Objection! – Is The Legend of Zelda Overrated?

Judge: Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Objection!” I’m here with recently promoted editor Starshine, and we’re here to debate The Legend of Zelda’s claim to greatness. Starshine believes it’s slightly overrated, so I have to start by asking you WHAT!? Initial thoughts please!

Starshine: I get soooo much crap for not liking Zelda games, and as a gamer it’s probably the worst thing you can say, but I cannot deny it. I personally feel like the games are all somewhat recycled in their game play and motifs. Yes, the games are “good” (I would say okay, for most) but they aren’t all these fantastic, mind-blowing games everyone makes them out to be. When I first played Wind Waker, I was actually disappointed.

Judge: Well, you can say that about any series really; most games recycle gameplay elements because 1) that’s what makes it good and 2) it defines the series. I can agree that not all Zelda games are “fantastic.” I didn’t like Wind Waker or other games drawn in that style. Nonetheless, each Zelda game offers a slightly different experience which makes them fun. A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask (for me), Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword rank up there as fantastic.

Starshine: Well, what do you define as slightly different experiences? An example would help.

Judge: In A Link to the Past, you had to travel between the light and dark worlds. In Ocarina of Time, you had to travel between past and present. In Majora’s Mask, you had to implement dozens of masks to accomplish tasks, not to mention having only 3 days to win (although it was necessary to go back in time to the the beginning of the 1st day several times). In Oracles of Seasons, you had to use the power of the 4 seasons. In Wind Waker, you had the boat. In Four Swords, you had 4 Links. I could go on. Skyward Sword definitely offered the freshest experience in that there were was a multitude of exploration instead of a mostly linear path.

Starshine: I haven’t played Skyward yet, so I can’t make judgements, but those minor changes in gameplay just aren’t novel enough for me to spend money on buying the game. Also, Ben Drowns has made me swear off Majora’s Mask — seeing it, playing it, anything. But I just feel like while they throw twists in here and there, in the end it just feels like the tried-and-true methods without tons of innovation and risk thrown in. I may not like all the Silent Hill games, but you can’t fault them for all being carbon copies.

Judge: I mean what exactly do you want them to do then? It’s an action adventure game; that’s what the series is.

Starshine: I just feel like they could try more mechanics, a different plot line. The kingdom is doomed, the princess is unable to do anything about it, go to these 9 different levels, and then beat Ganon or the Ganon-substitute. I mean, I think heavy boots are in every game — can’t we think of different puzzles and items?

And they are always ugly as Hell...

Judge: Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always Zelda in distress. Nor is Ganon always the final boss. I see what you mean, but they are different even though they follow a similar mold. I would still like to hear an alternative to dungeons. Item variation could be worked on a bit, I’ll give you that. And you’re going to have to be moar specific about puzzles. I haven’t found many puzzles to be similar.

Starshine: I just kind of hate dungeon puzzles — find the key, arrange the floor boards, I just feel like it fits a type and they rarely deviate in style. And the aesthetic rarely changes either game to game, except maybe the hourglass one, Wind Waker, and the four mini ones.

Judge: Perhaps then it’s merely not a game for you. Again, how would you propose arranging a dungeon puzzle then? By aesthetics you mean art or layout of dungeons?

Starshine: Collect items, build weapons, remember passcodes, math puzzles, something more involved and complex. And the art of the gamplay, though not the designs, cause those do change. And yeah, I’m just not a big dungeon-style game. Also, thinking about it, it hasn’t changed much in layout of the game (the linearity of it) from its NES days.

Judge: Ok those are good examples, and I would welcome additions like those. Perhaps why I don’t find them stale is that it’s within the frame of the Zelda concept. Well as far as art goes, I would actually prefer they stick to one style. How many other franchises have different art styles? I wouldn’t count the likes of Final Fantasy since they are all standalone games in their own right. I spoke about the linearity earlier in the fact Skyward Sword changed this a bit. But it’s not meant to be a free roaming game, so I’m not sure why that’s an issue.

That pony is the closest thing to freedom Link gets.

Starshine: But why can’t it be? Wouldn’t it be the coolest if you could run around Hyrule at will? I can understand budgetary restrictions and bigger scopes don’t mean better games but with all the games they have produced it just seems like I can pick up their newest game and fully know whats going to go down in the game and that’s boring. A formula is only as good as its longevity, and I just feel the technology is there to make it a little different.

Judge: Perhaps. It will be interesting to see what they do with Zelda on the Wii U. I have always stated that you must judge a game within its context. In Zelda’s case, it is a dungeon action adventure game. I don’t go into it expecting anything else, and I judge it based on that context. Look at Resident Evil now. They are constantly changing the formula, and it has been mediocre at best. I understand tinkering with a mold, but you don’t sacrifice your identity in the process. Skyward Sword gave a litte moar freedom while remaining in its confines, and it succeeded. Whatever the case, it just comes down to if you like the genre or not. I’m not too fond of fighting games, but I judge them within their context and see them for what they’re worth.

Starshine: I’m not saying that The Legend of Zelda games are bad, I just don’t like them. I can see their value as they are, but I just personally think they aren’t the pillars of amazing gaming everyone claims them to be. I’m sure they are entertaining but I just don’t think you can claim they’re God’s gift to gamers when the games don’t have much in the way of innovation.

