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Is the success of Ocarina of Time ruining or saving the Zelda fanbase? [roundtable]
 
So, Chrisbg99 and I were talking last night about Skyward Sword and how I was going to mention in my future review of it how I actually liked Twilight Princess.

He told me that contrary to the loudmouths that dislike TP, it was really well-received, it's just the vocal fans that dislike it.

But now I'm starting to see people comment with 'TP is the most underrated Zelda game' on videos of the Medley of TP from the 25th Anniversary Soundtrack.

And that got me thinking... doesn't this always happen?

I mean, every time there is a console Zelda released, we have these fans who say, 'It will never be as good as OoT', and then afterwards, when the next console Zelda releases, it ends up becoming an underdog in a few fans' eyes, and eventually starts to get it's own loving fanbase.

It happened with Majora's Mask
It happened with Wind Waker
and I'm starting to see it happen with Twilight Princess.

Then there are the fans that just want the 'next OoT', but really... there won't be another OoT. So those fans' expectations are always shot no matter what you give them.

What are your thoughts on this?

Reminder: This is about OoT ruining/saving the fanbase, not the franchise.

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Posted: 11/28/11, 04:55:32  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/11, 03:30:13
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Well, I'm one of the insane people who thought Ocarina of Time wasn't even that amazing. Looking back on it I can see why it was so well received overall, but it was kind of disappointing to me as a whole. So personally I think it has been surpassed. For instance, I think Twilight Princess beats it on almost every level.

Still, it is basically a legendary game and it would be very, very tough for Nintendo to surpass it in the eyes of gamers as a whole, which is to say to surpass it and then some, because that is the only way people would accept that another Zelda is the new king. I think Nintendo could pull it off though. Something along the lines of what they did with Super Mario Galaxy.

Whatever the case, I kind of expect Skyward Sword to surpass Ocarina of Time for me, since pretty much every console Zelda since OOT has on some level.
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:00:27
Having played Ocarina of Time for the first time on the GameCube disc, it didn't amaze me (you're not that insane then Zero ). It was an enjoyable game but I failed to be as impressed as those who got to experience it at a time where it would have been something much more. Wind Waker, up until now, is what I'd probably consider my favorite of the 3D Zelda games. I played Twilight Princess and enjoyed it but again, it didn't wow me. Majora's Mask I just have the hardest time to get into. Skyward Sword really grabbed me from the beginning and it's one of the few Zelda games that I really find amazing and is what I'd consider to be my "Ocarina of Time."
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:10:37
The day I bought Skyward Sword, the guy ringing me up at Taco Bell saw my Zelda shirt so I said how I just bought the new game. He was excited to hear that. So I told him it was getting great reviews, people suspect it's even better than Ocarina of Time. He then jumped down my throat almost with the fact NOTHING could beat it. Ever. EVER. I got my food and left him to his opinion. It was interesting though.
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:17:05
@DrFinkelstein

That's how it was that time that guy in my Anatomy class put down the Metroid Prime games after seeing my Metroid shirt.

Makes me want to not wear my game shirts anymore.
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:25:03  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 05:28:32
Yes this is a common cycle with Zelda games. The expectations are so astronomically high when a new console Zelda comes out anymore that nothing short of Nintendo creating a holo-deck with a new Zelda game running and you playing Link and slaying Ganon is going to meet it pretty much.

I wasn't paying as close attention when Majora's Mask came out, but this absolutely happened with Wind Waker. Nintendo fanboys were practically committing ritual suicide after Nintendo first showed off the first trailer. Then after Twilight Princess came out, it was the "underrated" Zelda. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it happened with TP as well. I loved TP, beat it twice at 100% clocking in around 150 hours.
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:25:20  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 05:26:16
I think things have gotten blurry enough for me where I can't even tell what my favorite Zelda is. I mean, I know that there have been games since Ocarina that have been technically better in every way. That doesn't mean Ocarina still doesn't hold up to me. I still think it's paced wonderfully. After Ocarina and Majora, I think Nintendo started getting in their heads that they needed to just fill the game with tasks even at the expense of pacing - and yes, this includes Skyward Sword. I actually think that Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword all have areas where the pacing kind of falls apart (please don't hurt me), but then again, I know that people felt similarly about Ocarina of Time as well.

