Here we are, a few months after the first Roundtable, and we are finally ready to start on the second one, and hopefully we will be able to keep on track with one Roundtable per month from now on – I know I will do my best to try and keep it like that.

This time, the topic pretty much chose itself. LoZGC still isn’t very much upon us, and all we have seen from the game these past months are three new screenshots. But that doesn’t seem to be slowing down the hype, as people are discussing it fiercely over at our Forums, our Mailbags are full of questions about the up-coming game, and people are generally just starving for new information about the game. And, since we can’t give you that right now, because Nintendo have decided to put a lid on the game until E3 this year, we are going to give you the second best thing. In this Roundtable, we will present our thoughts, ideas, and educated guesses about what we can hope and expect to get from this game which everybody is anticipating.

We have also got a guest writer with us this time, active and respected member and moderator of our Community, lord-of-shadow, who will be sharing his views on the up-coming title with us.

Let the discussion begin!

I’ll start with a rumour.

The last rumour to truly prick my thumbs concerns statements made by Aonuma in an interview with Japanese arts magazine KA Monthly. Now I’m pretty good at tracking sources, but chasing after this rumour lead me to the Square Insider Forums, the IGN Boards, across the digital plains of the Nintendophiles and finally to a Spanish site that stopped my search cold. This was sometime early December.

In this alleged interview with the alleged magazine, Aonuma allegedly (okay, I think you get it) says everything he’s ever wanted to do with gaming can be accomplished with the Zelda franchise, so he’s going to stick around and keep pushing the envelope. He states LoZGC will provide “true introspection about the weight of responsibility, and [a] sense of solitude.” Link’s cross-country travels will allow players to take a break and camp. Time won’t play the same part it has in more recent entries. And Link will be able to transform into animals, such as a wolf and an eagle.

Compare some of these statements to the Holy Trailer and it could be true – at least it has a greater shot than, say, the subtitle “Riddle of Doom.” Most footage shows Link riding horseback or fighting in the forest. Aonuma proved with The Wind Waker that he’s all about finding innovative ways to incorporate travel and distance. It follows that he would take a familiar element (horseback riding), and do something new with it (fighting, camping). Add to that the solitude and responsibility bit, it starts to take a certain shape.

The trailer itself shows little more than Link in action, but the tone of the visuals gives a good indication of what we can expect. I’m thinking Major’s Mask – Day Three. Which is to say, dark. But not too dark. Some posit the game may be given a ESRB rating of M, but really, I think we can just toss that one out right now. The likelihood of an M rated Zelda is equal to that of an E rated GTA.

The most interesting bit is the last, and harkens to a theme Aonuma has returned to time and again: transformation. MM gave you the opportunity to take each of the main races in Hyrule for a spin; TWW had you possess a Ruto, a Koriki and a seagull. It follows, but I’m a little skeptical on the choice of animals. Suffice it to say I think the game will give Link exciting new opportunities to adopt different bodies.

This interview that you mention, Pipking, is the same interview that spawned the “Reins of Sorrow” title rumor, if my memory serves. I spent several hours tracking down sources and translations during that whole mess. In the end, I concluded that the rumor was totally false, the product of some bored Spanish-speaking pranksters… but some of the ideas were fairly interesting, nonetheless.

To be completely honest, I haven’t given all that much thought to what this next Zelda game will include. I have, however, given quite a bit of thought to what it will not include – usually as a result from me shooting down the exaggerated ideas of our forum posters.

I have lost count of the people who I have seen blindly assuming that this game will take place during a war, and that it will feature big battles or widespread wars. More, many of these same people seem to assume – and hope – that it will take place in a war-torn, dreary, dark Hyrule.

Myself, I look on these ideas with skepticism, to say the least. Zelda has never been the sort of series to take the war-torn countryside, down-downtrodden people sort of atmosphere. Even in it’s darkest game, Majora’s Mask, this was not the case. Even during the final hours of the third day, with the menacing, frighteningly malevolent visage of that moon hanging above their heads, the NPCs of Hyrule acted with a certain resolution – there was nothing downtrodden or hopeless about it.

And the assumptions that there will be big battles are obviously drawn from the large group of bokoblins we see during the trailor. But that truly isn’t an army, or even close to one – we fought much larger forces of enemies in Four Swords Adventures, and I don’t see anyone calling that a war. It is also worth noting that the commercials for Ocarina of Time made the game seem darker and more serious than it truly was. I think that it is premature and foolish in the extreme to expect the sort of dark wars and battles that many fans seem to want.

