[This was originally posted to my previous blog Dungeons & Donuts back in May 2017. I've started replaying Breath of the Wild and wanted to share it again]
Lemme tell you a story about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the coolest thing it does compared to most other Zelda games.
So the Master Sword is a big deal in Zelda games. It's the sword of evil's bane, and it's almost always a requirement to complete the game. You can't advance past a certain point without this "iconic" sword.
But it seldom does anything. It's just a slightly more powerful sword. It's important to the plot, but not to the player.
Breath of the Wild fixes this.
At no point in the game is the Master Sword required. You hear it referenced by NPCs and spoken about as a rumour. Nobody knows where it is, what happened to it, or has any advice on where to find it.
Thankfully, regular swords and weapons are abundant in the game. They're fragile as shit and break often, but there's a bunch of them. Weapon degradation/loss is a big part of the game.
So I'm maybe halfway through the game. I've just beaten the guardian animal robot around Death Mountain, and I set out to the west to explore some more.
I spy an enormous forest from the top of a tower. It's dark and spooky looking. I paraglide to the edge of it and fight a bunch of moblins. I lose a shield, a bow, and two swords in the process...plus a bunch of curry rice I'd made.
I should probably prepare more, but standing at the edge of this huge forest gets me curious. I say 'fuck it' and press on ahead.
The forest is filled with fog and trees with spooky mouths in them. Worst of all, if you don't keep a torch lit, the fog swallows you up and you have to start at the beginning. Once I figure this out, I make some headway.
Further in, even a lit torch doesn't do anything. I get warped out over and over.
At this point I have no idea what to do. This place sucks, and it seems impassible. But I wanna know what's in there. You know how I got through it? I spotted a fawn running through the fog. I figure if it knows where it's going, maybe I can follow it. I chase down this fawn, tackle it, climb on top of it, and let it carry me through the fog. I'm this ridiculous pink spandex wearing elf boy clutching a fawn for dear life, hoping it takes me someplace good.
It takes me to the Korok Forest...and the Master Sword.
Holy shit I found it.
I run up. I grab the hilt and start pulling.
Something happens tho. With every tug at the sword, my hearts start reducing. I hold the B button down to pull the sword out, and my life drains away. I get down to a single half heart and I stop.
Oh shit. If I keep trying to pull the sword out, it's gonna kill me.
So I do a little bit of research, and it turns out you need at least 13 hearts to get the Master Sword.
You literally need to prove that you're a strong enough hero to get the sword! No destiny, no prophecy, being a worthy hero to the sword is something literal within the rules of the game: something you need to quest, explore, and work towards!
So why is the sword a big deal? Remember how I mentioned weapon degradation?
THE MASTER SWORD IS UNBREAKABLE! It is the only weapon in the game that apparently won't break!
In Breath of the Wild, that's huge! That changes combat dramatically! Suddenly worrying about whether or not you'll make it through a boss fight with enough weapons isn't an issue!
This is such a good game design decision, and it's one that Zelda sorely needed.
After several mediocre games, the Master Sword formula is reinvigorated. It's not required to beat the game, getting it isn't a big main quest (as far as I've seen), and its use and effect changes the way you play the game.
It's existence gives you a tangible goal: explore the world, find it, oh you're too weak, explore the world some more, find shrines, get sacred orbs, exchange them for heart containers, and finally get the sword of evil's bane!
That's fucking rad.