E3 2016 gave us our first super-good look at the new Zelda game for Wii U / NX. It’s officially subtitled “Breath of the Wild,” it carries a heavy Hayao Miyazaki influence, and overall it appears to be the product of an orgy between Skyrim, a blessing of unicorns, and all the hopes and dreams of mankind.
All that’s left is to wait until it comes out in 2017.
…Well, while we’re waiting, it surely won’t hurt to share my thoughts and feelings about the game’s debut trailer and extensive demo. I already wrote some up for USGamer, and then I wrote some more (don’t ask me what’s going on in that article’s comments; I still have no idea). But the nice thing about writing for Tiny Girl Tiny Games is that I can unbuckle my metaphorical belt and let my metaphorical gut hang out, though I assure you I own a literal gut as well.
I haven’t been able to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild yet. My first full-time E3 involved staying in T-dot as support for the home team via formatting and editing (though I did get some writing done, praise Kojima). So I can’t offer any hands-on impressions of the game at this point, but I’m still confident in pointing out Breath of the Wild looks to be one of the most beautifully melancholy games Nintendo’s ever worked on.
The “Breath of the Wild” subtitle isn’t simply the end result of Nintendo throwing cool-sounding words together. When the game starts and Link wakes up from his 100-year sleep in his Sheikah Sensory Deprivation Chamber™, he wanders out to find a Hyrule that’s in ruins – but also incredibly pretty. Overgrown ruins dot the landscape, and their moss-covered “Guardian” creatures lay dormant. Even the iconic Temple of Time is more of a crumbling, silent sentinel than the pivotal, historical building it’s been in so many Zelda games.
What happened to Hyrule? We don’t know. Presumably we’ll find out (and we already know at least part of the problem starts with “Gan” and ends with “On”), though Eiji Aonuma has already mentioned Breath of the Wild’s story is more of a slow burn than a text-heavy reveal. You’ll find all the answers, but you have to do just that: Find them.
Some time ago I wrote about how much I like the devastated-but-colorful landscape of Fallout 4. Life after a nuclear war would undoubtedly be a shit-show, and for a long time after the barrage, there would be a good deal of crap in the atmosphere that’d make our skies nasty, heavy, and grey. But when that all inevitably cleared, nature would find a way to bounce back. Sure, it’d all be kind of fucky-looking and potentially still radioactive, but there’d be plants, animals, and colours.
While I doubt Hyrule’s disaster was nuclear in nature (who can say for sure what those Kokiri bastards are up to, though), Breath of the Wild takes place in a diminished Hyrule’s that’s been reclaimed by nature. It’s a gorgeous place, but it’s lonely. Maybe Link’s job is to make it less lonely.
I’m just taking a wild stab here, but I feel like at least one of Breath of the Wild’s themes is going to involve the age old tug-of-war between humans and nature. Hyrule has never been a bastion of technical achievement, but to be human is to affect the environment around us, usually negatively. Really, we don’t have a choice: Our sad loser bodies lack the strength of other animals’. The only way we were ever going to get ahead was to use our noggins and change the environment to suit us. As a consequence, even the most basic way of sustaining our species, farming, causes massive upheaval to neighboring species.
So what’s Link’s role in Breath of the Wild? If he disposes of Ganon and lets the population rebound, what becomes of the “Wild” in the game’s subtitle? Anything? Nothing? Everything?
Of course, this is all assuming the rest of Hyrule is as wild as the Plateau we saw at E3. For all we know at this point, Link may wind up sky-diving down below and discover Ganon is eating babies-on-the-cob, and this very deep think piece will wind up being a whole lot of useless words.
We’ll have to wait ’til 2017 to find out for sure, I guess.
(By the way, visit Crazy Boris sometime.)