E3 2016: Nintendo Shows Off The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Pokemon: Sun and Moon

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Nintendo opened their day-long live-stream with a statement from president Reggie Fils-Aimé, wearing the queer rainbow flag as a pin. “Before we begin, we want to extend our condolences to all the victims of the two tragic events in Orlando. Our thoughts are with their families and their communities. This includes Christina Grimmie, who was killed in the earlier incident and was scheduled to visit us here at our E3 booth this week. At Nintendo, we try to make our fans smile, but this week at E3, we will also be shedding a few tears. Please join me in a moment of silence,” he said as the stream went black for a few seconds.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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Nintendo went straight into a new trailer for their next Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game features a vast open world version of Hyrule. The trailer showed Link traversing many different parts of it, from deserts, to wintery mountains, to lakes, to forests. The entire game has a beautiful painterly aesthetic, reminiscent of the last game in the series, Skyward Sword, as well as Ghibli films such as Nausicaa. Series composer Koji Kondo is at the top of his game here. The music that accompanied the trailer was as breathtaking as some of the vistas.

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One part that leaves me wondering is the voice over. Throughout the trailer, a woman’s voice is heard saying “Open your eyes.” Is this Zelda? Does this mean Breath of the Wild will have voice acting, a first for the series? The Zelda series, if it cares about telling an engaging story, needs to embrace voiced characters, so it will be interesting if Nintendo finally does that with Breath of the Wild.

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It seems Breath of the Wild will also have plenty for Link to do outside the main quest, with cooking, swimming, tree chopping, and hunting all in the trailer. After the trailer, Fils-Aimé stressed how Nintendo is creating their biggest game yet with Breath of the Wild and the open world will be completely seamless. For all of Tuesday, Nintendo was showing journalists only one section of the overworld, a plateau. Fils-Aimé said that no one will be able to see everything on this plateau today, and it is just a small section of the map.

Pokemon: Sun and Moon

Fils-Aimé transitioned to the Nintendo Treehouse team (the division that localizes Nintendo games), who interviewed two of the key developers on the new Pokemon games, Shigeru Ohmori and Junichi Masuda. The two of them introduced themselves and then showed the same trailer from a few weeks ago that introduced the starters and legendaries—no need to show new footage immediately, right?

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The Treehouse reps, Sam and Terry, and devs Ohmori and Masuda first talked about the naming for the games, Sun and Moon, and the new region. With the aid of a translator, Masuda and Ohmori discussed how the game’s new setting, the Alola Region, is a series of four islands that are teeming with life. Sam drew a connection to the Galapagos Islands, as the Alola Region is isolated and there are many new Pokemon that no one has ever seen before.

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Masuda and Ohmori talked about the new starters, Owlet, Litten and Popplio. They wanted to design these three to be very cute not just in the way they looked, but also in the way they moved and in all their battle animations. Well, based on the internet’s response when these three were revealed, I’d say they hit cuteness right on the nose. They also wanted these three to be universally relatable, to transcend cultures. Sam from Nintendo quickly pointed out that the player characters are wearing some interesting looking bracelets.

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They then went right into a live gameplay demo. It began up shortly after the player character received their first Pokemon, in this case Popplio. Like many Pokemon games, at the start the player has just moved to the region. Before long, they are engaged in their first battle. To my disappointment, a Ledyba appeared, rather than a new Pokemon. This first battle showed off the increased dynamism of Pokemon: Sun and Moon, with tons of different camera angles, more filled in backgrounds, and visible trainers commanding their Pokemon. At the battle’s conclusion, they managed to catch Ledyba and level up Popplio.

popplio in battle

In the next battle we got to see the first new Pokemon of the day, the Normal type Yungoos, which they described as “always very hungry.” This time around, the Pokedex is actually inhabited by the Pokemon Rotom. Dubbed the Rotom Pokedex, it will give players tips, catalogue their Pokemon, and has its own personality.

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Later on we got to see another new Pokemon, the Normal/Flying type Pikipek. Pikipek is the “woodpecker Pokemon” and can peck its beak “16 times a second.” That doesn’t sound physically possible, but physics has never stopped Pokemon before.

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They soon entered the main part of the town where a festival was being held. Hala, one of the main characters in Pokemon: Sun and Moon and the man who gives the player their first Pokemon, approached and told them more about Alola. “Each island has its own guardian Pokemon. Our festival today is held to express our thanks to these great Pokemon guardian deities for always remaining by our side.” Perhaps these guardians will be some of the new legendaries in Sun and Moon.

