- Written by Gagandeep Singh /
- Published: 06 August 2014
Editor's Note: This is going to be a weekly, maybe bi-weekly column for us here at Endless Backlog. Like you, we don't like it when games present us with nonsense. We do not enjoy being lied to, we do not enjoy being bamboozled, we do not enjoy being taken for saps, we do not enjoy our time being wasted, and above all else: we don't like jive. So this is our feature where we punish those who continue to provide us jive, and every now and then celebrate something that cuts the jive.
Filler is a dirty word in any work of entertainment. It can draw out seasons of television through monotonous storylines, cause pacing issues in a film, pad out a novel with pointless chapters, and create moments of immense tedium in video games. Of all the elements that to me are jive in videogames, filler is the worst offender. I do not enjoy my time being wasted, and thus I have never subscribed to a games quality being measured by how long it is.
Why? Because I would rather pay 60 dollars for a 5 hour game I had an excellent time with as opposed to a 60 hour game that was mostly good, but had a bunch of hours where I was just going through the motions. I value my money plenty given how hard I work for it, but I value my free time even more. It’s why the Zelda series and I have a love/hate relationship.
The intricate level design, fantastic soundtracks, and surprisingly interesting narratives make Zelda a delight when you are playing it. The fetch quests, the triforce hunts, or any point where the narrative requires me to do dull tasks just to do what I want to do? Complete and utter garbage that all too often gets overlooked, because it’s THE LEGEND OF ZELDA!, a franchise that must be treated like it's beyond reproach.
So for my initial “Enough With the Jive” article, I decided to go with Zelda, but not for the reasons you are thinking after reading the first three paragraphs. I don’t want to pick on Zelda, but more celebrate it for showing everyone that even the high and mighty benefit from cutting out the filler. Ladies and gentlemen, 2013 and Nintendo present to you The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, a game that Zelda fans and critics would praise for tapping into the nostalgia of Link to the Past, stellar 2D dungeon designs, and allowing the player freedom in an open-world mission structure. What’s lost in all of this praise, though, is the part that really helps Link Between Worlds the most: there is no fat to the game. The game opens and the first things you do lead you directly into action.
It’s not about the game needing to teach you the combat or the part where you need to go fishing. No, the plot finds this convenient moment where you need to bring over a sword, and then boom you are thrust into the main action of the game. You go through the opening combat encounters so the game can set up its stakes, conflict, and all that jazz from a narrative perspective, and then you’re free from the shackles of Zelda.
Off to explore the first dungeon the eastern palace, where you get to see the benefit/drawback of the renting system in action and eventually the portrait mechanic that will define most of the puzzles in the game. Once you’re done? You’re sent on a quest to conquer the next group of dungeons in whatever order you please.
If the player chooses, he or she can go exploring the rest of the world. This allows the player to find other unique items or take part in brief little mini-games. Later on, this freedom allows the player to freely discover Nintendo’s brilliant decision to turn the overworld into a dungeon-like puzzle itself, and none of this is tainted with dull tasks that just sour your playtime.
On the flip side, the player is actually engaged in the experience, and dictating the pace of the game. You get to progress the story on your terms, and more importantly, get to do what you want to do as a player. It creates a game that stays engaging and immersive. Not through its presentation or some visual trick, but more so with its gameplay, because you are constantly doing the things Zelda excels at as a game.
You are moving from dungeon to dungeon, and moving from one boss fight to the next. The player is set free to expand their arsenal, gain upgrades for their gear, and get themselves prepared for the endgame. And not being tasked with pointless endeavors keeps the player focused all the way through.
This is the benefit of creating a Zelda game that is half as long as any of its 3D counterparts. It’s not a game lacking in quantity of dungeons. It’s not a game lacking in quantity of weapons. The only thing lost here is unnecessary elements that bog down what should be stellar experiences from start to finish.
That is what stays strong with me months after my time with Link Between Worlds. That on top of having some genuinely fantastic gameplay, it was a game that respected my time in a way that the most recent Zelda’s absolutely didn’t. It’s an entry in a franchise that didn’t rest on its pedigree, did some soul searching, and fixed some of its most recent failures.
Link Between Worlds is a game made by people who essentially said enough with the jive, and I hope that translates to the Legend of Zelda game for Wii U.Article Tags: