I tried to think of a witty title regarding the upcoming Wii U/NX Zelda game, but gave up. Was going to use “Fresh Air, With Rand al’Thor”, but whatever.
I’ve been a fan of The Legend of Zelda since I was old enough to play video games. It was the late ’80s and my parents had just gotten an NES. I played the hell out of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. I also spent a lot of time with games like Top Gun (never was that good at landing that damn plane!), Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers (loved the two-player co-op on that), Ultima: Exodus, Dragon Warrior, Golf, Kirby’s Adventure, and PinBot among many others.
I loved the open-world nature of the original Zelda. Hell, I even loved the sidescrolling dungeon design of Zelda II. (Although, for a reason I wouldn’t discover until just recently, the towns freaked me out (turns out my mom had discovered wrong-warping in towns decades before it was discovered and exploited by speedrunners and shown off at GDQ events, and it was the glitching out of towns that scared me as a kid)) To me, a true Zelda game allowed you the freedom to explore its vast world with little to no restrictions. To be fair, the first Zelda had some restrictions to explorations by requiring certain items (such as the raft or stepladder) to access certain ares, but most of the world was accessible from the start if you were daring enough.
A lot of Zelda games have turned out to be more linear. The Oracle games are decidedly linear, forcing you to beat the dungeons in a certain order (there is no real freedom of exploration in either Holodrum or Labrynna). Even Link’s Awakening is mostly linear. Ocarina of Time returned some nonlinearity to its gameplay, but you still can’t access the Temples until you’ve cleared the first three dungeons and collected the three spiritual stones and the Master Sword. Majora’s Mask offered a lot more freedom to the player. I’ve only played Skyward Sword once but I remember it being very linear. Twilight Princess bogged the player down with story, always holding a tantalizing glimpse of the larger world just out of the player’s reach. There was a lot to do in regards to story, and you never had much of a chance to just go and roam the world until late in the game. You didn’t even get an item to summon Epona until near the end of the game. Let’s not even get to the DS games
Much as I like stories in my Zelda games, they often just served as a barrier to the exploration I wanted. I just wanted to set out, no major backstory to sit through.
And here comes Breath of the Wild. Everything about this game makes me excited, but mainly the absolute freedom the game offers. Past Zelda games have limited players on how puzzles are solved and how dungeons are tackled. No actual dungeons have been shown yet, just the shrines. Aonuma has hinted that the dungeons are quite different from the shrines.
There’s a small bit of story to set you on your way, with Link waking up in the Shrine of Resurrection. However, once you leave the Shrine, you can go any direction you want. The only restriction at this point seems to be that you have to get the paraglider from the old man, which allows you to safely escape from the Great Plateau. From there, we don’t currently know what to expect.
I’ve not played any of the Dark Souls games, but I keep seeing people reference those games with how BotW plays. I like how you can ambush enemies, steal their weapons, distract enemies. There’s just so much to this game that the demos we’ve seen so far are clearly just scratching the surface.
I’ve loved the Zelda games over the decades, but BotW looks like a full realization of what Miyamoto originally intended with the first game.