Riding the Backlog - Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Part 10)

By Chris Pranger

Session 10: Let’s Go Meet the Zora

Welcome to the tenth session of Riding the Backlog: Breath of the Wild! In this series I ride an exercise bike while playing a video game, grousing as I play for whatever reason I can find. In session 9 I managed to complete the Eventide challenge, so my first task today is to explore this island a little bit completely unhindered by restrictions. Let’s see what this island has to offer!

As soon as I walk forward and admire the beautiful island before me, I stumble across an unlikely sight: this island is no longer uninhabited! Or, rather, I am now sharing the current island with another non-monster entity. Hanging around the edge of the cliff is a Rito named Mimo. The Rito are the bird people of Hyrule, and I have to go on a side tangent here.

The first time we encountered the Rito in a Zelda game was The Wind Waker. The plot of that game had Hyrule covered by water, which resulted in some changes. The most baffling is that the fish people, the Zora, evolved into bird people, the Rito. Yup, water covered the land so fish turned into birds. Try not to logic that one too hard, OK?

More importantly, Breath of the Wild reintroduces the Rito alongside the Zora, meaning...I don’t know! It means that the Zelda timeline is as loose as a muumuu and by trying to explain it you’re missing the point entirely.

I absolutely love the designs for the Rito in Breath of the Wild. This is easily one aspect that Nintendo did a stellar job with since each Rito looks cool and varied. It’s fun to meet Mimo and then later meet a different Rito to discover that they’re not all going to look like the same character model with slight color variations or something. Neat.

But why is Mimo on Eventide Island? Apparently he’s come out to set up a flight-training course or some such. By paying him 20 Rupees, I can challenge his course of floating rings. All I have to do is glide through them as far as I can, though it’s not quite as simple as that since gliding takes stamina. The wind helps the course snake around the island, but ultimately my stamina is just not very impressive, so my final score is 18 rings, which disappoints Mimo so much that I get no reward for my efforts. I take it back, the Rito are stupid.

Now that the island’s challenge is over and I have full access to everything again, all the formerly defeated enemies have returned. This gives me a good reason to hop to the enemy camp below and show them what I’m really made of rather than just poking at them with whatever I could scrounge, dodging attacks in my boxers. I’m fully armored and decked out with death, so come at me, bro!

Hey wait, what about today’s amiibo prizes? Is that what I heard you ask? Time to scan my four Zelda series amiibo and hope for the best! It’s...nothing to write about. Can I push this paragraph far enough to say something worthwhile? ...No.

Back to exploring the island, and the tropical sun has broken away to lightning storms again. I had to strip down from my usual preferred outfit to something sans metal, keeping me safe, or at least relatively safe. Lightning still strikes all around, hitting trees and enemies at random. At one point I approach the hidden treasure chest Octorok from last time and right as I’m about to attack it, it pops up and lightning strikes, exploding it. I manage to pull up my own wooden shield, which is instantly shattered. Lightning is nothing to scoff at, let me tell you.

Around the back of the island are a bunch of rocks jutting out from the sea, begging to be explored. Once the lightning dies down, I safely begin swimming to said rocks, adding in some cryonis rune traversal for extra simplicity. These rocks turn out to be a huge letdown though as there’s nothing worthwhile waiting for me except some standard swords. Perhaps these rocks were intended for the challenge portion of the island, but now the reward is minimal and disappointing.

I’ve had my fill of Eventide, so it’s time to ask, how do I get back to the mainland? There are options, for sure. The lamest way is to just warp to a mainland shrine, but that feels like cheating. The long way involves creating a pathway of ice blocks one by one across the sea, but that method is tedious and boring. Alternatively and for story purposes, I could hop on a nearby discarded raft and use a Deku leaf to blow myself to shore. That’s dull too, so I opt for the cheap coward’s way out and warp directly to Kakariko Village like the degenerate I am.

Back near Kakariko, I cruise the town just in case I missed anything exciting, then take a path leading away from the huts, out to a big tree and a little girl crying. Said little girl is named Koko, and it becomes clear from her tears and the numerous grave markers that this is actually where Kakariko bury their dead. Furthermore, Koko’s mother is buried here. She comments about how she needs to more or less get over her grief, but damn, this is heartbreaking for a story element that doesn’t have any bearing on my objectives at all. It’s not like I can magically make Koko’s problems go away with a fairy or something. Her mother is dead, that’s just a fact, and Link can’t do anything about it. It’s a very well executed moment.

