What Annoys Me About A Link To The Past

To review is to categorize. You pick a game and, by its features, try to determine which categorization it belongs to. Some people use numerical scales, others prefer a more draconian thumbs up/thumbs down binary choice. What I like to do is to separate game between Great, Genre Great, Near Great and Good. Anything below Good, from the merely mediocre games to the downright terrible, is put in the “schlock” category. This is mainly because I see no value differentiating between levels of blandness and terribleness.

But what usually baffles people is the difference between Great and Genre Great.

Genre Great games probably make up most of the game one would normally consider to be excellent  Genre Great games are like the best kid in your high school class. He is praised by teachers, envied by the other kids’ parents, but his accomplishments won’t change or enrich the universe in any kind. And next year, that kid will have to prove himself again in college, while another kid will become the top of that class and that teacher will praise him exactly as the last kid was praised. Just like the last game review praised.

Unnecessary to say that Genre Great games are usually the ones that are going to be used as reference by news anchors and other non-gamers, as they refer to the latest “Mario/Doom/Metroid clone”. Just like Mario Kart 7 is better than Mario Kart DS, but poised to be worse than Mario Kart 8, a Genre Great game is only great until the next Genre Great from that franchise comes out.

And some franchises are made up with nothing but Genre Great games. Like The Legend of Zelda franchise.

Despite recognizing it as a Genre Great game, I remember I didn’t quite like my first Zelda game much. It was A Link to the Past (aLttP). A Link to the Past is the quintessential Genre Great game. Don’t confuse that with just “Great”. An example of great game from that franchise is Majora’s Mask – a game whose themes can be discussed outside its field of origin. If Genre Great is the top student from the class, the Great is the Nobel Prize winner: the main difference is the scope of influence*.

As I grew older and was exposed to new things, I was able to pin point at least three things that stop aLttP from becoming a great game:


THING #1: Throwing Spatial Continuity Away for No Good Reason

The most important character in The Legend of Zelda series is Hyrule. One of the reasons why we buy Zelda after Zelda knowing that the plot will be largely the same is to revisit Hyrule. We do that because Hyrule changes and transforms itself over time. In other words, while characters and plot remains the same, Hyrule experiences progression and there are few things are as engaging as progression in any game.

That’s why it’s so important, we can’t break the illusion of Hyrule being a living, breathing place. Which A Link to the Past did… continuously.

What Annoys Me About A Link To The Past: spatial continuity

Insta-taller Death Mountain

Here, for instance: as you climb Death Mountain, you can see the mountain side filled with cave formations; as soon as you cross the screen towards the right, however, that mountain side is gone. Now you are suddenly so high you are literally above the clouds. Go back to the previous screen and you are at the “lower” Death Mountain again.

What Annoys Me About A Link To The Past: spatial continuity

A castle with only its facade

Or here, as you follow the wall for Hyrule Castle until you discover that the castle has no back. It occupies no space in the map.

What Annoys Me About A Link To The Past: spatial continuity

Where did that mountain go?

And here, in this example, the Dark World mountain that’s hinted at the sides of the screens doesn’t actually exist. It’s almost like there was a third screen in the middle at some point during the game’s development that got suppressed by the time the game was launched.

A Link to the Past has some degree of screen scrolling, but its map is still divided into separate screens. For most of the time, these screens fit together as jigsaw pieces. The players, as they walk around, can use the information around them to mentally draw how the next screen is going to be. Until, of course, there is a break between the screens, as the ones pictured above. And these breaks are everywhere.

Even as a kid, there were the moments I realized I was seeing through the magic trick. The disappointing moment you realize the coin never teleported; there were simply two coins all along. It’s a moment analogous to finding non-diegetic invisible wall, or when interior space and exterior space don’t match, or when my character cannot jump object no higher than their knees.

This is no mere formalism, by the way. Spatial continuity is one of the main tools developers have to help players navigate in the worlds they created. But more importantly, breaking the illusion of Hyrule is the one unforgiveable sin Nintendo cannot do.

