Zelda is NOT an RPG II

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Zelda is NOT an RPG II

The original article Zelda is NOT an RPG has been published for a year now. Even though I thought I throughly explained the difference between an RPG and an action/adventure game right there in the article, feedback keeps coming in claiming that "Any game where you play a role is a RPG". I can honestly say, its been a confusing issue. Its like pointing at the moon and people claiming that it's the sun. I took me awhile to realize why this was happening. It's because the younger generation has never seen the moon.

By the moon, of course, I mean a real pen-and-paper play with your friends RPG. If you just thought "Hallelujah! Tell it like it is!" Then you are a part of the older generation who was there. If you're angry that I'm writing another article that takes the RPG-divinity away from Zelda, then you're a part of the younger generation who don't have a clue. This article is here to clue you in. If, after reading this article, you still maintain that Zelda is an RPG, simple ignorance can no longer be the blame. Chances are, you're just an evil noob.

A Long Time Ago

To explain how an RPG differs from Zelda I'm going to take you back to the old days when friends gathered around a table, rolled up characters, and then actually roleplayed. Along the way, I'm going to make comparisions between a real RPG and Zelda.

The Town

To simplify things, let's say there is only a DM (the guy who runs the game) and one player. The DM informs the player where he is :

DM : You're in a town name Gonadaz. It's a small town, a village actually, of some fifty people. The roads are not well kept and the Inn looks dirty.

Then he asks the player what he wants to do :

DM : What do you do?

Wondering about the inn, the player asks exactly what kind of state its in.

Player : How shabby is the Inn?

DM : It probably should be condemned.

Now, let's compare with Zelda.

Zelda typically starts you off with some overblown prose about a hero and a legend. If you want to ask questions about the legend, well, you're just out of luck. The best you can do skip the intro, which in an RPG would be the equivalent of :

DM : And the people of Hyrule need a hero…


Once in the starting town if you want to ask questions about the Inn, you're out of luck too.


In a real RPG you can converse with NPCs via the DM and really play your character.

DM : The barkeep is as shabby as the Inn.

Player : Ok, I'll talk to him. "Barkeeper, how are things in this town."

DM (as barkeeper) : "Ah, what's it matter to an outsider."

Perplexed, the player tries to think of some way to get information that may lead to further adventure.

Player (to DM barkeeper) : "See this sword and shield? It doesn't matter where I'm from my steel can help anyone."

DM (as barkeeper) : "The las' thing we need is a stupid fighter getting into trouble, especially with the Zlarlon on the edge of town… DOH!"

Let's compare with Zelda.

You go into the Inn see a barkeeper, walk up to him and press a button. As if poked, the barkeeper says "Ah, what's my troubles matter to an outsider." Notice, you don't even get to choose what you say. Well, the best you can do is poke him with your button again and as a reward you get "Ah, what's my troubles matter to an outsider." Perturbed, you try again, "Ah, what's my…"

Really, is this roleplaying?

The Solution

Lets say the player is trying to open The Golden Chest of Ages. He can try numerous things. In fact, his character can try anything he can think of. He can try a key, he can try magic passwords, he can even do the chicken dance. The point is that he can try all those things and an unlimited number of other things. If one thing doesn't work, perhaps another will. On the player's own volition he could make it a side-quest to take it to a town where he knows a wizard who might be able to unlock it.

Let's compare with Zelda :

You see the The Golden Chest of Ages. You walk up to it and press a button. You recieve a short message "It's locked." It appears you need the Golden Key of Ages, and only the Golden Key of Ages. What? You didn't get it in the last dungeon? Too bad. Want to try something else? Too bad. Remember, "It's locked." To succeed, you need to follow the script.


So, I ask, where's the roleplaying in Zelda? It isn't there. Without choices, you're really just on a treadmill. There's no way to develop the "personality" of your character nor roleplay that personality. In fact, even video game RPGs don't involve any roleplaying. I'll discuss that in the next article : Zelda is NOT an RPG III.