For those of us who followed E3’s trail this year, we were amazed and shocked at the unveiling of a new Zelda game; a Zelda game that looked dark and mature, one set in a realistic environment of almost medieval proportions. It featured a slew of new enemies, many human-esque, carrying swords, spears, and bows (a joy for those who are just plain sick of fighting childish monsters). It also showed gamers new combat styles, like horseback fighting and actual sword-sword combat, along with the prospect of a more acrobatic Link, one that would make dodging and evading much more fun. The graphical style is solid and detailed, with varied visuals such as a meadow basking in the bright morning sun, and a dank dungeon slowly succumbing to erosion. The character design was flawless. Link himself flaunted his usual green tunic, but with startling detail, his facial expression shows promise and personality. Under his tunic is a kind of mesh or under-armor. A beam of light gleams along the sharp edge of his sword. His shield looks rusty, but sturdy. The very atmosphere of the demo was incredible. By the end of the video, many a soul was left drooling for more.But let’s back up a minute. The Big N does have a tendency to screw long-anticipated games up. Remember The Wind Waker? Though you and I may have liked it, let’s face it: a lot of gamers were disappointed by its graphical style and its short replay value. Remember when we found out Final Fantasy was returning to Nintendo? Nintendo butchered a game that could’ve been an actual RPG. Instead, they merely converted it to another adventure game. Remember Super Mario Sunshine? Nintendo slacked off, and while the game looked pretty, the gameplay couldn’t quite match up to Super Mario 64. Nintendo needs more time and resources to spend making a game that will take the GCN off the ground. But so far, none of their games have been absolutely stellar. Does Nintendo have the necessary ideals to make this next Zelda as successful as Ocarina of Time? Let’s take a look at the necessary qualities that must be incorporated into Nintendo’s next big release to get fans to truly rejoice.
The Wind Waker was fun while it lasted, but I can’t remember a time where I was challenged or perplexed at not being able to solve a puzzle or fight an enemy. It just wasn’t as challenging as other Zelda games had been. Ocarina had the maddening layout of the Water Temple, or the amazing tentacle enemies inside Jabu-Jabu’s belly, or even the cleverly employed Stalchildren within Hyrule Field. The last dungeon of the game, Ganondorf’s Tower, was an excellent combination of all skills and items you had learned to use that were tactfully implemented to create an atmosphere of incredible puzzles. Even the fight between Link and Ganon was challenging, but not insanely difficult. In fact, that is exactly what Wind Waker was missing: a delicate balance between being difficult and having fun.
The perfect level of difficulty is one that challenges the player enough to have to stop and think about it, but not difficulty of enough caliber to frustrate the gamer and stop them from progressing. We all must admit that Wind Waker’s Ganondorf was a bit of a joke. Though he was fun to fight, he went down without much of a struggle. It’s important to me that a last boss of any game should cause the player to die once or twice before even figuring out how to administer the final blow. It should really be a power struggle, allowing the player to rigorously employ all tactics he’s learned throughout the course of the game. Wind Waker didn’t quite live up to initial expectation. In fact, Ganondorf was ridiculously simple, a hack-and-slash that required no real skill. Plus, the game had no real replay value, either. It didn’t seem to last long, did it? With no reason to play it again, no real want to experience it again, how is it worth the money?
Zelda 2005 needs a good amount of difficulty that leaves players puzzled, but keeps them coming back for more. Enemies should also be tough, some of which may even require many strikes of the sword to bring down. Some should require a certain weapon or tactic to defeat. Some should require many different skills to make them vulnerable. Here’s a secret: Challenging games are memorable games. By incorporating a sense of difficulty, Zelda 2005 has a chance of being the next Ocarina, if Nintendo plays their cards right. There are hundreds of possible enemies they could fool around with, but making them challenging (especially bosses) is key.
Ocarina of Time really captivated gamers with an enthralling story, and its plot was the one that actually started the dozens of timeline theories and made gamers question the continuity of the Zelda games they’d been playing. Hearing about Link’s heritage as a Hylian made players say “Oh….”, and learning of Sheik’s true identity made them smack their forehead in disbelief. An air of excitement surrounded the game and made gamers eager to play and learn more. Even those who played games for gameplay more than story content were deeply immersed in the depth and span of the game. Now, Zelda is no Final Fantasy when it comes to plot, but Ocarina of Time revolutionized the series, changed it to a storyline-oriented franchise, but made no sacrifice to gameplay. Constant surprises in the series made it all the better.
Wind Waker was also a game focused on story, but it just didn’t work as well as Ocarina’s. The plot seemed a little forced and meek at times. For example, instead of in-depth explanations of pronounced story, story spoilers and plot twists were choppy and short-winded. Bosses were seemingly random, in lieu of a reason for placement. The village folk didn’t seem to have as much character as the NPCs in Ocarina. Who’s to doubt that Tetra had less character than Saria? Above all these, Ganon just didn’t seem like much of an enemy. He didn’t have much of a backstory, character, or motivation. By simply assuming he’s a big, bad boss, Nintendo threw away an opportunity to develop more of the Zelda franchise. In fact, Wind Waker didn’t do much for theories except confirm a multiple Link timeline. The continuing characters were amusing at best, but nothing memorable was integrated into the game.