People have also been jumping on what Aonuma has said about wanting to portray a more mature, older Link. And then there was the infamous interview where he insinuated that a romance was not out of the question. I must once again advise everyone to moderate their assumptions, here. The fact that he didn’t outright deny a romance is far from any sort of confirmation, as should be obvious to anyone who gives much thought to the subject.

And there is a precedence of people wildly mistaking words such as “mature” in interviews with Miyamoto and Aonuma. Miyamoto used the word in an interview a few years back – he said something about how Mario was going to mature further. People jumped to the conclusion that Mario would somehow turn into a darker series, when in reality, Miyamoto merely meant that the Mario series had matured, in the sense that it had grown, and been expanded and refined.

I think a similar thing is happening here, with fans misinterpreting and exaggerating statements from the creators. As I have written in the past, Link has always been a young child or teenager, young, innocent, and untested, and it is a part of what makes a game Zelda. I do not think that they would deviate from that, despite any hints they may have given to the public.

Now, as for my thoughts on what the game will have… I said I haven’t given much thought to the subject, preferring to simply wait and see, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few ideas. Most of these ideas are little better than the random speculation you’ll find in any Zelda community.. There simply isn’t enough information for me to make any truly educated or insightful guesses.

But I think we can expect your horse to play a greater role in the game than in previous games. The trailor gives the horse-riding a lot of attention, and the fact that they’ve expanded it to allow fighting from horseback is a tell-tale sign.

Even more importantly to me, look at what we’ve seen in the few publicly released screenshots: large, rolling overworld, with hills and lots of free space. The sort of overworld that would take a long time to traverse on foot, and would be fairly uneventful while doing so… but add in the horse, and everything fits. So yes, I think that they are going to specifically tailor large parts of the overworld around the horse.

And I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that we’ll be seeing at least one boss fight fought on horse-back. That idea has lots of potential, and could be very interesting. We all know how fun Goht was, due to the racing nature of the battle.

Well, I could probably go on, but I think I’ll let someone else speak up. This is supposed to be a roundtable after all, heh.

Picking up on part of Pipking’s rumor– and some of Lord-of-Shadow’s comments– I think that the area of land is going to be particularly important in this Zelda.

In the Wind Waker, I was generally awed by the size of the ocean. It was fantasic! The size and scope of the Great Sea was a result of the next-generation power of the Gamecube, coupled with the new DVD-based media which allows for much larger storage.

A problem arose in the Wind Waker. It was just plain boring traversing so wide a sea. Artistically, and in many other merits, the sea was simply amazing. But, the problem has been implementing this new found “power” in a way that is exciting, not boring. If Nintendo made any mistake in the Wind Waker, it was making a Gamecube game with the N64 mentality. That mentality is a mentality still bound by the old restraints of Gamecube’s weaker predecessors with severely limited space requirements. Suddenly, Nintendo found itself without the formerly crippling restraints on size; it went from from a lack of space that bred an economy of what little space they had, to a glut of space. It was almost as if Nintendo allowed itself to forget that quantity did not equal quality.

I’m ready to sail the seas, I’m ready to traverse a vast plain on my majestic horse, I’m ready, no really, I am. But, Nintendo has to realize that they must engineer the whole thing so I want to. And I think they will. The emphasis on horse riding will have no small part in alleviating the problems manifested in the Wind Waker. All it takes is a simple gameplay device to make an interesting and fun game: look at the Mario series for proof of that. I’m sure such a device exists, and I fully expect that Nintendo is capable of creating one.

If Nintendo can leverage the full power of the Gamecube, and if they can make travelling the overworld far more riveting than that of the Wind Waker, I have no doubt that we’ll not only have a smash hit, but a classic game.

The next thing I expect is more clever innovation from Nintendo. The Wind Waker had many fresh ideas, including weapons, and the way gameplay interacts with your surroundings. What better direction can Nintendo go in than futher integrating the environment with gameplay? I can’t speculate on what that could be– that’s why they’re making the game and I am not– but it is a logical procession to make.

And, on Lord-of-Shadow’s horseback boss comments, just think of that for a second. The vast, rolling plains that you’d need to fight such a battle, and to maneuver, the potential for the striking atmosphere that it entails.

Personally, I think the key-word for this Zelda is “epic.” Not that past Zelda’s haven’t been epic, they usually are. But, to me, this Zelda has a chance to set itself apart from a thorough integration of size and gameplay only now afforded by our current game systems. Of course, I may be obsessing over that, but it’s what strikes me the most. I’d like to yield the floor back to Pipking and L-o-s; they seem be carrying on a much more fascinating discussion than mine.

Did anyone else notice the majority of villians featured in the screenshots were rather lizardy? Except for that dude who looks like Balrog’s little brother. There have been reptilian enemies in Zelda before, but never such a disproportionate amount. I wonder if Ganon’s really gone.