Immersion is the most important thing a game must provide, for it is immersion what keeps the game’s cohesiveness. Consider this: what are games but a space, physical or conceptual, where players must voluntarily abide by a set of rules and limitations in order to surpass a goal they have absolutely no need to surpass? Every time a game “breaks immersion” what it’s actually doing is to break that space, removing some of the reasons people have to follow these rules they had chosen to follow.


THING #2: Relying on Weak MacGuffins to Move the Plot Along

From all the problems now plaguing the Zelda franchise, few are more deserving of my scorn than the Zelda MacGuffins. Popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, the term MacGuffin means a plot device, in the form of a goal or desired object, whose only importance is to propel the plot forward. By itself, the MacGuffin is meaningless. The most famous MacGuffin is Citizen Kane‘s Rosebud. By itself, Rosebud is meaningless but, without it, there wouldn’t be a reason for the reporter to investigate the life of Charles Foster Kane and, therefore, there wouldn’t be a movie!

A Zelda example: the Kokiri’s Emerald, part of the many other “magical stones” that has been passed down for generations… only for Link to find it and use it to unlock something. We know this is a MacGuffin because once it’s been used the franchise completely forgets about it. Once the MacGuffin fulfilled its purpose, it ceases to exist. The Kokiri’s Emerald could have been replaced by anything: a magic song, a magic store, a magic prayer, a magic flame, a magic anything.

These things, scattered for the chosen hero to collect before vanquishing evil, were born in A Link to the Past. Objectively, these were the excuses given by the game for not allowing you to face the last boss from the start.

Luckily, these MacGuffins have grown since A Link to the Past. This growth illustrates how a game once recognized as Genre Great can fall down to only being “Good” over time (remember, a Genre Great game is still better than a Good Game. What differentiates a Great game from a Genre Great one is not whether of not it possesses greatness, but the scope of such greatness e.g. the best game ever vs. the best racer game ever) .

What Annoys Me About A Link To The Past: the seven maidens

In Ocarina of Time, for example, after collecting the three spirit stones, Link must awaken the seven sages. Unlike A Link to the Past, these Sages are people you actually know about. In fact, the main purpose of the entire Young Link journey was for you to create a bond with them, so that, when it’s time to awaken each Sage, you will care about that goal.

In Majora’s Mask, this MacGuffin Enrichment process is even stronger.  After saving each Giant, they will aid you in your fateful encounter with the Skull Kid. You can still go straight for the final boss if you so wish, but there will be consequences. Save one, and there will be only one to hold the moon. It won’t be enough. Save two and there will be only two, etc. With this progression, the game is able to convince you why saving all the Giants is so important to warrant asking the game to surpass new dungeons.

In A Link to the Past, the girls you must save mean nothing to you. They are just MacGuffin, pure and simple, which brings us to…


THING#3: Telling you to care

The main motivation offered by A Link to the Past is a grid. It’s those invisible shelves on which the items you have collected are displayed on the pause screen. As the game begins, the icon grid on the pause screen is just a sad big black square. As you collect more items, however, the pause menu becomes a more colorful space. Filling that space is the ultimate motivation in aLttP. This is because that, aside from saving Zelda at the beginning, A Link to the Past never bothers to justify the goals it throw at us. The result is that we see ourselves collecting a lot of MacGuffin’s for the sake of collecting  a lot of MacGuffin’s.

What annoys me about A Link to The Past: Weak McGuffins

Another reason is that Link never witnesses the events leading out to the current situation of Hyrule. The story in A Link to The Past is more often told instead of being showed. It doesn’t matter if it’s Zelda or the “Loyal Sage” or Sahasrahla, there will always be somebody telling you what’s going on, about the Triforce, about Ganon, about the Master Sword…

It’s a very rigid structure that assumes the player will – as well as they should – perform whatever is required of them without question.

So why do you set out in this adventure if you don’t actually care about any of the Hyrule citizens? As I replayed A Link to the Past, I could find no answer. I didn’t care about collecting the pendants, the seven maidens, the Master Sword, Ganon, Agahnim… but seeing that pause screen half emptied filled me with guilt; the guilt of an unfinished collection. Ultimately, that’s the reason why I played that game.

