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Technology in Zelda: is it really that big of a deal?
  • I wasn't sure whether this would have been better suited for the General Zelda section, but considering that Zelda U/NX appears to be exploring ancient technology as a major theme and how the series has been progressively changing, I figured I would post this here.

    I honestly don't understand why a lot of fans are so vehemently against technology and the development of it in the Zelda series. On every gaming site and community I've been to, whenever technology in the series was brought up, I've always found myself caught in some debate over the series' setting and theme. Whenever I got involved in these, the opposition would always insist that Zelda is strictly a medieval setting and technology has no place in it. And every time I wonder to myself, why is it such a big deal?

    I understand that, as a starting root, the series was based off of medieval fantasy, which served as the primary foundation for the game's setting and theme, as well as some high fantasy elements. It has everything typical to the common medieval high fantasy story: swords and shields, knights, princesses, castles and kingdoms, warlocks and demons, fairies, magic, ancient gods and spirits, and people with pointed ears, among many other varied races. We go on a quest to rid the world of a wicked dark lord and uncover mysteries in doing so, and we are hailed as the hero. It's all got that thematic feel and setting we strongly associate with medieval high fantasy. I get what people mean when they say that, at the very root and core of it all, Zelda is based on such a fantasy setting.

    But do fantasy stories necessarily need stone castles, middle age kingdoms and lack of any and all technology to retain a fantasy setting? I love the fantasy genre, it's one of my favorites in literacy, games and music alike. But one thing I actually like about modern fantasy stories is that many of them now deviate from the tired and true European medieval setting. We have stories that explore ancient civilizations, developing societies, and bring common trope elements to a more modern era, if not in the transitional phase. I like my stories like Lord of the Rings and all that, but the classical setting has gotten quite old by now. One thing I like about the Final Fantasy series is that it retains many of the common fantasy tropes but deviates away from the classical medieval setting. This can even be seen in titles prior to FF7. In FF6, you have what is effectively a combination of a medieval setting with steampunk-esque technology, being powered by none other than magic. FF4 had an iron giant as well as a whale-shaped space ship that could fly to the moon. Even the first Final Fantasy was not necessarily strictly "medieval" in that the flying fortress had robot sentry guards. A fantasy work can most certainly derive from the middle ages period, but it does not need to strictly adhere to it, nor does it need to be strictly European in setting.

    Zelda has already been taking steps in moving away from the whole European medieval fantasy setting a lot earlier, albeit in a much slower pace. This first really started with Ocarina of Time, namely with the dungeon architecture as some of the temples were modeled after those from other cultures, not strictly European. Majora's Mask took it a step forward by introducing us a world that (at the time for the series) was more technologically advanced than Hyrule. The progress was still slow, but it could still be clearly seen in titles like TWW, TMC and even TP. The Minish Cap in particular felt more like a modernized world, mostly because of Hyrule Town's portrayal. The technology bit didn't come full swing until PH and ST, when we got the steam boat and train, which really are not the biggest offenders here. Ignoring Skyward Sword's robots for a moment, it also deviated from the medieval setting by giving us places, characters and dungeon designs that were more eastern inspired.

    If I really had to say when the shift to a more technologically advanced Hyrule started, I would actually say it started as early as A Link to the Past and even Ocarina of Time. One thing I find often goes missed when people debate over the technology in the series is how the Bombchu Bowling Alley actually had neon lights and a jukebox, not to mention the Bombchus themselves. Of course that shop was completely optional and out of the way, so I can't fault people for missing it. The series has had laser beams since ALttP, most often in the form of Beamos. That in itself is pretty advanced and would imply that robots have been in the series far longer. TMC most definitely had robots. Not to mention there's also the Hookshot, which is actually something way ahead of our time. The Mythbusters proved that a grappling hook (albeit theirs was Batman-styled) is just not possible. Even Aonuma has pretty much said so himself.

    But my ultimate point is, why does this all matter? Why is it so important that Zelda sticks to the classical medieval setting? I'm not saying that the series needs automobiles, mobile phones or guns of course (although Oracle of Ages had the Seed Shooter, Tetra has the pistol in HWL, and Linkle's double crossbows more or less are guns). When ST was first announced, I remember there being such an uproar over its train, even though steam engines aren't the most technologically advanced things around. Likewise, I have seen very similar complaints to the robots of SS and in general the entirety of the Lanayru region. But is it really such a huge deviation when the series has already shown prior instances of technology and has been taking steps to expand its world beyond the boundaries of strictly medieval? Can the opposition be attributed to the fact that Skyward Sword was touted as the series' origin story and yet has remnants of an ancient, highly advanced society? Or is it simply because that people are opposed to change, despite the fact that the series is in need of change to keep going? Is this really something that we can call a medieval fantasy anymore when the series will continue to expand and grow from its current state? The thing that perhaps bothers me the most about this opposition is that Hyrule is not actually intended to be Earth; it is allowed to explore its own worldbuilding and development. Fantasy worlds should seldom ever be compared to each other because each world strives to be unique even when deriving from real-world mythos and history. To be honest, I actually like where Hyrule is headed now. Its world feels so much more richer and expansive than it has ever been. If it remained strictly medieval today, it would get very old and bland fast.

