It's hard to believe that it's been three years since Nintendo blew our socks off with the launch of A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS, a game that, while excellent, wasn't really the breakthrough next chapter of the mainline series we were hoping for. So while it was no surprise that Nintendo was bringing the next Zelda game to E3, what was a surprise was the content that they showed off.
So what did Nintendo bring to the industry's biggest party of the summer? Well, quite a bit. And the entire first day of Nintendo's Treehouse Live streaming event began with the new Zelda, where Reggie Fils-Aimé opened the event with the debut gameplay trailer for the new title and revealed the intriguing sub-title. More on that in a bit.
This was followed with a number of live gameplay demonstrations, including appearances from producer Eiji Aonuma and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto. What they showed was really quite intriguing, as we saw a Zelda that was both old and new, a title that seems to understand every bit of where it came from, but be self-aware enough to be forging a new path.
It's been a fascinating look at the next chapter in this ongoing saga, as Nintendo showed a Zelda unlike any other, but the features present are really only new for this series. Concepts like hunting, weapon condition, climbing, manual jumping, nearly everything shown for the next game isn't new; it's just new for Zelda.
We saw everything from the expansive open world, exciting Amiibo support and even a few controversial changes for a modern video game world. Keeping up with the modern era isn't exactly something Nintendo has been known for recently, but they came out of the gate at E3 this year with the intention to prove everyone wrong.
So let's take a dive into the all-new Zelda game, looking at ten crucial things we learned during Nintendo's time at E3, along with some baseless speculation just for good measure.
10. It Has A Title
Perhaps the most glaringly obvious one, but it's worth talking about. After first announcing it in 2013, Nintendo has been rather coy about the subtitle of the newest Zelda. We all knew there was going to be one, so all we were waiting for was confirmation, which we got at E3 when Nintendo let the cat out of the bag.
Breath of the Wild came at just the right time, using the jaw-dropping reveal trailer as a springboard to its wondrous reveal. While the full extent of this title's true meaning remains something of a mystery, it's a key step in uncovering exactly what this new entry in the franchise will offer.
9. It Has 100+ Shrine Challenges
Before E3 2016 kicked off, some fascinating internet rumors pointed to the concept of Breath of the Wild having a smaller number of main dungeons and 100+ mini-dungeons. Nintendo confirmed the existence of the mini-dungeon concept, except they revealed that there's a lot more to these detours than meets the eye.
These shrines populate Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, peppered across the vast landscapes and tempting you to explore its dangerous grounds. By using one of the new items, the iPad-esque Sheikah Slate, you can enter the shrine and obtain various new abilities to help you complete the challenge.
It's just one of the things that Breath of the Wild is doing to differentiate itself from other entries in the franchise, where you were looking at a higher number of dungeons. But with Breath of the Wild, Nintendo is dropping the amount of dungeons to a significantly lighter load, placing a large emphasis on exploration.
This effectively accomplishes two things; it makes the dungeons feel more special and brings back the adventurous spirit of the original Zelda games. The similarities to the original Legend of Zelda game on the NES seems rather intentional, which means that this is likely something Nintendo was plotting from the beginning.
8. It Has Interesting Amiibo Support
When Nintendo released the HD version of Twilight Princess for Wii U, they did so while launching a brand new Amiibo; Wolf Link, based on the beast form that the hero can take on during that game. Little did we know what effect that would have on Breath of the Wild, something Nintendo showed with great promise during Treehouse Live.
Depending on how many hearts you've stored from your Twilight Princess HD save file and its Cave of Shadows bonus dungeon, Wolf Link can be summoned with those hearts intact to assist you in battle. It's an interesting use of the Amiibo functionality, adding some much-needed weight to Nintendo's line of interactive figurines.
7. It Sort Of Has Voice Acting
When Reggie Fils-Aimé debuted the trailer for Breath of the Wild at the start of Treehouse Live, he did so while confirming a long-standing rumor about the game; voice acting, sort of. We heard a female voice telling Link to open his eyes, with the source of the dialogue speculated as being everyone from Princess Zelda herself to Midna.
And while we later discovered that Link himself will remain silent throughout the game, it's still encouraging to hear that the series is willing to make peace with gaming's modern conventions. Every bit of presentation that Nintendo unveiled at E3, from the voice acting to the open world, it's a lovely sign for the future of this grand franchise.
6. It's Also Sort Of Darker
During the copious amounts of footage that Nintendo showed off, we got an intriguing glimpse of the game's opening moments. It introduced us to a Link that has been asleep for one-hundred years, all while being guided by a mysterious voice that leads him through the ruined land of Hyrule.
The voice seems to plead to Link in the beginning, labeling him as the "light" and showing just how much this new Hyrule needs him. Outside, Hyrule is a hauntingly beautiful place, filled with breathtaking views and destroyed landmarks. It's aching for a hero, one which starts his journey in a very mysterious, dark place.
