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Game Profile
GENRE: Adventure
March 25, 2003
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

More in this Series
 Written by Ilan Mejer  on October 10, 2002

First Impressions: Link's latest epic is sparked by the kidnapping of his beloved sister, Arilla, at the hands of the avian agent of an unknown antagonist.

Link now has a family, one that has been sundered for some unknown reason. Presumably, and if you allow the multi-generational theory of the Zelda storyline, this is not the same Link that starred in the Nintendo 64 games. The Legend of Zelda games, primarily the last four or five, have featured increasingly epic stories that meshed, despite the disjointed, chaotic manner in which has been presented over the years. Admittedly, details of Legend of Zelda GameCube's story are scarce. Indeed, even the game's official subtitle has not yet been revealed. Presumably, these seemingly inauspicious beginnings will give way to a well-developed, relevant story. As best we can tell, this adventure begins on an island village inhabited by Link, his sister Arilla, and their grandmother, amongst others. Link, a ten-year old Hylian elven boy, will begin this quest when a strange bird, possibly under the command of another, abducts his sister and flies off the island.

It has been over two years since Link's last console adventure. Majora's Mask was not exactly the game everyone expected it to be, for better or for worse depending on where you stand on the game. Much like each new entry to the Legend of Zelda franchise, the newest GameCube iteration is looking to reinvent the Zelda experience once again, though this time perhaps more on a technological and world building level. The core gameplay of Legend of Zelda GCN is based directly off of the Ocarina of Time. The only true control changes concern the mapping of the Z-Trigger lock on function to the L shoulder button and the retooling of the main four buttons. Now instead of having the 3 C buttons designated for miscellaneous tools, you have only two, the X and Y buttons. B and the R shoulder trigger are both distinct context-sensitive buttons, and with A, you will wield the blade that Link is currently equipped with.

In combat, Link will once again attack and defend with the A and R buttons respectively. He will also be able to perform his rolls, flips, and expected evasions just like before. However, it seems that the context sensitive B button will be implemented in combat as an offensive/defensive counter attack of sorts. Demonstrated by videos captured from the playable builds of the games during Zelda's various appearances, it seems that during combat, a B button symbol will flash in the upper right hand corner of the screen, near your sword A button icon. Presumably, the player will then have to hit the B button before it disappears from the screen. As the videos demonstrate, this seems to result in Link avoiding an attack by leaping into the air, flipping head over heels, and slashing at his opponent's head before landing behind him, ready to resume the fight. This new feature looks very slick and should compliment the combat system. It also bears mentioning that runs much faster and features more simultaneous enemies than ever before in a 3D Zelda adventure.

A new dynamic to the classic exploration and puzzle solving gameplay has been introduced to the franchise. Legend of Zelda now features a stealth element. While it won't provide a Metal Gear Zelda experience, hopefully it will be integrated seamlessly into the game's mechanics. The stealth gameplay seems to revolve around shadow and light, and according to released screenshots, will allow Link to hug wall surfaces, crawl low to the ground, and even peek around corners inconspicuously. It is currently unclear whether these new moves can only be executed during specific game sequences, or at anytime, though recent screens suggest the latter.

Another new, and potentially game-defining addition is Link's ability to temporarily equip the weapons of fallen foes. In demo form, Shigeru Miyamoto proudly displayed this feature in an example dungeon. After defeating a group of cavern-dwelling Moblins, Link was able to pick up two of their weapons, a wooden club, and a scimitar-like sword much heavier than his own. Link could only pick up one weapon at a time, it seemed, though both had their uses. In the demonstration, a scimitar-toting Link was shown, struggling to swing the new weapon against enemies. Its true value, however, became apparent when the Nintendo rep smashed through a barrier of thick wooden beams that blocked a door, a barrier, which Link's normal sword could not scratch. Anyone familiar with OoT's Deku Sticks could easily understand the uses of the wooden club, which doubled as a flaming brand when lit by a nearby torch. Knowing Nintendo, this concept will be appropriately expanded and utilized throughout the game, adding a very new aspect to the dungeon puzzle solving which has always been a hallmark of the Zelda franchise.

Graphically, the game is extremely impressive. Nintendo developed an entirely new artistic drive for designing Link's newest world and features cel-shading as its watermark. Those developers who have successfully implemented cel-shaded graphics in their games simply painted their games with this technology. Nintendo is using cel-shading to create their entire game world, from a gameplay as well as a visual standpoint. The game's artistic design is a far cry from the GameCube technology demo that Nintendo showed off during Spaceworld 2000. Using cel-shading as a valid excuse, Nintendo has essentially dropped the impressive realistic world building of the Nintendo 64 games and has reverted to the surreal, cartoon-like imagery of perhaps the greatest game in the series, A Link to the Past. The result is a game world that is flowered by images that bring to mind the 16-bit Super Nintendo classic, a world that is brought to life by an unparalleled amount of detail and animation.

