I hate rant articles, I really do. They require no imagination or creativity whatsoever, and have about as much substance as a peanut. Essentially, for the entire X number of pages that you write, you’re whining and moaning like a little five year old that doesn’t get his or her way while spouting out nothing but negativity. And more than half the time, the banter ends up becoming material perfect for a cheap insult comic. No talent is required, and there’s no talent in them, no matter how much you may doll them up with intelligent talk and big words (look at the sentence you just read).
So, I present this piece reluctantly, because I am essentially giving you nothing more than your average, every day internet-rant, something that doesn’t make me use any ability or editorial skills whatsoever. But alas, I simply cannot hold back on a certain topic any longer.
I’ve been around the Zelda community for some time now, hanging around at a number of sites, and working at a bunch them, and over the past five or so years I’ve come to see what a large portion of the fandom is like. It’s a lively group alright, one of the biggest and most robust coalitions of video game supporters out there in the world. There’s tons upon tons of brilliant fan-sites, where thousands, perhaps millions of upbeat Zelda fans come together to take part in numerous activities and discussions regarding the renowned franchise.
And unfortunately, it’s also one of the most ungrateful fandoms you can find for a video game series. Yes, I can say that without getting in any trouble from Scott or James.
Where to begin? Well, it’s probably easiest to start with the most recent entry into the series, Twilight Princess, which, is being continually bashed by many fans, and it’s especially apparent here on ZU. To quote one of the forum members, Kaze-One; “The hate that is being dumped on this game is absolutely retarded.” I apologize if that last word offends anyone, I myself don’t agree with his choice of adjectives, but the statement perfectly exemplifies the situation.
Everyone was hyped for the game to come out, but apparently, quite a few people thought that Twilight Princess was going to be the second coming of Jesus or something, because what we’re seeing is a sickening amount of people genuinely believing that TP is a low quality game. Yes, for those that are wise enough to see through the game’s flaws and overhype and find the numerous positive aspects, believe it or not there are fans that have convinced themselves that Twilight Princess isn’t a good game.
The ‘arguments’ that they come up with to berate TP are rather laughable, because they’re so petty that it appears as if the game needs to be flawless in order to even be considered “decent”. There are outcries about how linear the main story is, and how that’s one of the greatest reasons why the game’s a failure…
…besides the fact that most of the other Zeldas are pretty linear, too. There is always a set path that you have to follow to complete the storyline, at least in the cases of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker etc. You must, must go through Nintendo’s chosen way of beating the game in order to progress anywhere, in all of those games. You can’t choose the order of the campaign events, that’s all there is to it. You can’t go to Snowpeak before the Southern Swamp, because you need the Hero’s Bow to open up the path to the mountains, and you can’t go to Ikana Valley any time you want, because you need to get the Hookshot from the Pirate’s Fortress. And you can’t go to the Desert Colossus before the Shadow Temple or Water Temple, because you need the Lens of Truth and Longshot to get through the Desert Wasteland, and in order to go through those two dungeons, you need to get the items from the Fire Temple and Forest Temple first.
In case you didn’t catch it in the last few sentences, there is some degree of freedom in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. You can do a few events out of order, but only by completing well over half of the intended mission before it. So, to the fans that use the linear argument, Twilight Princess is apparently a stain upon the series because it doesn’t have that 1% of liberty in what tasks you do when like the other games do. Picking at straws, you say? Yeah, I know, I actually used that exact phrase one time while discussing this topic elsewhere.
So there you go, Twilight Princess’s quality immediately trashed because of the linear campaign. Well, it’s official, 95% of action adventure games (including Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia, Onimusha and so on) all suck!
Of course, we get more ridiculous complaints like how the overworld is so small. Yes, small in comparison to all of four other titles/franchises; Shadow of the Colossus and it’s complete lack of any activity in the world, Grand Theft Auto and it’s mediocre graphics and obnoxious load times, and World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls, two series that are made for your PC or powerhouse systems like 360 and PS3. This is completely ignoring that Twilight Princess’s realm barely even has load times, or the sheer beauty that so many of the areas, such as Lake Hylia and Snowpeak, contain.
Basically, what it comes down to is that they have hemorrhages over things like a lack of true sidequests (because those dozens of collectibles, environmental puzzles, minigames, heart pieces and secret grottos don’t exist anyways), a realistic overworld that isn’t one giant, open circle of land, and that dastardly linear campaign, while ignoring all of the positives; a fantastic art style, virtually no load times or lag, perfect controls for two completely different controllers, an increase in the number of creative platforming elements that previous Zeldas lack, the fact that almost all of the bosses have multiple phases, and contain the most substance yet with their variety of attacks and the variety of actions you must perform to defeat them etc.
If you truly believe in your mind that Twilight Princess is a mediocre game, then you have no inkling as to what a mediocre game actually is, simple as that. Go play something like Genji: Dawn of Samurai, or Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, and you’ll see what real mediocrity is for an action/adventure, because it’s certainly not Zelda.
