The Evolution of Old Items

Last week I talked about the Hookshot and its many variations, and I brought up having variety in the item selection from game to game by including classic items in new forms. It’s happened many times in the Zelda series already. It can come in the form of the classic item having a strange new power, like the Gale Boomerang from Twilight Princess, or they could simply have additional functionality that previous incarnations didn’t have, even if, in-world, they are the same object. An example of this would be the Bombs and Bow in Skyward Sword.

I think both methods are roughly equal. It’s just being a matter of how well-designed the item is, as well as the situations where it will be used. But I do think that having these evolved items is important. Zelda games can get stale really quickly if the only items given to you are the basic things you’ve always seen without any changes made to them. Progression in Zelda games, whether it’s progression of combat ability or progression of the story, is item-based a huge portion of the time. Collecting items and using them is a colossal part of the series, and as such it needs to be kept fresh.

I prefer a balance, with a good mix of items. Roughly one third old, one third new, and one third old with new elements. That way you have a chunk of items that are familiar to everyone (usually reserved for musts like the Bow and Bombs), a chunk of totally new concepts, and the remaining chunk to balance the two out in a way that makes the entire repertoire of items feel both new and familiar at the same time.

In terms of my favorite “evolved” items, I would have to say the Grappling Hook from Phantom Hourglass (as I mentioned last time) for just adding onto both the Grappling Hook and Hookshot items from previous games in some awesomely creative ways that really enhanced navigation. BUT, if I were to pick something else, I would probably say it’s a tie between the elemental arrows in Majora’s Mask and the Bombs and Bomb Bags from Twilight Princess. Both of these enhanced inventory management: The elemental arrows use up magic power, requiring the player to watch that resource, while the Bomb Bags carried three different types of bombs, each with their own properties, giving the player choices to worry about in addition to keeping track of how many they have.

Inventory management like this is cool to me, but the items were also great in general. The elemental arrows in Majora’s Mask were vastly improved over those of Ocarina of Time, serving as truly useful weapons not only in combat, but in navigating the environment and solving puzzles as well. Fire Arrows were constantly used to light torches and melt ice, as expected. The Ice Arrows, however, could stop water flows or freeze the water or enemies into blocks of ice the player could use to reach new areas. Finally, the Light Arrows were used to flip Stone Tower Temple, and also had a cool use during the Gomess miniboss. Meanwhile in Twilight Princess, the distinctions between standard Bombs (which now could be thrown off your horse!), aquatic Water Bombs, and the mobile Bomblings gave you a lot of options, and it made acquiring the multiple Bomb Bags even more rewarding and exciting; Collecting them meant the player could carry more types of Bombs at the same time. Getting the Bomb Bag size upgrade was also hugely useful, as the special types of Bombs took up more space, so you couldn’t carry as many. You could even add Bombs to your arrows and fire Bomb Arrows from your Bow! These items in both Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess added a lot of creativity and life to both the Bow and Bombs, and I enjoyed them a lot.

So how about you? What are your favorite item evolutions throughout the series? Do you like the idea of items evolving as the series goes on at all? How about my idea of a balance of new, old, and evolved items in a game? Tell me your thoughts and favorites in the comments!