Top 5 Tuesday: Zelda Gimmicks

I’m going to spontaneously combust if I don’t play A Link Between Worlds soon. Seriously. My hair’s melting off my scalp and my skin won’t stop turning to ash. And all because the K-Mart pre-Black Friday deal that I hyped didn’t include videogames. Yep. I’m the one who jinxed it. Please send all hate mail to my About page. I’ll see to your death threats soon as I get a some free time.

Anyway, in honor of Link’s newest ability to transform into a cave painting, I’m rocking out a Zelda-themed list of my favorite gimmicks in the series. “Gimmick” may not be the best word, but it’s the best catch-all I can think of for things such as…

5. The Four Swordsmen (Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures)

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Two guys putting their lives on the line and another two doing absolutely nothing? Sounds like Four Swords to me!

The latest Wii U Mario game is getting a ton of praise for it’s four-player scrambling and puzzle-solving, but it’s been done before. Over a decade ago, actually. If you and your buddies owned a GBA copy of Zelda: A Link to the Past (and those cumbersome link cables), you had your ticket to the world of four-player puzzle-solving. You also had a lot of yelling and leadership struggles, but where’s the fun in contentment?

4. Time Travel (Ocarina of Time)

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Back so soon? He’s got a well to drain.

It may seem straightforward compared to the three-day time cycle in Majora’s Mask, but Ocarina’s back-and-forth time travel opened up a world of story and gameplay wrinkles from the moment Link yanked the Master Sword from it’s pedestal. Who could forget their first steps into the ruined, ReDead-infested Hyrule Market as an adult? And just when you thought the trip to the future was a one-way deal, the Well and Spirit Temple beckoned for Link in his youth.

3. Sword Motion Controls (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword)

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The Lightsaber duel of your dreams. Sort of.

I don’t care how limited the sword controls were in Twilight Princess–they were a dream come true. Indisputable magic if you’re a Zelda fan. And then Skyward Sword took it to a more comprehensive level with Wii Motion Plus Controls. Not only did this make for a fuller range of slashes, but it made for a few unforgettable sword duels with Ghirahim. Fake high, slice low.

2. Mask Collecting/Transformation (Majora’s Mask)

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Who’s saying no to that face?

Arguably the greatest sidequest in all of gaming, the mask collecting in Majora’s Mask was punctuated by the three transformation masks that catalyzed a Zelda gameplay experience like no other. It was enthralling enough to roll around as a Goron and swim at stingray pace as a Zora, but utilizing Link’s transformations for the sake of puzzle-solving took it to a higher echelon.

1. Dawn of the First Day: 72 Hours Remain (Majora’s Mask)

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That’s not the face of a moon who’s second-guessing Armageddon.

A lot of games involve ticking clocks and time travel. A lot of games involve living worlds full of NPCs with daily plans and paths. But no game quite combines the two like Majora’s Mask, where you have to be somewhere at some time… all of time. And even if you blew off the sidequests in favor of the main game, you still had that angry-ass moon to worry about. Three days is all you’re getting, but let’s not forget this is Link we’re dealing with. Slow down time, jump ahead, and reboot the whole thing when Armageddon approaches.

Gaming’s Re-release Epidemic

Remakes, ports, HD Editons, Collector’s Editions, Game of the Year Editions, combo packs, ported portables… There are plenty of ways to release a game you already released. Game companies know this, and they also know that they’re not making money off used copies of Final Fantasy X, Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Tales of Symphonia. So what do they do? Remaster what’s succeeded in the past, plug in a few bonuses, add shrink wrap, and convince you that you can’t live without it.

Re-releases are part of the biz. They serve as a second chance for game companies to score money off their AAA titles, whether they be classics or last year’s big thing. In some cases, like with the just-released Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, companies use re-releases as a form of advertising. Nothing says, “Hey, it’s time you considered a Wii U” like a brand new Zelda. Even if it isn’t brand new.

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Wii U’s in trouble? No killer-apps on the horizon? Just release a Zelda game, all will be fine.

The trend these days is HD Editions of games that don’t need HD Editions. Honestly, whether you loved or hated Wind Waker’s art style, you definitely never punched a wall over the fact that you couldn’t play it in high-def. And no one threw a fit over standard-def Final Fantasy X. Same goes for Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts, Silent Hill 2 and 3, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and every other HD update out there. Still, people continue to fork over thirty or forty bucks for games that could show up on PSN or Nintendo’s eShop for $10 in their original forms.

HD updates are one thing, full-on remakes are another. Some remakes are absolutely stellar (Metroid: Zero Mission); some fix the original’s errors (Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions); others divide fanbases (Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes); and still others prove to be rather unnecessary (Final Fantasy IV Advance).

The one thing they all have in common? People buy them.

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Metroid: Zero Mission is a masterful remake that improved upon the original in every way.

And as people buy them, they clamor for more. In 2011 Nintendo released a 3DS version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A year later, this fake trailer for a Majora’s Mask update hit Youtube. Suddenly everyone and their kid sister wanted a Majora update. Then–just weeks ago–Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma spiked interest in a Majora’s Mask remake, getting the whole fanbase warm beneath the belt. Meanwhile, the game has been available on Nintendo’s eShop for ten buck the entire time.

Before you call me a killjoy, answer me this: Why obsess over a remake when you can push for a sequel, spiritual successor, or spinoff? You’re telling me Majora’s Mask HD is more important than Majora’s Mask 2 or a spinoff starring Fierce Deity Link? C’mon, now.

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If you get the choice between seeing Fierce Deity in high-def or seeing him star in his own spinoff, take the latter. I’m begging you.

A lot of people are quick to point out that there’s no need to complain about re-releases. Yes, they keep our favorite companies afloat. Yes, they introduce younger gamers to the classics we enjoyed years ago. And, yes, we don’t have to buy them if we don’t want them. But the truth is, they’re multiplying wildly and masking a lack of AAA-production from Nintendo, Square Enix, Konami, and others. Wind Waker HD and Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 aren’t 2013 releases. They’re excuses. Stopgaps. Attempts at staying relevant. And if we can’t stop the spread of them, can we at least quit asking for them?