Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 30, 2009

What happened to Zelda’s Overworld?

When thinking about reasons as to why I do not love the newer Zeldas like I do the older Zeldas, aside from the explanation that I am a fuddy duddy, it became apparent to me that one of the major reasons for old Zelda’s appeal was the fantastical Overworld. The Overworld was glorious, majestic, worthy of maps and study. The Overworld, alone, made Zelda I a legend. In Zelda II, the Overworld was very different but still very massive. In Zelda III, the Overworld was not as massive but there were TWO Overworlds overlapping one another!

3d Zeldas never could get the Overworld just right. Perhaps it is one of the flaws of 3d gameplay. Sure, young gamers might have waxed poetic about seeing Hyrule Field for the first time which Nintendo attempted to emulate in the vast ‘ocean’ of Wind Waker or the multiple ‘Hyrule Fields’ in Twilight Princess, but Ocarina’s Overworld was pretty small and empty. In Wind Waker, it felt like a vacuum. In Twilight Princess, it was graphically the worse parts of the game and, while *large*, felt very empty.

Other 3d games have interesting Overworlds. World of Warcraft has made a rich and fascinating Overworld. While I don’t expect Zelda’s Overworld to have that scale, the Overworld always comes across as empty and stale to me. Perhaps it is that almost every Overworld, with the exception of Wind Waker, replicates the Link to the Past Overworld with the stupid Lake Hylia and stupid Kariko Village and stupid Hyrule Castle. The Overworld to Zelda III was great, but I am sick of playing in it. I do admit I enjoy the 3d Zeldas’ dungeons, but the Overworlds just stink.

In the old days, the Zelda Overworld would vastly change and no one really understood why or really cared. No one kept ‘Zelda canon’ back then. Zelda was richly textured not because of how many oddball stuff they could stuff as its ‘mythology’ but in how detailed and vast the Overworld was.

Look at the original Legend of Zelda overworld. Just look at it! Magnificent! Glorious! It, not the dungeons, was the star!

Of course, it was vastly different in Zelda II. We all wondered what happened. Perhaps Zelda I was just a close-up view of a piece of Zelda II.

You can spot Zelda I’s areas all in that map. The graveyard and forests are in the same place as is the coast line and even the river!

I really wish we get a fresh and fleshed out Overworld this time. I am sick to death of the Zelda III Overworld. Miyamoto doesn’t have to flood the world again. But he can just say a massive cataclysm occurred and that is that.

I wouldn’t mind starting off with a ‘corrupted land’ and when parts of it are cleansed, the land terraforms not unlike in Excite Truck complete with unleashing new monsters. Anything would be good to keep the Overworld from feeling static and lifeless.


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