Looking at accessibility in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

After a few weeks playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I can say the game is very beautiful. As far as the controls go, I was able to functionally use most of Link’s abilities and attacks just fine. I say most because while meleeing enemies was never an issue for me, using any type of bow and arrow often led to me becoming annoyed and at times angry. Simply because the game did not allow me to change the layout of its controls, except for two buttons.

Instead of being able to switch the bow from the right trigger to the left trigger, I could only change the function of the jump button from X to B. So instead of comfortably firing arrows to stay warm or to attack enemies, I had to fully stop my movement, cross my only hand (the left one) over to the right side of the Joy-Con, press the right trigger while using my stub to aim to move the stick and aim. What makes this function different than when I’m playing a first-person shooter is at least with shooters I can strafe over enemies and objects and fire; whereas in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I have to hold the bow uncomfortably, aim the arrow, and fire.

legend of zelda

Not being able to change triggers or have the use of an auto-aim feature in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was disheartening. It also made playing in handheld mode extremely difficult. Auto-aim makes non-fluid actions for me fluid. By not having to stop and aim, I am not a still target. Instead, I can maneuver quickly, avoid taking unnecessary damage, and honestly, it gives me a sense of freedom. Outside of shooting arrows, the game is fine for me – I can climb, glide, and melee easily. However, in terms of accessibility options, it feels really incomplete.

There are subtitles for the hearing impaired, but there are no colorblind options. It is upsetting because there are a lot of greens, reds, blues, and yellows used in the game; they are even applied to Link’s special abilities and items like Stasis and his bombs, and in a lot of cases, those colors are used to highlight objects. Not having a colorblind option is a huge negative because Nintendo’s first-party games use a lot of colors.

Even though I am not colorblind it just felt like for every accessible option Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had, there are one or two options that were missing. It felt like Nintendo went halfway on making its game fully accessible. As mentioned earlier it made two buttons changeable, but not the whole layout. There is an option for the hearing impaired, but not one for those who are colorblind. Also, you cannot increase the font size or the size of the user interface.

legend of zelda

Is the game terrible? Absolutely not, in fact, I can see why it won so many awards. But does it provide full accessibility? No, it does not, and for a property as big as The Legend of Zelda, that is a big issue. When it comes to major properties, developers and publishers need to make sure anyone can pick them up and enjoy them. I also disabled motion controls but certain tasks, like one of the stone puzzles in the Kaam Ya’tak shrine’s Trial of Power, still required me to use them.

While I was able to play it, there might be others who cannot because they cannot change how their Joy-Con layout is configured, or how they view the game’s world. While Breath of the Wild‘s story and quests were fun, its controls and level of accessibility left me wanting more. The reason I am being more harsh with this game’s lack of visual options than Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is because being able to see certain colors in Breath of the Wild is really important. Again, I do not think the game is bad, I just think Nintendo could have done more to make it accessible to all gamers.

Nick Battaglia
As a gamer with one arm, Nick strives to inform and showcase what it is like to play games from his point-of-view.  While his love for RPG's, fighters, and everything Nintendo is strong, the only thing stronger is his want to become the live-action version of Mega Man. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MercWithOneArm.

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