We know that a brand-new Zelda game is coming to the 3DS. I hope it is New Legend of Zelda.
Some time ago, a Swapnote message was sent to 3DS owners from Aonuma thanking them for playing Ocarina of Time. The message ended with “I hope you’re looking forward to New Legend of Zelda games!” That capital N in “New” has a hold on my brain and won’t let go. “New” Legend of Zelda? The same “New” that brought Mario back to his 2D roots? It could have been a typo, but just the mere suggestion that Nintendo is working on a Zelda game rooted in its old style 2D gameplay is enough to get me excited. Toss in the fact that Miyamoto has been toying with 2D Zelda gameplay on the 3DS, and I’m in full-on rabid fanboy mode.
The thing is, I miss the old style Zelda games. I enjoy the 3D ones well enough but I found the DS ones a bit dull. I still haven’t played a Zelda game I like more than A Link to the Past, and that was in 1992. Something’s missing from the recent games, and I had a tough time putting my finger on it until I read this article from Kotaku, which expressed exactly how I’ve been feeling about the series lately. It was comforting to read that I was not alone!
Exploration of the overworld was a much bigger part of Zelda games in the 2D era. Much of this overworld could be accessed fairly early on – if you were skilled enough. This was true mostly for the first Zelda but was a major aspect of the gameplay for some time. Some areas were impossible to access without a certain item, but others were just too difficult to get through unless you got really good at the game or found more heart pieces or items to make you more powerful. What this did was make the discovery of new gear all the more rewarding. A more powerful sword and a couple more heart containers got you motivated to go back to those difficult areas to extract some much deserved revenge on those monsters that killed you time after time before!
Most importantly however, exploration allowed the player to play the game their way. While there is wiggle room in more recent Zeldas, I find the constant guidance along a linear path from one area to the next, with an increasingly shrinking focus on the overworld, very suffocating. The commercial success of games like Skyrim suggest that players want more breathing room. They want a world to explore and New Legend of Zelda should give that to them. There is no reason why a 2D Zelda cannot offer a lush living breathing world to explore. Look at Donkey Kong Country Returns or Rayman Origins. 2D gameplay can be beautiful.
3D Zelda games have made great strides in making combat more engaging over years, and I found the combat in Skyward Sword to be fantastic. However, nothing matches the frantic fast paced action of the earlier Zelda games. Enemies were coming at you from all angles. If you stopped, you died. Getting through one area to the next wasn’t a matter of solving a puzzle or beating a boss so the next artificial barrier was lifted. It was a matter of simply surviving. I hope this element is retained in New Legend of Zelda.
A New Legend of Zelda could very well be a wise business decision. New Super Mario Bros. for the DS still sells 6 years on. New Super Mario Bros. Wii sold more than both Mario Galaxy games combined. There is no doubt an appetite out there for a return to old-school gameplay and there no reason why this can’t co-exist with the 3D epics that are also very popular. So while am sure that Nintendo will continue to develop great 3D Zelda games, I hope that they take a cue from the success of New Super Mario Bros. and bring a fresh take on an old playstyle. I hope they make New Legend of Zelda.
How do you feel? Would you like to see a New Legend of Zelda game on the 3DS or even the Wii U? What elements would you like to see incorporated into the game? Are there other cherished Nintendo franchises that you would like to see return to their roots?
(Last image courtesy of Orioto of deviantART)