The Downfall of the Zelda Series

Bright colors but unimaginative environments.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a boring and frustrating game riddled with stupid waggle controls, endless fetch quests, braindead backtracking used to pad out the game’s length, excessive hand-holding and never-ending cutscenes that a woodchuck could write. The oppressive sameness and lack of creativity is occasionally mitigated by some of the boss fights like the lava crab thing you fight on a slope in a volcano, but the game is overall the same Nyquil do-the-same-easy-stuff-so-you-can-sleep medicine. The sense of exploration for which the Zelda series is famous is wholly absent because you are presented with the same environments you see in every Zelda game. Here’s the forest area. Here’s the desert area. Here’s the water area. Here’s the same creatures, settings, and plotlines you saw in Ocarina of Time , Wind Waker , and Twilight Princess . Now shut up and eat what’s put in front of you.

While viewing Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw’s excessively crude but entirely accurate review of Skyward Sword the other day, I could feel the itch of the Nintendo internet fanboys lusting after the chance to burn the heretic. Yahtzee is correct: the Zelda series, though worshiped and defended vociferously on the internet and elsewhere, has jumped the shark long ago, and the most recent entry is a stodgy, uninteresting slop.

Boss fights are one of the few saving graces of the modern Zelda games.

What is it about games developed by Nintendo that causes such undying loyalty in its fans? Sony and Microsoft and PC fans are capable of being abrasive morons, to be sure, but even they will occasionally have the courage to say that there are some things they don’t like about the newest Uncharted or Halo or whatever. When it comes to Nintendo fans, however, each and every game must be enshrined and candles lit for. Remember when Gamespot (Bought and paid for by marketing scumbags, as all major video game sites are) gave an 8.8 out of 10 to Twilight Princess ? And the whole internet howled and hurled feces like the pack of idiot monkeys they are? And the reviewer, Jeff Gerstmann (Who was later fired for giving Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a “fair” rating, which review hilariously appeared alongside on-site advertisements for the game itself), had his Wikipedia page vandalized and received actual death threats for daring to give a sacred ~*Nintendo*~ game anything less than a perfect score?

This is why I could never work for a big video game magazine or website; you have to put up with foolishness like this from cult-like lunatics who love certain brands. (That and there’s the fact that Phineas Gage could write better than they do even if you shoved another girder in his brain.) If Gerstmann received such hatred for giving an excessively high (But not high enough) rating to a generic fantasy game, then I would be drawn and quartered, my remains scattered on all seven continents, and my name stricken from history for saying that I didn’t like Ocarina of Time . Ocarina is the game that even the most jaded and bitter gamers will adore, (typically the first Zelda game they ever played). The one that has inspired endless adoration from the subset of internet nerds who hate everything … is where I started losing interest in the series.

Katsuya Terada’s dark and lively art was the face of early Zelda.

Don’t let the third paragraph of this article fool you; Nintendo used to make consistently phenomenal games, the Zelda series in particular. I probably spent hundreds of hours played the first game. (Rusty, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry my family never returned the cartridge of that game we borrowed from you 25 years ago!) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES is one of the finest games in history, kept from perfection only by forced backtracking and an inability to quickly switch items with the shoulder buttons (Something that Mega Man X put to great use). Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy was an excellent game that was a true successor to A Link to the Past ’s brilliance. I was one of the five people who played and enjoyed Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons for the Game Boy Color. I even liked Link’s Adventure for the NES even though it’s one of the very few official Zelda games that the internet has deemed acceptable to criticize. (The others being the three CD-i games, which were not created by Nintendo and are universally considered to be abominably bad in any case.) I didn’t even have problems with Wind Waker ’s colorful, cartoony art style. The absolute last thing we need is some more of the omnipresent dreary brown-n-gray graphic styles in video games. I spit on Twilight Princess ’s dull, lifeless “realism”.

The Game Boy games as well as Four Swords Adventures for the GameCube repeated the same money-grubbing schemes that worked so very well for Nintendo in the past with the Pokémon series: One game for the price of two. Oh, you have Oracle of Seasons ? Got to find somebody with Oracle of Ages to unlock all of that bonus content. Got Four Swords Adventures ? Well, you better have a Game Boy Advance, and hopefully a bunch of friends with them, too.

