It’s Time for The Legend of Zelda 3DS

It’s been over a year since the release of Skyward Sword, a year-and-a-half since Ocarina of Time 3D, and just shy of three since the last original handheld ZeldaSpirit Tracks for Nintendo DS. Usually by now we’d expect to have already seen a first glimpse of the next Zelda on the horizon. We know at least one is in active development – a new game for Nintendo 3DS – but we don’t know anything about it, other than a cryptic clue from Mr. Eiji Aonuma that “it will be a game in which 3D is important.”

Nintendo has made something of a tradition of announcing new handheld Zelda games at the Game Developer’s Conference in the early part of the year. Both DS games were announced there, Aonuma first confirmed a sequel to The Wind Waker game at the event in 2004, and Twilight Princess got a trailer update in 2005. In recent years, the event has tried to shy away from game announcements… but will Zelda take the stage once again this year?

We’ve thought a lot about what we want out of Zelda on Wii U, but not quite as much about the series on 3DS. It’s high time we changed that.

Stay Away From Touch Screen Gameplay

We’ve tried a touch screen-centric approach to Zelda on Nintendo DS, and the response was largely mixed. Sure, things like the level of control over the boomerang added to the experience, but things like mapping literally every action, including general movement, basic sword attacks, and so on to the same screen wound up being problematic as much as it was intuitive. Whatever form the next handheld Zelda takes, I hope it stays far away from this kind of touch screen implementation.

As I said regarding the series on Wii U, the best way to utilize the screen is for inventory selection and maps – and that includes the popular feature of being able to scribble on the maps from the DS games. These mechanics have a proven track record and are a nice fit for the Zelda franchise. Things like touch screen swiping and enemy tapping, on the other hand, don’t mesh quite as well.

On the bright side, this kind of gameplay input is pretty unlikely anyway. The touch screen doesn’t output those high quality graphics or 3D visuals, so it certainly won’t be the game’s primary action screen.

Don’t Shy Away from 2D Games, Even on the 3DS

I adore what the advent of 3D environments brought to the table for the series, but it also makes me seriously sadface to imagine a world without the old top-down style. According to series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the development team has been looking back on A Link to the Past for inspiration for the next round of Zelda games. If that means that they can think of ways to leverage the old 2D gameplay style to achieve something just as legendary, it’d be a shame if they scrapped those ideas just because they want to use the 3DS’s stereoscopic output for true 3D visuals.

Just because it’s the “3DS” doesn’t mean all the games on it need to use 3D models. We’ve seen from the initial round of 3D Classics that even 2D sprites can be used to show added depth with the 3D feature – sometimes to terrific effect. Just as New Super Mario Bros. paved the way for a new round of games that tickled the mass market itch for old-school Mario, a top-down Zelda could tap into a whole sector of gamers that have felt left out by the more recent games.

Taking the Core Gameplay on the Go

One of the biggest strengths of the handheld is that, because its games tend to be smaller in scale and scope, that gives developers opportunities to make less bloated games that instead focus directly on the core. This was true for the very first handheld ZeldaLink’s Awakening – but the more recent handheld Zeldas haven’t really capitalized on this potential to the same degree.

In Link’s Awakening, there was no “fat.” There was just the core: fighting monsters, assembling gear, and journeying across fields and rivers, through forests and deserts, and over hills and mountains. Since then, we’ve seen the other handheld games add all kinds of unnecessary peripheral gameplay elements, most of them revolving around tedious collect-a-thons rather than driving the player to become a better fighter or a more competent explorer.

There was no complicated plot or narrative – just a basic scenario, with characters and atmosphere serving to spark the players’ imaginations. All Zelda really needs is a boy and his sword and a dangerous world to take him on. Rather than bogging down the game with pointless sidequests and rewards, why not add more meat in the form of dungeons, regions, and bosses? These are the things inevitably excite people, and are the building blocks that establish Zelda a “video game” in the first place.

Handheld Zelda works best when it capitalizes on being a more concentrated “video game” form. It’s time Nintendo rediscovered this lost art.

Header image source: Orioto on deviantART

  • K2L

    Just as long as it’s an entirely new game, instead of some random remake, I’m all for it. I’m sick and tired of these MM or ALTTP remake requests, the 3DS needs new software, not rely on past glories forever.
    Damn OOT 3D for spoiling these hipster brats.

