Going into E3, Nintendo’s slate didn’t seem that impressive. Sure there were big titles like Pokemon Sun and Moon and live demos of The Legend of Zelda scheduled, as well as smaller titles like Paper Mario Color Splash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and the always reliable Nindies. So when I woke up on Tuesday morning, I wasn’t expecting much, but as I tuned into Nintendo Treehouse Live, what I saw had my jaw on the floor. After all of the amazing trailers, gameplay, and announcements from the other big companies at this year’s E3, nothing could compare to the emotion and butterflies I felt when Reggie Fils-Aime ended his opening statement and the Nintendo Treehouse Live show started.
Leading off the show was a new Zelda trailer, and it was fantastic. A silent black screen stood static until a woman’s voice whispers “open your eyes,” fading into beautiful landscapes and rustic, abandoned ruins, showing the creatures of the world moving dynamically through them. The voice again speaks. “Open your eyes…. Wake up, Link.” That’s when the trailer went into a full on emotional roller coaster as Link ran and jumped off a high cliff, soaring over the terrain below. Throughout the three and a half minute trailer, Nintendo showed off all new gameplay features including moving stealthily through the grass, cutting down trees to create bridges, climbing, hunting, cooking, crafting, and a whole lot more. One of the most impressive parts was not only how vast the landscape is, but how much verticality was shown off. The tallest mountains and structures can be scaled with what reminded me of Uncharted like climbing mechanics. As the trailer came to a close, it cut to black, only to open back up in the shrine of the legendary Master Sword perched in it’s stone. The once mighty sword now rusted out and vines growing over it as if no one had touched it in over a century. The screen then faded into the title screen, finally revealing the game’s official title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
When Eiji Aonuma and Bill Trinen loaded up the demo, it opened with the same voice from the trailer, but in a dark room which reminded me of Ocarina of Time’s first boss room where you fight the giant ghoma. This room was called the Room of Resurrection, and inside was a chamber that opened up to reveal Link, who, in this story, has been asleep for a century. “Open Your Eyes… Wake Up, Link…” The voice says, and Link climbs out of the chamber with only some shorts on. This is where Bill Trinen took control. As they moved through the demo’s opening sequence, I noticed something, which Nintendo later stressed: the introduction of technology into the Zelda universe. Sure we saw things in Skyward Sword and Spirit Tracks using some type of technology which usually involved magic, but it seems Breath of the Wild is built around the notion of early machinery.
This opening tutorial is the shortest I’ve seen in a Zelda game since Ocarina of Time. As Link emerged from the sleep chamber, there was a glowing podium. The game prompted Trinen to touch the podium, which then revealed the newest item, the Shiekah Slate, which will help Link on his quest by using the different runes. The door in front of the podium opened to reveal a long hallway with some chests to open. Link opened the chests and found some clothes to wear. This Zelda game seems to be taking some queues from Tri Force Heroes as different outfits can be found and seemingly upgraded throughout the adventure and provide different buffs depending on what is being worn. At the end of the hallway was a cave opening leading out into the first major area, The Great Plateau, showing off a panoramic shot of Hyrule, then panning over to what looked like an abandoned temple. Then the game let go and sent Trinen out on his own to figure out where to go, what he could do, and experiment with weapons, items, enemies, and the environment. Even the NPC’s have their voice (literally, Zelda finally has voice acting), as the old man by the temple gives you instructions.
Resource management is something Nintendo is exploring this go around, as collecting can help you fight, upgrade, and survive. One part of the demo showed Link cut down a tree, allowing him to gather wood for weapons and light campfires as well as gather apples for consumption. Lighting a fire also allows you to cook the food you collect from hunting and cutting down trees to regain hearts (they won’t appear from cutting grass or defeating enemies) and craft potions with other materials for different aspects of the game. All of this was a lot to take in as you can accomplish all of this within the first ten minutes of starting the game. Also very terrifying and exciting at the same time is that the Great Plateau is only about one percent of the map. But traversing the area seemed to take a lot of queues from Uncharted, as Link climbed walls, cliffs, and structures by pressing the jump button. Oh yeah, there is a jump button in this Zelda game, allowing link to dodge athletically, including an instant slow-motion flip backwards which allows players to aim the bow or weapon for some quick hits.
There was an overwhelming amount shown off throughout the day on Nintendo Treehouse Live, but one of my favorite aspects was the amiibo functionality. Their are three Breath of the Wild amiibo that are functional, as well as all previously released Zelda amiibo. The Wolf Link amiibo, who’s functionality might be my favorite, from Twilight Princess HD allows the player to have a wolf companion to aid in hunting and combat. Their is a twist however. In Twilight Princess HD upon completion, the Wolf Link amiibo unlocks the Trials of the Beast, a 50 floor dungeon that tests the player’s skills. However many hearts a player has remaining from that dungeon is saved to the Wolf Link amiibo and then transferred into Breath of the Wild’s wolf companion. When those hearts run out, the wolf companion is sucked back into the Twilight realm and the player must wait until the next day to summon him back. It’s a cool feature and one I plan on using throughout my adventure. Nintendo did say it is harder than it looks to diminish the wolf companion’s hearts, and it looks like you can use the new potion mechanic to heal him as well, so don’t worry about losing him quickly.
Everything I’ve seen of this game so far is everything I’ve ever wanted from an evolution of Zelda: a giant open world to explore, RPG elements to upgrading weapons and armor, large and small dungeons to explore, lots of side quests to find, and a pet companion (via amiibo). Zelda seems to be taking many of the queues from it’s contemporaries in the best way possible, drawing inspiration from games like Skyrim, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, and The Witcher, all executed with Nintendo’s great attention to detail. The Legend of Zelda has always been my favorite video game franchise, but Nintendo seems to be turning everything you know about the series upside down, finally bringing The Hero of Time up to speed with modern times and giving us the adventure fans have been clamoring for. Nintendo has done the impossible… again.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be out in Early 2017 for both Nintendo Wii U and NX.