It’s no secret that in recent years Nintendo has turned its eyes to target the more casual gamers, as opposed to the hardcore ones. Of course, this has in turn come to affect the Zelda series that we love. Overtime, the difficulty of the Zelda games has majorly decreased. When I first played Ocarina of Time, it was difficult, and took me ages to complete. Even with help from friends it took time. There were some spots where I would get stuck for weeks, which was admittedly frustrating to a degree, but all that more rewarding when I figured out what I had to do.
Then my second game was Majora’s Mask, which took me at least three years to complete. With some of those stuck points, I’d just stop playing for months, but when I reached the end, it was an accomplishment. Of recent, this simply doesn’t happen anymore, leaving many complaining that Zelda is just too easy. The first times I played The Wind Waker, The Minish Cap, Twilight Princess and Phantom Hourglass, I easily made it through a dungeon each time I sat down for a play. In total, each game took no longer than a week to complete amongst a full working day schedule.
These stuck points just don’t exist anymore. There isn’t a puzzle that has me boggled for more than a few minutes tops. Of course, over the years players have become more accustom to the puzzles that make up Zelda games. If Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time swapped their release dates around, we’d be saying Ocarina of Time is too easy, and Twilight Princess was perfect in difficulty. Zelda isn’t necessarily being made easier, it’s just we’re pros at it now. Surely, it’s time for Nintendo to introduce new types of puzzles into Zelda, ones that experience from old games won’t help us with. This will make a Zelda challenging, and won’t hurt the casual fans. It’s not directly increasing difficulty that will create a challenge, it’s changing the formula so it’s not the same sort of puzzles everytime.
Just recently I returned to play some of the classics in the series: The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. They, quite frankly are challenging. The Legend of Zelda, whilst fairly simple to know what you have to do, most of the time, has its difficulty in actually doing it. A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening are similar, with a perfect level of difficulty. The Adventure of Link is known for being the hardest of the series, and it sure is a challenge. These originals even remain challenging in the umpteenth playthroughs. In fact, all of the games up to Majora’s Mask present quite a challenge, but it’s not that way anymore.
It is safe to make Zelda games more challenging, without totally destroying the casual audience. The difficulty level has reached way below par. All Nintendo have to do is raise it back up to par, to be a challenging experience for both the casual and the hardcore, through new puzzles. Different makes for difficult. I’m not saying that they need to be extremely hard games, like some of the classics, but currently they present very little challenges. It’s clear they need to take some advice from their predecessors.
We all need and want a challenge as part of our Zelda experience. If something is so easy, it’s not worth doing. It doesn’t seem like Spirit Tracks can fulfill this request, so my hope is in Zelda Wii and beyond. I want a challenge in future Zelda installments, and I also want to have a few game over screens in my first few playthroughs. Nintendo can surely make Zelda more challenging than it is, because frankly, it couldn’t get any easier right now. It should come as no surprise to you that when playing Zelda, many peoples’ thoughts, and hands for that matter, are focused on something completely different.