Since there’s nothing I can do for Koko except listen to her story and feel for her, I keep walking along the path, discovering that it terminates just past the large tree. A short railing protects villagers from stumbling over the edge, but two things in the distance immediately catch my eye, both of which are shrines.

A nifty feature of the Sheikah Slate is the ability to go into first-person mode by clicking the right stick and then place a marker at a far-away target. In this case, I’m able to ping both shrines, just in case I lose one while heading to the first. I jump over the railing and start my glide.

The landscape begins to change quite a bit, giving me something new to experience. Rather than the standard grasslands or forest, this area quickly starts to resemble rice fields traditionally seen in Asia. Short tufts of grass or vegetation poke out of foot-deep water that spreads as far as the eye can see.

Among this peaceful sight is Daka Tuss shrine, home to the Sunken Scoop trial. Seems water is the theme here with a pool containing three glowing orbs and an altar nearby. My first instinct upon seeing water was to pull out my cryonis rune and use it to raise the orbs out of the water, but my keen eyes noted a large metal bowl at the bottom of the pool.

Switching to my magnesis rune, I was able to dredge the bowl up, scooping an orb in the process. Perhaps “sunken scoop” was as literal as they could make this. Whatever the case, I carry the orb in the bowl out of the water and tip it over a cage containing the orb altar, opening the gate to the next half of the room. Another pool and more orbs, though this time there’s also a big switch at the bottom of the pool. Placing the metal bowl on it opens the top of another cage containing an orb altar. The simple solution here is to scoop an orb, put it on top of the cage, then drop the metal bowl onto the switch.

Activating the orb altar drains the pool, giving me access to the final room with the Sheikah Monk. Because I’d started with cryonis, I hear my ice block from the first room break, pointing out to me that the pool in that room has drained as well. Sure enough, there’s a hidden bonus room there with a treasure chest containing a silver longsword, a very cool looking weapon that adheres to the Zora aesthetic.

Another tangent! I love how different weapons and gear match a people or region. The Zora are sleek fish people, so their weapons are sleek and silver. The Gorons are hearty rock-eaters, so their weapons are chunky and heavy. It’s good theming!

Not far outside the shrine is a little pond with a person swimming around in it. I try to sneak up to get a better look and discover that it’s not a human but a Zora. Aha! We’ve found one! This is Tula, a Zora with a mission to inform a hero or some such that Prince Sidon needs them. Apparently while looking for someone who fit my description she tried looking in the pond and just sort of enjoyed it too much, so she kept swimming. That’s cute. She gives me official directions to head to Inogo Bridge and find Prince Sidon. You got it, fish lady!

Continuing toward a shrine brings me to a part of these wetlands called the Gopongo Village ruins, clearly a small settlement that’s since been destroyed. It’s eerie to splash through dilapidated houses and rifle through smashed wagons, and what’s even eerier is how it’s not clear what exactly destroyed the village. There are no Guardians around, which seems to rule out the calamity from 100 years ago as the culprit, but that just begs the further question of what DID cause this peaceful area to fall to ruin. My theory is that the people just abandoned the homes of their own choice since they’d always be soggy, but there’s no telling the actual cause. This is another great example of the game presenting a world that feels lived in with numerous stories to tell, not all of which necessarily relate back to the calamity or Link’s mission.

A new sound perks up my ears while exploring, a sort of playful, wicked sound. Accompanying the sound are some drip-drop noises that have the cadence of footsteps. The owner of these sounds makes himself known as a yellow-clad wizard appears, grinning and floating in the air while waving around an electric wand. This is the BotW version of the Wizzrobe enemy, first introduced in the very beginning as a disappearing/reappearing foe that fired a magic beam in front of it.

Wizzrobes in Breath of the Wild are the most fleshed out they’ve ever been compared to previous Zelda games, appearing in three varieties based on the main attack elementals of fire, ice, and electricity. This electric Wizzrobe starts waving his wand around, ready to blast me with bolts of lightning, but an arrow to the face stuns it. After it recovers, it starts doing a more serious chant, clearly summoning a thunderstorm, which is a wickedly powerful spell. Thankfully I’m able to kill it before it can complete the incantation, saving me from a pretty huge inconvenience.

I like the Wizzrobes well enough. This first encounter was basic and simple, letting me get used to the concept of a disappearing/reappearing enemy that attacks only via magic. One-on-one these are easy, but the real danger comes from their appearance in larger groups of enemies. For now I’m safe and in possession of a lightning rod, letting me hurl balls of electricity at enemies to instantly stun them. A nifty trick indeed.

