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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the best game at E3 2016

by Joey Davidson | June 25, 2016June 25, 2016 6:00 am PST

There are plenty who might disdain from such a statement as the one in this headline, but Nintendo brought its A-game to E3 2016 this year, stealing the show with the game we already knew it was going to dominate with: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The only surprise was the extent to which the game dominated the whole show. We’re talking total domination, just a slaughter house, all for a game that will perhaps ultimately struggle to cross the 5 million sales mark on the Wii U.

Social media couldn’t stop talking about it, those who typically hate on Nintendo suddenly found themselves compromised by the game laid in front of them. “How can I possibly lay it on thick when this game is so impressive?”

Not a single title stood out more than Nintendo’s ultimate promise to gamers. Nothing from EA, Bethesda, Microsoft, or Sony’s press conferences, which Nintendo did not hold, lasted longer in our memories. And not a single demo on the floor demanded such attention from fans peeling through it.

Seriously, before the week was out, the whole thing was chronicled and picked apart with fans stumbling across clues on where the game lands in the timeline or what the established language from the universe reveals on signs and ruins.

Just absolute domination from the part of Nintendo, fans, and all that collaborated to make it such a smash such. A real team collaboration across the board, and honestly, a really touching “feel good” story for those who have stuck with Nintendo over the years.

So what was it about this game that has us still shivering with excitement. How can such a title dominate the headlines and push bigger name games like Battlefield and Call of Duty away? We here at TechnoBuffalo’s gaming department broke it down.

Ron’s take.

There are two or three major factors here that are contributing to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s overnight success at E3 2016. First up, the game has been kept under wraps for two years, ever since it first made an appearance at E3 2014. Anticipation had been running high for far too long, and something had to give.

Boy did it ever…

I’m not sure if the fans were ready for what they saw. Breath of the Wild looks like familiar ground with Link prancing through Hyrule in his green tights, but in between the cracks, this game proved to be anything but a typical Legend of Zelda title. It shows that Nintendo is willing to experiment with a few modern trends rather that sit in the corner and play all by themselves with the same ideas it’s been retooling and pulling out since the 90s.

In the trailer, we see plenty of hints from other franchises popping up. I enjoyed the The Phantom Pain comparisons with Link waylaying an unsuspecting check-point in the Hyrule mountains. The cooking is highly reminiscent of Monster Hunter, and the lack of “legendary weapons” goes with the Elder Scrolls and Fallout approach of “just pick up whatever weapon you can find!”

Taking these ideas and giving them a Nintendo make-over is fine and all, and that’s exactly what the company needs to be doing. The Wii U failed after Nintendo tried its hardest to play directly to its longtime fans, and the company needs to show that the NX has the ability to create software that can compete with the biggest names in the industry.

In that regard, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a huge success. However, it also succeeds as a Legend of Zelda game, and this is coming from a fan who hasn’t really enjoyed the last few console entries. It’s always easy to overlook this but “freedom” has been a staple of the franchise since the day it was created. That freedom to explore anywhere has survived in the overhead games like A Link Between Worlds, but the constrictive natures of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword were a real turn-off to a lot of fans who didn’t want a tutorial or dark narrative dragging through Hyrule at the developer’s pace.

This new game taps more into Wind Waker, A Link Between Worlds and, dare I say, the original NES in that it is encouraging fans to get out there and find their own way through the game. It’s a huge vote of confidence from Nintendo, placing trust in its audience that it knows exactly how to do that with no hand-holding, no tutorials, no “we’ll play the game for you if you die too much” Nintendo baby-sitting.

Thanks for keeping it real, Nintendo.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Screenshots - 05

And one last little element playing into the success of this presentation was “legacy.” Yes, The Legend of Zelda has been with us for 30 years! Sorry to say, but that name carries a lot more weight than the “Johnny come lately” it’s competing against. I’ve always said Twilight Princess wouldn’t have been nearly as popular, especially in the face of Okami, had it been titled anything else or belonged to a different franchise.

That’s the power that Nintendo’s beloved franchise demands.

Horizon Zero Dawn, No Man’s Sky, and even the likes of Gears and God of War. Come to me in 30 years and tell me if those titles still demand the respect that The Legend of Zelda does today.

Not to downplay the effect that these games will have on the industry, but that’s just the case. A large portion of Breath of the Wild’s success is also in the branding, and it’s a brand myself and an entire generation of gamers will always give the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, though, I did not get to play the demo everyone is talking about, so I’ll hand it over to the lucky jerks who did.

Eric’s take.

I haven’t liked The Legend of Zelda in a long time. While there have been some important entries, and it’s impossible to deny the series’ ongoing popularity and significance, Zelda was just never my thing.

What intrigues me about Breath of the Wild is that it seems like Nintendo is trying to find a way to make a truly new Legend of Zelda game without losing the core pillars of the franchise.

The world of Breath of the Wild seems like it has a story to tell. It’s Hyrule, but it’s not just Hyrule on a new engine or different art style. It’s not just Ocarina of Time brought up to modern standards.

In the past, it was a matter of going to all the temples, collecting all the legendary gear, and beating the bosses. Different orders, slight variations on the theme, but roughly the same thing every time. With such a huge world, it feels like anything could be waiting out there.

From what we’ve seen, Link is already more interesting. While he’s not voiced, he gets to ask questions, which is more than I can remember him doing in the past. He’s making and building things. He’s part of the world he’s in, instead of being a separate sort of cartoon character that stands out from the rest of the world.

I found Twilight Princess pretty boring and couldn’t bother to start Skyward Sword, but the Hyrule we’ve seen in Breath of the Wild looks like a place I want to see, and that’s just on the Wii U. On the NX, we could be looking at a whole different beast.

Joey’s take.

I find myself more in line with Ron than Eric when it comes to Zelda. I’ve always loved this franchise. It’s one I grew up with, and whenever I think of gaming as a kid, my mind jumps to being stuck at home in a blizzard while playing through A Link to the Past. This franchise means a lot to me.

You can read my hands-on for my specific take on the demo I played, but for the case of this article, I’ll highlight the one thing that has me really excited about Breath of the Wild.

This might sound nuts, but I’d wager more than a few of you will get where I’m coming from. I’m most excited for Breath of the Wild after E3 2016 because Nintendo demonstrated a time of open world messing about.

Don’t get me wrong, I dig the storylines and dungeons in Zelda games a lot. They’ve always been this series’ bread and butter. For me, though? My favorite thing is exploring and goofing off. I can’t even tell you how much grass I cut down in Ocarina of Time or how many bombs I blew up in Wind Waker just because I liked watching the cel-shaded smoke.

Breath of the Wild, thanks to its new physics system, seems built for going nuts in the open world. Whether it’s chopping down trees, rolling boulders onto enemies or surfing down hills on your shield, this game seems ready for me to goof off in.

I can’t wait for that. I know it’s a small thing, but it’s exactly what I want.


Joey Davidson

Joey Davidson leads the gaming department here on TechnoBuffalo. He's been covering games online for more than 10 years, and he's a lover of all...

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