The Drawing Board: The Legend of Zelda
Oh boy. I'm treading dangerous waters here.
The Legend Of Zelda is one of the most beloved franchises in the history of video games. No one can refute how important this video game series is to the development of almost every action-adventure game to date. Its colossal. Game-play is solid, the world is lush and beautiful, and there's a lot of secrets to discover.
If you haven't picked up a Zelda game before (Fat chance considering this is a video-game community site) I'll sum the franchise up. In each game, you play as Link, the Hero of Time, who dons his green tunic and hood in a quest to save Princess Zelda from the clutches of Ganondorf, a foreign warlord/ancient demon/keeper of the tri-force of power who's ambitions include enslaving the land of Hyrule and eventually the entire world. You'll go to a few dungeons, maybe cut up some monsters with the Master Sword, and defeat Ganondorf with the many items and upgrades you've accumulated along the way. The conflict is pretty much identical in every game, taking place across different generations and even parallel timelines.
I've loved every single Zelda game I've picked up, but my favorite by far has to be Majora's Mask. Most people go ape-shit over Ocarina of Time, I loved that one almost as much, but there's something gritty and dark about Majora's Mask that pulled me into it's story. And it wasn't just the story that I loved, I'd argue that it has the best combat too. But the number one reason I found Majora's Mask compelling because its one of very few in it's series that does the unexpected. Something that I think should be implemented far more often than it ever does.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has absolutely nothing to do with Princess Zelda, Ganondorf, or even the land of Hyrule.
It seems like the natural evolution of Link's story. Ocarina of Time ends with Zelda saved, Hyrule is at peace, and Ganondorf was slain. Everything Link could have aspired to fix has been fixed, so its time to move on to Termina, where the moon is falling and there's a mad-man ruining the balance of power. There is an emphasis on the masks of power, and this is where I feel other zelda games lack material.
There are three masks in this game that completely overhaul combat, and after acquiring them it gives you a lot of variance in the way you can approach a fight. Link's normal form was still badass, but now I could play as a Zora, or bash people's heads in as a Goron. Majora's Mask did more than just add equipment to the game, it gave the player real options that let them decide which form suited their style the best. I preferred to play as the goron more often than the regular form, I preferred using the boomerang fins on the zora more often than Link's bow. The Legend of Zelda has a solid blueprint for a game, no one can deny that, but theres something disheartening about the fact that most players get the exact same experience out of such a great concept.
As long as I get the equipment necessary for puzzles and platforming and such, why not give me the choice to change core combat? Link has used such a wide variety of weapons that it would be silly to propose that he's only proficient at using a long-sword and shield, And while the Master Sword is an integral part of most Zelda games, it doesnt always make an appearance. Majora's mask had three different swords that Link could use, and none of them were the Master Sword. The Giant's Knife and many other weapons are evidence that he has used different fighting styles in the past.
I propose that Zelda look at modern dungeon crawlers for a little inspiration. I would love to see a modern, console based Zelda game where there is more variance in main equipment. That is literally all I would ask for. The world is huge, there are enemies galore, and there are dozens of dungeons to explore. So why not take that next step and win over the hardcore gamers? Random drops and skill tree's based on fighting styles could be a huge game changer. I want to have the option to drop my shield and pick up another sword, or grab two daggers, or just sweep enemies off of their feet with a Bo staff. Well known weapons like the Megaton Hammer, or the Great Fairy's sword could become rare drops with special buffs and stats. Different armor pieces could be adapted for the green tunic, much the way Ezio from Assassin's Creed could use better forms of armor, but with the same silhouette he's known for. It would be amazing to start out with the green tunic and add progressively more bad-ass armor configurations.
A lot of the controversy over making such a drastic change to the Zelda series comes from nostalgia. People love Zelda just the way it is. This is the same argument people make for other major game series though, and I'm of the firm belief that change is a good thing. When a franchise exists for this long, older gamers who are used to more complicated systems like those in Skyrim or Dark Souls would love to see these same elements in a classic franchise so that we fulfill a nostalgic need and still get that hardcore RPG need. I completely understand that Ocarina of Time is a classic, not to be modified or "improved" but that's not something I disagree with at all. I'm talking about what I'd like to see in future iterations that would require the fine tuning of a hundred different gameplay elements to get it just perfect, but hey, Nintendo has the money to do it, and it could draw a lot of hardcore gamers to the Wii U.
What fighting styles or loot system would you like to see in a future Zelda game? What game series should I talk about next week? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.