Though the mention of a new Zelda game has always generated a buzz, the hype around the latest installment seems to be above and beyond what I remember from the last few additions. Maybe that has something to do with the changing nature of games marketing and release schedules, or maybe it’s because the game itself seems to be above and beyond what Zelda games have offered in the past – and believe me, I don’t say that lightly. Nintendo are keeping their cards very close to their chest (even by their standards) and the few members of the press and public that were able to get their hands on some coveted time with the game at the EB Expo were under strict instructions not to photograph or film their time inside the tiny dimly lit Zelda den. The build on offer was the same one showcased at E3, but being able to experience it for myself really brought home just how much of a leap Nintendo have taken with Breath of the Wild. Literally, Link leaps now. On command. Still that familiar field, only more vibrant and expansive. Fans were treated to two short demos, the first of which allowed you free reign of the field, armed with an arsenal of familiar gadgets as well as some new additions. A short trailer played beforehand acted almost as a tutorial, giving hints as to how you might approach enemies or how you could interact with objects in the environment. It’s immediately apparent that this is a game that encourages experimentation and exploration within its supersized world. If you start swinging your sword wildly near a tree, you might cut it down. Maybe you’ll climb it. Maybe you’ll circle it while hunting one of the wild animals that you can kill and use for food. Does something look unstable? Throw a bomb at it. Pick it up. Have you defeated a goblin? Take his sword and use it to murder the rest of his friends in cold blood. Once you’ve done that, you can sit down by the fire to have a rest and pass the time, or combine ingredients you’ve collected on your travels together to make a delicious (or not so delicious) meal, that you can then consume to gain health. It’s definitely a step up in complexity from Ocarina of Time’s simple bottle of milk. These strange artifacts will play an important role in Link’s newest adventure. In contrast to the exploration-focused first demo, the second demo allowed players to experience the first fifteen minutes or so of the story we can look forward to. Stripped of all the gadgets you’d just learned to play with, you start afresh alongside Link, who has just woken up from a very long slumber. A voice calls to him, delivers some classic ominous Zelda dialogue and then disappears, leaving Link to emerge from the (at least, what appears to be) cave he’s been sleeping in. Now, when I say stripped, I mean it in a number of ways. The first thing I noticed was that Link was mostly nude, and adding (or subtracting, really) some extra clothing mechanics really allows for a sense of vulnerability when you’re without that clothing. Our hero was walking through a slightly damp cave, and all I could think of wasn’t ‘god, I hope those chests contain weapons and new toys’, it was ‘god, I hope there are some clothes in there because this must be uncomfortable’. It was a new feeling, and a small change, but it was noticeable. Once you’re outside the cave, fully clothed and armed with a new gadget called the ‘Sheikah slate’ that seems to allow Link to interact with some kind of ancient technology, that sense of adventure is instantly overwhelming. You’re in familiar territory, running across a field, finding yourself a weapon and talking to an old man who won’t let you use his parachute. Ahh, a classic gaming moment. Breath of the Wild seems like it’s set to be a launch title for the NX, but by the looks of things, the graphics aren’t going to be anything to scoff at on the outgoing Wii U. I’m deliberately avoiding talking too much about the story, because really, I came out with more questions than I had when I went in. But what did strike me was the strange balance between familiarity and possibility, the way the game managed to feel new while also delivering a great sense of nostalgia. The art style is a beautiful new direction for the series, but it frequently had me thinking of Twilight Princess at the same time. There were quite a few moments where I found myself thinking ‘oh, that’s like the combat in Wind Waker’ or ‘oh, that looks thematically like the world of Twilight Princess’ or even ‘ahh, I remember this symbol from Ocarina of Time’ – and those are just the newer games that came to mind. All over the internet people are drawing links (pun only half intended) to the very first Zelda game. But despite all this, I couldn’t say Breath of the Wild is like anything I’ve seen before – not really. Really, there are so many new game mechanics here that you could easily find yourself asking whether or not this truly feels like a Zelda game – but it does. For a long time now, fans (myself included) have been satisfied with only minor adjustments to the tried and true formula, and to be honest, I never found myself asking Nintendo to do anything differently. But now that I’ve seen what Zelda can be? It’s a seriously exciting prospect. This world is already big, bold and full of heart, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it again to discover more.