Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - A Silent Zelda Year




To be totally honest, I'm writing this early 2010. I was just looking at the 2008 section and noticed, that it was very empty. And there's a reason, why it's so empty. 2008 was the most silent year for Zelda in the last decade. We didn't know anything about any future Zelda games besides the fact, that one is in the making for the Wii. There were no new Zelda games released and we didn't even see any more re-releases like on the Virtual Console. The year, where Ocarina of Time celebrated its 10th birthday, was the most silent year for the Zelda franchise since the mid-90s. At this time, this blog wasn't even focused on Zelda, because there wasn't too much to talk about Zelda anyway. Which is why this exceptional article was added at a later time.

The biggest and probably only highlight in 2008 was the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It's a great game, full of content and the Zelda franchise didn't come too short. Brawl featured five playable characters from the Zelda franchise, Link, Zelda, Shiek and Ganondorf in the style of Twilight Princess and Toon Link. Stages were the Great Bridge of Eldin from Twilight Princess, Tetra's Ship from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass and the Temple stage from Super Smash Bros. Melee. Also, there are some Zelda items like the Deku Nut, the Bunny Hood and the Heart Container, as well as lots of collectible trophies and stickers covering all Zelda games. And that's just the Zelda part, there were lots of other videogame franchises taking place in this incredible tournament. You will easily spent more than 100 hours with this game.

Besides that, no news for Zelda. We've been spoiled over the last years full of new Zelda games and we're not used to this silence. So, I used the year to get into the Metroid series, which shares similar Action Adventure gameplay elements with Zelda, I like it a lot. Also, since there were no new Zelda games, I decided to check out the spin-off titles for the first time, Link's Crossbow Training and Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. Link's Crossbow Training is sweat, but very short, the game only lasts for about three hours until you have all Platinum Medals. Rupeeland was surprisingly entertaining, since it keeps the Action Adventure formula of the Zelda series, but just check out my review in January 2009.

So, that's the summary for 2008. Luckily the silence was broken in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zelda Quiz Prices

Hi there,

I finally got my prices send from Nintendo, which I've won at the Zelda Quiz on Nintendofans.de. There I am "Fierce", the guy who scored more than 7000 points. However, the quiz ran from November 2007 to February 2008 and every month the top players could win nice prices, sponsored by Nintendo. This is how I scored and what I've won:

  • December 2007: 2nd Place (First 4 Figures Samus Aran Varia Suit figure)
  • January 2008: 1st Place (Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland for NDS)
  • February 2008: 1st Place (Golden Link & Epona figure)


However, I've waited nearly a year now to get the figures from Nintendo, so they added some other stuff as a present for the long waiting time as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ocarina of Time's 10th Anniversary




10 years ago, on November 11th 1998 simply one of the best games of all times was released in Japan, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Congratulations!!

Still today Ocarina of Time is considered to be the best Zelda game, even the best video game of all times. A lot of childhood memories go along with a game, that fascinated and moved us. With 7.6 million copies sold worldwide it's the best selling Zelda game so far, that got even re-released three times, two times one the Nintendo GameCube and once for the Virtual Console.

Ocarina of Time was the fifth game in the Zelda series, not counting the BS-X spin offs, LCD games or inofficial games like the CD-i ones. But no one calls Ocarina of Time "Zelda V", basically we stopped counting after Zelda II, because of the planned Zelda III for the SNES, which was cancelled and resulted in both A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. Next to the original Zelda game and A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time is probably the game, which characterized the Zelda series the most. First let's take a look, how the Zelda series looked like before Ocarina of Time hit the shelves (main titles are bold and I ignored the LCD games):

  • 1986 (1987 EU)
    The Legend of Zelda (The Hyrule Fantasy) (NES)

  • 1987 (1988 EU)
    Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (NES)

  • 1991 (1992 EU)
    A Link to the Past (SNES)

  • 1993
    Link's Awakening (GB)

  • 1995
    BS The Legend of Zelda: Map 1 (BS-X)*

  • 1996
    BS The Legend of Zelda: Map 2 (BS-X)*

  • 1997
    Ancient Stone Tablets (BS-X)*

  • 1998
    Ocarina of Time (N64)

*in Japan only

The frequency confined itself to one release per year at the maximum, if you ignore the BS-X spin offs there even occured pauses of four or five years in development and waiting time. Of course we didn't have any re-releases like today, except on the BS-X system, where the first BS Zelda was a 16-bit remake of the original The Legend of Zelda and there was even a downloadable version of "Triforce of the Gods" (A Link to the Past), but I don't know the exact date for that (and with "exact date" I mean the year). But more importantly the big Zelda boom came with Ocarina of Time, as we will see later on. But what is it, which made this game so popular? Why is it, that this games constantly hits top 3 places in "best gamer ever" votes? Why is this game a legend, while others are not?

Ocarina of Time was not only the first 3D Zelda, it was a revolutionary milestone in the history of video games. Even though it was based on Super Mario 64's 3D engine, it was not Miyamoto's goal just to create Super Mario 64 with a sword, like the original The Legend of Zelda game was not just Super Mario Bros with a sword. Eiji Aonuma stated, that the original goal was to create a 3D version of A Link to the Past and you can't deny the similarities between those games.



One important step for the conversion of Zelda into 3D was the so called Z-Targeting (or "L-Targeting" on the GameCube). With Z-Targeting it was possible to target an object, don't loose sight of it and strafe around it. All your attacks will automatically go into the direction of the targeted object, which was especially nice for distance attacks such like arrows. Also, the Z-Targeting was an easy way to adjust the camera right behind you, in case there weren't any targetable objects around. This technique of controls was innovative for its time and made navigating and operating in 3D environments much easier. It quickly became a standard in the industry and was even used in first person shooters such like Metroid Prime.

