Zelda: Breath of the Wild a Studio Ghibli movie brought wonderfully to life

The game contains a vast, barrier-free world stuffed with stories and where there’s always something new over the next hill
Neil McGreevy

Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Switch)

By: Nintendo

NINTENDO do launch games right. They have to. Unable to lean on the latest Call of Duty or FIFA to shift plastic, it's the Japanese giant's in-house magic the faithful hand over the notes for.

While Mario was traditionally the torchbearer for new hardware, with Mario World on the SNES and Mario 64 on the N64, the Wii's day one killer was also its predecessor's swansong with Zelda Twilight Princess. And so history repeats itself with Breath of the Wild simultaneously giving us the first reason to buy the Switch while respectfully battening down the Wii U's coffin lid – but what a death rattle.

As legend goes, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto got the idea for Zelda exploring the Kyoto woods and caves of his childhood. And it's this unbridled sense of freedom that Breath of the Wild brings back to Zelda's much-loved but oft-repeated dungeon-crawling formula, even if its dizzying scope makes the 1986 original feel like a window box by comparison.

Here you can make a beeline to the final boss within hours, should you wish, but then that would cock a snook at a vast, barrier-free world stuffed with stories and where there's always something new over the next hill.

A return to the series' roots of wide-eyed exploration, there's no set order for completing tasks and discovery on a scale often promised but rarely delivered. Shot through with the sense of wonder and mystery that epitomised the best Zelda titles, BotW is a treasure trove of side quests and secrets, and while you'll Bogart the essential equipment within a few hours, shrines littered across Hyrule offer rarer trinkets for besting their puzzles.

There's simply too much to do for me to waste my word count listing – suffice to say that while Zelda vets may cluck their tongues at its convention-shattering approach, BotW is a seismic and necessary formula shake-up.

A Studio Ghibli movie brought to life, Zelda's artistic chops more than make amends for the lack of technical heft, with each breathtaking sunrise illuminating a plush, organic world. While the Switch version runs at 900p, the Wii U game is locked at 720p – apart from that, the cash-strapped aren't missing out with the humble last-gen version.

Even if their business chops have been wanting in recent years, BotW is Nintendo's design magic at its most enchanting. In terms of open-world adventures, this is easily the best created, with critical consensus suggesting it'll trump even 1998's Zelda: Ocarina of Time as the finest game ever.

The king is dead – long live the king, then, with the greatest starter ever served up for the launch of the Switch and one helluva last meal for your famished Wii U.

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