Nintendo E3 Spotlight Impressions for Every Game

Hats Off to Nintendo!

The annual gamer’s hype holiday week is finally here! The big gaming expo E3 is in full swing, and the major companies have all given their press conferences. In Nintendo’s case, as in previous years, the presentation came in the form of the web broadcast titled the “Nintendo Spotlight.” Although I still miss the live press conferences with cheering, the Spotlight was an exciting event. My wife and I did cheering of our own and recorded our impressions directly after the event, which you can see below.

Here is the Video Version, with fresh reactions directly after the show!

Continue reading “Nintendo E3 Spotlight Impressions for Every Game”

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Panda’s Picks: 10 Anticipated Switch Games

Joy-Cons to the World!

The time has come! The Nintendo Switch will finally launch this Friday, and gamers worldwide will soon play with their shiny new console/handheld hybrid. I’ve already detailed why I’m excited for the Switch as well as my impressions from Nintendo’s January presentation. Now I’m turning my attention to the most important part of any console: the games. Here are my top 10 most anticipated Switch games!

10. Arms

Arms.jpg
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

I wasn’t initially keen on Nintendo’s upcoming motion controlled fighting game, Arms. But the more I learned about it, the more I wanted the game in my… arms. This game may look like Wii Boxing, but the characters’ arms extend to hit their opponents, similarly to Mr. Fantastic. Consequently, it’s more reliant on solid punches rather than frantic arm-waving. Although I’m not the biggest fan of motion control, I’m interested in seeing how the Joy-Cons’ improved gyro affect Arms’ gameplay. I’m also intrigued by the controller’s HD Rumble functionality, which allows for sensations within the Joy-Con.

9. Runner3

 

 

 

 

The Nindies Showcase announced a hefty lineup of indie games launching this year for the Switch. Among those, one title that caught my eye was Choice Provision’s Switch-exclusive Runner3. The first two autorunner games were the best parts of the Bit.Trip series, and I enjoyed them more than Super Mario Run. Funnily enough, the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, contributed his vocal talent to the second entry. Nevertheless, Runner3 will surpass those on the graphical level with its incredible dynamic camera angles and jaw-dropping artstyles. Runner3 looks to be a visual tour de force, and I’m looking forward to hopping to the beat with Commander Video soon.

8. Splatoon 2

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Stay fresh!

I enjoyed the ink-splatting turf wars of Wii U’s Splatoon, but I didn’t get the GamePad’s motion controls. Though that was the way to play, I felt they were unresponsive and instead played with the analog controls. Splatoon 2 promises better gyro aiming thanks to its upgraded Joy-Con and Pro Controllers, and that has built up my desire to play the sequel. If Nintendo can deliver lots of fresh content, then I’m on board to being a squid again! I mean, being a kid again?

7. Super Bomberman R

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I love the art for this game!

My hype for Super Bomberman R may be mistaken for mere excitement that the adorable bomb-dropping mascot is alive. But I’m sincerely excited for classic 8-player bomb battles and a cooperative 2-player story mode. I’ve never played the series online, so I’m also looking forward to the mayhem that will ensue. It will be a blast (pun intended) to play when it launches this Friday.

6. Yooka-Laylee

 

 

I grew up in the heyday of Rare’s 3D collectathon platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. The talented creators of these classic games have opened a new studio to bring that experience back to the forefront. The team at Playtonic Games have been hard at work on Yooka-Laylee since 2015, and the finished product will be joining the Switch’s ever-growing lineup in April. As a huge fan of the genre, I wasn’t sure that we’d ever see the return of the classic 3D collectathon. But here we are, mere weeks away from experiencing the misadventures of a chameleon and bat pair as they collect pagies throughout open sandbox worlds. In typical Rare fashion, the game will include trademark googly eyes and mine cart levels. I’d be excited for Yooka-Laylee regardless of platform, but now that it has a Switch release, I know how I’ll be playing it!

5. Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!

 

 

 

What is Snipperclips anyway? It’s as hard to explain both what it is and why I’m excited for it. The Treehouse Live video does a great job showing where the potential fun lies, so that would be a great start. Essentially, it’s a cooperative game in which each player uses a Joy-Con to control a cartoonish bullet-shaped creature with legs. If one player stands directly in front of the other, he can clip off a segment of his partner, completely altering his shape. For instance, you can erase your partner’s bullet-shaped tip to create a scooper, which you’ll need to pick up a basketball.

It’s something that we haven’t seen before, and that breath of originality is what we need in this era of sequels and remakes. Working together with a friend to accomplish goals like sharpening a pencil is bound to cause limitless hilarious outcomes. Combined with the charmingly silly faces, this game will likely be a riot at get-togethers. We don’t have to wait long for it either, since Nintendo is releasing Snipperclips at launch this Friday! Snip!

4. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

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I’m really feeling it!

Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was one of my favorite games on Wii U. Its hybrid turn-based action battle system easily won my RPG-loving heart. However, it didn’t have the heartfelt character-driven story of the first Xenoblade Chronicles. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be a sequel to that original game. We don’t know too much beyond the initial reveal trailer. But if the other games in the series are any indication, we will be treated to a gorgeous world where if you can see it, you can reach it. Hopefully, the Switch’s more powerful hardware will allow XBC2 to live up to the lofty standards that the humongous predecessors have set. The release is currently scheduled for 2017, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers needed more time to create this expansive RPG. Either way, I’m ready to set dozens of hours into it when it launches.

