After the release of Twilight Princess in 2006, famed videogame designer and Pope of Nintendo – Shigeru Miyamoto – famously said that it would be the last Zelda of its kind. At a time when people were unsure of the seemingly ‘new’ direction Nintendo were heading in, and of the consequent audiences they were attracting, many took the quote as a doomsday declaration for the series, speculating that Hyrule would be forever consigned to the history books, or to crappy spin-offs and peripheral pack-ins like Link’s Crossbow Training.
Other, more level-headed and less melodramatic fans took it to mean something altogether more positive in that Miyamoto was recognising something that Zelda fans had recognised years ago – Zelda needed to change. Wind Waker was, visually, a pleasant change from the usual greens and browns of Hyrule, but structurally it remained virtually identical to its predecessors. Skyward Sword has promised to offer a somewhat different approach to overworld exploration and progression, with a central hub-world, somewhat akin to its DS brethren – Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
Those games were certainly a departure from traditional Zelda fare, but the design choices inherent in these pocket-sized outings were likely made in the name of file size conservation and, primarily, tailoring the titles to the handheld experience. With Skyward Sword already offering a teen drama storyline, an orchestrated soundtrack and a brand new villain, what else does a console Zelda have to do to shake things up? Voice acting? Blood and gore? Multiplayer?
Nope, nuh-uh and not a chance; what Zelda has apparently been missing these past couple of years is an RPG-esque equipment upgrading system. In a recent hands-on demo with Gamespot, Bill Trinen of Nintendo of America let slip a few details about a leveling-up system that the game features.
They’ve built an entire upgrade system into the game. So for example, right now you can see that Link has his traditional shield, but he actually will get a lot of different shields in the game.
He will start off with a very basic one, and then as you fight enemies, you will recover kind of these treasures or artifacts that you can then use as resources to upgrade your items. And you can do that with your shield, you can do that with the beetle, and some of the other items that you have where you’re able to kind of combine your collection of rupees and your collection of resources and improve the items that you have.
Whether or not one of those ‘other items’ is Link’s sword is both unknown and doubtful. Additionally, whether this will be a somewhat pointless pursuit or an integral point of the game remains to be seen, but this, coupled with all the other innovations that Skyward Sword is bringing to the table keeps it at the tippety-top of gamers’ most anticipated releases of 2011.