Why Handheld Zelda Beats Console Zelda - #RetroGaming #TwoGuysPlayingZelda
|Link's Awakening DX added a much needed splash of colour to proceedings|
|Link plays the Harp of Ages to travel between eras|
|Oracle of Season's environments change through the seasons|
Our next installment finds it's home on the Game Boy Advance. This time outsourced to Capcom, The Minish Cap feels like a different beast graphically, but the 32 bit GBA is well pushed to create a truly lush looking Zelda adventure. The level of detail and striking user interface really close the gap between the visual styles of the handheld and console adventures.
|Link shrinks to hang out with the Minish|
|Portable multiplayer action from four fashion conscious Links|
Both added an element of transport to the adventure, with Phantom Hourglass requiring you to navigate the world using an up gradable boat, and Spirit Tracks as the name suggests has you using a steam locomotive to travel the world.
Though these were giant innovations for the handheld series, it's the unique control system where these entries really stand out. The games have all but knocked traditional button controls on the head in favor of an intuitive stylus control. All movement is controlled using the stylus, tapping and dragging on the lower screen to move Link around, swiping the screen to swipe the sword and drawing maps for weapons such as the boomerang marks their trajectory. It really is incredible stuff.
|Using the stylus directs the path of the Boomerang on the DS|
Additionally, a few nice features show Nintendo's consideration of the hardware they were using. Puzzles that had you physically close the DS clam-shell, or blow into the DS microphone to solve spring to mind. It's this attention to detail that really makes me believe the games are superior to their console counterparts. In fact, the DS games, Phantom Hourglass in particular, I think would be ripe as a 3DS remake, maybe as a swansong for the machine. This is probably a premature wish, though.
With the subsequent hardware updated to the realms of 3D (and then, bizarrely, back again to 2D with the 2DS) we had a remake of the console game Ocarina Of Time. Though admittedly a console entry for the Zelda canon, this transposition onto a handheld makes the game in my opinion infinitely times better. Not only has it been lovingly overhauled visually and audibly, but now you can take it with you! Grabbing the Master Sword on the train? The revamped water temple on holiday? Riding Epona around Hyrule Field on the loo? Incredible. This, and the later revamp of Majora's Mask show just how far Nintendo are able push forward and advance development on their portable machines.
|The 3DS version of OOT had a major graphical overhaul|
The latest canon entry the world have seen has also been on the 3DS, and arrived in the form of A Link Between Worlds. As a successor to A Link To The Past, ALBW similarly takes place across two worlds; Hyrule and Lorule (see what you did there, Ninty...) each maintaining a unique feel. Hyrule is lush and colourful whilst Lorule is darker and more menacing. Both really show what the 3DS is capable of graphically and the 3D effect really comes in to it's own with a number of perspective driven 3D challenges, for example, Link has the ability to merge into walls and slide through gaps from a side on perspective (a feature since purloined by Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch). When ascending levels in a tower, Link is fired right at your face via catapult.
|Link merges into walls for some unconventional side scrolling action|
Items in this adventure are not obtained chronologically, but are instead hired, allowing for alternative methods of game progression. Having access to one item may dictate you tackle a certain area first, and the financial element encourages exploration to keep your pockets ever full of Rupees. Of course, the equipment can be managed using the stylus, meaning no fiddly navigation of menu screens.
Finally, the 3DS brought us some more multiplayer action with the release of Triforce Heroes. Similar to Four Swords, Triforce Heroes unites 3 players either locally or over WIFI to work together to complete quests. The graphical style is similar to that of A Link Between Worlds and gameplay looks glorious in 3D.
|This switch can only be activated when all 3 Links pile up|
The gameplay involves a number of innovations. Firstly, the totem technique allows the Links to pick each other up creating a totem pole of Links. This leads to some fiendish multi tiered puzzle solving, for example certain switches might only be able to be struck in a Totem of 2 or 3 Links. Triforce Heroes also contains the feature to craft costumes for Link. These costumes then give our hero a variety of abilities, allowing players to think differently about their approach to questing. It's brilliant fun working as a team and dressing up your Link, and the online Colosseum is a great addition for longevity.
I hope then that you can at least understand the argument I make when I say I sincerely believe the handheld adventures to be better than the console ones. Don't get me wrong, a Zelda video game is pretty much better than any other video game. But because of their smaller homes, the teams behind the handheld catalog often have to try that much harder to make their titles stand out, pushing both the limits of the hardware and their creativity to produce some truly wonderful gaming experiences. Being able to play these masterpieces on the go is a stellar achievement for which everyone involved should be commended.
With the arrival of the switch Breath Of The Wild bridges that gap further still, making a true home gaming experience portable. I hope that with future installments Nintendo won't rest on their laurels and will continue to push the boundaries technically and creatively with the series. Of course, if history teaches us anything I shouldn't really be worried...
This post was written for Two Guys Playing Zelda and can be seen at http://twoguysplayingzelda.com/news/why-handheld-zelda-beats-console-zelda/