While Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are widely beloved, there are some Legend of Zelda fans who miss the more streamlined, non-open-world approach of games like Ocarina of Time. To those of you who fall into that category, I’m sorry to tell you it doesn’t sound like the series is returning to its roots anytime soon.
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In an interview with Game Informer, director Eiji Aonuma admits Ocarina of Time was foundational when it launched on the Nintendo 64, but Nintendo found its closed format “restricting” from a design standpoint. While there were some open areas like Hyrule Field, much of the game was spent in carefully crafted temples that had specific puzzle solutions. Breath of the Wild didn’t have temples, though there were temple-like structures in the Divine Beasts, and the lack of this series staple was, and remains controversial years later. Despite the pushback from some long-time fans,it sounds like Breath of the Wild’s open-world structure and experimental game design is the blueprint moving forward.
“With Ocarina of Time, I think it’s correct to say that it did kind of create a format for a number of titles in the franchise that came after it,” Aonuma tells Game Informer. “But in some ways, that was a little bit restricting for us. While we always aim to give the player freedoms of certain kinds, there were certain things that format didn’t really afford in giving people freedom. Of course, the series continued to evolve after Ocarina of Time, but I think it’s also fair to say now that we’ve arrived at Breath of the Wild and the new type of more open play and freedom that it affords. Yeah, I think it’s correct to say that it has created a new kind of format for the series to proceed from.”
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So there you have it, folks. If you were hoping for a Zelda of a smaller scale, it doesn’t sound like that’s in the works. Not to sound too doom and gloom (heh) about it. In all honesty, I’ve actually enjoyed Tears of the Kingdom a lot more than Breath of the Wild. So I’m a bit warmer on the format these days, and if you’ve loved both of these games, then it sounds like you’ve got more to look forward to in the future.
Whatever the next game looks like, it sounds like Nintendo already has some ideas in mind for how it will iterate on Tears of the Kingdom, ranging from how it will implement old characters and why it’s so attached to the experimentation more recent entries allow.