Yesterday morning. 6.37am. Same time, same place, same bus. The 614X. Baulkham Hills to the city.
Occasional sleep-ins aside, this is the bus I catch every single weekday. That morning was no different.
Or so I thought.
I didn’t know it at the time — how could I? — but this bus trip would be different. This bus trip would be special.
I was about to embark on the strangest 20 minutes of my video gaming life.
Let’s talk about Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild is a video game I love very much. At this point it feels like obsession. I’m at the end point of a unique journey. Playing immediately after (sometimes in tandem with) another instant classic in Horizon: Zero Dawn, I had some unfair, knee-jerk reactions in the beginning. “These textures are terrible.” “The world is too empty.” “Climbing is boring.”
But I persisted.
Slowly the game began to make sense. I switched to the Pro HUD, committed to exploration, committed to playing this game on its own terms. Slowly I fell in love. Last weekend I finished Breath of the Wild and I’m now convinced my 80 hours spent in this world was the most rewarding video game experience of my adult life. What a strange thing to admit or even think, but it’s an idea I have committed to.
Breath of the Wild might be my favourite video game ever.
A large part of my love for Breath of the Wild is inexorably tied to the Switch itself – more specifically, how we interact with it.
A huge chunk of my time with Breath of the Wild took place on public transport. I’m a 35-year-old adult man. I’m married with two children and I lead a busy live. The Switch feels like a tailor-made response to that. It’s a special console and the experience is fluid. The Switch is a console that pours itself seamlessly into the slimline gaps in my life. It adapts to those spare moments. At least 40 of my 80 hours with Zelda: Breath of the Wild took place on the 614X, either en route to the city, or on my way back to Baulkham Hills. Stuck in traffic on the M2, not caring because I was lost in one of the purest adventures I’ve ever experienced.
Back to those 30 minutes.
Barely awake, bleary-eyed. Ignoring eye contact, crumpled on the bus seat like a folded up slinky. Deciding whether to nap or play.
Bung on the headphones and switch on the Switch. I defeated Ganon over the weekend, where to now? The need to explore and just exist in Hyrule is still tangible at this point. ‘Completing’ the game has not dulled that urge. I set myself vague targets and goals and set off. Adventure is out there.
I’ll never forget what happened next.
I was in the desert. I began climbing the highest mountain I could see, exploring regions I’d only briefly spent time in. I climbed higher. The sand turned to snow. I clambered over a rock and saw something I didn’t even think was possible.
A bad screenshot, so I’ll elaborate.
That’s two Bokoblins. They’re not riding horses. They’re riding fucking bears. Up until this point I hadn’t even seen a bear, let alone tried to ride one.
These Bokoblins are riding fucking bears and they’re hunting Zelda’s equivalent of a buffalo.
This was already amazing.
I knew the Bokoblins would inevitably turn their attention towards me, so I decided to get the jump. I shot one from his bear mount with a fire arrow, completely oblivious to the chaos that would soon ensue.
The Bokoblin landed on a slope. The slope was covered in grass. He was on fire and soon the grass he landed on was also on fire.
That fire spread.
Within seconds everything was on fire, including the bears, which were now attacking me.
To recap, I was now in the snow, on a mountaintop, surrounded by a perfect ring of fire, being assaulted by two BEARS that were also on FUCKING FIRE. This was sheer insanity.
See those trails in the above screenshot? Those represent an updraft. Whenever there’s a fire it creates an updraft. You can launch into it with your paraglider and fly headlong into the sky — and that’s precisely what I did, leaving the bears and the fire behind.
That’s when I saw the light.
I saw two lights actually.
The first, a shooting star. I’d seen one of them before. Head to the source and you’ll pick up a Star Fragment, which I did.
But I was more interested in this:
What the hell was that?
Considering exploration and discovery was at the heart of the Breath of the Wild experience, I’d been avoiding any and all ‘spoilers’ regarding strange or weird phenomena in Hyrule. You may already have heard of, or experienced, this blue light but I hadn’t and I was intensely curious.
I headed towards it.
Of course it was raining, which made climbing difficult (read: impossible) but via a combination of smart route finding and Revali’s Gale (mostly Revali’s Gale) I eventually found myself paragliding into the source of the blue light: a hidden lagoon on top of a mountain, surrounded by strange, blue ghostly animals. I’d seen a few of these in the wild — I’d chase and they’d disappear — but here they were congregated, dozens of them, and it was incredible to see.
I floated down, a big clumsy human pile of flesh, and one by one the ghostly animals became aware of me and evaporated into the night sky. All but one.
What in the actual fuck?
A unicorn? It looked like a unicorn, but not quite. More like a ghostly white horse. Immediately I knew what I had to do.
I had to mount and ride this horse.
I skulled a potion — a potion I’d been saving for a moment like this. A potion that provided a high-level stealth boost. Surely this would enable me to sneak up, mount and tame this strange horse.
I approached. Slowly. Step-by-step I moved towards it, terrified I’d spook her and lose this once in a lifetime chance.
And of course that’s precisely what happened.
One false step in the lagoon and the horse turned, bolted. And then evaporated into the night.
The sun rose and the blue light left with it. What was once a translucent lagoon populated by strange otherworldly creatures was now just a regular lagoon. A gorgeous spot, but a lagoon nonetheless. The horse was gone and so was the moment.
I looked up. My bus was on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was minutes from my stop and the end of this particular trip.
I’d been playing for roughly 20 minutes.