I think at this point I can confidently say that I think Skyward Sword is the best console Zelda game, even if there are some things about it that still bug me. I think upon subsequent playthroughs, these things will bother me less because I know what to do, and I won't bother with optional collecting.

At the very least, I think with Skyward Sword, Nintendo has been able to deliver something similar to what Ocarina delivered, but without copying and pasting its template. There are more curveballs thrown here than in even Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, but it's still very much a Zelda game.

It will be interesting to see, in the future, where Zelda goes. Skyward Sword still uses Ocarina of Time and past Zelda games as its template for the most part. You have the overworld, you have your dungeons, you have your special items to get you through each. You collect magical items and save the world. For me the question is...do I want them to just keep doing that? Do we even need to have defined "dungeons" at this point? The way I look at it, I'm not asking whether or not I want Nintendo to use Ocarina as the template, but I'm asking if I want them to redefine exactly what that template is.

Edit: removed some stuff because it wasn't really important to the conversation
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:27:18  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 05:36:17
I'm pretty sure you all know how I love Ocarina of Time. Majora's Mask is up there with Ocarina of Time, also. I thought Wind Waker was fantastic, though initially, I wasn't that keen on the graphics. After beating the game, I absolutely loved them. Twilight Princess, while a magnificent game, I did not find it to be as good as the previous 3D games. But it's still leagues better than many other games out there, which speaks to the quality of the Zelda franchise. Skyward Sword is an amazingly awesome game. And I've only just finished the first dungeon. It is possible that, after I've beaten the game, I may have a new favorite Zelda game, which would also make it my favorite game of all time.
Posted: 11/28/11, 05:32:47
The success of Majora's Mask is what's hurting the Zelda franchise.

Majora's Mask was successful because it was the most daring of the 4 Ocarina of Time follow-ups. I don't think it's better than Ocarina of Time, but it's so very, very close. They are my #1 and #2 favorite games ever.

Twilight Princess was a fantastic game, but the world and its characters were so devoid of life compared to a game that came out in 2000. If anything disappointed me about TP, it's how it failed to live up to the bar set by Majora's Mask, not Ocarina of Time. The adventure was every bit as grand and epic as OoT, and better in a lot of respects.

At the end of the day, despite all of the stuff that Skyward Sword does differently, it's Ocarina of Time 5 at its core. It feels like the fifth installment of Ocarina of Time. It does a lot of things differently and there are a lot of great changes in it, but that's what they are -- changes to the same core game.

When you look at what Metroid Prime did to the Metroid franchise, or Galaxy to the Mario franchise -- Zelda hasn't had that kind of an earth-shattering game since Ocarina of Time, and that's 13 years ago. I didn't like Wind Waker, but TP and SS are outstanding games. But they aren't ever going to be groundbreaking experience that OoT was back in 1998, and I doubt anything ever will.

The only game I'd put in the conversation with OoT since then is MM, because it knew that it couldn't be Ocarina of Time and didn't try to be. It was greatness in completely different areas. The Zelda franchise needs a game that completely re-invents how you look at the series, and I'd argue that only Majora's Mask came close to achieving this. It's why I enjoyed it so much.
Posted: 11/28/11, 06:31:21
@TheBigG753

I feel like MM would be a much stronger game if it didn't look and feel so reminiscent of OoT all the time. From the reused character models, sound effects, animations, much of the music, items, interface, etc, the game borrowed more from another title (on the surface) than any other game in the series minus Oracles and Spirit Tracks.

