[one_third]Our stealth compendium for The Legend of Zelda series begins here. Check back each day for a new entry![/one_third]
I awoke in a small, confined prison cell, stripped of my gear, and with, at least from what I could see, no visible way in which to escape. The repetitious tinging sound of my depleted heart bar only served to exacerbate my problem. I was stuck, and none of my abilities could seemingly get me out of this situation, so I waited. Moments later, right on cue, a Mogma popped out of the ground and gave me the much needed tool in which I could escape. Free of the thick metal bars looming over my thoughts, and feeling the dreadful sensation of what was about to come next rising in my chest, I set out down the nearest corridor to face Link’s most dreaded enemy in any Zelda experience – the forced stealth section.
Stealth-based gameplay in a Zelda game has always come about due to a narrative concern more-so than a gameplay one. Nintendo has never approached Zelda as stealth-based games because they aren’t, but the segregated stealth sequences that pop up throughout the franchise are still an important part of the experience.
They ask you to develop a different set of abilities and challenge Link to approach a part of his adventure in a different way. They’re a natural part of Link’s transformation from a boy to a man, and Nintendo’s decision to more often than not include them at the beginning of the adventure accurately depicts Link’s fragility as a child. In this way, Nintendo’s ever changing approach to stealth mechanics from sequel to sequel mirrors Link’s adventure from a child to an adult.
The stealth section, after making a brief appearance in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, became a recognisable and necessary evil in the design of modern Zelda games. The Ocarina of Time introduced the mechanic early on by forcing the player, and little Link, to secretly bypass the guards of Hyrule Castle on the way to Princess Zelda. Later on, a much more interesting and subversive take on stealth gameplay reveals itself when Link is asked to infiltrate Gerudo’s Fortress in order to rescue some foolish carpenters.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask had two small but inspired stealth-like moments in the game and displayed Nintendo’s growing maturation and fascination with including disparate gameplay styles in the Zelda formula. The first takes place during Link’s travels in the Deku Palace and employs subterfuge alongside the traditional line of sight mechanic introduced in The Ocarina of Time. Outside of the Deku Palace, The Pirate Fortress stands as a more complicated labyrinth of stealth and classic Zelda puzzles. it’s only through judicious use of the bow and arrow and careful observation of the enemy movement patterns that will find you success…
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker displays Nintendo’s most developed form of stealth gameplay, and is most likely going to be the most complicated we’re going to get out of the franchise. Early on in the game’s beginnings, Link is shot into The Forsaken Fortress and loses his sword in the process…
Nintendo, clearly listening to fan and critical complaint, all but avoided a stealth section in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It wasn’t until Skyward Sword that it reappeared in a console-based Zelda title. Skyward Sword’s addition to the formula was built around the concept of Link slowly taking back the weaponry stolen from him piece by piece, instead of receiving everything in a lump sum inside of a treasure chest.
The enforced stealth mission in Zelda has been criticised from its inception. Almost all of the complaints focus on the awkward transition from an action adventure to a strange stealth amalgamation that can’t quite match the design of a true stealth game. We should try and foster an environment where developers are called out on designing poor gameplay moments in between excellent ones, and Nintendo has more than enough clout to develop a competent stealth game if they put their mind to it, but Nintendo’s decision to have a reoccurring stealth segment in Zelda is an admirable one.
It adds more characterisation to Link’s journey from a boy to a man and forces him to engage with the world beyond simple physical strength. It develops his mind, his senses, and his intellect and ultimately gives him the skills needed to best the villain at the very end of his journey. It’s an important part of his journey. All we need for the stealth sequence to work as players is gameplay depth to match Link’s own personal growth.