Hyrule Weekly mixes it up every week, and after the Halloween special last week, this week will be going back to focusing on the upcoming Wii U title. Specifically, an aspect that may have been glossed over a bit – the multiplayer.
Weirdly, the possibility of this feature seems to have been forgotten by many. This may have been due to all the news about reveals and delays, sure. But go all the way back to January 2013 and that Nintendo Direct where we got initial info about Zelda on Wii U. This is when Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma said (quote via nintendolife):
“Our mission in developing this new Zelda game for Wii U is quite plainly to rethink the conventions of Zelda. I’m referring to things like the expectation that the player is supposed to complete dungeons in a certain order, or that you’re supposed to play by yourself. The things that we’ve come to take for granted recently.”
This looks like a mission statement, with the dungeons not being in a set order and some sort of multiplayer being the stand-out targets. We know from what we have seen since that the former is a big part of this new, open-world Zelda – so what about multiplayer? Well, it’s been pretty quiet on that front. However, Aonuma has been pressed on the subject on occasion, and it has resulted in some interesting replies.
In an interview with Wired later in 2013 at E3, the topic of multiplayer in Zelda games came up, and Aonuma did briefly mention how it may appear in the upcoming Wii U game:
“With the new Wii U Zelda, we’re coming up with new ideas that still allow the one-Link idea but are the same type of multiplayer.”
Also, if you look at a nintendolife interview from the same E3, Aonuma divulges a bit more information:
“In saying it’s not a single-player or lone experience, I didn’t necessarily mean multiplayer. There has actually been multiplayer in Zelda games, in Four Swords for example. But for example in Wind Waker, with the Tingle Bottle – it’s not a traditional multiplayer experience but you certainly have the feeling that other people are exploring the same world and sharing information.
So that’s one way that I meant that it’s not a single-player experience. We’ll continue to explore different ways of opening up this world beyond a single-player experience, but that’s not necessarily to say that there will be typical multiplayer.”
Aonuma points to other Zelda games in this latter interview, and this could be crucial in terms of predicting how multiplayer may manifest in the game. The Wind Waker HD is seen as a game that helped Nintendo gain experience in creating a beautiful HD Zelda game, so reading that multiplayer-related experiments were sneaked in too isn’t actually surprising. In addition, Four Swords popping up in the interview is very interesting.
This is because we just got The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes on 3DS, which is centred around multiplayer. It is almost a spiritual successor to the Four Swords games. Now, think about release timings. Before the delay, Zelda for Wii U was meant to release around the time Tri Force Heroes ended up launching – the 3DS game ended up being a replacement Zelda to keep us going. A more experimental, multiplayer Zelda coming out while we wait for Zelda Wii U? It could well be like The Wind Waker HD; another exercise that is partly to generate ideas for the flagship Wii U Zelda.
Think about it. It makes sense – the remakes and spin-offs of late all have elements that could be considered experiments. The HD visuals of The Wind Waker HD. The free-order dungeons of A Link Between Worlds. The multiplayer of Tri Force Heroes. In June 2014, Aonuma was even pressed by gameinformer about how the multiplayer in the Zelda–Dynasty Warriors crossover Hyrule Warriors could be taken forward, the reply being a cryptic tease:
“When I was talking back about making Zelda more than just a single-player experience? That’s something you will see in the future, maybe next year.”
Okay, so we have quite a few tidbits here. Since that January 2013 Direct, the multiplayer portion of Zelda for Wii U – which, from all this evidence, looks certain to appear in some form – has been kept pretty quiet, with only small quotes here and there to go on. The games releasing since are giving us more clues, but something else to consider is whether the game needs multiplayer.
Don’t get me wrong, I have trust in Aonuma and his team to deliver their vision in spectacular fashion next year. But the main Zelda games have been traditionally single-player adventures, where you get absorbed into the world and the story. Do we want other players in that world, taking some of that away? It could affect the game in a big way, which is why Aonuma’s comments about multiplayer not necessarily being about more than one player are encouraging to me. The Tingle Bottle in The Wind Waker HD was a nice idea, if a bit too subtle. But slightly influencing the game worlds of other players, perhaps through Miiverse in a more developed way than the Tingle Bottle did it, could be really effective.
This investigation has led me to this point. Now, all we can do is wait, and see what part multiplayer plays in The Legend of Zelda for Wii U. I will end with one more quote from Eiji Aonuma, from an interview with GAMESPOT when he was asked about whether the experimental multiplayer of Tri Force Heroes is something they want to do again in some way:
“Putting this game together, I was assured that multiplayer Zelda can be fun. And in the future, it would be great to implement this again and maybe think of new ways to try it.”
It can be fun, and I am confident that however multiplayer is implemented in The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, it will be fun again. Bring on 2016!