Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The Zelda Year of Big Announcements


This year had one big event for Zelda fans and that was the E3 and its announcements of Skyward Sword and the Nintendo 3DS. Uhm, that's basically it. It wasn't such a rich year as 2009, but also not as silent as 2008.

There were no Zelda related releases this year, the Zelda team is working hard on Skyward Sword, which will probably be released next year, and otherwise there were no re-releases or any similar smaller updates. I was hoping for an European release of the newest Tingle game, Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love, but that didn't happen. And I'm also still interested whether Ocarina of Time - Master Quest could make it on the Virtual Console or not. But with the Nintendo 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D coming closer both ideas get more and more unlikely. But this minor stuff. With no new Zelda game having been released this year, it was the perfect opportunity to replay some older Zelda games or even play a Zelda game, that you've missed so far. I personally replayed Spirit Tracks for the first and I checked out Soul Calibur II during the holidays, which was sadly missing in my collection until now.

2011 is going to be awesome. Maybe even the best Zelda year ever. Skyward Sword looks despite the controverse graphics and the failed live demonstration at the E3 really promising to me, if they can make this a more oldschool, action-packed and dense experience with a lot of freedom, this game could be awesome. Ocarina of Time was the transition of A Link to the Past into 3D, Skyward Sword could be the same for the classic The Legend of Zelda game from the NES. We'll see in 2011. Also, the most successful Zelda game so far will get a fine remake for the Nintendo 3DS: Ocarina of Time 3D. As one of its launch titles it will definitely boost the system's sales, I'm also hoping for some new features like a bonus dungeon or an included Master Quest. But that's not all of it. The Nintendo 3DS will get its own Virtual Console and there some GameBoy Zelda classics will return in the spot light starting with Link's Awakening DX, maybe even with some gimmick 3D effects. And the Oracle games might follow. As you can see 2011 will be full of exciting releases. Additionally Nintendo recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., why not do the same for Zelda? Maybe there are some surprises for Zelda fans next year. So, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Replaying Spirit Tracks



A good Zelda game has a high replay value. A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, Ocarina of Time... you could play those games dozens of times and they'll never get boring. They're awesome and fun, they offer enough freedom and non-linearity to encourage some experimenting and even speed runs. While some Zelda games are just fun to replay, others might "force" you into replaying them by offering a 2nd Quest and content, that can only be gotten by replaying the games. The Wind Waker and the Oracle games are good examples for this. Sometimes you replay a Zelda game, because you missed an item (I hate missable items), or because it was re-released for a newer system and you don't want the new copy to remain untouched. There are many good reasons to replay a Zelda game, but some of them are just bad in this department. Especially the last ones. Zelda games lately have no replay value and that's sad.

I finished each Zelda game at least twice, I even replayed Phantom Hourglass out of curiosity. The game offers quite some non-linearity, which is rare in modern Zelda games, and I wanted to test if I can get the third and fourth sea chart in one run, so I could play Mutoh's Temple first, then the Ice Temple and the Goron Temple at the end before returning to the Temple of the Ocean King. And it worked. Adding some non-linearity to games is usually a good thing, because it can produce a new experience each time you replay the game.

And achieving the 100% for a second time was really dull. The random factors just make it a very boring, repetitive and tedious experience. Actually the randomness was much better handled in Phantom Hourglass, because there were spots, where you could specifically get rare ship parts more easily (like scoring over 2000 points in the archery or the two treasure chests at the end of the Ocean King Temple). The problem here was the high amount of ship parts, because the chance of getting a specific part is very low. So, if you were down to a couple of missing parts, getting them could take forever... And this really destroys the replay value of the game for completionists.

Well, since I replayed every Zelda game, I recently thought I should do the same with the newest installment, Spirit Tracks, even though I never really wanted to. I usually replay a game willingly if I really liked it. Heck, I even replayed Metroid: Other M shortly after my first playthrough and the game wasn't very good. But for some reason I didn't want to replay Spirit Tracks and that reason is called tediousness. All the slow train travelling and collecting all the treasures for the train cars again makes replaying very unattractive. In Phantom Hourglass the sea travelling was okay, the distances were really short and you could warp all around the sea. But the train travelling in Spirit Tracks takes A LOT of time. You can't just simply go from A to B by using some warp like in most of the other Zelda games and this artificially lengthens the play time with dull travelling.

And then there's the treasure hunting. Actually on the paper the treasure system is a lot better than collecting the tons of ship parts in Phantom Hourglass, because there are only 16 random items and some of them can be even gotten in determined spots. But Nintendo screwed it by making some of your treasures extra rare, which varies with every save file, because they wanted to support trading treasures via the Contact Mode that way. In Japan, where everyone runs around with a Nintendo DS and where they play Zelda in the subway, this might be okay... but good luck finding someone for trading treasures here in Europe or the United States. And it doesn't work online. So, all you can do is try to get all the treasures yourself, which can take a while and is very repetitive. This time, one of my rare treasures were the White Pearl Loops... you need more than twenty of them and I still haven't gotten enough. And I can't see that stupid sword training minigame (which is the easiest way to score some 150 rupee treasures) anymore. I have the Platinum Membership in the Beedle Shop (which is also absolutely ridiculous), but not all train cars yet...

