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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Look, I'm reviewing the Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailer and it gets an Essential

Our last line of defence will be Link...

That Saxophone!

Guys, I've seen Trailer 3 so many times. I hear YouTubers boast they've watched it more than 10 times and laugh at their rookie numbers. It got to a point where I thought - unironically, straight-faced - that maybe I'd seen it more than anyone else in the world, but I took a break last Monday because it was getting silly. I've watched a film trilogy's worth. Several podcasts' worth (I know this because on the way to work I've been listening to a trailer music rip instead of vulnerable chats broken by mattress sponsorship). I've made at least two non-gaming cousins politely watch it in my car before being dropped off home, but one said it was 'phenomenal' so it's okay. I've pored over its many musical references, watched all the reaction compilations and quiet-cried at them crying. Maybe I'd even cry at videos of them crying at their own crying, like that Bo Burnham thing (make the video guys and let's see!).

Confession: I even downloaded and re-edited (!) the trailer in Premiere because I was Very Concerned that the visual cut to Link on the glider before that music eruption was too early and scuffed the drop. Turns out it's so badass it doesn't really matter. The chest filleth regardless.

My point is I like it. I'm so glad it's so good. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was as excited for the prospect of The Big Trailer as I am for the game proper.

I'm one of those slightly torn Breath of the Wild admirers, a game I adored, then burned out on a bit. And I've spent way too much of my life obsessing over the felt, textural differences to the OG 3D Zelda formula (does its continuous world feel more literal and less strange without the game-y abstraction?! Does its open-air quiet and lack of area music lose some sense of otherness and myth?!).

But I bow to no one in my love of that legendary 2017 Breath of the Wild Nintendo Switch Presentation trailer (You've seen it 20 times? Pah! Welcome to one movie night at mine!). It's a 4-minute magic trick, a timeslip, a miniature epic that feels like Maximum Everything. It has that hush of wave sounds before a fade in to a glittering sea. Mournful music that wordessly tells you that something's been lost from this land, and a camera that constantly moves across landscapes and vistas so it feels like undulations and sweep. That sudden stillness when you see the Master Sword, eternal in an overgrown glade. Then it's action time! And voiceover! A monster in the sky and a squirrel on a log who knows something's up and if you look very closely at the long shot of the tower facing the castle you can see actually see Link standing on it (they bothered!) - facing up to his quest. And then it goes.

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailer 3Watch on YouTube

The way the music kicks up a gear so in-sync with that guardian laser squeal - it feels spinal. And the visual balance! A rock-dodge to the right followed by Link Walrus-surfing to the left (because this is All Over action). Now it's ice-jumping and Hinox-smashing and that trumpet flurry released right on the beat of a slow-mo shield parry - and don't get me started on the Deku Tree bit: The piano build, the outrageous infinity zoom-out from Link on a tower, the '100 years ago!' before a drop of Zimmer-style horns and a colossal robot with purple streaks and I Did Not Know We Were Getting This. It feels tectonic. But! Somehow it's the micro and the macro, splicing cuts to deserts and towns and with an extra long hold on a single Silent Princess flower because this trailer is Everything, Every Size, All At Stake. Then Zelda! And all those tableaux-like scenes of Link and Zelda apart and tense, so it's a game that is also personal and human and now the music almost disappears for that Zelda wail of desperation - only ever watch the Japanese one, it is a wail for the ages - and this shit pierces the soul, man. But from darkness to light!: Rain and tears and a barely-piano cuts to wind and grass and Link on a galloping horse and the sheer justaboutness of a mounted Bokoblin circle-swinging a sword and isn't Zelda basically music and movement at the end of the day?! It was about here that a mate once said 'I'm getting emotional, Bro'. We weren't even at the classic Zelda theme finale yet!

What a banger, what a song of sight and sound. The top-rated comment on the YouTube video is 'Sometimes I come back to this trailer just to feel something'.

