We’ve come a long way since the 80’s culturally, technologically, and in gaming. Within 35 years, entertainment consoles have reached Darwin-esque levels of evolution in visuals, strategy, and content. It’s now to a point where even computers and phones are forced to cut cords and grow legs in order to keep up in the technological race. Consumer knowledge of technology is constantly growing. Companies like Blizzard, Bioware, and Team Ninja are now household names. New species of developers like Gearbox and Bethesda have emerged. The primordial elders of the industry such as Nintendo, Konami, Atari, Sierra, and Square Enix still live on while others dried out and died out (rest in peace Hudson Soft and Broderbund). And some, like Sega, remain somewhere lost in between the titans and turmoil of digital entertainment.
Our favorite games grew from 8 bit to High Definition. And our favorite green clad, map trekking hero went from rescuing a princess to becoming his own legend in story and franchise. Link, Zelda, Ganon, and the mystical land of Hyrule have made their way through video game history as one of the most unique series in the industry. Is it formulaic? Yes, just like an Italian plumber introduces medicine and go kart racing to a bunch of random creatures on every console since the SNES. But like Final Fantasy, no two Zelda games are exactly alike, both in plot and in play. The variety of characters are fun, intriguing and relatable, the game mechanics are simple enough to understand and control, and it’s easy to recognize by both gamers and non. It feels that The Legend of Zelda is in a good solid state of being in it’s ability to adapt and change.
So, where will they go from here? No one can be too sure. Nintendo has already been down many roads in technological platform, story, and style. They’ve tried CD-i, adding cell shading and new art styles to make a visually inspiring game, combining franchises like adding Dynasty Warriors and LOZ to make Hyrule Warriors, using the Wii remote as a sword, and making the classic Nintendo 64 experiences 3D on the 3DS. They even went so far as to create an animated series once upon a time (well excuse me princess for even mentioning it). Not every experiment is successful. But some were worth taking the risk. For example, though it is far from a perfect Zelda game, Zelda 2: Adventures of Link inspired future improvements and gave us many of the in game staples we know today such as interactive NCP’s, the magic meter, Dark Link, more complex combat, and the names of the 6 sages in Ocarina of Time. Yep, all the sages names are cities from Zelda 2: Adventures of Link. They always come up with creative ways to link older games to the new.
With the impending reveal of the next console system currently known as the NX and the announcement of looking into virtual reality, it is clear that Nintendo wants to be able to compete with other consoles but still with that edge of providing something unique into the mix. Survival of the fittest, after all, as the Sega Dreamcast went to prove. The Wii and Wii-U had a start with motion sensor controls and a tablet control that can transfer games from the TV to the handheld unit. Other consoles have tried doing the same with some success, but not as well as Nintendo. Will the NX keep these elements, or will they introduce something new that hasn’t been done before once more? Finally, we get HD graphic capabilities, which Nintendo was behind on. But what else are we going to get, and where can it lead to? Will they change how we can control and battle with our green hero? And Nintendo has to act quick if they want to protect their franchise. Programmers and Fans are already making their own versions of their games including the original LOZ made in Minecraft and a battlefront game featuring all the races in Hyrule. And the quality, though being made by independents that do it more for fun in their own time with minimal compensation, ranges from beginner to impressive. Some even show their work.
But where could they go with the game development? Simply anywhere they want. We’ve already seen them dig into time and space, even move outside of the lands of Hyrule. It’s possible to introduce and expand on many different plots, characters, and stories within or with no regards for the time line.A good example is Majora’s Mask. Anything is possible with a creative mindset, which Nintendo doesn’t often lack. There are so many mysteries in the games that they can so easily branch off by explaining them; Are there other gods and goddesses, good and bad? What does the Desert Colossus represent and are we ever going to see her as a goddess or a boss? How were the Gerudo and the Sheika formed and were they one and the same at some stage? They talk about all the wars Hyrule has, but will we ever get to play as part of one? Is Ganondorf just possessed by the demon god Demise, or are they truly one and the same? And if he is possessed, what life did he have before? Are they all doomed to repeat history and be stuck in a loop where they are constantly reincarnated, or will someone break the cycle? DOES LINKLE STAR IN HER OWN GAME!? Just asking the important questions here. Some admittedly sound like bad fan fiction, but it’s questions such as those that the story’s universe can expand on. Each game is a small “what If?” tale and all they can do is write more of those small stories or find a way to branch them together and can go outside of a timeline or stay within it’s confines.
Nintendo has made it clear they want to continue growing. Their most successful LOZ title financially so far is Twilight Princess, a game that echoes the darker themes of Majora’s Mask but the game play style of Ocarina of Time. So try to imagine a game with a world developed with such beautifully detailed artwork in a virtual reality environment where you, for the first time, are first person Link. Finally, we get as close as we can to wearing the tunic and wield the Master Sword without cosplay. Or who knows; we may finally get to play as Zelda. Could we have the ability to take it with us, transferring games from console to our own mobile devices? Are game discs a thing of the past and become obsolete as more and more content is available via download? It is possible for Nintendo to reach the top once again in its field of entertainment. But like in every Zelda game, two things will prove to be an obstacle or a tool of their ventures into future technology: time and consumer/investor confidence.