3. Fire Emblem Warriors

 

Fire Emblem has been gaining so much traction these past few years, thanks to the success of Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates. In fact, a FE-focused Nintendo Direct revealed an upcoming mainline title for Switch. But I’m currently more excited about the forthcoming Fire Emblem Warriors, the spinoff that combines the hack-and-slash gameplay of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors with the likable characters and wartorn countries of Fire Emblem. The FE series had a previous Wii U crossover with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, but Fire Emblem Warriors is poised to service the fans more with direct references to the franchise proper. My wife and I enjoyed playing Hyrule Warriors together because of its fun gameplay and nods to the beloved series. Now that she’s suddenly become a huge FE fan thanks to Fire Emblem Heroes, we will be sure to enjoy Warriors when it ships later this year.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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Breathtaking

I’ve written quite a bit about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ever since its unveiling from E3 2016. There’s so much more I could say about this exciting open-world title that takes the series to its humble adventurous roots. Of course, the game is more than humble, promising a massive continent to explore and hundreds of puzzle-filled shrines. BotW offers unique tools and a gigantic playground to experiment on. But I’m most excited about having my own personalized journey through this new land. Based on the freedom within the first area alone, no two playthroughs will be identical. Much like the first Legend of Zelda, BotW will allow you to explore at your leisure, letting your curiosity be your guide. And that’s exactly all I could have asked for from the newest entry in the Zelda series. I’ll be looking forward to diving into this long-awaited epic this Friday!

1. Super Mario Odyssey

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I hope Mario catches his hat.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of Super Mario 64, so much that I’ve been playing it profusely to prepare for an upcoming passion project. The Super Mario Odyssey reveal trailer showed us that the game will be a return to form; it’ll hearken back to the large 3D sandbox worlds of SM64 and Super Mario Sunshine, and that has me thrilled to bits! Although Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World were stellar games in their own right, they were distinctly more linear than their Nintendo 64 and GameCube predecessors. After Sunshine, I’ve been yearning for a new Mario experience where I could traverse a huge hub, jump into new worlds, and hunt for stars hidden across the map. Based on what we know so far, Super Mario Odyssey looks like it will replicate that nostalgic experience. The theme of the game is literally “jumping to an unknown world.” Coupled with dazzling visuals, strikingly juxtaposed areas, and new mechanics emphasizing Mario’s iconic cap, Super Mario Odyssey has the potential to be a game that defines the Switch. And that’s why it narrowly edges out Breath of the Wild as my most anticipated game.

nintendo-switch
Switch it up soon!

Conclusion

There are more games that I’m looking forward to, but but these are my ten most anticipated titles. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much depth the Switch’s first year will have, from the most beloved Nintendo franchises to an armful of new IPs. We’re truly entering a new age of Nintendo consoles, and I hope that the company delivers an experience surpassing the Wii U’s. We’ll see once the Switch finally launches on March 3!

What are your most anticipated Switch games? Will you be getting the Switch at launch? What games would you like to see most on the console/handheld hybrid? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

Nintendo’s Switch Presentation: My Roller Coaster of Highlights

Merry Switchmas

Nintendo finally held its long awaited press conference for its upcoming console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. The company revealed the system’s $299.99 price tag and its March 3 release date. Nintendo also announced quite a few games. Here are my strongest positive and negative reactions to the Switch Presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIGHS

Super Mario Odyssey

Imagine a modern urban setting with your typical skyscraper, a theater, a store called “Crazy Cap,” and a street sign for Dixie St. The only indication of which game world you’re in are the words, “New Donk City.” Pan down to the streets where a taxi passes by. Suddenly, a manhole cover begins to shake and out pops… Mario? This is how the new Super Mario Odyssey trailer started, and I love it!

The game will feature an large open sandbox world akin to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. I adore Super Mario Galaxy and its inventive worlds and mechanics. However, most levels were distinctly more linear than the rich, explorative areas of the former two. Super Mario Odyssey is a return to form, and it looks more amazing than I could have imagined based on the initial Switch video. The theme is “jumping to an unknown world,” and the world looks spectacular. I wanted to roll around in that Mexican-themed town, run across magical leaves that form in midair, ride a lion through an inverse-pyramid desert expanse, and dance with robots in a lush jungle. I’d even cook myself in that giant crystallized vegetable soup area. The world looks somewhat parallel to our own, yet it oozes with such creativity.

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I hope I’m invited!

New Donk City, an area with realistic humans walking about, will be a fitting playground for our Brooklyn-born plumber. In the trailer, Mario triple-jumps on a cab, spins on a traffic pole, and wall-jumps up skyscrapers. Sure, it’s odd to see Mario in a city setting with regularly-proportioned people, but Sonic did it in his first 3D adventure… Actually, that’s probably not the best example. Sorry, Sonic! Regardless, it’s endearing to see Mario jump rope with two ladies in a park. Even Bowser is dressed for the occasion, looking more debonair than ever before in his white top hat and suave suit. Seriously, Peach, give him a chance!

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That hair though.

The last major point changes up the gameplay significantly. Mario can throw his signature red cap as a boomerang. While the hat is in midair, Mario can then bounce on it, leading to what will likely be a huge platforming game-changer. Nintendo even borrowed a page from Rare’s old-school collectathons like Banjo-Kazooie and put googly eyes on the hat. Super Mario 64 is one of my favorite games of all time, and if SMO can replicate and improve upon that style, then I will have a fantastic time next holiday season. There are other great games to come to the Switch, but Super Mario Odyssey was quite easily my game of the show.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild at Launch

The latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. Watch it if you haven’t already. I fell in love with the new open-air gameplay that Nintendo showed off during their 2016 E3 presentation, and the newest trailer cements it as my most anticipated game this year. Zelda herself looks like she jumped out of a Ghibli movie, and I adore the personality she displays this time around. It’s especially powerful when she cries into Link’s arms. To that point, Nintendo is really making an effort to finally use voice acting to its finest. With what appears to be a fascinating cast of characters and an intriguing plot with 100 years of history, Breath of the Wild will hopefully be one of the finest titles to grace the Switch. And the best part? It’s a launch game, coming out on the same day as the Switch!

Fire Emblem Warriors

I spent over a hundred hours playing the content-rich Hyrule Warriors Legends, and Fire Emblem Fates was one of my favorite games of 2016. Enter Fire Emblem Warriors, a fusion of the Fire Emblem franchise and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Excuse me while I salivate. The very prospect of running around the field slicing and dicing enemies as Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Corrin has me giddy inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much and can’t tell exactly who will be in the game. But if it’s anything like the fanservice celebrations of Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes (which is now coming to Switch!), we will have a star-studded cast of the series’ lords.

