Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 19, 2014

Email: Aonuma removing puzzles

Greetings Master Malstrom. Apologies if you’ve been informed of this already, but I thought you might find this quote interesting, its Aonuma talking about the “puzzles” in the new Zelda game.

“So you know we’ve talked a little bit today about the puzzle-solving element in Zelda, and how that’s kinda taken a different shape in Hyrule Warriors. But I think people have come to just assume that puzzle-solving will exist in a Zelda game, and I kinda wanna change that, maybe turn it on its ear.

As a player progresses through any game, they’re making choices. They’re making hopefully logical choices to progress them in the game. And when I hear ‘puzzle solving’ I think of like moving blocks so that a door opens or something like that. But I feel like making those logical choices and taking information that you received previously and making decisions based on that can also be a sort of puzzle-solving. So I wanna kinda rethink or maybe reconstruct the idea of puzzle-solving within the Zelda universe.”

Honestly, this to me sounds like removing the busywork puzzles like lighting four lamps etc. It almost sounds like Aonuma is trying to get Aonuma-Zelda fans used to the idea that they wouldn’t be doing that kind of “puzzle” anymore.

“How to reach that cave in the distance”, “how to kill this two headed dragon”… these are the kinds of “puzzles” I can get behind. As a previous reader noted, the “puzzles” in the original two Zelda games aren’t really puzzles at all.

We’ll see if Aonuma can back up this talk. I honestly thought A Link Between Worlds had some steps in the right direction by allowing you to explore the overworld at your own pace like the original. If this talk above is hinting at what I’m hoping it is, then we might be taking a few steps in the right direction. However, I’d feel a lot more confident if they art style hadn’t gone so “anime” on us. I have a sneaky suspicion this new Zelda is going to have science fiction elements, given that mechanical enemy and the blue glowing explosive arrows… but we’ll see, we’ll see.


Every game has a ‘backbone’ of gameplay. With Mario, it is jumping. If they removed Mario’s jump, it would be a different game. With Metroid, it was exploring and getting better stuff. It was not about ‘maternal instincts’.

Zelda’s gameplay backbone was never puzzles in the first place. There were mazes and hidden passageways, but these are staples of any RPG at the time. It was the lack of puzzles that allowed such freedom. Puzzles do three things in gameplay:

1) They stop the flow of the game. You have to sit and stare at the digital wall. BORING.

2) They create linearity and scripted events. If Zelda was open ended, what made it to being close ended? It was all of the stupid puzzles.

3) The puzzles further reduce open endness by demanding a certain item to be used.

Classic Zelda had far more in common with Metroid than with a PC adventure game. The differences between Zelda and Metroid were very small actually. Zelda was fantasy orientated, Metroid was sci-fi. Zelda was overhead (aside from Zelda 2), Metroid was 2d. Zelda relied more on tactics, Metroid relied more on platforming. The biggest difference was that Zelda had an overworld and dungeons and caves while Metroid was just a seamless world.

It would be interesting to ask Aonuma if he has ever played Super Metroid. Metroid games are ‘mazes’ and you can get stuck trying to get past a barrier. But no one has ever said Metroid is a puzzle game. No. Metroid is definitely an arcade action game where you explore a vast environment and obtain better weapons, armor, and upgrades. Zelda, itself, is not that different.

I have to give Miyamoto credit. He realized that 3d Mario was using the WRONG gameplay backbone. Mario is not about collecting stars. Mario is about platforming to reach the flag at the other end. Miyamoto could change 3d Mario to encompass this change. Why can’t Aonuma try to make puzzles a supplement instead of the main course?

“That would be a drastic change, Malstrom.”

And making a touch screen only Zelda wasn’t?

And making a Zelda about trains wasn’t?

And flooding all of Hyrule wasn’t?

How could it be considered a ‘drastic change’ if it has already been done before in Zelda?



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