It’s not the overall experience we want to talk about today – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a phenomenal achievement, of that there’s no doubt. It’s not even the cooking in general we want to focus on, providing as it does boosts and boons across the board in a series of micro-systems that are both simple and intuitive. No – Link’s Switch outing bags the gong thanks to, of all things, the sound of its cooking, and we’re willing to bet anyone who has played the game and cooked enough will be nodding along at the mere thought of it.
Tossing a few fruits or hunks of meat into the pan, Link quickly sautés his way through a skippable cutscene. It’s seconds long; it’s the kind of thing you’re usually hammering the skip button to rush through (or holding it for an interminable amount of time, in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2). This stuff doesn’t matter once you’ve seen it two or three times – it adds nothing and just contributes to time wasted not making progress. Usually. But not here.
No, Link’s culinary pursuits are accompanied by a clackety-clack of rhythmic cooking sounds; the ingredients tossing themselves around the pan and rather magically forming into something far more aesthetically pleasing than it should be, considering the effort that goes into it. It’s a tick-tock countdown before you can chow (or gulp) down, a boogie-worthy tune limited to around five seconds, an eminently satisfying slice of SFX setting you up to receive another useful in-game item.
Of course, it’s not always useful: you can make inedible, useless muck. And that’s where another subtle little factor comes in – the sound cue at the end of the brief cooking scene gives you a little blast of triumph or a... well, non-triumphant pong. We’re not going to claim this fundamentally changes the game in the least: more that it shows how a brief, usually-forgettable sound cue was engineered to prove gratifying, to not outstay its welcome and – to an extent – be functional. It lifted something as seemingly insignificant as a sound effect you would usually ignore, skip, or – at worst – get annoyed with to something some of us would sing along with. And we know that wasn’t just us.
For all its features, killer or otherwise, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild maintains one constant: an extraordinary level of quality. It’s easy to pull out those larger, more obvious elements and – rightly – celebrate them. But when you break it down, chip away at the surface, and see that even factors like what you hear when cooking an elixir or meal have been crafted to make something feel satisfying... it’s a whole other level of class.