    We are now long past the days of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. The series has been gradually changing and growing from what it originated as. I concede that these changes are only now becoming drastic, but they've always been there in some form. The series setting is changing and people ought to accept that. I just don't see the problem with it, and honestly, it's not a big deal to me. I don't take offense to seeing a robot from an ancient civilization or to a mecha-octopus firing destruco beams. It's just never been something I found worth throwing my arms up over.

    Is Zelda U/NX going to be looked down upon simply because it could well be the most technologically advanced Zelda we'll be seeing to date? Or is this something that we can learn to look past and come to appreciate and accept.
  • To be fair, a lot of complaints I've seen about this aren't actually about technological advancement, but the opposite. SS has the most advanced technology in the series, with electricity, complex machines, and even robots.

    ...But it's also the first game in the Zelda timeline, what gives?

    I'm all for technological advancements in Hyrule, but when you only introduce them on prequels is when things get a little bit weird, as that means that Hyrule is moving backwards in terms of techological progression.
  • This is where I think a dual world concept would work great.

    Imagine a Zelda game that took place in two distinct time periods so far apart that there was significant technological change between them. In one, you have the standard medieval fantasy atmosphere that is typical for the franchise. In the other, you have a setting with more sci-fi elements and high technology.

    I think this would ideal because we'd still be able to enjoy Zelda as we know it, but also experience something new. A setting with high-technology would allow for new types of items, enemies, places to explore and game-play generally.
  • Khao wrote:

    To be fair, a lot of complaints I've seen about this aren't actually about technological advancement, but the opposite. SS has the most advanced technology in the series, with electricity, complex machines, and even robots.

    ...But it's also the first game in the Zelda timeline, what gives?

    I'm all for technological advancements in Hyrule, but when you only introduce them on prequels is when things get a little bit weird, as that means that Hyrule is moving backwards in terms of techological progression.
    When I was debating with someone who was quite opposed to the technological aspect in the series, I pointed out that advanced technology existed as far back as the first game in the chronological sequence. They responded back that the technology found in the Lanayru province were remnants of an ancient civilization that has since been forgotten, and that Skyloft and the newly founded Hyrule were started over from scratch. The inhabitants of Skyloft do more or less think that the surface world is a myth. That person actually said that as an excuse to ignore all the other instances of technology further down the timeline, but they did raise a good point there. Zelda would not be the first fantasy story to have a world that had an ancient, highly advanced civilization that was lost and forgotten, leaving the rest of the world in a more primitive time. Skyward Sword can't really be called an origin story anymore anyway because it is obvious that there was already a rich history prior to the creation of Skyloft. A new game preceding SS could easily be done.

    There's also the fact that Hyrule seems to have periods in its long history where it has suffered from decline and fall. The downfall timeline would seem to imply that Hyrule suffered from a sort of "dark ages", possibly caused by Ganon's prolonged influence.
  • Honestly it's something I find difficult to accept, but I'm assuming that I'll have to try judging by what we've seen of Zelda U so far. I'm not really into the series as I once was though so no huge loss for me if I can't accept it I suppose.

    Sometimes I think that they should make a new IP similar to Zelda, that way they could use such ideas in a new series and keep it out Zelda, but that's most likely not going to happen, and it might even be a bad idea if it makes the Zelda series' creativity suffer.

    If I had to choose between the kinds of technologies we see in SS and ST, I'd probably go with ST's. I'm not that opposed to trains, as long as everything doesn't revolve around them (train sages, train sword, train overworld, evil train boss).
    Steam trains aren't as big of a leap compared to robots when it comes to technological progress.

    You could say that those who struggle with this just don't like change, but I'm thinking it could also be a matter of personal preference. For example I don't tend to be into medieval fantasy, but Zelda is one of the few series that pulls it off in a way I like.

