Okay so close your eyes, no I mean wait a second. When you do close your eyes I want you to picture The Legend of Zelda. Just whatever it means to you, okay go, close ’em. Sweet so here’s the deal if your first thought had a boat in it, get out. Just climb down to the comments and just fire off how I’m wrong.
Now that we got that out of the way let’s explain why it’s fundamentally true. I’m not saying that every sequel, or I guess installment, needs to true to the original. So I won’t begin to say what a Zelda game is. There are lots of little elements that all come together making a big cohesive Zelda title. Think of it like a pizza. Crust, sauce, and cheese that’s it. Add whatever you like after the fact and you still got what can functionally be called a pizza. Though it gets a bit more complicated when it comes down to the basic elements. Some people use Alfredo Sauce or Barbecue Sauce instead of a tomato based one. Think of the sauce as a world map. Tomato based plain ol’ sauce is you classic on foot world. Alfredo would be like a flooded world taking a boat to travel around. Barbecue would be that train one. None of them that bad of concepts on their own. With the crust being the engine you are pushing your game through. Traditional, Sour Dough, Pretzel, Gluten Free, and you get it. 2D or 3D maybe touch screen or mobile phone if the game fits it any of these can be perfect. Just on it’s own it lacks anything to really grab you. Just like dough. Got it? Good moving on! Cheese is definitely the flow. How you are guided to the end of the game. How many dungeons or how open the world is. The basic elements of how you progress. Add some polish like enemies and side quests and you got your pepperoni. More elements, more toppings, but for now you got the pizza.
Hey looks pretty good, it seems like everything should go well together. Not just that, but it looks like a pizza. That gives you some expectations. So even if something isn’t bad, if it’s very jarring it can be distracting. I love me some spicy pizza. So sometimes I use wing sauce instead of tomato. I love it, but I learned to give people a heads up on that first. Still there is something very important to keep in mind. All this stuff well bake together.
The individual aspects will all blend together. The subtleties of each part will become harder to pick apart. Suddenly a minor annoyance becomes larger the more often you come across it. Two toppings might hit your mouth wrong like a moist chunk of mushroom and a crunchy bit of bacon. It is a rather unenjoyable bite, but you power through it. The bigger the pizza, the more often that will happen. The more you play any specific Zelda title the more likely you will find frustrating moments of spill over with the more unique elements. The 3D games all tend to have a few special toppings. Be it a boat, becoming a wolf, driving a train, not directly controlling Link, and you get right? Just you can’t have a conversation about it. Like pineapples on pizza. Those that like it won’t see it your way. You will never even make them open to the idea you don’t want wet chunks of fruit on your salty spicy slab of grease. So why the long drawn out pizza talk? Half because I’m hungry, and half because these issues are solved by calling it anything else.
There are lots of games that are kinda like Zelda but a bit different. Crusader of Senty and Secret of Mana as soon above are at face value very Zelda-ish. Keeping in mind back then we didn’t have 3D Zelda games. They did what Zelda Ocarina of Time did, the logical progression of a dungeon crawling adventure. You could slap a fresh coat of Zelda paint on either of them and no one would bat an eye at it. Just with that paint comes a certain level of expectation. So the little differences that could have been fun on their own will either be lessened with needless mechanics tossed in to be more Zelda like, or they will stick out as a replacement of what you expected. So instead of just enjoying it you keep forcing a constant stream of comparison. You will weigh it down because of its namesake. See Nintendo itself is already a sign of quality. I usually enjoy most games they make. So just being called a Zelda game doesn’t mean it will be good. We already know it will be good it’s first party Nintendo.
See there are a lot of them. Still surprisingly few when you look at it. All those remakes and rereleases just make me kinda assume there is a new one every two years or so. Now my biggest problem is that 3D Zelda games end up being like Deep Dish pizza. It’s so different. Also kinda held back by being called a pizza. Take Ocarina of Time as the first example. It tried it’s best to be a faithful reimagining of what Zelda games were up to that point. Just ya know, 3D this time. So much so that the puzzles and combat and exploration all suffer from not being originally designed to be presented in this format. I won’t go into to much detail here because I’d be typing out a small novel in the issues that 3D Zelda has when incorporating the 2D top down puzzle dungeon crawler. Now these issues are almost all based on needing to be a Zelda game. Unique items per dungeon that you get halfway through and help you progress the rest of the way until you reach a boss to fight it with. That’s okay enough, but the time it takes to reach that item and the difficulty of puzzle rooms before then are held back by what we expect to see. Push blocks, shoot triggers, kill all the enemies or find a bombable wall. That’s the developers playbook for a Zelda puzzle 80% of the time. In 2D Zelda games you had a clear view of what was going on, and a good idea of what was wanted from you. If nothing stood out you knew you probably are coming back to here later. They were more free to make unique looking items or layouts to provide interesting challenges that felt special and designed for that dungeon. So I mean I can go into it in greater detail later. If anyone actually cares about my views on OoT. That said, it’s pretty good. It’s still basically a Zelda game. I really feel it could have lead to much better games if they focused on improving the elements that held them back next time. For the most part, Majora’s Mask did that. I suppose. Look I just really didn’t like the time limit mechanic. Yet everyone always brings up that the characters have a schedule you can follow and it’s soooo good, but like all those schedules just mean you will be waiting for and following on character at a time. With power ups that specificly help you bypass these scheduled events to make them happen as you you are ready. Not bad, just not my personal tastes. The dungeons were solid and it did feel like a more fleshed out OoT. Especially with the way you explore and gain access to new areas. It could have been the next step towards something great. Instead though we got the start of novelty Zelda games.
