very long post ahead:
zelda is one of the best franchises out there and every zelda game has been great. TP was great and brought some new stuff to the franchises and broadened the scope of the game. the thing is despite that the overall feel of the game is the same as it was way back in the first 3D zelda, thats 10 years and 3 zelda's in the past.
This is mostly due to the controls and the zelda formula. Those things haven't changed since OoT. The same Z-targeting type controls that were so innovative when OoT introduced them now seem rehashed. And the same wide open yet very plain and empty overworld, the same kind of puzzles, the same formula for beating bosses and finding items in dungeons. The same way too easy enemies and bosses.
The next zelda could revolutionize what an action/adventure game is all about if it stray as far from the current formula as possible without actually breaking away from it.
they key changes needed to bring about a zelda revolution are:
story, controls/fighting, puzzles, difficulty, scope, audio, customizability, and the liveliness of hyrule.
story - give us an epic story worthy of a great rpg with plot twists and mysteries and new characters and make it deep and emotional and mature and present it in a cinematic way. and give us a beginning, middle, and end. sometimes i feel like we don't get much of a beginning. for example, say if the story is based on ganon starting a revolutionary war against hyrule (i think hyrule in a war would be an awesome game), introduce us to a hyrule before ganon goes bad or at least when he's not already the great villain he's known as, and show how link gets himself into the action besides just him being the legendary hero. and then show ganon go bad or gain power to close off the beginning third of the game. have ganon do some plot twisty type things and link gets himself into the central battle for hyrule. have real war scenes if thats the plot in which link takes part in battle and maybe becomes a hero, promoting him to a place of authority against ganon. the middle of the game can be link gaining the power and abilities to strike against ganon and his army. with the final third being link's striving toward a final showdown as he has to figure out clues or something to ganon's whereabouts or his power or whatever. make it interesting, epic, cinematic, fun, dark, dangerous, and complete from beginning to end and make other characters actually matter outside of link, zelda, and ganon.
controls/fighting - with motion+ the controls can be changed and improved a lot. 1-to-1 or close to it. let us slash left and right and up and down or block in those directions and stab, let us form our own combos based on how we are swinging the controller. in order to really make these controls worth it give us plenty of enemies that also have weapons and good enough AI so that we are actually faced with tough weapon based battles where the enemy will block, charge, parry, stab, slash so that we'll have to actually duel with them and be skilled enough to get by their defense and strike them. i don't know if this is possible yet with how good the wii can make AI, but this alone would revolutionize zelda and all weapon based action games. Also give a jump button so there's more platforming in the game.
puzzles - just bring a whole new slew of fresh puzzles to the game instead of just sticking with nostalgia by bringing back the same puzzles from the original zelda. also something i have never seen in a game before and would be revolutionary if implemented well: open ended puzzles. by that i mean there's no obvious way to complete a puzzle, say gaining entry into a castle for example. i guess it would involve not actually programming in a specific way the player is supposed to complete the puzzle. so several options that are possible are programmed in but none are obvious or like the correct way but it is up to the player to use his/her own cunning to complete the puzzle and they will have slightly different results each time so that the same strategy won't always work. i guess it'd take too long to describe my idea here in this already long post, but instead of puzzles being routined and coreographed they should be open and more realistic and not just involve the player figuring out the one correct way that will always work to complete the puzzle.
difficulty - more enemies, harder enemies, harder bosses, less predictable zelda-type puzzles. completely get rid of the standard zelda formula for bosses and make it more of an epic battle (Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind for incredible battles) rather than find weakness, exploit weakness, repeat till dead. Have more enemies in the dungeons and more adventuring and platforming elements. And if they want it to appeal to casuals more give the game an easy mode where you can get hints as to what to do at a puzzle or boss battle.
scope - make hyrule absolutely huge with a central castle/city of hyrule with several smaller towns that actually seem like they exist on their own with their own community and aren't just a few houses put together with maybe 5 characters wandering the streets. have full mountains to climb and cave systems to explore and forests and a sea with several decently sized islands on it and rivers cutting through canyons to explore and maybe a desert with a large deserted city in it thats haunted by deadly sand creatures and bandits, and a snowy ice area along with several lively towns. a lot of these areas have been done in zelda games but i'm thinking on a grand scale. with miles and miles of terrain (again i picture something like Shadow of the Colossus in terms of sheer size but even bigger and brought to life instead of an empty land like in SotC). Truly bring out the adventuring aspect of zelda but make hyrule alive instead of bland like previous 3D zelda overworlds. I want it to take 20 hours just to explore all the lands of hyrule. Is a game this big even possible? i dunno, but it would be awesome. also add in a good amount of side quests to add variety to the game.
music - smg full instrumental music was incredible. a huge addition. give zelda the same treatment. also give characters other than link voices, it adds greatly to the immersion of the game.
customizability - let the player buy or in some way obtain different shields and weapons and armor and even disguises for Link so there is a sense of progression and getting stronger throughout the game besides just gaining hearts and recieving specials versions of his clothes and shield. and speaking of hearts, maybe hearts can have their own story as ancient pieces of life force that instead of just finding by beating bosses and hidden in dungeons in the typical way but maybe they have to do with the story maybe there are bad guys who seek out these hearts to gain power in ganon's army and you have to discover through various means where these hearts are before they do and if they find them first you have to seek out and battle them for the hearts and they are made that much harder depending on how many hearts they've found. and if they get strong enough they'll even make their own attack on hyrule or take over a town with a portion of ganon's army, this would lead to less linear storyline. thats getting a little off topic of customizability but the point is more options to make the game less linear.
liveliness of hyrule - i think i already talked about this some. basically just make hyrule seem alive and real. the towns should be teeming with people, there should be people out and about in hyrule walking around that large hyrule field in say safer areas, and creatures and enemies all over the place rather than just open but mostly empty fields with nothing to really do there except travel through it. i want to actually feel like i'm in a living world, a vast kingdom of people and creatures, of good and evil, of ancient secrets and hidden powers, a vast living world in an epic struggle that affects all of hyrule in profound and personal ways.
so is my dream of the next zelda. i'm not even sure if thats all possible on the wii, maybe i'll have to way till next gen to get a zelda of that scope and complexity, but if nintendo can at least do their best to bring about those changes in the franchise they are gonna have one of the best games ever on their hands and a whole new fresh imagining of the legend of zelda.
end of '08 predictions: wii - 43 million, 360 - 25 million, ps3 - 20 million
Games I've beat recently: Super Mario Galaxy, Knights of the Old Republic, Shadow of the Collossus
Proud owner of wii, gamecube, xbox, ps2, dreamcast, n64, snes, genesis, 3DO, nes, atari, intellivision, unisonic tournament 2000, and gameboy