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If you’ve seen a ‘best games ever’ list anywhere in the last few years, chances are that Breath of the Wild was sitting comfortably in top spot.
With such acclaim, any sniff of a sequel was always going to get our attention. And we had a bit more than a sniff at E3 2019, as Nintendo announced that a full sequel is in development, with an accompanying trailer clearly designed more to spark questions than tell us anything concrete.
Since then, it’s been pretty quiet. We still don’t know when Breath of the Wild 2 will be released, but 2021 does seem a reasonable bet. Why? Well, March will mark four years since the first game was released, and the sequel will presumably reuse many of its systems and assets.
The new project apparently grew from DLC ideas for the first game that took on a life of their own, so while it should expand on what we’ve seen before, the base is likely to be similar. Also potentially significant is that 2021 is the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, and Nintendo would surely want to see that coincide with a major release.
Naturally, Nintendo is keeping its cards close to its chest. When announcing this year’s Hyrule Warriors spin-off game in September, series producer Eiji Aonuma simply stated that the team was working hard on development for Breath of the Wild 2 and “you’ll have to wait a bit longer before we can provide more updates.” This does suggest the game is unlikely to be out early next year, with Warriors serving as a useful stopgap to tide us over, perhaps until later in 2021.
For now, we’re left with that trailer and our imaginations. The most important fact, of course, is that Nintendo is calling this a sequel to Breath of the Wild, so we can expect a continuation from the events of the original. In the trailer, Link and Zelda explore a huge underground cavern that spirals down beneath Hyrule Castle. Mysterious magic energy seeps up from below into an evil-looking mummified corpse. The corpse comes to life and the whole castle starts to shake.
The wispy black and purple tentacles that snake through the cave could be related to the Malice that infected the world in Breath of the Wild, so once again there may well be some kind of corruption spreading over the land. But could the underground itself also be a major part of the game – a kind of obverse map full of dark secrets that grants access to different parts of the overworld?
And whose is the evil-looking corpse? With its mane of hair and forehead mounted medallion, it has some resemblance to Calamity Ganon, the arch-villain of the first game. Might this be some kind of past incarnation? As for the power bringing him back to life, some have noted that the colours and runic symbols around it call back to the Twili in Twilight Princess. Whether or not that’s the case, we wonder if necromancy and resurrection will be a big theme. Might the underground be a world of the dead? Zombie Ganon, anyone?
Nintendo has suggested that the tone of this game will be a little darker. The trailer certainly backs that up with its eerie backwards music and, well, darkness. It’s worth recalling that the last direct sequel to a Zelda game was Majora’s Mask, in which Nintendo took the opportunity to experiment with an uncanny vibe. While we don’t expect a departure as great as Majora’s Groundhog Day-style time loop here, we’re hoping for similar levels of weirdness.
“Nintendo has suggested that the tone of this game will be a little darker… It’s worth recalling that the last direct sequel to a Zelda game was Majora’s Mask, in which Nintendo took the opportunity to experiment with an uncanny vibe.”
How else might the sequel differentiate itself from the first game? Aonuma has mentioned that Red Dead Redemption 2 could be something of an inspiration for the team this time. We assume this doesn’t mean lengthy campfire ruminations on the decline of the old West. Or accurately modelled horse testicles for that matter. Perhaps it will drive Nintendo to make the world feel more lived-in and populated with incidental detail and events.
One crucial question is whether Nintendo will bring back traditional Zelda dungeons or repeat the fun-sized shrine puzzles from the first game. In a large open world, it probably makes more sense to have a spread of smaller challenges than a handful of concentrated ones, and it would be a shame for Breath of the Wild to shed its unique identity. But a few meatier dungeons wouldn’t go amiss either.
Talking of unique identity, the big controversy in the first game was the introduction of degrading and breakable weapons. Actually, we hope Nintendo stands firm on this one, as it’s a great system that encourages you to use up resources rather than hoard. Maybe it could be tweaked though, or optional for those who really disapprove.
A final big talking point that’s come from the trailer is that of playable characters. Now that Link and Zelda have been shown exploring together, with Zelda dressed for adventuring, it’s sparked calls for the princess to be an active protagonist.
It’s not something that Nintendo has done before and may not have planned here, but with so much demand they may be unwise to try and rebottle the genie. Might we even hope for different play styles? Two-player co-op?
Perhaps that’s a dream too far, but there are so many possibilities. The only thing we can really say is that we want more Breath of the Wild, but also something else, something unexpected. Anything but a long delay.