Thoughts on asynchronous co-op and Zelda

#1 Posted by ihateyouron (33 posts) -

First and foremost, this is my first post, so I apologize if this topic is out of place on this board, or if there has already been a similar topic recently. Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about The Legend of Zelda series, and the general direction Nintendo seems to be taking with the Wii U, and its proliferation of "Asynchronous Co-op," and maybe this will sound blasphemous to die hard Zelda fans, but I think that asynchronous co-op of some kind will very likely be a major focus of Wii-U Zelda.

Nintendo has already toyed with the concept of pseudo co-op in the series, by utilizing Zelda as a playable protagonist in Spirit Tracks. If you're not familiar with the game, Zelda is with Link through basically the entire journey (as a ghost) and throughout the game you will need to employ her unique abilities to help you solve puzzles. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Spirit Tracks, I think its mostly inoffensive and charming for a portable title. However (in my opinion at least) the novelty of that game mechanic wore off pretty early on in the game, and rather than "adding a new twist" on the tried and true Zelda formula, it felt more like just one big wrinkle for me to manage, and at times I think it really served to slow down the pace of the game.

With all of that said, I think its clear how a similar concept could be adapted to the Wii- U gamepad. In fact, I feel like the asynchronous aspect of the game could eliminate the pacing issues I had with Spirit Tracks. However, I'm not really sure how Nintendo would handle such a mechanic in a purely single-player context without coming back to what I disliked about Spirit Tracks.

So what do you guys think? Could you see Nintendo heading in this direction with the Next Zelda game? Do you think its more likely Nintendo will incorporate a co-op system similar to what they used in Super Mario Galaxy, or do you simply think the next Zelda title will be an entirely single-player experience?

#2 Posted by TooWalrus (13127 posts) -

There was plenty of asynchronous gameplay in Wind Waker if you had a friend with a GBA/GCN link cable. It was pretty bad, but at least it gave you something to spend those extra ruppees on...

Anyway, yes, asynchronous gameplay is the main gimmick the Wii U's had to offer so far, so it's a fair bet the new Zelda will implement it heavily. It's kind of pointless to speculate though, until we have more information. I'm putting my bet on the next Zelda being more like Four Swords Adventures and less like Skyward Sword.

#3 Edited by ihateyouron (33 posts) -

@TooWalrus: When you say "More like Four Swords Adventures" Do you mean that in a purely mechanical sense? While I certainly enjoyed aspects of Four Swords, I was put off by its limited scope, and bizarre structure. It's kind of hard to hold that stuff against it though, for me it was more supplemental than something like Skyward Sword.With that said, I'd embrace something like that as a downloadable title. Anyway thanks for responding.

As far as the pointlessness of the topic is concerned, I was speaking more in general terms. I wasn't really trying to "nail down" any specifics, as obviously it will be a little while before we even begin to hear rumors about the next Zelda. I suppose what I really wanted to talk about was the series recent struggles, and extrapolate how those issues might be addressed in future games. Which I suppose isn't really relevant in this board, and has probably already been covered in several other threads.

#4 Posted by commonoutlier (136 posts) -

I'll admit diehard fans of anything always tend to gripe about something, but since there was Four Swords, and Zelda usually attempts to do something new as it is ported to a new console, at least for the first time (utilizing motion controls, touch screens, etc.), I think such complaints from fans would be silly. Now, I am someone who loves and is fascinated by cooperative gameplay design, and Four Swords was one of many games I loved when I was younger, so I definitely welcome any attempts at cooperative play in the new Zelda game.

Though, I actually played Four Swords again recently with a more critical eye, and I think it is a bit more flawed than I had recalled--it mixes competition and cooperation in a rather destructive way (its still fun, but man does the way it's setup encourage backstabbing rather than teamwork). It's true in that game you'd have to do some activities like step on a button or move a rock together, but pretty much for everything else it's everyone for themselves (literally). You don't share special items (e.g., only one person gets the bombs or slingshot if there is only one item pedestal there), there was friendly fire (including you could throw or shove someone off an edge and damage them), and then you collected force gems into your own pot, and there would be a tally at the end for whoever had the most (not to mention if someone died, they would drop your force gems and you could steal them). Now, cooperation doesn't outright ban competition, but it should be for helping others (and in Four Swords, the best you could do is earn some points or lose some points during a vote for most helpful and least helpful, which when I played did not help or hinder anyone from winning since whoever had the most Force Gems always won)...but if there has to be competitive elements, it should be awarded in ways that rewards helpfulness to others. I would hope that if they do incorporate cooperative gameplay in the next game, they would learn from Four Swords, rather than remake it.

