RPGamer Pascal Tekaia got a chance to sit in on Nintendo's trailer and demo of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Here's a lyrical description of his experience to match the reveal.
Listen, Nintendo's got this E3 game figured out. No one else can roll into L.A.'s convention center with little more than a single game to show off and still run circles around their competition in terms of hype. Let's try this: who's up for a game of word association? If I say "E3" and "Nintendo," what immediately comes to mind? Right, The Legend of Zelda! Not just for you and me, but for everyone else. This is the reason why everyone and their brother all but ran straight for Nintendo's queue when E3 opened its doors at noon on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Within moments, the line stretched not just past Nintendo's own sizable show floor real estate (as well as the Nintendo Treehouse), but to the back of the hall, looped and doubled back on itself several times on its way past the exhibitor exits, curled around multiple corners, and finally ran back onto the show floor on the OPPOSITE side of the convention hall, this time skirting Microsoft's and Sony's floor spaces. All to show off a single game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
But Nintendo knows how to treat an E3 world premiere right. After braving the formidable line, it was finally time to step through a curtain into the inner sanctum, made up to look like the inside of the cave Link wakes up in at the beginning of the demo footage. Sitting on a soft, comfy stool, the cool blue and purple lighting of the cave-like room made the bright, colorful hues of the footage we were shown that much more relaxing. It was essentially the same footage shown earlier that morning on the Nintendo Treehouse live stream. I watched as Link, asleep in a fluid-filled pod of some sort, was slowly awakened by a voice calling his name, first softly, then with increasing urgency. I looked on as Link received the Sheikah Slate from a mysteriously technological pedestal, then used it to breach the doors sealing him in the cave. As the door of Link's sanctum slid upward, so did the wall at the front of the room, and I, like Link, was beckoned to step through it into the wide unknown beyond. Like Link, I emerged into a strange but wonderful Hyrule - in my case, a great section of the expo hall transformed into the fantastical land of the game. Great set pieces dotted the landscape: a bokoblin camp with meat roasting over a sizzling fire, Link shooting arrows at a tentacled creature emerging from a lagoon and the ruins of a once-great temple dominating another corner of the space. All around and above, the sky and distant landmarks completed the illusion of having physically entered Hyrule, lightning occasionally flashing through the hall as bright sunshine gradually gave way to ominous clouds.
Still trying to slowly take it in, I was escorted to the playable game station, where I spent the next thirty-five minutes playing through two distinct sections of the upcoming game. For the first demo, I was placed without fanfare into an area known as the Great Plateau. As my personal Nintendo guide walked me through the basic controls for moving, camera control, picking up items, jumping, and swinging my sword, I was free to roam around and explore at my leisure. The graphics were fiercely colorful, and reminded me of a more mature, less pastel Wind Waker, sometimes even emulating the cel-shaded, watercolor look. Almost immediately, my guide directed me back to camp, as I ran off and left all my gear behind at the starting campsite in my eagerness to get into it. Good thing, too; as I put on the bow and arrow I found stashed by the campfire, I spied a wild boar peacefully grazing just moments later. I snuck stealthily, and the game's minimal use of music made this moment that much more authentic. Of course, my intended headshot went astray, and the now-alerted boar ran for safety. With no hope of catching up with a boar in flight, I climbed the nearest tree I could find, hoping for a better shot at the fleeing animal from above. What I found instead made me forget the would-be prey, as standing in the tree's crown gave me a great vantage point to survey the surrounding area.
Having fumbled my chance at scoring a hunting kill, I followed a map marker of a treasure chest up a rocky slope to a pile of stone and rubble. Here I discovered the usefulness of bombs, which can be thrown or placed on the ground and ignited manually from a safe distance. However, the game's realistic physics made placing the bomb a challenge for me, as it frequently rolled away from where I needed it before I had reached safety, even rolling down after me. Eventually I managed to blow the pile to smithereens, uncovering the treasure chest underneath. Not a moment too soon, because suddenly I heard loud, deep crashing near me, and the sky darkened. I had strayed too close to the demo's hidden danger, triggering a boss encounter with the rock monster Steppe Talus, who approached without me being any the wiser. Naturally, being a towering behemoth made of rock, my sword did little good, and I wasn't inclined to get close enough to try and get a few hits in with it. Here's where a well-aimed bomb came in handy once again, letting me systematically blow off first one of the monster's rock arms, then the other. Each time I scored a bomb blast, the Steppe Talus would fall forward and lay prone for three to four seconds. If I acted quick, I could clamber onto him, sometimes holding on for dear life if he stood back up in mid-climb, and wail away at an exposed outcropping of dark mineral jutting from his back.
