Over, but not done

I’ve done it. After a good… oh, probably 70 hours, I’ve beaten The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can all let out that sigh of relief now, as I probably won’t be typing any more things about it.

Or will I???

Lots of endgame spoilery stuff after the break. Click at thine own risk.

As I wrote previously, the first thing I wanted to do in the game was to rush the final dungeon. It did not go swimmingly. I was woefully under-armed, and nearly everything was able to kill me in one hit. There was a boss rush of unknown length, and there was literally no way I could tough it out. So I decided to give up and go play the rest of the game.

Then I spent a whole bunch of time dicking around, exploring the world, and not really accomplishing much aside form clearing shrines and collecting Korok seeds. The shrines were helpful for expanding my hearts and stamina, but it would be dozens of hours before I found out what to do with the seeds (give them to a specific NPC to expand your inventory).

Finally, finally I decided “you know what, maybe I should do some of that story business” and so I began to follow a couple of the main quests. I popped on over to Zora’s Domain, as I had already spent a bunch of time there in my travels and set that particular quest in motion. First they wanted me to go kill a Lynel, which is easily the toughest non-boss monster in the game. Tougher than even some of the field bosses (Hinox, Talus, etc). Lynels are friggin’ scary, is what I’m getting at. Actually, I didn’t need to kill the Lynel, but just travel up to its lair and steal a bunch of shock arrows from him. I didn’t even really need to do that, because I’d already collected enough during the course of my screwing around in Hyrule. But I went up there and fought the sucker anyway, because it was about time for me to stop running away from these guys

After that, it was a matter of doing a short action sequence where I rode on the back of the Zora prince while fending off attacks from a giant mechanical elephant, in an effort to subdue the beast so that I could enter it. All of the “dungeons” in Breath of the Wild are the innards of giant robot animals, of which there are four. These are a tad shorter than your typical Zelda dungeons, and definitely smaller. But I did find their challenges to be very satisfying, and they absolutely left me wanting more. Fortunately, the dozens upon dozens of puzzle shrines spread out across Hyrule serve to feed that craving for more, and they do an excellent job of it.

The elephant dungeon, Divine Beast Vah Ruta, was certainly a challenge, as there were plenty of things in there that I hadn’t yet seen. Like black goop mouths that vomit out floating monster skulls. The puzzles were also pretty tricky, and required clever use of all the Sheikah Slate’s powers. Being the “water dungeon” of the game, there were a lot of situations that called for the Cryonis power, which I always forget is a thing because it’s needed so seldomly. It’s really one of the most helpful items in Link’s utility belt, though, and I find myself facepalming every time I hear about another obvious use for it, because I’m always forgetting it’s there and working out much harder ways to accomplish things.

As per usual, each dungeon is capped off with a boss fight. These bosses are the same ones that form the boss rush in the sanctum of Hyrule Castle. So I already had a little experience fighting Waterblight Ganon, and didn’t have too much trouble taking him down now that I had a greatly expanded satchel of weapons. Beating these guys gives you a heart container, which is probably the only thing in this game that sticks to the usual Zelda tradition.

When you beat a boss and clear the dungeon, there’s also a big hullaballoo about how the divine beast will help to suppress Calamity Ganon’s powers. This piqued my curiosity. How, exactly, where these beasts going to help me in the final battle? Would the monsters in the castle be weakened? Was it just a story thing? I had no idea, but I did have theories. One was that defeating a dungeon boss would remove the corresponding foe from the endgame boss rush. But that seemed silly. Rematches with all the previous bosses before the Big Bad is a time-honoured video game tradition. Sure, maybe The Wind Waker has been the only Zelda game to ever do it, but Breath of the Wild clearly doesn’t care about sticking rigidly to Zelda traditions.

I travelled on some more, chasing dragons, collecting innumerable doo-dads and gew-gaws, and unlocking a number of Link’s forgotten memories. Eventually I found myself at the home of the Rito tribe, which set yet another story quest into motion. This time, it was to reach and conquer a massive flying fortress that took the shape of a robot bird. Since I had a better grasp on how dungeons work in this game, Vah Medoh was a little easier to figure out than it’s pachyderm cousin. Still, it was a lot of fun to work my way through it and set another divine beast free from Ganon’s evil influence.

A while later, it had gotten to the point where my curiosity was boiling over and I could simply no longer ignore it. I had to return to Hyrule Castle and try my hand at the final encounter again. Link was much stronger now, with a total of thirteen hearts, three stamina wheels, and so many more weapons than I could have dreamed of holding at the beginning of the game. I took a few more detours beforehand, to pick up the Master Sword and a bundle of Guardian-killing ancient arrows, and then warped back to the foot of the castle.

