Best of the Breath Part 2: The Mounted Edition

Following on from my previous post, I have continued to collect stories about my incredible adventures in Hyrule. I’ve noticed a strong theme of quadrupeds in this post, so here’s my Mounts Special!


Early in the game you are invited to catch a wild horse and claim it as your own. (Now that I think about it, it’s kind of awful to horsenap a member of the horse community and just force it to serve you for as long as it lives. But let us assume that, living in companionship with Link, all the horses he catches are given chances at better lives of being cared for in stables rather than surviving in a wild and dangerous land.)

At any rate, I brought back to the stable the first two horses I encountered – they were nothing special in terms of their strength, speed and stamina, but they were faster than running. And then I noticed a blue horse. I immediately dismounted and abandoned the horse I was riding, equipped my stealth gear and started stalking it.

It noticed me, once or twice, and trotted effortlessly away from me with a toss of its mane. It easily outpaced me, and I realised that this horse was fast. In the end, I approached during a rainstorm in the dead of night so that it was less likely to hear me. When I mounted it, it thrashed and bucked wildly, and it took a huge amount of stamina for me to master it. I hurried back to the stable, and in honour of its fleetness and the storm that bore it, I named him Raiden.

Raiden was my favourite horse in the game, and he carried me through many places as swift as the wind. Whenever I noticed enemies in the distance, I would dismount and approach on foot. I didn’t think horses could be killed, but I didn’t want to expose him to danger or pain either way. You can imagine then how horrified I was when a stray Guardian beam caught Raiden full in the flank and he fell with a great whinny and perished. I killed the Guardian immediately and was paused the game, in shock at what had happened. I thought about it long and hard, and reloaded the save file because I didn’t think I could go on without him by my side. It was not until much later that I would meet Melanya…

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Raiden, my first beloved mount


I was exploring the hills of Faron when I noticed what appeared to be one horse standing by a herd of wild ponies. Then as I approached I realised that nope, they were horses all right – they just had a giant of a beast among them. He stood apart from the others, with a charcoal coat and a mane of fire, alert while the other horses grazed. It struck me that he was keeping watch over the herd, and I was reminded powerfully of Spirit of the Cimarron. And once again, my first instinct was to tame the beast and take it away from its friends and family, leaving its wards vulnerable and alone.

I ate some food that would maximise my stealth and approached it slowly, placing obstacles between us to break its line of sight. When it was unguarded, I leapt on it from behind and it bucked like the wild beast it was. It took most of my three stamina wheels to avoid being thrown off. Having survived the ordeal of mounting it, I hurried it along the path back to the stables and it fought me the whole way. I’d try and turn left, it would turn right. I’d urge it into a gallop, it would whinny and swerve. The path was made all the more dangerous by passing not one, but two white-maned Lynels that fired Shock Arrows after us as we narrowly avoided them. Through fighting it all the way back to the stables, we forged a pretty solid bond. In the end I named him Cinnamon, both for his mane and for the Stallion he first reminded me of.

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Stallion of the Cinnamon

 


While exploring the frozen peaks of the Gerudo highlands, I came upon a slumbering bear in a small copse of trees and berries. At first I assumed, like the many wolves that inhabited the mountain, that it was an enemy that was safer to kill than to let harass me. I equipped a spear and crept towards it, but it woke suddenly and noticed me despite the deep snow muffling my footsteps. We battled and I stabbed it about as often as it mauled me. Then, as it charged past me I saw an indicator flash up on the screen: Ride. I immediately put my weapon away, equipped stronger armour and spent the next several minutes chasing it around being mauled until, eventually, I grabbed it by the neck and swung myself up onto its back. Bleeding and panting, we walked through the mountains together for a while before I realised he couldn’t climb the slopes. I dismounted and he immediately ran off, and I decided not to torment any bears similarly in the future.

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Not the actual bear I caught but this picture was too good not to share


One of the most memorable scenes from Ocarina of Time is the flight of Impa and Princess Zelda, when Link attempts to bring the three sacred stones to Hyrule Castle. On a pure white horse on a dark and stormy night, the pair fly past as Zelda hurls the Ocarina of Time into the castle moat. In Breath of the Wild, during a flashback from 100 years ago, Zelda is seen riding a similarly white horse. Now in the present day, there was a rumour that a pure white horse was roaming a certain plateau, fabled to be from that same royal pedigree.

