Oh, Nintendo. Every time you show a new Zelda game, it’s like you’re owning another little piece of my soul.
This Wii U game was previously demoed by lead developer Eiji Aonuma and series creator Shigeru Miyamoto at The Game Awards 2015 in December, but as a stylistic and technical reveal of how this title would be. People have speculated about it, and the new version for Nintendo NX, for months until now, but as the company has been within the last few years, they never show a game off until they are confident it is ready to be seen. However, this year for E3, Nintendo has brushed all other titles (aside from Pokemon) to show us just how vast and immersive this new entry in the Zelda franchise is. It may seem familiar to people who play games regularly, but for Zelda fans, this is possibly the biggest and most important game they’ve seen in years.
That familiarity has quickly been compared to the expansive worlds of Skyrim, the combat mechanics of Final Fantasy, the user interface and use of weapons and gear as in the Dark Souls franchise. These are all action RPG’s that have become commonplace in the video game’s industry within the last few years, namely in the 20 since Zelda entered the fray of 3D games with Ocarina of Time. However, in those action RPG’s past OoT’s revelation of Z-Targeting and wide variety of weapon items, they have all focused on the cinematic element to uncanny valley perfection. The actual gameplay aspect of these hadn’t quite evolved, or even felt like games, for some time until From Software’s Dark Souls. Even in Soul’s case, the use of swords, armors and spells all look and feel satisfying to gamers, but in a statistical aspect. The only reason to switch to a different weapon in Elder Scrolls and Dark Souls games is for the numerical power of that item, and the same in defensive aspects.
Nintendo has yet to create a game like this, aside from publishing Xenoblade Chronicles X. However, nintendo’s first party titles, namely the Zelda franchise, have a whimsical, magical attention to detail within them, almost akin to Disney animated films as compared to traditional filmmaking. The Walt Disney Company has obviously taken that previous perfection and inspiration and made it into a kind of “calculated whimsey” but Nintendo remains elusive with their own franchises, and now that all the calculation has been done by the likes of Bethesda, From Software and BioWare, Miyamoto and Aonuma can add that Nintendo charm to the modern open world game style. Even the least favored Zelda titles have an impact on people because of the characters, the living breathing world and the music and effects throughout the 30 year franchise. Nintendo, when showing off Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild during their E3 demo, demonstrate just how they take that statistical power that motivates players, and makes it feel charming, immersive and personal. Each weapon picked up in the game world has different impact in combat, hearts are gone, and Link must regain health by eating food (a la Snake Eater) and even has to wear different types of clothing respective to the type of environment he’s in. The breakable weapon feature is returning from 2011’s Skyward Sword, but this time weapons are found throughout the world instead of being paid for in currency.
In fact, this game has almost no hints of civilization outside of ancient ruins and camps of Bokoblins to attack. Not only that, but the franchise hooked people 30 years ago on the NES with the intent of allowing people to explore with little direction; leaving them puzzling the mystery, and Link’s role in Hyrule, for themselves. This game intends to return to those roots. Link is alone in this game, even so far as to not have any kind of companion at his side other than a whispering voice (who is also the first ever fully voiced character). With the use of the companion’s voice over, Nintendo shows they have overcome issues through the feedback that fans have delivered over the last few titles, namely Fi’s wordy nature, and instead give him guidance without interruption and having to stop and read a wall of text. Aonuma’s team and Nintendo as a whole make it clear that they are approaching this title to be a revolution in gameplay within their company, even boasting that the one small area of the map being presented at E3 could barely be seen in one 20 minute demo session on their show floor in Los Angeles.
This game, were it not named Zelda or made by Nintendo, may not be recognizable to the traditional Zelda game. However, it’s a step in the direction the series desperately needed to prove itself to be still relevant. Link feels much more like a real human being with his ability to navigate the world: he’s now able to jump, sneak, scale any wall in the world, all contingent on a properly incorporated stamina meter. It captures the essence of the original title that Miyamoto created in 1985, while aesthetically, and audibly being familiar enough to fans of the series’ 3D entries since 1998. Despite all this, Breath of the Wild will prove to be Nintendo’s most massive game release, likely, since Super Mario 64, and hopefully will be ready to be released by the launch of the Nintendo NX in March of 2017.
We’ll be up to date on new features on the game throughout E3 below this line as important features about Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild are unveiled!