RPGs

Next to platfomers, one of my favorite genres is the role-playing game, particularly Japanese ones (JRPGs). The Wii U unfortunately lacked RPGs, only having a few (great ones!) near the end of its life cycle. During the presentation, Nintendo announced a handful of RPGs. If they all came out within the next year, I’d be set until their next system. I’m most hyped for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which appears to be a truer sequel to the Wii original than Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was. The game looks great so far, with stunning visuals, a vast world, and cute anime characters. That game on its own would be meaty enough, but there were more surprises during the show. Atlus teased a new Shin Megami Tensei, a classic RPG series that has since spun off into Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Square Enix also revealed a new “Project Octopath Traveler,” made by the same team who worked on (and named) the Bravely Default games. Though we didn’t see much, the game had a distinct Super Nintendo or early PlayStation sprite artstyle, which speaks to the 16-bit lover in me. Finally, we got announcements of Dragon Quest X and XI, though it’s up in the air whether those will make it to the West.

The Return of Bomberman and Puyo Puyo Tetris

There was a sizzle reel at the end that showed nearly every other game publicly scheduled for the Switch. I saw some good-looking games in the reel such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Ultra Street Fighter II, and Sonic Mania. But honestly, no other games caught my eye more than Super Bomberman R and Puyo Puyo Tetris. For Konami to actually release a new Hudson game, and for it to be Bomberman, is nothing short of amazing. I was actually moved by the Bomberman 33rd anniversary logo in the corner of the game box. Bomberman hasn’t had a proper console game in years, and yet here he is, gracing the Switch with his adorable presence. Playing eight-player local and online battles will probably be a launch highlight. I’m happy this beloved gaming mascot is back. Similarly, I’m excited for the return of Puyo Puyo Tetris and the chance to play two different puzzle games with cute anime characters. I wish these games had a bigger presence during the actual presentation rather than being relegated to bits in a sizzle reel and post-presentation YouTube uploads.

LOWS

Presentation

This brings me to my lowlights: The presentation itself wasn’t that great. Make no mistake. The games look fabulous, but perhaps the presenters could have spent more time showing them off, particularly the ones that actually had trailers. For instance, they could have easily talked about their new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe update which has a revamped Battle Mode and new characters and tracks from Splatoon. They could have also shown us why we should be interested in a game called Snipperclips, which I knew nothing about until Treehouse Live did a hilarious playthrough the following day. Instead, we had a long explanation about the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. I understand that the mini Wiimote-like devices that snap onto a bigger controller deserve explanation. However, it was unnecessary to talk about them for a fourth of the conference, especially when they began showing off the Joy-Con’s ability to read hand signals.

1-2 Switch

It didn’t help that the first game they showed off was this eccentric party game called 1-2 Switch. I was fine with Wii Sports, stuck with Wii Play, and even enjoyed Nintendo Land. I’m not sure what the appeal of 1-2 Switch is. The game revolves around a series of minigames where two players face each other and perform random motion-controlled actions, completely ignoring the screen. The first example was “Quick Draw,” a wild-west style gun duel where the first one to pull their Joy-Con out on the mark wins. Other examples include mock-eating contests, air guitar, wizard duels, swordplay, and milking a cow. I suppose it allows you to reach into your imagination, but then why would you need a $300 machine to do it? Perhaps it’s for children, but it’s primarily an older crowd playing in the trailer. I’d understand if it were a launch game, in which case, I would certainly play it and would love to be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’m not sure whom this game is for. I don’t generally hate on things either. I’m genuinely confused what’s fun about 1-2 Switch.

launch-lineup
Launch Lineup 2017

Launch Day Lineup

On launch day, we will at least have Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and 1-2 Switch. We also have Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance at launch, with more games to come in the year. While Breath of the Wild will hopefully be enough as a launch game, it’s also coming out on Wii U the same day. As alluring as Bomberman is, Nintendo has an uphill battle to climb if they want to attract people to their system. To be fair, most consoles have had poor launch days. Even some of my favorite systems only had a single remarkable game. Although it’s still a low point that the launch is weak, the launch year looks like it will be strong overall, with hits like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 coming soon.

nintendo-switch
March 3, 2017

Conclusion

There were other assorted highs and lows during the presentation. I’m very excited about the system being region free, the HD rumble technology (as weird as that sounds), and the Switch’s capacitive touch screen – making it closer to a smartphone than a 3DS. I’m also glad that EA and Bethesda are supporting the Switch at this stage and hope that they stick with it. I’m not fond of the new paid online, though I hope this leads to a better online infrastructure. I’m fine with the system’s price, but don’t like the expensive costs of each additional controller and accessory. Overall, I’m still as excited as ever for the system. The excitement isn’t as mind-blowing yet, but there’s enough great games in the pipeline to have convinced me to preorder. This will be an interesting year for Nintendo, and I hope to cover my own journey with the Switch when it ships on March 3!

What did you think about the Nintendo Switch Presentation? What are your highlights and lowlights regarding the new system? What do you want to see for the system? Are you getting a Switch? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below! Thank you for reading!

Why I’m Excited for Nintendo Switch

Switching it Up

It finally happened. Nintendo revealed their upcoming system, Nintendo Switch. The trailer was under four minutes long, but it was enough to get me hyped up for it. Here are five reasons why I’m excited for the Nintendo Switch.

1. Hybrid System

I love handhelds. The Nintendo 3DS is one of my favorite gaming systems as was the Nintendo DS before it. I appreciate the ability to play games wherever I want, especially while I’m commuting or traveling. Even at home, I actually prefer the 3DS or Wii U’s off-TV play because I can play in any room.

Thus, I was thrilled to hear that the Nintendo Switch would be a hybrid system, allowing for both home console and handheld capabilities. While playing on the TV, the “Joy-Grip” controller looks like a standard huge controller with two removable sides, lovingly called the “Joy-Con.” When the Joy-Con sides come off and attach to the Switch’s tablet-like screen, it suddenly functions like a handheld that continues the game where you left off. This mirrors the Wii U’s off-TV play, effectively making the new controller a logical progression of the Wii U’s GamePad. Since the system appears to use game cards similarly to the 3DS, we’ll be able to take games on-the-go, which is great news for handheld gamers. If the system can replicate the awesome experiences I’ve had with the 3DS, then I’m already on board.

