In among the halls at the E3 gaming expo Nintendo has dedicated a giant space to Zelda. It's an escape from the bustle outside, with its own real grass and trees, a day-to-night lighting system, sound effects and all Nintendo's usual quirk running to the maximum. It might sound like someone's plonked a giant garden centre slap bang in the middle of a gaming exhibition, but Nintendo has pulled it off, the mood is set for us to take a deep breath and dive into 35-minutes of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

We're excited. After all, this game is a big deal and has been in the making for what seems like forever. Sure, we still have to wait until 2017 before it will actually be released - as the Wii U's swan song and the opening gambit for Nintendo NX. It is, therefore, a game on which Nintendo is hanging huge hopes. It has to succeed.

It's clear the game has been in development forever too, because the Wii U immediately shows its age and fidelity limitations: this isn't the ultra-crisp gaming that many have come accustomed to with new-gen consoles and PC rigs. Even so, Nintendo has dunked Zelda in a bucket load of style and painted a new feel for the game; one that feels at once truly Zelda and sincerely beautiful. Sweeping reeds, a painterly style, lingering backdrops that tease the lands you'll be exploring later in the game. We can't wait to see how the NX version will ramp things up - that's the version everyone will really want to play.

The game begins with Link awaking in a pool, having been in a slumber for 100 years. Calamity Ganon, depicted as a dark force around Hyrule Castle, is about to become all powerful. It's typical Zelda stuff, as ever. Link doesn't know it yet, but he'll be tasked to stop that happening.

Story set, it's time to get to the controls. Giant GamePad in hand and it's not the most comfortable setup, plus the odd arrangement of buttons feels awkward - run and jump sit at total opposites as one example. There's that Nintendo quirk again. But once we've got used to shooting arrows, slashing through the undergrowth and clubbing bad guys (whose deaths are realised in a kid-friendly puff of smoke) it's manageable. The integration of GamePad's three-dimensional controls are limited too; it can be used to aim arrows by facing the pad itself at the target, but we much preferred to just use the d-pad.

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There are heaps of controls to get accustomed, given the breadth of Link's arsenal this time around. It's the most RPG-like Zelda ever. For example, clothing plays a more integral role than before, with climate a factor - you can't go into the icy hills wearing a thin shirt, for example, you'll need a proper padded top for that. Other items and food can be collected and crafted, too, with cooking playing a role this time around.

Amiibo - Nintendo's real-world toys that instigate in-game characters - is also compatible. We synched the Wolf Link Amiibo with the Gamepad, a lone wolf who can help with hunting and attacking enemies. It's not possible to designate tasks to him, which we thought would have added an additional layer of tactics, but then it's not essential to use Amiibo to play the game, hence keeping the game accessible for all. Wolf Link can only be summoned once a day.

Combat-wise Breath of the Wild feels more free-flowing and less locked-in the some Zelda games before it. The usual shielded defence, timed weapon attacks and skipping about to avoid bad guys is at the game's core. Weapons wear out, so collecting spare clubs and tree branches might come in handy. But in this Zelda the environment can be used too: we set fire to some bushes, for example, while rocks can be rolled down hills to strike enemies. There are all manner of possibilities, such as explosive lanterns which can be shot down to explode and, we suspect, Nintendo will have gone fully creative on other ways to despatch the bad guys.

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The game is huge too. Looking into the distance it's possible to pick-our mountains and a volcano, all of which will be accessible. Open the map and this giant world makes itself apparent. Big doesn't always mean best, of course, so we'll have to see how fast-travel and horseback riding are integrated to expedite travel when it's needed.

First Impressions

From combat to puzzles, shrines and runes, collectibles and puzzles, Zelda: Breath of the Wild has all the make-up of a classic Zelda title, wrapped into a different, stylised skin. Despite slightly fussy controls (not nearly as bad as StarFox though) it's certainly shaping-up to be the best Zelda ever. And with the power of NX revealed in 2017 for the game's launch, we're doubly excited to find out just how much better it will look.