What annoys me about A Link to The Past: Sahasrahla

This seems to be the loudest dissonance in the whole franchise. If there is a theme unifying the Zelda games is the one about becoming an adult. The carefree days of Link’s youth are now gone as he entrusted with new responsibilities. Link’s childhood always ends as soon as the Call of Action is fulfilled. Or rather, it should end. In reality, Link never becomes a full adult. He will still be relying on someone to tell him what to do. Now go get that magic pendant, Link! Now buy a suit, find a job! Link is still a kid. He still has a list of chores from his mom to complete. Only difference is that “Uncle” is now replaced by Zelda.

 As Link leaves the Master Sword inside Lost Woods to rest “forever” at the end of A Link to the Past, we wonder what will become of him. Start a bug collection, perhaps.

So…

The only problem of a Genre Great is that it is only great until the next Genre Great game for that genre comes along. For instance, Ocarina of Time’s better handling of MacGuffins made it occupy aLttP’s place as Genre Great when it came out. Link’s Awakening perfect grid-like map was able to convey a better sense of place than aLttP’s incongruent grid and therefore topped it as well (though other aspects of Link’s Awakening elevated that game to true greatness), and so on. As I’ve said, there are few franchises with so many Genre Great games as the Zelda franchise, but is also a curse, for being unable to break that genre limit is ultimately what’s been holding the Zelda series down lately.

* If you are having trouble with how I’m defining these terms, these examples of how I would classify the following games might help:
Great games: Portal, Metroid Prime, The World Ends With You, Chrono Trigger, Psychonauts, Resident Evil 4.
Genre Great games: F-ZERO GXSuper Smash Bros. Brawl, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Mortal Kombat (2011)

35 Comments

  1. I, of course, couldn’t disagree with you more.

    I feel like your central points are all right (though I’ve never, not once, noticed the inconsistencies in the world map. It’s just not something I care about), and I’d even buy that Link to the Past is a genre great game.

    There’s two points I quibble with. The first is, how do we look at older games? It’s the Citizen Kane problem in an entirely different way. Citizen Kane is the most boring movie ever if you watch it now. It’s really, really not exciting. But it’s incredibly important! At the time, it was the most astounding technical achievement. So, how do we grade it? Is it graded against everything that came after it (all the Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa et al films) or against a moment in time? Do we take Link to the Past’s storytelling to task because another video game since has told a more maturely delivered story, or do we appreciate what it accomplished at the time and the minimalism of its presentation?

    That’s probably the point where we differ most: I’m looking at Link to the Past as a game released in 1991. You’re looking at it as a game released in the history of video games.

    The second question, even if we look at it how you do, like a Zelda game on a list of Zelda games, is what constitutes a Zelda game? Are two dimensional games and three dimensional games the same, or are they different, even if they’re approaching the same concepts? I’m of the different camp: I love Link to the Past not as a perfect Zelda game, but as the perfect two dimensional Zelda game, which is a different genre I enjoy much more than three dimensional Zelda.

    • What are you talking about? Citizen Kane is still awesome!

      But even if we ignore the map point, we can see those other two points better handled in games that came out at similar times or earlier, so I disagree I’m using some kind of “futuristic criteria” to judge older games.

      In Super Mario Bros, for instance, where the only McGuffin is the Princess, which symbolizes the end of the game. SMB made you care by constantly putting the carrot in front of the player and then hiding it with the promise of the next castle. That’s a more effective motivator than aLttP! Or we can simply look at Chrono Trigger, a great game, that manages to handle both McGuffins and motivation factors better than aLttP.

      • As someone who tried to watch Citizen Kane for the first time a few years ago, I can assure you that it’s an incredibly boring movie now. I had to take a 45-minute break where I worked out just so I wouldn’t fall asleep when I got back.

        And as someone who barely remembers the story of A Link to the Past but still regards it as my favorite Zelda game, I can assure you that no Zelda game has ever had a truly compelling story, Link never has a truly compelling reason to save the world, and saving the world always boils down to the same reason you’re doing it: “Link has nothing better to do.”

        In Ocarina of Time, Link has never been outside of Kokiri Forest and he’s never met Zelda. So why does he save the world? Because a tree told him to. In A Link to the Past, he’s saving the world because his uncle told him to as he died. To me, that’s way better.

