Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 15, 2014

Email: The Puzzle Plague

In particular, I’d like to mention my thoughts on the Zelda series and
how far it has fallen from its original premise.

The two NES games, A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening all had a
heavy action focus at its core, and it’s little wonder why these games
are among the fondest remembered. The latter two games did have a
scattering of switch and block puzzles, and fetch quests, but it
didn’t detract from the main focus: Link wandering around and using
his sword to fight enemies.

Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda, but for the most part stayed
true to the Zelda core formula. There were still lots of things
scattered about that you needed to fight and destroy. Compared to the
earlier games, there was much more dialogue and a focus on story, but
this was the last Zelda game to really do everything right. It was the
last “great” Zelda game.

And then Majora’s Mask came. This is where the big changes gradually started.

Sure, it uses the OoT engine and in some places (mostly the dungeons)
feels like OoT, but it really isn’t. It had a long, un-skippable
prologue when you started a new game that trapped you as a Deku Scrub
and forced you to wander around town for about an hour of real time
before you could really start the game.

The number of main dungeons is cut down to just four, and the main
focus of the game is to stop the moon… mostly by doing massive
amounts of fetch quests and listening to people’s problems. This isn’t
Zelda. It’s an RPG. And the dungeons themselves are much more
puzzle-focused than OoT’s. I don’t know why everyone says the Water
Temple in OoT is that bad… MM’s Great Bay Temple is much worse.

Yet, compared to what was to come in the later 3D games, Majora’s Mask
was still pretty decent, mostly due to the high difficulty level.

The two Oracle games were also alright, but both had many more puzzles
than Link’s Awakening and neither are as enjoyable or memorable.

I have no need to discuss Wind Waker since you have already at length,
many times, and I’ve actually never played it. I haven’t played any of
the DS ones or A Link Between Worlds (yet) so I have nothing to say
about those either.

Aside for the graphics style being a step in the right direction,
Twilight Princess was a step even further downward. A horribly
dumbed-down difficulty level, even more puzzles, and an annoyingly
long prologue (Feeding cats! Rescuing children! Sneaking around as a
wolf without anyone seeing you!) that makes the one in Majora’s Mask
look short.

And Skyward Sword was even worse. A mix of TP’s and Wind Waker’s
graphics and even more puzzles, and yet another long prologue before
you can really do anything. The amount of puzzles, stealth sections
and the like is so great in this game that many areas just feel empty,
because you spend much more time doing stuff like using a magic beetle
to hit switches or blowing away sand with a magic dust blower than
actually fighting. The challenge level was much higher than TP though,
to the point where I was actually in danger many times through the
game. It was the one thing is got right.

Ever since Majora’s Mask, every single Zelda game (2D and 3D alike)
has gradually been getting more puzzles and less monsters. The biggest
reason why the older games are more liked is because fighting monsters
is fun. Solving puzzles is not. Once you’ve done it once (even if it’s
an easy puzzle), why would you want to do the same puzzle over again
in the future?

Starting with Majora’s Mask, Zelda got a new director. Who could that be, reader?

And yes, he did actually dress like that… in public.

Above: Aonuma somehow made J. Allard’s hoodie wearing look good.



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