If we follow the rythmn of the series, the pattern altenates between Mythology games (LoZ, ALttP, OoT, TWW), and Non-Mythology games (AoL, LA, MM). So I think Ganon’s sitting this one out.

Which begs the question: who might be the new Big Bad? Perhaps it’ll be this Vaati everyone’s going on about (I’m a bit behind on my handheld Zelda). Likely, if Ganon’s not involved, it’ll be something completely new. The lizard fighters make me nervous about a possible “Dinosaur Planet” mishap.

Storyline and things like the villain are matters best left undisturbed, I think – for the most part it is simply wild speculation, little better than fanfiction. That said, I’m going to go all hypocritical and comment on the possible villain…

There are two choices: Ganon, or someone else. Heh. Now, if we follow the pattern – the pairing of games, with the first one having Ganon, the second not – then this game will not have the King of Thieves.

But this game deviates from that pattern quite a bit. Previous pairings – LoZ and AoL, LttP and LA, OoT and MM, the Oracles – have all featured Links that are obviously the same, similar styles, and storylines that are linked together. Who knows whether this game’s storyline will be linked to tWW in such a way, but it is clear that the artwork is in a wildly different style, and, though there are some who will argue, I do not believe this will feature the Link from the Wind Waker.

Since the pattern has already been destroyed and disregarded, there is no reason to pay it any mind. Whether or not it will feature Ganon is still up in the air, but using the pattern as evidence is pointless.

And I don’t think you have to worry about a Dinosaur Planet mishap, Pipking… Heh. Star Fox Adventures did not turn out how it was because of the dinosaurs, it turned out that way because of internal problems and upheavel within Rareware. Problems and upheavel which the company never really recovered from, I might add.

And I don’t think we should be expecting a disproportionate amount of lizard enemies, either. So far, we have seen moblins, Bokoblins and their mounts, a giant flaming… thing, and some Lizalfos. Just one type of Lizalfos, despite the variety in their armor, and said Lizalfos haven’t really received any more coverage than the other enemies.

I honestly don’t understand where you’re getting the idea that the lizards seem to be more prominent in the screens we’ve seen… Perhaps I am forgetting something?

Anyways, Bobslob had some interesting points and ideas, or at least I thought so – most notably his expectation that this game will somehow be more epic than previous. That may very well be so, I don’t know… but I must ask, do we really, truly want this game to be more epic, in the sense that Lord of the Rings is epic? Is that truly what will be best for the series? Because it would be a radical departure for the series.

Ocarina of Time had an epic atmosphere and story, but that epic quality was tempered by the game’s other qualities… it’s light-heartedness, it’s humor, it’s little quirks and tricks. Things such as the Goron hug at the end of Dodongo’s Cavern, or Ruto’s “engagement ring”, or Talon and his sleeping habits.

I think that overdoing and stressing some epic quality, to the exclusion of these other things, is a very real danger… Nintendo is a company, first and foremost, so they will obviously do what they think makes them the most money. In today’s market, funny and light-hearted are not as appreciated as they should be. The fact that Nintendo may note this trend and adjust to fit it worries me greatly.

Personally I am almost convinced that this game will break the pattern and include Ganon, it has already broken the pattern as lord-of-shadow said by introducing a completely different style, which also probably indicates that it will be a different Link, though I am still not convinced about that, since they have been stressing the fact that TWW’s graphics mirrored the world from Young Link’s point of view, and this new and more mature style will mirror it from “Adult” Link’s point of view, and that might (or might not) be and indication that it will be the same Link.

Regardless, I think that they what they are trying to do here is to give everyone the game that they expected on the GameCube, a “true” Zelda game, and a “true” sequel to the N64 games, and that would be hard to achieve without the inclusion of Ganon.

And for some reason I still believe that this game will take place in the Hyrule we just got a glimpse of during The Wind Waker, the one, but that is pure speculation, and perhaps just influenced by my hopes, and not my rational thinking. But judging from the trailer, Hyrule Castle sure looks a lot like the one seen in The Wind Waker.

As for the enemies, I think we have seen way to little of the game to say anything about those. I for one am certain that this game will feature a great mix of enemies, old and hopefully some new, or at least new twists of old enemies. The last thing I want this to be, is Ocarina of Time with polished graphics, but I don’t really see that coming. If we’re lucky, Nintendo will have learned something from Capcom and The Minish Cap, because in my opinion, that featured a perfect mix between new and old, and preserved the Zelda feel as well as it could possibly be done.

