by Carlos Gomez (aka The Lost Hylian)
Carlos explores the possibilities of technology's presence within the Zelda series.
Note: This article may have spoilers spanning the entire Zelda series.
Like many of you, I have been enveloped in Tears of the Kingdom’s (TotK) portrayal of Hyrule. I have climbed the highest tip of the Sky Islands and explored the deepest point of the subterranean Depths. It was on one such adventure as I was interacting with a Steward Construct that I realized how different the newest titles in the series had become.
Breath of the Wild (BotW) and then TotK were lauded as gaming masterpieces, much like Ocarina of Time (OoT) and A Link to the Past (ALttP) before them. OoT is as different from ALttP as BotW is from Skyward Sword. This makes me wonder … is this series high fantasy or sci-fi?
Some might argue that it has gone full circle with the Switch editions calling back to the original’s openness and “do as thou wilt” approach. Some have said that BotW departed so far from the likes of OoT that it didn’t feel like a Zelda game at all as it lacked true dungeons.
All perspectives seem to have a grain of truth as to what makes a Zelda game feel like “Zelda,” which may be different to all of us. I know I found BotW to feel a little empty, and some now say TotK has too much. Some love Toon Link, and some think that he is too “kiddish.”
Disagreements on those differences are easily found in chat forums across the web, yet there is another change that has been happening more and more in the series. So often, in fact, that this once novelty has now become the driving factor of the game. It’s the reason why I wonder if Zelda is a high fantasy or sci-fi game.
The first true iteration of technology that I can recall would be the Beamos, which premiered in ALttP. You may remember that it has a searching eye that shoots light beams directly at you once you are seen. For me as a child, it seemed to be a cross between a machine and a living creature. I would argue that the interpretation could go either way as there is a similar villain known as the Stone Statue that shoots fireballs at Link in the original title, and it is surely not robotic. It wasn’t until Link’s Awakening that we really saw technology included in the game.
Link’s Awakening is a dream, which really allowed the development team to explore different technologies, from phone booths to a crane in the Trendy Shop (and even a photo of “Christine,” implying camera tech). At the time, these ideas were sort of shockers, yet now they would be considered tame.
As the series has progressed, we find automatic lifts, light bulbs, and grids that generate magnetic fields. We see steam-powered trains and boats. The Lanayru Mining Facility in Skyward Sword features flying Sentrobes, bouncing wind-triggered Armos, and, yes, robots.
This gradual build up over time in the series becomes fully realized in BotW with Sheikah tech, and it then explodes in its sequel with Zonai technology. The series now relies on rockets, bird-shaped planes, and vehicles with laser turrets to assist Link in his quest. This is a far cry from a wooden boomerang or bomb that are the staples of the original.
So, have they gone too far? Have they left the vision that Shigeru Miyamoto created for the series? From my perspective, no. The original The Legend of Zelda is supposed to be set in both the past and the far future, with the Triforce being computer chips. That idea was scrapped late in development–or so the story goes.
In a way, this means that the story has come full circle with future technologies being found in Hyrule’s far past. This lends to the question of what is next?
If the series is transitioning to more of a sci-fi feel, will we get a futuristic Zelda title in the series? I’m just saying that if Mario can explore the galaxy, why can’t Link?
Perhaps Link will live in an urban world where the legends of Zelda are no more than children's stories, and he will have to go back in time and find the Triforce in order to save his future. Zelda is a scientist who has discovered something is wrong with Hyrule. Nature itself is failing, and Link must go back in time to bring twelve young Deku trees back in order to save the land.
Or maybe a futuristic Link will live in a world where Hyrule has been lost and the races are spread among the stars in a futuristic but fantasy-style world. I think of Eternia in the old He-Man cartoons as a good example. It features swords and laser guns in a post-dystopian world. Link could travel across fractured worlds in an effort to find the pieces of the Triforce like in the original game.
Link traveling the stars in a spaceship named Epona may sound far-fetched or even unimaginable. Then again, twelve years ago, I would have said the same thing about Link riding a motorcycle.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I would love to know what you think about the future of the series. Will we get Zelda in space, or am I overreaching? Can you think of any other interesting tech in the series? If you want to share your thoughts, you can reach me The Lost Hylian on Twitter, thelosthylian on Instagram, or check out my Facebook page, The Lost Hylian.