Saving Zelda -an in depth critique of the LoZ series

#1
Did a search, didn't see anything, but lock if old. Ultimately, I agree with pretty much everything in the article although I'd go a little easier on LTTP and OoT. Thoughts?

http://tevisthompson.com/saving-zelda/

Tevis Thompson said:
That is what I’m claiming: that modern Zeldas are broken at their core. By modern I mean the console Zeldas Ocarina forward (though Link to the Past is not innocent), and by core I mean their central structure and mechanics. I’m not going to harp on peripheral issues, though there are many that deserve mention. I’m not concerned with graphics, even if Wind Waker’s still-amazing style nearly saves it or Skyward Sword’s compromise between the painterly and the realistic is just that – a compromise, where nobody wins. I don’t think a modern game requires voice acting, although slow, repetitive dialogue boxes remain serious irritants.

...

Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.
Almost everything in Zelda has a discrete purpose, a tedious teleology. When it all snaps into place, some call this good design. I call it brittle, overdetermined, pale. It’s the work of a singleminded god, a world bled of wonder.
 
#2
Almost everything in Zelda has a discrete purpose, a tedious teleology. When it all snaps into place, some call this good design. I call it brittle, overdetermined, pale.
If you dont like how gamey Zelda is, you should probably go play something else instead.
 
#4
Whut. That's every zelda game. Sounds like he's gotten old and needs to play something new. I know a lot of kids who adore zelda now just as much as I did when I was a kid.
 

Kai Dracon

Writing a dinosaur space opera symphony
#5
My first thought is: Sean Malstrom's true identity (or at least another alt) revealed?

My second thought: that's a lot of words to say "I really only liked the first two Zelda games, and am annoyed that Nintendo doesn't make 8-bit style Zelda games anymore."

To be fair, that's a fair request. It would be nice to see the overhead view, 8 and 16-bit style Zelda return as a companion series just as we have both 2D and 3D Nintendo platformers together at last.

But, I do think he's probably overstating the case, or at least being overwrought about how "bad" Skyward Sword is, for example. And by extension all "new school" Zelda. And where's the long examination of Majora's Mask in there..? It kind of ends up reading like an in-depth bitchfest about Skyward Sword. We have plenty of those.
 
#8
Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.
Almost everything in Zelda has a discrete purpose, a tedious teleology. When it all snaps into place, some call this good design. I call it brittle, overdetermined, pale. It’s the work of a singleminded god, a world bled of wonder.
Absolutely agree. I've said the same thing many times.
 
#10
To be fair, that's a fair request. It would be nice to see the overhead view, 8 and 16-bit style Zelda return as a companion series just as we have both 2D and 3D Nintendo platformers together at last.
There's the DS games. They're in 2D perspective, with 360-degree gameplay rather than just facing 4 directions.

Don't blame the 3D games if people don't like those.

I liked Phantom Hourglass.
 

Kai Dracon

Writing a dinosaur space opera symphony
#12
There's the DS games. They're in 2D perspective, with 360-degree gameplay rather than just facing 4 directions.

Don't blame the 3D games if people don't like those.

I liked Phantom Hourglass.
I love both DS games, but I don't think they're really what people who want oldschool Zelda are looking for. The experimental control system is fine for what the games were going for, but a major, top-down Zelda game with direct control and a more connected structure would be best for the return of classic Zelda.

It's the same way that while Donkey Kong Jungle Beat may be a great game, it's not the same thing as Donkey Kong Country Returns.
 
#14
Wow, he took a game and broke it down using simple analogies to make it sound boring, uninspired, and trite. How very profound of him.

Seriously, this can be done with literally any game ever made. It's just a silly and pretentious way to attempt to justify the fact that you're tired of a certain style of gameplay.
 
#19
The article is very overblown and massively overwritten. So the Sean Malstrom connection is pretty excellent.

But the author doesn't even make a case for why it's broken, just that he doesn't like it. Every point he makes can be countered with the idea that his expectations simply don't match reality. Just because you expect a vast overworld doesn't mean there will be one - and we hear this every time a new Zelda comes out. He also harps on the world not being interesting, which as far as I can tell is one of the most subjective arguments for any fantasy genre. And the idea that Zelda is too mechanical? What franchise of Nintendo's hasn't been that way since its inception?

