As the cartridge clicked into place, and the icon appeared on the screen, I pressed play. Once again, the screen faded to black, and once more, I heard the words, “Open your eyes.” I awoke within the same dark cave I’d seen so many times before, actually performing the actions I’d seen so many other people do: Claim the Sheikah Slate, open the chests, put on the clothes, and, finally, step out through a bright light, as the camera pans out, the music swells, and “Breath of the Wild” appears elegantly in the bottom right corner of the screen.
I wiped away a single tear, and began my adventure.
This article is a follow-up to one I wrote in May about the long wait for Breath of the Wild. It will be following my journey as I completed the game.
Thanks to hours upon hours of poring through footage of the Great Plateau, my time there was familiar, but it was a peculiar sensation to finally be participating in what I had seen performed countless times. But even then, there were new discoveries. I remember learning how to slide down the snowy mountain for the first time, hearing the erratic piano keys as I slowly climbed up my first cliff, and cooking my first meal, which ended up just being some “dubious food.”
And, of course, there was the first time I took the game out of its dock.
Barely an hour after I had begun on my journey, I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment. And so that was also the first day Link would journey through Hyrule as I traveled in our car, my eyes full of awe at such a beautiful world being contained within my own hands.
As I passed by my study hall instructor in the waiting room, whose bell I had skipped to get my Switch earlier that day, my doctor became the first person to ask what “that thing you’re holding” was. Likewise, it was the first time I would practice my routine of showing it off, the way a magician shows off his magic tricks. I would first explain it as Nintendo’s new home console that you can take anywhere, pretend to play it a bit in handheld mode, then kick up the kickstand and remove the Joy-Con. I would fiddle with the controllers for a while after that, until I set one down and held the other horizontally, noting the triggers on the side, and explaining how you can play two-player games at any time on one system. In all, the demonstration doesn’t take much more than 30 seconds, and it never ceases to amaze people.
After the doctor’s appointment, we went to a fish fry for dinner. I wolfed down my food and immediately returned to Hyrule by standing the Switch up and playing with the Joy-Con removed. Some kids were playing near me, and I caught a few of them glancing at the Switch in awe. On the ride home, my battery finally ran out (one of only two times this ever happened), and I watched GameXplain’s launch-day stream until I got home.
I had prepared for this weekend by asking all my teachers what the homework would be on Friday and completing it early during the week, as well as finishing any long-term projects. This meant that I had the entire weekend to do nothing but play Breath of the Wild, and I spent most of Saturday huddled on the couch in the basement. After multiple instances of being shot down by Guardians, I finally managed to climb the tower in Hyrule Field. I attempted to storm Hyrule Castle and even found a diamond, but got one-shot by a small Pebblit. I discovered a huge arena, with a Lynel that also killed me instantly. I stocked up on stamina-increasing fish and climbed to the top of the Dueling Peaks. I got a sidequest and used the clues to find a fire sword within a cave at the end of a river. I discovered Kakariko village. And I did a lot of shrines.
On Sunday, high atop Mount Lanayru, I found my first dragon, where I had to glide down the entire mountain in order to free it of its curse. As I was doing this, I heard, “May I take your order?” from the crackly speaker of a drive-thru.
On Monday, I came back to school with a Switch in hand, and to say it was a disturbance would be an understatement. I played it before class started, I rushed to get through my work to get back to it, and most of my friends watched as well. I was having trouble with the on-rails shooter section in order to get to Vah Ruta, so I handed the game to the same friend who had previously warned me not to be too excited for the game. More than anyone else, he reveled in the system’s glory, exclaiming, “I can’t believe this,” and “This is the best day ever!”, throwing his hands up in the air. He thanked me for being able to play the game for many days after.
In terms of health, however, I wasn’t doing too great, so I actually had another doctor’s appointment. I beat Vah Ruta while waiting for the doctor to come in.
For a long time, I was stuck on a shrine quest that required you to throw a spear at a waterfall. I couldn’t figure it out, and didn’t want to look at a guide, but my friend from theater had solved it on Wii U, and told me what I had to do. I felt like a kid trading secrets on the playground in the days of the NES.
I remember finding the memory, “Shelter from the Storm,” while waiting to perform in a band competition. I remember coming across Lurelin Village for the first time during government class. I tried to show off for my girlfriend at the time by going to Hyrule Castle to fight Calamity Ganon early, only to die to Fireblight Ganon. A kid on the bus asked to watch as I tried to get inside the Forgotten Temple, something I’d only accomplish once I got home. I remember trying frantically to clear as many shrines as possible to get the Master Sword, until I found the demon statue that would trade stamina for hearts. I remember watching the Game Grumps playthrough and shutting my eyes whenever they ran into something I hadn’t before. Of course, I remember Eventide Island. I remember avoiding the legs of Vah Naboris and scaling the Hebra Mountains during rehearsals for And Then There Were None, explaining the game to people in my deep British voice I had to use then.