But on the bright side, I got a better look at the game. For example I noticed that all the other side quests are far better distributed than I thought they were. Originally I dodged most of the side quest until the end of the game because of the slow train riding, I was rushing from dungeon to dungeon. And then at the end I had a total sidequest overload. But that's something that can happen in all the Zelda games, when you're playing them for the first time. The main quests are always the obvious choice, a new dungeon is far more exciting than collecting some treasures. But when I replay a Zelda game I always focus to finish all the sidequests as early as possible. And that way I noticed that there are enough side quests before each dungeon and each section of the tower, which is great.

Little Update: Another thing I haven't noticed during my first playthrough was, that if you blow the whistle after picking up one of the Tears of Light in the Dark Realm, your train goes EXTREMELY fast. I love that and it also makes battling the Dark Trains a lot easier. That speed update should be somehow available in the main game, it would be tons of fun. This time I haven't saved after battling the Gannon-Train, so I can always replay the Pacman part. Fast is fun.

So, what we learn here, is that a tedious side quest can be a real replay killer, if you want to go for a 100%. It's the same with The Wind Waker for example and all it's figurines, that's one aweful sidequest. The Minish Cap is actually short and fun, which is why I replayed it like three times, but the figurines there AGAIN were totally annoying and you basically waste a lot of time there in the lottery just to get the 100% again, while the rest of the game is long finished. So, Nintendo, please stop adding random factors and repetitive tasks to side quests. Zelda shouldn't be some grinding game. Also, a Zelda game shouldn't give you the feeling that it's a long and boring task, like The Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks did with all their sea and train travelling. A Zelda game needs to be more dense.

Miyamoto recently acknowledged in an interview with pocket-lint, that they have to focus more on the replay value with Skyward Sword:

“What we are focused on is creating gameplay mechanics so the gameplay experience feels very dense. In fact, the overall experience is going to feel more dense. We hope that people will want to go back and replay the game once they finish it”.

That really sounds good. Less is sometimes more. Have a smaller overworld, but rich in detail, action and exploration. Have less sidequests, but quality ones, not that random crap. Replay value is very important to every game, not just Zelda. What's a game worth, if you can only play it once and then it catches dust? It definitely wasn't worth the money spent on it. And the sooner the Zelda team realizes the importance of replay value, the better for the Zelda series.

The Zelda Checklist

Are you excited for Skyward Sword? Me too. Can't wait for it to be released? Me neither. Well, but the waiting is the perfect opportunity to revisit some of the already released Zelda games. And since there are many, chances are high that you missed something. Why not use the waiting to fill some gaps in your Zelda experience? Here's a complete list of what you can do:
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • The Legend of Zelda (2nd Quest)
  • Zelda II - The Adventure of Link
  • A Link to the Past (classic SNES version)
  • Link's Awakening
  • Link's Awakening DX
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Ocarina of Time - Master Quest
  • Majora's Mask
  • Oracle of Ages & Seasons (beat Ganon)
  • Oracle of Ages & Seasons (Hero's Secret, 64 rings)
  • A Link to the Past - Four Swords (Gold Keys, Hero Keys)
  • The Wind Waker (finish it once)
  • The Wind Waker (2nd Quest, figurines)
  • Four Swords Adventures
  • The Minish Cap
  • Twilight Princess (Gamecube version)
  • Twilight Princess (Wii version)
  • Phantom Hourglass
  • Spirit Tracks
Your goal should always be the 100%. Of course in some games like Oracles, The Wind Waker or the Nintendo DS Zelda games this can be quite some work, but remember, we do this to kill some time anyway. So, if the game has a noticeable 2nd Quest like The Legend of Zelda, The Wind Waker or Four Swords, then you should want to beat it as well. In Wind Waker it might even be necessary to complete your Minintendo figurine collection (you can finish it on the first run though, but that's hard). The Oracle games are a very tricky case here. Beating Ganon gives you the Hero's Secret, that let's you begin a 2nd Quest, where you start with an additional Heart Container, a new ring (Victory Ring for defeating Ganon) and the ability to transfer all your rings from your first playthrough. Use this to play in the other direction and complete your ring collection. If you play in the other direction, there will be also many differences to the link game features. For example the Hero's Cave will be totally different, both versions belong to the most challenging dungeons in the series, so you don't want to miss them. You might even want to play the games a third time, since each of the three animals gives you a different enviroment on the overworld. However, Four Swords is probably the most problematic of them all, because it requires a second player. It has basically difficulty levels with the Gold and Hero Keys, collecting them as well as ten Medals of Courage for the Riddle Quest in A Link to the Past requires quite some determination and skill. It's sadly the only Zelda game I wasn't able to finish until today due to the lack of a second player. Zelda II also offers a 2nd Quest, there you replay the game using your levels and spells from the first playthrough, which makes it much easier. Might be fun, but there's no new content, which is why I haven't listed it here.