Modern Zelda is more Portal than Skyrim. That's fine if you don't like it, but calling it broken is the height of anti-Zelda hyperbole. Dumb article.
 
#20
Zelda needs to feel less... mechanical?

I mean make the transitions more seemless. I freaking hate 3d link's opening door animation. The loading between rooms and scenes all feel way too long.

windwaker's open world felt the most 'zelda' for me in the 3d era.
 
#22
I agree with him more than I disagree with him. He's a bit long-winded though. His comments regarding Demon's Souls and what can be learned from it are spot-on, IMO. But then I'm the crazy guy that's generally been bored to death by every Zelda since, and including, OoT.

He's right, though. The early Zelda's were so damned good.
 
#23
Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.
Almost everything in Zelda has a discrete purpose, a tedious teleology. When it all snaps into place, some call this good design. I call it brittle, overdetermined, pale. It’s the work of a singleminded god, a world bled of wonder.
LOL. Modern Zeldas? That's some selective criticism there. I could say the same about ALL the Zeldas. Goodness. Its as if people suddenly found out the Zelda games (like all games) have a discrete structure and now all of a sudden its a bad thing.
 
#24
My second thought: that's a lot of words to say "I really only liked the first two Zelda games, and am annoyed that Nintendo doesn't make 8-bit style Zelda games anymore."
I went a fair way through the article but truthfully couldn't finish it because this seemed to be the main point, oh and because it was far too long.
I don't see how he is in a position to say "this is Zelda" (what he likes or liked) and "that isn't Zelda" (what he doesn't like). I get a lot of the complaints lobbied at the series recently, some I agree with myself, but I can't say that bombing walls randomly in the hope it leads somewhere because that's "exploration" and removing puzzles in dungeons to make it a labyrinth of survival appeal to me which seems to be his angles among other things.
 
#25
Dude. He criticizes A Link to the Past. If you think the series was broken at A Link to the Past, you probably need to find something better to think about.

Zelda is fine. I may not have played Skyward Sword yet, but honestly I can't say I've ever played a Zelda game where I said "I hate this and it isn't fun and this is a bad game." As it happens, the only things I haven't liked about recent Zelda games are the Flute in Spirit Tracks and the final boss fight in the same game. I could never get that damn flute to work, and the stupid final boss fight was ruined by the fact that "slash" and "stab" and "roll like a freaking moron" were all mapped to more or less the same motion.

Otherwise Zelda is fine. I mean, sure, it'd be great if I could just wander around Hyrule and be lost like I was in ALttP and LoZ and to an extent the GBC games, but that's still a far cry from "broken" and "in need of saving."

Also: Here is a pun about needing to rescue Princess Zelda.
 
#26
The series doesn't need to be saved. It is not even close to being in any kind of trouble. Sounds like he is burnt out. Go take a break...
 

Tathanen

Get Inside Her!
#27
Reading only the thread here, it would appear that his critique isn't actually a critique, just... an exposition. He explains what Zelda is, a universe skin placed on a highly-constructed puzzle box, and I guess expects that analysis to serve in an editorial purpose? I could easily argue that what he defines as the "problem" is why Zelda games are GOOD. That he is looking for an experience Zelda games do not purport to provide, and it's his problem, not Zelda's.
 
#28
That's fine if you don't like it, but calling it broken is the height of anti-Zelda hyperbole.
Not when the series was founded on the idea of exploration. Now that they have almost no exploration which is covered up with forced fetch quests, I would say that is fair ground to consider it broken.

I have not read the whole article, so I will not say I agree with all of his points, but exploration is definitely a missing fundamental.
 
#29
Zelda needs to feel less... mechanical?

I mean make the transitions more seemless. I freaking hate 3d link's opening door animation. The loading between rooms and scenes all feel way too long.

windwaker's open world felt the most 'zelda' for me in the 3d era.
that should go away next gen with the Wii U since it has power comparable to other HD consoles.
 

Kai Dracon

Writing a dinosaur space opera symphony
#30
Wow, he took a game and broke it down using simple analogies to make it sound boring, uninspired, and trite. How very profound of him.

Seriously, this can be done with literally any game ever made. It's just a silly and pretentious way to attempt to justify the fact that you're tired of a certain style of gameplay.
Yeah, skimming over the article a second time, this is what bugs me most about it. This seems to be the tactic used by obsessive fans of a series who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of newer interpretations.

Generally, there seem to be two flavors of people who don't like Zelda at all now:

* Super hardcore Zelda fans who hold to 1 particular game in the series the master mold that the series should be cut from.

* Gamers who are fundamentally uninterested in Zelda's basic game design, and prefer what are really, when you break it down, a wholly different kind of adventure / RPG. These days, frequently open world western RPG, or focused cinematic RPG.

I'm like twice the age (judging by the photo) of the author of the article. 8-Bit Zelda has been old news to me for a long time. I've got my super hardcore cred, etc. And I found Skyward Sword a delightful experience in almost every single way, outside of the need to turn the Helper Bot off most of the time.

So what do I say to the author who cleverly contextualizes every detail of modern Zelda as stupid, poopy, and "contrived" when I had more or less the completely opposite response? Opinions man, how the fuck do they work? Is the idea that two people can have different levels of enjoyment out of a signal mechanic foreign? That a game design doesn't have to be objectively flawed just because one person doesn't like it, and it's still alright for them to not like it?


Not when the series was founded on the idea of exploration. Now that they have almost no exploration which is covered up with forced fetch quests, I would say that is fair ground to consider it broken.

I have not read the whole article, so I will not say I agree with all of his points, but exploration is definitely a missing fundamental.
The first game in the series turned you loose and didn't tell you where to go or what to do, and was almost entirely about blind exploration.

Every single game in the series after that, starting with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, imposed much more structure and scripted order to the progress of the game. No Zelda is really anything like Zelda 1, no matter what visual trickery may cause the player to think so due to the appearance of traversing the game world.

Zelda III / LttP, is pretty much the prototype for Skyward Sword. They even said so when discussing the development of SS. LttP is anything but Zelda 1 progression. The overworld is a tightly interconnected maze.

The real problem (that I am the first to point out) with Skyward Sword is the hand holding in terms of giving the player directions. If you removed the MEGAMAN MEGAMAN! notifications, Skyward Sword would seem as "open" as Link to the Past. The player would likely traverse different areas experimenting with where to go next (but ultimately only having one solution), and actual exploration, involving searching for materials and the non-fetchquest side quests would seem to be about on the same level as a game like LttP.
 
#31
That is what I’m claiming: that modern Zeldas are broken at their core. By modern I mean the console Zeldas Ocarina forward (though Link to the Past is not innocent), and by core I mean their central structure and mechanics
So... every Zelda aside from the first one have broken mechanics...



...yeah this is dumb.
 
#32
Not when the series was founded on the idea of exploration. Now that they have almost no exploration which is covered up with forced fetch quests, I would say that is fair ground to consider it broken.
that is indeed a problem with the series lately but it is something that can be removed easily and isn't part of the core mechanics. the thing is, why Nintendo insists in making their games so linear now.
 
#33
Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.
I agree with this. There where very few moments in Skyward Sword where I didn't feel like I was playing anything more than a very pretty pattern matching puzzle. Aside from a few standouts (the 2nd desert dungeon) most of the "puzzles" were Use This Item On Matching Object
 
#35
Not when the series was founded on the idea of exploration. Now that they have almost no exploration which is covered up with forced fetch quests, I would say that is fair ground to consider it broken.

I have not read the whole article, so I will not say I agree with all of his points, but exploration is definitely a missing fundamental.
Broken indicates that the series is unplayable, that there's bad game mechanics involved. Telling you where to go isn't worse, it's just different. There's a difference, and the author doesn't seem to grasp that difference.

If you don't like the lack of exploration, that's fine, but saying the changes in the series have broke the series is pure nonsense.

The series has changed and it's been obvious that this has been the case for, what, 16 years now? Whining about it still really seems foolish.
 
#37
Glimpsing at the title, I was thinking about ,saving Zelda (the character)' and perhaps some interesting analysis of the series. Not this shit again.
The series needs to be saved from what exactly? Losing this guys interest because it feels like a videogame and he thinks that he's too mature and wise for this series now? No one cares.
 