Now, I could sit here and continue focusing solely on TP, but that just wouldn’t be fair. See, the saddest thing about this whole issue is that it’s not just Twilight Princess being underappreciated by the fans…it’s starting to be the entire series that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Worse off, it’s not just Zelda Universe members being completely anal in this circumstance; it stretches to many other of the big sites in the online Zelda community.
I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of negativity to the core gameplay of the series and a lot of the key elements of each game. One of the first things that come to mind is the common complaint of the franchise’s inability to evolve. Fans believe that the series never changes and continues to use a stale, done-to-the-death formula. Apparently the only kind of evolution to them is something Resident Evil 4-esque, because they’re clueless to the progression Zelda has been making. Go back to the first four Zeldas, where almost all of the gameplay was dungeon-exploring, or even Ocarina of Time to some extent, where for at least half the game your order of events were as followed; straight-quest leading to the dungeon, complete the dungeon, straight-quest leading to the dungeon, complete the dungeon, straight-quest leading to the dungeon, complete the dungeon etc.
Not a lot of meat in that regard for the campaigns, but Majora’s Mask would correct this, and include mandatory sidequests in between the dungeons to break up the repetition. Instead of just going in straight line as far as your mission went and doing the same kind of tasks over and over, you go some much needed variety, like the required trips to Romani Ranch to get Epona and the Garo’s Mask, or the entire Ikana Valley adventure.
Wind Waker really took off with this idea; sometimes with good results, sometimes with bad results. You often had to do a myriad of challenges before going to the next dungeon, or the sequence would at least shift gears from time to time, like in the middle of the game where you go the sunken Hyrule Castle, and then to the Forsaken Fortress for a couple boss fights. As said, though, things didn’t always turn out for the best, as Wind Waker also contained a lot of plain fetch-quests that added little to the experience.
Twilight Princess was just as enthusiastic as the Wind Waker was with the varied gameplay, but it handled it far better. The game provided numerous activities in between dungeon-questing that had some meat and potatoes as far as substance and content went; the Twilight Bug searches, fighting King Bulbin on horseback, sumo wrestling, fighting the Twili Bloat, flying through Zora’s River, the Carriage Escort, bringing Midna to Zelda, the Sacred Woods/Meadow (at least the first time), the entire mission to restore Ilia’s memory, and so on.
Zelda’s campaigns have come from being nothing but [mini]dungeon after [mini] dungeon or moving along in a straight line, to being campaigns that have some of the most diversity and creativity of any game to date. Sure, some of the premises remain the same, like the infamous “Three-pendant, Master Sword, collect other items” background, but the gameplay is certainly changing, and that’s the most important thing. As mentioned before, we’re also seeing an evolution in the dungeons. Years ago, the dungeons put far too much emphasis on keys, making the main mission of them to find the next one and progress forward. Now the dungeons are becoming a lot less one-dimensional; the main goal of the Great Bay Temple was to correctly control the pipe currents to move on; the Stone Tower was all about flipping it around to advance; the Tower of the Gods and Temple of Time revolved around the correct placement of the statues; TP’s Forest Temple required the use of the monkeys, Snowpeak Ruins had you trying to get that right ingredient to heal Yeta etc.
It’s not just about finding the next key to get the next room anymore, the dungeons have evolved beyond that; there are unique foundations behind them. Heck, we can even mention how they’ve become a place for side-content, like the way that Golden Skulltulas, Lost Fairies, Poe Souls, Heart Pieces and numerous treasure chests have been hidden in them. They’re starting to be more than just devices to get the next plot-related object; they’re acquiring aspects that offer you different gameplay.
Even the bosses have evolved, which used to have a small selection of attacks, and battles were just Link using the new item he found in one motion and slashing away. Ever since Majora’s Mask, most bosses have had a variety of offensive maneuvers, ever since the Wind Waker, most bosses have required that you perform various actions before swinging away with your sword, and most recently, Twilight Princess presented multiple, very different phases to nearly every boss.
One of the weakest complaints I’ve seen in a while was at the Hylia not too long ago, in an editorial about how Zelda needs to change. It goes like this; “Eiji Aonuma points to Phantom Hourglass as the next attempt; citing it was the basis for Twilight Princess’ shift and that from the start, it’s been developed ground-up for the DS. Having played it at E3 2006 and at GDC 2007, I have to say the concept is there, but in the end, it’s still the same old Zelda. Instead of pressing A to pick up pots, you tap them with a stylus. Instead of using a stick or pad to move, you point the stylus in a direction. The game, in reality, is reduced to tapping, dragging and pointing if you thinking about it. Simplified controls are what the Zelda creators want, and that’s what we’ll get in Phantom Hourglass. At the end of the day, though, is that really enough?”