Some games received an extended or altered version during the course of time, you might want to play both versions to experience the differences. If there's two versions of one game, why not play both? See it as a replay with some twists. In case of Ocarina of Time - Master Quest this should be clear, since its dungeons provide a completely different challenge. So, you should definitely play both versions of Ocarina. If you've only played the old version of A Link to the Past or Link's Awakening, you should check out the later released improved versions, DX and Four Swords. Next to the coloring of Link's Awakening and the additional multiplayer game that A Link to the Past received, both new versions got several additional improvements, as well as a bonus dungeon and a new sidequest. If you've already played the newer versions, you still might be curious about how the games used to look like. Especially the classic monochrome version of Link's Awakening got its own charme. And then there are the two versions of Twilight Princess. They are mirrored to make Link right-handed in the Wii version, so what's in the East in the one version lies in the West of the other version and vice versa. This can be very confusing, but also interesting. And the controls are obviously different, you might want to decide for yourself, which controls you like more, so try out both.

Well, if you've already finished all the Zelda games in all their variety or if you just want to play something entirely else, there are also the spin-offs and cameos, so here's another list:

  • BS The Legend of Zelda
  • BS The Legend of Zelda: MAP2
  • Ancient Stone Tablets
  • Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland
  • Link's Crossbow Training (all Platinum Medals)
  • Super Smash Bros.
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl
  • Soul Calibur II
For the BS Zelda, go to the BS Zelda Homepage and be happy. Yes, you should check these games out, especially Ancient Stone Tablets is fun and those were originally official Zelda games made by Nintendo, just for Japan-exclusive system, which is unaccessible today (for more info see my BS Zelda posts). Link's Crossbow Training is short but fun, try to get all Platinum medals here, this isn't hard.

I only listed the first of the Tingle games, since it's the only game that was released outside of Japan and the only Tingle game that shares some gameplay elements with the Zelda series, like the dungeons. But if you can get your hands on the other games and if you're curios about them, it can't hurt to play them as well, I guess. The fighting game cameos are all fun and you should at least check the Zelda related content in these games out, for example try to get all costumes and weapons for Link in Soul Calibur II. Apropos, most of you probably have played the Super Smash Bros series, but in case you haven't played Soul Calibur II yet, you should get it, it's awesome. I haven't listed the Zelda LCD games, like the Game & Watch one, because they don't offer much content. And I haven't listed the CD-i games, because they're not official anyway and very hard to get - this would really jump the shark. Play the BS Zeldas instead, if you want something rare and strange.

So, found anything on the list, that you've haven't played and finished so far? Then what are you waiting for? Go for it, play the Zelda games, they're all worth it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Game of the Decade

A big surprise came last week, when GameFAQs voted Majora's Mask as the best game of the decade. Seriously, I love this game, it's in my top 3 of Zelda games next to Link's Awakening and Ocarina of Time, but game of the decade? Even beating Super Smash Bros Brawl in the finals? That's an interesting choice and speaks for that GameFAQs actually still has some taste. Normally I would expect some Call of Duty or God/Gears of War on the top. Well...



Owned.


This is crazy, but I love it. Good voting, people. I hope Nintendo sees this and gets motivated to do a Majora's Mask 3D remake for the 3DS. By the way, my personal game of the decade probably would be Metroid Prime though.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SoulCalibur II

What's the best Zelda cameo in a video game? Super Smash Bros? Melee? Brawl? Most people probably will pick a game from the Super Smash Bros series to answer this question. And while they're not wrong, there's another great game you should consider when it comes to Zelda cameos: SoulCalibur II for the Nintendo Gamecube. Each version of the game had it's own big cameo, the XBox Version had Spawn, the PS2 version some guy from Tekken and the Gamecube version none other than Link from the The Legend of Zelda series. I guess for a lot of Zelda fans including myself Link's appearance was the main reason to get this game. And I love it.

For those of you, who are not familiar with the SoulCalibur series, it's a fighting game, which heavily utilizes different melee weapons like swords. Unlike in most fighting games, you can move around freely in the environment, while you face the enemy. You can strike horizontally and you can strike vertically, with lots of different combos and variations of course. You can kick, you can guard and you can press multiple buttons at once for different actions. For example pressing attack and guard near the enemy at the same time results in a throw. There are quite some "paper, rock, scissors" dynamics between all those actions. Moving around your enemy usually dodges vertical strikes, while horizontal strikes are effective against those dodges and vertical strikes beat horizontal ones. There is also the "Soul Charge", that powers up your offense or defense, but leaves you vulnerable while you're charging. It's overall quite simple and you don't need any complicated combos to win, but that's what makes the game so fun.