The approach was much easier this time, as I’d gotten a piece of armor from the Zoras that allowed Link to swim up waterfalls. Using this, I was placed right in front of the sanctum in roughly 50 seconds, only having to deal with a single flying Guardian once I reached the top. To say this made the trip easier would be underselling it significantly. Waterfalling your way to the top is hilariously broken and I look forward to storming the castle properly at a later time.

I stepped into the sanctum and to my surprise, out popped a Fireblight Ganon! That wasn’t right! Windblight Ganon was supposed to come first! As it turns out though, I was correct in my assumption that beating a boss in the dungeon would remove it from the endgame battle. My brother had beaten the game “properly” a couple days prior, and he was floored to learn that there was a boss rush at all. I fought past the remaining two Ganonblights (which were definitely the more interesting of the four), and finally I saw the horror that is Breath of the Wild’s incarnation of Ganon.

In this world, which is definitely at the far end of a timeline, Ganon has given up on reincarnating himself and has elected instead to go the route of becoming a beast formed entirely out of his millenniums-old malice. The resulting creature is a grotesque, insectoid mishmash of Ganon, the Ganonblight monsters, and even a bunch of Guardian bits and bobs thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t look at all like something out of The Legend of Zelda. It’s nothing like what I expected, and I’m so thankful for that.

Anyway, it’s an incredibly tough final battle. Fortunately, any divine beasts that you’ve freed will do you yet another solid and blast the big bug with a brilliant beam that carves off a significant chunk of Calamity Ganon’s massive HP bar. If you have all four beasts, it runs him all the way down to half health, which is awesome. Though in my case, they only knocked off a quarter of his life. But hey, breadsticks is breadsticks.

I’m sure there are more than a few nerds out there who would be simply enraged that playing through the game normally will make the final boss easier. To this I say: go suck an egg, nerds.

Calamity Ganon is not easy. Even at only 75% health, it probably took me a solid twenty minutes to figure out how to beat this monster. For one, he’s got all the attacks of the Ganonblight Bros, with all sort of other fun tricks up his sleeve, like a giant frig-off laser cannon. He can also clamber up onto the wall to keep himself out of proper attacking range. Oh sure, you can shoot him with arrows, but it seems like only the Master Sword does anything more than a minimal chip off of his health. It gets worse when he’s down to a quarter of his life, and puts up a literally invincible shield that absolutely nothing can pierce. As far as I could tell, the only way to damage him in this form was to execute a perfect dodge against one of his melee attacks, which will enable a slo-mo counterattack that ignores his shield somehow. I don’t know why, but I’m glad it does. I couldn’t find any other way to damage him at that point.

If you manage to fell this beast, it’s still not quite over. You’re teleported outside to Hyrule Field, with a horse magically appearing there for you. At first I thought it was going to be like Twilight Princess‘ finale, where you have a horse duel against Ganondorf, but that turned out to not be the case at all. Nope, as the camera rotated around in front of Link, the blackness of Ganon’s essence swirled around menacingly and reformed into the absolute most giantest pig-monster the Zelda series has ever seen. I will admit that I was hoping for Pig Wizard Ganon to make his big comeback, but this was a good consolation prize.

Fortunately after that last gruelling battle, Dark Beast Ganon is more of a fancy setpiece than anything. Zelda gifts you the Bow of Light or whatever, and then you ride around on your horse, shooting the big, shiny weak points around Ganon’s body. He does some giant laser beam attacks and stomps around a bit, but if you get hit it’s your own fault for being stupid, because he doesn’t even really try to aim at Link. Once you pop all the weak points, a massive eye cracks open on his back, and you do an epic slow-mo jump shot to finish it all off.

And then the game ends with surprisingly little fanfare. No big epilogue, no stinger, just Link and Zelda walking away into a brighter Hyrule as the ghosts of the King and the Champions watch over them. It’s nice, but I was hoping for some sort of story wrap up? Like, is this the end? Is Ganon gone for reals this time? Well, I suppose that’s a bit much to ask from a Zelda game. This is how they usually end. Also, there is a ton of story-related content that I’ve ignored and will be going back for. Plus those two dungeons I didn’t do! And I think I’ve only done a little more than half the shrines. Oh, and there are 900 (Nine. Hundred.) hidden Koroks to find around the world, of which I have uncovered roughly 150. Plus an undefined number of sidequests to follow up on. So there’s a ton of game left! Hooray!

However, now is the time for a short Zelda break. I need to finish up with Drakengard 3 so’s I can finally get started on Nier: Automata, which I had been almost as excited for as I was for Breath of the Wild. So that’s been gnawing away at me for weeks now as I’ve been ignoring it completely while absorbed in Zelda. I just feel so spoiled by Switch now, because I can’t play lame ol’ PS4 games wherever I go.

Anyway, the moral of today’s story is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is super great and is totally deserving of the perfect marks it’s been getting. I don’t think it’s going to fall victim to the “Zelda Cycle”, which is too bad for Skyward Sword. It deserves a lot more love than it gets.


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