Monday, April 30, 2012

The Future of Zelda 2012

I opened this blog in 2008 with a post called The Future of Zelda, at a time, where little to nothing was know about it. We knew that something was in development, but there were no announced titles, no concepts, nothing. 2008 was a total void for Zelda fans (save for Smash Bros. Brawl). Right now we're back in the same situation. We left the 25th Anniversary behind us, played many cool new Zelda titles and enjoyed many Zelda goodies such as Hyrule Historia. And now there's nothing. Nothing left to do, nothing to look forward to. We just know that something is in development, but we know nothing about the upcoming game(s). We've entered the Zelda void. Maybe they'll show us something at E3, maybe not. But until then we can only speculate and this is why I will post a new edition of my "the Future of Zelda" article.

A Tale of Two Games

It's not uncommon that there are two Zelda games in development at the same time. Actually it has always been that way ever since Majora's Mask. Right now Nintendo is working on both a 3DS Zelda game and a WiiU one. The 3DS game is probably getting the full priority, while the WiiU Zelda game most likely is still in experimental stages. But for those two games pretty much anything is possible. It's still unclear what play style, perspective or controls they will have. Or how the graphics will look like.

Originally the handheld Zelda games would go with the classic topdown perspective, while the big console Zeldas used the 3rd person play style of Ocarina of Time. But with Ocarina of Time 3D we now got a third person Zelda on a handheld and the new Zelda game on the 3DS might even follow that play style. But unless the WiiU Zelda now goes back to the topdown view, it would mean abandoning the classic Zelda play style. And I guess many Zelda fans wouldn't like that. Of course it's not like with Mario, where the 2D Mario games are ten times more popular than the 3D ones, but "2D Zelda" still should continue to exist. Well, what do we know about the upcoming Zelda game for the 3DS? Nothing really, only some statements by Aonuma. The biggest quote is probably that the game will be something "where 3D really matters". Aonuma also stated that the game will be based on what they built for the Nintendo DS Zelda games (see here). Both of this lead me to the speculation that the 3DS Zelda game actually might be a classic "2D" Zelda experience from the topdown perspective.

Why? In Ocarina of Time 3D the 3D effect didn't really matter. It looks nice, but turning it off doesn't change the gameplay experience in any way. In Super Mario 3D Land, however, certain bonus levels provided optical illusions in a fixed perspective, where jumps were hard to judge with the 3D turned off. Here the 3D really mattered. And ever since they introduced the "3D Classics" I was obsessed with the thought of seeing classic Zelda dungeons with a depth added to them. Imagine the dungeon room going into your screen. Super Mario 3D Land even got a Zelda stage, which shows how this would look like. I think the fixed topdown perspective would work great in combination with 3D. And in case of a topdown Zelda it would also make sense for them to built on the Nintendo DS Zelda engine. However, the stylus controls probably won't return. The 3D screen isn't a touchscreen, so you can't have both and the game will probably implement very old school Zelda controls. So, I guess the 3DS Zelda has a good chance to be a very old fashioned Zelda experience.

On the WiiU I really don't know what to make out of that tablet controller. Also, Nintendo praised their Skyward Sword controls so much, it would look stupid to abandon them immediately. The WiiU Zelda should keep the Skyward Sword play style and focus on nice graphics. They've shown us the incredible Zelda graphics demo and this is what the fans now want. They already made the same mistake with the 2000 Space World GameCube Zelda video, which looked pretty amazing at the time, and then making the Wind Waker instead. They shouldn't repeat this mistake, they've shown us the shiny Temple of Time and now fans want this or at least something similar impressive.

About the controls? All I see in that controller is something similar to Four Swords Adventures. But playing that game with the GameBoy Advance in your hands was pretty uncomfortable. Even though it always says things like "look at GBA screen" and "look at TV screen", switching between screens gets pretty confusing and annoying, It's a terrible play style. So, what could you use the tablet for? For maps and menus, naturally, similar to all the DS and 3DS Zelda games so far. But using this controller would mean giving up the Wiimote play style. And Skyward Sword felt pretty good and natural. So, what's more important? Having an easy access to maps and menus or the cool sword controls? I'd go with the Skyward Sword controls all the time. The WiiU controller could become a glorified "Tingle Tuner" though... okay, the Tingle Tuner was just an aweful feature with its only use to annoy the main player. But the general idea isn't that bad. It happens that you play Zelda and there's someone watching you play the game. That person could use the WiiU controller to study maps and give valuable information or even influence the environment in some ways like shown in the tech demo.

Majora's Mask 3D

Okay, it is actually not true that we don't know anything, because Majora's Mask 3D is pretty much a given. They just said that they will develop an original Zelda game for the 3DS first, before they release another remake. But Majora's Mask 3D is a simple task, take Majora's Mask and make it look like Ocarina of Time 3D. This time though they should definitely add some actual new content. Like a new dungeon or whatever. I will write a more detailed post in the future about MM3D ideas, but one feature I would like to see is expending the game's Pictograph item into the Pictobox experience of the Wind Waker including a new figurine collection. It's a perfect fit, the figurines would look awesome in 3D and thanks to the repeating 3 day cycle there wouldn't be any missables, which was the worst thing about the figurine collection in TWW. And it should work a little bit easier, for example you shouldn't have to wait one day for a figurine to be made. The figurines should also be stored in your inventory, because otherwise you would lose them on your time travels. Also, a Master Quest for Majora's Mask would be pretty sweet. Expect more thoughts about Majora's Mask 3D soon.