SoulCalibur II offers familiar fighting game types like Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle and Practice, but there's also the amazing Weapon Master mode. It's an adventure mode, divided in different chapters, where each chapter covers an area of the map. Those chapters/areas include multiple missions, which have their own story and rules. These fights are much richer in variety than in the default gametypes. You may fight against the clock, your health might be draining or the enemy regenerating. The arena might be trapped with mines or caged or there might be special rules like increased knock back. Or some enemies can only be beaten by using special techniques and so on. But not only that it offers more variety than playing the normal game types, it's also much more rewarding. The Weapon Master mode is where you unlock new characters, arenas, costumes and weapons, as well as some galleries, videos and extra gametypes, which are like the default gametypes with the difference that you're allowed to use the unlocked weapons. Character, additional arenas and the extra modes are unlocked by beating individual missions, all other stuff can be bought in the shops. Each chapter has its own shop with different weapons, costumes and maybe other extras like videos. You receive gold for every fight, even if you fail, and it's not hard to culmulate all the necessary money to buy everything. But some weapons and costumes can also be won in some missions to save some money. Most of the playable characters have a set of ten unlockable weapons, which includes their own version of the disgusting Soul Edge, a legendary blade and a joke weapon. Of course each of the unlockable weapons has its ups and downs, so you have to choose wisely which weapon suits your playing style the most. The Weapon Master mode also has a 2nd Quest, where each mission becomes harder and where you can play two additional chapters with the hardest dungeons.

Talking about dungeons, they are definitely the coolest part of Weapon Master mode. Those are special missions, where you conquer a maze. You start with one room and each room features a fast 1on1 fight. If you beat one room, the neighboring rooms become accessible. The dungeons usually offer some choices where to go next and your goal is to fight your way to the boss room, which finishes the dungeon. But it's always wise to fully explore the dungeons, because there might be hidden weapons. The rooms additionally may have special environments, like an ice floor, quick sand or mines. But the fights are always fast and fair, unlike some later missions in the game, which can get quite frustrating. If you fail to beat a room, you can easily repeat it without any consequences. Only leaving the dungeon is considered to be mission failure. It's a lot of fun to beat the dungeons with Link. You might even joke about how the dungeon experience of Soulcalibur II beats the dungeon experience in modern Zelda games. It actually reminds me of the classic NES Zelda dungeon ways. It heavily focuses on combat and there are multiple ways through the dungeons, while it lacks on puzzles.



I've beaten the entire Weapon Master mode and unlocked everything by only using Link, the secret star of the game. Namco used the Hero of Time for Link's story, which is about a mage who attacked Hyrule and was controlled by the Soul Edge. Link then seeks out to destroy the evil blade. That's basically it, but it suits the game well and it doesn't conflict with the Zelda storylines, even though the game isn't "canon" anyway. Link is quite the exceptional character in this game, in many ways. Well, first of all, he looks a little misplaced. They used the Ocarina of Time art as a base for Link's model, however the other characters have realistic proportions, Link is usually a little smaller than the other characters, while his head is bigger and so on. But you'll get used to it and won't notice this after a while. Also, he's the only character with more than one unlockable alternate costume. However, all his costumes just feature the same familiar tunic in the different colors from Four Swords. Other characters' costumes are far more creative and may let the character look completely different. And Link is the only character to use any other weapons than his melee weapons and even ranged weapons during a fight. He can throw his boomerang or bombs and use his bow to shoot arrows. But I have to say that they're quite inconvinient to use, I usually just rely on a good combination of vertical and horizontal strikes and guarding, like you would with all the other characters. But bombs can be fun if your enemy is on the ground. Link's weapon set is awesome and reminds me how cool blades used to be in Zelda back in the day, today all you get is some Master Sword copy cat. , Well, of course the Master Sword and Hylian Shield are his default weapons, but you can also unlock ten others coming from the N64 Zeldas and the classics. The first one is the Razor Sword from Majora's Mask with shorter reach and lower defense, but higher damage. Then there's the Armos set, which is a really cool idea. Link can also use the Megaton Hammer for heavy damage but short reach. The Cane of Byrna from A Link to the Past heals you during Soul Charge, perfect for missions with low health, but it's weak against other weapons since it's not a real weapon. The Biggoron's Sword offers higher reach and higher damage, which can be really deadly combined with Link's fast stabbing attack, but it also causes some self damage. The Mirror Shield from Ocarina of Time on the other hand causes your enemies to get take some damage when they hurt you. The Magic Sword and Shield set from the NES classics is not only awesome fan service, it also damages through guard. It used to be my favorite weapon before I got the Great Fairy's Sword from Majora's Mask. The latter is Link's legendary weapon, it heals you constantly, offers great range and high damage. It's guard is lower though, but since I'm more the offensive player, it suits my playing style perfectly. I used it in all the later missions of the Weapon Master mode and I love it. And then there's the Bug Catching Net from A Link to the Past as Link's joke weapon. It's obviously not a real weapon and makes funny noises, but every character has a weapon like that. Each of the weapons is well designed and has it's own little story in the Weapon Gallery. (For more information look here.)

