Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Perfect Start

For the near future, until we know more about Zelda on the 3DS and Wii U, this blog will focus on what's wrong with modern Zelda and how to improve it. Nintendo's goal is to make Zelda more popular again and they can't do that with the current Aonuma Zelda formula, because it's this formula, which is the problem. A lot has to change.

Check out this Kotaku article. It deals with a very important point: in the classic Nintendo games you jump right into the fun. There are no tutorial phases in Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. You get the sword right away and you start exploring. The essence of the game is there from minute one.

Modern Zelda completely lost track of this. There are lenghty tutorials for all the newly introduced gimmicks and there are many cut scenes you have to endure, before the real funs starts. Skyward Sword is a perfect example for this. They don't just let you go explore the world below, first you have to find your bird, learn how to fly in some ceremony, watch many cutscenes and so on.

When I observe my gaming behavior I usually prefer games, where I can jump right into the action. For example on the PC I like playing Unreal Tournament or Minecraft. The latter is a nice example, because its Survival Mode shares some similarities with the traditional Zelda gameplay. You get dropped right into the world, you start collecting stuff (to built better items) and you can go, whereever you want. You are free to explore the world like in the first Zelda game. The only restrictions are your own powers. As you become stronger, you can go explore the dark undergrounds. Zelda used to be like that, but it turned more and more into a guided and linear experience. And by now it takes you an hour to get into the real action.

It is very good that Nintendo is looking into this phenomenom. However, Miyamoto sees two major problems with this: one is the game elements that require teaching and the other one is story telling. I think the real problem are actually the teaching and the story telling. Both have to go.

Learning by doing. Actually Skyward Sword's controls were so natural and intuitive that they didn't require any tutorials, you just could learn them on the fly. And in fact there weren't many tutorials, for example you could skip the sword tutorial entirely. Which is the right way. Let the people learn the new stuff by theirselves and only include some optional help for those who really need it. For example Ocarina of Time introduced the 3D targeting controls, but they didn't force any tutorials on you. Beginners would talk to the Kokiki or read the signs at the training center. Experienced players just skip right to the Deku Tree. And that's the way how it should be. It also adds to the replay value. If you already played the game, you certainly don't want to endure any tutorials. Tutorials always should be optional.

Only the flying got its own forced tutorial sequence in Skyward Sword, because this was the new gimmick. But do we really need flying in a Zelda game? Or trains? Or becoming a wolf? Modern Zelda revolves around gimmicks, each new Zelda game gets its own share of new gimmicks. And usually those gimmicks don't have anything to do with traditional Zelda, which is why they get tutorials. For the next Zelda game Nintendo should not think about what amazing and creative new ideas they could stuff into Zelda, but they should focus on the core elements. Exploring, fighting, discovering secrets, collecting items.

And story telling shouldn't be in the way of the gaming experience. Never. I entirely dislike any movie-like games. If I want to watch a movie, I watch a movie. Games are about interaction. Games are about choices. Cutscenes are crap, because they don't offer any interaction or choices (at least not in Zelda, cut those silly multiple choice options with no effects). A video game has many more interesting possiblities of HOW to tell a story. Video games are the only media that allow non-linear story telling. You should explore the story by yourself while exploring Hyrule. By talking to people, reading old books or writings on a wall. Zelda offers many interesting ways to explore a story instead of just showing you cutscenes.

Majora's Mask does it right. You get dropped in Clocktown, where you EXPLORE the story all by yourself. You talk to people and you learn more about the town, the carnival and the Skull Kid. You listen to granny's old stories and get to know more about the backgrounds. It's an amazingly satisfying experience. Zelda doesn't need any lenghty cutscenes. Zelda doesn't need linear story telling. Zelda doesn't need an intro phase filled with cutscenes.

The goal for the next Zelda game should be the following: give you a sword as soon as possible and drop you into the open world as soon as possible. Don't force anything, let the player explore the magic of Hyrule all by himself. For a perfect start into a good game.


K2L said...

I just want the franchise to die.

TourianTourist said...

If this is what you want, then you're in the wrong place. I certainly don't want the franchise to die. I want it to rise.

Also, Zelda is still Nintendo's fourth biggest franchise (after Mario, Pokémon and the Wii series), so they certainly won't let it die.

zandy said...


clover101 said...

I agree that legend of zelda is quite the series and the mangas to them are awesome. But who here like HETLIA!?And i think nintendo is the best game producer. And anime is the best part of it!!=3
But i have to attmit i am a follower of this blog and is my fav. one!! And Italy is so CUTE!!!!!!XD(in an adorible way) And if you like anime view my blog(but i warn you i started it just 2 week ago)

K2L said...

@TourianTourist: It's sad that we disagree, but .... ah well, everybody's entitled to their opinion, I suppose.

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