Posted by: zsaberlink | February 19, 2010

Evolution of Zelda since Ocarina of Time

Recently, many fans of the Zelda series have been disappointed in the latest outings of the series.  At the same time, they are eagerly awaiting a new Zelda game that simply amazes them like some of the classic entries of the series. With the latest console Zelda title, Twilight Princess, fans complained about how it just felt too similar to Ocarina of Time. I personally enjoyed the game, but I too felt that it could have benefited from being just a bit more original. However, I think this problem actually stems from the direction the series has been going in for a while. Since Ocarina of Time, very few large new lasting concepts have actually been introduced to the Zelda series. I believe in order to create a lasting new concept into an established franchise, the idea needs to not only be interesting, but it needs to feel as a needed addition to the game’s current framework.

Since Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there have been several Zelda games released, including Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I’m choosing to focus a bit more on certain entries of the series as I remember these best. In Majora’s Mask, the major new innovations were the masks themselves and their transformations, having a more active, lively town, and the 3-day system. The three-day time limit was an interesting concept, but it felt it a bit overbearing for a significant portion of players who like to take their time as they play games. The masks themselves were an interesting and welcome addition to the series, as it allowed for Link to control very differently in his multiple forms. It seems like the Zelda team decided against that exactly reappearing in the series, but in a way Twilight Princess’s wolf seems to somewhat reflect the mask transformations. The activity within a town seems to vary between games, but I would say that I feel the towns are more interactive than they were in Ocarina of Time.

The next console game in the series was Wind Waker. Wind Waker presented the cel-shaded graphical style, sailing, and a slightly enhanced combat system. Since I’m primarily talking about gameplay mechanics, I’m going not going to discuss the game’s graphical style here. Miyamoto created the original Zelda to satisfy his dreams of adventure and exploration. As such, sailing seems like a nice extension to that idea. However, sailing pretty much only allowed you to steer with the wind, shoot bombs with a cannon, and dig up treasure. Sailing just seemed to be much more limited and lacked the variety of Link’s land ventures. As such, while it reappeared in Phantom Hourglass, I’m unsure whether it’ll continue to reappear throughout the series. The combat system was nicely enhanced. While it didn’t provide a job dropped amount of new abilities, it did allow players to at least attack in a couple new ways. This clearly seems to have a lasting impact on the series, as it was used in Twilight Princess.

Wind Waker and its Sailing

Twilight Princess brought to the table a horseback combat, a wolf transformation, and a couple of new items. Horseback combat was a great addition to the Zelda franchise, and I believe it’ll definitely reappear in future games. The reason this was such a great addition is because it felt like it added to your capabilities rather than limiting it. In addition to being really fast, you could run over enemies and use most of the weapons you could use on the ground. On the other hand, the two newest portable titles, also introduced new forms of transportation. Both the new sailing and the train definitely once again felt limited, and seem like a separate experience rather than adding to the traditional movement on the ground. Unfortunately, horseback combat was used rather infrequently (only 3 times) and as such players didn’t get to fully enjoy it. Once again, the wolf transformation also felt limited, and seemed like an oddly different experience than that of Link. You essentially only could bite an enemy individually, or use Midna’s lock-on attack. Finally, too many of the new weapons in Twilight Princess were used outside of their dungeons. The Ball & Chain had minimal uses to kill Redeads after its dungeon. On the other hand, both the Spinner and Dominion Rod were essentially useless except for their dungeon’s puzzles and boss fights. I will say though, I absolutely loved the use of the Spinner in its boss fight. Zelda weapons are all about having uses in the overworld and later dungeons as well. Having these “puzzle weapons” only helps you create a single dungeon, rather than new concepts that last throughout the series.

For any new concept to be liked by Zelda fans, I believe that the concept should fall into one of these two categories. On one hand, you can have a fun new concept that fits into the current gameplay scheme and makes the player feel more capable than before. On the other hand, it could be an entertaining new experience separate from normal gameplay in which you don’t feel limited by your new environment. I feel that this concept generally applies to any aspect in a Zelda game, whether it be a new way of traversing through dungeons or a new weapon to aid Link on his journey. As long as the Zelda team is keeping this big picture in mind for future Zelda games, I believe that we’ll definitely be in awe of a Zelda game once more. I find that the Wii Motion Plus may enable the next Zelda game to truly make a lasting impact on the series. This is because 1-to-1 sword and other weapon control could easily make a natural and amazing extension to current Zelda combat. I guess only time will tell (or that conference on the 24th).

Aurion

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