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The Nintendo Switch and puppy-face controller (can’t unsee it)

2. Unification

We may also finally be looking at a unified system. Instead of having to buy two separate systems, we may only have to buy one, and all of the new titles will ideally be streamlined into it. We could be looking at a built-in cross-buy, which would fix the existing issue of having to buy the same game on both systems. This move benefits Nintendo as well. The Wii U didn’t do as well this generation, while the 3DS sold like hotcakes. Its handhelds have performed traditionally well, so it would be wise for Nintendo to play to its strengths. In the best-case scenario, the Nintendo Switch could have the sales and lasting power of the 3DS and the larger-scale game experiences of the Wii U.

Of course, in the worst-case scenario, we could get neither. It will depend on several factors. First, if the cost is on the upper end, then it might actually lose sales from those who are used to the cheaper handhelds. After all, the 3DS struggled when originally launched (also in March) with its $249.99 price point. The Switch will need a price that will sell its new hybrid vision while still remaining profitable. Also, we’d need more information on the handheld. For instance, what is the battery life, and how will the video quality be? Is it online-enabled? It’s hard to tell much without physically having the controller. At the very least, if the DS line ends here, I’d miss the dual-screen and clamshell features. It’s still up in the air how exactly Nintendo will handle the handheld situation.

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I look forward to both console and handheld titles on the Nintendo Switch.

Of course, if the handheld line continues with Nintendo Switch, we could be looking at the next version of Pokémon on a console/handheld. In fact, just having Pokémon on the Switch would do wonders, since it’s a big system-seller already. It’d also be great to see big recent handheld games such as Monster Hunter and Yo-kai Watch on the system. I’d love for many handheld franchises to be on a console while still maintaining portable functionality. Likewise, I’d be ecstatic to take all of the big console games wherever I want.

3. Sleek Design

I usually don’t care how a system looks when I play it. After all, I played with the Nintendo 64 controller, the original DS, and the GameCube (Disclaimer: I love all three). That said, I love how the Nintendo Switch looks. The transformation into a tablet surrounded by two slide-on Joy-Cons works so much better than I could have imagined. The end result resembles a flatter, cleaner, sleeker GamePad.

nintendo-switch-sides
I adore how the sides slide onto the tablet screen.

The Joy-Con controllers are surprisingly versatile. Not only can you connect them to the tablet, but you can also detach and use them like miniature Wii remotes. It’s unclear whether they have motion control, but you can play with one on each hand or even sideways like an NES controller (à la the Wii remote). With a kickstand and headphone jack, the Switch is already looking more user-friendly than some phones. Finally, I found the traditional pro controller’s design to be one of the best since the GameCube’s. The right control stick is finally on the bottom right, and it just looks comfortable to hold.

I also think the name Switch effectively describes its function with a single word. It might not be the hippest console name, but it’s at least a better name than Wii U. I do think there is a missed opportunity though. They really should have gone with Swiitch. Joking…

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I want to know where in the Mushroom Kingdom this is.

4. 3D Mario

There were a few games teased during the reveal trailer, including possible updates or new games for Splatoon and Mario Kart. However, the one game that caught my attention most was the 3D Mario game. It only appeared for about five seconds, but I rewatched those five seconds over and over. I loved Super Mario 3D World, but I’ve always wanted to see another hub-world adventure more akin to Mario’s first 3D outings. What little we saw looks like it may be a return to form. It resembles Super Mario Sunshine combined with a Mexican-inspired world. The footage looks unlike anything we’ve seen in a Mario game, and it’s that freshness that has me craving more. I’m still excited for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this potentially new 3D Mario is an easy second place.

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Impressive list of Nintendo Switch partners

5. Third-Party Support

Third-party support is crucial. The Wii U lacked it, which led to long game droughts. Exclusive Wii U owners also missed out on many games. While we don’t know exactly what will be on the system, we do know that the Nintendo Switch will have an extensive list of partners. Its usual partners Capcom, Platinum Games, and Sega are back. Some third parties are back like Electronic Arts, Activision, and Konami. It’s great to see Square Enix, who will hopefully bring Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts in addition to Dragon Quest. Support from DeNA (creators of Miitomo and upcoming mobile Nintendo games), SpikeChunsoft (Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Zero Escape), and Level-5’s (Professor Layton, Yo-kai Watch) suggests that we’ll be seeing portable, and perhaps mobile, franchises on the Switch.

Some other interesting partners (and their notable series) are Bethesda (which we saw in the trailer with Skyrim), FromSoftware (Dark Souls series), Telltale Games (The Walking Dead adventure series), Tokyo RPG Factory (I Am Setsuna), and Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption). It would be amazing for the Nintendo Switch to finally become a melting pot of excellent game series that reach a variety of gamers. Wii U also started with a fair share of partners, but fizzled out with third-party support early on its life. If played right, we could finally see Nintendo standing tall with the big third-party properties.

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What else are you hiding, Mario?

Conclusion

There is plenty to be excited about with the Nintendo Switch. At the same time, there is a lot we don’t know regarding the Joy-Con, the games, the release schedule, battery life, and cost, among other things. Regardless, I remain optimistic that Nintendo will learn from previous missteps and move forward with this sleek new hybrid system. I also hope that Nintendo can give the system broad appeal with a diverse line-up of games. Either way, for the above reasons, I am excited to make the switch to Nintendo Switch in March!

What did you think of the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer? What are you most excited about? What do you still want to see? What games would you like to see on the hybrid system? Finally, will you be getting the Switch? Please share any thoughts you have about the Nintendo Switch in the comments below!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Comprehensive Preview and Analysis

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

Nintendo delivered on their promise to bring a full day of their newest Zelda game at E3 2016. Each stream featured a great amount of footage focusing on different aspects of the gameplay, from exploration to combat. Nintendo kicked off with a gorgeous trailer of the game. Read on to find out more about the new gameplay, enhanced equipment system, exciting combat, expansive map, puzzle-filled Shrines, special Rune powers, unique aesthetics, and amiibo support. I’ll also be examining other things such as the voice in the trailer, where this is in the world, the Sheikah technology, and where this could possibly fit on the timeline. Get ready for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!

