From Tony Castro on wikimedia commons

Sometimes we receive gifts that accommodate our more unusual interests, and get a sense of hopefully welcome intimacy with the giver. Other times, we receive a surprising yet appropriate gift, and get the feeling that the giver knows us more than ourselves, or is from the future. Game developers, who can anticipate players’ moves, must deliver good gifts. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a lot of good gifts. In no particular order, here are some I appreciate.

1. Whip-poor-wills

Whip-poor-wills (Astronomus vociferus) — onomatopeically named after the three syllable sound they make — are the birds whistling that haunting pattern you hear periodically at dusk, dawn, or the dark between. (I’ve never experimented with their actual schedules, so it could be at the exact same time every night, maybe varying by area?) In America, they are normally located from Missouri going East, and other parts of North America. Since they’ve always been a part of my life growing up in the Midwest, I have a personal connection. I’m delighted that more people can understand what it’s like to stop their train of thought to contemplate the moonlight song. Moreover, since it’s not a Japanese bird, the developers must have stretched far to give the game an ambiguous geographic fingerprint.

They appear in game as more vivid than everything around, like a photo-realistic image in a cartoon, except never jarring. I haven’t found an up close whip-poor-will in BotW, but then I haven’t in real life, where they blend in well and are alert to escape from human sight.

2. The gentle teleport

Maybe it’s because I recently recently played Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, but the teleport animation in Zelda seems soothing. In Dragon Quest VII, when you warp, your character is jolted into a holy light by a forceful swish, then is zapped back into material. Lots of games, like Dark CLoud II, or Xenoblade Chronicles, don’t even have teleport animations. It’s an afterthought, or something abstracted to fill in. Zelda games have always been good at using teleportation as flavor text. In Ocarina of Time, Link is whisked away by a fairy, and in Wind Waker, he is swirled a tornado. In BotW, Link unravels into spectral blue strands that reform to materialize him. There is never a violent jerk or sudden transformation. It is suggested that the blue light is the same energy underlying the magitek from the shrines, the machines, and the energy that blesses your Sheika Tablet. Is the blue light actually Link’s essence, everyone’s essence, or is that just the nature of magic?


3. Boomerangs

Perhaps the only good thing about weapons being so disposable is you get the full boomerang experience. By that I mean if you throw a boomerang, the onus is on you to: (a) throw it in a wide space so it can circle around without stopping; (b) actually catch it when it hooks back. Fail any part, and you may lose it prematurely. The technique and risk to execute it is thrilling. Since it can be fast, you must put effort into timing the catch. The way Link clasps it, with a “poof” before pulling his arm back to absorb the shock is satisfying. In previous Zelda games, the boomerang always came back to Link, as if by psychic, somehow picking up momentum after hitting walls or trees. We had to imagine that the boomerang was a separate object from Link, and thus Link a separate object from the environment.


Edit: I spelled “breath” like “breathe” and it read like a damn satire.