E3 has come and gone and for many it’s been one giant The Legend of Zelda marketing machine. It’s really amazing how Nintendo took one game and just made took a gamble with it by having it be 75% of their E3 plan. Seeing all the reactions online proved it a great plan. Then again, hindsight is always 20/20.
As TAY’s resident half lurking Zelda nut, I was torn on actually watching Nintendo’s E3. I am going to get the Zelda game regardless so why not keep myself 100% spoiler-free? But I just couldn’t, I really wanted to see why Nintendo only brought this game to the show floor, and why it would devote the complete first day of the show to this game. (barring Pokémon but I didn’t know that until the day before). So in I went.
I’ve taken a bit of time before writing this as I’m sure most of you aren’t really looking for a summary of what was shown. Nintendo has made sure all mayor news outlet and blogs repeated the same commercial lines over and over again. (say raid camps one more time). Instead, I’d like to offer my view on the game and what this game means for the series and beyond.
So first off, to condense my feelings about the game itself, let me repost a comment that was initially posted to JpSr388:
I think that one of the reasons Zelda [BotW] is lauded for basically introducing [already] existing ideas has to do with Nintendo’s high standards in technical quality. This is basically Skyrim with fun combat and without bugs. This is basically the Witcher with a more accessible world. This is basically xenoblade without the endless sidequests and micromanagement
This is basically all those games without their problems making this the first truly accessible open-world game. and in the context of Zelda, this is basically reinventing 3d Zelda’s
Lofty expectations to be sure, but they do set the tone of my own expectations of this game. One of the reasons why I love Nintendo games, is that they are unafraid to compromise in order to make sure that what’s on offer is as bug-free and as controllable as possible. Naturally Nintendo is not perfect, but I do feel that Nintendo’s games on average control better and have less bugs.
So now that we have my view on the game (it’s great), let’s look at the Zelda series as a whole.
So open world gaming isn’t anything new, heck some credit it’s origin to The Legend of Zelda (I don’t but it gets the point across). The NES original was a go anywhere do anything kind of game. Its sequel had way more story content and was more linear. Its SNES sequel after that had a smaller world with greater detail and more story and its GB sequel followed that trend.
The 5th Zelda was more linear, but comparing 2D to 3D worlds doesn’t really add up. Ocarina of Time really felt like a massive world at the time. And while this vastness doesn’t really stand the test of time it sure was bigger than the 6th in line: Majora’s Mask. The world size increased after that with the Wind Waker and twilight princess (the GBC and beyond offerings staying roughly comparable to previous handheld games but linearity and story focus seemed to grow with every installment at the expense of free exploration.
Now Eiji Aonuma has tried to reinvent the Zelda franchise in every game since the Wind Waker, all while employing certain elements that he felt made a Zelda game. He never really specified what he believed to be Zelda outside of the gameplay Triforce (Combat, Exploration, Puzzle solving). But with all games, he evolved the Zelda franchise, always looking ahead and moving forward.
As you must have deducted by now. Aonuma has been able to apply the Law of Holes and finally reinvent the 3D Zelda game. I say 3D because in a lot of ways, he’s not so much reinventing as going back to the basics. And this connection was one of the first things he brought to our attention E3 2014. So kudo’s to mr Aonuma for being able to step outside of his own patterns.
So with BotW, we’ll have a Zelda game which I hereby dub The classic Style: Predominately emerging narrative, getting lost as a gameplay element.
Which stands in contrast to the Evolved style: Set cinematic narrative, immediate and sequential puzzles as a gameplay element.
Having this distinction in game styles improves the toolbox of the Zelda team. Can they make a classic style handheld game next? (ALbW was a fine precursor). Or will they up the cinematics for the next Evolved style game since they can now go all out with it?
Aonuma could look for a third style of game (no clue here), and marrying the two would be kind of difficult. I think A Link between Worlds is the best example of how that would turn out (kind of put’s a new meaning to the title).
Finishing my view on what this game means for Zelda: the series has been criticized for overt handholding and overly long tutorials. BotW seemingly has little to none of that. And since Nintendo gathers statistics on play as well as read online discussions on popular sites and Miiverse, as well as watch whatever video’s people put up. Maybe this will ease their fears of players losing interest after to much confusion and getting lost. Bluntly put: maybe they’ll learn to trust the gaming prowess of their player-base.
I wrote a post about Nintendo’s E3 strategy, and I proposed that Nintendo used this E3 to test the waters for their new style of game. BotW is a game that trusts it’s player way more than most Nintendo games do (or have done for a very long time). BotW can be used as a way for Nintendo to get reacquainted with it’s players.
Breath of the Wild has the potential to be a market shifting game. A game that has repercussions on all games after it. But for that I need to be right about my assertions last week. (see my fanboy rant at the start of this post). If this game does turn out be bug-free. If this game indeed does not need 50 patches, if this game indeed retains player interest without DLC, then what does that say about games that do have all these things? What does it mean to make an open world game after Breath of the Wild? I’ll leave speculation open until the game has been played.
But if my assumptions on Nintendo quality are correct, then I dare say we should all be able to say a game should not launch as buggy as a PS3 launch Skyrim. I dare say it doesn’t need as much DLC. I say it doesn’t need mindless busywork side-quests as “fluff” (please do include them if they are meaningful). I dare say that you don’t need for your open world game to be realistic, it doesn’t need to be brown/grey gritty. It doesn’t need romance, it doesn’t need sex, it doesn’t need endless party members and Bethesda style dialogs.
All these things Zelda doesn’t do while still being successful can be used to really improve your game. But as Breath of the Wild will show, your game can sell on different merits than what all those other open world games seem to copy from one another.
All of this falls apart if this breath of the wild is full of hot air though. So what’s your take. Am I full of it? Or do you share my hope this game will be a beacon of colourful light in a brown/grey world? Sound of in that comment section!