Nintendo highlighted a bunch of upcoming indie titles at GDC 2019 in its Nindies Showcase. One of the most surprising titles announced is called Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer feat. The Legend of Zelda. Not only is it surprising because it has a title so long that I’ve already made good strides towards my wordcount for this article, but also because The Legend of Zelda isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of indies. The game’s looking great, and it makes me think of all the other times Nintendo has taken the risk of trusting its previous IPs to third party developers. I think it should do that more.
Cadence of Hyrule appears to be a fresh new take on The Legend of Zelda, yet looks like a perfect match both in terms of gameplay and aesthetic. The game will see its characters traversing Hyrule, complete with familiar items, through rhythm-based gameplay. The iconic The Legend of Zelda soundtracks are already a huge part of the games but engaging with them directly could be impressive.
Of course, other companies have had their shot at The Legend of Zelda, and they’ve done a pretty good job. For a long while, Capcom was the only other company that touched the franchise. During its time, Capcom produced The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Each of these games had novel mechanics and felt like proper LOZ titles. I loved them. I also love Hyrule Warriors, which was made by Team Ninja and justified getting a couple different releases.
It’s worth noting that Hyrule Warriors wasn’t Team Ninja’s first project for Nintendo, either. It was the developer who made Metroid: Other M for the Nintendo Wii. Critically speaking, this game was also a success and, personally speaking, felt like a good fit for the since neglected Metroid franchise. Also worth noting is that the community didn’t overwhelmingly enjoy this game, largely criticizing its control scheme. That hasn’t stopped fans from wanting more Metroid and it doesn’t seem to have damaged Nintendo’s property, so it would appear that Nintendo is safe enough to take these risks.
Good things happen when Nintendo shares its IPs. Hudson Soft had been producing great games for them for decades. Mario Party, for example, remains a popular game series, although it is perhaps past its prime. Super Mario RPG was made by the Final Fantasy folks at Squaresoft and helped kick off the Paper Mario series. It remains an amazing experience to this day.
Nintendo is decidedly careful with things like this, though. Perhaps more careful than it needs to be. The Wonderful 101 is a wonderful game for the Wii U that was originally supposed to have a cast of famous Nintendo characters. Supposedly, Nintendo decided that it no longer wanted to go in that direction, once it saw what Platinum Games was working on. According to SaveContinue, Hideki Kamiya said in a PAX Prime panel that the offending image had Mario walking across a bridge built of other Nintendo characters. For a company that is known for doing weird stuff, this seems like a strange place to draw the line.
I hope Nintendo trusts more developers with its properties. It would be nice to see some fresh perspectives on these old characters. The iconic characters are some of the biggest draws to the company's consoles, so it likely couldn’t hurt if gamers had a larger library to choose from. It’s not like I don’t understand quality control, though; a slew of bad LOZ games could render gamers hesitant when it comes to purchasing future titles. But, with a good amount of oversight and a degree of trust, we might one day see Kirby, Yoshi, and Samus get up to even crazier adventures in the future.