        In Super Mario Bros., Mario is saving the Princess… why? The game just starts. No preamble, nothing. But then again, if you’re asking, “But what’s Mario’s motivation, really?” about Super Mario Bros., you’re WAY over-thinking it.

        • I wonder what you mean with “an incredibly boring movie NOW”… I mean, it’s not like I’m 86 years old and watched it as it in 1941 when it came out.

          Link does have compelling reasons in many Zelda games, by the way. Majora’s Mask, Link’s Awakening, Spirit Tracks…

          As I’ve said, the McGuffin in SMB is merely a symbol for the end of the game – a pretty empty McGuffin therefore. But you do care about saving her. After all, you want to SEE this princess. What does she look like? In what castle is she in? As you play it for the first time, you could not know and the game teased your curiosity about it. And curiosity is a very powerful engagement tool.

          • Link rarely has a personal stake in it though. He’s usually just The Chosen One. Like in Ocarina. (I use that one because it’s typically considered the best.) He’s not saving Zelda because he’s in love with her; he’s never even met her. He’s under her rule but I doubt he feels any loyalty to the crown either. He does because he can because he is told he can. That’s all. And it’s not really the point of the game anyway.

            Super Mario Bros., really, is the worst example of a compelling video game story though, so I’m honestly baffled why you’ve been going back to it. When that game starts, there is literally no “motivation” to move forward at all. It just starts. You don’t know why you’re moving forward until you get to the first castle and it says the Princess is in a different one. Huh? What princess? I’m just moving forward because the mechanics are so fun. I don’t care about some princess somewhere. It’s just like how you played A Link to the Past to fill out Link’s toolset.

            Now Earthbound… That’s a great game. You should use that as an example of compelling motivation in its day.

            But what I meant by “boring now” is that standards have changed. Citizen Kane, compared to today’s movies, is slow and boring. It’s kind of dreadful, honestly. But when it was released, it was brilliant. It changed its medium forever. If you can still appreciate it today, great. But remember that A Link to the Past is a lot like that for video games. Standards are different now. Back then, mechanics were the motivation. Why did you move forward in Super Metroid? There was barely a story there. It’s easy: because it was so fun. Same with Mario. Same with Donkey Kong. Same with Zelda.

          • I never saw Link’s motivation in LA, ST, or MM to vary appreciably from LttP. He’s a kid that’s had his world turned upside down, and he’s thrust into the position of being the only one who can fix it.

            It’s not exactly the Hero’s Journey, but over-reliance on Campbell is a fool’s errand. He’s descriptive, not prescriptive. Deviation from his formulas is a FEATURE, not a bug.

          • Fernando Cordeiro

            It’s not about the Hero’s Journeys, but development. We have a series of games about a kid becoming a man still being but that is still unaware it treats the kid as a kid. Motivation, I found, is abundant in LA, ST and MM. LA is about returning home, ST is about saving your best friend whose presence is always there to remind you of what’s at stake and MM… man, I could go on and on about MM! Let’s see, the citizens of Clock Town you get to live with, returning to your former form, that moon always on the horizon…

          • Agreed with Thomas, over-thinking SMB and probably most games analysed in this way. I was never curious about the princess in SMB, the story or what/how many castles. I was enjoying the platforming mechanics, characters and such. Similar could be said for Bonk’s Adventure which I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into and still play to this day. While I do feel slightly more connected to the characters (based on the game having more personality), it’s still about the mechanics, odd-ball characters/bosses, power-ups, music and how it differs from SMB, Mega Man, etc..

            As for Zelda, I see what you’re saying, though don’t particularly care about the 3 issues presented. I had genuine curiosity with the exploration and puzzles of the original Zelda. As an old fart adult I’m also enjoying my first play-through with Lttp and Link’s Awakening decades after they’re release.

            I’m sure that many other games do these sorts of things better, and that’s cool, but overall I’m still not that concerned. Earthbound and Chrono Trigger could certainly be prime examples of this, though I won’t be playing either as the genre and mechanics do not interest me.

            At the end of the day I have very little time for hobbies, gaming included, and would rather enjoy what the games present and not get wrapped up with these kinds of issues. As an analogy, can I just have a decent sandwich without getting all wild-foodie-hipster-gastronomy about it?

