Utilizing gaming companions as a guide is a tried and true mechanic that serves to assist players as they navigate through their video game journey. They provide a unique way to present information without theoretically breaking that fourth wall. Over time, gamers have voiced complaints about gaming companions, and some titles scrap that concept entirely. Let’s look at the Legend of Zelda franchise as a case study.
The Legend of Zelda has some of the iconic companions. Major examples include Navi in Ocarina of Time, Ezlo in The Minish Cap, Midna in Twilight Princess, and Fi in Skyward Sword. Each take on their own persona and approach with informing you, the player, on what you need to accomplish. Navi, perhaps the most beloved, can be pinned as annoying with her “Hey, listen!”. Others rant over Fi’s constantly pinging about your Wii remote running out of battery. In fact, one of the quality of life improvements made in 2021’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD tempered Fi’s eagerness to assist the player. She pings you less often, and you can speed up dialogue–basically allowing you to adjust how frequently she helps.
Excluding HD versions and remakes, let’s take a look at the most recent, new mainline Zelda game: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. While one could argue that Zelda could be somewhat of a companion, she rarely speaks up aside from the moment you wake up and when you confront the Calamity in Hyrule castle. For the first time in many years, this franchise has taken a step away from a chatty gaming companion, leaving the player to figure their path on their own and helping enhance non-linear gameplay.
Gaming companions are found everywhere–from Cortana in Halo to Dogmeat from Fallout. However, should developers conduct more market research to see how much assistance a player needs before it’s too much? I personally do not think they are obsolete; however, providing options for gamers to adjust the level of assistance would make the experiencing of playing more enjoyable for everyone.
Who was your favorite gaming companion? Or do you prefer that a video game has none? Let us know in the Boss Rush Discord.