Friday, July 17, 2015

The Ultimate Zelda?

On ZeldaEurope we have some rumors about Zelda U going on from an "inside source". Some of the stuff sounds more like wishful thinking and other things appear to be quite obvious to come up with, but from what I've seen the source seems to be very believable. (Update: in fact after some back and forth with the guys I have no reason to doubt it and those are probably the most solid rumors I've seen in all these years. Not that any of this gives away anything specific, but it's still nice to get something about Zelda U in all this silence.) However, you should still take it with a grain of salt, while I try to write a summary:



Fake or not, what caught my attention was the general approach of creating a Zelda game, where they would bring together the best gameplay ideas from past Zelda games, instead of focusing on a specific new idea, all in a large world, which combines many aspects from past games as well. After Skyward Sword I had this fantasy about a "perfect Zelda" going through my mind. It was mainly based on the world of Zelda II, which is a lot larger than the worlds in any other Zelda game. So, you get a world in a much more massive scale, where you ride on a horse and visit many different towns. But one third of the world would be also an ocean, where you travel by boat. Later you could also fly around. And you also would have had access to other kingdoms like Holodrum and Labrynna, the ability to change seasons like in Oracle of Seasons, a gigantic main dungeon like in Spirit Tracks, and many other things and connections from past games, all coming together in one giant, epic, open-world Zelda adventure. But I never really shared these ideas, because they were out of scope...

In a sense they already tried this on a smaller scale with Skyward Sword, which had easter eggs and connections to most of the previous Zelda games, even some bigger gameplay stuff like the boat part in Lanayru Sand Sea, which worked like in Phantom Hourglass. But overall the game focused too much on the motion controls, the story became a mess and they came into linearity deadlocks with those level-like overworld sections.

Zelda U doesn't seem to struggle with these things, but it appears that they are back at the "empty world" problem, which they also had with the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. In that sense it's a good thing that they take their time and maybe my fantasy from three years ago might come true. Still, I don't want to get too excited, which is why I will put my focus on Hyrule Warriors, TriForce Heroes and replaying past games, until Zelda U comes closer and we know more for sure.

But in general the Zelda series needs the next big thing after Ocarina of Time. All the game ever since were based on experiments. Very different art styles, motion controls, Link as a wolf, Link on a train, multiplayer Zelda, etc. This kept things fresh and turned the Zelda series into the most versatile gaming series there is, but it also never came to a big leap forward, a game that really defines an entire generation like Ocarina of Time did.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Golden Classic Controller Pro

This is the newest hardware piece in my collection:


It's actually from a bundle with the Wii game Goldeneye 007, but it's still an official Nintendo product and matches the color of the golden Wiimote, which came with Skyward Sword, perfectly. They look really nice together.

Some ebay sellers offer the controller without the game, so I decided to get one. ZeldaEurope user Wyrule Harrior gave me the idea and it was certainly a good one. I will use this controller for whenever I play Zelda games on the Virtual Console, like the freshly released Ocarina of Time. I even tried this today, though you really have to get used to the low framerate again after playing the 3DS remakes.

I also would like to get my hands on the golden Nunchuk, which they had in Japan's Club Nintendo. I was always saving stars, if they ever would offer it in Europe, but now it's too late for that, because I already invested all my stars.

But that's the kind of hardware bundles I wouldn't mind to see more often. Some extra stuff. Like they could have sold Hyrule Warriors with a Limited Edition Pro Controller, which has golden emblems similar to the Wind Waker edition GamePad. I would have liked that. But instead we got a scarf and Nintendo tries selling Zelda fans Nintendo 3DS systems over and over again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Replaying A Link Between Worlds


With the announcement of TriForce Heroes I decided to play through A Link Between Worlds again for the first time since release. I still had an empty cartridge of the game around, which wanted to be filled with complete savegames. And with the New Nintendo 3DS XL and its easy to push Start button, I might even give the Cucco Run 999.99 seconds challenge a second try after all this time.

But in any case A Link Between Worlds is a Zelda game with good replay value. It's a short Zelda game, you might not even need 10 hours for the core, it took me around 15 hours to complete everything again including StreetPass medals. So, you can essentially beat this in one weekend and with that it's easy to pick up, even if you don't have too much time. But what makes replaying A Link Between Worlds so interesting, are all the options. What items to buy first, the order of dungeons, exploring all the areas. It's for sure the most non-linear Zelda experience.


