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A Link Between Worlds
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The Wind Waker
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The Legend of Zelda:
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zelda

The video game world is a living, breathing beast; year to year, graphics and technology improve, allowing for drastic shifts in style. Nintendo began a new trend just a few years ago and geared itself more so toward family games, leading shelves to explode with a mass of multiplayer sports and dance discs. This opened up a whole new brand of consumers, yet the change to make a greater fraction of releases family-oriented irked many old Nintendo fans; many of these long time gamers  felt that first party games were negatively affected. However, could this trend again change with the Wii U?  With staggering sales and the console still in its infantile stages, the latest platform might give the Zelda series a chance to head in a new direction.

Ever since the turn of the century, Zelda games have appeared to become easier. 2D boss battles were thrilling; getting to the chamber was a challenge within itself and the “Game Over” screen was a common sight during both the battle and the journey to it. In newer games, however, the boss chamber is generally located either toward the front of the dungeon or farther from the entrance with shortcuts to it for easy access. There’s virtually no challenge getting there after having completed the rest of the dungeon and, once inside, the room is usually so stocked with hearts that dying can actually be harder to achieve than living. Games now are also littered with hints, among which are notable guides frequently interrupting the adventure to remind the player of which way to go. As a result, with only one right direction, Zelda has become more linear, the complete opposite of the very first entries in the series. Some like these changes, wrought about in the effort to make games more appealing to families and kids, yet just as many are annoyed with this new style of game play.

Beyond the game play, the plots of Zelda games have become more fleshed out with each entry due to the improvement of technology. However, this has led to the development of a Link-Zelda-Villain triangle. The whole plot revolves around the trio’s struggle for the land of Hyrule and how they change throughout the fight. It’s become formulaic, and the only attachment felt to the game is a fan’s love for its characters and settings. While this sentiment can be powerful, the next Zelda game should take a hint from those entries that have been more than this formula and its characters.

In the history of the series, there have been games that meant something to the player beyond the surface-level “gee whiz, that was fun,” entries that have touched a person so deeply that he or she tears down the fourth wall and becomes the characters. These are the Zeldas where the green clad hero breaks away from Hyrule, emotionally as well as physically, and is his own biggest conflict. Throughout these plots, which advance themes linked closely to strong human emotion, Link grows and the player grows with him.

Majora’s Mask, for example, is about far more than saving the land of Termina from destruction-by-moon. In the opening, Link’s posture suggests his utter desolation. Having been searching and unable to find his friend Navi, the only one who knows what he’s been through, the boy is lost and confused, stuck in some kind of limbo. His eyes are later opened by the suffering and grief of each and every NPC  he encounters. He matures, and, by the end, he leaves to continue on in his life. The subtle emotions and relationships Link develops through his journey are broadcasted onto the player. Through this, major themes develop. The hero learns what it means to be an adult, so he grows up. His experiences are the teachers of what grief and death really mean in the grand scheme of things and how it is necessary to move on even when it’s overly hard or painful. Heck, the game itself was designed so that the five main areas (excluding Termina Field) represent the five stages of grief, encountered in the order in which they occur in real life. Majora’s Mask hence isn’t just a game; it transcends the purpose of entertainment to become an experience lodged in the hearts of those who bear with it.

Link’s Awakening is similar to Majora’s Mask in that it has more depth than the average game. Waking up in the house of a complete stranger, Link is lost. He tries to leave the island Koholint on which he now finds himself, but a mysterious owl informs him that he cannot depart until he awakens the Wind Fish. A search for eight hidden musical instruments begins. Although Link starts only knowing that the song of these instruments will awaken the creature in the egg, he gradually learns that he will cause Koholint and all its inhabitants to disappear by bringing the Wind Fish to consciousness. To top it all off, he develops a special relationship with Marin, the girl who found him lying unconscious on the beach. Despite tough decisions, Link charges forward, awakening the Wind Fish and leaving the island to exist only in his memory. The journey enlightens the player by continuously revealing new pieces in the mysterious puzzle of the island, therefore creating a search for truth. But there’s always a flip side to the truth, and the fact that everything will vanish upon the end of the adventure conveys this and the complexity of human emotion. Link is faced with a dilemma: remain on Koholint with that which he has grown to love or continue on in his life by causing the island to disappear. With so many pros and cons on each side, deep and divided feelings develop in the hearts of the players connected to Link. The ambiguity of the ultimate enemy allows this inner turmoil to take center stage, as the Nightmares aren’t revealed until the battle against them. Yet, the final decision to leave the island teaches how to say goodbye. Link’s Awakening truly explores the emotional workings of the human mind.

