Wii U: Could Asymmetric Multiplayer Work for Zelda?

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When we were first introduced to the Wii U GamePad, I remember a lot of Zelda fans wondering whether the controller’s built-in screen would lead to some kind of Four Swords redemption that wouldn’t require a bunch of sold-separately handheld and extra connection cables for cooperative questing.

While I’m totally down for using the GamePad for co-op Zelda, I’ve just got to say… why do they have to use it to make a new Four Swords? Why not leverage the GamePad to offer an asymmetric cooperative experience?

Nintendo Land‘s The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest already demonstrates how the concept could work. Give the GamePad player his or her own unique abilities and skill sets, while players who use the Wii Remote can experience the game in a totally different way thanks to the power of Wii MotionPlus.

The question is how the two different playstyles would work. I don’t think that giving one player a sword and the other player a bow would quite do it – Link has traditionally always had a diverse combination of equipment, and changing that just wouldn’t do. At the same time, the game needs to be enjoyable regardless of which controller is used.

How about having one traditional “warrior”-type Link character and a second character who acts as a magic user? As I pondered how this might work, one character immediately came to mind for the magic user: Princess Zelda. Link could have all the swords, shields, bows, hookshots, and other tools he usually has at his disposal, while Zelda wields her magic bow and a flurry of spells. In place of a normal shield, Zelda could evoke a magical barrier to repel attacks. Meanwhile, she could also command fire, call lightning, and conjure ice to strike her foes, gather her inner force to cast healing spells, and employ various other mystical powers and abilities.

What if someone wants to play as Link but doesn’t want to use Wii MotionPlus, though? Or what if someone wants to play as Zelda, but is going solo and has a free main TV screen? I think it’d be possible to set up both playstyles so that they can be used with either controller, in co-op play and in single-player.

I’ve already talked about how Wii MotionPlus-enhanced controls, traditional controls, and GamePad controls could co-exist as alternate options for Link – perhaps Zelda’s magic abilities could be adapted to multiple control schemes as well. When playing on the GamePad, players could select spells and cast them with the stylus… or they could ignore the touch capabilities entirely and just play normally. The same versatility could apply to other controllers – point at things with the Wii Remote to target them, or just use the Pro Controller’s buttons and sticks.

In that way, you’d have a game that’s still at its core an asymmetric experience – one player can use one controller and playstyle while a partner uses a completely different set – while still offering plenty of player freedom and choice, and even a more traditional split-screen co-op option for those who prefer it.

No matter how it might manifest itself, however, I think the potential for a cooperative Legend of Zelda adventure with no need to share the same screen is worth looking into. Co-op could give players who might never have been able to finish a Zelda game before the chance to play together with more experienced players to make it to the end. I think that’s definitely a better approach than attempting to dumb down the combat to make it easier and therefore more “accessible.” At the same time, it should be meaningful, both gameplay-wise and in terms of the game’s story, and I think asymmetric gameplay using both the GamePad and Wii Remote to control two different characters would be a perfect fit.

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