Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Return of Non-Linear Zelda?

So, the silence around Zelda was finally broken in today's Nintendo Direct show with a simple announcement from Aonuma:

We're going to make Zelda less linear again!

He didn't say it in this direct way, but it was the main point in my eyes. They want to rethink the conventions that dominated Zelda in the last years and go back to the roots of Zelda while doing so. He uses linear dungeon order and design, as well as playing in singleplayer as examples.

Now, if you followed my blog even for a little while, you should know that the linearity of modern Zelda games was always my main concern. I despise linear game design, it's lazy and boring. A video game is always the sum of its interesting choices. The real great Zelda experiences are the ones, where you explore Hyrule on your own, finish dungeons out of order or in different ways. It adds a richer experience and massive replay value to the games.

I went on and on about how Zelda should become less linear and finally my prayers have been heard!

However, they already promised the very same thing for Skyward Sword. He even mentioned in today's Nintendo Direct that they failed to keep those promises with the game. It was as linear as ever. And remember how they wanted to get away from the typical dungeon design and merge overworld and dungeons at some points? They used Faron Woods as a demo for an overworld dungeon. However, nothing of this remained in the game and they just added classic dungeons to the woods.

But this time it's different. This is the very first info we got about Zelda on the Wii U. It's the basis for this new game. And they have to keep the promise this time. So, I'm very confident that we will finally see the return of classical non-linear Zelda design. And needless to say that I'm very excited about this.

About the "playing alone" convention, I guess that they will probably work on some kind of coop mode, that uses the GamePad. If that's the case, this would also mean that the main game is still played with the Skyward Sword controls. I wouldn't want them to drop the controls just now, they deserve another chance. While playing Skyward Sword I always thought that the controls feels really nice and powerful. However, it was all the awkward "please slice in the given direction"-puzzle fights that ruined the experience. Most enemies turned into some dull motion control minigame and that was the wrong approach. So, for the Wii U game I would like them to focus on a more natural sword fighting experience, while the GamePad is used for some kind of coop mode, where you assist the player in many ways.

I guess a coop itself could revolve around maps and map making. Remember in the old NES days, it was common that Zelda was played by two people: one playing the game, the other one drawing maps. Maybe Nintendo wants to return to this principle, maybe by adding more interactivity to maps. Like being able to control the environment via the map. It would be new, but still "back to the roots" in some way.

Also, there are many other modern Zelda conventions that should be broken. Like the need of a sidekick character as a guide or the long tutorial phase at the beginning of each game. I hope Nintendo really looks into what fans disliked with past games and starts getting rid of all those ugly conventions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that the "sidekick character" needs to go (and probably could go, if Aonuma et al swing that way), but I highly doubt that the tutorial session at the beginning will be going anywhere--it's too much of a staple in contemporary gaming.

It is ironic that the games that most fans tout as the all time best Zeldas are the ones with non-linear gameplay, and that they're just now going back to this idea. I suppose if you combine this new announcement with the earlier one about how massive Hyrule is going to be for this next installment, we might be looking at something like a mix between the original NES title and Skyrim.