A reader who was there from the beginning celebrates 35 years of Zelda and reveals how he and his friend pre-empted Breath Of The Wild 2.
I consider myself lucky to have been able to experience pretty much the entire Legend Of Zelda series from the beginning. Whilst I wasn’t able to buy a SNES, and my own copy of A Link To The Past, until the mid 90s, in the 80s I was fortunate enough to live next door to someone with not only an NES but also parents willing and able to spring for the £50, gold cartridge versions of the first two titles. He was also lucky enough to own the Zelda Game & Watch too! Many of the happiest childhood memories I have are of the times spent with my then best friend, trying to crack the intricacies of Hyrule and its many fiendish dungeons in those early titles.
Oh, how I felt like a god-level genius when I worked out how to upgrade the Tempered Master Sword to the Gold Master Sword in A Link To The Past…
Sure, there were other games and other systems we’d play (I had a 48k ZX Spectrum and he owned a C64), but something about Nintendo and Zelda kept us both enchanted above all others. So much so that, in the aftermath of us finishing the SNES game, we even set about attempting to design our own direct sequel, drawing maps, dreaming up new enemies, weapons and items. He was particularly artistic, and even went so far as to start designing some of the sprites on graph paper to give them a pixel-perfect look.
Strangely enough, part of the concept was that the game would tell an immediate aftermath story and retain and expand upon elements of the Link To The Past game world, including (I wish I could lay claim that it was my idea, but it was all his) that at a certain point in the story, Hyrule Castle would rise up out of the ground, borne aloft by a sinister, dark mountain of evil power, which would erupt out of the ground and become the game’s final dungeon location.
Fast forward nearly 30 years to the Breath Of The Wild direct sequel trailer and if I’m not very much mistaken, isn’t that Hyrule Castle looking suspiciously like it’s about to rise up out of the ground in some seismic, landscape-changing event? Once that game is out, I’m definitely going to be checking to see if I see his name pops up in the post-game credits somewhere…
So, anyway, it’s fair to say that I’ve loved the Zelda franchise, in some way, shape or form since the start. Sure, I’ve not played every last one of them, most notably some of the latter-day handheld entries, due to financial and time constraints meaning I never owned a DS or a 3DS. However, I’ve owned and completed all of the mainline, home console versions except Majora’s Mask, which I just couldn’t get on with (much to my regret), as well as Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy Color.
Some of them I rate more highly than others, but I can only think of two that I found outright disappointing. Sure, it’s a cliché to hate on The Adventure Of Link for being an odd one out, but whilst it wasn’t what I wanted at the time, I can at least appreciate that they were trying to do something different with it. I actually think it works quite well, as it’s own thing. It’s just not very Zelda-ery.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for Skyward Sword.
Although it was also trying to do something different, I’m not at all keen on the direction that particular entry took. Other than the concepts of it being a (sort of) origin story for both Ganondorf and the Master Sword, and that Ghirahim and Fi are the dueling spirits of their respective sides manifested as weapons, there’s almost nothing I can recall that I liked about it.
This could be due to the fact that I’ve only played it through once, but I can vividly remember quite a few things about it I didn’t like, including the art style, the cramped, dull, repetitive environments and the dowsing mechanic – without question my most hated Zelda gameplay feature ever.
I don’t even remember rating any of the much-feted dungeons, and one YouTube boss rush video was all it took to remind me that I thought they were almost all stinkers too.
However, I get that every other mainline game has had the remaster/re-release treatment, so Skyward Sword is probably due it’s time again. I also understand that a lot of people did actually love it, so putting it on Switch is a no-brainer/relatively easy cash grab for Nintendo. Unless it’s been overhauled and reworked beyond all recognition there’s zero chance I’ll be shelling out for it again though. Especially since I still have it for the Wii and could replay it with my gold, Zelda-themed Wiimote Plus any time I wanted.
Thankfully, just like The Adventure Of Link, Skyward Sword got a follow up that redefined awesome to me.
It’s no secret I love Breath Of The Wild. I know it’s got flaws, but taken as a whole, it’s by far and away my favourite 3D Zelda. If Eiji Aonuma’s name wasn’t on the credits for both, there’s no way I’d believe it was the brainchild of the same guy behind the swansong Wii entry. Yet as good as Breath Of The Wild is, to this day, I still hold A Link To The Past about as highly as any game I can think of.
