Zelda Logo

Now that many of us have gotten our hands on the Wii U and have gained a better understanding of what it’s all about and its very much untapped potential, many of us have our own unique vision what the next console version of Zelda will deliver to us rabid fans. Thanks to Nintendo’s foresight and, dare I say, courage to constantly reinvent, innovate and completely alter many aspects of the beloved franchise, half the fun for us fans comes from guessing just what the Big N has up its sleeves for us next. If you’re anything like me though, you have your own wish list; your own vision of what you want out of the next console game. Like snowflakes, all beautiful, but no two exactly alike. Below is what I hope to find when I slip that first, magical Zelda Wii U disk in and experience what adventures await.

Controls:

Skyword Sword, though all but universally loved, caused quite a schism between my friends and the Zelda community as a whole with its use of the Wii Motion Plus controller effectively acting as the Master Sword. For some, it was nothing short of revolutionary and finally realizing the full promise of what the Nintendo Wii and its unique controller setup could do for games. For others, it caused deep frustration. Swinging the sword felt clunky to some and the frequent recalibrating of the Wii Motion Plus controller was a little more constant and cumbersome than many were willing to deal with.

As for myself, you can consider me firmly in this camp: I never want to play another (console) Zelda any other way. I was absolutely enthralled by the controls. It’s what I had I hoped to see in a Zelda title when I played Wii Sports for the first time. It bridged the gap between what I expected and where the Wii version of Twilight Princess fell a little short. It took a little getting used to, no doubt. Once I got the hang of it though, I felt as if Link was an extension, an avatar of myself; perhaps more importantly, I finally felt like I was truly an extension of Link.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There were valid complaints about the new control scheme. Some of the more uncoordinated amongst us felt out of their element. Having to thrust or slice diagonally just so took a lot of the fun away from people who were more content with simply pressing a B button. Ideally, they’ll be able to offer up an option to use the Skyward Sword control scheme (or something similar) and a more traditional controller layout.

But let’s not forget about that Wii U Gamepad, whose worth is being very much debated and is, quite frankly, mostly unknown right now. I myself, as of now, like it and think the device is a game changer. I just don’t want it to be incorporated into the swordplay aspect, but I think that it should largely supplement the game play. Supplement doesn’t mean the Gamepad has to be a bit player. I think it can play a crucial role.

Imagine you hit pause on your Wiimote to open your map, grab the Gamepad and there it is on your touch screen waiting for you to grab your stylus and add whatever notes you need. Sounds rather tame? Fair enough. What about solving puzzles on it? Not necessarily a dungeon room that is itself a puzzle but something akin to a cryptext or the like. I can see that adding an entirely new dimension, a marked improvement, in one of the franchise’s greatest strengths: puzzle solving. What about turning it into instruments? Blow into the microphone to play an ocarina. Use that stylus on the touch screen to play a harp or maybe even a new instrument: perhaps a violin. Imagine how the Gamepad could be used if they brought back and implemented the Lens of Truth using the pad’s gyro meter in the same way its implemented to let you move the Gamepad to look around Nintendoland (this possibility makes me drool).

The Wii Motion Plus controller gave many the sensation the Master Sword was a tangible, real weapon for us that we could wield. How they made you pull the Master Sword out of its pedestal for the first time is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The Gamepad could never do that, just like the Wiimotes and Nunchucks could never act as an extension of the Lens of Truth or a map you can hold and alter in your hands. Both could act together to make you feel more like you’re an extension of Link and vice versa.

I know the obvious downside of what I’m suggesting. You would have to put your Wii Motion Plus and Nunchuck controllers down to pick up the Gamepad and such. In my mind though, it’s a small price to pay to optimize what Zelda could be (again, in my mind) on the Wii U. It plays to all of the Wii U’s strengths.

For those of you who don’t share my vision and/or can’t stand the Skyward control mechanics, I don’t think you have much to worry about. I’m basing this solely on a speculative, gut feeling, but the Gamepad is Nintendo’s shiniest toy. I suspect they’ll make that the primary controller and stick with a more traditional format with Zelda’s first foray on the Wii U. If this is indeed the case, I won’t lose sleep over it. Ocarina of Time is still my favorite game of all time, and I didn’t need to swing a Wiimote around like a sword to be immersed in its charm. You know that though … it wouldn’t have hurt anything either.

