You Can Feel the Breath of the Wild from Here

Now that we’re less than a month away from the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (and, by extension, the launch of the Nintendo Switch), further details about its gameplay features are coming to light. But you have to commend Nintendo for keeping this much of the game a secret for so long, as many other AAA companies would have blown the lid off every single detail months ago. There’s plenty of anticipation for the game considering it will be the first console Zelda title in over five years (not the longest gap, but still), but Nintendo being picky about which contents to advertise is further proof that being behind the times isn’t all bad.

However, it’s also clear that many new details were saved for March’s Game Informer issue. Temporarily leaving some information exclusive to a magazine is also old fashioned, but again, it’s great for anyone nostalgic enough to still buy, or subscribe to, magazines. It was the least that could happen for the last video game magazine standing in America.

To make BotW a cohesive open world experience, Nintendo’s internal teams had to change the way they approached the development of Zelda games. Instead of crafting a big world by connecting a series of individually developed panels, they had to first create the large environment, and then logically pepper the map with various locations and experiences to make its world convincing and interesting. The game’s development team of over 300 members split into groups to create specific sections of the world, but made sure to collaborate to make it feel natural.

In other words, they went through painstaking effort to prevent it from succumbing to flaws that still plague too many open world games. It’s all too easy for some developers to forget to give the player activities to do while crafting a beautiful world, though in fairness, most studios don’t have access to an overabundance of resources and development time like Nintendo.

The world will also have dynamic experiences like fluctuating weather conditions, only some of which have been known since E3. What wasn’t known are the precise effects this will have on NPCs and wildlife. When it starts raining, some NPCs situated outside will find indoor locations to prevent from getting wet. And beyond being a dazzling sight, thunderstorms can be more devastating than in most games given how lighting can strike Link, especially if he’s using or wearing anything metallic. That equipment includes swords and shields, which could be extra burdensome during tough enemy encounters. Also, it’s much easier for animals like deer, bears, and wolves to move through snowy surfaces than human or human-esque characters. Not every detail here important, but even some of the smallest effects matter in open world games.

While it was known that BotW will have multiple shrines Link can explore to complete puzzles and collect items, in case anyone was still in doubt: There will be actual, real dungeons. Well, mostly, since they won’t be quite as robust as they were in previous 3D Zelda games. But dungeons don’t have to be long to be rewarding, so this hopefully means they won’t be lacking in substance.

But if you don’t want to go through all of that, there’s at least one way to complete the game while skipping most of the content. No, not just side content, but actual story scenes. While those who feel obligated to see and complete every piece of content won’t want to do this (like me!), at least on their first playthrough, this will be great for speedruns.

One of the main focuses of the trailer shown at the end of last month’s Switch presentation was showcasing Zelda’s role, which could be more significant compared to some prior Zelda titles. It was mentioned in the GI issue that she’ll be more emotional for the story this time around, something they hopefully don’t mean in a misogynist way. There is, however a section of the trailer where she’s shown crying into Link’s arms, and though they’re justifiably not saying why that happens. They also claim she’ll become angry enough to scold him at one point in the story. She’s seen in both a more formal dress and travel gear similar to Link’s, with the latter perhaps hinting at how she might be able to travel with him to certain locations. I’ve also seen some who think this is hinting at her being playable, but let’s not get too crazy here just yet.

A new video was posted on the official Japanese website today, which provides another glimpse at the game’s story and certain gameplay events. It doesn’t have any shocking revelations, but that doesn’t matter when the game itself looks stunning. You can watch the video from a direct link, but it doesn’t have the same effect without the music.

I made sure not to highlight every detail explained in the GI issue, since I wouldn’t want to rob the magazine of any sales — even if there are plenty of people who won’t stumble upon this post. When a game looks this good, I’m always a little afraid it won’t deliver on all its promises; that goes double here, given how certain Zelda fans tend to react to even the slightest disappointment. I am, however, convinced it will be a good time, and I’ll be intensely jealous of anyone picking it up on Switch or Wii U when it releases on March 3rd.

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