Friday, June 1, 2012

Legend of Zelda - Combat and Sound

In my previous post about the Legend of Zelda's aesthetic of simple, consistent visuals and open world exploration, I found it difficult to talk about those elements and not include two other, ever-present elements: Combat/Play Control and Sound.  These elements synch up so perfectly with the visual aesthetic, that the game would play very differently if there were changes to these areas.

Regarding Combat/Play Control:  I am  combining these two elements because I am defining combat simply as play control while under threat of attack.  You don't have to strike an enemy to be taking part in combat. When exploring the overworld map, enemies are obstacles just as much as trees or rocks.  Many times all the player wishes to do is to get through the screen and on to the next screen, but flying arrows or Peahats prevent that.   

I think one subtlety that Zelda does really well is to have Link pause for a brief moment whenever he attacks.  This adds a sense of control that free swinging and running would have been without. The one-two button combination of keeping a sword for the A button and an item for the B button is the defining innovation of Zelda's combat system.  Any player who has made it through the game is likely to have mastered the ability to fire a boomerang at a diagonal, with deadly accuracy.  When I'm wandering the map, I may just want to stun a few enemies and move on.  The unmistakable sound of the boomerang striking an enemy instantly assures me of my success, and I need not break stride.

Regarding Sound:  while it's not the same as graphics, it is arguably equally important in a similar way.  Similarly limited as the visual aesthetic, Zelda doesn't have a wide array of sounds, but the sounds it does have are consistent and fantastic.  The funny, dull sound of Link receiving damage, the satisfying sound of shooting the sword when attacking at full power, the scene-change trigger sound of footsteps.  These sounds couple with the graphics to guide me through the game. 

On the overworld, the delightful Zelda fanfare is very fitting for joyfully wandering around, the song is light and whimsical.  No pressure, the world is open to you, do what you want.  When you enter a dungeon, the droning dungeon song does it's job.  This place is not a happy place.  You're not going to find a faerie around the corner, you really don't have anywhere to run.  It's time for business.  


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