Visual Style:

I’m not the biggest first-person shooter guy in the world, but when a new Halo game comes out, everything else in my life ceases to exist for at least a week — much to my girlfriend’s chagrin. I loved each of the main four games of the franchise and look forward to seeing what they added and changed (Apparently with Halo 4, all they added to Cortana was a lot of silicon … and I’m not talking about it being in the micro chip). The new Halo 4 looks gorgeous and is a vast improvement over Halo 3 in terms of visuals and graphics, even though it’s on the same console. The problem is, no matter what planet they find or what new alien race they discover they have to blow the heads off of, you essentially know what you’re getting visually from one Halo game to the next.

With Zelda, especially console games, this is never so. Wind Waker changed the franchise, I would argue also gaming, forever with cartoony, cel-shading. It made it forever OK for Zelda to reinvent itself and keep the franchise, at least from a visual perspective, in a constant state of new and fresh. Then came Twilight Princess with darker realism mixed with what I call “flair” from the Twilight Realm’s neon and sci-fi flavor. Not a rapid departure from the norm of gaming visuals then and now, but enough to keep us guessing and intrigued. Then came the utter joy of Skyward Sword. Nintendo did a masterful job to mask the Wii’s processing, graphical and textural shortcomings. The oil pastel look they achieved was absolutely beautiful and a joy to play and explore in. All that being said, I couldn’t shake the thought of how a much a more powerful console would have been able to expand the visual appeal and overall experience.

So what comes next? What should come next? Hard to lock down what anyone should do on something so suggestive as visual art. Here’s what I expect to see though: something Twilight Princess-esque. I don’t think the dark undertones will be so prominent. Again, this is purely speculative, but I just expect more of a realistic look and vibe because this is a Zelda’s first, long overdue step into the world of HD. So, I surmise we can expect more realism with some kind of new twist or “flair.” Then again, this is Nintendo; this is Zelda. The only thing we can really expect is the unexpected. If the past is any indication, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

As for what I would like to see, surprise me Nintendo. In my adolescence, I was so very wrong about your cel-shading direction with Wind Waker. What little skepticism I had about Skyward Sword’s visual style was proven to be completely unfounded. My only suggestion is this: Zelda’s in HD finally, and you better use it to its fullest, Nintendo. I get and fully believe in your stance that game play always supersedes graphics and visual. This is Zelda though. No other franchise is as deserving to look absolutely stunning; no other series and its fans have been waiting so long to have the power of HD utilized to paint a new incarnation on a universe we love. No matter what look you run with, make it count.

Format:

When I say format, I’m basically referring to the announcement by Nintendo they were rethinking the entire linear Zelda experience. When I heard this, I had two immediate reactions: fear and hope.

What I’m mostly afraid of with the non-linear format is how it will affect the story? Skyward Sword is, by far and away, Nintendo’s best effort at telling a compelling story in a Zelda game. I never felt more attached to Zelda and Link’s relationship with her than in Skyward. She was either used as just a symbol of wisdom, was so shrouded in mystery she felt distant or was just the seemingly obligatory, quintessential damsel in distress. In addition to energizing, if not outright breathing new life into, the franchise’s title character, the story wasn’t an afterthought as in the past; it was intimately linked to the entire game’s experience. Even side characters were fleshed out and played increasingly important roles, unprecedented from its predecessors.

Here’s where the hope and potential comes in for me. Not having a non-linear format gives Nintendo a chance to breath new life into a crucial character that hasn’t had, in my humble opinion, proper attention paid to it in a long time: Hyrule itself. While I never felt outright stifled in my ability to explore the land of Hyrule, I haven’t gotten the same level of excitement of what could be around the next corner since Ocarina of Time. While I found Elder Scrolls: Skyrim to be good but immensely overrated, their use of the non-linear format opened up the opportunity to create a huge, vast world filled with so much to explore and find. I think if the Zelda franchise paralleled some of these characteristics of Skyrim and others like it, Hyrule – or whatever world they have in store for us – becomes vastly more dynamic. Now that would be an accomplishment given how Hyrule (Termina, Holodrum, et al) already has us coming back time-and-time again.

Not only could the non-linear format be conducive to allowing Nintendo to make this the ultimate Zelda exploring experience, their new, beefed up Wii U hardware can give this aspect of the franchise another shot in the arm. They (finally) have a machine that allows them to expand the size of Hyrule to a scale and proportion we haven’t even come close to ever seeing before. By many accounts I’ve read, Skyward Sword squeezed every last drop out of the Wii they could. The new Wii U doesn’t cause them the same limitations. We shouldn’t just be getting a better visual presentation; we should be getting a Hyrule to explore far larger than any of its predecessors.

