One of the biggest and most exciting elements of this E3 was, predictably, Nintendo deigning to toss us the slimmest of scraps.
We devoured it like the hungry dogs we are, with the latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s untitled sequel launching a wave of speculation dwarfed only by the sheer size of the excitement for the game.
So it should be, obviously. Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest games ever made, and Zelda is one of the few series’ to ever accomplish releasing industry-shaking titles repeatedly, across multiple generations.
Most exciting, though, is how these second Zelda games tend to go. They’re often unique and experimental, most keenly demonstrated in Majora’s Mask, which takes the characters and elements of Ocarina of Time, warping them to create a twisted and yet completely lovable and different world for you to save. I’m hopeful that Breath of the Wild 2 can accomplish the same.
The new trailer and screenshots reveal what is likely the main new gimmick of the sequel - that being the appearance of floating islands in the sky, with the original Hyrule from Breath of the Wild beneath. We see shots of a Link who closely resembles the one from the original BOTW down on the original overworld, but also another scraggly-haired character who may or may not be Link (we never see their face) gallivanting about the skies across myriad islands, the Hyrule we all got to know in 2017 visible below, distant but absolutely still there.
In footage of the character seemingly reversing gravity to drag themselves up to the heavenly islands, one might naturally be drawn to think of Skyward Sword, another Zelda entry that sees Link dividing his time between Skyloft and the other floating islands that surround it and Hyrule proper below. Indeed, the similarity might be part of why we’re getting a remaster of Skyward Sword in just a month’s time - and the games share a director in the supremely talented Hidemaro Fujibayashi. However, I look at it and I see echoes of another Zelda game - Wind Waker.
In the world of Wind Waker, Hyrule has been flooded by a cataclysmic event, replacing ‘Hyrule Field’ with ‘The Great Sea’. The land masses that are left sticking out of the water are the highest points of the old Hyrule, with the remnants of civilization now living on what were once mountaintops. The result is a curious world - lots of open space with plenty of water, but a range of unique islands, each holding its own challenges to tackle.
When I look at screenshots of Breath of the Wild’s sequel, this is what I see, and this is what I hope for. Skyward Sword had an expansive Hyrule, but its sky was basically one large town and some fairly useless floating side islands. Wind Waker actually had material worth to its smaller islands, each a carefully crafted mini challenge or mood-setter of its own. Elements of Wind Waker were surely rushed - the Triforce quest proves that - but its world design certainly wasn’t.
Indeed, probably the greatest criticism I can level at Wind Waker that isn’t about that damn Triforce collecting is something Breath of the Wild 2 might have the chance to address. In that game, you finally travel down to the old Hyrule, under the water - but there’s nothing to do there. Simply being there is breathtaking the first time it happens - but my dream then was always that something that you’d do above the water might alter the status quo in the depths.
That never happens in Wind Waker, but with Breath of the Wild’s sequel seemingly featuring both these new islands and the sprawling Hyrule I spent the better part of a hundred hours in already, I’m hopeful that things up on the floating islands may very well change some of the world below, too.
I don’t know quite what Nintendo has in store for us, of course - but it’s difficult to have anything but faith in the team that brought us Breath of the Wild still helmed by Fujibayashi, who at this point has directed myriad classic Zeldas including Oracle of Seasons and Ages, Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass. I can’t wait to learn more - even though we painfully may end up waiting a year to do so.