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E3 2002: Hands on with Zelda

'We have all the little detail's about IGN's test drive with The Legend of Zelda

May 22, 2002: e3- (IGN)"This morning IGNcube blitzed Nintendo's massive E3 booth to check out the playable software, and it was only natural that one of our first play picks was Legend of Zelda. Previously, our only chance to gauge our first-impressions by was when its creator Shigeru Miyamoto walked us through a portion of one level. Following are first hands-on impressions from IGNcube editor Fran Mirabella.


Legend of Zelda has seen a lot of changes since its inception nearly two decades ago. It started on the NES as a top-down adventure that later saw it fit to inject the debatable 2D side-scrolling elements. Its debut on the SNES was nothing short of stunning, and is still regarded as one of the best 2D games ever created. On the N64 it made the large leap into 3D and changed how designers thought about creating 3D games forever. Certainly, Zelda is always on the cutting edge of technology and game innovation, so when I walked into Nintendo's Dolby Pro-Logic II certified screening room, I was shaking with anticipation. I've loved Zelda since the moment I laid eyes on the gold NES cart. I had heard about how great it was, but when my friends and I finally played it we saw for ourselves what made it so wonderful. It's charm, its lighthearted, yet occasionally dramatic themes, and its polished design all fit together perfectly.

So, to say that I expected the new Legend of Zelda to be nothing short of spectacular going into it, could even be an understatement. Nintendo was demonstrating five areas of the game -- dungeon, boss, stealth, exploring, and a sailboat mini-game. So, why don't we break each of these levels down a bit?

Something to Consider
Before we get started on the level breakdowns, let me talk generally about the new Zelda. I've always been a firm supporter of the cel-shading, even if the design of young Link bothered me. I know at its surface it was going to be very cartooney, but underneath some of the best gameplay design would be there. Now that I've seen the cel-shading first-hand, I can safely say it works very nicely. Granted, seeing the rather foppish Link with his underdeveloped screams and grunts in combination with the vibrant, cartoon-esque world felt odd at first. It wasn't the same as Ocarina of Time where I was appreciating sunsets thanks to great lighting and the realism of things like haze. Instead, I was more impressed with how much it looked like a cartoon. I'm not talking about a Saturday morning cartoon either. Legend of Zelda on GameCube is hand-drawn art in motion. And, looking back on the incredibly vibrant worlds of Link to the Past, I think it just fits. Link has always mixed lightheartedness with seriousness, and this is still there. I'm completely over any apprehensions I had about the cel-shading. The art design is awesome and it feels very much like Zelda.

Hmm, we didn't see those blue eyes in the E3 version.

Also -- and this is a spoiler of sorts as to the story, but only barely -- but Link's sister is named Arilla. Apparently someone kidnapped her and Link is on his way to find her. Hmm? How does he find out he has another? Did Saria tell him, "There is another"?

This was the level that Miyamoto chose to display at Nintendo's press conference yesterday. It had the basic formula for dungeons you've played in the past. You kill all the enemies in rooms to open doors, light torches to reveal treasure chests, and all that other good stuff. What's new to Zelda on GameCube is that you can now pick up items that enemies drop. In this demo level Link had to pick up a wooden staff to use for lighting torches, only later to drop it so he could fight with his sword. Larger enemies had larger swords, and the pint-sized Link could still use them. However, he was limited in his ability to attack in that it was harder for him to swing the sword. It was later used to break through a tougher wooden doorway, one that his smaller blade couldn't pierce.