Another amazing opportunity the non-linear format and upgraded hardware presents is the ability to create a more living, breathing society and population in Hyrule. A clone of Skyrim I want not, but I loved how you felt there that each town was a legit, ever moving community made up of real, sentient beings with their own lives, thoughts, freewill personalities and agendas. I wanted to save (most) of these people, and there were a lot of them to save. Zelda’s side characters have always been memorable and enduring, but sometimes they seem far too few. I wanted to save the world not just because it was as foretold by prophecy, not just because I was preordained by the gods as the chosen one. Those walking polygons and textures had something resembling souls. I enjoyed having so many souls to save.

Nintendo doesn’t have to sacrifice their more light-hearted, caricature like take of their characters and personalities they do so well with Zelda to achieve this. They could stand to make the land and the people sense more living breathing land and inhabitants.

As for whether or not Nintendo make their characters “deeper” by finally giving the franchise voice actors, sorry Big N. You’re damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. My opinion on this goes back and forth one day to the next. Today though, I lean towards going the voice route. It’s not a prerequisite to making a great game, but at times I feel going the text route feels a bit dated. At the same time though, if they pick the wrong voices for the important, crucial characters … unforgivable. I don’t envy Nintendo’s position on that front at all.

Co-Op:

Yes, please! I understand how the solitary play has added a lot to the atmosphere and feels of Zelda games in the past, having some kind of console co-op ability seems right, if not overdue. The Zelda community is a large yet intimate bunch, sharing our ideas (as I am now), theories, memories and excitement since a little Triforce forever changed our lives. We share in all of this, yet we have never been able to share in a console Zelda’s game play? I’m nothing short of elated Nintendo is considering this feature.

Now, how should and are they going to go about executing this? You can’t see me right now, but trust me, I’m shrugging repeatedly.

If you have something or someone at the same power and ability as Link, I would imagine that would make combat awfully easy. Maybe they up the difficulty and/or the numbers of the enemies to offset this. I just don’t see it though.

Maybe it will be something akin to Nintendoland’s The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest (without the rail system of course). You have one (or multiple?) players rockin’ the Wiimotes, swinging the swords while another player uses the Gamepad to dispatch the bad guys with the old bow and arrow. For those of you familiar with the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game format, the swords would essentially act as “tanks” and the archer(s) would be “range.”

Again, I worry about it offsetting the balance of power, taking away the challenge of combat I felt Skyward Sword mastered so well. If they do find a way to allow two or more players have equal affect of what happens and not completely steam roll the enemy in combat, I would forever sing Nintendo’s praises.

I think we’re more likely to see more of a support role in co-op. Maybe a Navi/Midna/Fi like character can be controlled with either another Wiimote or Gamepad. I think an aerial support class would be pretty cool and manageable. Plus, Skywards’ Beetle gave some really, really cool vistas and perspectives. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that.

What will the final co-op product, if there even is one, look like? Could be a combination of all of the above. Could be something I’m not creative or smart enough to imagine. All I know is, no matter which route they choose, executing it properly would go a long way in expanding on a franchise already in a league of its own.

One last though on co-op. Don’t just have local co-op, Nintendo. Give us online play co-op too! This brings me to my last point.

Online Play:

Some people put too much stock into online game play. It seems like the more and more video game reviewers feel that without some kind of online play, a game doesn’t deserve as high of a rating for not having enough “replay value.” I don’t believe in this mindset, but that’s not to say us Zelda fans don’t have much to gain if Nintendo implements a well executed online co-op apparatus.

Any kind of quality online co-op would be an absolute joy. I live in the states and have a buddy in Canada, who happens to be studying to become a game developer himself. About every other day we discuss and debate all things Zelda (For the record: he thinks drawing a path on the Gamepad for Bombchus to follow would be awesome). Obviously, local co-op isn’t in the cards for us. Online play though, nothing short of a dream come true that we, and I’m sure millions of others, would embrace.

More than that though, it’s somewhat off-putting that the best gamer community in the history of games and game communities hasn’t been able to be a community, to connect with each other through the very games which unite them so strongly. I love how Nintendo has made its own mini-social network that emphasizes fun and solidarity over competition and how many Mountain Dew addict 13-year-olds can make you their “b****.” They should fully exploit that with this next console (and why not handheld?) Zelda game. Look at this site. Who has more passionate and creative, devoted and nice fans than us Link Lovers? Nobody, that’s who! Now bring that to the fore with the first Wii U Zelda game.

Your Turn:

I am but one man who gave you a view of his dream snowflake. So what do you fellow Link Lovers think? What’s your dream console Zelda? How should Nintendo best utilize its still shiny, new Wii U? Sound off in the Comments below!

P.S. I hope you enjoyed my first contribution to this premiere Zelda fan site, and I look forward to getting to know you all more in the coming weeks and months!