          • I don’t like JRPGs either, but you should still play Earthbound. It’s one of very few JRPGs that I actually really like. Yeah, it’s turn-based like most JRPGs, but that game is such a trip. Chrono Trigger though, I have no interest in, if that gives you some insight into how our tastes align. I watched the Giant Bomb Endurance Run of it and that was kind of fun, but because I like those guys, not the game. Earthbound, on the other hand, is just fun and funny. Totally worth playing even if you don’t like the genre.

          • Thanks for the recommendation Thomas. Yeah, I do just lump RPG/jRPG’s together and kind of write them off, perhaps arbitrarily without review. I hear Earthbound is a huge fan favorite so maybe if I get a WiiU or it’s released on 3DS I’ll give it a spin.

            I also demoed Fire Emblem: Awakening recently and was impressed. It’s probably a bit too stat-heavy for me at the moment, but still looked interesting.

    • Meanwhile, the only Zelda game I like is Wind Waker, and even that lost the wind from its sales later in the game.

    • I’m afraid I have to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong about Citizen Kane’s place in critical esteem. It’s highly valued for more than just its technical achievements (though it’s true that technically, it’s quite incredible). When the world’s leading critics, scholars, and filmmakers consistently place it near or at the top of consensus lists of all-time greats, they’re celebrating it in relation to every film ever made.
      Were it loved for its “importance” alone, it would consistently lose to, I don’t know, Thomas Edison’s “The Great Train Robbery,” the first narrative film.
      I’m of course not saying you have to like it. I’ve talked to a lot of people who find it very boring, and even among critics it has its detractors. Personally, disliking the film is something I can barely fathom, seeing as it’s a film that excites me in so many ways. It is, genuinely, one of my favorite films (and I’m speaking from an experience of having watched it half a dozen times, each time expecting to like it less, only to be find something new and wonderful about it). Orson Welles was a genius of a director. Gregg Toland was a brilliant cinematographer. They worked with one of the greatest casts you could ever have hoped to assemble. And the script is wonderful. Again, you don’t have to agree with me (or any of the millions of people who value it as an exquisite high point in the art of film), but if you must invoke its name when talking about videogames, please don’t do so in vain.

      • Okay, I typed that before I read that Fernando had already responded to the Citizen Kane stuff. But I think my point was still worth making.

    • Gerfndrf

      I agree with you completely, I also see two distinct Zelda genres; 2D and 3D, each of them has their own characteristics.

    • I’d agree…

      …but, c’mon. Kane rules. Don’t be a hater.

  2. Tibia

    I really don’t buy this. There are other things about A Link To The Past that are great. Dungeon design. Neat enemies. Awesome tools to defeat aforementioned enemies. More important, you’re judging a video game as if it were a film, which it’s not, and should not be, because there are so many other considerations. I don’t play LttP for the story or because the environment is consistent, I play it because it’s fun and challenging and the music is incredible and the dark world is a joy for me to explore and compare to the light world and the above positives mentioned.

    • So it’s better to judge games as a laundry list of features?

    • So it’s better to judge games as a laundry list of features?

      • Better to judge a game by qualities unique to gaming

        • Nonsense. As far as the characteristics of an art form are ubiquitous in other mediums, it would be almost criminal to ignore them! I don’t judge games as if they were movies, but I do take movies into consideration. And books, and paintings, and music and whatever else I can get away with. It’s not like these older mediums have nothing to teach us – particularly in the story-telling department.

          Using only the ludo-spectacle framework is to limit the potentials of the medium.

          It’s to raise a sequoia to be a bonsai.

          Also nonsense is to defend I should play the game because it’s “fun”? Can any of you perchance imagine that someone plays a game NOT to have fun? It’s a silly hypothesis by itself. The question is what does one finds “fun”. Particularly: what does one find fun that is uniquely aLttP’s?

          It’s very easy to write a review that’s a laundry list of features and empty adjective. Graphics are _______ (fancy synonym for pretty) and the music is _______(fancy synonym for incredible) and _________ (name of a stage or part of the game) is a joy. Then another game comes along and the review will sound just like the old one. In fact, we are so plagued by these kind of reviews at the mainstreams outlets that one can pick 2 reviews, for 2 games of the same genre but from different console generations, and they will read exactly the same.

