Silicon Knights Shouldn’t Do Zelda

Unlike some of my American colleagues, I’m not that fond of Silicon Knights. I can understand my fellow games journalists though. Denis Dyack and his companions are based in Canada, and they have an open attitude towards the press. And Denis Dyack seems like a real nice guy, too. Compared to Nintendo’s in-house studios, which you’ll never hear anything from outside of obligatory E3 interviews and a couple of press meetings, Silicon Knights must be a delight to work with.

I guess I disagree with Silicon Knights’ game creating philosophy. Mirroring ancient literary classic ‘The Book of Five Rings’, they value five game development pillars equally: technology, art, music, gameplay and storyline. Sounds interesting, but in my mind game design is the only thing that matters. Other elements can enhance a game’s design, but generally I want my games to be games.

Silicon Knights’ philosophy results in products like ‘Eternal Darkness’, which in my opinion overemphasize story while slightly overlooking areas like controls, learning curve and game balance. Also, I feel that Eternal Darkness shows hints of a lack of insight in areas like puzzle and level design.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that Nintendo are investing in this studio. It’s a good idea to broaden your focus by buying into people who create different kinds of content. However, I don’t think Silicon Knights are there yet, and they certainly shouldn’t work on an established Nintendo franchise.

Recently in an interview with ‘Game Informer’, Denis Dyack talked about some of the games he’d like to work on. Many months ago he hinted at ‘Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes’ by saying his next game would be “cinematic like Metal Gear Solid”, so these comments shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Besides mentioning that an original game collaboration with Konami might be in the pipeline, Dyack said he’d like to revive ‘Kid Icarus’ or do a darker ‘The Legend of Zelda’.

Afterwards Matt of ‘IGN GameCube’ said on his site’s mail department that Silicon Knights could be working on no less than three games: its science fiction epic ‘Too Human’, ‘Eternal Darkness 2′ and, indeed, a new Zelda.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think the studio is up to a game of Zelda magnitude. I agree it would be interesting to see a mature episode heavy on story, but this is Zelda — factors like spot-on controls, smooth learning curve, perfect game balance and smart puzzle and level design are major reasons why the series is so well regarded. Besides, I think the franchise is in great shape with its current cartoon shaded graphics.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry too much, as Nintendo are bound to stay close to such an important project. Still, in my mind Silicon Knights would be much better off to do Kid Icarus first. They could shape it into something new and interesting, a second action adventure series targeted at a slightly older audience. That way, they wouldn’t have as much to lose.