It is no secret that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduced a brand new control scheme for The Legend of Zelda. The advanced sword controls allow you to swing the sword in any direction, the enemies have also been updated so that they must be attacked a certain way to be defeated. The result is a Legend of Zelda game that plays differently from all of the others, and I consider it to be a great evolution for the series’ control.

So, after playing through Skyward Sword I was pleased that Eiji Aonuma had already made it clear that they intend to continue using this updated style of control in future console Legend of Zelda games.

But what about handheld titles?

A transition for handheld Legend of Zelda control.

Prior to 2011, all handheld Legend of Zelda games had all used a 2D style of gameplay. Even the two Nintendo DS Legend of Zelda titles use a 2D style of gameplay despite having 3D graphics. Ocarina of Time 3D on the Nintendo 3DS was the first time a 3D Legend of Zelda game was released on a handheld gaming platform. Because it was a remake of an existing game, there were no changes made to the control scheme that Ocarina of Time originally introduced in 1998.

However, Nintendo is now working on a brand new Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS, and it’s all but guaranteed to be the first new 3D Legend of Zelda title designed for a handheld.

Nintendo could continue using the style of control used in Ocarina of Time for the new handheld title, but after playing Skyward Sword I hope they explore ways to improve the combat beyond what was possible in 1998. To be more specific, I believe the updated enemy designs and advanced sword controls introduced in Skyward Sword could be included in the next handheld Legend of Zelda game.

Update the enemy designs regardless of control changes.

When you first visit the surface in Skyward Sword, the very first enemies you will meet are Deku Babas. These mutant-plants can only be defeated if you swing your sword the same direction as their mouth opens. Some Deku Babas only open their mouth vertically and others only open their mouth horizontally. Later, you’ll meet stronger Deku Baba’s capable of opening their mouth both ways. If the Deku Baba keeps its mouth shut, you cannot harm it. This type of enemy design could be easily replicated on a handheld using the same control scheme present in Ocarina of Time.

Two types of Deku Babas as they appear in Skyward Sword.

Ocarina of Time already allows you to perform a horizontal slash, vertical slash, or stab. To improve the combat, all you have to do is change the enemy behavior. No, it won’t be quite as advanced as Skyward Sword‘s combat because you cannot choose whether the swing is from left-to-right, top-to-bottom, or vice versa, but it is a definite improvement.

Some enemies from Skyward Sword, like the previously mentioned Deku Babas, already work with this type of control without any changes. Other enemies from Skyward Sword would only require minor adjustments.

For example, in Skyward Sword Bokoblins are able to block attacks from the left, attacks from the right, and attacks from above or below. Simplify their blocking abilities to block all horizontal or all vertical attacks make this control scheme work.

You can also easily adapt a more complicated enemy like a Stalfos. Stalfos are able to block diagonal strikes. The solution? Remove those blocking stances and include only the vertical and horizontal blocking.

Of course, the problem you run into quickly is that all of the enemies are the same. If Bokoblin block all of the same ways that the more powerful Stalfos can block then what makes the enemies different? The best solution to this problem is finding new ways to update enemy design.

Skyward Sword has a good example, but this enemy only appears a few times in the game. There is a bird enemy (called a Furnix in the game) with a long tail. When the bird lowers its tail, you can use the whip to pull the bird to the ground and then attack it with your sword.

In a similar fashion, new enemies could be designed that are immune to all (or most) of your attacks unless certain requirements are met. Skyward Sword and other Legend of Zelda games already feature many enemies that use this design, but they are almost always saved for special situations. I think these more interesting enemies should become more common place in the Legend of Zelda series.

Yes, you can have Wii Motion Plus-style sword controls on your Nintendo 3DS.

In the end, updating the enemy designs is only half of what Skyward Sword accomplished. If a handheld game is really going to achieve the same kind of gameplay that Skyward Sword introduced then it really needs to feature the same advanced sword controls that are present in Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, it’s common knowledge that the advanced sword controls are impossible without Wii Motion Plus, right?

I’m not so convinced.

Everyone says the controls cannot be done without the Wii remote, but are they really so different that the same effect cannot be achieved with an analog stick? I’m not a game developer, but I do not see any reason why Link could not be made to swing his sword in the direction that a second analog stick is pointed.

For example, if you tilt the second (or right) analog stick to the left, Link performs a right-to-left horizontal swing. If you tilt the analog stick up, Link performs a bottom-to-top vertical swing. If you tilt the analog stick at an angle to the top-right edge, Link performs a bottom-left to top-right diagonal slice.

I believe this type of control scheme would work without alienating players who cannot (for physical reasons) or will not (because they prefer traditional controls) use the Wii remote to play the game. I’ve grown to like the motion controls in Skyward Sword, so I am not convinced this style of control would be more fun than the motion controls. I do, however, believe this style of control would be more precise than the motion controls. I also believe it would work wonderfully on a handheld platform.

Would Nintendo actually do it?

A new handheld Legend of Zelda game could use of the Nintendo 3DS second analog stick.

The bad news is that the Nintendo 3DS does not include a second analog stick in-the-box. There is an add-on that adds a second analog stick, but I’m not sure how much Nintendo really plans to support it. I’m also not convinced that Nintendo has any intention of trying to replicate the advanced sword controls on the Nintendo 3DS.

Even if they wanted to replicate the controls, I’m not sure they’d use an analog stick to achieve that goal. Nintendo has not often made use of dual-analog styles of control, and that’s exactly what this would be. It may be too complicated for their (or Miyamoto’s) taste.

Regardless, I think everyone needs to drop the misbelief that the Skyward Sword sword combat cannot work without Wii Motion Plus. It can work, and I think this is something the series needs. The new advanced sword controls in Skyward Sword are one of the most important changes to the Legend of Zelda series in its 25 year history. Such an important change needs to be introduced into the upcoming handheld Legend of Zelda games.