated towards multiplayer and online games that could be played more casually, mostly various iterations of fighting games like Super Smash and first-person shooters like Call of Duty. Not having tons of time to game made these obvious choices, and I only went in on major single-player games with complex campaigns or worlds if I knew I’d actually put the time in, such as The Last of Us or the more recent Horizon Zero Dawn.
When I heard that the Nintendo Switch was coming out, I knew I had to get it. I had skipped the Wii U but had played it enough with friends to know that I’d made a mistake and would have enjoyed it. I wasn’t missing out this time. Here’s the only problem: the Switch was launching with virtually no games, except for the new Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While I had heard the game was going to be incredible, I felt a little nervous. I am still a Zelda novice, my trusty dungeon-dwelling ladies and gents of the Toilet.While I have gone back to Ocarina and Majora’s and conquered what confused my younger self, and even explored a few other titles, such as Wind Waker, the very first game on my NES Classic, and mostly just watched my girlfriend play Link Between Worlds, I feared that adult Rusty wouldn’t have the time, patience, and skills to conquer a new world of Zelda that was supposed to be bigger and freer than any that came previously. Nonetheless, I decided I had to go through with the purchase. Can’t be that hard, right?
Well, yes and no. Breath of the Wild is no “easy” game, and its depth should be obvious from looking at some of the tips to be found online. Further, its open world gives you so much free rein that you may find yourself encountering enemies or challenges you’re not prepared for. This means a lot of experimenting during combat and while trying survive the world while exploring. Almost everything can be dealt with in a variety of ways, from combat to the various puzzles in Shrines and the four Dungeons. The game throws a lot at you, keeping you guessing and making you try new strategies constantly. It sounds tricky, but at the same time there’s so much to do that if you find anything overwhelming you can just go do something else. Seriously, go climb a mountain, tame a new horse, or hunt some animals and gather some mushrooms or radishes and cook them (then EAT them for hearts, or sell your creations for dope ass $$$). There are 900 mini-puzzles scattered across the world that allow you to obtain Korok Seeds, which you can use to expand your inventory. These are often as simple as moving a rock or dropping an item in a certain spot. It’s a reward for your thorough exploring, and even the biggest noob should be able to find them and feel rewarded.
I originally intended for this to be a review of the new Zelda and, to some extent, the Switch itself, but I realized it would be futile. Everyone has already heard that the game is incredible and that it will take many more games to finally render a decisive verdict on the actual console. In not writing a typical “review,” I’m hoping to do something more than add to the cacophony of voices across the internet praising the game. Ideally, I’d like to do something a little more than that. I’m sure many of us dear Toileteers are gamers and, given our eclectic tastes in music, it’s not a stretch to imagine many of us are fans of Zelda and similar franchises. What is it about these games that captivated you? Did they shape any other interests in your life outside of gaming? What does “gaming” mean to you and how might you explain, perhaps to someone who feels otherwise, why it matters?
For me, Breath of the Wild has reconnected me to the childhood years I spent on the Nintendo 64, when I felt awed by Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. If I have a free day, I can grind several Shrines and work on main quests. If I have an hour, hell if I just have half an hour, I can do some quick exploring and will likely stumble upon something interesting, perhaps a Korok Seed or two. There are hidden items and puzzles everywhere. I’ll never find them all, but every play-session fills me with awe and curiosity, just like it did when I was six years old. It reminds me why I fell in love with gaming and became somewhat of a nerd in general, something that years of casual first-person shooters had made me forget. I miss losing myself in a game, story, or world, and Zelda has brought me back to that place. My interests had divulged recently, so that film, music, and literature were the things I spent intellectual energy on and video games became simply relaxing. Now, I remember why I initially found games important and intellectually stimulating. Let me know what you think in the comment section; I’m sure some of you have great stories about Zelda, gaming in general, or the consoles or games that got you hooked. Lastly, here’s a Zelda medley from the weird/awesome dudes in Powerglove so that we have at least some metal in this post. Yep!