The State of Play – Is Zelda BotW Overrated?

I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I slayed Ganon and restored order to Hyrule in Nintendo’s latest instalment of its legendary franchise.

Peculiar perhaps, because I felt that I should have been more excited before waltzing off to Twitter to bestow wondrous platitudes on the game I’d just played. Instead, I was left slightly bemused. “Is that it?”, I thought, “is that what everybody was banging on about?”

Now, before I get dog turds thrown at me in the street, I must say that BotW is a great game. A visually stunning game.  Yet I was expecting perfection, and who can blame me after reading the reviews.

IGN gave BotW a 10 out of 10. A perfect score. Polygon again, gave it a perfect 10. By awarding a game a maximum score like this you are in effect saying that it cannot be improved upon, that it has excelled in every aspect of its construction. I’m here to say that whilst BotW is a fine game, it is far from perfect and therefore unworthy of being called a masterpiece.

The infamous weapon durability system divided gamers, but for me I found it annoying at best and a ridiculous gameplay decision at worst. Having to switch out weapons mid battle because the sword you were using has exploded into a dozen pieces ruins the flow of combat. This process applies to your shields and bows too. It’s a gaming mechanic that I found got old very quickly.

Many fans have said that this is the most “brutal” Zelda game ever made (with regards to difficulty) but there is nothing difficult about a lowly Bokoblin one-shotting you with a wooden club to the back – it’s just cheap.

Another huge mis-step which had me actually shaking my head in disbelief was not being able to continue playing post-Ganon. Being returned to the title screen where you’re greeted by your most recent auto-save before the final boss fight will have you wondering if the game has crashed or an error has occurred. But nope, that’s intentional. If you want to go and finish any side quests that you have active then you need to go back and do them from that save and then return to battle Ganon again. INSANE. I wanted to explore Hyrule Castle in all its glory, purified from Ganon’s filth. But no, it cannot be. Maybe they ran out of time in development to build it, who knows.

These are just 3 of the bigger issues I had with BotW but I did have others; crap side quests (the vast majority of which are just fetch quests for dire rewards), the stamina wheel, clumsy inventory and menus (why can’t I drop an item from the quick menu?), cooking, not being able to fast travel between towns, having to tediously remove weapons in a storm to avoid getting struck by lightening, CLIMBING IN THE RAIN, lack of depth with regards to story, lack of enemy variety, ropey/grating voice acting (especially Princess Zelda’s), lack of proper Zelda-style dungeons, the frame rate plummeting to depths I haven’t seen since Goldeneye 64, simple boss battles, large swathes of empty areas, the camera going dodgy when locking onto an enemy, steering rafts with a korok leaf and just the lack of explanation with regards to some of the games more important aspects – such as elixir making.

Now that there is a long old list of things I found incredibly annoying, yet I have to reiterate –  I really enjoyed this Zelda instalment. It’s not one of the best, for me it cannot be mentioned in the same breath (get it?) as A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time, but it’s a standout game nonetheless and a fabulous introduction for a new generation of Nintendo fans to the long running series.

However my point remains: a game with this many problems cannot be called perfect.

I’m perplexed that the major gaming publications neglected to mention or expand on the issues I mentioned above. Surely we played the same game?

I can’t help but cringe when I read about outlets that I both respect and admire gush utter drivel about how it’s the “game of the year”, with some going as far as to call it one of the “greatest games ever made”.

Go sit in a dark room and calm down, for Christ’s sake.

 

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The State of Play – The End of Nintendo?

I write this article with the realisation of a man who can no longer ignore the inevitable. Like a doomed passenger onboard a slowly sinking ship, I can do what only one can do in times like these: embrace the end, remember better times and try to fathom where it all went wrong.

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I, like many gamers, began my journey into video games with Nintendo. I’ll never forget unboxing my first console – the Super Nintendo Entertainment System – back on a Christmas morning at the beginning of the 90’s. My young mind could never comprehend the path my life would take as video games would become my favourite way to spend my free time. The console itself is my most treasured, and some of the games released on the platform I count amongst the greatest I have ever played. I have many things to say about the SNES and its accompanying sublime titles, but that is for another day.

