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Zelda unmasked: New trailer debuts at GDC

During Nintendo's keynote at GDC, in which president Satoru Iwata revealed several promising tidbits on Nintendo's 2005 agenda, the former game designer also did Nintendo fans a favour by showing off a brand-new trailer for the upcoming Legend of Zelda for the GameCube.

You might guess that little gem got the crowd suitably riled up. The impressive trailer showed off stunning visuals that can only be described as a wicked tour de force for the 'Cube hardware and Nintendo's masterful development team.

The trailer opens with the Legend of Zelda logo and the familiar (but still goose bump-inspiring) shot of Link facing the camera and unsheathing his sword with that universal "bring it" body language. All you hardcore fans will remember this is the last shot we saw of Link in the first trailer released for the game. The new footage kicks off with Link doing some old-fashioned swimming in what appears to be a body of water in a forest. As Link dives under the extremely realistic water, you can make out groups of fish floating around him. The next shot is a breathtaking cinematic vista of Link walking into a sun-drenched forest. You can see what appears to be someone--or something--covered in moss, standing just off camera to the right. The camera then pans down and we see the back of the mystery figure.

Link's Z targetting system is back

The next sequence shows Link picking up and petting some kitties in a forest glade, and as he runs off, two more cats chase after him. Will Link be able to collect pets in the new game? Time will tell. Following this scene, we see Link walking down a short set of stairs. He ends up next to an idol that springs to life with an unearthly glow and proceeds to attack him. The next quick cut sees Link in the heat of combat in a dungeon where there are trails of fire framing a path. In classic Zelda style, we see him perform a leaping strike at what appears to be an armoured moblin. The combat montage continues with Link in a moonlit forest where he's attacking two flying foes with his arrows.

The trailer then cuts to a rainy battle against skeletal dogs that emit an unearthly wail when Link cuts them down. This battle is lent a bit more drama thanks to dramatic flashes of lightning. In the next battle, we see Link fighting against a tubby, tattooed goron who is outfitted in the Hyrulian equivalent of a thong. In the pit-fight-style battle, this new foe uses what appears to be a traditional boxing fighting style. The gorons have long been friendly to Link, so we have to wonder why exactly he's locked in mortal combat with one here. The animation during the sequence suggests that the traditional Z-targeting system is back in some form, as expected. As the camera sweeps around during the fight, we see Link being knocked on his butt by a punch when he doesn't block it in time (it seems like he's about to try to get in an attack stance when he's hit). While obviously a bit of blow to the young hero's dignity, the fall shows off the impressive graphics engine at work. You'll see a cloud of dust kicked up, which we see against a gorgeous setting sun that casts a rich orange glow on the action.

The next scene is a quick cut that finds Link in an encounter with three skeletal foes who form out of three seemingly innocuous piles of bones (OK, piles of bones are rarely sights to be ignored, but still). The next snippet of battle finds Link in a dungeon lit by torches where he's facing off against two reptilian foes. One is sporting an intimidating helm that appears to be patterned after a triceratops, while his buddy is going without headgear. The next cut sees Link trying to handle an agile foe who has a brightly coloured pattern on his buttocks (much like a baboon). He leaps between a series of pylons and attacks Link with a boomerang. The good news is that Link is able to backflip out of the way. The bad news is a trio of ravenous plants tries to seize the opportunity and take a bite out of the young warrior's backside. Just before the scene changes, we see Link knock one of the gnashing flora away.

Fighting on horseback will be easier

The next scene is an intriguing view of a dank sewer that appears to be the kind of locale you'd expect to find Link in at some point. However, the view of the sewer changes with an accompanying sound effect, revealing the seemingly empty area to be chock-full of ghastly spirits. In the next creepy shot we see Link in a spot of trouble, as he's been cocooned by a spider that leaps on the hapless hero, eager to extract his juicy innards. Fortunately, Link bursts free and knocks the eight-legged menace away, ending the fight with a leaping stab that sees his foe die in a burst of purple smoke.

The scene shifts to another horse battle, where Link is coping with four large, winged foes who are trying to nab him as he rides toward a castle in the distance. The obvious way of dealing with this threat is by using flaming arrows, which Link busts out like a pro, sending one of his foes down in a fiery burst of smoke and flame. We were impressed by the animation during this sequence and the way that Link's head moves to track the fallen foe as he rides over its body. The winged creatures themselves are also noteworthy for their size and menacing appearance. We hope to see Nintendo taking additional such liberties with the new Zelda's menagerie.

Link shows his soft side with some stray kittens

The next sequence finds Link running for his life down a narrow path from one incredibly large tektite. The giant monster is kicking up debris as it runs after Link. After this scene we find Link engaged in a battle in the forest, again facing off against two skeletal foes. Link literally shatters one of the undead warrior's shields, which makes Link stagger for a moment, but it has obviously left the enemy open to further attack.

The next scene shift shows off yet another intriguing sequence that finds Link riding what appears to be the same boars used by moblins, and he is seen plowing through a group of the wily enemies in battle. Perhaps the next Zelda will contain some form of Grand Theft Auto-style ridejacking of the animal variety? Following this, we see Link facing a black, vein-covered foe in the forest that he quickly dispatches with his sword. As a sort of style point, the battle ends with Link's trademark sword flourish as he sheathes his weapon. The final, striking image is of a lone wolf baying at a moon.

Although it was short, the trailer showed off a number of intriguing gameplay and visual elements that got our pulse racing. Besides the visuals, the music heard in the trailer was a gorgeous orchestral piece that lent the action an outstanding, epic feel. Another aspect of the trailer that stood out was a number of The Lord of the Rings-inspired touches, which we have to say will be a great fit for the Zelda experience.