As Nintendo forewarned, “Zelda U” was absent from this year’s Digital Event and E3 show floor. Disappointing, of course, but we all had time to brace ourselves prior to the presentation. Still, one has to wonder; why was the game excluded from this year’s E3 when it was given substantial coverage during last year’s E3 and the Game Awards presentation? It isn’t in a situation like The Wind Waker faced on the GameCube, where backlash from fans inspired Mr. Miyamoto to keep the game under wraps until it was made available for the public to play. In fact, Zelda U was consistently listed on online publication’s “Most Anticipated Games of 2015” lists for editors and readers prior to its announced delay into 2016. Whispers of a truly open-world, Skyrim-like Zelda finally being developed floated on the digital stream that is the internet, generating a palpable amount of elation from fans. We were excited to see the game, Miyamoto and Aonuma were excited to show off the game…what happened?
According to Aonuma, the team had discovered “several new possibilities” for Zelda U, and thus decided to alter their target release date and shift priorities accordingly. That’s all well and good, but why decline to show any more footage? Perhaps the game has changed so drastically that they have no proper footage to show…? A reasonable explanation, until we hear this from Miyamoto following the Digital Event:
“My thing with E3 is that we always focus on what’s coming out in the immediate future. We have some really great Zelda footage and, at some point we will be showing that off, but not today.”
So there’s definitely Zelda footage waiting to be shown. The question is, what exactly is Nintendo waiting for? Unfortunately, Miyamoto’s claim that they don’t like to focus on content that isn’t coming in the immediate future is moot when you consider how many games (including Zelda U) were announced and/or shown off during 2014’s E3 Digital Event and have yet to be released. There’s definitely something peculiar going on with Zelda U being kept under wraps for now, and I’m disinclined to buy into Reggie and Miyamoto’s claims it’s simply because Zelda U is not coming in “the immediate future.” There’s no way to know for sure what’s keeping the lid on Zelda U until Nintendo breaks its silence, but there are those of us with theories. Others and myself have speculated that Zelda U may find itself in the same situation as Twilight Princess did in 2004-2005, and might wind up being one Nintendo system’s swan song and another’s opening track. Zelda U could very well become Zelda NX, and that is not a bad thing at all.
This scenario is not difficult to imagine when you consider what happened during Twilight Princess’ development: In 2004, the Zelda team released footage of Twilight Princess on the GameCube at E3 and scheduled the game for release the following year. However, the game was transitioned to the Wii during the course of its development in order to take advantage of the new console’s motion controls. Because of this transition, the game’s projected release date of 2005 was pushed to 2006. The GameCube version’s development continued and it was released about a month after the Wii version. Now consider what has happened during the course of Zelda U’s development: Initially announced in 2014 at E3 and scheduled for a 2015 release, Zelda U is now projected for 2016 and no new footage has been seen since December. Ask yourself again “why haven’t we seen anything?” If it’s in the same situation as Twilight Princess, it’s because the NX has not been officially unveiled and Nintendo doesn’t want to show any footage until they’re ready to show off the mysterious platform. When Twilight Princess was being transitioned to the Wii, the console was still code-named “The Revolution” and no official details emerged regarding its version of Twilight Princess until the Wii was revealed. If Zelda U is indeed being brought to the NX, we likely won’t be seeing any solid footage of the game until the NX makes its official appearance.
Assuming this scenario turns out to be a reality, the latest Zelda would likely launch on the Wii U simultaneously or soon after the NX version, as was the case with Twilight Princess. Perhaps a month’s delay is something to wince at, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay when you consider that Nintendo kept its promise and delivered a great game on a system that was headed out the door. Speaking of…
The GameCube was a commercial flop for Nintendo, and the Wii was their chance for redemption. Sound familiar? As great a console as the Wii U is, it’s undoubtedly going down in video game history as a massive disappointment. It has not sold well at all compared to its Sony and Microsoft counterparts, and most certainly has not risen to the dizzying heights of the Wii. In fact, the Wii U looks to fall short of the final sales of the GameCube. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well at all for Zelda if it remains a Wii U exclusive. Once again, consider the history of the Zelda franchise: Though the Wii version of Twilight Princess is among the best-selling in the franchise, the GameCube version sold abysmally. The Wind Waker also didn’t post very impressive numbers either when compared to heavy hitters like Ocarina of Time and the Wii’s Twilight Princess. Skyward Sword released at the end of the Wii’s lifespan, and it also posted disappointing numbers (especially when you consider how many millions of Wii’s had been sold at that point in time). In the face of the NX’s inevitable reveal next year, releasing Zelda exclusively on the struggling Wii U would all but guarantee dismal sales.
Because of this, it makes the a lot of sense for Nintendo to bring the next Zelda to the NX, as some of us suspect is already the case. It did wonders for the Twilight Princess, which is the second best-selling game in the franchise (only one which game is number one). It would also be an excellent first step for the NX as it attempts to make up the ground lost during the last three years. Having a Zelda game available at its launch could be big news for the NX, as it would encourage the core Nintendo audience to invest at the start. After three years of putting up with the Wii U’s snail-pace software release schedule and only three or four essential titles, you can bet your green skirt I’D be on board to buy an NX.
As for the Wii U…we’ve had some good times old buddy, but it’s time for bed. Based on what we’ve seen in the last few months, support for the poor console will reach an all-time low between now and the end of the year. In terms of heavy-hitting First Party titles, we only have two or three buzz-worthy games on the horizon if you include Zelda U. Even if Miyamoto and Reggie are being genuine when they say they aren’t focused on future titles, it’s hard to believe that they have any exciting unannounced news regarding the Wii U left to reveal. If they do, the reasoning for keeping it hidden completely escapes me. No, I believe Nintendo has done all it’s going to do with the console, and Zelda U will truly be it’s last hurrah. It’s clear that Nintendo is ready to move on, and we ought to be as well. Frankly, I think it’s more depressing watching the Wii U drown than it would be to say goodbye to the system.
Remember folks, this is all opinion and speculation. It’s also just as possible that Zelda U will not release on the NX and remain a Wii U exclusive. To use the most enduring and accurate cliche in the history of cliches; only time will tell.