It would be an enormous understatement to say that Nintendo depends on Zelda U.
This is going to be the biggest project the company’s ever made. This game is one of the only chances the Wii U has left of ever recovering. This is the kind of game that could literally make or break a whole generation, a game that could spell the life or death of Nintendo’s reputation.
And, obviously, we all want it to be amazing; when don’t we? For a game this huge, a game this important, we all want it to be the greatest we’ve ever played. It’s hard to put into words how excited we all are for Zelda U, how much of a role it plays in our lives months, maybe even years before it’s even released. My friends make fun of me all the time for loving and discussing a game whose name I don’t even know, but to tell the truth of it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After being in love with a series for as long as we’ve loved Zelda, after crying along with its tragedies and celebrating its victories (and there have been many), it’s hard not to desire Zelda U. It’s nearly impossible for us not to love it already, hanging on to every little leaked detail and each and every tiny statement from Aonuma.
After all of that, it just leaves me mortified. Mortified, because I’ve been on this train before, and I know it could end poorly. I know that Nintendo needs this game to sell, more than they’ve ever needed anything, and that they might just go ahead and make it the most generic and heartless game we’ve seen. Another Ocarina of Time clone would garner millions of sales, precious numbers we’ve been anxious to see. After all, didn’t Twilight Princess sell the most out of any Zelda game to date?
While I do love Twilight Princess , it’s hard not to admit that it disappointed me. That I wanted something new and unique, another Majora or Wind Waker, a story that made me laugh and cry, and I got a product that failed to deliver. And should Zelda U take this path as well?
I could just sputter some more fanboy bullshit towards this, about how Nintendo needs the quality title, how the fans want it more than anything, how the best game always wins in the end, but I won’t. This is an issue to which I honestly don’t know the answer. Does Nintendo need this? Do I have to choose the virtuous path, and accept what will benefit Nintendo in the end, what could possibly carve the path for more Zelda games like the ones I love? Or should I fight for the quality title, the one we all want, the one that’ll be special and unique, the one game that’s be unlike anything any of us have ever seen?
None of this is meant to discredit the value of a game like Twilight Princess. As I’ve mentioned, I love this game to death. Some games don’t have to be innovative or different simply for the sake of it, as with countless things I’ve seen in my life that have done so unsuccessfully. Majora’s Mask doesn’t hold a place in my heart just because it takes place in Termina, just because it’s weird and creepy and sad. It’s special to me because its characters are moving, its stories unique and heartwarming, and its world wonderful in a way nobody can ever truly describe. At the end of the day, I don’t really care if a game has Ganondorf and Hyrule, the Triforce and the Goddesses, as long as it manages to move me and make me think, hanging on to every word as if from holy script.
It’s just that games constructed that way sell much worse, for reasons I’ll never fully understand. Games that take on a revolutionary art style, simply because it better fit the philosophy and feel of what the experience was attempting to achieve, are seen as “childish,” “stupid,” and “weird.” Games that promise broader questions and more unique stories are thought to be boring and annoying by the general public, as not everybody can understand them and be entranced by them. A more mainstream Zelda game is just easier to market, easier to sell, and easier to make.
But would a more artful and beautiful Zelda really sell that badly in comparison? Obviously, it’s important to have a large install base for any console if you’re planning on selling a game, but looking at it from a more streamlined perspective, it makes a lot of sense to have a title that appeals more to the “hardcore” fans of the series. Honestly speaking, anybody who owns a Wii U right now is probably a huge Nintendo fanatic; hell, there are roughly 5.68 million Wii U units right now, and Wind Waker HD, a remake of a decade-old GameCube game, has sold over a million copies. That may seem a tad bit small, but to think that a quick HD remake of an old title has an attach rate of over 20% is absolutely amazing. The Wii U fans are so passionate that their buys are practically ensured for Zelda U , especially if it was the unique cult classic we hope for it to be.
