In case you haven’t been keeping up, I love the Legend of Zelda series. However, even a long-time fan such as myself can admit that the games have grown increasingly stale over the years. With a formula that has largely unchanged since the 90s, there has been a growing sense of frustration among fans. True, there has seldom been a bad entry in the series, but how many times does Nintendo expect us to wander Hyrule, fight our way through a fire, water, and forest temple before wrestling control of the land from the Ganondorf. Heck, the series is so repetitive that, in Skyward Sword, the final boss was Ganondorf, despite the fact that the game took place generations before he was born.
So it is fair to say that it feels like do or die time for Nintendo. Having delayed the new Zelda game to the point where it won’t even appear exclusively on the Wii U (marking the first time a Nintendo console has not had at least one exclusive entry since the Virtual Boy), I suspect that Nintendo is hoping that the newest adventure of Link will be the console seller their current generation of tech has lacked. So when I heard that the UK was getting its first look at the newest demo at Hyper Japan this year, I knew I had to see it in action.
The first thing to realise about Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is that it is a substantial departure from the formula. Despite the characteristically cartoonish graphics (which have always been a strong point for the company), this is not the Zelda of old. The old formula, at least judging by what I’ve seen, may not be completely undone but it has been tweaked significantly. Enough to make even the most jaded fan excited.
My first clue that this was going to be a very different Zelda experience was when the Nintendo staffer who was playing through the demo in front of the swarms of eager fans said, in a rather casual tone, “Okay, see how when I hit that enemy, his arm came off? Now his comrade has picked it up and is trying to beat me with it.”
So, you know, that’s different.
Rumours saying that this would be a more open-world game than we’ve ever had in the series certainly seemed true as the staff explored and came across different enemy encampments. They also came across what they referred to as a “guardian”, which they explained was several degrees stronger than they were. However, by using clever tactics (re: hiding behind a wall and beating it with a door) they were able to defeat it. They explained that this sort of strategy, of using a combination of skill and luck to defeat more powerful enemies, could be taken all the way to the final boss, even admitting that, upon release, someone out there would probably beat the game in fifteen minutes.
There was also a significant change to how items work. Instead of just one sword, Link wandered the wilderness with several, each one having different strengths and weaknesses and, importantly, durability. Some were one handed and quick. Some were two handed and did massive damage. One even seemed to do area damage, able to attack multiple enemies at a time. However, all of them eventually wore out and broke, needing to be repaired or replaced. No word on if this would hold true of the Master Sword or not, but this remains a simple but significant change for the series. Between weapons wearing out and having the ability to cook potions from crickets, mushrooms, and goblin meat, there has definitely been an effort to bring Legend of Zelda kicking and screaming into the modern day.
Nintendo have been typically tight-lipped about things such as plot or characters or where Breath of the Wild sits within the increasingly confusing Zelda timeline. My guess, based entirely on the landscapes, art style, and title, is that we’ll find ourselves a few generations after the original Legend of Zelda, with Hyrule fallen and Link tasked with rebuilding it. If so, I am hopeful they’ll take the opportunity to make the game as open as everything we’ve seen so far and avoid some of the trappings they’ve been stuck in for the past three decades. So far, though, I’m as hopeful as I’ve been that we’ll be looking at a fresh, new take on the classic Legend of Zelda formula.
Now if they would just bite the bullet and give Link a voice actor already…
Are you excited about the new Zelda game out next year? Or are you still dubious about how good it will actually be? Let us know in the comments below!
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An American trying to infiltrate and understand English society, Trent is a writer of novels and player of games. He has a serious addiction to JRPGs, the weirder the better, and anything that keeps him distracted from work.