And, after over a hundred hours of playtime, I remember going back to Hyrule Castle, finally ready to face Calamity Ganon once and for all. I scoured and scaled every square inch of the castle, finding the last of the 120 shrines, Zelda’s last memory, and the Hylian shield. I climbed to the top of Ganon’s tower to meet a brave Korok, and finally dropped down to face my foe. The monstrosity that Ganon had become completely took me by surprise, but the fight was somewhat disappointingly easy, after being so overprepared. Still, the sheer spectacle of it was amazing, especially with the game’s theme appearing in the final boss music.
I jumped up from my horse, drew my weapon, and fired the final light arrow into Ganon’s eye, finishing the game.
However, my time with Breath of the Wild was far from finished.
At first, I still had interesting stuff to do. There were more sidequests to complete, mini-games to beat, and secrets to uncover. But eventually, a list of somewhat mundane, uninteresting tasks remained: collect all 900 Korok seeds, find all map locations, and find/ upgrade all armor.
This is when Breath of the Wild became my podcast game. Whenever there was a new GameXplain discussion or Real Talk podcast, I’d boot up the game and play for the duration of whatever I was listening to. For that reason, I also have odd memories of what I was doing when I was listening to them. One of the more bizarre memories was searching for Korok seeds in Hyrule Castle while listening to an interview with Hillary Clinton. You’ll get no political commentary from me here; I just think it’s so weird that I now partly associate Hillary Clinton’s voice with collecting pieces of poop in Hyrule Castle. Likewise, I listened to Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address while fighting Lynels to upgrade my armor.
Another more solemn memory was when our dog got very sick, and we didn’t know how many days he had left before he went up to doggie heaven. I had to read through Hamlet for school, so I put on an audio production of the play while farming for star fragments. As this involves a lot of waiting, I just pet my dog for hours and hours, as I was the only one at the house, with the only light being the lights of the Christmas tree. I’m happy to report that he later got a successful surgery with only a day to spare, and now he’s the same energetic doggie we’ve always known.
I of course used a guide to find all of the Korok seeds, or I’d still be at it to this day. There’s a fantastic app called “Breath Companion” (not to assist you in breathing!) that marks all of the Korok seed locations as well as all of the map locations, and allows you to mark each one you’ve already found. However, I messed up. There were a few Korok seeds I accidentally marked, meaning that I had to go through the entire map all over again just to find the last few.
I naturally ran into most of the map locations, but if you can believe it, there was one place that I couldn’t find for the life of me. It must have taken me five hours just to find that one place, but my map was finally at 100%.
However, I wasn’t quite done. Armor in the game is upgradable, and required many hard-to-get items. I had to kill many Lynels, shoot many dragons, and oh God the star fragments. There’s nothing to do but jump up on top of the Dueling Peaks and pray for some to fall.
And do you want to know the biggest insult? (Yes, bigger than getting a big shiny poo for collecting all of the Korok seeds, which are smaller pieces of poo) If you own all the amiibo for the game and the DLC, which I do, you can’t even hold all of your armor! The developers clearly didn’t intend for you to get all of this stuff in the first place, much less upgrade it all! And it was never patched. Yeah, it’s less work for me, but it sucks that I couldn’t get a full set of all the Hero’s clothes.
The final hurdle was to get all of the horse gear. This is laughably easy in most cases, but for one piece, it was a nightmare. You have to ride on your horse while shooting a certain number of balloons, which for someone who sucks at shooting, was a huge task. It took me weeks in order to surmount this final challenge, but I finally got my last piece of horse gear, and along with it, completed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild around noon while getting lunch at a burger place, on April 28th, 2018.
That took a shift in tone, didn’t it? It was such a great game at first, but by the end I was complaining! I can’t deny that, but as I’ve said in a previous article, doing these almost-but-not-quite mindless activities was a form of meditation for me when I was going through tough times, whether it be my dog’s health, a bad breakup, or stress surrounding college. Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule is so beautiful, magical, and peaceful that I relished every second of the 295 hours I spent in it.
And I’m doing it all again.
That’s right, this crazy man is going back in for round two, doing the same thing all again in Master Mode! I don’t know when or where, nor do I entirely know how or why, but I know that the land of Hyrule will beckon me back one day. And when it does, I’ll be there, ready to pick up every rock, fight every Lynel, and spread my green line across the land once more! I didn’t pore over every analysis video, trailer, and sketchy blog as a 14-year-old kid to let something as simple as time stop this adult in 96 hours from being done with “Zelda U” on the “NX” until the job is done.
I’m living the dreams of my childhood, and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to stop me from completing them. That’s why I choose to complete The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
That is, I thought I had completed Breath of the Wild.
After this entire article was written, as I was reading through it before publishing, I decided to check my menu in the game, and found something amazing:
There was still something missing.
Out of the eight “ability controls,” I had seven. In order to get the last one, I had to talk to Steen in Kakariko Village at night, and ask him about the jump slash. I did, and finally, at 11:05 PM on July 28th, 2018, I have completed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.