This month has caused me to look back at a lot of different Zelda games. I can’t say I have played all of them, but I have definitely played a good portion of them and one thing I have noticed is that a lot of the games have a similar gimmick. This gimmick is one where you have to traverse between two different worlds in order to go further in your quest. The most obvious examples are the light world and the dark world from games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as well as it’s sequel game The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. There are other instances of this such as when you are traveling between the past and the present in games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Then finally there are instances where it isn’t the world that changes, but rather it is the way you interact with the world that changes in games like The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. This series usually has a lot of time spent traversing through different worlds, but it makes sense most of the time. I don’t actually want to knock this cliché too much because when used effectively, it can be a great way to introduce interesting puzzles into your series of games that involve a lot of puzzle-solving elements. However this usually applies best to the 2D games that I have listed as they usually find interesting ways to make the most of these mechanics. I usually have more problems with it in the 3D games where it feels as though the extra world is there to add more meat to the game and doesn’t really come into play in terms of puzzle-solving. That is not to say they are bad games, I just think that adding a dual world in more recent Zelda games is mainly there just to give us more stuff to explore. To talk more about what I mean let’s delve a bit into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Now I know I talked about this game a lot in my previous post, but this time I want to incorporate a bit more gameplay into my thoughts today. Now after reaching the second half of the game you eventually reach a point where you get the ability to travel back and forth between the past and present using the Master Sword. The mysterious Sheik (Zelda) even gives you a song allowing you to warp there at will. There still remains the question however of why there is a need to allow us to have this feature. The game obliges by having you use time travel to access two different dungeons in the past in order to collect items for the dungeons in the second half. There are other things that allow you to collect special items by traveling between times. However, it never really feels as though the time travel itself is an actual puzzle mechanic. I wouldn’t really call it a puzzle if you can’t progress further until you find an obvious spot that only your child self would be able to access. At least getting the Song of Storms has some puzzle elements and makes you work for it a little bit but there are no real puzzles other than getting two items in the dungeons you are working on as an adult in the past before proceeding. Now the lack of more uses with the time mechanic is disheartening since is can be used in more interesting ways. For instance there is one dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that involves using time mechanics to affect the movements of the actual dungeon. Yet in the game based around time travel it is only used in one spot which completely kills any way for it to be used as anything more than a warp point. I get there is a reason for this in the game and locking off the past would make completion of certain aspects impossible, but I think the switching between timelines can be used for more than getting beans to grow faster.
Now another game that I feel doesn’t use it’s dual world as effectively is honestly the one whose whole game was advertised around that very concept. That’s right it is the Zelda game with the time you turn into a wolf: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I introduce it that way because the game is most well for that and having an insanely long tutorial, but I didn’t want anyone to confuse this game with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword so I went with the former option. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually really like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It has one of my favorite Zelda game boss fights as well as one of my favorite dungeons. Feel free to guess which ones, but I will say they are at the later parts of the game. The point is that this game is a lot of fun, but does anyone else feel that the Twilight Realm never really seemed to have a lot of presence in the game. For the most part they were just there to turn you into Wolf Link and collect orbs of light so you could bring the people back from the Twilight Realm. It barely had any presence other than being just mini puzzle sections. And later when you get the ability to transform into Wolf Link at will, the Twilight Realm vanishes until the end of the game. Hello? Darkness? Why did you run away all of a sudden? I get that I am the destined hero and all thanks to this triangle on my hand but could you at least put up a bit more of a fight? I understand there is no reason to travel to the Twilight Realm once I have the item that lets me become Wolf Link whenever I want, but wasn’t the whole plan of the main bad guy to bring the Twilight Realm over to ours. Instead he just kind of disappears after the fact and we don’t see any more Twilight until the end of the game. I feel like there was no reason why we couldn’t have more interaction with the Twilight Realm and instead of just giving us the wolf form, maybe instead give us the human form in the Twilight Realm. Look I still like the game and all, but if you completely remove the Twilight areas from the game, then it seems to me as though the developers couldn’t find anything interesting to do with the Twilight Realm. Just saying.
Now as I move onto The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons I would like to say I enjoy how the mechanics listed in these ones remain consistently useful throughout their respective games. Switching between seasons and shrinking yourself down both allow for different way to explore the world while making things feel like the item has more than just a one off use for some puzzles and is more integrated in the actual design. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons does have an alternate world where you get the different upgrades to your item, but unlike some other games in the series such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, it doesn’t take a year to travel back and forth getting an upgrade. Alright, I understand that I am being incredibly nitpicky here, but I just want it to be understood that these games add dual world mechanics without usually making you feel like you are in another world. And even if things do feel different, half the time it is only an excuse to pad out the playtime. How can a series with so much focus on time have only two games that have decent time mechanics? How can they underutilize this assets so often? I don’t have a problem with these games, but don’t add in mechanics if they are used for just item collection. Item collection is not a puzzle. Changing the environment with things we can alter are puzzles and so while I appreciate being able to turn into a wolf more than Sonic the Hedgehog ever will, I would appreciate if there was more to an entire realm than just a different control scheme. To my mind the most interesting Zelda games are not ones that change the environment, but rather it is the ones that change the way we can look at the land of Hyrule. Don’t just turn out the lights and call it a day. It is fine to have alternate worlds, but could we please have more than just a story justification for them. I am definitely not trying to go for item collection either. I am not about to spend a bunch of time only to get a golden pile of poop for my efforts. Thanks but no thanks.