#38
Broken indicates that the series is unplayable, that there's bad game mechanics involved. Telling you where to go isn't worse, it's just different. There's a difference, and the author doesn't seem to grasp that difference.

If you don't like the lack of exploration, that's fine, but saying the changes in the series have broke the series is pure nonsense.
I can agree with that. I was using the word in a different context. The games have changed, that does not make them unplayable, it simply means that it has strayed from the mold for better or worse.

The series has changed and it's been obvious that this has been the case for, what, 16 years now? Whining about it still really seems foolish.
Aaaand, then you lost me. I can't agree with this. "That's the way it is, your favorite series ran off into a completely different direction, just deal with it" will not cut it.
 
#39
Ffs Zelda is awesome and this guy needs to stop playing a series he doesn't like.

The series isn't broken, people love it, grah /games journalists
 
#40
Okay. I'm confused. Long-winded as he is, I don't see too much to get really upset about - but even people I admire on GAF are ripping the guy a new one. What gives?

I don't want Zelda to be a western-style game; I don't want it to be an RPG. I want it to be an action-adventure title that challenges me to discover things and face enemies. That's what the early Zelda games were. And that's what I miss.

Even the examples he gave of games that Zelda could take notice of, SotC and Demon's Souls, are far from what people in this thread are suggesting he wants from the series.
 
#41
I liked Phantom Hourglass, too, but after the game ends, there's not much reason to keep playing it and the Overworld really wasn't up to snuff.

Zelda pumps out polished (or perhaps the right term is well-rounded) games, but lately, it doesn't really offer anything in spades other than art style and perhaps the dungeon puzzles. Characters, plot direction, combat mechanics and the overworld (especially lately) all feel unsatisfying except for maybe one or two exceptions per game. I do believe the lock analogy holds merit; I find that the way the modern Zelda overworld is put together feels really artificial. The bland characters make it feel even more so. There`s a lot I like about Zelda, but underneath I can`t help but feel a lack of genuine feeling in everything, even if I can see what the designers want to invoke.
 
#42
I for one would prefer another game in the vein of A Link to the Past, rather than the current iterations.

I also enjoyed Windwaker much more than Skyward Sword (other than fishing up Triforce pieces, that was just time-consuming).

Also, more difficulty would be good.
 
#43
You're linking to a Gamespot review to prove that Zelda needs changing? Really?

I can agree with that. I was using the word in a different context. The games have changed, that does not make them unplayable, it simply means that it has strayed from the mold for better or worse.
Yeah, broke the mold is a different context than broken.

I'm not going to say that Zelda is infallible. Skyward Sword had some dumb stuff in it. It also had some amazing stuff in it too. Casting it into the inferno with this guy's binary view on the series is about as reductive, uninspiring, and intellectually lazy as you can get. Covering that up with hyperbole and a vast word count doesn't change that.

Aaaand, then you lost me. I can't agree with this. "That's the way it is, your favorite series ran off into a completely different direction, just deal with it" will not cut it.
That's not my argument. My argument is that if you're going to contrast the series within itself, at least keep in mind how long it's been around, the nature of the industry, and the hardware that goes along with it. 16 years is not a throwaway chunk of time, but this article looks at the games in a time vacuum.
 
#45
Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks. A lock is not only something opened with a silver key. A grapple point is a lock; a hookshot is the key. A cracked rock wall is a lock; a bomb is the key. That wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.
Almost everything in Zelda has a discrete purpose, a tedious teleology. When it all snaps into place, some call this good design. I call it brittle, overdetermined, pale. It’s the work of a singleminded god, a world bled of wonder.
Nonsense. That's the best part of Zelda, not a flaw.
If anything, are other games that should learn something from it. Like Bethesda and their inability to make their worlds interesting or useful in any way beside being nice looking panoramas.
The world *should be* part of the game.

And I should point that despise my appreciation for LoZ saga I'm probably the most distant thing from a Nintendo enthusiast fan on this board.
 
#48
I think some people out grow Zelda games and some people don't. It's as simple as that.
No. There is a difference between the early Zelda games and the new ones. I can still play LoZ, AoL, and LttP, and enjoy myself immensely. I didn't change; they did.