Ladies and gentlemen of America, it’s time for the main event. You may have thought the radio show was the highlight of the media conglomerate that is “At the Buzzer.” Wrong. In fact, this whole website is simply an avenue for these articles, written by me about the things you really care about. As long as what you care about deals with video games or something video game related.
To start things off, I decided to talk about Zelda. As many of you should already know, the latest title in this prolific series, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, is slated to release this November, and is set to be chock full of the one-to-one motion controls for swinging Link’s sword that no one asked for or particularly wants.
Many fans hoped for a lot of things with Skyward Sword, and a greater dependency on the worst part of Twilight Princess, the motion controls, wasn’t one of them. While I’m sure the game will be another masterpiece, this hasn’t stopped the internet from exploding with their own speculations and hopes for directions the next entry in the franchise will take. Shame on you, internet, for being greedy and critical…but since you’re doing it, I may as well give my own two cents on what direction the new Zelda should take. Shigeru Miyamoto has stated that Twilight Princess is the last Zelda of “that kind” (whatever that means), so I will keep this in mind when formulating this list that will amuse one or two of you and enrage the rest.
1. A Jump Button – I know, I know — believe me, I have whined about the people who have whined about Link not being able to jump just as much as you have. And I maintain that the absence of a jump button was a great strategy for the previous Zelda installments. Nintendo was able to design more complex and strict dungeons because of the limited functionality of the protagonist (if there is a high ledge or obstacle in the way, Link couldn’t just jump over it), and maybe more importantly, it cleared up room on the controller.
However, keeping in mind that Miyamoto wants to present some radical gameplay change to the series, I wouldn’t mind it if they implemented something as simple as the ability to jump. This could not only add another layer to the combat, but the dungeon design as well. The Zelda series possesses, hands down, the most ingeniously designed and clever dungeons in gaming, but by the end of Twilight Princess, I was starting to feel the fatigue from the repetitive nature and self-imposed limitations. Adding in a jump button and building dungeons with the idea of a more mobile, vertically enabled Link in mind could really reinvigorate these levels, and open the doors for some fresh, new puzzles. Just please, Nintendo, no complex platforming sequences. I don’t want Mario in my Zelda…oh, I see what I did there. Ew.
2. No more magic pockets – What are magic pockets, you ask? Obviously, magic pockets are what allow Link to carry all of his 500 pieces of equipment at once. What, you thought it all just fit under his shield? Maybe excessive amounts of Velcro? Between the bombs, the ball and chain, the fishing rod, the claw shots, and whatever other crazy weapons Link gets his hands on throughout his adventure, that’s just unrealistic thinking. Shame on you.
The problem with believing in magic pockets is that even I am having trouble suspending my disbelief at this point. Twilight Princess did a lot of things right, but their available inventory for Link was not one of them. Sure, the ability to mix items (like the bow and bombs to make explosive arrows) was cool, but there were way too many weapons introduced in Twilight Princess, and far too many of these either overlapped with other items, or worked in situations that were way too specific. What is the ridiculously unwieldy ball and chain going to realistically do that my bombs can’t? Why do I need a rod that controls owl statues if there are only three f***ing statues in the entire game? And don’t even get me started on that top-gizmo that Link rides on for like 14 seconds of game time. At the rate we’re going, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Link fights his way through an entire dungeon to discover an Enchanted Cowbell that allows him to manipulate a small flock of kittens in a single section of the game. For a Piece of Heart.
For the next Zelda, I think they need to keep it simple; stick with the classics, and only offer new equipment that can be both unique and upgradeable. Obtaining the second clawshot is worth it, and promoting the normal shield to a mirror shield is awesome. Quality over quantity, and this is especially true when playing Zelda. And eating a steak.
3. A Link to the Somewhat Future – Speaking of items, I think it would be a great move to set the next Zelda a little bit in the future. I am as terrified as you are of Link riding Space Epona and wielding a Space Master Sword composed of laser beams, but a little bit further in the timeline, like the industrial age, could be really engaging, for both setting and gameplay. Not only would this introduce players to a Zelda world that they have never seen before, but it could also breathe new life into the equipment. For instance, we could get boots that offer steam propulsion in certain spots for higher jumps, or the ability to run an electrical current through the hookshot to harm enemies and solve mechanical puzzles. Think about it.
4. No Ganon/Ganondorf/Dream of Ganon/Resurrected-but-only-for-a-brief-moment Ganon – The whole Ganon stealing the princess thing is getting a little old at this point, and I think it’s time we saw a Zelda without Ganon as the major nemesis. They’ve tried it before — both in Minish Cap and Majora’s Mask — and the results in both cases were awesome. Especially in Majora’s Mask. At this point, Ganon has been resurrected more times than Jason Voorhees. How about we let him sit the next two plays out and get a new antagonistic dynamic to revitalize the storytelling. Speaking of storytelling….
5. Finally Tell Us What the Hell is Going On – As blasphemous as it sounds, I was once a proponent of a talking Link. I thought if we could flesh out Link’s character, it would lend itself to a more immersive, poignant storyline. Then Metroid: Other M happened, and one petulant thumbs down during a mission debriefing ruined decades of careful character development and iconic admiration. Excuse me while I vomit all over my computer.
Still, I can’t help but hope for a storyline that’s a bit more engaging than what we’ve seen in the past. What I think the next Zelda needs is a really carefully written, more mature plot, and one that finally explains the “Dual Timeline Theory.” Essentially, supporters of this theory believe that events in Ocarina of Time (stay with me) split the timeline in the Zelda universe into two. One timeline continues on after Zelda sends Link back, immediately following the events of Ganondorf’s rise to power (no, don’t stop, it’s about to get really good), while the other timeline returns to before Link drew the Master Sword and unknowingly started the Ganon Apocalypse. With all the parallel dimensions already inserted into previous Zelda games, would it be such a stretch to imagine a game where one of the Links finds a wormhole to the world of the other timeline? And then the Links can team up to kill Super Ganon, a Ganon created from fusing the two Ganons!…okay, that might be a little too far, but you get the idea.
6. Talking Link – …you know, the more I think about it, the more I’m okay with this if it’s done well. I want a more involving story, and the only way to really achieve this is to have Link utter more than grunts and horrific screams of agony when he falls off of cliffs or into lava. Link needs some kind of character arc and development, and it is really hard to achieve this with him doing his best mime impression and going full-on Lassie for the duration of the adventure. “What was that, Link? Gannondorf is gonna kill everybody and you need the musical power of my enchanted ocarina to stop him?” What? Either Link is the greatest damn Charades player the world has ever seen, or there is something wrong with this picture.
I imagine Link being a laid-back guy with a good sense of humor and softer side when spending time with Malon from Lon Lon Ranch, but at times struggling with his destiny as the hero that was thrown on his lap. He answers the call, but are there times when he doesn’t want it? Does he ever wish he could pass the torch to someone else? Just how frustrating is it that Ganon has been resurrected 600 times? Whatever it is, I want to hear it. Just please remember the lessons of Other M. Link needs to be a quiet badass, not someone who wallows in their Daddy Complex. If a single line of interior dialogue narrates Link’s petrifying terror of Ganondorf, I will start crying and probably not stop anytime in the foreseeable future.
7. The Fire Rod – A rod that shoots fire, and comes with the bonus of actually being able to kill those loathsome chickens…by lighting them on fire. Bring this back. Immediately.
8. Advanced Combat – I feel like I have been pretty reasonable thus far, but no wish list is complete without something a little radical. In this case, I think the next Zelda should offer an overhaul on combat. First of all, I think the game should go the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time route, and make “enemy encounters” a separate mode from “exploration.” This means that when Link encounters a group of enemies, the buttons and presentation change to suit the situation. Not only would this offer more flexibility with the button layout, but it would give the options for some more advanced fighting options.
The simplistic combat options of previous Zelda games always appealed to me, but imagine a game where you one-two combo the enemy with the sword and shield, and as he is reeling back from the pain you just delivered to his face, you fire your hook/claw/chainshot at his forehead and bring him back before leaping up and delivering an arrow to finish him. Again aimed at his face. After the battle, the combos could be scored, ala Batman: Arkham Asylum, and the player could be rewarded with things like items and health.
Furthermore, I think it could be ingenious to take advantage of Link’s arsenal and magic pockets by providing the ability to change fighting styles completely, like in Devil May Cry 3; approaching enemy battles with a sword and shield could, and should, feel dramatically different than a megaton hammer and clawshot combo. These are possibilities in gameplay that I would love to see, and it would ramp up Zelda’s combat potential to another level.
So, there you have it. I know, I know–it has masterpiece written all over it. I’m going to start on it now, actually, and with my current programming knowledge, coupled with my discount Toshiba laptop computer, I feel the chances are great that I should be able to have a pretty crazy looking title screen for it by the time I’m 40.