Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Future of Zelda: Virtual Handheld

"Virtual Handheld" is what I call Virtual Console on a portable system, namely the Nintendo DSi. The Nintendo DSi is absolutely capable of doing this and it could feature GameBoy (Color) games, GameBoy Advance games and maybe even Game & Watch and Sega GameGear games. It's definitely not too early to do this, since the Nintendo DSi doesn't have the GBA port anymore, the GBA itself starts to vanish from the stores and no one is producing GBA games anymore. I guess, Game&Watch games would cost about 200 Nintendo points, GameBoy(Color) games 500 and GameBoy Advance games 800 points. So, what does this have to do with Zelda? There are a couple of Zelda games effected by this, that should be availabe on such a service after a while. Let's take a look, what titles were released for the regarding systems:

  • Zelda Game & Watch
  • Link's Awakening (GB)
  • Link's Awakening DX (GBC)
  • Oracle of Ages (GBC)
  • Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
  • Four Swords (GBA)
  • The Minish Cap (GBA)

This is even more than there are currently Zelda titles available for the actual Virtual Console on the Nintendo Wii. I've crossed out the original Link's Awakening on the GameBoy, because why should Nintendo release it, when there's a better version? Also, I skipped over the two Zelda games in the NES Classics series, because both of them are already available on the Virtual Console.

An interesting thought now would be, that some of those titles - hypothetically - could make use of new the features of the Nintendo DSi. The photos from the photo sidequest in Link's Awakening DX could be sent to the internal DSi picture software, so you can do with those pictures whatever you do with pictures on the Nintendo DSi. The Oracle games could use a shared save-file instead of the annoying password system. Think about it, your progress in one game will automatically be recognized by the other, items (like the rings) will automatically be transferred to all linked savegames and so on. This would save you a lot of trouble, because the worst part of the original game was writing down and typing in those weird codes. That was a real turn-off. (Of course the original password system should remain, in case you want to use some of your old passwords. The connected save games basically should replace the Link Cable connection in the old version.)

Four Swords is even more interesting. Who of you people actually played this game? I thought so, not a lot. I played it once, but never had the chance to finish it, because none of my friends are interested in Zelda. It's the least played game of the main series, because you need a second player, who has a GBA and a copy of the game, to play it. And this is not some funny party game like Wii Sports or Mario Kart, where you always find a friend to play with. No, you need another Zelda addict like yourself to play this one or you can't finish it. While this was a huge issue seven years ago with those funny cables and local multiplayer, it's not today thanks to Wi-Fi. This game is great, of all the Zelda multiplayer iterations it's simply the best one, because it has the unique mix of cooperation and backstabbing. You had to work together to beat the game, but everyone wanted to get the medals at the end (for ALttP) and for that you had to collect more rupees than the other players. You didn't have this kind of competition in the sequel Four Swords Adventures, because you didn't get anything for being first place. So no throwing other players in the lava, because you want to be the first guy to open the treasure chests or whatever. In FSA it's just plain cooperation, no competition. Plus you have randomly generated dungeons and two higher difficulty levels for more long-term motivation, which is why the original Four Swords is the superior game and the best multiplayer version of Zelda so far. But it was ahead of its time and ignored because of the above problems, with Wi-Fi this game could have been a huge success. So, a Wi-Fi version of the game on the DSi would be the chance for Four Swords to redeem itself.

As for The Minish Cap, they could give us the missing third bomb bag expansion, that was only available in the US version. Small addition, but neat.

But to do this Nintendo can't just simply emulate those games, they would have to port and modify them. And that way they can't make much profit from those games, especially if you add the costs from ESRB rating and license issues to the equation. Which is why it probably won't happen. Maybe they will emulate the link cable connection with a local wireless connection of DS systems, because should be at least able to play Tetris or trade your Pokémons with someone. But even that would be highly doubtful, since they didn't care about that when they hardware-emulated GameBoy Advance games on previous DS systems. Playing Four Swords online is wishful thinking of myself and this whole article can be labelled as highly unrealistic. Still, I wanted to share those ideas. However, I really hope, they're going to announce a Virtual Handheld on the upcoming E3. Either that or the Nintendo DSi's exclusive features will remain to be uninteresting in my eyes. But after last year I wouldn't get my hopes up and bet my money on the Zelda clock and calculator (Majora's Mask style clock, please).

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