As we've seen in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Nintendo isn't afraid to show Hyrule in such despair. It's a wonderful luxury that they have, as all of us have been saving and falling in love with Hyrule for 30 years, so any peril it faces has immediate context.
5. It Says Goodbye To The Past
A constant throughout the Treehouse Live stream was change. Zelda was changing, so elements that used to define the series were either changing with it or being outright removed. While it's entirely possible to cut down every single blade of grass that you come across, don't expect to find any hearts popping out of there to heal you.
Instead, Breath of the Wild uses a hunter/gather system that is popular in many modern games. Scattered across the world, you can hunt animals and use what you find in the world to heal yourself. It's not as simple as catching a fairy in a bottle and using it to heal up all your hearts, because this Hyrule more dangerous than ever.
Not only that, but Nintendo has gone to great lengths in order to make the combat more dynamic than ever. While you can still rely on the tried and true method of locking onto an enemy, then engaging him, things have changed quite a bit. Now, weapons feel incredibly real. They can break, forcing you to keep stronger weapons on hand for those trickier battles.
And for the first time, Link is much more malleable to your own tastes. You won't be creating your own Link ala Commander Shepard, but you can upgrade him with new armor and clothes, allowing you give him a little more flavor than you're probably used to.
4. It Embraces The Past, Too
But it hasn't all been erased, because where Breath of the Wild attempts to make itself different, it also tries to understand its roots. It knows that it's a Zelda game, and it does everything within its power to show you that. It starts simple, with the familiar sound effects such as chests being opened, but it gets a bit more complex after that.
In the original Legend of Zelda, the character of Link emerged in a bright, pastoral world and descended into a dark cave to meet an old man. In Breath of the Wild, Link awakens in what could be described as a dark cave and exits into a bright, pastoral world to meet an old man.
There's overt things like that, but then there's more subtle inclusions such as the raft, also from the original NES game. Presumably, this is just another piece of the puzzle that Nintendo is using the connect it to the NES classic, but we'll see what potential awaits this fan-favorite item in the final game.
3. It Doesn't Have Overworld Music
A small nugget that might have been missed during Nintendo's bountiful streaming was the revelation that there would be no overworld music, leaving your travel through Hyrule to be orchestrated by the most unique song of all; nature. Sound effects and the natural world have taken over as the soundtrack of Hyrule, replacing the bombastic overworld themes with something much more abstract.
During your inevitable moments of staring at the beautiful vistas that Breath of the Wild has to offer, Nintendo is allowing the world itself to guide your ears on this epic journey. It's sparse and wistful, with subtle howls of wind and quiet rivers, all of it coming together as something that feels absolutely perfect for this game.
2. Its Open World Is Incredible
As games continue to get more and more realistic, running on more and more powerful hardware, it can potentially get rather ho-hum to see a stunning view and just brush it off. But if there's one thing Nintendo knows how to do, it's how to take your expectations and flip them completely upside down.
And Breath of the Wild is doing just that, crafting a version of Hyrule that feels truly alive. It's filled with magnificent creatures, varied environments and a dauntingly large area of exploration. What's perhaps even more frightening? Nintendo only showed off what they're calling the Great Plateau, claiming it to be only a tiny part of Hyrule's overall world map.
With Nintendo only showing a portion of Breath of the Wild's map, it's positively thrilling to wonder where else the game might take us. Might we encounter more iconic parts of Zelda lore? Will we see further confirmation about Breath of the Wild's place in the timeline? We'll find out soon, but speaking of the timeline.
1. It Clearly Understands The Importance Of The Timeline
Nintendo isn't one to put something in a trailer for no reason, and the image above occurs at the 1:20 mark of the reveal trailer. If it looks familiar to you, then you're on the right track, as this is the Bridge of Eldin from Twilight Princess. Fans are already readjusting their timelines to accommodate Breath of the Wild, which is one of the most exciting things about this red carpet reveal.
It shows that the game really does care about its origin, about the complicated past that it has emerged from. It's part of a franchise that has split timelines, alternate realities and more time travel headaches than is recommended for one series. But it doesn't seem to have any fear, drawing strong emphasis on its roots just by including the shot of the Bridge of Eldin in the first place.
These are all broad story elements, pieces of a story that started off complicated with the original Legend of Zelda. And whether you find it in you to place it in the Child Link timeline or the Fallen Hero timeline, one thing is for certain; Nintendo wants you to do that. They understand the passion and desire that timeline theorists have for this series, and Breath of the Wild doesn't look like it will disappoint in that regard.
Breath of the Wild launches simultaneously on the Wii U and NX in March of 2017. Which version of the game are you buying? Are you sticking with the Wii U version or going all in on the NX? Let us know what excites you the most about Breath of the Wild in the comments below!