As the Wii U flounders through its second year, it's not altogether surprising that Nintendo would show us what they have in the works for this currently-unnamed installment.
And, based on the scant amount of information provided in this morning's Nintendo Direct, it's unlikely this latest Legend of Zelda will see the light of day before 2016. Even if there's not much to go on, the few words Zelda supervisor Eiji Aonuma had to say gave me a little more confidence about this far-off game -- namely, its focus on scope and player freedom.
This really shouldn't come as a shock to anyone after last year's A Link Between Worlds took a drastic change from the expected Zelda formula: Instead presenting each of the game's dungeons in a prescribed order, ALBW let players choose their own path, much like the original Legend of Zelda. It ended up being a bit too easy for its own good -- I closed out the game with only one death and more rupees than I could count -- but A Link Between Worlds ended up restoring my faith in the Zelda series -- faith I had lost after suffering through the extremely bloated, linear, and misguided Skyward Sword.
A sprawling, open world is nothing new for video games, of course. As Aonuma boasted about how Link would be able to explore the full extent of the rolling, vibrant hills behind him, I could only think of how often I've trekked through gigantic landscapes in games of the last generation. Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 -- though they play much different than The Legend of Zelda, Bethesda used these experiences to advance the idea of what an open world game should be during the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation. It's taken Nintendo quite a while to come around to this way of thinking, but regardless, Aonuma's few words about the future of Zelda had me imagine the potential of dropping Link into the big, beautiful world pictured behind him.
Zelda has always kept players on a leash of sorts, and this ever-tightening grip has only loosened in the past year. But even a fairly straightforward game like Ocarina of Time let players poke around Hyrule Field at their leisure before stumbling upon the next thing to do. A Link Between Worlds shows a Nintendo that's more confident with allowing their players to get lost, and in turn, discover things they didn't even know they were looking for. It's clear that Nintendo's back is against the wall at this point, but a desperate Nintendo is an innovative Nintendo -- just take a look at how much they shook up Mario, Zelda, and Metroid during the GameCube era. I can only hope today's statements from Aonuma aren't just lip service.