Zelda-HD-Demo1Let me take you back to the year 2004. It’s almost a decade ago now and honestly it makes me feel like a (wise) old man. I was only 16 at the time and had just recently decided to join the Zelda Universe forums to talk about the upcoming game Twilight Princess (which had previously been referred to as “Zelda 05”). Among the discussions there was one statement from Nintendo that I only now see the true relevance of: Twilight Princess would be the last Zelda as we know it.

The statement sparked quite a lot of controversy at the time. Some people thought that they were simply going to change some menus or buttons. Others imagined more radical changes such as making a futuristic Zelda with guns (this prank in particular comes to mind) and some people even went so far as claiming Nintendo was going to end the series entirely. However – as we know – we got more games: Two for the DS and one for the Wii. They all had one thing in common: New ways to play and control the game. Touch- and motion controls were central in these games and Nintendo used them well to change old concepts, from the way you threw the boomerang to the way you swung your sword. For the most part, fans were happy with these changes and assumed that when Nintendo talked about Twilight Princess being the last traditional Zelda game, this is what they were talking about and even now people are wondering how Zelda will be controlled on the Wii U.


However, with the recent statement by series director Eiji Aonuma, I’m beginning to see a bigger picture, a series of rather large, fundamental changes to the Zelda franchise that goes beyond controls and I’m actually quite fascinated about how Nintendo’s gone about changing the series for the past decade without most of us even noticing. I’d like to talk about these changes, the possible reasons behind them and what we can expect from Zelda on the Wii U. Before we do that though, let’s take a closer look at Aonuma’s statement from Nintendo Direct (January 23rd, 2013):

“Our mission in developing this new Zelda game for Wii U is quite plainly to rethink the conventions of Zelda. I’m referring to things such as the player is supposed to complete dungeons in a certain order. That you are supposed to play by yourself, the things that we’ve come to take for granted recently. We want to set aside these ‘conventions,’ get back to basics to create a newborn Zelda so players today can enjoy the real essence of the franchise.”

While “getting back to basics” is a worn out term in game development (how many time has Sonic Team promised us to get back to basics only to shove more friends and gimmicks into promising Sonic games?), there’s actually a good case to be made for the Zelda series. If you look at the series as a whole, you’ll notice that most games follow a standard set in Ocarina of Time. This is a well-known fact and it makes a lot of sense too. Ocarina of Time was an amazing game, often hailed as one of – if not the – best game of all time. With an accomplishment like that, it’s only natural that you’d want to make more games like it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?

While Nintendo always styled the sequels in various different ways, it was obvious that many of the same conventions from Ocarina of Time remained and after a few games it started to get stale, almost boring. This was most evident in Twilight Princess which remains one of the most controversial Zelda games to date. While I love Twilight Princess as a game, it has its fair share of problems, many of them stemming from conventions that started with Ocarina of Time. One of them would be the way you defeat bosses:

  1. Locate weak point
  2. Use dungeon item to stun
  3. Hack and slash

It just wasn’t fun when I got to face the new, cool bosses of Twilight Princess and knowing exactly what to do in order to defeat them, without having to consult my guide or even think twice about it. The weak spots were oftentimes obvious (big glowing eye, anyone?). Many experienced players managed to defeat Twilight Princess bosses without losing a single heart. A boss should be a big deal, a final test of a player’s skill, something to be feared – a force to be reckoned with. Not a big clumsy cyclops dork who signals its attacks three seconds before actually attempting to harm you.

weak spots

Master, I detect a 95% chance that – as unlikely as it sounds – the giant eye might be the weak spot.

On the topic of bosses and their weaknesses, dungeon items is another thing that always rubbed me the wrong way. Again, Twilight Princess is a great example of this issue. You get a cool item like the spinner that you have a lot of use for in two-thirds of a dungeon but – with a few exceptions – you never use it again after that. Getting a new item should be an accomplishment, a new tool to help you on your adventure. Getting the Bow is usually a big deal because you feel like you’re now able to do so many things you weren’t able to do before, like access new areas, kill monsters more effectively and hopefully shoot Tingle in the face for taking all your rupees. But what use do I have of a Gust Bellow? Cleaning a lonely lady’s house for some extra rupees isn’t exactly on my wish list for the next fantasy epic.

