The Achievements of Cross-connectivity
Connectivity between devices is pretty common these days, and there’s even some desire within Nintendo involve separate games connecting between each other - especially regarding the still unnamed Smash Bros. for the 3DS and WiiU, which have been stated by both Iwata and Sakurai as planned to have connectivity between both games albeit to what degree is unknown. There was light connectivity between the ‘opposite’ Mega Man Battle Network games(as most ‘pair’ games tend to have) as well, although I do find myself a little sad this isn’t just a little more prevalent. Cross-connectivity can give one the urge to seek out another, although this is much less prevalent in later teens and adults and far more common in kids, and it can open up new paths in terms of the game world itself although it can equally seem like it’s just sort of ‘locking’ content away from those who don’t have access to the other version.
See, that’s what made Oracle of Seasons and Ages so special. It wasn’t just like Pokemon Red and Blue, which had different Pokemon. Each game was perfectly standalone, with different settings, different characters, different dungeons, items, and an emphasis on action and puzzles respectively. You could play through one and be perfectly satiated, and then pick up the other game and lose yourself entirely in a brand new world, be it traveling through the waves of time with the Harp of Ages or controlling the power of Spring through Winter with the Rod of Seasons. That wasn’t quite the end - as I mentioned at the start of the article, you could actually link the games via password or link cable, and this would carry over particular points of progress, like Pipin and Blossom’s kid and how you treated them during the earliest years of their child’s life, influencing the kind of man he’ll be growing into, or understanding the true presence of the skeleton crew in Subrosia and perhaps a long-fated reunion of two long lost souls.
A lot of kids didn’t quite get to experience such things - some had to buy their own games at the time and simply couldn’t afford both at once, or some lived in poorer families and could only get one, with none of their friends or family having gotten it. And this brings us to…
The Downsides of Cross-connectivity
The absolute single worst quality of cross-connectivity or linking is the above mention of the content being split between both games. In regards to the Oracles games, it wasn’t just a simple little content split with a few tiny things here and there, both were their own games and both had swaths of stuff that the other didn’t. While the experience of actually linking is great, and getting to play the other game carrying over that data is enjoyable, if you never actually get the chance to until some 10 years later or something, that’s generally a very poor choice in design. This certainly happened with a couple online friends of mine, who were only able to get one of the games when they came out a long time ago and ended up never linking them until the advent of emulators to do so.
And for single kids who might not have many friends, or friends not into video games, this is also a problem. Given the method of linking, it actually feels… kinda lonely just to link up or password over alone. It just sort of felt like it was the sort of thing best experienced between two people, playing through the games and then swapping carts and passwords to continue your file onwards. I can certainly understand why that might not exactly be the case, but it’s certainly something that I can believe might have been a light issue with some kids at the time. I had my cousin, who owned Seasons while I had Ages, so it worked out -and- we had fun sharing stories about the adventures we’d had, like him finding the Magnetic Gloves or me exploring the past and present versions of the Mermaid Cave.
Should Nintendo try to make something like the Oracles games in the future?
Right out of the box, I’m gonna say that I’d love it. I’d buy both and play them until my arms fell off like that old milk advert with the old guy and his wheelbarrow. Then again and again and again, because I can only see this idea producing absolutely glorious things, due to the enhanced power of the 3DS. This could be something like DSi Ware, allowing for a simple retro feel in the vein of the old Oracle games, or they could make them outright 3DS carts with brand spanking new graphics(keeping the retro feel, ala Minish Cap) but allowing for so much more than we already have. Better items, more unique item uses, a broad world with good sidequests that aren’t as irritating as matching Kinstones, because as cute as the Minish are, combing grass for 10 minutes just to find a kinstone piece and then have it not match was AWFUL. Add this together with the ‘dual’ world mechanic that the Oracles games had(Subrosia and the Past), and you’d have a keeper.
What makes this a bad idea is that it’s hard to expand on that idea without just outright remaking the games, but that ends up not giving us -much- in the way of new content. Sure, there’ll definitely be some, but at the end of the day, you’re still going to all the same dungeons you did before, and aside from some new secrets and maybe an extra dungeon, it won’t feel like a fresh, new experience. However, that brings to mind the fact that this will involve a great amount of effort - it’s essentially developing two brand new games, figuring out every aspect of connectivity you want between the two of them as well as how you’re going to pass the data on. Then if you go with the split world mechanic, you’re dealing with essentially four maps’ worth of content, as well as the various effects one has upon the other and how it carries over into the next game.
Then there’s the story aspect, as it’ll require a brand new story that also somehow fits in with the rather jagged official mythos we’ve been given so far, possibly resulting in some awkward placement or necessitating a spot at a point in time that might not exactly fit with the ideas created by the team. The games before and the games after have to be brought into consideration, and despite what a lot of people think when they’re typing comments on message boards or the like, a lot more goes into it than just rambling off a few paragraphs worth of story. It’s a team effort, checked and rechecked, ran past the people at Nintendo who MAKE the story more or less, and things can get tangled up pretty quickly(not to say that the timeline doesn’t feel like it isn’t already).
I loved the Oracles games a lot. They have a much higher nostalgic value than Link’s Awakening to me(uh oh), all because of that link function that I shared together with my favorite cousin - I actually played through both games multiple times over because I was so, so fond of them. Sometimes, memories are just that - memories that deserve to rest all warm and fuzzy-like in the center of your heart, but likewise it’d be just as exciting to have said memories suddenly rushing forth in a well-placed, wonderful nostalgia rush that makes you genuinely excited to pick up the game and play. Will Nintendo ever actually do something like that with a Zelda game again? Well… if I really gave my honest opinion, it’s particularly unlikely, but hey - a little hope and dreams never hurt anybody.