The new information on the sequel to the last Zelda is being asked. We talk about how little we know and how much we hope.
Released in September 2019, the Link’s Awakening remake for Switch counts as the last installment in the Zelda series released to date. One that also holds the guy commendably despite its humble Game Boy origins. But that doesn’t change that fans are looking forward to the series’ next evolutionary step. The sequel to a game, Breath of the Wild, which not only let us experience an unprecedented epic, it also rethought each and every one of the fundamentals, going back to the roots, throwing down old walls and recovering a kind of freedom lost after years of conditioning. and motivation with more sequential adventures.
From the open tutorial of the Plateau of Dawn, a region where a full map from previous installments would have a place, to immediate access to the final showdown against Ganon and the optional – but beneficial – nature of all the content in between, Nintendo showed an unusual confidence in such a long-lived franchise and targeting such a wide audience. The items of limited uses became versatile mechanics (magnet, paralyzer, etc.) that years later continue to find new applications in the hands of the most skilled, and the interrelation of systems such as gliding, climbing, meteorological phenomena, cooking or weapon wear. they formed a loop of exploration where curiosity – goodbye to the omnipresent markers – and the ability to adapt were rewarded. From there, the next question is as obvious as it is difficult to answer: what now?
That there would be new Zelda after Breath of the Wild was a known fact before the release of Breath of the Wild itself. In a case like this, the unknowns focus on the platform, the preservation or change of the artistic direction, the transport mechanics and many other variables that Nintendo has toyed with delivery after delivery. Being a launch game, the initial logic always invited to think of a continuation for the hybrid (although as time has passed, speculation about its review increases), although it was something that was not confirmed until E3 2019, more two years after its premiere. Of course, it was not an empty wait, as 2017 was still marked by downloadable content, with the highlight, La Balada de los Chosen, arriving in December.
That same month, Eiji Aonuna confirmed in the Master Works book (with illustrations and concepts discarded from the game) that there would be no more DLC and that the next installment was already underway. Of course, it was no surprise, but we would have to wait a long time for tangible news. In 2018, the silence was broken by the buzz of comments about the intention to preserve that renewed freedom and announcements to recruit personnel. In 2019, it was indirectly confirmed that Monolith Soft was re-involved after participating in several previous installments and, come June, the first trailer was finally revealed. The game was no longer only a slightly more tangible reality, but also a formal sequel in Hyrule itself – at least from the start – with the same incarnations of Link, Zelda and … Ganon?
One trailer, many theories
Even without a trace of gameplay that allowed a glimpse of the exploration, combat or puzzles of the upcoming game, the video triggered expectations and speculation thanks to a more sinister tone – something that, according to its creators, will extend to the rest of the work— and also the messy and meticulous editing of the encounter between the two protagonists and the mummified body that comes to life before their eyes. Brief as it is, the footage is loaded with details such as the presentation of a vast underground environment, Zelda’s new hairstyle, the Gerudo imagery that invites us to associate the revitalized corpse with a human Ganondorf like the one we first met in Ocarina of Time. or the elevation of Hyrule Castle in the background that heralds unanticipated consequences for the heroes.
A year and a half after that E3, the trailer has been studied and reinterpreted ad nauseam, and any hypothesis that we can add here, in addition to having surely been treated before, can be validated or refuted in a matter of a few weeks or months. Is the green arm that grasps the corpse the same power that then changes Link’s color to become a new core mechanic like telekinesis? Does Zelda’s haircut respond to a more active role in the gameplay and not just the story? Does the difference between Ganon the Cataclysm and Ganondorf stem from an untold story that will recontextualize the antecedent game? At the moment, your guesses are as good as ours, although there are some interesting things to consider about the map and the dungeons.
New dungeons …
One of the contentious points of the previous installment, still praised as it was almost unanimously, resides in the amount of attention paid to the outside world in front of the dungeons. With 120 shrines and four divine beasts, Breath of the Wild left us dozens and dozens of puzzles, many of them brilliant, and some rethought as situations to solve in the open field (labyrinths, islands where we were temporarily deprived of all equipment, submerged forests in absolute darkness, etc.). However, it is also true that it did not stand out for offering the same dungeon experience that characterized such emblematic installments of the “classic formula” as A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess.
The four divine beasts play a role similar to the four main temples in Majora’s Mask, with their own locations and agumental arches (related to champions Zora, Goron, Gerudo, and Orni), but they are relatively brief, not progressively scaling in difficulty ( all of them may be the first or the last), share a visual style and culminate in bosses also lacking their own identity (they are simple variants of Ganon). Although ingenious in their construction, using mechanisms that require understanding their design as a whole rather than studying room by room, they do not capture what made challenges such as the Ocarina Forest Temple, Majora’s Stone Tower Temple or special. Twilight’s Snowy Peak Ruins, to name just a few. Something that, therefore, for many has remained as the first pending account to settle when facing the sequel.
Beyond the dark entrance that is seen for barely a second in the trailer and seems to exclaim “Dungeon!” to the screen, another of the recruitment ads has also specifically alluded to its design, so, although nothing implies more than it says or shows it in a manifest way – which is little – trying to reinforce that aspect sounds like something reasonable. Returning to Aonuma, the producer (Hidemaro Fujibayashi repeats in the director’s chair) has made it clear that the intention is to continue betting on the creative side in puzzles, in enigmas with more than one solution such as those favored by the manipulation of objects and physics in the original game, but that does not have to exclude other more traditional items or the appearance of new multipurpose abilities. Especially after the current Sheikah stone modules have already been squeezed for tens – or hundreds – of hours.
… in old Hyrule?
Speaking of which, what the previous game has given of itself, it should be added that in the same interview Aonuma also confessed that the sequel originated as a possible expansion that was discarded as his ambition grew. This brings us to another key unknown, and that is whether the Hyrule of that particular iteration will repeat. The return of Link and Zelda a priori prevents a leap in time that drastically changes the world, but, as all fans of the saga well know, that is not an impediment for the designers to transform the map: the Dark World of A Link to the Past, the Kingdom of Lorule in A Link Between Worlds or the twilight invasion of Twilight Princess already toyed with the idea of exploring two variants in the same title, and Skyward Sword raised several tests (the trials of Hypnea, the errands of the dragons) to take advantage of scenarios that we had already explored hours before.
Another of those job offers that the media echoed some time ago alluded to field designers, which, although it sounds like a truism, confirms that the sequel also requires extra work in environments and not just puzzles. If that translates into a new map, in the Hyrule of 2017 completely or partially transformed, or in a combination of both options, we will only know when Nintendo drops new. Three years after the start of development (although the last one, marked by the covid, may have been less productive than desired), and taking into account that the study started from a solid base instead of from scratch, there are plenty of reasons to expect something great. In just over a month, on February 21, the saga will turn 35, so it would not be a bad time to show it.