Dungeon Order

While the game is quite non-linear, you have to force yourself to play things really out of order and not fall into a certain pattern. I guess most people play either Thieves' Hideout or the Swamp Palace first, simply because they are in the area and they give you good benefits with the Blue Mail and the Sand Rod, where the latter lets you get the Titan's Mitt next, which is like the one big item that you can't really early. Turtle Rock and Ice Ruins are probably played last, because they are the more difficult ones. And dungeons like the Dark Palace and Skull Woods end up in the middle. This order makes especially sense in Hero Mode, where you want to keep things easy enough.

But since I had to play through the normal game again to unlock Hero Mode (as I said, this was an untouched cartridge version), I decided to mix things up and go for the hard stuff first. So, I started with the Ice Ruins and then continued with Turtle Rock. When I originally played the game for the first time, the Ice Ruins were my second dungeon and provided a great challenge, so I wanted to re-experience that. And it can be tough, you can't block any of the Ice Wizzrobe attacks without the Hylian Shield and you take some good damage without the Blue Mail. For the boss Dharkstare I actually needed two fairies, though I don't have any practice here (it's a shame that this game never got a Boss Battle mode).

I played Thieves' Town next, because I wanted to play the Desert Temple without upgrading the Sand Rod before. I've never done that before, but this time I forced myself by upgrading all other items first. I wanted to see, if this adds any challenge, but it was only really noticeable with the boss Zaganaga, where the sand walls would disappear while attacking the creature. I played the Swamp Palace last, so that I wouldn't profit too much from the advantage of the Blue Mail. That way I stayed a little closer to Hero Mode.

My least favorite dungeon is probably Skull Woods by the way. In general the dungeons feel weak when compared to their counterparts in A Link to the Past, especially with the enemies, but at least most of the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds have a great feel to them and unique ideas. Skull Woods is just a complete disappointment though. The original Skull Woods had this really good idea of a dungeon with multiple exits. Now here they streamlined this so much that it almost seems to be linear... and the dungeon feels very empty, when compared to the original.


Ravio's Shop

In general buying and upgrading all the items had a very natural flow to it, while replaying the game. It's very well balanced, the amount of Rupees, which I got to buy the items in Ravio's shop, perfectly matched the numbers of Maiamais I had already gathered. So, I would always buy the items to upgrade them immediately. And I've never ground for Rupees, I just explored and got all the chests in dungeons.

The main issue with the item shop though is that you can just rent them all at once in the beginning. You have more than enough money for it and suddenly you can go everywhere and take everything, the only exceptions being things and paths, where you need the Sand Rod and Titan's Mitt. A better system would have you get one item after another, but then you would have the problem of making the wrong choice, where you can't make any progress, until you get enough Rupees to effort another item. So, the rental shop certainly won't have any future in Zelda games, but it was interesting to have it one game. It also adds to the most powerful start in any Zelda game, it can be exciting to get so many items at once.


StreetPass

I also replayed the StreetPass battles and got all 50 medals again. I love this feature, I'm really looking forward to the Coliseum Mode in TriForce Heroes, if it's anything like it. It's just so much fun and I hope they keep the Zelda II music, maybe even remaster some more tracks from the game, like the battle music or the song of the Great Palace. I also hope that the Coliseum Mode will have challenges again, because it can be a lot of fun to collect the medals. Since it has been a while, I even looked up my StreetPass guide. It's a nice moment, when past-you can teach you something. If it can help me, I know for certain that my guide is really helpful.

Anyway... with a third Nintendo 3DS at hand and playing the game on a cartridge, I tried to optimize the strategy of StreetPassing myself to the fullest. I can switch the cartridge around all systems and accumulate 18 Shadow Links with a single StreetPass meeting. With that many you can easily complete all the StreetPass challenges in a single day. However, it seems like it doesn't add any signs onto the meadow, if you haven't played the savegame on that system before, so you have to setup StreetPass again at first, before it loads the Shadow Links.

Of course HomePass would be the best option, but I have yet to set this up and doing it on my own has the advantage that I can create cheap Shadow Links with a bounty of 50, no shield or items for some easy kills, which is very helpful with some of the tougher challenges.

But in general I like, how the StreetPass feature adds some afterplay to the game. You keep returning to the game and go over all of Hyrule and Lorule for the Shadow Links. It's a good feature, which keeps the game alive a lot longer than any other Zelda game.


Rupee Rush

This is the best and most addicting minigame in the entire Zelda series. Period. Like the Shadow Link battles this never gets old. My current records are 342 Rupees in Hyrule and still 993 Rupees in Lorule.


