By Jonathan Higgins / November 29th, 2013
4) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
When I first saw the credits roll in Skyward Sword, I was convinced it was the greatest Zelda game of all time. It did so much right—its level design (The Ancient Cistern was by far my favorite) exceeded my expectations, the world of Skyloft (and the world below) was fantastic, the weapon-upgrading system offered plenty of replay value in its own right, the soundtrack was certainly charming enough… I could go on. Just mention the Silent Realm to me, and I forget all about…the Twilight Realm, for example. There’s just so much going for Skyward Sword, so much, as a matter of fact, that it almost made my Top 3. It was successful in the many attempts it made to innovate within the franchise. And the tropes it did fall into (escort missions, losing all of one’s equipment and needing to reclaim it, etc.) were reminiscent of JRPGs versus other Zelda games. At the end of the day, even if some aspects of it frustrated me, I can’t fault them for trying.
Where can I fault them, though? Motion controls. Man, there was a time where you could hear me shouting from the rooftops about how fantastic they were, about how much I hoped Zelda games would continue to follow the motion control formula from here on out…but I realized my folly going into the game’s Hero Mode. It wasn’t until I didn’t have hearts or fairies as a crutch that I realized how much I was not used to that game’s controls (despite handily beating it hours before) and how truly weak they were in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think Skyward Sword could have been made without motion controls, but…I hope Nintendo spends ten years making sure they’re entirely accurate (particularly with the whole free-falling Link bits) before attempting that stuff again.
3) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
That Link Between Worlds concept art should just help further move the hype train in my mind. I don’t think I can offer a fair explanation of everything that makes A Link to the Past great without writing a piece that rivals my “origins” of Link’s Awakening in length. But suffice to say, it is fantastic…so fantastic that we’re returning to that game’s world in a spiritual successor. Why is this game so cherished by so many? Why does Twilight Princess try so hard to…be it? Because it works, that’s why.
You spend the entire first half of the game in a struggle to be a hero. You’re ill-matched against Hyrule’s soldiers—many enemies are tough to beat regardless of skill because the sword you’re using could stand to be a little stronger. Then…you grab the Master Sword, and enemies that were once a challenge to you get cut through like butter. For a brief and fleeting moment, you’re on top of the world! And then, your journey through the Dark World begins, where enemies are even stronger. You get a good look at your world in darkness and are reaffirmed in your desire to save it. All that philosophy helps to bolster the already flawless top-down gameplay, does it not? A Link to the Past takes the first spot in my Top 3 because it simply…does nothing wrong. It’s, like, the perfect example of top-down Zelda gameplay and story—something that naturally evolves the precedence set by the very first game.
2) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
I’ve said enough already. I really have. In terms of gameplay, Link’s Awakening offers very little over A Link to the Past outside of its talent for side-scrolling elements courtesy of Roc’s Feather. But if I could offer just one thing—the reason Link’s Awakening tops A Link to the Past in my eyes isn’t just the nostalgia I have towards growing up with the Game Boy and not being able to play A Link to the Past until I bought it on the Game Boy Advance in 2002… It’s that there hasn’t been a world in Zelda quite like Koholint Island. And I don’t think there ever will be again. This particular Zelda game, while being another flawless example of top-down gameplay that makes the series so great, also featured various Nintendo characters and story arcs we’ll never see again. There are so many reasons to experience Link’s Awakening—but Koholint Island has to be the reason I’d cite the most.
The moment has arrived. It’s time to see which game takes the top spot. You haven’t seen Majora’s Mask. You haven’t seen Ocarina or the DS games or Adventure of Link. Will I fall into the predicted outcome here or throw a curve-ball at the last minute? You’re just one click away from finding out.
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