Is it fair to even compare Zelda to Dark Souls? I hear comparisons between the two alot, but it never really makes too much sense to me.
I think it’s a fair comparison because they’re both third person action games featuring sword combat. Zelda visibly lost something in translation to 3d, so people think dark souls might have that element zelda lacks, nonlinearity, tight enemy combat, no cutscene bullshit.
Dark Souls gives a glimpse of at least some of what zelda could have been. Obviously zelda has its own established canon of mechanics sine the first game, so there’d be differences in how a lot of the mechanics worked, but a lot of fucking stuff was possible on the N64 and had been done in other formats that zelda could have taken inspiration from. It could have used fixed camera angles to make up for its weakness there as an interim until dual analog came along (playing ratchet and clank and nier back to back, it’s funny how it took until the 3rd 3d gen that cameras got good, considering it’s actually simpler to code a camera like nier’s probably)
Dark Souls in a big way feels like what I originally came to the zelda series for, what I was always looking for, but couldn’t find satisfaction in zelda games. I think this is something a lot of people feel.
To add onto this: Zelda and Dark Souls are superficially similar, being 3rd person action games centered on exploration & secret finding through fantasy settings with primarily Melee combat.
Dark Souls is as hard as Zelda used to be. Zelda was a cultural phenomenon with the very first game (which sold the best proportional to the population of its time, meaning it had the biggest cultural influence of any Zelda game).
In Zelda Ocarina of Time, Eiji Aonuma became the enemy and dungeon designer. Aonuma is a person who did not like the original Legend of Zelda. He never finished it, quitting after fighting octoroks and failing to progress.
So suddenly he was in charge of designing enemies, and he made them all really easy in Ocarina and they’ve continued to be really easy ever since.
In 3d zelda games, your slashes are really fast, while the enemies are really slow. In Dark Souls, both you and the enemies are slow at the same pace, so you need to either act preemptively, or punish their whiffed attacks. You need to judge your ranges more carefully before deciding to attack.
3d Zelda games are about key-finding more than anything else. You need to find keys to open doors in the dungeons, which give you items that function as additional keys for getting through rooms in the dungeons. There are very few “Interesting choices” in Zelda, meaning choices where you won’t always pick the same thing, where you need to choose carefully and think about what you’re doing, where different options have advantages and disadvantages which change situationally. 3d Zelda is very much about just doing the thing they want you to do. See a peahat? Boomerang it to cut off the propeller, then slash it to death with A buttonmash. Oh, you have arrows? Instant kill. Deku Scrubs? Octoroks? Hold up your shield, you literally cannot do anything else, and have no real reason to not pick this choice because it will always work.
In 3d Zelda’s combat, you really only need to mash A versus most enemies, or use the item that they are weak against. In 2d Zelda, you needed to move around the enemies as they moved and shot projectiles, and find a place to attack them safely from. It was like a Shmup where both you and the enemies could attack in 4 directions. They would pair up different enemies to be more effective against you and pair those with traps or features like walls or water sometimes too.
In other 3d action games, you have a variety of moves to use, but in Zelda, you only really have slashing and jump slashing. There’s also crouch stabbing, but your slashes are already fast, and apart from the exploit where it copies jump slash damage, it’s not really useful.
The puzzles in zelda, the other major element with 3d zelda (one which was mostly absent in 2d zelda, even a link to the past) are really easy and simple in comparison to actual puzzle games. They almost all use different mechanics from one another, instead of a shared system that is built up over time. This is another major problem with 3d zelda, they keep introducing new shallow mechanics that see only a few uses instead of iteratively improving a core set of mechanics like combat or puzzles.
Everyone suddenly got really harsh on Skyward Sword, and it was certainly the worst 3d Zelda, but everything everyone hated about it was in the previous 3d Zelda games. All 3d zelda games have long unskippable cutscenes. All 3d zelda games have bad combat compared to 2d zelda games, to Ys games (Oath in Felgana and Origin have combat similar to 2d zelda), to Dark Souls, to Witcher 3, to Severance Blade of Darkness (2001). 3d zelda could have had better combat design, both in link’s moveset and in the enemy design. It should have considering combat is the core gameplay (if you don’t think combat is the core gameplay, then please tell me what is).