Now, I understand why game designers utilize these tried and true settings: They're what we've got in the planet Earth of ours. But it gets a little tiring knowing that every Mario game, every Metroid game, every Sonic game from here until eternity will have this stuff.
I haven't really formulated full thoughts on this but that shouldn't stop me from posting and see what other people say to get things started.
I don't know if I necessarily want Zelda to become some linear RPG...but I really would like them to see them adopt some of those ideas while still letting you have the freedom to run around and explore. I don't think that adding context/story to dungeons would make things less "Zelda-ish." I think plenty of Zelda games have shown those kinds of areas while still maintaining a Zelda feel. Snowpeak Ruins, the third dungeon in SS, and even Tower of the Gods. I love any Zelda level where I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen at the end.
I think for me I'd just like to see these sorts of things is because Zelda at its heart is an adventure game (or action/adventure game or whatever you want to call it). As the decades go on, the more Nintendo starts to pull the same exact tropes as older games, the less of an "adventurous" feel I get. I think that's a huge reason why some people really did like the sailing in Wind Waker. While I have my problems with it, there was indeed a lot of unpredictability on that ocean (within a certain framework).
It's hard to feel like I'm going on a grand adventure sometimes when I stumble into something called "THE FIRE SANCTUARY," when we've just had so many fire levels, and it feels like I'm playing a "level of a game" instead of exploring an uncharted part of a world - a place that has a role in that world other than just being an obstacle course. I know Zelda is a game at heart, but it's always been about having a "world" and exploring every nook and cranny of that world. I think that especially as graphics continue to get more and more refined, it's crucial that gameplay ideas and concepts evolve as well, or else you'll start feeling like you're playing a very pretty game with archaic game mechanics. I think it's a huge reason why older games with simple visual upgrades rub me the wrong way. They can look like modern games, but at the core something feels dated, and the end result usually feels a bit off. Perfect Dark on XBLA is the perfect example of that to me.
I think as long as these "dungeon" areas continue to feel perilous, and have concentrated areas of puzzle solving (differentiating itself from the overworld), then I think the Zelda vibe will remain intact. We've seen snippets in Zelda games where levels are more than just "The ______ Temple" and I think it greatly enhances the experience. The actual gameplay within these dungeons isn't necessarily the problem, but I think context and goal of the area goes a LONG way into making the world feel more alive.
Also, IDEA- the next Zelda game starts out with Link asleep....but you actually PLAY whatever it is he's dreaming. It would both retain the tradition of Link waking up at the beginning of the game, but also let you play something more exciting than a stupid town. That's your tutorial right there. Maybe he has a nightmare about being in a burning building and you have to use his basic skills to get out of it, or rescue someone in it. You fail, he wakes up. Then maybe he has other nightmare sections like this later in the game. Maybe he's even seeing the future? After playing through each nightmare section and failing, you later get to live the real events in the game and make the right choice based on what happened in the nightmare. I'd love to see them think outside the box like that. The Silent Realm stuff was very dreamlike, so it wouldn't be a huge stretch.
So that's really my own take on the future of Zelda - thinking outside of the box (in regards to things that they haven't thought outside the box enough on). I think they've basically perfected their ability to design cool rooms that have devious puzzles in them. I think now, they need to step back and make the game more engaging on a "macro" level. How does this area connect to that area? What is engaging about Link going through this level? What could be a level? What could happen at the end of a level to keep players on their toes? What is going to be engaging about revisiting this area or that area?
It's kind of a reason I really would like to see Retro tackle a Zelda game. Even though MP3 was very isolated in its world design, I think they showed that even in Donkey Kong Country Returns, they could still make a world that you could believe in. Even on a basic platforming level, I could see areas I've been to in the distance. Things you did in the levels sometimes affected the overworld map. They're always just really great with the details that give the illusion that you're not just playing a game, but making your way through another world.
Oh man, a Zelda game that's like the Cube, but every "room" is like a mini-dungeon with a different theme, and it's all surreal... That'd be glorious. With Link meeting strange alternate or ethereal versions of characters he's met before...
As close as the Metroid games are to my heart and how I always tell my friends they're my favorite video games of all time, I can't help but get sick of lava levels. Developers need to come up with new landscapes.
I have played parts of FF VII-X, but my experience with the series has been very brief. RPGs are such a time sinker than most of the times I skip them. I think I will be getting FF VI on PSN so that I can play it on the go on PSP.