Steampunk Victorian London meets King Arthur? I’m in! When revealed at E3 in 2013, Sony’s The Order: 1886’s premise and graphics seemed like it would make for a potent combination and for the next two years, hype for The Order grew at an exponential rate. The Order: 1886 was supposed to be the PS4’s finest exclusive, the primary motivator for buying the system. Unfortunately, a short length, average story, and mediocre gameplay makes for a beautiful disappointment that is definitely not worth the $60 price tag. The Order isn’t the only offender that failed to live up the hype; games like Assassin’s Creed Unity and Destiny also left players feeling like developers didn’t fulfill their promises. Such is the dangerous nature of the hype train. It’s exciting to get amped over incoming games but players run the risk of heartbreak if highly expected games fail to deliver. This is precisely how I feel about the much-anticipated Zelda U.
A truly open-world Zelda game? Hnggg! Hyrule (or its equivalent) is at my fingertips!? OH DEAR GAWDESSES OF THE TRIFORCE YOU HAVE ANSAWD MY PRAYAS! Seriously though, Zelda fans have been dreaming of such a game since the Dawn of the First Day. Now, it seems Nintendo has heard our plea. Except, I’m slightly nervous. It’s not that I don’t have faith, I just don’t want to be left disenchanted.
What if Nintendo strives to deliver players this “massive and open-world” Zelda title, and yet in doing so, they utterly miss the mark? My first and foremost concern is this: what if the focus is on crafting a huge universe and in the creation process, it loses the signature features of the Legend of Zelda players have come to know and love? My trepidation is not unfounded. Many games have lost their sense of identity while striving for lofty goals beyond their means. For example, let’s specifically examine the Elder Scrolls Online. When the trailer for the Elder Scrolls Online first came out, I yelped a little, thinking of the potential it had. However, I also feared it would lose the “Elder Scrolls” feel that I had come to love in games past. Unfortunately, it did exactly that. Exploration was arduous, the beloved crime system was omitted completely, and players felt like a generic face in the crowd. ESO wasn’t an epic Elder Scrolls game; it was the quintessential average MMO. I fear that Zelda U will push too hard and the end results will be a mediocre RPG instead of another fantastical Zelda game.
My second fear is that this tremendous world set for players to explore will ultimately just be an upscaled Hyrule Field from Ocarina of Time. If fans had to pick one flaw with Ocarina *gasp!*, the universal gripe would undoubtedly be Hyrule Field and it’s notorious emptiness. I can appreciate that Nintendo was eager to craft a large, 3-dimensional, and explorable Hyrule, however, the developers whiffed when they got to Hyrule Field. While I do adore Ocarina of Time, it’s undeniable that Hyrule Field was awkward to traverse and locations generally lacked cohesion. I fear the developers will aim to drive the Wii U to its limits with a vast world and yet ultimately forget to fill it with anything notable. Here’s hoping that the world Link is set to explore has ample dungeons, critters, and most importantly, secrets; all staples in the series.
While I do have a few fears for Zelda U, I also hold a few notions I would love to see implemented in the upcoming title. A fanboy ca
n only dream, right? Bea in mind that these suggestions are probably controversial and merely my suggestions. More likely than not, my ideas aren’t worth even a single goddamn Rupee.
In my opinion, combat in the Legend of Zelda series has often been consistently unimpressive, with the exception of Wind Waker (another reason it’s my absolute favorite). It wasn’t much of an issue in the 2D games and Ocarina of Time is passable due to it’s age, but when examining the newer titles, Link hasn’t ever specialized in skirmishing. Note, this is strictly in regards to sword-fighting; our Hero is quite proficient at using the other weapons in his arsenal. With both Twilight Princess, for the Wii anyway, and Skyward Sword, fighting with the WiiMote was, quite frankly, rather graceless. Therefore, an update to dueling is greatly needed. Along with this, it’s time for some revamped, non-linear bosses. Nothing undermines an epic boss confrontation like a cookie-cutter battle. You honestly believe this massive and imposing guardian of an ancient dungeon wouldn’t change up his strategy after getting his tits slapped by the same method for the third time? Majora’s Mask for the N64 is a prime example of how boss fights should be. Judging from the gameplay we’ve seen thus far, it looks like combat will mostly be controlled by the gamepad, which I think is optimal. I can appreciate the idea behind turning the WiiMote into the Master Sword, but motion-tech gaming hasn’t reached a proficient enough level for it to be the sole method of fighting. I’m lazy, goddamnit! I don’t have the time or energy to sit up and wave my arms around like a fool.
Secondly, it’s time for Nintendo to step up their writing game. This isn’t to say previous titles have failed us, but Zelda stories sometimes lack depth. We’ve seen some gems, most notable probably being Twilight Princess, but it would be undeniably awesome if the writers of Zelda U drafted a refreshing, complex story with truly intriguing characters. Think: Final Fantasy XI meets The Legend of Zelda. I want to see more fascinating faces like Midna; characters with developed backstories and genuine personality. As much as I love Ganondorf, I think it may be time for our favorite abusive step-father to step down and make room for some new villainous faces. Here’s a thought: WHAT IF TINGLE IS THE VILLAIN? But I digress. Now, I’m about to propose a potential crazy notion so please just bear with me before you whip out your pitchforks and burning crosses. How engaging would it be if Zelda U featured well-done voice acting, perhaps, with the exception of Link? While some may be initially appalled at the notion of changing it up, voice acting could really open up characters for development. Nintendo has already sampled this with Zelda singing the Ballad of the Goddesses in Skyward Sword so why not take it a step further? It would definitely be both the most drastic change-up the franchise has ever witnessed and an incredible risk, but if done really well, it could be superb. With the rumors of a Legend of Zelda Netflix series on the distant horizon, now is a perfect time to give the characters a voice anyway. Dialogue is already pretty much unavoidable if the series comes to life. Furthermore, Nintendo hasn’t been one to shy away from the mold and now is the opportunity to take risks. Link Between Worlds and Majora’s Mask 3D were excellent but it’s been far too long since players have seen truly fresh content. Games like Mario Sunshine, Pikmin, Wind Waker, and Mario Galaxy are all praised for deviating from the beaten path, even though they didn’t dominate the market like the next addition of New Super Mario Bros. I think Nintendo needs to close their eyes and take the leap once again.
Midna is easily in my top favorite game characters of all time.
Remember when Miyamoto declared Nintendo’s brand refocusing and we all rejoiced? He detailed how they would be returning to their roots with the production of “hardcore” and intense games. If Nintendo truly seeks to execute this plan, Zelda U is ripe with potential for incredible changes. It’s time for Nintendo to go balls-deep.