Microsoft and Sony have already done their grandstanding across the stages of the Los Angeles Convention Centre, showing off everything from console exclusives to TV shows to just how over motion controls they all are. Well, now that all the Uncharted and Batman-related excitement has died down a little, Nintendo have snuck in with some pretty big announcements of their own. If you had counted these dark horses out of the console race, predicting ruin for the company as everyone else did…well, you did have kind of a point before. But after Nintendo’s presentation at E3 last night? Things have changed.
Not least of all because they finally announced a proper, real game for their underselling Wii U console, a game that fans have been clamouring for since said console was announced, and since his game was teased at the last E3 conference. The Legend of Zelda is finally getting a brand new HD outing, and based on the preamble by Eiji Aonuma – who helmed the Skyward Sword and Link Between Worlds entries into the series – and gameplay trailer, it’s going to be a doozy.
Having already unveiled more details of hack-and-slash side game Hyrule Warriors, Nintendo surprised us all by revealing a totally new, proper entry into the franchise with the simply titled Legend of Zelda (although it could very well earn itself a subtitle along the way, perhaps Dawn of Justice or something like that), a new game which is said to draw on the history of the series whilst also breaking totally new ground. Here’s the five most exciting things we learned from Aonuma’s presentation.
5. It’s Inspired By The Old Games
At the start of his talk, Nintendo’s group manager reiterated his previous promise that the new Zelda title would look back on the series’ heritage and draw on the many, many titles that have carried the name since the original NES game that saw release way back in 1986. From the brief snippet of gameplay we got towards the end of the video, we definitely got a sense of what he was talking about. The new game has all the hallmarks of the series, especially since Ocarina of Time on the N64: there’s a blonde, pointy-eared hero riding a brown horse through some gorgeous fields against a mountainous backdrop, and there’s a fantastical enemy chasing after them.
What Aonuma was mainly getting at when talking about the original game, however, was how technology has actually restricted the games as it’s become more advanced. In the NES game you would go anywhere you wanted from the off, although it’s dangerous to go out alone, and you should probably get better equipped before straying into the game’s more dangerous areas. Since then, though, the developers have had to put up artificial barriers to stop you advancing to parts of the story that weren’t supposed to be played yet, illustrated by the interminable boat trips to nowhere in the Gamecube’s Wind Waker.
4. But It’s A Real Open World
So whilst the new Zelda certainly looks a lot like the series we’ve grown to know, love and obsessively collect the soundtracks for (just us?), Nintendo are anxious not to repeat the mistakes of some of the more recent titles, and to draw more on the influence of the NES games for the gameplay if not the looks. Namely, Aonuma revealed that the new Zelda game would be totally open-world and non-linear, which is the first time the series has really done that since the eighties Legend of Zelda.
It’s hard to explain just how much of a seismic shift that is, as it implies that a heavily scripted narrative will be absent from this Zelda game, again for the first time since the original game. Much like modern RPGs Skyrim and Dragon Age, players will be able to explore the entire world that Nintendo have created, and to do so in any order they wish, not following the linear story path of previous games. Although, as Aonuma wryly put it when the gameplay trailer started up properly, there will be enemies out there trying to put a stop to your adventuring…
3. The World Is HD, And It’s Gorgeous
But what a world it is! The visual style of the Wii U Legend of Zelda seems to also be taking cues from all the previous games, not quite abandoning the more “realistic” style of Twilight Princess and straying even further from the more stylised Skyward Sword, straying into the cel-shaded territory of Wind Waker. Well, for the characters at least, because the world they exist in looks like the most fully-realised ever seen in a Zelda game. And, because it’s on the Wii U, it’ll be in glorious HD to boot!
We’re not sure yet if this is Hyrule or another location entirely, but wherever it is, it looks amazing. Aonuma spent the majority of his talk sitting in front of a serene scene of our hero on horseback in a sweeping meadow, with each strand of grass perfectly rendered and waving gently in the breeze, the mountains in the distance as crystal clear as the Nintendo bod sat right before our eyes. It’s breathtaking in the same way Ocarina of Time was when we first booted it up all those years ago.
2. Link Might Not Be The Hero
One of the most interesting takeaways from the E3 trailer is the discussion amongst fans and industry types alike about the nature of the player character: specifically, is that Link or not? Whoever the character in the trailer was, they certainly had the right hair colour and elfen look – not to mention horse riding and archery skills – but the traditional green tunic and Santa hat were missing. Some have even suggested the the effeminate look suggests a female hero for this new Legend of Zelda but, well, Link has never been the most ruggedly masculine hero in video games.
It’s a theory that Aonuma has since been stoking, as when questioned the producer slyly noted that “no one explicitly said that that was Link.” As much as the new game will draw on series traditions, Nintendo have also promised to break from convention in other aspects, and perhaps a female-lead Zelda game could be the best way to shake up the franchise a little. It’s certainly welcome news amongst all this Assassin’s Creed gubbins…
1. It Might Be Worth Getting A Wii U After All
Each new report out of Nintendo seemed like it could have been the company’s death knell: their Wii U console consistently fails to reach sales expectations, barely anyone is buying it, there aren’t that many games worth buying for it, yadda yadda yadda. The same things were said about the Wii when it launched, and it sold like hot cakes. True, they now sell for about £30 at your local Cash Converters, but they made millions on their debut thanks to titles that catered for the casual (Wii Sports, Wii Fit etc) and hardcore (Twilight Princess, No More Heroes) gamer.
The Wii U, meanwhile, has failed to imitate that success, for a variety of reasons. It could be the pricing, coupled with the fact that most people couldn’t really see the difference between the Wii U and the Wii; so we use a tablet instead of motion controls now? What? Why? And it’s HD? That’s not worth £200. What games does it have? Aside from ZombiU, nothing that’s really gotten much press. That’s why this new Legend of Zelda is so important.
Between this and the new Smash Bros game, the Wii U could finally reconnect the audience that Nintendo alienated by focussing on gimmicks over games, as well as tapping into the huge fanbase the Zelda franchise has built up over the years. Apart from that, though, the game just looks so, so good that investing in a whole new console for it looks like it might actually be worth the price of admission. Now if you need us, we’re going to be whistling Saria’s Song for the rest of the week.