Uniting the Triforce: Nintendo’s Refreshing Approach to The Legend of Zelda Franchise

Last week, Nintendo shocked the gaming world when they revealed the latest Hyrule Warriors game to be a prequel to Breath of the Wild. It’s one of many steps the iconic video game company has made to systematically change their approach when it comes to The Legend of Zelda. Let’s reflect on the company’s refreshing new approach and what it means for Zelda fans, worldwide.

Back in 2014, I was attending my first E3 for Cinelinx, alongside the creator and host of The Fathergamer Podcast, Eric Gibbs. E3 history buffs will remember E3 2014 as being the year that Nintendo first announced The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (though the title hadn’t been fully announced yet) It was just known as The Legend of Zelda Wii U.

I remember thinking and telling anyone who would listen that the announcement of an open-world The Legend of Zelda game was the most groundbreaking announcement to come out of E3 that year. I was so enamored by it, I even wrote a reaction column to the news.

Fast forward three years later to 2017. Nintendo released their innovative new console, the Nintendo Switch, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a launch title. My reaction was validated, as Breath of the Wild became an absolute hit, winning several awards and earning a perfect score in our official review. It’s also one of the highest grossing games Nintendo has ever produced. 

According to The NPD Group, Breath of the Wild has been ranked in the top 10 of best-selling Switch games since its release. It hasn’t dipped below #7 and was the #6 best-selling game in August 2020. In fact, it’s the 10th best-selling game on Nintendo platforms in U.S. history. Astonishing.

It’s all with good reason, too. The game was simply unbelievable and everything I and everyone else who played it could have ever wanted. It was every bit the open-world game we imagined it could be. We climbed mountains, trudged through snow, navigated deserts and foggy forests, we tamed wild horses, fought massive laser beam-firing guardians, remembered Champions, saved our warrior princess, and brought down a calamity. To this day, it is still one of the greatest video game experiences I have ever had.

Then, Nintendo made an even more monumental announcement, revealing that a Breath of the Wild sequel was in the works with a mysterious, eerie reveal trailer. What made this news so groundbreaking was that this was the first direct The Legend of Zelda sequel for a console we’ve ever had. Now, one could argue that the franchise is all connected, but the timeline is such a jumbled mess it’s hard to fully understand which games follow which and the order of it all. This is the absolutely first sequel we can all recognize which game it is the sequel to.

Understandably, it’s been on the lips of Nintendo fans since its announcement a year ago, with many unreasonably clamoring for an update on the status of the sequel during every new Nintendo Direct. While we are many years away from it finally reaching our hands, Nintendo had an ace up their sleeve to satiate our The Legend of Zelda appetite. To the surprise of everyone this week, Nintendo revealed a new Hyrule Warriors game. However, this wasn’t just any new entry to the beloved Zelda musou game. No, this was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a prequel to the events of Breath of the Wild

When I saw this news, a phrase came to mind that I first heard in 2014 from Eric Gibbs. You see, Eric worked at Disney for a number of years and he always talks about one of their mottos being “Use every part of the buffalo.” This PETA-defying turn of phrase essentially means to use all resources available to get the most out of something. With the announcement of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, it finally feels as if Nintendo is using every part of the buffalo and it’s so refreshing to see.

In Breath of the Wild, the game talked at length about events that led up to the Calamity, 100 years in the past. They painted a picture of an all-out war between the legions of Hyrule forces and Champions against the army of Ganon-possessed Guardians. To be able to experience this prequel in a musou-type, Dynasty Warriors-esque game like Hyrule Warriors is everything we could’ve ever hoped for.

Finally, we can experience the war of all wars within the The Legend of Zelda franchise. This war will have meaning. It will expand on a story only told in bits and pieces. Sure, we know the outcome, but we can actually take part in the fight and experience the war in its fullest context. We can understand what the sacrifice of each champion truly meant. Also, we can take part in the fight as someone other than Link. We can fight as Zelda, Urbosa, Revali, Mipha, and Daruk. It’s amazing to envision their different movesets and realize just how powerful these champions once were. 

It just feels as if Nintendo is finally connecting the dots and drawing a direct line from game to game, rather than launching games that feel like standalone entries. We are finally getting a connected story, a continuation from where we left off. Almost like it’s the next volume in a beloved series of books. Where, in this case, you have to play different games to understand the context behind what is happening within that game. 

It’s something that I’ve yearned for since Ocarina of Time. While Majora’s Mask was an all-time great entry in the franchise, I had always wanted to know what happened next after the events of Ocarina of Time. I felt the same after Windwaker and even after Twilight Princess. It always felt as if there was more to the story, even if Nintendo was done telling it. 

We may never get continuations to those stories, but Nintendo is finally willing to write new chapters for Breath of the Wild, which is something to celebrate. Plus, if the gorgeous Link’s Awakening remake is any indication, we may be looking at a pattern where more Zelda remakes launch between new chapters being written. If that is the case, I have 2,021 reasons why Windwaker should be next to get the remake/remaster treatment. 

All that said, even if remakes of old classics aren’t in the cards, the fact that we’re in for an actual The Legend of Zelda trilogy is a refreshing new approach that ensures lasting longevity into one of the longest, most influential franchises in video game history.