When E3 rolled around earlier this year, we were all shocked and pleasantly surprised at the same time. Nintendo had decided to redefine what Zelda is, and announced with a magnificent trailer that the next Zelda game on the GameCube, currently given the very original tentative title “Legend of Zelda”, would go back to a similar style of that which was utilized by the Nintendo 64 games Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. It is no secret that these two games recruited a lot, and I mean a lot, of fans to the Zelda franchise, so it the surprise was welcomed with a pleased smile by the lot of us.
Now that we have had some time to let the first impressions and the extasy we felt when we first saw the trailer wear off, it is time to take a look at what caused this drastic change at the Nintendo Headquarters. Following the pattern originally set by the N64 games, we would expect that if we were lucky enough to get another full fledged Zelda adventure on the GameCube, it would take advantage of the same stylistic graphics we were presented to by The Wind Waker. Now it has been confirmed by Nintendo that this new game will be using the same engine as TWW, but the drastic changes are obvious and impossible to miss. But why?
The father of the Zelda series, Shigeru Miyamoto, and the heir to the throne of the Zelda series, Eiji Aonuma, have both been stressing to answer this question to the public. To quote Miyamoto himself when he was asked the question:
“This is actually more a question about how we want to portray the Zelda world rather than whether we want to make a game that is targeted towards adults or kids”
Eiji Aonuma has also been quoted several times stating the exact same thing. Link as a small kid sees the world as a colorful place, while the older incarnation of him has a more serious and realistic look at Hyrule. Of course this makes sense, but I choose to believe that other factors may have played a more important factor in the dramatic change.
Nintendo are behind. They are far too much behind Sony in the race than the ever imagined they would be. We all saw it coming around the time of the Nintendo 64, when the Playstation invaded Ordinary Joe’s household, and outsold the N64 by many, many millions of units. With the GameCube, Nintendo hoped to change this. By releasing quality games such as Super Mario Sunshine, Pikmin, Super Smash Bros: Melee and of course The Wind Waker, they honestly did believe that it would change, too. But Nintendo failed to realize that the gaming market has changed. These types of games have become niche games, only appropriatly loved and appreciated by a specific niche of gamers, known as Nintendo fans.
Since this afterall is a Zelda site, I will lay my main focus on The Wind Waker. It was without any piece of doubt a fantastic game. But above all, it was a fantastic game for Zelda fans. The very special style did not appeal to the mass audience at all, and therefore it did not sell GameCubes in a large quantity such as Ocarina of Time did with the Nintendo 64. And exactly because of this style change, and this overall image that Nintendo created for themselves with mainly the 1st party games they released, they failed to sell enough consoles, and once again fell far to much behind Sony once more. You’ve all heard the cliche before, but history repeats itself once more.
But the problems didn’t end there for Nintendo. With the lack of games with an appeal to the mass audience, they started losing 3rd party support from other game developers. Obviously this was never a good thing, and they are now running around in a very bad circle. They need games which can appeal to the average gamer, and what he wants. And what does he want? We all know that; awesome graphics, fantastic effects which he can talk about with his pals in school. Not something that looks like it is taken straight out of a certain Cartoon Network show, which will make his friends question his sexuality if he brings up in a public discussion.
And Nintendo have finally realized it. Finally. I am not saying I am happy with this because I like the state the videogame market is currently in, because I don’t. I am saying this because it is essential that Nintendo start targeting the mass if they want to keep the numbers in their financial reports in green, or black, or blue for that matter, as long as we avoid that colour of the devil. Now that they have realized it, they are starting to do something about it. But where to start, that must have been the question the bosses up in the big room asked themselves, as they leaned back in their big fancy Leather-chairs, and took a sip of bran.. eh, Coke.
Then some smart guy realized it. “Hey, I know, lets do something about that franchise that saved us from going out of business when we did the same mistake with the Nintendo 64. You know, the one they changed into a childrens game now. I think it was called Zenda or something!”. And the rest agreed of course, and truth be told, it was a good idea. Zelda is the franchise with the most potential to become a big hit among the mass audience they’ve got, and now they are doing something about it.
So to draw my conclusions, I firmly believe that no matter what Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma states in the public, the Zelda franchise and their (or at least Miyamoto’s) vision of what it truly represents, fell victim of Nintendo’s current problems in the market. For better, or for worse, that is up to each and every one of us to decide. But let’s just hope that our beloved franchise carries as much power with it as we, and the Nintendo Excecutives believe, for if it does, it very well might save Nintendo from becoming the ultimate loser of an entire generation of the gaming era, once more.