Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of most things Nintendo, told Edge recently that he'd like to make a new Zelda "based on, or starting from" 1991's A Link to the Past (LttP). Rumors of a remake to the twenty year old classic have been circling since Miyamoto mentioned a port or remake as a likely 3DS candidate last year, but these new statements are big news for the future of the franchise.
"I think the answer would be the same if we're talking about just porting," he said, "but I think I'd be even more interested in creating something new maybe based on, or starting from, A Link To The Past. I think it's important to bring some really new software." - Miyamoto to Edge
Although his comments do not preclude the idea of an LttP port, it seems clear that he'd much rather focus on new material than put effort into a remake. Although the 3DS is in desperate need of new software, Miyamoto's wishes could also apply to the upcoming WiiU.
The last Zelda with the gameplay of LttP was the Capcom-developed Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance, which came out over seven years ago. In fact, the last solely Nintendo-developed Zelda with that traditional gameplay was LttP's direct sequel, Link's Awakening in 1993. We've had tastes of Nintendo's (Miyamoto's) vision for this style of game with handheld outings and Four Swords Adventure, but an intentional return to LttP's style could be something special.
Two Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, were designed for the DS with the intention of utilizing the features unique to the DS. While they shared the same top-down view as their predecessors, it presented players with full 3D graphics and stylus-centric movement and gameplay. Level design (repeated dungeons) and world traversal (by boat or train) are major complaints for these games.
It's entirely likely that the new game would be developed for 3DS and continue this touch-controlled style. However, since the game is specifically dedicated to Link to the Past, one should expect the kind of level design and overworld the classic exemplifies. LttP is known for its well-paced, directed flow through a world where the richness of its story comes alive in every location. In truest Zelda tradition, the world becomes larger as Link becomes stronger with new equipment to overcome challenges. A sense of darkness and danger that can elicit fright adds a layer of excitement often lost in more family-friendly endeavors.
The DS Zeldas often fail when it comes to those aspects that make LttP a fan favorite. The worlds of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are segmented, therefore more linear. As you gain access to each new location, you simply go there, rather than experiencing the discovery, or sense of exploration that comes from knowing you must find your way to and through the Lost Woods.
Miyamoto has not quite given a confirmation that this successor will manifest, though we can certainly expect something related to LttP. Schedules and existing projects at Nintendo would dictate whether or not someone is available to make more out of the project than a remake. Miyamoto fears some of the potential directors for the game don't have what it takes to do something unique.
A Link to the Past was a pivotal moment in Zelda history, defining much of the later games' traditions, such as character names, locations, items, baddies and lore. It is one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. The future of the franchise would benefit greatly from a return to those elements that made LttP so great.