Recently, I compiled a list of five things I want in future Zelda games. The wait for any kind of new Zelda information is killing me, so it’s inevitable that I’m thinking ahead to future titles. Of course, with all the positive things in Zelda, everyone has their own least favorite parts of the franchise, so I decided to make a list of things I don’t want in future Zelda titles.
I’ll be staying away from things that have never been in Zelda, such as a futuristic setting, and only addressing currently existing elements in the Zelda franchise that I think need to go. This list will also not include the much-hated character of Tingle. This, of course, is because Tingle is awesome. Be warned that this article contains some Skyward Sword spoilers. If you have not yet played Skyward Sword, have a trusted friend slap you as hard as they can, go play the game, and then read on as I count ‘em down!
Number Five: Quarter Hearts
Deciding on the difficulty and complexity of a Zelda game is like walking a tightrope for Aonuma and company. A lot of Zelda fans fell in love with the series in the 90s or even the 80s and are now adults. They want a game that’s going to challenge them. There are few things more frustrating than a game that pushes your skills to the absolute limit, and few things more thrilling than finally conquering it. There is a large faction of the Zelda fanbase that is just dying to be challenged.
Of course Nintendo can’t just keep the veteran fans in mind. Zelda also has lots of younger fans, and Nintendo is always trying to grow the fanbase even more. Ideally, the Zelda team wants to make a game that can keep us old folks interested and still be accessible for newer, younger fans. Because of this, the difficulty setting of Zelda is often lower than what some of us would like. Nintendo has made good choices in this regard lately, with Ocarina of Time’s Master Quest and Skyward Sword’s Hero Mode offering a more challenging Zelda experience.
There’s another much more basic change I’d like to see in Zelda: Get rid of quarter hearts. Many complained about Skyward Sword starting Link off with six hearts instead of the traditional three, but I saw it as a chance for the game to offer more of a challenge early on. To some extent it did, but the combination of six hearts and the existence of the quarter heart means that some enemies would actually have to hit you eighteen times to kill you at the start of the game. I don’t care how inexperienced you are. If you need eighteen hits against basic enemies, you probably aren’t going to be competent enough to want to play Zelda anyway. There is simply no need for quarter hearts. Ever.
Number Four: Bosses That You Shoot In The Eye
The concept of a giant bulging eye as an obvious weak spot for bosses has existed since the very first Zelda game and the very first incarnation of Gohma. Even in Skyward Sword, where every enemy is supposed to be a puzzle, several of the bosses were pretty damn easy to figure out. I don’t think anyone was “puzzled” when they saw Tentalus, who might as well have had a sign above his eye that said “arrow goes here.”
It’s not just eyes that need to go. It’s time for the various kings of evil to stop creating monsters with obvious defects. I’m not saying boss weak points should be entirely eliminated, as that would effectively turn most bosses into nothing but slash fests, but the discolored/disproportionate body segments have to go. I should not be able to look at a boss and instantly know that the recommended, and often times required, way to hurt him is to hit him with a specific item in a specific spot. Utilizing items in boss fights should expand gameplay opportunities, not limit them.
Number Three: Ganon Hijacking The Plot
A Link to the Past has long been a trend-setting game in Zelda, with many of its elements being borrowed and repackaged in future Zelda titles. One of the more prominent examples of this is Ganon hijacking the plot. Throughout the whole game, Link is battling against the evil of the sorcerer Agahnim. However, at game’s end, Ganon is Link’s final obstacle. This wasn’t a problem, as we were told right from the start that Agahnim’s ambitions were related to Ganon, and in fact, Agahnim actually ended up being an extension of Ganon.