Ocarina of Time and its many sequels are the antithesis of everything I enjoyed about the Zelda series. No longer were you allowed to explore at your whim; you had to go through the dungeons in a specific order (Though, to be fair, you had to do this in the Game Boy Zeldas as well). Huge, boring fields were between dungeons, between the player and fun. The unskippable cutscenes were an absolute chore to slog through, and the muteness of the protagonist (Another obnoxious and worthless tradition that is kept by Zelda games to this day that has never been done well in any game that isn’t called Half-Life ) didn’t help much. HEY! LISTEN!

Possibly the greatest video game ever made.

Earlier Zelda games required you to use your brain and figure things out on your own. Now it’s mandatory to have a wacky sidekick to make up for the silent elf protagonist. Navi, Midna, and Fi are all irritating and mostly useless characters (Though Midna did get a bit of plot development). Finding and skillfully exploring the claustrophobic dungeons of the first three games took backseat to boring and stupid plots that Christopher Paolini would be ashamed to have written, moronic auto-targeting systems and other hand-holding contrivances, the ugly Lego blocks of early 3D graphics (But, to be fair, hardware limitations of the time were not their fault), and the vilest sin of all: an emphasis on inert, soulless nostalgia rather than the true innovation Nintendo used to be known for. The Zelda of old is gone and has been replaced with a generic anime mess.

Try to forget this ever happened.

At least Skyward Sword , for all of its mediocre sameness, is better than Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks for the DS . Those two would make even the most slavish Nintendo fan hate themselves for praising them. Which they did anyway.

R.I.P. Good Zelda games 1986-2001. I wish you could be more like Alundra . But that’s an article for another time.

Too bad this game is lacking in good sequels as well.

About Lee

Lee Laughead writes stuff about video games. Read his Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mesarphelous even though Twitter sucks.
Animu, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, RPG or thereabouts, Video Gaming

7 comments


  1. I concur on Zelda: A Link to the Past. I love it, and I have been in so much trouble for never touching Ocarina of time, but I just keep going back to Link to the Past. I have played that game countless times and I love it more each time. Thanks for the interesting article Lee. Keep it up man, I dig it.

  2. I have to say that I think the pressure to keep up a yearly release schedule has really hurt a lot of series, many of Nintendo’s flagship titles included. It takes their best ideas and spreads them over a bunch of different games- I think Nintendo was better off in many ways with the NES-era "We don’t make a sequel until we can make a head-and-shoulders improvement" approach. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to keep them afloat in today’s industry.

    In related news, I think putting a moratorium on new Megaman appearances may be the smartest decision Capcom has made in some time.

    – HC

  3. Lee

    Here’s a better review of Skyward Sword than mine: http://www.secondquest.vg/2012/01/02/the-legend-of-zelda-skyward-sword/

    "I don’t know why the critics loved this game. I don’t know why it was reviewed like it was an actual, real game and not simply a masturbatory exercise in fanboyism. I don’t understand the love for the storyline (the poorly-written, clichéd storyline!), the characters (the one-dimensional, irritating characters!), the motion controls (the awkward, pointless motion controls!), the level design (the uninteresting, unmemorable level design!)–I don’t understand why the videogame community as a whole did not take a look at Skyward Sword, look at Nintendo, look back at Skyward Sword, and then finally throw it back, screaming, Are you fucking kidding me?

    Because Skyward Sword is a terrible game! And maybe that’s why all of the positive reviews are so formless, why they don’t have many real reasons to score the game so highly. I genuinely think that anything resembling even tolerance for Skyward Sword is simply a combination of nostalgia for Ocarina of Time and a recognition of the series’ holier-than-thou status."

    That is some amazingly lucid writing. Bravo.

  4. A link to the past was probably the last good Zelda game ever created. They definitely lost the image of Link etc in later games.
    I don’t even think the N64 versions were really too great.
    But if anyone was interested, there’s more Terada Katsuya images of Link here –> http://www.devilonadinosaur.com/the-legend-of-zelda-part-3/
    I thought they were pretty awesome

  5. Erectushomo

    Dude you should totally check out Egoraptor’s ocarina of time sequelitis! the butthurt comments and video replies to to his video is rather astounding.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOC3vixnj_0

    I thought that everyone on youtube would generally agree with him or just respectfully disagree with him BUT HELL NO! they went apeshit over his video claiming that he’s just "whining" most of the time and how his criticism isn’t valid.

    Jesus.H-Christ! egoraptor nailed the fanboy reactions he was going to get,nintendo fanboys are seriously the most zealous,nostalgia ridden ignorant fans of all time!

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