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This Breath of the Wild clone is causing an uproar

Some have described Genshin Impact, miHoYo Technology's open world action game, as an anime version of Breath of the Wild. The similarities took the spotlight at the China Joy 2019 gaming expo this weekend when Sony released the title's first gameplay footage, drawing immediate backlash from Zelda fans.

On August 1, miHoYo Technology announced that Genshin Impact, in addition to iOS and PC, would release on PlayStation 4 next year. Sony promoted the title on the official PlayStation Blog, featuring an interview with Sam Lai, miHoYo's global PR communication representative. According to Lai, you play as The Traveler, a figure who "awakens from a long sleep on the shore alone, loses connection with their sibling, and has scarce knowledge of this mysterious land." 

If you replace "The Traveler" with "The Hero of Time" and "sibling" with "princess," you have the premise for Breath of the Wild. The gameplay trailer showcases Teyvat, Genshin Impact's fantasy setting, through a series of scenes that would feel right at home in Hyrule. The color palette and art style replicate Breath of the Wild's own environments. Even the enemies look like Breath of the Wild doppelgangers, ranging from thinly disguised Bokoblin encampments and blatant Chuchu jelly ripoffs to a Lionel-like creature wielding a shield.

Zelda fans attending China Joy expressed their outrage over the similarities by snapping photos of themselves flipping off the Genshin Impact display while holding up copies of Breath of the Wild. Others ran the game on their handheld consoles as they gave the Sony booth the bird. According to video game industry analyst Daniel Ahmad, one man even destroyed his PlayStation 4 in front of shocked onlookers in protest against Sony's "shameless" promotion of the copycat.

While Genshin Impact has clearly "borrowed" visual and story elements from Breath of the Wild, a few features set the two apart. For example, in Genshin Impact, you can play as different characters, assembling a team of up to four adventurers at a time. You also have seven "natural elements" to call upon in combat, including Pyro, Hyrdo, Electro, Anemo, and Dendro.

Are those distinctions enough? It's hard to say at this stage. There's no doubt many aspects of Genshin Impact are pulled straight from the Breath of the Wild playbook, though. We half expected to hear music from the latter's soundtrack as the game's trailer panned around Teyvat, and one can imagine that, had some footage of the game leaked out before Sony released the trailer, players would've believed it was from the Breath of the Wild sequel. That's actually quite the compliment to developer miHoYo, a small studio more known for its mobile titles than its large, open-world console RPGs. It means the team there is really nailing the look and and feel of such a game. Has miHoYo gone beyond inspiration and crossed the line into theft? That's a question best left to the lawyers.

But you can't really knock miHoYo for wanting to emulate Nintendo's 2017 hit. Breath of the Wild is a master class in game development and design, featuring a vast open world to explore, surprisingly intricate mechanics, and secrets that players are still discovering to this day. It's widely considered to be the best Legend of Zelda title to date, pushing a number of other stellar Zelda games further down the list. Given its success, it should come as a surprise that more developers aren't trying to make a Breath of the Wild of their own. But perhaps some are afraid of the project scale. Breath of the Wild was an ambitious endeavor; all the more reason why Genshin Impact is worth keeping an eye on. This could be the game that puts miHoYo on the map; that is, if the studio can pull it off.

Nintendo has yet to weigh in on the reveal of Genshin Impact at this time, though we'll definitely keep you updated should the company issue a statement or take legal action. Until then, we'd advise against smashing your PlayStation 4 to pieces. Genshin Impact is coming to that console sometime in 2020, which means it'll likely arrive before Nintendo can get the next Breath of the Wild game out the door. Given the choice between no Zelda and a Zelda-like, we'll see what the Zelda-like has to offer.