What the Legend of Zelda really needs to be more successful

With Skyward Sword only selling about 3 million copies and the recent slew of internet articles about how Zelda is going downhill, it seems like an increasing amount of people want the series to go back to like how it was in the NES days.  But that’s a mistake.  What worked then doesn’t work now, and the sales figures for the individual games in the series has honestly given me a much better idea about how the Legend of Zelda franchise could be popular once more.

1. Style should be realistic

This doesn’t mean I hate the toon style of The Wind Waker or the hybrid style of Skyward Sword, but just that sales wise a realistic style makes much more sense.  Those games with it sell greatly (Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are top of the overall worldwide sales lists for the series), those without sell worse.

Personally, I think this comes down to a few things.  The more realistic, gritty style is more popular in the west in general (note how the best selling fantasy games/RPGs/action adventures are those with such an art style), it tends to cause an explosion of hype online which gets the Zelda fan community interested (note how much more popular the trailers for Twilight Princess were compared to Skyward Sword) and it generally brings back memories of Ocarina of Time.

Keep in mind that this was probably the most well received game trailers ever released for the series:

Just hear that crowd when the game was announced.  People were jumping from their seats and the internet hype train was about to explode with excitement.  There’s just something about a more realistic or just darker style which interests people, and Nintendo should just accept that by now.

Oh, and Nintendo, if you’re doing this to attempt to make the series popular in Japan.  Don’t bother.  People outside of Japan don’t generally like ‘cute’ for a franchise like this one, and as much as I hate to say it, America is basically the biggest market for the series.  It’s not that popular in Japan, and honestly, various trends over there have made it irrelevant.  Don’t bother.

2. This type of game should be the very next game after Skyward Sword

In release order, obviously. That way, you don’t accidentally further kill off the series by releasing what turns out to be a poorly selling game straight after a previous one.  People don’t like to be sold multiple games they don’t like in a row, and ignoring this and trying to be creative as often ended as many series as you can count. By Nintendo not considering this in the past, they literally killed off Donkey Kong’s sales for about two generations in a row (every game from 64 to Returns bar the ports has failed at retail). Not to mention the Wario series, which went from World to Master of Disguise to Shake Dimension and has literally lost more than half its audience.

Don’t rush out games either, that pretty much killed half the series Activision owned.

But yes, you want a massively high selling Zelda game out on either 3DS or Wii U in a few years time.  And it really needs to win back the crowd.

3. Have a decent overworld

Ocarina was closest, but the games from Wind Waker onwards have all failed in this regard in some way or another.  Wind Waker had a mainly empty ocean (yes I know there were technically islands in each square, it’s just that about half only had either reefs or rocky stacks with nothing to really do), Twilight Princess had too little content for a vast world and the sky in Skyward Sword seems empty and overall quite dull.  Oh, and let’s not even mention Spirit Tracks…

For this game, there should be no gimmicks.  That’s not to say sailing or flight couldn’t be used to expand the world a bit and as additional extras you can unlock later in the game, but the basic world should be entirely interconnected, filled with content and geographically varied in the same way a real country is.

There should be multiple towns and villages.  Sure there’d be a castle town/market with side quests, shops, Hyrule Castle and other such things, but there’d also be a Kakariko Village type area or three with their own assortment of things to do and their own unique characters.

And the sky and sea wouldn’t be empty, nor as large as in Skyward Sword. When you find a boat you get to explore a few islands with their own dungeons and side quests.  Maybe even a town on some remote island.  When you learn some method of flight, you then get to explore the sky and higher mountains with their own secrets and perhaps more towns, mini games and dungeons to explore.  An ideal overworld should tastefully mix in the transport mechanics from the past few games but actually have enough content that no one ‘realm’ is boring to traverse.

Enemies should play a bigger part in making the world interesting as well.  Pirates would roam the seas, Bokoblin and Moblin troops march across the plains and through the forests and Guays and flying monsters would attack anyone in mid flight.  For a more interesting experience, the types of enemies you face on the overworld would change as you progress through the story, with the early game having weaker ones and later game having the villain’s tougher troops sent out to take down Link.  Perhaps bring back the system from Ocarina where clearing out a region would get rid of the monsters there for good too.

Similarly, night would also change the creatures you found wandering about.  Remember how at night in OoT you had Stalchildren come out the ground and attack when in the past?  Well similar to that, the overworld should have monsters like Stalfos and maybe Redeads and such like attack at night in larger numbers and have even the towns filled with the forces of evil when the sun goes down. Have it so the shops and houses (bar maybe Link’s own) are locked/bolted shut at night and you’ve made the world so much more interesting.  Can you survive the night with no NPCs, Ganon’s (or whoever the bad guy is) soldiers roaming Hyrule looking for Link and random monsters trying to ambush you even in the middle of Castle Town or Kakariko Village?