Now I'm not sure the Tears of the Kingdom trailer quite has the self-contained elegance of the 2017 one; it's more gameplay and less cutscene and composition, so less of a feeling of a cinematic micro-epic. But boy does it have so much chutzpah and so many What The?! moments. The Orchestral Grandeur now punctuated with warped vocals and a renegade saxophone. But also such a massive feeling of Gameplay Much-ness, pointing towards an adventure you'll feel in the hands and play. And right from its opening, you just know.

You get that cloudscape intro, and a sense of wonder from the first three notes of sax. But also, a sense of confidence from how slow it starts, like the opening lines of an assured performer: safe hands. You can't rush this kind of thing. (It was here I messaged my gaming group with 'already best trailer yet' because you could just tell). Then Link in freefall and we're swooping in and out and around before that title drop chorus: let's go. And now the moments! BotW piano notes on that Ghibli-green grass. Hateno has wrapping and mushrooms. Tents by the fountain at day time (Harking back to 2017's shot, then rainy and patrolled by a guardian). There's a huge stone wheel wedged into the Karst hills around Kakariko, and something's afoot in the desert. A castle rises and now there's the scattered notes of the Hyrule Castle theme. Now there's darkness. Now there's... Demise? His hair like fire and fury. And now there's that shot of Link grasping for Zelda's hand!

And now we're rolling. Too much to see and say! Which is the best bit?! There's laser dodging and spear-swirling and in the music high arpeggios that rise and rise like a kettle shrieking to boil. This trailer boileth over! And then that elevator transition; the sudden shock of the reverse vocals into an evil close-up, and that amazing 808 thud so hard it's physical, so badass I laughed out loud from awesome.

But then there's Zelda saying 'Link' (great hair girl!) and there's an anime-quiver in her pupils. 'Our last line of defence will be Link'. And now more visual balance, because she says it on the left of the screen, and what a reply from the right.

Zelda:Tears of the Kingdom Japanese trailerWatch on YouTube

This is the best bit surely? The cut to Link on the glider and that eruption of choir and sax. Or is it more like a rupture? A cloud-piercing sound like god rays made audible and a Zelda Music all-timer on arrival. Then a sky's-eye-view landscape shot, and not only we are flying high above the realm of Hyrule, we are also in the realm of the Epic Heroic. And then it goes in.

The shield parry call back! The rocket ascend! The space jumps (why is there that horn blare on the second?! Is it an editing leftover or effect or something else?!)! The DIY Robot Wars face-off and that Ruby bow-pull and the reverse-o robotic vocals in the mix! Then a big ol'monster munch and this is where most trailers would finish. Trailers always finish on a big monster thing! But we're not done yet!

Ganondorf (!) and Dramatic Shouting and Darkness Part 2 and some Mononoke arm tentacle-ing and Wait There's More!

Now we're back to heroic brightness and light. The Zelda theme with uplift in the second phrase then the saxophone again (that sax!) with a fist-pumping Age of Calamity melody that sounds a bit like an engine revving into action, and now we're getting teamwork and Sidon and 'You Are Not Alone' and so much more before Zelda clutches the Master Sword and that Blam Blam boom cut to title. And breathe!

Then, three notes of Zelda's Lullaby and a tense in the jaw and a clench in the chest. A sudden childhood Ratatouille woosh for those who've spent a lifetime with Zelda.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Japanese trailer from 2017Watch on YouTube

Does it beat the 2017 one, to become the best game trailer ever? Does it even matter? Now we've got both! These unplayable things that aren't Zelda, but are somehow of it - collapsed and compressed. Music and movement and magic, and themselves now part of the legend: The internet went wild.

I love this - hype as a form of hope. Hype as a form of celebration and appreciation. Of Thanks for all the Zelda, and now there's soon to be one more. A gaming legend nearly back in our orbit, bringing new things to see and do and sometimes to feel.

Guys, it's new Zelda season. Let's. Fucking. Go.