So a cool thing happened today...Nintendo finally showed us the new Zelda game! This may shock some of you, but I am a Legend of Zelda fan and have been waiting for this since they first showed the game last year. Another shocker: I have some thoughts! And I'm going to share them!
If you haven't see the trailer yet, you should totally invest 3 minutes and 18 seconds of your life into it.
While I'm still not a fan of the art style (I have made my opinions on cel-shaded Zelda games very clear in the past, though this one dances a weird line between cel-shaded and textured for some reason?), the game is gorgeous. There is no denying that. The game does a wonderful job of not only presenting the world in a beautiful way, but in a way that makes you feel the scale of the world almost immediately. Before you ever look at the map for the first time, you can tell it is massive. Like Donald Trump's ego levels of massive. Then you look at the map and you realize you were wrong. It's not just massive. It's literally a world. The area you start in is easily the size of the entire map of Ocarina of Time. How you can claim it's the same land but also expand it that much is wizardry and voodoo, but that's just a nit-pick and who the fuck cares lets go grab a horse.
Link, for the first time in 18 games, can jump. Apparently it takes 3 decades to figure out how to use your legs. Crazy! He can also sprint and has a stamina gauge, which some people are excited about, but I think those people forgot that was a thing in Skyward Sword. Silly people. You know what is new? The fact that this game dumps you into the world with no story, no weapons, and no clothes if you fail to notice the chests nearby. That's one hell of a departure from the Zelda formula. You can literally play the game pretty much naked. Naked! You can attack things with a stick if you find one! You can light the plains on fire! You can do shrooms! No seriously you can do shrooms, that's actually how you get your health back. The grass we all used to fondly mow down in hopes of hearts and rupees no longer produces wondrous items, and instead you have to forage for what you need.
The way in which you're thrust into the world makes me think a meeting happened that went something like this-
A: We need a new Zelda game, but we need to do something different. Nintendo is losing relevance, so we need to bring Zelda up to speed with current trends. What's popular?
B: I hear that Dark Souls game is kind of a big deal.
A: Hm, too gritty...and we're too family friendly to have you die that often, but I like this whole "you can probably finish the game and still have no idea what's happening if you don't go exploring for the lore" thing they've got going on.
B: Maybe we can balance out the death thing by not starting them with a weapon and making them walk through enemies to find one?
Probably the largest departure is the integration of technology. When I first watched the trailer I actually even tweeted "...does Link have a smart phone?" I will admit I have no idea what I think about this. The little bit we've seen so far makes it seem like it's an incredibly forced feature. I do like the allusion to tech being used in Hyrule prior to whatever the hell it was that happened (RIP Temple of Time), so I can see it having an interesting role that I'm curious to see play out. But they literally gave Link a tablet. Like...what? Watching it in action so far has made me uncomfortable in that sort of "this is too gimmicky" kind of way.
Is there any surface he can't climb?! Seriously, what's on the bottom of those boots?
Voices. There's actual voices. I can't tell if I don't like it because I've had 17 other games that tell me everyone speaks in grunts and gibberish or I actually don't like it. I am curious to see how far this extends, if it's just the mysterious voice who starts you on your quest and guides you, or if it's every character (aside from Link; I will eat a sock if they give Link a voice, there's no way they'd do that).
I'm loving that the environment plays an actual role. In previous iterations, the environment is either simply a backdrop, or it has an overt purpose (platforms/ropes attached, has an entrance to something in it, etc). The uses in BotW seem much more subtle, and much more varied. In the trailer (and some of the demo after) we get to see Link actually chop down a tree so that it falls over a chasm, allowing him to cross. Based on the demo it appears you can chop down pretty much any tree, so it doesn't seem this action was an obvious "you can/have to do this", which is another departure from the Zelda formula. Zelda for the most part has always had set solutions to set problems, and giving us domain over so much of what surrounds us helps blur that line in a way the Zelda franchise desperately needed.
Shoutout to the trailer music, by the way.
I've seen a number of people give Breath of the Wild a hard time because "who needs another large grassy plain simulator" and that the "focus on exploration" is generic and a common buzzword in modern gaming. I will give you that. If you look at BotW as a stand alone title, if it popped out all by itself without a 30 year history behind it, yeah it'd probably be one of those games your eyes sort of gloss over as "been there, done that". But I would argue you can't look at it like that. This is a huge departure for Zelda, and while it's not "new and innovative" in the gaming world, it certainly is for the land of Hyrule that we've come to know and love. This is a brand new way to experience a new part of the legend, and while it's possible the idea for it came simply from trying to catch up to modern games, I rather like the idea that there are fresh eyes on a familiar adventure.
To sum up, I'm insanely jealous of everyone who actually gets to play the demo this week. I have reservations about the game, partially due to what I've seen and frankly just partially due to how much I have wanted a new console Zelda title. I will certainly be finally picking up a Wii U so I can play this the moment it comes out, and I'm certainly excited for it despite my trepidation. I look forward to seeing more news about the game in the coming months, which will hopefully put some of my worries at ease. Also probably going to cosplay the shit out of it.