Well, expert SoulCalibur players say that Link is low tier, but he's definitely my favorite character in the game. I've beaten the Arcade mode with all characters and Link is the one I'm best with. I can't beat the final missions in the Weapon Master mode with anyone but Link. But I'm bad at this game, I don't know any combos, I rarely kick or use the Soul Charge. I usually don't get the Guard Impact technique working right and I don't use any special attacks like Bombs or Arrows. I would probably suck hard against a skilled SoulCalibur player, but I was never really good at fighting games and I don't like the Gamecube controller, it's very uncomfortable and not suited for a game like this in any way. However, I still could beat the Weapon Master mode and unlock everything with the help of Link and his awesome Great Fairy Sword. But I have to say the game doesn't demand any brutal stuff for unlocking everything. Challenges like beating the Survival mode would have been impossible and extremely frustrating for me.

While there's just Link, his weapons and some Zelda tunes in this game, no Zelda arenas or any other Zelda characters like in Super Smash Bros, it's still an awesome cameo. I could imagine that many copies of this game just were sold because of Link. I know that I got the game just for that, because I wanted it for my Zelda collection. And it's not a bad strategy from Namco, this game might get you interested in the Soul Calibur franchise that way. They even kept the strategy of including big cameos until today, SoulCalibur IV for example features three characters from the Star Wars franchise. But while Star Wars might be more popular than Zelda, I don't think it fits the game so well, Zelda was much more awesome and fitting. Of course the newer Soul Calibur games weren't released for a Nintendo system, so there was no place for a Zelda cameo. But SoulCalibur II definitely shows how a well made Zelda cameo looks like.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Treshold of a Dream

OCR released a new amazing album, this time for one of my very favorite Zelda games: Link's Awakening. The album is called "Treshold of a Dream" and it features 25 tracks in total including some bonus tracks, as well as some nice artwork. You can grab it here: threshold.ocremix.org



I didn't have the chance to listen to all of the tracks yet, so I will add a small review later in this post. But if you like stuff like Essence of Lime, you should definitely get it.

Edit: Well, I listened to all the tracks by now and to be honest, it's a mixed bag. A lot of tracks are very calm and boring, I miss the power that I got in Essence of Lime or other good remixes. Other tracks are just terrible, Animal Village or Richard's Village for example. Some of the dungeon themes are really good though. But never look a gift horse in the mouth, it's for free, so just get it anyway.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nintendo 3DS and Zelda

The Nintendo 3DS is a big thing. It feels like Nintendo's next home console and surely will cost as much. But what's in it for a Zelda fan? Most of all: good old times. While there hasn't been an announcement of a new Zelda game for the 3DS yet, older Zelda games return to the spot light.

Ocarina of Time 3D

Ocarina of Time gets ported to the Nintendo 3DS but with enhanced graphics, nice 3D effects, some refinements and maybe even new content. Definitely a must-buy. Taking a closer look at some pictures and videos lets you see, that this in fact not a full remake, because they obviously use the original N64 game as a base. But unlike Link's Awakening DX and the sorts the graphics get boosted quite a lot, Link and elements in the environment (like plants or signs) got new, better looking models, there are new textures everywhere and there seems to be no abusal of sprites or flat textures. But besides that it seems to be very true and close to the original game, it's not a remake from scratch and nothing like Metroid: Zero Mission for example. Can't say much about whether there will be additional content like extra dungeons or not. Both Link's Awakening DX or the GameBoy Advance version of A Link to the Past got a bonus dungeon and an additional sidequest. I'm expecting something similar. And Master Quest could be included as a 2nd quest. If my theory is right and they use the original game as a base, where everything gets replaced with new models, then including Master Quest wouldn't be difficult. They have the content, so why not use it?



After this Majora's Mask might follow this trend and I could also imagine that Nintendo makes an entirely new Zelda game based on the N64 to 3DS ports. Maybe even starring the Hero of Time. Lots of Zelda fans would love that, I guess. It's the logical choice here, another Nintendo DS Zelda game similar to Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks just wouldn't fit the 3DS, because it wouldn't utilize the 3D feature at all. It seems that touch pad heavy games needs to be sacrificed for the 3D. On the other hand if you didn't like the touch screen controls, you will probably be relieved. I personally have mixed feelings about this, while the 3D might be amazing, returning to the N64 gameplay seems to be a step back. I always enjoyed the touch screen gameplay a lot.


Virtual Handheld

Much anticipated, finally happening. The Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS. And one of the launch titles is no game less than Link's Awakening DX, still one of my very favorite Zelda titles of all times. If you haven't played this gem before, this is your best (legal) chance, so get it. Next to Ocarina of Time 3D this will be one of the first games I'll get for the 3DS.



And it definitely won't stop here. I would expect Oracle of Ages and Seasons later next year. If they'll add GameBoy Advance to the program later, then The Minish Cap is also a safe bet for the Virtual Console. If you're new to the Zelda franchise, the 3DS will be the perfect opportunity to catch up with Zelda's handheld history. And for Zelda fans, who get these games for their collection, this is always a nice occasion to replay them. I haven't touched the Oracle games in years and a re-release like this would be a perfect motivator to go through these games another time. There was also some talk about classic games getting a 3D effect, which would be a very good reason to replay some classics. Imagine the dungeons of Link's Awakening with some depth to them, awesome.