Next to a ruined house is a ruined well with a metal boulder on a chain. It doesn’t take a ton of brain cells to piece together that I’m supposed to lift the boulder using magnesis and dunk it into the well. Doing so summons a Korok, giving me another Korok Seed. I’m really hoping I see Hestu again soon because these Korok Seeds are eating a hole through my pocket.

Despite encountering a single electric Wizzrobe, the wetlands’ primary enemies are Lizalfos, the lizard-like enemies that slink around and flick me with their tongues. They’re kind of cool in their battle tactics, even if they are extremely annoying. They’re the perfect counter to every fighting style. They hop rapidly back and forth when you pull out your bow, making them more difficulty to hit, they like to spit water at you from a ranged position to make getting in close more difficult, and when you do close the gap and jump at them they flick their tongues at you, knocking you over. These are the base-form Lizalfos though, so my current armament is more than enough to kill them in three hits or less.

While running over the soaked hills I notice a pair of travelers beset by Lizalfos, so I rush into the fray and save them. As usual, they don’t have any gifts for me, which is a disappointment since video games have trained me that no good deed goes unrewarded, but this is quickly becoming a positive in my book. Breath of the Wild doesn’t always give you anything for helping people. Link is whatever you make him, so if you want to just live your life for yourself, you can do that. For me, my Link may be a degenerate, but he’s not about to sit and watch as people’s lives are threatened. Helping the couple gives me a little backstory on them, showing a cute relationship with the classic “I’ll never let anything hurt you again, my love” sort of trope. I award them one Cute and move on.

Just over the hill is the welcome sight of the Wetland Stable and another shrine. Finding stables again gives me a respite from the feelings of loneliness that abound in the adventure. Sure, I’ll encounter other travelers, but a safe base like a stable provides a true zone of comfort and activity.

Even better, who should I find next to the stable but Hestu! I’d assumed that I wouldn’t see him again until much later depending on where I decided to travel next, but it turns out here he is, looking out of place but incredibly necessary. I offload as many Korok Seeds as he’ll let me, expanding my weapon, bow, and shield carrying capacity before he suddenly remembers how to get home, telling me to visit him at the Deku Tree when I get the chance.

Out in front of the stable is a random NPC named Yolero in the midst of combat training with a training dummy. He’s got an unlit torch, a weapon with an attack power of 2, but he’s also got the right sort of moxy to make it work. I get a kick out of him telling me that he’s discovered a legendary weapon, the Master Torch, and that I’d better watch out. It’s a cringy sort of joke and implies that just any old NPC in the world has at least a tangential understanding of the Master Sword, but it gets a smirk from me, so well done.

Before I can head inside the stable and see who’s sleeping in the inn, another blood moon rises, resurrecting all the monsters in the world yet again. This is probably the least terrible time for the blood moon to occur since I’m not in the middle of a freshly cleared enemy camp or just cleared an area that I intended to retread. It’s just a thing that happened here.

Once the weird red particle effect is finished, I can properly hear accordion music coming from the front of the stable. This brings me to Kass, a fan favorite character from Breath of the Wild. Kass is a blue parrot-like Rito who travels the land, playing songs. Usually he has a riddle for you to solve that leads to a shrine. Each riddle is actually pretty satisfying, all things considered.

For this first encounter, he has no riddle for me. He does however have a song about the calamity that happened 10,000 year ago, not to be confused with the one that happened only 100 years ago. I agree to listen to it and immediately I have another tangent to go on, so get ready for a rambly bit of complaining.

Kass is a great character, I wholeheartedly agree there. Kass is also not voiced, which is an incredible misstep. Each of his songs should be vocalized, especially this first one since he’s retelling a story we’ve already heard. If I had to guess, Kass is playing this song as a way to ensure that all players have a better chance of encountering this bit of backstory even if they’ve skipped Kakariko Village and Impa’s retelling entirely.

Furthermore, the game looooooves to use the tapestry imagery of Link, Zelda, Ganon, the Guardian army, and the Divine Beasts. I feel like this is the third time I’ve seen it used in full. The first time I saw it I thought it looked cool since it’s unique and evokes similar modes of storytelling used in Zelda games like The Wind Waker. Here though it’s relied on too much and emphasized too strongly to the point that on closer inspection it just doesn’t work for me. The tapestry design looks too simplistic and rushed, like it was a first draft from a designer asked, “make an ancient-looking retelling of obvious plot details but, like, also make it look like primitive people did it or something.”