Now let’s try something. Just forget about Zelda for a moment. You play as a young kid, on your birthday you have to do a coming of age celebration to prove you are a man now. You couldn’t care either way personally, but it’s important to your grandma. It’s tradition after all. So you start to go through the paces… when your sister gets kidnapped by a warlord for “reasons” so looks like you need to find a way out to save her. Hopping from island to island desperately seeking anyway to get past the warlord’s defenses you have to join up with a group of quirky pirates to finally rescue your lil’ sis only to discover a destiny binds you to this evil. You are the only one who can stop him. Right?! That game sounds amazing! It doesn’t need to be a Zelda game. It doesn’t matter that it is. Just that holds it back. Because now you have to shove in a staple set of items and themes as well as locations and enemies. Instead of something fresh and free we get a waterlogged Zelda game that not only suffers from that, it burdens all games to follow with it’s changes and additions. Each game could be somebody’s first, or could be someone else’s favorite, so you have to keep that in mind when you make a new one…
Ya know atleast in little ways. I was apprehensive when I first played it. I foolishly thought it was gonna be boats moving forward, but that was only Phantom Hourglass. Then we get trains in this line of the Zelda timeline. Just I kinda wish there was more. Imagine if this was a whole new property. A full series with it’s characters and lore standing apart as something special. Heck it could even be set in the Zelda world. It’s whole planet after all. There could always be a different hero in far off lands. We could do that, or we could make a Zelda themed issue of Animorphs.
Eiji… What do you got there? Eiji no! I’m not kidding around Mr. Aonuma. I’m gonna turn around and you better have put that young adult novel away.
Godamn it, what’s next Avatar birds and a story about a hostile land that used to be a paradise? Yeah yeah I know that’s a stretch on Skyward Sword. Just these next two games are just odd. They don’t particularly mesh well with the world I come to expect when it’s set in Hyrule. The better playing but worse thematically of the two is Twilight Princess. I won’t even begin to unpack the amount of things that make zero sense in a Zelda game. I mean I’m this case they weren’t wrong. I wouldn’t have bought a medieval Animorphs game with a strong lean on cyber demonic alternate dimensions. So that brings us to everyone’s favorite Skyward Sword. So like okay, it is a Zelda game. That is true, but it’s a prequel? It’s the chronological first game. The beginning of the reincarnations for Link and Zelda, but not Ganon. Kinda not Ganon. It’s dumb. It removes the mystery. Sure it’s nice to know I suppose, but sometimes it’s better to be left with wonder. We don’t need every little bit of a story set in stone. If we don’t happen to know what the first Link was like, it could have been whatever our heart desired. Once you know, there is no going back. Right Mr. Lucas?
So let’s wrap this up before I get started on Phantom Menace. Doot da doo! Breath of the Wild time baby! Now this game is amazing. One of the best I ever played. Shame it looks, feels, and plays nothing like a Zelda title. If any game deserves it’s own series it’s this techno laced steam punk open world masterpiece. It’s so good, I would honestly be okay with them keeping Link and Zelda and just drop “The Legend of Zelda” off the series. I still don’t feel like they are a proper Zelda entry. It’s like Wario Land to Mario Bros. Sure it technically is in universe, but I will blankly stare through you thinking about how amazing the Robocop Gameboy theme was as you try and explain why I’m wrong. So what I’m getting at is Windwaker and Breath of the Wild should be their own thing. Free of the Zelda restraints. Because BotW doesn’t seem to care at all about past Zelda lore. It honestly claimed the river Zora (Swamp Thing fish men baddies in classic Zelda titles) evolved into bird people. Funny because there was a Zelda title with bird people and a blue tunic having Link. Why that was Windwaker. Just imagine if those two games could be together in their own world. Just think BotW could explain how the world eventually had to be flooded. Since it is set in a world where Ganon’s evil went unchecked. The same reason they gave for the Goddesses to have flooded the land in Windwaker.
I know, I get it. Moving on! When the developers behind the game already guarantee quality you don’t need to slap it into a series to try and push sales. Having so many title that are so drastically different only serves to devalue the brand. Just look at Final Fantasy. Can you with any certainty know what the next Final Fantasy will be about? How about what it will play like? So when Link wakes up naked in a stasis pod and has an iPad that shows him where the hundreds of puzzle rooms are located in a Hyrule with only 4 dungeons that are actually giant steam powered robots with no unique items, but rather magic spells that help you traverse easier across an open world. An open world that is 99% optional mind you. When you can wake up and beat Ganon in like 15 minutes if you wanted too. Can you say with any certainty what the next Zelda game will be? Can you say what it will play like? Not really, but I do know one thing. It will be pretty fun as long as it has Nintendo behind it.
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