Another note on the alteration between Ganon and non-Ganon games, the “side quest” games tend to be more surreal than the “main quest” games, especially in the cases of Majora’s Mask and Link’s Awakening. This game seems to be parting with tradition either way: either it is doubling up on Ganon, or it is making a non-Ganon game more “realistic” (as opposed to surreal). (A note: I hate the word “realistic.” The way it is used is so inconsistent, and between different people can easily mean two different things.)

Lord-of-shadow’s point about the whole “epic” issue is right. I don’t want a Lord of the Rings epic nature in a Zelda game. That wouldn’t be suitable. Perhaps I should temper my “epic” bit by clarifying: epic in scope.

A game can simultaneously be epic, and not take itself ultra-seriously in ever aspect. I hope Nintendo will continue their tradition of not quite taking itself seriously.

I watched the slideshow on ZU, and to me it looked like The Legend of Zelda: Dinosaurs Attack!

The key to tone is whimsy. You’ll always get a Tingle, no matter how dark the castles. The screenshots released don’t really lend themselves to a Tingle-like character, but I expected they’re just releasing the combat-heavy ones to get the chief demographic salivating.

I’d rather have a Ganon-less game. Look at Metroid, Star Fox, Mario – all have expanded on their base mythologies while keeping true to the spirt. Since the last console outing made such a dramatic statement with Ganon, I think it’s a good time to give Link another unique adventure. Not that we’re likely to get sick of old pigface, but I think the series’ appeal in part comes from that sense of innovation, of veering off in unexpected directions; adventure, essentially, and adventure isn’t predictable by definiton.

New topic: items. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your horse, maintenance of your horse becomes a potential theme. Zelda has traditionally stayed away from heavy RPG qualities, but has always had it’s share of fetch-it games. Like your Windfall search for the sail in WW – perhaps you’ll have to find a blacksmith to shoe your horse. Some have made note of the bedroll behind the saddle; camping supplies? Or maybe it’ll be restricted to a new weapon to use horse-back – I vote cross-bow.

Oh man… items. Not my forte. I can write pages and pages on my thoughts on the essence of Zelda, or the reason people love it, or the atmosphere, or the deeper personalities and meanings behind characters like Marin… but ask me to think of new items, and I draw a blank, heh.

Well, I think I can scrunge up some ideas anyways.

I know that, in the Wind Waker, when I got that first sail, I was a bit excited. Know why? Well, the fact that they made it an item indicated to me that there would be other sails to find. Either upgrades, that would make you sail faster, or sails that would give new abilities or changes to the sailing. Obviously I was dissapointed in that aspect, but it’s an idea, nontheless.

Cross-bow is something I both hope to never see, and doubt we will see. You’ll notice that every item that Link has is a tool as well as a weapon – there has never been an item with the primary purpose of being used as a weapon, except perhaps the sword. The hookshot’s primary purpose is not to fight, it is to pull things. The hammers are.. well, hammers, and those certainly are not exactly limited to fighting. Even the sword turns into an all-purpose tool to mess around with. But a crossbow… crossbows, in the real world, were designed for war, first and foremost. I’m sure developers could find ways to give them other uses, but that fact remains. They’re too much of a weapon. Too out of place.

Sometimes I’m such a know-it-all purist that I annoy even myself, but… that’s simply the way my mind works with the Zelda series.

Camping supplies is another thing I doubt we’ll be seeing. What possible purpose could they serve? Healing? We already have healing items. Sleeping? Well… I know a million fans that would squeal with delight at the opportunity to camp on the open plains of Hyrule, but I don’t think these fans know what they’re talking about – ever. I think being forced to camp, for whatever reason, would break up the flow, and add an unnecessary, annoying factor of realism to the game. Unless the developers could find a truly interesting and imaginative reason to be camping, I think it should – and will – be kept out of the game.

Camping? Oh dear God no. As far as I’m concerned the Zelda games are in the Action Adventure genre, and there is no room for camping and stuff like that which slows down the progress and flow of the game. The Minish Cap had a little interested side-thing going on with this though, and that wasn’t too bad.

Back to the items – I don’t have any specific ideas or assumptions for new items we will get to see, but I am hoping this game will be as innovative as The Wind Waker was on this front, because TWW surely brought some cool things to the table in my opinion. The Deku Leaf, and especially the improved Boomerang, I had so much fun with that. I am guessing that since horseback-riding is a potential theme, we will see a few “innovations” in terms of what weapons we will be using on the horseback. We’ve already seen the sword in use, what else can we expect? Not easy to say, but I hope they take it a step further than in Ocarina of Time at least, where you could only use your Bow and Arrows.

With that, I think we can conclude that the second Roundtable of Behind the Rupees is over. It was fun for sure, and I look forward to the next Roundtable! I would like to thank lord-of-shadow for participating and sharing his views and opinions with us this time around.