Sure, this guy (you should all have figured out who is by now) has actually played Phantom Hourglass, but for how long? A few minutes at the most, and only some bare-bone demos. Not a lot of support for such a bold statement as he makes. We know very little about this game, so none of us should be spouting out that PH is ‘the same old Zelda’ just yet, especially when we’ve already seen new elements like the Chasers, the game’s Central Dungeon, the new sailing gameplay and the Touch-Screen map. PH certainly could be a fairly traditional Zelda, but it’s obviously got some fresh ideas, and that’s a smart way to move along. Drastic change so quickly doesn’t always have happy endings, just look at the way the Final Fantasy fandom views XII, or how mixed the Resident Evil fandom is over RE4.
Other issues that a lot of Zelda fans have are things like how the overworlds aren’t as massive as they could be, like the Elder Scrolls, how the storylines are so ‘crappy’, and how the combat is too easy and too puzzle-like. A lot of these arguments stem from the fact that other games do better than Zelda in these cases, but plenty of fans don’t even stop and think for a moment about what Zelda does better than the rest of those titles, or what quality is already there in the things they’re whining about.
Okay, so the overworlds aren’t the size of yellowstone like they are in Warcraft or Oblivion. Setting aside the fact that those games run on machines of far greater power than any Nintendo system yet, do their huge proportions take away from the sheer beauty and atmosphere that most Zeldas have? No. Do they degrade the almost non-existant load times and well-done draw distance? No. Most importantly, do they take away from the fact that the lands in Zelda still are larger and contain more content than probably 90% of the action-adventure franchise? Hell no.
The storylines may be simple, (excluding Majora’s Mask, which is one of the best that the ), but should that really matter so much for a video game? Well, apparently it does to a lot of fans, that don’t even seem to realize just how awesome Zelda is another category; the cast. I don’t care how fancy or original a plot is if it’s characters aren’t memorable, recognizable, and imaginative, because those are the people that carry the entire story. Zelda has shined in this respect for years, and it continues to out-do the competition. Whether it’s their unique personality, their colorful design, their intriguing background, or their gripping dilemma at hand, the characters in Zelda remain to be create some of the most creative and stand-out casts in any video game. They are what truly matter in any storyline, and very few other franchises out there handle their casts as well as Zelda does.
Still, the qualm that fans have with Zelda’s combat is probably the funniest. The way they make it out, they want the fighting to become more like that of Ninja Gaiden, or God of War. Yes, that’s great, turn the combat into mindless button mashing.
Look, those two titles mentioned above are terriffic, and the battles found in them are often exciting, but they require no originality, and in the end, it’s one of the most simplistic kinds of gameplay around in gaming today. That change is not for the better, because it’s removing all of the ingenuity found in combat like Zelda’s, or something like Okami’s. It may be easy, but that’s not to say that Nintendo couldn’t make things a little more difficult with the coming of a newer way of playing Zelda, and it’s still a higher quality way of combat than just drumming on the buttons. That thoughtless battling may be stimulating from time to time, and may be the only way to add serious challenge to Zelda’s brawls, but that’s not a good reason to turn some of the most inventive combat in any video game into a common beat-em-up.
Could it use improvement, or some new factors to shake things up? Oh yes, but we’re seeing that, and we’ve been seeing that for a few years now. We’ve seen the Hidden Skills in Twilight Princess, more sword-fights like with Ganondorf and the Gerudo Warriors, exciting combat that keeps up moving around and doing multiple actions such as with Barinade, Odolwa, Gohdan, Blizzeta, Argorok, multiple forms of combat for one enemy in the cases of Majora and Stallord and many others. It all goes back to the evolution of Zelda, which is definitely occuring, especially in the fighting. It’s not extreme change, but that’s not what Zelda needs, and as time goes on, we’ll see more useful additions.
Let me make something clear- I’m not trying to force all of you to like what’s in Zelda. If the elements that form its gameplay are something you simply don’t enjoy, then there’s nothing I can do to change your opinion. However, if you consider yourself a fan of the series, and you’re the kind of person I’ve been ranting about this whole time; someone who is feeling so negative towards the series because of a few dislikes or things that Zelda doesn’t have, then I ask you to take all of what I’ve said to heart. This franchise is one that continually (I emphasize that) gives us games that are filled to the brim with extra content, have some of the most unique kingdoms and casts of characters, contain the meatiest dungeons ever seen, have nearly perfect controls and very few technical issues, presents us with an incredible amount of variety in the gameplay, and puts us in some of the most imaginative battles of any video game to date. How many other series do all of this? Not many.
Zelda’s not perfect, and it does deserve criticism, but at the same time it also deserves a significant amount of praise, the latter of which is rather rare amongst the fandom these days. Thankfully, not every single follower is like the ones I’ve talked about, however there are more than enough of the fans I’ve targeted to justify this piece. There’s no reason to stop being critical, though the cynicism needs to end. The fans need to quit this obsession of hating on the games for what they aren’t, and start appreciating them for all that they are.*
*- JordAnime, former staff member of the Hylia, gets credit for the idea behind that sentence
(Disclaimer: Look, I don’t want a million people crying to me that I’m stereotyping them; if you’re not one of those fans with the outlook on the series that I just ranted about, then my article in no way applies to you. I’m sorry that you read all of that, because I hate rants just as much as you do, remember how I said that at the beginning?)