Lets Play Zelda!

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The Legend of Zelda is an adventure game that has been a staple of every Nintendo console. Every iteration has pretty much the same story line where you play as a mute, Link, who must save the world from destruction. With the recent release of the Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no different. So how does learning take place in this game? Not only would I be learning a new game, but I would also be learning a brand new console.

Rules

So far I’ve only put about 7 hours into this game, though I’ve heard that many people have already spent 60+ hours. If you didn’t already know, the main feature of the Switch is that it can connect to a TV (like a typical console), but can also be used as a handheld device. Both of these options offer completely different experiences as I found that connecting it to a big screen was more immersive, while switching to a handheld was great for situations when I was on the go. For those interested, the video below shows how this works.

Design

Zelda games have always been somewhat open world, but I think Breath of the Wild takes this to the next level. You are literally dropped in to the game with minimal dialogue and direction. For an avid gamer this might not be much of a problem, but if you’re a casual player this might cause some difficulty. For example, I somehow missed an instruction at the beginning telling me what I needed to do; I could not figure out where to go until I discovered the quest tracker in one of the menus. Since venturing forth, I’ve also spent a lot of time cooking food for health and getting attached to a weapon, only to have I break on me soon after. The addition of these two mechanics introduce roleplaying elements that players of adventure games may not all enjoy.

Gameplay

I was absolutely surprised by how difficult this game can be, it is probably one of the hardest (if not thee hardest) Zelda games in the franchise. If you run straight into battle, you will most likely die…and dying is what I did a lot of! Gee (2004) said that video games allow the learner to practice their skills so they become routine and then they introduce new problems to force the learner to re-think these skills. The first few enemies I faced were standing by themselves and were pretty easy to take down. This allow me to learn the game’s controls, though I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older, but I had a hard time learning some of the Switch’s buttons and I kept hitting the wrong ones. It wasn’t long until I started to stumble into bigger groups of enemies, at this point I learned the importance of using the surrounding area for my advantage. This might include setting the grass on fire to burn enemies or pushing a boulder over a cliff that crushes the enemies below. This freedom in how you approach enemies allows the player to be in greater control of their own learning. One final aspect, which I appreciated, was that dying does not overly punish the player. The game autosaves before each encounter so if it didn’t work out the first time, you can change your tactics and try again.

There’s a lot more in this game I have yet to uncover, but as I play, I find myself constantly thinking about the ways I am learning.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: a critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

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11 thoughts on “Lets Play Zelda!

  1. That’s it–I am going out to buy a Switch. I don’t what it is, but I really want to play that game. I could take, or leave the console itself, though I do find that it is an interesting design idea and a could be a step forward for gaming. Anyway, I like that the game’s design let’s you approach problems as you see fit and if you fail, try something different. Sometimes you create a surprising result, or moment that makes you smile and you learn a bit about how you can approach future challenges.

    1. It’s really different than any Zelda I’ve ever played. It’s just as punishing as a Dark Souls game.

      1. So I was trying to read up on the Switch. Am I to understand that small boxish thing with the two sides is the whole “console”? If so, that’s really amazing. I just saw the newest Wii for the first time a few months ago and I was actually impressed with the new handheld little gadget, this is certainly taking it up a notch. I wonder if they have a chime on it if you loose the Switch (I tend to loose remotes that aren’t attached). I used to play Zelda/Link for Nintendo, WOW this game has evolved. I can barely keep up with technology. I am way too intimidated by all of that. I am just getting the hang of Twitter! I enjoyed the video you included! What is the going rate for the Switch and the game?

        1. The console definitely has a lot of technology packed in it. It’s not as powerful as an Xbox or Playstation, but I like the portableness, especially since I have to travel a lot. The screen itself is also multitouch which is kinda cool. I could see losing the controllers as a problem, I typically always keep mine attached. New games are typically $60 so there is little barrier to entry there.

  2. Robert,
    Interesting post on Zelda. I particularly like your comment:
    “You are literally dropped in to the game with minimal dialogue and direction. For an avid gamer this might not be much of a problem, but if you’re a casual player this might cause some difficulty.”
    Does this seem like it’s becoming a norm? Even among games that are more simple? I think we’ve definitely entered a digital age where everyone needs to have a basic foundation of navigating software, including games.

    1. I don’t think it’s a norm yet, I find that a lot of games today provide way too much hand-holding. I appreciate that the creators trust the player to figure out what to do.

  3. It seems like autosave systems have improved greatly in recent years (thank goodness), though games like Dark Souls use more traditional save points to sort of artificially ramp up difficulty. Do you find reliable autosaving to be sufficient here, or would freeform save-at-any-time systems like in Elder Scrolls benefit Zelda?

    1. Breath of the Wild actually allows both, I can save any time I want to as well, but I am glad it autosaves because I tend to forget to save a lot! I would have lost a ton of progress by now if it didn’t autosave.

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