Five Reasons Why Retro Studios Should Make a Zelda Game

Whenever Nintendo’s biggest first-party Western game developer, Retro Studios, comes up, the prospect of a Legend of Zelda game handled by the studio tends to crop up as well. I know I’m guilty of it. The fact of the matter is that Retro Studios did such a good job handling the Metroid brand, one of the few established single-player Nintendo franchises to actually grow in the past decade or so, that many people place more confidence in them than they do in Nintendo’s EAD.

Their pedigree should speak for itself: Retro Studios is a perfect candidate for the development of a new Zelda game that will energize both the fans and potential newcomers to the series – and I’ve got five reasons why.

#5: They’ve worked on a Zelda game before

Okay, so I’m actually stretching the truth a little bit on this one. Retro Studios has never actually developed a title in The Legend of Zelda series. But they have developed three titles in the Metroid series, bringing the franchise out of its side-scrolling roots and into full 3D, and to great success. Metroid isn’t directly comparable to Zelda, sure, but it bears similar enough qualities that I think the talent at Retro could easily be transferred over.

For one, Metroid is heavily atmosphere and environment-driven, with item-based puzzles, deep lore, and rich worlds to explore. In place of a traditional “field” overworld, Metroid has a series of interconnected stages, but the means of navigating the world remains largely the same. They’re no strangers to the kinds of gameplay and world design Zelda fans expect.

#4: They have a terrific art department

Zelda‘s recent art style choices have been hit-and-miss, but Retro Studios has a completely unblemished track record in the art direction department. Metroid Prime was widely considered one of the best-looking games of its generation, both in terms of its in-game graphics and its conceptual artwork – and it’s largely believed to still hold up pretty well today.

I haven’t personally had any problems with Zelda‘s art direction – I adore The Wind Waker and would love to see Skyward Sword‘s style fully realized in HD. In light of the riskier economy and Nintendo’s current financial situation, however, it’d be better to enlist Retro to ensure a sure-fire hit than rely on EAD to come up with something that will be pleasing to a wide audience when so far they haven’t been able to produce consistent results.

#3: Zelda is struggling to remain relevant within mainstream gaming

It’s a hard truth, but one that I think people need to be more willing to admit: Zelda just isn’t considered the must-have action-adventure on the block anymore. That’s the only real way to explain how the newest Zelda game could be so definitively overshadowed by a game like Skyrim, which has managed to sell over 10 million more copies than Skyward Sword despite being on the market for about the same time.

Games need to be appealing to as many people as possible, and that means living up to expectations. For major franchises like Zelda, ensuring that they remain big sellers will likely be the difference in determining whether they live on to spin more legends in the future. It’s not just about the artistic direction – I’ve already discussed that more specifically in my last point – it’s about the game’s perceived offerings as a whole.

Once upon a time, Zelda‘s world was seen as the biggest and the best… but that’s no longer the case. The graphics were once seen as cutting-edge and the new standard… now the series is behind the times. Ocarina of Time was once elevated to the best game of all time… but the recent installments have struggled to even find a foothold as the best game of the year. This needs to change, and it needs to change now if the series is going to keep on chugging down the line.

Retro revitalized the Metroid brand. I’m sure they can do the same for Zelda.

#2: Retro brings the perfect blend of Western development and Nintendo’s philosophy

A lot of people seem to see Western developers and Japanese ones as somehow eternally at odds. Not the case for Retro Studios. As a first-party Nintendo developer, they’ve actually done a terrific job of bringing the best of both worlds. I talked earlier about their top-notch art direction, but it’s matched by a Nintendo-like level of quality and polish, an excellent user interface, and novel concepts like Metroid Prime‘s Scan Visor that feel like they make sense in the game’s universe instead of like out-of-place gimmickry. They’re not a studio to simply meet the status quo: they’re constantly finding ways to exceed it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns managed to introduce ideas I never would have even imagined, such as a level in which ocean waves from the background constantly buffet the play field, meaning you have to move carefully to avoid being swept away. That’s the kind of creativity that we’d usually ascribe to Nintendo, yet it’s coming from a decidedly Western studio.

It’s such a unique and excellent blend that I know I’m not alone in saying that I’d love to see the Retro touch extend to some of Nintendo’s other franchises – and Zelda is at the top of the list for many.

#1: Fans keep asking for it

This is the most straightforward reason of them all: the idea keeps coming up, so it’s clear that people want a Retro-developed Zelda. Even if it’s just one game, there’s definitely a demand there, and Nintendo would be crazy not to try to meet that demand. They’re a business, after all – it’s their job to deliver products that their customers want.

Holding up some lofty idea that Zelda must stay in Japan” isn’t going to cut it for these people. They want to see a Zelda that isn’t made in Japan, otherwise they wouldn’t keep asking for it.

In the end, “what people want” is the force that underlies all these other points. People have been begging Nintendo for a game that looks like the Zelda HD Experience, only to be met with comments from Nintendo suggesting that there might be some other art style in the works. They’ve asked for a Zelda game that can stand its own against today’s action-adventure and action RPGs, and Nintendo’s constantly delivered rehashes of old content marked by “new ways to play” instead of simply delivering a game that exceeds fans’ expectations.

A Retro Studios Zelda isn’t just a pipe dream: it’s a representation of everything that those who want more out of Nintendo are looking for in their favorite franchise.

  • john

    i agree

  • danitanzo

    meh… I like metroid prime, but retro has changed since then, I like the art style in most zelda games, don’t like mainstream gaming, don’t care for western development in zelda, and I have not been asking for it… does that make me not a fan? … But of course I would probably enjoy a zelda game made by retro :P

  • Imposer

    Just that picture of Link right there makes me want this to happen.

