Before I begin this article, I would first like to clarify that what I am doing right now is reporting on a rumor. That is to say, like everything else on the Internet, this should be taken with galactic-sized piles of salt. Recently, rumors have been flying all over Zelda forums and Nintendo sites about the possibility of a new Zelda game in the works, according to an alleged interview which took place between Eiji Aonuma, whom many might recall was the director for Twilight Princess and most recently the producer of Phantom Hourglass, and an individual at IGN referring to himself as “Kyle.” The new game, code named “Project Deluge,” is scheduled to be announced at E3 2008 and is slated for a 2009 release date, if the rumor is to be believed. Having given my technical information about the interviewer, the interviewee, and the absolute verification of nothing but the fact that this is but a rumor, let us analyze some of the more interesting details given in the interview.
Link Gets Canned
>Aonuma: I want to assert that the game will have a much more complicated story in the sense that our hero is no longer mute.
>Kyle: Because he isn’t Link, right?
>Aonuma: I see you’ve already heard.
>Kyle: Rumors mostly.
Yes, it is true. After so many years of Link getting to rescue Hyrule and save the day, it seems Nintendo is taking a feather out of the cap of such series as Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Solid by having their main character removed for the majority of a game in favor of a new protagonist that acts, looks, and speaks like the former main character. In Project Deluge, conversely, we are supposed to have a speaking character as opposed to a mute one, black hair instead of a natural blonde, and a complete psychopath. In any gaming series, you grow to love the main protagonist, so replacing one, even for a single game, is difficult. Metal Gear Solid 2 tried, and failed, to get its audience to like Raiden as much as Solid Snake, simply because they were too different. Devil May Cry 4, on the other hand, had a new protagonist exactly like the old one, and thus fared better. Deluge’s hero will be an ordinary boy who simply snaps and starts thinking he’s Link, going as far as to act, dress, and speak like Link.
When I said psychopath earlier, I meant that in the best possible way. This guy isn’t an evildoer, he’s just a person driven insane by the events that surround him. So much so that, in order for a Hero of Time to be present, he assumes the role himself and starts fighting Ganon and his minions. Now, while this might sound similar to the plotline used in almost every Zelda game to date, this one is different because the main guy literally is not Link. No Master Sword, no Light Arrows. Just him, an imitation sword and shield, and a horse against the forces of evil. It’s a concept that might not sound all that different, but when you remember that the Master Sword and the Light Arrows are all that separate Link from a fiery death from Ganon’s hands these little tools will probably be missed.
Valley of the Flood
>Kyle: How big is the world going to be?
>Aonuma: My third point. I think Wind Waker had it right, but it needed to approach travel with more variety. Sailing was a very polarizing aspect of the game, and I think we need to look at the sheer number of possible modes of transportation. Of course our hero in Deluge will have a horse—a black one actually, with these ethereal white spots that illuminate in the dark; I think it’s quite interesting and captures the otherworldly tone I’m looking for in the game. But yes, he has a horse and access to a train, as well as an unusual method of flight. I’ll talk about all of this at E3 and I don’t want to spoil much, but I want to emphasize that this game will be breathtakingly massive. Not just in scale, but in the amount of sidequests and secret items and even mini-dungeons we’re trying to implement. It’s the largest Zelda so far in terms of land. We want realism and consistency in the world, such as believable rivers and brooks and water effects. Especially water effects. [laughs]
>Kyle: Amazing. Do you have any concept art I can look at, or is that too much to ask?
>Aonuma: Not this time, I’m afraid.
The world of Hyrule is changing. Once, it was a two-dimensional land of people who spoke prophetic one-liners and monsters that appeared from off-screen. Now, it has become a spiraling place, possibly because Hyrule is the British Empire of the Zelda universe and gets its giggles from conquering nearby territories. It is, in fact, so large now that we apparently need different means of transportation. As fans, we are no longer satisfied with sailboats and warping! Well, Nintendo has allegedly listened to these complaints this time, unlike in Phantom Hourglass, because we now apparently have a train that can traverse the land, a brand-new horse that is not Epona, and an unknown flying ability (could it be the return of the Roc’s Cape?).
As we all know, though, we need a land to traverse in order to whine about how we’re going to traverse it. Twilight Princess really showed us what Nintendo could do when it comes to top-quality graphics, but there were some areas of the game where the visuals seemed…less so, like the grass or bushes or the little things. Even the water sometimes looked a little too fake. But, even though it came out on the Wii, Twilight Princess was a Gamecube game through and through. Nintendo is a company that has always believed in game play over graphics, but I’ve seen that little white box pull of some truly amazing visuals when push comes to shove. That being said, I am really excited about the potential for graphics Deluge could have: better rendered backgrounds, better facial expressions for the characters, and just overall detail touches that would really absorb the player into the game in ways not available for past generations of gamers to experience.
Turn on the Waterworks
>Aonuma: Remember that this game is centralized around the Great Flood of Hyrule, and concerns, in part, the salvation of various Hylians from total destruction, which the hero will influence in part.
>Kyle: So that’s his purpose, then? Is he occupied partly with saving Hyrule’s people?