Since then we’ve seen this element brought back in a less fitting way time and time again. They’ve abused the “Surprise! Ganon’s behind this” plot twist to the point where we just expect it now. Veran and Onox gave way to Ganon in the Oracles, Vaati in Four Swords Adventures, and Zant in Twilight Princess. Even when Ganon doesn’t hijack the plot, he still does. Spirit Tracks featured Cole resurrecting the ancient Demon King (a title previously only given to Ganon) Malladus. In the final battle, in an undeniably un-coincidental way, Malladus took a form strikingly similar to Ganon. Fast forward to Skyward Sword, and Ghirahim also revives an ancient Demon King. The connections between Demise and Ganon are implied even more than physically, as Demise promises an incarnation of his hate will return. While in the case of Demise it actually came off as good fan service to me, Malladus left a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m not one of those people who thinks that Ganon has to be removed from the series to make it fresh. I’m also not one of those people who thinks a Zelda game just isn’t right without Ganon. I believe Ganon can still be done, and done right, and I think a new villain can be just as interesting as the Gerudo thief once was. I just don’t think those things can happen in the same game. If Nintendo makes a new villain, he and only he, should be the one pulling the strings in that game. If Ganon is present, it can’t be hiding in the shadows behind a puppet villain. He needs to be calling the shots in a fresh new way, and it needs to re-captivate the fans. No more of these “surprises” and pseduo-Ganons.
Number Two: Overbearing “Help”
There are two words that, more than any other phrase in the English language, have the power to make a Zelda fan cringe: Hey! Listen! Although the problem extends much further than just Link’s first partner, Navi has become the personification of every Zelda fans hatred of unnecessary help. This is a problem that simply has not gone away. Although some sidekicks, like Tatl in Majora’s Mask, are quite enjoyable, the vast majority of Link’s helpers just annoy the hell out of us, with some claiming Skyward Sword’s Fi as the worst one yet.
I don’t think Zelda should do away with Link’s travelling mates. I just think they need to speak when spoken to. Fi had a system by which you could ask her about a lot of different things at any given time, aiding you if you got lost. This was a great idea on its own. So in Din’s name did she still feel the need to pop up roughly every five minutes and tell us things we didn’t care to know?
Sidekicks aren’t the only example of Zelda games holding our hand too much. Just as glaring of an issue is long drawn-out tutorials and introductions. To me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one here, it felt like I had to run around Skyloft learning how to do stuff that I mostly already know how to do, for far too long before I got into the met of the game. These kinds of “show me how” elements should always exist, and they should always be optional. It’s another example of catering to both the veteran and inexperienced audiences at the same time. Provide the player with more information and training than they could ever need, but don’t force them to go through it if they don’t need to.
Number One: Forced And Repetitive Quests
There are very, very few things I hate more in all the world than the Lanayru Tears of Light quest in Twilight Princess. Standing as the epitome of the forced, repetitive quest in Zelda, it’s the kind of thing that just makes me want to put down my controller and stop playing. This is a problem that has plagued Zelda a lot in recent years. Phantom Hourglass required you to repeatedly beat the same floors of the Temple of the Ocean King over and over again. Twilight Princess forced you into wolf form to hunt down bugs over and over again. Even though I enjoyed the Silent Realm of Skyward Sword, even that began to drag on by the fourthtime we entered it.
When it comes to a main, required part of a Zelda quest, the player should never feel like it’s a chore. Frustrating? Sure. Challenging? Please. Boring? Never. Obviously everyone has different tastes, and no game is going to please everyone to the fullest extent, but when it’s generally agreed by thousands upon thousands of fans that part of a game just made them want to jump of a cliff…well something’s wrong. This aspect, more than any of the other nitpicky things we Zelda fans complain about, is what I believe Zelda needs to shed the most.
As a final thing that didn’t quite make the list, Zelda could afford to shake loose from the formula a little bit. I’m not saying we need to ditch dungeons and swords and all that, but specifically the formula that was established in A Link to the Past: Beat three dungeons, acquire a new sword, find out a new plot twist, play the second half of the game with your new, full understanding of what’s really going on. Truth be told, there’s a reason Zelda keeps using this formula. It’s a really good formula. But it’s still the same formula that we’ve been using since 1991, and it doesn’t excite us like it once did. We’ve just come to expect that after roughly three dungeons, some big plot twist is going to happen. Just as with Ganon hijacking the plot, a surprise only works if it’s actually surprising.
I don’t expect Nintendo to ever fully ditch this tried and true method of structuring Zelda, and I don’t think they really need to. They just need to make enough changes that we, as fans, are actually caught off guard in a good way again. Zelda doesn’t need to throw the old formula out, but they do need to infuse it with new elements, especially in terms of story structure, to keep it interesting.
So what elements of Zelda are you unhappy with? Do you agree with this list, or did I just ask Miyamoto to throw out one of your favorite things? Let me know what parts of Zelda, if any, that you think need to the ax.