Publisher/developer Nintendo Format Wii U Release 2015
The Legend Of Zelda, Splatoon, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros, Mario Maker, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Code Name: STEAM, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Star Fox, Hyrule Warriors
Nintendo’s new approach to E3 was a success. Yet when the empty screen behind producer Eiji Aonuma was filled with a verdant Hyrule field full of swaying foliage, a distant mountain range and, just left of centre, a green figure on horseback, Nintendo showed it still knows how to capitalise on traditional imagery.
In short, the new Zelda looks astounding, even by Nintendo’s remarkable recent standard on Wii U. And, according to Aonuma, the footage shown during Nintendo’s E3 Direct broadcast wasn’t, like so much of this E3’s new announcements, pre-rendered, but in-game.
That footage was all too brief, and speculation was rife. One popular theory was that this wasn’t Link, the ponytail, the earrings and the end-of-trailer Light arrow suggesting this game’s protagonist would be Zelda rather than the boy who has spent almost 30 years rescuing her from evil. Aonuma, enigmatic as ever, danced around the subject at first, but has since confirmed that it is in fact Link in the trailer. He’s also spoken of a new approach to tutorials, recognising how many players were put off Skyward Sword’s slow start. Since A Link To The Past, main entries in the Zelda series have been set in large worlds that have had to be tackled in largely linear order, something Aonuma sought to alter in last year’s more freeform 3DS outing A Link Between Worlds. This game will be set in an entirely open world, and while the prospect of Zelda crossed with Skyrim is irresistible, it also poses many challenges that Nintendo has never faced before.
The most fundamental concern is structural. An open world whose dungeons can be tackled in any order directly contradicts the series’ gear-gated design – where the Hookshot found in one dungeon opens the path to the next – and A Link
Between Worlds’ item rental wasn’t an entirely satisfactory solution to the problem. If gear is no longer to be the principal way in which the player is made to feel more powerful as the game progresses, will this be the first Zelda with a levelling system and a skill tree? And will enemy strength be static, or scale with the player’s abilities?
Crucially, these are problems that others have faced before. Nintendo is more accustomed to inventing and solving its own at the outset, and letting others follow. Its best Wii U games have seen it updating and refining its own ideas: here, it will be expected to raise the bar for everyone. Suddenly, 2015 feels like a lifetime away.
The hero’s use of a bow helped to drive speculation that it wasn’t Link we were looking at. Series chief Eiji Aonuma seems set on toying with Zelda cenventions