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Legend Of Zelda Preview

Johnny_Liu By:
GENRE Action/Adventure 

A new look for an old Link.

Many outraged gamers cried bloody murder when they first saw a wide-eyed, cartoon version of Link in the upcoming The Legend of Zelda for the Gamecube. Where was the cool Link fighting against Ganon in a nasty duel to the death as promised from early Gamecube screens? Did Jedi Master Shigeru Miyamoto go completely loco?

No, not all. In fact, he knows exactly what he's doing, and after playing with Zelda a bit at E3, my faith in both legends has been restored.

Picasso had his Blue period, and Miyamoto has his Power Puff period. So long as the style fits the nature of the game, I'm happy. And the style of this upcoming smash hit references Saturday Morning Cartoon lore to tap into a different, youthful spirit of Link.

Link is on yet another quest, but this time not for the hand of Princess Zelda. A menacing bird (perhaps none other than evil Big Bird himself) has stolen away Link's sister. Any time a Muppet goes AWOL it's cause for consternation, but when family is involved, it gets personal. So Link mounts up, gets his glock in gear, and sets off in search of some fried chicken.

Having finally had a chance to see Zelda running live, I can safely say that the cartoon graphics are fantastic. The screenshots haven't been able to convey the visual fluidity of the game - the animation's closest equivalent would be something like Samurai Jack. It looks like something out of those old Golden Books illustrations.

But it's much more complex than just simple cel-shaded lines. A torchlight flame flutters like crisp tissue paper while the background shows minor heat warping. Link moves with startling realism; his animations flow into one another beautifully. Enemies vanish in a stylish purple cloud. By all accounts, this is shaping up to be a gorgeous game. Don't believe me? Then watch the video!

Though I was concerned about the graphics, I'm not terribly worried about how the gameplay will end up. The controls are an extension of the already mature Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask setups. Alternate weapons are still shown overlaid on the top corner with corresponding buttons. Apparently, the automatic jump has been removed in favor of a context sensitive player-controlled jump. Likewise, there are other context sensitive actions, such as moving crates and speaking to villagers. Just expect more control in general.

The E3 demo allowed you to play through one particularly cool scene. Link is captured and thrown into a dungeon by ugly boar creatures and has to sneak his way out of captivity. Link grimaces at being tossed into the dungeon, and smirks with defiance when he manages to break free. Rats scurry along earthen crevices, nipping away at Link, causing him to lose precious Rupees. This game is really the closest thing to a playable cartoon I've ever seen.

And in February of 2003, you'll have a chance to experience this Gamecube exclusive yourself.

Click here for more screenshots!

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