Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Hyrule Castle)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

In addition, I won’t go over the final fight with Ganon here, either. That will be reserved for a future post regarding bosses/mini-bosses.

This is how one is “supposed” to go through this final area:

  1. Enter through the front gate, which triggers a cutscene of the looming castle ahead as Ganon tries to intimidate you by performing a rad light show.
  2. Wrestle with an army of Guardians hellbent on disintegrating you.
  3. Go through specific gates which pit Link against strong enemies faced throughout the game, such as Lynels.
  4. Discover important rooms within the castle, such as the King’s study and Zelda’s room, which reveals that she just turned seventeen before Ganon was unleashed. (Jailbait alert!)
  5. Collect ultimate items not found anywhere else (i.e. the Hylian Shield).
  6. Build up to the final fight with Ganon in a concise, gradual manner.

This is how I went through this final area:

  1. Use Revali’s Gale (more on this power in a future post) to boost one’s way up to the very top of the castle while avoiding enemy fire and ignoring everything.

So, in a nutshell, I barely explored this area at all… at least when I had the intention of beating the game.

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Getting to the Hylian Shield involves a large dedication to traveling through Hyrule Castle’s sewers/underground dungeon section. Enemies and puzzles and secrets (Oh my!) fill the dark, stony corridors ahead. The theme to Hyrule Castle doesn’t change no matter one’s location, so the mood of the dungeon section, which seems more claustrophobic and creepy, stays the same way as how it feels up above, which I think is a missed opportunity. Hyrule Castle’s theme isn’t something I’d call “Eargasmic” anyway, so it’s little more than appearance’s sake. With as powered up as I was at that point (most of my armor was fully upgraded, my weapons gathered from high-leveled enemies), the trek wasn’t particularly hard, either. Something notable about Breath of the Wild in general is that it’s pretty easy to master. There aren’t many parts of the game I’d consider to be difficult. Hell, Ganon isn’t even that ha—oops, getting ahead of myself.

On the surface level, the Castle looks like a castle with dark mist flying around to give it a corrupt atmosphere. A nice touch, but doesn’t really add much to the mystique. I do, however, enjoy the slightly red/purple tint of the mist, which makes everything feel dead. Death is a great proponent of Ganon’s “character,” which is exuded well with other elements of the game such as the Blood Moon. It is also scattered to the fucking brim with Guardians. One would be here for an hour should they take on all these assholes without using ancient arrows (one-hit KO’s most of the time). Walking Guardians, laser-shooting Guardians, flying Guardians; there is no escape. I would love to see a playthrough where a player completely avoids the attention of every Guardian on the castle.

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The most interesting part of Hyrule Castle is inside of its main halls. One comes to face a few libraries, a dining hall, bedrooms, and various corridors that look stained from neglect and moral muddying. One can find numerous rusty weapons on the floor, along the walls—as if the reign of Ganon happened in a flash and everyone simply disappeared. It’s a great world-building mechanic that delightfully fills in the narrative blanks without “saying” much of anything. The “saying” comes from the King’s and Zelda’s diaries, because of course they both conveniently have diaries. These pages hold more weight if one had chosen to collect all of Zelda’s memories (you know the drill), which provides an extra layer of depth to the decisions made and the situations that occurred in the past.

Seeing as one can simply skip right to the final climax, this final area feels a little more than anticlimactic, yet the choice to make it so is entirely up to the player. In hindsight, it would probably be more impactful to discover all of these neat things and then fight Ganon immediately after, instead of letting it simmer in the back of my mind while I wander off to collect more Korok Seeds. I’ve made it perfectly clear in past posts that I’m not much of a fan of the narrative to this game or its run-of-the-mill presentation of good thwarting evil. That doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects to it I enjoy, as I find Zelda to be an interesting enough character to want to know more about her. (She’s more interesting here than in Skyward Sword, which used to be my favorite representation of Zelda.) Hyrule Castle is the only area in the game to make a conscious effort to better emphasize the characterization of Zelda, the King, and to some extent, Link. That in and of itself makes it worth exploring, but I don’t think it offers much else aside from legendary goodies.

(All gameplay screenshots, once again, courtesy of Krow’s Graveyard.)

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