By now we have all seen Nintendo’s latest trailer for the sequel to the critically and commercially acclaimed game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The original 2017 game raised the bar not just for Zelda games, but open world games in general, and became an immediate classic. Breath of the Wild 2 seems to aim even higher, the sky being the literal limit if the trailer is any indication.
That is why longtime Zelda producer and supervisor Eiji Aonuma may want to step away from the franchise after this next release.
Aonuma joined Nintendo in 1991 before he had even played a video game before. By 1998, he was one of the lead directors on the timeless classic Ocarina of Time. Since then, Zelda has been Aonuma’s baby, as he has lead the development for Majora’s Mask, the aforementioned Breath of the Wild, and nearly everything in between. You can safely argue now that Aonuma has had a greater impact on the Zelda franchise than even series creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
Breath of the Wild felt like the culmination of decades of video game development leading to this masterpiece of a title. Aonuma had steered the franchise into darker subject material with Majora’s Mask, into larger open worlds with Wind Waker, and a greater sense of exploration with Skyward Sword; Breath of the Wild encompassed all of these ideas and was greater for it.
But Breath of the Wild still didn’t include everything Aonuma wanted in a video game. DLC was planned, but it was decided fairly early on that those ideas were lofty enough to fill an entirely new game. Thus, the sequel was born.
Without having played the game, it does seem that Breath of the Wild 2 will be even grander than its predecessor and will include every last good idea that the development team has left on the table. It’s hard to imagine, then, where else can one go after pouring everything you’ve got into one project. What better time to go out than after you’ve given it your all?
Nintendo has recently began shifting its properties to newer, often younger, development teams. The Super Mario franchise has slowly been transferred to the “new guard” since Super Mario 3D Land, and the latest title Super Mario Odyssey was immensely different and fresh (and amazing) because of it. The Metroid series has also had a recent resurgence when Spanish developer MercurySteam remade Samus Returns, and performed so admirably that they’ve been entrusted with the latest game in the series with Metroid Dread. Miyamoto has even been quoted in recent years as stating that he has opened to the idea of entrusting Nintendo to the younger generation of developers because their fresh ideas help reinvent these older, already established franchises.
If Breath of the Wild 2 really does include everything that Aonuma has wanted in a Zelda game, then now would be the best time to step back, observe and guide from a distance, and let the newer generation steer this fantastic gaming franchise towards newer destinations. Nintendo relies on these classic properties more so than any other gaming publisher, and there is no greater way to do that than to pass along the keys to the kingdom after reaching your peak.
Ultimately, Aonuma may surprise us and have much more in the tank than we may think. He does want to surpass Miyamoto after all. What say you? Would you like to see the Zelda franchise be helmed by new blood, or are Link’s adventures not ready to be out of Aonuma’s hands just yet? I’d love to know your own opinions in the comments below!