Day one on the show floor and hordes were running straight towards the Nintendo booth, which was little surprise considering the trailer and E3 Treehouse demos for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, effectively ignited by a fever pitch reaction earlier that morning.
It was fascinating to see how the gaming populace who vehemently proclaimed that the esteemed Japanese company was a dinosaur in a technologically evolved arena, only to forget their rhetoric and (and pardon my French) lose their collective marbles in every sense of the word.
I bared witness to it all, watching fanboys and fangirls giddy with anticipation, childlike joy, and tear-swelling defeat. As lines of people realized that their hours-long wait would be all for naught, with the final day of E3 2016 coming to a close.
However, very little of the pandemonium matters if you were there to do a job. But as I made my scheduled appointment, and guided through the booth with credentials. My experience felt noticeably different than anything else that week.
The Breath of the Wild (LoZ:BotW) is nothing short of a radical installment, and would be an understatement to say that the world is insanely massive. And for the first time in a long time I felt overwhelmed to explore.
I was given about 25 minutes of free playtime while I was dropped right in the middle of a field, I was given no real instructions other than to ‘figure things out for myself’. The landscape of Hyrule is natural and rustic, relying on your wits and curiosity to survive. Instead of gathering hearts to replenish health, you’ll be roughing it, foraging, and cooking your own food; and a stamina gauge will limit how much strenuous activity — such as climbing or Link’s signature sword spin — can be repeatedly be done. These are important pieces to the formula working cohesively the more you’re familiarized with them.
There’s a distinct hunter/gatherer mentality, because the only things you’ll start with at the beginning of the actual story are the clothes on your back and nothing more. Upon awaking from your slumber the core gameplay is instantly familiar and easy pick up, getting by with just trial and error. The entire approach hides a moderate learning curve that many won’t take into account, but learning the fundamentals becomes necessary.
The entirety of the plateau is immediately accessible but a knowledgeable lay of the land will inherently determine progress, as a temperate monitor will give you some forethought as you traverse snowy crevasses and wander into searing deserts. And believe me, if you don’t plan accordingly Link will die out in the harsh open-world theme.
The mechanics in BotW are rightfully expanded, and shows a willingness to modernize without condemning franchise hallmarks. Picking up tools and improvising with weapons will test ingenuity, requiring you to adopt stealth tactics without raising your sword. This change in strategy contributes to the fact that nearly all of your weapon will break or need reconditioning down the road. Essentially, there is no wrong way to face one challenge unlike before.
All of this happened within the 40 minutes of time I was granted with the game, and even still words cannot express the how the environment envelopes the senses. Nintendo has always been good at substituting absolute realism with equally imaginative, and LoZ:BotW is not just an example, but a another step into the aesthetic. You can see a hybridization of bold cel-shaded hues and the practice of outdoor painting (En plein air) coming into its own, in a way that’s both inviting and very unknown to the player. At the very least it keeps the enormous reaches of Hyrule from appearing dull.
Here’s the thing: many of us knew that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be the game to own, when it eventually lands on the Wii U and NX for 2017. But that didn’t prepare me for the incredible atmosphere and preview I got right now. In retrospect, I’m actually glad my pilgrimage of E3 ended on such a high note, because it went beyond everything else I seen during those three days of enthusiastic crowds. At least with Nintendo I can legitimately feel the same as those scores of people eagerly waiting in line, albeit for a brief time.
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