Grezzo and Retro

Grezzo established theirselves as the Zelda remake guys, they made both Ocarina of Time 3D and the Four Swords Anniversay Edition. And they probably will also develop Majora's Mask 3D, when it's time. Until then I think they will work hand in hand with Nintendo on the 3DS Zelda game. No matter how the game will look like, their experience and manpower will be an asset. Another valuable asset for Nintendo has been Retro Studios, who have made some pretty amazing games in the past ten years. It already has been hinted by Miyamoto that they could work on Zelda and let me tell you that this would be the best damn thing that happened to Zelda in a long time. They have a good understanding of what made the classic games great and how to put it into a modern game. They could bring Zelda back to its roots, while still giving you a fresh and modern Zelda experience. Of course Nintendo wouldn't hand over their next Zelda game entirely to Retro. So, I think the next two Zelda games will be born under the star of codevelopment. The 3DS Zelda game will be codeveloped by Grezzo and the WiiU Zelda game will be codeveloped by Retro. More manpower for Zelda.

Zelda on the eShop

Let's not forget the realm of the eShop, where past Zelda game will make their return. The Legend of Zelda already found its way to the 3DS Virtual Console and the remaining ambassador games, Zelda II and the Minish Cap, will most likely follow. Also, don't forget Oracle of Ages and Seasons, two games that haven't been available since the GameBoy Color days. The Game & Watch Zelda could also be remade, an actual 3D version where the 3D effects are used to properly emulate the LCD effects would be lovely. Talking about 3D remakes, I still think it would be an awesome idea to get a 3D Classics version of A Link to the Past, based on the GBA version and including the Ancient Stone Tablets addon levels. For the ultimate version of A Link to the Past. I would love to buy that.

Anyway, some Zelda classics will definitely see a return as downloadable games. But I would also like the idea of new 2D Zelda games as exclusive downloads. Similar to the Four Swords Anniversary Edition without the remake part. Imagine a new Zelda game in the lovely style of the Minish Cap. Or something in the improved ALttP style from Four Swords Adventures. Small Zelda games for a small price, no big new gimmicks here, just classic Zelda gameplay. I would love to buy that.


A big "NO" here at the moment. The Tingle series is over and the Zelda team shouldn't waste their time on something like Link's Crossbow Training 2 or Link's Fishing Adventure.


K2L said...

"They already made the same mistake with the 2000 Space World GameCube Zelda video, which looked pretty amazing at the time, and then making the Wind Waker instead."

This is why I refused to play TWW until 19 months after its release, namely November 2004. I hate buying mistakes, so I only got the game when the hatred died down (in part, thought, because the then-upcoming TP gave players even more reasons to forget TWW even existed). That same year, in Christmas, I accidentally got Star Fox Adventures (I had asked for Assault, but that game got delayed, so my family thought that Adventures was the one I wanted), so needless to say my catalogue of GCN games stopped being awesome, and I had to deal with that ever since. I won't even talk about SS, because you already know what happened, and I know that repeating the same things ad-nauseam is tiresome. All I'm going to say is, they better nail it with the Wii U title. It better gain an acclaim and popularity that dwarvens OOT's, because I'm already tired of seeing the same game so insistently in the "Top 10" lists. It's a great game, but the overrating is ruining its reputation. Four games (MM, TWW, TP, SS) have been ruined prestige-wise due to the shadow of the 1998 title, turning the series into a lackluster, whereas Mario shines as much as always thanks to the awesome games released from time to time. I want my Wii U catalogue to be as stellar as possible, and for that I must only get the chefs' specialities, not love-or-hate products.

As for 3DS, I also said this before but will repeat it: An all-new game must come first. The 3DS can't rely on remakes forever. Its 2011 catalogue was lackluster enough with both the sub-par new software, and the software of past glories. It needs more killer-apps, and a new Zelda game has that potential. It's quite sad that the MM hipsters, who only appreciate the game NOW (and not when the game needed it the most, when its sales were underwhelming and still are now), are failing to understand this. I know you can do it, big N!!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Majora's Mask 3D and the new 3DS Zelda!

Bacon said...

I always find it funny how many fans seem to hate all the titles which came after OoT but still keep playing all the Zelda games. Sure, some titles were pretty easy and overall not so good compared to earlier installments (especially when it comes to TP story- and gameplaywise) but each title has its "Zelda-moments". I always get upset about the unused potential Aonuma is waisting which each new title too but maybe fans should start looking at the series objectively. Were the old games really THAT much better? Or is it just the fans were younger and got more excited about it? Nostalgia is a bitch because it only lets you remind the good stuff from the past, you know. Keep an eye on that next time you try to compare Zelda Titles between each other. I think the Wii U and the new 3DS Zeldas are going to be awesome, especially when there is chance Retro Studios aids Nintendo with the development.

K2L said...

@Bacon: Yeah, nostalgia often ruins objectivity. Even though the later games have flaws, criticism towards them are so annoyingly vocal that renders playing them a guilty pleasure. And I frankly doubt that'll ever change with the upcoming games. I'm pretty much faithless already. =/