Geoff Girardin

Breath of the Wild Helped me Say Goodbye to the GamePad

Geoff Girardin

I fell in love with the Wii U’s GamePad almost immediately. When the console was released in 2012, I lived in a condo with my wife and two roommates. This didn’t leave a ton of time for me to play on the television, so having console gaming in my lap blew my mind. Early launch titles such as Assassin’s Creed III and New Super Mario Bros. U performed wonderfully off-TV, and even ZombiU, a game that lacked the ability to play solely on the GamePad, was made better for the functionality that the GamePad offered. The possibilities for this controller seemed endless, especially for the future of my favorite game series.

That anticipation paid off in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, which continued the second screen utilization that was introduced with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for the 3DS in 2011. The second screen displayed the map and, when needed, the inventory, allowing for easier navigation of both Link and his items. This gave me more time to enjoy the world, the combat, and the puzzles without having to spend as much time sorting through the menu screens. This second-screen feature continued with the rest of the Zelda remasters of this time period, Majora’s Mask 3D for the 3DS, and Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U. Early video suggested that the same was to be expected for Breath of the Wild, but after that was moved to a split release across the Wii U and Nintendo Switch, the functionality was lost.

Geoff Girardin The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD screen courtesy of Nintendo PR

I’m playing Breath of the Wild on my Wii U, as a newborn took priority over the Switch’s $299 price tag, and after six years, I’m used to a certain type of presentation from a Zelda title. If the action is on the television, then the inventory should be on the touchscreen. While this was a minor gripe among a hundred laurels, it bugged me for the first 20 or so hours. But the more that I played, the more I realized that one screen was a better fit for Breath of the Wild, no matter what necessitated the change. For me, it all clicked once I turned on the Pro HUD.

Pro HUD removes everything from the screen except for your heart containers. No minimap, no temperature gauge, no item icons. The screen opens up to focus on the world in front of you, and requires you to do some more tedious work to get where you need to go. This includes bringing up the menu every time you need to view the map or manage your inventory. There are debates about whether or not this is the best way to play, and that’s obviously a subjective point — play the game whatever way works best for you. As for me, Pro HUD made a world of a difference, and makes me pay attention a little bit more to how I play the game.

Geoff Girardin The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The change in menu presentation may have been due to the fact that the Switch is a single screen system, and it was easier to scrap this display option altogether in order to get both versions of the game out on time. But, regardless of the developer’s reasoning, I’m glad that Breath of the Wild doesn’t use the GamePad display. Off-TV play is the same as on the big screen, so there’s no gameplay difference to acclimate to, nothing to distract from the adventure in front of me. It also makes me work a little bit harder, and I appreciate the entire package a little bit more than I think I normally would. Not everything is laid out for me to look at, I need to do a little bit of digging to get the information I need.

This all isn’t to say that the menus in Breath of the Wild are perfect. There are a few issues with layout and a lack of information that I think could be cleaned up a little bit, specifically in regards to cooking. But, for something that was so integral to my opinion on both the Zelda series and the Wii U for so long, it’s almost refreshing to see GamePad functionality missing from the latest game. It’s one of the little things about Breath of the Wild that is small and innocuous, but helps tie the whole package together, at least for me and how I play. Not everyone may see it as a benefit, but that’s what makes this game so wonderful. Everybody can approach the same package differently, and walk away with a different perspective. Not everyone liked the Wii U, but in my eyes, Breath of the Wild is a great note for the system to end on, and it’s getting me ready for the future.