Shigeru Miyamoto is talking, again, and today the topic of conversation is Zelda. Specifically, the next Zelda title and its difficulty. You see, there exists in Nintendo a worry right now. A worry that the Zelda series has become too difficult (and too repetitive) for most people to play and enjoy. There are no longer any “surprises” for gamers when they pick up a Zelda title.
So, Miyamoto and producer Eiji Aonuma scrapped the traditional Nintendo system for developing a new game and went back to the drawing board. Gone is the demo movie that traditionally kick started game development, and in its place was a built-from-the-ground-up approach that saw developers attacking game mechanics first, and building the game around that.
The past few Zelda games, on both home consoles and handhelds, have stuck to a fairly recognizable pattern that Miyamoto claims is complicated. Nintendo is “creating a new way to play the game,” said the developer. “We are trying to make Zelda, which has become very complicated, easier to play,” he continued.
I’m all for completely new and improved, and I’m glad Nintendo is apparently taking things so seriously with the next Zelda title. However, here’s what I hope “easier” does not mean:
1. Tutorials: They suck. Get rid of them. The original Zelda required no tutorial or hand-holding of any kind, and it still arguably one of the greatest video games ever created by man or woman. If I cannot pick up Zelda later this year, put the disc into the Wii, and immediately start getting into puzzle solving and exploring, the game is a failure. Tutorials are a dead giveaway that the developer is lazy or has created a bloated, convoluted game. They also waste my time. Everyone remembers how long it took to “get into” Twilight Princess, yes?
2. Treating gamers like babies: This is somewhat related to tutorials, but I’ll expand on it more here anyway. Basically, I do not think the hand-hlding feature found in Super Mario Bros. Wii should be included in Zelda. In fact, hand-holding of any kind should not be included in this title. The fun of Zelda is exploration, adventure and problem-solving. The entire crux of the game is a player’s sense of self-worth and accomplishment when they figure out some maddening puzzle or test or boss battle
Ironically, if Nintendo does include some kind of tutorial or cheat mode like NSMBW, it will hypocritically go against the very strategy they’ve been carefully cultivating for the past five years with the Wii and DS. That being: Casual gamers do not exist—gamers exist, and they come in all shapes, forms and tastes. “Casual gamers” is what competitors and marketers use to try and demean Nintendo and the expanding class of gamers their systems have created. “Casual” to these individuals also translates into “stupid” or “lesser” and hand-holding or tutorials or any kind of dumbed-down gameplay would be an acknowledgement by Nintendo that they somehow agree with the spin.
Note: Yes, I know we’ve already seen this troubling trend with Wii Sports Resort’s forced video tutorial and in NSMBW. I’m really hoping it is quashed with Zelda and Metroid Other M.
3. Trains: If new “mechanics” means some stupid, gimmicky mode of transportation, I will literally throw the disc out of my 3rd floor apartment window. I don’t care if Zelda is cel-shaded or not—just keep those stupid, pointless trains and boats away from me. Trains are not equal to innovation or “new game mechanics.”
4. Simplicity: This is actually a positive point. I wouldn’t mind at all if “easier” meant the controls were simplified to the point where it was movement and A and B. There’s something to be said of restricting a developer and forcing them to use simplified tools so that they can really focus on the user experience and not some convoluted control scheme, and if this is what Nintendo has in mind when they say easier and new mechanics, I’m all for it. Note that just having an A+B control scheme is not “dumbing down” Zelda at all, but it is making it “easier” to play, get into, and get exploring. Both player and developer would benefit from this simplicity, and, if done right, there’d be no sacrifice to game play or enjoyment or even challenge.
Besides, I think the simplified controls would behoove a series whose protagonist doesn’t talk, don’t you?
Update: A MASTER QUEST. Thanks to those of you in the comments who suggested this idea. I completely forgot about it. I’m all for it.