Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s live player shadows could finally make Zelda multiplayer viable
Super Mario Bros. Wonder has had its first weekend out, and everyone has been sharing their fun with it. Whether it’s the Wonder Flower effects, challenging stages or even just the noises the HD rumble makes when you move over a note block – it’s been a delight.
One part of the game that has started to shine, especially now with the public release, is the game’s online integration of Live Player Shadows. This is where other random players join you in stages; however, you can see them only as ghosts. Even as ghosts, these players can still help revive you and leave a marker for a point of interest or quasi-checkpoint. More importantly, people have been working together to get through challenging stages, waiting for players in precarious positions and even waiting near secrets to help people discover hidden items.
During the review phase of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, we could play the game with this online mode enabled. However, it only sometimes did it feel like you were playing with another person – either that or every other reviewer out there was just selfish and smashing through stages. With more people having the game now, it’s become clear that this new feature is one of the best parts of the game. It makes you feel like you’re playing as part of a community, and people have your back. Not everyone is perfect; some people don’t put standees down to help you but will use yours to revive themselves when they take a short jump off a long pier.
For how great this mode is in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, there’s another game where it could be even better, and it might finally solve a problem Nintendo’s had with a particular franchise and getting it multiplayer.
The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda isn’t known to be a multiplayer franchise, but Nintendo has tried to make Zelda multiplayer in the past with varying levels of success. Multiplayer Zelda titles have always been good, but the cost or the complexity of entry has always been challenging.
The original attempt was included with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past + Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance. You, however, needed four Game Boy Advance consoles, four copies of the game and link cables for everyone. Four Swords Adventures on the GameCube could be played single-player with a controller, but to get the whole experience, you needed four Game Boy Advances and link cables for all players. Luckily, you already bought all that to play the original Four Swords, right?
Eventually, Four Swords was re-released as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition on DSi Ware and the 3DS. It was released only in two small windows in 2012 and 2014. Good luck playing that now.
In the twilight of the Nintendo 3DS, we got Nintendo’s last great attempt at Zelda multiplayer Tri Force Heroes. People will defend this game to the end of the time, and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t easy to play. At least only some people needed a copy this time around, as Download Play was available. It was also online-enabled, but if someone disconnected, the whole room got booted, and it was just generally clunky.
So what can Nintendo do now to make a multiplayer Zelda? How about not making one at all – at least not one like they have in the past?
Nintendo has a problem following up on Tears of the Kingdom. They’ve already milked that Hyrule for all it’s got. We’ve also not got a 2D Zelda for a long time, the last being a remake of Link’s Awakening. We can’t only have an epic Tears of the Kingdom or Breath of the Wild type game every seven years, and that would be the only Zelda out there. We also can’t return to just 2D Zelda’s in the same old formula, so it’s time to mix it up.
After seeing how wonderful (sorry, I had to sneak one in) the online mode in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is, it’s clear to me that this is what should happen with a smaller-scale Zelda game.
It’s time for a more puzzle-based The Legend of Zelda, which one person can enjoy but also at the same time weave into it the Live Player Shadows. The whole checkpointing and dropping items to help people would be fun, but assisting people to solve puzzles by showing them what to do and taking on dungeons and waves of enemies would also be fantastic. All this with people you don’t know. You don’t have to set a time to play with them and can drop in and out at any time, and someone will be there to have your back. Sure, you could have, as Wonder does, a separate setup to organise games and play together with friends.
There’s one stage in Super Mario Bros. Wonder that I spent a couple of hours yesterday trying to complete. I can’t tell which one it was because it’s a spoiler, but it wasn’t easy. However, I had a random Blue Toad and Green Yoshi work through this complex level together. We dropped standees to return and respawn and try these tricky sections together. We revived each other in the middle of the stage, and Green Yoshi even stood by and acted as a helper in one tough spot and let everyone use him as a revival buffer. When we all had made it, he moved on – clearly better than me and anyone else in the room. I’ll never know who these people were or be able to thank them more than the smiley I gave using the in-game UI – but it gave me an experience I never thought I could have in a Mario game without three other people on the couch with me.
Nintendo shouldn’t just go and dump live player shadows into every game, but in The Legend of Zelda, it’d make perfect sense. I’m happy to wait seven years for another epic Tears of the Kingdom-type Zelda, but a smaller fix of something unique before, with the creativity and online modes of Wonder, would be fantastic.
I mean, otherwise you could just finally release The Winder Waker HD on Switch.