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
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.
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
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.