Perhaps the most talked about game at E3 2016 is the newest title in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Since it was announced at E3 2014, there’s been a ton of speculation about the latest entry in the series. The game’s brief teaser alone caused debates about everything from the game’s place in the timeline to whether or not Link would be a girl this time around. With almost no information from Nintendo and not one, but two delays meant that fans have been left wondering when they’d ever get a chance to play the final product. Finally, after over a year of no appearances, we were treated to not only lots of gameplay footage but also an utterly stunning trailer. What’s apparent from both the gameplay and the trailer is that this Legend of Zelda game; now with the subtitle Breath of the Wild, is going to very different from what has become the traditional Zelda formula. The result is something that, to me, almost looks like if Studio Ghibli made Skyrim, albeit with The Legend of Zelda influences.
Above is the trailer that was shown at the beginning of Nintendo’s E3 2016 Treehouse live stream. If you’re familiar with Studio Ghibli films, then you might get where I’m coming from. The beautiful landscapes that are not just the backdrop to the adventure but a core part of the narrative. The gentle piano melodies that grow into an epic score worthy of a grand adventure. Though it should be pointed out that there appears to be a lack of music while traversing Hyrule in particular circumstances. Even the Guardians introduced in the teaser and trailer have a vaguely Hayao Miyazaki design to them. Several Studio Ghibli films come to mind when I look at Breath of the Wild’s trailer and gameplay. Examples include Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa (though technically not a Studio Ghibli film). All three have the same qualities that Breath of the Wild seems to have regarding aesthetics. The animation, the colors, the character design, and the music all have that charm that is so reminiscent of Ghibli.
I’ve included a clip and a couple of tracks above from the aforementioned Ghibli films that I think best represent the shared aesthetic that Breath of the Wild and the films share. I tried to find more scenes from these movies, but due to Disney owning the rights to some of these Ghibli films it’s hard to find clips easily.
Moving on to gameplay, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appears to be taking a page out of modern open-world RPGs instead of the traditional Zelda formula. Rather than a clear direction that the player must go in, the emphasis is on freedom and exploration. Gone is the conventional inventory system from the old Zelda titles. What we have now is a more robust system to handle the new gameplay mechanics. Link must now forage for recovery items, replace weapons that break in battle and remain vigilant for all the potentially unknown dangers he will now face. A game that has been accused of holding you hand too much is now doing the opposite, much to everyone’s excitement. This style of game can be linked (pardon the pun) to some modern titles, but Skyrim and the Elder Scrolls games in general, are perhaps the most famous example. The adventure game has now become an open-world RPG, and I couldn’t be more excited. Though, there will probably be significantly less blood, Dragonborn, and arrows to knees.
From what we’ve been told, this version of Hyrule is massive, and we’ve only seen a small chunk of it in the E3 demo. There are so many differences to other Zelda titles that it’s almost daunting as a Zelda fan. But if what we’re getting is more Studio Ghibli’s Skyrim, I cannot wait till the game launches in March. My comparisons to Skyrim and Studio Ghibli are meant to highlight how incredible Breath of the Wild looks. With that said, by the time the game launches these similarities might not be as prevalent in the full game. Either way, I look forward to a new adventure in Hyrule if it’s as beautiful as it appears to be.