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With all the excitement surrounding the announcement of 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D shortly thereafter, no one’s really paid much attention to what might be one of the most important questions of all: now that we know what Nintendo’s next-gen portable game system is capable of, what might the future hold for the Zelda series? Using the series’ history as a basis, let’s take a look at the many possible shades that Nintendo might draw from for an all-new title for the high-powered handheld.

Contemporary 3D Style

While not necessarily the obvious first choice for a handheld DS system, we’ve already got a Zelda game confirmed to use this setup: Ocarina of Time 3D. Since Nintendo’s already going to great pains to make this much more than simply a port of the original, it would only make sense to consider that they might continue to make 3DS Zelda using the same graphics and gameplay engines. Right?

If you’ve been a longtime fan of Zelda Informer, you surely know of our undying love for a certain Ocarina of Time sequel. Majora’s Mask used an updated version of the Ocarina gameplay system, and to great effect, for it allowed the developers to pay more attention to the game’s setting, story, themes, and overall design. Since most of us have a sweet spot for Spirit Tracks as well (and for similar reasons), it’d stand to reason that yet another “same game engine” sequel would have us bouncing off the walls.

img_4-2.jpgIt’d really be a no-brainer on Nintendo’s end. Of all the recent Zelda releases, the most consistently-popular titles have been the 3D console-style games. Putting out an original game in that style for a handheld system would probably strike gold. That’s not to mention that with the 3DS’s updated graphical processing power and the added 3D projection effect, a 3D rendered game would make the maximum use of the system’s specs. All of this, with the portability of a DS – what a perfect way to draw users to the system!

Of course, a game like this would have to offer something more than your typical console fare. Personally, I’d hope to see a creative use of the 3DS’s second screen – simply being able to view and draw on the map at any time isn’t enough. On-the-fly inventory swapping, optional touch screen aiming in first-person, possibly even two-player co-op coordination options – anything to enhance or streamline the experience. All in all, though, a great medium for bringing the Zelda tradition to Nintendo’s newest handheld.

DS “Touch” Style

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but it would seem the DS-style Zelda is the second most popular style, right after the console style. How can I make such a claim? Looking at sales data, the DS games averaged at 3.6m sales per game, trailing behind the 3D-style’s whopping 5m/game and curiously ahead of the 2D style which holds at about 3.5m/game. (This is despite half of the 2D games having about a twenty-five year head start and multiple releases, mind you.)

As for me – I actually find it quite fitting. One of the central tenets behind the DS games is “fun,” and I certainly had more than my share of fun with both games.

There is one complaint I’d levy against Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, though, and that’s that the graphics – Link’s render in particular – look godawful compared to their forerunners. But with the godawesome processing power of the 3DS those worries could possibly be done away with entirely. Imagine a DS Zelda with graphics that actually pull off the same visual prowess and unique style of Wind Waker. It could carry the same essence of childlike fun, but this time it wouldn’t skimp in the prettiness department.


Another little-known fact: Twilight Princess was at one point supposed to incorporate dynamic context-based shifts between the classic top-down perspective and a more close-up in-combat camera.1 I’d really like to see that concept re-explored, with a healthy blend of top-down and touch elements from the previous DS games and console-grade characters, environments, and combat controls. Maybe sword-fighting could take a page or two from Skyward Sword‘s book in the process. Either way, the DS format for Zelda hasn’t been driven to death yet, so there’s still a wealth of potential to tap into.

Classic Style Redux

But wait – what about the classic style? With all my ranting and raving lately about how Zelda should return to its roots, rest assured I’d never leave this one out. We haven’t gotten a real 2D Zelda since Minish Cap, which means an entire handheld generation has gone without. With Nintendo starting a trend towards old-school revivals such as New Super Mario Bros., Kirby: Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and even the already-announced-for-3DS Pilotwings 3D and Kid Icarus: Uprising, I think the time for a truly new top-down Zelda may finally be upon us.

four_swords_graphics_gcn.pngWhile it might seem like an odd choice given the 3DS’s upgraded graphical specs, we’ve seen with Four Swords Adventures what a powerful game system can do with even the simplest of 2D rendered graphics. And even though the 3DS’s main titular feature, the glasses-free 3D projection, doesn’t seem on the surface to play well with 2D models, Aonuma’s already discussed possible implications, and the prospects seem pretty nifty2:

I hadn’t thought about it personally, but now that you say that I think that if you took that top-down classic perspective and used, say, Nintendo 3DS you’d be adding new vertical depth. I think that would bring in a pretty interesting new element. I think there are lots of ideas there that we could play with.

Honestly, I think it’d be pretty cool to see some kind of juxtaposition between the 2D graphics and the 3D effect in action, regardless of whether 3D graphics might be more impressive or effective.

If executed right, with enough attention to what made the original games great in the first place, a classic-style Zelda on 3DS could be a real winner. The recent 2D games haven’t been all too popular, admittedly, but there have also been notable differences in style, difficulty, and tempo that might be to blame. A return to form is just what 2D Zelda needs to succeed for the current gaming generation and to capture the hearts of fans of the originals in the process.

But, really, no matter what stylistic approach Nintendo takes, what we really want is a strong, well-tuned gaming experience. Mr. Miyamoto, kindly remind us why you became such a well-respected game developer in the first place. Bring us a true modern-day Legend of Zelda that can be to the 3DS what that epic first quest was for the entire gaming industry.

Got any ideas of your own that you can’t contain? Shout ‘em out in the comments section! Let’s get the discussion rolling!

1 IGN – New Legend of Zelda Details

2 IGN – Aonuma’s “Trapped in the Zelda Cage”

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