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Nintendo suspects Zelda rip-off

Nintendo has warned Webzen about its MMOG Wiki after it demonstrated an uncanny resemblance to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in screenshots.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Nintendo has warned South Korean developer Webzen over screenshots released last week to accompany the announcement of massively multiplayer online title Wiki.

The game uses a cel-shaded visual style extremely reminiscent of Nintendo's highly stylised GameCube title The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The central character shown in one of the screenshots is remarkably similar to Link, adopting a similar shape for his eyes and face, with even the shadowing on his hair and his blue tunic reminiscent of the Nintendo character's turn on the Cube.

Nintendo has reportedly said that it is taking "natural steps" to protect its intellectual property, and indicated that it would "seek appropriate measures at the appropriate time".

However, Webzen representatives have dismissed the claim, pointing out that players can make their in-game characters look however they want. "The number of variables are in the tens of thousands," IGN quotes Webzen rep Choi Hyun-woo as responding in Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily. "We are still in the middle of developing the game, which will begin closed testing services in December."

If Nintendo presses the issue, though, the Zelda/Wiki debate has the potential to morph into a battle similar to the struggle between City of Heroes developer Cryptic Studios and Marvel Comics, which has launched a suit against the developer arguing that its copyright is being infringed by tools that allow for passable facsimiles of its major characters.

Marvel has been widely condemned by gamers for what it sees as attempts to protect its copyright, prompting countless interesting examinations of the validity of the claim and drawing an impassioned defence of creative freedoms from Cryptic, which described City of Heroes as "a tool that encourages originality, not slavish copying," in its motion to dismiss, arguing that "If it should be banned, then so should the #2 pencil, the Lego block, modelling clay, and anything else that allows one to give form to ideas," and adding that Marvel's view of the world was centred around making money wherever possible, "imagination be damned".

Given that Wiki isn't finished yet, this is obviously a different set of circumstances, but if Nintendo persists and finds fault in the finished article, it could fall into a similar groove - to similarly damaging effect.

Of course, it wouldn't be Nintendo's only legal snafu in recent memory. Last year the company had a bit of a spat with porn website Suicide Girls after a user prominently noted that he enjoyed playing the company's games. Nintendo eventually withdrew its legal objection and apologised - largely in response to a strong tone of disapproval from countless blogs and commentators, most of whom pointed out that it was behaving like a total arse.

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