So, Zelda fans, here’s the question: will you use TP on your Wii?
[And thus, much to the general relief of the community, the joke finally died.]
Four months (at minimum) stand between you and the moment you make that decision. Last time I talked about versions – how between handhelds and consoles the franchise was at the risk of spreading thin, loosing cohesion in favour of bigger market penetration. So Nintendo stuck out its tongue at me – do I stick to Zelda as it has been, or do I see what it could be?
Aonuma helped me make up my mind. “This will be the last Zelda game as you’ve known it.” I assume he knows what he’s talking about. So I’ll take it as I’ve had it, and loved it. Not because I’m future-phobic and can’t cope with change; because before the experience changes entirely, I want one last game from the good old days.
Mirren recently published “He’s a Rebel”, dealing with the same issue but from the perspective of one who’s really looking forward to TP Wii. I agree with most of his points, and he makes a compelling argument for looking at TP solely as a Wii title.
Console controllers have come a long way. Some ancient gaming tech looks like a phone and a keyboard fell in love and had sins. Atari’s joystick got it right – or at least, right enough for the time and the games; every console since has refined input. Unlike most technology-driven industries, videogames have been in a ten-year groove without any significant upgrades or lateral shifts. More buttons, better graphics. Nothing to really shake things up. The analog stick was the last real jump in terms of how games are controlled. The interface could use another idea. And after around a decade of stagnancy, Nintendo is doing something different. Nintendo doesn’t necessarily pioneer technology, but they’ve got a knack for using it well. I can see the Wiimote as a clever collusion of both technology that a mass market is comfortable with, and how nascent gamers twitch when they’re trying to make Mario jump. I’m genuinely excited about Wii and the games designed for it.I recently got a DS Lite. I’m now living common law with it and we’re discussing kittens. It has saved handhelds for me, which until this point I’ve always treated like a bit of a burden, something I should have and should play but never do. It’s renewed my gaming interests in general, which has waned somewhat in recent years. The first time I saw Wii, I was ecstatic. Strange as it was, it didn’t feel like the next Virtual Boy. It felt like the DS’s late-blooming older brother. It felt like something new – a new configuration for playing videogames.
And that’s what Wii represents. Another idea for gaming. One I’m genuinely excited to try.
But not Twilight Princess.
When TP was announced a billion years ago, the “Codename: Revolution” was still a sparkle on the horizon. The GameCube was chugging along, doing it’s thing, largely ignored by everyone but the franchise fans that have been Nintendo’s bread and butter for so long. 2005 was supposed to be the best year for the little system that couldn’t – starting in February with Resident Evil 4 (a then exclusive) and ending in November with the much-anticipated “realistic” entry in the most beloved of game series, The Legend of Zelda. RE4 came out swinging, but come November, Zelda was nowhere to be found. The speculation was instantaneous: Twilight Princess was going to jump the Cube and go straight to next gen. Nintendo denied it for a while; when they finally admitted the delay was tied to a Wii port of the game, they assured loyal gamers that TP would still hit the Cube as promised. Sometime in the interim, Aonuma made his ominous statement about the end of Zelda as we know it.
Thing is, TP for Wii doesn’t represent the future. It is not the next step for the franchise.
It’s a port of a GameCube game.
Sure, it’s being retro-fitted with tomorrow’s technology, but the majority of the lengthy development cycle was dedicated to creating Zelda’s last great traditional console adventure, complete with the familiar controls that set a new standard for action-adventure gaming. It’s not that I’m so enamored with the “old” gameplay I can’t see the future when it’s staring me in the face – it’s that Twilight Princess Wii takes a concept designed for the “old” and tries to make it a thing of the New. When I play Zelda on Wii, I want it to be its own thing. An evolution. What Nintendo is giving us is our old jacket with some new buttons sewn in.
I am curious, of course. I don’t think Nintendo is so anxious for mass-market acceptance they’ll do a shotty job mapping the controls to the special functions of the Wiimote; it’ll be fun and “intuitive” (I just had to email Nintendo a dollar for using that word). But the fact remains the entire game was designed ground-up for a different system, and Twilight Princess Wii isn’t a genuine “new generation” ($2) experience. I’ll be buying my Wii for Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime – each developed with the Wiimote in mind, taking a hoary old game concept and giving it new life with spastic hand-twitching. And I’ll wait patiently for the Zelda that TP Wii isn’t – a game where, like with the upcoming Phantom Hourglass, genuinely thinks about how the franchise can work in this different way.
None of which is to say I think people should steer clear of TP Wii. This is a personal choice, and each gamer can defend and debate their reasons until the next Zelda is released (approximately 865 years from now). While videogaming is more a social activity than ever before, Zelda is still a solitary experience. It’s just you and a world full of troubles and treasure. What the Wii version represents is just another option for how you experience that world. For myself, and judging from internet chatter a good number of you as well, I choose to do it on the GameCube. One last grace for the little system that couldn’t, but tried every step of the way.