The story was about showing the beginnings of Link, Zelda, Ganondorf and even the triforce itself. In its time Zelda fans weren't aware, that there are different generations of Links and Zeldas, though A Link to the Past already introduced a different generation, so the story of Ocarina of Time was confusing at first and more looked like a reboot than anything else. The story starts with Link as kid, who was living among the tribe of Kokiri under the protecting aura of the giant Deku Tree in the middle of the Lost Woods. But Link was different from the other Kokiri, because he didn't have a fairy. But on the day, where he finally was blessed with one, the Deku Tree send him on a mission to find princess Zelda and to fulfill his destiny. For the role of the antagonist Nintendo chose to give Ganon a human form, Ganondorf Dragmire, the king of the Gerudo thieves. Rampaging the lands of Hyrule he was looking for the Triforce, a sacred relict created by the three goddesses Din, Nayru and Farore after creating the world, hidden inside the Sacred Realm. But Link and Zelda's attempt of stopping Ganondorf ended in a dreadful future, where Hyrule is suffering under the Ganondorf's tyranny. Link now has to travel through the times in order to stop Ganondorf and of course save princess Zelda.

Oh well... I got carried away. Quite a story, but we all know, that the story in Zelda never really was what mattered. Everything in Zelda is built around specific main gameplay ideas, even the story. For example they invented the idea of the fairy, because they wanted to have an interactive pointer for the Z-Targeting. The time travelling was part of the game, because they wanted to show us Link in different ages (originally also as an old man, who got strong powers and could lift rocks with his bare hands). But the most important aspect was of course creating the first 3D Zelda game. This influenced a lot of things. For example they made Ganondorf not because it would be a cool story to have a human Ganon, they created him because a huge pig monster in 3D all the time would look ridiculous and not like a serious enemy.



What I liked especially was the vast feeling of freedom in this game. The first time when you leave the forests and enter Hyrule Field just feels so amazing, because unlike in Twilight Princess you don't have two rock walls on each side guiding your path to Hyrule Castle Town. No, you can go visit the farm, Kakariko, the Gerudo Valley and Lake Hylia, where you already could get some heart pieces or other secrets. Non-linearity was still king here and in the second half of the game, you could alter the order of the dungeons to your liking. Ignore the Forest Temple and play the Ice Cavern first? No problem, feel free to do so. (That way you could even enter the well inside the Forest Temple without releasing the water first.) Switch Fire and Forest Temple? No problem. Switch Fire and Water Temple? No problem. Switch Shadow and Spirit Temple? No problem. And the dungeons theirselves could be solved in a very non-linear fashion, for example the fan favorite Water Temple.

Some of the items had to change, so they could work in the third dimension. For example the magic rods became now magic arrows and some items never made the jump into the third dimension, like the Cane of Somaria or the Magic Powder. But the new perspective made some entire new items possible like the Iron Boots, the Zora Armor or two-handed swords. One special item was the Ocarina of Time, in the end the game was even named after it. All the previous installments in the Zelda series featured a musical instrument, a simple flute or an ocarina. In The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past it was used for teleportation, in Zelda II to open certain paths and in Link's Awakening to do all of these things and even solve special puzzles. Link's Awakening was the first game, where you could play different songs on your flute, three alltogether. In Ocarina of Time this was now stepped up with 13 different songs, all of them causing different magical effects. But you could also play freely on your ocarina, with Z, R and the analog stick you were able alter the tones and come up with your own songs. (Probably an inspiration for Wii Music, haha.) However, with the Ocarina of Time you could alter the time, summon rain, teleport or call your horse. Some of these songs like "Saria's Song" became instant classics and still remain in our ears.

Calling your horse is a good point, one of the most spectacular innovations in Ocarina of Time was Link's horse, Epona. With her you could quickly cross the vast fields of Hyrule and she became so popular, she starred in six later Zelda games (though you could only ride on her in three of them) and became an important part of the series. Also very nice was the high number of collectable items, oh I love collectable items. Next to the for its time already very high number of 36 pieces of heart you could find up to 100 golden spiders, the so called "Gold Skulltulas". Hunting those was fun and I still remember the amazing ambience, Kakariko at night, the wind mill rattled and the cursed spiders rustled. It was awesome. Generally the atmosphere in Ocarina of Time was great thanks to the use of atmospheric ambient sounds and the epic soundtrack of Koji Kondo, who managed to create the perfect score for every environment. Music, that people still love and enjoy today. It's timeless. And in my humble opinion only Majora's Mask with its intense and depressing ambience managed to outmatch the atmosphere of Ocarina of Time.



Ocarina of Time is THE must-have title of the entire Zelda series. It was groundbreaking in controls, presentation and world design for 3D games and still represents the pinnacle of the Zelda series for a lot of Zelda fans. If you haven't played it until today, then get a copy NOW.

