“The Legend of Zelda” is one of Nintendo’s most important franchises, with its action-adventure games spanning several decades and consistently earning near-perfect or perfect scores from critics over the years.
It’s been three years since the last “Zelda” game, but at its E3 Digital Event on Tuesday, Nintendo unveiled the next chapter of the fantasy franchise set to release in 2015.
It may not have a name yet, but boy does it look good.
Nintendo’s brief clip showed “Zelda’s” protagonist, Link, sitting atop his fabled horse, Epona, in a vast field overlooking the kingdom of Hyrule, the main setting for the series.
The clip was subtle but showed off several important aspects of the game: For one, it revealed this iteration of “Zelda” would blend the semi-realistic character models from “Skyward Sword” and “Ocarina of Time” with the vibrant, cel-shaded look from “The Wind Waker.”
Nintendo also explained that the entire map of this world could be explored, including the mountains. And in a major departure from the series, Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma said any of it could be perused at any time.
In all previous “Zelda” games, players were led from one area to the next in a linear manner.
“As far as what you can do with such a vast field to explore, as soon as those boundaries are removed, it means you can enter any area from any direction,” Aonuma said. “So the puzzle-solving in this game begins the moment the player starts to think about where they want to go, how they want to get there, and what they will do when they arrive.
“This is a clean break from the conventions of past games in the ‘Zelda’ series, where you had to follow a set path and play through the scenario in the right order.”
Thanks to a lack of boundaries, players will be able to explore Hyrule and its surrounding areas to their hearts’ content — but they will also have to keep an eye out for powerful monsters that will continually show up, even in the most serene settings.
“As you know from the ‘Zelda’ series, the world in these games can be quite peaceful,” Aonuma said. “However, it is a ‘Zelda’ game after all so strong enemies will certainly appear, even in this setting.
“Powerful enemies appearing in such a peaceful world is one of the defining features of the ‘Zelda’ series.”