zelda-formula

Eiji Aonuma Says He’s Tired of the Zelda Formula

It’s common to hear people speak of the “Zelda formula,” either lovingly or regretfully. The series has stuck to a number of conventions over the years, including a silent protagonist, a typical “three-four dungeons, plot twist, second half” progression structure, and a sacred sword that’s required to defeat the game’s main villain. Most often, we’ll hear that it’s time to ditch the formula and approach the world of Hyrule without being shackled by some of the traditional restrictions.

Back in January, we heard that the upcoming Zelda Wii U would be shaking things up by removing the traditional linear progression structure and allowing players to complete dungeons in more orders than before. Many believed the decision came into response from long-standing fan feedback regarding the recent games becoming more linear, but it turns out that’s not the case. Instead, Mr. Aonuma says, he’s changing things up because he’s personally getting tired of some of these conventions.

Click below for his full statement.

It’s not that anyone is telling me we have to change the formula. I want to change it. I’m kind of getting tired of it. If I’m getting tired of it, then I’m sure other people are getting tired of it. There is an essential ‘Zelda’ I feel we need to stay true to. We are still testing things, exploring our options. We haven’t landed anywhere at this point. We’re still seeing what we can do.

To be honest, I’m a little alarmed by this statement. While I can agree that I’m getting kind of tired of the formula, most game developers would look to the fans to see that people want change in certain areas, not assume their own feelings match those of their players. If Eiji Aonuma is looking at what he wants to do for guidance, and not the kinds of things players enjoy (or don’t enjoy), then I’m a bit afraid he’ll be limiting future progress to his own tastes, not the tastes of his fans.

And as I’ve said in the past, I don’t think Eiji Aonuma is especially in tune with fans. As much as I love the Wind Waker style, it took a shift to a more neutral Ocarina of Time-type look to draw fans back in after that game’s cel-shaded look drove them away. Yet the Wind Waker look made it in to five out of the eight games that have released since then, and Eiji Aonuma is using a Wind Waker remake for the first HD Zelda title, even despite an incredibly positive reaction to the Twilight Princess-esque HD Experience demo. Clearly the team knows what fans react more strongly to – why else would they have made the HD Experience demo in the first place – but priority is being given to the style Mr. Aonuma prefers as far as actually delivering a game goes.

Not only that, but Aonuma’s comments about A Link to the Past make me wonder whether he’s forgotten that for many fans, the draw of A Link to the Past was the battles, the overworld exploration, and the content, not the puzzles, characters, or the ability to cut grass.

Part of me believes that when people talk about the Zelda formula growing stale and tired and declining over time, they’re talking about the Aonuma formula. And I’m not so sure Mr. Aonuma understands this well enough for his efforts to change the Zelda formula to really break the kind of ground that will elevate Zelda back to powerhouse brand status among action-adventure games.

Source: LA Times