Hero Mode

I've only started the file to setup StreetPass here, but I haven't really replayed Hero Mode yet. I will save that for later this year, when we're getting close to the release of TriForce Heroes. With a fresh experience of A Link Between Worlds I can make better comparisons between the games.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

TriForce Heroes: Costume Frenzy


Shikata confirmed at IGN that TriForce Heroes won't support amiibo! Thank Nayru! They are already following one of my three golden rules for this game and to celebrate, let's talk about the costumes, since now I can look forward to collecting them all without tracking down overpriced figurines.

I have to say, the costumes are probably my favorite aspect so far about TriForce Heroes, next to the Coliseum Mode (which also got confirmed to be online). But with the costumes they are adding something, which the Four Swords games have been dearly missing: a global collectible. You only got collectibles inside the levels, like Magic Seeds, additional Heart Containers, Rupee Shards, Power Bracelets and so on, but those would go away, after you've finished the dungeon. The only thing that stayed with you were the objectives. Well, the first Four Swords at least also had the medals and two unlockable sword techniques, but that wasn't much. And now with the costumes you have a nice additional goal than just completing the game.

They also add a strategic RPG element, because you want to make the right choice for the next dungeon or the next battle in Coliseum Mode. The costumes remind me a lot of the Magic Rings from Oracle of Ages & Seasons, only that they give real visual clues to what "ring" the player has equipped now. But in the Oracle games you also had to chose what rings to bring, you could only wear one ring at a time and it would give you specific perk. And depending on the dungeon and the situation, you might go for different rings.

According to Shikata there are many different costumes in the game, enough to keep you busy for three months collecting them (source). And I'll take him at his word. At least there are already more than there were of those disappointing medals in Skyward Sword, since we know of ten costumes so far:

  • Hero's Tunic: default costume
  • Kokiri Clothes: Nice Bow
  • Big Bomb Outfit: Nice Bombs
  • Spin Attack Attire: Great Spin
  • Lucky Loungewear: chance of taking no damage
  • Zelda's Dress: better chance of finding hearts
  • Goron Garb: swim through lava & pass through fire unharmed
  • Prince Costume: effect unknown (might be Fire Arrows)
  • Cheetah Costume: effect unknown (might be speed)
  • Boomerang Costume: Nice Boomerang?

In general it can be said that all the Maiamai abilities probably return as a costume, if the item is still in the game. But probably new items will also receive upgrades in the form of costumes, like the Gust Jar. And probably some of the other upgrades in A Link Between Worlds, like the increased Energy Bar or the Blue Mail, will also return as costumes.

So... let's have some fun here with ideas:

  • Fierce Deity Costume: Sword Beams
  • Fiery Costume: flaming sword for double damage
  • Armor Costume: take only half damage / stronger shield
  • Tingle or Ravio Costume: Rupees count double / get more Rupees
  • Fairy Costume: slowly regenerate
  • Postman Costume: larger Energy Bar
  • Zora Costume: breath underwater and swim faster
  • Zuna Costume: Nice Sand Rod and/or no sinking in quicksand
  • Anouki Costume: Nice Ice Rod and/or no sliding on ice
  • Bee Costume: summons a friendly golden bee at each level + bees won't attack you

The Fiery Costume and the Armor Costume are basically the classic Red and Blue Tunic from Link's Awakening DX, which also reappeared as the Red and Blue Ring in the Oracles and then got later redefined by the Spirit Gem abilities in Phantom Hourglass, which is what I'm using here.

In case you don't remember the Zuna, those were the desert tribe in Four Swords Adventures. It would be interesting to bring them back for this game, since this is the spiritual successor of FSA. And with the Zora costume I have the classic River Zora in mind, like they also appeared in A Link Between Worlds. Link's face could look through the mouth, haha.

If you have any good ideas, leave them in the comments. I might add them to the list!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hyrule Warriors Legends: Thoughts on Adventure Mode

Now the 3DS version of Hyrule Warriors won't be released until Spring 2016, which gives me enough time to finish the Wii U version until then. But with Hyrule Warriors Legends I hope that they do things differently, instead of just copying all the content over, especially with Adventure Mode. Since the game won't support as many enemies on screen as the Wii U version, they would have to refine all missions anyway for the A ranks and what not else. Might as well go for something different.

