The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake of the original 1993 game is set to release later this year, and a teaser video shown at E3 gave players a peek into what could potentially be a fantastic addition to the game: The ability to create their own dungeons, though in what appeared to be a limited, simple way.
Super Mario Maker, meanwhile, has laid the groundwork for such a project to be feasible, and with the hype surrounding the upcoming Super Mario Maker 2, there is a strong case to be made for its creation, as well as some caveats as to why it would not be as feasible an idea.
What is Super Mario Maker, and Why Does It Matter To Link's Awakening?
For the unfamiliar, Super Mario Maker was a side-scrolling platform game released onto the Wii U in 2015 that allowed players to create, play, and share their own custom-made courses based on assets from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U.
The development and launch of the original Super Mario Maker for the Wii U was bittersweet, for although the reception was outstanding from a critical standpoint, its success was marred by the overall commercial failings of the Wii U console.
Its sequel, Super Mario Maker 2 is bound to be a runaway success on the Nintendo Switch, which is considerably more successful and shows no signs of slowing down. So how does this relate to the Zelda series?
Like the Super Mario series, the Zelda series has decades worth of material to pull from, with games released on every major Nintendo platform since its inception. The classic top-down view of the game is familiar to veterans and new players alike, and so the idea of a dungeon maker does not seem so far-fetched. The questions that arise from this are numerous, but mainly we should consider if there is a large enough market for Nintendo to justify the costs of developing into a reality, and how this could be implemented in a way that is balanced between easy-to-use and creatively complex.
Creating Video Game Levels - How Hard Can It Be?
The Super Mario Maker concept appeals to a broad audience, as anyone can pick up the game and begin adding assets from left to right until they reach an end. This makes the creation tool easy to pick up and nearly impossible to master. The following video is a brief guide on how to make a well-balanced level and overall serves as a guide into the creation of levels for Super Mario.
Meanwhile, the potential for sheer madness becomes apparent in this next video that highlights some of the most difficult and cleverly designed levels. All of these are beatable, but they turn Super Mario into a nightmare from Dark Souls.
The problem for a Zelda maker lies in this "easy to learn but hard to master" element. While Super Mario Bros. has only the objective of moving from left to right until the course ends, dungeons within the Zelda universe are literal puzzles meant to frustrate the player and reward them after solving its various parts. In this way, the appeal is likely to be far more niche and Super Mario Maker 2.
The Potential For User-Made Puzzles, Dungeons, And Stories Is Incredible
On the other hand, if Nintendo were to release a full dungeon creator, and perhaps a few more tools, there is no doubt that we would see some stellar user-created content, and even some amateur expansion packs. Such is the case when modification (mod) tools are made available for games such as The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim.
There is another series of popular creation tool available on Steam known as the RPG Maker series, which as the name implies, provides a number of tools and assets to create one’s own game that can be ported onto PC and smartphones. The programs offer a simplistic way to create one’s own game with those premade assets, similar to what Nintendo is doing with Super Mario Maker 2, but a broad range of design possibilities.
Users need to learn how to establish scene transitions, make their own maps and towns, and how to trigger events for dialogue, choices, combat, and more. If players had the opportunity to create anything of that scale within the Zelda series, it would open the potential to some spectacular user creations, as we have seen done for Super Mario Maker.
With that in mind, the likelihood of a creation tool seems to diminish with the amount of freedom granted. This is because Nintendo is notorious for carefully guarding its IPs and releasing any amount of that control is unlikely. Still, that has not stopped creative players in making their own unauthorized content in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
By using an emulator, players can access the game on their PCs and from there work towards creating their own content. Some projects online show custom made dungeons, while this mod below gained popularity quickly for showing the potential for the game to be played entirely from a first-person perspective:
This of course is precisely what Nintendo does not permit officially, however it must be noted that Super Mario Maker and its sequel may be the starting points from which we look back upon far into the future if we do finally see a creation tool launched for the Zelda series. Much like Skyrim and Oblivion, what does Nintendo have to lose in giving its most devote players an opportunity to create?
At worst, the audience may be smaller than for Super Mario Maker 2, but the potential would exist for some outstanding user content to emerge for others to download and experience.
Super Mario Maker 2 launches on the Nintendo Switch on June 28, 2019.