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Does Zelda Need an Overhaul? 286

Posted by Zonk
from the tooling-up-the-mean-green-machine dept.
CVG has up a piece noting the fact that not much about Zelda games have changed since the move to 3D. Chalk that up to the greatness of Ocarina of Time if you will, but the same mirror moving, fire-arrow switch activating puzzles have been in the last several titles. Is it time for some kind of radical change to the equation? "People generally don't like to accept change. But change doesn't always spell disaster. Final Fantasy introduces a totally new cast, setting and theme with each sequel and continues to please fans. Resident Evil 4 completely revolutionised Capcom's horror series and is now viewed as one of the best games ever made ... We still totally adore Zelda but eventually the appeal will tire and the series risks bombing. Nintendo needs to take the bold step and inject something totally new into Zelda. We're not talking about a couple of new items, or a new location - that's been done. We mean a significant change that affects the whole structure and gameplay."
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Does Zelda Need an Overhaul?

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  • No need. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:05PM (#19166981)
    Stories are stories, whether interactive or not. Some need to be refreshed over time to maintain value - others become timeless, only increasing in value with the fidelity with which they are told.

    The Legend of Zelda series is not completely timeless, but most of it's aspects hold a very high value, even when they are not radically rehashed with each telling. It's a fairy tale where a boy with a sword rescues a princess, with some interesting action, oddness and strategy along the way.

    No need to take away any of that when making a new Zelda game - you just have to make sure the core timelessness of the story isn't too overexposed, so that it doesn't become stale. No need to transform it into a guitar-based rock game with pinball elements or anything.

    Ryan Fenton
  • My 2 cents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Esc7 (996317) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:22PM (#19167311)
    I've played nearly every Zelda game ever made, just not the gameboy ones and that horrid skeleton in our closet on the CD-I. I've saved the eponymous princess countless times. And i can tell you that I do have sympathetic feelings for the writer of this article. This latest Zelda did feel "new" but nothing really TRULY surprised me like when I found out what the blue Ring did in the original Legend of Zelda. The sameness of elements in the game are beginning to not be interesting anymore, and that's truly a shame. But you have to consider the consequences of "updating" Zelda. Could you even call a game part of the series if it doesn't pay tribute to its predecessors? Take out the Master Sword? Get rid of boomerangs and bombs? No more temples/dungeons/labyrinths? Why even have the main protagonist a green clad boy named Link? Make it a high-powered business woman set on mars. There we go. Change for change's sake. What I'm trying to say is that Zelda has basically completely defined a whole genre of action/adventure/puzzle game. How many times have you heard the adjective "Zelda-like?" The game itself defines other games that copy its gameplay mechanics. We can't change that core of the game, that IS the game. If you are tired of exploring dungeons and getting items that give you new abilities, well stop playing this goddamn game then. (Also take a good hard look at all the other games you have to play too) And don't take out that tired line that they don't change the specific settings and elements. Zelda 2: the adventures of Link had nearly nothing in common with the first, and now the things it's introduced have become standard. Majora's Mask changed the way you played the game. And Wind Waker completely changed the setting and introduced new characters and items. So piss off. Leave my game alone. I like knowing that in this world, this game will always have things that are the same. We all enjoy it. And the day we stop enjoying it and get tired of it I sure hope to hell they don't create a new edgier, flashier update called Shadow the Link where Link has a gun and a emo haircut. When we get tired of elements of Zelda, we will be tired of Zelda itself and it will end
  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:29PM (#19167491) Journal
    I distinctly remember Majora's Mask not actually involving Zelda at all. If he was rescuing anything, it was a whole fucking continent, not one princess.

    (Not to mention that in Ocarina of Time, he was also rescuing a whole fucking continent, and the princess.)
  • Re:Umm no... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe Random (777564) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:32PM (#19167549)

    boo to those who can't live past the "glory" of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
    Bah. Everyone knows that "A Link to the Past" was the greatest Zelda game. Even though I thoroughly enjoy the 3D Zelda games, I'd love to see what a 3/4 isometric view could look like on modern hardware.
  • by 7Prime (871679) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:38PM (#19167665) Homepage Journal
    If you played the game for an hour and a half, then I can totally understand. But... AN HOUR AND A HALF???? The game is about 70+ hours! In dramatic narrative, usually writers suggest that about 1/3rd be exposition. In epic form, such as Zelda... there's usually multipul rising actions, so the exposition should probably be more like the first 1/6th. In a 70 hour game, that's about 12 hours. Zelda: TP moves into the action in about 3.