Long before the powerhouses of Sony and Microsoft arrived on the console scene, the video game world was dominated by two console manufacturers – Nintendo and Sega. The legendary rivalry between these two titans of gaming needs no introduction, anybody growing up in the 90’s knows all too well the history of this classic feud. As a gamer you picked a side. And you stuck with them, to the end.

Last week details emerged about Nintendo’s newest offering into the console market – the Nintendo NX. News like this to my 90’s self would no doubt have sent me babbling to my parents and informing them that I know what I want to be on my Christmas list in a year’s time. But reading the news today I was left feeling a little empty and for the first time I felt sorry for Nintendo. The general feeling from the gaming press and fans alike is one of disappointment.

The news that the NX won’t be as powerful as this generation of consoles was the first nail in the coffin. Nintendo say that they won’t compete with Sony and Microsoft in the power department. Not since the N64 (for me, the Japanese company’s last great offering) has Nintendo lead in the power department – that was 20 years ago. The design of the system seems to be causing a certain amount of confusion too, much like it’s dog turd of a predecessor – the Wii U. The general consensus is that the system will be some kind of a vague “hybrid” between a home console which is can also be used as a portable. What this means for the 3DS is anyones’ guess. Seeing as the 3DS is Nintendo’s most lucrative product within the market, it would seem like suicide to take the focus away from it.

Then there is the release of the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokemon Go. Nintendo’s stock rose through the roof as opportunistic investors jumped onboard the Pokemon train. Stock prices shortly plummeted to a 20 year low as those same investors suddenly realised that Nintendo had actually very little to do with the record breaking app. A fact anybody who actually had played the game could have told you.

The sense of shameless opportunism hit a new low when I was perusing the Nintendo Store on my 3DS to see what “new” Virtual Console titles were available (telling that isn’t it? Searching for 20 year old games to play). There in the catalogue were all of Nintendo’s available Pokemon releases – on sale. The blatant cashing in on Niantic’s worldwide phenomenon caused me to cringe as I added Contra 3: Alien Wars to my download list.

So; a falling share price, an extremely tepid response to their new console and a general feeling of pity towards the once glorious console manufacturer. The question is: how can Nintendo be successful once again? For that, we have to turn to their oldest adversary. We have to talk about Sega.

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After the Mega Drive (Genesis), Sega decided to teach the new kid on the block – the Sony Playstation – a lesson, with the release of the Sega Saturn. Unfortunately for Sega, the Playstation was an astonishing success – selling over 100 million units and establishing Sony as the one to beat. The Saturn sold less than 10 million units and was widely regarded as a very expensive disaster for Sega. Meanwhile, Nintendo had decided to sidestep a 32bit disc based console altogether, opting for the aforementioned N64.

The bosses at Sega could see the writing on the wall and decided to go for broke with the release of the Sega Dreamcast before the turn of the millennium. The Dreamcast is the only Sega console I have ever owned and I can honestly say it was fantastic. The system itself sold just over 9 million units but ask any owner of a Dreamcast what they thought of it and they will regale you with mythical tales of VMU’s, Shenmue and ChuChu Rocket! whilst giving off a feeling that you “really had to own one” to know what was so special about it. Looking back you can clearly see it was well ahead of its time. It’s a cult classic of a console. It was also the last system released from Sega.

A decision was needed. Decisive action was to be taken in order to prevent this historic icon of gaming from heading into the abyss. Sega would no longer make consoles and would focus on producing and developing games. By doing this they could remain part of the industry as a whole, with their reputation in tact, and still contribute to making titles for old and new gamers alike.

This is what Nintendo need to do.

They have an arsenal of first party titles that they can focus on to bring in revenue whilst at the same time showcasing them on the most powerful consoles on the planet; Mario, Zelda, Metroid etc. all could be brought to a wider audience who would never touch a Nintendo console as it’s “for kids”.

It has to be done. I have a feeling that the Nintendo NX will be the final system Nintendo make. I just don’t want it to financially cripple them. I don’t want to live in a world where new gamers look at you with the mystified gaze of a time traveller when you mention the names Nintendo and Sega.

The next few years will be pivotal for Nintendo’s future, yet they have to look at their past and identify their strengths and focus on them in order to survive and become great again.

Over 20 years ago I picked my side and I’ve stuck with them ever since. And I will to the very end.