by The Ran Man
Like so many others, I love The Legend of Zelda series. There’s nothing like running around in Link’s green tunic, blasting baddies with the master sword, and saving rupees for overpriced bombs from greedy Gorgons. All of this in the name of saving a beautiful pointy-eared princess from yet another situation she’s managed to put herself in. Oh, and don’t forget the challenging puzzles. I did mention the puzzles, didn’t I? No? I guess that’s because they seem to be practically non-existent these days. Over the years, Nintendo has seen fit to take away from the puzzle-adventure side of Hyrule and provide a more linear approach to its most beloved franchise. In return, we’re being left with a more traditional platform experience.
Let’s take a journey back. Back to a time when an adventure came in a golden gaming cartridge the size of your head. Plug it in, hit the reset button on your defunct NES a couple dozen times, and you were off on the quest of your dreams. The only problem was that once you started you had no idea what the hell to do. You get a sword from a random old man whose only clue to your quest is “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.” Thanks a lot Pops, that’s encouraging. From then on out you’re on your own. No clues, no hints, just wandering aimlessly and monster slaying until you finally found the next dungeon to pursue a piece of the tri-force. When you finally got into the dungeon, you were faced with more bad guys that would undoubtedly slay your beloved green sprite a few times as you tried to navigate your way. You had to find maps, keys, solve puzzles, and finally defeat a rather troublesome boss all without any help or guides. It was all pure intuition and, if you didn’t have it, you were screwed until you went to school and asked your friends for help. That or you were like me and stole guides from Nintendo Power magazine.
Now let’s fast-forward a few years to the glorious days of the SNES. A Link to the Past brought better graphics, more tools at your disposal, but still not a whole lot of guidance. This new, updated adventure involved more action with your hookshot, boomerang, character involvement, as well as badgering chickens until they swarmed in and dealt you a feathery death. The amount of frustrating gameplay in this installment was overwhelming but left you with a gratifying result when you finally reached the end of your quest. Good times. With the release of the N64 we got two Zelda releases to waste our after-school hours upon. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were both fun releases and the franchises first steps into the world of 3D platform gaming. The story and interaction of the former seemed to be a bit more gratifying that the latter but both had their moments. In this writer’s opinion, these two installments were the last of the actual “good” Zelda games before the real decline into more traditional platform gaming came into play. The Game Cube saw an interesting release with Wind Waker, but I must admit that I couldn’t get past the awkward art style of the game and thus never made it more than about twenty minutes into the game. So…moving on.
Finally, we come to our modern-day Hylian experiences. Sad to say it’s not as sexy as it sounds. The first thing we get is our beloved Link being transformed into Jacob from Twilight. I mean, transformed into a wolf. That’s right. Get ready for the fun. Throw in Midna as your ever-helpful guide and you’re ready to roll. This all sounds fine and dandy except for a few shortcomings. First, practically all the puzzles in the game are laughably easy to begin with. You only have so many things you can do in your wolf form so you’re limited to pretty much jumping, pushing, and ramming your head into things to solve every puzzle in the game. The really great part about this is if you’re really having a hard time with it, you can just bring Midna out and ask her what you need to do. Screw Nintendo Power, I have a personal guide in-game! What one may appreciate in Nintendo having fun with the Wiimote, another will be annoyed with the lack of ingenuity involved in the puzzles. It’s sad to say that the decline continued in the latest release of Skyward Sword. Sure the use of Wii Motion Plus is kind of cool as I like to string my bow as much as anyone, but the original sense of bewilderment and adventure seems to becoming more and more lost as time goes on. I wanted to play Zelda, not an arm-flailing version of Crash Bandicoot.
All in all it seems like The Legend of Zelda has taken a route similar to the Resident Evil series. Nintendo has opted to sacrifice mental interaction that provided a challenging yet rewarding experience for something more streamlined and designed to bring in the simpler masses. I expect that such a move is good for business and the younger crowd, but what does it leave for the hardcore fans that remember the glory days? I try to keep my hopes up for a triumphant return of the original formula, but it’s up to Nintendo to deliver.