Neither Majora’s Mask nor Link’s Awakening took place in the land of Hyrule. Neither involved a villain so consuming that the plot couldn’t travel far into a psychological aspect. Neither placed Princess Zelda in role larger than a cameo. Yet, despite these seemingly harmful drawbacks, these games not only are highly acclaimed by fans but also entertain a hugely touching, if hidden, meaning; they are not the only entries in the series to do so.

But with the way Link, the connector between the player and the game, has participated in a role that could be considered expendable in recent entries, the franchise needs new life. In Twilight Princess, Link is rarely acknowledged in major scenes, acting more as Midna’s sidekick than the other way around. Skyward Sword, in many ways, is Zelda’s adventure from Link’s perspective. All the relevant characters are tied together through her struggles. Because of such developments, Zelda is running the risk of becoming just another mass produced game rather than the experience it’s always been. Link, to truly become one with the player, needs to endure his own struggles, not those of another character or even those of Hyrule. When he bears his burdens, that is when he grows throughout the plot and when the player evolves with him, when the purpose of the game becomes more than just entertainment and the game itself becomes relevant in real life.

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Breaking  from Hyrule would force the game’s programmers and designers to view the next entry from a new perspective rather than from the formula of the most recent games. In addition to allowing Link to go through an inner change that is cast onto the audience, a different setting would also serve to set this game apart  from the others. One of the greatest things about Zelda is that each entry is unique, its own entity, and a new land would keep this tradition alive while not employing a completely radical element; this change is not necessarily novel, but it has been accepted by fans through the success of those entries which have already taken this step. It would give the series an air of freshness sorely needed while still allowing the entry to retain the classic Zelda feel.

With the new platform, it’s time that Nintendo once again pushes the Zelda franchise a step further — exploring that which is human by taking a brief vacation from Hyrule.

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  • Guest

    Nice post :) LA and MM, my two favorite Zelda games…

  • Ryano

    Great points, but SS was hardly the Hyrule that we know and love, and many fans weren't happy about it's hand holding and over done storyline. (so I don't really count that)

    I think it's possible to go back to the real Hyrule, one that we haven't visited in roughly 7 years, but bring it to life in a whole new way and explore many of your ideas while still keeping the plot central to Zelda lore.

    • Zelda_Styles10

      You have a wonderful point you really do but, think about those of us who have grown up with unlocking new areas and new twist to the already interesting plot. I have grown up with this and enjoyed it and while free over world exploration is great, so is having a steadier plot. About SS it was supposed to be BEFORE the Hyrule we know and love.

  • Guest

    We've been on break from Hyrule since 2006.

    And, the whole Zelda/Link/Ganon (or Demise) dynamic is CENTRAL to the Zelda mythos. Changing that would be changing one of the greatest aspects of the series. They are not just characters, by personified versions of the aspects of the Triforce. The conflict represents balance, chaos vs. order. You cannot get rid of that aspect of Zelda. MM is an overrated game and while LA was good, it was a Game Boy game.

    Well written though. I respectfully disagree, but a solid article.

    • Zelda_Styles10

      MM was not an overrated game number 1, number 2 Your absolutely right!!! They all carry that power of the Chosen Ones represented by the image of the Triforce on their hands! To simply put it…
      Zelda: Wisdom
      Link: Courage
      Ganon: Power
      and yes, anyone who knows anything about TLoZ knows this so don't write mean replys!!!! I was simply trying to help make a point.

      • Guest

        I never replied to one of your comments. IMO MM is overrated. I wasn't being mean to anyone.

