If there’s one thing I think I like about Current Nintendo, is that it is unusually committed to getting the most out of its games.
Splatoon 2, for example, has had an obscene amount of additional content; yes, that may now be drying up but after more than a years worth of free content updates and an expansive, world-building expansion pack with the Octolings, I doubt anyone is going to feel short-changed. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has also seen an outrageous amount of content as part of its season pass; new quests, new blades with nods back to the history of the Xeno-series and MonolithSoft’s own tapestry, and as part of this season pass people got to boot Torna: The Golden Country, the expansion, thrown in with even more content and story. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe had everything bundled in and more racers as well, a solid complete package when Nintendo could have gotten away with a basic port. Even Mario Tennis Aces is getting more content, more online modes and even more things to unlock through challenges.
This is unprecedented support by any measure, but sadly I think one game has been left wanting; and that was last years critical darling, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
It’s a fantastic video game; well deserving of all the accolades that have been thrown at it. It also had a season pass; but in comparison to what other games have had, it’s easy in hindsight to honestly start to feel like this massive video game has been somewhat short-changed. Yes, the Master Sword quest was interesting and the Master Cycle Zero quest chain was interesting, but neither expanded on the game world or the characters within it. These were extraneous elements that are nice enough but feel somewhat lacking when you consider the amount that you could, in fact, do with this game.
Breath of the Wild is not perfect by any stretch; those of us with Amiibo to go around (it’s a problem) have long ago hit the armour cap. I can’t hold any more additional costume pieces because, of course, there’s a hard limit on how much you can have. Faffing about with selling pieces and rebuying or earning them again via Amiibo is extraordinarily inelegant for a game which is elegant and thoughtful in ways that defy logical explanation. It’s bizarre to have all these additional things I could already have but cannot carry because of some weird limit, as if even Nintendo wasn’t quite sure if we’d actually end up with enough Amiibo to “get ’em all”.
There’s so much left to explain in this phenomenal world too.
There’s the Yiga clan; what they get up to and what happens after all things go down in their hideout (they keep turning up, we keep knocking them down). There are characters and even mounts which you want to be able to meet again, or reuse in the case of mounts but you cannot because stable masters don’t want to keep them – making the entire conceit of breaking them in almost pointless. There are vast swathes of the world which could use something – anything – a little more catching. Even a few additional mini-games to distract from the Korok Seed grind would have been enough.
For me though, the post-game – or rather, the lack of it – is the most criminally overlooked aspect. Rebuilding Hyrule after a century of decay is the kind of idea that honestly sends shivers of pleasure down what remains of my utterly ruined spine. To clean out and clean up Hyrule Castle, rebuild Hyrule Town – I mean, we already built one town. Rebuilding what should be the heart of this land, and bringing everyone together in this extremely important and unifying endeavour, is the next logical step. To take you around the world, revisit old places and talk to old friends and companions, perhaps even set the spirits of the Champions to rest once and for all.
Beyond this, there’s even potential lost in Link’s House. I mean, storage facilities for armour and weapons. There’s a pond outside that could absolutely be used to breed fish. Space enough in the garden for rudimentary farming. Hunting down trophies or items for decoration – I mean, I could go on (even remodelling Link’s House). There’s so much you can do to personalise the space Link lives in. And there’s also an argument that ALL armour should be upgradable, or you should be able to have a cosmetic set or the ability to apply one look to another piece of equipment.
So yes, if there’s one complaint I have with Breath of the Wild, it is the sheer amount of untapped potential in this game.
That seems greedy when you already have 150+ hours of game here and that’s before you begin tapping things like the Master Mode. But I think it’s because Nintendo has made us somewhat more greedy; there was a time you wouldn’t have expected a long tail of content for a Nintendo game post-launch, but with the Switch, it feels like the norm. Heaven knows what the tail-end of Smash Bros. Ultimate is going to be like. It already has more characters and stages and features than I’d reasonably know what to do with on any given day. And Pokémon 2019 or Metroid Prime 4? It starts to look ridiculous. And of course there’s Animal Crossing on the way too – a game which undoubtedly is going to have an obscene amount of post-launch content.
Unfortunately, there is this weird expectation that Nintendo has set itself up for that games are pushed to their limits in what they can do and say. And I think that’s a wonderful expectation – if one that Sony and Microsoft will curse Nintendo for in the coming years, as consumers start to expect the competition to meet Nintendo’s ridiculous standards. It has been a long time since you could honestly say that any company has given enough of a damn to take its bigger releases through to their most logical outcome, or shower it with enough content that it begins to look egregiously generous.
But Breath of the Wild feels like a thing that didn’t see its full potential realised. Yes, I understand the team wants to work on (and has been hiring for) a brand-new Zelda game; after setting such an impressively high bar, I can’t imagine what they must be thinking right now in terms of the future. I don’t think it is unreasonable or even right to have development wholly focus on one game; there has to be a cut-off point somewhere so the team can make a sequel, or something else they want to do.
Still, I cannot help a year and a half on from having my Breath (of the Wild) snatched from my jaw in feeling like this critically acclaimed game that redefined a series, launched a new console into the stratosphere and gave Nintendo back a credibility that it hadn’t had for a decade or so… just isn’t finished. It doesn’t feel quite “all there”. Something is still missing.
I hope Nintendo does eventually come back to do something with Breath of the Wild. I can deal with them not doing that; but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
Because this will always feel like the game Nintendo “could have” done more with. And I certainly don’t envy Nintendo having to carry that particular accolade around.