E3 2016 Preview: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – Take A Breath

Zelda

I'm not really a 'Zelda guy'. I have vague memories of playing Link's Awakening on my GameBoy a couple decades ago, but other than that, I've only dabbled in the series. That isn't anything to do with the franchise's quality mind, more I have just never found the time to play the classics. The idea of the franchise has always caught me, and its precious nature to some is not lost one me though.

Breath of the Wild 'feels' like a special title in this special series though. The game has been incoming for years, but it wasn't until this E3 that we finally had it all laid out. I got hands on for 30 minutes with the title, which is obviously no where near enough time to judge in any comprehensible way, but what I can offer you are some very quick thoughts.

What's interesting about this title is that it feels the least like a Legend of Zelda game of all of the franchise. In many ways, it feels very unNintendo too. The publisher, maybe besides the Xenoblade series (which was developed out of house), has been pretty impervious to modern gaming topes in recent years. While so many other games brought in open worlds and survival elements into their game, Nintendo were different in a way Nintendo have always been different. They marched to their own drum. Breath of the Wild is the publisher trying out these ideals in a big way though.

If you have ever wanted to exist in the world of Hyrule though, this is your game. The main take away I had from the game was one of exploration. This world, thanks to a beautiful cartoon-y art direction, is incredibly inviting. This is a space where you aren't pushed around, and instead seems specifically designed to let the player breathe. In many ways, it reminded me of the moments in between bosses in Shadow of Colossus. Just a big beautiful world to roam around in that gives the player space.

That's not to say there isn't anything to do. Unlike Shadow of the Colossus, there are enemies to find and secrets to bump into all over the map. In just my play time I killed a handful of pig faced enemies, picked up several weapons, discovered the usefulness of fire, discovered the pain of fire and found a dungeon. The world is packed and I wanted to explore more and more. Another surprising thing about the game's design is just how much of a survival element the game has brought in. You will craft food to heal yourself, you will loot enemies for all their weapons and clothes, you have to balance being hot and cold. It's quite strange to see Nintendo going all in with things that are staple in the genre that has absolutely taken over Steam's Early Access front page.

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There were some niggles with the game though. The first is perhaps a little unfair being that we are still months away from release, but at times the game chugged on Wii U hardware. When there were more than two enemies on screen, I felt a real chug by the console, and framerrate suffered because of it. Of course, there si time to fix this, and also the game is also coming to the supposedly more powerful Nintendo NX, but worth keeping an eye on at least.

The other big point I have with the game is its sprint feature. In order to do that, you have to hold one of the face buttons, move with the directional stick and look around with the camera. Notice the problem? Sadly as humans we've only been graced with two stupid thumbs so doing all three actions at once requires some hand gymnastics ont he massive Wii U controller. Perhaps this tells us something about the Nintendo NX controller, but I've tried to reverse engineer the thing and have come up with nothing.

Other than that though, Breath of Wild is a fascinating game. If you are a Zelda purist, you might find the Open World and survival mechanics too far from the classics' formula to enjoy, but for everyone else, this feels like the boldest and biggest leap forward for the franchise since Ocarina of Time. Will it stick that landing? I'm not 100% sure yet, but this is one of the most ambitious projects that Nintendo have put forth in the last few years. For that, we can be very excited.