Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Hands-On

We literally get hands-on with Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch

Once inside the recent Nintendo Switch event, there was only one place I was going first. With just four hours to play as much as I could, and a twenty minute limit on how long you can play, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was going to have to be the priority. Not only that, but the demo pods were alternated between units you could play with the handheld and those you could not. Seems a little redundant, but it was their party; so I waited.

As my turn arrived, I sat in the comfy chair and picked up the Switch Pro controller – asked a variety of questions on my Nintendo/Zelda experiences. Then it began. “This is based off the E3 Wii U build” the Nintendo chap told me. “It runs at 1080p and 30FPS in the demo and 720p 30FPS on the handheld, but the full release will be 60 for both”.*

The game begins with Link awakening and floating in a pool of water, clothed only in what appears to be a pair of tight denim shorts. A disembodied voice explains a few things about the game and directs you to a futuristic control panel. You are then equipped with the “Skeikah Slate,” which allows you to keep track of the weather, map, and locations, as well as acting as your key to access shrines. Upon activating the console and leaving the chamber, I found some chests which adorned me with some more suitable clobber (I couldn’t have Link running around in his pants!) before making my way out of the shrine.

I made my exit by climbing over the obstacles, something my helpful Nintendo commentator told me “could be done on almost every surface.” I found myself overlooking the entire world from atop a ledge. The scope, size and scale of everything became immediately apparent. This world is enormous, and absolutely stunning. Anything you can see can apparently be reached in what is described as an “Open-Adventure” experience.

“Have a look at the mountain” I was told, and a whipped out my telescope to look towards what appeared to be Death Mountain. A gigantic shadowy creature was scaling the peak in the distance. “I’ve not seen that in the demo before” he exclaimed. I didn’t know what it was either, but with only twenty minutes to play I was unlikely to find out.

Instead, my eye was drawn to a scruffy old fella just down from me, which appeared to look like a clue, so I jaunted over to him. I didn’t really listen to him, and instead decided to make the most of my surroundings and very quickly found an axe, followed by some Bokoblins and some ChuChus (which I made some very short work of). I think I was supposed to be chopping down a tree or something, but this seemed much more satisfying.

At this point my play changed; the Pro controller was put back, and I was told to lift the Switch out of the dock. The screen on the handheld instantly ignited as the television lost its HDMI signal. I was prompted to press L and R together, and then A; instant transition. Everything that was on the display in 1080p was now in my hands, yet despite the drop in resolution it looked… sharper, clearer, and arguably even higher in detail. It took a few moments to adjust to the Joy-Cons on the unit (with their wider grip), but soon I was away. Before long, I found a bow and some arrows, and was targeting enemies with ease. I discovered an abandoned shrine with the remnants of some Guardians. Some bad shit must have happened here. As I went to investigate further – collecting an ancient screw in the process – the game told me that my time was up. Those twenty minutes had flown and I hadn’t even done anything.

I was informed that the demo build has many hours of gameplay in it, and even that only scratches the surface of the game. You could lose yourself for twenty-five hours investigating the Great Plateau before even starting on the dungeons and everything else there is to do. It seems huge.

Even with my limited time and what I’ve seen online, this game has sold the Nintendo Switch to me. It looks amazing, controls exceptionally well, and certainly feels like a positive new direction for the series to go in. I’m a long-time fan of the Zelda series, with a particular preference for the handheld adventures – Link’s Awakening is probably my all-time favourite game – so the potential for me to have a more impressive experience to discover is too enticing.

It usually takes a while to show what your new hardware is capable of, and it’s worth pointing out that this is actually a Wii U title; one of the most ambitious titles on the Wii U starts on the Switch. This is exactly where I’ll start it.

*Edit: Recent reports suggest that Breath of the Wild will actually run 900p docked and 720p in handheld in the final release, with 30 FPS on both. This article is not confirming or debunking either figure, merely relaying what I was told by the Nintendo representative at the event.

  • Edsword

    Nearly the same experience can be had on the Wii U which is essentially a last gen system. I’m not knocking the game, I’ve already preordered it in Wii U. But I was a little disappointed by the comparisons I have read of the two. Switch is 900p 30fps, Wii U is 720p 30fps. There has been no mention of any other graphics upgrades. Nintendo did mention that the game would have better sound on Switch. Of course the Switch offers a portable option. But I can’t see anything yet that justifies me buying a Switch to play this game.

    • With the current launch line-up, there’s not much incentive for existing Wii U owners to upgrade at this early point.

      There are, however, an enormous number of people that bought a 3DS and didn’t buy a Wii U – around a 45m disparity – and they just might be tempted.

      That said, if there is the slightest possibility that you are interested in buying the Switch at some point, could this not be the game to make you jump early? I loved my Gamecube, but there was no way I was getting Twilight Princess on that.

      • Edsword

        Unfortunately, after being very disappointed by the Wii U, I am going to need to see that Nintendo is planning to support the Switch to its fullest before I pull the trigger this time. I know that the consolidation of handheld and console might make for a more consistent flow of first party games. If that actually materializes, that might be enough to make me purchase a Switch. I definitely want to see another 3D Metroid game(like Prime, not Other M) announced to release early in the Switch life cycle. That would also help me to make the decision to buy Switch, but right now there is nothing. The new Mario game looks alright, but one game is not going to sell the system to me this time around.

  • Yoyitsu

    I’m pretty sure IGN was told that the game would run at 1080p while docked, but I can’t remember if they were told the FPS it would run on.