Digital Media Concepts/The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest entry in the long-running Legend of Zelda video game series. It is an action-adventure, platformer, single-player experience developed and published by the Japanese game company Nintendo. It is a spiritual return to form of the first Legend of Zelda game, where players are given essentially no guides on how to do certain tasks but to instead freely explore the virtual world around them and adapt with the tools contained within it. Nintendo introduced new elements such as a physics engine, complex terrain, and a first for the series, voice acting. It was released for the Nintendo Wii U, and a launch title for the Nintendo Switch. It received critical acclaim for its decisions made on its visuals and open gameplay elements[1].

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild Logo
GenreAction-adventure, platformer
DeveloperNintendo Entertainment Planning & Development Division
DirectorHidemaro Fujibayashi
ProducerEiji Aonuma
PlatformsWii U, Nintendo Switch
Release DateMarch 3, 2017
Total Copies Sold (as of June 2019)13.6 million

Main Characters edit

Protagonists edit

Link edit

The main protagonist of all the Legend of Zelda games. He is the one responsible for rescuing Princess Zelda from Ganon. Link is one of the Champions, a group of five individuals that have been appointed by the Kingdom of Hyrule to defeat Ganon. He is a silent protagonist throughout the game so the player can project their personality on him. In this game, he is the Princess's appointed knight. He has been asleep for a hundred years due to injuries he gained while trying to defeat Ganon.

Princess Zelda edit

The princess of the kingdom of Hyrule. She was in charge of the plan to try and defeat Ganon which ultimately led to her sealing Ganon temporarily while Link was asleep for a hundred years.

Antagonists edit

Ganon edit

The main antagonist present throughout the entire Legend of Zelda series.In past games, he had a more human-like appearance. But in this game he takes on a more monster-like appearance. In fact, he splits up into five different forms: Calamity Ganon, Waterblight Ganon, Fireblight Ganon, Windblight Ganon, and Thunderblight Ganon. Each of them representing the different elements present throughout the game.

Gameplay edit

Art Style

Traversing edit

Compared to other games in the series, Breath of the Wild seems to follow a non-linear path. Instead it takes a more open-world approach, giving the player the ability to make decisions on their own[2]. In fact, when you first start the game, you are just brought into the virtual world with no direction given to you. You are just given a general objective, “Defeat Ganon”. From the get-go, you can immediately go to the final boss and finish the game. Although this does come with some difficulties, since you start with 3 hearts of health and a new consumable, one wheel of stamina also known as endurance[3]. Because of this difficulty, players are encouraged to explore the world around them by different methods.

One way to travel is by using a paraglider, which allows you to glide over large pieces of land in a shorter amount of time. However, in order to cross these large distances you will have to start gliding from a high elevation such as a cliff for example. In order for that to be possible, you would have to be able to climb to these elevations. Climbing is a new mechanic introduced to the Legend of Zelda series. It essentially allows the player to climb almost any surface within the game. With a combination of climbing and paragliding, players have the ability to go up mountains and cross large pieces of land in a shorter amount of time[4].

Tools edit

Tools are also present in the game such as Stasis, Magnesis, Cryonis, and Bombs[5]. These are accessible with the Sheikah Slate, a tablet-like device used in the game to access the map and your inventory.  The Sheikah Slate is modeled after the design of the Wii U Gamepad[6]. Stasis is a tool that allows objects or enemies to stay frozen in time. Players, for example, can freeze a rock then hit it several times with a weapon and after the stasis ends, the force that was built up from those hits, pushes the rock forward[5]. Magnesis is used to move objects that have metallic properties, like a magnet. These are mostly used to move giant metal boxes or metal rocks present throughout the game. Cryonis, is used to make ice-like platforms, players can place these on bodies of water in order to cross them, since swimming takes stamina. Bombs are a recurring tool throughout the series, spanning from the original Legend of Zelda game up to Breath of the Wild. These can be used to create an explosion that can break certain collapsible structures such as enemies, a group of rocks, wood, and some metal. They cannot be used to break through thick metal or used to tear apart the landscape itself.

Weapon Management edit

Another new mechanic introduced was weapon durability. For example, if a person picks up a weapon and uses it several times to hit enemies or perform stasis actions, the weapon will eventually break[5]. This mechanic was essentially added to give players the opportunity to be more creative when using their weapons[7]. This applies to all types of weapons such as arrows and bows, swords, and spears. It also applies to shields[5].

Visuals edit

The art style has received a overhaul. The past games seemed to lean more toward realistic visuals, but the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which had a more cartoonish appearance differed from those. Breath of the Wild is a combination of both cartoonish and realistic styles by using cel shading on top of a realistic model. This gives the game somewhat interesting visuals, where the character models look realistic but in a imaginative tone.

Development edit

Eiji Aonuma at 2007 Game Developer's Conference

Eiji Aonuma, who has been in charge of the Legend of Zelda franchise for some time, wanted to create a game where they would change the standards made by previous 3D Legend of Zelda games[6]. He wanted to create a game that gave more freedom to its players to complete tasks within the game[6]. Development on this new Legend of Zelda game started right around when the Wii U was first released, which was 2013.. The release was originally planned to come out around 2015 or 2016, but ultimately ended up releasing the game in 2017 because they wanted to create most detailed game possible[8].

