Skyward Sword Needs To Be Greatest Zelda Ever

This year represents an important point in Zelda’s career. It marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most well loved franchises in Nintendo’s history. With the recent release of Ocarina of Time 3D, the re-release of Links Awakening, Four Swords, the Concerts and whatever else is yet to be announced, it’s guaranteed to be an exciting year for anyone who’s a fan of the series. With the upcoming flagship title Skyward Sword drawing ever closer, it’s got me thinking about how one of the greatest franchises in gaming history is bearing up in the modern gaming era and what its future may hold.

This article looks at the last few titles leading up to Skyward Sword, and how its set to become one of the most important games in the franchises history. Important in what way? – In the way that it needs to be the greatest Zelda ever.

Pure Magic

Like many of you I have been a fan of the series from the early days. To me there simply isn’t a better gaming series out there. Sure, some games in the series have been better than others but overall they remain a shining example of how no one does it quite like Nintendo.

Twilight Princess

However, I feel there is a slight dark cloud that has been looming overhead for some time, although many would not like to admit it. Any new Zelda game is a treat. They have set standards other developers can only dream of, and with each game has come a new level of expectation. In some respects, it’s due to this high expectation that the franchise has become a victim of it’s own success.  We all remember the mighty Ocarina of Time blowing us all away back on the N64, but has any Zelda since managed to capture that same magic? While the likes of WindWaker and Twilight Princess are arguably ‘better’ games, it’s Ocarina of Time that has remained the shining jewel in the franchise crown. Even series producer Eiji Aonuma has himself said how he won’t give up until he betters it.

So why, despite many being technically superior games, have all the games that have followed failed to knock it off the top spot? And can it ever be done? Well to me, it may well be an impossible task. Ocarina of Time came along when 3D gaming was a relatively new and exciting thing, and along with Mario64, was certainly one of the first games to really nail it. Never before had we seen such wonderful locations and charming characters. Remember the vastness of Hyrule Field, the peacefulness of Kakariko Village and Zora’s Domain. Or the bleakness of the Gerudo desert. All adding to the feeling this was a living, breathing world. It was truly special to all who remember it. It’s this very feeling of ‘newness’ that I think Nintendo will have a hard time bettering.

Wind Waker

Twilight Princess is a great example of this. Being the true spiritual successor to Ocarina of Time, it was to be the Zelda game we were all waiting for. It looked superior, played superior and the story was larger and more polished. It’s clear this was a game made by the cream of Nintendo as a love-letter to all who loved Ocarina of Time. But I feel it was missing that magical touch needed to elevate it the level of the N64 classic. Don’t get me wrong I loved Twilight Princess! I just feel it wasn’t as groundbreaking and revolutionary as it could have been. Ocarina of Time was so much more that the sum of its magical parts where Twilight Princess was to me, simply a great game that was trying slightly too hard. Subsequently it never quite managed to step out of Ocarina’s shadow.

Time has been kinder to WindWaker. Being the next flagship game after Ocarina of Time, we were all still hungry for that Zelda fill. Many believed the announcement of the new cel-shaded visuals marked a downward spiral for the series, but those fears were put to rest when the game was released. The radical graphical change went a long way in making it feel like it’s own game, and not just a simple remake. A clever move by Nintendo as it made the game feel fresh while still feeling like a classic Zelda game.

Playing Catch-Up

It may be a controversial opinion, but I almost feel the last few Zelda games have been slightly behind the times in terms of their timing. It feels like Skyward Sword is the game we should have been playing back when the Wii was first released. Twilight Princess’s motion controls were great, but they weren’t the one-to-one motion we were led to believe and I feel the game would have been better suited solely as a GameCube title as originally intended. With various delays and Nintendo’s decision to move the game to the Wii as a launch title, it was pushed into a generation of console where HD visuals were expected. Of course graphics aren’t everything, and while it remained a beautiful looking game, it couldn’t compete with the graphical power of the other consoles. This served to soften the impact of the game across the gaming world.

When I saw the HD Zelda demo at this years’ E3, I couldn’t help but feel that this is what we should all be looking forward to later this year. I understand and agree that Nintendo like to take as long as it takes to make a Zelda game perfect, but in today’s fast moving industry it can get a little frustrating at times. I find gamers having less patience these days and their attention can easily be attracted elsewhere if they are forced to wait too long.

So now as we get closer to Skyward Swords release I feel this game really needs to push the boundaries of the series to new limits in order to impress. It needs to stop trying to BE Ocarina of Time and become more of a revolution. The simple fact it’s a ‘Zelda’ game isn’t enough any more. It needs to revolutionize the way we play the game and make our jaws drop at every turn, just like Ocarina did in 1998.

 The Future Is Bright

The good news is that Nintendo seem to be aware of these issues. Shigeru Miyamoto himself has recently said that this needs to be the greatest Zelda game ever or there won’t be another. Bold (and slightly scary) words indeed, but it does indicate his understanding that things need to change.

It’s great news to hear the classic Zelda formula is getting a well-needed shake up. I was skeptical at first on the decision to link the game to Ocarina of Time. However, the more details I read, the more I realize this game will differ from it’s predecessors, which I see as a vital key in making it a success.

Skyward Sword

The new graphical style is also a smart move. Not only does it look gorgeous but also the cartoon/painting style cleverly serves to hide the fact this is a game without HD visuals. Like WindWaker before it, this feels like it will graphically stand the test of time.

I was lucky enough to get a hands-on with the game at HyperJapan and I’m happy to report it plays like a dream. The visuals are vibrant and crisp and the one-to-one motion controls do exactly what they say on the tin. Rather than a gimmick, they promise to be the basis of many new gameplay mechanics. It appears to be the backbone of the entire game, so I’m sure we can all look forward to some clever use of the motion control.

Do I feel the Zelda franchise is in serious danger? No, it’s too dam good to ever truly fail. Zelda’s B game is still way ahead of many other developers A game. And when it comes to pleasantly surprising us, Nintendo have a wonderful ability to know what we want before we do. So I feel fairly confident they will get this right. They need to! And the sheer amount of time they have spent on the game indicates they have once again, poured everything they have into it. For anything wishing to survive, being able to adapt and move with the times is imperative. As WindWaker proved, doing something different only adds to the diversity of the franchise, so I really hope Skyward Sword manages to take us on a whole new adventure we never saw coming.

Only time will tell. I can’t wait to get my hands on the game and find out!

Comments
9 Responses to “Skyward Sword Needs To Be Greatest Zelda Ever”
  1. Marc Love says:

    Great points, put across really well.

    Absolutely spot on (once again!)
    Getting a little tired of agreeing with you guys all the time! 😉

    Playing through OOT 3D is adding to the excitement for this release… let’s hope they get it right!

    Like

  2. Great piece. I think Skyward will feel new on many levels. First being the story line, then the game mechanics, afterwards things such as sound and graphics. But I somehow think it won’t be as revolutionary as Ocarina was. The jump to 3D was too greater impact. But I might be wrong..

    Like

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