Another interesting question would be about A Link to the Past: Four Swords or multiplayer GameBoy games in general. Will you be able to play old multiplayer games on the 3DS? If not, this would be sad, for example you wouldn't be able to trade Pokemóns in the classic editions of Nintendo's biggest handheld franchise, Pokemón Red and Blue. So, you would say, that it should be somehow made possible. If yes, then the question is, whether you can play GameBoy games only in local multiplayer or even online. They could make a general online connection system for playing GameBoy classics together. In that case, the most underrated, least known and least played official Zelda game ever could finally find a place in the spotlight: Four Swords. For me personally this is the one and only Zelda game, I could never finish. Simply because I didn't have a second player to join. Being able to play this game online would change everything. And it's quite a good game, in my eyes even the best multiplayer installment of Zelda yet (just check my Zelda and Multiplayer articles). Nintendo doesn't need to make a new Four Swords game. They just would need to make this game more accessible. Most Zelda fans haven't played it yet, so it would be an entirely new experience for them and maybe the most interesting Zelda game on the 3DS's Virtual Console. But this is wishful thinking, like so often, realistically seen it's unlikely. Features got cut in some of the Wii's Virtual Console games (like Rumble or Memory Pack data of N64 games) and while the Nintendo DS (Lite) still was able to play GameBoy Advance games, it didn't support multiplayer, so Nintendo might not care about this.

Long Time no Read

It's been a while, huh... when I changed this blog from something weird into a Zelda focused blog, I said, I always could talk about Zelda. It seems, that this was a lie and I apologize that I haven't been updating this blog in months. Well, I was busy with many other things and the Zelda fire was just not burning for the time, nothing much happend anyway since the E3. I rarely even visited any other Zelda sites or forums. But with the Nintendo 3DS and Skyward Sword coming closer and closer, the fire is starting to grow again. I'm currently replaying Spirit Tracks for the first time, which is actually not as bad and boring as I feared it would be, and I plan to replay the Wii version of Twilight Princess somewhen early 2011 as a warm up for Skyward Sword. In the meantime I plan to update the blog once in a while and with the new games coming out next year it will get hot again.

However, not much happened since the E3 anyway. Metroid: Other M was released and I've written a review in my forums, but in German. I planned to write an English version here on my blog, but I never finished it. Maybe I'll do so and add this post later, because Other M is again a good example, how too much linearity and story telling can kill a good Action Adventure game. The only big news in the last months was probably the announcement of a Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS with Link's Awakening DX with one of its release titles. I'll talk about that later. And there was the final season of The Legend of Neil, you should definitely watch it. So much for now, expect some updates in the next days.


The fire burns again. At least for now. :D

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Metroid: Other M (Review)

NOTE: This post was later added and is based on my German review for the game, which I've written in my forums, when the game came out. You can read the German review here. Now I decided to add an English version of the review to my blog for the sake of completion. But this version has the Zelda series stronger in mind and offers some new points, while others are ignored.



With the amazing Metroid Prime Trilogy and two great Metroid classics on the Virtual Console the Wii became a platform that should make every Metroid fan more than happy. However, Nintendo didn't stop there and created yet another Metroid game for the Wii and all this while a Zelda game exclusively made for the Wii still has to be released. The title is named "Other M" and is a matter of controversity among the community with its storyheavy and linear design.

This game was not made by Retro, instead Sakamoto, the director of all the previous 2D Metroids and the author of the Metroid Mangas, assembled a team to continue his vision. They worked in cooperation with Team Ninja, known for the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, who did some beautiful work with the cutscenes. So much about the origins of the game.

Cover and Boxart

First of all I want to express my disappointment again about the European (and US) cover, it looks like a bad design for a Star Wars/Trek novel, but not like a good cover for Metroid game. The Japanese version with the red helmet slip cover is much cooler.

Graphics

This game is quite good looking, maybe one of the best looking Wii games yet. Some of the environments could have used some polishing, but overall the visuals are very solid. Especially the cutscenes made by Team Ninja are simply beautiful and the transition from cutscenes into gameplay is flawless.



Story

The Metroid series so far had a much more consistent and better story than the Zelda universe, at least in my opinion, but the story was always completely secondary to the games with the exception of Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The story was told over booklets or scans. But not in Other M, this is probably the most story-heavy Metroid game so far with a story told in many cutscenes over the course of the game. The main problem is that the story isn't that good. Actually it's really uninspired, because it's too similar to Metroid Fusion. Use the exact same setting and conspiricy plot, remove the X and the SA-X, replace computer Adam with still living Adam, add more cloned creatures from Zebes as fanservice and voila, there's your Other M. The Bottle Ship is very similar to the B.S.L.-Station from Metroid Fusion and that the Federation is actually performing experiments on Metroids isn't a big shocker anymore. In fact it doesn't even fit the story of Metroid Fusion, which takes place after Other M and where this revelation still was supposed to be a shocking plot twist. Now Samus' reaction in the GBA game should have been more like "uhh, again?".