10 years are gone since the release of Ocarina of Time and a lot happened for the Zelda series. The Zelda series already is three times as big, not counting any spin offs or re-releases. Let's take a look how the series looked like after Ocarina of Time hit the shelves (European release dates):

  • 1999
    Link's Awakening DX (GBC)

  • 2000
    Majora's Mask (N64)

  • 2001
    Oracle of Ages (GBC)
    Oracle of Seasons (GBC)

  • 2003
    A Link to the Past: Four Swords (GBA)
    The Wind Waker (GCN)
    Ocarina of Time: Master Quest (GCN)
    Collector's Edition (GCN)

  • 2004
    NES Classics: The Legend of Zelda (GBA)
    The Minish Cap (GBA)

  • 2005
    Four Swords Adventures (GCN)
    NES Classics: Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (GBA)

  • 2006
    Twilight Princess (NGC, Wii)
    The Legend of Zelda (WiiVC)

  • 2007
    Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (WiiVC)
    Ocarina of Time (WiiVC)
    A Link to the Past (WiiVC)
    Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland (NDS)
    Phantom Hourglass (NDS)
    Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)


The difference is remarkable. The high number of releases was enabled, because there was more than one development team working on Zelda simultaneously. Capcom's studio "Flagship" developed both Oracle games, Four Swords and The Minish Cap and therefore all new handheld Zelda games for six years. Nintendo EAD3 split into two teams, the big one to work on big 3D titles like The Wind Waker or Twilight Princess and a smaller one. This smaller team then created both Four Swords Adventures and Phantom Hourglass and now probably is working on another Nintendo DS Zelda title. Also, Nintendo assigned Vanpool to develop the Zelda spin off Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. So, we had four different teams working on Zelda in the last ten years, making the large number of different releases possible. And of course the Zelda series recorded a variety of re-releases via bonus discs, the NES Classics series and the Virtual Console. The only empty years on this list are 2002 and 2008, but it was not empty in 2002 for Japan and the USA, where The Wind Waker and Four Swords were released before Europe.

This year probably is the first time since the mid 90's where Zelda fans don't know, where they are going. The last time was before Ocarina of Time, so let's hope this is a good sign and Nintendo is working on something special for the Zelda series right now. Something, that can achieve the same impact as Ocarina of Time had ten years ago.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Smash Bros Brawl Stages

Like I promised, I will show some of my self made Brawl stages here on this blog. Even better, you will be able to download and play them as well. I made about 20 stages by now, but I will only show you the best of them. At least for now, maybe I'm going to release some more later. Well, the stage builder is actually pretty limited, so don't expect anything on Unreal Editor level. When I started creating levels with Brawl's stage builder, I randomly placed some structures, I wanted to use, and built the rest of the level around it. Sounds lame, but some of the results were pretty good. An example for one of those maps is "Sector 23", you can see below. I also built a lot of smaller Battlefield type of stages, but while they are good, they are nothing special at all. However, I soon realized that the stages from the stage builder are not only lacking in visuals but in something else too. What's it, what makes a Smash Bros stage a real Smash Bros stage? Right, it has to be connected to a certain game or franchise, or else it doesn't feel like part of the whole SSB universe. That's why I concentrated on creating some stages, which are related to other games. Unreal Tournament, Metroid Prime Pinball and Tetris specifically.

  • Name: Sector 23
  • Comment: -
  • Size: Medium
  • Music: Sector 1
  • Download

This is one of my stages, which was created by random input, I've mentioned above. But it's actually pretty nice, there are a lot of ways to go and run. Music is Sector 1 from Metroid Fusion, which why I've named it "Sector 23". I picked the 23 because of obvious reasons.

  • Name: Deck 16
  • Comment: Unreal Tournament
  • Size: Medium
  • Music: Yell "Dead Cell"
  • Download

In Nintendo's first attempt of allowing the creation and sharing of user created content, of course the one game has to be honored, which was groundbreaking in this field and even brought custom content to video game systems: Unreal Tournament. You have to use your fantasy here, but this stage is meant to be the original Deck 16 in cross-section. The ramps are there and one of the structures is used for the small catwalk, where the Shield Belt was placed. Because there is no bio waste acid or other hazardous fluid availabe in the stage builder I used spikes on the ground level. Too bad it's not possible to use your own mp3 files or I would have used the original "Go Down" theme for the stage. Instead one the Metal Gear tracks is played, which comes close to the techno style music from UT.

*updated on January 14th, 2009* I got rid of unnecessary walls and the stage is now of medium size for better gameplay.

  • Name: Smash Pinball
  • Comment: -
  • Size: Medium
  • Music: Main Theme (Metroid)
  • Download

To be totally honest here, I saw this stage somewhere on YouTube and reconstructed it by myself. So, it's basically not my idea, but still a good stage though. The idea is simple, the stage is built like a pinball table. There are conveyors on the lower level, which lead to a pit, springs to push you up as well as ice and falling blocks on the upper level. Everything is always on the move in this stage, which makes pretty fun and intense gameplay. The music track is the guitar version of the Brinstar theme, which is played in Metroid Prime Pinball all the time. Plus the whole space station theme shows, that I had Metroid Pinball in mind, when I built this stage.

  • Name: Tetris Terror
  • Comment: -
  • Size: Medium
  • Music: Tetris Type B
  • Download

This idea is definitely the most obvious one. I mean, when you first start the stage builder and see all those square blocks, you first think about making either a Mario or a Tetris map. Nintendo even put remixed versions of the original Tetris music in the game, though there is no official Tetris stage, so the whole thing screams practically after one. And there are a lot of them out there. So, this is my version of this idea, plain-colored with a lot of falling blocks to fit the Tetris concept. Actually the falling blocks can be used as a nice strategy here, if you let them crumble in the right moment, they can push down or hinder your enemies. I had a lot of fun playing this stage with some buddies, but be prepared for a lot of suicides.

  • Name: Tetris Terror 2
  • Comment: -
  • Size: Medium
  • Music: Tetris Type A
  • Download

This is my newest stage, built it yesterday. And, as you have with no doubt surmised, it's again about Tetris. This time, it's multi-colored and more solid. Only the big square block is a falling one, the others are either ice or normal blocks. Again there's a ladder and some moving platforms to help you moving between the blocks.