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Promotional art for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Initial Gameplay Demo

The game demo begins with a female voice, speaking with full English voice acting! This is definitely an exciting change from all previous Zelda games, and will hopefully make the world feel richer. While she talks at the beginning and once another time to give Link a hint about where to go, she is generally quiet. There hasn’t been other voice acting so far besides Link’s usual grunts, and all other dialogue is displayed through the usual text boxes. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome change of pace to have real voice acting.

The voice tells Link to wake up, and we see a nearly naked Link submerged in a black tublike pod. It’s not clear where he is or why he was sleeping there, but he is told by the disembodied voice to activate a small obelisk, from which he gains the Sheikah Slate, an item resembling the Wii U GamePad that Link uses to look at maps and activate special powers.

BotW_Link.jpg
Eat your heart out, Shulk.

Following this, some important things happen that teach gamers some crucial mechanics. First of all, there are treasure chests with some clothes for our bare hero. Link can now equip different tops and bottoms that give him more defense, which is a stat that wasn’t present in older Zelda titles. In the official trailer, Link can be seen wearing knight armor and later streams show Link wearing the iconic blue tunic from initial trailers. There appears to be a variety of clothes that affect his defense as well as how warm or cold he is.

A second big mechanic is that Link can finally jump with the press of a button! This mostly comes into play when jumping onto cliffs to climb them or when trying to reach items in trees. Regardless, it’s a huge upgrade for the usually earthbound hero. Scaling cliffs is also a big part, allowing you to go past the boundaries of where you could reach before. There is a stamina meter, represented by a depleting green circle. Similar to Skyward Sword, stamina decreases as you run and climb. Naturally, this means that there is a limit to how high you can go. Hopefully, there is a way to eventually increase stamina.

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Intriguing, and yes, this part is voiced.

Link finally escapes the cave and runs towards a cliff. Accompanied by a beautiful piano track, Link reaches the edge of the cliff, and players are greeted with a wondrous view of the expansive environment. In the distance, you can see many mountains – a tribute to one of the original illustrations for The Legend of Zelda for the NES, in which Link stands on a cliff overlooking Hyrule. Other locations you can see in the distance include a vast forest, an old monastery, and what appears to be Death Mountain.

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The view is utterly breathtaking.

The screen shows you an old man walking towards a bonfire, then leaves you to your own desires. You could go to the old man, and the disembodied voice tells you that you might want to use your Sheikah Stone to find out where to go. But you are otherwise free to do whatever you want. Seriously. You can explore anywhere that you can see, and although the game demo is limited to the opening area, you may be able to go further in the full game. Even on the way to the old man, there are so many distractors, from trees and cliffs that you can climb to apples and mushrooms that sparkle, awaiting your attention.

This freedom is one of the best parts about Breath of the Wild. Like in the original NES LoZ, you can do anything. Of course, there is a path that you must ultimately follow to get through the game. Even then, like in the original and A Link Between Worlds, you can go at it in any order you like. Explore until you find a place of interest, then choose to conquer it now or wait until you’re better prepared. Additionally, you can play the game however you like, with a myriad of ways to solve puzzles or get through enemies. What items or abilities will you use to solve the puzzle? How far outside the box can you think using the resources you have? Do you sneak up on enemies, perform an all-out assault, or attack enemies from afar? Everything is your choice, and the wealth of actions you can perform in a single area is remarkable. And we’re only talking about the demo so far!

Finally, it’s amazing that the game does not start out with a proper tutorial as has been the recent trend with Zelda games. Instead, they give you an opening cave (without telling you what to do), and then throw you out into the world with vague hints about where you need to be. There is no partner like Navi or Midna, nor are there objectives constantly reminding you where to go. Just explore and figure it out yourself, because it’s a big world out there. This is just the injection of exploration this series needed, and I’m glad to see that the team is delivering on their promise to bring forth an expansive open-ended world!

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How will you fight?

Weapons and Items

Like in other open-world games, Link can now switch weapons with a few simple button presses. Different weapons have varying attack strengths, as to be expected. The bigger change is that Link can use a myriad of weapon types. Unlike in older Zelda games, these weapons are not subweapons, but rather a complete alternative to the sword. For example, Link can wield spears which have a longer reach and axes that can also chop down trees. He can throw certain weapons too, which can especially help if your weapons are on fire, in the case of flinging burning sticks.

As you use weapons, they eventually degrade, which is a bit unfortunate. However, weapons are quite plentiful in the world apparently, at least according to the demo. There are different weapons lying about in the many chests throughout the land, as well as swords just sitting on pedestals, awaiting your control.

Stealing enemies’ weapons is a mechanic that returns from The Wind Waker. Here, it’s as important as ever since you get to keep the dropped weapons. You can only keep a limited amount of weapons in your inventory. If your stock is full, you must drop or use up a weapon in order to pick up another. This constant item management may sound cumbersome, but it will likely become strategic and exciting as more new and exciting weapons open up.

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Hopefully Link’s cooking something that won’t give him the breath of the wild…

Hunting and foraging will also be important, as they may be one of the few ways to regain health. Cutting grass and defeating enemies appear to no longer drop hearts. Instead, you must eat the items you collect, such as acorns, mushrooms, peppers, and meat. Each item gives you a certain amount of health, which is indicated in the item description. Ingredients can eventually be mixed and cooked to create new dishes. Raw ingredients net you less hearts, while well-cooked items can give you more health back. Specific foods provide other bonuses such as cold resistance. Other foods may even temporarily increase your max health, indicated by yellow hearts extending past your current maximum health gauge. Although no Heart Containers or Pieces of Heart were obtained during the demos, the amount of hearts that can be regained on some foods exceed the initial 3. This implies that there will still be ways to increase your maximum health. On a final note regarding items, Rupees were not seen once during any of the gameplay streams, indicating that they might not be necessary in this game. It would be interesting if this were the first Zelda game to not include Rupees.