I actually enjoy MM a heck of a lot and always have--it's one of my favorite Zeldas and favorite games. But I feel people look back on the game in a somewhat rosy manner, remembering highlights like the Stone Tower, the Anju/Kafei story and the rich atmosphere, while pushing back the game's numerous weaker parts (most of Woodfall including the temple, the whole first hour or so of the game, some of the Zora egg hunting, especially if you don't have enough bottles, unexciting dungeon items and items in general minus the transformation masks, the repeated OoT elements listed above).

Fortunately, the game's rich character interaction, atmosphere, strong puzzle/dungeon design and skillful subtlety and emotion still make it a stand-out. But being different for the sake of being different isn't necessarily the direction I want Zelda to go in permanently. MM is a great game, but if it was the actual Zelda 64 instead of OoT, it'd be even more ridiculously alienating.

I feel that right now, Skyward Sword has done a good job of blending old elements with refined new ones. I think the progression of Zelda won't generally change much (heck, even MM had the pre-dungeon/dungeon [mixed with some town side-quest visits] set-up). Every game in the series has had that basic idea, but there's been enough variety with the way it's approached that I think it's something that can be built upon and expanded in interesting ways still. Adventuring in SS right now feels almost more Metroid Prime-ish than OoT-ish.

While I've been saying that the formula could use some shaking up, maybe SS has convinced me just how much is "enough." Right now, the game feels different, unique and fresh enough to stay interesting, despite a handful of conservative design decisions.
Posted: 11/28/11, 06:45:16
@TheBigG753

That's kind of what I was going to say before I edited my post.

Skyward Sword still very much uses the template of Ocarina of Time (which itself was based on LttP, but in more of a linear fashion). It may add obstacles to certain areas and change up enemies, but at its core, it's practically the same controls with the lock on mechanic, and the "Plot point, 3 areas, Plot point, 3-5 dungeons, Plot Point."

I think the big question that Zelda needs to ask is whether or not it wants to keep using the OoT template, or if it wants to redefine exactly what its template is. SS did some things to shake things up, but I feel like they shook things up within that same formula.

I guess it brings up the question...what exactly makes Zelda, Zelda? Is it having an overworld with dungeons hidden within? Is it about having plot points only at certain parts of the game, rather than integrating the story into the entire adventure? Does Link need to keep collecting 3 of this and 3 of that? Does the world need to stay very linearly designed in order to create puzzle complexity, or can it be more non-linear so as to create the illusion of more freedom? Does each area have to connect to a giant hub as has been the case ever since OoT?

I loved SS and the new, incredibly creative ideas it brought to the table. Looking at its design, I think it's leagues above any other Wii game out there. But can Nintendo continue the same Zelda formula in the next generation? I think in some ways, SS' design does seem a bit archaic in a way, and I wonder if they can keep doing what they've been doing as graphics start getting more and more sophisticated.
Posted: 11/28/11, 06:50:44  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 07:14:56
Venturing in a few places like GAF and zeldainformer I can see how annoying zelda fans can be, their bodies ready to flip out at the faintest signs of fetch quests or back tracking.
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:03:40
PogueSquadron said:
I guess it brings up the question...what exactly makes Zelda, Zelda? Is it having an overworld with dungeons hidden within? Is it about having plot points only at certain parts of the game, rather than integrating the story into the entire adventure? Does Link need to keep collecting 3 of this and 3 of that? Does the world need to stay very linearly designed in order to create puzzle complexity, or can it be more non-linear so as to create the illusion of more freedom? Does each area have to connect to a giant hub as has been the case ever since OoT?

That's been my suggestion for the last few games now. I'd like to see the gameplay and story become a lot more detached. It'd be interesting to go into a dungeon not looking to defeat a monster at the end and get one of X sacred jewels at the end.

