I Played the Yet-Unreleased Nintendo Switch for 20 Minutes and Here's What Happened
It was a thrilling day overall—I'd just taken part in a huge multi-team Zelda-themed puzzle room—but the highlight just might have been getting to play the Switch's most highly anticipated launch title. It definitely didn't disappoint.
If you're not familiar with The Legend of Zelda series, the games follow a hero called Link who typically dons a green tunic to save a princess named Zelda from evil forces. In most games, you encounter a Link and Zelda you've never met before as they face off against new villains.
The new game is particularly important because it's the first Zelda on a console since 2011's Skyward Sword on the Wii. Also, it's one of the first games that will showcase what the new Nintendo Switch is fully capable of doing.
I started the gameplay like I would on a traditional console, with Breath of the Wild's stunning cel-shaded visuals appearing on a large screen while I used the very traditional-looking Nintendo Switch Pro controller.
The game begins with the hero, Link, suspended in a pool of glowing liquid within a dark cave. A disembodied voice resurrects him from a 100-year sleep. The player controls Link as he wakes, steering him toward an important in-game item called the Sheikah Slate (which somewhat resembles the Nintendo Switch itself).
Through the next room, a new Zelda mechanic is introduced—and it's clothes. Link equips a raggedy old shirt and pair of trousers, which seem to give him a tiny bit of protection from the elements.
In the past, Link has been able to wear a red tunic that would protect him in volcanos or a blue one that would allow him to breathe underwater, but that was pretty much it. It looks like wearing appropriate outfits for various situations, whether they're saving you from weather or baddies, will play a much bigger role in this game.
As I traipsed around the inside of the cave, I noticed a couple of things that differentiate it from other Zelda games. For one, Link can jump! Oddly, a jump button has been missing from every 3D Zelda game since the first one, Ocarina of Time, released in 1998, so it will be interesting to see how jumping comes into play.
Secondly, the stamina mechanic from Skyward Sword is back, meaning Link can only run, climb or swim for a limited amount of time before he gets too fatigued to continue. I know a lot of people who weren't a fan of Link's stamina meter, so we'll see how it works out this time around.
And third—and this is something that a lot of people are making a big deal about—the game has voice acting for the first time in a Zelda game by Nintendo. Players are guided by a woman's voice (presumably Zelda's) throughout the game, making for a more immersive experience.
Once I stepped out of the cave into the open, I was able to see how truly breathtaking the game's graphics are. The world inside the game is epic, with lush details in an expansive world that stretches as far as the eye can see. I've heard that, if you can see something in Breath of the Wild, you can travel right up to it. What I was able to see in 20 minutes is just a percentage of what the game has to offer.
At this point, I was asked to try out the Nintendo Switch in its portable mode. All I had to do was remove the Switch's tablet from the dock connecting it to the TV, and the visual that was on the television screen moved onto the portable device. It looked just as good on a smaller screen, and I was a little surprised with the seamless transition.
I ran around for a little bit, picking up tree branches and hitting bad guys with them, collecting Hylian mushrooms and meeting a strange old man before I realized the clock was ticking and I wanted to see as much of the story as I could in the time allotted.
Eventually, the game gave me an objective of reaching a certain area, so I traveled there and pressed my Sheikah Slate to a pedestal before the ground below Link rumbled and a towering column rose out of the ground beneath him. At this point, I learned about the game's big, bad, Calamity Ganon, who is slowly regaining enough power to end the world. Of course, he will have to play his part to stop it.
Before venturing into the last area, I was prompted to play the Switch in yet another mode. In the handheld state, you can slide mini controllers called Joy-Con from each side of the Switch and prop up the isolated screen with a small kickstand on the back.
I was shocked with how comfortable it was to play with a tiny controller in each hand. Because you don't have to hold your hands together with the Joy-Con like you might with a typical controller, you have a lot of freedom. Based on my 20 minutes, this was my preferred method of playing the Switch, and I intend to mostly play in this mode when I get my own next month.
With just minutes left in my demo, I descended the tower and made my way into a new underground area where I learned another brand-new Zelda skill called Magnesis. Using a giant magnet, Link can rearrange massive magnetic objects to navigate obstacles (and even slap around bad guys).
Unfortunately, it was in this area that my session had to come to a close, but it leaves me hungry to play the rest of the game when it releases next month. I've loved every Legend of Zelda game I've played, and Breath of the Wild is extremely promising so far. With its emphasis on technology and with Ganon bigger and meaner than ever, it looks like it's ready to offer something new to a beloved series. I think we're all going to be pleased with the full game.
Can't wait to play Breath of the Wild yourself? Click HERE to read about the Nintendo Switch games we're most excited to see!