      • Zelda_Styles10

        I never said you did you said that.And I don't want to have a back and forth with you about MM I have my opinion and you have yours. I have the right to voice my opinion and you have the right to voice yours. I was telling others not to reply rudely that WAS NOT directed at you. Now let's all move on…..okay?

  • Guest

    I also disagree about Link's role in SS. SS was all about Link's spiritual journey and his growth.

    • Zelda_Styles10

      Yes it was, but it was also about saving someone that meant everything to him. Just as Zelda said, The Goddess Hylia knew Link would do anything for Zelda even if it meant putting his life in danger. It's not just about spiritual growth, it's also about what love really is deep down. It was a lesson, a touching story that makes me cry(and I haven't even beaten it yet!)

      • Lord Rahl

        I don't thing SS is about Link or Zelda. It's more about the Master SWord. The ened adn Creation of the Sword of Evils bane.
        The parts I still ned to clearify:
        What happend to the three triforce peaces (Link in SS had them abd after that? He had all 3, so why after that only one ?)

      • Zelda_Styles10

        Ok you're right I forgot about the Master Sword. SS was not only a tale of love and courage, it tells the tale of the sword of Evil's Bane. It takes you through to show how the Master Sword was created. It tells of many legends in one. And about the Triforce, my theory is, once Link had achieved in defeating Demise the need for him to hold the three pieces any longer was no longer needed so, the Goddess took two of the three pieces and scattered them(or gave them to the Chosen Ones however you wanna put it) and that is How Zelda and Ganon became two of the Chosen ones. Does that make sense? If not, I can explain it more( I don't mean to come off rude or anything like that its just that some people don't understand me when I tell them that)

      • heroofmask

        accually impa explained what happends to the triforce after the need is gone the triforce must be swept away and hidden from man meaning hidden in the sacred realm after the events of zelda ss

    • Echon

      I agree with you, though I'm not so sure that the words 'Link's role in SS' suit the situation. Link's 'role' in any Zelda game is to be the avatar for the player and we're meant to go on a journey of spiritual growth through him in SS. I can't really agree with Strawcup513 either, though it's an interesting angle to take with SS to view it as Zelda's journey through Link/the player's perspective.

      I'm not sure the spiritual journey and growth was done as well as it could have been in SS, especially since Link is supposed to be the avatar of the player. The Trials were meant to represent Link's courage, wisdom, and strength, but it's really hard to feel like the trails tested for those qualities. It was more of a: How well do you know this area? And…how well can you find your way around and dodge Guardians when your petals have all withered? for the player. Attempts to characterize the qualities into their respective trials usually lead me into the realm of fanfiction pretty fast.

      I'd like to bring to mind OoX and Phantom Hourglass, all three of which took place away from Hyrule, but aren't mentioned in the article, which I think weakens it…by a lot. It feels to me like Strawcup513 wants to get away from a certain rhythm and rhyme in the Zelda series that, in reality, is constant throughout every single game, no matter if it's stage in Hyrule, neighboring countries, alternate worlds, or a dream.

      • Zelda_Styles10

        Well to me, the trials seemed a bit more than that. For example, Think about how you had to skillfully dodge Poes and Guardians. And you had to really think about how to use your time in between tears to get the harder ones while at the same time, marking and remembering where each and everyone was. Do you see where I'm coming from? You did have to put some thought and strategy to it. Umm I know I should know this but, what does OoX stand for?

      • Soap

        OoX short hand for both OoA and OoS. A lot of times the two games get treated as one and using X as a stand in for both A ans S is a lot quicker than saying OoA/OoS or OoS/A.

      • heroofmask

        i can see why there conidered the same you need to beat one link it to the other one to get the true ending of the game and true final boss

      • Zelda_Styles10

        Uhhhhh now I'm confused even more………..

  • Vladislak

    While you make some good points, I don't think it's essential to move the game away from Hyrule just to make said improvements. The developers have the freedom to do any of those things in Hyrule itself, it's their game after all and each games interpretation of Hyrule has varied.

    That said, I'm not opposed to having a game outside of Hyrule. It's nice to take a break from it every now and then and see the developers explore their imaginations and make new lands.

