Nintendo always had a knack for turning up late to a party and showing everyone present up. Consummate pioneers and saviors of the console industry, the big N may have fallen on hard times recently, either due to hubris or a shift in consumer ideals regarding innovation, but you wouldn't have noticed the kerfuffle the way The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild kicked Gamescom's doors in.
Like a grizzled cowboy of the Wild West, the impending new Zelda game has a mission and a statement to make: make Nintendo great again. And after the hour, roughly an hour, I spent with the game, I can assure you that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will make games great again. Hear me out.
A Link to my Heart
I've ranted before about my ever increasing disdain over the diluting of originality in triple-A titles, and how open world games are pretty much ten a penny, especially in a market that is, was and will be dominated by The Witcher 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, Just Cause 3, Assassin's Creed, Metal Gear Solid V, et al. And knowing that new Zelda would be following a similar route, I was both intrigued and a little worried.
We've been down the road with Link and his linear adventures for 30 years now, since he first exploded onto screens in the NES' The Legend of Zelda, and we've watched him grow pixels, polygons, cel-shaded outlines and high definition emotions over this time. But you know what hasn't changed over the years: the sense of adventure.
Breath of the Wild took my breath away. Literally! Sat in a little, sterile white room flanked by Nintendo merch, 3DSs and the Mini NES, a representative of Nintendo of Europe booted up the Wii U and sent me off on a whirlwind ride through the dilapidated wilds of what was once known as Hyrule.
Breath of the Whaaat?!
There's no use in me explaining the subtle nuances of the game's intuitive controls, because we've borne witness to that already. Or how stunning the graphics are, or how absent the dungeons have been. We're already fully aware. So what would be the most important aspect of the game to dive into? The feel.
Breath of the Wild feels like no other Zelda game, because it is unlike any other Zelda game thanks, in part, to its survival instincts and reliance on really clever, inventive and, most importantly, modern mechanics.
I came across an encampment of pig-like goons, dancing around a huge meaty leg suspended over a fire. I clicked in the left stick on the Game Pad to make Link enter a more stealthy pose, and made sure to keep my noise to a minimum. I clicked in the right stick and highlighted each enemy with the Sheikah Slate, to see how much stronger they were than me, and snuck around to steal their weapons. Success, I had declawed the threat. Or had I?
As I entered battle with the weakened goons, I didn't notice their leader careering up behind me. With sword and shield in tow, he battered me around the camp a bit, broke my weathered broadsword and sent me scarpering back into the forest. I narrowly escaped with half a heart -- of 4 -- left.
In this forest, I came across an apple tree and a lit fire under a stove. I picked an apple, ate it and regained a little of my hearts back. Fantastic! I love this game! But what is that stove doing there? I already knew you could start bushfires and turn an ordinary arrow into a fire arrow simply by placing the arrowhead into fire, but what other tricks did our crowning element have in store for our Hero who is out of Time?
I set the branch alight and stood under the apple tree, roasting the apples as I went. I picked one and saw that the roasted apple had actually increased the amount of health I could get from its shiny goodness. And that's when it clicked. Breath of the Wild is all about immeasurable scale and harmonious subtleties.
A sensory experience, the game does away with iconic scores of dungeons and rolling fields, and leaves you to bask in the wonder and the all-encompassing loneliness of the luscious dilapidation of a space filled with the rustling of the wind, the chirping of birds and the distant murmurs of malevolent creatures yet to be faced. And some really cute red lizards!
I clambered into the Temple of Time and was moved by how stunning the site is weather beaten, broken and covered in ivy and moss. A titan of a temple that once stood as a haven for magical adventure, now stands as a relic of our childhoods and a thriving castle town that was. This Zelda is firmly rooted in the future and technology. The temple has given away to dust like our own youthful memories.
But, whilst this sounds a touch melancholic, it's okay, because we're setting out on new adventures in a huge world, unknown to our hero. And it is literally huge. The area I rustled around in counted for only 2% of the map. And that part was huge, man.
Safe In Their Hands
My brief time with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild taught me that the future of Zelda was always going to be safe in the hands of a reinvigorated Nintendo; one that is peering into a future of becoming redundant, but waves away fears with a flick of a cartridge.
But, seriously man, Breath of the Wild truly is a Nintendo open-world, fantasy game that ushers in sensations reminiscent to those felt whilst playing modern day epics of the genre like The Witcher 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. And is somehow both as clever and as madly entertaining as the two respectively.
Nintendo has done it, guys. This is the Zelda game we've been waiting for. I cannot wait for the NX.