Now, with “Zelda U” many people are hoping that these – and similar – things will be dealt with but a lot of people also fear that they might change Zelda too much. So what we’re seeing now in terms of fan reception is much like what we saw back in 2004 when Nintendo said Twilight Princess was going to be the last traditional Zelda game. So how much of a change are we really looking at?


Mah boi! Big change is what all true series strive for!

Big change is a scary thing. Oftentimes when a developer decides to take a radically different turn with a franchise, it turns out to be mediocre at best. Strange decisions are made (like giving a hedgehog a gun) or emphasis is put in the wrong areas (like listening to Samus monologue about her daddy issues instead of freely exploring a big, open, alien world). It’s not like Zelda hasn’t had some big changes in the past that weren’t well-received. The Adventure of Link remains a black sheep in the eyes of many Zelda fans and do we even need to mention the CD-I games which has been unfairly used as a reason why princess Zelda should never be a playable character or why the Zelda games shouldn’t have voice acting.

Nintendo is a careful company. They know they have to refresh the Zelda series while not taking big risks. So they’ve done something quite ingenious: For the past several years they’ve been changing the Zelda series slowly, one step at a time, one game at a time. Let’s take the past two examples of bosses and items and see what has been done with them in Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword:

In the DS games, the dual screen was put to good use. In Phantom Hourglass, the boss Crayk would turn invisible but you could see its point of view on one of the screens, which you’d use to figure out where he was. In Skyward Sword, Nintendo made sure that there oftentimes was more than one way to damage a boss. For example, when you’re fighting the parasite Bilocyte in Levias’ body, you can play tennis with the balls he spits at you but you could also use your bow to shoot an arrow in its eye. So, while there’s still work to be done in terms of weak points and difficulty (though Demise actually managed to kill me quite a few times), they’ve certainly improved on the bosses since Twilight Princess. As far as items go, not only have they become more intuitive to use with the touch- and motion controls, they’ve also been reduced in number, making each item used more frequently (with some exceptions like the aforementioned Gust Bellow).

Not only that, Nintendo has also experimented with recurring temple visits, the most notable one being the Temple of the Ocean King but both Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword had players return to previous dungeons. Zelda as a character was also given a larger role than the usual damsel in distress. This occurred most recently in Skyward Sword but most notably in Spirit Tracks where she accompanied Link for pretty much the entire game. Other changes include some of the best character development in Zelda history with the fabulous Ghirahim and the charming Groose. Also, let’s not forget the very different overworlds of both the DS games (haters gonna hate) and Skyward Sword. These changes have for the most part worked out well for Nintendo and it seems that they’re now confident enough to take the next step: finally addressing the most fundamental issue of the Zelda franchise: Linear progression.


If you think back to the original The Legend of Zelda and compare it to the games like Ocarina of Time and beyond, the biggest difference you’ll see gameplay-wise is that rather than following a strict narrative where the story guides Link from one place to the next – from the forest dungeon to the fire dungeon to the water dungeon – the original Zelda game lets you go anywhere right off the bat and access multiple dungeons before you even get a sword. While the limitations of the 8-bit NES console made it harder for casual games to pick up and play the game, there has never been such a sense of adventure and freedom as in the original Legend of Zelda and I think that’s something both the fans and the developers want Zelda to return to. How exactly could this look like in-game, you ask?

Imagine a game like Ocarina of Time. It sets you off in a village and you get introduced to the characters and the setting of the game. Something happens and Link must leave the village to save the kingdom of Hyrule by collecting three gemstones. Once the sword is acquired and the player finds himself in a great Hyrule field, he now has three options: Go to the Lost Woods, Death Mountain or Lake Hylia. Link’s fairy partner says the Lost Woods would probably be easiest and Lake Hylia would pose quite a challenge, so she recommends the Lost Woods. However, it is completely up to the player to choose which dungeon to visit first. Imagine that in the Lost Woods, the player will find a slingshot which makes it easier to get rid of the enemy-infested rooms on Death Mountain. In Death Mountain, the player gets the bombs which can aid Link in the water dungeon. However, if the player chooses to visit the water dungeon first, enemies will be more difficult to defeat without the slingshot and dangerous detours must be taken since there are no bombs for shortcuts. Also, depending on how many heart containers you’ve gathered, the enemies of the remaining dungeons can grow stronger so regardless of what dungeon you visit first, the enemies in the next ones will always be at least on par with your experience.

