2.05: Details

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Sorry, I have to gush a little more. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’s attention to detail is just astounding.

The way Link’s little hat bobbles along as he walks; the tumble and twinkle when he falls down a hole; the strained pause and beads of sweat when he picks up a rock… there’s endless examples of these neat little touches.

According to an old interview with Miyamoto and the A Link to the Past team, at one stage there were even more animations, but they had to be stripped out late in development:

Things I thought we probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish at the beginning started looking possible once certain parts came together. Even when working on the characters’ movements, for example, we put a lot of consideration into what we were going to do. Then, when we tried putting the finishing touches on everything, there were certain patterns like walking animations and poses that ended up being useless to the player. There were more of those than I can say. I thought that would really weigh on my mind, but when I actually went through with it, it wasn’t so bad.

The animations that survived are wonderful and help sell Link as a character. In a single console generation, our hero was transformed from a rudimentary little block boy into an expressive, detailed, emotive character. It’s magic.

The attention to detail extends to the world and its inhabitants too, bringing them to life. The way cut grass swishes in the air, rain plopping into mud, little puffs of dust and debris when a wall gets bombed, the fact that enemies can fall from ledges to their death, there’s even some nifty stuff going on with the enemy AI. Here’s Miyamoto again:

Even if the soldiers in this game can’t see the player over a wall, they’ll come running when they hear noise. So, if you hide motionlessly they won’t come after you, but they’ll approach if they hear you fighting with another soldier. There are also stupid enemies programmed to seek out the player without paying any heed to walls or other obstacles. Essentially, they’re soldiers with a low IQ. Actually, though, those enemies are stronger. We got into an argument about intelligent soldiers being weaker than stupid ones. I got the impression that Morita didn’t like the idea*.

Of all the Zelda games, Ocarina of Time is the one that receives the most plaudits. I’m struggling to imagine how it can be any better than A Link to the Past.

*Kazuaki Morita, programmer.

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