Everything, from the time in my life when I first experienced it to the quantum step up in graphics, gameplay and level design it represented over those early 8-bit games combined to make it something truly special for me. As I see it, until Breath Of The Wild came along, it was the perfect mould into which the hearts of almost all other subsequent entries, be they 2D or 3D, have been poured. A while back there were rumours that Nintendo were thinking of giving it a big budget, 3D remake. I almost don’t want them to, partly because I think it would be too similar to its N64 successor…
I realize my opinion on this makes me a heretic, but even though I can appreciate its historical legacy, I’ve never felt the same love and attachment to Ocarina Of Time as many fellow franchise devotees seem to hold. I’m not saying it’s bad. Far from it. But as I’ve said here before, I’ve always found it to be a game hampered by the technology that hosted it. Almost as if their own hardware couldn’t rise to the challenge of Nintendo’s ambition.
Though Ocarina was undoubtedly visually revolutionary and groundbreaking for it’s time, I’ve always had something of a mental block on almost all games from the first 3D generation of consoles. Even in the late 90s I thought they looked ugly. I also didn’t much like the way they felt to play, either. Of all the bygone generations now enshrined as retro, I feel it’s the N64/PS1 era which has aged the worst. I also find the fact that much of that game’s structure and underlying gameplay ideas were first established in A Link To The Past robs it of some of the sense of originality and scale others see in it.
I know both Ocarina Of Time and Majora’s Mask have already had shiny remasters on the 3DS, but inspired by the glorious job Capcom did with the Resident Evil 2 remake (another classic from the same era) what I’d prefer over another trip to Skyloft, is for Nintendo to produce an all singing, all dancing, from the ground up remake of Ocarina for Switch.
Amongst other things, I’d like to see a free roaming, fully controllable camera, a mute button for Navi [you monster – GC], totally reworked character models (those fairies were abominations for starters), and ideally some beefed-up/redone boss encounters. For instance, the water blob/amoeba fight from the Water Temple was so… limp. Just imagine a battle against some kind of fearsome water dragon on the scale of the mid-game Nemesis fights from the Resident Evil 3 remake or something instead.
But whilst remasters and remakes are all very well and good for padding out release schedules or celebrating ‘milestone’ anniversaries, what I really want is the Breath Of The Wild sequel. I’d be as happy as anyone to see it released this year, but however long it takes, I’m ready.
As for what I’d like to see in it, other than a return of Midna somehow, I’d probably just enjoy seeing the story links to previous Zelda game lore strengthened.
One of my favourite aspects of Breath Of The Wild was all the geographical locations which made reference to previous entries. Eventide Island is clearly Koholint. The Leviathan bone finding sub quest is a screaming hint to this game world once having been submerged beneath a great ocean, just as it would have been in the time of The Wind Waker.
The great stone statue ring in the desert bears an uncanny similarity to the mirror portal shrine where Ganondorf was ultimately banished by the sages in Twilight Princess. There’s the great ruins of the Temple Of Time. The Valley Of The Imprisoned, with the rock formations like the beast’s bulbous toes. Not to mention perpetual old favourites like Death Mountain and Spectacle Rock. The list goes on.
It would be fantastic if Zelda and Link’s subterranean escapade in the trailer saw them uncover further evidence of the cyclical nature of Ganon’s power and their eternal roles in his downfall. I just hope that whatever direction they decide to take it in, they aren’t inspired by any of the gameplay or level design elements from Skyward Sword. Even if the reanimating, evil corpse in the trailer turns out to be Demise or something, that’s fine, just please Nintendo, no more dowsing. Not now. Not ever. Just no.
Anyways, just before I go, I have one more fond Zelda memory… A few years ago, for various reasons, I took a brief holiday in the south-eastern coastal town of Rye. It’s a quaint little place, and I’ve been again since as I found it so relaxing, but one of my most heart-warming moments there was when I was just out and about, walking around the town, and I spied a pair of 16-bit era Link and Zelda stickers in the window of one of the houses.
I’ve no idea where they came from, or if perhaps they were home-made, but seeing those Link To The Past characters so proudly displayed out in the wild gave me such a happy nostalgia rush. I can’t think of any other game franchises that would be able to achieve that just from the sight of a couple of sprites.
By reader yourhomeisatrisk
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