Let me start by proclaiming my love for this SNES classic; The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past (ALttP). Memories of playing through this game, both with a friend (before I had a SNES) and on my own, are without question some of the best gaming moments I have experienced. I’m quite sure that when my life flashes before my eyes, as I take my final breath, the image and sound of a sword hitting a chicken in Kakariko Village, will be amongst the myriad of data processed by my brain before it’s lights out.
Yeah, that’s right, my infatuation with this game runs pretty deep. So news that a possible remake may be in the cards had me imagining all sorts of possibilities that I will attempt to convey to you here. Around the period that Ocarina of Time (OoT) was announced as a remake for 3DS, an interview with Mr. Miyamoto popped up where he spoke about the soon-to-be-released port. When quizzed about other remakes he would like to work on, Miyamoto responded by saying “Do you remember Xevious? It’s two-layered and I really wanted to create that at the time. So to see A Link to the Past in two layers would be quite attractive for me.”
A Link To The Past, in two layers you say… hmm, interesting. At first glance everything falls into place. The interview is 3DS- and Zelda-focused, and the 3DS screen works in two layers– as does the concept of ALttP— so we can conclude that Miyamoto was speaking exclusively about a 3DS remake. Or can we?
Allow me to think outside of this very pretty box that is being created for us here. Yes, the likelihood that ALttP would be released on 3DS is very high, and yes, Nintendo’s new portable seems to tick all the boxes that Miyamoto gave away in this slither of information. However, what must be taken into consideration here is that the interview took place before anyone knew about Project Cafe and its alleged Controller/TV screen functionality. What does Miyamoto mean by two layers? Is he only referring to the depth perception effect 3DS delivers to our eyes? Is he talking about the dual screen? Or the dual worlds in ALttP?
It is easy to misinterpret quotes, especially when they comes from Nintendo. The company’s renowned for secrecy, and holding cards tight to its chest before revealing a royal flush on the competition. Would Miyamoto talk so readily and specifically about a game that may or may not be remade? Does the fact that the interview is 3DS-focused mean we can take our eye off the ball and assume that it must be for 3DS because he mentioned two-layered? I wouldn’t be so sure. What if Miyamoto and Co. have different plans? What if the SNES classic was brought to Project Cafe?
Yes, I accept that I may be dreaming a little bit here, but when the case is examined, ALttP on Cafe could and most definitely would work. First, let’s take a look at the options making a port of this famous game would provide. Nintendo would basically have two choices here. One is to release the game in much the same graphical mold as the SNES original (i.e. top down); two, Nintendo can re-imagine the whole game in a glorious 3D world.
The former option here (top-down) is more suited to 3DS in my opinion. The depth of field that 3DS provides will come into play when Link is navigating multi-level dungeons, or areas of the overworld like Death Mountain, which actively show the difference between where Link is standing and the grassy terrain of Hyrule that lies way below him. The problem with making ALttP top down is that it requires very little ambition and has been done before (see A Link to the Past on GBA).
Making ALttP in a fully realized 3D world on Project Cafe (in the mold of Twilight Princess and the upcoming Skyward Sword) will require much greater care and attention to be lavished upon its production. Converting the 2D top-down environment of A Link to the Past into a sprawling world of three dimensions would provide a stern task.
I remember reading an interview with Miyamoto around the time of N64, where he explained the intricacies of making the Dark World / Light World theme play out in a 3D environment. What it basically boiled down to was collision detection and placement of a 3D object when the worlds switched. As anyone who has played ALttP will know, it is quite easy to get Link’s sprite stuck in a wall or another amusing facet when playing through the game. While this is a fun mechanic to toil with, there is a sense that it could ruin the atmosphere of the game if it was to occur in 3D. All sorts of problems would have to be overcome for this two-world feature to work, but then again we have come an awful long way since the primitive 3D models of the N64 era.
Having a screen on our controller (the second layer) would mean no more educated guesses as to where poor Link may show up when switching from Dark to Light worlds. If Cafe can stream a top down version of the game onto our controller as we play, then we can pick precisely where Link will turn up in the Light World and vice-versa. The overworld map and dungeons would have to be scaled up in size if it is to be released on Cafe, with the added intricacies and details that come with doing so, being taken care of by a combination of horsepower the system will wield and the streaming capabilities between game and controller.
Of course, the very same argument can be made for 3DS and its dual screens. But to convert the 2D ALttP into a 3D world on the handheld may provide a very tough task. This is especially true when it comes to converting the sheer sense of size one gets when playing it on the SNES into a 3D environment with the processing power 3DS provides. Yes, OoT is coming to 3DS, but this is merely a translation and refinement of the 3D world that was already in place from the N64 original, making development a much more straightforward process than it would if the source material was two dimensional.
Making ALttP 2D on 3DS may also mean that the game is overlooked. Many people of a certain age only remember Ocarina of Time as a game of their childhood (hence the remake). They remember it the same way I remember ALttP, as the defining Zelda experience that is yet to be bettered. The element of nostalgia and wonder I encounter after playing the 16-bit edition will be lost on newer gamers. They might be put off by the cutesy retro graphics that conceal a game of real depth, which certainly deserves more than a straight port with 3D effects tagged on to its 2D environment.
If Nintendo ramped up the production values and went all out to make ALttP a launch title for Cafe, then not only would it grab everyone’s attention (as OoT 3DS has), but also show that Nintendo is over its renowned laziness (the 25th-anniversary retread of Super Mario All Stars comes to mind) that sometimes puts us westerners off buying their subpar re-releases. Part of Nintendo’s supposed strategy for the next generation is to give core gamers more of what they want and less of the disposable shovelware that has clogged the arteries of Wii in recent years. Nintendo’s E3 showing last year was the first glimpse that it may be heading back in the right direction, with this year’s keynote promising to be the best in half a decade.
A Link to the Past could be the embodiment of the direction Nintendo decides to take. If reports that Cafe will be headed back into SNES territory are true, and if Nintendo courts the core gamer again, then ALttP would be the perfect choice to showcase Nintendo’s new identity. A remake can be a mix of old and new, a nod towards the gamers of old while catering for the newer generation, who know little of the exploits of Link prior to Ocarina. If this remake is done correctly (or at all) then not only will it bring legions of fans flooding back to Nintendo, but also bring new players through, who hopefully will finish the game with the same feeling of amazement I had nearly twenty years ago, when I first entered Hyrule castle through a hidden hole concealed by shrubbery.
Speculation is all we have to go on at the moment, but the thought of a remake is enough to keep me going until E3 and beyond. How Miyamoto’s two layers will play out remains to be seen. My gut feeling is that it would make more sense for ALttP to be a launch game for Cafe, what with Skyward Sword and OoT taking care of Wii and 3DS respectively. If this is the case, then, it makes my certain purchase of Cafe absolute, and will indicate that Nintendo will be true to its (rumored) word of giving us core gamers the experiences we have always wanted.
Miyamoto once said that Link to the Past is his personal favorite Zelda game. He is not alone. Millions of gamers agree with you, Mr. Miyamoto, and we would like nothing more than to see your vision fully realized, with the power of Cafe behind it. However, if A Link to the Past ends up being a quickly released remake with slightly upgraded graphics and 3D effects– well, I’ll still buy it, and a 3DS to play it on. The love runs deep for this game.