News Article

Eiji Aonuma Plans To Shake Up the Puzzle Formula in The Legend of Zelda for Wii U

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"I wanna kinda rethink or maybe reconstruct the idea of puzzle-solving"

The Legend of Zelda for Wii U was probably, for quite a few devoted Nintendo fans, the highlight of the company's E3 Digital Event. Series producer Eiji Aonuma presented a vision of a large, open world before we were treated to a highly stylised action sequence. Finding a blend between the Skyward Sword art style and hints of cel-shading, it looked gorgeous and well suited to the strengths of the Wii U.

In terms of how the structure of the game will differ from predecessors, Aonuma-san has previously spoken about a desire to move the Zelda formula forward into new ground in the coming years, while also expressing admiration for titles such as Skyrim. Certainly much of what he said about an open, fully realised world played into that, while also stating that players will have some control over their next steps in the adventure; this is an idea we saw, in a form, in the free dungeon-order choice of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on 3DS.

Changes in approach may come in the way puzzles are presented, too. When asked about the new title when speaking to Kotaku, Aonuma-san has expressed a desire for puzzles based on decisions and other aspects, rather than simply pushing blocks around.

So you know we've talked a little bit today about the puzzle-solving element in Zelda, and how that's kinda taken a different shape in Hyrule Warriors. But I think people have come to just assume that puzzle-solving will exist in a Zelda game, and I kinda wanna change that, maybe turn it on its ear.

As a player progresses through any game, they're making choices. They're making hopefully logical choices to progress them in the game. And when I hear 'puzzle solving' I think of like moving blocks so that a door opens or something like that. But I feel like making those logical choices and taking information that you received previously and making decisions based on that can also be a sort of puzzle-solving. So I wanna kinda rethink or maybe reconstruct the idea of puzzle-solving within the Zelda universe.

If this new title, due next year, goes further than the latest 3DS game in placing the onus on players to determine their path and figure out what comes next, it could be an exciting evolution in the series.

Let us know what you think, and whether this open-world approach excites you.

Thanks to Ryan Millar for the heads up.


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User Comments (97)



MAB said:

Hopefully they can change it up enough to remove Zelda style puzzles altogether... Every LOZ has the most boringly bland puzzles in gaming existence



NintyMan said:

It sounds like what he wants to do is make it to where decisions you make before you enter the dungeon, such as out on the plains or in a town, could affect your surroundings in the dungeon somehow. That could cause some significant changes, but he doesn't mean that he's going to dumb down puzzles, but rather expand them.



beingvasey said:

It sounds like a wonderful evolution, with the potential to be the best Zelda so far. I am so pumped!



WreckItRyan said:

So, he wants to reconstruct 'puzzle-solving' to include not only decisions made when pushing blocks, but also all of the decisions we make throughout the game. That's awesome.



EverythingAmiibo said:

This sounds great, as long as he doesn't remove traditional brain teasers completely! One has to admit, there's no better feeling than that little 'puzzle solved jingle'.



VictoryStar06 said:

Zelda us turning into skyrim. Could be a good thing or could be a bad thing. I think it should be amazing!




Sounds terrific, but this game is going to be over-hyped and overly-criticized because of it.



LazyShell said:

This could be interesting. Sounds to me like how wants to expand the puzzle solving element to possibly include your choices and actions through the game. I know how he also mentioned previously about being able to play the dungeons out or order. It seems Aonuma really wants to give alot of freedom and choice to the player this time around. He's certainly being ambitious for this game. I'm curious with this potentially open-ended dungeon structure, if each dungeon will have multiple ways through it, depending on the items you have.

I'm all for a more fleshed out Hyrule. I'm glad he's wanting to make some changes to what's become a rather formulaic system. I'm just curious to see how the Zelda fanbase will take to all these changes he's wanting to make.



LazyShell said:

@LUIGITORNADO I agree with you on the overhyping part. Some people are going to end up penalizing it because they're going to set their expectations so impossibly high.



