Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Zelda and Predictability

The Legend of Zelda games are all pretty much awesome. They are excellently designed, beautifully executed, and the attention to detail aspect is amazing. Like many other games, they also follow a sort of a "model" which almost all of the Zelda games follow.

This model typically goes something like this:
Start the game with no inventory, in a small town or something. Give access to only 5% of the world, and set you off on your first quest with just a wooden sword or less.
That wooden sword will eventually get a shield companion, which in turn will both be upgraded to metal counterparts, and then eventually to the super sword and shield.
That 5% of the world will open up bit by bit as you gain items until all of the world is then accessible to you.
You know that any problems or puzzles you cannot solve will later be solvable by items you will get in the future, such as bombs, hookshots, arrows and the like.
The game structure will send you off to a dungeon, then once inside, make you solve puzzles and fight bosses, give you new items, and then those new items open up the new areas with new dungeons, then repeat this Dungeon->Item->New Area-> Dungeon until you get to the final boss. Add sequences of awesome in between, and keep the player busy with multiple side-quests and the like.

That is the formula for basically all the Zelda games. It doesn't really change at all, they just change the story... and a few gameplay elements.
It gets really predictable when you KNOW you will face 10 dungeons in this game, and you KNOW you will encounter GORONS, ZORAS, and KARIKIKAO village in the game. And you spend the first 10 hours saying to yourself, "I KNOW I'm going to get the hookshot, bow+arrow, bombs, and other items, but when?"

Not to say that Zelda games are bad. They are excellent, and amazing in every aspect, but this constant repeating of the EXACT SAME World, the same Locations, the same Characters (or Races if you prefer) , the same Items, the same gameplay mechanics... and all wrapped up in the same screenplay of "Small town hero with nothing, goes and fights in dungeons to get to the final boss tower and win..."
...just gets old.
But the formula is not a bad formula. It works, and it is an excellent gameplay model to guide the player through the world, but it has never really changed since the first Zelda games. And because of that, it basically removes any surprises for the story and gameplay.

Zelda a Link to the Past (SNES) was "probably" incredible for it's time. (I don't know.. I wasn't around back then.) Then came along Ocarina of Time (N64), and the jump to 3D with all new gameplay elements, horses, and all that just blew everybody's mind to pieces, resulting in the proclaiming of the greatest game of all time.
Now we have Twilight Princess, which basically borrows the same gameplay mechanics as Ocarina of Time, adds the "Twilight World" and you have almost the same game.

But I will still enjoy Zelda for what it is: An epic quest facing you off against unimaginable odds in a gigantic world where every aspect is just waiting to be explored.

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