With that said, I was really bored playing Spirit Tracks, and the game felt rather soulless to me...but I suppose we're not heard to talk specifically about the game but rather the mechanic itself. I could definitely see it improved having each of the characters controlled by a different person, but I would have to see it in practice, too. Super Mario Galaxy's cooperation, when I played that, seemed essentially nonexistent, so I would really hope they don't take that route. I would hope its more like Four Swords, but not exactly like Four Swords (and obviously to be asynchronous it couldn't be anyway).

#5 Edited by ihateyouron (33 posts) -

@commonoutlier: I have only ever played the single-player mode in Four Swords, so I can't comment on its co-op mode. However I can easily see how its competitive nature could lead to some frustrating moments.From what you have described it sounds kind of like how co-op is handled in New Super Mario Bros, eschewing cooperation in favor of wanton chaos, which is fun with a group of friends, but frustrating if you're actually trying to go for collectibles, or find hidden exits and whatnot.

My lack of exposure to Four Swords' co-op is probably why Spirit Tracks jumped to mind first for me, despite not being co-op in the multi-player sense. However with its cooperative nature, and the way the Wii-U handles dual perspectives, I felt that the mechanics of Spirit Tracks would more easily translate into a Zelda game with a larger scope.

Another interesting aspect of Spirit Tracks is the notion of Zelda taking on a more important role in the series. Perhaps I'm way off base, but I feel like the demand for a Zelda game with some sort of female protagonist has grown. Whether that be in the form of a Zelda adventure sans Link, or simply a Gender select option while creating your save file. In fact one father went as far as hacking a copy of Wind Waker in order to accomplish this for his daughter , and given the groundswell of females in the games industry revolting against sexism in the workplace, and a perceived anti-feminist sentiment in the larger gaming community. It could be perceived as a progressive move on Nintendo's part, even if they put no effort into differentiating genders.

The scope of that debate is far too great for a Zelda game to tackle, but I think considering the growing demand for female protagonist in games (or at least allowing for a female avatar of some sort for silent protagonist) it is definitely something Nintendo should consider. I'll agree with those who would argue that Link is an iconic character, and I don't think I'll ever be able to identify Link as anything but a male protagonist, but if it makes it easier for females to get into the series by having a protagonist they can identify with (if only on a visual level) then I'll learn to accept it.

To get back to the original topic though, I don't know that adding co-op really addresses what I felt was wrong with Skyward Sword, and going for something with a smaller scope, like Four Swords doesn't address those issues either, so much as it just sidesteps them by being incomparable.

#6 Edited by commonoutlier (136 posts) -

@ihateyouron: I think actually as far as asymmetrical cooperation goes (since that's what the Wii U promotes), that Spirit Tracks was a good example over Four Swords (which is symmetrical). Heh, and probably the Spirit Tracks example would result in a game that probably has a less silly/bizarre concept as a sword that splits the wielder into four people (although I do like plenty of silly/bizarre concepts, perhaps what would be best is one that is less blatantly conjured for the sake of a mechanic like 4 player co-op).

I think in general there needs to be more diversity of protagonists, whether by gender/race/sexuality/etc., particularly in series that have gone on for so long without such diversity in the protagonist. I think it would help breath new life into it, as it could the industry at large. I've seen the article about the father before, that's a pretty cool dad, although it sort of says something sad about the status of games that he would have to do that rather than have avaliable a similar blockbuster game with similar mechanics and theme with a female protagonist. I think I prefer the gender select option, since I like the idea showing that it doesn't matter your gender, both are capable of setting off on this same journey and overcome conflicts in the same manner. Although, I actually think its important that people play as the other gender at least once in a while (since games sometimes should be about showing the world from someone else's shoes), so I can see an adventure without Link advantageous, too. I just didn't like Spirit Track's portrayal of Zelda...particularly the stereotypically being scared of rats (or whatever it was, I can't remember other than it made me shake my head). Link is probably too iconic as a male protagonist for most people, and most people wouldn't consider the female version a legitimate substitute (and she would simply be a "gender bent" Link, rather than a character worthy of standing on her own), so perhaps a game with a gender selection option with a completely new main character may be best. Or, perhaps something like the Pokemon games, where the non-chosen gender character becomes an NPC in the game.

Co-op needs to be something that has a purpose and fits in with the general theme and design of the game, rather than something just added for hype or the co-op fad...but I do think its a powerful tool that can be used in many different ways and with many different themes. I think what really needs to happen is Nintendo to try something new, which probably won't completely happen since that's too "dangerous," but who knows.

#7 Posted by laserbolts (5309 posts) -

Man if they make Zelda with co op I am done with Nintendo. There should be one hero in a Zelda game.

#8 Posted by TooWalrus (13127 posts) -

@laserbolts said:

Man if they make Zelda with co op I am done with Nintendo. There should be one hero in a Zelda game.

Nonsense, if that were true, you would've been done with Nintendo years ago.

#9 Posted by laserbolts (5309 posts) -

I like to pretend that doesn't exist.

