Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Future of Zelda: WiiWare

The NDS Zelda team, which previously made the Zelda games Four Swords Adventures and Phantom Hourglass, is now finishing their current project, Spirit Tracks. As soon as the game hits the stores, they either could join the rest of the Zelda team to work on Zelda Wii or they could start their own new project. I personally find the latter option much more interesting. I've already dealt with the idea of another Four Swords game following New SMB Wii, but I have to admit, that I don't like that idea at all. Multiplayer in Zelda is fine and all as long as it is a small and simple addition to a good singleplayer Zelda game. We don't need another multiplayer-only Zelda game, the ones before were a failure anyway, sales-wise, and are the last games to hit a Zelda fan's list of "favorite Zelda games". But I still like the idea of a WiiWare Zelda title. In the last weeks I was thinking a lot about how a WiiWare Zelda game could look like, so let me introduce some of my ideas to you.

I apologize in advance, if this article is drifting too much away into a game idea post. I'm normally talking about possibilities for future Zelda games, not fan visions. Which is why I will focus on game mechanics, main ideas and distribution on WiiWare, and not on elements like the story or who is the main villain or details like how all the dungeons would look like. I want the idea to be as open as possible. I don't even have a title for the game right now, so it's all really basic and the following picture (photoshopped by myself) basically sums my idea up perfectly:

A Trilogy

Well, let me introduce the main idea to you. It's about that there won't be just one game, but three games. Yes, a trilogy. It's not uncommon on WiiWare, that larger games get split up into multiple episodes, Strong Bad or Tales of Monkey Island are examples for this. Splitting the game up into multiple games does have the advantage, that you can put much more content in them, since there's a strict size limit for one game on the WiiWare platform (about 40MB). And it wouldn't be the first attempt of making a trilogy for the Zelda series. The first one was on the NES, but Zelda III never made it because of the Super Nintendo. And the second one was for the GameBoy Color, where Flagship (Capcom) wanted to make three games, which could be connected. But they failed, because it was too hard to connect three games using passwords, so they made only two, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. Linking three games failed, because their connection system was too complicated. It forced you to play through one game first in order to link it with the second game and to experience the altered story. And it even forced you to play the games again in the other direction, if you wanted to get everything. Linking a third game that way would be a mess, there would be six different ways of how to play the games in all orders. And what if I want to play the games parallel and unsynchronized? Like playing one dungeon in the first game, then go over to the second game and play two dungeons there, because I'm stuck in the first game, and so on. Take a look at the Metroid Prime Trilogy, no one forces me to play through Metroid Prime first, then go play Echoes and then finally after beating Echoes I'm allowed to play Corruption. No, I can start playing a little Echoes here, then maybe I go visit Tallon IV and so on, which is fun. Of course those games aren't connected like the Oracle games were, but still forcing you to play the games in any order is not fun. Which is why the linking system has to work differently here.

Linking the Games

Like I said, there should be three games. You can download and play the games in any order, you can even stop playing one game and turn to another, it doesn't matter. Every game should have four main dungeons. While this doesn't sound too much, consider that all three games are more like one big Zelda game and 12 dungeons is quite a lot then. But you can download and play one game, beat the four dungeons, beat the final boss of that game, never touch any of the other two games and still be happy. However, every game will have an individual set of items, the ones you get in the dungeons are unique for every game. Of course every game will have like sword, shield, bombs, shovel and similar default items, but the items found in the dungeons, like for example the Roc's Cape, Hammer or Magnetic Gloves, are not available in the other games. Unless you trade the items between the games. Which is what you do, instead of passwords, events and stuff you just sent your items over to the other games and complete your item collection in all games that way. The games could even share one save game or recognize the other save games, so trading the items happens automatically. The new items then will open new paths in all three games.

In every game there will be now a set of areas and minidungeons, which you can't enter and finish without the items from the other two games. Those minidungeons, let's say there are four again in every game, are the final quest. It's similar to the Triforce Shard hunting in The Wind Waker, but just not as boring (bad example, I know). Basically after you have finished all three games you hunt all over the worlds and try to find those hidden minidungeons. Maybe on your quest you will also meet characters from the other games. Then, if you collect the rewards from all those minidungeons, you can face the final final boss (in any of the three games). And of course there are other rewards for trading the items, like hidden collectible items, which you can't get without for example the Magnetic Gloves from the other game. That way you're still rewarded, if you only download two of the games and can't participate in the final quest. Maybe playing those minidungeons already gives you some rewards, even if you can't finish all of them.

