Posted on July 17 2011 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
The Missing Link is one of my favorite writers over at our sister site, Zelda Universe. He’s got just the right blend of sage insight and pure unadulterated sarcasm to tickle my fancy. Wait, did I just complement them? Weird. (Actually, it’s not that weird; I’m one of their forum staff.)
He’s brought that unique charm to bear in an excellent article that cracks into an issue that’s been on all our minds since E3: how Nintendo will handle an HD Zelda game. It’s titled “Can Zelda truly shine at 1080p?”, and it brings up something that I myself have been wondering – is Nintendo really ready to follow through with the modernization of the series’ visuals? After spending so long in the Blue Ocean that is their focus on untapped customers with the Wii, it’s hard to say how well-versed Nintendo can be at the things the rest of the competition has been doing with HD for a generation.
The Wii U has promised to be all that and a bag of potato chips. Games for everyone, and games for you, or so they say. It’ll have 1080p-resolution graphics. It’ll have high-resolution Blu-Ray-comparable discs. It’ll have a controller with a hi-res touchscreen in the middle. And we’re promised it’ll have all the online you could hope for. And, as if to prove their point, the first thing Nintendo did was present to the hardcore masses, depending upon your viewpoint, either proof in the pudding… or an ultimate peace offering: the Legend of Zelda in crisp, clear 1080p. All in all, it’s a buffet of promises presented to us to excite and amaze. Who could say that there’s anything bad in this? Who would be foolish enough to dare say that this shouldn’t be what we get?
The problem though is that being able to render a single room in high-res is a very difficult task than running an entire full-length game in HD. The programmers for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have had their work cut out for them this generation, and though this isn’t uncommon when crossing hardware generational gaps, the transition to HD not been without its growing pains whatsoever. Though the precise details of the Wii U’s processor and graphics chip aren’t entirely public yet, there are a good many things that we know need to be happening—both at the bit level and at the artistry level—to really make a game shine in HD.
Nintendo does a lot of hand waving over many incongruous elements of the game in order to reduce the sheer amount of detail that would be necessary to portray true realism in games. When compared to games such as Assassin’s Creed with its accurate-to-history environments and crowd simulations and Grand Theft Auto IV with its fake radio broadcasts and real-time traffic, the detail of Zelda pales in comparison. Perhaps this is merely a thing, and Zelda has the power to skate by with its abstractions just based upon the power of its name alone, but I really do think that Nintendo will need to up the ante just a little bit if they’re saying that HD is now the future.
But with Nintendo is going down the road of HD finally, it’s fully acknowledging that the “blue ocean” strategy Nintendo has been on the past five years is over; now they’re sailing full speed ahead into the shark-infested waters they so sought to avoid with the Wii. The question is whether Nintendo is fully prepared to lay arms upon the enemies just off the port bow or if they’ll end up retreating to the kiddie pool, thereby furthering the conception—whether true or not—that Nintendo focuses exclusively on gaming for the younger generations.
I’ve strung together some quotes that I think highlight the basic flow of his argument, which is basically this: given the results we’ve seen with previous games in the series (or even Skyward Sword, for instance) after their long development cycles, is the Zelda team really ready to embrace HD on the level of Nintendo’s competitors? Surely no one would argue that the world of Twilight Princess remotely approaches the detail seen in RPGs on other consoles, for example. It’s something to really think about, at least, whether you’re worried about it or not.
Be sure to read the full article over at Zelda Universe!