Here’s a little something I was think of. Since we’re seeing this big Zelda hype thanks to the upcoming 3D OoT remake and the all new Skyward Sword coming into the Wii system, that’s the franchise I’ll use to express my theory, using the two Zelda titles I admire the most: A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time.
A good friend of mine always refused to play Oot, stating that the game was nothing more than a 3D port of LttP. I never totally agreed with him, although he has his point – but that’s not the point we’ll deal in this post.
The Nintendo 64 first incarnation of a Zelda title blew me up since I started playing it. Contradicting the consoles timeline I only played the SNES episode one year after the N64 one and, in a certain way, I’m glad for that. The reason is simple: we only get to fully comprehend a gamming generation after its death. That’s when we can see the designers behind the game without the technologies innovations blinding us up.
The major difference I see between these two Zelda titles – apart, of course, the graphics approach of each one – is the depth of the story WHEN you are playing. While in OoT you have a good amount of cut scenes and good amount of dialog lines regarding the story – making the play experience more immersive -, in LttP the story is much more secondary, but here’s the interesting part: the game plays better, in a certain way, so let’s get deeper into the concept I’m trying to explain.
I’m not pointing which game is better – and I know it would be an impossible task. All I’m saying is that the fun you have when playing these titles is different. Let’s define here two different approaches – amongst a lot others – games take:
The “spectator approach” – Have you ever played Dreamfall, or Policenauts? The spectator approach makes you sit in front of the screen, think a lot about the story and events of the game in a philosopher’s way of gamming. Ok, no Zelda game has ever took this approach entirely, what’s natural coming from the well balanced gameplay this series has. But OoT made me think much more than LttP. I even spent mouths after beating the game researching the Hylian mythology, wishing to get in touch with that fictional universe. Hell, I even believed in all that “Temple of light” hoax that flouted around the net by those days.
Games that tell a deeper story tend to make you thing of them when you are not playing anymore. There are always mysteries to hunt you and “what ifs” to think and discuss with your friends. That’s a replay factor no review use to classify. They should.
The “Joat (Jack of all trades) approach” – Get the hammer, break the wall, get a sword upgrade, save the blacksmith, get new sword, go to the temple. And don’t forget to save the cute girl’s pet pigeon while doing it. Why? Well, maybe you’ll get more collectives for doing that. Or maybe you just like side quests.
A Joat approach leaves the story in the background. Is the story important? Of course, but not important enough to sacrifice gameplay.
In the old days, when home consoles got a limited amount of memory and raw processing power, things where different. You could create a complex game but, no matter how complex you got, the only way to tell a detailed story was by filling the game with lots of stuff to read, and that would only appeal for a restrict gamming niche. The mass gamming audience would easily get bored. That’s the reason the 16bit era got great and complex games – dealing with big inventories and stuff -, but storytelling didn’t got its most important ally yet: Computer generated or FMV cut-scenes.
So here’s how I describe LttP: a game with very complex mechanics and a not so complex storyline, although interesting enough to make us think a little bit.
The bottom line is that the way you feel when playing each one of these games is very different, and not just because of the different console generations. Maybe it’s just me, but LttP makes me want to spend more hours in front of the screen, while Ocarina makes me want to think about the game even when I’m not playing it. Which is better? Hard to say, if not impossible. It’s just different ways of digital entertainment. What do you guys prefer?