The launch of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2017 was more than just another addition to the beloved franchise; it was a transformative moment that promised to redefine the contours of the Zelda universe. Known for its expansive open-world environment, Breath of the Wild introduced a fresh perspective to the series, providing a stark contrast to the more structured iterations that preceded it.
Historically, the 3D Zelda games have stuck to a tried and true formula, established by the iconic Ocarina of Time. Subsequent titles such as The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword introduced variations to this formula, yet there remained an undeniable sense of familiarity in their structure. However, Breath of the Wild shattered this mold, offering players a sense of exploration and levels of freedom unseen before in the Zelda series.
In a recent interview with Game Informer, Eiji Aonuma, the veteran producer behind numerous Zelda titles, reaffirmed this shift towards open-world experiences. According to Aonuma, while Ocarina of Time laid down a set formula for Zelda games, Breath of the Wild has rewritten the rules, creating a new paradigm for future entries in the franchise.
"With Ocarina of Time, I think it's correct to say that it did kind of create a format for a number of titles in the franchise that came after it. But in some ways, that was a little bit restricting for us. While we always aim to give the player freedoms of certain kinds, there were certain things that format didn't really afford in giving people freedom.
"Of course, the series continued to evolve after Ocarina of Time, but I think it's also fair to say now that we've arrived at Breath of the Wild and the new type of more open play and freedom that it affords. Yeah, I think it's correct to say that it has created a new kind of format for the series to proceed from."
Aonuma's statement indicates that the teams at Nintendo are keen on embracing this open-world approach in upcoming Zelda games. This evolution aligns with the wider trend in the gaming industry, where open-world games have grown increasingly popular due to their ability to offer immersive, non-linear gaming experiences.
The recently released Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK) is a testament to this open-world emphasis, offering players a dynamic, expansive universe ripe for exploration. As with Breath of the Wild, TotK diverges from the traditional linear storyline, granting players the freedom to explore, interact, and engage with the game world at their own pace.
While this shift in design philosophy represents a significant departure from the series' roots, it also promises to breathe new life into the franchise. By embracing open-world experiences, the creators of Zelda are pushing the boundaries of the franchise, offering players new and exciting ways to engage with the games they love.
While awaiting future Zelda titles, one thing is clear: the Zelda universe is set to expand in new and exciting ways. As open-world experiences become the new standard for the franchise, fans can look forward to a future filled with limitless exploration, adventure, and discovery.