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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Needs a Breath of New Visual Life
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:57pm 13/07/16 | Comments
Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is everything you may have wanted from a Zelda game, but was it a mistake for them to show the game on Wii U at E3? Let's explore...

I’m going to be that guy. And a lot of people aren’t going to like it, but you need to hear me out -- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not wholly incredible.

There are two key reasons for this, and none of it has anything to do with the gameplay itself, which I will add is amazing. The game’s large, inviting world is one you want to explore. The myriad new gameplay activities that have been thrown into the Zelda design manifest are beyond engaging -- they’re downright addictive. Collecting ingredients for cooking, and then actually cooking. All the crafting involved, and how the different components play off one another, along with simple ideas such as their durability -- it’s all so enticing.

Then there’s the rather dark concept that Link himself is tantamount to being Sylvestor Stallone in Demolition Man; a frozen action hero only awoken whenever he’s needed to defeat Wesley Snipes Ganon. Only in here he seems to be being robbed of life and living out his youth and older years. And why oh why is he being given a magical smartphone?

A Link to the Twilight?
Using amiibo, you'll be able to grab Wolf Link from Twilight Princess as a companion in the game (he attacks enemies and finds goodies for you!). Interestingly a lot of the magic art is reminiscent of Twilight Princess - could it be that there's a stronger tie to that game than Nintendo is letting on here? We think so, and we're thinking 'sequel' or sorts.
Actually that last question is a relatively clever way of creating a handful of gameplay systems around how we use modern devices, as well as selling a sort of magic in the game-world we can actually relate to. It might also be a hint at NX’s likely emphasis on a second-screen skew, but I digress.

The idea that different zones will require different garments beyond the more simple concept of his tunics in Ocarina of Time is also compelling, and it all coalesces to forge a far deeper RPG element to the series. It’s still action-heavy, only now with action-sports too, given you can ride your shield down inclines and even perform tricks as if it were a magical grass/snowboard, along with the rock-climbing stuff -- it’s all a heady recipe for emergent play, driven by how the player uses the game’s systems. And I only had around 30 minutes or so with it, which was also hamstrung by the controller not being able to be inverted -- but this is something I’ll elaborate on more in a bit.

Enemy encounters were fun too, though the AI in our demo wasn’t all that bright. Still, you have numerous ways in which you can approach baddies, including environmental opportunities like pushing giant boulders onto them. Fire propagates (a little), and Link actually has various weapons at his disposal. You’ll find different grades of weapons, doing away with the traditional series staple of having the Sword of Time and Hylian shield, which will hopefully make later encounters with different grades of enemies a more tactical element of the game. And again it’s all in place to give you the freedom to approach encounters and puzzles in any way you see fit. It’s easily the most freeform Legend of Zelda to-date, but it still had its issues.

So it’s about now I come clean. It honestly didn’t look that good running on Wii U. It’s going to be a launch title for the purportedly more powerful NX, which made it even more odd that it was being shown running on what is almost redundant hardware. There was pop-up, and aliasing issues everywhere. The colour pallette through the game’s gorgeous cel-shaded artstyle was less than ideal as a result of this. It looks amazing in screens, but up and running it was marred by these technical shortfalls. The draw distance suffered too, and the game-world is very, very large (allegedly 12 times the size of Twilight Princess) so it just didn’t marry very well. And all of this was compounded by having to play on the Wii U GamePad.

Interestingly they’ve removed the map and UI stuff from the GamePad’s screen, which could mean NX might actually have a traditional controller, and comments from series producer Eiji Aonuma that you’ll be able to play with the Pro Controller is definitely good news -- playing an open-world event like this with that ginormous controller would be a nightmare. And Nintendo, it really was sucky I couldn’t invert, it absolutely hampered my experience.

My theory for showing the game running on lesser hardware is that it might entice would-be players to hold off for a few months to play it on NX, and if it looks leagues better than what was shown at E3, why wouldn’t you? I certainly doubt the game would move Wii U units so close to the end of that console’s life at the end of the year, and having a much-hyped Zelda experience like this as your gateway into Nintendo’s next console would be a very smart move. It’s disappointing that apparently the experience you get with the game across both consoles is going to be the same, but that could also mean Nintendo has stripped back for NX -- removing any new ‘innovation’ that could equally become a stale gimmick as has happened with both of their last two platforms, specifically in the controller realm.

This isn’t to be held as Nintendo or Zelda bashing, it’s just a byproduct of the gaming age we live in. Nintendo saw fit to usher Link into modernity with an open-world game that includes survival and looting staples, with lots of exploration, freedom and emergent gameplay. It would seem only fitting that he’s also rewarded with a visual fidelity modern players have come to expect. And yes, I understand it’s not all about the visuals and gameplay should always be king, but lesser games look better than this and it’s simply time Nintendo got with the times, and spruced a much-loved series up. I, at least, will be waiting for the NX version of the game.
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