For today’s exorcise, i’m going to take a look at one of my favourite games, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Gameboy, and see how i can spin it into darker territories. This is a game very close to my heart and one i’ve clocked truly obscene amounts of hours playing, replaying, toying with to understand its secrets. I even wrote a guide for it that was on gamefaqs for a while, that’s how into this game i was. As i lay in hot water my mind went drifting through survival horror mechanics and i found that the genre would suit the game rather well, or at least adapt itself to the different tone well. Sure it isn’t usual Zelda fare, but the series could do with some diversity in the way it goes about reusing the IP. They can’t all be green tunic'ed and happy. Bring on the darkness.
To start out I'm going to be gutting a lot of conventions of the series, starting with the notion that Link can take on everything on the island, so long as he visits all the dungeons and has the specific items. there are going to be enemies that can't be killed, a series no-no (outside of plot and NPCs). The tools and weapons that link collects won't be the standard fare. there will be a sword, but it won't be until after a dungeon or two. there'll be a starting knife, but I'll get to that. combat, one of the staples of the Zelda franchise, is going to be present, but not until Link learns how to survive. run and live, then learn how to fight.
For those who haven't yet Wiki'd the game, or who don't know what I'm talking about, here and here. with that stated, not that it matters with such an old game, but spoilers and plot and all that will be rent asunder. you are duly warned. moving on.
the real kicker is that the basic premise of the game would remain largely unchanged. Link is on sea in his little dingy of a vessel, a storm hits, his boat gets struck by lighting, and he's tossed into the ocean. he drifts ashore onto a beach of Koholint and a young girl named Marin takes him home to the local village and nurses him back to health. upon his waking, he embarks on a quest to escape the island. Adventure Ho!
Flicking the switch On
so right off the bat a few things happen which bear mentioning. the intro cinema takes about 50 seconds to get get to the title splash and pretty much tells us all we need to know. boat on the ocean, storm, glimpse of a rendered character (oh yeah that'd change, definitely), wreck, sprite lying unconscious on beach, Marin walks up, prods him, the shot pans up to the egg on the mountain which is the title backdrop, bang title splash and the musics been following the pan up, jumping into the melody when the title splash hits. I'll keep it all save the rendered Link. less is more and the picture never really was close to the Link i pictured. a silhouette would get the job done and keep that mystique. i think it was the round nose that i disliked. Euch. the palm beach might be darkened some, but it's not a big deal.
the music though, would have to change. i love the music for this game, but it's very catchy, upbeat and hopeful, which isn't the mood to convey. keep the Zelda melody, but play it down something fierce. somber lead in, not optimistic. this isn't a story with a happy ending, but it's an ending that Link has to work towards regardless. what that ending is though, I'll get to at a later time. suffice to say that the entire score would be calmed down, and depressed: darker moods and sombre renditions.
the requisite stripping of all items, health, spells, abilities, etc from previous titles happens during the storm, and this works well from both the standpoint of a weaker Link, a good element of horror, as well as providing him a chance to find new items (which of course goes mostly unused 'cause this is a Zelda game, and too much change frightens off the fan base). next, Link wakes up in a house with a young woman standing over him and her uncle barring the way outside until you say hi and get your shield from him. this set up's going to change a bit:
Link wakes up and sees the meager shack around him. near above him a young lady looks eagerly on as he stirs. outside, dusk is setting on. pulling himself up, the young lady startles at his movement and rushes to introduce herself and his current situation. he was found washed ashore and was hurriedly dragged back to the village. it was a miracle that he was alive when she found him because... Link doesn't find out as Marin's introduction is interrupted by her uncle, sitting near the table on the other side of the room. pulling himself to his feet, link goes and introduces himself to Tarin, Marin's uncle, who tells him to rest up, and that he shouldn't be going out at night, especially with injuries. Link crawls back into bed and the night wears on. he sleeps to rise the next morning.the tone is darker and the dread that Link was a lucky find and could just have easily died lying on the sandy beach adds more dread still. something else to notice is the distinct lack of shield. Tarin
Something that I'm adding to the mechanics that isn't really necessary is a day/night cycle. this will allow for a light mechanic to be implemented at various points and will make all the safe havens that much safer. every town and gathering of NPCs will be bathed in light, regardless of time. during the day the island will keep it's usual colouring (or lack there of, this being a game before colours, when the pixel mix was what gave shading), while during the night, darkness is prevalent, holes are that much more easier to fall into, and navigating the island will be that much more treacherous.
This set up also introduces another mechanic: monster attraction when damaged, more commonly thought of as 'blood in the water.' when Link is below full health (2.5/3 - .5/3), bleeding for reference sake, monsters are drawn to him. they can smell him out (as dialogue with townsfolk will tell him). when he is full health he an stealth by monsters, unless he bumps into them, but otherwise, he's going to have to run, negotiating new terrain and level s quickly, with monsters on his heals. this makes finding a weapon or a defense that much more important and adds the not often used Zelda stealth mechanic (run by, run by when distracted or turned away, distract, then run by, hide wait then run by) without much more added coding. upon shifting into a screen containing a foe, if Link is bleeding, monsters sniff once, maybe twice, then come after him, switching their coded paths from default to pursuit, as they do when Link starts to attack them.
Part II kicks off with link actually getting up and about, players getting a feel for the game play and the beginning of tiers upon tiers of objectives. all that and more, coming up.