As if that was not sufficient, Nintendo has applied an awe-inspiring lighting and particle system to the graphics engine. The glowing lights and cast shadows lend the game a very palpable, moody atmosphere. Knowing Shigeru Miyamoto, this will extend beyond the purely cinematic. The particle effects in the game abound, brought to life with the same highly stylized vision that dominates the rest of the game's visual package. For example, weapons clash and collide with enemies in a brilliant display of orange and yellow lighting effects, and vanquished enemies collapse into a beautiful explosion of light and unbelievably animated black smoke. This smoke explodes out and curls back into itself in a simply mesmerizing display, particularly when combined with the dynamic lighting that compliments it. Link will react in a manner appropriate with any given situation, thanks to his well-defined and well-animated face. His eyes will follow objects of note as he passes them by. His face will express the emotions that the designers at EAD feel he should be experiencing at any given moment. The animation is very fluid, very stylized, yet still convincing and relevant. On top of it all, the lighting, and more importantly, the shadows that fly across Link's face during the more cinematic moments are simply marvelous, adding a new cinematic dimension to such sequences.

The Legend of Zelda series, from its Super Nintendo outing onward, has featured a collection of mini-games to enjoy, some for fun, some story-required, and some simply to hone your skills. Ocarina of Time features perhaps the two greatest mini-games ever, the detailed fishing game and the highly addictive horseback archery game. While we know of only one so far on the GameCube, it looks like it will double as an integral mode of transportation as well! Legend of Zelda GameCube will allow Link to embark a one-man sailing raft, very similar to the one depicted in the opening cinematic of the Gameboy classic, Link's Awakening. Seemingly, this personal sailboat will afford Link the opportunity to travel to new lands, as the world seems to be comprised mostly of islands, not the typical Hyrulean continent we are used to. However, the sailboat was only available in recent demos as a mini-game, which had Link navigating an enclosed area of the ocean in an attempt to ramp off barrels in order to collect rupees dangling in midair, off the water's surface. This is very similar to the manner with which Nintendo showed off Ocarina of Time's horse, Epona before that game's release.

As is the recent trend with new GameCube software, the Legend of Zelda GameCube will include the ability to interact with a properly connected Gameboy Advance. Though it is unlikely that it will share data with the up and coming A Link to the Past GBA remake, GBA owners will be able to download a temporary, memory resident program to the GBA's system memory. This program will depict an expanded version of the 2D map of the surroundings that Link is currently exploring in the GameCube game, a map similar to the one depicted on the lower right hand corner of the TV screen. On this GBA map, players will be able to control Tingle, the demented fairy-wannabe from Majora's Mask (and the Oracle GBC games) and will interact with the GameCube's game world. While it is still unclear exactly what the uses of such a feature are, we do know that gamers will be able to control Tingle independent of Link, though presumably he will have to stay within the same map that Link currently explores. We do know that Tingle will have access to special bombs and will be able to fling them at foes, helping Link out in combat.

Unsurprisingly, we know next to nothing about Zelda GameCube's story, characters, or how the game pertains to the rest of the series. The game's debut last year turned heads and generally caused a public outcry. Many people apparently took ill with the game's drastic change from a realistic successor to the beloved Nintendo 64 game, to what resembles a cartoon-y 3D spiritual sequel to the Super Nintendo game. The insofar-lacking story, when combined with a youthful, expressive, and animated protagonist threatens to destroy the image of a stoic hero involved in historical and mythical goings-on. Where is the orphan of unknown descent, heir to the extinguished Hylian blood, who is plagued by nightmares, experiences evil visions, privy to psychic communion with Hyrule's nobility and magical creatures, and whose meddling caused the devastating Imprisoning Wars? Where is the hero whose fate it was to uncover the ancient Master Sword, open the gates of Time, reunite the shattered Triforce, thwart Ganondorf Mandorag, banish the demonic Ganon, and restore both the Sacred Realm and Hyrule to beauty, peace, and purity? While we cannot say for sure that Link's newest quest will fail to cover these issues with any relevance, many have assumed just that because of the game's dramatic graphical shift. Perhaps, in just the way that the widespread concerns that a Zelda game could not be accomplished in three dimensions were abolished by the advent of Ocarina of Time, the Legend of Zelda GameCube will establish that cel-shading graphical technology and the search of a kidnapped sister do not automatically exclude unparalleled gameplay and epic storytelling.

Final Thoughts
Perhaps in much the same way that Super Mario Sunshine represented an evolution of the gameplay established in its equally 3D predecessor, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda GameCube will simply extend the gameplay experience developed for the Ocarina of Time into a new story. However, many thought that Majora's Mask was to accomplish this exact goal, and that game turned out to be the most unique Zelda game since the Adventure of Link on the 8-bit NES, despite using the same game engine as its predecessor. I would like to think that the new Legend of Zelda would ultimately provide more than a cartoon-y Ocarina of Time experience. I would also like to think Disney-like graphics and animation do not inherently imply a sacrifice to the epic storytelling and brilliant exploration and intelligent puzzle design that the franchise if famous for. Slated for a December 13 release in Japan, American gamers will have all of these questions, and more, answered when the Legend of Zelda for the Ga

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