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

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