To play the stages, simply download the files in the \private\wii\app\RSBP\st directory on your SD card. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Legend of Zelda: Brainstorming Adventures

So, after the disappointing event yesterday, I've calmed down and Miyamoto gave us some statements about some of the core franchises including Zelda. The good thing is, they actually want to take Zelda some steps further and want some big unique ideas for the next Zelda game on the Wii. The bad thing is, it seems like they don't have any yet. According to Miyamoto, it looks like they're still in their brainstorming phase and try to find those ideas, which will revolutionize the Zelda franchise. Though on the other hand creating a First Person Zelda would be a too drastic change for Miyamoto, which I don't understand, because in combination with their new WiiMotion Plus accessory a first person perspective would be the perfect choice for sword fighting and all other actions. And experiencing Zelda in a new perspective could be the fresh wind, the series needs so badly.

Also, if I understood the statement on IGN right, the smaller Zelda team responsible for Four Swords Adventures and Phantom Hourglass is working on their own new project, though some teammembers swapped places with the Wii Zelda team. That's pretty much good news for me, because I was hoping for a second NDS Zelda or maybe a WiiWare Zelda, which probably could be finished some time before the next Wii Zelda, maybe end of 2009.

Also, absolutely no news about Retro Studios and their newest project, if there's one. Disappointing.

Source: IGN News

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Retro Studios' next project

The Metroid Prime trilogy was fantastic, I just love all three of those games and I'm very curios about, what the next big project of Retro Studios will be. We've only got two big news since the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. One is that they're being said not to work on a Metroid title, the other one is, that some important employees left the company, but which should hopefully not effect their work on upcoming titles.

So, the only thing we know for sure is, that they're NOT working on a new Metroid. To sum up, there are two major rumors flying around, I find both of them very interesting. The first one came from a famous female blogger, who said, that they're working on a Zelda spin-off, whatever this means. If you've read my The Future of Zelda article here, you know, that maybe the next Wii Zelda is going to be in first person perspective. And who's the best in creating first person games for video game systems? Correct, Retro is. Their experience with the Metroid Prime series is just incomparable, so they would be the best for the job. Which is why I believe, that they eventually have worked on Zelda Wii at some point. But a spin-off title would mean something entirely different or something like the Zelda games made by Flagship(Capcom), not the next new main project.

The second big rumor concentrates on the guy, you can see on the left. After his infamous performance in Super Smash Bros Brawl Kid Icarus aka Pit is said to finally get his third installment on the Nintendo Wii. While the second game,Of Myth and Monsters for the GameBoy, was already created for the American market, it's not unlikely that an American developer will get the responsibility for the third game. Also Kid Icarus was originally the little brother of Metroid, made by the same developers. And considering what a good job Retro did with reviving the Metroid franchise, I mean all those details, the gameplay, the story, the atmosphere, the fanservice, everything was perfect, they definitely are the best to bring Kid Icarus back to life again. Plus think about it, Pit fights with a bow most of the time, so a first person shooter would be (again) the best format and Retro would be (again) the best for the job. According to Wikipedia, some rumors say, that Factor 5 is the one to work on the next Kid Icarus game, but with all their experience in space and flight simulations, shouldn't they better work on Starfox or something?

Again all I can say is, that we hopefully get all our questions answered next week on the E3. I can't wait.


Sources:
Surfer Girl Blog
Zentendo News

Monday, July 7, 2008

Let's flood Hyrule

Next week the infamous E3 happens to be in Los Angeles, and everyone is excited about what's coming next for Nintendo's big franchises, escpecially Zelda. Because most Zelda sites are like totally dead right now, which hopefully changes next week due to some new information, everyone gets excited about the biggest nonsense. A fake interview with Aonuma and artwork about a Zelda game named Valley of the Flood make the circuit, so overblown with stupid fanservice, that it hurts my head everytime I see someone writing, "this is not a fake, it has to be real". Read the interview in the link below and make your own mind. The fake artwork was made by WiiCast, who took the image from the novel Perdido Street Station.

Actually some of the ideas weren't too bad, especially the points about the story. "Project Deluge" is said to be placed between the adult ending of Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. It covers the prologue of The Wind Waker, where Ganondorf is resurrected and everyone is waiting for the Hero of Time to return. The player now takes the role of a crazy guy, who actually believes, he is Link, but is not. So, no Mastersword or Triforce of Courage for him in his journey against Ganondorf. Of course everything ends up in a disaster and Hyrule being flooded, so you start to explore the flooded world. While this sounds like a cool story, the question is, how should it end? With everyone dead but Ganondorf? Sounds like a contrasty ending to Twilight Princess.

The big problem with this fake is, that Nintendo never really cares about the story, like they do in the interview. The first thing are the new gameplay elements, the story is always developed around them, not the other way around. For example, they want Link to turn into a wolf. A wolf alone looked boring, so they added something to ride on it. And this way Midna was born. You see? So, a Zelda developed around a "cool" story is never going to happen, as well as most of the other fanservice stuff.

And the one thing, I will never understand, is the voice acting problem. Why in all words does everyone and really everyone connect voice acting in Zelda with Link talking? It's even the problem, Nintendo uses for an excuse not to do voice acting in Zelda. Ever played Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? In this game, every single character got voice acted, but Samus. She doesn't speak a word and look, it works fine. I don't see a reason, why they shouldn't handle it the same way in Zelda. Link doesn't have to talk, but all the other characters do.

Back to Deluge, I really like the idea of using Steampunk elements in Zelda, especially the one about a railroad system in Hyrule. I love the picture of Link riding next to a train, defending it from Bulblin bandits, Wild West style. Talking about it, a Western Zelda including Steampunk elements sounds really promising. Iwata even talked about the idea of a Western Zelda, because he enjoyed the Hidden Village scenario in Twilight Princess quite much. So, I wouldn't be too suprised, if something like this will turn into reality, though without a FanFic as the main story.

