Eiji Aonuma, Zelda series producer, has suggested in a new interview that he wants the Zelda series to continue Breath of the Wild’s “open air” style (“open air” being Nintendo’s typically off-beat nomenclature for open world). I doubt this comes as a surprise to anyone given Breath of the Wild’s remarkable ambition and its critical and commercial success. It’s an amazing re-invention of the series, simultaneously recreating the familar world of Hyrule whilst adding a million and one new things. But what happens next? What does a sequel to a game of this size and scope look like?
Breath of the Wild reminds me more than any other game of Ocarina of Time. (I say this despite the fact that the original Legend of Zelda is cited as the primary inspiration for Breath of the Wild – see here for an excellent video essay exploring these particular connections.) Its overworld is full of things to see and do: everything from horse collecting, to climbing and exploring, to fighting, to exploring detailed towns and interiors. Outside of these “open-air” parts of the game are fresh takes on Zelda’s dungeon gameplay: shrines which serve as mini-dungeons; the Divine Beasts, which are bigger dungeons with unique mechanics; and directed missions and quests in the overworld, especially those in the run-up to the Divine Beasts.
Why then compare these two games? I think Breath of the Wild’s re-imagining of the original Zelda is comparable to the way Ocarina of Time re-imagined Link to the Past. Ocarina of Time took the basic structure of Link to the Past – three mini-dungeons, the Master Sword, and five larger “grown-up” dungeons, each containing a key item – and codified it as the 3D Zelda formula. Similarly, Breath of the Wild has taken the non-linear overworld design of the original Zelda and updated it in a big way. Like Ocarina of Time before it, Breath of the Wild has established a new (and yet deeply traditional) template for the Zelda series and created a rich new vein for future entries to tap.
My hope is that a hypothetical Breath of the Wild sequel will go deeper into a less developed aspect of the current entry – story. Personally, although I enjoy the story in Breath of the Wild, it is rather minimal. A possible sequel with similar gameplay could differentiate itself through a strong, character-driven story closer to Link’s Awakening or Majora’s Mask. I would also like a sequel to dive deeper on the dungeon/shrine front, with more individual character to various locations. Breath of the Wild is a glorious new template with a well of ideas – and I can’t wait to see whatever comes next!
That’s just me though. What would you like to see in a sequel, or the Zelda series in general going forward? A new legend revolving around old favourites like Tingle, Agitha and Error? A Zelda/Rock Band crossover? Ganon Teaches Typing? Tell Nintendo what you want out of the franchise, by dropping us a comment.