I climbed the mountains nearby, using my scope to find the herd that lived in the plains. I did not see the white horse among them, so I decided to stake the joint out in my full Sheikah gear, making a campfire in a sheltered part of the cliff where the horses were less likely to be spooked by it. Day after day, night after night, through rain and fog I studied the herd: horses came and went, but never was the white stallion among them. I thought harder about what the old man at the stables had told me: that it stood apart from the others. I decided to take this literally and began searching the nearby hillsides when I came upon it grazing in a nearby ruins. My breath caught in my throat as we locked eyes for a moment – and then it fled. I maximised my stealth again and began stalking it through the afternoon, and then into the night as it kept a watchful eye on my and pranced out of reach each time I approached. I was starting to get desperate when, at dawn, a traveller came the other way from the top of the ruins catching the white horse off guard. It panicked and fled down the road, fortunately right into the path where I was concealed and I seized it by the mane. It bucked and kicked for any age, perhaps even longer than the Cinnamon had, until at last I had settled it.

I rode it back to the stables proudly, and decided not to show her to the old man until I had made her more presentable. We became fast friends through gentle riding and a bit of a bribery (we shared many apples that day), and when it was clear that our bond was a strong one, the stablehand allowed me to change her harness and saddle. I went for the extravagant raiments and regally approached the old man. He was deeply moved at the sight, and gave me an even finer gift: the original trappings that Zelda herself had used on her mount, passed down through his grandfather. Yuki, as I named the horse, and I flew through the mountains, and we shared many an apple any time we had to part.

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Yuki, from a long line of Royal White Stallions


 

Last year, the Head of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, died from failing health. He was my favourite person in the video game industry, with his quirky sense of humour, his deep humility, his genuine inquisitiveness and his gentle heart. I watched all of his Nintendo Directs (where he would bring news, Directry to you) and Iwata Asks videos. His death rocked me hard, and I was deeply moved by the many tributes of Nintendo fans who wanted to honour his memory. Imagine then how moved I was to discover Satori Mountain in the game, a place teeming with life, rare flora and fauna and untold treasures.

I’d been there many times, but I noticed one night from a neighbouring peak, a strange glow coming from the mountain. I thought it was perhaps a shooting star, or some kind of aurora borealis and decided to investigate. As I approached the source of the glow, I entered a kind of haze, and I felt that every step I took was taking me into a different world. This kind of game mechanic was used to enter the realm of the spirits in Okami, and chills ran down my spine as the whiteness enveloped me. When I came through the other side I began to lose it.

In a misty glen, perhaps a dozen or more glowing blue rabbits hopped. They were Blupees, supernatural creatures with gold antlers that vanished into thin air when approached. I had only seen a handful of them in the game, rare and elusive creatures as they were, and to see so many of them in one place was a wondrous site indeed. Yet I stayed my bow, quelling my first instinct to shoot them for rupees – it seemed too precious a place to disturb with violence. And then I saw him: a shining blue creature somewhat similar to a shaggy horse or elk, with two golden fronds of antlers and four glowing red eyes. I took out my camera, which identified the creature as the Lord of the Mountain. I quietly approached and he, and almost all of the Blupees in the glade suddenly noticed me and vanished. I quietly and reverentially continued to explore, and to my amazement he reappeared before me again. I caught him off guard as I mounted him, and after a brief struggle he didn’t seem to mind me settling onto his back. Slowly and carefully we rode down the mountain together.

To my delight, I found that he had infinite stamina and could gallop at a breakneck speed indefinitely, and we quickly found ourselves at a local stable that I hadn’t noticed before. The horsemaster there was horrified that I had brought the legendary Lord of the Mountain into his domain, worried it would bring a curse upon the stable. He refused to register him as a mount, and I while initially disappointed, I realised that so magnificent a creature deserved to ride free. I dismounted, and to my surprise he did not immediately flee but waited for me calmly. When it became clear that I would not ride him again, he faded into the mists once more.

I opened my compendium to admire the photo I had taken and read the following description:

“This noble creature watches over all animals that make their homes in the forest. Legends say this holy creature is a reincarnation of a sage that died on the lands it now protects. It has an acute awareness of its surroundings, so it seldom appears before people. It’s sometimes known by its other name, Satori.”

I paused for a moment while the magnitude of this hit me and then burst into tears.