So, just be patient until next week, I'm pretty confident that Nintendo will show us some of THEIR ideas, how the future of Zelda will look like, on the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Sources:
IGN Boards
WiiCast
Artwork used in the fake image

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Replaying Mystic Quest, Final Part

Welcome to the last part of this log covering my playthrough through the GameBoy classic Mystic Quest, better known as Final Fantasy Adventure. While I've already finished the game last Thursday, I didn't find the time to finish this article, so sorry for the delay. A lot of you people may find the picture to the right very familiar, because it's the very first scene of the game and often shown in commercials or reports about it. The reason, why I've uploaded it in this final part, is, because when the blog started, I've already beaten Davia's Mansion, so I didn't cover the entire beginning of the game. And before I come the end of the game, I want you to tell a little more about the beginning and the story.

You start with giving yourself and your girl a name and being imprisoned in the Dark Castle, I've mentioned in Part 3. The castle belongs to the Dark Lord, who conquests for "Mana" to rule over the world. He killed your parents, imprisoned you at his castle and let you fight for his personal entertainment. While you fight the thing, you can see in the first picture, you can play Michael Scofield by running out of the gate, which opens to release on those beasts. Outside the castle you meet the real antagonist, Julius, and the Dark Lord at a waterfall talking about they need a key to go it up and get caught eavesdropping them. The Dark Lord throws you down the waterfall, where you ironically meet the key, they were searching for. The girl and her pendant. Her boyfriend was killed by monsters and from now on you protect her, or at least try to do so. A guy named Bogard tells you about a Lord called Vandole, who also tried to get the power of Mana, which source lies in the Mana tree at the top of the waterfall. But a woman, who was wearing the pendant and is the girl's mother, enabled the so called Gemma Knights to defeat Vandole. Your journey is to help the girl with the pendant to get to Wendel and to meet Cibba there.

On this path you and the girl will rest at "Kett's", an old, scary mansion where the girl gets kidnapped. An old man helps you to find the mirror in the Marsh Cave, where you fight a two headed dragon called Hydra (actually the monster you can see in the right picture is the Zombie version of this boss, found in the last dungeon). You also get the Sickle in this dungeon, which helps you cutting vines. Back to Kett's, you can fight off the mysterious butler with the help of the mirror, find the girl in a coffin in the deepest cellar and fight against the master of the mansion, who turns out to be a vampire, by using your new Chain Flail. You also get the useful Cure Spell form the girl. Arriving in Wendel, Cibba helps the girl to see a vision of her mother, but Julius arrives and kidnaps the girl taking her to his airship. To get to the airship, you have to pass Gaia, which is only possible in silver equipment, so you and a dwarf enter a silver mine and fight a giant worm to get some silver. This dungeon had some kind of rail system, you could travel on with carts, which reminded me of the Zelda Oracle games. You and Bogard will then go to the airship, where you meet the girl again, but get thrown off again by Julius. You crash in the small village of Menos, where you find the Wind Spear and hear some stories about Jadd and a Chocobo egg. When you finally get your Chocobo, you'll arrive at Jadd and will notice, that the region at the north of Jadd is poisoned. To get rid of the poison, you have to help Lester, a boy who was cursed by Davias, the ruler of Jadd. You and Lester's sister, Amanda, will fight against the Medusa in the Medusa Cave located in the desert to get on of her tears, which have the power to heal Lester. You and Lester then fight against Davias, which is where I started my blog. Whew...

So, in short, you travel through the world of Mystic Quest to get back to the falls with the girl and try to become a Gemma Knight. The journey ends at the top of the falls on the Tower of Mana, where Julius brought the girl to release the power of Mana. The final dungeon was actually pretty cool, very complex with a lot of portals and nonlinear paths. You can fight the enemies here for the best equipment of the game. The Samurai warriors will drop the Samurai armor, the Demon Heads the Samurai Helmet and the Elphants at the Mana Tree will drop the Aegis Shield, which may be the last item in the game, if you already got the Excalibur. Because this happens very rarely, here is a neat trick to get those items. Be sure, your item menu is full, but there's still room for one item in the eqipment menu. When one of the enemies drops a chest, try to open it several times. Actually the content of the chest is not fixed, so every time you try to open a chest the content will be set randomly. If it contains a normal item, the game will tell you, that you can't carry any more items. But continue doing so, until you get one of the rare equipments. With the help of this "bug", you can get those armor parts very easy and quickly.

During the dungeon, you have to fight a Dragon, you can see in the second picture, two times and an incarnation of the Hydra Dragon from the Marsh Cave at the beginning of the game. Always be sure to have the Cure Spell equipped during a boss fight, it helps a lot. Talking about spells, there are eight of them in the game. The most important ones are the first two, the Cure and the Heal Spell. The Cure spell recovers a good part of your HP, while the Heal Spell can heal you from all conditions, like petrified, poisoned or blind. The Sleep Spell puts your enemies to sleep and the Mute Spell silences the magic abilities of your enemies. To be honest, I've never used those ones. The last four spells are made for attacking enemies. Fire, Lit and Nuke spells deal damage to most kinds of enemies in three different levels, while the Ice Spell has the ability to freeze your opponents and turn them into snowmans, which can be used to keep switches pushed. The Fire Spell is actually very useful at the beginning of the game, when you have to face enemies that can't be hurt by any of your weapons. But later, when you have a good variety of different weapons, those attacking spells get unimportant. Only the Ice Spell had to be used from time to time.