Now, this is just a rough idea of how Nintendo could choose to go about solving the issue of linearity. Interestingly enough this idea would also solve the problem of Zelda’s lack of difficulty settings (aside from a second quest or a hero mode after you’ve already beaten the game), something Nintendo seems to be reluctant to implement. Regardless of how Nintendo chooses to make the next Zelda less linear, it’s definitely something that will benefit the series and – as Aonuma stated in that Nintendo direct – bring it back to basics.

Let’s also look at possibilities for multiplayer and the Wii U Gamepad. Most fans would expect players to utilize the Gamepad as the primary controller, using the touch screen to select items, check the map and so forth – something similar to what was shown in the Zelda HD tech demo at E3 2011. However, judging by current Nintendo games for the Wii U, I find that unlikely. Though motion controls will remain a controversial topic, there’s no denying the fact that motion controls for Skyward Sword was a success for Nintendo, so much so that Aonuma stated “I honestly think we cannot go back to button controls now” when he was asked about future Zelda games. Keep in mind that this was stated at the end of 2011, months after Nintendo first showcased the Wii U and the Zelda tech demo.

So is the motion controls staying and is the Gamepad just being ignored? Well, this is where the aspect of multiplayer comes in. If we look at Wii U multiplayer games we can see that the Gamepad is oftentimes being used for a supporting player. In New Super Mario Brothers U as well as in the upcoming Rayman Legends, the Gamepad is used to stun enemies and manipulate the environment whereas the main players use standard Wii Remotes controlling their characters just like they did on the Wii in New Super Mario Brother Wii and Rayman Origins. If you’re still not convinced that this pattern is likely to apply to Zelda on the Wii U, take a look at Nintendoland’s Zelda themed mini-game Battle Quest where the primary player uses the Wii Remote as a sword just like in Skyward Sword whereas the Gamepad is used to offer support in the form of the archer.

Tingle Tuner-thumb-220x294-1349

Help me, player number two!

Rounding up, if I have to make a prediction as to how multiplayer and the Gamepad will be used in Zelda U, I’d say that the most logical and perhaps also the most exciting possibility is that a second player can use the Gamepad to play the role of Link’s companion. Imagine a game like Twilight Princess, where the first player controls Link in ordinary fashion and the second player uses the Gamepad to control Midna. Midna could quite possibly share hearts with Link, move around freely and fight enemies. You could also imagine the second player being used as a scout. In the 2011 tech demo we saw a fairy flying around the room freely, seemingly exploring it before Gohma appears. Perhaps the player using the Gamepad can have the ability of flight, flying around the room, looking for secrets, marking things on the map and dropping bombs on enemies, Tingle Tuner style? Speaking of the Tingle Tuner, am I the only one who thinks it’s not a coincidence that they chose to release a remade version of The Wind Waker this year? The Tingle Tuner has already been discussed a lot since the Gamepad seems ideal for this particular item and I for one think Nintendo wants to test this particular item in The Wind Waker to see how it works with the Gamepad and how the audience likes that kind of asymetrical multiplay in a Zelda game, probably because they have similar plans for the next Zelda on the Wii U.

Old ideas being revisited, years of change finally coming together in a new Zelda game. This is what Nintendo is so good at, not only cherishing their history, but learning from it. As many historians will tell you: “the best way to predict the future is to look to the past” and looking at the past decade of Zelda, I’m beginning to see an exciting image of the Next Zelda game, combining the best of the present with the best of the past to bring you – as cheesy as it sounds – the best for the future.

  • linkxy

    I cant wait to see how Nintendo uses the Wii U's augmented reality in Zelda 2014.

  • ShayQ7

    Agreed, but the graphics of skyward sword ust did it…I don't want gay weapons and futuristicc looks i want old zelda, majora's mask, 1st zelda, oot, not these new 'stuff'

    • Guest

      oh so you thought the weapons were amazing? me too

  • Pedro V.