Fazermint said:

The puzzles work for top-down Zelda games, but for the 3D titles they are the dullest moments of the entire games. Give me dungeons filled with hordes of monsters and bosses, and maybe some skill-based platforming, not non-intuitive puzzles that are not at all rewarding to complete.



unrandomsam said:

Well at least in the first playthrough of ALBW there barely is any puzzles. (Other than those treasure rooms that are like the difference between Super Princess Peach and Super Mario Bros 2 (Lost Levels).

What I want is really good difficult bosses and interesting puzzles (i.e like what Capcom managed).



WhiteTrashGuy said:

I've been wanting something like this since TWILIGHT PRINCESS. The item crafting in SKYWARD SWORD was a step in the right direction. I guess now the horsepower is enough to accommodate Enouma-san's vision. Nintendo does not do something if they can't do it perfectly.



MAB said:

@rbmoura85 I wouldn't really call pushing blocks, lighting torches and killing all the enemies in a room seriously challenging brain busters



Genesaur said:

@MAB Not every one. I admit that the main ones aren't much for "brain busters," but think of some like Oracle of Ages. That one legitimately had me stumped in a couple of dungeons.



Fazermint said:

@XFsWorld Wow, now that you mention it... I didn't even realize I was basically describing HW. That's not really what I had in mind, though. I'm thinking like... enter room, aw shi... 20 flying enemies coming my way! Pull out bow, shoot them all down, and win.

And for gods sake, make link able to jump.



King47 said:

After LBW I'm excited to Ser what have.
Zelda puzzles have become boring, though the painting mechanics had style interesting puzzles in LBW.

I hope they rethink bosses, must Zelda bosses are boring and have a weakness in the eye. Eye in the claw, eye on the hand, eye on the face, and so on. And they name then bright colored, so it takes a second to figure out what to do to defeat the boss.



MAB said:

@Genesaur The main problem is that some people tend to overthink the solution in hope that they're difficult when in reality they're quite simple




hiptanaka said:

I hope he doesn't turn it into too much of a Skyrim, where content is plentiful but largely uninteresting. If it successfully combines an open world with the fun items and tight gameplay of a Zelda, though, it could be fantastic.



Genesaur said:

@MAB Ah, true, but sometimes, the deceptively simple puzzle is the most satisfying. Pushmo, for example. I did exactly what you were referring to about overthinking, and then, sure enough, the answer is far simpler than I anticipated.



Action51 said:

I want Link to be able to find a "working woman", have relations in his car, then run over the woman and take back the rupees he just paid her with no further consequences ever.



Flowerlark said:

I have recently lost interest in Zelda because every game plays about the same way, just with different graphics and gimmicks. But I think this new title is going to rekindle my interest.

I'm still disappointed that it wasn't FemLink/ Zelda that we'll be seeing, just another androgynous looking male Link... I was so excited that the pony tail might have signified a female playable character.

Here's vainly hoping that they'll ditch the green tunic and weird hat, at least.



BlatantlyHeroic said:

The thing I'd like to see most would be thousands of readable books in the game that tell different stories and expand on lore. I love lore so much.

@Flowerlark I'd rather them NOT do that. I love that green hat and tunic, it's also significant to the lore of the hero, thus I feel the hero should always obtain and wear the tunic and the hat. What you want is a game that's not Zelda, which there are plenty of.



Hero-of-WiiU said:

I hope he is slightly rethinking the puzzle formula, there is nothing wrong with the puzzles in Zelda as is.



Gma-X said:

Almost every Zelda game has been atleast a very good game, I trust Eiji Aonuma well enough to believe he'll make it work. Changing the puzzle style could be a good thing and I'm open to it, but even if it would be the same style as previous Zelda game, I'd still get it day one and love it for the game it is.



LetsGoRetro said:

I dont know why people want to play as Zelda so bad. Maybe in a few side missions but playing as the hero Link is what this series IS. We only average one home console game every five years so if they take Link out of a whole game to play as Zelda then I don't get to play as my buddy Link for a whole decade! No way!!! Give ke Link everytime with other characters alongside him, but don't remove myLink!



