People see me being very critical of the zelda series, and some think I’m unjustifiably trashing it. The truth is I’m critical of the series because I love it so much. It can and should be as great as the first in the series, Link to the past, wind waker, and majora’s mask. It shouldn’t settle on being twilight princess, skyward sword, or even ocarina of time.
This is a great article on how the series has gone down hill since Ocarina of Time. Give it a read if you love zelda as much as I do.
Am I reading this right, you like Wind Waker and Majora’s Mask more than OoT? It’s so hard to find people who share/won’t crucify you over that opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect OoT for what it did for the series, it really was a turning point and was one of the first video games that got me really excited about being in some big new world, but Majora and Wind Waker just cranked that feeling up a notch. Like, it went from being “there are weird, colourful characters that make this world more interesting to “there are weird colourful characters and I HAVE TO INSERT MYSELF INTO ALL OF THEIR BUSINESS” I dunno, just felt more atmospheric and interpersonal.
I loved OoT. Don’t get me wrong, but they really hit their stride with Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker. Both had fantastic story telling and atmosphere that the others haven’t touched, and as colorful and quirky as they were, they were some of the darkest in the series right with LttP. And these two in particular, like you said, had so many fun characters inhabiting them, you just wanted to interact with them. Their worlds just felt alive and rich despite Wind Waker being a flooded wasteland.
TP just felt like a recolor of OoT, SS had a great art style to it, but as open as the world sounds like on paper, it’s the smallest in the series and most linear in the series. 3 locations you have to visit 3+ times in the games entirety, and the entire population lives on a single island.
The article brings up a lot of fantastic points, I’ll admit. I do have a problem with some of what he talks about, though.
Zelda SHOULD have an open world. You SHOULD be able to go places you’re not supposed to be yet. That is a small thing that can really go a long way in how you feel while playing the game. You wander, you find a dungeon you’re not supposed to be at yet, you get destroyed. The game puts you in your place. “You can’t be here, you need to become better.”
I also agree that the game do kind of bash you over the head with the indications of where items need to be used, however, Mr. Thompson seems to think that there should be no indication at all? Having some way of indicating which walls are “bomb-able” is not a bad thing. If blowing up sections of wall is going to be a key part in moving forward in a video game, there needs to be some kind of indication of where it’s appropriate. Having no kind of indication requires you to place a bomb at every single section of wall, watch it blow up, and hope a hole appears there. This is pointless grinding in its worst form.
I do think, however, that there should be several different ways to tell if a place could potentially demolished, instead of just having a single texture slapped over whatever chunk of wall you need to throw a bomb at. Maybe some way to see if there’s a hollow spot behind the wall, maybe a very small crack that you wouldn’t see unless you were actually looking for it? These are not very good suggestions, but they’re better than both extremes, I think. The point here is that exploration needs to be rewarded, and not (necessarily) systematic tampering with every little pixel of the game.
A quick side-point here: Zelda has always been littered with puzzles, even the original. The older 2D ones mostly consisted of “The door/stairway is blocked. What block do you push/what order do you kill the enemies to get to it”, but there were still, in fact, puzzles. I think the best thing about Wind Waker (and to an extent, Skyward Sword (though I’m still slowly going through it because I don’t have a whole lot of access to that particular game a lot of the time)) is how it embraced the puzzly side of Zelda. Having said that, Wind Waker is way at the bottom of my list because I never felt challenged while playing the game (except working through the hand cramp I got halfway to hitting the sword instructor 999 times), and I keep playing through Skyward Sword and keep switching between being annoyed with it and having a lot of fun with it.
The Legend of Zelda series is a series that needs to feel (and be) open in order for it to feel truly big, adventurous, and great. However, linearity is not (and never has been) a bad thing. This point really is a different discussion entirely, but the article makes me feel like I should address it. The best example I can think of is in Egoraptor’s first “Sequilitis” video, he talks about how linearity in game design allows game developers to create an experience that feels challenging, while also feeling complete. I nthe article, Tevis talks about the few scenes in Zelda games where you’re met with an onslaught of enemies and there’s a bloodbath as you destroy them all. While these moments are amazing, if the game was made entirely of them it would feel like an incredibly empty game (Uncharted 1 and Dead Space 1 are excellent examples of constant ambushes being incredibly tiresome and obnoxious).
As far as story, this is another debate for another time, but I feel that the story of the hero of time being a constant is an amazing thing. Having said that, the story in each game can start to feel repetitive as it seems Nintendo doesn’t want to mess with the formula too much. I’d like to see a Zelda with minimal cutscenes with voice acting throughout (a la Half Life), or maybe even have the story told silently, without the walls of text.
I think everyone can agree that the Zelda series needs to change. No one seems to know quite how, but the fact that it must is clear.
PS I also feel like people praise certain aspects of some Zelda games, while being hypercritical of others. For example, in my opinion, the Wii version of Twilight Princess is the best form of the battle system to date. It felt responsive, and you had an actual moveset so there were plenty of options. There’s also that one part where you’re fighting through a small village of bulblins or something? That part was really fun, I thought. However, the part where the combat system really shined was in the sword-fight against Ganon. The idea was you were supposed to lock swords with him, knock him back, and wail on him until he recovers. I did this once and it was completely on accident. I spent the majority of the fight hammering him, despite him blocking, and using the helm smasher and roll around techniques. He blocked most of my hits, but I was able to move too fast for him because of how freeform it was. I managed to land a hit or two during times when you’d think he’d just block. That felt amazing. (I do acknowledge that TP is one of the weakest games in the series, but I feel I must give it the credit in places it deserves)
PPS Majora’s Mask was a wonderful idea but it was filled to the brim with “What do I do and where do I go” moments, and felt the most like work of any Zelda game, in my opinion.
TL;DR: Every Zelda has problems, but almost all of them have something about them that could definitely be refined and executed extremely well in future Zelda titles.