Whatever happened to Zelda's 35th anniversary celebration?

 Short answer: Covid. Long Answer: well that's why you're here right?

This isn't a post I wished I would need to make. After Mario's big 35th celebration last year, with new games, game collection, merchandise and all that jazz, I was stoked to see what Nintendo had in store for the Legend of Zelda's 35th anniversary. I wrote a post about it with all my hopes and predictions for it. I was hoping that I would write a post comparing said hopes and predictions with what we actually got. Instead, this is what we're getting. A post about why the Zelda 35th anniversary was cancelled.

The answer to that isn't complicated at all, it's due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, I still want to dive a bit deeper into it. Talk about what we are getting from Zelda in the foreseeable future, old rumours and reports of industry insiders as well as see if there's any chance that the anniversary's content can be salvaged for the future.

 Let's dive in.

Why Zelda 35th was cancelled but Mario 35th wasn't.

The big revelation that Zelda's 35th would NOT be celebrated came during the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct. The Direct ended with a bunch of The Legend of Zelda news and after another look at Skyward Sword HD, producer Eiji Aonuma produced a Zelda Game & Watch from his pocket as Miyamoto had done before him.

"This year the original Legend of Zelda game reaches its 35th anniversary, while we don't have any campaigns or other Nintendo Switch games planned, we've been working on this Game & Watch system as a special item to help mark the occasion and reflect fondly on the earliest days of The Legend of Zelda."

Aonuma's precise wording left many confused to the specifics but the message was clear. The Zelda Game & Watch is the only piece of celebratory piece of Zelda we were getting for its big 35th.

The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch as presented by Eiji Aonouma.

This left many fans understandably disappointed and even puzzled. 'Why is Zelda's 35th canned but Mario 35th didn't?' is a question I've heard a lot and want to clear up right here, right now. When Covid-19 hit the world last year, Nintendo was already far along with planning Mario 35th. Developing games (even ports), producing merchandise, cross-promotions etc. takes a lot of time and resources. For Mario, these things were nearing completion if they weren't done already. With Covid, they just had to readjust the way they celebrated Mario 35th. Instead of a big E3 reveal, was announced to the world in its own mini-direct in October.

With Zelda, I can guarantee Nintendo were nowhere near as far. They were most likely somewhere in the planning stages, perhaps had just closed it, when Covid-19 shut the world down. By the time the world started to gradually open up again, it would not be feasible anymore for a 2021 release for the planned content. Instead of spreading themselves thin and frantically trying to get all of this content out there, Nintendo re-prioritized. They focused on doing the games and merchandise that was coming out, like 'the sequel to The Breath of the Wild', which would get the time and resources it needed to become the best game it could possibly be. That they manage to get that Zelda Game & Watch out is quite an achievement if you think about it.

Could the anniversary content be salvaged for 2022?

That's the story of why there won't be a big Zelda celebration this year. However, this is not the end of this post. You see we are still getting some Zelda goodies this year. We're getting Skyward Sword HD in just a few days and the Zelda Game & Watch is scheduled to arrive in November. And, of course, the Sequel to Breath of the Wild is still in active development and is aiming for a 2022 release. If it'll actually make that date considering both Covid-19 and its predecessor's history of delays. With a little luck, that won't even be the end of it.

As you might recall there have been persistent rumours of Twilight Princess HD and The Windwaker HD getting ported to the Switch. They aren't as strong as those that leaked the existence of Super Mario 3D All-Stars months before its official announcement but they have been collaborated by some generally reliable members from the industry. Andy Robinson from VideoGameChronicle for one.

If Nintendo has these 2 games (and perhaps even more) up their sleeve, why didn´t they reveal them then together with the Game & Watch? There are a few potential reasons for it. At the time that Skyward Sword HD was announced back in February, we heard from Industry insider and VentureBeat reporter Jeff Grubb said that we shouldn´t expect any other big Zelda news until after that game´s release.

"This is still marketing. And Nintendo will want to position The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD out in front. This is one of the biggest reasons that Nintendo didn’t talk about other Zelda beyond Skyward Sword HD in its latest Direct video event. The company doesn’t want other Zelda games to distract from its attempts to bring back Skyward Sword." 

In other words, Nintendo doesn´t want any other Zelda games to overshadow Skyward Sword HD and potential shoot themself in the foot.

If we do get Twilight Princess HD and WindWaker HD on the Switch I hope that's in a 2-pack. Considering it would be the 2nd re-release for both these games I don't think it would go over well if they're full-price releases yet again.

That was months ago before we even knew that Zelda´s 35th would not go ahead, so what are the chances that Nintendo is holding something back still? Higher than you think, actually. It wouldn't be the first time that Nintendo had a game ready to go but held its release back. Pikmin 3 Deluxe was, reportedly, done for months before Nintendo even announced it. The developers of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze stated that the game was almost completely done and would've made that December 2013 release yet Nintendo delayed it to February 2014.

The reason why they did this is all speculative, but as Scott the Woz said in his "To Delay a Game" video Tropical Freeze had less competition in February and be "the only talk of the town". Pikmin 3 Deluxe launched at a time where there wasn't much else going on for a while so it too got to be the talk of the town for a while as well as filling a hole in Nintendo's schedule. I've already mentioned Breath of the Wild's numerous delays (far from the only case for the franchise) and the high chance that its sequel will see delays as well. If that happens, Nintendo has something to fill the slot with. Keep their 'a Zelda release each year' initiative.

……….

Just like many, the cancellation of the Legend of Zelda 35th anniversary was a disappointment to me even though I understand it completely. With the current situation of the world (more accurately: when it hit) executing the celebration would be difficult, not to mention the uphill battle game development has faced this last year. We're still getting some Zelda goodies this year, Skyward Sword HD and the Zelda Game & Watch, and there's still a chance that Nintendo has other goodies that they could trickle out later. I certainly hope that's the case though for the time being, I like to focus more on the stuff that's confirmed so I'm not setting myself up for any further disappointment.

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