Of all Nintendo's elite franchises, none hold a candle to the Legend of Zelda series when it comes to pedigree. While Mario has a claim on the prestigious mantle, the overwhelming critical praise for Link's many, many adventures in Hyrule beat out the Kyoto giant's ubiquitous mascot.
As such, the emergence of a new Zelda is almost an event in and of itself. Nintendo has clearly taken that idea to heart for its E3 2016 showcase, as the publisher has confirmed that the series' long-awaited next installment will be the focus of its presence in Los Angeles.
With a special "Nintendo @ E3" livestream promising "the world's first in-depth look" at the Wii U – and now Nintendo NX – title, the anticipation is palpable.
Aside from several achingly brief glimpses of footage, all we know to date is that the first Zelda game for home consoles since 2011 will feature a vast open-world environment and will bring to fruition the result of Nintendo "rethinking the conventions of Zelda".
With these meagre scraps of information in mind, these are our five hopes for the next Legend of Zelda adventure:
A Link Between Worlds' dungeon format
The last main-line outing for our Green tunic-wearing hero was 2013's Nintendo 3DS exclusive, A Link Between Worlds. Designed as a successor to the SNES classic A Link to the Past, the top-down throwback to action-adventure games of yore was widely praised, particularly for its novel take on the traditional Zelda structure.
Rather than following the Grass/Fire/Water/etc dungeon run that all-too-many Nintendo games have adopted in their opening hours, ALBW eschewed the geriatric formula and allowed players to tackle many of the game's distinct areas in an order of their choosing.
The key item-loaning system was a bit ham-fisted in terms of implementation (and took away some of the magic behind discovering a wondrous new item in the middle of a particularly taxing dungeon), but as a trial run it certainly proved that the next Legend of Zelda could benefit from borrowing elements of a choose-your-own-adventure style.
Side-quests, engaging NPCs and a lively open-world
As soon as Nintendo floated the idea of an open-world Zelda, people immediately heralded the design choice as the ultimate evolution the series was crying out for. In reality, we've seen this kind of world-building in the franchise before (such as the very first one in 1987 no less) and the vast number of cookie-cutter open-world games in recent years is a damp reminder of what could await us if Nintendo doesn't execute the concept well.
Thankfully, franchise supervisor Eiji Aonuma has assuaged a lot of those fears, promising things will be different with the Wii U and NX title when compared to its peers, and we hope that translates to a vibrant open-world full of life, character and memorable NPCs. After all, any side-quests will be nothing if the quest-givers don't breathe life into the environments – and no one wants a Zelda game full of mundane radiant fetch quests.
A memorable sidekick
In the annals of Zelda sidekicks, there are very few that don't polarise opinion.
Despite the "hey listen" memes, Navi was a suitable guide as Link entered the 3D space for the first time, introducing the Z-targeting mechanic that still defines many action-adventure games today.
Aside from the impish Midna however, the catalogue of chummy assistants has had more flops than successes, with the worst example being Skyward Sword's drearily sober Fi – a boring sword spirit that came across like Apple's Siri trying to recite scripted advice following a botched lobotomy.
Get this one right please Nintendo – I don't want to spend 40+ hours with another dull companion.
No dual-world gimmick
It's almost impressive how many variations we've seen on A Link to the Past's Light World/Dark World mechanic: Ocarina of Time's time travel between future and past, Twilight Princess's deviously trite collectathons in the Twilight Realm, A Link Between World's forays into Lorule and Skyward Sword's ill-advised, controller-smashing experimentation with stealth mechanics in the Silent Realm.
It's been done. From the minor snippets we've seen of the new Zelda's pastel-shaded vistas we'll want to spend hours in its luscious embrace. That'll likely be enough.
A female link
Put down the pitchforks and hear me out.
There is 100% no logical reason why this couldn't happen in a main-line Zelda game (it already happened in Hyrule Warriors Legends remember) and I mean that in terms of artistic and technical design, but also when filtered through the eyes of Zelda lore.
Even the most dedicated Hyrulian scholars will struggle to find an 'in-universe' argument within the Zelda canon that proves how egregious a female Link would be to the series' prophecies or its, well, legends.
Nintendo's official split-timeline that documents the different Links and Zeldas throughout the ages might well be an after-the-fact solution that awkwardly ties together the series' eccentricities in spectacular deus ex machina-like fashion, but it does confirm that (to paraphrase BioShock Infinite) there has always been more than one Link and there has always been more than one Zelda.
A female Link would make sense in terms of ancestry then, and could be a crowd-pleasing option for what has always essentially been the player's in-game avatar in a Zelda game – a character with charming facial expressions but zero 'gendered' traits. I'm sure no one would have a problem with this, after all it's not like ardent video game fans have ever had a problem with minor, optional appeals for inclusivity before.