    The thing I missed most on Skyward Sword was the "living world" from the other games. Skyward Sword had a tiny overworld centered by Skyloft. The Faron Woods, Death Mountain and Lanayru Desert were only "Uber-Dungeons", in my opinion. I miss the multiple villages full of life and people from Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, I miss a huge overworld with everything inside… I miss that lore-friendly, roleplay-esque Hyrule that wasn't present on Skyward Sword 🙁

    • Zeldafan99

      I completely agree

    • TTL

      I'm sorry, the people from Twilight Princess? That game that was mostly ruins and pockets of people who wouldn't talk to you or suggested for the entire game that you go to the red and bolded next dungeon? Don't get me wrong, the game had some great characters, but they were cast in a sea of dead space that in 2007, didn't need to be there.

      It's interesting you'd list Twilight Princess but then leave out Majora's Mask, easily the most packed game when it comes to living, human characters who's purposes served more than dungeon pointing and tutorial retreading.

    • Lalilu

      Well, I agree with that, but in Skyward Sword it makes sense not having any towns… As the game takes place in a time the world was *not* colonized…

  • randall

    I still don't see why we have never gotten a "Create A Dungeon" add on for a Zelda title. Imagine having the freedom to make your own Zelda Dungeon, and then let other players battle it out for the treasure online.

  • John

    I think Nintendo will decide on a Navi type game play for the game pad or Ocarina of Time 3D game play. Either one sounds good, but I prefer playing like Ocarina of Time 3D. I hope they decide to put in dungeons like the well, by that I mean hidden. In the beginning of the game you wouldn't have known it was a dungeon which was really great. Also they need to bring magic back and also don't have a sidekick to throw spoiler alerts throughout the whole game. I think this next zelda game may be my new favorite… Hopefully.

    • Lalilu

      Wether they bring magic back or not I don't really care, as long as they keep the stamina for running and hanging off edges and shield durability gauge, so you can't just use the shield whenever you want.

  • Echon

    I'm hugely a solo player, but so long as I'm not forced to have a side-player along for the ride, a sort of two-person optional set-up where one person controls Link and the other person controls the sidekick sounds like it'd be fun every now and again.

  • Zeldafan99

    Idk, I think that the 1st player on the ww would use the gamepad, and the 2nd player would use the 3ds for the tingle turner, you know; use the ds bottom screen to select items and view the map, while the top would be their vision. 🙂

  • I don't know what the gameboy was used for in Wind Waker, though it seems that I may get an opportunity to finally find out once Wind Waker gets re-released on the new platform that comes with the second screen controller, the Wii U.

  • decimo anonimo

    I just recently saw a short made by Disney called "paper man", why do I mention it? what reason do I have? simple. This is no news, but, as everybody knows, Nintendo and Disney have had deals in the past and most the most recent with Epic Mickey. Again, why do i keep going? Nintendo can ask them abouth this new technology and implement it inside of some of the games, anyone who has seen it, cant deny that it would look beautiful… maybe some haters or another one are gonna make it, but, can anyone imagine how could see that game? An anime-game, wich could make Wind Waker look more incredible dinamic, elegant, beautiful and even cute. Total and complet freedom to designe the characters and even more.

    That is an idea, Nintendo, if you are reading, make the move.

    Also, more info about some things, like the origins of Majora, the final destiny of Marin… I know, I know, it was just a dream, but come on, whe want a final ending. Also, more info about the world of Linebeck.

    The time line is ready, give us more about the lore and move throug it

    • Kalek

      Uh… The waking up from the dream was the final ending for Marin, what the hell do you expect from that xD ?
      It was a dream, Link awoke from that dream, therefore, it ended… Permanently =)

      Now, the origin of Majora's Mask? THAT, would be awesome =O

      And maybe a story where it shows how Link and Tetra found the new continent and *how* they estabilished the new kingdom of Hyrule, that could be interesting…

  • zelda_RESPECT

    i catually would prefer a zelda game with graphics like twillight princes,a lot of villages like spirit tracks or phantom hourglass(i mean the villages on the islands not the islands) and the free to go anaywhere like the old zelda games.i dont care a lot about the controls and the story anyway something must be unexpected to have a very good time playing it:)

  • Mickii

    I love the idea of second player controlling your companion, like in Super Mario Galaxy 2. But, isn't the sole purpose of a partner always been to have a guide? P2 wouldn't be able to do that… Also, one thing I feel no one else has observed, is that in the screen shots for the Zelda Wii U, some scenes show Link wielding his sword in his left hand, while others, he uses his right. I'm excited to find out what that could be.