#10 Posted by ihateyouron (33 posts) -

@laserbolts: Would you care to elaborate? What is it exactly you find so repellent about the notion of a cooperative Zelda that you'd effectively wash your hands of Nintendo?

#11 Posted by Ducksworth (659 posts) -

I don't see Zelda U putting a huge emphasis on asynchronous co-op but maybe more along the lines of asynchronous single player game play along the lines of Zombie U or the DS Zelda games. With the way Nintendo handled some games on the Wii it's also entirely possibly that Zelda U is going to be a game that doesn't use the tablet in any significant manner. As for male/female Link, I'm always open to a series going into new directions and having the option wont ultimately affect my experience with the game....but I would be lying if I said it's something I want to see from Legend of Zelda. Ideally if the series were to star a female I would want it to be Zelda and not a female iteration of Link, I agree that Zelda's portrayal in Spirit Tracks didn't make her out to be as strong as she could have been but Nintendo has definitely taken steps starting with Wind Waker to make Zelda more than a damsel in distress. You can even see change as far back as Ocarina of Time where Zelda has a relatively significant impact on the fate of Hyrule.

#12 Posted by Zekhariah (697 posts) -

While the asynchronous side has been the focus, I think it would be a lot more interesting if Zelda took a queue from games like Portal 2 co-op on the puzzles. Maybe with dungeon alterations for the number of players.

It is not as if the Wii U is incapable of multiplayer, and it would be cool if Nintendo branched out to also showcase that.

#13 Edited by Dixavd (1289 posts) -

Personally I want them to take the Zelda series in more of a single player route - by taking the big leaps and bounds that they put into the story of Skyward Sword and expanding it even more. The use of creating atmosphere, worlds and just less shallow NPCs in Skyward Sword and Majora's Mask is where I find the most interest in the Zelda franchise.

For instance, I think a great way to get use out of the gamepad would be to premise the game with a single question: What if Ganon/Ganondorf instead gained access to the master sword instead of Link? Thus forcing the player to use the gamepad for all of their different items and abilities (being great at range) while against an adversary who would wipe the floor with you in close combat (and who actually seems like a threat with access to all the gifts that the goddess has left in the world that are opened by the master sword). It would be a fantastic way of creating a completely different atmosphere as well as showing off the Gamepad capabilities (without making it all a secondary thing to the player whose constant thinking is, "killing with the sword is faster, easier to aim and doesn't use resources - I'll stick to other items just for puzzle solving"). And then only at the end do you gain the master sword back; and it actually feels special (making the game overall a deconstruction and then reconstruction of Zelda ideas).

Asymmetrical game play could be a great idea though. I just think it takes away from the core of what makes Zelda so appealing to me when multi-player is mentioned as a replacement of story; however, I'd be all for a Portal 2 style version of two separate campaigns. Maybe alternate timelines for the same story:

  • Timeline A is the single player I outlined: Link fails to get the master sword and so Zelda gives him all of the items and abilities she can (maybe through some Triforce sharing thing or something - Link gains the Wisdom Triforce and the magic that goes with it - maybe Zelda is killed by Ganondorf when he gets the master sword or something...). You then play the game with the gamepad abilities.
  • Timeline B is a co-op adventure: Ganondorf doesn't gain access to the master sword and Zelda keeps her powers and Ganondorf becomes a threat like usual. Player 1 is Link with the power of the master sword (using a wiimote) while player 2 is Zelda with her powers/sheik items (using the gamepad) and the whole game is basically an asymmetrical game around the two players having different uses and going on a normal Zelda story but as a pair (sort of like the concept of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West but with control and more input from the second character).

It's these ideas - ones which make me think of drastically different directions of the aesthetic and feel of the game rather than the base mechanics which I find interesting. I think I went on too much of a tangent, but I found this enjoyable to explore in my head.

--Edit-- Just saw @Zekhariah: 's comment; total coincidence that I thought Portal 2 similarities too (posted 48 minutes ago - man I spent longer writing/editing/thinking about this than I thought)

#14 Posted by Levio (1782 posts) -

Zelda U: 8+ dungeons, a master sword, a bow, a mount, bombs, shields, a musical instrument, bottles, heart pieces, a princess to save, gorons, the triforce, a generic evil villain, and some wacky side characters.

It's worked for the last 21 years, why not keep it going a few more decades.

#15 Edited by ihateyouron (33 posts) -

@Levio: Pardon me if you're being sarcastic (I can't tell), but I know I'm not alone when I say that Skyward Sword was pretty underwhelming.

The aesthetic is one of the primary aspects of Skyward Sword that I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed wandering around Skyloft, I think it's a pretty well realized starting area, and given that its your only town in the entire game it feels like a memorable place. It just doesn't feel like a cohesive world given the way everything is laid out.

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