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During the festival, the player and their rival Hau had their first battle. The battle was watched by all of the townsfolk, who could all actually be seen during the fight. The battle was to commemorate the two of them leaving town to travel the region. Another nice new thing in these games is that all attacks are listed on the battle screen as “Effective,” “Super effective,” or “Not very effective,” so you don’t have to worry about remembering every single type combination.

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The demo ended after that battle, but then they showed another video that revealed a new type of battle to be introduced in Sun and Moon, the Battle Royale. This is a four way free-for-all, where the winner is determined based on number of Pokemon remaining and how many Pokemon they defeated. The battle ends as soon as someone has lost all of their Pokemon.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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Nintendo spent the rest of the day demoing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They streamed live from the Nintendo Treehouse for eight hours. Right before the demoing began, Eiji Aonuma, the director of Breath of the Wild, came on the stream. “I’ve created this game thinking about breaking the conventions of Zelda,” he said. Of course, that doesn’t include breaking any gender conventions, as Link is still a guy.

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The first demo began with a barechested, ponytail-sporting Link waking up in a mysterious pool of water in a shrine, to the same woman’s voice from the trailer saying “Open your eyes.” As I guessed in the trailer, there is indeed at least some voice acting. Not for Link, but that woman’s voice started guiding Link in the shrine and pointed out an artifact to take with him. In the next room there were several treasure chests with clothing items, displaying the customization available to the player for what Link wears. It seems the green tunic may not be as required as it used to be.

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As Link exited the shrine we saw that, for the first time ever, Link has a dedicated jump command. This fits into the greater emphasis on traversal and climbing about the open world in Breath of the Wild. Almost immediately, Link began climbing a random cliff face like Lara Croft or Nathan Drake. Link’s traversal is restricted by his stamina meter, which slowly decreases as he climbs.

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The demoers brought up the map below for a short moment, displaying exactly how massive Hyrule is. The small region in the center is the area being shown off at E3, whereas the entire map will be explorable in the full game. This both excites me and makes me worried that I’ll never have anywhere near enough time to actually see everything. Link then met the first character in the game, an old man camped on the plateau. Unfortunately, this man had no voice acting, so I’m again left wondering as to the extent of voicing in Breath of the Wild.

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The old man pointed out a large temple nearby, saying “Since the decline of the kingdom, it now sits abandoned, in a state of decay.” Serving as the first indication of where to go, this also starts to paint a picture of this incarnation of Hyrule. They then started to show of some new gameplay mechanics. Link doesn’t have a sword yet, so they picked up a branch. They then lit this branch on fire, and as Link was swinging it around he started a fire in some bushes, which burned him. The way these systems interact could lead to some interesting combat possibilities.

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Link then met an old Wind Waker friend, a Korok. This little tree person told Link that he and his friends were hiding throughout Hyrule and Link should search them out. We got our first look at live combat, which seems fairly similar to previous Zelda games. During the fight, both Link’s newly acquired sword and shield broke, so he scavenged one of the enemy’s spears. Anouma also talked about how here, Link will not find hearts in grass or pots, but will instead have to cook food that he will carry with him and eat to restore his health.

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As Link approached the temple it was revealed to be the famous Temple of Time, which has appeared in many prior Zelda games. They showed off a new combat mechanic, called Flurry Rush. It is activated when you perfectly time enough attacks, and it slows down time, allowing Link to get several hits in quick succession. As Link explores the outside of the Temple, there are mechanical guardians in disrepair, covered in vines. Knowing Zelda’s affinity for time travel, I’m sure these machines will come back to life at some point.

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The demo actually timed out before they entered the interior of the Temple. However, they spent many more hours demoing Breath of the Wild, so go and check out more of their gameplay below.

Nintendo went in a completely different direction from the other press conferences as well as their previous press conferences and Nintendo Directs. This couldn’t even really be called a press conference, they were just demoing games for extended periods of time. It was nice to get in-depth looks at both Pokemon: Sun and Moon and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, this approach made their E3 presence feel much less exciting than the other publishers, especially Sony’s relentless showing of games. It’s also strange that they haven’t shown anything about the NX. They’ve now mentioned it at both this E3 and last year’s, but we still don’t know anything about it. If they were going to wait so long to show it then they shouldn’t have talked about it so early, as it has ended up hanging over all their proceedings. Their approach of just showing Pokemon and Breath of the Wild also gives the impression that there aren’t any other big games coming out for the Wii U or 3DS. Granted, those two are some big name games, but Sony and Microsoft have so many games coming out in the next year that Nintendo’s offering seems paltry. This E3 has left me a little worried for Nintendo.

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