Zelda games have traditionally been hard to define. Often referred to as ‘action adventure’ games due to the elements of exploration and combat they do also contain heavy puzzle components and other features more commonly seen in other genres. Maybe it’s partly because they are a mix of genres that the games are so good and critically acclaimed. Regardless of this the tried and tested formula for Zelda, established with A Link to the Past and perfected with Ocarina of Time has recently had a shake up with the release of the truly ‘open world’ Breath of The Wild. The new title returns to an ‘open world’ game design last seen in the original NES title (or arguably Wind Waker). The environment is seamless, you can literally climb everything and there’s even a natural ecosystem in the game with wildlife such as boar, wolves, bears, and even woolly rhino!
Despite being critically acclaimed almost all Zeldas since A Link to the Past have followed the same formula. Complete three dungeons, find three gems and then progress to the second half of the game. The games also usually have a dual world system such as A Link to the Past’s dark world/ light world or Twilight Princess’s twilight realm/ daylight realm. Ocarina of Time perfected this structure. This isn’t to label Twilight Princess, Wind Waker or Skyward Sword as imitators, they’re great games in their own right that did do things differently but Breath of The Wild has turned the whole thing on its head. Majora’s Mask is the one exception. It focused on side quests and the awesome dense three day system of branching character paths. Emotional story lines in a dark, twisted world brought the game to life in a way that hasn’t been seen before or since (not just speaking in terms of Zelda). Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, breaks up traditional dungeons into mini shrines that segment the puzzle solving up in a way similar how you collect stars in Super Mario 64. It has been a stroke of genius but where does the series go from here?
Breath of the Wild’s story DLC is due to release this winter and it’ll probably conclude the hero of the Wild’s story. We probably won’t get the next console Zelda for at least three or four years but can we go back to what Zelda was like before? Would we want to? Another open world style game Zelda would be great but the new game is so nonlinear its story is spread thin. What if the game was more story focused and just slightly more linear? Imagine a game where Link is deserted on an island a quarter the size of Breath of the Wild’s map and after some sizeable dungeons were then given freedom to explore an open world new land. Or a Breath of the Wild style game that focused on interpersonal stories like Majora’s Mask. What I’m basically saying is the next game could be a hybrid between the new and old style. I would love to see a game like that.
There’s a lot of unknowns for the next Zelda games but I’m sure Miyamoto and Aonuma will get it right!