Two other pieces of equipment are your sailcloth paraglider (similar to Skyward Sword’s) and shields. Using your paraglider, you can float away to far distances. Shields also function similarly to weapons, and you can find stronger shields as you progress. The real treat of shields this time around is using them as snowboards! Sliding down ramps with an item intended for defense is a fun touch.

Combat and Enemies

Combat is similar to other titles, with the classic L-Targeting system returning. Arrows appear above enemies that you can target. Once your sights are set on an enemy, you can perform the typical L-Targeting attacks such as jump attacks and backflips (as seen in the trailer). Although this iteration takes away the motion control combat of Skyward Sword, Link still attacks enemies with different angles of sword slices. He can also perform the iconic Spin Attack.

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Combat will be as fun as ever.

If Link attacks an enemy with perfect timing, he will activate a Flurry Rush, in which the enemy slows down for a moment, allowing Link to counter with a barrage of attacks. It’s not clear exactly what perfect timing means, but it’ll probably become easier to do with experience.

Enemies seen throughout the demos include Bokoblins (very common), Chuchus of different colors, and one-eyed Keese. There are many ways to take them down besides regular attacks. You can use a bow and arrow to take them out from afar, or even target explosive barrels to annihilate a group of foes. You can even roll boulders down cliffs to smash enemies as seen in the trailer. Enemies have interesting AI this time around, and will readily respond accordingly to your actions. If you are quiet, they may not notice you at all, but if you slip and make a tiny sound, they will have a question mark appear above their heads and search for the noise. Exclamation marks notify players that enemies have found you and are ready to respond. They don’t just stand around either. Some enemies will immediately head towards you, while some will try to surround you, hoping that its partners will do likewise. There will be plenty of enemy groups in the forms of camps and tree forts, and it will be interesting to see how the battles will differ based on the groups. You can use the Shiekah Slate to see an enemy’s current and maximum hit points, which helps to gauge whether you should engage it or not.

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Guardians pose bigger threats to our hero.

There are also bigger enemies, which are much stronger and have more hit points than the typical enemy. Two big enemies shown were the Steppe Talus, the golem seen in the trailer (who also gave the Treehouse their first Game Over), and the Guardian. The latter is an interesting creature featured prominently in the trailer as a technological being that shoots lasers. When you initially encounter them, they appear to be turned off and in ruin. However, they eventually awaken and cause havoc with their lasers and long tentacles. One of the first Guardians that appear in the demo sports an impressive 500 HP. For comparison, a scanned Bokoblin only had 13 HP.

Maps and HUDs

The map alone reveals that this is a huge game and the biggest Zelda overworld yet! Getting around will require strategic use of the new Sheikah Slate, the GamePad-like item that Link finds at the beginning of the demo. Using the Sheikah Slate’s Scope, you can look in first-person and examine landmarks that you see in the distance. You can place a pin on anything that you find interesting, and it will be marked with a red symbol on your map. The world is so massive that just because you pin something that you can see, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to you. At one point, Treehouse pinned a tower that ended up being way past the opening area. Important areas receive special blue pins that allow you to fast-travel to those locations.

You can also place different stamps wherever you want on the map to remind you of important things. For instance, you may want to put a skull stamp on a big enemy that you can’t defeat yet and a treasure stamp on an area where there are chests that you can’t quite reach yet.

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This is just a small part of a big world.

The demo only includes the Great Plateau (although Treehouse streamers did eventually start up games in areas outside of it). The Great Plateau alone looks bigger than Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule Field, and there are many more huge areas that can just barely be seen on what little of the world map they’ve shown us. This extraordinarily massive world should please any fan of exploration.

The Great Plateau includes a wide array of locations and terrains, for what is considered a “smaller” area. From the map and gameplay, you can see Mt. Hylia in the southwest corner (an icy area that includes the highest peak in the plateau), the Forest of Spirits in the north, the Hylia River that goes past the left side of the plateau, and the Temple of Time. In particular, the Temple of Time appears to be a ruinous area with overgrown vines and seemingly dead Guardians. The end of the trailer shows the iconic Master Sword, somewhat rusted and sitting on an old pedestal. At the moment, it is unknown if it is in the Temple of Time, but it can be assumed that you’ll be able to get it at some point.

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The Great Plateau is filled with different environments and terrains.

The heads-up display, or HUD, reveals some gameplay elements. On the lower right, there is a circular mini-map that shows where you’re going. An interesting change is that on the bottom of the map is the current in-game time. The game is heavily impacted by what time it is, such as a day/night cycle, temperature changes depending on what time it is, and enemies being asleep at certain times. The game follows a 24 hour day cycle, but 5 seconds of real time equate to 5 minutes of in-game time.

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The game will be epic. Also, notice the lower right corner.

Just left of that are two smaller circles. The top one is a temperature gauge that can inform players if it may be too cold or hot for Link. If it’s too cold, Link can put on clothes (which one Treehouse streamer refused to do because she preferred shirtless Link!), or eat certain foods like Spicy Peppers that increase his cold resistance. Below that is a purple sonograph that records how much sound you’re currently making. This is important for measuring how stealthy you are when approaching enemies. This will likely also come into play if BotW follows the trend of having an obligatory stealth area.

Shrines and Runes

Breath of the Wild features both dungeons and shrines. The former was never shown on a stream, but was mentioned as being more or less a typical Zelda dungeon experience. Shrines, on the other hand, are new mini-dungeons that test your mettle with a certain type of puzzle or ability. The first 4 Shrines are not too long and only took Treehouse streamers about 10-15 minutes each, but later shrines will be longer. There are over 100 of these mini-dungeons, ensuring no end to those seeking puzzle-room gameplay.

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These shrines are scattered throughout the world.

