[one_third]Fired out of a cannon into the Forsaken Fortress, Link has naught but his wits and a barrel to hide in to survive The Legend of Zelda’s best stealth section yet.[/one_third]
Complementing the barrel is Link’s new ability to pick up enemy weapons. This resourcefulness is another staple of stealth games, defined by Metal Gear Solid’s “Procure On-Site” mission parameters. Without his sword, Link must rely on the objects around him in order to succeed. Even his shield is put to good use – a successful block can knock a weapon out of the enemy’s hand and be turned against them. More esoterically, the barrel and scavenged weapons are picked up with the A button, while Link’s usual interaction with the world around him (hitting things with a sword) is placed on the B button. This segmentation reminds the player they’re no longer interacting with the world the way they usually do and positions the A button as the de facto stealth button.
The level design of The Forsaken Fortress both expands and refines the circular ring design of the Pirate Fortress in Majora’s Mask. While it was easy to get lost inside the Pirate Fortress, with its multitude of entry points and exits that looped back around themselves, the Forsaken Fortress is much easier to navigate. Should you ever get lost while looking for the remaining searchlights, you can simply head outside to a nearby balcony and look for any beams of light in the sky.
Bigger, more intimidating creatures can’t be fought without being thrown into a cell.
Turning off each searchlight requires dispatching the sentry guard, presenting a division of mechanics. The lesser, unshielded enemies of the fortress can be defeated using the piles of sticks located around the environment, but the bigger, more intimidating creatures can’t be fought without being thrown into a cell. While the separation is understandable, the lack of an all-encompassing attack available to the player has the unfortunate side effect of making this a “do it right or start over from the beginning” segment.
The jail cell Link is thrown into should he be discovered is a holdover from the cell in Gerudo Fortress, but this time it’s significantly harder to escape from. Not only is there a larger conglomerate of enemies in your way, but its actual location is inside the fortress itself. If you haven’t explored the area properly before getting caught, it can be momentarily disorientating trying to figure out where you need to go. While this is only effective once, it’s a marked improvement over the simple punishment of The Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.
What unravels all the hard work to make an engaging stealth section, unfortunately, is all the left over questions that pop up during play. Why don’t the guards notice when you’ve deactivated a searchlight? Why do they always throw you into the same jail cell every time you’re caught? Why don’t they increase the security and have more guards patrol the fortress knowing that an outsider is trying to get in? Ask yourselves the same questions whilst watching the stealth section in action below.
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While it’s unfair to hold an action adventure game to the standards of a true stealth title, there are natural ways to accommodate these questions without alienating your audience. With so many modern stealth games employing more and more action elements to their gameplay and giving the player opportunities to escape from minor mistakes, it’s not unreasonable to expect other genres to be less directorial with their implementation of stealth. Despite the black and white success of The Wind Waker’s stealth elements, however, what is there is simple and enjoyable. Link’s barrel can be just as entertaining as Snake’s cardboard box.