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Recently, I’ve been creating some, what I believe to be, fairly insightful and constructive articles here, and I thought, “Well jeez, who wants that crap?” So today we’re doing not that, and watching a Zelda trailer instead. Enjoy.

So hype is something I’ve always had mixed feelings on. As a consumer who needs to keep a level head in determining how best to spend my money, and as an amateur critic who wants to give substantive and well thought out thoughts and analysis, hype is an enemy of mine. But at the same time, as a gamer and otaku, hype is sometimes the pinnacle of what I live for.

Consider this; in any great anime, game, or other artistic piece that involves times and progression, it’s good to have a build up before a climax. This is hype. And without hype, there is no real climax, there is no ecstatic release of the hype. To me, some like Kill la Kill would have been pretty dull if I didn’t get swept away in the hype from time to time, something which was pretty apparent in my “This Week on…” series for the show.

That said, I’m not especially hyped by the recent Zelda Wii U Gameplay footage.

Miyamoto comments on the sunset, and that it means Link was headed West at the beginning. This seems like an odd think to point out and start with. The way the sunlight behaves is also different from past Zelda titles, it’s a lot more eye-catching. This may just be them taking advantage of improved graphics technology, but given Nintendo’s design philosophy, I can’t think it’s just graphics. I’m guessing the sun’s position is going to be used to help the player navigate the world, without constantly checking a map. I’ll get more into that later.

Also, the HUD looks pretty barren here. Only the top left corner has anything in it, and that’s the standard health and magic bar. 5-hearts for health, which is probably just a precaution for the showing, and an extended magic bar. I don’t get this part; usually in Zelda games, your magic bar starts of short, and you can get it extended by competing a side-quest. If they used magic in this showing, the extended bar would make sense, again as a precaution, but no magic is used. Maybe the extended bar is just the default this time.

Setting beacons, and a large map. This is why I think the sun for navigation is a good idea. Nintendo is clearly going for a more open world design with this game, which means navigation is important. Generally there are 3 ways to do this. Beacons, which only work when you have a specific destination in mind and aren’t good for the type of free exploration that is so good in Zelda games. Maps, which usually involve having to bring up a pause menu; the game pad fixes that but it still means looking away from the game itself. And a compass, which also has the player not paying attention to the world. If the sun and other environmental factors are used for navigation instead, then the player gets to engage in the world in a new way, which would be awesome!

Sailcloth. I’m more of a Deku Leaf fan, but it looks like the Sailcloth doesn’t use magic, which is probably for the best looking at that world. Given that we haven’t seen the Sailcloth in any game before Skyward Sword (that is, any game after SS in the timeline), this might mean that Zelda Wii U is a direct sequel.

Once on Epona, we see what the world is actually like, and it’s pretty barren. Really, there are just some trees and grass. It seems to be trying to show how much of an open world the game has. The way Epona runs and dodges trees on her own reminds me of sail The Great Sea, in Wind Waker, and I think this is what Nintendo is going for. But you can’t just replace a sea with a field and a boat with a horse, and expect the same effect. The Great Sea worked because the game was designed so well around it. That could be recreated here, but at this point we don’t know enough.

The arrows. Yes, you can jump off the horse, do a flip, and aim in slow motion. Yes, this is super cool. But from a gameplay standpoint, it’s actually the least interesting use of the arrows that’s shown. It gives you one free shot, maybe a guaranteed kill, but that’s it. What I like about the arrows is using them while riding Epona. This isn’t anything new, but Epona’s AI is, and it allows the play to take shots without slowing down. This is another part of the open world design; keeping moving is important. For reference, in Wind Waker, wasn’t it weird how pulling out your boomerang suddenly stopped the boat? Why not leave the sail up and keep going while fending off enemies? Well, now that can be a thing. Epona can change forward while Link clears a path!

Overall, it looks like the theme of this trailer was “open-world”, which is really nothing new to the Zelda series. But the sheer scale of this world might be. I expect this is partly in response to complaints that Skyward Sword was too linear. But having such a big open world is a lot different from previous games. Think of big RPGs, like Skyrim and XenoBlade, these both have massive worlds, and the player spends more time in the wilderness than towns or temples. This works because of the RPG elements; leveling and item collecting keeps the player engaged, even when they’re separated from the story. Challenge still existed because there are tough enemies in the wilderness, and the player is willing to fight these enemies because they give good exp and drops. You don’t have those factors in Zelda, so I’m worried that the world could get boring.

It work decently for Wind Waker because, even though it had a big world, it was still tiny compared to what it looks like Zelda Wii U will have. And the world had a formulaic structure; 7 squares by 7 squares, each with on land formation. You knew where to explore and how much to explore. All other things (Lookout posts and submarines) could easily be tracked down later with charts. But Zelda Wii Us world doesn’t look like it’s structured so formulaic; you can’t just run around until you see land and know that’s where to go, because everything is land.

The game looks good, but Nintendo’s gonna have to be clever to make a big open world work stay fresh and engaging. Thankfully, there are some clever people at Nintendo, and I’m curious to see what they come up with.

Don’t Lose Your Way