Which Legend of Zelda do you prefer, Majora’s Mask or Ocarina of Time? A question that has been doubtlessly asked countless times, and I’m sure has caused many arguments from the division it creates. With the release of Twilight Princess in 2006 this question quickly resurfaced.
Each time I’ve been asked this question I always default to Ocarina of Time (as I’m sure many of you would say), unconsciously afraid I’d be vilified for questioning its merit as providing the superior gaming experience. Yet does its combination of narrative, art, atmosphere, gameplay and audio provide a more interesting and enjoyable adventure?
When comparisons are made between games of the same series there are certain expectations that reviewers and the gaming community at large have, often regardless of the generation gap. It is unavoidable, as comparisons need to be made to determine whether a series has progressed, and whether game design in general has improved.
Yet there is a certain level of sentimentality and nostalgia when we look back at a game of our early years, the child in us does not want to let go of the memories forged with that experience. In many cases the games of our childhood are considered to belong to a personal golden age of gaming. It could be the age difference, even the possibility that some of us have *shudder* out grown games but those experiences are cherished memories, ones which can polarized our view of the next game in the series.
I like to call this the LoZOoT (p; low-zoo-t) Syndrome; the dismissal of successive games in a series to be of lesser quality due to expectation wrought from sentimentality, expectation and nostalgia for the earlier title.
Of course this syndrome isn’t synonymous with just the Legend of Zelda series. The Prince of Persia series has suffered this with its latest incarnation copping a fair amount of flack for its characterisation and simplified gameplay. While it does suffer from faults, like any game, it seems people are far less forgiving because of the expectation that has been fostered from the previous generation.
Therefore the real question that arises is, is it fair to compare the designs of current gen games with that of previous generations? It would be like comparing us to our ancestors, we are fundamentally the same, but now with better living conditions, sanitation, less prevalent disease, etc, but is a person now any better than a person then. It is difficult to express how fruitless a debate on such a topic would be given the advances, experiences, and societal expectations between now and then.
Yet we more often than not believe our games of the previous generations or iterations to be of a much higher caliber, not visually, but in gameplay. We compare the experiences of what these games brought to us because of how different they were at the time.
They demonstrated a level of game design unprecedented during that period of game development, but technology has grown, designers have become more talented and with both of these we’ve witnessed a refinement of a craft that was once dots vibrating on a black screen.
Of course I’m not saying that all past generation games provide a profoundly superior experience but we should think twice before dismissing sequels, or spiritual successors being of lesser quality than their predecessors, in light of their generational gap.
The designs and expectations of games were different when Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid and Far Cry first graced our screens. We held each of them as marvels of their respective platforms for their graphics, atmosphere, technical potential and narrative.
Yet now we have come to expect something more from our sequels, we want them to provide noticeably superior experiences in narrative, art, and depth. We want each title to successively shatter the benchmark its predecessor has set.
I am not asking for you to give up your cherished memories for the older games, but I am asking you to move on and accept the new generation for what they are, and what potential they are bringing to games as a whole.
There is so much more to this industry than the next Mario, Zelda, Halo or Sonic. While I've only touched the surface of this topic and will revisit it once I compile my thoughts, the next time a friend asks me, “Which Legend of Zelda do you prefer, Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time?” without hesitation I’ll say Twilight Princess.