Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Of smarter gamers, or why Zelda is so easy now

Back in the day when the first Zelda game came out, people weren't used to thinking for games. If you saw something that moved, you shot it, stabbed it, magic-ed it away, whathaveyou. The moving things (and spikes) were your enemy. And sometimes, you didn't even need to kill them to progress. You just kept going and going, reaching the goal and getting a high score.

Simple enough, right?

Then along came The Legend of Zelda.

Compare: Mario Bros, where you only walk right most of the time. Now you have Link, and you have four ways to go, and no clue as to what to do next. You had to think where to go and be careful about it.

Suddenly, the game wasn't so simple anymore.

Eventually, you made it to a temple. Some rooms had you kill everything, some rooms had you solve a puzzle. Some rooms had you move a block to the left so the door would open.

Compare: Mario Bros, where blocks that aren't made of bricks are stationary. Impossible to move. You were used to seeing the blocks as such. Thus, you get to a room that requires you to move a block. You were essentially going AGAINST your player instinct by pushing the block.

Don't get me started on lighting the torches.

Then you get to the boss, which in a way was a reward on its own. No more thinking, just bash the attack button and you're set!

Not so fast, the boss has a weak spot. Or requires a certain strategy to beat.

Thus, the game didn't let you go for the easy route of bashing everything away, not even the enemy you were trying to defeat.

We were going against what the other games of the time had taught us. And that is what made Zelda so hard back in the day. I'll be honest, I still haven't finished the original Zelda to full completion.

Now, we see a Zelda game, and the first room has a couple of blocks, an eye and an unlit lamp.

Your thoughts: "Move the blocks, shoot the eye and light the lamp", immediately.

It isn't that Zelda is easier than before. It's just as challenging and puzzling as it was before.

It's us that have changed. We've become smarter, or at least, more aware of our surroundings. Or maybe we are more curious as to what that giant block is doing in the middle of the room. Either way, we now know better than just standing there and giving up.

Am I saying that making a challenging Zelda game is now impossible? No, not at all.

But it would require us to go against our instinct, and do something new. Maybe it wouldn't be Zelda at all.

And maybe that would be a good thing.

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