Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why I’m (Mostly) Completely Fine with Yet Another Delay for Zelda

Official new artwork of Link from the new Zelda, released by Nintendo

So the new Legend of Zelda game has been hit with yet another delay and this time I’m actually a bit surprised, as I fully expected the game to launch this holiday alongside the NX, Nintendo’s next console/thing/enigma. Oh but that’s the thing: NX has now been announced for a March 2017 launch, defying just about every prediction on the internet that it would launch at the end of this year. First off, I just want to say that I’m glad and a bit relieved that the NX isn’t coming out this year. I’m not exactly thrilled that the Wii U’s life is getting cut short and I definitely don’t think the hardware and its games get enough credit, but at least the Wii U gets one more full year. Furthermore, I don’t have to be tempted to buy not one, but two new consoles this year (the other being the PS4 so I can play The Last Guardian). Likewise, I’m also totally fine with waiting just a little while longer for Zelda, which is very likely to launch alongside the NX in March.

With just about every game delay comes some amount of negativity, but I understand if this one stings in particular for some people. It is the second delay for a promising entry in one of the most beloved video game series of all time, and Nintendo’s commitment for ultra-secrecy with the latest Zelda has left many fans scratching their heads, at this points perhaps wondering what it even is they’re looking forward to anymore. What’s more, it’s now been nearly five years since the last major console Zelda game, Skyward Sword, was released. The waiting, even for just a drop of information about this new game, is very real, but when it comes to video games these days, I’m a very patient person. There are way too many intriguing games out there right now as it is, and more are coming out throughout the year. Nevermind a giant backlog of games I own and haven’t started and my recent desire to go back and replay several older Zelda games. I haven’t even finished Twilight Princess HD, for crying out loud! I am not, in any way, in dire need of this new Zelda game at the moment, which I will want to free my schedule for and really sink my teeth into when I finally get my hands on it. Also, Nintendo’s announcement that the new Zelda will be the primary focus at this year’s E3 and indeed the only playable game on the show floor (in a wacky and surprising bit of news) should help to at least give fans something to make the wait easier (or perhaps even more difficult), and makes me nervous about just how much I’ll be able stick to my “media blackout” plan for this game.

Typically when I hear of a delay for a game I’m anticipating, I simply shrug my shoulders, nod my head, and think, “Ok; I’ll play it when it’s ready.” In fact, it typically makes me even more excited for the game, because at least I know the developers really care about what they’re making and are working hard, and that hopefully the game will be all the better for the extra development time. Of course, delays don’t always signify something positive and might even hint that a game might be in trouble or lost at sea. When it comes to Zelda though, I know how dedicated its developers are and how much love and energy they pour into these games, and since this new Zelda looks to be especially ambitious, I choose to be optimistic.

I’ve heard some speculate that the game is simply being held back in order to launch it simultaneously on the NX, or likely have it be a launch title for the console, and while the official word is that the delay is to “improve the quality” of the game, this speculated reason still might very well be another reason, perhaps even the main reason, for the delay. At the very least, the extra development time might largely be for successfully porting the game to NX. This whole situation is also of course similar to what happened with the original Twilight Princess back when it was delayed from 2005 into 2006, culminating in it being a launch title for the Wii as well as a swansong for the GameCube. I understand why some would be peeved if the game could be released on Wii U by year’s end with an NX version released later, and if this were the case, it might have been good practice for Nintendo to reward the people that bought a Wii U, and especially if they bought one specifically to play the new Zelda, by letting them get the game earlier than NX adopters. Despite this and despite me preferring one version of the new Zelda and not another Twilight Princess situation (especially if they do something extremely asinine like mirror the entire world in the game), I’m ultimately still fine with the delay even if the reason is nothing more than to have a simultaneous launch on Wii U and NX, for a few reasons.

Skyward Sword released exclusively for the Wii at the end of 2011 when the Wii U had already been revealed and was known to be releasing in a year. While the game sold very well when it first launched and was critically very well-received, it ultimately wasn’t very commercially successful in the long run and many people simply overlooked it as they looked ahead to the next console generation or otherwise just weren’t paying attention to their Wiis anymore in the largely barren final months of the console’s life. Nintendo doesn’t want to repeat this; they want Zelda to be successful, they want the NX to be successful, and seeing as how Zelda is, ya know, kind of something that I really dig and since Nintendo is one of my favorite developers, I want these things to be successful too. Holding Zelda back for a simultaneous launch on NX and Wii U is smart for a number of reasons: it would be a great launch title for NX, similar to Twilight Princess, not having it come out on Wii U earlier will mean that the game isn’t old news at that point, and finally if the game does launch in March 2017 or around that time, it won’t be competing with all of the other big holiday releases at the end of 2016. I want this new Zelda game to be successful and I want all the hard work its team is putting into it to be rewarded. I’ve seen enough great games fade into obscurity and neglect on the Wii U (*cough*TropicalFreeze*cough*Pikmin3*AHEM*) to be happy that at least the next big Zelda game will hopefully get the attention that I hope it will ultimately deserve, even if it means the slightly disappointing truth that the Wii U will never have had its own fully exclusive Zelda game.

Besides all this, it’s just kind of nice that we’ll probably be getting the next big Zelda in the spring instead of the holiday season. The last time a new major console Zelda game released in the spring, and in March to boot, was The Wind Waker in 2003, at least in North America. While it’s always a good time to go on an adventure with Link, The Legend of Zelda has largely always seemed like an experience very suited to the spring season for me; the air is warm, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and it’s just the ideal time to go on an adventure clothed in the green of fields, or in this upcoming game’s case, the blue of skies.

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