The Legend of Zelda series is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, and heading into the new year, the series is turning 30 years old, with the original Legend of Zelda coming out in 1986. Since then, the series has spawned 18 iterations and one spinoff game, with nine (10 if you count Hyrule Warriors) of the games appearing on home consoles. For the series’ 25th anniversary, Nintendo even launched a Zelda symphony, titled Symphony of the Goddesses. Now that Zelda is reaching its 30th year, many wonder what Nintendo has in store for Zelda, with several Zelda titles being set to release during the 2016 calendar year. Zelda has been in short supply these past few years with one spinoff release and two handheld releases in the last two years, one of which was the multiplayer-centric Tri Force Heroes. This year is showing a lot more promise though.
Although the game was delayed a full year, The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is set to launch sometime next year, presumably during the holidays. The game promises to be an open-world adventure with the freedom to explore to your heart’s content, which is something fans have been asking for for a very long time. As story is an important aspect of the franchise, which is evidenced by fans’ obsession with the Zelda timeline, it is almost a sure thing that it won’t neglect that aspect of the series. Link’s garb in the trailers also seems to resemble that of the Gerudo, who have been sparse in recent entries, so it would be welcome if they were incorporated into the Zelda mythos once again. As it is The Legend of Zelda’s 30th anniversary, I’m sure Nintendo has something incredibly special in store for us, as they did with Skyward Sword, which coincidentally came out on Zelda’s 25th anniversary.
The Legend of Zelda for Wii U isn’t the only Zelda game coming out next year though. A high definition version of Twilight Princess, Twilight Princess HD, is also being released in March, which is sure to hold fans over as they wait for the newest installment in the Zelda series. Twilight Princess originally launched alongside the Nintendo Wii and actually came out during the series’ 20th year. It was a smash hit and helped the Wii appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers alike. In fact, if you combine the Wii and GameCube sales of the title, it is the best selling Zelda game of all time (not counting remakes). Twilight Princess gave Zelda fans what they had wanted since the release of Ocarina of Time: a realistic-looking Zelda game with a large overworld and a dark, engrossing story.
It is only fitting that 10 years after its initial release that it will be remastered in high definition so that old and new fans alike can experience the title in its true glory. Twilight Princess was literally the reason why I bought a Wii, and with its developed characters and the greatest sidekick in Zelda history in Midna, I am ecstatic to be able to play it in high definition and experience it all over again. The game even comes with a Wolf Link amiibo which is compatible with both Twilight Princess HD and The Legend of Zelda for Wii U. Nintendo promises there will be added features to the game (Hero Mode anyone?) and hopefully the game also supports the Wii version’s motion controls, as those were simply so much fun to play with, especially shooting with the bow and arrow.
The third Zelda game to come out in Zelda’s 30th year is Hyrule Warriors Legends, a spinoff game from the main series, on the Nintendo 3DS. The game is the 3DS version of the Wii U game that came out in 2014 with additional characters and new plot points added, such as Linkle and Tetra’s stories. Hyrule Warriors is both a spinoff of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors, where it gets its hack and slash gameplay from. The game is is packed with content and is incredibly fun, although it is by no means the traditional Zelda experience. It takes most of the characters, locales, and all of the Zelda timelines and shoves them into one gigantic mashup full of fan service. The most intriguing aspect of Hyrule Warriors Legends are the inclusion of Linkle, the female equivalent of Link, and Tetra, who is revealed to be Princess Zelda in The Wind Waker. They both have their own stories in the game and Tetra’s is meant to be an epilogue of sorts to the original. While it may not be wise to release this in the same month as Twilight Princess HD (both games come out in March and may cut into each other’s sales), it is a wonderful addition to the franchise and makes it even more apparent that Nintendo is really trying to highlight Zelda’s 30th anniversary with at least three separate Zelda game releases.
While a proper Zelda console game hasn’t been released since 2011’s Skyward Sword, The Legend of Zelda for Wii U seems to be worth the wait with its promise of an open world and plenty of exploration, something that has been lacking in the series as of late. For its 30th year, Zelda is going back to its roots, although hopefully it still maintains the mythos that has made the series so popular over the years. Twilight Princess HD was a total surprise when it was announced, but it is a remaster of the highest selling Zelda game of all time and is somewhat of a bonus to fans during Zelda’s 30th anniversary. Hyrule Warriors Legends is an interesting title which should be tons of fun, even if it’s not on the same level as the other two home console titles. While for Mario’s 30th anniversary Nintendo simply released Super Mario Maker, which is an excellent game, they seem to be making 2016 all about Zelda and celebrating the franchise much like they did in 2011 when Skyward Sword was released. With so many Zelda titles coming out this year, and more surprises Nintendo may reveal in the coming months, 2016 is the year of Zelda. If next year is any indication, the future of the franchise is incredibly bright, and hopefully Nintendo can carry this into 2017 when the Nintendo NX is expected to launch.