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| November 1, 2014

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How Zelda Can Learn From Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and The Sims

The Zelda fan community is well known for being contentious and diverse. Lately, some within our community have criticized what they see as a lack of innovation within the series. This past week, we learned a lot about Spirit Tracks. From what we know so far, the game will feature a linear form of transportation, a companion, and a musical instrument. Sound familiar? That’s because everything listed is either something we’ve seen multiple times before, or a mechanic that was notoriously unpopular. This has lead to some of us having doubts about whether Nintendo has any idea where to take the series.

Awhile back, Miyamoto stated he was mixing members from the Zelda Wii and DS teams. Recently, he talked about having assembled one of the most creative teams for Spirit Tracks. He then went on to say that he wants to do the same for Zelda Wii. To most of us, this sounds pretty exciting, but one thing you don’t hear much from Nintendo or other people is how the lessons from games of this generation can be applied to future Zelda titles. In Nintendo’s defense, though, the heavy hitters this generation came out after the two most recent titles. That, however, is no excuse to come up short this time around. Thus, the question becomes how can Nintendo learn from the best of the best and apply it to the Zelda series? I have assembled an assortment of three games I believe they should analyze.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Maybe Link Should Be Sneaky.

Maybe Link Should Be Sneaky.

Let’s face it, this game is pure awesomeness. Now before you go off on a tangent about the hours of in-game cut scenes and a story that only the most devout Metal Gear Solid fanboy could make sense of, know that I am not recommending Zelda become  MGS4, but merely, adapt and refine some of its attributes to fit the series in general. One of the most valuable of these is stealth. Yes, we’ve seen this before in Zelda, but never to the extent and efficiency now possible. Imagine a battle in which the boss was blind, yet had a great sense of hearing. Picture this foe being extremely fast, and now think about the level of stealth that would go into fighting such a creature.

For another case, visualize that you are maneuvering and setting up objects in order to trap or neutralize enemies that stand in your way. This is not only a great example of stealth, but also, dynamic puzzle solving. In short, bringing a greater and more varied use of stealth to the Zelda series would in turn make combat and puzzle solving more fresh and engaging.

Final Fantasy X

Contrary to popular belief, only one out of the fourteen Zelda games released is considered a role-playing game. This, however, is not to say the series couldn’t benefit from a little RPG influence. One of the great things about Final Fantasy X and the Final Fantasy series in general is the spectacular utilization of magic and combos. Imagine having a wand that came with a multitude of upgrades for it. Perhaps, with the power of wind, you would be able to conjure up powerful whirlwinds which could be used to blow away loose obstacle and foes, or even as a mode of enemy-blasting transportation. Another magic power of the wand could be gravity, by which you could enter a room, fling a few friends around, and literally alter the center of gravity. The range by which these magic’s and other kinds of magic could be used in a Zelda game is staggering and shouldn’t continue to go unnoticed by Nintendo.

Work with a partner!

Work with a partner!

Earlier, I mentioned combos. Where does that fit in with Zelda and magic? Well, have you noticed how most RPGs such as Final Fantasy usually team you up with a party. I’m thinking it’s time Nintendo do the same with their Zelda series. Now, before I lose you completely, hear me out. It would be great if during the course a Zelda game, we had the experience of teaming up with a multitude of one to two people throughout the quest. With each new person would come a multitude of magical attack combos. For instance, imagine holding your sword high in the air and pressing the B button, followed on screen by one or two of your party members empowering your sword with, let’s say, electro-storm fire. You could then use the sword to stun and burn your now helpless foes to their deaths. Not only would this work well for group combos, but solo combos for each character would also be proficient.

Though magic and combos are great, they’re not the only things from the Final Fantasy series Nintendo could take a cue from. Many in the Zelda community have come to agreement that the last few Zelda games have showed a lack of character and story development. The truth is, in a Zelda game, seventh generation gamers expect more than just the standard hero saves princess from villain story. We want to feel the games we play. We want our actions to have consequences, and we want those consequences to weigh on us in one way or another. In essence, Hyrule needs a real history, a real culture, and a conflict worthy of our attention.

The Sims 3

Link Should Learn to Build More Relationships

Link Should Learn to Build More Relationships

The Sims series has built a reputation of having the most varied and in depth NPC interactions out there, and for good reason too. The games are completely based around interacting and creating relationships. Majora’s Mask is the closest the Zelda series has ever come to a Sims level of interactive depth. A large group of Zelda fans think it’s time the series pick up where Majora’s Mask left off. If Nintendo is going to do this, why not look to the best example out there? Why not look to The Sims?
Think about it. Picture being able to walk into a city, get to know a bunch of people, and form useful friendships; there are so many possibilities for this. One could form alliances, acquire different statuses and jobs, and gain all kinds of power and influence never before seen in a Zelda game. In addition, this would be a fantastic way to spruce up the usually dull and drab sitequests that make up such games as Twilight Princess and Phantom Hourglass.
Ultimately, along with a greater depth of NPC interaction and everything else I’ve touched upon, the Zelda series needs to show some major progression with Spirit Tracks and Zelda Wii. I, for one, am actually quite confident after seeing last week’s multiple trailers that Spirit Tracks will deliver.

Sure, it won’t have many of the concepts I’ve listed, but it will likely be a progression for the series. As for the slow-to-arrive console iteration, I’ve heard promising things from Nintendo. My favorite tidbit is a GameSpot E3 update concerning Miyamoto’s thoughts about where the series should go next. In part it reads, “His idea of what a new Zelda game would be is to have players travel to different areas, which would link visits in the game. And to create memories of the characters you meet–your individual memories of what you experienced in the game. How you interpret that dungeon, how you interpret that dungeon, et cetera.” Now that’s something we can all agree on.
Author Note: This article is opinion based and should be treated as such.

