By Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
September 16, 2017

 
As we encroach upon the release date for Breath of the Wild’s final DLC pack, it begs the question, “Where to next?” The series has taken many twists and turns, not the least of which came earlier this year with the series’ first open-world structure in 3D, and it leaves us with a little mystery regarding the possibilities going forward. In a short series of articles sprinkled in with my normal writing, I will explore these and theorize what I believe could be on the horizon for our beloved series. In the following weeks I will explore what we might expect from a new title for Nintendo Switch, the prospect of a remake, and we begin this week with what I consider to be the most likely scenario, a new title for Nintendo 3DS.

Throughout series history, handheld games have often been in development concurrently to home console games, so the likelihood that a new game could release on the 3DS sooner rather than later is actually fairly high. The last title for a dedicated handheld was Tri-Force Heroes in 2015, following up the 2013 release of A Link Between Worlds. So if we saw another game this year, it would follow the same two year cycle. Though that is not necessarily set in stone, with this in mind a release next year is certainly a possibility, but this incites other questions regarding the game itself.

In order to expedite development, many assets were reused from A Link Between Worlds while crafting Tri-Force Heroes, and it was also co-developed by Grezzo, a company you may know better as the team behind the 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Would this be the case once again? I think the style was a little too hit-and-miss with fans to sell me on the idea of a third game being forged from the same assets, but again I do not deny its possibility. I think the engine and graphic styles could be reused, but without some sort of overhaul it might begin to feel stale after a third iteration. I think the easiest change that would grant the greatest benefit would be to change the style from a top-down 2.5 D to an over-the-shoulder true 3D game. The last two entries were effectively 3D games, using fully 3D textures and creating mechanics based off of a 3D world, but its presentation kept them from feeling 3D all the time. It does show off the power of the system, though, and I think a true 3D game would feel right at home.

With a change to a fully 3D game, is it wisest to reuse these old assets, however? It would allow the game to release more quickly… maybe. The changes they would have to make to allow for camera control, possibly with the New 3DS system’s C-Stick or motion controls, would complicate matters and extend development, as well as changes that would have to be made to the combat mechanics. The enemies from the past titles could simply be ported over, but combat in some cases might be more awkward as foes were initially designed with the perspective in mind. Many would have to see a complete reworking or replacement in order to fully take advantage of the perspective, so I do not see this coming either.

I just cannot get over the idea that a true 3D Zelda could come to 3DS, though. Honestly it is what I have desired since Ocarina of Time 3D proved that the system is more than capable of running one, yet this potential has remained unexplored. If Nintendo does decide to create a new game as such, I believe it will be a brand new engine and overall game experience. This would mean a much longer development cycle. At that point, I believe the developers would prefer to take such a hefty project on for Switch rather than 3DS, so in this case my dreams are merely that.

Returning to the possibility of a 2D title, I still consider reusing the Link Between Worlds engine out of the question. Despite what I think of 2D games, I believe there is still some marketability from them, but only for as long as Nintendo keeps the 3DS relevant, and honestly, if it has the Zelda logo on the box, I’m going to buy it. My problem with this is that my love for Nintendo 3DS is waning. The last time I was excited for a game on the console was Fire Emblem Echoes, and while the game was incredible, it could not steer my attention away from my Switch. After I finish writing and editing tonight, I am going to begin Metroid: Samus Returns, and I fear that I may experience this again, and my worst fear is that this would be the case with a Zelda game. If I had a 2D Zelda that I did not want to play because I could play Breath of the Wild instead, it would break my heart. I think any game in my favorite series deserves its time in the sun, and I am going to be playing Breath of the Wild regularly for quite a long time, so I hold on to this paranoia that a great game could be overshadowed by one that is just a little better simply because of my style and console preference.

In the end, I believe we will see one more Zelda title before the 3DS passes the mantle, and I believe it will be a 2D or 2.5D style as we have seen. This is the most likely outcome, and could extend the lifespan of the console by another year. If this is the case, I will buy it, but man do I want it on Switch instead. What about you? Would you rather see a new game for 3DS or Switch? Am I way off base and will the 3DS outsell the Switch in the next few years because of the massive success of Tri-Force Heroes 2? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter and we can keep the conversation driving.