Honestly, it doesn't matter whether the graphics are bright and vibrant or dark and gritty. It matters if the art style fits the tone of the game. Saying that realistic visuals don't "fit" in the Zelda series is really quite a load of mess if you ask me. TP's art style fit the tone that the game was after, and that's what matters. And it's all I care about. Just give me a good game. Complaining about graphics is just stupid and whiny. Not trying to insult you, Hanyou. Just pointing out that it's true that graphics don't matter -- no matter what they look like. (Unless they're rushed and poorly put together.)
That said, I actually would like to see -- and am basically predicting -- a TP/OoT graphical mixture for Zelda Wii U. It'd provide nice, refined textures while providing vibrant color and life to the world. It'd be a lot like Sonic Generations and the Bioshock in that sense, each of which look fantastic. It'd strike a really nice balance for an art style for Zelda, much like SS did.
I made the mistake of saying "graphics" instead of "visuals." I don't usually make that mistake, but there it is.
Visuals are extremely important, as gaming is a visual medium. It doesn't matter whether they're technically impressive--what matters is that they convey the necessary emotions, atmosphere, etc. In that sense, I agree with you.
Twilight Princess' visuals certainly fit the game--bland, generic, mock-"Western" visuals without much character or flair. They had their moments of beauty, sure. I particularly liked Faron Woods, compared to the rest of the game. But they were remarkably weak, which I suppose fits the weakest game in the series rather well.
I wouldn't like to see another game like Twilight Princess, so I wouldn't like to see more visuals like that game's. Zelda needs realism almost as little as Mario needs it--what it requires is character
, which may be unique to each game, but in any case should never be washed-out and bland. If a game demands such visuals, then there's something inherently wrong with its atmosphere, story, etc.
Linearity is yet another concern that I don't really care about, but I wouldn't mind a little open exploration being brought back in. This is why I think Zelda Wii U should follow a style similar to that of Link's Awakening. The story and dungeons are linear to the core. You have to do everything in order. But the overworld is very open and begging to be explored. It doesn't (completely) limit access to areas you're not necessarily supposed to go to yet. Yes, you can't go to dungeons out of order, but you can find some of the side-content at your own pace. That's what Zelda should be like. Linear dungeons so that the story can develop, but an open world so that you can explore while going from place to place. In truth, I'd prefer the second half of the game to have some open dungeon choice, but have one that must be done last via some story element, followed by the buildup to the final dungeon, but what's most important is that Zelda maintains a balance between linear and open. Neither formula is better than the other, as they both lack traits that immensely benefit the series. Doing one or the other is pointless and only prevents Zelda from being everything that it should be. Basically, like you said, be similar to Okami.
Absolutely. Linearity itself isn't horrible. My second-favorite game in the series, The Wind Waker, is almost entirely linear, but parts of the story can be completed out of order, and the sheer amount of exploration in that game is overwhelming. A linear game is perfectly acceptable if the world feels explorable.
In fact, all the handheld games, barring the DS ones, which feel very much like modern console titles, are good examples of this. Link's Awakening may be the best, but the kinstone system made The Minish Cap one of the most invigorating experiences in the series. They're ingeniously-designed.
On the other hand, it's entirely unnecessary for the Zelda series to be as linear as it is. A little tweaking could have made Skyward Sword a much less linear experience. The same goes for Twilight Princess, especially its second half. The games feel longer now, but they also feel like they rely less on player input. We're treated to long stretches of somewhat entertaining gameplay, but it does border on tedium at times. This started with Majora's Mask--fewer dungeons necessitated more involved quests to the dungeons. It was fun for awhile, but it reduced options. The classic games had shorter, more immediate challenges--even Ocarina of Time follows this formula rather well, which makes for a good balance.
The gameplay needs to feel faster. It needs to feel like it has a flow to it. It needs to be interrupted with cutscenes less often. The story needs to be told organically. Our latest article
, which I'm sure you've seen, touches on these concepts. The problem in the most recent Zelda games is fundamental, but on the plus side it's easily fixed.
Skyward Sword had moments of brilliance--moments that felt truly free. It was an illusion, though, and really you were just being led by the nose through a series of very specific tasks. Believe it or not, I enjoyed some moments of Twilight Princess, but all too often the game added barriers where none were needed. The franchise is in need of a "return to roots." It can still feature the brilliant, fun puzzles which characterize the newer games (I love Lakebed Temple in TP and Lanayru Mines in SS, for example, and would change nothing about them), but these should be packaged in a better adventure.
It's essential that Zelda WiiU fix the fundamental problems of pacing
, and, optionally, linearity
. I'll buy the game regardless, but I doubt I'll want to play it more than once if they don't fix these problems. Everything else is secondary, though I maintain that presentation is important.