Dpishere said:

With him in charge I have no doubt that the game will be excellent! Though I wasn't tired of the old formula I still welcome attempts to freshen up the series!



DerpSandwich said:

I just hope I ALSO get to push some blocks from time to time. I'm all for shaking up the formula, but there are some things that really make it a Zelda game. Change too many and you're just playing a different game.



Marr_the_Great said:


No thanks, they tried that in Skyward Sword and I ended up spending multiple minutes dealing with Deku Babas and Bokoblins.

I think it was basically perfect in Twilight Princess, simple but flashy and fun.



GraveLordXD said:

@Marr_the_Great at least let me start off on hero mode first without having me to beat the game on easy mode to unlock it
That was a big problem for me with a link between world's it was great fun but I could probably beat it in my sleep



Donutman said:

I like little evolution in games, but too much and it becomes hyrule warriors instead if legend of Zelda. I'm not complaining, I'm looking forward to warriors, but remember Nintendo, your fans want a true Zelda game. And that involves puzzles. I loved link between worlds...and that's got "boring" puzzle solving. Skyward sword has flaws, buts it's a great Zelda game. Why mess too much with a good thing?



unrandomsam said:

@LetsGoRetro Why cannot it be both ? (LIke Bowsers Inside Story). Once a decade for a Zelda game would be enough for me. (Make sure each one has the significance of A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time). If it doesn't reskin it and release it as something else.



BlatantlyHeroic said:

I think we all play Zelda games for different reasons, so what "we" want holds no ground. I think we should leave our opinions out of it and let developers make the games THEY want to make. That's what made games have their flare back in the day, you didn't know what to expect so as you played you learned about all the cool things in the game so the experiences built up. In Today's industry they release too much information to the public and play it to safe make games the "fans" might envision and not what they envision. So please Aonuma, take your time and think hard about what is implemented. Add complexity and wonder that will only be understood by those who play the game. Make it Zelda, but expand on every aspect. Expand on the AI, expand on the dungeons and puzzle size, expand on the combat, expand on the action and adventure aspect. Create a game with a little bit of all things Zelda and even some new things. Maybe a post game would be in order? Characters acknowledging our accomplishments would surely be a nice addition. Changes in the overworld after beating the Final boss would be a welcome, so would post game side quests that aren't fetch-quests. Maybe stopping a few other villains from rising to power? A few quests about half the length of the main one with equal importance happening during the post game would be an excellent addition. A Zelda game that you don't have to replay in order to still be on an epic adventure would be a good way to go.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

Well, I'm interested in how that will work out - and how far the player will be able to keep it under control.

But please, don't say Skyrim. I can accept you liking it, Aonuma, and I can accept you having played through it with genuine enjoyment - but don't take it as an inspiration for a Zelda game!
Skyrim had mediocre writing, generic characters, chaotic and one-sided combat, awful design, and barely any incentive to make you want to travel the empty map to begin with. Nothing about the game is in any way even remotely similar to what makes the Zelda series what it is, and drawing inspiration from Skyrim for the new title is bound to leave some terrible flaws within it.

If anything, take Skyrim as a negative example. It's the worst way to make an open-world RPG. Both Morrowind and Oblivion did the same thing infinitely better.



biglittlejake said:

Cool. Hopefully it won't be changes like Nintendo did with Pokemon and ruined it by making it easier.



sinalefa said:

Be careful, Aonuma. If you change it the way you feel it is right, there is a chance many Zelda fans will hate you for "ruining" the franchise.

After all, some fans know a lot more than you, so don't feel so empowered just because you have been making Zeldas for 15+ years now



Shambo said:

@sinalefa Sadly, this is funny on many levels. Every time they change the formula, people whine, only to praise that very same game generations too late for redefining the series... Majora's Mask, Wind Waker,... Soon people will start asking for a new Four Swords (which 'd be nice, I loved that game when it launched). For Skyward Sword -a BRILLIANT game in my opinion- it's probably too early. Next generation maybe.