So, instead of giving us the same five maps again, I hope they will just feature different maps altogether. Since this is a handheld game, the original handheld Zelda game Link's Awakening comes into mind:


They could use items like the Roc's Feather, Power Bracelet, Pegasus Boots, Ocarina, Zora Flippers, Hookshot, Mirror Shield and Magical Rod as item cards. They could even use the monochrome version of Koholinth to go for classic looks:


In any case this map offers 256 squares, which is as much as the Adventure and Master Quest Maps combined. And I suppose, they could limit the characters a little bit. It would be fine, if they kept it at Level 99 and 30 Heart Containers again, basically the same as when the Wii Version only had the Master Quest DLC. With the later DLC Hyrule Warriors went completely out of control and turned into a massive grind fest. And hopefully they will keep the 3DS game lighter, I already put so much time in the Wii U version, I would be happy to get a more streamlined version on the 3DS.

Even if they keep 8-Bit weapons and all the unlockable costumes, there should be enough space to cram it all in there. If they redistribute all unlockables, they could also use the Legend Mode more efficiently. Cia's Tale could have Heart Containers and Pieces for Cia, Volga and Wizzro, as well as some Skulltulas. The same goes for the new Wind Waker missions.

If they need more space, they could always make their own maps in the style of Link's Awakening. I doubt that they would use the maps from the Oracles, because they haven't touched any Capcom Zelda material yet and those would offer too much space...

Since the Wind Waker seems to be an important addition, a map based on the ocean of the Wind Waker could also work for the Adventure Mode. However, this only offers 49 spaces and lacks the 8-bit charm. But maybe they could remake the islands of the Wind Waker in the 8-bit style of Link's Awakening? Like they did with the maps of Twilight Princess and Majora's Mask in the 8-bit NES style. This would certainly be a nice fit and they could have 8-Bit Item Cards of various items from the Wind Waker, like the Grappling Hook or the Deku Leaf.

So, we would have one main Adventure Map with Koholinth and a secondary, more challenging map with the 8-Bit Great Sea. And probably also a new Rewards Map for the Skulltulas. But that's it.

And drop Challenge Mode. That mode is just tedious and not much fun, I doubt the 3DS could handle the Ganon chaos anyway. Good riddance.

Hyrule Warriors Legends: Linkle & The Wind Waker Inclusion

Now there is this interview with Hayashi about Hyrule Warriors Legends, check it out. On the one hand he confirms that there will be at least one more character and I'm placing my money on Linkle. It would be awesome to have her, I love the design.


Her weapon was also shown in the trailer and she was a fan favorite, when Koei asked for new characters on Twitter, so I think she's a good bet.

Also, The Wind Waker is getting its own epilogue story, which takes place after the events of Hyrule Warriors. They acknowledged that the art style and the world of the Wind Waker clashes with the other games, so they gave it its own part.


I personally think that they could have tried giving the Wind Waker a more realistic look and style. Originally I was also hoping that they would make their own version of the King of Hyrule in the next game, who combines traits of Gaepora (Zelda's father in Skyward Sword) and Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule. The Sail / Boat could still be one of his weapons. But... on the other hand they also featured Fi and Midna straight from their games, so it's only natural that they would include the Red King of Lions, who was Link's companion in the Wind Waker, in his original version.

I'm still not all too happy about this mix, I liked Hyrule Warriors the most, when it all looked very cohesive and they had their own designs for everyone. Tingle then blew things out of proportion and now it's just a mess, where they could throw anything into the mix. But at least it really serves the purpose of an All-Star Zelda game.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

TriForce Heroes: Keep it Clean!


TriForce Heroes won't be your usual Zelda game, but at the same time I really hope that they keep it as traditional as possible with releasing this title. Just give me a game for once, Nintendo, without any fuzz around it! In the last years Nintendo developed some bad traits and ideally TriForce Heroes will stay clean of them. There are three simple rules, Nintendo would have to follow:

  1. No Limited Edition Hardware Bundle
  2. No Paid DLC
  3. No amiibo

1) No Limited Edition Hardware Bundle

Do you remember the last time, when Nintendo released a Zelda game without any Special Edition hardware attached to it? That was Spirit Tracks in 2009. Six years ago! Every Zelda game since then offered a limited hardware bundle with some golden Zelda design, even all the remakes. It all started with the 25th Anniversary in 2011.

As a Zelda collector this is nice and exciting at first, but became excessive and even stressful after some time. So far every Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS came with a special Zelda 3DS! That's three of them! Of course no one forces you to buy these things, but as a collector you simply want to. For me this goes back to The Minish Cap and its golden Limited Edition GameBoy Advance SP. At release I already had a black GameBoy Advance SP and I wasn't the biggest Zelda fan at the time (I hadn't even played the Wind Waker yet), so I was rational and didn't buy it. And I still regret this decision today. Later it turned out that it would be good to have a second GBA, so I could play Four Swords with a friend of mine. So, I bought the golden GBA, but only a used copy from ebay. It does have some scratches on it and it would have been a lot nicer, if I bought this thing new, when I had the chance...

