The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

Look at me reviewing a Zelda game! I play Zelda games. Zelda games are cool.

After thinking long and hard about it, this is the description I’ve come up with. If you were to take Red Dead Redemption, Just Cause, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim, and Ocarina of Time, blend them all together, scrape the fat off the top, Breath of the Wild is what you’re left with. There’s nothing in there that you haven’t seen before, but the way that the best elements of all those games are combined, and the fact that those elements are in a Zelda game, is what’s significant. Some of you might be old enough to remember when the iPod was first released. There wasn’t really anything new about it. We’d had MP3 player for a few years. What was special about the iPod was how it took all the things you already knew and mixed them up in to something awesome. Breath of the Wild is the iPod of computer games.

Breath of the Wild is a sandbox game. Those games are only as good as the things you can do in those sandboxes, and Nintendo have done it ever so well. There’s so much to do and see that I couldn’t possibly mention all of it. In my opinion there are two significant parts of the game that stand out over other sandbox features.

Cooking is essential. Traditionally you just find your health in Zelda games. In BotW you make it. Not only do you make your health points, but you can also cook up elixirs that enhance your performance in various areas. You can even cook food that makes you impervious to heat or cold. You won’t make it through the game without cooking.

The other big feature is weather and temperature. I remember playing Red Dead Redemption and wondering why John Marston could go up into the snowy mountains without a problem. In BotW it is a problem. Go somewhere too cold without the appropriate attire and you’ll freeze to death. The weather can also affect what you can do. Climbing in the rain is pretty much impossible. All this adds together to make it so that if you fancy climbing a huge mountain, you’d better check the weather and make sure you’re prepared for how cold the tops of mountains are. This system provides extra depth and interaction with your world.

The main story of the game is good and there’s just the right amount of it. There doesn’t need to be much, there’s so much to do in the world that too much story would ruin it. You want to spend time playing around. I’d describe it as the computer game equivalent of delaying orgasm. You know that there’s this main story going on, and at any point you choose, you can head straight to the main event. You’re just having so much fun getting there, that you try to put it off as much as you can. However, you will reach the point of no return, eventually the desire to kill Gannon will become too much.

While I’m talking about the main story of the game, I’d like to address the subject of misogyny in video games. It’s true that previous Zelda games revolved around the idea of saving Princess Zelda. While I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as a story concept, it does become a problem when that’s all there is going, and it’s something that Nintendo have received criticism for, and Breath of the Wild has been no exception. Where this criticism runs into problems, is when you realise that not only is the aim of this game to support Zelda rather than save her, but as a character, she’s far more awesome than Link. One hundred years ago Link and Zelda started fighting Gannon. Link was killed, and Zelda continued to fight Gannon alone for the next hundred years. That’s not a princess that needs saving. That’s a princess that kicks ass. The overall message is that neither Link or Zelda are strong enough to defeat Gannon alone, so they need to work together. Zelda is strong enough to control Gannon alone, while you wonder around trying to figure out how to not die when you climb a mountain wearing just your pants. At this point I feel it’s safe to say that anyone accusing this game of misogyny hasn’t played it.

Honestly I’m struggling for anything critical to say about this game. While I hesitate to say that it is perfect, there isn’t anything to spoil your experience apart from the usual intrusion of real life that can ruin any gaming session. so get your hands on a Switch, and get started on an adventure that will probably go on to be known as the best game of 2017.

Nintendo Switch Review

The Nintendo Switch is the iPad Apple could never make. iPads are brilliant. You can do all sorts of things with them. You can get your work done on them, edit photos, watch movies, pretty much anything you want. Nintendo Switches (really?) are brilliant. You can play games on them.

The concept of iPad gaming has always appealed to me. There’s this really powerful, really portable machine, that is more than capable of running some spectacular games. The trouble is that there are no spectacular games for the iPad. There are lots of very clever casual games, but nothing so deep that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft should start worrying.

iPad gaming has two problems. Price and control. Currently the top selling game on the UK iTunes store is a game called The Escapists. It costs £3.99. I haven’t played the game, but I think I’m safe to assume that you control it by touching the screen with your finger. Most likely one finger.

Right now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking so much about the iPad. The reason for that is I’m writing a review of it’s newest competitor, the Nintendo Switch.

What It Is

The best description I can give you is that the Switch is the newest machine that runs Nintendo games. I’m not so mental as to claim it’s a handheld or a home console, or even if it is a console. I don’t know. It’s all of those things. It’s just easier to say that it’s a machine that runs Nintendo games.

As a piece of hardware, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. What’s special, is how all the different elements of it come together. It’s easy enough to display your iPad on your TV. You either do it badly over Air Play, or you buy a £40 HDMI adaptor. The Switch comes with everything you need to connect it to your television, in the box. There’s even an HDMI lead, which you will not find in the box of an Apple TV. The Switch knows if it’s in the dock, and acts accordingly. It’s the ease of use and attention to experience that Apple used to be famous for.