    • Emma Mix

      Dang you, I haven’t played OoT since I was little but now I can thanks to OoT 3D, and I don’t have to be in front of a TV to do it!

    • Spenfen

      Hey, I wouldn’t be a Zelda fan now if OoT 3D didn’t exist! There’s a reason for it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kory.pelletier Kory Pelletier

    Sidequests aren’t all bad. The chain of quests in the Oracle games where you bring different items to people in exchange for items to trade were pretty fun at the time.

  • Giratina

    can’t people wait? i understand that the 3ds needs a zelda game (new) but like really let nintendo do their work,they also need to make good games for the wii u not just the 3ds.the 3ds so far has been doing good and the wii u just came out or wait until e3 for them to do the announcement..

  • Cainio

    Yo mamma so STUPID she likes Navi

  • http://www.facebook.com/taran.todd Taran Todd

    I’ll disagree partially. I do want more “meat” in the game, but sidequests, as has been shown in MM, can be just as meaty as the plot. I don’t want any annoying collector quests, but interesting and optional adventures will always be welcomed if they’re done well.

    • Etiou

      I agree Taran. I hate sidequests that are “oh the key to the dungeon was fragmented in 10 parts, spend the next hour on an easter egg hunt” just an excuse to make the game longer. and boast at e3 “over 100 hours of gameplay!!”

      The WW shard collection used to annoy me, but I don’t mind it now. Just collecting the money is slightly annoying. But if I had to choose I would definitely rather have had the 2 dungeons they cut out due to time constraints. It was a cheap move in my opinion.

      Collecting the Masks in Majora’s Mask? LOVED IT. The side quests need substance for it to work. But the way Nintendo has been going lately it will probably be mostly filler :/

  • ……….

    Im sorry but I like my meat Medium-Well, so GIVE US SIDEQUESTS!!!!!!!!!!! Plus, 3D enviroments are more fun than 2D.

    • …………

      A huge problem that i have with 2D Zelda games is that every single door seems to be facing south for no apparent reason.

    • Veronica Wheeler

      I got a little sad when the article said no side quests :( we must have them!!!!! I agree 3D just feels more…free and vast. I don’t really want to know whats coming around the corner, I especially enjoyed the graffics in TP. They have the game some-what like that. Now, with Links character; I much prefer Links form in TP than any other LOZ game I’ve played. Maybe a more realistic version of him in this game would be amazing.

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

        Not “no sidequests.”

        No “pointless sidequests” or “tedious collect-a-thons.”

        • ………

          But those are the best!?

        • Veronica Wheeler

          Oh ok awesome. I got a little upset there for a hot second

  • Imposer

    I’d like to have a game of Twilight Princess’s Caliber on teh 3ds. To be honest, Twilight Princess was like Ocarina 2.0 to me. Of course Ocarina is still the best in my book, a Twilight Princess like game on the 3ds has me very intrigued. I’d rather not go back to the 2d Zelda. It’s fun, I’ve played quite a few but 3D is where it’s at. It’s all just nostalgia so don’t let the fact that you were high on a new Zelda game cloud your judgement on what Zelda needs. I would like more useful side quests. More magic armour or advanced weapons. I loved that moment when I got the Big Goron Sword.

  • zdog

    Don’t hold your breath for 2D Zelda. Four swords Adventures was the worst selling Zelda game in the history of the series, and the only one to not break 1 million in sales. I think that signaled the death of 2D Zelda.

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

      Four Swords Adventures was also largely stigmatized due to no one wanting to buy those link cables. It was also billed as a stage-based arcade version of Zelda (which it was). The reasonable success of the LttP remake a couple years before is I think a bigger indicator.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joey.whisler Joey Whisler

      Even then I enjoyed the teamwork between me and my friends….. hehe……teamwork…
      (More like pushing them all into holes and stealing their force gems.)

    • ………….

      Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks all came out after Four Swords Adventure. Plus, FSA was still good.

      • zdog

        Haha, that’s a good point that I honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of. I stand corrected.

  • Majestic 12

    NO to 2D. No to top down. No to everything you said basically. What a load of rubbish.

  • Youngster Joey

    I sort of just want another Link’s Crossbow Training i think that would be fantastic…

  • Roben

    that’s really dumb why make a 2d game on the 3ds? we I hate those high view camera points versions of zelda their so lame, you can’t really even tell what’s going on and lose interest really fast if the view is going to be like this i’ll skip on to more fun video games