As I've said before, the upcoming Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has me torn between excitement and cynicism. I see stuff like this
and there's a part of me that's giddy in spite of myself -- I feel excitement at how good this game could be, and trepidation at how mediocre it will probably be.
Jeremy Parish, who played the demo at E3, wrote a piece called Yoshi and Zelda Demonstrate the Trouble With Playing It Safe which articulates my concerns about the game perfectly: so far it seems to be running on nostalgia, a glitzy cover tune lacking in the genius of the original.
Could be it's just a professionally-created fangame.
So what happens when you do get a professionally-created fangame based on A Link to the Past?
As it happens, there is one: The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets, a game for the Japanese Satellaview add-on.
It's about what you'd expect from a modestly-talented developer playing with the LttP engine: the pieces are there but they just don't fit together as well.
First of all, there's the exploration. Good big chunks of the world are covered by Fog of War as the game begins, and it doesn't feel like the world opens up naturally to you as you go so much as that you're ushered through it region by region. Part of this is simply the nature of its design -- it was designed to be played across four days, with each day revealing a different portion of the world map -- but, well, just because there's a design constraint giving it a good reason to feel confined doesn't make it feel any less confined.
Indeed, from pretty early on you're encouraged to make use of instantaneous travel rather than encouraged to hoof it across Hyrule before being given the keys to the ocarina.
But if the overworld doesn't seem to offer much that's new, the dungeons just seem perfunctory.
They're shorter, they're smaller, and they're a lot more straightforward. The puzzles are simple (though in at least one case the "push a block down a hole" bit is implemented much better than its original use in LttP's Ice Palace, one of the weakest, most convoluted puzzles in the game -- though it at least rewarded players for taking the levels out of sequence), and the thematic elements of the dungeons are gone, replaced with a weird sort of mishmash of different tilesets and bosses. Why the fuck does the Water Temple look like the East Palace inside, and have the sandworms from the desert level as its boss? Who the fuck knows?
It's not that I haven't had a bit of fun playing Ancient Stone Tablets. It's like a cover tune on open mic night -- it's fun to hear somebody new try out your favorite song, even if they're not as good as the original band.
But I haven't had any great urge to finish it, either.
Guess we'll see how the new game goes. Maybe it'll be a lot more ambitious than it looks.
Or maybe it'll be pretty much a remake with less-inspired level design. That would be a shame -- but it'd still probably be worth playing through once or twice.