I'd love to have ended this part of the demo on a more successful note, but things quickly went from bad to worse. Though I chewed up a slight section of the monster's health bar in my initial assault, it wasn't to last for long. Soon enough, I found myself ejected back onto the ground, and pummeled by newly attached rock appendages to boot. I spent the remainder of this part of the demo dying numerous times, restarting at the beginning of the battle, and breaking my sword against the solid chunk of rock on his back, leaving me utterly without any means of fighting the baddie. But before I could lament my ineptitude, along came the second act of the demo.
This time, the demo started off back at the cave, with Link just waking up from his 100-year slumber. After exiting the cave, the wide openness of Hyrule stretched out before me, and I was determined to make the most of my newfound freedom. If you saw Nintendo's early live stream, you're familiar with the first few steps to take after exiting the cave. I'll fast forward past Link's first meeting with the mysterious old man on the slopes just outside the cave's entrance. I thought to investigate the area in the direction of what I assumed to be the dismantled Temple of Time, but was soon redirected by my guide, to follow the waypoint on Link's Wii U remote, er I mean Sheikah Slate. Being armed only with a branch and a woodcutter's axe, I proceeded with caution when a group of three bokoblins began raining arrows down on me from atop a sandy dune. Scrambling to the top, picking up any arrows left on the ground (and taking at least one shot in the side), I disposed of the first bokoblin, then quickly knocked the second one down the dune, picking up the bow he dropped as he fell. I immediately loosed a few shafts of my own, felling their last remaining comrade, who had decided to put some distance between us. As a parting gift, he presented me with a rusted sword I gladly picked up.
My destination point now lay directly in front of me: an unsuspecting little hole of a cave, with a simple, plain pedestal in it. Once again it was time to put Link's mysterious technological device, the Sheikah Slate, into use to activate this pedestal. What followed was a jaw-dropping sequence of a series of majestic towers bursting through centuries of rock they'd been buried beneath, starting with the one I'd apparently just activated. More technological runes flowed across its surface, as messages blurred across the screen, confirming an odd level of ancient technological marvel not commonly associated with Zelda games. "Distilling local information" was followed by "Extracting regional map," and a data-laden drop of something dripped onto Link's Sheikah Slate, imbuing it with more new information. A glimmer from a distant castle caught my eye, as the same girl's voice again spoke with Link, pleading with him while a malevolent half-dragon, half-man shape - Calamity Ganon - swirled around the castle, shrouding it in dark mist. A deadly plunge off the tower's top, a reload, and a more careful level-by-level tower descent later, and I was in the final moments of the demo. The mysterious old man para-glided to me at the base of the tower, then directed me to seek out a dark and foreboding cave some ways off, to acquire a treasure worthy of trading for his para-glider. I'd been pointed toward the next breadcrumb in this trail, but whilst I was still scrambling there, this time swimming across an expansive river before my stamina gave out and I drowned, the screen faded to black. The demo was over, for good this time.
I had been initially a bit worried about being given an open-world sandbox for Link to travel through. Surely The Legend of Zelda wouldn't benefit from having a mini-map filled to the brim with side quest objective markers and mini-games, I thought. I still think I was right about this, but it doesn't seem like I need to worry. If the demo is any indication, the game gets right down to brass tacks, and makes the objectives pretty clear from the get-go. Within minutes we've been introduced to Link, Ganon, and well, whoever the owner of the mysterious voice may be. While there's still a wide world left to explore, possibly packed with extracurricular content, the main objectives are established sufficiently early on. Though this Link doesn't look particularly old, and we've been through all varying stages of Link's child-to-adulthood before, maybe it's finally time The Legend of Zelda grew up just a little and became just a little more intricate and elegant.