An open letter to Nintendo:
Much has been speculated about the upcoming Wii U Zelda game. No, not The Wind Waker HD – the new one, currently due to be revealed at E3 next year.
Current word is that Nintendo would like to make it more open world. Possibly multiplayer. They want to move away from traditional Zelda games and move the series on.
Rubbish. What makes Zelda is being Zelda. With the overworld and the dungeons. The “gimmick” changes for each title (e.g. light and dark in LttP, land and sea in Wind Waker), sure, but the underlying premise remains the same. Go to dungeon, get item that assists in that dungeon but is required for next dungeon. Repeat. Obtain hearts to increase length of health bar, gradually becoming more and more potent with your fighting and puzzle-solving options.
Some games, like the original Zelda and Link to the Past have very little hand-holding and you’re mostly free to explore without doing this (although progressing is difficult and often impossible). Other games, like Twilight Princess, are much more linear and exploration is minimal. Whatever, the basics remain constant. More or less.
So, in a way, open world has already been “done” by the series. Multiplayer has too, in the Four Swords games. They’re not really full Zelda titles, though, and are more based around co-operative puzzle solving than exploration and inventory improvement. I’m not really interested in Zelda moving (back) towards these.
But how to do something new, without taking away from the game being Zelda? I’ve an idea. Do it all backwards.
Instead of starting with nothing but a feeble sword, why not start with everything? All the weapons and tools. All the extra health hearts. The lot. And then, as you do each dungeon (possibly in any order) and defeat its boss, weapons, tools and hearts are removed from you, for reasons explained by the plot. A simple puzzle at the start, where you smash some rocks with a hammer, becomes much more complicated later when you don’t have a hammer any more and have to use your remaining items to find another route around or through.
The fighting in the game also naturally gets harder without needing to make baddies more resilient and damaging, as your weapons become more useless and your health dwindles.
Finally, you reach Ganondorf. No Master Sword. No shield. No other weapons. Just a pointy bit of wood. You even have so few hearts the “you’re gonna die!” alarm plays constantly. Imagine that! You can defeat him only with skill. All the way through the game even though you’ve been progressing, you’ve been losing. Ganondorf and his minions have been besting you even when you have defeated them along the way. You’re down to your last weapon, last chance, last hope. Ganondorf has you on the ropes. You know you’re done for, but as a true hero, you defeat him anyway.
Or not. Maybe then you get all your weapons back, for the final twist. Another dungeon. Another boss.
It would be awesome.