Zelda: Twilight Princess – Nintendo-fying Stolen Mechanics

July 7th, 2009

Carrying on from my previous comments on the weight of creativity in Zelda: Twilight Princess, another way that Nintendo can continue to foster creativity with the next potential Zelda is to Nintendo-fy the innovations of others – not just steal, but reinvent and adapt. Let’s say that the next Zelda is a sequel to Twilight Princess and adopts a mostly similar framework, innovating through content instead of changing the foundations of the series – which seems to be the case. For this sequel to not be derivative of the previous game (which was itself mostly derivative of prior games) Nintendo would need to inject a stream of constantly innovative ideas. Even for the mighty Nintendo, being wholly innovative in such a way is no easy task, so why not adopt the ideas and mechanics of other games and re-jig it for your own?

Nintendo successfully did so with stealth sections in Zelda: Wind Waker. The whole adaption was one big spoof of Metal Gear and for players in on the joke it was a great joy to see the two styles collide. Besides the referential humour, the actual play mechanics felt similar yet given a whole new interpretation – one of the many fruits of the game.

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Such a technique is used (and often buggered up) by western developers all the time, I think that Nintendo could craft a lot of success but exercising this technique a little more in their next title (if it were to be more-of-the same vein to TP). The trick is to understand the way the borrowed mechanics are ‘fun’ and then draw on that in a manner that is relevant to your own game. Liberally copy and pasting almost always results in a big failure because of the different contexts. Most western developers fail at understanding how the mechanic creates ‘fun’ and hence fail to reapply it properly to their own game, hence we call it stealing rather than a softener word like borrowing. Nintendo usually have have a firm grasp on their properties and what makes them enjoyable so that ought to capitalize on this technique some and see how it works for them.