  • Nick

    We have not had a game in Hyrule since 2006. It's time to take a vacation from Hyrule? Are you freakin kidding me? Eh whatever.
    All I want to say is that this is the hardest fanbase to please. You get something you want, and you don't want it anymore. I can't believe you actually tried to make game over screens seem like a fun thing. What you people aren't getting at is that these games aren't getting easier, the controls are just getting smoother. Iron boots aside, the difference between oot 3d and the original is that the original you could walk in like six directions and you couldn't see anything. Hints aren't a big deal to me, because otherwise you are spending hours wandering around doing absolutely nothing, and I don't find that fun in a game.

    • Nick

      I love Link's Awakening, just beat it a couple weeks ago, but it's not really that big a deal. It was a side project they decided to publish. I really cannot stand it when you people become lit teachers over these games. They are designed for fun, not really for art. And btw, I'm pretty sure MM doesn't have five areas for the stages of grief. The game revolves around the number four, which in japanese, is synonymous with death.

      • Nick

        Agh I'm coming off as a jerk here. What I'm really trying to say is, until Nintendo starts spoon feeding you absolute crap, I think it's okay to go along with their decisions. After all, they are making the games, and the fanbase is so diverse, they can't please anyone. I try to treat every Zelda game as a treat, I think it's great how they can go from a cartoonish game like Wind Waker to a more adult game like Twilight Princess. Everything from the tones of Zelda games to their art styles give them a very wide scape of variety, and it's why I love them. So I think it's important to let the designers of the games go on there own paths and not give them so many different opinions. Sorry if I seemed like a jerk at all, I just think that the fun of Zelda games is about not getting exactly what you want every time, otherwise, the games would be different for every person.

  • Chris

    While I thought Twilight Princess was a great game, in retrospect it was too similar to Ocarina of Time with half of the story being identical and Hyrule remaining the same. But the biggest problem was that Link was a more of a blank slate than ever before. I mean at least in Wind Waker and later Skyward Sword Link had a stronger personality and a far deeper reason for why he went out on his quest. He displayed more emotion in those games.

    Sure we haven't seen the original Hyrule since Twilight Princess but to me in Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword it still felt like Hyrule too much. If we want a location like Termina again, the designers should just lay off the grass. The next Zelda game on Wii U should have Link explore the entire world outside of Hyrule. I mean there has to be a few different kingdoms or villages right? Although I will say that while Hyrule was in The Wind Waker it still felt far more different because Hyrule was seen from an entirely new perspective.

    I think for the next game we should see it entirely from Link's perspective, give him some much needed character. I want to know as a long time Zelda fan, why this character is so important to reincarnate over and over again. Don't give him a voice no, but do something with him. Also, he should go on the next journey, alone. Give us an overseeing owl to narrate the rest of the story but give Link a big spiritual experience to go through.

    I'm looking forward to A Link to the Past 2 but I'm worried that they're going to be reusing too many bosses and elements from the first one in it. I love Zelda, but I don't want future games to be comparable to New Super Mario Bros.

    As for difficulty, I thought Skyward Sword wasn't easy. Yeah Twilight Princess was easy but I didn't think so of Skyward Sword. Rant over.

    • Kalek

      The reason why Link is reincarnated over and over is the same reason why Zelda and Ganon are reincarnated as well, that was explained near the end of SS I think (I'm not sure though)

      And about kingdoms outside of Hyrule, there are at least 2 that we know of:
      Labrinna and Holodrum from the Oracle games.

      I think it would be very interesting to add new kingdoms to the world of Zelda, and show us a map of the world, showing Hyrule and the other kingdoms and so on.