Imagine the following example. On your way through one of the games you will get to a graveyard. But there's one tombstone, that is too heavy to push, so you can't enter. But now you find in one of the other games the Power Bracelets in one of the dungeons. Finally you can pull and lift heavy things. The item will be automatically transferred to the other games, so all you have to do, is firing the first game up and go back to the graveyard. You will now also meet a character of the second game there, who's looking for a secret (as a hint, that there's something hidden here). Finally you can enter the tomb, which is a minidungeon with some minibosses or whatever. You'll get a useful optional item as a reward, which will be transferred to the other games as well, and one of those things, which you need to collect in order to face the final boss (Triforce Shards or whatever).

This is how the linking of the games should work. Much more simple than in Oracles, but still interesting and also much more flexible. Basically it's simply like all three games form one big Zelda game, where the world is cut into three parts. Unlike in Oracles there's no way the system will force you to stay on one game.

Visuals and Controls

The games should be all in beautiful 2D graphics. I don't care if it's the style of A Link to the Past and Four Swords Adventures or the style of Four Swords and The Minish Cap or a completely new style. Just beautiful 2D graphics. For controlling the games you hold your Wiimote sideways, items would be placed on 1 and 2, which also includes your sword and shield. So, the action items should work like in most of the GameBoy Zelda games, take Link's Awakening or The Minish Cap for example, where you can combine all the action items like you want. "B" would be your shoulder button for some additional actions like rolling. But of course you would be able to use your Classic Controller, which is more comfortable.

The World

Okay, this is going more into detail, but I had the vision of all three games being placed in different worlds, which I like. Also, this adds something to the linking mechanic. The first game should be placed in the common Zelda environment. Lakes, forests, mountains, a castle and a village to give you the well known Zelda feeling and experience. But the other two games should be a little more exotic. The second game could take place in some kind of underworld environment, similar to Subrosia in Oracle of Seasons, with lava lakes, deserts, but not too serious of course. The game could be more sidequest and puzzle oriented. And the last game should feature a sky world with sky temples, sky islands and sky villages and so on, maybe a more action oriented game with strong enemies. I mentioned the idea of a Zelda in the sky in one of my earlier articles, so why not put it into a small WiiWare Zelda game, where it can't deal any damage? The above picture with the fake screenshots actually shows, how I imagine the concept of the three different worlds (though I used sprites from earlier Zelda games to make them). This way they also could be like on top of each other, the underworld of the second game is located under the overworld of the first game and the sky world could float over both of them. That way the games would form one big world and it would explain, how Link is able to travel between the games and how he gets the items from the other games so easily. I mentioned this earlier, basically the linking system works like all three games form one big Zelda game, where the world is just cut into three parts. Of course you wouldn't need to have an underworld and sky world for this, you could also just have different kingdoms like Holodrum and Labrynna, where Link is able to travel between them.

Content and Distribution

I'd say each game would cost like 1000 Wii Points. I wouldn't release all three games at the same time, but one after another. That way Zelda fans get a new dose of Zelda over a certain period of time, like one new game per month. Each game will have four main dungeons and four additional minidungeons, that can only be accessed, if you have the items from the other games. Sidequests should contain some collectible items. Of course there should be additional heart containers in each game and I would like to see something like the rings from the Oracle games, where each item is unique and gives the player a different ability, like a defense upgrade, a flaming sword or a sword beam attack. There could be a unique set of those "rings" in each game and you can trade the "rings" between the games again. I was also thinking about Downloadable Content (DLC). At first I had the idea of downloadable bonus dungeons, but that idea then turned into the final minidungeon quest. But what would be cool is some kind of "2nd Quest" / "Master Quest", which makes the games much harder, changes all the dungeons entirely, as well as the locations of collectible items on the overworld. You would be able to download the 2nd Quest of one game for 500 Nintendo Points, which is a fair price considering that you're getting new dungeons. So, alltogether the package would cost 4500 Nintendo Points, which is about the price of a retail game. But consider, that you don't have to download everything and that the three games and 2nd Quests would be released over a longer period of time, like a couple of months.


Overall I think, this is quite a realistic concept for a WiiWare release of Zelda. Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who loves to pay for lots of WiiWare games, actually I don't have any WiiWare games yet, only Virtual Console games. What I like about the concept is the thought, that we would regulary get new Zelda content over a longer period of time, like one new game or 2nd Quest per month. On average we get one new Zelda game per year at max and maybe a couple of rereleases, which are mostly a fine motivation to replay the older games. But I love to have something to look forward to and a series of individual WiiWare releases would keep me entertained and excited for a much longer time than a normal game does.

So much about my idea for a WiiWare Zelda game. I know, this is not the usual read on my blog, but it shows the possibilities of the WiiWare platform quite well. They could do something entirely different, like a multiplayer-focused game or a minigame or both. For example something like Shadow Battles or Navi Trackers from Four Swords Adventures as a standalone game, DLC could be additional stages. But in conclusion I can just say, that the WiiWare platform is definitely promising, especially if you want to experience some traditional 2D Zelda again.

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