Posted on August 23 2017 by Kristen G. Rosario
One issue that many Zelda fan can agree on is Nintendo’s not-so-great release schedule for main title games in the series. Just for Breath of the Wild alone, we had to wait what felt like an eternity for the game to be finally released. Delays are not something any fan, let alone a Zelda one, wants to hear. The question remains: how do you fix the release schedule of Zelda?
There is one such fan of the series, Arlo on YouTube, who thinks there is a way to repair this problem. The main thing that he wants to make clear is that he is not asking the Big N to release a new Zelda game every year. Arlo just wants a game with less than five years development time, but more than just one. The first example he brings up is the differences in development time between Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker.
With The Wind Waker, its development time saw two dungeons scrapped and a whole lot of padding added. Arlo points out that as much as this game is amazing, it is very short if you take out all of said filler (ie. ocean exploration). When it comes to Majora’s Mask though, it was more about reusing assets from Ocarina of Time in order to get the game out during its one year development schedule. He explains how the developers of the title even admit to using the three-day cycle in order to get whole lot more out of Majora’s Mask’s rather small environment.
Arlo believes that because of this, Majora’s Mask is the key to a shorter development time. What this means is that using the same style for a quicker sequel is the core of getting a Zelda game sooner, rather than later. Because Nintendo breaks down every new Zelda title and rebuilds it from the ground up, Arlo thinks this is the problem.
According to Arlo, one takeaway that made Majora’s Mask so successful was that the developers took stuff from an already great game (Ocarina of Time). Who could argue that more of that title wasn’t a good thing? They took the initiative and did add new gameplay elements (ie. masks) as well as put a strong emphasis on story. This Zelda game may have had a very quick release, but it was still considered a great game.
Arlo loves the fact that Nintendo is always willing to do new things with the franchise. The problem is that they overestimate how much new is really needed. Long development times even overestimate future games in the series. He brings up Skyward Sword as an example because fan disappointment with the game was only amplified because of how long we had to wait for its initial release.
If we just had to wait a few years for the next Zelda game that reused assets from the previous title, then Arlo thinks that’s fine. As long as those said resources are being used again for a great title in the franchise, we’re not going to care. Arlo does eventually bring up Breath of the Wild since, according to Eiji Aonuma, developers spent a few years on the mechanics for the game, before even starting to make the title.
If all Nintendo did was use the exact same gameplay mechanics, add a some new ones, and introduce a completely different environment & story, Arlo believes that it would only take Zelda Team a few years to develop a new title. He thinks that something the Big N should do is develop two different main games for the franchise at once. One team works on concepts for the 3D Zelda game for the next console, while another team works on a 3D title for the series using the same assets from the previous game.
Not only would they eventually come back together in order to complete development, but there would only be a three year gap between games. The biggest problem with this idea according to Arlo is that Zelda Team always puts the story of their next game last on their list. Everything else takes top priority besides that. He finds this ironic considering how lore-heavy this franchise is.
The repeating story element allows them to focus on gameplay first and foremost, but not a whole lot after that. Arlo brings up an example of another series that takes an opposite approach, Mass Effect. No matter how little or how much each title in the Mass Effect franchise changed, that entire universe was fueled by the story. Continuing the lore of that game was always a strong reason to pick up the sequel.
Arlo is not saying that the Zelda series should have an ongoing narrative, but putting a better emphasis on telling unique stories would help get rid of any franchise fatigue. Going back to Majora’s Mask, he brings up how the story there was unique because it was a sequel to a previous title in the series that didn’t follow the plot points that every other Zelda game had. It was because Majora’s Mask had such a short development cycle that Zelda Team thought of something different story-wise.
Overall, Arlo believes that time management tweaks over at Nintendo would make a three year development cycle possible without sacrificing anything in terms of quality. Other examples he brings up in terms of shorter creation times between games include The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and even Spirit Tracks.
What do you think of this video? Do you agree with Arlo’s opinion? Let us know in the comments below.