As I eagerly await the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I examined my hopes and tried to lower my expectations. It’s easy to get caught up on a hype train fueled by nostalgia.
Franchises have a burden in order to entice consumers. They must have something familiar to bring back people who remember earlier entries fondly, but they also must embrace something new to not be a retread or rehash. Nintendo understands this for the most part. Everyone knows what a Mario or a Zelda game comprises of but audiences want something new on top of that experience. Nintendo usually adds a new mechanic (or gimmick) and expands on the experience1.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a big game at the time, it expanded on the story of Zelda, and realized it in a 3D world. Due to limitations of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo needed to guide the experience in order to make the game seem bigger than it was though scripted events and linear story telling. The world of Hyrule was explorable, but only for when the story was ready to show you, and other 3D Zelda’s followed this strategy for every following entry2.
The (OG) Legend of Zelda was a very unscripted game. The limitations of the original NES required the player to fill in gaps using their imagination3. Then The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past expanded on that (as the Zelda formula hadn’t been finalized yet), and opened the world up and added details and more story. To me, the original feeling of playing that game, the world was huge and free and didn’t hold my hand. Part of the experience was trying to find every little secret in the world. Today, years after advances in video entertainment, that version of Hyrule doesn’t feel as big. It feels well crafted and will always have a place in my heart (thanks nostalgia), and I still feel it’s one of the best games of all time. I also feel that even with every iteration of Zelda, I haven’t had that original feeling since. That is, until The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was released. A Link Between Worlds did something that Zelda games hadn’t done in a while. It didn’t hold the players hands. It let the player figure things out without guidance4, which in 2013 was not typical of a Nintendo game. It didn’t completely recapture the feeling of A Link to the Past, but it got close5.
Like I said earlier, it’s hard to recapture that feeling. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted, the crowds for the most part loved it. I saw only a rehash of the original even though it held true to the formula. It didn’t capture me the way it did others. But now on the eve of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I see the Zelda game I’ve been wanting since I played A Link to the Past: a vast world by today’s gaming standards and a return to exploration and finding out things on your own. I simply cannot wait for this game and hope to rediscover that balance of nostalgia and novelty.
- While some may not agree, it’s been pretty successful for Nintendo. ↩
- I’m looking at you Skyward Sword. At least Wind Waker made it feel bigger with an ocean. ↩
- It’s a like a TV show that plays in your brain. It’s something only old people have. ↩
- But it did have options for newcomers if they needed it. ↩
- It doesn’t hurt that it brought back that whole Light World / Dark World mechanic. ↩