This article was originally featured in Issue #1 of META GEAR FILE, which you can download for free right here.
Details are currently scant for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, which is good. It means less feedback from the community, which means less chance of muddying the concept. I’ve recently enjoyed replaying the original, and it reminded me of how many things BOTW did right. This time I used a much more head-on and aggressive approach than the first time I played it, and I realized that despite being a big sandbox world with physics and trickery, it functions just as well as a hero simulator. So with that experience and the (true) ending fresh on my mind, let me explain what I want for the upcoming sequel.
The first thing I’d like is a change of tone, which is pretty much confirmed already. The original game was subdued, understated, and oddball. As a huge fan of Link to the Past for the SNES, this isn’t my fantasy of what a Zelda game should be. In BOTW I felt that the music especially was lacking for a grand adventure. The garbled, non-melodic action music for most battles did nothing for me. However, this time I really took note of Hyrule Castle itself, and how its soundtrack finally gives Zelda fans what they’ve wanted the whole time. It finally feels like you’re living up to the legend and confronting the heart of evil. They reward you with one of the best renditions of the Zelda adventure song you could ask for, to the point where I left the castle and went back into the wild with a new desire to return. I missed that heroic tone. I started to feel “I should go back, that’s where my destiny is.” Hyrule Castle is where you remember that you are Link, the hero of the franchise. This gives me hope for the sequel.
My bigger gripe with the original, however, was about the quality of NPC writing, which felt way too full of modern Japanese clichés for what is fundamentally a western fairy tale world. Giving personalities to NPCs is great, but it seems like Nintendo is addicted to splashing in “quirk” where it’s not needed. Having fat MILF fairy goddesses who lust after Link, or a stereotypically homosexual architect trying to teach Link a stupid new dance for no reason shows that the developers were getting bored with their own world, and forgetting the value of “timeless” design. Nintendo properties like Zelda and Mario should always stick to straight-faced heroism and adventure, and play into the stereotypes we already know and love. Super Mario RPG was a glorious example of Square expanding the tiny conception of the Mushroom Kingdom with aplomb, turning every race into its own subculture and constantly reinforcing—not subverting—player expectations. If BOTW2 can ditch the eccentricities and stick to an earnest tone, it will be all the more satisfying.
The underworld featured in the short teaser trailer for BOTW (here) suggests a lot of tunnels and caverns, with a dark and lonely tone, obviously beneath Hyrule Castle. The last game explained that there was a deep underground system where all the ancient technology was buried, so it’s clear they were already hinting at going subterranean in the first game. That’s a good sign. I assume the whole game will take on a more Twilight Princess sort of tone as a result, where you can switch to a spooky dark dimension at will to fight hidden threats and solve puzzles that most people can’t see. Twilight Princess was the second highest selling Zelda installment before BOTW came out, so Nintendo has a big motivation to revive it. If BOTW was their callback to Ocarina of Time, BOTW2 will probably be a callback to Twilight Princess. I’m okay with that.
I’m also okay with the idea that we play as Zelda instead of Link. BOTW’s true ending, when you collect all the memories, paints a picture that she was the main character the whole time, and was meant to be leading the way. Link is just her bodyguard, and that’s what he remains after saving her. In this trailer Zelda has short hair, a cape, and is taking care of herself and her beast of burden. We see a moment where Link and Zelda are separated, however, when the ground beneath her feet collapses. That’s when Link reaches out to grab her hand, and does so at first, but this doesn’t seem to last long because his right hand becomes possessed in the trailer, glowing brightly. He’s seemingly taken over. The same ghostly arm is seen grabbing the chest of Ganondorf (or whoever the central evil dude is they find in the underworld) and I can only assume this means Link is going to be fighting off possession the whole game, while you carry on as Zelda and try to find a way to cure him.
If Zelda is the playable character, it would explain why you start weak, and why you wouldn’t have access to all of the hearts, stamina, and abilities that Link did. You could explore the same world again as a different character and it would feel fresh. If you combined this with the “dark world mode” of Twilight Princess, you could revisit all the old locations with new twists. And since the castle and the ground around it will be lifted up into the sky—as seen toward the end of the teaser—you’d have a central area that is very different and probably leads to an underground series of dungeons. That’s right, proper dungeons. I’m expecting to see full-scale dungeons leading deep underground, rather than little trials scattered everywhere. Zelda will have Goddess Hylia powers of some kind, and these will be steadily awakened to fight the darkness. Maybe a kind of flashlight to banish the encroaching darkness, a weapon of light, etc. At the very end of BOTW she bestows the Bow of Light (or whatever it was called) to Link, so she definitely has the power to create weapons of pure radiance when she’s at max power.
All of this is welcome, but it could be ruined if they don’t add a heaping variety of enemy types beyond shadow monsters, creepy insects, and freaks. The Yiga Clan was a good start towards building human enemies with interesting powers, but I want to see a more worthy assortment of foes that come out to play. Bokoblins, Moblins, and Lizfalos got tiresome by the end of the first game, and now I want cool enemies like corrupt knights, wizards, and warriors. Make them zombified if you have to, in order to explain why they don’t behave like normal humans from day to day, I don’t care. Maybe Zelda can’t wear armor and carry heavy weapons like Link did, so they don’t have to worry about the concept of looting the badguys as much.
Lastly, I wouldn’t mind some kind of pocket companion or central gimmick, but the Sheikah Slate proved its worth by simply being a utility, not an obnoxious side character. If Zelda ends up being able to command other creatures, summon things, or manipulate her environment in new ways, I’ll be more than happy.
What do you want to see in BOTW2? Is there something I’m missing? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org