Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Future of Zelda: Four Swords Wii

Time for some new speculation about the future of our beloved video game franchise The Legend of Zelda. This will come in two parts, the second dealing with difficulty issues of a modern Zelda game.

If you've read my previous articles, you know, that I've discussed the possibility of a WiiWare Zelda game. But the more I speculated about this topic, the less I thought it will become a reality. WiiWare is a platform for new developers to set foot on the market and for Nintendo to perform market tests. It's not a platform for new 2D Mario and Zelda games, though it would be cool. And now New Super Mario Bros. Wii came into the picture. The first real console 2D Mario game since the Super Nintendo days, not as a WiiWare game, but as a full retail game. And this time with focus on local multiplayer. I predict this is going to be a huge hit, it probably will sell out both Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 together. I even probably will get a copy myself, since the Wii became THE platform for local multiplayer for me and this looks really fun.

So, why not try this with Zelda, too? Both Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures tried to create a Zelda multiplayer experience, but both were ahead of their time and suffered from a heavy connectivity problem. How many Zelda gamers out there weren't able to play Four Swords, because they couldn't find another player? How many people, who owned Four Swords Adventures, thought that a GameBoy Advance and a connection cable for every player isn't effortable and then just played the game alone? If you want to label any Zelda game as failures, it would be those two. Four Swords Adventures is the only Zelda game, that couldn't sell over one million copies. Even Link's Crossbow Training managed to sell 2.75 million copies and funnily enough still scores higher than Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance, though this one was bundled with A LINK TO THE PAST! This could mean, that Nintendo probably will give up on the Four Swords idea completely and continues to focus on small multiplayer modes as extras for the NDS Zelda games, but it definitely means, that there was something wrong with Four Swords. Well, what's wrong with a game, that heavily focuses on local multiplayer, while it's very hard to set up a local multiplayer session for it? Hmmm...

On the Wii and the DS things are different. I easily can play Phantom Hourglass online and you sure can play online on the Wii, too. But of course online only isn't a satisfying solution, the real fun always lies in local multiplayer. It goes nothing over playing with your buddies, drinking a beer while doing so and laughing a lot. You don't get this experience with online gaming. Online gaming exists, because it was not possible to play with mutliple players on the same PC. But since the start of online gaming it tries to emulate the experience of local multiplayer gaming, may it be through voice chats and even webcams. But still it's not the same thing, why online gaming started to focus on its advantage in the possibility of "massively multiplayer online gaming", which is something, you can't get in local multiplayer. But a MMORPG Zelda game is a definite "meh", though I know fans, who would like this, but ... meh. So, in the end, it would be nice to have a local multiplayer Zelda game that joins the line of excellent local multiplayer Wii games next to Wii Sports (Resort), Super Smash Bros. Brawl, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Kart Wii.

But how should it work? This is the question. If every player would need a Nintendo DS system again, this game would be as worthless as its predecessor. But every player needs to see, where he/she is going when entering a house or a cave on the screen. Splitscreen maybe? Nah, this sucks, especially if you have a small TV. Or they do it like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, so when one player enters a house or exits the current screen, he has to wait for the other players to join him (of course he could come back to the screen, so he doesn't get stuck, in case no one wants to join him). But this would limit the freedom in the game a lot. One of the coolest things of the original Four Swords on the GameBoy Advance was the unique mix of cooperation and backstabbing (I'm repeating myself). Unless you had to cooperate to solve a puzzle or to beat an enemy, you pretty much could do whatever you wanted. The player getting the most rupees in a level, could win a "Medal of Courage", which were useful in A Link to the Past, so everyone wanted to win and thus were competing against each other. Every man for himself, while the live together, die alone rule applies. While this concept was great, it was screwed by Nintendo in Four Swords Adventures, but the game didn't came up with any new appealing concepts. Sean Malstrom meant to me on his blog, that he would like to see a Four Swords game more in the style of Gauntlet, where every player would be unique and the game focuses a lot more on endless free roaming. I think, this could work. It doesn't even have to be about the Four Sword, where Link splits in four equal parts, it could be four totally different characters. One could be the fat armored Phantom Knight with the big guns, and one could be a girl primarily using magic weapons and spells. And of course they should still keep the gameplay simple. Definitely 2D gameplay, a 3D multiplayer Zelda game would be a huge disaster. I want to get my friends to play Zelda with me, but if it's going to be too complicated, they will refuse. It has to look simple and fun.

However, it's not my matter of concern here to create game concepts, this is Nintendo's job. And if they want to link to the potential success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii (it will be a hit, trust me), a Zelda multiplayer game might be the chance. The smaller Zelda team, the one who created Four Swords Adventures, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks in the past few years, will be finished with their current project this year. So, they could join the bigger Zelda team to help with Zelda Wii or they could focus on a new multiplayer Zelda concept instead (or something completely different). Since they created Four Swords Adventures and two more multiplayer Zelda modes on the DS, they are the best for this job anyway.

No comments: