Let’s get this out of the way upfront; there has never been a genuinely bad Legend of Zelda game. While the likes of The Adventures of Link, Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker may have divided opinions, they were all of the same high quality that you’d expect from Nintendo and enjoyable for those in the right mindset.
With that said, I didn’t much care for the last home console Zelda, Twilight Princess. Again, it’s by no means bad and is far better than 90% of games on the market. But as a lifelong series fan I was ready for something different, something that wasn’t simply another 3D Zelda.
Could the next entry in the series, Skyward Sword, provide that spark of originality and reinvigorate The Legend of Zelda?
The Sky’s the Limit
From the footage and developer discussion we’ve witnessed so far, Skyward Sword is showing some early signs that it won’t be just another run of the mill Zelda. The setting is a radical departure, being based not in the traditional land of Hyrule but a sky kingdom. Director Eiji Aonuma compared Link and Zelda’s situation to being in high school, a concept that’s pretty foreign to the series. Zelda herself isn’t even a princess this time around.
Nintendo confirmed early on that the game would make use of the Motionplus peripheral that adds one-to-one motion tracking for the Wii remote. Hopefully, this will finally make good on the promise of dynamic Wii-mote sword fighting (as opposed to Twilight Princess’ bolted on waggle controls) and the underutilised peripheral as a whole. Other types of new motion controlled weaponry have also been displayed like the mechanical flying beetle that can reach places that Link can’t.
However, if Motionplus is to be more than just a wrist ache-inducing gimmick Aonuma and company will have to provide many new and intuitive uses for it in-game. Hardly any developers besides Nintendo have managed to do so up to now.
Though the likes of Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker presented interesting twists on the formula, the 3D Zelda games have retained the same basic structure established in Ocarina of Time and beyond. It’s about time that Nintendo started thinking outside of the box in this particular area.
The puzzle and monster-filled dungeons lie at the core of the Zelda experience and I wouldn’t want them removed. However, wouldn’t it be great if Nintendo could weave them organically into an engaging character-driven story? If the series could free itself from making the player go from dungeon to dungeon collecting MacGuffins it could allow for some radically divergent story telling. Speaking of which…
Tying Together the Legend
Ocarina of Time was on the cutting-edge of cinematic storytelling. While its plot wasn’t exactly complex it was well-paced, expertly told and had several standout moments and twists. Despite telling several unique tales since then, story is another area in which the Zelda series has fallen behind the times.
As always, there’s a lot Nintendo could do, especially if they take my advice and get a bit more flexible with the game’s overall structure. As someone who loves discovering and theorising about the continuity between the different games in the series though, my one story wish would be to see the Zelda lore brought to the forefront.
I’d love to see a major event in the back story shown to us, much like the way Ocarina of Time fleshed out the series’ origin story told by A Link to the Past.
Again, Nintendo are showing early signs that they’re doing this, setting the plot even before Ocarina and telling the beginnings of the Master Sword, the timeless blade that each different Link uses to vanquish evil. The fact that Link and his people live in the sky and not in the land of Hyrule below also ties into series’ lore in a number of more subtle ways.
If Nintendo really want to please long-time fans, here’s something I think it should consider: show us the actual “Legend of Zelda”. This key piece of lore provided the back story to Zelda II: The Adventures of Link on the NES, telling how the original Princess was cursed to lie in an perpetual sleep for generations. All subsequent daughters in the Royal Family were to be named Zelda in her honour. As the new origin point in the series timeline, Skyward Sword would be the ideal vehicle to tell this story.
Coming Down To Earth
There are other minor bugbears that Nintendo could and probably should address with Skyward Sword; providing fully voiced dialogue, a true orchestrated score (as opposed to dated MIDI music) and well developed characters would be nice. However, it’ll be the story, game play and structure that myself and many other Zelda fans will be primarily scrutinising when the game debuts.
Will Skyward Sword represent a huge technical and design leap in the manner of Ocarina of Time? Probably not. Given the aging hardware of both the Wii console and the Motionplus peripheral it simply won’t have a big enough “wow” factor.
Could this be the best entry in the series, then? Absolutely. If Aonuma and company manage to successfully venture outside of the series’ comfort zone in addition to providing a refreshing, fan-pleasing story this has the potential to be the next Nintendo classic.