  • if i were zelda

    i say the earth shall rumble around retro’s studio, snatch it of its very own ground, rise the building in the far sky of japan until they are protected from evil distance that prevents them from achieving their sole purpose : making the ultimate game of all time.

  • into

    Zelda is struggling to remain relevant within mainstream gaming”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH what a joke this site is

    “That’s the only real way to explain how the newest Zeldagame could be so definitively overshadowed by a game like Skyrim, which has managed to sell over 10 million more copies than Skyward Sword despite being on the market for about the same time.”

    How about the fact that skyrim was on 5 different platforms vs zeldas 1?


    Zelda outsold skyrim on any 1 single platform


    I cant believe this retard

    • Erimgard

      Well, VGchartz isn’t the single most reliable site, but it’s usually somewhat accurate. And it says Skyrim sold over 6 million on Xbox 360, and over 4 million on PS3. Both of those individual numbers are higher than what Skyward Sword sold.

      Not to mention, look at SS’s sales in comparison to other Zelda titles.
      Ocarina of Time sold 7.6 million on the N64, a system that only sold about 35 million units.
      Skyward Sword has yet to break 4 million on the Wii, which has sold 100 million units.

      Zelda’s not selling like it use to. That’s a fact.

      • into

        vgchartz isnt reliable at all…………..there numbers are derived from an algorithm. Fake numbers………….

        According to nintendo’s own financials SS has sold over 6 million globally so far…….

        Again, your generalizing and saying all the numbers can be compared equal

        SS has been out 1 year and its at 6 mil

        OOT has been out 15+ and its at 7.6

        I dont feel comfortable comparing that shit.

        Its not selling like it used to? Is that why the other zelda this gen broke speed sales records?

        • Erimgard

          Can you link to these numbers you claim?

        • Robgoro

          I think you need to take a step back and evaluate the situation from a non-victimizing standpoint. No one is saying that Zelda is failing (Skyward Sword was my favorite and, in my opinion, the best Zelda game to date) – but it is, sadly, falling behind public opinion as the new generation is more likely to be playing Call of Duty than any other game on the market. It’s not a result of it intrinsically needing to change, but rather Nintendo’s desire to appeal to the market that’s selling 13,000,000 copies of Skyrim and only 3,000,000 of Skyward Sword.

        • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

          I’m trying to figure out how SS nearly matching TP’s sales would result in Nintendo calling SS a failure in their financial report and saying that 2011 had no big first-party sellers.

  • K2L

    Am I the only one who noticed that Alex is publishing the same article under different names and wording? Don’t get me wrong, a Retro-made Zelda would be awesome, but seriously, dude, chill out a bit. It’s not like Nintendo had to disown its own property by selling it to anoher company. It’s obvious that you’re only resented that Miyamoto said that they don’t have plans to work with Retro as of yet. It’s not the end of the world: Decisions CAN change.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      I’m not resentful. Just exceptionally puzzled why Nintendo is ignoring the pleas of its fans over and over and over by cranking out a bunch of 2D Mario games with the same settings and game engine, by making “experimental” Zeldas that are never massive hits, and, in this case, by refusing to give the series over to a studio simply because they don’t want it to leave Japan (which is extraordinarily arbitrary and places too much faith in the studio that’s been wrecking Zelda’s relevance compared to other titles in similar genres for nearly a decade).

      Their behavior makes absolutely no sense. It’s like they’re looking at the wants of their audience, and saying “sorry, no, we’d rather do THIS” which is a really terrible way to run a business.

      • Michael Bayruns

        There is pretty much no possible way to satisfy all of the zelda fanbase. Everyone has their own take on which games did which elements the best. Zelda is my favorite video game series and skyward sword is my second favorite zelda game. There are still some key flaws to your argument. Retro’s art department is good, but it’s not any better then nintendo’s, its just more consistent which is why no one complains about their art direction. When it comes to nintendo they have done very different art styles and not everyone likes the same art style. The other key flaw in your argument was your comparison between skyward sword and skyrim. The fewer sales are largely due to the fact that a lot of people who aren’t huge zelda fans didn’t like the wii. It was the console that was the problem. Also once upon a time zelda was seen as the biggest and best because of what ocarina of time was, and it was far more then anything anyone had seen before the game came out. It was the first game to have a perfect transition from 2d to 3d, it was bigger than anything at the time, had the most advanced mechanics out of any 3d game. In order to match that nowadays you would basically have to reinvent gaming itself. I don’t think retro could possibly do that, nintendo perhaps but very unlikely.

  • Robgoro

    I would like to see Retro get their hands on Zelda, but, at the same time, nearly all of the staff that has worked on the Prime series has gone off to work for other companies. That includes the senior designer for Prime and the Lead Environmental Artist from Prime and Prime 2 (who worked on the recently released Halo 4). Their lead level designers are gone as well.

    Retro has been going through some rough times, I don’t think they’re the same studio everyone believes them to be…but, I would still be interested in their vision of a Zelda game.

  • John

    Why not have the main Zelda team work on a new Zelda game for the Wii U or 3DS and have Retro work on a Zelda game for whatever system the main team isn’t working on? And then have the team that remade Ocarina of Time for the 3DS remake Majora’s Mask for the 3DS? That way a lot of the groups of fans will be satisfied.

    • dern

      because it would be hard to get people to buy 3 different zelda games at the same time. thats expensive stuff, ya know. no one would buy a majora’s mask remake if they have 2 fresh new zelda games to play already. remakes are for when a series has some downtime and the company wants to keep profitting off its past installments and wants to bring them to the new generation or something.

  • masterlinkace

    Hey there, great article, reading this inspired me to create this in response: http://theknightsofgaming.com/2012/12/17/what-to-do-with-zelda/ … It’s basically what I think nintendo should do with Zelda in the future. :D