Essentially the Switch is a seven inch tablet. You can chose to play the games on the built in screen, or you can play them on your TV. The controllers can either be attached to it, or not. It has an internal battery, which means you don’t have to be tethered to an electrical outlet, but that battery isn’t big enough to get more than three to six hours of use.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not it’s portable, handheld, or whatever else.

The Hardware

You’ve seen pictures of it already, so you know what it looks like. It reminds me of the last SatNav device I owned, back before smartphones were invented. It’s not thin, there’s clearly a fan in there, but it’s in no way too big.

Build quality is excellent. Nintendo of done a fine job of hitting the “just right” mark where it counts. It’s not to big or small, not too light or heavy, Not too fat or thin. I keep expecting to find a young blonde girl sleeping on it.

The Joy-Cons also feel to be of a very high quality. Controller size can be a sensitive issue for some people, and it all really depends on the size of your hands. Until somebody invents a controller that lets you customise button size and placement, it’s always going to be a problem some people face. For me, it’s just about right. I wouldn’t be upset if the buttons were a fraction bigger and more spaced apart, but I also accept that change might make it unusable for somebody else.

I have the neon versions, and boy are they bright. They almost actually glow. I’m very happy that I got the version I got, but it brings me to my first, very minor complaint. The Joy-Cons are designed to be used as a pair, or individually. When you use them individually, you can attach a small piece of plastic that has a wrist strap, and some nice shoulder buttons. They come in the box, but they’re grey. If you buy the grey version of the console, your grey controllers match your grey wrist straps and buttons. For the neon version, Nintendo chose to also include grey wrist straps. I can buy blue and red ones separately if I really want them. However, for some reason they’re sold in pairs, so I have to buy two blue ones and two red ones. If anything, I just feel bad because they’ve made me want to spend money because one bit of plastic isn’t the same colour as another bit of plastic. Its not really a complaint about the device.

While I’m on Joy-Cons and things that annoy me, I give you another one. In the box is the Joy-Con comfort grip. It’s a small plastic frame that holds the two Joy-Cons in some sort of regular controller configuration. For an extra £26.99 you can get yourself the “charging” comfort grip. Can you guess what it does? It charges the Joy-Cons, right? No. It allows you to attach a USB cable that charges the Joy-Cons. There’s no internal battery, just a USB port. I tried to justify it by saying that to include such a thing would force Nintendo to raise the launch price of the console, but now I know it’s just a USB port, I’m annoyed. It should have been in the box.

Despite my whinging about what’s included in the box, the Joy-Cons are brilliant. I can’t think of an equally versatile game controller. Letting you use them in so many configurations makes for a user experience like nothing before.

Unlike the PS4 and Xbox, but like the iPad, the Switch has a build in screen. It’s a 6.2” 720p display, and its nice and bright, with rich colours. I don’t know if it meets anybody’s definition of retina, but I can’t see the pixels. It’s the screen that makes the Switch so portable. When we’ve had our hands on it for a while, I’ll be interested to see if people mostly use it plugged into the TV or as a standalone device.

The Switch is a tablet so there’s not much to it. It’s a black slab with a screen.

There have been reports of people suffering from various hardware issues, none of which I’ve experienced myself. This sort of thing is to be expected when a new product launches. As the product ages, Nintendo will get better at building it. If you don’t already have a Switch, the chance are you’ll have to wait a little while until they make more. Those will be better made than the one I bought. By the time Christmas comes around they’ll be up to speed. Hopefully Nintendo will do their best to help everybody affected.

The Software

Just like the outside, there isn’t much on the inside. There are no apps to speak of, and not much functionality beyond running games. We knew that this would be the case before launch so it’s not a disappointment. I’m sure you’ll be able to run Netflix on it soon. Until then, you’ll have to make do with every other device with a screen running it.

There is a download store, and it reminds you of news reports from soviet era supermarkets. I’m sure there will be games to put on the shelves one day, it’s just that they aren’t many at the moment. I can tell you that what is there looks nice and it works.

Every console is only as good as its games, and when it comes to games, Nintendo have a good hand to play. Some people seem really worried about third party software support, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Remember this, the Switch is the only console you can play Nintendo games on. If you want to play Call Of Duty you need an Xbox or PS4. If you want to play Mario games, or Zelda games, you need a Switch.

In Conclusion

The Nintendo Switch is a brilliant console which Nintendo deserve to do well with. Should you get one as soon as you can? Only if you want to play one of the games available. Whatever console we’re talking about, it’d be daft to buy it if there wasn’t a game you wanted to play. There’s lots to come but it isn’t there yet. Think of this as a soft launch, and by Christmas, there will be all you need to have a very happy Switch time.

