Zelda Dungeon Marathon 2019:

LoZ_2quest.gifJust one more day until I’ll be playing Skyward Sword, and so there’s one more rumor I’d like to tackle. Our source suggests that once you defeat the final boss, all kinds of new content will open up to you. This content doesn’t rely on story to push you forward – you’ll simply unlock access to a number of different areas that you couldn’t reach before: hidden content and new bosses inside the dungeons, new places to explore in the overworld, and so on. The possibilities are pretty endless. But is this something we could feasibly see in a Zelda game? I’ll try my best to answer that question.

Post-endgame content has actually been a part of the series since the very beginning. After players defeated Ganon at the end of The Legend of Zelda, they unlocked a new Second Quest, which included a remixed overworld and reconstructed dungeons, as well as some tougher bosses and new puzzles. Sure, it was just a harder version of the original game, but it was a whole slate of new content nonetheless.

Ocarina of Time also got the second quest treatment with the debut of Master Quest. Billed as a harder version of the original game, with shuffled puzzles and enemy locations within the dungeons, Master Quest proved that the series’ developers had not forgotten their content-filled roots. Now, with Ocarina of Time 3D, the Master Quest will be harder than ever, since the whole world is now mirrored Twilight Princess style and enemies deal double the damage.

TWW_img_1-01.pngThe Wind Waker got a New Game + option, which allowed players to go through the entire game wearing Link’s crawfish pajamas. The content was almost entirely the same, with the main difference being that you also started off with the Deluxe Picto Box and could therefore complete the Nintendo Gallery at Forest Haven.

But the rumor says that we’ll open up new content within the game we’ve already completed, not in a remixed second quest. However, there were a couple other games that had post-endgame content as well, and without a Second Quest or New Game + feature…

Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages both included a number of secrets to find after vanquishing the main boss. Sure, players had to begin a linked game and bring back passwords from the second game to unlock content in the first, but you could get all kinds of hidden items: Bombchus, the Mirror Shield – even the Biggoron’s Sword from Ocarina of Time! And of course the linked game itself was an entirely new adventure with eight more all-new dungeons, plus an additional secret level: the Hero’s Cave. This content was spread across two games, but the fact remains that eighteen dungeons (eight dungeons per game, plus each game’s version of the Hero’s Cave) were built during a single development period.

OoX_linked end.gifNow, I wouldn’t say I expect Skyward Sword to have eighteen dungeons, but I do think it’s possible, given this precedent, that the developers might have added a ton of stuff to do after completing the core story. After all, the Oracles games were developed by the man who’s now directing Skyward Sword: Hidemaro Fujibayashi. Perhaps budgetary, time-related constraints, or extensive tea-table flipping may have held them back (I get the impression that development on the game has stalled a couple times).

It might also be the case that post-game content would be sparse, like in The Minish Cap (also directed by Fujibayashi), which included just two secret items: the Light Arrows and Mirror Shield. But given the trends of more recent Nintendo games – Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Green Stars come to mind – I think Nintendo’s starting to realize the value of extending the play experience as far as possible beyond initial completion.

Iwata said it best during his GDC keynote: “Content is king.” It’s not gameplay, story, or graphics that define games: it’s how all of these things come together to deliver content through which the player can enjoy holistic experiences. Skyward Sword was one of his headline examples of Nintendo’s renewed dedication to content-richness – could it stand as a shining beacon for the Zelda series in terms of the sheer scope of its content?

I don’t know whether the rumors about post-game dungeons and challenges are true, but I do know that, provided Iwata wasn’t just spouting empty words during his keynote, I think we’re about to experience the most content-filled Zelda game yet.

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