16/12/2009

This May Shock You

This may even appaul you. Undoubtedly, I will be called names in the street and spat on as a traitor to gaming and my fellow brethren. I may even get death threats.

I'm enjoying the original NES Zelda more than "new" Zelda.


Blasphemy! It's barely even SD!

Newer Zelda is great. It has lovely cinematics using techniques borrowed from film and TV to make you feel for the characters, large open vistas and dramatic "epic" stories. It even regularly goes from day to night, allowing you to bask in the morning light whilst occasionally changing things as it goes. It goes to all sorts of lengths to create a feasible world that you're a part of, trying to save against unfathomable odds. It also goes to great lengths to always give you something to do. Can't be bothered doing the next area? How about helping your neighbour catch chickens, or even a cat? Failing that, there's always numerous collectibles in some form. How many hearts do you have again?

Hey, don't worry if you're a newbie, each game starts with some form of tutorial, and you've got plenty of time before you get through it so you've got a great chance of learning everything you need to.

Lots of time has obviously been spent on crafting the music, with great, orchestral sounding tunes that could stand in their own right as of a kind you'd attribute to some of the great classical composers. From haunting melodies to big epic scores, it's fantastic stuff.

But there's one thing about it. it just can't beat the original for fun.

There's less time hunting heart pieces, less time trekking across beautiful yet empty expanses and less time listening to owls over explain everything to the point of nausea, and the fact that I get extra "epic story" or that when his head turns upside down it looks like a face doesn't make it OK. There's less time spent mucking around tutorial areas, simply letting you get on with it and not interfering one iota. You want your sword? Here, have it, with plenty of enemies scattered all over to use it against. Most of all, it's consistently challenging, with little artificial constraints and plenty of secrets. You're almost always wandering whether blowing up that part of the wall or burning that bush down will reveal a new secret, whether it be extra rupees or even a new tunic. Fair well obvious and out of place texture, you want that new tunic, you have to earn it!

More revealing about how the Zelda series has changed from its roots is that the original is primarily an action game, compared to the more recent series focusing more so on puzzles rather than challenging and varied enemies. Zelda even had a system where enemies got harder as you got better long before the likes of Valve's Gabe Newell were up to even 13 stone, let alone thinking about "Director" systems, constantly gaining in speed the further you progressed through the games successively more difficult dungeons and gained more hearts with new enemies awaiting you further on, rather than endlessly recycled ones.

Items you gained also remain useful throughout, whether it's offensive items to be used against enemies or to gain access to new areas. As enemies get faster, bombs become more useful as you go on, along side the boomerang and arrows. Hey, do you think it's possible to move that statue and find something awesome?

After having slogged my way through various rooms, slaying many enemies and finally defeating that bastard of a boss, I am not left with a heart felt, overly produced video that attempts to inject some sorrow or sadness for killing this boss as he was just a simple spider with a gigantic eye trying to provide for its kids, or telling me that all of that was pointless because the damn deku tree died anyway. Instead, I am left with my own accomplishment. I know I beat him, the game knows I beat him, and both of us realise the achievement that was in avoiding several balls of flame whilst also trying to expertly place bombs in his hectic path. That is all I need. Oh, and that triforce piece thankyouverymuch. My thumbs are getting itchy for more action, more challenge, so I need to find the next entrance quickly.

Somehow, the Zelda series has been bogged down by cruft and malformed ideas about what the series is, especially in the move to 3D. In a similar way to how 3D Mario malformed from being pure platformer to half-breed adventure game with racing sections and monkey ball and oh-God-more-wacky-changes for seemingly no good reason, the Zelda series has been malformed. Through ideals of "cinematic" story telling, the move to 3D and all sorts of other input, the Zelda series has also transformed from being a pure action arcade style game to a prolonged puzzler with epic story elements and oh-God-more-wacky-changes for no good reason.

I enjoyed previous 3D Marios, as I have previous 3D Zeldas. They're still a far cry from what made them great in the first place however, and it's only with the return of SMB Wii have I felt it's recaptured what made the original Super Mario Bros series so great to the point where they made Mario more mainstream than he's ever been since, and in turn brought about a kind of interest and excitement I haven't felt since the original Super Mario Bros. Perhaps it's time Zelda did the same, and returned to its roots, and with the perfect opportunity to do so.

If the successful reception of the return of classic Mario form is anything to go by, then it seems to me to bode only too well for a return to classic Zelda form, before the series malformed.

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