The original Legend of Zelda was praised for being revolutionary and even today it remains a significant milestone in gaming. That is something that we’ve all heard, perhaps too often. The Legend of Zelda was so out there in its time because it was such a step forward from the stock-standard sidescrolling games of the time. It was an adventure game across an open overworld. Players could explore any compass direction, not just a linear path. The classic received its share of criticism, as is justly due to something out of the ordinary, but was well received by players overall. Why then did Nintendo revert back to sidescrolling for its sequel, The Adventure of Link?
The Adventure of Link is commonly referred to as the odd one out, or the black sheep of the series, though such a term is socially unacceptable these days. With the criticisms received by the first Zelda game, coupled with the creator’s worries that players would find the open world too hard, the developers reverted back to sidescrolling for this release. While the overworld of The Adventure of Link remained to be an ‘open world’, the caves, palaces and enemy encounters were all played out in sidescrolling. At the very least The Adventure of Link proved that sidescrolling can be as hard as games come, and while it has a strong fanbase today, it isn’t absurd to call the second Zelda entry a complete flop. Today, well, I think sidescrolling Zelda deserves another shot.
I don’t mean The Adventure of Link itself: what’s done is done. The game is what it is and its best to keep it that way. They shouldn’t remaster it. Instead, why not spice up the next title to follow Zelda Wii with the sidescrolling sensation that currently seems to be sweeping the nation? Nay, the whole gaming world in fact. The virtual console itself is full of the classic sidescrollers like Super Mario Bros. and then there’s the recently released Sonic classic collection for the DS. But it isn’t just the old games – over the last couple of years Nintendo has shown us that creating sidescrolling games isn’t a regression in gaming progress, but rather it’s just another style to choose from. Many developers are doing it. Take some of the Nintendo’s Wii releases for instance.
Going back a few years there’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl and its Subspace Emissary. While Super Smash Bros. doesn’t necessarily supply the classic adventure mode compared to the Zelda series, it has a lot to say for sidescrolling in modern gaming. The one or two player adventure mode clearly demonstrated that sophisticated graphics and well designed levels can be implemented into sidescrolling. New Super Mario Bros. Wii furthered these concepts even more. It asserted that sidescrolling isn’t a thing of the past; it can be just as enjoyable today.
So what for Zelda? The Adventure of Link is a decent game, hard as hell too, but an experience worth the frustration. As far as implementation of sidescrolling goes, it wasn’t great. So why not give it another shot today? Both the DS and the Wii could readily adapt a sidescrolling set up, and with some imagination in the creation of items a sidescrolling Zelda title could do what The Adventure of Link couldn’t. Perhaps releasing a fully-fledged long-anticipated Zelda game in sidescrolling isn’t wise, but as a between major releases game, like Four Swords Adventures was… well, why not try it? Understandably, making a new Super Mario Bros. game in the sidescrolling format is just logical, but in contrast, doing so for Zelda is a tad off center. The potential to make up for the mistakes of The Adventure of Link is there. While it may be controversial, I’d love to see sidescrolling Zelda given another fair go, if only for the sake of something different. Maybe when all is said and done it is the expectations of us players that will prevent Nintendo from taking this direction, but one can hope. It’s worth a shot.