Sunday, February 26, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Final Expectations

In five days we will all be playing the next big Zelda game - Breath of the Wild. And before the new game lands in your hands, it's interesting to ask yourself what you really are expecting from it. Expectations can be betrayed, which usually results in disappointment. And that's something, where both Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword had their troubles.

With Twilight Princess Nintendo went with the "better than Ocarina of Time" route. They thought they had surpassed the N64 classic by doing the same things in "bigger and better", but ultimately the game was too linear and the characters and the environments weren't as good. While for some fans it's still the best Zelda game, for others it couldn't deliver...

With Skyward Sword Nintendo already tried to tamper with the Zelda formula in many different ways, like motion controls and segmented, dungeon-esque overworlds, but this probably went as expected. A major issue here was that Nintendo showed so much of the game in advance that there haven't been any surprises left. But even in such a case you still expect that there's more to the game than what they've shown already, which is where the game failed to deliver...

At least in that regard it's very different with Breath of the Wild. For the most part they only have shown us the starting area, the Great Plateau. But that's only a small fraction of the entire game world and we've only seen glimpses of what else there is to explore. The emphasis here is on "explore", because it should really be up to each one of us to discover the game world (and the story) on our own, instead of just following the big milestones that Nintendo has been showing off for months. So far so good.

But with the bigger game worlds in Zelda games, Nintendo usually had their issues to fill them with proper content. Especially the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess felt quite "empty". The main challenge will be to fill it all with worthwhile and interesting content, so that you never lose your motivation to explore it all. Especially things like villages with character interactions will be critical, because we haven't seen much about that yet. And a reason, why Nintendo decided not to show anything in advance could be that there's nothing much to show...

As far as the expectations about the overall status of Breath of the Wild go, however, the game is certainly on. It's another Twilight Princess situation here, where Nintendo really wants to create the next big thing for the Zelda franchise, finally surpassing Ocarina of Time. I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic, where I certainly hope that this will be a new direction that drives the Zelda series from now on, instead of being yet another collection of failed experiments. It might not be perfect, but at least it should be something that can be reiterated on in the future, much like Ocarina of Time defined the formula for a long time.


Other than these general thoughts I have two more self-righteous expectations, where I want to see my two major theories about the game to come true, which were created by the several teasers that Nintendo has done since E3:

Timeline Merge

Nintendo really has teased us with the timeline placement of Breath of the Wild on a level, where we probably didn't have as much timeline talk ever since the release of Hyrule Historia. This was a smart move, because it kept the Zelda fans discussing about the game, and to ensure this, the clues had to be all over the place. The Master Sword pedestal from A Link to the Past in front of the Great Deku Tree and surrounded by the Koroks from the Wind Waker. The ruined Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time, the ruined Hyrule Castle Town from Twilight Princess and maybe even the Great Bridge of Hylia. Talk about an ancient ocean and much more... It didn't add up at all, if you were looking for a specific placement somewhere (at the end) of the three timelines.

This had me thinking that the only explanation would be a scenario, where the timelines (and different Hyrules) got merged into one. Then it all finally made sense and it would give the game the symbolism that it needs. Only this way it could be a real counterpoint to Ocarina of Time and create a fresh start for the franchise built on its entire past. You are walking through the ruins of places from all these past Zelda games to experience a gigantic new adventure!

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the only way and I would be very disappointed, if this in the end just turns out to be another Wind Waker sequel or whatever...

Playable Characters

This other theory came up with the last two trailers and Nintendo's recent media outlets, where they showed a series of characters dressed in blue, all with their own weapons. Next to Zelda there's a Goron, a Zora girl, some Rito Archer and a Gerudo girl. You've probably seen them already and they all look like additional amiibo material.

And when I saw these characters, I immediately wanted to play as all of them and not just in Hyrule Warriors 2, right here in Breath of the Wild. It wouldn't even be a new thing, you could already do it with Medli and Makar in the Wind Waker, which was an excellent feature. Or you could transform into different races in Majora's Mask. And playing as other races and characters was always a lot of fun, where Breath of the Wild would be wasting potential, if all of these characters would just be AI companions.

Still, I didn't want to get my hopes up, but then I accidentally clicked on Twitter out of habit yesterday and the first thing I saw was the "one week" teaser image from Nintendo:

Looks like the fun selfie shots from the Wind Waker HD are back, nice... But is it really a selfie? Link has too much distance to the camera and the Sheikah Slate is right there on his belt. It would be really weird, if you could do that, unless someone else with a Sheikah Slate would be doing the shot. And who could this someone be?

Imagine the situation! Link takes down this huge Hinox (it's nice that the Sheikah Slate tells you the enemy names) and Zelda then takes a photo of his victory pose there. What a nice couple! And it's teasers like this that get my expectations up again, where it might generate disappointment, if all of this was simply misleading and you could just do weird things with the Sheikah Slate camera, while it's not even in Link's hands...

(When I previously speculated about a playable Zelda, I was worried that she would take the Sheikah Slate away from you, but it looks like she might have her own after all. The other scenes, where Link doesn't carry the device, might all have been flashbacks, where I've heard that you will collect his lost memories throughout the game. This would explain some of the scenes that we saw in the last two trailers.)

So, while it's really, really good that we don't know that much about the game and there will be lots to discover, Nintendo's teasers might have created some expectations that won't be fulfilled. Well, maybe some of this already has been revealed via leaks or previews, I haven't been looking, so excuse my ignorance at this point. But you can read about my excitements and disappointments about the game starting this Friday.

No comments: