Zelda: Breath of the Wild – full review of the new E3 footage (video included)
Nintendo breaks almost all Zelda’s conventions in this highly anticipated addition to the franchise
I’m a big Zelda fan. A huge Zelda fan. So when I first heard that Nintendo wanted to make the most original Zelda game of all time I was a little concerned, but mostly excited. Pretty much all Zelda die-hards felt the same emotions: excitement, yet dread. Zelda is one of the most beloved game franchises of all time: it has a cult following unlike any other game series. It’s completely understandable that comments from Zelda developer Shigeru Miyamoto were met with mixed feelings. However after the initial previews at E3, all concerns need to be forgotten. Yes I’m bias. Yes I’m a Zelda fan. That’s why I’m the best person to review what we know so far about Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I know what makes a great Zelda game.
The preview begins in what is known as The Shrine of Resurrection. It’s a dark and mysterious setting. We see Link rise from his sleep: keeping in convention with so many Zelda games. Although this is where convention is also completely subverted – there’s a voice over! A female voice urges Link to rise and save Hyrule.
So many questions arise from this. Who is this mysterious female urging us to press on? Is this Link a reincarnation from a previous game? What is the purpose of The Shrine of Resurrection?
It feels very Science-Fiction in the opening stages. The voiceover sounds very similar to what you expect to hear from Siri. Plus the whole concept of being resurrected to save Hyrule really alludes do previous openings in the Assassin’s Creed series. This all gave a very surreal feeling to the opening stages: something I’ve never felt in a Zelda game before.
The much adored Shigeru Miyamoto comments on this opening (through translation) by stating he wanted to “break every convention apart from Link sleeping.” Additionally he adds “This time around we introduce technology.”
This explanation gives us further understanding to The Shrine of Resurrection. The contrast of dark settings with neon bright colours seemed to hark back to Twilight Princess. However now it appears that these neon lights are actually powered by electricity and are part of a machine. It suggests that Link was resurrected through technology: science perhaps has become more important than religion and belief in the Zelda series! Again another comparison to Assassin’s Creed.
Link begins to explore this new and strange setting. There’s various treasure chests which Link naturally opens. There’s the familiar sound of the music playing – a convention Miyamoto decided to keep. Inside of these chests are new clothes; no green tunic though! Later on we are informed that Link’s clothes impact his health, stamina and attack power. A really interesting step forward for the Zelda series. It seems to be matching its style to most modern RPGs.
The ominous voice once more urges Link to press forward. “Once again”? This must be a previous reincarnation of Link. Perhaps the hero from Ocarina of Time? This is such an interesting new aspect of the game.
Link leaves the mysterious setting behind and we’re introduced to the Great Plateau. Wow. What a beautiful setting. You can see far off into the distance where Death Mountain is just visible. The world seems alive. All this is added to by the beautiful orchestral music. Zelda is known for its music: another convention that has been kept here, thankfully.
Link begins to climb. It looks like he can climb anything! We’re no longer restricted to just vines or ladders. Link is hardly a free-runner, but this seems to indicate the importance of exploring. Climbing and running all drain Link’s stamina in a very similar style to Skyward Sword.
Adding to the exploration theme is the amount of items in the world. There’s just so much to see, to do, to pick up – and this is only a tiny part of the map! Link can pick up most items and use them as a weapon. He picked up a branch from a tree (in typical Zelda style) and could also set it alight. Not revolutionary for the franchise. However most the environment seemed flammable! This new Hyrule feels so interactive.
“This is the birthplace of the Kingom of Hyrule. The kingdom is in a state of decay”
This seems to be a huge hint that this is the original Hyrule. It feel just like the one from Ocarina of Time. Especially with Death Mountain in the distance: looking on.
Link discovers an axe in a treasure chest. “You only have a few slots for weapons, and they break over time” Shigeru Miyamoto explains. “The cycle of the game is to kill enemies and take their weapons.” This is a completely different style to other Zelda games. Finding a new weapon meant you kept if for the whole game – and it was an important moment. We’re left to wonder if we’ll ever experience lifting up the Master Sword again.
