Riding the Backlog - Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Part 12)

By Chris Pranger

Session 12: A Shocking Encounter

Welcome to Riding the Backlog, a series where I play a video game while on an exercise bike. My game at the moment is Breath of the Wild, a truly massive undertaking while sitting on a stationary bicycle. Thus far I’ve ridden during 11 different sessions, each generally over 90 minutes, which means my total time on the bike so far has been north of 900 minutes. Let’s keep the trend going with session 12!

When we last left off, Link (that’s me, technically) had just reached Zora’s Domain after braving the wet and rainy paths. Prince Sidon tasked me with meeting him and the king, and that’s just what I intend to do.

As a side note, this seems a good a time as any to gripe about the photo-taking feature of the Switch. It is great, and so simple, and I like to do it, but the button placement really irks me. Having it positioned right next to the left control stick, the one affecting movement, means that I typically have to either stop moving to take a picture, or I have to move my right hand all the way across the controller. I wish the button was on the underside or something, but we can’t have it all, can we?

Back to Zora’s domain, I pull out the amiibo rune and check my daily scans, getting some slightly stronger weapons and the Trousers of Wind, making my Wind Waker Link cosplay 2/3rds of the way complete (same as my Twilight Princess Link). But having to sift through the menus to manage my equipment after opening a treasure chest is frustrating and downright bad for a game that has so much polish everywhere. If my inventory is full in either weapons, bows, or shields when opening a chest, the chest closes and I have to go into my inventory screen, select a weaker item to drop, then I can open the chest and receive my reward. Same as picking something up off the ground except I have to sit through a short chest-opening animation each time before failure. It should have been as simple as “your inventory is full” and then it instantly brings up your quick menu and you can swap if you want. It’s industry-standard UI at this point. Big ol’ bummer.

Also a bummer: everyone in Zora’s Domain. Or at least the majority of the Zora I talk to. Since Zora live for hundreds of years, a ton of them remember Link from before and constantly harang him for “failing Lady Mipha” and “taking Lady Mipha from us” and “you Hylians failed to stop Calamity Ganon!” No fewer than three older Zora give me guff, including Trello, Jaihto (whom is currently researching the History of the Zora), and a manta ray Zora named Muzu.

It’s very strange to have so many Zora believe that Link did something terrible to cause Calamity Ganon’s rise. Like, the four major non-Hylian tribes of Hyrule were given command of the Divine Beasts, and all the kingdoms or royal families in the land were at peace, but because Ganon duped everyone and focused his full wrath on the central kingdom, oops, must have been Hylians’ fault that bad things happened. In trying to create some sort of drama between Link and the Zora people, it just makes the older Zora seem like jerks.

Sidon is waiting for me next to his father, King Dorephan of the Zora people. The king informs me of what Sidon has already said, that Vah Ruta the elephant-shaped Divine Beast has been spraying water into the air, causing untold rain to pour all around the region. A lot of my questions are addressed here, with King Dorephan explaining that it wouldn’t seem like a problem for fish people but the rains could cause the dam next to Zora’s Domain to burst, which would end up destroying a lot of Hylian settlements as the waters sweep across the land.

This helps dissuade the notion that all the Zora are selfish jerks since here we have their leader pointing out that the real threat isn’t really to the Zora themselves but to the rest of the people nearby. That’s a good leader. Furthermore, King Dorephan has no beef with Link whatsoever. He knows who he is and what he failed to do, but he’s immediately ready to let Link solve this current problem. That’s a good king. I also like that he mentions that if Vah Ruta continues unchecked, Hyrule could be swallowed completely by the sea, a nice little nod to what indeed happened during The Wind Waker.

