When the Zelda HD demonstration was shown off during Nintendo’s E3 press conference as a way to convey what the Wii U can do, people got excited – to say the least. Although the idea that it was from a new Zelda title was promptly put to rest, seeing a revamped Twilight Princess design in full HD got people going. In an interview on the demo, Eiji Aonuma stated that no decisions have been made on what direction Zelda on Wii U will go. Is there the potential that certain directions may ruin Zelda?
Of course, every entry to the series runs the risk of “ruining” the series if everything went wrong. Some would say that exact thing happened in The Adventure of Link. Granted a franchise as massive as Zelda would be able to take a flop title, and eventually regain its feet and move on. But a poor Zelda game on Wii U would not be good for the series.
If you’re reading this for some guy to rant on about how HD and real graphics will destroy Zelda on Wii U, you’re going to walk away unsatisfied. Let’s be honest. HD is stunning, so no matter what graphical direction the game goes, it can only enhance the visual experience. Realistic graphics are also not a negative thing in Zelda. Twilight Princess looked great and, although age hasn’t been a friend, remains a great experience to play.
When I look back at the history of the Zelda series, I see somewhat of an identity crisis. Not just for the ever-changing Link, but for the visual design of the series. If we look at Zelda’s big-bro-series, Mario, it is very comfortable in the way it is played and the way it looks. We can expect that from title to title. Zelda has always changed, leaving us wondering what graphic style the next installment will take.
As far as gameplay goes, ever since the deviation that was The Adventure of Link, Zelda has found its place and stuck with it to our delight. Skyward sword will take the best of the Zelda gameplay and stick to that. It is not gameplay itself that concerns me for a Zelda title on Wii U – it is two things. Graphics and controls.
Let me address graphics first. Again, no, a realistic Zelda is not a bad thing. There is of course The Wind Waker versus Twilight Princess graphical split in the fandom of the series. Personally, I’d say I’m in The Wind Waker’s boat. Realistic graphics won’t prevent me from loving and enjoying a Zelda experience though. In fact, I’d still be there admiring them just as excitedly as anyone else. Imagine the crowd’s reaction at E3 to a new realistic Zelda after the Twilight Princess reveal at E3 2004.
The Wind Waker once was my favorite visually designed game of the series, but no longer. Skyward Sword has claimed that title. It’s not entirely cell-shaded like The Wind Waker. It’s not realistic like Twilight Princess, although that game is what it is visually closest to. Skyward Sword is a hybrid. A hybrid that I really believe suits the series. It is Zelda all over.
We know that the chief reason for the graphical direction taken was because it suited the MotionPlus gameplay and the exaggerated featured of the enemies. Miyamoto has spoken about how MotionPlus is perfect for Zelda and the future. Skyward Sword will demonstrate that, but what next? I feel that after years and years of an identity crisis, The Legend of Zelda series has found its place. It has found its groove with Skyward Sword!
MotionPlus and an impressionist water-color-like painting as the graphics style – it seems just so right. In my mind Nintendo has made the right decisions for Skyward Sword. Now I may be jumping the gun in saying this – but Skyward Sword to me, seems to be Zelda finding its identity in the modern gaming world.
If we see the next Zelda title on Wii U with the same graphics as Skyward Sword and using MotionPlus, then I’d be happy. My fear is not progression, or a hate for realistic graphics – it is for the Zelda series to again wander around unsure of its appearance right after Skyward Sword. The temptation to make a game with the realistic graphics is there for the developers, and although Aonuma says that the decision they make on graphics will suit the overall game, they will no doubt be extremely tempted to go for realism.
Of the control and graphic issue, graphics are probably the least important. Although I think Zelda has found its style in Skyward Sword, that is entirely a matter of personal taste. Zelda is known to switch design styles all the time, so a switch yet again would not be the biggest concern. Rather, my biggest concern is in regards to the Wii U controller. The developers will, likewise to graphics, be tempted to use it in the Zelda game. The demo at E3 gave an idea of what they could do with it.
This worries me because, again, MotionPlus was supposed to be the way of Zelda’s future. Miyamoto said it was perfect for a Zelda game, and if that is true, why not continue it? If Skyward Sword is a big success in the control department then by all means keep it. For decades, in our minds we’ve been pretending to swing a real sword while playing Zelda, and MotionPlus takes us that much closer. When I first used MotionPlus I thought it would be perfect for the Zelda series. Time will tell us if it truly is, but if it is, I don’t want to lose that.
I don’t want Skyward Sword to pass us by and then Zelda on Wii U to come along and move on entirely to a completely new control scheme. MotionPlus is compatible with Wii U, mostly to ensure backwards compatibility, but I also hope because it will be used more than it ever was on Wii. I hope developers are amazed by MotionPlus after Skyward Sword and make Wii U games for it. As much as the new controller can offer great potential gameplay experiences, one-to-one motion gaming fits for the Zelda series, but it might all be gone just after one title!
Whatever type of Zelda title comes to the Wii U, it will not ruin Zelda. It would be just another great experience. That’s for sure. I just don’t want to see the series find its controlling and visual groove in Skyward Sword only for it to be lost immediately to show off what the Wii U can do – both with the controller and graphically. Nintendo doesn’t need to show off the graphics in their own titles, because third-parties will show us the system’s true capabilities.
Now while I have my concerns that Wii U may immediately move Zelda away from its new found place where it belongs, I’m also not too worried. If the series truly has found its place, Miyamoto won’t let it go anywhere else too quickly. The temptation to dive into the Wii U controller is there, but so too will MotionPlus be there. They could perhaps provide choices in how to play. In the end, I believe that Nintendo will do what is most suitable for the specific game and its overall experience. Whatever makes Zelda on Wii U the best it can be. I just hope that we haven’t seen the last of motion-controlled impressionist Zelda titles.