    As for the overworld gameplay, I also felt Skyward was limited. Ocarina and Majora were just perfect in that sense. Especially MM, because of how nearly every NPC was put to good use. I'd like to second another game like that. But however way they put it, I can't wait to see how it plays out.

  • Lance

    I too have an increasing desire to see how they will utilize additional players in the Zelda games. The most exciting idea to me is have either a constant guide/companion or maybe in each new dungeon/area you have a new companion that alternate players can control (the latter being my personal favorite).

    Imagine if each sage/temple guardian was controllable and assisted in the dungeon and boss battles. This may be slightly offsetting since the alternate player would be constantly needing to adapt to new mechanics and may not allure those who want to join in the adventure as a consistent companion. This would be to some the perfect merging of MM's unique gameplay through the racial masks and LttP's dungeon maiden lore (later adapted in OOT as the sages). An interesting compromise is once unlocked (dungeon is completed) the sage could be accessed by alternate player to be a permanent companion (until the next dungeon).

    Another outlook is to revisit the idea of Four Swords or some other plot that would introduce multiple Links on the field. This would be really complicated as the camera angles/controls could turn increasingly awkward in intense boss fights or just basic dungeon navigating. If all the controls and camera angles could be utilized smoothly on each individual gamepad this would become, in my opinion, the best multiplayer Zelda that could ever surface. I probably will have to wait a few more generations before something similar would become a reality.

    Please comment on this if you have criticisms or fun ideas that elaborate the possible incorporations of multiple gamepads into a multiplayer Zelda. I really am curious what another fan's perspective on a multiplayer Zelda would look like.

    My favorite companion/sage I would want to play would have to be a Zora, probably because I am one of the weird Zelda fans that enjoyed the puzzle logic in the water temples.

    Quick source to multiple gamepads: http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/05/nintendo-two-w

  • jollyDwades

    wait so link is going to take the past to the future or is he bringing the future to the past

  • blavla

    I personally don't hope that the next Zelda will be motion controlled. The motion controls is what killed Skyward Sword for me. I'd rather see them make a game using the gamepad… you know the new controller that Nintendo has been focusing so much on, rather than using the Wii Remote that we have been using this entire generation.

  • ZeldaGurl_

    Overall, great article. I agree to some point about Twilight PRincess, however, I think what one of the major selling points was supposed to be the new graphics. Even though the graphics may be looked upon by many today, it was a BIG change for the Legend of Zelda. Twilight Princess was special in its own way for many many reasons, and I wish more people would draw the positive out of it instead of finding the negative. Great music and characters, as always. It was just a bit more of a depressing-felt game. What? The real world isn't always so action packed either. It would make sense to have a more chill and empty Zelda game for once. It makes it more REAL.

    Oh, and also. I loved Metroid: Other M. Samus' monologue wasn't of "Daddy Problems". It was of her life. C'mon now, don't be shallow. Everyone has a past, and I'm glad they took time to go back and show just how human Samus really is. She's a BA Bounty Hunter, Yeah, woo, awesome, but we know now that's she's not a jerk, she's a human with a heart. And, for that, I have gained that much more respect for Samus and her hard work. So really, don't go bashing a game that has deep roots. Everyone has their problems, including Samus Aran. So bravo to them. I loved the game. It is a great addition to the series.

  • ZeldaGurl_

    *looked DOWN upon. Completely missed a word there. My apologies.

    • Hombre de Mundo

      The problem with Samus in Other M wasn't that she had issues or talked about it, it's that she wouldn't shut up about them. It's called subtlety and it' usually better to give players a hint on what's going on in her mind rather than shoving it in our faces every other cutscene 😛

  • Skye

    I actually thought there was some good character development in Twilight Princess, though I'm beyond ecstatic to find out their trying to improve beyond that.