          • butt

            ‘Can any of you perchance imagine that someone plays a game NOT to have fun?’

            y… yes? a million times yes chanted in the dark.

          • Tibia

            It’s not better to just judge a ‘laundry list of features’, but it’s also pretty shallow to limit it to whether or not McGuffin’s are used well, or whether the environment matches up. It’s also very generalised to state that everyone who comes to play a Zelda game thinks Hyrule is the most important aspect.

            And to agree with butt, yes it’s okay for a game to not be fun. There are many great games that aren’t particularly big on fun, and there are many great parts of otherwise fun games that aren’t very fun. But you can’t just dismiss how fun a game is (to you personally) when you’re deciding whether it’s great or not. Super Hexagon is a great game, and fun and challenge are the biggest factors of that. The Fifa games are an achievement in sports games, and fun (and the degree to which it captures the spirit of the actual sport) are the biggest contributing factors, even though you could say that we’re likely going to announce the next one is greater. That doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of Fifa 10, or 11, or 12, now that 13 is out. It makes it tricky categorise, but if someone asks me what a great sports game is, I’ll say, “Fifa, above all others”. Entertainment is the main reason people play games (and watch movies, read, listen to music, etc). It’s not essential for everybody, nor is it essential for everybody all of the time, but it is a part of the equation.

            On the other hand, Dear Esther wasn’t fun at all, AND the story it told wasn’t mind-blowing. It was the way it’s atmosphere affected me that made me love it. It was the way that it told it’s story, the narrator’s speech, the intense sense of loneliness, the very deliberate (and somewhat controversially slow) pace at which you walked, that stuck with me. I didn’t take note of whether the interior of the cave could possibly have matched up with the way it looked from the outside. It wouldn’t bother me one iota if it didn’t. And that’s not to say you’re wrong to let it affect you.

            And I agree that you can look to other mediums to help decide how you feel about a game, but again, games are incredibly unique, just as movies are unique, just as books are unique, and just as music is unique. So, to just judge LttP based upon map consistency or McGuffins is to ignore the incredible amount of unique things that come along with this being a video game.

          • I don’t think Fernando was ignoring everything about video games. That’s not what this piece is even about. If he did include everything about A Link To The Past you would have a very long and boring piece on a game. There’ll be no thesis or direction. Writing is about omitting material more than anything.

          • Tibia

            I recognise your point about him not including everything in the article, but I suppose I’m just using the article as a jumping off point, since the comments can be however long anybody desires. He’s dismissing one of my favorite games of all time, and I’m curious as to why that is.

          • Fernando Cordeiro

            Wait, so you are saying you loved spending time in a game just because of the atmosphere… and you think you didn’t have fun doing so? Fun is taking enjoyment out of things. If doing something you love isn’t fun, what do you see as fun?

            I’ll leave the comment about what I pick and what I didn’t pick because this wasn’t a piece called “What I like about aLttP” or even a aLttP review. It about the stuff I believe eventually limits aLttP as Genre Great game. If I were to defend what took it to the level of greatness in the first place, that would be a different article.

          • Kyle Goins

            Spec Ops: The Line is a good example. Literally nothing about that game is fun and it’s not supposed to be. Engaging as hell? Yes. Fun? Absolutely not.

          • Kyle Goins

            “Also nonsense is to defend I should play the game because it’s “fun”? Can any of you perchance imagine that someone plays a game NOT to have fun? It’s a silly hypothesis by itself.”

            To limit the reasons one plays a game to just “fun” is incredibly limiting to an entire artistic medium. “Fun” games will always be the most popular, but they’re not the only kind. The example I gave below is Spec Ops: The Line. You don’t play that game because it’s this vague notion of “fun”, you play it because it’s engaging. If you think that game is “fun”, then something is definitely wrong with you.

