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Eiji Aonuma questions Zelda's traditions

"Zelda games have been rather linear"

A lot has been made of how A Link Between Worlds shakes up Zelda's traditional formula, but it seems to have shaken up how series producer Eiji Aonuma looks at that formula as a whole too. In a making-of interview with ONM (in issue 105), the legend behind Zelda revealed that changing how this game works has had a profound effect on how he thinks about the series.

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"The recent Zelda games have been rather linear," he explained, "as I thought players didn't like getting lost, wondering what to do, or where to go. However, I've come to question this 'traditional' approach as I felt that we couldn't gain the sense of wonder that existed in the original Legend of Zelda, in which you made unexpected encounters and where what used to be impossible would suddenly become possible."

Given that his team are likely tunic-deep in the making of the next Zelda game for Wii U, we can only imagine what effect that's having on the his next project - but it's pretty clear that he's not afraid to mess with our expectations: "We will, of course, continue to question and reconsider the approaches we have taken in the past without any reservations."

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  1. Balladeer Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 10:28

    This makes me rather nervous. ALBW tried to shake up the linear formula with its item-buying dungeon-choosing shenanigans - the result was that the dungeons could only have limited story significance, their challenge levels were all over the place, and their puzzles could only use one item at a time. Basically, it didn't work, and was the one weakness of the game for me.

    I'd much rather that Aonuma-san kept Zelda games' innate structure and fiddled about with the less key conventions. Three dungeons, often fire/water/grass, in the first half of the game; Zelda getting kidnapped; several of the oft-returning items (bombs are a bit dull now); even Link being the hero: these can be changed without sacrificing too much of what makes the series enjoyable. The linear progression allows Zelda games to keep an emphasis on story and allows the hero to build up an arsenal to use in multi-item puzzles. The games are better for it, and I hope it makes a return for Zelda U.

  2. SamManSam Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 11:11

    I see no problems with this. I've always thought that the big open worlds that they create often go to waste with a linear story. It's like they've set up the potential for a real adventure, but then they've set a very definable course through it, and left the other stuff on the side for the purposes of increasing the amount of content in the game (I'm looking particularly sternly towards Skyward Sword here). So for me, I'm very much welcoming a less linear story with open arms.
    The one thing I like most about adventure/exploration games is the side quests, and if that's where they're going to be putting a lot of focus onto in Zelda U then I'd be very very happy.

  3. martynm Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 11:46

    I'm no Zelda expert but if there is someone who is, it's Aonuma. I think it's quite fine he is willing to challenge himself and look back on his previous work and criticise it. I mean, no-one is complaining about Zelda games quality, right? I say let the man do what he likes. Zelda is in safe hands.

  4. Balladeer Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 13:24

    I mean, no-one is complaining about Zelda games quality, right?

    I think we've just had complaints about ALBW and SS within two posts!

  5. Divadio Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 14:48

    Massively multiplayer Four Swords, anyone? It would be like Twitch plays Pokémon, but much, much more chaotic.

  6. martynm Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 15:33

    I mean, no-one is complaining about Zelda games quality, right?

    I think we've just had complaints about ALBW and SS within two posts!

    OK, I'll rephrase that. i haven't heard an overwhelming number of complaints

  7. dampflokfreund Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 15:48

    As long as the story don't suffer from that, this is awesome news.

    Massively multiplayer Four Swords, anyone? It would be like Twitch plays Pokémon, but much, much more chaotic.

    What the? Are you serious? that would be the absolute worst case scenario Nintendo could do with Zelda U

  8. MartinIsAwesome Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 17:40

    I've always said that the only thing I want out of Zelda is a game that is true to what kind of game Aonuma wants to make - one that isn't there to compromise or please fans. It's the latter that lead to Twilight Princess being the most uninspiring game in the series as far as I'm concerned. I know it has it's fans, but I feel like that game was make just to make up for Wind Waker, a game where they went balls-to-the-wall with their design approach and while it was jarring for a lot of people at first it has become a solid fan-favourite and many fans grew to like it, while Twilight Princess is just as bland and brown as it ever was.

  9. onm101 Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 18:22

    I think they should stick with the tradition. I quickly lost interest in the story of ALBW, and I found the puzzles really easy. I hope they make Zelda U like Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess, as they are the series highlights for me.

  10. lazyoptimist Wednesday 12th Mar 2014 at 21:37

    This is the best news I heard in a while. Every single Zelda game building from Link to the Past was fine for a while, but the atmosphere and exploration of Zelda and Zelda II can't be beat.

  11. Maxz Thursday 13th Mar 2014 at 02:22

    Given that the older games are constantly being rereleased/revisited/remastered, I'm really not too bothered about 'keeping tradition alive' when it shows its face every other day. I'd rather each game truly stood out as its own game than muddied the waters with another imitation of the games before it.

    Fundamentally I'd rather people just think creatively about their creations. I'm sick of people getting what they want. It always turns out to be completely boring and predictable.

    Oh and, I think all of this too:

    I see no problems with this. I've always thought that the big open worlds that they create often go to waste with a linear story. It's like they've set up the potential for a real adventure, but then they've set a very definable course through it, and left the other stuff on the side for the purposes of increasing the amount of content in the game (I'm looking particularly sternly towards Skyward Sword here). So for me, I'm very much welcoming a less linear story with open arms.
    The one thing I like most about adventure/exploration games is the side quests, and if that's where they're going to be putting a lot of focus onto in Zelda U then I'd be very very happy.

  12. Deepsouth Friday 14th Mar 2014 at 00:06

    There has to be a way to make the difficulty in the dungeons increase as the game progresses, instead of decrease. This was a real problem in ALBW for me, becouse the dungeons got easier the further you went in the game. I hope Nintendo can strike a balance between open world, and dungeon difficulty. A game with no difficulty is not fun to me.

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