The first 4 Shrines are required to obtain the sailcloth from the old man, but they can be attempted in any order. Within these beginner shrines, Link is able to update the Sheikah Slate with a Rune, or special ability that can be activated at will. Think of Runes like apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone. The runes we saw were remote bombs, magnetic powers, ice pillar creation, and stopping time. These Runes are more versatile than they seem. For instance, Magnesis can be used to pick up metal slabs on the floor, open doors, and pull treasure chests towards you. Remote Bombs come in both round and cube forms, forcing you to choose whichever one works for a given situation. Creating ice pillars is a fun throwback to the Cane of Somaria, which allowed players to create blocks out of nothing in A Link to the Past. Through the Cryonis Rune, you can make a climbable pillar of ice emerge from water without the need for Ice Arrows. Finally, you can stop time for a single item using the Stasis Rune. An obvious use is stopping moving platforms and gears. However, Treehouse showed an interesting use as well. By wailing on the item in stasis, you can build up force applied to it. Once stasis expires on the item, it will go flying. It’ll definitely be exciting to see how these Runes impact gameplay and promote further exploration and shenanigans!

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Behold the power of Magnesis!

Graphics and Sound

The graphics look incredibly gorgeous so far, showing off a gouache painting style, signified by its opaque watercolors. It resembles an even more realized version of Skyward Sword’s graphics. The game comes alive with each item fitting into the world, and yet standing out so beautifully. The Treehouse team likened it to an artform called open-air painting, as if the artists sat down in front of an object and painted it in a real-world setting. There is a lot of attention to detail as well, with particles of soot falling down from the mountaintop and Link’s clothes dripping wet when emerging from water.

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Beautiful.

On the music side, BotW distinctly lacks it. Most of the time, you will only hear sound effects. Occasionally, pieces of music will play like the beautiful piano piece heard when Link first stands on the cliff’s edge and a sweet piece while Link is floating with his sailcloth. Music will also play during enemy battles, but it’s not as loud as in previous titles. In fact, the music is sometimes not that noticeable when immersed in gameplay. It’s as if the music just flows naturally, coming and going. This choice was made to account for everyone’s unique experience with the game. Everyone will play in a different style, and the musical pieces that play will represent that. Music will play during key moments, likely evoking emotions in players. The Treehouse promises an aural experience with music that will resonate and stand out when juxtaposed with the overall lack of music. As a fan of Zelda music, I firmly hope this is true.

There will be voice acting, and it will be for more than the woman from the beginning. Not every character will be voiced, as seen through the old men who only communicates via text boxes. However, there will be more voices, most likely main characters. Link will remain silent as usual, only making grunting noises and shouts.

amiibo Support

Four amiibo were announced to be compatible with BotW. Three of them are brand new figurines created for the game and include “Archer Link,” “Rider Link,” and a “Guardian.” The Guardian will be the first amiibo to include posable parts (its tentacles). The functionality has not been revealed yet.

The 4th compatible amiibo is an already existing amiibo, Wolf Link. This amiibo originally came with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U. When scanned with BotW, Wolf Link will suddenly appear next to regular Link. In what is the cutest functionality of any amiibo, Wolf Link will fight alongside you, hunting for food while you run around. Your faithful wolf companion comes with 3 hearts, but you can increase that number based on how many hearts you have saved onto the amiibo when scanning it in Twilight Princess HD. Once Wolf Link dies, you must wait a full day in real life before scanning it again.

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Wolf Link will be by your side.

Theories & Analysis

Here, I will present some quick thoughts on questions and speculations based on my analysis of the gameplay and trailers. The following represents possibilities based on what already exists, but does not necessarily indicate the truth of what’s going on, as we lack pretty much all story information and a full game. This makes talking about it even more exciting, though!

Mysterious Female Voice

Starting off, who is that mysterious female voice who tells Link to wake up? The most obvious speculation is that it’s Zelda. In A Link to the Past, the game begins with Zelda crying to Link for help through some telekinetic power. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the same is happening here. The disembodied voice also seems to know that Link is the special light in the world who will shine throughout Hyrule. It could still be any other female sage or maiden, as in other Zelda games, but Zelda herself would be the most likely and probably best choice. Also, it’s interesting that she calls him Link. That would imply that you can’t change the name, since it’s already been voiced so clearly.

Link’s Awakening

In fact, the bigger question is where is Link when he starts off the demo? Assuming this is also the start of the game, Link begins by opening his eyes. Lying nearly submerged in a black tub filled with water, it seems like he was sleeping for quite some time. Either that, or Link has some odd sleep habits. Link usually begins his games by waking up, but this is a unique case where he was sleeping inside of a cave. So why was he sleeping and how did he lock himself in that cave? Maybe he was put there, left in stasis until a certain time when he’d be needed. Perhaps this slumber was longer than a typical sleep. He may even be a Link from long ago (not necessarily from an older game, but a Link that was put to sleep until evil arose).  Either way, he was woken up by a voice telling him to open his eyes, so that might have been the magic trigger to summon the Hero of Time.

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Hmm, where is Link?

Where in the World is Link?

We know that the game begins in the Great Plateau. We also know that this place is indeed known as Hyrule, according to the first old man Link encounters. However, where is the Great Plateau exactly? Brief glimpses of the map indicate that this is part of an area known as Central Hyrule and that the Temple of Time is an area within it. In Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and The Wind Waker, the Temple of Time is indeed somewhere around the middle (not perfectly so). Depending on where this is in the timeline, this is likely that same area, based on the Temple of Time’s location alone. There are other interesting areas on the Great Plateau like Mt. Hylia that are not accounted for on a regular map, and we don’t know exactly what lies outside. The exception is a mysterious black castle surrounded by pink mist. This is probably Ganon’s Castle, though it’s very unclear. Interestingly enough, there is a shadow monster with pink mist in the trailer, so perhaps that’s related to this mysterious castle’s surroundings.

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Of course, Link could be in the world of Xenbolade Chronicles X.

Where does this fit on the timeline?

The Legend of Zelda timeline is extremely complicated, so this is written with the assumption that you know what the timeline looks like. Here are our big clues to figuring this out.