They reincarnated Satoru Iwata into the guardian of all forest creatures, who died while he was still creating the game.

Great now I’m crying again. More adventures to come when I’ve stopped leaking.

Satori Lord of the Mountain Location

The Sacred Glen

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Satori, Lord of the Mountain

The Best of the Breath

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has some, forgive me, breathtaking moments. (Can we just pause to acknowledge that Nintendo absolutely nailed the nomenclature there?)

I never, ever would have guessed that the Zelda chain (on account of all those Links) would ever transpose well into an open world. However in hindsight, most of the Zelda games have been open world exploratory adventures, right from the first. I guess what blows my mind is the scope of the game, how very, very big it is, and how many small details and secrets are built into it. For as long as I could remember, I have loved the idea of secrets hidden in plain sight, and BotW is a dream come true for me. I would like to share some of my favourite moments of the game to date.

 


Early in the game I was exploring the headland of South-eastern Hyrule. As I ran towards the cliff’s edge, perhaps a hundred metres above the sea, I noticed a great hole in the landscape and I became immediately suspicious. I approached the hole cautiously and heard a peculiar rumbling. I decided to whip out my Sheikah Slate to see if I could get a better look down the hole when I lost my footing and found myself plummeting down it. I whipped out my paraglider to slow my fall and had a good look around as I descended. A shaft of light beamed from the hole cut into the high ceiling of the enormous cavern I was in, illuminating a sleeping giant whose snores seemed to cause the very ground to tremble. All around us glittered deposits of ore and precious gems, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to mine them I would need to first neutralise their guardian. I donned my Sheikah clothes for soundless movement and crept around him, wondering about the best way to defeat him. In the end, I tucked a bomb between his legs, crept around to his head, and detonated it as I began stabbing him vigorously. Suddenly a health bar appeared on the HUD, identifying my first overworld boss to be a Hinox. I broke several of my weapons upon its robust flank, peppering its eye with arrows until it exploded in a cloud of smoke. My heart raced as I gathered the rare ingredients it had left in its wake, and the whole experience left me feeling exhilarated. It would take me some time to realise that the thrill of battle and conquering a powerful foe was my favourite part of the game.


 

Rumour had it that a Spring of Power existed at the summit of Mount Lanayru. I decided to investigate and made my way into the mountain range that surrounded it. To my surprise, my warm jacket was not sufficient to keep out the cold, and I had to rely on food to keep up my body heat. In addition to the cold, I had underestimated the breadth of the mountain, and it took me several trips to reach the top (because I had to re-supply to survive the climb). As I crested the summit, I found a sickened dragon curled around the fountain, infected with Ganon’s blight. It fled, and without hesitation I launched myself off the mountain after it, shooting the blight off of it with precisely placed arrows. After chasing it from peak to peak and freeing it from the Malice, it landed before me and asked me to remove a scale from its own hide. I offered this to the Goddess of the Spring and was granted entrance into the heart of the mountain. It humbled me that, lowly as I was, I had been of service to the Goddess and its guardian spirit.


 

While visiting my brother, I played his copy of Breath of the Wild while he was eating dinner. I came across a lake and, as always, I used my magnesis rune to search for hidden treasure. As well as a number of treasure chests, I found metal boulders attached to chains which signified the hiding places of mischievous Korok’s. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed two wells that seemed to have been boarded up. After a little bit of experimentation, I used Cyronis and Bombs to blow apart the barriers. Underneath one of them was further treasure, but underneath the other… To my absolute amazement, a golden dragon flew out of the lake, crackling with lightning. It electrocuted me as it passed, and I paused the game to deal with my shock (forgive me). My brother resumed playing, and then promptly started running in the opposite direction, his natural inclination to avoid such a powerful creature. I was flabbergasted he did not want to pursue it. It was a powerful experience to come from out of the blue.


