Zelda Producer Does Not Believe In Holding Your Hand Through Games

Too many games these days have been running on "easy mode" and leading the player through the story just a little too much - could the upcoming A Link Between Worlds manage to help change the tide?
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The Legend of Zelda is a high fantasy action-adventure video game series by superstar game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takeshi Tezuka. For over 25 years, Zelda has been instrumental in moving Nintendo consoles and handhelds off the shelves – and Producer Eiji Aonuma has been with the project for over 15 of them. 

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Recently, he took part in producing the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, the HD remake for the Wii U, and the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for 3DS which hits stores on November 22. 

“It really made me realize that man, the [Zelda] fans here [in North America] are so passionate. I think they’re even more passionate than the fans in Japan.”

Aonuma was the host and star of Nintendo’s sole panel at New York Comic Con 2013 – and from entrance to exit, nearly every sentence that he made was punctuated by applause and cheering from the packed audience. Polygon managed to catch up with him afterwards, and Aonuma had this to say about the reaction:

“It was kind of crazy, the way I would say one little thing and get this huge reaction from people. It really made me realize that man, the fans here are so passionate. I think they’re even more passionate than the fans in Japan.”

The main purpose of the conversation was also to talk about the upcoming 3DS title, A Link Between Worlds and the conversation soon turned to brass tacks.

Aonuma has been pretty outspoken on the subject of new changes the Zelda team has tried to implement in newer iterations of the franchise, “rethinking the conventions of Zelda,” and this conversation was no exception.

According to Aonuma, these new changes and elements are not just to shake up the formula and allow A Link Between Worlds to stand out from its predecessors – but rather to make the game “a less linear, more free experience.”

“We wanted to make [A Link Between Worlds] a game where it would be fun to get stuck and be lost.”

This comes as a refreshing perspective, considering the number of recent titles that have babied the player a little too much in guiding them through the game, such as newly-released Batman: Arkham Origins… and Nintendo’s own The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

“We wanted to make it a game where it would be fun to get stuck and be lost,” Aonuma explained.

“I think that one thing all game developers worry about when they’re putting something into a game is, ‘Will people notice it? Will people realize what they’re supposed to do?’ And we kind of have a bad habit of hand-holding, trying to make things easier for everyone.

“But more and more, I start to think that that kind of isn’t actually that fun.”

What do you think?

As a long-time fan of the Zelda series, playing most of the classic titles was synonymous with needing help – from store-bought game guides and GameFAQs, to hour-long phone calls with a complete stranger that my sister only half knew.

As a franchise that has long been geared towards a younger audience, the Zelda games were never impossible in the way that Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was impossible. Sure, the Water Temple remains as a byword in “oh god, now what do I do???” but it was accompanied with an extremely pleasant sense of accomplishment when you finally got your hands on Morpha’s heart container.

In recent iterations of Zelda, this has not necessarily been the case. It has, in fact, felt a little like a surfeit of Navi screaming “HEY! LISTEN!” one too many times.

End Gamers takes it to the extreme sense by waxing reminiscent of a time when “games were truly difficult, when the developers were under no obligations to see you through to the end of the game. You either had the skills required, learned the skills required or you did not get to see the end.”

I think that this road may work for some titles… but it never would for a Zelda title. This is a game meant for a younger generation – and while yes, I believe that you should try to make sure that a game is challenging and rewarding, such a game should not be impossibly hard, with only a chance of getting to the end.

From the sound of it, A Link Between Worlds may actually manage to strike that balance – and I am doubly excited about the upcoming Zelda 3DS XL bundle.

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Stephanie Tang
Avid PC gamer, long-time console lover. I enjoy shooting things in the face and am dangerously addicted to pretty. I'm also a cat.