I look at Super Mario Galaxy and while it feels unabashedly like a Mario game, it doesn't feel like I'm playing Mario Sunshine or Mario 64, even though it plays largely the same. I commended Rocksteady recently about how Arkham City feels a lot different from Arkham Asylum, despite the fact that they play almost exactly the same.

With the last few Zelda games, some things looked and played differently, but it never felt like I was playing something markedly different from an Ocarina of Time sequel. Can you have a Zelda game that captures the spirit and feel of Zelda without feeling like Ocarina of Time? Can you separate the two? That's the challenge I think Nintendo has going into the next generation, but they are obviously talented enough to figure it all out.

Majora's Mask...it looks and plays a whole lot like Ocarina of Time, but damned if it didn't feel a lot different to me. I'm not saying every Zelda game has to be an all-out oddball like MM, but maybe a change of scenery or setting might make a big difference. Maybe something totally different from Hyrule that doesn't feature the obligatory forest/desert/lava/water themes, or maybe set in a less medieval time. I don't know. NOT Zelda in space though, lol.
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:12:38
It happens. Doesn't happen with me though since I always loved TP. It'll probably be my personal OOT. Overall most perfect game in the series. It did so much, it was goofy when it needed to be, was mostly extremely dark, had the best soundtrack (and I'll argue it's still better than SS I bet), and easily the best visuals/locales.

All the games are freakin' great though. They're all very magical and I'd hate to lose any one. TP just had the most stuff I'd hate to lose. If I could choose a Zelda that all future Zeldas would be like, it'd be a mix of all of them, but if I had to lean towards one it'd be TP by a landslide.
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:14:31
I've said this before but...
I just wouldn't mind seeing a Zelda driven more by plot than by a vague objective. By this I just mean, maybe Link isn't trying to gather pieces to a map or sacred artifacts or whatever....maybe he's just going through an old ruined temple because it's simply on the way to wherever it is he needs to go.

I feel like no area in Zelda is ever "on the way to somewhere else." It's partially why I was excited about the Lanayru Mining Facility. Most Zelda dungeons just have you warp at the end what turns out to be a long dead end. But this was almost a dungeon by necessity. No, we don't have to navigate this dungeon to acquire a magical gem. We need to navigate this area because we need to find Zelda, who is on the other side of the dungeon for some unknown reason.

THAT is the kind of stuff I want to see more of. Getting to the end of that third dungeon had a lot of mystery around it. Suspense. The next three (well, 2 IMO) dungeons were awesome, but was there anything truly exciting about beating them, aside from the fact that you'd get orders as to where to go next?
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:29:12  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 07:30:50
@carlosrox I'll usually rate the soundtrack by how many songs I find myself randomly whistling several years later.

TP had a great soundtrack, there's several tunes I still find myself whistling from time to time.

It'll be interesting to see what songs stick with me after my next playthrough, plus exploring the world for secrets/side quests, etc. There's one tune I've been whistling already, though.

@PogueSquadronI still like how the Sand Ship and the preceding quests were handled, though. I didn't realize that was actually the dungeon until the cutscene started. I mean, there was still the whole "get the item" aspect of it, but it still felt a lot different from the traditional Zelda fare, as did the escape sequence near the end. Stuff like that, you know? It was the same Zelda gameplay, but in an unfamiliar setting. Frankly everything in Lanayru stole the show for this game.
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:35:30  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 07:42:09
@TheBigG753 I agree. I always got a sense of "What is around the next corner?" in Lanayru. When I went to Eldin I just felt like...Do I really have to go up this damn mountain again? I think the game in general could've used a little more variety in the locales, especially in the Eldin province. I was half expecting to find a hidden village of surviving Sheikah or something like that, maybe the foundation of Kakariko Village. I was so happy when I finally got to Lake Floria as well, but as it turned out we hardly got to spend any time there at all. There was hardly anything there.

I'd agree about the Sandship. I don't remember being incredibly surprised about it, but I thought it was very cool nonetheless. I don't know why I had gotten the feeling that the ship was about to be the dungeon but I guess at that point, I wouldn't have been shocked if it was.