    In some works, the whole work is meant to have consistantly riviting material. But in other works, the entire work is meant to lead up to a few key, extraordinary moments. Zelda: TP is one of those works. There is a moment about 4 hours in that is truly disturbing, one at about 18 where I wanted to cry. These moments were so incredible that they took hours to lead up to, and when the game is over, all that matters is those specific key points, and they made the game, IMO, the best game I've ever played (and I've played dozens of long-form titles).

    Some games that start out with a BANG are great... like FF7, but probably the best start out quiet and subtle, and build into amazing things, like FF8 or Tales of the Abyss. Zelda falls into that category, in fact... Zelda typically falls into that catagory, it's just that TP is about twice the length of any other zelda, so its exposition NEEDS to be about twice as long to have the correct balance.
  • by Sciros (986030) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:43PM (#19167789) Journal
    I think that Zelda games are indeed "formulaic," but it's a decent formula that really suffers not so much from repetition as from the fact that everything besides the gameplay gets so little attention. The stories in Zelda are extremely basic and weak, and do little more than tie one dungeon/temple to the next. That's not a big problem, but when you have that AND no voices AND old-school-midi-quality music in a title that was released just recently, it starts to feel like, well, *there can be more to it.*

    Even improving two of those three things would do wonders for Zelda and it's feeling of being an "aging" series. An epic, cd-quality orchestral score for once? That shouldn't bee too much to ask, after all games like Battlefield and Medal of Honor get that privilege, not to even mention the blockbusters like Final Fantasy and Halo.

    Zelda's core gameplay -- making one's way through cleverly designed dungeons -- is STILL its greatest strength! And far from what makes a Zelda game feel like it's "lacking" in something. The reason it feels a bit outdated is that in many OTHER respects it truly IS. While no-one has been able to match Zelda's level design, when it comes to other aspects of gameplay -- combat, NPC interaction, even boss design and horseback riding controls -- Nintendo's greatest really has been outdone. Ninja Gaiden, DMC3, God of War -- these games have put others to shame in terms of combat. Oblivion's NPCs (and even those in games like the new Godfather) are far superior in AI and interactivity to those in Twilight Princess. Boss design -- look to Shadow of the Colossus for a lesson in "epic battles."

    The summary calls for an overhaul of the core gameplay. That I believe is a MISTAKE. It's all the other stuff, which is admittedly *minor* in comparison to the gameplay that sets Zelda apart from everything else, that needs to catch up by about 9 years.
  • Re:Umm no... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:58PM (#19168119)
    That's interesting. I was pretty sure that everyone knew that "Link's Awakening" was the best Zelda game. It's kinda weird that we both know how everybody else knows different things.
  • Re:In a word... no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:10PM (#19168341) Homepage Journal
    I pretty much agree with you. Twilight Princess probably is one of the best 3D Zeldas, but now I'm playing Okami, and I honestly think that it is a better game. Okami was obviously inspired by the Zelda series, some may say cloned, but it does some things better than Zelda (and some things worse). Anyways, the genius thing about Okami is the brush strokes you use to fight enemies or overcome obstacles instead of the typical Zelda tool chest of items. This actually makes the game much more seamless in my opinion because if you need the Okami equivalent of the Zelda hookshot, you just hold R1 and draw a line from the target to you, and off you go towards it. No need to press start and equip the item, or remember what button you assigned it to, and then aim and fire. Both ways work but the Okami way works better because it doesn't remove you from the action like pressing start in Zelda can. All your actions are available to you anytime at the stroke of a brush.

    Anyways, even though TP was great, Nintendo needs to hire some decent writers. The game's plot fell apart at the end after an inspired beginning. Basically the plot went from interesting and original, to formulaic and unsurprising fairly quickly. This was unfortunate because it left a bad taste in my gaming mouth after I finished it.

    I may also be in the minority about this, but Zelda (and any Okami sequels that will never be made) could do very well from excellent voice acting. Both Okami and Zelda have silent protagonists, and I am totally fine with keeping it that way. I don't really want to hear Link talk, but the supporting cast could really use it. The opening of Zelda is your friend talking to Link when he's fishing or something, and it just drones on and on while you press A. It's boring and very uninspired, and that has nothing to do with the fishing! There's also long conversations with the bad guys and Midna, that could have potentially been awesome with voice acting, but instead were dull and felt way too long and drawn out. Even the cutscene where the game tells the Hyrule Creation story; you're still pressing A while the text narrator slowly crawls about some crap that would have been memorable with an excellent narrator. Zelda (and Okami) just feel awkward with squeaky sound effects that are supposed to be people talking. This doesn't diminish from the rest of the game, but I just can't raise these games to the highest plateau in my mind that they potentially could have.