Talking about Samus' reaction, that's a critical point to many fans. Because she normally doesn't have any. But in this game she's having monologues all the time telling the player about her memories and feelings, about her relationship with Adam, her past and everything. While this can be interesting, not everyone likes how Samus is portrayed. Samus, like Link, used to be more like an avatar for the player. In the original Metroid most players didn't even know that Samus actually was a girl. And it didn't really matter. In later games it was simply nice to play a strong female warrior. Since Samus was a silent protagonist and you weren't told much about her, her personality was left to the player's imagination. Now everything is set in stone and it's very likely that Sakamoto's vision doesn't meet yours. For the same reason I somehow disliked the Link in Twilight Princess - he expressed too many weird emotions with his face, I didn't share his devotion to Ilia, while her character didn't care about Link and I didn't care about her. I am Link, you're Link, everyone who's playing Zelda is Link at that moment, so each time Link does something without the player's command he fails in his role as an avatar. Of course in Other M it's much more extreme. Samus talks to you like you're an outsider. You're not Samus, you're basically just watching a movie, where you take control over the action. Most modern games are exactly like that, but usually not good Nintendo games.

Funny enough, there's a gallery in the game, where you can watch the game as "Metroid Other M - The Movie"... it's pathetic.

World Design and Exploration

The whole story heaviness comes with another big downside: linearity. The game is extremely linear, you'll follow a straight line on your course through the Bottle Ship and closed doors constantly prevent you from free exploring and even back tracking. And all this just for the sake of telling a story. You can't freely explore the Bottle Ship until the end of the game, where all the optional upgrades to find don't matter anymore.

The world itself is very similar to the one from Metroid Fusion, just with only three larger sections instead of six smaller ones. There's Jungle, Ice/Water and Fire/Sand, the typical uninspired elemental themes present in most Nintendo games today. Just because it was awesome back in Ocarina of Time, doesn't mean you should use this in every single game, Nintendo. However, I liked the Holodeck effect and those gigantic outdoor areas inside of a even more gigantic space station really had a crazy overwhelming feeling to them.

Controls and Action

What I really like about Other M, is how the game is played. The controls with the sideways Wiimote are supereasy and supersmooth, it just feels great. And I like how you go into the first person mode by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. I don't know, it's just a very simple control system, yet very effective for this game. I love it.

Some might say, that the auto-aiming, the dodging via "sense moves" and finishing moves are cheap, but it adds to the smoothness and stronger enemies like the door bugs can still be very tough, probably impossible to beat with "normal" controls. And overall the fighting is very cool. I had so much fun with the smooth controls and stylish fights, that I shortly replayed the whole game after finishing it once, despite all the linearity and bad story factors.



The stationary first person view is mostly used to explore the environment, however it's also the only way to shoot missiles. But you can still dodge in this view and the game usually gives opportunity windows to switch into first person and fire missiles if it's really required for beating a boss or enemy.

New is also the Concentration move by pointing your Wiimote upward and pressing A. Unlike in all other Metroid games there are no health or missile pick ups dropped by enemies and this move is the only way to regenerate your health and refill your missiles outside of save stations. However, the healing can only be used once you're low on health and is very slow. So, once you're down on health, you will be constantly on the edge until you reach the next save station (luckily there are many save stations). Refilling your missiles on the other hand is a much cheaper process, you can perform it all the time and it's really fast. So you'll practically never run out of missiles in the entire game, not that you'll use many missiles anyway... however, I'm the kind of guy who always wants a full inventory all the time in games like Zelda or Metroid. "Uhh, five arrows are missing... I... need... to... find... arrows...." - so, this refill move was very enjoyable for me.

Items

Another part of the game negatively influenced by the story telling is collecting the main items, which are used for progressing through the game. You can't actually call this "collecting" anyway, Samus still has all her items from Super Metroid in her inventory, but she isn't allowed to use them. She has to wait until Adam authorizes the use, since her weapons can be a threat to other team members or survivors. Makes sense first, but why she has to deactivate completely harmless items like the Varia Suit and then run through super heated areas taking damage doesn't make any sense at all. Adam should've authorized it long before sending her into Sector 3 or Samus should've activated it on her own. Where was Adam during all that time, taking a dump? And it's not until communication with Adam is lost until Samus decides to use her own brain...

This again takes away control from the player. What if I don't want to comply these commands? What if I want to use that Plasma Beam whenever I want? What if my Samus is a rebel, who doesn't take orders from anyone? Also, this takes away the great feeling when finally discovering a new item. In Super Metroid, if you'll find a new item you're excited and happy, here you're just frustrated and yell "was about time, you cretins!!" at the TV, because they really wait until the very last second before a new item can be activated. This was a very bad choice of game design.

Most items from Super Metroid are in the game, only High Jump Boots and X-Ray Visor got cut and the Spazer, which was originally incompatible with the Plasma Beam anyway, got replaced by the Diffusion Beam. This one only works when you use the Charge Beam, so no constant zone fire for you this time. And the Seeker Missiles upgrade from the Metroid Prime games got added to the list of items. Seeker Missiles and Diffusion Beam are luckily two items that can be traditionally found and don't have to be authorized for some reason. And that's it. No Boost Ball, Spider Ball, Ice Missiles or any new additions to the franchise.

