Imagine a Zelda game where the plot is so enthralling that you can barely pull yourself away in your first playthrough. It doesn’t matter that you have work or school tomorrow; you just want to know how it ends. Visualize a Zelda where the story is so encapsulating that you find yourself literally hanging onto every moment, unsure of what is going to happen next. Picture a Zelda that is so storyline driven that it makes you think about nothing else. What if Zelda had you grasping onto every moment just like The Da Vinci Code or even Harry Potter has readers unable to stop turning the pages. Envisage a Zelda where the developers actually put some effort into the storyline for a change.
The plots of Zelda games aren’t terrible, because we wouldn’t love the series as much as we do if they were, but Zelda isn’t known for intricate plots. The sturdy formula now is what guides storyline, with the collection of items from dungeons, leading up to defeating the villain, without so much as a twist in the plot. Sure, the games are hard to put down when they’re released, but that is because of gameplay, not because of a story that has players begging to know what will happen next.
Many things have been done right throughout the series. Ocarina of Time had a great plot, with appropriate twists like Zelda disguising herself as Sheik and players discovering that for the whole game they’ve done nothing but help Ganondorf to achieve his will, be it entering the Sacred Realm or capturing Zelda. The Wind Waker is a superb example of where the game was driven more by plot, then by a set formula of dungeons. Link sets off to save his sister; he has to deal with the pirates to gain Nayru’s Pearl instead of completing ‘The Greatfish Isle Dungeon’. It was about collecting Triforce shards, and completing dungeons like Forsaken Fortress part by part, as the storyline dictated, not as the logical progression formula wanted.
The newer games to the series have been quite disappointing in this aspect. Twilight Princess seemed to be a touch droll, ‘collect the three fused shadows and then collect the three mirror shards’. When I first reached the mirror of twilight and learned that I need to collect the three mirror pieces, it seemed like the creators were just trying to make the game longer, as opposed to telling a great story. Then there’s Phantom Hourglass, ‘collect the fairies and then the pure metals’; it gave me the same disappointment as Twilight Princess. Once the plot was revealed upon the Ghost Ship at the half way mark, there was nothing else left to discover, nothing left for the story. Let alone the fact that the developers thought the climatic point of storyline was so weak that they had to spice it up with Linebeck’s humor.
Don’t go looking at this in the wrong way. Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, and all the games in the series are great, but The Wind Waker, as well as the N64’s Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are just that bit better due to their storyline elements. Much of the series lacks in this area. None of the games are perfect, but an improvement to the effort put into the storyline will make The Legend of Zelda so much more of a legend. For Din’s sake, Miyamoto made Aonuma simplify the plot of Four Swords Adventures because it was too complicated. Maybe it was actually the best plot yet; we’ll never know.
Miyamoto has never been shy about his stance on storylines in videogames:
“I don’t think that a story alone can make a game exciting. I’m afraid that people think that I ignore story lines or that I don’t feel that the story has any value. My first priority is whether the game play is interesting. What I mean by that is that a player is actively involved in the game. The story is just one of the ways to get players interested, like the enemies or puzzles. If you just want a good story, you should pick up a novel or see a movie. In a game, you might meet a character, but you don’t find out his story until later, after you do something that reveals the truth about him. It’s all up to the player. You only get that sort of experience with the interactive entertainment. Of course, the scenario, characters and graphics are all important, but it’s this active attitude that is the most important element.” – Zelda Creator Shigeru Miyamoto
I don’t disagree with you Mr. Miyamoto, but I can’t entirely agree either. Of course story alone doesn’t make a great game, there are numerous other elements such as graphics, gameplay, controls and all of the other shiz of interactive entertainment, but they don’t make a game exciting alone either. A fantastic plot is also needed. Zelda has been in the industry for over 20 years. It has the art of video gaming down-pact. To further better the legend, storyline is the best thing to improve. Having players hooked on plot, wanting to know more, wanting some twist to await them when they solve that puzzle, not just for the iron bars to be removed from the door. Just because games aren’t stories like books, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a thrilling tale to tell. People can use cameras to take photos, but that doesn’t stop you from building in two cameras to the DSi because such things are what sell devices these days. Get up to speed Nintendo, because storyline is one of main things selling video games these days and making them great games. No game can receive a perfect rating without first achieving a 10/10 for plot. Gameplay has been mastered; now is the time to move onto storyline. Zelda Wii: don’t disappoint.