When you hear the name, Legend of Zelda, what comes to mind? An epic adventure story set in a world of fantasy, expansive dungeons where you test your skills with numerous new tools, a large world where you are free to explore and complete side quests and mini games to your heart’s content? After 25 years, it is these qualities and much more that gamers have come to expect from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series. Not only have a majority of these games been fun, but also continuously raising the bar of the kind of quality the modern adventure game should have. However when such mixed feelings about Skyward Sword, the latest installment of the series, exists it makes you wonder. Has Nintendo begun to lose its touch with this series? Could it be possible that in an attempt to focus on competing with Sony and Microsoft that the Zelda series is losing the magic it had with its legendary installments?
As a personal note, I loved Skyward Sword and all of what makes it unique. The dungeons and bosses were a blast to play through, flying through the sky was something I’ve always wanted to do in a Zelda game and the story (though it had its ups and downs) was very enjoyable. That being said, I’m not blind to why certain fans were furious with this game. There is plenty to enjoy but each side quest or even the standard dungeon felt like it was put only due to the fact that this was a Zelda game, so it had to be there. If that’s the case, then is this classic formula that Zelda games have had since the beginning (collect ancient sword, destroy the evil Ganon, save Princess Zelda, etc) starting to go stale? Perhaps, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The type of story that has been the focus of Legend of Zelda for years now, the Hero’s Journey, is a timeless one. A hero rising from obscurity to save the damsel in distress from an evil force has been around much longer than 25 years. So I highly doubt it will ever become truly stale. However what Nintendo needs to realize that it doesn’t necessarily need the typical Zelda formula in order to please fans. If you want proof, look no further than Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask from the early 2000s. This game, while an official Zelda title, had none of the iconic characters or items from previous titles, sans Link himself. Princess Zelda was only present in a flashback, no Ganon in sight with a new villain taking the stage, not even the Master Sword or the Triforce where in this game. But did it suffer from this? No, far from it. In my personal opinion, it surpassed the standards set by Ocarina of Time and became a unique entity all its own. The masks, a key role in gameplay, were always fun to use (especially the ones that allowed you to transform) and even the three day time limit and the threat of impending doom set a heavy atmosphere that no Zelda game since has been able to match.
While I am excited for the latest games announced for the Zelda series such as a new and improved Wind Waker (my favorite game in the series) and even the throw back to the days of Link to the Past with A Link Between Worlds, I think it is time that Nintendo give the tried and true formula a bit of a break and go outside the lines a bit. Given all the creativity put into Skyward Sword, Nintendo already has an amazing team to take on such a task. But the next question is, what kind of nuances should they focus on?
I remember when I first played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I didn’t even bother with the dungeons and just took to riding around Hyrule field for hours on end. The world just seemed so huge and alive, making me more eager to explore every nook and cranny to see what I could find. While Skyward’s Sword’s world was expansive, there were few places you could go outside Skyloft where you were safe from enemies. For the next big Zelda title, I hope for a world as large and full of life just as much as the dungeons are, full of interesting creatures or races with their own culture and history. That and making it more of a personal adventure for our hero facing a new villain and maybe even a new kind of heroine to save. Just give me a Zelda game with that and I will be more than satisfied. What do you guys want to see in the next Zelda game? Leave your ideas in the comments section below.