      Long story short, I would enjoy very much playing new Zelda games in new kingdoms outside of hyrule.
      They could make many different places and races and artifacts with different stories and lore from what we get in Hyrule. =)

      • heroofmask

        its explained as a curse as demise said his hatred basically him will get reborn again and again makeeping the world bloodied so in the end the last zelda game will be killing demise/ganon once and for all question is tho how do you kill pure hatred

  • TheGrave

    I don't mind the next game taking place in Hyrule, but I think it would interesting to explore Hyrule's relationship to it's surrounding neighbor countries. Surely, there has to be nations that exist other than Hyrule (not talking about small countries like Holodrum and Labrynna, I'm talking more about huge kingdoms)? Now that we have the official timeline intact, I'd love to see Nintendo go into a bit more detail about the world that Hyrule takes up. How big is the world? How many different countries/continents are in the world? Do these other countries have different religions/mythology/beliefs than Hyrule? Is Hyrule truly a continent by itself, or is it surrounded by other countries on it's borders? How were these other countries affected by the flood in the 'Adult Timeline' (Or was it simply a local flood that only affected Hyrule)? These are questions that I would really like the next games to answer, though I'm sure they will never be answered thanks to Myamoto's "gameplay before story" philosophy.

  • Lors Rahl

    sorry,
    *The need and Creation

  • Lord Rahl

    What I think we are missing is something completely new. Why not a game with Ganondorf as character..starting at the 'deafeat of the hero branch.'
    After the fall of Link, Zelda runs away. Then she tries to gather more allies to join her against ganondorf.
    The only hard part is: What type of game shoudl it be. I wouldn't want a side scroller, beat-m-up or hack and slash.
    But perhaps a RPG.

    • heroofmask

      nah zeldas always been about the hero saving/helping save the world to be the bad guy well you might as well make a skyrim zelda game nah i say keep it in hyrule or a new area

  • heroofmask

    first off agree about the tp zelda game agree they put to much of the attention on midna infact seems like they pulled a kirby's epic yarn where it was gonna be a brand new game but nintendo though to slap the zelda logo i mean ganon didnt even know who link was at the end

    honestly ss didnt take place in hyrule it wasnt founded yet but the next game can take place in a new land im fine with that

    if it takes place in hyrule i would love to see them covering a new situation they havent covered before the light and darkness of ones mind where link himself must fight with his inner demon and ends up cooperating with it during the game could be a curse someone puts on link where during the game you can go light link/dark link to slve certain puzzles and kill certain monsters as maybe there is a dark sword that link gets that does it at the beggining of the game and link must aqquire the mastersword to help stop it and in the end you must fight your dark self for control and when you win u and your darkself comes to a agreement then take on the main guy who did this to you yea i could see ganon doing this or someone new

  • heroofmask

    i would also love to see them pulling something like the oaracle games which did take place outside of hyrule where u end up fighting a mindless ganon

  • lulles

    Lovely article! But I have to disagree about SS being about Zelda's journey rather than Link's. It is true that TP was more abot Midna than anything, but I'm not going to complain since I adore Midna, haha.

  • Link

    I like the idea of an expressive Link. I can't connect with a hallow and empty shell simply set there as a means to be my viewing point in this game world. nor can I connect to characters through it. yes, I said it. I want a Link. not an it. an expressing full character Link. though maybe one that still leaves me room to add a bit of myself into him. so I can really be there in the game with him. yah, him. Link. a person, a character. an important guy in this game and it's story, with meaning in this game world and to it's characters. and I want to be part of that with him.

    yes, I know I'm saying me my and I a lot. it's what the game developers make that I play. not what I ask them to make and they make me. but I'm simply stating what I like and I think and feel. what I believe would be good for the games. some people like the blank empty ness that they can just fill up with themselves. I get that, I'm cool with that. I can even stand to do that myself sometimes.

  • Link

    but this is what I would like, a Link (as mentioned a few comments above) like in WW and MM, one who has feelings, relationships, meaningful reasons to be going out on this big adventure of his. in WW Link was expressive and real in a way. you could really connect with him because of the way he connects with others in the game. like his sister. you could really tell that she ment a lot to him, and his grandma. and that he ment a lot to them. and that the fact that his sister ment a lot to his grandma ment a lot to him to. he was sad she was so upset about his sister getting taken. he felt bad about it, like he had to fix it. he also felt bad for his poor little sister, she was taken by monsters to who know what horrible place, he couldn't let her suffer like that, he had to go save her. he couldn't sit around and wait for something good to happen. he had to go do it, he needed to, and he wanted to too.
    and because of his connections with these people, you felt connected to him, and then through him to those people.