In this level we faced off against the next evolution of Ghoma. The truly gigantic boss surged out from a lava pool, dripping hot magma from his claws and bug-like skeleton as he rose high above Link. But, I wasn't intimidated by him. I'd defeated more frightening Zelda foes in the past. Then he started to follow me with his cursed eye, watching my every move as I attempted to study him. The next thing I knew, he slammed his sharp claws into the ground in front of me and knocked me back. Here we began to see evidences that Zelda was still early. The camera got lost in a jumble of smoke and cel-shaded polygons. Later he blew a stream of fire at me, again knocking me back. Still, the camera just wasn't positioned quite right. I ended up walking into the lava. There's a free mode camera that you can set with the C-stick -- zooming with up and down and panning 360 degrees with left and right, but it seems that it'd be useful only in certain situations. It takes far too much maintenance to use in a heated battle or in any area with ledges, for instance. The lock-on mechanism, activated by holding down the L-trigger, is still the best way to get the perfect viewpoint. I locked onto the beast's eye and had much better success following him around and even attempting to stab its eye, which quickly proved unsuccessfully as the creature blinked to shield the hit.

Use the R-trigger to lean into this.

At that point I realized there was something else that needed to be done. I looked around from a first-person perspective by using the Z-button, and noticed something hanging from the ceiling. A pointed at it with my hookshot and found that I would be able to latch onto it when the beast wasn't in the way of it. The next time he slammed to the ground in front of me, I fired the hook and, as expected, latched onto it and found myself swinging high above the creature. I detached and set myself on some wooden planks that were attached on the edges of the cave. As I did this, a brief cut-scene interrupted the action to let me know that I had just swung on a dragon's tail, which was apparently poking through the top of the mountain. The land beneath him crumbled and he fell onto the creature. Again, like Ghoma it became stunned by the powerful whack to the head. This was the time when you could attack its eye. It's predictable enough, but very fun to play. It's so much like Ocarina of Time, and that's not a bad thing.

This is definitely an upgraded Gerudo Fortress. You dock on an Alcatraz like island where you have to stay out of the spotlights of the local enforcement. Instead of running around to dodge the lights, you can instead pick up a barrel and slowly make your way across to the entrance of the fortress by hiding underneath it when the spotlight nears. It's very cool. When you get into the fortress, you have to use similar methods to avoid guards. Unfortunately, I got caught and thrown in jail. Of course, Link can escape the prison by crawling through a small opening -- obviously the place was for adult thieves.

Exploration and Training
I only got a brief hands-on with a small village level. It sits at the waters edge, and after slashing through a few crabs I entered into someone's house. As it turned out this was a training house where I could brush up on my combat skills. It was very similar to what we saw in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, but there was much more humor. The instructor, a sensei of sorts, would teach you moves commenting, "Be more aggressive! Try harder." If you did something wrong, he'd actually smack you down and hit you to the floor. It was very amusing and garnered laughs from the crowd observing it.

Sailboat Mini-game
Nintendo wanted to show of its new sailing gameplay with one of the mini-games. You start off inside the boat and press the R-trigger to raise your sail. Once raised you can steer with the analog stick and take sharper turns by holding the L-trigger. There were barrels with rupies floating above you that you had to collect.

Sialing is very cool.

Some of the rupies were placed higher above barrels and you would have to press the R-trigger, after the sail is raised, to jump. It took some timing and was very fun. It's safe to say that this will be the next "fishing" type mini-game, and hopefully an integral part of your explorating. Speaking of which, we want fishing to return along side it! Why not have an area you could explore and even sail out into the sea to fish?

Final Thoughts
Legend of Zelda is shaping up to be every bit of good as Ocarina of Time, but certainly not a leap beyond it. The cel-shading is beautiful and surprisingly fitting for the gameplay, though its lightheartedness can be a bit overbearing at times. Still, this new GameCube adventure is going to rock, but I don't think it's going to be doing that until the end of 2003, despite Nintendo's claims it will launch this year.

It needs a lot more polish in the way of camera and design. If Miyamoto rushes it, he may regret it later. Nonetheless, the freedom to explore, the tight fighting mechanics, and ability to bring a cartoon into the interactive realm are superb. This is going to be another brilliant Zelda game. But, it's not going to be a revolution like we saw with Ocarina of Time. It's going to be great for its own reasons and will probably be remembered for the stunningly detailed cel-shading.

More soon.'"

We only wish we could be at E3 to give our opinion's, but were not, but it sure sounds good!

When we learn more about Zelda, so will you!



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