Minotaurgamer said:

@MAB LOZ1, LOZ2 and heck even LOZ3 didn't have puzzles. Puzzles started to go nuts when aounuma jumped in and with it the series decline. He always talk about zelda's roots but how he can talk about them if he HATES the classic zeldas?! The only thing he knows to do are anime NPCs and puzzles. If this game really was acout returning to the roots' series then it wouldn't have any puzzles.

and no, moving a block to open a door is not a puzzle. Burning a tree to open a passage is not a puzzle. lighting a candle is not a puzzle.



Galenmereth said:

@Shambo Skyward Sword was a wagglefest of a game, with the first few hours of the game a boring, mind-numbingly extended tutorial made for people who'd never played a game before.

I couldn't play through the game for those two reasons. The motion controls better be completely optional in the next one, or I won't bite again, no matter how gorgeous it's looking.



rbmoura85 said:

Actually, all those things that u said arent fact are. Just because they seem direct and easy, it doesnt mean they arent puzzles. Any problem that requires a solution is some form of puzzle. We tend to ignore them when we are so used to them that the solution comes very easily to jumping on platforms in Mario to get to the other side. If someone had never seem a videogame before, they would need to have an insight to solve that problem. They would have to discover that mario can jump...just like it was a huge discovery to me in Alttp that a could push things to open secret passageways.



rbmoura85 said:


They might not be vary hard, but they are diversified and creative, i think, with so many new mechanics being added throughout the whole game. Plus the way they all complement each other in a huge world...Anyway, you should try Oracle of Ages, if you havent.



The_Ninja said:

Well when I think about it, zelda puzzles arent really puzzles. They're more like secrets that you need to find in order to advance. Unless you think moving a block or bombing a wall without any hint whatsoever is a puzzle



WanderingPB said:

@sinalefa LMAO! This reminds of the SSB4 roundtable the press had w/ Sakurai and someone asked if they could beat Sakurai then could they help balance the game in which Sakurai replied "have u ever created a video game" (ooooohhhh and the crowd cheered)

If each Zelda game didnt change then it wouldnt evolve or be the Legendary franchise we all know, respect, admire and of course love to hate…this will forever be the Zelda cycle which is why Zelda games can only be compared to other Zelda games.

Sure the expectation is high and the pressure is ridiculous but regardless im confident that Miyamoto, Aonuma & the rest of Zelda team is going to blow our minds and regardless of the people whining about Skyward Sword motion controls guess u guys fall into the gamespot category and dont know how to play the game…sad because its truly one of the best video game experiences that we as gamers have ever had. Pushing the boundaries of how we play games because after all change is how we gamers evolve.



Kirk said:

Well so far I'm liking everything I've seen and I'm hearing about this game so that's about as good as I could have asked for.



DESS-M-8 said:

This sound a wise move, a similar evolution to when resident evil moved to resident evil 4



sinalefa said:

@Shambo @WanderingPB

Personally I loved Skyward Sword. We are still waiting for the lightsaber game that never was, but I feel that SS was the Zelda game where you could actually feel that you were wielding a sword with enough precision.

For me lesser enemies in Zelda games are usually a nuisance, but they were actually nice to face in SS. Not to mention bosses like Ghirahim and Demise. In fact some enemies were a minipuzzle of sorts, having to wield the sword in a certain way to defeat them. Twilight Princess Wii is a wagglefest, SS is not.



Knux said:

Make every dungeon like the Water Temple and I'll love you forever, Aonuma-sama.



marck13 said:

Sounds good to me. Open world, decision-making - that's two things I was 'directly' asking him to do.



steamhare said:

Hopefully this means Aonuma is making the puzzle solving elements less contrived and "use the dungeon item to progress" than they sometimes get. It sounds like he's planning to give puzzle solving more of a detective work approach, where you use information from characters and the world to lead you to your next path. It might even mean keys will be important and flexible again.

Hopefully it doesn't just mean exploration is going to be punished.



EarthboundBenjy said:

Majora's mask comes out:
"This game sucks. Ocarina of Time had such a large and expansive world, Majora only has like 4 dungeons, and the time-travelling gimmick makes me need to constantly restart everything! Ocarina was the best Zelda ever."