  • Link

    I liked those games. I like just about all Zelda games. though I found SS VERY easy, (it was for me. I beat it the week it came out. it was like 4-5 days. and yes I paid attention to the characters, the areas, the story, the enemies, the details) and I liked alot of things in that game. but there were things I did not like as well. I do wish it were more difficult. and I don't just mean less hearts. and I did find TP difficult. I died atleast 6-7 times going through that game. 10 at most. and it felt like a challenge. it did not feel easy to me. yah part of that was because the controls could get alittle rough sometimes. but more because monsters were not easy. yah a few were. the bokoblins in the forest yah. some of the bolblins yah.

    • Dark Link

      Just saying this as an opinion, TP was easy because all you had to have where good reflexes, the first time I beat it I had no deaths, the puzzles where very simple, all you had to was use the item you got from the dungeon over and over and never use it again outside of the dungeon, the only reason why that game could be considered hard is because of how useless the items where you might of used the ball and chain in one dungeon but half of the time using your sword was faster and it could actually tougher a enemy, that is just my two cents sorry if you don't agree with me but that is just my opinion

  • Link

    and you had to look around and pay attention to. you had to think about things and how to use ur items. in SS I found that part to be quite obvious most of the time. with the exception of using ur whip to steal the keep from the bolblin guard. I admit that took me a couple minutes. but TP also took a bit of skill to. if you weren't carefull or didn't time or jump just right, you could fall to the floor below or even into an endless chasm or whatever. it could end up taking a couple trys to get it right.

  • Link

    of corse I'd like the next game to have a great world, nice music, good story, villain, good dungeons and monsters, a nice difficulty setting, and challenges without the constant hand holding all through out the game, but also great deep characters. ones you can connect to. also more than 2-3 small towns would be nice. sure castile town in TP was large in size, but small in content. It had a bunch of space filler people walking around it. it had things in it, but not meny. had a mini game, a swamie, a bar, a bug loving girl, 2 shops, and a doctor. oh and a cursed guy. the way they connected some of these things with the story was nice, and I liked the towns to. but another town or 2 would have been great.

  • Link

    and what about in WW? 1 tiny village with like, 4 houses, a nice sized town (windfall), a big hallow tree with a great tree in it and (for a short time) a bunch of tree spirits, and a…..post office. where some how a whole tribe of people live in 1 bed room, 1 store room, and the chiefs little office room. then a whole bunch of tiny islands with not much on em.
    and in SS? 1 town. it was nice, but not very big. the human race, hylian race, which ever, is very tiny it seems. tho there seems to be a lot more people than there are houses or ground for homes. there was a bunch of bits of earth scatterd around the sky.
    the ground on which the town was standing seemed like it's fallen apart a bit. maybe they could have made a second larg-ish area of land for another small bit of town. as if it's split apart from the main land.

  • Link

    also, more sky enemies, so it'd seem like the academy and it's knights are actually nessesary. because not only are there hardly any monsters up there for people to need protection from, but it also seems like half the people are knights! there are the 2-3 that save you when you fall, all the kids at the academy, and a few others you see flying around in the sky. other than that there are the instructers, a few merchants, and about 4 familys of people.

    in TP Ordon village alone has 4 families of people. and Link and his friend. Kokariko village atleast seems to have had a lot more people before the twilight coverd the land, but the people were eaten by twilight beasts. and I guess I've been forgetting about the gornon village. and though the Zora village was beautiful, it was rather empty content wise.

  • sanguiluna

    The thing about the MM and LA examples is that they, more than some of the Hyrule games, actually adhere to the standard formula more tightly. LA is basically the NES games, just in a different land; you explore, beat 8 dungeons, then go to the mountain to face the final boss. The main story in MM is basically the same, just with 4 dungeons.

    When I think of games that defy the formula, I think of games like ALttP where you beat the dungeons, fight the final boss and then SURPRISE! There's a whole other world with new dungeons. Or the Four Swords games, which gave Link a new archnemesis and brought multiplayer to the series for the first time. And all those games took place in Hyrule.