  3. To be honest, I’m still a bit dubious of this whole “genre great” concept.

    Yes, it’s defined here as “a game that’s surpassed by subsequent games”, at least as near as I can make it out. (The examples outweigh the explanations.) But most games are like that; it’s not a function of authorial mistakes or misguided choices, but simply because the technology continues to evolve. Link to the Past’s issues had a lot to do with the capabilities and limitations of the Super Nintendo and Nintendo’s ability to manage it, just as (say) Ocarina of Time’s issues had a lot to do with the capabilities and limitations of the Nintendo 64. That doesn’t make those less-than-great games.

    What determines greatness is what they do within the bounds of those limitations. Both games were, yes, Great Games because they transcended those limitations to deliver great experiences.

    Even the very limitations that you talk about with LttP can be defended by the desire to deliver great experiences. Players don’t care about minor map inconsistencies, for example, especially in a highly stylized game like LttP. They don’t EXPECT utter spacial realism, and an attempt to provide it would earn the designer nothing. Instead, Nintendo designed their maps so that these inconsistencies ENHANCED the experience. Death Mountain feels higher. Travelling around the castle isn’t as arduous. That bit of mountainous Dark World scenery stays as what it is: scenery.

    (Besides, utter spacial consistency would just reinforce how small Hyrule really is.)

    And as for the MacGuffins and caring? Fernando, it’s a Nintendo game. Nobody cares. Really. I’m the first person in the room to sing the praises of narrative in games…but it’s a Nintendo game. Nintendo’s made it absolutely clear that narratives are there to serve the experience, not the reverse. The experience is what makes you care; and, yes, I absolutely cared when I played LttP and all of the “genre greats” you seem to be dismissing here.

    Anyway, I think the whole concept of “genre great” needs a lot more exploration. I’m not even sure what sort of “genre” you’re referring to here, and I’m at a loss to classify any game you didn’t explicitly mention. Even Majora’s Mask had its flaws. So did every “Great” you mentioned. Psychonauts, in particular, was a brilliant narrative wrapped around some very “samey” platforming. If that’s a “Great”, then so is LttP. Easily.

    • Fernando Cordeiro

      I don’t see much strength in dismissing my points just because the straw men don’t care. I do care, obviously. These are not the kind of “flaws” I usually let pass. Even for Nintendo games, which do present great narratives from time to time (particularly the Metroid games – minus Other M). Giving them a free pass is selling them short. Psychonauts is ranked pretty high on my list – and not just because of its narrative, which was funny but not nearly as brilliant as the context and the game structure. Psychonauts works great as a character study. Very few platformers managed to do that, hence why its greatness surpass the platform genre even if you say it’s samey, which I strongly disagree.

      I also disagree that technical limitations is the reason why aLttP is a genre great. It’s a genre great because of authorial mistakes or misguided choices, yes. How else would a game like Link’s Awakening be better than aLttP when it’s even more technically limited?

  4. I had experienced utter enjoyment in slashing my sword, throwing bombs and dashing into trees. There is a sense of discovery that I think you’re missing.

    For that I am sad.

    Then again you experienced what you do and I do what I did.

    Your World. My World. Though my World is a bit more chipper it may seem.

    :)

  5. Oh my. The spatial continuity. I guess it is worthwhile in keeping in mind. I get a nagging urge everytime I’m like “Oh well no one actually goes between these two screens in this direction”…but then what if someone prints out the whole map? It’ll look awful….it feels wrong.

    Er, well, I’m rambling. This is pretty great. I wish this maybe existed earlier to give me something to think about while working on my game Anodyne (A zelda-like) . Motivating progression through the game and collectible thingies (if needed) is a really tough design question. In the end my intuition is the more tightly tied everything is together (items connect to story, connect to game mechanics…etc)…the better. Maybe..

  6. I’m not seeing how chrono trigger isn’t just genre great. It’s a schlocky time travel story with good music and a great battle system, but it’s still very much ensconced in the rpg genre. Mother 3 I think would be a better candidate.

  7. Ah the sad ramblings of someone who has too much time to complain about everything. What’s funny is you state your opinion as if it is fact whe plenty people would aruge RE 4 wasn’t even good let alone great.

    • ToruKun1

      He’s not even talking about RE4, this is ALttP.

      Also, you sound really defensive.

  8. ToruKun1

    I was never really a big fan of ALttP that much, but dang, this website is making me become a video game nihilist OTL