A Breath of Fresh Air

The Electronic Entertainment Expo was most certainly one to remember this year, with a large number of titles from handhelds right through to the mighty PC impressing people. For me, this was the most impressive E3 since 2012, which was the first one I ever went to. It might have been the fact that I was actually there that made that particular year the all-encompassing jaw-dropper that I remember it as. Since then, despite having been back to another, they’ve not been as good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody E3; it’s always going to be super for me. However, it’s not been as good as that first year.

In 2016 that all changed, because those beautiful folk over at Nintendo dropped some massive details, trailers, and general gameplay footage of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If I’m being honest, The Legend of Zelda: A Breath of Fresh Air would have been a more accurate if not slightly rubbish title. Let us wind it back just a fraction before the Kakariko villagers turn up with their pitchforks and start demanding my head. I’m a massive Zelda fan and have loved every single main entry into the series (less said about the CDi games the better). None of these ever felt stale or lacking ideas. They were Zelda games after all. Nintendo makes first-party games and makes them well. The quality of every Zelda game cannot be argued and while the direction or the content might be questionable at times, the quality of the content has never been a cause for concern.

When Breath of the Wild was laid bare for the internet to judge (as it so often does), the response was overwhelmingly positive. If there had been any concerns that Nintendo had lost their ‘touch’ then this has hopefully laid them to rest and put the company back on the map. Not many developers could make such a U-turn with one game, but that’s the power of Nintendo and the power of the Zelda brand.

If nothing else, it’s been an interesting ‘wake-up’ call of sorts for the community; would anyone have really complained if this was ‘just another’ traditional Zelda title? It’s like complaining when a Michelin-star Chef brings you another dish, having told him the previous twenty-odd dishes were some of the greatest food you’d ever eaten. No, Nintendo could have quite easily turned out a game similar to the last dozen and no-one would have batted an eyelid. They would have eaten it up, just like they did the last time and the time before that. Regardless of changes from standard controls to motion controls, from cel-shaded graphics to next generation ones, characters, weapons, stories, it doesn’t matter; Zelda has been a sure-fire success for the team every single time. Instead, they chose to challenge successful conventions that have stood in place nearly as long as I have been alive.

The result, based on the alleged ‘one percent’ of the game that we have seen thus far, is breathtaking – no pun intended. It’s such a deviation from the norm that you’d be forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t a Legend of Zelda game, and a few changes here and there could make it quite unrecognisable, such is the radical new direction that Nintendo is taking things. The most incredible thing about all of this is that some of the additions are things that have existed in other games for years. The perfect example of this would be the simple act of jumping. Link has never really been able to jump of his own accord and the developers have always aimed for an auto jump feature so that Link could still manoeuvre around the environment. Here, with the scope of the project reaching far outside the usual boundaries players have been restricted to, a jump button was a no brainer.

The thing is, it’s jumping. Think about how many games you can jump in. It’s ludicrous; utterly, utterly ludicrous. Nintendo, during one of the biggest weeks in the gaming calendar, reveal a game in which one of the big changes is that you can jump. Fans of other series just wouldn’t let this sort of shit slide. ‘What? The new Halo game is going to let you go prone? What is this rubbish?’

Well that rubbish is Halo, but Halo fans would be incredulous if they tuned into E3 feeds to find that Master Chump’s big reveal was that he had a new form of movement; they would be beside themselves with rage. While jumping isn’t the only new thing coming to Breath of the Wild, everything that has been added has largely been seen before in other games… and that’s okay. Whether it be the open-world design, flames that light grass on fire, degradable weapons, cooking, survival, weather conditions, or hundreds upon hundreds of collectables, we’ve seen it all in other games dozens of times.

For me, that right there is the power of Nintendo and of the Legend of Zelda brand. After all this time and all the different iterations of games, Nintendo has finally ‘caught up’ with modern adventure games. That’s how some people will view it, but me, I intend to look at it as Nintendo finally saying ‘we’ve told our stories, we’ve experimented enough, lets finally fall in with the masses’. The wonderful thing is that even once they’ve finished this game, they may change styles again and it will still likely be an amazing game because, for the most part, that is what you get with traditional Nintendo characters – excellent (if not slightly predictable) games.

So that’s the next exciting chapter in the Legend of Zelda series – taking what has become the norm for a large majority of games and moulding it to how they want to use it. Like I say, some people will see this as Nintendo finally doing what they should have done decades ago, but I see it as Nintendo finally trying things that other folk have been doing for years but with their own slice of gaming magic. Given their track record with the series and general quality of their products, I think it’s very, very exciting.

Last five articles by Chris


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