If there’s one thing 100+ hours with Breath of the Wild has taught me, it’s that this game rewards curiosity and experimentation. I’d just beaten Ganon for the first time and seen the credits when I felt a curious urge: the urge to start Breath of the Wild over again and make a bee-line for Ganon. No Divine Beasts, no exploration… just the bare necessities. Why? To see if I could do it, of course!
This is not an experience I’m used to in gaming – in fact it’s almost unprecedented. I’m not generally big on replaying games unless it’s an especially short arcade-type game. To stick with a game after reaching the credits is highly unusual for me, with the original Xenoblade Chronicles and Chrono Trigger being two rare exceptions.
It wasn’t only pure curiosity, I’ll admit. As anyone who has beaten Breath of the Wild will know, completing the four Divine Beasts makes the final boss a relatively simple affair. The more exploration you’ve done out in Hyrule, the stronger you are and the less daunting the boss is. It’s a nifty bit of “choose your own difficulty” design, and my choice to thoroughly rinse Breath of the Wild’s overworld resulted in a satisfying but easy final battle.
As much as I enjoyed destroying Ganon, I couldn’t ignore the masochistic part of me that loves unreasonably challenging games. Even while making my assault on Hyrule Castle for the first time, I was taking mental notes for a possible speed run-like replay. “If Link entered the castle this way, he’d only have to fight this one big enemy… and maybe that could even be skipped with enough wood and flint…”. Those thoughts stretched backwards too: “What food would Link need to beat the game with only three hearts? What items would be essential? Which areas would he need to visit?”. You get the idea; a plan gradually formed, and I was becoming excited to put it into effect.
After starting a new profile and rushing through Breath of the Wild’s mandatory training area, the Great Plateau, I went south to the Faron region. Why? Bananas, that’s why. Bananas raise your attack considerably, and I figured I would need bunches of them to make any headway in Hyrule Castle. At the same time, I grabbed and registered a good horse. A horse isn’t essential to beat the game, but it helps with Ganon’s final phase and with approaching Hyrule Castle.
I then fought my way to the castle… with hardly any fighting. Having explored the castle fairly extensively with the powered up, armour-clad Link in my first playthrough, I knew some tricks for avoiding the combat-heavy areas. The castle has a relatively unguarded back entrance which took me deep into the castle’s interior. The interior is fertile ground for high quality weapons, and, from there, Ganon’s lair was just a nifty climb away.
It’s safe to say I was caught completely off-guard by what occurred in Ganon’s lair on my second visit. In my first save file, I walked in and fought Ganon; in my second, Ganon failed to materialise. Instead, I was confronted by the first of the four Divine Beast bosses. And then the second. And then the third. And then- you get the idea. What had been a relatively straightforward single final boss fight in my original save file became a taxing boss rush followed by the final boss in my “beeline” save file.
It was at this point that I started to doubt my mission’s viability. I never found the Divine Beast bosses too challenging individually, but collectively was another matter. Not to mention I only had a limited number of weapons, with limited durability and no Master Sword for backup. After several failed attempts, I decided to leave the castle and upgrade in a couple of ways. I visited Hestu for two new weapon slots (not necessary, as it turned out); I went to the Fairy Fountain and grabbed a few red fairies (necessary); and lastly, I sought out additional food to heal me in battle (necessary).
And so I went back to the castle, and to Ganon. It took many attempts before I made it to Ganon proper, and even then I carelessly died on more than one occasion from sheer excitement at getting so far! Several goes later, I hit another brick wall. The issue was equipment: my weapons weren’t durable enough to last the entire fight against Ganon. I started altering my strategies for the Divine Beast bosses, relying more on arrows and conserving my more powerful melee weapons for the Ganon fight. With time and practice, I was gradually whittling away more of Ganon’s health. It must have taken at least 30 attempts in total, but finally, with no red fairies remaining, just a few pieces of food, and my heart in my throat… victory was mine.
I cheered, I pumped my fist, I bragged on Miiverse – and not just for a few minutes afterwards either! It felt like a big deal, and a real accomplishment. Certainly it was an extremely memorable experience and a great way to cap off my time with this game. They always say it’s best to go out on a high, don’t they?