Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Simple Storytelling in The Legend of Zelda

I love the Legend of Zelda games.  They are similar enough to make me feel nostalgic, yet always offer something new.  We've been playing the latest, Skyward Sword, over the last few months and it has been no exception.  The funny thing is, I'm actually not the one playing it.  Yet I am still enthralled despite the fact that the story is highly linear and non-interactive.

When I watched L.A. Noire, I really enjoyed it as well, despite it also having a linear story.  But in that case, the story pretty much was the game.  It played more like a movie.  In Zelda, I don't feel like this is the case.  The stories are fun in Zelda games, but usually fairly simple and formulaic.  And when a few dialog options are thrown in? It seems that no matter what you choose, the result is the same other than a very short response.  Even L.A. Noire offered more variety in that regard.

It was when we were working through the Lanayru Mines that I realized why I enjoyed this Zelda game so much.  It wasn't about the embedded narrative but the atmosphere of the story world that had me hooked.

In this area of the game, Link is able to flip back and forth between the past and present.  The present has slower, more desolate music, while the past's tunes are more jovial and upbeat.  The scenery changes similarly, and several gameplay mechanics are only available in the past.  Many characters that are piles of abandoned scrap today spring to life when the land they occupy is switched to the past.  The attention to detail and the interesting surroundings convinced me there was a rich story world without more than a few sentences of dialog.

My enjoyment of this game has really proven to me how little it takes to provide a compelling storytelling experience.  It reinforces my earlier thoughts on our field needing creative breakthroughs in the near term rather than technical ones.  It is also making me ponder how important or useful simple storytelling might be in educational games, and how an effective story world might look.


Limor said...

This reads like a personal experience of searching and that's why I find it compelling in the frameworks of storytelling and technology. It really does take more creativity than technology since storytelling stands very well without tech. Thanks for a simple and engaging read.

Kim Wilkens said...

My son is a bit of a Zelda fanatic, but what he especially loves is the music. I think that's a big part of the appeal and really helps set the tone for the story. Plus, taken as a whole the entire storyline with all its time shifting is pretty fascinating.

Gail Carmichael said...

Limor, glad you enjoyed it!

Kim, yes!! The music! It's so good. I actually just remembered the game came with a music disc as well - I should go pull that out and listen.

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