The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Zelda On Rails

In the fifteen years since the release of Grand Theft Auto III, videogame design has come to venerate, if not outright fetishize, openness. It’s now taken as a sign that a AAA developer is “entering the modern era” when one of their games is set in an open world, and some publishing houses—who shall remain unnamed in this piece, but you know who they are—have turned open-world design into a formula of capturing towers and rote activities in nominally unique environments. I believe this veneration is where a lot of the scorn directed at The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks originates; by putting Zelda on literal rails, it’s easy to assume that its spirit of adventure has been stifled and its go-where-you-want-when-you-want conceit has been betrayed. This is a fallacious assumption, as the truth is the Zelda series betrayed its open design from its second entry.

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