Posted on December 25 2014 by Mases Hagopian
Linearity in Zelda games boils down to three basic types. There were games like the original Legend of Zelda where you could access almost the entire overworld right from the start, as well as entering some of the later dungeons whenever you desired. Then there are games like Twilght Princess, where the game segmented off parts of the overworld, limiting where you could go, and there was no variability in terms of the order that you did things.
Games like Ocarina of Time, and perhaps more prominently, A Link to the Past, offered a more quasi linearity. After acquiring the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time and traveling 7 years into the future, Link had access to go almost anywhere he wanted. While the game had a suggested order of first doing the Forest Temple, then Fire Temple, and then Water, Shadow, and Spirit. This was not required. You could flip flop the order of Shadow and Spirit. You could go to the Fire Temple first, and could even go to the Water Temple first. Toss in the fact that you could do the Ice Cavern almost whenever, as well as the Bottom of the Well and there were a ton of different combinations. Granted, there still were some restrictions and the game did guide you along a particular order.
Do you prefer the quasi linearity of Ocarina of Time or would you prefer either the set path of Twilight Princess, or the completely open world of the Legend of Zelda?
Aaron Suduiko – View Profile
My favorite model of linearity is the quasi linearity of “Ocarina of Time.” The reason is that, in my mind, a successful game must express its themes and tone not only in storyline, but also in game design, and I see “Ocarina” doing this best. When Link is a child, he has limited agency and is confined to a strictly limited path to realize his destiny at the Temple of Time; when he is an adult, in contrast, he is still led by destiny, but he is mature enough to exhibit a greater degree of agency in the particular path taken to awaken the Sages. The quasi linearity, therefore, thematically reflects the expanded agency of Link upon growing up.
Alexis Anderson – View Profile
I prefer the quasi-linearity of “Ocarina of Time,” because it allows for a cohesive story to form without completely locking out the player from having a personally unique adventure. Lately, it seems like in order for a game to have an engaging story, it needs to function almost like an interactive movie the way “Beyond Two Souls” was on the PlayStation 3. On the other hand though, being dropped into a game with no recommended course of action has always bothered me because I have no sense of whether I’m progressing or what’s left for me to do. I’m pretty sure I ended up following the suggested path in “Ocarina of Time,” but because I didn’t have to, I still felt free to play the game in my own way.
Jessia Capps – View Profile
Although I really like the idea of a broad open world to explore like the original Legend of Zelda, where you could challenge any dungeon in whatever order you wanted, I would prefer the linearity of Ocarina of Time. Ocarina allowed more freedom after gathering all three spiritual stones from the moment you turned into adult Link, I feel like the suggested paths and few limitations not only allowed a bit of space for more plot/explanation, it also felt reassuring that you had some guidance throughout your quest (not to complement Navi or Kaepora Gabora). The original Legend of Zelda allowed so much flexibility, that it severely lacked plot and guidance, making the game more difficult than it should be. In all, I think it’s better to have some limited linearity. Even though there might be some restrictions, I think as an adventurer, the right combination of guidance and linearity make for a balanced gameplay.
Mark Olson – View Profile
I much prefer the quasi-linearity of Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past to the style of any other Zelda game. Though I liked being able to go anywhere I pleased in the first game, it lacked any and all direction, and often left me confused. On the opposite end of the spectrum, games like Twilight Princess gave the player one direction, and though this aided the story’s coherency, I often felt like a horse with its blinders on. A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time offered a perfect compromise; I never felt trapped, but I also had a clear sense of what I SHOULD do next, whether I choose to or not.
Mases Hagopian – View Profile
I think each of the types of game styles has its benefits, but I do feel that the original Legend of Zelda is the preferred method. I do like how the difficulty of the dungeons significantly ramps up, and that portions of the overworld are incredibly hard to navigate. It allows players to take on challenges very early in the game, but they are considerably harder. I don’t think the dungeon and overworld difficulty varied enough in either Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess.