It’s interesting to juxtapose Oceanhorn with another 2017 release, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a monstrous game which players and scholars will, spend the rest of their lives exploring. It is a representation of what The Legend of Zelda will look in the future. Oceanhorn is beholden to the series’ past: It looks a lot like The Wind Waker and plays a lot like A Link to the Past, but with the scale of a budget-priced indie videogame.
Oceanhorn is derivative and it knows it. It never tries to ascend higher than copying the well-worn Zelda formula, and I get the impression while playing that escaping the formula is anathema to its ethos. This is nothing less than a Zelda videogame made without the Zelda license. From this derivation, we get a glimpse into what another developer thinks of as the “essence” of Zelda. Breath of the Wild makes the statement that freedom of movement and the glory of discovery are what makes Zelda work; Oceanhorn states that respect for tradition and solid-but-predictable design is its true core.