By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
Nintendo’s mobile game lineup is in full swing now, with four games already available. Now that we’ve seen mobile games from core franchises like Mario and Fire Emblem, it’s impossible not to speculate on what mobile spin-offs Nintendo has in store. Besides the inevitable Punch Out that plays like Infinity Blade (and if that isn’t in the works, it should be!), I think most Nintendo fans are most excited for Zelda to make its first appearance on mobile platforms. But the question is, what would a mobile Zelda game look like?
I think it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t expect a full-fledged, epic Zelda adventure along the lines of A Link Between Worlds, even though the pair of DS installments–Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks–already have gameplay mechanics built around touchscreen controls and could make the transition to smartphones nicely in that respect. The reality is that Nintendo just wouldn’t put that much money and effort into a mobile Zelda game, at least unless they’re planning to charge 30-40 bucks for it (which would go over about as well as Wand of Gamelon).
So here’s my idea: build the mobile Zelda game around the Groundhog Day-esque conceit of Majora’s Mask. For starters, it would be a great way to stretch out a limited amount of assets, just like Nintendo did with Majora’s Mask to begin with. Having what amounts to a 2-3 hour game that only takes place in a relatively small area would allow Nintendo to build a decent-looking world and not have to skimp on that aspect of it, but they also wouldn’t have to worry about building a lot of it. Having the gameplay revolve around a small chunk of time that is repeated over and over would also give them the excuse to have a game that you can’t ever really play for 8 or 9 hour stretches, so no worrying about people getting burnt out on playing a game on their phones for that long (not to mention battery life lasting that long).
As far as the day that repeats in the game, it could simply mirror an actual real-life day. Like many mobile games, where there is only so much to “do” on a given day and you have to wait until the next day, a setup where you are replaying the same day over and over would fit perfectly with that kind of foundation. To take that a step further, the game could even be free-to-play, much like Fire Emblem. People would have a fair amount to do within a fictional day for free, and if they exhausted all of that, they could have the option to pay to fast forward to the next in-game day. Yes, I know, I ought to be ashamed of myself for putting microtransactions into this dream game design doc. But let’s be realistic: That’s what people expect now in the mobile space, games that they can mostly play the bare minimum of for free and only pay if they want “more.” Look at all the people who complained about Super Mario Run being $10, and how the free portion didn’t offer enough gameplay. It leads me to believe that people expect Nintendo mobile games to be free to play, and with what I am suggesting, we’d have that with the mobile Zelda game, while still giving people plenty to do for free.
There is a lot more detail I could go into with this, but I don’t want to get too mired down in this. Anyone who read my treatment idea for my Tenchu reboot knows I tend to get a bit wordy when I start fantasizing about my dream game. Plus, I’d like to open the discussion to you guys, either helping me expand on the idea I’ve touched upon here, or tell me it’s stupid and give me your own from-scratch idea. Either way, I’ll show it to Nintendo, and they will almost certainly make the exact game that we design. Almost certainly…