By now, most will be familiar with the premise of The Legend of Zelda's latest outing, but for those that aren't, a brief recap: Breath of the Wild breaks the franchise free of its linear chains - a huge point of controversy stemming from much-criticised predecessor, Skyward Sword, in favour of a Skyrim-esque open world, with completely free reign over the path that Link takes. Dungeons can be tackled in any order, and truly tough players could even feasibly make their way to the final boss during the game's opening act. It's a formidable attempt from one of gaming's forefathers to truly shake up a series in danger of being stale, and one that pays off in droves.
The perfect mixture of classic Zelda content and formula-breaking structures is present here: the plot is as familiar as a Nintendo game can get (Link is tasked with rescuing Princess Zelda and defeating Ganon in order to save the kingdom of Hyrule - again), but it's presented in a unique and genuinely interesting way - supporting characters are absent for a large portion of the game, leaving a newly-amnesiac Link to find "memory spots" around the game world, each of which plays a cut-scene that explains a little more of how Hyrule came to face the great calamity that precedes the story.
Similarly, the classic Zelda tropes are still present - that is to say, dungeons and bosses - but with the fresh coat of paint they so desperately needed. Gone is the tired structure of a set number of dungeons, each with their own item to be used on its specific end-boss; instead, Link is tasked with discovering over 100 temples dotted around the landscape, with each one containing a small puzzle. Bosses are found in the wild, and are incredibly strong, often best being left alone.
It's an exciting development that genuinely revolutionises a formula that was fast becoming far too predictable, but it's not without its flaws. Finding the temples may be a great diversion, but the puzzles they contain therein are often quite simple and, as such, they don't always feel worth the effort. Similarly, while the world of Hyrule has clearly had a lot of time and care put into it - so much so that spending twenty or so hours simply exploring, with no headway into the game's main plot being made, doesn't actually feel like a chore - there are times where it feels a little too daunting, and there are some swathes of land that are completely barren and uninteresting.
Thankfully, these parts are few and far between, and Breath of the Wild is a genuinely incredible adventure. As the name suggests, the world around Link is a character of its own, with the constantly shifting climate being one of the main obstacles. Trying to go into an area that's too cold without adequate protection won't just make Link shiver, he will actively lose health the further into the snow-capped mountains he ventures. Wielding a metal weapon during a thunderstorm will cause it to act as a lightning rod, drawing a deadly thunderbolt to him at a moment's notice. It's realistic, too - there's no chance of lighting a campfire during a shower, and rain-slick rocks are much more difficult to climb up.
It's this that means that Link's journey never actually gets boring. There's always a new obstacle to avoid, be it the deadly heat of the volcanic mountains, or the "blood moon" that appears at the stroke of midnight every few in-game days, creating a creepy environment in the game-world before reviving every fallen enemy slain over the last week.
This is all wrapped up in a sublime package. To put it simply, Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. From the moment Link emerges at the game's opening, breathtaking landscapes aren't hard to come by, and the soul poured into each and every character is amplified ten-fold by the brilliant art style, which - just like Skyward Sword before it - does well to hide the limits of the system's graphical capabilities. It's a shame that there aren't many instantly memorable tunes to go along with it, with Nintendo opting for a more ambient environmental soundtrack this time around, but when the music does get turned up, it works brilliantly - the piano riff that plays when one of the mechanical Guardian enemies sets its sights on the player is one of the most genuinely terrifying songs of the franchise.
Of course, the most obvious question on the minds of Wii U players is with regards to the performance of such an ambitious title on a system that's less than impressive by modern standards. With occasional graphical and frame-rate issues on the more powerful Switch, you would be forgiven for assuming that Breath of the Wild would chug along at a snail's pace in its natural home; thankfully, that isn't the case. Whilst frame-rate drops are slightly more common, and graphical pop-in occurs fairly often, it's barely more noticeable than on Nintendo Switch; for a game this large, it's a genuine surprise to see it running so consistently well.
That it plays so smoothly on a constant basis does wonders for the immersive environment that Nintendo has tried so hard to create. Where other open-world RPGs fall apart due to constant load times, frustrating freezes and laughable glitches, Breath of the Wild stands out as one of the most tightly-developed games of recent times. Captivating from start to finish, and just as comfortable on the system it was designed for as on the Nintendo Switch, Link's latest is impossible not to recommend.