After you've beaten the Dragon Zombie, you will meet the mother of the girl in a nice outside area, who transforms your Rusty Sword into the mighty Excalibur. You're finally a Gemma Knight. And then you'll arrive at the Mana Tree, meeting your girl again and fighting against Julius. The fight has three parts, in the first part Julius will split into three and attack you with the Nuke Spell. Nothing special, just wait until your attack meter at the bottom of the screen is fully loaded and release a Zelda-like spin attack with your Excalibur to kill him. In the second phase he will use the power of Mana to turn into something very futuristic looking and attack you with Lit Spells. I kept doing hitting him with the spin attack, while I had to use the Cure Spell a lot. In the last and final fight he will turn into the monster, you can see above, and attack with Nuke Spells again. But this time, your girl joins you for the very last time and can support you with her healing abilities. But even then I had to use the Cure Spell a lot again, but that doesn't matter, when the fight is finally over.

In final scene, the Mana Tree, which is actually the mother of the girl, will die. The destiny of the girl is now to become the new Mana Tree and she transforms into a sprout. Sad ending, however the credits will show you all your companions from the game again, including the Chocobo, who gets a girl. To sum up, it was definitely a nice choice to play this old game from my childhood again. It was fun to play, even in times of all those "Fours" (Call of Duty 4, Grand Theft Auto 4, Metal Gear Solid 4, ...) a simple game like this can keep you playing. What I really liked were the action based battles, this is something you usually don't get in a Final Fantasy game and that makes the Mana series special. I hate turn based battles, so these games are definitely a better choice for me. The story was actually quite cool, felt more epic than the stuff you usually get in Zelda, also I don't play games like Zelda for the story. And the game had A LOT of dungeons, I couldn't even count all of them. On the bad side of the coin, this game had no sidequests or optional stuff besides some items, you can buy but don't have to. Most of the dungeons don't have any unique aspects, so they tend to look all the same. Also, it is possible to create a savegame, which is impossible to finish, because of low health or missing keys, which is actually not good game design. And finally, the place in the item menu seemed to be very limited from time to time. These are the main points of criticism and some of them even kept me from finishing this game as a kid. But this time they didn't outweight the fun I had with game and I hope, you enjoyed reading my log about playing it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Replaying Mystic Quest, Part 5

It's getting exciting. I'm actually in the final dungeon and trying to beat the game finally. But before, I'm going to tell you what has happend so far. Yesterday I stopped playing in the Dime Tower, where I got the Dragon Armor and fought in cooperation with the robot Marcie against a Roc. It, like a lot of bosses in the game, could easily be defeated by staying at the entrance and attacking it from there. After that, I finally understood, what the Dime Tower was for. With the help of that thing, I could climb back to the Dark Castle. The waterfalls were still reversed, so I could climb them up too and arrived at the final dungeon of the game. The Tower of Gemma, also known as the Temple of Mana.

The first thing I was going to do here is leveling. I also got the Samurai Helmet and Armor by beating the enemies in that dungeons, which are supposed to be part of the strongest equipment in the game. Talking about equipment, let's tell you a little more about menus and items. Better late than never. First of all, you have two main menus, the Start and the Select menu, which can be called by the corresponding buttons. The Select menu is for saving and looking at your map or your status. The dungeon maps are drawn automatically like in most Zelda games, but unlike in Zelda you can't find a complete map of the dungeon, so you never can be sure, if you have visited all parts of it.

The Start menu gives you four choices: Items, Magic, Equipment and Ask. With the help of the "ask" function you can use the special abilities of your companions, like I've told you before. In the Equipment menu, you can select your armor and your primary weapon, which is placed on the A button. The Item and Magic menus let you select - like you would guess - items and magic spells, placed on the B button. However, the room in both your Item and Equipment menus is limited, so you have to sell or discard old, useless and sometimes even good items to get new ones. This isn't really a problem in the Equipment menu, as long as you keep discarding old armor parts and some of the semi powerful weapons. However, you can't throw away the Axe, the Sickle, the Chain Flail, the Morning Star or the Rusty Sword/Excalibur, because you can't get buy them anywhere and you need them to complete the game.

On the other hand, the item menu is used to be overcrowded by items. Especially at the beginning of the game, you need keys, mattocks, healing cures and some magic items. The latter works like your spells, only in item form and sometimes stronger. You don't need most of them, as soon as you get the corresponding spells. And like I said before, the Morning Star replaces the mattocks. So, the only things, you need at the end of the game, are some magic restoring items and/or the powerful elixirs, as well a good bunch of keys. It seems like keys as well as mattocks are only dropped by the skeleton and bubble enemies, which can't be found everywhere, so better be sure to buy some before you enter a dungeon. There's no discarding option in the Magic menu, you have eight spots there and you get eight spells. At least this worked fine. But one of the problems of the game is definitely, that you have to change items, spells and weapons a lot, because different enemies have different weak spots. But changing items takes you at least 3 steps to do so, so this is getting quite annoying after a while. Also, I'm missing an indicator, which shows me, which items and weapons I currently have selected while playing. As you can see on the various screenshots, there is none. You always have to go into the Start menu to see, what items are currently selected.

Well, see you in the next and final part.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Replaying Mystic Quest, Part 4

Didn't play too much today, but here's the update. After entering the Undersea Volcano, I found the Zeus' Axe in that dungeon. The dungeon was pretty tough, because you had to walk through some kind of lava or acid (couldn't tell), which takes about a hundred HP a second.