Wind Waker comes out:
"This game sucks, what is this Cel-shading crap? Majora's Mask had such a dark and cool atmosphere, the story was way different and amazing, and the mask transformations were awesome. Majora was the best Zelda ever."

Twilight Princess comes out:
"This game is so brown and muddy, it looks hideous. Wind Waker had the most colorful and fun art style ever, and the ocean world was full of secrets and adventure. What's up with this game's huge empty world with nothnig in it? Half of the game's items are used only once and then forgotten about, and the Twilight sections are way too long and tedious. Wind Waker was the best Zelda ever. "

Skyward Sword comes out:
"What is this motion control nonsense? I can't do anything with this crap. The sky world is completely empty and the surface areas are too small with no exploration.The game holds your hand the entire way and every two seconds you get interrupted by the most annoying sidekick ever, Fi. Twilight Princess had Midna who was the coolest sidekick in Zelda history, and the story and dungeons were amazing. Twilight Princess was the best Zelda ever."

...So what will happen when this new game comes out?

(EDIT: I was just re-reading my old comments from months ago and I feel bad for this one, because I'm quoting something Cosmowright said on a video once and I'm sorta just treating it as if it was from my own mouth. Just editing to clarify that this post is just paraphrasing, and not my own words.)



CanisWolfred said:

@LDXD no, and I can't belive I'm saying this, but for once MAB has a legitimate point. Zelda's "puzzles" only ever existed as timewasters and were never really that difficult, or at least didn't require anything more than simple trial 'n' error or lock 'n' key. To say they need revamping is an understatement.



GraveLordXD said:

@CanisWolfred he said "pushing blocks lighting torches and killing every enemy in the room"
If you agree with him that's all zelda's puzzles are about then I'd have to say you and him only played the original least that's how you both making it seem like
I do agree that the puzzles should be more complex so should the combat
Its my main gripe about what Zelda has become lately... Way to easy
Compared to most every other game I've played though Zelda puzzles for the most part are decently clever



GraveLordXD said:

I can honestly say I wouldn't care if they removed the puzzles altogether like how Zelda use to be (don't care if its there or not just don't want it to be the main focal point of the game)
Just give me a huge world to explore different crazy environments and dungeons, secrets everywhere fun challenging combat and I'm good
No matter what they do I'm sure this will be an excellent game and I can't wait to play it



sinalefa said:


After playing Xenoblade Chronicles and seeing how Monolith helped with SS, I will not be surprised if they help again with Zelda U. They do know how to make huge, open worlds.



Moshugan said:

I hope they really shake things up!
It's healthy for the series to break new grounds, even if only to find out that something doesn't work for Zelda. Progress is good.

But I have hope that it'll be a great game.



WanderingPB said:

@sinalefa Absolutely!!! And good point about Monolith working with them…Xenoblade open world…im getting excited all over again! Excuse me im going to watch the Zelda U trailer again



unrandomsam said:

@LDXD Proper secrets are ok. (i.e when you get an item like the Magic Cape). Or finding the bottles. All the rest I think are just a waste of time.



CanisWolfred said:

@LDXD I was assuming he was making a point through hyperbole. I'll admit that might be giving him too much credit, but still...



erv said:

@EarthboundBenjy quote of the month for you.

Yep, I liked all zelda games from aonuma so go for it. I like how he pushes his own limits and paradigms. Shake it up, be revolutionary!



Spanjard said:

I don't think there is any game like Zelda that has to meet such high standards. And I have the feeling this game will blow my mind



Kirk said:


Positive when something gets done right, obviously as I see it, and negative when it doesn't, obviously again as I see it.

So far this game is getting everything all right as far as I'm concerned.

Yoshi's Wooly World is another game that I think is just getting it all right. It looks like it's going to be every bit as good as Kirby's Epic Yarn and that was one of the best platformers I've played, ever (even with the slightly misguided total lack of 'death').