    The Zelda series has a lot to learn from the other games in its genres. Stop spending so many programming and design hours doing the new fishing game that people are so excited about before the game comes out and then finds out how boring it is actually doing it, and use your imagination about what gamers really want! Please Zelda team, play Okami! Port Okami to the Wii by the way while you're at it, it was made for it! Play God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Fallout, Oblivion, Half-Life, etc. All of these games do things right and wrong, recognize these and try to improve and be inspired.
  • by Metroid72 (654017) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:23PM (#19168607)
    Follow these steps:

    1. Intro Scene - Make sure to contrast the menace and the hero, motivational, showcase some of the graphics
    2. Opening Scene - Ambiance, small village, child hero, innocent life.
    3. Strange Things - Make sure the motivation is there, encourage exploration
    4. Build-up - Make sure the exploration leads to a larger plot, explain main quest.
    5. Quest for Critical Items - E.g. Master sword, shield, etc. Include minor versions of dungeons.
    6. Start of Main Quest - Once hero is equipped, unleash the main goals
    7. Unleash Main Motif - Could be darkness (inverted worlds), modes of transportation, transformations, graphics or console unique engine etc. Make sure that Main motif is an intricate part of the game.
    8. Side Quests - Include plenty, make sure that you confuse the player by making him/her pursue items that may or may not have a definite usage to the main quest.
    9. Fake End Boss - Build the momentum with a fake sense of victory.
    10. Ending - Make it inspirational, but open... after all, this is another instance of the hero overcoming evil.

    Ever since 'A Link to the Past' this has been the formula, and the Motif basically changes. The ALTP was reused in Link's awakening to a very good result (to me probably the best of the 2D Zeldas), however, Ocarina of Time introduced a new engine with the 3D Motif, but OOT (3D), MM (Masks) and WW (Art and Mode of transport) are to me the same game (I have yet to play Twilight as I can't find the time to commit to it), but from what I've seen there's the possibility of it being the same as the prior games with the new controls being the motif.

    I love this series, but I must say that I'm more excited about Phantom Hourglass than I am about Twilight, just because the portable platform makes them deviate from the formula a bit (portables are played in bursts of time).

    I think Zelda can have some good spinoffs, a 'Tactics' game comes to mind. I would also like to see a remake of "The Adventure of Link" in 2D with upgraded graphics (A la New SMB), who knows, maybe even a Paper Zelda version with the Flipping ability.

    This is not meant to be critical, I like the formula, but I must say that I don't get as excited as I used to before.

    Oh well...
  • Harder to screw up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:44PM (#19168939)
    Twilight Princess was great, but isn't it past time to deprecate text-only dialog.

    It's harder to screw up a game with text-only dialog than it is to screw up one with voice acting because of the choice of a flat and talentless voice actor or two (or ten). I can think of a few games that I've found seriously hurt by voice acting -- the first Grandia game and Shenmue immediately come to mind.

    (Good lord was Shenmue's voice acting terrible. It was like a dry read by tone-deaf people.)

    On a related note: Hey, listen! [vgcats.com]
  • Nintendo, read this! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ghkw (1103781) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:02PM (#19169367)
    Hi!

    I've created a Slashdot account just to post this comment in a proper way. It really matters to me, because Zelda is one of those games that I grew up with and I've played every single iteration of it.

    It is not true to say that there was not enough innovation going on in Twilight Princess (shape shifting, horse back fighting, cinematics). I like the game a lot. Having said this, Twilight Princess really made want to go back and play the original Legend of Zelda once again. Here are the reasons:

