Increasingly, I see people asking for a greater variety of items in the Future Zelda section, and every time, I have to ask myself: why? Why would you want more items?
In the original tLoZ, every item, once you got it, was used frequently, and all were vital in the exploration of new areas. One of the best things about tLoZ, was that once you got an item, you tried it on everything. I have fond memories of going around trying to burn every single bush in the game in an attempt to discover a secret – or rather, “A SECRET TO EVERYBODY.” However, Link didn’t have too many items available – after a point, most new items were merely power-ups of older items. The actual amount of different items was quite small, meaning everything was used. The Bombs were always in use to destroy walls, and find new secrets. The Boomerang was always used to get items from far away. The only item in the game which eventually became outdated was the Raft, which, after collecting the various island items, and obtaining the Whistle, was no longer used. This shows some of the excellent level design which went into the original games.
However, once you reach a Link to the Past, and the Zelda team realised that, hey, they had enough space to do whatever they wanted (to an extent), the Zelda series suddenly began to drown under the weight of the items it had. For example, how often did you use the Cane of Somaria outside Turtle Rock dungeon? Hardly ever. Once you had completed the dungeon, it was a waste of space, and may as well not have been included at all. The Magic Cape also becomes unused after a certain point, being replaced for the most part by the Cane of Byrna. This gets even worse come the 3D games. Ocarina of Time had so many useless items. How many times did you ever use a Deku Nut, even if you include the start of the game? Hardly ever. How many times did you use Farore’s Wind? Not often. And, sadly, how often did you ride Epona? (outside of doing it for fun) Almost never, as warping was so much faster. Similarly, the Stone of Agony didn’t do much.
Finally, Twilight Princess topped the others at this. The Dominion Rod may as well have been a jar of strawberry jam for all the good it did after the Temple of Time and moving the Owl Statues. The Ball and Chain was never used outside of Snowpeak, with the slight exception of possibly the Cave of Ordeals, where it was effective at demolishing some enemies. The Spinner, possibly the coolest item in the game, was almost never used. I found myself frequently heading back to the Arbiter’s Grounds, purely to use the spinner again.
So, most items are there purely to fill space. Or rather, hammerspace. They don’t serve much use outside of the dungeon in which you get them. Why? Because the later games have so many items! And with so many items, there will have to be some which fall by the wayside. Instead of having one item, and giving it one purpose, meaning once that purpose is completed, the item becomes useless, you should have one item with multiple purposes, or have one item which upgrades to be abe to fulfil multiple purposes. That way, an item will be constantly used throughout the game, and therefore not be pointless.
I think this was one of the things the Phantom Hourglass did exceptionally well. Okay, so you may have had only 5 or 6 available items. However, those items received a lot of use! The Boomerang, the Grappling Hook, the Bombchus – all received constant use throughout the game! They weren’t just one-trick ponies, either. As well as grabbing distant objects, the Grappling Hook could also be used to make a launch rope. A Link to the Past also did one thing well, (even if certain items were useless, such as the Cane of Somaria), in that it did have a focus on upgrading items. Is the Power Glove falling into disuse? Well, if so, it will be handily upgraded to the Titan Mitts, meaning that most items get fairly steady use.
What I would like to see from future Zelda titles, is a smaller selection of available items, but greater uses available for those items, and more requirement for each item. The Spinner in Twilight Princess would have been so much better, if Spinner tracks had regularly been incorporated into puzzles, or regularly used to reach secret areas. It doesn’t matter if the game has only 9 or 10 items, as long as I can use all those items, and in a myriad of different ways. For example, instead of having to use a Grappling Hook and Bow, why not simply have a type of arrow with rope attached and a hooked head, handily combining the two? Similarly, things like Nayru’s Love, instead of requring a whole new inventory space, can be implemented into armour, like the Magic Armour of TP. Instead of having to have both a Slingshot AND a Bow, simply start the player with a weak Bow, which is later upgraded to be stronger. Puzzles could be made much harder if you really have to think about how to use a specific item, rather just using the correct item straight away, as you know which one is required. Bosses could be made much harder and more complicated, by having to use items in specific ways, as opposed to Twilight Princess, where you used the base function of the item, then hit three times. In short, Zelda could be much improved, by having less items. Less is more.