Nintendo has announced a surprise spin-off prequel to its modern classic Breath of the Wild, an action-focused game called Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. You’ll play the role of Link, as usual, but also the four champions and Princess Zelda herself, in attempting (unsuccessfully, as we know) to fight back the hordes of Ganon 100 years before the Switch launch title.
The game, clearly intended to tide over fans ravenous for the recently teased sequel, is developed by Koei Tecmo, which previously made the first Hyrule Warriors game as part of their long running Warriors series of large-scale battle-em-ups. That one, however, was more of a Zelda-themed action game, very much in the old realistic style that Nintendo ditched for a more painterly, stylized one.
Age of Calamity adopts not just the new look, but the characters and setting from Breath of the Wild, meaning it’s a canon entry in the franchise and a direct prequel.
One of the most interesting features of Breath of the Wild was the Princess, who bucked years of tradition by being not just a damsel in distress (though she is that too) but an interesting character unto herself, more so than Link and most of the champions. Her curiosity and scholarly ambition endeared players and made them see that the warrior they were playing was clever and strong, but little more than that — everyone wanted more Zelda.
The sequel may very well scratch that itch, but in the meantime we’ll get to tool around with the Princess in battle mode in this prequel. That’s a rare treat — she was playable in the previous Hyrule Warriors and in a spare handful of other games — and hopefully a taste of things to come.
Although I recently lamented Nintendo’s conservative and disappointing approach to bringing its classic 3D Mario games to modern audiences, Zelda has been successfully reinvented and updated more than once. The Warriors series isn’t known for breaking new ground — it’s really about killing monsters and enemy soldiers by the hundred — but this could prove a valuable addition to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises.