Last year’s E3 was a big disappointment. This year’s E3 resulted in a big puddle of drool on our collective carpets. The style of Link we had grown to know and love on the Nintendo 64 games was back, and now in a larger, darker, more fully realized Hyrule. These are some of my own reflections on the trailer.
Stating the Obvious
First I’m going to state the obvious. The cel-shaded look is out the window for this game, and the look returns to the look of the Spaceworld demo, which has been often described as darker, grittier, and more mature-continuing the trend of Majora’s Mask, if you will. And the trailer even advertises that “blades will bleed,” although it certainly doesn’t look like we’ll see gore effects anytime soon-and hey, I’m glad they’re not incorporating realistic damage. If it had that, it practically wouldn’t be a Zelda game.
And man was that an awesome trailer. I must have watched that trailer 15 times. That’s almost as many times as I watched the Fellowship of the Ring trailer when it came out, and many more times then I watched the Wind Waker trailer.
The game is looking good. That really can’t be denied. But I’m a little worried though, about one thing IGN said about the game’s visual system. They said that in dungeons, the camera can pull back overhead Link, so he can navigate. I frankly don’t mind that in stealth mazes, but I really think that if this kind of camera system is implemented to a huge degree, it will detract from the mood of the game. If you’re sneaking through the shadows of a mysterious dungeon, I really think you need to be in the thick of it. You need to be the one bending the corner, not knowing what lies there. Of course the 2-D games got along just fine with an overhead view, but for me at least, it’s the over-the-shoulder and first-person views that are what enabled Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask to step onto a whole new level. That said, I’m not so sure that IGN is quite right on its analysis of the trailer. After all, we do see Link pushing a block from a profile view.
The Final Analysis
What can we say about the nature of the game at this point? Not much, unfortunately. We do see that a horse like Epona is back as Link’s transport. And in a scene very much remisicent of the warg battle scene in The Two Towers-except “Zeldaized” by having boars as enemy mounts rather than wolves-Link battles foes on horseback. Expect this to be a critical new gameplay feature, especially since we’re told that they had planned it originally for Ocarina of Time.
It’s very much a Zelda game. And I’m not just talking about the obvious things like the use of standard Zelda game mechanics, or the presence of characters and enemies from the Zelda world. I’m also talking about the little stuff. For instance, the art of the game, just like the games before it, draws on the cultures of the world to create atmosphere for particular dungeons. Notice, for instance, the striped arches in the main dungeon showcased in the trailer. But I’m getting ahead of myself-that’s the kind of stuff I’m going to talk about in an upcoming article for the “Origins” section. And on that note, I’d also like to point out that it’s also a true Zelda game in its movement away from the “Japanization” of Wind Waker and back towards the more traditional Zelda-worlds found in the earlier games, which showcased a more traditional fantasy “Medieval” realm, which ultimately has its roots in Tolkien.
But while it’s still a Zelda game to the core, it is moving the series in a different direction then Wind Waker did. And I like where it’s going. Looking back on the game’s release over a year ago, I can say that while it was a masterpiece and a joy to play, Wind Waker ultimately didn’t have the same lasting emotional impact that Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask had. From basic appearances so far, the game looks to be not quite as dark as Majora’s Mask, and not quite as carefree as Ocarina of Time. And that’s not a bad place to be. With that kind of realism, twinged with a bit of Majora’s Mask style darkness, and tempered by splashes of classic Zelda humor, the game can take us beyond the simple “fun” factor of a game and into a new and dangerous world. And that is something I’m looking forward to.