Shadow Link

I’ve been playing around with my first imports ever, Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits and Daigasso! Band Brothers, but I want to talk about the next Legend of Zelda.

The new GDC trailer caused an avalanche of reactions ranging from “holy shit I’m buying Nintendo stock” to “I miss the cel-shading already”. My thoughts mirrored the latter opinion. It’s no secret that Nintendo was planning on making a follow up to the Wind Waker using the same cel-shading engine, they mentioned it themselves, so what happened between then and last year’s E3? I was hoping to see that very engine applied to a more finished and less rushed game than the Wind Waker (don’t get me wrong, it was a gorgeous game and still a top 5-percenter), but that is looking less and less likely. Well, less likely for this generation.

As I rewatch the GDC Trailer, one word–and only one word–flashes in my mind, “appeasement”. It’s as though Nintendo is trying to appeal to the insecure “celda” whiners and the gritty Mario with hookers types all at once. It is a sad, sad state of affairs that this so-called “realistic” Link has become the expected Link. It is sad that the cel-shaded Link has been dismissed by a vocal group as being too childish, despite the fact his art style is more true to the spirit and charm of the original four Zelda adventures than all the N64 (and SSB and Soul Calibur 2 and Spaceworld demo) Links combined.

What gets me is that this new trailer was revealed during the same keynote in which Nintendo spoke of “the heart of the gamer” and about the importance of innovation and not technology, and how that creativity will bring new gamers into the fold. These are the exact same things that the Wind Waker did. The gameplay was rehashed, but it had a lot of artistic innovation. Its art direction — the “interactive cartoon” nature of the game — attracted many newcomers; people who wouldn’t have been interested in a new Zelda game were drawn by its presentation. Many of those people were (almost ironically) mature adults.

Yes, it did alienate some gamers, but the fact is the established Nintendo fanbase would have purchased that game anyway and that very vocal “celda” group (I would bet) wouldn’t have been a big purchasing power anyway. My bet would be that they are of the N64/PS1-as-first-console generation, not ever really knowing Zelda beyond the N64’s reach. That is the stereotypical gamer dood crowd and the one that Nintendo is not focusing on (UBISoft and EA have that market covered). sigh. So why did Nintendo listen to that very same gamer to make its own game design decisions?

If you let your fans dictate your game design, then that to me shows a lack of faith in your own game designers. And if you are going to listen to the masses for direction, then be prepared: the lowest 10% of the crowd will contribute 90% of the stupidity. That lowest bunch is always the loudest bunch. As far as I know, there is no official “law” for this but it might as well could be listed as a corollary to Sturgeon’s Law.

For proof of this law, please refer to Shadow The Hedgehog.

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