    • Exploratory gameplay: In early Zelda titles (mostly in Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past), it is left up to the player to decide in which sequence to complete the game. Especially in the Twilight Princess this has been dropped in favour of having a proper storyline. Having a storyline is great, but only if it doesn't imply that "we need to put some big rocks over here, otherwise the player will advance too much". In the original Legend of Zelda, the only thing that kept you from moving around freely in the world (I'm simplifying things a bit), is that fact that you just didn't go to some regions because the enemies were too dangerous over there given your current skills. Current Zelda titles are lacking behing on this. In all titles after A Link to the Past, the map felt just very small. My recommendation: Make the map huge and allow the player to freely explore the world -- only limited by his own skills -- in a non-linear gameplay.
    • Sidequest nonsense: Newer Zelda titles have too many sidequest. In the original Legend of Zelda, I actually cared for finding all heart containers, but with the inflation of fractions of pieces of hearts in current games, it's just a pain. Things get worse when you have to find 100+ spiders or ghosts. It doesn't add to the game and the reward that you get out of these quests is never worth the effort. My recommendation: Integrate sidequest into the storyline and have one single meaningful artifact as reward.
    • Difficulty: Zelda has gotten too easy. Without even going through the pain of getting all bottles, I only died once before completing the game for the first time. Especially the dungeon bosses were too easy. So much for the combat, but it's also true for quests. In current games, you just always know where to place a bomb in a dungeon because it's really obvious from the looks of the wall. Solving riddles has come to the point of just doing the obvious. My recommendation: Make the game harder, both in terms of combat and in terms of riddles. Beating a strong opponent is it's own reward, just as working two hours on finding the correct way to solve a riddle is.
    • Lack of combat: Zelda has been shifting its focus from pure combat to RPG. This is OK. However, especially in recent titles, there is a distinct lack of good combat. This is partly due to the fact that in 3D, it's harder for the player to focus on multiple enemies at the same time. I assume that for this reason you never have to face more than two or three tough opponents at the same time in Twilight Princess (same in earlier 3D titles). My recommendation: Rework the user interface to allow for improved combat against multiple strong enemies; allow the player to use interesting strategies against them.
    • Don't reinvent the wheel: It's true that fans of the Zelda series don't want to see everything changed. So new items are always fine, but not too many. Instead, how about bringing back some items from the previous games: sword throwing, magic wand, rings, etc. Many of these old items or features can be reused in new and interesting ways on the Wii. Think Wii controller + magic wand. My recommendation: Only come up with new items, that are truely new. Reuse existing items (many of which still need to be adapted to 3D gameplay) where possible.

    Thanks for listening (hopefully). :)

  • I hate voice acting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:27PM (#19169885)
    Personally, I hate voice acting in most games ...

    Because of the costs associated with voice acting you tend to have very limited dialogue which ends up becoming repetative rapidly, and creates a far more static world. With a text based game you can have every character in the game have several unique things to say at any given time and (as a player finishes objectives) have what they change through out the game. Your development team of (roughly) 6 dialogue writers can quickly fill a town setting with content so that everyone in the town says something funny, interesting or useful towards the game; in most voice acted games every character in the game says the exact same canned saying because no developer has the time, money or storage space to create unique sound clips for every character in game.

  • Re:Voice Acting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:10PM (#19170739)
    I hate voice acting. It seems to break immersion for me, rather than keeping me in the game. Plus, it takes too long in dialogue-heavy games; much faster to scroll through text. I guess games seem to me like interactive storybooks, not movies. Plus, Zelda's quasi-speech is endearing.
  • Re:No way. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by heinousjay (683506) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:03AM (#19176643) Journal
    I don't look for bullet-point lists of things I like in a game. I just play for fun. You guys seem to take this really seriously, though.

    Am I the odd man out in a hardcore world? I mean, I've been playing games since I was 4 years old, and I feel qualified in saying I'm a gamer, but this kind of analysis puts me out.
  • Re:Voice Acting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 7Prime (871679) on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:53PM (#19181813) Homepage Journal
    I just think that's flat-out wrong. It's an aesthetic choice. I'm a composer, myself, I've arranged music for various ensembles because the style of music fit the instrumentation. Basically what you're saying is that any time I don't arrange for full orchestra, I'm living on the cheap. Sometimes all I really want is piano, bass, and drums, though, because that's what the music calls for.

    Come on, man, let's call a spade a spade.
    You really think I'm just saying this to defend Nintendo? Fuck you, man. You have the right to your own opinion, but don't pretend to put words in my mouth!

    If you don't want to hear the voice acting, turn the Voice volume to zero and the captions on. But there's no reason (other than cheap) to not even hire the actors in the first place.
    Fuck that, that means I lose the music too. I'd like to experience a game the way the creators intended for it to be seen. It's up to them whether to put voice acting in, because it changes the overall style, and I'll respect their creative license... and not simply chalk it up to fincancial reasons (voice acting is extremely cheap compared to the amount that gets put into games these days).

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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