Then a throwaway line sidetracked my mind entirely when someone mentions that the events of 100 years ago cannot be altered, so they must move forward to fix the present, to which I have to call BS. This is the Zelda universe, and a game that isn’t shy about including references to every single previous game, including Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Skyward Sword, all of which have extensive time travel as central necessities to their plots. Heck, the Zelda timeline is a three-way timeline that splits at Ocarina of Time, creating three distinct realities for the series to fall into. There’s been no official spot noted for Breath of the Wild in the timelines, but time travel exists in this world regardless. The Temple of Time even still exists and is noted as such, it wouldn’t exist in a version of Hyrule where time travel wasn’t possible at least in some capacity. I’m a little frustrated that the goal of the game isn’t to collect a certain number of macguffins that eventually allow me to travel back in time 100 years and undo all the damage. Just imagine if the game had been leading up to allowing you, Link, to relive the most intense day in Hyrule’s history and tasked you with making it a day to celebrate rather than mourn.

The last straw for Muzu comes in the form of the Zora Armor, a piece of blue armor that gives Link the ability to swim slightly faster and swim straight up waterfalls. Just...right on up there. It’s very video-gamey in execution, but I’m fine with that. The lore behind the armor, the part that gets Muzu to storm off, is that Mipha herself made it and that Zora Armor is always intended for a Zora’s beloved/fiance. I mean, yeah, I’d be mad too about giving a very sacred item of clothing and the last thing created by Mipha to the person who’s technically responsible for her death and doesn’t even remember her. But then again, I’m a degenerate, so gimme that dumb fish costume.

After speaking to the king, I make a quick stop at the Zora’s Domain Goddess statue to deposit some Spirit Orbs. I’m feeling pretty confident with my current amount of health, so it’s finally time to upgrade my stamina. I drop off four orbs and get an additional fifth of a stamina wheel. Whoa, slow down there, tex. Don’t give me too much all at once. I can sprint for a whole extra second now, what will I do with myself?

Walking down to speak with Sidon by Mipha’s statue prompts a new cutscene between Muzu, Sidon, and Link. One new revelation from this is that Mipha had feelings for Link, a total shock to everyone, more so even than the Shock Arrows I’ll need for immobilizing Vah Ruta. Muzu doesn’t really care and gets indignant to Link’s amnesia, which is fair. I wouldn’t blame Link for failing, but I’d certainly be pissed that he’s alive 100 years later and doesn’t even remember the people who died in his place.

In an attempt to jog his memory, Link stares long and hard at Mipha’s statue, and since this is a video game, it actually works and we get a cute little cutscene showing Link and Mipha together 100 years ago.

The first thing that hits me is how it’s beautiful all of a sudden, and it dawns on me that the whole section trekking to Zora’s Domain is perpetually overcast, grey, and dark because of Vah Ruta, whereas this cutscene is during a beautiful sunrise. Brightness! Colors! Bloom! OK, too much bloom. The bloom is kind of insane, all the colors are getting washed out and look white. I still prefer this to the grey skies.

The flashback isn’t too complicated, showing Link and Mipha during a time of peace. They sit on the end of Vah Ruta’s trunk as Mipha heals some random scrape on Link’s arm, possibly from some training he’s been doing. Mipha’s design is great, being a vibrant red. She certainly looks like a Zora, but thankfully not like any Zora we’ve ever seen before. It’d be difficult to attempt to be a Zora after Princess Ruto, but Mipha pulls it off.

The relationship between her and Link is pretty shallow with Mipha clearly having strong feelings for Link and Link basically being a big nothingburger of a character. Mipha’s voice actress is pretty good, conveying Mipha as a softer, gentler character compared to others, which fits her characterization as the healer. It borders a little on the wispy, hollow damsel voice that never really sounds natural, but Mipha is instantly a character I like and feel a few stabs of sadness knowing that she’s gone.

Upon returning to the present, Muzu isn’t much impressed that Link suddenly remembers everything, but Sidon is quick to point out that the Zora Armor that I’d already equipped (because I’m a degenerate) fits me perfectly, which meant that Mipha made it specifically for Link. It’s a nice little moment, and it snaps Muzu out of his curmudgeonly attitude.

From here, Sidon tasks me with collecting 20 Shock Arrows so that we can go take down Vah Ruta, saying that there’s a spot on a cliff not far from Zora’s Domain where a beast has a bunch. But before he can even properly task me with this, he notes that I already have more than 20 Shock Arrows, which deflates how special they are, and instead just tells me to meet him near Vah Ruta.