 

Still high off my victory over the Hinox, I found myself at a cliffside shrine. As I descended, I was informed it would be a “Major Test of Strength”. I was excited: I had seven weapons, six hearts and a large supply of food. I’d recently acquired Knight’s Armour, and had not yet found any of the fights to be a challenge yet. Enter the Guardian Scout, equipped with Ancient Battle Axe++, Ancient Spear++ and Ancient Shield+. Every time it swung its weapon, it would take me from full health to a quarter of a heart. Even with my armour and iron shroom skewers, it kicked my ass all around the room and killed me pretty effortlessly. I refused to leave, each battle improving my timing with dodges and shield bashes, opening room for counter attacks. My piddly weapons barely scratched its armour, and I broke sword and axe, spear and shield upon it without much effect. It took me many, many tries to survive the encounter, and eventually I succeeded by the skin of my teeth, breaking the automaton apart and harvesting its mechanisms. I promptly wasted those powerful weapons, not knowing how rare they were. I’ve participated in many Tests of Strength since, but with my Guardian Armour and Ancient Weapons, the thrill just isn’t the same. Like in the days of Morrowind, I am starting to crave an enemy who can best me.


 

I spent many, many hours in the mountains of the Gerudo Highlands, searching for the rumoured statue of the Eighth Heroine of lore. I became extremely proficient at riding my shield down the slopes ala Legolas, picking off Lizalfos with fire arrows as I went. I combed almost every inch of those peaks looking for that damned statue, and it was during those lonely nights in the frigid mountains that I saw him: Soaring through the air in a streak of plasma was the Lightning Dragon, Farosh. I was, forgive me, electrified. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that the dragons would take me to a Great Fairy Fountain, or a place of great power, so I immediately set out in pursuit of him to do what my brother would not. Farosh quickly outpaced me, and I realised that my chase would be a long one. I built campfires (no mean feat during the blizzards) and waited until dusk, marking on my map each point of his journey and running alongside him for as long as I could manage each night. As I sprinted along the peaks, I would sometimes get caught in his updraft and rise to fly alongside him. Once, I flew too close and actually collided with him in a shower of sparks and pain. After many nights of tracking his path, I eventually saw his departure: he flew into the distant skies and disappeared in a maelstrom of clouds. We flew together through those lonely peaks, and I never did find that fairy fountain.


 

Speaking of lightning, I was once again at my brother’s house playing his copy of Breath of the Wild when I was telling him about how much better I was at fighting Lynel (mighty centaur creatures) now, and how ashamed I was that he saw me struggle so much with the one I helped him kill. Literally moments later, the camera panned and we saw another Lynel on a nearby plateau, this one with a blue mane, far stronger than the one I had initially killed. He handed me the controller and said, “Well there’s your chance,” and I vowed to beat it without needing to eat once. And, as it happened, my brother had almost no food, only one good sword (50 damage, compared to his other weapons of about 20 strength) and only a handful of arrows. As I approached, it began to rain, and soon after my weapons started crackling with the static of a thunderstorm. I engaged the Lynel as lightning flashed, setting fire to the trees all around us as we did battle upon the mountaintop. I admit, with his squishy clothing and limited supplies, I died many times. But eventually, right when it seemed all hope was lost, I got into the zone. I dodged every attack perfectly, creating opportunities for flurries. I switched between my wooden and electrified weapons with just enough time to do decent amounts of damage. I shot him in the face and rode him like a pony, stabbing him over and over again until I was victorious without having taken a single blow. It was a glorious battle.


 

High above the hidden village of Kakariko, at the summit of the tallest peak, I found a half-buried metal chest. Using magnesis to wrest it from the earth (and then again to catch it as it promptly started sliding off the mountainside), I found an exquisite sword. It was an Eight-fold blade, a traditional Sheikah weapon that someone had gone to great lengths to store. To give you some context, I barely made it to the summit in my full climbing gear with the help of a stamina potion approaching the peak. I often wonder about the person who dragged that chest all the way to the top, and what secret they were burying there.


 

Searching still the peaks of the Gerudo Highlands, I came across a single Bokoblin holding something that was glowing red and tentatively looking at some blocks of ice. I crept closer, curious, and realised that he was surrounded by several Moblins and Bokoblins who had been frozen solid. I started to wonder about what had happened: a villainous Ice Wizzrobe had trapped all of his friends and family and he, the lone survivor, had made the perilous journey into the lowlands to find a way of freeing them. Conquering trial and tribulation, he had eventually discovered a source of heat and warmth that could not be extinguished: the fire rod of a Fire Wizzrobe! Through cunning strategy and courageous battle, he bested the Wizzrobe in combat and took from him the source of his power. Making the long, cold journey back to the mountains, he had just reunited with his comrades and was in the process of discovering how to free them. I killed him immediately, took his fire rod, thawed the ice and killed his companions too. The rod was pretty handy to have until it ran out of fire.


 

There will be more stories to come!