The Legend of Zelda had its 35th anniversary on Sunday. Link has turned the ripe old age of 35. Most footballers don’t even make it to that age. And Link has been adventuring since day one. Slashing and swinging and grappling and gliding all while never saying a word. Must be murder on the knees.
What a good sport he is to keep going just for us and never utter a word of complaint. And yet, with all his chivalry and consistency, Link has been cast aside on his birthday. Nintendo didn’t even say his name or the name of his game. Not even a single tweet. What the heck happened?
35 Years Young
The Legend of Zelda is one of the few video game franchises that has been consistently special throughout its lifetime. With fifteen mainline games and countless spin-offs, it has been fertile ground for Nintendo to work its magic. And, after 35 years it still manages to surprise us.
While there were some fallow years after Skyward Sword (although A Link Between Worlds was exceptional), Nintendo was hard at work crafting Breath of the Wild. This brought the series back to its heady heights with a game that many consider to be one of the best games of all time (something I strongly agree with). Since then we’ve had Cadence of Hyrule — a quirky rhythm rogue-like — and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity — a genuinely special Musou game capturing all the magic of the world before Breath of the Wild. It feels like Zelda is firing on all cylinders.
So, with it turning 35 last week, we all thought we’d be getting some big announcements. Wind Walker HD and Twilight Princess HD must be easy ports from the Wii U, surely? And what about a Legend of Zelda 3D All-Stars to follow on from the Mario pack last year? Surely Nintendo would go out of their way to show the love and attention that such a storied franchise deserves? Well no, sadly none of our dreams came true.
Skyward Sword is actually good
There’s been a lot of people saying the set phrase “Skyward Sword is actually good.” I’m inclined to agree with them, but I also think the word “actually” in that phrase betrays the real truth. We all know it’s not as bad as people insist, but I think most of us would have a preference for literally any other 3D Zelda game. That’s just me guessing, but I don’t know anyone who would rather it over Wind Waker. If you’re out there, leave a comment below and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.
The reason there’s been a lot of people saying this is because an HD release of the game was announced a couple of days before The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary. But it wasn’t the one most people wanted. And it was only one game, one that is a decade old and made Zelda look rather strange. Why did Nintendo do this? Why would they not announce all the Zelda games together, if there were more coming? Did they just put it in there to make the Direct even longer? It doesn’t make any sense.
Everyone knows that Mario loves his fiscal years. There’s no way he couldn’t. He spends all his time physically exerting himself just to grab coins. That’s why his anniversary last year felt like a bit of a cash grab, and one that was so focused on Nintendo’s financial year. His 3D All-Stars collection and little battle royale would no longer be available after March 31, making people feel like Nintendo was trying something new to squeeze the money out of their players in a short period. But, now I think it’s pretty clear that there’s another, more likely reason.
This may be giving them a little too much credit, but I think Nintendo has been preparing their audience for a couple of big blockbuster years full of special anniversary things for Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. By demarcating “before March” and “after March” they can clearly communicate the end of Mario’s anniversary and the beginning of Zelda’s. On March 31 they can switch all their marketing (which includes changing the loading icons on the eShop) to the new wave of Zelda iconography. They would never want their two biggest franchises to get in the way of each other, so by drawing a line in the calendar they can make a clear shift away from all this Mario stuff.
Still A Load of Nonsense
I wrote an article similar to this one last year, where I wondered why Mario 3D All-Stars was a limited release. I put forward a handful of logical ideas and ended it in about the same way I’m going to end this one. In reality, it’s still quite a confusing situation, and that’s because Nintendo is one of the most confusing companies around. They’re incredibly useful for writing articles on open-ended questions that have no real answer. But their incredibly hard work to be an avid fan of.
Firstly, if the year of Zelda begins in April, why wouldn’t they just say so. Eiji Aonuma could do exactly what he did in that Direct, but instead just say “we haven’t forgotten about The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, which we will be celebrating from April!” I feel like that’s pretty simple, to be honest. And a bit of transparency can go an incredibly long way, especially with a group of fans who spend all their time scratching their heads as to what the heck is actually going on.
Also, there are clearly more games to come. It’s been all but confirmed by numerous industry people. So why did they give us Skyward Sword, all alone in that massive Direct? Weirdly, it further emphasised how it’s a bit of a black sheep in the series. I just don’t understand why, for a game not coming until July, they didn’t wait until they had some other Zelda announcements. Maybe they just wanted to flesh out that Direct, but it was already too long anyway. All in all, it just felt like a weird decision.
I guess the only way to conclude this is to just re-emphasise how strange Nintendo is. They make a lot of decisions that don’t make any sense. Maybe the hard date at the end of March is for a reason none of us have guessed. Maybe our Switches will crumble into dust on the stroke of midnight and the sun won’t rise for days and days. There’s no way of knowing sure.