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Why The Zelda Games Don't Allow Players To Map Their Own Controls

"The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom" is a fantastic game, filled to the clouds (and above) with new powers, weapons, and obstacles for Link to overcome. Not only does Link get a brand new arm during the game's opening scene, but his new appendage allows him to master abilities like Ultrahand and Fuse, both of which prove invaluable in his quest to find Zelda and defeat the Demon King Ganondorf. But while these abilities are a great deal of fun to use, players might find them to be a bit unwieldy at times, mainly due to the game's control scheme and the layout of the Nintendo Switch's controls.

Each of the aforementioned powers must be specifically selected from a wheel brought up with the left trigger, while every other bit of inventory must likewise be pulled from a menu screen. It can be easy to get the required button inputs backwards, resulting in Link dropping a necessary piece of one of his constructs. There's nothing more annoying that attaching something when you meant to put it down, and vice-versa.

In much the same way, players may find it difficult to do a running jump, since both inputs are mapped to buttons that are opposite one another. Whereas many modern games allow players to remap the controls to a configuration that suits their comfort level and preferred play-style, that's not the case with "Tears of the Kingdom." But why is it that the "Legend of Zelda" games don't allow for button remapping?

The Zelda team wants its games to feel a certain way

As it turns out, the ability to reconfigure the controls was apparently not something that the dev team ever seriously considered — and that design decision goes back to "Breath of the Wild" and beyond. During a Kotaku interview from 2019, gaming journalist Jason Schreier asked longtime series producer and designer Eiji Aonuma about why the developers don't allow for more control customization. Aonuma responded, "When we have a button arrangement, we very much put thought into how we do it, because there's a specific way we want players to feel. In some ways, if we freely let players do customizations on key assignments and such, I feel like we're letting go of our responsibility as a developer by just kind of handing everything over to the users."

In other words, the "Zelda" team sees the control layout to be just as important a piece of the overall vibe of the game as the music, the combat mechanics, or Link's fabulous wardrobe. At the time of this interview, Aonuma hinted that the team might consider allowing for button remapping in the future, but that clearly did not come to pass.