E3 2016 Nintendo Treehouse Impressions

As Nintendo once again avoided going the traditional E3 conference route, instead focusing on longer live streams over the course of today and tomorrow, I won't tackle my Nintendo predictions until after seeing what tomorrow has in store. So instead, let's take a look at the two big showcase pieces from Nintendo today: Zelda and Pokemon.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo kicked off the morning with a brand new trailer for the latest The Legend of Zelda, showcasing just what a vast world they've created in this large, open-world Hyrule. The trailer featured a diverse range of ecologies and wildlife; showcased Link climbing, jumping, and fighting baddies; and delving into some shrines and temples; all while underscored by a beautiful orchestration that started subtle and grew more intense and dramatic as the trailer reached its climax with a look at the Master Sword. Then, while looking out upon the world of Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild appeared onscreen to announce the formal title.

After a brief aside for Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, the Nintendo Treehouse spent most of their 8 hours dedicated to exploring the initial opening area of the map. Seemingly starting with the very first moments of the game, a female voice told our hero "Open your eyes...wake up Link" as he lay in a shallow pool of water. The water drained away and Link awoke in the "Shrine of Resurrection" before discovering the "Sheikah Slate" which appears as though it will be a guiding tool for this game. Opening a few chests, Link discovered a shirt and pants (as he was only in his underwear to start) and this new gear was equipped. Link then ventured out of the shrine, running out into the world for the very first time. This moment definitely struck me as reminiscent to the first time leaving the Vault in Fallout 3.

Over the course of the gameplay I watched, it is very apparent that this is a very new Legend of Zelda. Gone are the days of finding hearts in the grass to recover health. Now Link will find food in the wild that can heal him, and even cook the food to increase the amount of health recovered. Weapons and shields degrade over time and use, meaning there will be a lot of time spent managing inventory but these tools are plentiful in the world and new weapons can even be claimed from your foes in the middle of a fight. It feels as though the team at Nintendo are taking cues from Minecraft (this "survival" and crafting element), Skyrim (the expanded RPG sensibilites, item collection, and equipment), and possibly even the Dark Souls series (combat and large interconnected expanses).

Another newly touted featured showcased throughout the day was traversal. With such a larger world to explore, Link is now an avid jumper and climber. The developers have expanded the conventional world of Hyrule to incorporate far more verticality into this title. As such, Link spent a lot of time scaling mountains and ruined shrines in this showcase. Additionally, they showcased an item that allows Link to float over the world, hang glider-style.

I also watched as they explored a couple ruins in the world. Not full blown dungeons or shrines in the traditional Zelda sense, these mini-dungeons feature a couple of puzzles to solve and you are typically rewarded with a few treasures, as well as perhaps a larger reward that can be used elsewhere and traded in for items like the aforementioned hang glider-type thing. Much of what was showcased seemed to support the idea that this Legend of Zelda is very much a return to its roots in that a lot of this world can be experienced in any order you choose. They confirmed the game featuring over 100 of these ruins, shrines, dungeons, etc. in the game.

I skipped the last two major console installments in the The Legend of Zelda series (Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword). I played a little of the 3DS A Link Between Worlds game, because A Link to the Past is my favorite entry and I was excited to return to that world. But even that game failed to capture my attention the way this series used to and I abandoned it fairly early on. With that baggage in mind, I had largely written this game off as something that I had outgrown or just wasn't interested in anymore. What I saw today very much changed that line of thinking. I find myself more excited about The Legend of Zelda than I have since The Wind Waker nearly fourteen years ago. Going into this conference, I said that a Mother 3 localization was probably the only thing that could get me to turn on my Wii U again. That is no longer the case.

Pokemon Sun and Moon

Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon on the other hand spend the first hour of today's stream going through so many of the same motions I've seen from this series for its 20 years. They highlighted a few of the characters you'll encounter, showed off a few new Pokemon throughout the live gameplay demo, and explained some of the adjustments made to the UI that will make the game even more accessible to new players (once you have fought a Pokemon, in future battles with that Pokemon there will be indicators of how effective your moves will be against it, for example).

The biggest new feature they showcase was a new 4-Player Battle Royale mode. Each player can bring in up to three Pokemon and players can attack any of their opponents until one player loses all of their Pokemon. Then points are allotted to each of the four based on how many Pokemon they defeated vs. how many of their Pokemon were defeated. This just comes as the latest in the long line of new Multiplayer modes that have never appealed to me in the series.

We'll see tomorrow in the in-depth Pokemon GO developer interview if it has what it takes to bring me back to Pokemon but right now, I find it highly unlikely I'll be picking up Pokemon SunPokemon Moon, or any other Pokemon title for the foreseeable future.