I don’t know why, but it seems like I have this tendency to start new series on Retronaissance, and despite my efforts to continue them, it just never seems to pan out for me. At best, it seems like I just come up with new series that seem like new takes on older ones, almost like a spinoff. With that awkward segue, I bring you yet another series, which hopefully won’t meet the same fate as those others: Spinoff Sideshow – where I will be detailing potential spinoffs for existing video game franchises that just strike me as interesting.
Video games are one of those rare mediums where sequels generally have the potential to exceed their predecessors. Likewise, they have a tendency to be the rare genre where spinoffs can truly deliver a unique experience, as opposed to just being the same ol’-same ‘ol in a new locale or a weak vehicle for the breakout character of an existing property. Throughout my time gaming, I’ve seen my fair share of interesting spinoffs – games that do more than just regurgitate the standard formula and slap a new character on the front (granted, some of those are pretty good, like UmJammer Lammy or MegaMan & Bass). However, I personally prefer to see games that feel like a totally new experience, merely using the existing intellectual properties to make the sale. I’m talking about games like Luigi’s Mansion, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.
Our inaugural topic for this series? Well, people have been asking for an official Zelda-led Zelda title for quite some time now. Zelda’s playable appearance in Hyrule Warriors managed to stoke the flames of demand for that one and even Eiji Aonuma, current producer of the Zelda franchise, has expressed interest in such a title. I’ve seen some fan proposals for a game across the internet, most prominently one that turns my stomach by reducing Zelda to a gender-and-palette-swapped Link, stripping the character of her unique properties. Personally, I think I can do better than the others.
First of all, let’s consider the name. Since most people associate Link with the “Legend of Zelda” game, I’d avoid using it. Personally, I’d probably go for “Hyrule Historia” or “Legend of Hyrule”. Though if you want to make sure that Zelda’s name is in the title, we could go with “The Zelda of Legend”. I mean, it’s clever in a not-really clever way. I would personally go for a Hyrule-related name personally.
Now onto the real meat of this spinoff, the gameplay. The basic concept is simple – think of a traditional Zelda game with less of an emphasis on melee combat, focusing instead on slower, ranged combat and stealth. Obviously, the puzzles would also be kept, but Zelda would have a completely different moveset when compared to Link. While Link mostly utilizes on his Master Sword for combat, Zelda would instead mainly use light arrows (which are commonly associated with her) and other forms of magic. After all, we’ve seen Zelda cast various magic spells when acting as an NPC and in playable appearances in other games, such as Hyrule Warriors and especially the Super Smash Bros. games. For example, I could see using her Naryu’s Love attack from Smash to reflect projectiles back at enemies (a common strategy for taking down Zelda bosses) and Din’s Fire could be a potential replacement for bombs and the lantern.
My consideration for the most important aspect of Zelda’s arsenal is something that should be familiar to Zelda aficionados: transformations. After all, Zelda’s had more than her fair share of disguises in previous games, most of which gave her access to brand new powers and abilities. Now, the following examples are just that – examples – but hopefully, they’ll still provide some context. First, there’s the obvious pick, Zelda’s most famous alter-ego: Sheik, the stealthy Sheikah warrior. When disguised as Sheik, Zelda’s stealth abilities would increase and she’d be given access to new attacks. Another form that comes to mind would be Tetra from The Wind Waker, which would allow for direct melee combat, perhaps replacing magical skill for the cutlass and pistol she wielded in Hyrule Warriors Legends. The last concept I had for a transformation would be a monster transformation, not unlike how Zelda possessed a Phantom in Spirit Tracks. This ability would be entirely defensive, unable to attack, but in return, Zelda would be able to walk through dungeons without being attacked by monsters, even gaining the ability to talk to them not unlike the Power of Alter from Ys II, effectively adding a new dimension to the stealth gameplay I mentioned before – hiding in plain sight. This “Phantom” form would also be large, thus able to move certain objects, making it indispensable when it comes to solving specific puzzles.
