Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Future of Zelda

"Oh no, not another guy, who has an opinion about how an upcoming Zelda title would look like!" - That's what you might be thinking right now, but considering that this is the first time since Link's Awakening that we don't know anything about the future of the series, wildly speculating about it is probably a normal reaction of every Zelda fan right now. In the last decade we got 10 new Zelda games and several re-releases of the classics, so there was at least one new title per year. But in the moment, nothing is known about what the Zelda team is currently working on and we all can't wait for this year's E3 to have Nintendo show us some details about what's coming up next.

As far as I can tell, there are four possibilities of future installments in the series, which doesn't mean that we only get one of them. In the last years, there were always at least two teams working simultaneously on different Zelda titles (like Flagship or the small team who made Four Swords Adventures and Phantom Hourglass), so I don't see a problem in having a big title as well a small one again. I think everyone will agree, that Nintendo's Zelda team is putting all their efforts in the next big 3D Zelda for the Wii. So, I will focus more on what may be in store next to it.

I'm personally looking foward to a second NDS Zelda. There was only a small part of the Zelda team working on Phantom Hourglass, which put most of their efforts in the "how", which means, their focus was on the gameplay, the controls and the visual style. And I have to say that I really liked, how all of those turned out, but the actual content of the game was lacking, as we all know. But concerning a second NDS Zelda we're actually in the same situation as before with Majora's Mask - the "how" was already done by Ocarina of Time, the major aspects of the development were put in the ideas and the results were awesome. The engine, the graphics and the controls are set, which means Nintendo has to come up with some good ideas, since it's easier now to create a new Zelda game for the NDS. In the end the main audience of this game would be people, who bought Phantom Hourglass, so you have to come up with something good to entertain them. It's most likely, that a second NDS Zelda will be released even before the new Wii Zelda, maybe late 2009.

However, concerning a new Wii Zelda, I believe everything will be about the "how" again. The Wii controls of Twilight Princess were everything, but perfect, so I think they will experiment a lot with the actual gameplay, before they're getting started to make dungeons and that stuff. For example a First Person Zelda was discussed a lot, some old gameplay aspects wouldn't work in that perspective, but on the other hand it would give us completely new ways of playing and experiencing Zelda. For example imagine putting a key in a keyhole and twisting it with the Wiimote. Or direct sword controls would actually work fine in that perspective. That the next Zelda could be a first person game is actually not too unlikely, since Miyamoto stated here, that they were trying to do a Zelda in first person since Ocarina of Time and that Link's Crossbow Training was meant to be a bridge to more first person games from Nintendo. There was also a first person demo of Twilight Princess shown at GDC 2007.

Another possibility would be a more classic looking Zelda title released for the WiiWare system, in topdown perspective and classical gameplay. But maybe the Wiimote could be used to interact with the environment, like in LostWinds. Here Nintendo could actually try something to please the oldskool fans. Of course this should be just a side project, maybe something to pass the time until the next big Wii Zelda will be released. But I think the Wiiware system could be a nice platform for an upcoming Zelda title.

Talking about passing the time, next to the WiiWare platform we have the Virtual console with at least two titles missing here. The most wanted Zelda title for Wii's Virtual Console is of course Majora's Mask. We had an emulated version of this game in the Collector's Edition, but it tended to freeze a lot. For me it crashed usually at the end of the 3rd day, so completing Kafei's Quest was impossible, not speaking about completing the game. And bringing out my old Nintendo 64 just for playing the game...? It's definitely time for a new VC Zelda here. Don't know, why they haven't released it yet, but I can think of two reasons next to "save some smash hits for later". One would be that they maybe want to release it, when then next Wii Zelda is coming out, like they did with Metroid and Super Metroid before the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. But it's definitely a long time until then. The second possibility is that they have to face the same problems with the game on the Virtual Console. But since every game on the Virtual Console gets its own emulator, they should find a solution to emulate this game properly.

The second potential Zelda VC title is Master Quest, I really enjoyed the puzzles in that game, although a VC release wouldn't be so important like Majora's Mask. But since the Wii will probably have a very long life span, we will most likely see this game somewhen in the future. It's a Zelda game anyway. So, if Majora's Mask makes it to the Virtual Console, you can expect this game to follow. The emulation of Master Quest worked better than the one of Majora's Mask back then on the GameCube, so if Majora's Mask can make it, then so does Master Quest.

But we all know, the Zelda team will give up on the Zelda franchise, because there's no point in continuing the series, when everybody is just complaining about it. Instead they will concentrate their efforts in a more beneficial franchise: "Link's". After the super-smash-hit Link's Crossbow Training, they're working on the next unbelievable installment of the Link's series, Link's Fishing Adventure. Discover a large world, containing lots of lakes, rivers, ponds and a fishing village, where Link can sell his caught fish to get rupees. With the rupees he can rent boats or buy new lures and empty bottles. Will he eventually catch the legendary Hylian Loach? ... Hey, wait... that doesn't even sound too bad...

Just joking. However, to sum up, the next Wii Zelda is the big deal. But also the Nintendo DS, the WiiWare system and the Virtual console are potential platforms for new and old releases. Also, it may be possible, that Nintendo does another spin-off. And maybe, we get nothing. Hopefully we all will be a little wiser after E3 2008.

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