Except they didn’t have one. At least, not in the traditional sense of a press conference, or even what’s been traditional the past couple of years for them in the form of a Nintendo Direct “Digital Event.” Nope, this time they just decided to skip straight to the Treehouse livestream with one main focus in mind: The Legend of Zelda for Wii U and NX, which has now been officially christened “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
There was also some Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, and there will be some other games tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem that announcing anything we haven’t already heard about is their intent this year. So with that in mind, here’s what stuck out to me and has me most excited from the almost exclusively Zelda edition of the Treehouse on the first day this year.
5) I Hear Voices in My Head
The Legend of Zelda has been long overdue to include some voice acting, and I feel like that was perhaps never more apparent than in Hyrule Warriors. I’m okay with Link not speaking, but having the rest of the world just flapping their lips to no effect has lost whatever luster it once held.
Fortunately, as a distant voice awakens Link, it looks like Nintendo has finally given in. According to producer Eiji Aonuma, it seems that there are more voices to come, even though Link is not among them. Finally.
4) Press Start and Go
While I can’t recall the name of it, there’s apparently a school of thought that measures the quality of a Zelda game based on how long you have to play before getting the first sword. Tutorials, world building, errands, the whole lot are often placed in your path once you begin many a game in the series, and while it might be okay for some, it can become tiresome on subsequent playthroughs after you’ve mastered the game.
I’ve not been particularly bothered by this — mostly because it’s a non-issue in most of the earlier games I’ve played repeatedly, and those where it is more of an issue, I’ve not had many repeated runs through the game — but I dig the idea that, based on this, it seems you pretty much wake up and get right out there and start figuring things out for yourself. Granted, you don’t wake up with a sword in your hand, but it’s not long before you can get your hands on one — even if it’s kind of a crappy one.
3) “Troll Physics”
This was the term my wife used when she saw Link using a large leaf to create a gust to propel a raft by sail across a river. I don’t know if it really applies, particularly in the case above, which I rather enjoyed. One item allows you to suspend an item such as a boulder in time and smash it repeatedly, building up enough energy so that when it’s released, all that energy combined launches it an enormous distance. I’m pretty sure that’s not even remotely possible in anything resembling reality, but I love the idea behind it just the same.
2) Hunting, Gathering, Cooking, Surviving
When Nintendo was boasting about how big this world would be, my mind went to Xenoblade Chronicles X. And for as much as I loved that game, part of me couldn’t help but think that if that sort of world were married to a more Zelda-like gameplay experience (including combat and the like), I’d be in heaven.
Well, guess what? Breath of the Wild seems to be all that and more, with not only a huge world to explore, but lots of gathering of items — one of my favorite parts of Xenoblade Chronicles X as I would go out of my way to gather anything that caught my eye.
Beyond that, you also have to hunt and forage for food to keep your health up, as hearts no longer seem to be something to collect. By gathering various flora and fauna, you can create combinations and cook dishes with different effects, from restoring your life to actually giving a temporary extension to your life meter and more. There’s much more of a “living off the land” feel here, and I dig it.
1) A Boy and His Dog… Er, Wolf
I don’t know what it is, but I dig games that allow you to have dogs at your side (cats would be nice sometime, too). But how crazy is it to have a canine companion at your side who is… you?
Getting the Wolf Link amiibo figure with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD allows you to do just that, chain and all (but no Midna). Using it straight out of the package gives Wolf Link a standard three hearts to start, but if you complete the bonus Cave of Shadows that is unlocked in Twilight Princess HD with the figure, any leftover hearts will instead be its total in this game.
The Lupine Link will help the new one out by hunting and fighting enemies, but sadly, can only be scanned in once per day (according to IGN). That seems like an odd stipulation; I can see not wanting to allow you to just respawn Wolf Link if he dies, but what if you just save your game, go out for a bit, and want to play again later? Are they going to penalize you for that?
In any case, it’s a cool idea, and I look forward to having My Two Links tag team some Bokoblins and other baddies across this new world.
Being able to jump at will is a cool new addition to the 3D style of Zelda (Link could do so in others, such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Link’s Awakening, so the concept isn’t entirely new), but I’m curious at how practical it will prove to be. Will a variety of jump attacks be available, like the legendary Downward Thrust, or will it just be used to gain a little extra height when climbing or jumping and sailing from tall cliffs?
Something else that’s not entirely new to the series: there have been tunics which protect from fire or allow Link to breathe underwater, but here, dressing for success matters a little more than in previous games, as Link can freeze without proper clothing (though a torch can keep him warm), and other attire may be needed when venturing through the desert. Otherwise, Link’s health will slowly deplete as he shivers or sweats to death.
My love for the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System is no secret, and I’m thrilled that they’re taking so many cues — from thematic to visual and more — as they put together this game. I just hope they manage to do it all justice. The only reason this isn’t on my Top 5 is that we’ve already had a strong suspicion about this for a while now, based on what little Nintendo has shown, and this has only confirmed it.
An Enormous World to Explore
Likewise, we’ve known that this world would be huge for some time now — it’s practically the game’s entire M.O. Just the same, seeing a glimpse of the scope has me thrilled, and for once, if the whole scope of this game is still centered around the ol’ Death Mountain Area that countless other games have been, I think I can be just a bit more forgiving of it.
The fact you can take things as you want is fantastic, too. Though it wasn’t part of the stream (and as such is kind of ineligible for the few rules I have for these Top 5s), Aonuma told Polygon that players who are either skilled or crazy enough to do so can basically cut out much of the story and gun it for the end and put Ganon down in relatively little time — just the sort of thing I stated in our Nintendo Force magazine article about what we most want from the game!
I’ve been a fan of The Legend of Zelda since the beginning, and this might be the most excited I’ve been for a new entry in some time. It feels like it’s delivering what I loved about the earliest entries, things which have been largely missing from more recent installments, in a way that’s appropriately updated for the modern era. I can’t wait to try it for myself!
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.