“Zelda is a reference and even bible,” says Katsuhiko Hayashi for developers. (photo: 123RF)
TOKYO – Over the nearly forty years of its existence, Nintendo’s “Zelda” video game series, including a new episode available since Friday, has influenced a large number of creators with its mechanics and its own separate universe. Here are some examples:
Inspiration for creators
“Zelda is a reference and even a bible” for developers, says Katsuhiko Hayashi, editor-in-chief of the Japanese specialty magazine Famitsu.
“A lot of games have sought to take elements from influential titles like +DOOM+, +Metroid+, or +Metal Gear Solid+,” states Mark Brown, who analyzes the game’s design on his YouTube channel “Game Maker Toolkit.”
But “Zelda,” he says, “has always been different: the developers have often been inspired by a more general sense they describe as exploration, adventure, mystery, surprise, and progression” for the protagonist.
Among the creators who have “confessed their love for the series and created games based on their experience,” he cites Hideki Kamiya (“Okami”), Hidetaka Miyazaki (“Dark Souls”) or Fumito Ueda (“Ico”). “Recently, we’ve also seen indie developers who loved Zelda as kids trying to capture those feelings in their creations,” like “Fez” or “Tunic.”
Pioneer “open world”
From “Grand Theft Auto” (“GTA”) to “Skyrim”, “open world” games, which allow you to move freely and interact as you like in a huge world, are now ubiquitous.
This element was already present in the first “Zelda” in 1986, as Kiyoshi Tani, an author specializing in the history of video games, explains: “The scale of the game was enormous at a time when most games were finished in an hour or two… The map was designed with The real focus is on exploration, and from that perspective, it was kind of a pioneer of what open-world games would become.”
The final episode of the series — “Breath of the Wild,” released in 2017 — “came at a time when people were getting tired of the open world,” says Tane, and helped reinvent it.
It “challenged many preconceived notions, for example by trusting players to explore on their own (the universe), rather than listing all points of interest on a map”, details Mark Brown.
Samurai to save technology
While working on “Ocarina of Time,” the first 3D component released in 1998, its creators faced a major problem: How do you allow a player to easily target an enemy with precision in a 3D world?
A Nintendo developer flick that takes place while watching a samurai movie, the hero of which is surrounded by ninjas who confront him one after another. The enemy throws a kusarigama (sickle attached to a chain) at him and moves in a circle around the hero, to whom he is tied by this taut chain.
This feedback leads them to create what is called a “Z aiming” system: this automatically places the camera behind the hero and helps him focus on a character he wants to talk to or an enemy attacking him.
“It was really the perfect solution,” says Kiyoshi Tani. After that, action games – including on other consoles – multiplied by adopting the same principle. Perhaps without Ocarina of Time +, games on PlayStation and Xbox would have been very different.
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