Also, despite me not thinking the art style and character design is the best choice to appeal beyond families and kids; Splatoon looks really fun too. As does Mario Maker, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Fantasy Life on 3DS looks really cool too. Kirby and the Rainbow curse has a great fully realized art style and also looks like solid fun too. The new Pokemon remakes of Ruby and Sapphire will obviously be great. Smash Bros also obviously looks like another class title in that series.

When there's positive stuff I'm not afraid to say so.

Of course not everything was perfect but I'll let that stuff slide for now in this one post...



Dodger said:

Great. I like the series, but you get to a point where solving puzzles from the 1990s isn't even solving puzzles anymore because you know what to do. Skyward Sword was a great first step. The dungeons and combat were great, and this strength made the flaws in Skyrim's dungeon design even more glaring. However, Skyrim had such a great overworld that it made the linearity of Skyward Sword's overworld that much more clear. There wasn't any exploration. At all.

I still love both games. I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of the best of both worlds.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Too late, I've already seen people hate Aonuma for "ruining" Zelda. These are probably the same people who hate Hyrule Warriors for not being a "real" Zelda.

Not kidding about that either, people are actually mad that a spin-off isn't giving them what "they want" from a Zelda game.



tux_peng said:


The block-pushing puzzle from OOTs forest temple was kinda borring, but they're generally good



hypercoyote said:

Seems a little late in the development cycle to still be making those kinds of choices....I hope they don't rush this game, it sounds awesome, but I don't see how they would have time to make that much of an open-world design in less than 2 years.



Mainer82 said:

@Flowerlark I disagree, they should keep the tunic and style of Hylians or else it won't truly be a Zelda series. Too many changes is just not good for a series... I hope that they don't mess this up.



Shambo said:

@Galenmereth @sinalefa I liked Twilight Princess better on the Gamecube, because the waggling was just a replacement of an attack button. Skyward Sword was a fantastic game in my opinion as well. Sure, some parts were a bit less, a bit too much aimed at 'casual' gamers, but the overall game was a masterpiece. Loved all the new characters and settings, only Phi was too talkative, and indeed may have given way too much information and 'hints' (like E.Gadd in Luigi's Mansion 2 did...). But Zelda, Groose, the skylofts, sword-fights, puzzles, the golden controller... Loved that game!



Henmii said:

I don't like the sound of it! It sounds like they want to remove the puzzles altogether!

Typically Nintendo: Giving us something with one hand (big overworld, freedom), taking something with the other (puzzles). Hopefully I am wrong!



Alucard83 said:

@Dodger Do people really like Skyrim? To me it was boring after half hour. I just couldn't continue. It's an overhyped game! So i hope it won't have the Skyrim style @ all.



MAB said:

@LDXD Well, there isn't much else to play on Nintendo systems except Mario & Zelda so of course I've played em all



kyuubikid213 said:

I love the puzzles in Zelda games. I've never once thought "Oh that was a waste of time" or "Why is this even here?!" I've found them interesting at every turn and I always feel satisfied when I hear that tone go off after solving a particularly difficult one.

That being said, if Aonuma is thinking of shaking that up for the better, I'm all for it. Just so long as Zelda U isn't as boring as Skyrim can get (I'm sorry, but it's really boring to me...), I'm all for it.



GraveLordXD said:

@Dodger skyrims over world and dungeons all looked exactly the same and filled with empty treasure chest the combat was also horrible let's hope Zelda U is nothing like that
I swear if I have to solve i ridiculous puzzle and use a key to open a chest to get one green ruby I'm gonna freak!



piggie_pie said:

This announcement (and the E3 stream) literally gave me hope for me and Nintendo again. I ran out and purchased a Wii-U last night... Welcome back Nintendo!



drewb0203 said:

The only thing I'm still concerned about is if its Link or not. IGN says that Aonuma said that it might not be necessarily Link. Is this true, or is IGN pulling my leg?



xerneas said:

@hiptanaka Agreed! I like Skyrim and MMO's for the content but they need to keep the actual plot and rpg elements to not make the world lonely and boring. I would also love if you could make decisions which affect the events in the game or that you could choose from different regions/dungeons/whatever where you want to go. Would add replay value.

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