What’s going on in ‘Breath Of The Wild 2’? Here’s what you need to know about that trailer

A link to the past?

The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the most exciting game shown during this year’s E3. Nintendo knew it too, closing its blockbuster Direct with a short glimpse at Breath of the Wild 2.

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Once the fanboy adrenaline had subsided, I did what every good Zelda dork would do and started theorycrafting. I used YouTube to go frame by frame through the new trailer, and picked up on a few important things that may shed some light on what to expect from the narrative of Nintendo’s most hotly anticipated game.

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The first thing I noticed was that when Sky Link is gliding through the air, he has a corrupted green arm. What’s up with that? First I considered the easiest solution. Maybe it had been cut off by the evil force seen at the beginning of the trailer? You can see Malice consuming Link’s arm in the opening seconds, as Zelda falls into a pit, and a crusty corpse flashes in the background.

We’ve seen that crusty corpse before, in the first teaser for Breath of the Wild 2. In this clip from 2019, Zelda and Link are underground, and stumble onto a skeletal ancient being who is being held down by a spooky green arm. The walls are etched with drawings of an ancient story, and there’s a mysterious energy emanating from both the corpse and the arm — they seem to be neutralising each other, in some way.

Link and Zelda awaken the ancient beast, who we are led to believe is Ganondorf. The evidence I’ve got for this is that in the middle of the first trailer, there’s a tiny flash of a shadow on the back wall. Here we see a figure which looks a lot like a beefier Ganondorf being struck down by the green arm that is holding him down when Zelda and Link arrive.

In a series of flashes, we then see Link reacting to his arm being possessed by the green spirit, his arm grabbing Zelda’s, and then Link’s arm being physically grabbed by the same spirit, as if Link is being saved from falling. This part is particularly strange, because the second trailer suggests it is Zelda who is falling down the pit, not Link. One theory I’ve seen online is that this will be the game’s opening choice, and you can choose to play as Link or Zelda. However, we do see Zelda fall in both trailers, so this is definitely up for debate. Maybe Link isn’t falling, he’s just being grabbed against his will, and this is the point of corruption.

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This action underground then seems to create a chain reaction as Hyrule Castle rises into the air at the end of the first trailer, disconnected from the ground. We see more of this at the end of the second trailer, where Hyrule Castle is lifted from the ground and maintained in the air by Malice.

These two scenes show the same thing happening, but they both appear at different times of day. In the first trailer, the castle lifts when the sky is clear, and we can’t see much of the Malice. In the second trailer, the sky is gloomy and caked in dark green, and the Malice is very visible. Once it lifts, we then get a vista of the lifted castle at dusk, though the cut suggests this shot may occur some time after the castle has risen.

Keep this in mind, because it may suggest we are dealing with multiple timelines or separate events here, which could be useful for understanding what’s going on with the playable characters in Breath of the Wild 2.

What we know so far is that there seems to be some conflict between Malice (the red spirit) and the green spirit. The Malice is represented by maybe-Ganondorf’s crusty corpse, and the green spirit is represented by the ghostly clawed hand, which was holding Ganondorf down. However, Link and Zelda seem to have interrupted the natural order of things, and now Hyrule Castle is floating and Link seems to have been corrupted by the green arm.

Theories about the ‘dark secret of Hyrule Castle’ have been floating around since the first trailer, with some suggesting that the leading figures of Hyrule like King Rhoam may be using the corpse of an ancient powerful being like crusty Ganondorf as a source of power and prosperity for the kingdom. There is precedent for powerful withered ancients in Breath of the Wild already, to be fair. Consider the withering Spirit Orb monks in the game’s many shrines! This would dramatically change the stakes and set up a compelling redemption arc for the longtime Zelda antagonist.

This would also be the perfect setting for an even more malicious antagonist like the green arm to swoop in. In Zelda canon, a powerful character called Demise from Skyward Sword predates and is responsible for the reign of Ganon in later games, which is good food for thought.

Taking all of that into account, let’s review the second trailer. We seem to have two very different characters here. We have the half-naked Sky Link seen exploring floating islands with his corrupted arm. We also have the Champion’s Tunic Link seen on the ground doing Breath of the Wild stuff like fighting Bokoblins. At one point in the trailer, we see an arm (owner unknown) being restored with wispy, potentially Sheikah technology, though it could also be the work of the nefarious green spirit.

Sky Link has long hair and is dressed identically to the Ganondorf corpse we’ve seen underneath the castle. Many believe this means that the sections in the sky are disconnected, perhaps stemming from a different time period or timeline. We could even be playing as a young version of Ganondorf before they were corpsified, another version of Link or even an ancestor like the Hero’s Spirit from Twilight Princess. This is compelling, but it isn’t totally airtight for a few reasons.

First off, both Ground Link and Sky Link have the same arrow quiver. They also both have some kind of power imbued in their hands, suggesting they experienced the same arm trauma. Sky Link can use little puddles on the ground to morph himself into slime and fly up into the floating islands. Ground Link can freeze objects, manipulate time and breathe fire with an arm attachment, all seemingly without the Sheikah Slate from Breath of the Wild. As much as they might be two different characters who are historically linked and both unfortunate enough to have arm issues, we also have to entertain the idea that they could also just be the same Link, with a lost and restored arm, wearing different cosmetics, sporting newly customisable hairstyles and exploring separate areas.

When we consider any supposed Breath of the Wild timeline tomfoolery, the best reference we have is a cutscene from the first game, which is delivered by Impa. Over tens of thousands of years, Calamity Ganon has constantly been repelled “by a warrior wielding the soul of a hero”. An event still shrouded in mystery is the First Great Calamity where Ganondorf became Calamity Ganon but was stopped by an unknown hero and what seems to be the power of the Triforce. Maybe we’ll dig into that event in the second game by playing as another version of Link in a different time period — or even Ganondorf himself, who may have once been a long-haired Hylian with sandals.

Back in 2019, Nintendo delivered a GDC talk where they showed some concept art from Breath of the Wild, and one of the most interesting pieces offered a long-haired Link with a missing arm and a corrupted, robotic or bandaged face. Little drawings showed Link moulding his arm into an arrow, a bomb, a hook shot, a hammer, and a device that strongly resembles the flamethrower seen in the second trailer.

So at the very least, it seems that Nintendo is dwelling on these concepts and maybe even folding them into Breath of the Wild 2. Given this is the only thing we can confirm, the part that I’m lingering on is this version of Link’s face. The art suggests he has lost part of his humanity and become something of an automaton. It’s creepy!

To put my tin foil hat on for a moment, what if the Link we’re seeing on the ground is pure technology like the Guardians, created to safeguard Hyrule from a greater threat than Calamity Ganon that the mortal Link simply couldn’t handle. What if the Link we played as in Breath of the Wild is dead and the only way we can resurrect the true Hero of Time is by diving into the complex backstory of his eternal enemy, Ganondorf. Only then, by understanding the essence of power through empathy will we be able to unlock the secrets of the Triforce and save Hyrule. I may be wrong, but damn it, that’s a game I would love to play!

The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will launch in 2022 for Nintendo Switch.

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