Enough grousing, there’s a shrine nearby and I want the treasure inside it. Just like with any major landmark such as a stable, there’s a shrine nearby to allow for a quick and easy teleportation point. The Kaya Wan shrine, located next to the Wetland stable, contains the Shields From Water trial. It’s a bad shrine, but we’re going to talk about it anyway.

As soon as you enter it becomes apparent that the cryonis rune will be used exclusively. You begin in a pool of water and come to the conclusion that you need to use cryonis not only to cross the water but also climb the short waterfall out of the pool. Once that’s done there’s another small pool with a little Guardian enemy waiting. I’m able to shoot it and break it with one critical shot from my bow, freezing my way to the final challenge as a raft moves with the flow of water. Two more little Guardians are sitting waiting on spots along the raft’s path, both one-shotted from far enough away that they pose no threat. From there it’s just a gentle glide to the Sheikah Monk.

My theory for this shrine based on the name Shields From Water is that I’m supposed to use the cryonis rune to create literal shields from the water, allowing me to pass by the enemies without trouble. In theory, yes, that’s an interesting use of the cryonis rune. In practice my first and most effective method for dealing with the enemies is to just shoot them. Perhaps I’ve already explored so much in the game that I’ve out-leveled this shrine, leaving it for absolute beginners, but that feels unlikely considering its placement fairly deep into Hyrule. No matter, it’s done and I can move on.

Back outside not far from the Wetlands stable is a man peering into the nearby river. I speak with him and learn that his name is Izra. He’s fixated on some sort of treasure chest at the bottom of the river and is certain that some sort of mechanism can be used to salvage it. This even prompts a subquest prompt to appear for me, which seems out of place since this is barely a tutorial moment. I immediately use my magnesis rune to drag it to the shore, wowing Izra in the process. The reward is just a simple sword, but that’s enough to clear the quest. Also lightning starts up again and strikes the chest, somehow not immediately killing either Izra or myself.

Since we’re yet again beset by lightning, I strip down to my non-metal gear and make my way toward a Sheikah Tower supposedly nearby Inogo Bridge. Along the way I spy some wild horses and decide to hop on one to make this trip a bit faster. I discover that Bokoblins are roaming these lands, and worse, some are on horseback. This makes for my first bit of horseback combat, a fun but underutilized feature of Breath of the Wild. For as much as horses are included in the game’s design, they’re really not all that helpful in combat other than running down single enemies.

At the very least fighting Bokoblins on horseback in the rain brings back memories of Twilight Princess, and that’s a good thing. The lightning even gave me a fun dramatic moment where I was in a standoff against one Bokoblin when he was suddenly struck by lightning and pretty much exploded. I sure showed him!

I can see my shrine target not far away, sitting in the middle of the water on a small island. I glide to it but get sidetracked with some Octoroks and Lizalfos to the point that I have to cross over to the main bank and then swim back to the island. I end up drowning in the process, or rather just running out of stamina, sending me back to the bank with some heart damage. I really hate that swimming requires stamina but I guess it’s a necessity and also not without some precedent since The Wind Waker had a swim meter, keeping Link from treading too far away from an island without his boat.

Back on the shrine island, I run into the puzzle of how to get past a ring of thorns surrounding it. Similar to the previous thorn puzzle, the solution is to just burn the suckers down with some fire arrows. It really feels like cheating but it’s also the most obvious solution, so what else was I supposed to do? Climb all the way back up a nearby hill and try gliding over them? Nah, that’d take too long, I’m here now and have fire. In we go!

This is the Sheh Rata shrine and contains the Speed of Light trial. I’d certainly put this as one of the better shrines in the game, a nice contrast to the previous one I just mentioned. The Sheh Rata shrine only has one real puzzle, that being how to cross a pool of water fast enough to beat a makeshift timer. The gimmick at work here is a crank that when pushed makes a laser platform start moving clockwise in a circle, eventually swinging around to hit a crystal switch that either raises or lowers the water level.

It all sounds simple but there’s a secondary element. At first it seems like the water just needs to be raised, so raising it up and swimming over to the other side looks like all you need to do, but the door to the Sheikah Monk is blocked by a gate that requires a switch. Said switch is at the bottom of another pool of water that raises and lowers its water level the same as the main pool. The only way to get through the door is to lower the water level and place a barrel on the switch to keep it open.

What this means is I have to raise the water level up, then set the laser platform spinning again while dashing across the pool before the laser swings around and triggers the water level switch a second time. If done correctly, I’ll be set up to place the barrel and get my reward.