I’m of the opinion that Nintendo have done really well with this machine. The fact that it is portable around my house and can be played without the use of a television, means it’s going to get more use than my PS4.

A serious gamer couldn’t live on the Switch alone, but they couldn’t live on just a PS4 either. All gaming platforms have exclusive content, it’s just a matter of which ones you want to play. The fact that the Switch isn’t as powerful as bigger consoles doesn’t matter in the slightest. Apart from a couple of build issues, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about here.

If you really want a handheld PS4 you still have a few more years to wait. However, if you want a portable, easy to use, reasonably priced machine, the Switch is it.

Questions

I asked on Twitter (@techsupportrich) if any of you had any questions about the Switch, and it turns out you did. Here are my answers.

Q. In your opinion, do I need this console at the current price point as much as I want it?

A. Like I said, it depends how much you want to play the currently available games. Only you know the answer to that.

Q. Does the charging adaptor really work on a MacBook Pro as well?

A. Yes, no, and why. Yes it will, because it’s a USB C power adaptor. No, because different models of MacBook have different power requirements. The power needs of a 15” MacBook Pro are far greater than a Nintendo Switch. Why would you want to do this? Didn’t your MacBook come with a power adaptor? Besides, it’ll be plugged in behind your television. Is that somewhere you really want to keep swapping cables around?

Q. How does the new physical media feel, going from disk to such a small cartridge?

A. Good. Discs scratch. Cartridges don’t. They’re also smaller and easier to carry around. I hate discs.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Review

I’ve been playing all these 3DS games, might as well start reviewing them.

So Fire Emblem. Hmmm. Fire Emblem is something that I didn’t know existed until I got a 3DS. Apparently Fire Emblem has been a thing for ages, in Japan, but has been a huge hit since it arrived on Nintendo machines in Europe and the USA.

I believe it’s an RPG. I have to be honest and admit that I don’t really understand what constitutes an RPG, but from what I’ve read, Fire Emblem is one. You take control of a few characters, and they win experience points to be better at killing more other characters to get more experience points, and so on. It’s more fun than I’ve just made it sound.

The gameplay is almost chess-like. It’s a turn based war game, reminiscent of battles I’ve had in Civ 5, but without all the civilisation building. Actually it’s exactly like a battle in Civ 5, except you know the back story of every unit you send off to battle.

Units have relationships with each other, and give more support if they’re friends. In Birthright you can go as far as having characters have children together, who then go on to fight in your army. This is where my biggest issue with the game lies.

The character you play has the opportunity to enter into a relationship. When you do so, you then have to do things to advance that relationship. The point is that you have a character who supports yours better than any other can. That’s sweet. However, the way in which this takes place sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable. Here’s how it plays out. I have a wife and she’s always waiting for me in the residence in my castle. When I visit her, sex happens. Every time. Afterwards she expresses how she hopes she’s pleasing me. She even says that she loves me so much, she’d even learn how to cook for me. She’s such a submissive character that it’s icky to watch. To make matters worse, you sometimes have to physically interact with her. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes you arrive home, and she’s sleeping. Use the touch screen to stroke her hair and gently wake her. Maybe she’s just had a hot bath and needs to cool down, so you blow into the microphone. I came here to fight battles, not blow on pictures of cartoon women. I’m all up for the relationship building stuff, I just feel like a right twat blowing on my imaginary wife.

Birthright is one of a pair of games. The other one is called Conquest. The story in Birthright is told from one point of view, the story in Conquest is the same story told from the opposite point of view. There’s probably more to it than that, and I do intend to play Conquest, but not until I’ve completely beaten Birthright. To go into any more detail about the story at this point would just ruin it for your. It’s a very compelling story with some tough choices to make.

When you’re not making story choices or fighting battles, you’re building your castle. I’m not sure how I feel about all the castle stuff. Not only do they want me to build my own, but they also want me to go online and visit other people’s castles. In the beginning of the game, some items are only available to you when you visit other castles. It slows things down, and it isn’t battling, but I suppose it isn’t as bad as it could be. From time to time you’ll get the chance to have a battle in your castle, and that can be fun. You can spend time in your castle and interact with some of your characters. I’ve just found that an annoying thing you have to deal with in between bits of stories and gameplay. I never would have thought of mixing Animal Crossing with Fire Emblem, but clearly somebody did.

Of the two Fire Emblem games I’ve played, the last one being Fire Emblem: Awakening, this is the better game. It’s addictive, fun, and has a great story. The gameplay is spot on and keeps you coming back for more. I didn’t expect to still be playing this game three months after starting, yet it’s always with me in case I get the chance to have a quick blast.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright on Amazon