The boss was the so called Iflyte, a giant thing, which was able to curl itself into a ball. But just waiting in a corner and stabbing it with my Thunder Spear did it. And of course, I didn't get the Excalibur yet, but a Rusty Sword, which is supposed to be the legendary sword. But I can't use it yet, because I'm not a real Gemma Knight, whatever this means. So, I got back to the guy, who told me about the sword, sending me back to Dr. Bowow, the guy who build the Chocobot.

Dr. Bowow then told me, I have to use the Nuke Spell to destroy one of the crystals in the desert. Good thing, I already had the Nuke Spell, bad thing, the desert had many crystal and only one of them was the entrance to the next dungeon. But luckily, it was placed on the only screen in the desert with no monsters or dungeon/city entrances, which is suspicious enough, to try this region first. The next dungeon was actually pretty short, but cool. I got the Dragon Sword and Shield there and the boss was some kind of giant Mantis, which was easy to defeat with the help of the fire spell.

At the end of the dungeon, by using the Rusty Sword I could awaken the Dime Tower in the desert, which seems to be the prelast dungeon of the game. I got a new companion here, Marcie, a robot created by Dr. Bowow (who came up with that name?). Marcie shoots laser beams out of her eyes and can restore my Magic Points. Pretty much the most useful companion next to the Chocobo. And there are about half a dozen tablets in the Dime Tower, which tell you about the deeper story of the game. Very interesting.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Replaying Mystic Quest, Part 3

Welcome to the third part of my log about replaying Mystic Quest. Although this can't be called "replaying" anymore, because I already got a lot further than in my original attempt ten years ago. First of all I want to tell you a little something about the Mana or Seiken Densetsu series, where Mystic Quest or better known as Final Fantasy Adventure is the first part of. The successor of Mystic Quest is actually the well known Super Nintendo game Secret of Mana. And the series got a third part on the SNES, though never released at the outside of Japan. The series later got different installments on the GameBoy Advance, Playstation, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS and even mobile phone. Most of them are an Action RPG, like Mystic Quest is. So you get real time action and a leveling system. One noticeable title is Sword of Mana for the GameBoy Advance, because it's supposed to be a remake of Mystic Quest. I tried this game, but it didn't catch me at all. On the one hand Square Enix tried to remove all elements from Final Fantasy, like the Chocobo, but on the other hand made it look more like their Final Fantasy games by adding those neverending cutscenes. It took you ages, so you could finally start playing for real. I normally don't play games for the story and I think, the best feature of Twilight Princess was, that you could skip cutscenes by pressing the start or minus button. So, I get pretty much pissed by long boring sequences with a lot of blah, blah, blah.

So, let's get back to the original game. Like I said in the last part, I finally returned to the Dark Castle thing, where I fought a Chimera, met my so called girlfriend again and faced the Dark Lord personally. I also found the Blood Sword there, which has the ability to steal health from your opponents. However, after defeating that Dark Lord guy Julius and the girl went the waterfall up and I ended up being thrown the falls down. Again. I landed in a desert, where I met my Chocobo again and where it got some robot legs. Talking about the Chocobo, that's a bird from the Final Fantasy series and quite handy. You can ride on it with top speed and you can't get damaged from enemies. The robot version can also ride on water, which makes things tricky. On the one hand you can finally cross water and so the boundaries of the seperated regions of the game. On the other hand, you will get confused very soon, because if you cross one border of the map, you will end up at the other side. For example crossing one of the southmost screens will take you to the opposite northmost one. So, basically you can walk infinitely in one direction. Which is just weird and can easily make you lose orientation.

Next to the Chocobo, who constantly follows you on the overworld after completing the Airship, you have other companions, who mostly assist you in dungeons. They follow you like the companions in Link's Awakening and can't be hurt by monsters. Though most of them have the abilitiy to attack enemies, as well serving you in a special way, when you "ask" them in the menu. For example the girl can heal you, which is a real bless at the beginning of the game. The dwarf Watts let you buy items, Amanda will neutralize the petrified condition and Lester can change the background music.

So, after I got the "Chocobot" and new equipment, like the Flame Chain, the Ice Armor and the Ice Shield, I went back to Wendel and after that to Lorim, where everyone was frozen. So, I had to go to an Ice Cave, fighting Kary, a female gigant with serpent legs, leaving the Ice Sword after defeat. For doing so, a guy in Lorim gave me the Bone Key and said, I have to go for the Legendary Sword. Then two minidungeons were on the list. The first ended with a fight against a Grim Reaper missing a scythe and throwing skulls, which gave me the Nuke spell. I didn't have the chance to try this one out, but it sounds like fun. Then I went to the cave the Bone Key was for, buying the Thunder Spear on the way. The dungeon was quite short, too, and came up with a Kraken at the end. Now the Undersea Volcano dungeon is next, where I'm supposed to find the Legendary Sword. But I doubt so.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DM-1on1-Neglect

Just look, what I've found. After I released my old Ocean King Temple guide here, I thought, I could show you another piece of my old work. And this one is definitely old, it's an Unreal Tournament map, I've made in the year 2003. I really love the original UT, I loved to play it and I loved the cool editor, that was shipped with the game. So, I've created some maps. And this here is my best one.

I've also tried to create maps for UT2003 and UT2004, but I've been as satisfied with them as with the games theirselves, not very much. The original Unreal Tournament is still the best, if you ask me, along with the original Unreal. The whole style, the sounds, the music, the gameplay... it was perfect. UT2004 didn't live up to that, the game was awfully colorful and tawdry, the weapons were too weak and most of the maps were lacking gameplay. UT3 however, looks okay, but at the moment I only own a 3 year old notebook, which isn't actually the best choice to play games like that, as you can tell. But maybe in one or two years I try myself again in mapping, you'll never know.

