Do you remember the moment when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was first announced at E3 2004? There’s a reason why the game elicited so much cheering and applause – for many, it represented a return to form for the series after The Wind Waker‘s experimental art style and world. That return to form was accompanied by a number of “back basics” shifts: gone was the Great Sea, with the old Hyrule kingdom in its place; old races like the Gorons and Zoras made a more pronounced return; even the dungeons felt more like traditional Zelda temples.
Bearing this in mind, the next Zelda game for a home console – Zelda Wii U – could represent a similar shift, away from the experimental direction of Skyward Sword and back to core conventions. Here’s a few of the conventions I’d like to see resurface.
#5: Hidden Sword Skills
My last article highlighted the fluid combat system of The Wind Waker and its feeling of advancement over its predecessors. Twilight Princess‘s combat didn’t quite make as many strides – it was based closely on an upgraded version of The Wind Waker‘s game engine – but it did introduce one feature that I think has tremendous potential as a mainstay for future games: optional Hidden Skills.
Truth be told, Hidden Skills weren’t exactly a new concept when Twilight Princess was released. The Adventure of Link had already featured two optional sword moves – the Up Thrust and Down Thrust – while The Wind Waker already had the Hurricane Spin and The Minish Cap had its Tiger Scrolls. However, the skills in Twilight Princess were hands-down the most memorable, the flashiest, and frankly the most badass of the bunch.
Frankly, I liked that advanced moves like the Shield Bash, Back Slice, Helm Splitter, and so on had to be unlocked and weren’t simply available from the start. This ensured that the more effective moves weren’t available right from the get-go – an issue that plagued Skyward Sword as its shield thrust move was tremendously overpowered.
If there’s anything I’d like to see changed about the whole system, it’s the method of unlocking the skills. The Howling Stones frankly felt cheap and weren’t particularly difficult to find in the first place. These Hidden Skills should feel more like rewards for intrepid and persistent adventurers, not as upgrades that you simply pick up along the way. They’re hidden skills, after all – how about making them a little more hidden?
#4: A Deeper Look at the Cultures of Hyrule
Ocarina of Time introduced new races to Hyrule and The Wind Waker showed how those races evolved to adapt to their new conditions in the Great Sea, but Twilight Princess was the first real game to seriously expand on the cultures of those races in a meaningful way.
The cute and cuddly Gorons of Ocarina were developed into the brawny Gorons we see in Twilight Princess, demonstrating their war-like culture. In addition, we were exposed to a council of elders, who serve under the Gorons’ patriarch. While most Gorons used the same character model, the game introduced some degree of diversity among the major Goron figures – much more diversity than we saw in Ocarina of Time. There’s still a long way to go to reach the “every character is unique” standard set by The Wind Waker, but it was definitely a start and gave us more insight into the Gorons and their ways.
The Zoras were expanded in a similar fashion. We finally saw a wider variety of Zora types, including males and females as well as warrior Zoras and their beautiful weapons and armor. Zora’s Domain in turn was more stylized to go with the Zoras’ redesigned look.
We also saw a non-Hylian human settlement in the form of Ordon Village – our first real trip between Hyrule and the outlying lands. It was neat to see – for the first time in a 3D Zelda title – that Hyrule isn’t all on its own in its vast world, and that it’s actually connected to other lands that aren’t tucked away in other dimensions.
Even Hyrule Castle Town saw some added character and charm. In Ocarina of Time it had a very carnival-esque feeling, while in Twilight Princess it was adorned with Greco-Roman style architecture, giving it a more old-world feel.
It’s these kinds of twists and additions that I’d love to see in a new HD Zelda game set in Hyrule. Banking a bit on familiarity is fine, but it can’t just focus on raw nostalgia – expand on the peoples and places of Hyrule, from their look to their culture to their history and lore.
#3: Well-Paced Dungeon Design
I won’t be shy about it: I think Twilight Princess offers the best balance of quality and quantity of any of the 3D Zelda titles in terms of dungeons. The game sports ten dungeons, all of which save the last rank pretty high on the series’ ladder. Sure, there are a number of reused themes – like a water temple where you manipulate the water level and a puzzle where you hunt down four ghosts to light four torches – but by and large the dungeons represent a meaningful advancement over their predecessors.
If there’s any common element that shines across each of them, it’s how nicely they flow. While they’re a bit on the linear side, they handle linearity in the best possible way – by meting out obstacles in a logically-progressing fashion. As you move through the dungeons, you’ll constantly introduce changes that manipulate the layout, for example by setting pieces of the level in motion using a swift water current or by rescuing monkeys who can help you swing across certain gaps.
This approach has run throughout many of Eiji Aonuma’s Zelda games – we saw ideas such as this in Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker as well, for example – but in Twilight Princess it comes to the foreground. Every dungeon is built around not just sensible and well-tuned design, finding items to solve puzzles and keys to match locks and so on, but logical advancement, where the dungeon itself evolves in response to your actions.
#2: An Outstanding Soundtrack
Every Zelda game has had an above-average soundtrack, and truth be told The Wind Waker or Majora’s Mask probably holds the spot for my personal favorite, but I can’t deny that Twilight Princess did a standout job in terms of delivering iconic and memorable new pieces and retuning older treasured tracks. Its Hyrule Field theme remains one of the most hum-worthy video game pieces of its time – moreso than any other main overworld theme save of course for the original – and the rest of the soundtrack follows suit.
#1: Capturing the Epic “Coolness” of the Zelda Series
I couldn’t possibly forget it – Twilight Princess‘s trademark style was easily its most defining feature. Many look on it now as conformity with “hardcore” gritty realism, but most people at the time saw it for what it was intended to be: a more enhanced version of Ocarina of Time‘s style.
If there’s anything that can sum up Twilight Princess‘s look and feel, it’s that it was epic and cool – in a way that every Zelda game before The Wind Waker had been, but that many felt was lost in the transition to “Celda” style. Don’t take this as me knocking the Wind Waker style – I think it’s still gorgeous and stood the test of time better than any other art style to date – it just didn’t strike a chord with people. It didn’t improve or enhance the reputation of the franchise.
The Legend of Zelda is an epic fantasy adventure. The way it looks should reflect that. Nintendo showed off what the “cool” Zelda style could be in HD in 2011, and the results were a hit. Now it’s up to them to carry that spark into a full-fledged visionary triumph.
Check out Zelda for Wii U and 3DS Zelda Dungeon:
More Zelda Articles at GenGAME:
- Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow From The Wind Waker
- Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow From Majora’s Mask
- Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow From Ocarina of Time
- Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow from Skyward Sword
- Zelda Wii U: Non-Linearity is More Than Just Dungeon Order, Has to be the Heart and Soul of the Game
- Zelda Wii U: Tap Into Everything That Made A Link to the Past Great