Nintendo?s strength has always been its first-party franchises?Mario, Metroid, Smash Bros., Animal Crossing, Pokémon and, of course, The Legend of Zelda. Someone who picks up a game in one of these main series pretty much knows what to expect. Sure, with Mario and Zelda you may receive a 2D or 3D installment, and some of the rules and expectations will change accordingly. Still, the basic experience of the game will feel familiar and comfortable, like your favorite pair of well-worn blue jeans.
That?s not the case with the recently unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This new kind of Zelda game melds familiar elements with a massive open-world that teems with new features designed to add depth and challenge what was once a straight-forward experience.
Though the demo on display at E3 2016 featured a little more than 1 percent of the game?s massive map, it offered far, far too much to do in the limited time allocated to those giving it a spin. A coworker and I started at the same point, ran in different directions and ended up with completely different experiences. This is a good thing, showing the game?s variety in a relatively confined space. I concentrated on hunting moblins, eventually discovering a secret lair and being rewarded with Link?s new-and-improved fire wand.
My friend, on the other hand, discovered a cathedral that he proceeded to scale (everything in the game is climbable) to get a magnificent panoramic view of the landscape. He, too, fought some creatures and collected some treasure, the one part of the experience we shared.
In addition to the ability to climb anywhere and explore anything, developers made many other changes to the usual Zelda formula as well. Link can now gather and craft, and he must do so to get the tools he needs on this adventure. There?s a greater variety of nearly everything?more swords, arrows, bombs, etc. It?s important to equip yourself properly before adventuring into the hostile world.
Link can also no longer stay healthy merely by cutting down some grass and finding some convenient hearts. Instead, he must collect food to give him that extra boost when he?s down. A mushroom will get you half a heart, while raw beef will fill a whole one. Cook that beef over a fire, though, and you?ll get a heart and a half.
Because Link is susceptible to weather extremes, as well, he must wear the proper clothing or he might find himself weak from the heat or perhaps frozen to death.
These changes transform the game into some sort of strange Zelda/Elder Scrolls hybrid that has some fans nervous. While the game received good buzz overall, some expressed concern that the Zelda they know and love will be lost in the complexities of the new systems.
Nintendo needs to make sure the game is polished and nearly bug free, while incorporating the old features fans know and love to accomplish its goals with this new game. As it won’t be released until sometime in 2017, the company has plenty of time to make Breath of the Wild a game worthy of the Zelda name. Let?s hope they pull it off.