Despite the many absolutely amazing parts about A Link Between Worlds (where to start!? the dungeon design, the item rental system, the innovative wall walking puzzles, the 3D usage, the music… it goes on and on), there’s one aspect of the game that I think could use some attention.
It’s a piece that’s part of a larger issue that Zelda games have sometimes: it’s too simplified. It’s a conundrum that I’m sure Nintendo constantly battles with internally while developing games. Their audience has grown up since 1989, and grown up with their games, becoming mature gamers with skills much greater than in the past.
One example of this can be seen in the item switching mechanism. It’s incredibly cumbersome, as it seems it was designed to be so. It’s never been that easy to switch items in a Zelda game, again, probably deliberately. But, if it were, it would open up many different types of puzzle designs, as well as enemy and boss types.
Currently, to switch items you either have to take out your stylus, tap on the giant but awkwardly placed “ITEMS” button at the bottom of the screen, and then fumble around in that menu, never really sure if you should be using the stylus to drag your items around or your D-Pad to move and select them. By the time you exit the menu, you’ve almost forgotten what you were doing in that needed that item in the first place!
I noticed immediately that there’s an unused button on the 3DS, the left shoulder button. The right shoulder button brings up your shield, but (at least at this point in the game so far) I haven’t found the left shoulder button assigned to anything. My first instinct is to make it a modifier key. Hold down the left shoulder button, and all four of your face buttons (A, B, X, Y) become hotkeys to swap immediately to a new item, which you can set up ahead of time in the menus. If you just tap the left shoulder button, it will swap to your last used item. This effectively gives you access to 5 items almost immediately.
This control scheme idea is nothing revolutionary, but it certainly has never been used in a Zelda game. I think Nintendo shies away from making complex systems like this to keep their games as simple as possible. But I think that modern Zelda games could easily incorporate these things, either in subtle ways like this, or as menu options to turn on an “Expert” or “Advanced” mode in the game that unlocks these additional features.
March 15, 2015