30 Years in 30 Days – 2004
by on February 9, 2016

Nintendo’s press conference at E3 2004 is arguably the best they ever had. Nintendo was dead last in the console race. The GameCube was not doing well, but Nintendo had big plans for their next console and their next handheld.

The conference began with an unfamiliar face taking the stage. “My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games.” It was a bold statement that was completely unexpected coming from a Nintendo executive. Two years later, Reggie Fils-Aime was the president of Nintendo of America and today is a face almost as familiar to Legend of Zelda fans as Shigeru Miyamoto.

My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names.

The conference continued in typical Nintendo fashion: game trailers and announcements followed by some relatively boring sales talk. After that, things got exciting once again. Reggie took the stage and pulled the first Nintendo DS from his coat pocket, and Nintendo president Satoru Iwata first referred to Nintendo’s next gaming console as a “gaming revolution.” Today, we know that revolution as the Wii.

But Nintendo wasn’t done. Before dismissing an already excited audience, Reggie took the stage one last time: “Before you leave I’d like you to step into one more world for Nintendo GameCube.”

The trailer that followed easily makes lists of the top moments of any E3. A lot of fans had expected a new Legend of Zelda game to be announced, but no one expected what was shown. I remember talking about it on various forums and heard all of the arguments: “Nintendo doesn’t have time to make a whole new game engine to make the new Zelda game realistic. The new one must have cel-shaded graphics like The Wind Waker.” “Nintendo won’t make a realistic Zelda game because that’s what everyone else is doing.” Suddenly every argument was shattered when Nintendo did show a realistic Zelda game for Nintendo GameCube.

ShigeruMiyamoto1-420x0Following the trailer, Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage with a Master Sword and Hylian Shield and gave an inspiring speech about the future of the Legend of Zelda series. Twelve years later, I believe that Miyamoto has lived up to his word. Link hasn’t stood still. You could argue that the series has moved forward more since 2004 than any other time in its history.

“We are now taking you to a world where Link has grown up. In order to grow, Link must not stand still and neither can I.” — Shigeru Miyamoto

No matter what you think about Twilight Princess now, the moment when it was announced was pure magic. Unfortunately, we’d have to wait two more years to actually play the game, but there was plenty going on for Zelda fans while they waited.

Completing the Four Sword trilogy

In 2002, we were introduced to Vaati and the Four Sword. In 2003, the story of Ocarina of Time was continued in The Wind Waker and the Four Sword was all but forgotten. In 2004, Nintendo revisited Vaati and the Four Sword in Four Swords Adventures and The Minish Cap. When grouped together with Four Swords, the three games complete a trilogy telling the story of the creation of the Four Sword, the sealing and release of Vaati, and Vaati’s eventual destruction.

Vaati is the only recurring major villain in the Legend of Zelda series other than Ganon, and in Four Swords Adventures he actually plays a part in Ganon’s plans.

Like FS before it, Four Swords Adventures was difficult to play with 4 players. At least there was a single player mode though.

Like its prequel, Four Swords Adventures was difficult to play with four players. At least it had a single player mode.

Unfortunately, Nintendo fell into the connectivity trap again with Four Swords Adventures. Like Four Swords, it’s difficult to play with multiple people. This time, you only needed one game, but you still need four Gameboy Advances and you need four GCN/GBA link cables.

Fortunately, Nintendo did include a single player mode this time around.

Four Swords Adventures plays differently from the other Legend of Zelda game (other than Four Swords) because it is entirely stage based. Even so, the stages are huge and have a lot of variety. You’ll find yourself in just about every environment imaginable. A lot of the areas are designed to be similar to their counterparts from A Link to the Past, so there is a great nostalgia factor in the game as well.

When I first played the game in 2004, I absolutely would not put it down. It was summer break, and I had all the time in the world. I played the game for four days with minimal breaks before finally completing it. When it was over, I was completely satisfied. This was a great Legend of Zelda game.

The last 2D Zelda game?

Depending upon where you were in the world, The Minish Cap was already out in 2004. In fact, The Minish Cap would be released before Four Swords Adventures in some areas. However, Zelda fans in North America would have to wait until 2005 for The Minish Cap to be released.  However, even as far back as 2004, people could tell that the winds of change were beginning to blow. With the launch of the Nintendo DS at the end of 2004, the first Nintendo portable with hardware sophisticated enough to allow for 3D rendering, Zelda fans couldn’t help but wonder if The Minish Cap would be the last 2D game to ever be produced.

