Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Zelda creator asks 'Why does it have to be traditional?', opens door for a female protagonist?

Being interviewed is a tricky prospect  as an innocent comment taken out of context can result in a firestorm of controversy days later.  These complications are compounded when the interview in question is translated, since meanings rarely line up neatly between languages.

Such seemed to be the case when The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma was asked about making future games in the franchise. He was quoted as saying "If I’m getting tired of it, then I’m sure other people are getting tired of it" which many people assumed to mean that he was getting tired of making Zelda games.

But, thankfully, that didn't seem to be his meaning.  In a recent (Japanese) interview with 4gamer, Aonuma clarified his position by stating:

"When I say I’m tired, I’m not talking about making Zelda, but rather, the same constituent that has been used to make Zelda up until now. While on the subject, in regard to how we’ve always done things the traditional way until now: ‘Why does it have to be traditional?’ That’s the question I’ve been asking myself."

Aonuma went on to discuss what he meant and what the future of The Legend of Zelda might hold, and hints that roles for Link and Zelda might get swapped around a little.

"So, by no means, am I tired of it,” Aonuma reiterates with a laugh. “Rather, the more we change it, the more I get fired up. Having someone think ‘Huh? Is this Zelda?!’ at first, then ‘Oh, it is Zelda,’ is what we’re going for. Something that wouldn’t make it matter whether Link or Princess Zelda appear in it or not. Something where it wouldn’t even matter if Zelda is actually a princess, or not."

That's a bit vague, admittedly, but the traditional Zelda formula is already being called into question with the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS where players will have the option to rent every item from the beginning of the game instead of questing for hookshots, hammers, and boomerangs in a sequence of linear temples.

A Zelda game - to many - is at its best when it steps away from the accepted (and admittedly successful) formula of previous installments.  Spirit Tracks is my absolute favorite title from the franchise because it gives players control over Zelda and affords her a good amount of agency.

Sure, she gets her soul torn out of her body in the opening cutscene and needs Link to help rescue her physical form, but for the majority of the game she's Link's partner and acts as his equal in many dungeons.

If Aonuma and co. want to really step away from convention, they could create an epic Zelda game with a forking path that allows players to choose to play as either Link or Zelda.  One needn't place either in the role of the damsel in distress, either, as champions of a genderswapped Zelda game have called for in the past.  Instead, it should present players with a massive series of objectives that requires Link and Zelda to divide their efforts - thus allowing them to play as either, or both.

I'd be a step away from convention, sure, but the game would be hailed as being everything that legions of Zelda fans have been asking for for years.

What's more likely, however, is that there will be a reprisal of the Spirit Tracks idiom for the Wii U with players controlling Link on the TV screen and Zelda on the Wii U Gamepad. While this certainly wouldn't be optimal, it would be something to get Aonuma "fired up" again.