Forget that! I wanted to fight a beast for some electrified ammunition! I don’t care that I already have it, I should have to go do it anyway! What a bummer of a moment, connecting something so cool to a common item. Well, I don’t care if I’m already fully stocked, I’m going beast hunting.

On my way out of Zora’s Domain I encounter Gruve, the Zora I met up on the top of the Sheikah Tower. He apparently made it off and asks me to demonstrate my ability to dive, pontificating about how great diving is or some blah blah blah. This is a tutorial for swimming up waterfalls, so once I dive, he tells me to swim right back up the waterfall, then gives me some pointless ingredients and sends me on my way.

As I said, I don’t need to go get any more Shock Arrows, but this was one of the single coolest things I did in my first playthrough back on the Wii U, so I’m not going to miss out. Finding the spot isn’t as simple as I thought since Sidon didn’t mark my map or anything. That means I’m taking my best guess and heading to the most likely cliff.

I realize that the fastest way to the top of the cliffs is to just swim straight up the waterfalls. Doing so shoots me up the water and fires me into the air. As I mentioned, it looks incredibly silly, but it is still very satisfying. A weird bit of environment exists near Zora’s Domain though. There’s a waterfall into a small pool and then a waterfall over a large wall beyond that, but upon climbing to the top of the wall I find that the water is spawning from nowhere. You’d think it’s coming from underground, but it doesn’t look like that at all. It instead looks like the environmental artists or programmers wanted a cool waterfall in this spot but then forgot to add an origin point and just said, “Eh, who cares?”

What doesn’t look silly is my prey, a Lynel near the highest point of the area. The pathway up is marked with Shock Arrows in trees before spilling out into a large open space with a small pond, some rocks, some trees, and one regal Lynel just prowling his domain.

Lynels are my favorite enemy in the game, and that includes all mini and full bosses. They are the single perfect culmination of all the combat-based mechanics the game teaches you, including melee combat, dodging, flurry rushes, ranged combat, critical hits, mounting enemies, gliding, mid-air arrow time, shield countering, and health restoration.

From the moment you see a Lynel, they’re gracefully trotting around in the open in a power stance. If they see you they generally don’t instantly do much except stop and continue to monitor. It’s possible to back away slowly before they decide you’re a threat, but if they get a full look at you, they’ll silently pull out their bow and fire, in this case with Shock Arrows.

Despite being a miniboss, they don’t get a miniboss health bar like the Hinox or Stone Talus. It’s almost like the game is sleeping on the awesomeness that is the Lynel. The first shot from the Shock Arrow almost certainly hits, even if you try to dodge, meaning you’ll drop your shield or weapons if you’re not prepared.

From there, the Lynel has a number of attacks. It can charge straight forward, do a three-hit slash combot, perform a big sweeping slash, gallop around while taking quick swipes, or even stand back and breathe fire at you.

The slash attacks or charge attacks are relatively simple to dodge, triggering a chance at a flurry rush. If the Lynel distances itself from you, you can take a few shots at its face in an attempt at a critical hit. A critical hit here will stagger the Lynel for a moment or two, giving you a chance to hop on its back and smack it in the back of the head while it tries to buck you off. This is truly the coolest thing the game lets you do.

If you can’t stagger it before it breathes fire, you’ll get a chance at an updraft from the flaming grass, setting you up for more attack chances. Really, everything about a Lynel fight is primed to test your combat skills, and it’s immensely satisfying when you strike the final blow and cause it to explode into a pile of loot, including a powerful sword, shield, and a bow that can shoot three arrows at once.

During my Wii U playthrough, the Lynel was the ultimate challenge for me, representing a level of skill I wasn’t sure I could attain. Mostly it’s all about patience and timing, but you do still have to have weapons strong enough to whittle its health down. Going in unprepared will spell your demise.

I gather the remaining Shock Arrows around the area and proceed to the very top, discovering a sign that reads “Jump at your own risk.” Sounds like a challenge to me! Come back next time for the final installment of my Breath of the Wild playthrough when I take on Vah Ruta and see what’s caused it to go wild. See you then!
Previous Post Next Post