Very Close. Very Different (Sakurai Column 527)

Very Close, Very Different – Sakurai’s Famitsu Column, Vol. 527

Originally published March 30th, 2017.

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A week before writing this column, two wonderfully outstanding works were released and I was torn between how to spend my time. Horizon Zero Dawn (from here on out “Horizon”) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (further referred to as “Zelda”). By all means, play them both because they really are masterpieces.

With that being said, I am surprised by the fact that although there are aspects that are very close, there are other aspects that are very different.

First, I will summarize their common points.

Common Features

  • Open world ARPG
  • The protagonist carries the fate of the world on their shoulders
  • Antiquated culture. There aren’t many towns.
  • A story that chases a forgotten past.
  • Strategy and tactics centered around the bow and arrow.
  • Day to day collecting of raw materials and hunting.
  • Hiding and surprise attacks are effective.
  • Enemies drop their equipment when neutralized.
  • Use everything of the surroundings.
  • Catch wild creatures and ride them.
  • Skillfully prepare and change equipment to best suit the situation.
  • The last boss puts the enemies of nature under its control by an invisible power.
  • Development period was roughly 6 years?

Next, I will summarize the areas I felt were contrasting.

The former is Horizon, and the latter is Zelda.

Contrasting Aspects

  • New IP from overseas. / Series with a deep history in Japan.
  • Enemies are mechanized living creatures of metal. / Standard monsters of flesh.
  • Nimble and can swiftly dash without limit. / Sprinting is punctuated by resting from time to time so that your stamina gauge doesn’t run out.
  • Cliff climbing is smooth. Like semiautomatic acrobatics. / Steadily climb while managing the stamina gauge.
  • Battles are flashy. Bring down the enemy with an overwhelming attack and end with a finishing blow. / Fights tend to become a matter of using long range attacks and attacking after dodging, to minimize risk of damage.
  • Even if you run out of ammo you can quickly craft things on the spot and make as many life restoration items as you want. / Preparation and making arrows, weapons, equipment and cooking beforehand is essential.
  • Take out enemies and become stronger through skills and leveling up. / Become stronger by finding shrines, clearing puzzles, and increasing the level of your stamina and heart gauge.
  • Free to catch as many horses and creatures as you want and switch rides often. / You have to register horses at the stable, and there’s a limit to the number of favorites you can have.
  • The graphics are very realistic. The models of the machines and things are beautiful and the attention to detail is eye catching. / Presented with a cartoonish art style that omits details, yet possesses a unique characteristic.
  • Story driven. The intention of the main character is clear and it follows the story. / Freedom. The depiction of the main character is vague and he has no dialogue, so it is easy to project the player’s own feelings.
  • Due to the aforementioned point, one doesn’t get lost because the next destination is made clear by the basic structure. / It’s nice that everything is open and available. You are allowed to go everywhere and even challenge the last boss from the beginning.

Overall, Horizon is more stress free and Zelda is becoming a tiresome routine. However, if you’ve played Zelda, you probably understand this well: the chores of Zelda are the most fun part!

If a game is easy to play, that’s definitely a good thing.

Even recently, it has become a trend to take note of the amount of stress the player feels.

But again, comfort and the fun of resource management are two different things.

Purposely doing things in a roundabout way, or steadily doing things one at a time can be enjoyable, and leveling up your character’s stats creates a really good feeling on top of that. As a principle, I think both are the right answer.

Once you get used to each game’s bows, horses, and combat systems the confusion of switching between them is also a bit of fun.

I repeat, play them both if possible. So many well-made works lining up like this doesn’t happen often!


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3 comments

  1. This translation kind of gives a bad impression about Zelda which I’d like to comment a bit. In the original Japanese he refers to Zelda as ‘mendokusai’, which surely does have a negative connotation of ‘having to take into account multiple things at the same time’, and then says that ‘sono mendokusasa ga saikou ni tanoshii’, or ‘that complexity is so much awesome fun’, or ‘the best type of fun’, which is a great praise. He is using a technique where he uses words that have negative connotations to talk about something, then flips that negativity into a greater positivity, which gives the reader greater impression of the praise. I feel this hasn’t translated well into this text.

  2. I think translation should be “overwhelming task”, and not “tiresome routine”.

    Thanks for the superb job, though.

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