The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the greatest game ever made (according to me, Renata), is driven by dozens of interlocking systems and physics interactions. It is a modern marvel of craft and design. Which also means that it breaks in some pretty tremendous ways when you push those interlocking systems to do things they do not want to do.
All of this is on incredible display in the glitch showcase released by BotW YouTuber Kleric yesterday, which ends with Link “pickup smuggling,” a very recently discovered glitch that allows Link to attach objects like birds to his hand. Bird-hand fusion, as we all know, is the peak of human evolution, not yet achieved by us petty fools in the real world.
In the four years since its release, Breath of the Wild has been pored over by thousands of enthusiasts, speedrunners, and glitch hunters. It is one of the few games that people will dedicate their lives to, including those who don’t normally play many video games. This might lead one to assume that there would be no stone left unturned. After all, the game’s final treasure chest, once thought impossible to reach without hacking or modding, was opened by Kleric just two months ago at the end of June. Despite all of this, people are still finding new ways to break the game.
Kleric’s showcase opens with a handful of known glitches involving octobaloons, which are little guys that inflate when you stick them to things. He covers weapon duping and attachment interruption (discovered by @satougashi020 on Twitter), both of which use the physics properties of octobaloons to put weapons and objects in odd states. You can, for example, get rid of the sheath on your greatsword, causing you to strap it directly to your back like Guts from Berserk. Or you can “smuggle” an arrow in your hand as it charges, causing a ball of elemental energy to pop in and out of existence around Link.
The showcase then moves on to more smuggling glitches, which allow weapons and other objects to be attached to Link without needing to equip them. This is a precursor to our end goal of bird-hand fusion. To do this, you interrupt the game’s animations, which locks Link in a specific game state and ties the object to his hand. Weapon smuggling (discovered by LegendOfLinkk) is the simplest of the variants. To do it, you have to equip and unequip a shield during the weapon sheathing animation. The shield interrupts the sheathing animation, and so the weapon remains visible despite the game acting like Link is empty handed. You then throw a bomb, which ties the weapon to your hand. More complex variations of this glitch allow for you to stick bombs, bows, and shields to your hand. It’s important to note that being in this state prevents you from using your runes, which leads to it being referred to as “rune lock.”
Once you’re in rune lock, the game has no idea how to handle certain animations. If you become rune locked with a bow and hold the run button, the game won’t know what to do since Link cannot run with a bow equipped, which causes it to hold him in the last animation it understands. Kleric uses the landing animation as an example. Hitting the run button and a direction as you land while bow locked will cause you to freeze in place while holding the landing pose. Additionally, holding ZL lets you slide around while in that state. All of this is required for pickup smuggling, where our bird-handed dreams will finally be realised.
The other prerequisite is known as the “golden gauntlets” glitch, named after the golden gauntlets that allow Link to pick up heavy objects in earlier games. The golden gauntlets glitch is, similarly, an animation interruption glitch which allows Link to carry any object as if it were a light one, regardless of size. It requires you to equip a bomb rune and weapon or bow, face generally south (no one knows why it only works when facing south), unsheathe your weapon, and then hit the pickup, scope in, and bomb rune buttons in very rapid succession. This makes Link incredibly strong.
With all of this out of the way, I can finally explain how to tie a bird to your hand. Combining weapon smuggling with the golden gauntlets glitch, with some additional steps, allows you to smuggle pickup items, which lets them retain their physics properties for some incredibly fun interactions. You begin by weapon smuggling to enter the rune-locked state. At this point you approach the object and face generally south, then hit pickup, whistle, and bomb rune all at the same time. This will cause Link to whistle while holding the object. Switching your equipped one-handed weapon will pause the game, at which point you want to unpause for just a moment and unequip your shield. This will smuggle the object. Both the golden gauntlets glitch and pickup smuggling were discovered by Twitter user @SNSKTues.
The resulting physics interactions are incredible, and allow you to swing massive objects at an unreal speed just by turning your character, which sends anything in their path flying across the map. Pickup smuggling a cucco allows you to fly around the map one handed. If you pickup smuggle a cucco while facing north it, for some reason, turns invisible and allows you to fly around seemingly unaided.
That these glitches are being discovered four years and several patches post-release is a testament to not only the game’s construction, but it’s devout community.