Enemies drop weapons when they’re attacked and stunned. This was something used in Wind Waker which was really successful – especially in Link’s first trip to the Forsaken Fortress. It’s a new convention that is being utilized again. The fighting itself looks incredible. There’s no more waving your controller around, it’s simple: attack, defend, dodge. However simple does not mean boring. Breath of the Wild introduces a new system where you can get perfectly timed attacks or dodges. These slow the game down, letting you get several strong attacks in during that time. Witnessing Link complete his signature backflip in slow-motion is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
I’ve mentioned earlier about how the world feels alive. The enemies themselves add to this aspect. In one part of the E3 footage Link is sneaking (using new stealth skills) up on a group of enemies, all of whom are themselves hunting a wild animal for food. It’s incredible how the world is living around you – Link is no longer the centre of the world. It’s a living, breathing Hyrule that continues with or without your presence. This aspect of the game really felt similar to Shadows of Mordor as the enemies have their own lives; their own needs. These needs can act as weaknesses to them which you can exploit – a really nice addition.
After finishing fighting Link dives into the water below. The animations are truly spectacular – every single Zelda fan would have watched with hairs standing on end. Once Link emerges from the water a Korok appears. They tell Link that they’ve been hiding, but don’t tell you what from. This suggests that something recent has happened to this once great kingdom that’s now “in a state of decay.” We can assume that this is what we’ve been resurrected for. Furthermore this gives us another hint to the time period too. It’s obviously after Ocarina of Time, and probably Wind Waker too. This also adds extra support to the idea that the old man from before is the King of Red Lions.
Finally Link finds a sword. It’s on top of a very small island in the water. Is it the Master Sword? No. It’s labelled as an ‘old rusty sword’. It breaks after a few swings – a good indicator of how many strikes we can expect from each weapon. Link begins to cut the grass around him; every Zelda fan knows that rupees will come out from the grass. But nothing. Shigeru Miyamoto explains that you earn money by selling items you have discovered while exploring. It seems a much more realistic aspect to the game.
No hearts come out from the grass either. This introduces one of the most fascinating aspects for Breath of the Wild: cooking! Yes, Link is now a chef! From the wood collected by chopping down trees Link can create a camp fire. Then Link can cook any food he has: meat, fruit or vegetable. The more nutritious, the better the rewards in health. There’s countless combinations, so experimentation is key. Likewise certain combinations can have other impacts on Link; spicy food can counter the effects of cold weather. It’s a convention borrowed from games such as Monster Hunter. It’s incredibly different for the franchise, but an exciting move.
Shigeru Miyamoto describes this new style as being “almost like a survival game.” It’s certainly a step towards realism for the Zelda franchise.
Perhaps most jarring of all in the preview was the lack of music while exploring. Zelda is synonymous with fantastic music. So much so that there have been many symphonies playing just music from Zelda! One of the most iconic themes is the Hyrule Field music. No one will ever forget it. Just a few chords from the music evokes so many different memories and emotions. Not having any music while Link explores must be a very important decision. It adds to the realism, the sense that the world lives around Link. We can assume that music does play a huge part in other aspects of the game, and I certainly hope so. Although the choice to remove the music in this portion of the game really adds to the mood.
This preview only scratched the surface of the map. When asked how long it would take to traverse from one side to another Miyamoto merely stated “a long time”. Rumours have been circling about the actual size of this map, and with no actual towns or locations revealed, there’s a lot to follow! Interestingly it seems Link has a tablet-like tool (much like the Wii U pad) to use for his map. The map is presented in a very electronic way – certainly another sign that technology plays a part in the game.
Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to make a completely different Zelda game, and it seems he has done just that. Some loved conventions have been kept, but many have been subverted, adapted, or even removed. It seems there’s a direct move to making a more modern Zelda, in terms of both story and gameplay. Zelda will forever be loved by its die hard fans; hopefully Breath of the Wild re-creates what Zelda is to engage a whole new generation of players.
What are your thoughts of Breath of the Wind? What is your favourite/least favourite new addition? What else would you like to see in the game? Comment below and have your say!
Written by Stan Cohen (follow me on Twitter at: StanCohen37 )
Currently experimenting with different types of food to protect myself from the hot weather…