Why Zelda Games are Overrated
Yes, you read that right. I really do not like Zelda games- I never have, and probably never will. I am a gamer, and a long time one at that, but Zelda never has been appealing to me. With the latest Zelda game- Skyward Sword- on the horizon, I find myself once again completely uninterested. I know, this is gamer blasphemy, but let me explain myself. The following is a list of the reasons why I don’t like the series. Read through,consider my arguments, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that this venerated series may be a tad overrated.
The Controls and menu interface can be unwieldy
In 3D Zelda games the controls have always been suspect. Link handles a little clunkily. How many times have you died trying to execute Link’s awkward auto-jump? The combat in Zelda games is not really very fun, which is a shame because it is what you end up doing most of the time. You simply whack away at the enemies with a sword unless you need to use a specific bomb or arrow to take them out. Of course, to do that you need to pause everything and search through a clusterf*ck of a menu interface to find the right piece of equipment for the job. Sure there are hotkeys…sometimes, but they are usually fewer in number than the array of different items and pieces of equipment you need. You end up wrestling with the controls and interface in Zelda games just as much as you wrestle with the puzzles you are trying to complete. These issues have been addressed to varying degrees of success in more recent iterations, but Zelda is a series that is slow to learn and the interface and controls seem downright archaic when compared to other games.
Zelda did not fare too well using the cutting edge controls of the Wii, either. Twilight Princess brought us unnecessary motion controls that let us waggle-slash through most of the game’s enemies and awkwardly jolt the controller to lunge as a wolf. Skyward Sword promises to finally deliver good motion controls with the motion plus but watching Miyamoto himself struggling with them so mightily at E3 over a year ago has made a doubter out of me. Is Skyward Sword can prove me wrong it may be the first 3D Zelda title with controls that surpass mediocrity.
I hear that Skyward Sword has eliminated overworlds. I’ll believe it when I see it. In order to extend the feeling of the game being a journey (and also to pad the gameplay time) most Zelda games have wide open areas that contain nothing you actually want to deal with. You must traverse these largely uninteractive expanses in order to get everywhere interesting and to pick up items. Weather it is the open fields that plagued the N64 Zeldas or- even worse- the ocean in Wind Waker, these dead zones lead to tedium and boredom. This is exacerbated by the fact that so much of the game depends on backtracking. How is that fun?
When you take a look at what you end up spending most of the your time doing in Zelda games, it usually ends up being your search for something to gain access to the next dungeon. As stated above, the overworlds are largely non interactive wastelands of boredom, so the fact that you have to comb through them to find certain keys to gain access to the dungeons (the actual levels of the game where the series’ strengths play out) is infuriating. “I need WHAT to go into the Great Duku Tree? Why? Where is that? Why isn’t it here?” Fetch quests also are pretty much the only type of side quests that exist in Zelda games. “I need to come back here with how many Rupees? Why? Something about a Bridge?” I don’t want to do that for 40 hours with 6 hours of actual levels sprinkled in between that wandering.
Still No Voice Acting? It’s Freaking 2011!
There is a fine line between paying homage to the past and being stuck in the past. The Zelda series has crossed that line and been stuck in the past for a couple generations now due to its lack of voice acting. I understand the characters traditionally only made silly noises while text is written out, but it has long lost its charm at this point. Who plays a new game with text dialogue anymore? It isn’t even like there is a whole lot that characters say in the Zelda games. Overall, the story and cinematics are pretty light in this series. If games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect can record tens of thousands of lines of dialogue, why can’t Zelda games have someone read the 100 lines of text they usually contain? Why would I want to play a game from 1986 25 years later as new game? Sometimes it feels like that when playing a Zelda game.
A good action/adventure needs a good protagonist. You have to want to do what the character does, act like the character, look like the character, and be like the character. Link, as a protagonist, is a bitch. He is undeniably androgynous and half of the time he is a child. Who the hell wants to play as a feminine little boy? He is like an even more lame Peter Pan. He isn’t even consistent. Is he a human or an Elf? Are Hyleans even elves? Who knows? I’m not saying every video game protagonist needs to be uber-macho like Marcus Phoenix, (also a terrible video game protagonist) but the character should at least be a little cool or unique like Samus, Sonic, or even Mario. Link is just a weak “chosen-one on a quest” cut-out character. Boring. He is so nondescript that we can’t even tell if he is more than one character. Yeah, it makes no sense, which leads us to…
What story? Who knows? The whole thing is so convoluted by now, and there really is no discernible chronology between the separate games. Basically the same story is retold almost every time there is a new Zelda game. Each Link is not really even the same character…I think. Here’s a synopsis: Zelda, a princess, is in danger. Link, a young boy who is bestowed some sort of magical destiny quest thingy (often in the form of an annoying fairy or animal) and needs to find a variety of more magic nonsense to save Zelda. He does this. Sometimes time travel happens. That is the story for every Zelda game ever. It is not interesting anymore and wasn’t terribly captivating the first time. Yawn.
Why does everyone overlook these problems? I’ll concede that the Zelda series thrives in the areas of item based puzzles and boss battles but there is a lot of tedium and nonsense you need to sift through to get to these strengths. I simply do not have the patience for it. Skyward Sword will come out and get its automatic 10 out of 10 from IGN, and it may very well be a good game that addresses many of my issues with the series. But think about what I said here and consider just how much slack we cut Miyamoto’s series compared to similar modern games. Most of Zelda’s magic may be due to reputation.