Optional things like side quests could be improved too.  Why not have whole bonus dungeons with bonus bosses like in RPGs? You know, with really nice rewards found for beating them like a double magic meter or greater strength or an infinity plus one sword? That’d then let Nintendo provide a dangerous gauntlet filled with tough monsters for those that can handle it while letting those that can’t have a game they can still finish.

Secrets should also be packed into every corner.  Every rock, island and floating landmass should have at least some rupees or a significant bonus gauntlet to find, a cave of ordeals like location should exit and fishing should return as well.

Bringing back the day and night system would be good too, with the change that it should only stop when in dungeons.  That way, people can’t play chicken and just stay in their friendly village for hours on end (admit it, a lot of people who played Ocarina or Wind Waker did this, didn’t they?) and those that did would find themselves surrounded by enemies very quickly.  Have it so side quests can only be undertaken at certain times of the day like in Majora’s Mask and the world would be so much better and more life like in general.

Oh, and more variety in areas.  Why were there only three provinces in Skyward Sword anyway?  I mean, it was nice how you had to return to each one twice and how each had at least two dungeons in them, but a truly great Zelda game needs about 15 or 20 seperate areas with that amount of content in each.

4. Bring back magic

What happened to magic spells and items anyway?  Twilight Princess and the DS games don’t seem to even have a magic meter any more and Skyward Sword follows the trend.  There’s nothing wrong with elemental arrows and handy spells like Din’s Fire you know.

I blame the obsession with literature trying to pretend fantasy worlds are set in Earth’s past and magic goes away as technology advances for this. Should be far more works where magic and technology are both found in abundance and where neither is dying out if you ask me.

5. Keep Skyward Sword’s combat but add variety

Did we really need three different colours of Bokoblin including two archer varieties and even zombie and future versions?  How about the endless variations of other basic enemies Skyward Sword seemed obsessed with using?

A good Zelda game needs more variety in enemies.  There should be epic battles with Darknuts and Iron Knuckles with motion controlled combat.  Some of those soldiers from A Link to the Past.  How about some Floor/Wallmasters to battle like in the old days?

Because Skyward Sword’s enemy variety was kind of pathetic if you ask me, and now Nintendo has mastered the Wii MotionPlus tech, I expect the same number of enemy types as in Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker for the next game.

6. Less helping

First we had Navi and that damn owl, now Fi?  Do we really need these stupid companion/office assistant type characters who seem to exist purely to give advice and never seem to shut up?

At least the King of Red Lions was a boat and couldn’t follow Link on dry land…

If Nintendo wants to improve this whole system and still provide help to people who aren’t very good at the series, they should make it so that:

The helper is entirely silent unless called by pressing a button/moving the Wii remote
They appear in cut scenes, but these only come up where logical story wise, not at the start of every single area.
There’s no flashing icon indicating they want to say anything

This way everyone wins. The expert player can be left to figure out puzzles and fight enemies in peace, the newbie can call for help every four seconds when they get stuck and everyone’s sanity is restored.

Similarly, keep tutorials short and intuitive.  Instead of giving silly instructions and forcing people to do some silly task like breaking targets or collecting rupees to show ‘mastery’ just have it throw them out in some task and bring up a button prompt whenever a specific action is required.  Once that one action is done, you never bug them about it again.

7. More challenge

Like in Skyward Sword really, except make it so the weaker enemies start doing about two or three hearts damage a hit later in the game.  Because at present, it takes an awful lot of mistakes to actually die when you get past the halfway point (due to what’s basically scratch damage) and making enemies both more common and hit much harder would go a long way towards changing that.

Imagine how scary it’d be if you fought an Iron Knuckle with motionplus controls and one hit from it literally took ten hearts from your health bar.  Ouch.

8. More freedom

As in, no more being restricted to purely where the story wants you go, but making it so you can explore most of Hyrule (at least, the on land sections) right from the start of the game.  Maybe even more times where you can choose what order to complete dungeons in.

Those things would go a long way towards making a new Legend of Zelda game sell extremely well and revitalise the series again.  Just one game like this on 3DS or Wii U and believe you me, people would buy the consoles the very day the game came out.


I’ve made a video about these points here, with some pictures and stuff:

What do you think of these ideas?


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8 years ago

Just for thoughts on the helper thing, they could always do a Tippi kind of thing like in Super Paper Mario. Where they followed you around, talked during cutscenes, said a simple sentence at the start of a new plot-change to give you a good idea of where to go, and then it was up to you to use them if you were stuck.