With the recent release and rave reviews of Super Mario Maker (my full review will come after I get an actual copy of the game), video game fans are abuzz with what else could possibly use the same treatment Nintendo has given their beloved mascot on the 30th anniversary of his landmark series. Metroid? Kid Icarus? Sonic the Hedgehog or Castlevania, even though those two aren’t Nintendo properties? Mega Man, who very nearly had its own first prior to being cancelled?
In truth, there are a lot of great games which could benefit from the treatment, but eyes tend to inevitably rest on Nintendo’s second-biggest name, The Legend of Zelda. However, there are some problems with this — at least, issues which arise from Zelda being so significantly different from Mario, even despite being developed alongside each other and even having certain elements taken from one game and put into the other.
A “Zelda Maker” (which I personally like to think would have a slightly better name like “The Zelda Legend Maker,” but I’m sticking to the simple term for SEO reasons, if nothing else), much like it’s namesake, would require a much greater degree of complexity than its Mario counterpart. Foremost among these is the simple duration of anything you would create; Super Mario Bros. levels tend to be short and snappy, finished in a matter of a minutes as players run from Point A to Point B.
In theory, one could simply shrink it down to labyrinths only. But even then, Zelda levels tend to expect a lot of back-and-forth exploration, having an inventory, and other dynamics that don’t apply to Mario. Even the first labyrinth from the first game, Eagle, can be seen above as something generally more complex than what is to be expected from Super Mario Maker.
Not that it can’t be done, but there is a certain degree of boundary-pushing involved, and even so, it doesn’t quite capture the entire experience.
While this could be done in theory, it would still leave people unhappy. After all, you can’t just have a series of unconnected labyrinths and truly capture the feeling a Zelda Maker would need to accomplish. There’s an overworld to consider, too.
It’s a big world out there, and let’s face it: you’re going to need more than one labyrinth to fill it with, as well as making sure all the moving parts interact correctly so no one gets stuck in an impossible situation. The acquisition of items alone elevates this to something more complex than whether you can fly or throw fireballs or not.
By this point, “Zelda Maker” obviously goes well beyond the the point of being a simple level maker and into something of a full-on game maker. And while that’s just fine for some people, one can only imagine that the kind of divide that exists between those who want to make levels and those who simply want to play levels would be far, far sharper here than in the “anyone can do it” sense that Super Mario Maker provides, and the sheer intimidation factor might be more off-putting than Nintendo would be willing to invest in.
There are at least two possibilities I can think of to counteract this, however; to provide a simpler Zelda experience that still hits the right notes without being too overwhelming.
One, of course, is to follow Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Though still complex (and likely requiring checkpoints that aren’t in Super Mario Maker for one reason or another), this iteration is a bit more Mario-like in primarily centering around a core set of abilities for Link to possess.
The overworld map is a little less daunting as well. It’s built more around being a way to get from Point A to Point B (with random encounters in-between), rather than being a major part of the adventure itself. That said, there is the option of having certain areas of the map which are specifically constructed for forcing the player into combat.
Plus, we haven’t had a follow-up to Zelda II, and one is well-deserved and long overdue if ever there was a game that needed one.
Still, much as I love Zelda II, I know that this wouldn’t suit everyone. Hence, what I would see as being perhaps the most likely product a “Zelda Maker” could be.
The optimal solution for “Zelda Maker,” at least in terms of precedent (it’s always possible Nintendo could come up with something new) may be a format which most closely echoes games such as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, seen above. That isn’t to suggest that the game needs to be four players, but rather that the concessions made to allow the game to work best with a potential four-player format might also be what works best here.
Four Swords Adventures is a bit more linear than your traditional top-down Zelda game, or at least some of the originals. It follows a level-by-level structure that encompasses different themes within each stage, from lakes, coasts, forests, and foothills to villages, castles, and caves — not unlike the variety of selections available in Super Mario Maker. And, as befits any Zelda map worth its salt, each contains numerous nooks, crannies, tunnels, caves, and secrets to discover.
Unlike the traditional Zelda game, each level is entirely self-contained, with all of the necessary hearts, items, and other assorted miscellaneous pick-ups located within. Nothing carries over, so there’s no need to worry about plotting out each labyrinth and overworld segment so that everything fits nicely as part of a bigger puzzle. These could also be strung together randomly via a generic map, not unlike the one Nintendo used in Super Mario Maker‘s 10 and 100 Mario Challenges.
Of course, there are many other things to consider when assembling a project as ambitious as a “Zelda Maker” would be, including amiibo usage (even if sticking to the same set as in Super Mario Maker, new pixel art would need to be made for the back view of each character), which styles to include (my votes go to the original, A Link to the Past, the Game Boy Color games, and perhaps a high definition version of A Link Between Worlds), and more.
Still, as a foundation of sorts, I humbly believe that this is the ideal way to go for Nintendo’s purposes. But what do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Banner image via Zelda Universe.