Rumours around a re-release / remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess have been swirling for quite some time, occasionally a reflection of fan desires rather than any solid evidence. It wasn't so long ago that there was talk of it as a potential New Nintendo 3DS remake, taking the lead of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and utilising the system's extra processing power. In fairness Nintendo hasn't seemed overly keen to push New Nintendo 3DS exclusives a great deal, so rumoured evidence of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD popping up in Wii U eShop data seems more feasible. Combine an apparent HOME menu logo with listings reputed to be found in Nintendo servers for a host of games (including this HD remaster) and there's a weight of speculation to consider.
Assuming the weight of apparent evidence comes true, this would be a fairly unique game (though maybe not the first) in getting a release on three consecutive home consoles, courtesy of its history of being both a Wii launch title and last-gasp hurrah for the GameCube. Our hope is that any HD re-release, whether full-on retail effort or eShop product, will also support both Wii waggle and physical buttons, giving sticklers for detail a chance to play this one with Link wielding sword justice in his left hand. We also have a niggling suspicion (based on no solid evidence whatsoever, just intuition) that the next full Zelda game could straddle the Wii U and NX in the same manner as TP, which would bring some beautiful symmetry.
Yet the question would be raised - is Nintendo placing too much emphasis on remakes and nostalgia, and does a Zelda game appearing (potentially) on three consecutive home consoles represent a new nadir in this trend? Well, perhaps, but we suggest it's what we should expect - after all, we keep telling Nintendo we want old games over and over again.
Now, of course, gamers of many kinds have varied desires, but as a corporation Nintendo will look at sales numbers and trends and react accordingly; ultimately, Nintendo fans continue to show the most enthusiasm for a small group of IPs, both through new games but also for remakes and Virtual Console downloads. We're getting the remakes we demand through our buying habits, and Nintendo is happy to oblige as these represent easier and cheaper projects than producing a brand new alternative.
This trend can be found on 3DS and also on rival platforms such as PS4 and Xbox One, with the first two years of those home consoles having a liberal splattering of remakes (often of games only a few years old) driving sales. We're going to stick with Wii U in this case in the interest of not being here all day, but the power of remakes is strong across the industry; we just feel the appetite among Nintendo gamers is that little bit stronger.
Looking at the top-selling Wii U games to date, Nintendo Land and Splatoon are rare imposters in a wave of series games, which is to be expected. Helped by hardware bundles (probably) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is the 8th best-selling title on the system with 1.57 million sales; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D also sneaks onto the 3DS top 10, for those interested. There's plenty of familiarity there, in other words.
Yet what about on the Wii U eShop, a source of sales results if not firm numbers? Well, below is the top 20 'All Bestsellers' in the US at the time of writing:
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (like boosted by hardware bundles)
2. Super Mario World
3. Wii Street U (free at launch)
4. Super Metroid
6. Pikmin 3
7. Super Mario Bros. 3
8. Super Mario Bros.
9. New Super Mario Bros. U
10. Mario Kart 8
11. Punch Out Featuring Mr. Dream
12. Metroid Prime Trilogy
13. Super Mario 64
14. NES remix
16. Super Mario Bros. 2
17. The Legend of Zelda
18. Smash Wii U
19. Zelda: A Link to the Past
20. Kirby's Adventure
And the equivalent top 20 in the UK:
1. Wii Street U (free at launch)
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (like boosted by hardware bundles)
3. Super Mario World
4. Metroid Prime Trilogy
5. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past
7. Trine 2: Director's Cut
8. Super Mario 64
9. Super Mario Galaxy 2
10. Super Mario Bros. 3
11. Super Mario Kart
12. Art Academy: SketchPad
13. Pokémon Rumble U
14. NES Remix
15. Super Mario Bros.
16. Mario Kart 8
18. Dr Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? (free at launch)
19. Super Mario 3D World
20. Shovel Knight
There are provisos to consider, such as Club Nintendo reward codes inflating downloads of some games, though let's remember that the promotion offered non-retro downloads too. We also recall looking at the charts in past times and noticing similar trends, with all of the usual names dominant and 'Nindies' or unfamiliar titles perhaps making brief appearances in the 'Recent Bestsellers' top 20 chart.
We're not pointing this out as a means of criticism - this isn't a polemic about Nintendo gamers buying old games and damaging the prospects for new experiences. That's not quite the case, with Splatoon being a good example of a new IP from Nintendo that's capable of grabbing attention and achieving success to rival illustrious and established brands. The eShop audiences also have the ability to embrace a game to the point that impressive download sales are achieved for small studios, as can be seen in the stories accompanying titles like Gunman Clive, SteamWorld Dig and Shovel Knight.
So those stereotype and snark-driven comments often made about the Nintendo audience don't entirely hold up under scrutiny. That said, we shouldn't be at all surprised when remakes are produced by Nintendo, or when it makes a big announcement of introducing DS and Wii games to the Wii U eShop. The big N's simply playing to its market - many of us simply love nostalgia and retro games from last-gen and way beyond.
And so the Virtual Console - in its more limited form primarily focused on a smaller batch of games - and remasters will keep coming, in this generation and beyond. Wii U owners in particular have shown a capacity to buy the same content multiple times, and this writer can't deny that he'll likely be right there on day one for Twilight Princess HD should the seemingly inevitable happen.
The balance for Nintendo will become increasingly hard to manage, giving us the nostalgia we desire without releases becoming trite and almost parodies in themselves. Will there be an Ocarina of Time NX? Or a Twilight Princess HD Wii U download offering on the NX eShop? Will that actually be a problem?
Arguably it's no issue, but what Nintendo needs to do is to keep fresh away from re-releases and remasters. It was certainly 'fresh' with Splatoon, and the task in the next generation will be convincing the many millions that didn't follow from DS and Wii that the company's not completely stuck in its history and emphasizing nostalgia for its core base. Nostalgia will need to be secondary to innovation.
We still think Nintendo has a good balance of fresh ideas and gallery-pleasing oldies - it'll need that to return to 'Nintendo-like' sales in the next generation.