Specifically, our process was to think of all kinds of different mechanics,

and try to distinguish between the unchanging, universal traits of the Zelda franchise

and things that had become conventions of the series.

Hidemaro Fujibayashi [8]

Hidemaro Fujibayashi, the director of Breath of the Wild, stated that he and his team wanted to make new mechanics that try to distinguish from the traditions made by past Legend of Zelda games. Many of the decisions made on the games mechanics were decided right from the start of development, but other decisions were made while in development. Takuhiro Dohta, the technical director, stated that the idea of breaking the conventional norms made by past Legend of Zelda games helped the developers push to create this game.

As a catchphrase, "break the conventions of the Zelda series" really helped us as creators as we worked on this title.

Takuhiro Dohta [8]

The main difference in Breath of the Wild, is the open-world concept that followed. Past Legend of Zelda games used to follow a more linear path by connecting different areas together by using paths [8]. Dohta also stated most of these design ideas were created because of the technological limitations present at the time. With current technology, Dohta explains, they were able to create a more seam-less world without creating these connected paths.

Saturo Takizawa, the art director, stated that developers used a private message board to help them think of design ideas for the art of the game[8]. This would usually be looked over by Aonuma of course. Many of their younger designers came up with some unique ideas. One example of them depicted a UFO coming from space abducting cattle and Link being the knight responsible for stopping this UFO or weapons with giant laser beams that would attack Link while he is running away from them[8]. In some of these ideas, the designers would use their developer tools to make small videos to help explain it, adding to the enjoyment of it all.

One important part of the game was being able to give the player more time to explore the world. To make that happen, they had to reduce times where the game would load in objects. One way they solved this was making it seamless, by no loading screen, when a player entered or exited a home for example.

When they first started developing the game, they created a 2D Zelda prototype game, which resembled the original 8-bit Zelda release on the Nintendo Entertainment System[9]. They used it to test the gameplay structure and components that would be implemented in the game they were developing. The playstyle that is currently implemented in Breath of the Wild resulted from this prototype[8].

Once they started to develop the game in 3D, they started to realize the complexity and tweaks they have to make to implement these gameplay elements which would require a lot of time and work to do[8]. For example, for implementing lightning effects in the game Fujibayashi states, that "it was initially difficult to think of ways to make something like lightning interact meaningfully with the player"[8]. Then he said, "we considered how metal weapons compare to wooden ones. They're stronger but you wouldn't ...use one around lightning"[8]. This became a metal weapon's property, where if you are in a lightning storm, the lightning itself will try to target the player if they have a metal weapon, shield, or bow equipped. He later states, "We give the player a reason to keep a wooden weapon...just in case" [8] Lightning and other elements such as fire and ice can be used to help take down enemies. One example of this is lightning where Fujibayashi explains, "a player can use lightning to his or her advantage during a storm by throwing a metal sword for an enemy to pick up"[8] . Overtime, they gradually developed gameplay elements that required players to use their intellect in order to take advantage of enemy encounters. Some of these encounters might even end without players fighting an enemy directly at all.

One major thing they created to make this world more immersive was the physics engine that was implemented. Aonuma has stated this as the main development hurdle that has caused the release dates to be pulled back in 2015 and 2016[6]. This system allows the player to move and interact with objects however they wanted. Some objects had weight to them, some objects could be thrown or dropped, and the stasis tool allows them to be pushed to far distances. This allowed players to complete certain tasks in the game in a more creative way such as using stasis to launch Link at longer distances [10]. This proved to be very beneficial to speedruns of the game.

Critical Reception edit

Once Breath of the Wild was released, reviewers and players alike applauded the game for its innovative gameplay. Polygon and Gamespot gave it a 10/10[5][3]. It sold over 13.6 million copies[11]. Kotaku gave praise to its open gameplay elements and how it essentially allowed players the freedom to do whatever they wanted to get certain tasks done [1]. People noted the stark disparity between 3D Zelda games of the past which limited what you can do to this game which encourages you to be creative. Eurogamer and Kotaku noted how it revolutionized the open-world genre and how other games should follow its example[6][1].

External Links edit

The Legend of Zelda (series)

The Characters of The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo Switch

List of Nintendo Switch Games

Wii U

List of Wii U Games

Gameplay of Breath of the Wild

References edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Schreier, J. (2017, March 2). The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Kotaku Review. Kotaku. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  2. Nix, M. (2016, April 27). New HD Zelda Revealed for Wii U. IGN. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brown, P. (2017, March 6). The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review. Gamespot. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  4. Sliva, M. (2017, May 2). New Gameplay Shown From The Legend of Zelda Wii U. IGN. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Tach, D. (2017, March 2). The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild beginner's guide. Polygon. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Phillips, T. (2017, January 19). The Big Zelda: Breath of the Wild interview. Eurogamer. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  7. Webster, A. (2017, March 11). A chat with the directors of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Verge. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 The Making of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Video – The Beginning. (2017, March 14). Nintendo. YouTube. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from
  9. Machkovech, S. (2017, March 10). Nintendo used 8-bit Zelda engine to prototype Breath of the Wild [Updated]. Ars Technica. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from
  10. Stasis Launch. (2018, August 22). ZeldaSpeedRuns. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from
  11. IR Information : Sales Data - Top Selling Title Sales Units. (2019, June 30). Nintendo. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from