E3: Zelda breathes new life into Nintendo

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Media captionWATCH: A first look at the next Zelda video game

Nintendo has shown the first gameplay footage from its next Legend of Zelda video game - one of the Japanese firm's most popular franchises.

Its main character Link has much greater scope to interact with his open-world environment than in the previous 18 games in the series.

There is also a focus on technology rather than magic.

The title was originally due to have gone on sale in 2015, but was delayed to launch alongside a new console.

Image copyright Nintendo
Image caption Link must now gather and cook food rather than rely on "hearts" for sustenance

However, the online clips - and demos, which are available to play at the E3 games expo - only show footage from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Wii U release, rather than from the forthcoming NX version.

Nintendo fell short of its own earnings forecast when, in April, it posted a 16.5bn yen ($155.7m; £110.4m) net profit for its last financial year. That marked a 61% fall on the previous year's figure.

"This is a vital game for Nintendo," said Chris Dring, editor of the games industry news site MCV.

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Media captionChris Foxx takes a high-speed tour of 2016's E3 show floor

"The firm has millions of die-hard fans, but many of them didn't buy a Wii U, and that's entirely down to a lack of games at its start and then the massive gap between titles.

"Zelda isn't the firm's most successful game, but it is a massive seller to the core fan base.

"So, the fact that it is going to be there right at the start of the NX gives the console a step up already over what happened at the launch of the previous two machines Nintendo released."

Image copyright Nintendo
Image caption Sales of the Wii U have fallen well short of its predecessor

Long sleep

Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo did not hold a press conference at this year's E3 event in Los Angeles.

Instead, it released a video showing the new Zelda title alongside other future releases, including new Pokemon games.

Image copyright Nintendo
Image caption The Pokemon games feature new characters and Battle Royal mode, which sees four trainers challenge each other at once

This was followed by a live stream featuring further gameplay footage featuring Link.

The material revealed that the character begins the game waking from a 100-year-long sleep in what appears to be a cryogenic chamber.

Exploration of the kingdom of Hyrule reveals the player has greater choice in deciding where to roam and more ways to use objects around them - boulders can be pushed, cliffs climbed, and food foraged and cooked.

Breath of the Wild also introduces a limit on how many items can be carried, and adds the ability to craft weapons.

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Image caption Nintendo's E3 booth is solely dedicated to the new Zelda game

"This is a mechanically very new Zelda," Mr Dring told the BBC after playing a demo.

"A lot of these components - such as scavenging and cooking - is similar to other RPGs. But it's very different to Zelda.

"The ability to go anywhere and complete things in any order is something that's not been done in a big 3D Zelda, either.

"It's still distinctive of the franchise, with its focus on exploration and adventure, but it's been finally updated and could easily appeal to the modern RPG fan, and not just Nintendo's core fanbase."

The publisher has, however, denied rumours that gamers would be able to choose to play as a female version of Link.

More than 75 million copies of previous Zelda games have been sold since the series made its debut three decades ago.

Analysis: Chris Foxx, technology reporter at E3

Image copyright Nintendo
Image caption Nintendo has yet to reveal what differences there will be in the NX version of Zelda

As has become usual in recent years, Nintendo kept things low-key at the start of E3, at least compared to the extravagant launch events we saw from Microsoft and Sony.

With its Wii U console suffering from poor sales and now reaching the end of its life, the firm is treading water until it is ready to reveal its next-generation device.

But the company's draw has always been its big name exclusives, and there was plenty to excite Nintendo loyalists, with a more detailed look at the new Pokemon as well as the Legend of Zelda game.

Both franchises are some of the bestselling of all time, and should tide fans over until Nintendo has decided its next steps.

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