  1. There are old men that look very similar to the ones in the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.
  2. According to the old man, they are in Hyrule.
  3. Ganon, both the creature and the name, exist in this time.
  4. The Temple of Time is present, but in ruins.
  5. Guardians seem to represent old technology, similarly to the robots from Skyward Sword.
  6. The Sheikah Slate and symbol exist, representing technology again as well as the presence of the Sheikah.
  7. The Master Sword is in the trailer, and is rusted.
  8. A location that resembles Eldin Bridge appears in the trailer.
  9. Koroks, the cute leaf creatures from The Wind Waker,
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Is that Eldin Bridge?

The final clue alone is huge enough to narrow it down, but let’s look at the other clues as well. The old men in this game (and the fact that there is a reference to an original NES Zelda illustration within the first few minutes of the game) appear to be throwbacks to the original Legend of Zelda. It makes sense given the open-world gameplay of BotW and its insistence on making players feel like they’re playing a fully realized 3D version of the classic game. So although it feels like it could just be along the timeline of the original games, it’s hard to say judging just based on that.

Ganon exists in this timeline, so it is most likely after Ocarina of Time, since Ganon in his recognizable pig form (or thief form) has never been in a game before OoT in the timeline. This makes it complicated, since there are three alternate branches following OoT, but it helps to know that our favorite pigman is already well-known.

The Temple of Time’s presence helps confirm this, since it has also not been in a game preceding OoT. It has only been in the child and adult timeline branches so far, in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess (in ruins and in past form) respectively. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be in the timeline in which the hero dies. However, there are already so many games in that timeline without the Temple that it’s likely that Ganon destroyed it upon winning during Ocarina of Time. The Master Sword is rusted in the trailer. Although the Temple of Time is also in ruins and filled with overgrown vines in Twilight Princess, the Master Sword seemed pretty nice and pristine when Link picked it up in that game. In contrast, The Wind Waker had a world of ruin already, and there was no chance any regular Joe was going to get the Master Sword. This is due to the hero being forgotten, which I’ll come back to in a second.

The Sheikah race exists, based on the fact that there is a key item known as the Sheikah Slate. The Sheikah race has always protected Princess Zelda, starting with Impa in Skyward Sword. However, we don’t regularly see Sheikah in games following Ocarina of Time. We do see Impa sometimes, but she is never confirmed to be a Sheikah in games following OoT. Based on the Sheikah Slate’s importance and the fact that everyone at Nintendo is wearing a shirt with the Sheikah symbol on it, they are probably important in the game, and we will likely learn more about it. Thus, it doesn’t help us at the moment to know about the Sheikah.

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There is some interesting technology in BotW.

What is more useful is the fact that both the Sheikah Slate and Guardians seem to represent old technology. We saw technology in Skyward Sword through the Ancient Robots, which could only be activated in the past. Even in the first confirmed game in the timeline, robots were considered ancient technology. What’s most mysterious is the fact that the Sheikah Slate and Guardians appear to be working in this point in time with seemingly no explanation. As established before, the game could not take place before Skyward Sword, so an explanation for this technology is unclear.

Our final two clues reflect two completely different timelines. The place resembling Eldin Bridge, from Twilight Princess is seen briefly in the trailer. Koroks, leaf creatures from The Wind Waker are seen throughout the livestream gameplay. It’s unclear whether it is the Eldin Bridge, and it wouldn’t be unheard of if something like the Eldin Bridge also existed in the Wind Waker timeline. Plus, Koroks are living forest spirits that were only in The Wind Waker, making somewhere in that timeline the probable answer.

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Koroks are back!

As to when exactly it takes place, there are two possibilities. It could be sometime following The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass saga, in a world where land has finally come back, ripe for exploring. There are 100 years that take place in-between PH and its sequel, Spirit Tracks, so it’s entirely possible we’re looking at the rebirth of Hyrule (you know, before they added trains). The name Breath of the Wild implies wild exploration and what’s wilder than venturing through an unknown land. My initial thought while watching the streams was that this could be directly following Skyward Sword in which a new Link is exploring the unknown land of Hyrule. However, that contradicts every paragraph before this, so this is the other land to pioneer.

BotW could also theoretically take place before The Wind Waker, highlighting the downfall of Hyrule before the water appears. This makes a little less sense to me since the reason Ganon took over the world in that timeline was because adult Link wasn’t there to stop him anymore. So unless BotW has a tragic end, this seems less likely. Plus Koroks already exist, and I assume that they and the Rito tribe (also from TWW) came to be after Hyrule was flooded.

One thing to note is that they have confirmed that there will be towns and people in the game, but that it would spoil the story. Perhaps it would be spoiled because these would all be upstart towns. It might reveal that people are just looking for places to inhabit. This is all theory, but this is why I believe the proper place in the timeline for Breath of the Wild is between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks when the land of Hyrule returned to the world.

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Will we be able to get the fabled Master Sword? Find out in March 2017.

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is slated for March 2017 and will release for both the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo NX consoles. There are no indications that they will be different. By next year, many players will be able to experience this absolutely massive game, filled with the open-world that producer Eiji Aonuma has always promised. It is yet unknown how expansive the world will be, but given the map and the incredible length of the demo for a singular area, this game will be packed to the brim with content. And that content will be amazing, with lots of unique weapons, puzzle-filled shrines and dungeons, fun Runes that change the game, and a story that unfolds itself as you learn about the lore. Backed by gorgeous graphics and beautiful piano pieces, this game is already primed to be amazing.

Most importantly, the game looks fun! Everyone at Treehouse Live was just enjoying the game, whether using runes to make mischief or just doing wacky things on screen. The sky’s the limit for this game, and you can play it however you want. That’s the best part about it. I look forward to diving into this open world, speculating about this iteration of Hyrule, and experiencing the largest game in The Legend of Zelda franchise with you when the game finally releases!

Source: Nintendo YouTubeNintendo Twitch

What are your thoughts so far on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Are you looking forward to playing it? What is the best thing you’ve seen so far for it? If you’re at E3, have you played it and what do you think? What are your own theories and speculations regarding the game and what are your thoughts on my own theories? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!