As I said earlier, puzzles would be a key element for this game, to the extent where there would even be ways to obtain specific items or defeat enemies with little problem by utilizing certain items to solve puzzles. Likewise, the magic and transformations I mentioned earlier would count as dungeon items. Better yet, a Zelda-led spinoff could be the perfect opportunity to experiment with the standard Zelda items, modifying them to some extent. One of the ideas I came up with would be replacing the various effects of the Ocarina/Harp and various rods in the game with minor spells that could be found throughout the overworld map and dungeons, imbuing Zelda with control over fire and ice, the ability to fling herself into the air and to warp to various locations. Another idea would be to bring back old items that haven’t resurfaced in Zelda games in quite some time, like the Cane of Somaria, the Roc’s Cape or the Magnetic Gloves. Zelda could also utilize standard items in unique ways – for example, placing the Mirror Shield would allow Zelda to set up angled shots for her Light Arrows to hit a specific target placed at an angle she couldn’t hit directly. Finally, while I would like to keep Zelda’s standard form’s ability for melee combat limited to distinguish her from Link, I would also like to see the Rapier from Hyrule Warriors emerge in the game at some point, likely as a very-late game item, possibly even in the final dungeon.
Of course, one of the more important elements of the Zelda series with regards to its fanbase has been the story. I’d pretty much leave this blank for the most part, but in spite of the focus that has been placed upon the Zelda timelines, I feel like the stories work best when they come up with the storyline first and try to place in within the timeline later, as opposed to just trying to work a game into a specific point in a specific timeline. I guess this could be in the Adult Link timeline, you know, the one where the Hero of Time disappears? That’s my best guess off the top of my head.
I guess there are still two elephants in the room: what to do with Zelda’s most commonly recurring co-stars – Link and Ganon(dorf). I’m of two minds about Link. On one hand, leaving him out would probably be a far more suitable situation for Zelda taking charge in her own adventure. Likewise, this would also likely cement my suggestion for setting the game in “The Era Without a Hero”. On the other hand, it might be interesting to see Zelda react to a standard incarnation of Link, perhaps she could view him as her rival – not wanting to fall into the traditional role of damsel in distress her eponymous ancestors commonly fell into and instead choosing to save Hyrule all on her own. As for Ganondorf, personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a different final villain, especially one that could be original to Zelda’s story. Unfortunately, there’s the argument that could be made that saddling Zelda with anyone besides the Great King of Evil, pig demon or not, would likely delegitimize her adventures. I’d consider this a shame, but I can see the argument for making Ganon(dorf) the big bad.
As for the game’s style, for some reason I’ve always pictured this game as more of a 3D game, as you may have been able to guess by my write-up. Having said that, a 2D game could be interesting as well, though aside from A Link Between Worlds, those games have a reputation for being low-rate handheld titles when compared to the 3D games that commonly originate on consoles. Regarding a second quest, I mean that’s a Zelda staple, so it seems like it would be a perfect choice. Instead of just making it a mirrored hard mode, however, I’d like to see an alternate playable character. My personal pick would be Impa, though I’m sure there could be other worthy characters. Having said that, being a Zelda-centered game would be a good excuse to throw in a little fanservice – I know what you’re thinking I mean, but you’re wrong. I mean Nintendo should make the effort to throw in some popular side characters from earlier games into the setting of Zelda’s adventure, whether in the form of identical descendants/ancestors or just extremely similar counterparts.
I’ve always considered the idea of a Zelda-led game to be more interesting than the common request to just “make Link a girl”, due to the simple fact that Zelda’s unique ability set would lead to a far more interesting game in the interest of “promoting diversity” than simply giving Link a pair of X chromosomes ever could. I’ll be honest, the latter always struck me as lazy pandering. Hopefully, Nintendo decides to do a Zelda-led game at some point in the future, either as a fully-featured console title or even as an eShop pilot title which could lead to a full-fledged expansion in the future.