"Our mission in developing this new Zelda game for Wii U is quite plainly to rethink the conventions of Zelda," said Eiji Aonuma, Zelda series director and Breath of the Wild producer, back in 2013. That was just two months after the Wii U's disastrous launch and a year after the release of the divisive Skyward Sword. No one had a single reason to believe he was serious. When the game was later shown in brief trailers and snippets over the past three and a half years, it still just looked like a Zelda game. Beautiful, no doubt, but of a piece with every game Aonuma's team has produced since Ocarina of Time. Against all odds, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild proved itself an impressive and titillating break from series mores.
In just 40 playable minutes, Breath of the Wild felt mysterious, dangerous, and yes, wild. Wii U and Nintendo NX's Hyrule is the opposite of Skyward Sword's: sprawling, seamless, and accommodating of whatever you want to do. Want to wander around messing up Bokoblin barbecues? Do it. Want to chop down trees until you've made an impromptu bridge over a freezing river? Have at it. And if you want to find out what made Hyrule a barren natural landscape full of ruins and hungry animals, the story is yours to unfold rather than a leash dragging you through the game's sights and sounds. Virtual Reality, high end PlayStation 4 games, the potential of Xbox Scorpio; these glimpses of the future tantalized us at E3 but nothing made us want to explore that future like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.