Judge: Umm I hate to break it to you, but there’s hardly any innovation anymore. Been that way for a while. Zelda is still the staple for what a good action adventure game is supposed to be. Whether you or I like it not, the fact remains that Zelda is a pillar of the gaming world, just like Halo, just like Call of Duty. This really isn’t a debatable fact. Whether you want to admit it not, these series shaped the industry. But as I said, it isn’t your cup of tea, which is fine. But I think it’s overboard to say they aren’t pillars. Despite my incredible reluctance to say so, Apple is a pillar in the technological world. Even Justin Bieber has etched his mark on the music industry. These aren’t up for debate, it’s fact.

Even this girl has regrettably made an impact on the music industry.

Starshine: I refuse to believe Justin Bieber is anything more than the modern day Spice Girls, for sanity’s sake. I just think that staying the same and relying on a linear, constantly used formula isn’t where the gaming SHOULD be going. Now, where it is, and will go, obviously isn’t up to me, but my dollars don’t have to follow along. Again, my main claim is I don’t like them — I’m not saying they should stop making them, or that people shouldn’t enjoy them. I know plenty of people who love them and it kind of sucks being the only one who doesn’t like it. I have played far worse games to boot, but this particular style of game just feels dead end to me. And even though there isn’t innovation right now, wouldn’t games like Zelda, who have solid fanbases and money, be the ones to try them? I just think the formula is more for money than just keeping all the way true to the series. You don’t keep making the same rom-coms because they have something to say new every time. And that’s disappointing. I feel like Nintendo cares about its games, but it’s no Pixar (though even that metaphor isn’t wholly true anymore) and its not going to try to make them any more than they are. It’s not a bad thing, but same-old-same-old doesn’t cut it with me personally.

Judge: That’s fine. Innovation is great and all, but there’s only so much you can do. There’s only so many ideas out there. You want to move that way, but there are many people who think Zelda has been innovating, and that’s all that matters. In the end money talks. Which is why whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Bieber has made an impact on the music industry. It’s fact. The video game industry isn’t doing well, so I don’t see a logical reason for taking uneccessary risks. Again, I said it’s ok if you don’t like it, my argument was that believing Zelda is not a pillar of the gaming world is just plain wrong, no two ways about it. And I think we’ve made our points.

Starshine: True that, and while it may not be logical to make riskier games because of the money, it’s sad cause games are art and they can be so much more, as we have seen before, even in this series. Ocarina of Time is the only game of Zelda that I’ve liked, even thought it was amazing. Again, it’s just not the game series for me. I kind of wished I did like it to make it easier on my social life, haha!

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Nick

Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

4 Comments:

  1. Great discussion you two! I agree that the video game industry is almost totally devoid of innovation. It's a sad truth, but it's too risky to stray from the formula. It's part of the reason that most FPS games have been more or less the same for the last decade or so (the last one I feel really did anything interesting was Gears of War). I also think Zelda has innovated quite a bit among games, which is probably why fans of the series are so split on which ones they like best. I think Ocarina of Time is so popular because it's the "vanilla" Zelda: it's got everything you want, and nothing you don't for that style of game. In contrast, a game like Majora's Mask may appeal to people like Judge and I, but a good proportion of the Zelda fanbase found it too strange and troublesome with its time travel and mask mechanics.

  2. If I may add, Judge makes a really good point on innovation in existing IPs. Innovation is great and all, but if you change things too much, you risk alienating your existing audience. For instance, taking a look at another IP, Metroid, I think they went too far with Other M (and I'm not even going to comment on the plot). They made it play way too much like a Ninja Gaiden game, while pretty much gutting or removing many of the elements that defined what Metroid is. Funnily enough, Other M was supposed to be a throwback to the 2D games. However, the Metroid Prime games, which seem radically different at first glance, actually capture much of Metroid's heart and soul. That's what a new game in an existing IP should do.

    Going back to Zelda, I'd argue that they're innovative enough. Hell, if they weren't, you wouldn't see people arguing which Zelda game ruined the series. I'm going to give a lot of credit to Skyward Sword though. Not only did it change up the control style, and with that, the very way combat is handled, but various other elements of the Zelda formula got changed. For instance, while there isn't much of a main overworld (I guess the sky counts, but I'd argue it's more of a hub, if anything), the areas outside dungeons now have puzzles and such. The item you get in a dungeon is also not going to be the only item you use to beat a dungeon and its boss.

    I think you're being a little unfair to Zelda though. Nintendo has a ton of IPs, probably more than any other game maker out there, and often makes more. It's those new IPs that Nintendo uses for new game concepts and ideas. With a series as established as Zelda, it's not like they can easily screw with every element. Sure, you have people decrying Nintendo for its "Mario and Zelda rehashes", but that just means those series have very strong identities. While it's indeed possible to get away with innovations in series such as this, Nintendo has to be careful if they try, for they wouldn't want to destroy any identity the series so strongly had. No one wants another Metroid: Other M, after all.

    • ^ All of this.
      While some may think Zelda is "stagnant" in its gameplay, I think most Zelda fans would take what they know and love (Set in different universes and situations) over the "innovations" that they seem to experiment with the Mario franchise. Honestly I think Mario is their best guinea pig when it comes to trying out ideas so you get games like, Mario Party, Paper Mario, Mario Sunshine etc. etc.
      But would that work under the Zelda title? Probably not. But to make up for that we get changes in style and in gameplay that are rather unique in of themselves.

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