The latest Breath of the Wild sequel trailer looked unsurprisingly snazzy at the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct. Also unsurprising, for the first direct Legend of Zelda follow-up in a grip, is that it looks very familiar. Same style, same Hyrule, same Link, same Zelda, plus some Skyward Sword-ass freefalling and floating islands: it’s everything we know and love . Breath of the Wild was a seminal game that still looms large five years later, but has already begun influencing nearly every other open-world game to come since. I only hope a couple things do change.
The trailer starts with the titular Big Z falling down a hole. We saw flashes of something similar in 2019, when the game was first announced, but events were too disjointed to tell a specific narrative. Naturally, fans did what they always do. They filled in the blanks. Speculation, theories, and fanfic ran rampant for years.
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My personal head canon involved Zelda, Link, and a revivified Ganon (if that mummy we see in the trailers is indeed the King of Thieves) squashing their beef to stand against a new threat… While also developing mutual attraction for one another. My fanfic involves the three of them exploring each other’s holes, sure, but not the kind that swallowed up Zelda.
We don’t see a single other shot of the princess in this trailer — even as Link goes full Conan Mode with wild hair across land and sky. Other, less courageous fan theories than mine have posited Zelda might assume a larger role than in previous main games, where she nearly always plays damsel in distress. Perhaps she would even be playable.
Breath of the Wild ends with Link and Zelda exploring the ruins of Hyrule together. It’s implied that they set off to rebuild something new from the ashes of a failed kingdom. Lest we forget that it was Zelda’s now-penitent ghost dad who paved the way for Ganon and the Guardians to blow shit to hell before the events of the game. This version of the princess also chose to be more of a scholar, forsaking her role as a passive lighting rod for divine power, which everyone hoped would magically flush down to save the day.
It didn’t. We got Breath of the Wild (a great game) instead. And its ending set up some very interesting possibilities for Zelda. It’s also totally possible Nintendo will pursue one or several of those threads. But that’s not how the game is being marketed. Instead we see Zelda fall down big hole go bye-bye.
Boring gender norms aside, this narrative doesn’t take advantage of the closing moments to Breath of the Wild. The framing sets Link up to go save her again, almost certainly taking time in between to be a lovable little dipshit twink, but this time with a sick robot arm which is already summoning more fun fan conjecture. And that’s… cool! But I’ve seen Links go through corruption arcs before.
What I haven’t seen enough of, at least in The Legend of Zelda, is character development between the principal players. It’s already part of the series, too, just in snippets. Usually at the end of each game. I loved the Ganon monologue at the climax of Wind Waker. I enjoyed Link running around with a capable, talkative buddy in Twilight Princess. Gimme a whole game of those elements put together — or something like them. Breath of the Wild is already a damn near perfect base to build upon gameplay-wise. If there was ever a time for Nintendo to turn its attention elsewhere, it’s now.