Zelda 2005 definitely needs some good secondary characters. In Wind Waker, you could embark on side quests if you wished, but there weren’t really any side quests that were initiated by townsfolk. It was a strict “find-the-Heart-Containers-if-you-can” basis. I’d like to see some secondary characters like the ones in Ocarina; ones that more-or-less tell you “Go find my chickens and I’ll give you a Heart Container”. I also believe that the enemy of the game , be it Ganon or whomever, be sincerely and truly evil, unlike Wind Waker’s Ganon, who’s personality seemed insincere at best. Since the theme looks so mature based on the video, we can count on a much darker Zelda than we’ve previously witnessed. Seemingly set in a war-torn environment, it looks like it will make a good basis of a storyline that runs deep for a Zelda game. In fact, the once childish Nintendo even used the dreaded “B” word in its demo: “Bleed”(Blades will bleed…). It’s a good omen, the things they’ve shown us. Just keep your fingers crossed.
Ocarina of Time’s gameplay spanned a total of 30 hours, everything included. Its side quests were in-depth and interactive, and made players want to indulge in the multiple different paths of optional gameplay. As a bonus, there is a jump in storyline spanning seven years. This in itself makes the game seem long and epic. Plus, the game had a few plot twists and a bit of continuity issues, making it seem as if it stretched back to previous years. Nintendo endeavored long and hard to produce Ocarina, and in the end it paid off. They incorporated nearly 12 dungeons, and towns and villages seemed massive in proportion. Hyrule Field was the big crossway of the game, and its amount of ground covered was appropriate to the number of places players must travel. They all take a long while to explore. Also, the time flow between night and day gives the game the illusion of being longer. Certain places and things were strongly affected by the switch between day and night. The interactive experience was unique and incredible.
Wind Waker, on the other hand, was short in duration, spanning about 5 dungeons, less than half of Ocarina’s. The game seemed rushed and erratic, and the pace set is quick and untimely. The Great Sea is massive, but the ratio of water to land is about 20:1, so it really is more of an annoyance to travel it. For example, players are given a map of the Great Sea for navigation help. However, when all the squares of the grid are filled in, most of the map is still blank. You can hardly see the miniscule islands on the map. The game’s time flow is inconsequential; barely anything is affected by change of day or night. Sailing across the Great Sea from one end to the other took a full seven minutes, a very annoying factor, with no way to speed up your journey. Dungeons were also somewhat short, but perhaps this ties in with difficulty as well.
Zelda 2005 needs a lot of dedication and commitment from Nintendo’s staff. It needs the epic feel of a stretched-out gameplay issue and a long, well balanced quest. It is not necessary for time travel to take place, but a constant feel of time simply passing would be completely acceptable. I think the one thing Zelda 2005 needs in its quest for greatness is time. Though Nintendo’s crew is, at some times, very innovative, it looks like they’re sticking to the classic Zelda franchise. Depending on how long or hard Nintendo works, the game will vary on how long and how hard it itself is. It’s got until 2005, which we all hope is plenty of time for Nintendo.
A Link to the Past may have set the standard for a “Zelda feel” of a game by adding such items as the sword upgrades, bug-catching net, the Fire Rod and the Medallions. Ocarina continued the tradition with items such as the Hookshot, Deku Sticks, and the Fire/Ice/Light Arrows. I actually think that what made the game really good was collecting the Spiritual Stones and the Medallions. I think that, for some reason, players like the collecting of key items such as these because it gives them a definitive purpose to add to their quest. Players will play more if they know when their goal starts and when it ends. It helps.
Wind Waker also tried to pull the collecting stance, but it ended up falling apart. For example, you must collect three pearls in order to progress in the game. The first two you receive after completing a dungeon, which is all well and good, but the third you get simply from talking to a character. It was like Nintendo got lazy. And then, as the game got underway, you were to restore the Master Sword’s power – a fair enough goal, but unfortunately, it spanned a mere two dungeon lifetime. If only you had to traverse a few more to collect some kind of power source to restore its power; two dungeons as its main staple is very weak. Also, Wind Waker’s items were new, but they weren’t practical. The Deku Leaf, Grappling Hook, Wind Waker – All these things weren’t put into constant use, and thus, weren’t as fun to put into play. Although the ever-fun Boomerang made a triumphant return, items like the Deku Leaf were never used after the dungeon in which you received it. Even the Wind Waker was somewhat lame when compared to the Ocarina; maybe it had to do with the few amount of songs that you actually learned. And the songs that you did learn were near useless. Even the warp song you learned was rather ill-placed; the places it took you weren’t convenient.
Zelda 2005 has been scaring some with the notion that it may be too similar to Lord of the Rings. This mature theme is good, but if they take it too far, they won’t be able to supply an actual Zelda game. Zelda needs the magical touch, the upbeat tempo of rhythm and play, and the enchanted items that truly define the series. I’m looking for a return of some Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time’s items, like the Fire Rod, the Ether, Bombos, and Quake Medallions, and even one so small as the Lantern. Nintendo’s taking a step in the right direction by putting these things into a new game: Four Swords Adventures. Hopefully, they continue the set of items and shape the game into a well-rounded saga.
Zelda 2005 has many fans choking with anticipation. All eyes are on Nintendo of Japan as they assemble a game that could cause an updraft of sales for them. But at times, Nintendo are almost masochists with sales. They botch, butcher, and kill off any chance of making a great game. Slowly and gradually, they learn from their mistakes, but will reality have impacted them enough before the newest Zelda? After all, this could be the most important game for the good ol’ GCN. If Nintendo plays their cards with a good poker face, things might swing their way for a change. Maybe they’ll take the hint, this time.