E3 2016 has come to its conclusion, but the talk of the town for the show floor was Nintendo’s victory with their exhibit. With Sony demonstrating strong game focuses at their PlayStation showcase Monday evening, everyone’s eyes were on Nintendo for something, that their new Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be incredible.
We had no idea that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be the most talked about game on the show, beating Battlefield 1 by a large margin. It all started with Nintendo Treehouse: Live which took place Tuesday morning with a huge start on Zelda. Following that was about fifty minutes for Pokémon Sun and Moon. Once that passed, Eiji Aonuma took the stage and demonstrated some new game play, but given my presence in Los Angeles, I didn’t catch all of it. My first look was the Zelda exhibit; well, what I could see of it anyway from outside.
Let’s start with the insane line that was forming to play through Link’s Hyrule romp. Four minutes into the show opening on Tuesday, the queue extended with approximately one thousand waiting in line. About forty minutes into opening, the line was closed off for the day. The line snaked all around the Los Angeles Convention Center’s West Hall, towards the very back, and wrapped around the exhibit several times. Did I also mention there was a second line with hour-long waits just to view the exhibit? Yep, that’s right. People were content waiting for an hour or so just to look at the exhibit with no game play. People were waiting just to take some pictures with the exhibit.
The exhibit itself was surrounded by a white wall lit by LEDs, and featuring a painted Link aiming his bow. Treehouse: Live was streaming right around the corner, with the entrance to the exhibit a little further down. For the fans waiting in the long queues, getting in was only half the treat. It’s like a Disneyland ride, only ten times more popular. They even had a “FastPass” system involved, which allowed some gamers to return at designated time slots to re-enter the queue and enjoy the show.
I got real lucky on Tuesday evening and in the last hour before the show floor closed for the day, a Nintendo representative had a few tickets leftover and I was able to join the line right there for game play. The exhibit begins with players entering to a small theater, with twenty cushions in orderly clusters welcoming them inside for a viewing of the Treehouse unveiled trailer, only on a huge screen. Cue lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” for big moments and reveals. For instance, wait, Link can jump? He also can cook for himself now, cut down trees, and do other RPG-like things.
The three-minute trailer passed, and the screen, no joke, retreated upward as a door, and revealed a pathway into the exhibit itself. These details make me wonder just how much cash Nintendo poured into that exhibit, because it was by no means cheap. The level of detail is immaculate. The floor hosted 140 demo stations, but throughout the floor were various items related to Breath of the Wild.
On the floor itself was real grass. Trees were populating the exhibit, and the lighting in the exhibit changed to symbolize day and night cycles as well as stormy conditions. There were treasure boxes, crates to sit on, cooking pits that actually had aromas of food (like steak!), and noises of nature near the plant life. The Bokoblin was pretty difficult to miss, and there was a great statue of Link with his bow aiming at the Octorok machine. Above the floor was the coveted VIP area, where select members of the industry and media were allowed to play the game and potentially meet individuals like Shigeru Miyamoto or Eiji Aonuma.
The demo booths themselves were lined with Nintendo representatives eager to help players experience the game play, with some minor tips or tricks (or ways to die…) on how to survive. Playing the first demo was more of a free exploration; the second demo was story based. Players who completed both demos had their ticket stamped twice with the eye of the Sheikah tribe, and could proceed to the counter and exchange it for a premium T-shirt and a metal coin. For the following days, lots of that blue T-shirt were visible as a token of pride for braving the line durations.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was easily the most talked about game at the show. Running around all day, all I heard was fans clamoring about whether or not they tried Zelda. Admittedly, even for me, when Nintendo first announced their plans, I was mortified. How could they entertain thousands of gamers with only one exhibit? With the game being Zelda, followed by some delays in launching and it being the only real foreseeable title for future, the queues showed just how much Nintendo knew what they were doing. The game was given so much buzz on social media that during E3 week it was next to impossible to avoid. For some fans, though, with its limited story interaction, it may not be the game for them. One thing that can be said, though, is that the booth was something magical, and shows brightness for their future.