I live and breathe Zelda. It’s no secret. I’m not ashamed. I write fan fictions. I spend hours theorizing over timeline possibilities. And I immerse myself in each and every title in the series as deeply as possible. You’re starting to get weirded out, but stay with me.
Last year, I wrote an article about suggestions I had for Skyward Sword. Much to my surprise, Nintendo incorporated very few of them. Somehow, the game still managed to be a great success, blending sharp motion gameplay with an intriguing story and a thing I like to call Zelda magic.
With the new Zelda game being worked on for the Wii U, I think it’s time for another round of ideas and speculation. Shigeru Miyamoto has said that Skyward Sword is the “last Zelda of its kind,” suggesting that series is in for an overhaul. Here are some changes I would like to see that would radically change the formula, take advantage of the tablet functionality, and yet stay true to the Zelda spirit.
1. Jumping Link – I still believe one of the most significant, scope-broadening aspect Nintendo could incorporate is a jump function. The lack of jumping was a good tactic for the conversion of Zelda titles to 3-D; Nintendo was able to design more complex and strict dungeons because Link’s restrictions to a mostly horizontal plane of movement.
However, the ability to jump could open up an entire realm of possibilities, adding another layer to both combat and dungeon design. Jumping could even be limited to a special item or circumstances. And before you tear me apart here, it’s important to remember that Link has jumped in previous titles before with the help of the Roc’s Feather, so it’s not like I’m setting some new precedent here.
2. Don’t overdo the Wii U tablet – Most of the motion controls in Skyward Sword were great and very well implemented, but I couldn’t help but feel like there were some combat portions where I just would have preferred traditional controls. With this in mind, I think tablet controls will offer a lot of really great gameplay additions, but it’s important to limit its incorporation into the game. For example, I will die inside if Nintendo decides to use the Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks stylus control designs to move Link. I’ve decided to lay it out in an easy-to-read list.
Touch controls will be great for:
- drawing trajectories of projectiles
- navigating the map
- sorting through inventory
- removing the HUD and increasing immersion
- petting chickens
- petting kittens
Touch controls will suck for:
- sword combat
- petting Ganon
3. A Link to the Somewhat Future – Speaking of items, I think it would be a great move to set the next Zelda a little bit in the future. Don’t worry, I’m not picturing a brooding Link wearing a hoodie and riding motorcycle while wielding a Master Shotgun, but a little bit further in the timeline, like the industrial age, could be really engaging, for both setting and gameplay. Take a look at this, for example, which the author dubbed as The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of the Future:
This could introduce players to a brand new Zelda world, and breathe new life into the equipment. For instance, we could get boots that offer steam propulsion in certain spots for higher jumps, or the ability to run an electrical current through the hookshot to harm enemies and solve mechanical puzzles. Think about it.
4. More Midna, Less Fi – As far as helpful secondary characters go, Twilight Princess knocked it out of the park with Midna. She was funny, interesting, and most importantly, not overbearing. She played an integral role in the plot, but for the most part she stayed out your ear unless you specifically asked her for advice. And then Fi comes along…
“Master, there is a 90 percent chance that this is a boss.” A boss, huh? Really? The menacing design and the fact that it’s living inside the final room in the dungeon hadn’t tipped me off yet. Thank God you’re here. “Master, there is an 80 percent chance that we should get out of this boat.” Oh, you think? It’s just filling up with water and breaking apart in front of us. I thought maybe we’d go for a swim. Long story short, Fi was a disaster. I was half expecting her to beckon me to “look” and shout at me to “listen.”
I like the idea of a secondary character. Make them better. And most importantly, make them shut the hell up unless I want them to talk.
5. Please explain – At one point, I thought Link talking was the only way the story in Zelda could get more immersive. Then two things happened.
- Metroid: Other M set sexism in gaming back about 30 years. The writers of that game were none too happy with the women’s suffrage movement, apparently.
- Skyward Sword told a compelling, rich story using great characterization and an excellent villain, with no voice acting from any of the characters.
Let’s continue that trend. Maintain the weird Zelda quirks, like the hand in the toilet. That’s great. But keep the story serious, establish a meaningful conflict, and raise the stakes for our heroes. Most of all, I would love an explanation of the dual—I’m sorry—triple timeline theory, introduced in the Japan exclusive Zelda bible.
Listen, Nintendo, I didn’t ask for this, but if you’re going to come up with this crazy idea that Ganondorf, at some point in Ocarina of Time, KILLS Link, I’m going to need an explanation. Furthermore, with all the parallel worlds and dimension hopping featured in Zelda games like Majora’s Mask, the Oracle games, and Link’s Awakening (arguably), would it be such a stretch to imagine a game where one of the Links finds a wormhole to one of these three timelines? At one point, the timelines were all one—maybe they can be returned somehow! And then all three Links team up to kill Super Ganon, created by each of the Ganons fusing with one another! Clearly, I’ve been watching too much Fringe.
6. Item Restrictions – Let’s start Link off with all his weapons, but then have the King of Hyrule refuse to give Link permission to use them! Just kidding, everyone. What a f****** terrible idea that was. I hate you, Other M.
7. The Fire Rod – What happened to this? Too awesome? Too fun? It’s a rod that shoots fire, and has never been seen in 3-D. WTF, Nintendo. WTFF.
8. Reasonable Items-Twilight Princess was a dumpster fire when it came to item management. Link had about 4,000 selectable items, some of which were only useful for literally a handful of situations throughout the whole game. Skyward Sword rectified this with much better items, however, a trend I’d like to see duplicated in the next Zelda. And take advantage of the touch tablet; Skyward Sword included items based on motion technology, so I expect the same here. This means you’d almost have to bring the boomerang back, which I’m okay with. Just make it more useful here than it was in Ocarina of Time.
9. Advanced Combat – I fought for this once before, and I’m doing it again. I think the next Zelda should offer an overhaul on combat. First of all, I think the game should utilize an “enemy encounters” mode, and make it separate mode from “exploration.” This means that when Link encounters a group of enemies, the buttons and presentation change to suit the situation. Not only would this offer more flexibility with the button layout, but it would give the options for some more advanced fighting options.
The simplistic combat options of previous Zelda games always appealed to me, but imagine a game with more combat depth, another step along the lines of Wind Waker’s evolution of Zelda fighting. You can one-two combo the enemy with the sword and shield, and as he staggers, you can utilize your secondary weapon, like you fire your clawshot, to further extend the combo.
Furthermore, I think it could be ingenious to take advantage of Link’s arsenal by providing the ability to change fighting styles completely, like in Devil May Cry 3 and Bayonetta; approaching enemy battles with a sword and shield could, and should, feel dramatically different than a megaton hammer and fire rod combo, or utilizing bombs as a secondary weapon. These are possibilities in gameplay that I would love to see, and it would ramp up Zelda’s combat potential to another level.
Like the changes? Hate me and everything I stand for? E-mail me at Shaun@atthebuzzershow.com and let me know.