Not long ago a guy under the twitter handle “andrew souldice” posted some animated images on twitter and tigsource revealing his first independent project, currently titled Secret Legend. So far literally all we have is a handful of short animated images, but they already suggest a lot about what the game is and what it’s trying to do.
Basically, it looks like it’s going to be an isometric or 2.5D Zelda clone. Zelda clones in general are relatively rare (otherwise they’d simply have a name for the “genre”), and that half-step between 2D and 3D is something that’s rarely if ever been done for the formula. It begs thinking about what Nintendo’s recently done with some of its franchises as well and where Secret Legend could go in comparison.
The few gifs souldice has shown so far reveal a character basically decked out like Link running around doing Zelda-type things in flat-shaded polygonal environments viewed at an isometric angle. To me, even the graphics make me think “this game looks like what Zelda’s first foray into 3D could have been.” It could sort of be for Zelda what Super Mario 3D Land has been for Mario.
When console game developers were each figuring out how to design games in 3D, a lot took half-steps into the third dimension, basically holding onto 2D perspectives and controls. Resident Evil’s tank controls and fixed camera angles were basically an attempt to maintain 2D perspective and control in a 3D world. The first Metal Gear Solid is very nearly a remake of its 8-bit 1990 predecessor rendered in polygons, with basically the exact same controls and mechanics and even a mostly top-down camera. Final Fantasy VII plays very similarly to Final Fantasy VI, but with pixels replaced by polygons and CGI backgrounds with the view tilted slightly.
Nintendo’s N64 games are remembered for being among the few that made the complete step into 3D for consoles, defining 3D control interfaces going forward. Super Mario 64 is a huge departure from Super Mario World in pace, controls, and many important mechanics, most importantly the camera. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time took the franchise from top-down straight to behind-the-back, including the influential Z-targeting.
After some 3D Mario sequels, 3D Land on the 3DS actually took things a half-step back. You move in three dimensions but the camera mostly doesn’t rotate, and it follows the rules of the Mario sidescrollers as opposed to the 3D games. It essentially does to 2D Mario what many developers did to ease their way into 3D design during the mid and late 90’s. I’ve asked myself before: “what if someone did this to Zelda?”
You can argue however that every 2D Zelda since and including A Link to the Past has already simulated the third dimension. When talking about A Link Between Worlds series creator Shigeru Miyamoto noted A Link to the Past is a game about elevation levels. Link doesn’t only move in eight directions but also from level to level, which is basically a Z axis. Its dungeon design even takes overlapping rooms into consideration. You could say 2D Zelda already made that half-step into 3D. At the very least you could say A Link Between Worlds achieves it with the same design and stereoscopic 3D. The only thing missing is that slight camera angle tilt standard to isometric games, and in the case of the pixel games, real-time 3D rendering. It’s interesting thinking about how that could affect the formula.
For instance, even with their elevation simulation, 2D Zelda games including A Link Between Worlds are essentially still screen-to-screen games. They don’t scroll continuously. Isometric games however commonly do this, their polygon worlds allowing them to instantly draw new rooms as doorways are opened. That by itself could fundamentally change the pace and gameplay continuity of something following the Zelda formula.
One image of Secret Legend already suggests the possibility of a physics system when a bomb is thrown and rolls. Zelda itself has never extensively used dynamic physics in 2D or 3D so that could bring something very different to the table when it comes to puzzle design. Another screenshot suggests a lock-on system — the cornerstone of 3D Zelda’s combat.
I guess another example one could look at is Oceanhorn — the famously faithful mobile Zelda homage that’s actually coming to Steam pretty soon. It basically looks like A Link to the Past rendered at a 3D angle. I however have not yet played it and couldn’t tell you about how it’s designed.
Beyond this speculation, Secret Legend is no doubt extremely early in development, but I thought I’d draw some attention to it from the get-go and wish souldice the best of luck in getting it made.
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