    As for some form of advanced technology having appeared in the series before, I can buy that, though I wouldn't say that has to necessarily lead to this kind of change. We have already begun to enter that territory with gradual changes though as we've all seen.

    Who knows, some people might warm up to the idea. I thought TWW was ugly when it was first announced, but I quickly changed my mind.

    The post was edited 6 times, last by ich Will ().

  • It may sound weird, but I might be more ok with SS's "ancient technology" than ST's "steampunk light."

    At least in SS the tech seemed pretty magical, with glowing stones, magnetism and hovering. I wouldn't mind seeing more of that.
    But I could also live with another train-setting. As long as I still have a sword and this Zelda atmosphere.
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  • Midoro wrote:



    Is Zelda U/NX going to be looked down upon simply because it could well be the most technologically advanced Zelda we'll be seeing to date? Or is this something that we can learn to look past and come to appreciate and accept.
    I don't think it will be looked down upon. At least not by any ordinary player. It might garner good attention. My older brother used to be into Zelda and has long since abandoned it. I can understand why. Some changes and new vibrancies like this could bring the appeal back for him, and a lot of other people. And for me I like the tech too. But as for long-term fans I have no clue.
  • Canyarion wrote:

    It may sound weird, but I might be more ok with SS's "ancient technology" than ST's "steampunk light."

    At least in SS the tech seemed pretty magical, with glowing stones, magnetism and hovering. I wouldn't mind seeing more of that.
    But I could also live with another train-setting. As long as I still have a sword and this Zelda atmosphere.
    I wouldn't say having a steam engine immediately makes something "steampunk" in the slightest. A steampunk fantasy world usually relies more on intricate machinery and automations than just trains, and usually paired with a Victorian or western-inspired theme. Trains can certainly be a part of it, but just having trains in no way makes it steampunk. You need more than that to achieve that theme.

    That said, steam engines are not that particularly advanced, and have been around for at least two centuries. The inconsistency with Zelda's technology is largely attributed to how the games are scattered around the timeline. However as I did say before, it does actually work. The ancient technology could all be forgotten, forcing the new Hyrule to rebuild itself from the ground up and gradually re-learn technology, giving the world a "backwards" look. Then you have the fall and decline of Hyrule as I mentioned earlier, which slows the progress, much like how the fall of Rome was followed by the middle ages. It might be theory'ish, but it is plausible as an explanation.
  • Well that's why I called it 'steampunk light.' It felt like a first step into the world of steampunk, although perhaps I should call it 150-year-old-technology.
    And look what Hyrule Warriors Legends did... it gave Tetra the first gun in the Zelda series. What's next? :/
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  • Basic pistols have been around since at least the 16th century, while gun powder has existed since the mid-first century.

    I mean, let's look at this from a different angle. The Bombchu Bowling Alley has neon lights and a jukebox. And I'm going to keep swearing that up and down. Pistols are hardly an offense compared to that.

    I'll even post it here:


    It wasn't even a new addition to OoT3D, which actually has table lamps as well. Those neon lights have been there since 1998.
  • I think I get aggravated with technology in Zelda because it often is implemented at the expense of magic, which I find vastly more engaging and interesting. This includes the often-used compromise of magitech, which always comes across as more tech than magic. Almost science-fiction, even.

    I mean thinking back on it, Zelda hasn't really felt magical since Twilight Princess, with ALBW being the closest to coming back to this state. Most of it these days has been replaced by that compromise, that stuff that feels more like sufficiently advanced technology than raw forces of nature weaved into the very fabric of the universe. From weapons to attacks and enemies and the locations themselves. The locations especially have declined in magic-ness in favor of technology.

    It's been tapped, harnessed, industrialized. And I just find that very dull. In the right setting that stuff can be awesome (and generally, the cleaner it is the better I'll like it, so out goes a good chunk of steampunk), but I really don't think Zelda is that setting.

    Yeah, OoT had a gaming zone with hilariously modern furnishings, but OoT also had a magic talking tree, a magical forest, fairy magic (bonus: can set things in a radius on fire), magical weapons, a bad guy who uses evil magic all the time to fling curses and shoot magic energy balls and transform himself into a giant monster, all wrapped up in a medieval setting that then makes the bright and colorful Bombchu Alley seem more whimsical than "this shouldn't exist in this setting" or even magitech.

    Meanwhile in SS... robots, railroads, fairy robots living in your sword, decrepit industrial warf, magitech, mechanical sliding rooms designed as the final puzzle to get the Triforce. The balance between magic and technology is way off, imo.

    And I didn't even get to mentioning Majora's Mask, which is like Bizzarro Hyule. And Bizzarro Hyrule is (and should have stayed) more technologically advanced than normal medieval magic Hyrule.

