Nintendo on Tuesday offered E3 attendees a preview of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the latest title in the action-adventure franchise. This time the story involves much more than rescuing a princess. The game actually has been years in the making, and at E3 Nintendo pulled out all stops, devoting much of its booth to the game.
Nintendo presented two different demos of Breath of Wild. One focused on the exploration and game mechanics, while the other provided elements of the story line, which has hero Link once again embark on an epic journey. The game takes place in a huge, open world where Link can explore, find and use items, and pursue a much longer and potentially more engaging quest.
Gamers will have to wait a while before they can send Link on his latest journey, however — Breath of the Wild won’t arrive until next year. When it does, it could be the final triple-A title for the Wii U game console, as well as the first marquee title for Nintendo’s yet to be officially announced next-generation gaming system.
Call of the Wild
Breath of the Wild in many ways has been one of the worst kept secrets in gaming. It has been in development a long time, and was part of a tech demo shown at E3 in 2013.
At this year’s E3, Nintendo finally made it official — and made it clear that it is going all in.
“What makes Zelda: Breath of the Wild stand out is that it’s the next major entry in one of Nintendo’s most revered franchises,” noted Steve Bailey, senior analyst for games at IHS Technology.
“It’s been touted for several years now, so to have such a game made tangible is a big deal for fans, especially given the paucity of big, new games for the Wii U,” he told TechNewsWorld.
More Than More of the Same
With its improved graphics, deeper storyline and open world, Breath of the Wild is the game that many Zelda fans have pined for, but satisfying all of the hard-core followers still could be tricky. The lush graphics and enhanced game mechanics may be a major step forward — but the trick will be to refrain from making it so different that long time fans might be turned off.
“What’s different about it — and what’s drawing interest — is the sheer sense of scale of the game’s world, and its accompanying adventure,” explained Bailey.
“The Zelda franchise is trying to walk a very narrow line, where it needs to be innovative without alienating its fan base,” observed Joost van Dreunen, principal analyst at SuperData Research.
“In the last few iterations, Nintendo proved more risk-averse, which resulted in disappointing sales,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Despite the Wii’s massive install base, Skyward Sword only sold around 4 million copies,” van Dreunen pointed out.
“Fans are looking to Breath of the Wild to deliver on Zelda’s legacy of offering innovative game play, like increased player agency and free exploration,” van Dreunen said.
That free exploration could be necessary to draw back gamers who’ve become disenchanted with Nintendo. The Wii U has seriously underperformed, compared to Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One. Breath of the Wild could tempt gamers to give the Wii U another look, and fuel early buzz about the next system as well.
Timing also could play into Nintendo’s favor.
“It’s the 30th anniversary of the original game, which raises expectations,” remarked independent video game analyst Billy Pidgeon.
“The art style and game play remain familiar but are also obviously improved, while there is that promise of a more open environment than usual,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Having such a large landscape to explore, and new gadgets to use within it, brings a sense of emergent possibility that people seem to have responded well to,” added IHS’ Bailey. “There are also elements that are quite common to other games — such as weapon and item crafting — that are being given a bigger role here than in previous Zelda games.
Nintendo is hedging its bets by announcing that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be available both for the current Wii U and its next console.
When all is said and done, Link truly might save the day — this time for Nintendo.
“Expectations are high, and the game is visibly improved, [but] Nintendo must deliver a very satisfying experience with Breath of the Wild,” cautioned Pidgeon.
“Wii U’s disappointing penetration brings even more pressure; but if this Zelda delivers, it will help Nintendo to come back in the console arena as the company prepares to launch a new platform,” he added.
“This is one of Nintendo’s biggest brands,” said Bailey. “The expectations surrounding it are huge, and if it fails to deliver, it would be a costly loss of renown for a franchise that Nintendo has been investing in for several decades.”