Minish Cap waterfallYears ago, I wrote an article about the influence The Minish Cap has had on the Legend of Zelda series. In 2004, Japan and Europe experienced those changes first hand. The series began moving forward just as Miyamoto had promised at E3. Dungeon design was different. The items were different.

Looking back, probably the most obvious change the series has undergone is that no true 2D Legend of Zelda games have been released since The Minish Cap. Yes, games have continued to use the top-down perspective made famous by the original Legend of Zelda, but each since has used 2.5D graphics instead of traditional sprites. Even so, it is amazing when you realize just how much influence the 2D games still have over the series. Years later, the influence is still apparent in Skyward Sword and beyond.

It is amazing when you realize just how much influence the 2D games still have over the series.

If you have not picked up The Minish Cap, I highly recommend you find a way to play it. I sincerely hope that The Minish Cap is not the last 2D Legend of Zelda game, but it is possible that could be the case. Even without the other important changes to the typical Legend of Zelda formula, The Minish Cap’s status as the last 2D game in the series makes it among the most important games in the series.

2004 began a season of change

E3 2004 was a major shift for Nintendo. It foresaw the beginning of a period of dominance in the video game industry with the Wii and it was the beginning of major changes to the Legend of Zelda series. Take a good look at the games in the Legend of Zelda series and you’ll notice the shift in the design of the games. Some people, especially older fans, may not like the changes to the series, but the changes are an opportunity for a new generation to discover The Legend of Zelda.

Joshua Lindquist
Joshua is the Guides Director of Zelda Universe, a long-time executive of Zelda Wiki, and former owner of Zelda Relic. His passion for The Legend of Zelda burns endlessly in his quest for increased collaboration in the community.
  • Shona

    I still remember that E3 2004 TP reveal. It was spectacular.

    • The Missing Link

      It really was. Twilight Princess felt so close at hand yet we would have to wait forever for it.

      • Shona

        It certainly felt like forever! Although with approx. 5 year waits for both Skyward Sword and Zelda Wii U, it doesn’t seem quite so bad any more!

  • Darkstar

    Four Swords Adventures was almost overlooked by Twilight Princess’ epic trailer, but it was a great game and was much longer than the original. Adventures actually had a decent story line with the knights of Hyrule and the 7 maidens. I hope Zelda U is a prequel to Minish cap so we can see the Hero of Men in action leading up to the MC’s events

  • The Missing Link

    I still think FSA is a super solid title. It might have been really hard to play multilayer, but the game still shined in single-player! Though this pretty much cemented my eternal hated for Tingle as he stole all my Force Gems.

    • Shona

      You just reminded me that the first half of the 2000s could almost be called the “Tingle Era” because he showed up in every game for a while there.

  • Reggie

    There was a time where I used to be completely out of the loop when it came to conference news, even when I had internet then. At the time I got all of my gaming news from Nintendo Power. So while I wasn’t able to experience the great unveiling of Twilight Princess, it wasn’t like I didn’t know it existed either. In fact, it was all of those Nintendo Power issues I read back in the day that piqued my curiosity in Twilight Princess after I went into a limbo/hiatus with Zelda. The months leading up to its release were certainly interesting. I later decided to get the game for the GCN and it brought me back.

    But moving on. The Minish Cap is one of the games I did particularly enjoy, even though I didn’t really play it until later. I don’t think it got as much spotlight as Twilight Princess did. Same with Four Swords Adventures, which is actually a very good and underrated game. If there was any multiplayer Zelda game that got single-player right, it would be FSA.

    • Shona

      The handheld games never quite get as much attention as the major console releases do, unfortunately. Even I just posted a comment on this article lamenting the 5-year gap between Skyward Sword and Zelda Wii U when we had the excellent A Link Between Worlds in between.

      • Reggie

        Oh yeah, but some people would consider that to be a borderline remake of ALttP. Between the 25th anniversary and upcoming 30th anniversary, things have certainly been very dry. It’s kind of sad.