Rethinking Zelda on the Wii U

Zelda on Wii U

Among the mass of games announced in the latest Nintendo Direct, there was one little announcement that some may have missed. Eiji Aonuma, the head honcho of every major Zelda title since the historic Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, announced that he was working on a brand new game in The Legend of Zelda series for the Wii U.  Ok, so maybe no one missed that one, but still it’s worth talking about. Fans of the series yearn for any bit of news that comes along, as there is generally a 4-5 year development cycle between home console releases, and every Zelda release brings something new to the table. The recent announcement by Aonuma was not a lot more than just a confirmation that a brand new game was in the works, but a few interesting bits of development information came out as well that are worth speculating over.

The foremost announcement is that the core philosophy behind the new project is to:
Rethink the conventions of Zelda.” Aonuma clarified further when he stated that two aspects that have always been in Zelda titles were being “set aside,” in order to create a new game that would allow players to enjoy the “essence” of The Legend of Zelda franchise.

The first aspect of Zelda that Nintendo is rethinking about the franchise is the notion that Hyrule’s many dungeons are to be completed in a certain order. While the avid gamer may know that there are ways in which certain dungeons in the games can be beaten out of order, the gameplay and the story almost always push the heroic protagonist, Link, in a particular direction and order through the games numerous dungeons. This mechanic is done by generally done by making the weapon or item you acquire in the first dungeon, required to be used in order to enter the next one, and so on and so forth. In this fashion the game leads you from weapon to weapon and before you know it you’re the Hero of Time, and have a bow that can shoot arrows of pure light and goodness through the hearts of all manners of wicked beings.  A major exception to this rule is coincidentally the game that started it all. The original The Legend of Zelda, when released stateside for NES in 1986, gave players absolutely no guidance to the order of dungeon completion. Link was plopped onto the over world, and was free to roam and discover his own way. While there is an “implied” order to completing the dungeons, and there are a few that must be unlocked with items obtained from others, most players completed the game having gone through it in a slightly different order than their buddy.

History of Link Zelda

What could this “rethinking” of the dungeon order aspect of The Legend of Zelda mean? How is this going to impact the gameplay and narrative of the new entry in the series? It’s possible we could see something more open and explorative in nature, like Bethesda’s Skyrim. Yet Nintendo knows it has got to keep Zelda, well, Zelda. Too much diluting of the formula, and they risk upsetting one of gaming’s largest and most devote fanbases. The series is built upon Link’s ability to grow in power and skill, and that is what allows him to get to the next dungeon, so it will be interesting to see Nintendo’s approach to this. Heck, maybe, we’ll be plopped down into a beautiful HD forest, no idea given as to where to go, be handed off a sword, as it’s dangerous to go alone.

The second aspect of The Legend of Zelda franchise that Aonuma was “rethinking” was the fact that in almost all Zelda games the whole ordeal is a solo affair. Aside from the notable Four Swords games, Zelda has always been platformed as a deeply immersive single player excursion. What Aonuma meant by rethinking the core mechanic of “play by yourself,” is anyone’s guess. So here are a few guesses:

  • The Obvious, Multiplayer. Maybe with an RPG like Party System, maybe with a couple of characters having different world views on different gamepads, or maybe just a tag along co-op buddy like the little robot Floyd from the old classic, Jet Force Gemini.
  • With the Wii U Gamepad the possibility of having a second player functioning alongside, but within a completely different roll than the main player are near endless. Think of the Tingle Tuner from Wind Waker, in which a second player could assist Link by using and placing items, using a Gameboy Advance hooked up to the Gamecube via a special cable. I would not be surprised if Nintendo added something similar to this into the next all new Zelda installment.
  • There is always the option of plugging the land of Hyrule into a webserver as well. This would be a very drastic departure from the Zelda of yore, but it’s not wholly inconceivable either. Again, think of Skyrim, or maybe even something along the lines of World of Warcraft. Maybe the next Zelda installment is not another story about a woodland boy and his quest to save the beautiful princess. Though it’s doubtful such a drastic change would happen, it definitely would not be the first time a staple Nintendo IP had a complete genre overhaul. Everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Samus, went from a 2D adventure shooter to an explorative FPS and back again, over the span of four console generations. And let’s not even begin to count the various caps lead man Mario has donned.
  • Lastly, we could be looking way too deep into the statement. Maybe the next The Legend of Zelda game will simply only feature Miiverse integration. This would essentially connect you to a larger Zelda world, a world of fans that are enjoying the experience along with you, but not necessarily playing alongside you.

A last piece of info that is worth noting actually came from the lead up to Aonuma’s announcement of the Wind Waker HD, which is set to release this fall for Wii U. Aonuma specifically mentioned that the development of Wind Waker HD was brought to life by experimenting with bringing the art styles of past Zelda games to the Wii U. They were so impressed by the new look that high definition brought to Wind Waker, and with the new title in development surely needing a few more years to complete, it was decided that GCN’s Wind Waker would be remade. This is interesting to note because if Nintendo was truly putting the effort into revisiting the past Zelda art styles, then they may be considering a revisit to a past Zelda universe. Maybe a remake of Wind Waker is not the only thing that comes of this; maybe we’ll get a new game in the Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask universe. Maybe Aonuma managed to get A Link to the Past up and running, as was so impressed by its newfound HD glory that we’ll see another top-down Zelda adventure. Like usual this is purely speculation, but I personally would not mind seeing a direct follow up to Wind Waker. Yes I know there are two great DS games that do just that, but visiting even more of Link’s cartoon world, especially after seeing the screens from Wind Waker HD, could be something really special.

Zelda on Wii U NES Title

No other information on the brand new The Legend of Zelda game has been released yet. What can be assumed though it that it is going to take quite some time to complete, it will most surely bring some kind of innovative gameplay to the table, and will probably push the limitations of what the Wii U hardware is capable of. We’ll of course be updating you with news of the all new The Legend of Zelda, as well as Wind Waker HD, as it becomes available.

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