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Editorial: “Why We Love It!” – The Legend of Zelda series

E3’s coming up and there’s a reason why most of us are so hyped.  In the end video games make us happy, they give us something positive to our lives, whatever that may be.  So let’s stop being the fussy gamers we are, complaining and fighting, and see what happiness games can bring us.

This will be the main focal point for my new series of editorials focusing on why we love games.  A celebration of what games do that makes us into fans.  I’d like to start with one series very close to me.  The Legend of Zelda.  The series that really got me into gaming.  If you are a fan or know of the fans you may know that Zelda fans are notorious for being impossible to please.  If you start a conversation asking what is the “best” Zelda game you’re going to hear different opinions and turn that conversation into an argument.  I’ve asked a few of the biggest people related to Zelda to help prove my point when I asking them to tell me what one, single thing they enjoy the most about The Legend of Zelda series.

Among the people I managed to contact is Mr. Waye Strange, Music Director and Lead Arranger of Zelda Reorchestrated.  As I will get to later on the thing that makes Zelda so great is the fact that it’s not so straightforward or direct.  A game has to have more than one trick to keep gamers’ attention.  Mr. Strange seems to agree:

“Most games focus on provoking thought through focused combat strategy – studying an opponent’s patterns and tendencies, and executing without hesitation. To most people who’ve grown up playing only these types of games, this is the only dimension of thought they understand. I believe Zelda’s appeal thrives in multiple dimensions of thought development both through combat and puzzle solving.  Even during a heated boss battle, you’ll rarely succeed by maintaining constant focus on the enemy.  In Zelda, victory is obtained by managing threats while studying the environment to find the creative solution. “

I expected someone from Zelda Reorchestrated would make the obvious choice by saying it was the music.  I was delighted that this assumption was wrong.

Anyway the next person up would be Mr. Michael Brian Damiani.  Most of you would know him better through his other name TSA.  Currently he’s a journalist for Gametrailers but he has a really huge presence in the Zelda fanbase particularly in the history of the Zelda fansite, The Hylia, as well as a being a record-setter for Zelda speedruns.  Video game series evolve over time and they obviously change.  It’s true that Zelda games have become more linear and less open-ended and TSA was definitely a fan of the more open-ended gameplay of the series.

“I honestly think the best thing about the Zelda series is actually something that’s been lost in the more recent entries. This thing is the aspect of freedom and exploration you had. The game didn’t hold your hand, and you had to really figure things out for your own, but there was enough given to you to figure it out. Other than that, the atmosphere and the world created for the player. Zelda hasn’t always had the much emphasis on the in-game narrative, but it sure as heck made sure you could immerse yourself in the world of Hyrule (or whatever land you were in).”

I guess that’s something we’d disagree on. 😉  I’m always a big fan of linearity.  More linear gameplay gives more opportunities for a better structured game.  While a linear game doesn’t always mean a well-structured game I trust Nintendo enough.   I don’t want Zelda to be straightforward but I do feel it’s found the perfect balance between linearity and open-endedness.

Finally we have Mr. Jason Rappaport, founder of Zelda Wiki and current owner of Zelda Universe.  As a someone with such a record you’d expect him to be a big fan of Zelda and boy was he one. 😛  Keep in mind it’s a pretty long read.

“One of the things that makes Zelda such a spectacular series isn’t just its consistently high quality, but its genre-defining nature as a whole. Nintendo is one of those companies like Apple – they’ve taken an industry and revolutionized it several times over. Although Apple does this through its hardware and software products, Nintendo does this through genre defining.

Nintendo, with the likes of Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and its other major franchises, essentially created modern platforming and adventure gaming. That’s a tough reputation to uphold, especially when other development firms pick up on what Nintendo does well and improve upon it, and yet somehow Nintendo and its direct partners have always been able to make the cut, and in many instances exceed it.

So although many people might say something more blatant that they love about the Zelda series – the puzzles, the medieval environment, the characters – I believe there is something deeper to love about Nintendo’s renowned franchise. Zelda, as a genre-defining series, has evolved beyond itself. Zelda is now an abstract concept, not just a game series.

I think that’s what I like about Zelda the most. It’s that, if Nintendo wanted, Zelda could be anything. Look at Okami for PS2 and Wii. it’s a brilliant game – and it’s also a Zelda game, in its own way.

Of course I love the puzzles and the scenery and the characters and all that jazz; I wouldn’t play them again and again if I didn’t. But I love it so much from a more abstract direction that it’s hard to appreciate the static aspects of each game.

I also love how Nintendo uses Zelda as its playground for new and innovative technology. The Wind Waker was one of the first – if not the first – games to properly use cel shading in a beautiful, artful way. I’ve always been enamored with The Wind Waker’s graphics; did you know that it takes more processor power to render the cel shaded graphics than the textured graphics? You might love Twilight Princess’s bloom lighting, but I guarantee The Wind Waker was more difficult to render on the system – it was a technological feat when it was made.

And that’s only because of that consistent quality. Zelda gets great releases, every time. Sure, the storyline is usually repetitive, but when you pick up a game and play it, you’re playing with a purpose. You know what you’re looking for. You even kind of know where you’re going – dungeon after dungeon, town after town.

The most played games of all time are card games, board games, sports. Games that have the same rules every time. Each game, though, is fundamentally different in the way it’s played. It’s a new experience every time – and all the variations of each game come together in these fundamental rules that make it, essentially, a timeless experience. I think Zelda, in a sense, is becoming that for gamers. We have a game that’s become a timeless set of rules that can be applied to anything to make it “Zelda”, and it will always adhere to that quality standard by reputation.

And that’s what’s to love about the Zelda series. The consistency, the quality, the sheer fun in playing every single game – it’s a formula that gives you satisfaction when you play it. You feel accomplished at the end, and you can appreciate everything that went into making the franchise what it is today.”

Obviously there’s a lot more to love.  Personally my favorite thing about the series is that it rewards you for giving into your own curiosity.  While Zelda games do sometimes tell you to go somewhere or do something you’re not limited to just following or punished for not listening to the game.  You might find a nice little area or maybe get a reward for playing some little game instead of saving the world (how boring :P).

I could go more into detail about what makes the series great like how the combat is simple yet intuitive or how the characters can be delightful and charming but there would be too much to say.  The Legend of Zelda offers so many things to love that I doubt any person, not just fans, could say at least one good thing about the series.

I hope this editorial helped.  Hopefully this helped in reminding people that there’s no such thing as the perfect Zelda since people love the series for different reasons.  And if you haven’t tried the series before maybe all these positive words will help you get interested in the series.

Just try to focus on the best things a game can offer. I’ll help you now by asking you, the reader, the same thing I asked the people above.  “What one single thing do you love about The Legend of Zelda series?”

And since E3 is upon us and Zelda Wii’s going to be featured try your hardest not to overhype yourself.  You might not get everything you want because different people love the series for different reasons, so many reasons that some sadly might be overlooked.

Art in this article is thanks to Mr. Andrew Dobson.

Wayne Strange

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3 responses

  1. Still disappointed with this article. I should’ve fleshed it out more. Next in line might be WoW or Halo. Something really big and something that has many fans. Obviously because they’re so popular they’re bound to have their skeptics. Let’s see if the fans of both series can help put perspective on this. Until next time… oh and please comment. 😛

    June 11, 2010 at 6:02 pm

  2. Ben

    Yo I really like it. How many more are you going to write?

    June 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

  3. I dunno actually.

    June 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

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