The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Hands-on Impressions

Time sure does fly — E3 has already come and gone. Now that I’m a few days removed from the show, let’s talk about that one game. The one that many attendees spent the entire event just trying to get access to. I can’t say I blame them, as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is undoubtedly the highlight of this year’s E3.

Nintendo gave attendees access to two distinct demos, adding up to about 35 minutes of playtime. The first one emphasizes the game’s sandbox overworld, while the second offers a glimpse of its story. Throughout this particular article, I’ll be discussing my experience with the latter. Let’s hit the jump and dive right in!

The second demo drops the player right into what’s presumably the game’s opening cinematic. Straight from the get-go, Breath of the Wild evokes a feeling that’s reminiscent of the original Legend of the Zelda, yet uniquely eerie for the series.

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We’re immediately treated to the series’ first piece of full-on voice acting, as a female voice calls for Link to wake up. Having been dormant for 100 years, the hero — in nothing but his underwear — awakens in the Shrine of Ressurection.

After grabbing a set of basic garments and climbing a low wall, Link exits the shrine and finds himself facing the vastness of Hyrule. Yep, just like that, your adventure begins.

Admittedly, I love how Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword open. The former shows us how mundane Link’s life is before he is thrust into a grand adventure, while the latter connects us to the denizens of Skyloft — Zelda and Groose, especially.

That said, given the game that Nintendo is trying to develop with Breath of the Wild, a similarly slow opening wouldn’t have felt appropriate here. When your overworld is the focus of your game, you don’t want to spend the first hour or so withholding it from the player. More importantly, it’s just refreshing to see a modern, 3D Zelda throw the player right into the action.

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The demo isn’t devoid of story, though. That first cinematic provides just enough context and intrigue to whet the appetite of the Zelda theorist in me.

In a similar fashion to — strangely enough — BioShock or the recent Doom, one of the main draws of this game’s story seems to be identity. Right from the beginning, so many thoughts swirled through my head: Who is Link in the context of this world? Is this a new Link or one that we’ve played as before? Why was he sleeping here in the first place? This is the Shrine of Ressurection, so did he die? Is that Zelda talking to him? Much like the overworld itself, Breath of the Wild’s story looks to be one of discovery.

In another nod to the NES classic, the first NPC that Link comes across is the old man himself, Old Man. Based on exposition, as well as the ruined state of buildings such as the Temple of Time, it’s clear that this is a Hyrule that’s been through more than its fair share of hardship.

At this point, the kingdom is described as a “ghost of its former self.” So much for my theory that this takes place before Ocarina of Time. And as if that wasn’t enough, the presence of the Calamity Ganon totally dispels that theory.

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Moreso a miasmic cloud than a physical being, Calamity Ganon awakens and surrounds Hyrule Castle just as Link activates the Ressurection Tower. Similarly to the golden pyramid that encases Hyrule Castle in Twilight Princess, the looming silhouette of Calamity Ganon looks to serve as a constant reminder of what the player is working toward.

The recent report that the player can tackle Hyrule Castle early in the adventure says a lot about the game Nintendo’s developing. Previous Zelda entries, including A Link Between Worlds, gave us the ability to take on dungeons in various orders, but Wild takes that concept to a whole new level. The degree of freedom that this game aims to provide is just staggering.

Next time, I’ll go further in-depth with my thoughts on the game’s mechanics and overworld. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the direction of Breath of the Wild’s story in the comments below!

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