It’s not like it’ll remain that way forever; the release of Smash 4 and Mario Kart 8, the biggest titles the Wii U is likely to obtain for quite some time, will probably sell a few million more Wii U consoles with their release. With millions and millions of new buys, it only makes financial sense to construct a product that everybody can play and everybody can be satisfied with. If marketed the way Twilight Princess was, if built to be Ocarina of Time 3.0 , this game could easily become one of the most highly anticipated video games of all time. With a kickass E3 trailer (benefiting even more than that of Twilight Princess, as Zelda U is likely much farther in development at this point), maybe showcased right after the announcement of Majora’s Mask 3D, this could be the year of Zelda.
But we fans don’t want Nintendo to make financial sense. I’ve made this case before, but never has it been more important than now. A masterpiece remains a masterpiece forever, but a passing fad slowly fades away from memory. If Zelda U made today’s kids feel what we did years ago, playing through Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker and Ocarina, the fan base would grow, more than it ever has before. This game could become the stuff of legend, the Ocarina of our time (see what I did there?), the one thing that manages to save the Wii U, after thousands and thousands play it, and fall in love with every moment in a way they never had before.
And even despite that, I feel like it’s gotten to the point that making generic Ocarina clones would just be counter-productive. Selling millions and millions of copies, more than any other Zelda game ever had, and getting Wii Us out the door for the first time; all that would be wonderful, yes. But if those sales, ultimately, spell the name for an even worse reputation for the series, if our beloved Zelda is seen as repetitive and dull, it may, in the end, just ruin everything our love had going for it. Faithful fans would disappear; the public image of some aspects of the series would go down even further, and the greatness of the franchise will be rained upon by a game that was meant to save it.
Worse than this, even, is a fear I've had with me ever since I played Twilight Princess for the first time; with that game receiving such amazingly high sales numbers, what’s to stop Nintendo from doing it all again? They need the money, after all, and making a unique and enormous game is about a million times harder than copying a set formula. If Zelda became a strict progression of the same elements, if it lost all of its originality and charm, the meaning this franchise holds in my heart would disappear.
And this is in the perfect scenario, where Zelda U is a great game, but a carbon copy of Ocarina. What if it’s terrible? What if Nintendo fails to deliver and we’re left with a bland, repetitive, and dull experience that not even the most avid fanatic will recognize as his favorite? That would be tragic, yes, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. With so many resources, so many people, men like Aonuma and Miyamoto, it’s hard to believe there’s even a slight chance of this being a train wreck.
And the game could spell the complete opposite reaction than the one I just described. In the end, if this game makes the top of the charts, outsells Call of Duty and all that nonsense, it could just make the way for more. Not more crass-consumerism or cheap remakes, not more unoriginality, but more Zelda. More of what we love. If Nintendo’s longest and most invested project in history is a successful one, as we all hope it might be, it could just mean more money to the company, more resources on the next game, more Wii Us being bought each day, and a complete rebirth of the series we’ve loved for so long. In the grand scheme of things, how big of a price is one slightly irksome game, if it spells a new age of prosperity?
But in the end, I’m going to have to vote for the non-traditional route.
Why? Because, sometimes, I’m entitled to want nothing more than a perfect game. We fans can wish for what we want, regardless of whether it’ll come to fruition. I’d love nothing more than a Zelda U I can look at proudly, reminding myself why it is I write for Zelda Informer, and why I’ve been fascinated with this franchise since I was a toddler. Will it mean the death of Nintendo? I doubt it. Hell, it could even end up selling better for it.
Sure, I’ll try not to be as pissed off as I normally would be if the game ends up as I most fear it will, because it might have been the right choice from Nintendo. I’m not one to tell; nobody is, really. Ultimately, more than a single exceptional game, I want the survival of my franchise. I don’t know what that entails. Hopefully, it means something good.
There’s only one real question to ask of you commenters at this point; what exactly do you want from Zelda U ?