With Mario’s 35th anniversary Nintendo threw out all of the stops to promote their iconic plumber’s historic milestone. During their September 3rd, 2020 Nintendo Direct, re-titled the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct, they outlined a slew of game releases, content updates, merchandise, and promotional items that would mark the nearly six month long celebration of all things Mario. The announcement came hot on the heels of the release of Paper Mario: The Origami King and a whole collection of LEGO sets inspired by Nintendo and Super Mario’s histories, and was met with wild excitement by fans checking off many of the items on the speculative wish lists that had been floating around on the internet for months.
So when Nintendo’s much beloved adventure series The Legend of Zelda approached the same milestone on February 21st of this year there was much buzz about the potential for new titles, remastered classics, toys, clothing, and more. However, Nintendo was uncharacteristically mum on the topic. In fact it wouldn’t be until their E3 2021 Direct on June 15th that we would finally get an official announcement, and it was far less than what many people believed Link and Zelda deserved.
There were the mostly anticipated items like downloadable content for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and a new trailer for the sequel to Breath of the Wild revealing new enemies, environments, and game mechanics. After that the excitement quickly diminished as Zelda lovers were offered an HD remaster of one of the series’ most polarizing titles, Skyward Sword, a pair of Joy-Cons, and a Game & Watch handheld including three classic games: The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Link’s Awakening. Where were the promotional pins, the LEGO sets, and most importantly the Legend of Zelda 3D All-Stars compilation for the Switch?
In the months that have followed Nintendo has gone silent once again. The first wave of DLC for Age of Calamity, the Pulse of the Ancients, dropped just a week after the E3 direct in June, and players have had their hands on Skyward Sword HD and its themed Joy-Cons for over a month now. However, the Guardian of Remembrance DLC and Game & Watch system won’t arrive until November of this year which is an odd pacing of releases considering you couldn’t go a single week without something new dropping during Mario’s anniversary. This has led to theories that Nintendo is holding the biggest news for later this year so as to not diminish the sales potential of current Switch hardware and games, including Skyward Sword HD. However, many are quick to squash rumors of further announcements by reiterating series manager Eiji Aonuma’s statement during the Direct that outside of the Skyward Sword HD remaster and the Game & Watch system Nintendo had no additional plans for the 35th anniversary. But vague assertions like these can quickly be reversed as projects come closer to completion.
There’s also still the mystery “stylish, medieval” title that developer Grezzo was hiring for back in February. Grezzo has a long history with the series being the primary developer of the Link’s Awakening remake for Switch and Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora’s Mask 3D, and Triforce Heroes for the 3DS. And what of the flood of trademark renewals reported back in January? Of the five Zelda titles renewed two have been the subject of major announcements. Could the remaining three, Ocarina of Time, Phantom Hourglass, and Wind Waker, be the 3D All-Stars compilation so many fans have clamored for? And until just recently with the launch of the Luigi Adventure sets for LEGO Super Mario Nintendo’s collaboration with LEGO was at a complete standstill. If there’s any Nintendo property more perfectly suited to be adapted into LEGO than Super Mario it’s the Legend of Zelda.
With the next mainline entry in the series still far off in 2022 Nintendo would not be doing themselves any favors by withholding readily marketable properties to bolster sales in the coming holiday season. Combined with the launch of the Switch OLED model and Metroid Dread in October it would be the one-two punch to close out the year on a supremely high note. The optimist in me still believes Nintendo has something in the works and couldn’t disclose anything concrete at E3, and that come late this Fall or early Winter Zelda fans’ fears will be assuaged. Only time will tell.