We often hear about rage-inducing wars over which art style best fits The Legend of Zelda franchise. Is it the dark and ‘mature’ aesthetic of Twilight Princess? The cell-shaded vibrant world of Wind Waker? Or perhaps a hybrid of those, similar to what Skyward Sword showed us? The answer is: it doesn’t matter! Nintendo has yet to disappoint us with each new game in the series. While the franchise has always had its ups and downs, there is always a lot to love about each new chapter in this legendary series.
What’s odd about this ongoing war is that it hadn’t struck until The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first shown at Nintendo’s live Space World eventi in 2001. There was backlash from fans spouting on about how disappointed they were in the unveiling. A ‘software demonstration’ shown a year prior of Link fighting Ganondorf in a realistically styled one-on-one sword fight had gamers jazzed to see something along those lines. Needless to say, that did not happen. After a long two years of receiving an unwavering amount of negative criticisms, the game finally released and, as you know, it did not disappoint! It was a major critical success, a series favorite for many fans, myself included. Wind Waker is now known for being the gorgeous Zelda game that never ages and even earned itself an HD remake ten years later! Despite all the negative chatter surrounding the game, in the end it still wound up on top.
It’s obvious that Nintendo has recently been trying to cater to this feud with their two most recent console Zelda titles. With Skyward Sword, Nintendo melded together the cel-shaded art with a more mature aesthetic and alongside that was the unveiling of the latest Zelda for Wii U. With a unique take on open world environments mixed with cartoon-styled characters, it’s definitely a great balance of the two art styles that Nintendo has perfected in the past.
Within the past few years, I’ve heard people clamoring on about how they want an Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim-like Zelda game. Nintendo attempted to take the ‘realistic’ approach with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and, although the game was fantastic, it definitely fell short of expectations for gamers and critics alike. However, the graphical fidelity of Twilight Princess wasn’t where things went wrong — it was more or less pacing issues and the gameplay as a whole. Furthering my statement that the art style isn’t what make or breaks a Zelda game.
I don’t think gamers should have any preconceptions of Zelda games based on their graphics and art direction. As we all know, the series is much more than looks; The Legend of Zelda is about engrossing worlds, adventuring, puzzles, and exploring mountains, sea, and sky. It’s a franchise many gamers hold near and dear to their hearts and, though it is easy to get caught up in the fandom wars that surround it, we shouldn’t take things like art direction too seriously.
Do you think that the art style and graphical direction Nintendo goes with their Legend of Zelda games has an impact on how great the game is? Are the graphics of Zelda games important to you? Let me know in the comments section below!