Gaming

How Breath of the Wild 2 could change the Zelda series forever

Could this be the most convention-shattering entry yet?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 is expected to grace our Nintendo Switch screens sometime in 2021 or 2022, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about Nintendo’s next major entry in its headlining RPG franchise. With days to go until the hardware maker’s big E3 2021 Direct on June 15, we thought it’d be fun to bust out the tinfoil hats to explain our latest theory about the upcoming game. In our estimation, Link's next open-world adventure might just turn the series’ established formula upside down.

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Serious Stranger Things vibes

One of the first aspects fans noticed about Breath of the Wild 2’s E3 2019 teaser is that it’s atmosphere was very different from the serene sights and sounds of the Great Plateau that signaled our first foray into Link’s modern era. While a brief shot of the traditional Breath of the Wild landscape is shown in the teaser’s closing seconds, the clip mostly focuses on the dark caverns concealed underneath. Link and Zelda have seemingly gone underground to confront a new enemy believed to be the source of the calamity caused in the previous entry.

Breath of the Wild 2 may have one of the series’ darkest and most dangerous villains yet.Nintendo

One look at these caverns, and we couldn’t help but feel like we were stepping into Zelda’s version of the Upside Down from Stranger Things. Not only are these tunnels emblematic of that dank, wet environment fans of the Netflix series may remember, but it’s also home to a mythical monster of untold power and terror. If that parallel’s not enough for you, the closing seconds of the teaser also feature a heartbeat sound, suggesting this previously untapped sanctum is the nefarious center of an otherwise peaceful place. Literally and figuratively, the Breath of the Wild we know merely scratched the surface of the horrors hiding below.

Not since Majora’s Mask or Link to the Past has the Legend of Zelda taken on an atmosphere quite so bleak, which makes this upcoming title the perfect opportunity to break from the series’ established conventions. The first Breath of the Wild introduced a gameplay formula we’d never seen before, but now that that foundation has been constructed, Nintendo’s developers can turn The Legend of Zelda upside down in more substantial ways. This freaky, more mature setup for the game is just one sign a shift may be coming.

What do we know about the soundtrack?

Aside from its unquestionably dark themes, we also found it impossible to ignore the teaser's strange but clearly intentional music selection as well. Its haunting voices clearly sound altered and likely reversed, with many fans theorizing the distorted tune could be a backwards version of Zant’s theme from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Could that darkness-infused baddie be back for another round in this sequel? Especially considering a remaster of Twilight Princess is currently available on Switch, we wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

Regardless of which villain players encounter, we believe this atypical soundtrack serves as yet another sign that Breath of the Wild 2 might somehow morph or transform the first game as we know it, much in the way the Majora’s Mask remixed Ocarina of Time to create something fresh, weird, and wild. Nintendo has confirmed Breath of the Wild 2 will feature most of the map from the first game, but it could still be repurposed to offer an entirely different experience. The mixed up tones in the teaser imply as much.

Will Zelda be playable?

One of the most heavily discussed ways in which Breath of the Wild 2 could potentially shatter The Legend of Zelda lore as fans know it is by introducing Zelda as a playable character for the first time in mainline series history. And, there’s one significant hint that suggests this history-making moment may finally be here.

In the absence of detailed gameplay footage, most allusions to this possibility derive from Zelda’s shortened hairstyle. In both form and function, it's hard to ignore that Hollywood and the games industry alike have set up the expectation that females with shorter hair are primed for more prominent physical roles.

Will Breath of the Wild 2 mark the first time players can take control of Zelda in a mainline series game?Nintendo

This is the first time in the series’ 35-year stint that Zelda has sported short hair, which symbolically suggests there’s a moment of change for her as a character. Could that moment be that she’s actively involved in stifling Ganondorf’s plans and potentially rescuing Link himself? Without her long locks to potentially be grabbed by all manner of devious monsters, she’s more prepared to handle those sorts of threats. Much like how Clemamntine’s haircut in Telltale’s The Walking Dead welcomed her to a horrific new world, Zelda might finally be leaving her sheltered past behind as well. If we believe Breath of the Wild 2 is a game focused on change, making Zelda playable would be the best way to turn the franchise’s narrative upside down.

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