  • Daddy

    This is good.

  • farore

    cool, lol its actually a very nice article.

  • avenged

    The entire Zelda series are role playing games. Most people always just think that it has to be turned based to be a role playing game. Zelda is what we like to call, an action based RPG.

    • Chintz

      No. Zelda is an action adventure. It has nothing to do with not being turn based. The lack of character customization or becoming stronger through experience make it not an RPG.

      I realize it's a very specific distinction, and other elements – like talking to people in towns, buying things at a store, etc – are also found in RPGs. But those things are also found in other kinds of games you would definitely not consider RPGs, so they don't really define the genre.

  • Midnafan1

    I enjoyed every second of this article. You, sir, have a gift for writing and it goes without saying that you have a gift for thinking outside the box. I would have never thought about any of this only for the simple fact I wouldn't have been able to connect it to the series. However, I just got a pretty good idea just from reading your article. One thing they can do is add in some massive battles where Link and the Hyrule Soldiers go up against an army of evil. Sort of like what KH2 did and also what Dynasty Warrior tries to do. Also, to pull this off, they should update from the graphical style they've been using. TP has great graphics for what they had at their disposal but I honestly think it can be even better. Maybe one day they'll be able to pull this off but I know right now, they'll just keep us waiting for all the great things that they have so much potential to integrate into the Zelda series.

    Great article….. Keep it up. ==

  • masterlinkace

    yes, some of these are good ideas, however some of these ideas, 1. would not work in zelda, and 2. aren't in any zelda games before now because the devs know it won't work. now i think that what you said about stealth and NPC's are both great ideas, but i don't want zelda games to have pretty much any of what you said in the final fantasy section. i don't want link to start having RPG like partners in a game, i don't want to start combining magic with other characters all the time in combat either. i mean if i want that i'd be playing final fantasy rather tham zelda. as somebody said earlier, zelda is an action-based RPG. it IS an RPG, just it's not your typical JRPG that everyone thinks is the only type of RPG game around. i mean there wouldn't even be RPG games if it wasn't for the original zelda game (as well as some other titles) but you can hardly tell one of the pioneers of a genre to be more liek that genre, it's insane.
    However ranting aside, i did like your article and it's really good to try and throw around loads of ideas for what directions a game should go in. i mean even if not all of them are ideas i find good, some other people may think they are great. and as i said earlier, some suggestions sound really good.
    i would love to see a zelda game with some less restrictive magic in there, i mean the gravity thing would be a bit wierd, but i think it's along the right lines. i mean i hate that most of the magic in the zelda games are just attcks or can only be actually used in very context sensitive moments.
    I also think that they should make custimisation an option in zelda games, even if it's just they give us crap loads of armour and equipment that change our appearance, but link can wear at all times without any downsides. for example i really liked the golden armour in TP however i couldn't wear it just for aestetic appeal because it drained all of my rupees wearing it. what i mean is like in OOT where you could pick from three tunics, three boots (two of them did make life quite awkward walking however) two shields and two swords when playing as adult link. but i wish they would ramp it up loads so that they had like Ten in each catagories, and maybe be able to mix and match pieces of armour, rather than them being just one tunic. just something like that (NOT CHANGING LINKS ACTUAL APPEARANCE THOUGH! i.e facial features etc.)

    • Dark Link

      I like the idea of a partner to a degree. Like you have Navi. But instead of a fairy a magical fairy with some slight power. You can use your magic meter and have her cast spells of some sort

      Midna was loaded with magic but did nothing ever

  • Daddy

    @masterlinkace:
    One idea I had for the party was that you could switch control between one party member to another at the push of a button. When you weren't in control, the behavior of that member around enemies would be determined by their personality. I.e. they might be really trigger happy, or they might devote their attention to covering you. I'm not sure if that makes you feel better, but it's an idea I had nonetheless.

    As for the whole RPG definition thing, I tend to follow this definition: http://www.rpgfan.com/editorials/old/1998/0007.ht

    I don't agree w/ this definition entirely, but I agree that to be defined as an RPG of any kind, a game must at the very least have a leveling up system. As it stands, AoL was the only game in the series that meets this requirement. Thus, tLoZ in general cannot be classified as an Action RPG series. Instead, it is officially classed within the Action-adventure genre.

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  • Sven Izzy

    Very nice article! You kept me reading till the end just to find out Sims could possibly contribute to Zelda.

    From what I've heard, Skyward Sword will have some stealth elements, when Link loses his sword. I love the idea of setting up traps for enemies, that would be incredibly fun and challenging!

    Spire Tracks did have more interactivity and dependence on the sidekick, and I agree that that's great. However, I disagree with your suggestion that Link have multiple companions. I've kicked the idea around myself, but decided that things would get too unwieldy if you had to drag a whole posse through every tunnel and across every field. It's enough that Link has Epona and the occasional monkey or animated statue. The Legend of Zelda is a solitary quest.

    And as for your last point, better NPC interaction, they improve in every game. I was quite touched when Colin (I think that was his name) said in Twilight Princess that he wanted to be just like Link, and during the credits we see him with a wooden sword and shield. By the end of the game, Link has usually earned respect and gratefulness from the townsfolk. To give players more choices as to earn respect is just another wrinkle, and one that they will probably add before too long.

    Overall, excellent article. Fresh ideas, and though I didn't 100% agree with all of them, you made me think. Looking forward to your next work!