Well, I haven't gotten a new Zelda game since TP, so what I say may be dated.
1. Characters. Some of the side-characters actually show personality, but at best it's one-dimensional, and the main cast is laughable. Personally, I say throw the "Link never talks" rule to the wind for a spinoff experiment at least.
2. Dungeons. I've noticed that I either get stuck in dungeons...or CAN DO THEM BLINDFOLDED ON THE FIRST TIME. I've developed a sense for how Zelda dungeons work to the point the dungeons themselves are extraneous. There's no real point in a dungeon so hard I have to FAQ it or so easy I don't have to think about it. If you can't moderate the difficulty to a sane middle-of-the-road level, DROP them. At least drop them as a main part of the game and add them back in as side-quests. Doing challenging things for power-ups makes perfect sense.
On that note, the best way to fix dungeons is to give them multiple paths using different items, or even not requiring items at all if you solve genuinely hard puzzles. Nothing breaks up the monotony of a dungeon quite like running across a puzzle you don't have the equipment to solve. How would Zelda's gameplay change if you went into a dungeon, selected three items, and then had to complete the dungeon with ONLY those three items?
3. More activity on the world. Horse battles in TP were particularly impressive; some of the most unique gameplay I'd seen at the time...and I was immensely disappointed there were only THREE in the whole game
, and only the first really struck me as using it to its full potential. Collecting light bugs? Tedious, but more interesting than a dungeon.
4. Less item-centric gameplay. See #2.
5. A sense of TIME in the game pushing the player to choose some quests over others. Majora's Mask spoiled us on this one.
6. An AI (human) partner in combat. Really, I've been toying with ideas for this one for a while, and I think its for the best; Midna, Tatl, and Navi all felt extraneous because they didn't participate in combat, and only very rarely in meaningful events. King of Red Lions is the best side-kick we've had, and he was limited by BEING A BOAT. It boils down to this, though; Link's prior partners felt like they sort of outranked Link, or certainly had a better sense of what was going on (exception: Tatl) and so you were compelled to do as they said. A human partner would inevitably be Link's peer, so the player really could take what the AI said as a suggestion, and not an absolute.
What's more, think of the implications this has for gameplay. Remember the three item limit for a dungeon I suggested earlier? What if you chose the items you equipped your partner with, too? Not only would this have implications on how you solve puzzles, it would fundamentally change how you fight battles. Keep the bow for yourself and give him a slingshot? Your partner will be useless in combat. Give him all the good items? You'll have to struggle yourself. Give him an up-close role and yourself a far away one? What happens if the situation is forcibly reversed? What happens if one of you runs out of bottled fairies or red potions? Give him magic items so he's practically a wizard? All of these have implications in puzzles AND fights, because Zelda is one of the few games to use the same items for both. It's a great opportunity to break down the classic RPG class system and Do It Yourself in an odd way to both be able to fight AND solve puzzles.
Fundamentally, it's all Zelda gameplay I'm talking about here, but it's been reapplied in a radically different way. Do I think Nintendo will do this? No, almost certainly not. But it is interesting to think about, anyway.
Edited by Egann, 27 January 2012 - 01:46 PM.