Back to topic, DM-1on1-Neglect is set in an old, neglected industrial facility. I really payed attention to the atmosphere of the map, you don't need next generation graphics to produce that, an important factor are the sounds. The wood floors are creaking, the wind is blowing, I just love that. It's one of the things I really like in Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask for example, too. And it's something, I absolutely miss in modern games like Twilight Princess. So, in case you have still the original Unreal Tournament installed on your computer, like I do, go check it out.

Download.

For installing just unzip the file DM-1on1-Neglect.unr to the UnrealTournament/Maps folder.

Replaying Mystic Quest, Part 2

So, played another hour of Mystic Quest today and it was actually quite fun. I went through the Golem Cave and finally got the Morning Star. With the help of this useful weapon I can destroy walls and bricks, so I could finally get rid of those Mattocks. Because in Mystic Quest mattocks of course instantly break after you've swinged them once, like they do in real life *sarcasm*. That's why you're always forced to carry a bunch of them with you. It's the same with keys, unlike in Zelda you can't find any keys, where you need them the most. That's why you have to buy them outside of dungeons. Too bad, if you're missing any keys or mattocks and got locked up in a dungeon, because you have to spend like forever killing larger enemies hoping, you get some of the needed items from them. Thanks to the Morning Star one of these two problems is now solved, feels good. And you luckily don't need too much keys, unless you get totally lost in dungeons. Because the main problem is, when you leave the area, the walls and doors get closed again...

Another problem is, that the space for normal items is very limited. You can't keep everything you find, that's why you have to discard or sell your items from time to time, to make room for new ones. While this isn't a problem for the weapon or magic menus, the item menu is always chock-full. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but something, which is also bugging me is talking to people. The character does that automatically, when you get near to a person, even if you don't want to speak to anyone. And like this isn't worse enough, the text is very slooow. In case, a person is blocking the path, this is getting very annoying. Luckily you can kill people, but this takes its time.

But I don't only want to talk about the bad things, so one of the good things are definitely the weapons. This is an option I really miss in Zelda games. You know, if you're really lucky in a Zelda game, you get something like a hammer, ball & chain or a two handed sword as a secondary melee weapon. In Mystic Quest you have next to different swords the Sickle, which can cut plants and does some kind of whirl attack, the Battle Axe, which can cut trees, the Chain Fail, which works like the hookshots in Zelda when you use it on poles, the Wind Spear and finally the Morning Star, I've mentioned above. All of those are fun to use and deliver a liking sense of variety.

Well, in the game after beating Davia's Mansion I finally could go through the poisoned regions, kill a giant Metal Crab, walk through some mountains with annoying, jumping monsters and enter the Golem Cave, which has the same kind "if you take the wrong direction, you will be warped back to the entrance"-puzzle as known from Zelda. There you fight a Cyclops for the Morning Star and finally a Golem for the Lit Spell. After that, you reach a bridge, which crumbles and you're taken back to where it all began. The Dark Castle. I stopped playing here, so see you next time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Temple of the Ocean King Speed Guide

This is a FAQ how to beat the infamous Temple of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass with a completely full Phantom Hourglass, which I've written last year. Actually there is another version of it released on GameFAQs, which was done by me in cooperation with Rupeeman, because there are not multiple in deep FAQ about the same topic allowed there, but I don't want the original version to be unseen.

So, what's this all about? The Temple of the Ocean King is some kind of master dungeon in the game with the speciality of facing a time limit. This FAQ is not a walkthrough for the temple, but a guide how to clear it in 00:00 net time. After you've completed the temple once, the Collection Menu will give you the "Best Time" entry, which shows the best amount of remaining time you had, after completing the temple. The goal of this FAQ is to tell you, how you get a "25:00" in this spot. So, the use of this FAQ is primarily for people, who already completed the game and are interested in a polished save file, but beginners may also find it interesting, where the important shortcuts and Golden Pots are.

The FAQ can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Replaying Mystic Quest, Part 1

What the hell is Mystic Quest, you ask? It's an old Game Boy game from 1991, which is better know as "Final Fantasy Adventure" in the US and A or "Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden" in Japan. I'm a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and I played this game as kid, because it was the most similar game to Zelda LA on the Game Boy.

Though it has its flaws, you can actually save yourself into death resulting in an ultimate game over. This is something, that happened to me as a kid in Davia's Mansion, I accidently saved with low health and there was no possibility of dealing with the enemies in that dungeon. In addition you couldn't leave the dungeon to buy healing items. You know, when you save in Link's Awakening or later installments of the Zelda series, you will start at the dungeon entrance with at least 3 hearts filled up. This did work much better for me, especially if you consider, that I was like 11 years old and my little gaming experience was reduced to the Game Boy system. But now, 10 years later, I thought I could give this game a second shot and I'm going to make sure, that I won't fail again. I even have beaten Davia's Mansion as I speak, to be exactly.

But one thing, I've noticed, it really doesn't live up to Zelda LA. It's just running from dungeon to dungeon, which all look the same. Heck, even when you go into that Airship, the inner part looked exactly like all the other dungeons just with some grates on the floor. Give me a screenshot of any screen in Zelda LA and I can tell you exactly, where this place is located in the game. It's not even hard to do so. But in Mystic Quest, it happens a lot, that I totally get lost, because everything looks the same. Same goes for the overworld, nothing but trees and rocks everywhere, yay. The villages always have the same three types of shops, just with different offerings and items...

But, I've only seen like half of the game, so I don't want to speak of the devil. However, it has its nice parts, too. It's a really nice hybrid between RPG and Action Adventure and the weapons are actually quite cool... but I will talk about items in the next part, it's getting late here.