At e3, Miyamoto had teased the possibility of a Sheik lead Zelda spin off. Miyamoto is pretty high up at Nintendo, usually when he teases something it’s because it’s in development or close to being greenlight. He said:
Within the development team, too, there have been talks about how it might be cool to have a game that features Sheik as a protagonist. It’s having maybe a Zelda spin-off with Sheik as a protagonist, for example, I don’t think that’s an impossibility.
At e3 Aonuma had also mentioned the fact that he wants to work on a new IP but he also wants to work on Zelda teasing a game where you play as a thief. A Zelda spin off starring Sheik could very well be the game they are teasing. His quote:
Actually, Nintendo has been telling me to create a new IP. But then, they’re also telling me to make more Zelda games. I can’t really share much; I’m not sure I’m allowed to say anything. But I really like the idea of a game where I can live as a thief. That’s all I’ll say.
While the quotes might make it seem far off, I do think we can expect to at least see something in the near future. I have a few thoughts on just what a Sheik game could be, how it can play like, where in the timeline it takes place, and just who would make it and that’s what I’m writing about here. Sheik is Zelda as trained by the Sheikah, or at least her caretaker Impa. Sheikah are the Zelda universe’s ninja, very agile and stealthy so I’d see a spin off taking advantage of this. A stealth action game with some minor platforming could result in an interesting take especially when combined with Zelda imagery, locations, and a unique take on established enemies and bosses. The imagery from Ocarina of Time specifically is very strong, it’s probably the most nostalgia inducing game in the franchise so having a new story, or at least one from a different perspective with a fan favorite character could resonate well with fans.
My idea of when this game could take place is the only time Sheik has appeared, Ocarina of Time. The story could start with Zelda and Impa’s escape from Hyrule Castle setting a darker tone for a Zelda game straight off the bat. Start the game off playing as Impa since Zelda would still be very young in the beginning and later switch to a teenage Zelda learning the way of the Sheikah from Impa. It would be a good way to show off the combat system early on while not being in medias res. The story could focus on Impa and Zelda’s relationship as they go on missions and Zelda grows stronger as a warrior. They have the 7 year period where Link slept to show just how each city changed while Ganondorf was taking over and they can skip a year or so between each to show it was a slow processes while showing Zelda growing up. Zelda and Impa can help the Hyrule Town citizens flee while helping build and defend Kakariko, they can try and help some of the Zoras while some ice monster starts freezing their domain, etc. There’s a lot to explore in this setting that wasn’t covered in OoT.
The gameplay could be something like Neir or Kingdom Hearts, a smaller scale game RPG but a larger scale action game. It can focus on repeat visits to locations and how time and war changes them. The combat should be action game focused based on Sheik’s magic and agility. Combining something like MGSR or Bayonetta with Zelda magic spells could prove to be an interesting combination. In Breath of the Wild we see the Sheikah’s technology allow Link to summon bombs and other abilities, maybe explore more on this idea or use the harp to perform spells like in Hyrule Warriors. The harp could be a bit too slow paced, but I think performing magic spell with instrumental inputs sounds very interesting. Ocarina of Time showed Sheik and Impa jumping from high places and disappearing using deku nuts, so that could be brought in as a supplement to the combat. Platforming challenges are common in action games and replacing puzzles or at least simplifying them with a platforming focus would be a good way to differentiate itself from the mainline series. Stealth has always been a minor part in most Zelda games since at least OoT with the guards in the castle garden (could be an interesting tutorial section with young Zelda sneaking out of the castle) and the Moblins in the Lost Woods. Using stealth to take down powerful enemies or sneak by enemies you cannot defeat without a magic spell or item obtained elsewhere could add to the overall experience.
While the timeline has been rather divisive with the fans, I think this game is the perfect opportunity to redeem the fallen hero timeline. For those unaware, the “Hero is Defeated” timeline is a canon ending to OoT where Link fails to defeat Ganondorf. The timeline split leading to either Wind Waker or Twilight Princess make perfect sense due to the presence of time travel in the actual game, but there’s nothing that makes Link dying seem like a possible ending without being far fetched. This game could explore the events that lead to the creation of almost the timeline that houses almost a third of the franchise and expand on the established Zelda lore, but it would have to be handled carefully. Zelda has her own magical instrument and was the previous owner of the Ocarina of Time and she clearly knew how to use it based on the ending of OoT so who is to say she couldn’t of been involved with that timeline? Just an idea, but I could see Zelda trying to save Impa who seemingly dies at the end of OoT. Maybe she knows that all the sages must give up their physical form to stop Ganondorf, but she tries using time travel to in order to saving her. Zelda spends 7 years with her caretaker, roughing it after an entire life in luxury, and becoming a better person by seeing Impa’s acts of bravery. The game would have to have a different ending than Ocarina of Time since it would be an anticlimactic ending for Zelda as she did not participate in the final battle against Ganon. In the final moments of OoT Zelda summons the power of the sages to hold Ganon in place, perhaps she cannot hold the beast down since she had saved Impa. This could lead to Link dying and cementing the third timeline as canon and Sheik doing what she can to stop Ganon. This can even tie into Breath of the Wild with the resurrection chamber being used to bring back the fallen Hero of Time. Maybe I’m off the mark on some of these points, but I do think a story focusing on the Fallen Hero timeline would add a lot to the series and be a good game for a spin off to take place.
All this leaves is just who is likely to make this game. As mentioned earlier, Aonuma wants to work on a new IP, but his producer role in the Zelda franchise means he works on many Zelda games so it wouldn’t necessarily be his own team that’s hard at work on Breath of the Wild. Aonuma has worked with Team Ninja in the past thanks to Hyrule Warriors and their experience Ninja Gaiden franchise would seemingly match up pretty well with the idea of a Sheik action game. However…Team Ninja had also created Other M, an installment that butchered the established lore and character of one of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises and they don’t handle women very well. My personal pick would have to be Platinum Games. They’d excel at action games and I’d love to see them tackle more projects in a Nintendo partnership. The director of MGSR:Revengeance is busy developing the new Neir title and Kamiya is busy developing Scalebound, but Bayonetta 2’s director, Hashimoto, has been free since finishing Star Fox earlier this year. He had worked closely with Miyamoto, so PG pitching the game during the development of Zero seems possible. Finally, there’s RETRO Studios, a developer who’s next game is long overdue. Awhile back, rumors surfaced that they had pitched the idea of a Sheik game to Nintendo but we haven’t seen that come to fruition. Retro is seemingly in flux, I have my doubts about the quality of the studio as of late and if they’re capable of developing a good Zelda game, but I guess that will depend on how their NeXt title turns out. Miyamoto had also said that he believed they were capable of tackling a Zelda title, even if their western location would make communication a bit harder. Miyamoto‘s quote:
“The possibility of Retro Studios making a new Zelda with a good proposal isn’t a farfetched idea at all and could be possible.”
“Even if Retro Studios is qualified, Nintendo would have to be in very close contact with the company that were to create this Zelda and, being outside Japan, the distance and the timezone differences would make the communication more difficult.”
I guess only time will tell who, if anyone, will be making this game, but I’m very interested in seeing what comes from it.