>Aonuma: You’ll have to wait a while, because this is still very integral to the core plot, which I can’t spoil right now. I can tell you that his primary motive is destroying Ganon, but you can imagine how difficult this is without the Master Sword or Light Arrows. So battling Ganon and saving Hyrule are both key components of his journey, and in order to immerse the characters as fully as possible, I want to draw the sense of urgency present in Majora’s Mask. The flood doesn’t occur until later in the story, but when Hyrule floods, it does so in real-time. What I mean is, Link will not have the opportunity to wander the world aimlessly at that point, as Hyrule Field and the Gerudo and Kokiri territories—all the towns aside from the Goron tribes in Death Mountain, essentially—will become huge bodies of water. And of course there will be an immense variety of new enemies and such to add depth to this.
So, I’m guessing everyone here’s played Wind Waker. Or, at the very least, you’ve at least gone to an Internet forum and either praised or denounced the game’s graphics. Think back to the opening sequence, where the game provided you with a little bit of back story about how the world flooded. Well, from the sounds of this interview, you the player are going right back to the beginning of how Hyrule became flooded in Deluge. So the game pretty much sets you up for failure then, since the flood must happen, or we don’t get Wind Waker. But, since the game’s tone is going to be darker than previous titles, maybe the object of this game isn’t saving the world. Maybe it’s about the people of the land, who finally stand together to take charge of their own destiny, without the Hero of Time.
Actually, this game kind of reminds me of Majora’s Mask, and Anouma even goes as far as to compare Deluge to Majora’s Mask. As the interview indicates, Hyrule will become flooded, but slowly, to truly give a sense of panic and need to the player. And best of all, the flood doesn’t wait for you. It’ll come, whether you do something or not, so the timer that was introduced in Majora’s Mask takes on a whole new meaning as you watch the cities and lands of Hyrule transform into nothing but a sea as you struggle to rescue the people from their impending doom.
Another thing to keep in mind is the styles of the different directors. In the beginning, it was Shigeru Miyamoto who headed the Zelda games. Now, he still works with them, but the show running job has been passed to Anouma, who differs greatly in game design from Miyamoto. Deluge is set to have a much wider world with an even deeper storyline, something Miyamoto doesn’t like, as he prefers a much more linear story and a more straightforward world. Deluge will allegedly be more free-roaming. Which would be cool, it’d be a bit like Fable, only less of a letdown.
Zelda Gets Steampunked
>Aonuma: Now I’ve heard many fans tell me that they’re interested in a steampunk-influenced Zelda, even though the series has always maintained a very medieval foundation. I thought about this shortly after completing [Wind Waker], and I started compiling ideas in my head and eventually relayed them to Miyamoto-san, who seemed surprisingly pleased with the idea of a more progressive Hylian history. We had a meeting halfway through development of Twilight Princess and agreed to set aside an entire portfolio of ideas for a more industrialized Hyrule. We figured that if Hyrule has enough time to develop its kingdom, it would eventually discover the steam engine and gunpowder and such. Well gunpowder was there to begin with. We’ve had cannons in Zelda, so I suppose you could say that Zelda was always really in a kind of medieval-steampunk limbo.
>Kyle: What exactly do you have planned for this kind of transition? I mean, do you actually want guns in the Zelda universe, or is that just wishful thinking on my part?
>Aonuma: Muskets, certainly. They wouldn’t be the kind that you’re familiar with though, and all items we create in the universe will retain their respective fantasy styles. So for instance, you can expect a deku musket that fires gunpowder-filled deku nuts. It sounds a bit obscene, but when you see the concept art and visuals in July, you’ll realize how well it all merges with the world. I don’t want to spoil too much, but we intend to have a railroad system in Hyrule. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to implement since Majora’s Mask, but we’ve never had a large enough world, you know?
Yes. After all these years, after all the waiting, it appears that Nintendo have apparently decided that Hyrule’s a bit too slow-paced. It’s technology needs an upgrade. It’s people, despite having a good amount of magic, need some evolution. Theories have always run rampart through the forums of the Internet about the possibility of a futuristic Zelda game, in which the mighty Epona is replaced by a motorcycle, the Master Sword by a gun blade, and Link’s tunic for a regenerative nanotech suit that looks suspiciously like the Kokiri tunic. Now, while we can’t all be like Halo, Nintendo is taking baby steps into the future with its favorite fantasy epic with the alleged introductions of a musket which will undoubtedly replace the bow and arrows and the slingshot. But what about other, steampunk-tech weapons? Like instead of the hookshot there could be a grapple launcher wrist mounted to the hero. Or a flash bang bombs made from Deku nuts. The possibilities for new weapons are endless, while still keeping the charm and wit of Zelda games of old.
>Aonuma: We’re drawing more power out of the Wii than ever before with this. I’m very excited. [laughs]
>Kyle: I am too, you have no idea. Well I’m very grateful for your willingness to speak with us today. You can expect to read the interview shortly after the E3 showing and I hope to see some concept art soon. This game sounds incredible so far.
>Aonuma: I’m glad you think so. I’m very pleased with its progress as well and I hope gamers will find it our most compelling game so far.
Remembering of course the copious amounts of salt that should have been ingested prior to reading this article, let’s stop here and think about this new potential Zelda title. While it is nice to see the series trying something new, I wonder if new is good. Aonuma himself has said that this title might not even be classified as a Legend of Zelda game, since it’s so different from anything Zelda’s ever tried before (this is including Freshly Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland). Personally, if this interview holds true, I look forward to the game. If it doesn’t, well, at least I have entertained the ten people that actually read my stuff.