Except there’s a third element to this to get the bonus chest. Once I get through the doorway, I find a treasure chest sitting on a platform above a third pool of water that also adheres to the shrine’s global water level. If the pool is full I can use cryonis to create an ice block and climb to my reward, but how then do I get through the door with the water level raised if I need the water level lowered for the barrel to work?

The answer isn’t overly complex but it’s also not obvious, which I really appreciate. This is a shrine that can be completed without a single rune, but to get the bonus chest you have to use both the bomb and cryonis runes at different times. First, you need the water level raised up. Then, you use cryonis to get to the water level switch and place a bomb next to it, preferably a square one so it doesn’t roll away. After that you go about the shrine as normal, getting back into the Sheikah Monk room. From there you finally detonate your bomb and raise the water level back up, create an ice block, and get your reward. I don’t even remember what the reward was, but it certainly felt good to figure that puzzle out on my own, plus it taught me a valuable lesson about how my bomb rune works in that I can place a bomb, go about my business with other runes, and then detonate it when I need.

My final objective for the evening is to make it up the Sheikah Tower nearby, so I take off in that direction. The closer I get to it, the more obvious it becomes that this is a pretty rough neck of Hyrule with a bunch of enemy platforms setup all around. A random traveler attempts to sell me some Mighty Bananas for 99 Rupees, but it turns out he’s just a Yiga Clan member. Oh well, I guess I get some free bananas, a scythe, and some Rupees for the trouble of dispatching this lowlife.

At the top of a rocky ridge is another Korok platform, starting a sprint from one peak to the other. This sprint takes a bit more skill since you definitely need to run to make it in time. Learning when to burn and when to conserve stamina is key for overall success, so it’s good to get this tested in a low-stakes situation like a Korok Seed task.

Nearing the Sheikah Tower gets me to notice that random cliffside wooden platforms have been set up using obvious props that can be collapsed with a shot from my bow. The first platform I find and topple gives me a treasure chest, but sneaking around the path puts me in an advantageous position to stealth kill some enemies lying in wait on some other platforms. Feels good to take out a Moblin and some Bokoblins with easy arrows.

The path to the tower continues to spiral up the mountain as I stumble across more enemies. It’s raining, so climbing straight up isn’t really an option, meaning I have to stick to the critical path. I’m absolutely fine with this since it’s a great bit of game design to lead me through a bunch of preset enemy encounters. It feels like I’m storming the castle on my way up and that’s really cool.

I even encounter another Wizzrobe, this time of the ice variety, and he’s joined with some Bokoblin friends. This puts my previous knowledge of Wizzrobes to the test in a slightly more advanced setting. Now I have to decide whether to pick off the physical Bokoblin attackers first or focus my efforts on thwarting the magic-user before it can summon a blizzard. I decide to break down the Wizzrobe first and then deal with the remaining simpletons, leaving the path to the tower clear and free.

My final concern is the rain. Can I climb the tower while it’s raining? The answer is no because rain makes surfaces too slick to climb effectively, and while this area seems to be perpetually rainy, getting up close to the tower makes the rain stop entirely. Or at least, it stops at the tower itself. I notice that just outside the tower’s radius the rain continues to fall, so this must be a makeshift solution to the problem of allowing the player to climb a tower while also maintaining the story element of this region being beset by perpetual rain.

It feels like so long ago that I climbed any sort of Sheikah Tower, so such a long climb feels like a slog until I remember, duh, I have climbing gear. Switching out of my armor into the climbing gear speeds things up immensely.

I discover another Zora at the top of the tower. He goes by the name Gruve and his story is that he was minding his own business looking for the hero (me) and taking a nap when all of a sudden the ground shakes and he’s carried up into the sky on the tower, waking up higher than he ever wanted to be. He points me in the direction of Prince Sidon down at the river but the prince cannot hear or see me. Gruve is sort of stuck up in the tower, too afraid to jump to the water below and certain that he will just waste away up there in the clouds. Sounds like a whole lot of his problem though, so I activate the tower and scan the area’s map into my Sheikah Slate.

Upon close inspection, it appears that my exercise bike’s timer has rolled over the 99:99 limit, circling around to read 26 minutes, meaning I’ve been on the bike now for well over two hours. Hey, a lot had to get done today after being gone for so long! Next time we hop down from this tower to go meet Prince Sidon and hopefully the rest of the Zora. We’ll see you for that next time!
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