    I also didn't get to mention a meta reason - the concept of these games being a never-ending cycle. That Hyrule is (or should be) "stuck" in a certain age, just as the main three are stuck in a cycle of reincarnation, destruction, rebirth, and cataclysm. I like the idea that Hyrule cannot advance until those three can resolve their differences and be all 'soz for fucking up the land' 'yeah me too lol' 'i just live here'.

    "FUCK YOU NINTENDO" by Topaz Mutiny



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    The post was edited 4 times, last by Topaz Mutiny ().

  • Canyarion wrote:

    Still, I don't want Zelda to lose that "sword, bow and arrow" atmosphere. My opinion though.
    Nothing's going to take that away from Zelda. The sword and shield has always been a stable of the series and by far the most iconic thing about it. Zelda has shown that swords and shields can still exist alongside these things.

    Besides, Tetra's pistol and Linkle's double crossbow guns are in a non-canon game that has no bearing on the canonity of the series. I mean, maybe we could see something like a mechanical crossbow again like the one in Link's Crossbow Training, or another seed shooter, but I doubt we'll see something to the likes of what HW had.

    I think the main issue with the lack of magic in the series is more to do how there's been a lack of a proper magic meter. TP itself also deviated away from most of the usual tropes of the series as a whole in favor of a more realistic approach, which I believe was the main intent behind it. There has been some steps taken to return to the series' magical roots though. Even with SS's factory and robots, you still have the timeshift stones and the whole gate of time, which I dare say are definite magical properties. Though I will agree that I do miss the magic meter and would like for it to come back. If Aonuma and co really are looking back at previous games they have recently ported (OoT3D, MM3D, ALttP to a small extent) then maybe they'll bring it back. Here's hoping.
  • I agree with Topaz that when technology replaces certain things, it can come across as less magical, to me at least. I guess magic and divinity are just more mysterious than advanced technology.
    Although I didn't mind how the Sky Keep's rooms were mechanically moveable, that never struck me as being odd for Zelda.

    I don't know, I suppose it also matters how such changes are presented. I for example am usually not into medieval fantasy themes (let's use Skyrim, Dark Souls, and Game of Thrones as examples of what I find to be dull), but Zelda has usually pulled it off in a more "magical" way that I like.

    The post was edited 6 times, last by ich Will ().

  • I wouldn't mind if their use of technology was more consistent. If there's a steampunk dungeon or area, why haven't the surrounding people adopted the vastly superior technology as well? Ancient technology sidesteps this by making it seem as though it's just so advanced that nobody could copy it, but it's still only sidestepping, not confronting.

    I wouldn't mind a steampunk Zelda game, heck, I wouldn't even mind a space travelling sci-fi Metroid crossover game, but only if the level of technology is believably consistent across the world(s). Of course, in all scenarios, magic is an important part of the atmosphere and canon of Zelda, so it should have a prominent role, even in a game with the most ridiculously advanced technology.

    Nelsyv wrote:

    I saw that the trailer they released at the end of the Switch event stream looked like it would be a story trailer, so I immediately turned it off. I'm going dark until I've beaten BotW, I don't want any spoilers whatsoever. Wish me strength to resist the temptations.

  • About guns. I like the idea of guns existing in Zelda. In fact, I think it's weird that they haven't shown up so far considering we've had stuff like bombs and cannons for a long time now.

    But I'm not sure if I like the idea of Link using one. Not unless it's a "special" gun that doesn't necesarily have combat as its primary function. My only real reason for this is that I kinda feel like it would take away from the traiditional hero trope. Like, it's the same way I'd feel about Link suddenly start to use axes instead of swords and shields. It'd just feel out of place unless it was a special item that isn't a primary weapon.

    To clarify a bit, I wouldn't really want Link to use something like a flintlock gun. But I think it would be pretty cool if he had something like... a heavily stylized portable cannon that shoots bombs that he needs to hold with both hands. Though its existence is kind of redundant with stuff like bomb arrows.

    On other characters though, I'm more than okay with it. For one, remember the robot pirate you fight at the sand ship in Skyward Sword? (lol imagine saying that was gonna be a thing 10 years ago) I wouldn't even have noticed anything off if he used a flintlock-style gun. It actually would've been pretty interesting. I wouldn't mind a side character using them either. Like, if Linebeck from PH was... uhm... not-useless, it wouldn't have been weird to see him use guns of any kind as long as they fit the aesthetic. Same for the pirates in TWW.

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Khao ().