It’s 2021 and the gradual decline of the COVID pandemic has incentivized Nintendo back to releasing titles on a regular basis. The first Nintendo Direct in over a year was followed by the announcement that Nintendo would be at E3 in mid-June. With Nintendo preparing to release some quality first-party titles, I took a step back to finish what I started. The Champions’ Ballad.
Although I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on its 2017 launch, I managed to clear all 120 Shrines shortly after I beat the story. I gave the Master Trials a quick attempt before putting it down for the next four years.
In that span of those four years, however, I’ve come across an interesting game that captured the essence of Breath of the Wild. I’m talking especially about Genshin Impact, the free-to-play Action/RPG by Chinese developer MiHoYo. Borrowing heavily from Breath of the Wild’s visual aesthetic, exploration, combat gameplay, loot, and cooking system, Genshin Impact became a worldwide smash hit over the course of several months. In just under the year, Genshin Impact has grossed over $1 billion in revenue.
Playing Genshin Impact
I’ve enjoyed my fair share of the game despite how short of the time I’ve played it. However, my busy backlog has kept me from investing in it as much as my friends who have long soared past my progress. Yet I appreciate the obvious combat similarities such as the continuous spin attack of the Greatsword weapons. Unlike Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact lacks a lock-on mechanic, feels decisively easier, and focuses more on character stat-building than procuring survival weapons and timing dodges and parries.
Now with that being said, I appreciate Genshin for what it’s done. I’m not remotely upset at how much it borrowed from Breath of the Wild. Seeing people protest the game just looked ridiculous. This does not mark the first time another developer used Zelda as an inspiration. For instance, compare the aesthetic of Secret of Mana to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on SNES.
Square-Enix borrowed the art style of A Link to the Past using Secret of Mana as a basis before carrying the style over to Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Trials of Mana. With that being said, Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series sets a perennial example that continuously inspires other game developers.
Playing the Champions’ Ballad.
Now, having gone back to Breath of the Wild for the first time in over four years, it took some time to remember the controls. Well, more like a few minutes really. I don’t really know what came over me to finish this quest besides a bug telling me to finish this part of my backlog. Perhaps the release of Age of Calamity made me want to see the rest of the tale of the Champions of Hyrule.
Well, the Champions’ Ballad ended up giving me a reasonable challenge starting with draining all but 1/4 heart of health with the required weapon, the One-Hit Obliterator. While this feels daunting at first, keep in mind the Great Plateau isn’t exactly known for flooding you with enemies. Moreover, only one shrine had mini-guardians for you to slay. Once you finish the last shrine, you can put the weapon away and restore all your hearts to normal as you enter the next stretch of the Champions’ Ballad.
Once you’re done with the first half, you can travel once more to Hyrule’s mainland to enter four different quests. Relative to the Champions and their Divine Beasts, each region featured a triangle of monoliths detailing three shrines each. You had to decipher where each shrine was or you could do what I did and use a guide.
The Second Half
Each shrine offered its own puzzle thematic and no two shrines were alike. It brought back fond memories of solving the 120 shrines of the main game and evoked that feeling of wanting a challenge once more. For what it’s worth, the Shrines offered the best part of the Champions’ Ballad.
After each series of shrines, you would enter a Divine Beast to fight an EX version of the Blight Ganon bosses you encountered before. Each one featured a new form and you were limited to the weapons you could use. To be honest, I didn’t find them any harder than before. The new forms offered a puzzle element to figuring out their weakness. But once you learned it, they went down quickly.
Once I finished each boss fight, I was awarded an upgrade to a Champions’ power. Each one could now cool down much faster than before. After which, Kass would play a song that would stir a flashback featuring Zelda recruiting one of the Champions.
The Proper Sendoff to Breath of the Wild.
I enjoyed the puzzles and combat throughout the game. To include some extra content, Nintendo included various armor pieces based on the Zelda series’ past, I have next to no interest in collecting them. They’re side-quests for the sake of side-quests. I feel little reward is given for collecting them especially when I already have the fully-upgraded Tunic of the Wild.
Once I finished the Champions’ Ballad, I received the Master Cycle Zero. But I think the real reward was learning more of the backstories of Princess Zelda and her Champions. Getting to experience the world of Hyrule once more sent me back to enjoying Breath of the Wild for the first time four years ago. It was a fun little challenge and excuse to revisit the title once more. This made for a wonderful sendoff until Nintendo finally, and hopefully, showcases the sequel to Breath of the Wild at E3 this year.
It’s not perfect but despite its imperfections, Breath of the Wild still sets the standard as a defining Action/Adventure title of the current gaming generation. I think the dungeons in this game were quite a good challenge even though I prefer the traditional dungeon layout of previous Zelda games. I also found the game’s single-biggest flaw to be the lack of enemy variety especially compared to past Zelda games. I’m hardly fazed about the breakable weapons especially considering the abundance at which you receive new ones.
Breath of the Wild proved to be one of the best games in the Zelda series, a top-level title for Nintendo Switch, and a must-play for any fan of the series. Champions’ Ballad provided a cherry on top that gave players one more reason to explore the world once again.
Until the sequel comes out, I’ll be chugging through my backlog and playing a little bit of Genshin Impact here and there. I won’t play anything to fill the void of Breath of the Wild, however, because it’s a wonderful game on its own. While I might finish Age of Calamity to close the circle on the story of Breath of the Wild, that might be a while to come. Given the size of my backlog, I can’t promise I’ll finish it before the sequel to Breath of the Wild comes out.
Give Champions’ Ballad a try if you’re looking for an excuse to jump back into Breath of the Wild. It might seem daunting at first but it comes around as a solid, level challenge for anyone to enjoy.
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Until next time!