It’s become something of a tradition for me, that when March rolls around, I get absorbed into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for a while. As sort of a way to celebrate the Switch’s birthday, you see. And because Breath of the Wild is just super fun to play and I’ll take any excuse to dive back in.
In the year 2020, three years after release, I’ve finally “finished” the game, so to speak. Oh, I beat it back in 2017, but there was so much left undone, and DLC released in the interim that I purchased but barely explored. Breath of the Wild is a massive, massive game, and even now that I’ve seen everything that I wanted to, there’s still much more in there to discover in future playthroughs.
Let’s start with the Shrines. There are 120 total to find, each one containing a little puzzle or challenge or whatnot, with the reward for each being essentially a piece of heart (or a piece of stamina wheel, if you prefer). In my original playthrough, I found and completed maybe 90 of them? I think that might be a generous guess, too. I know I had a full stamina wheel and the Master Sword, which puts me at a minimum of 80 shrines completed. Anyway, it’s irrelevant. I found them ALL this time.
I’ll be upfront about it: I used a guide. Hyrule is gigantic and some of those shrines are very well hidden, so it could have taken forever to actually find them all without help. Getting them all also bestowed a double-edged sword of sorts: the Hero of the Wild gear. These clothes give you a traditional Link look, and probably the highest defense in the game, but you have to upgrade them to make them worth it, and… the materials necessary are a huge pain in the butt to get.
Comet shards are annoying and essentially random, as you have to hope to see a shooting star at night, and then make it to where it landed to collect the prize. I don’t know if they actually disappear once daylight hits, but the giant beacon of light showing their position sure does, making them much harder to locate if you take too long. You need three of these, and luckily I happened to have collected those at some previous point. The other bad one was Energetic Rhino Beetles. These are bugs that randomly (and rarely) appear on trees, and fly away if you approach too noisily. They’re also tiny and hard to see, so most of the time I wouldn’t notice them until they were already flitting away. Fortunately, using the Sheikah Sensor to track them down and the Sheikah garb to make Link’s movements quieter made the task infinitely easier.
Lastly, you need to grind the three dragons for a total of eight materials each: two scales, two claws, two fangs, and two horn shards. Times three. And the dragons… man, they’re just super trolly. So for one, you have to figure out a good time and place to be able to catch them as they float by. It’s not so bad, BUT you can only harvest one material at a time, since they fly off once they get hit by an arrow and then you have to make a campfire and rest until the next morning to respawn them. The worst part, though, is that the materials blast off way out into the distance, generally the opposite way you want them to go. Sometimes you don’t see where it lands and it becomes a treasure hunt. So tracking down the piece you just shot off, and then getting back to your camping spot can be a huge time sink. None of this is difficult, mind you, just super tedious since you have to farm a grand total of 24 dragon materials. I wouldn’t recommend doing it, despite the reward being very helpful.
The Hero of the Wild garb may have incredible defense, but fully upgrading most other sets will put you in a good enough place. Unless you’re playing Master Mode like I was, and every enemy hits like a friggin’ truck. But you know what? The damage that Link takes is not what really made Master Mode that much more difficult. The thing that really got me is that enemies have way more HP/defense and will regenerate their health if you leave them too long without smacking them. It’s a major game-changer at the beginning of the game when you have garbage weapons, forcing you to learn to sneak by monsters when possible. Obviously it becomes less of an obstacle once you start picking up better equipment, but it’s still something you need to account for. There is another situation where the regenerating life becomes a major hurdle, but we’ll get to that later.
Master Mode was just one part of the DLC offered for Breath of the Wild. Nintendo also provided a bunch of unique gear (most of which I didn’t collect), and a Master Trial challenge, which lets you boost the power of the Master Sword (which I didn’t do). Lastly, they added in a huge new quest called the Champions’ Ballad. And that, I actually did play. It consists of adventuring around and completing a bunch of random objectives to unearth sixteen new shrines, each with its own new puzzles to solve or challenges to overcome. There are also rematches against all the dungeon bosses, a whole new dungeon, and a new boss to cap it all off. Completing this quest earns you the Master Cycle Zero, which is a vaguely horse-shaped motorcycle. It’s a pretty awesome prize, though you’ll basically have done everything in the game by the time you earn it…
“Wait!” you say “What was that you said about boss rematches?” Ah, yes. Throughout this quest, you’re tasked with battling the four Blight bosses again, same as they were in the main quest. Only this time around, you’re forced to do it with a specific and very limited equipment loadout. This is where you really have to prove your skills, because while normal mode isn’t the worst, Master Mode’s regenerating health bars can put you in a pickle very quickly. You know, since you’re only given a couple of weapons, and if you let those bosses heal too much, said weapons will break and you’ll be left with no good way to damage them. More than once I got stuck like that and just had to die because there was literally no way to win. Maybe some incredibly skilled players could defeat these bosses with only bombs, but that’s just not within the range of my abilities.
Calamity Ganon was also a butt because his life refilled very fast and I was only doing tiny bits of chip damage. Fortunately it seems like they give you an infinite Master Sword for that fight, so it came down to making sure to hit him at absolutely every opening.
It also really helped that I had freed all four Divine Beasts, which reduced Calamity Ganon’s health to 50%. I didn’t do that on my first run. In fact, the very first time I played Breath of the wild, I made a beeline for Hyrule Castle to challenge Ganon right away. It went extremely poorly, and I gave up after a few failed attempts. I then proceeded to do two Divine Beasts before trying again and being able to come out victorious. So on this playthrough, Vah Rudania (the salamander) and Vah Naboris (the camel) were completely new dungeons to me.
That really about sums up all the new things that I saw during my second run through Breath of the Wild. I had left so much undone the first time around that it almost felt like I was playing a completely new game. Or at least that it had much more add-on content than there really was. Though it did technically take me two years to get through this second playthrough, I really did have a great time with it. Maybe it wasn’t quite as incredible as when it was all so new, but it’s still one of the most engrossing video games I’ve ever played. With this “completionist” playthrough finished, I think I’m finally ready for that sequel. (Which is probably still several years away.)
Oh, I guess it bears mentioning that Breath of the Wild got a patch at one point that made it work with Labo VR. This is… kind of a mixed bag. Playing BotW in a headset with earbuds in is so much more immersive, but there are obviously drawbacks. One being that the Labo goggles don’t have a strap, so you need to play while holding it up to your face, or laying down with it balanced on your face. Neither one a great option. Also, the framerate takes a bit of a hit, but that didn’t really bother me. The most personally annoying problem with this setup is that for some reason it removes portions of the HUD from the screen – most importantly the mini-map. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but I lean on that mini-map hard, so I was really feeling it during my Labo VR sessions. Otherwise, it’s a neat but flawed little bonus feature that Nintendo had absolutely no obligation to provide. People complain about it a lot, but honestly I like the extra depth, and I used Labo VR far more for this game than anything else. I just can’t lay there with those goggles on my face for very long.