The Legend of Zelda

We had to wait until the end of the conference, but for many the Zelda trailer didn't disappoint. Ever wondered what grown-up Link would look like on the Cube?

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We knew it was meant to be there. But as Nintendo's hugely detailed conference crept into its fortieth minute, we were beginning to wonder if it would actually show up - our cramped legs, in particular, were starting to complain bitterly. But of course it did. It started with a shot racing over valleys and water, before flicking to a shot of giant horse-like creatures and warriors creeping over the fiery horizon to dramatic pangs of music. Then we glimpsed the castle, and saw flashes of somebody galloping past the camera on a horse - and suddenly there he was, and we had our first lingering shot of Link, reunited with his horse Epona and tearing across the front of a horde of enemies.

The camera circled him and it was immediately obvious that Nintendo had abandoned the cel-shading approach that defined The Wind Waker, returning to a more mature look, Ocarina of Time style. Close-ups showed lots of detail around his face and particularly his hair as he raised his sword in preparation. From here the trailer switched to a shot of Link fighting one of the giant boar-like enemies from The Wind Waker in a darkened corridor, deflecting blows with his sword as the light from a nearby fire danced on the blades and illuminated their faces on one side. Switching focus into the open again, the camera showed Link fighting two enemies at once, back-flipping out of their reach, before flicking back to an interior again and demonstrating Link pushing a block; his body arching up against the hard surface before he thrust his arms forward in a mighty surge.

From here the crowd's reaction just went beyond extreme and we thought our ears were going to shatter. It was a mite embarrassing - was this a press conference, or a Backstreet Boys concert? But what was on the screen was undeniably impressive - particularly when we caught sight of Link fighting on horseback, taking a fellow rider clean off a giant boar with his blade before uppercutting another as the sun enveloped him briefly and the reins danced in his hand. "Blades will bleed," the screen proclaimed, before showing Link fighting enemies inside again, the combat system demonstrating a similar sharp-pause-on-impact mechanic and the juggling of enemies.

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"Shields will shatter." Link appeared in a forest next, the dark bows of mighty trees creeping up into the black canopy above, a few flames lighting up his face, and a lot more combat followed, before the trailer switched back to those hordes of enemies sauntering forward under a fiery sky. "But as the light fades... will the hero rise again?" At this point we were shown an enormous boss-like enemy - a sight arguably equivalent to the first shots of the beautifully realised lava boss in one early section of The Wind Waker, only a lot, lot darker. "Or will darkness reign?" a splash screen interjected, as if on cue. More savaging of enemies followed as Link raced past them on horseback, before we saw him fighting up close, the level of detail on both characters astoundingly high. Then the logo flashed up. "Coming soon."

The logo faded, and Link struck a pose with his sword and faded out... to reveal a live shot of Shigeru Miyamoto, who crept on-stage and assumed the same pose with his own Master Sword and shield. He swung the blade around for a while, lapping up the crowd's unbridled adoration, a huge grin plastered on his face and sound effects playing to match his swinging blade. It was a pre-planned spectacle, and the endless cheering wasn't particularly professional, but it was still embarrassingly infectious. "We are now taking you to a world where Link has grown up," he told the crowd, "a world where he will act different. In order to grow, Link must not stand still. And neither can I. So thank you, and goodbye!" By the time he left the stage, memories of last year's disappointing spectacle and painfully scripted jokes with Will Wright and co. were long forgotten.

As for the game - we hope to see more of it at the show, but regardless of whether or not we do, it was arguably symptomatic of the overriding theme at Nintendo's presentation - showing us what we wanted to see. DS had every feature we could possibly desire in a handheld, arguably delivering Nintendo's obsession with connectivity in a single device. The Cube had Advance Wars, Metroid, Star Fox and plenty more. The GBA even had its fair share of interesting titles, most notably Donkey Kong: King of Swing and the new Zelda title, The Minish Cup. As for The Legend of Zelda on the Cube - we all hoped to see a return to the series' most significant achievement in 3D, and that's what we got. We only hope that in returning to these former values, Nintendo doesn't resort to rehashing in order to win approval - although judging by the innovation-centric tone of the rest of the conference, that's about as likely as another Virtual Boy...

The Legend of Zelda is due out in 2005. Watch the entire Nintendo press conference for yourself, including the entire Zelda trailer and Miyamoto's crowd-pleasing appearance, by downloading the video for free from Eurofiles.

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