The CRT flickers on with a Nintendo logo appearing after a long trial and error of blowing on the cartridge to get the game to run. The adventure begins with a bang of swordsmanship and intriguing characters. A long journey many Nintendo gamers take that turns outside into inside and expands it to worlds far unobtainable.
For most people, this is the story of their childhood, the story of how they grew up playing games and the exploration of the classic Nintendo series as a major leading point on how they understand video games. For me this is part of my classic gaming experiences and something I fondly look at, however for the friends at one of the recent gaming nights this isn’t their story. Their story doesn’t involve The Legend of Zelda at all, with them experiencing the series only in the form of the DS titles or even more commonly none. So, when they looked at the characters and locations in the new Legend of Zelda: Clue all they could muster was “I’m referring to them by colour”.
So, I then spent the rest of the night writing down the colours next to the characters so it can be as simple as “the green guy, in the forest with the bow”. I know, right?
Okay outside of my general dismay that there are people in the world which haven’t experienced the best series ever (yes, I am exaggerating this), how is the board game you ask?
The most important question is does The Legend of Zelda: Clue capture the feelings of both the classic board game and the Nintendo IP it borrows from. It is a question that is most important, especially as Nintendo continues to expand their licensing to more Hasbro products. The next inline a Mario Monopoly title would interest more than the Zelda Clue game, and certainly if the Zelda Clue fails to captivate the feelings of the series it borrows from would worry fans for the upcoming Mario Monopoly game.
For me it is hard to say if it does or doesn’t make effective use of the Zelda IP. For the most part, it is a product of the board game it is built around, it is very much Clue. However, for the other part it is stuck in the past borrowing assets from Ocarina of Time. While considered by many the best Zelda game and the most likely to be known by outsiders to the series, it certainly isn’t the most captivating use of the IP. I would have rather seen the board and locations borrow from a variety of games, almost like Hyrule Warriors in a way. The idea that the new Monopoly title brings with “DLC” expandable players which include the character token and associated descriptions would have been an enjoyable experience to keep it fresh and add some variety or more known characters to the mix. Outside of Link and Zelda the biggest issue was the Ocarina of Time characters chosen aren’t ones non-Zelda fans or gamers would find themselves remembering and connecting with.
What would have been more interesting following that level of consideration would be if it followed the latest Zelda title, Breath of the Wild. While it would come with simular issues of “who are these characters” or “what are these locations”, the title is more fresh in casual gamers minds the point that there would be a stronger connection or association with these characters despite not able to 100% figure out who they are.
Breath of the Wild is built around the plot of The Legend of Zelda: Clue, both games are tasked with the goals of guardians which could defeat Ganon/Ganondorf. The key feature of The Legend of Zelda: Clue is players are tasked with finding who will defeat Ganondorf and the location/weapon they will use that can defeat him. It decentralises the series from the aspect that only Link is the hero which is the key theme of Breath of the Wild as players learn of the struggles of the guardian protectors and Zelda.
Okay, I got side tracked the biggest question you had reading this wasn’t some fanwankery on what the game isn’t, but instead the reverse.
I have already hinted at a few of the game mechanics which are new to this version of clue the biggest been player characters having specific roles or tasks they can perform through out the game to guide the course of the game. This is something a lot of the customized versions of Hasbro board games are introducing and is continued in the new Monopoly title I previously mentioned. Some of the tasks are; Link can activate an extra roll once per game, Zelda can spread a rumour about a room their not in, and even another prime example Darunia can randomly pick a card to look at from someone you have just showed a card to.
I found this adds some uniqueness to the game, but requires players to remember the action their character can aid them with. Often used in the last moments of a round and usually not affecting the outcome at all. Another great idea not utilised due to how quick Clue games are is the Ganondorf cards. They are brilliant and hidden away like Exploding Kittens in the deck of cards. Though the rule here is “the 8th time someone gets this card they are instantly taken out of the game”. During a round only one or two would be picked up, often none at all. If I wanted to be generous and decided to play with them counting previous rounds I would still barely come to the required number even with a large group of friends.
This was the most disappointing aspect for the game for me, as when the first Ganondorf card I almost had the same heart racing experience like in Exploding Kittens. It would have been perfect to find someone so close to becoming the winner only to be destined with a question mark roll which leads to the pickup of a Ganondorf card. However, the requirement to get the 8th card clearly destroys this experience, and a more worked out rule set which treated them almost like Exploding Kittens would have been preferred. For example, you must roll a certain number to “survive” and it can be placed back in the deck.
So in summery the game is riddled with balancing issues with the new ideas but at its core it is a true Clue game. A game which I can not wait to play again despite these flaws.