In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, casual players might know the Koroks as the strange woodland creatures who, upon discovery, giggle and give you seeds that can be exchanged with Hestu for inventory slots. But to the hardcore BoTW players who made it their mission to find all 900 seeds, that innocent giggling quickly turned into the sound of a sadistic sociopath delighting in their torture.
Jesus Arce, a 22-year-old San Diego resident better known by the username FateAwaits, reached mild gaming stardom after being credited as the first to complete the task a mere 11 days following BoTW's release in early March. After completing the main story in about 40 hours, he was determined if slightly "overwhelmed" at the prospect of reaching a 100 percent completion rate in the game. But, looking back, he admitted to me over email that he "was not ready for the toll completing the Korok seed quest would take."
"Let me tell you, it's a damn nightmare."
It took 179 hours total. He devoted 12 hours a day to the mission and even messed with his sleep schedule. It got tedious fast. Eventually, every time a Korok gave its celebratory cry of "Yahaha!" after being found beneath a rock, Arce would chuck the rock at their dumb, shifty, sneaky little tree face. But those were just the easy seeds to find. Others required perfect timing, environmental puzzles, or impossible climbs.
At the 850 mark, he was forced to backtrack to every single previous seed he'd already found to ensure not a single one went overlooked. Finally, at 899, the final seed eluded him for an additional 3 hours. But after going to the edge of Breath of the Wild hell and back, there it was, next to a ledge on a mountain near the Gerudo Desert. Relief flooded his body, as he could finally claim to be one of the few people in the world to have accomplished the task.
Other seekers followed suit, starting their own descent into Korok seed madness.
"Let me tell you, it's a damn nightmare," said Kayden, a fifteen-year-old Southlake Texas student, who also began his search on day one of release. He's only come across 200 so far, clocking in the hours for finding the remaining 700 during downtime at school. But, describing the "overall grating experience" as a "grind like no other," warning me and others "never to try it." Others commiserated with him on Twitter, describing it as a journey one "suffers through" until the bitter end. It's important to remember that, to reach the full inventory capacity, one only needs 441 seeds. So going for the full 900 is an act of either valiant vanity or obsession.
Michael Stark, AKA Ganon11, a 27-year-old software engineer, found about 220 organically during his 100 or so hours spent on leisurely completing the main mission. But using the remaining 680 seeds as an excuse, he returned to BoTW determined.
"For a while, it was the only thing I did when not at work or eating," he admitted. "About two weeks were spent just hunting Koroks. I didn't play any other games." Finally, when only one seed remained, he realized it required some apples to regrow on top of a tree. After twenty gameplay hours of returning again and again to the trees, Stark kept finding that "the trees still deemed me unworthy." Alas, after three grueling days, and figuring out how to forcibly induce the apples to grow, his harrowing journey was complete. Stark insisted he had no regrets. But a friend on Twitter confirmed that the Korok's signature laughter "will haunt him to his grave."
Every single Seed Truther I spoke to independently verified the fact that it is impossible to collect all 900 without a guide and, even then, reaching 100 percent is far from a cake walk through the Korok forest.
Some, like 29-year-old Florida resident Tiziano Lento, reached 555 seeds with no assistance throughout the 230 hours (and counting) he spent inside the game—before turning to a guide created by 32-year-old Texan Tobias Amaranth. But the janky "simple maps" of Reddit pale in comparison to the interactive behemoth cultivated by Zelda Universe, pieced together through the comprehensive datamining of heroes like Danilo Passos from Hyrule Legends.
According to Passos, "For us the joy is not only in collecting the seeds or treasure chests or 100 percent the game ourselves but also giving back that info to the Zelda Community, as a way to increase awareness of the game and recognize the effort and passion the developers put into these games."
Mackles, a 28-year-old sculptor from California, who usually uses up his "free time cycling through existential emptiness and working an unfulfilling office job," set aside an entire 10-day vacation to 100 percent (it's common for players to use "100 percent" as a verb) the long-anticipated new Zelda title.
Although "other nerds might make fun of" him for it, he said, his usual policy is to do so without any guides. But after finding 400 seeds throughout the 150 hour main quest, even he had to admit he was a "a grown-ass adult," who must pay taxes, eat his vegetables, and attend to a myriad of other adult-like responsibilities. "I didn't have time to aimlessly explore every inch of the nearly 25 square mile landscape. So I turned to a guide."
Interestingly, the seed completionists that followed Arce's original ridiculous accomplishment appeared undeterred by his discovery of the eventual "prize" that awaited them at the end of their efforts. Because after returning to Hestu with all 900 Korok seeds, you do not receive any sort of invaluable weapon, armor, or even a precious collectable. You don't even receive an item you can actually use. Hestu's gift is quite literally a… golden poop that, "smells really bad," according to its in-game description.
After an hour of happiness at finally completing his obsessive journey, the implications of what the prize actually meant set in for Arce. "I felt at first like the developers were insulting the people who wanted to complete a tedious task." So he stared at the golden poop, in all its lacking glory, and, "I just yelled at my TV screen." He felt silly for doing so, but, "I needed to yell at something for receiving a golden turd that did absolutely nothing," following such an ordeal. "I felt like all the effort I had put in, all the countless hours of searching, was just dropped in the toilet. And, sitting next to all I had done, was this golden poop."
Yet after his initial anger abated, Arce and every other Seed Seeker I spoke to emphasized the simultaneous joy that came with the hell of turning over literally every nook and cranny of BoTW's world. Most saw their drive to complete the meaningless task as a testament to Nintendo's accomplishment in making Breath of the Wild one of the most organically, endlessly explorable games ever created. For Arce, the mission brought him back to the countless hours he used to spend with his father as a kid doing completionist runs of Ocarina of Time.
Granted, even the most positive of seekers like Lento were relieved to hear the recently unveiled DLC releasing this summer will include a Korok mask that notifies Link of nearby seeds, bypassing the need for obsessively cross-referencing online guides. "So that's pretty cool! But it should have been part of the game originally!"
And who knows, there are rumors that, based on the Japanese translation of "Hestu's gift" actually meaning "Hestu's seed," planting the infamous golden poop in the DLC might make something truly magical grow.