For years Nintendo has being dangling the proverbial multiplayer biscuit just out of reach for us Zelda fans. We can sit, stand, rollover, even complain; but we don’t seem to get anything from it. Zelda is known first and foremost for being a single-player adventure game, but Nintendo has, this millennium, decided to integrate some multiplayer aspects into what we’re seen in the Four Swords duo and the two DS releases. The thing is, Nintendo has never really given us a real multiplayer experience. They’ve always been half-asked. Frankly, it comes down to all or nothing. If Zelda is to continue with multiplayer it needs to overcome its mediocrity and provide real multiplayer experiences.
In Four Swords, through the GameBoy Advance link cable, up to four players could take part in the adventure. With each person controlling a different colored Link players worked together to solve puzzles, overcome foes and…oh… save Zelda once again. With Four Swords being little but a tag on to the GameBoy Advance A Link to the Past rerelease, Four Swords Adventures followed years later on the Gamecube. With the same concept, up to four players worked together to save Hyrule from the evil Ganon. It wasn’t a bad game, apart from being a console release with the range of a handheld. At least, it was easier to play than the original Four Swords as you didn’t need multiple consoles, multiple cables and multiple cartridges.
Phantom Hourglass had the wi-fi battle mode as a nice little treat, but unfortunately the treat didn’t last long. With no range, no scope, it wasn’t the type of multiplayer that would get you hooked. Spirit Tracks did slightly better by including some items and revamping the whole concept, but it was still in essence the same type of battle. Heck, even The Wind Waker kind of had a little multiplayer stint if you ever played with someone using the Tingle Tuner. You see, it’s not hard to point out how second-rate Zelda multiplayer has been. It has always basically been just a tag on, except in the case of Four Swords Adventures, which only really made up for Four Swords being so miniscule. Multiplayer hasn’t been good, but how can it be better? With Spirit Tracks we saw multiple playable characters at once and some of us at least thought why not have one playable character per player if it was on the Wii.
There are numerous directions Nintendo could go with improving multiplayer in Zelda. They could incorporate it into the main quest. Sure Zelda has been known as a single player game, but we’re in a new generation now. The Wii is about getting together and having fun. The DS is about connecting with those around you and those far away. Nintendo could make the main quest involve two heroes. Link of course, but someone else, like Zelda. Just like Mario has Luigi, Link could get his own sidekick. Players could work together right through the game, and if this direction was taken, perhaps sidescrolling like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl or New Super Mario Bros. Wii would be ideal.
Who knows, Nintendo could even make a full 3D console Four Swords game, allowing up to four players, because that’s just the thing. Like in Brawl and Mario Bros. multiplayer doesn’t need to be mandatory. Players can go at it alone or together. Gaming technology of today is perfectly capable of altering puzzles throughout the game to suit the amount of players there are. Have a single player quest and a multiplayer quest. There are a massive range of possibilities, but to me, a multiplayer quest just doesn’t seem to be Zelda. Potentially the best way for Nintendo to implement a decent multiplayer, whilst keeping Zelda what it is, is to take a page out of Rare’s book of old.
Consider games like Banjo Tooie. The original Banjo Kazooie had no multiplayer, but its sequel included a wealth of things to do outside of the main quest. Not only were there cutscene libraries and boss rematch options (hint hint Nintendo), Banjo Tooie took the mini-games that were part of the single player quest and turned them into multiplayer games. It worked seamlessly. Conker’s Bad Fur Day, also by Rare, had the single player story mode, and took aspects of that and adjusted them to include a range of little multiplayer games. I’ll also mention that Conker had a chapters library where you could replay sections from earlier in the game (more hints Nintendo). With such delightful multiplayer options as Conker and Banjo Tooie had, there’s also scope for cheat codes and a range of gaming aspects still foreign to the Zelda franchise.
Imagine how awesome Ocarina of Time would have been in Banjo Tooie style. Boss rematches, cutscene libraries and the multiplayer mini-games. Imagine Mido’s grass cutting challenge, or the castle guard’s pot smashing spectacular. Visualize the Hyrule Field Poe hunting game, the Lon Lon Ranch horse race. Just think how cool it would be to battle it out at the Gerudo Horseback Archery with your friends, to see who can get the highest score. Multiplayer fishing. Need I go on? Majora’s Mask could have the Goron Race, and so on and so forth. It’s not entirely necessary to think of out there new ways to improve Zelda’s multiplayer, it’s just a matter of taking the already enjoyable mini-games and making them accessible for you and others together, not just you. After all, isn’t that what Nintendo is going for these days?