My wife and I had collectively logged approximately five-or-so hours into Breath of the Wild, exploring the Great Plateau by the time the Old Man decided to part ways with his hang glider. Perched atop the ruins of the Temple of Time, peering across the vast Hyrulian expanse toward the silhouette of the Dueling Peaks, it felt very much like the artwork from the original Legend of Zelda on NES.
With a well-timed leap and subsequent tap on the same button, my newly acquired equipment unfurled, allowing me to hang in midair. I began my slow descent over the edge of the Plateau down to the valley floor. The two of us, sitting side-by-side on the couch, were equally giddy and terrified. My breathing was measured and shallow, my stomach tight.
This was it! We didn’t know what to expect, but the world of Breath of the Wild was alive, and my every limb tingled with the anticipation of what we might find. This was evident at my leisurely pace and thorough approach through the Gatepost Town Ruins, as well as by my tentative avoidance and skittish engagement with the surrounding Moblins.
I needed to see everything! I tried sneaking up on a horse, to no avail. I threw bombs at distant enemies. I tried climbing stone pillars. I saw a fox!
A fox!? Cool! I needed to pick it up.
The fox was looking right at me, maybe 10 yards away. She stretched, yawned, calmly turned from me, and traipsed up the hill as if I weren’t even there. My smile grew. A challenge.
I seized the opportunity and bolted at the fox while her back was turned. She deftly skipped a few steps up the hill while I barreled straight past, skidding to an uncomfortable stop.
Mischievously gracing me with a side glance and a wink, she yawned again as if to communicate that this world was not mine. She lived in it just as fully as I did, and she didn’t exist to fulfill my every whim. I was naive enough to ignore what she was telling me.
I had been shown that this world was not mine. I was a visitor here.
Undaunted, I patiently waited for her arrogance to manifest itself once again. As soon as her back was turned, I stooped into a low crouch and began the slow ascent up the hill toward her in the shadow of her stone outcropping. Her head began rotating toward me and I froze like a statue. After a few incredibly loud heartbeats, she again turned away, distracted by another sound or smell. I again assumed my ninja-like climb.
Inches from the fox, I reached out my hand out to pick her up. She spun on me, flashed a giant grin and barked in a way that sounded mysteriously like a derisive laugh, then darted away.
In the exact moment that my anger flashed, the ground began to rumble, intense music cued, and a health bar appeared at the top of the screen.
I was about to meet my very first Stone Talus, and our acquaintance was to be made because the fox had lead me straight into its clutches.
As I craned my neck back, clutching my Rusty Halberd and shield, I fully realized that I wasn’t the only one playing this game; so was the fox. While I had originally thought I was the one doing the stalking, it dawned on me that since our very first moments together, she had played me like Kass’ accordion.
The Stone Talus rotated toward me in an evil cacophony of rock scraping on rock, somehow locking on to my location despite its lack of eyes. I stood strong, prepped for battle. Its arm swung back sending a cascade of grass and dirt showering into my eyes. My blood went cold.
And I kept running.
I ran until the music stopped.
I had felt so confident about my abilities sailing off the Plateau. I had learned all the things and gotten the bombs. I had activated the towers. This was my world!
And yet, I had been shown that this world was not mine. I was a visitor here. This was not like any Zelda game previous. It was a game with a world of enticement and beauty. It was a world that was unpredictable and alive. It was a world that was terrifying. I was not prepared for this world.
My wife and I looked at each other, giggled in a fit of adrenaline-fueled giddiness, and my smile grew even larger.
At that moment, I connected with Link’s character far better than I ever had in any game previous. For the first time, I felt small. For the first time, I needed courage.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, internalizing the wild nature of this new Zelda game.
My eyes opened. My body was ready.