Hands-On With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Preview)

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It’s not the first time that we’ve visited the Kingdom of Hyrule, but it definitely felt like it when we got a brief glimpse of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  When E3 2016 opened its doors to the public, many fans and press (including myself) flocked to the Nintendo booth to be one of the first to experience the next generation of The Legend of Zelda.  

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The booth, itself, was decorated in Zelda decorum with shaded shots of Link in various fighting stances.  I was one of the lucky few to be in the right place in line that I got to see Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo tell everyone that we were in for something special, as he was walking into the Zelda experience. As we advanced in the line, we crossed the Nintendo Treehouse, where we got to see Miyamoto.  However, even the being in the presence of a living legend couldn’t compete with what we were about to experience.  

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Ok, “name-drop” time is over.

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Once we passed the Nintendo Treehouse, we were greeted by a giant cave entrance.  It was a dark brown opening with cracks of blue that led to a blue eye at the top, the mark of the Shiekah.  To the left of that was a case of brand new Zelda amiibo.  One of Link in a fighting stance, another of him riding a horse, the mysterious Guardian mech, and Wolf Link with Midna from Twilight Princess.  If you use the Wolf Link amiibo, you get to play with Wolf Link as your companion in the game!

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Once the fans were finished gawking at the amiibo, it was time to enter the cave.

A mixture of blue-lit circuitry and wall torches was the only light that guided us to a massive screen that held the latest symbol of Zelda, the Z with the Master Sword down the middle of it.  A woman in a blue tunic would appear, holding a mic, and announcing that we’d be privy to a Zelda video feature gameplay and shots of the game.  It was a cool preview of what we’d be soon experiencing for ourselves.

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When the video ended, the screen rose up and unveiled the gorgeous land of Hyrule Nintendo had created for the E3 booth.  In this world were temple ruins, goblins camping next to their spitted meats, guard towers, treasure chests, and a interactive pot to cook giant food from the game.  However, there were two things that took the attention away from all that.  The first being the giant figure of Link shooting an arrow at the Guardian (like we saw in the first trailer for The Legend of Zelda) when it was called Wii U.  The second were the hundreds of screens with demos of Breath of the Wind!

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I followed my guide to a Wii U system and immediately started playing the first of my two gameplay demos.  The first section was interesting because they thrust me into the world without any backstory, or anything.  I began my journey at a campsite in the middle of the woods and all I had was my Traveler’s sword, a shield, some supplies, and a bow and arrow that leaned against a log.  Once I collected my belongings, I traveled to the skull that was on my radar, at the bottom right corner.  

More than just the radar, I noticed to new additions to the heads-up display: a temperature gauge and a noise gauge.  The temperature gauge actually comes in handy later because this game takes on more of a real-world feel.  For example, if it’s too cold the gauge will tell you and you’ll need to put warmer clothes on.  If it’s too hot, you may have to do the opposite.  Ignoring these conditions can have an affect on the character’s health and abilities.  It’s a massive addition to the game and tells me that Nintendo has put everything into the openness and realism of this new game.

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After my brief geeking out on the additions, I ran up to fight a few goblins.  During the fight, I noticed we now have a stamina bar in Zelda.  The heavier the weapon, the more stamina it drains.  If you run out of stamina, you’re essentially useless until it recharges.  You can’t even run when you’re out of stamina.  It’s the same when you sprint, jump, and climb too.  Stamina adds another level of difficulty to the game.  By the way, did you catch all the actions I mentioned?  Link can now jump and climb!!!  I mean, he’s no Nathan Drake but Breath of the Wild proves just how boundless it can be with this new movement.

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Once the goblins were taken care of, I went on through the forest to my next task, stopping once to chop down a tree with my sword, just to see if it would work.  It does, it really does.  You get lumber for chopping down a tree!  Things brings to light other mechanics that are brand new to the Zelda series which include hunting for food and a crafting system.  Using my trusty new bow, I hunted a boar using stealth tactics (alos new and improved).  Once I took it down the boar turned to meat, which I could then use my aforementioned lumber to cook and eat!  There’s a lot going on, and all the systems seem to really work together for a cohesive feeling world.  

After this my time in the first demo was drawing to a close, but I had to do one more thing.  I found a temple and I just had to explore it.  The temple was hidden underground in what looked like an opening to a massive gnarled tree.  When I hopped down, I landed in a blue entryway that had two metallic plates on the floor and a gate blocking my path.  Using a new Magnetic ability, I was able to move the plates to reveal an underground pathway.  This new ability isn’t limited to solving puzzles either, as I was later aable to use it as a weapon to slam things down on enemies within the temple.

Where the first section of gameplay was about exploration and introducing me to the new systems, the second demo was all about the story of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  This time I started right at the very beginning of the game, and got some story details, so if you’re shy about spoilers, you may want to turn back now.  A bright white light fills the screen as we hear a woman plead to Link to “Open Your Eyes”.  That’s right, actual honest-to-God voiceover!  Not noises, voiceover!  Then, it takes us to a chamber where we find Link laying in a bed of water upon a shrine.  Coincidentally, this chamber is called The Shrine of Resurrection.  

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Link wakes up and we are directed to another shrine where we are given a tablet with the Shiekah symbol emblazoned upon it.  This will become your map, among other things within the game.  After getting clothes, Link leaves the chamber to enter the land of Hyrule.  We’re then introduced to a mysterious old man who helps us understand where we are and then directs us to a ruined temple.  That temple is none other than the Temple of Time.  

We’re then pivoted over to a hidden shrine, guarded by goblins.  Once I took them out, I placed the Shiekah tablet on a pedestal.  When I did this, a cinematic began showing giant spires rising all around Hyrule, including the one I was in.  I heard the lyrical voice once again and saw Hyrule castle in a dome of shadow, guarded by a black monster.  This is when the mysterious voice informs us that Link has been asleep for one hundred years!!!  

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After this revelation, I hopped down from the tower to find the old man once more.  This time he informed me the monster hovering over Hyrule castle was none other than Calamitous Ganon, building up strength to attack the world again.  And of course, that’s when Nintendo ended the demo, much to my sorrow! 

By far, this was the biggest, most expansive demo I’ve ever played. Breath of the Wild may be one of my favorite Zelda experiences from a purely gameplay standpoint, mainly because even after over a half-hour of gameplay, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of this game.  I’m excited for the future of the franchise and for Nintendo in general.  This may be the game that puts them back on the console map.  In my opinion, Breath of the Wild is the reason to buy the Nintendo NX.  Both are also projected to release early 2017.

Stay tuned for more from E3 2016 as we continue gathering as much news and reviews over the games you want to know more about!  Continue to send us those messages and we’ll get all the information you could ever want!