I just think surprises in general are a great thing for Zelda moving forward. In that instance, even though your goal was inevitable, your means to getting there was completely new. There was also quite a surprise in part of the dungeon before that, which definitely kept me on my toes (The bottom portion of Ancient Cistern) If your goal feels predictable and the means to accomplishing that goal also feels kind of predictable...well then that's when you start getting a little underwhelmed, which was exactly what felt like in the Fire Sanctuary. It was my least favorite dungeon in the game. Really? Another fire level? I guess I needed to look at red and orange for another 2 hours? Is that necessary? And its magical item is an upgrade to the digging gloves? I just wasn't a fan of that section at all to be honest.
Posted: 11/28/11, 07:55:50  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 07:58:13
@PogueSquadron

Heh, it seems we have pretty much the same take on the game, which is kinda neat.

I'm in total agreement on the Fire Sanctuary. Probably the most disappointing aspect of the game, considering the dungeons kept getting better and better up to that point, particularly 3-5. I had high expectations for what was coming next. The only good thing that really came out of it was being able to stab those water fruits, and sling them with your sword. That goes back to what you were saying about things feeling unexpected, as this was something I basically found by accident. But other than that, it wasn't very memorable or creative.

I think the biggest difference with how they handled Lanayru was that a lot of new, pretty significant areas were uncovered each time you went back, and offered a wide variety of stuff to do. A lot of puzzles and whatnot. The few new areas you unearthed in the other locations were pretty uninteresting, short, or both. For instance, I liked swimming and discovering the opening at the bottom of the Great Tree, but it was just one short segment in what was becoming a pretty long, drawn-out series of fetch quests at that point in the game.
Posted: 11/28/11, 08:13:18
I think Lanayru's sheer size also played a big role in it as well. It's really the only area in the game that you feel like you can stretch your legs out a bit, save for the sky (which really doesn't have much going on outside of Skyloft). You kind of wanted to see how far it would take you, and what would be on the end of that journey. The pure concepts alone in that area were just astonishing. And besides when you all of a sudden stumble onto the Temple of Time (or I should say, the old Temple of Time), your eyebrows are going to perk up a little bit. Eldin, in comparison, just started feeling a little claustrophobic to me by the end of the game.

Pre Dungeon 4 Spoiler: It's a shame about that tree. It was BEAUTIFUL on the inside. I was really hoping that the tree was going to be a dungeon at some point. Yeah, Zelda games have taken us through trees before, but it was so nice to have a purple/blue part of the game, haha.
Posted: 11/28/11, 08:28:38
I suppose its success and popularity have put some high expectations for long-time gamers, which may taint their views/expectations for whatever new Zelda comes along. So in that aspect, I suppose it's hurting the fanbase.

But because the game was so solid, and every entry after that has been built off of that foundation (and made better) I think the franchise can only benefit from the N64 game's success.

I wish Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks got the same kind of recognition, because I loved those games. Felt fresh and unique, while still very much being "Zelda games." They were new without losing what they were. If that makes sense.
Posted: 11/28/11, 08:41:14
I think that having new ideas in regards to puzzles and combat is always great to shake up the franchise, but at some point I'd like to see a bigger change to the overall progression and structure of the game. As new as Skyward Sword is in SO many different ways, it's still operating on the same skeleton as Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. It deviates here and there, either by throwing in boss battles where you don't expect them, or by adding more complexity to overworld navigation, but if you made an outline of each game, they'd all look remarkably similar.

I think that they can still maintain a Zelda feel and deviate from that skeleton quite a bit. Metroid and Mario have both done a lot more experimentation in that regard than Zelda has, but have still been able to cling to certain aspects that make those franchises uniquely their own.
Posted: 11/28/11, 08:44:40  - Edited by 
 on: 11/28/11, 08:46:21
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