Because I don't want to make the same mistake again, I bought all the Limited Edition 3DS systems there were. All three of them. They are good investments, even "used" (I keep them in a very good state) I can easily sell them with profit at any time, so there's no real loss here. And as it turns out, they might come in handy with TriForce Heroes, because I could play TriForce Heroes with friends, who don't have a 3DS ready, thanks to Download Play. And I also might be able to cheat with the arena mode, so I can easily win those medals and materials by setting up two dummies. But... I don't really need a fourth one, especially since I already bought a New Nintendo 3DS XL this year with Majora's Mask 3D. And at this point every Zelda fan, who has some little interest in the 3DS, already should have one. So, hopefully Nintendo keeps things simple for once.

I wouldn't mind them releasing some Special Edition with some merchandise though, as long as they have enough quantities. That's another big issue with Nintendo right now, those Special Editions are usually sold out months before release. Then your preorder gets cancelled and you have to scout all the shops in your city in the hope that you might be lucky enough to find one remaining copy... or you have to pay twice as much on ebay. Being a collector is just not much fun anymore these days.


2) No Paid DLC

This might seem a little paradox, but I actually like DLC, because it can extend the life of a game significantly, it keeps it fresh and exciting over some time. And while I wouldn't want DLC for a normal Zelda game, something like TriForce Heroes is well suited for DLC. New stages for Coliseum mode, new costumes to unlock, new dungeons. It's all possible.

However, paid DLC on the Nintendo 3DS just sucks, if you have more than one 3DS system. Paid DLC is linked to a Nintendo Network ID and you can only link one 3DS system to your Nintendo Network ID. My original 3DS (the Ocarina of Time 3D one) is where I still keep all my downloaded games and content. However, with some games I prefer the bigger screen of my New Nintendo 3DS XL, so I use this system instead. But what to do with games, where they offer paid DLC? Smash 4 is a good example for this issue. I don't really know, what to do here. I prefer playing this on the bigger system, but I keep all DLC on the small 3DS... So, I haven't bought any of the DLC yet. And since the DLC is very expansive for some reason, I wouldn't want to buy it twice.

What does work though, is free DLC. Free content updates. I doubt that there will be DLC for TriForce Heroes, since A Link Between Worlds didn't even get a single update. They are keeping their files closed with a Zelda game and that's good. Zelda games should be a finished package. But if they consider to add future content to TriForce Heroes, e.g. new battle mode stages, then hopefully those will be free. That way I could easily install and use them on all my 3DS systems.

(Same goes for the Four Swords Anniversary Edition by the way. Since it's free, it's very easy to distribute. However, it's currently not available and I hope they will put this on the eShop again next year for the 30th Anniversary, so I can install the game on all my 3DS systems.)

Another good reason is that DLC divides the player base. It works for new characters. Someone might have a DLC character like Lucas and the others don't. It's not really an issue. However, as soon as there are DLC stage, tracks or even dungeons, you have people, who might not be able to join you anymore...


3) No amiibo

I love the costume idea and I'm looking forward to collecting them all. And ideally that would only involve me doing stuff ingame and not tracking down overpriced figurines in real life. amiibo is Nintendo's cash cow and I despise it.

amiibo are great, if it's really about the figurine and not about unlocking DLC content. Smash 4 for example treats the amiibo perfectly. You get a nice figure player addition, which you can train. And you buy the figurines of the characters, which you enjoy, and not the figurines, which give you certain content. With what Nintendo does in other games there's always the issue that someone just wants to get the content, but has no interest in the figurines. I boycotted Splatoon for this reason (amongst others).

It's not that I would never buy any amiibo, it's just that the ones that they offer currently don't interest me. The Smash amiibo are very ugly with their plastic poles. But if they had nice Hyrule Warriors amiibo for example, I would certainly buy some of them, probably starting with my beloved Cia. I don't care if they only give you a random weapon for the character, I mainly want the figurine and any ingame use is just an extra. And amiibo shouldn't obstruct the people, who just want to have a complete game. That's very important.

Of course with TriForce Heroes they could even go as far and create their own amiibo line for this game. Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks had these small figurine sets, which basically look like Toon Zelda amiibo. I just hope that it doesn't come to any of that. Let ingame collectibles like the costumes be true ingame collectibles. If I have to scan amiibo figurines to 100% a Zelda game, I won't be really happy with the game.