Difficulty

If you master the controls with the Sense Moves, the game isn't all too hard. At first I tried to dodge manually using jumps and I didn't care about using any finishing blows, but that was punished with some heavy damage and quite some deaths. If you play this game like your traditional Metroid, you won't come far. In this game, there are many strong enemies in your way, it does make Metroid Prime 2: Echoes look like a walk in the park and it wasn't until I started to use the Sense Moves that the game got less frustrating for me. But if you make good use of the Sense Moves and Lethal Strikes, this game can be very easy. On my second playthrough only Ridley could kill me, but that again was simply because I didn't use a Lethal Strike on him...

However, there are also some cheap scripted kills in the game, probably patented by Team Ninja. If you don't know what's coming, it can be a shocking Game Over. Just watch this video and see for yourself.

Metroid Confusion

One of the most weird parts in the game were the scanning sequences. There you're stuck in first person view and you have to scan an object. Unlike in the Metroid Prime games there's no hint on what is actually scanable. You have to find it for yourself and often it's just some pixels. One time you had to scan some green blood on grass, it took me forever to realize what I should do here. And this stands in extreme contrast to the rest of the game, where you're constantly guided, but now you suddenly have no clue what's going on...

Music and Voice Acting

Bland. No, really, the voice acting is mediocre and the music is mostly just some collection of ambient sounds. The music fits the overall depressing and dark atmosphere of the space station, but compared to Kenji Yamamoto's great soundtrack for the Metroid Prime Trilogy this is really nothing.

Collectibles

One of my favorite things in games like Zelda or Metroid are collectible items. I can't just get enough of those Gold Skulltulas or Missile Packs. And this game has enough. 70 Missile Expansions (giving you one additional missile each), 5 Energy Tanks, 16 Energy Parts (they work exactly like the Pieces of Heart in Zelda), 6 Accel Chargers (makes you charge your beam or Hyper Run faster) and 3 E-Recovery Tanks (for the Concentration Move). 100 items alltogether. However, since the locations of the items are all displayed on the map you don't have to try all too hard to find them. And it's not until the Epilogue part of the game, where you can finally move around freely and collect everything.

Epilogue

Best part of the entire game. After you've beaten the story mode and its final boss, you can return to the Bottle Ship and explore it freely with all your items. You'll unlock some new areas with the Power Bombs, collect all items and there's even an additional boss fight after a long passageway filled with the strongest enemies from the game. And like this isn't awesome enough, they added a Zero Suit escape sequence. I hated the Zero Suit part of Zero Mission, but this one was done very well.

Conclusion

Metroid: Other M is very linear and too focused on a bad story, it tries to be a movie more than a game and this results in damaging the overall experience. Bland voice acting and music, as well as the stupid unlocking of items didn't help either. However, the smooth controls and action, the many collectible items and the enjoyable epilogue part prevented the game from becoming a complete failure. It's by far not as good as the Metroid Prime Trilogy or Super Metroid, but in my opinion it's on par with Zero Mission and Fusion.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Metroid: Other M Preorder Bonus

I got the game today but also the preorder box. Since nobody actually preordered the game, the preorder boxes were still available and sold for the low price of 50 cent, so I couldn't resist. It's basically the same DVD box again with a Metroid: Other M keychain inside. Here's a photo:



I'm currently playing the game right now and I really like the controls, expect a review as soon as I'm finished.

NOTE: This was a previously unreleased blog post, which now got released just to fill some gaps, so don't be confused. I hadn't release the full post until later because my digital camera was broken at that time and I couldn't take the picture.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Twilight Princess 2

A new Zelda game is just around the corner and like always Zelda fans don't like what they'll get. It seems, that there are a lot of Zelda fans complaining about the new art style of Skyward Sword. That they would prefer the realistic looks of Twilight Princess. But let's face it, if Nintendo just would have used updated Twilight Princess graphics, everyone would complain right now, that "Skyward Sword is just Twilight Princess with MotionPlus".

To be fair, I have to admit, that I initially didn't like Skyward Sword's art style as well. But the more I hear and see about the game, the more I like it. I think it could use some more polishing and details, but it looks really beautiful. Especially the background landscapes in this impressionistic art style, they really capture this old, magical flair like an artwork from an old game's manual. Something that has been lost since the N64 days. And in my eyes it fits Zelda more than any "realistic" visuals ever could.

But what I really dig is the MotionPlus action. I'm really excited about this. But there are also people, who dislike the thought of playing with MotionPlus. They want an option to play this game with a classic or GameCube controller. Which would be absolutely ridiculous, since the whole game was developed around MotionPlus action. It's like in the Nintendo DS Zeldas, where some people wanted optional button controls. But it wouldn't have worked, because buttons lack the precision of the touchpad controls, like aiming with the bow in 360°. With the D-Pad I can only shoot in eight directions. We have the same here with MotionPlus. You can't do precise strikes with your sword by using a normal controller. It just wouldn't work. Either the game is really designed around MotionPlus or it's just half-assed motion controls as an optional gimmick. And I really don't want the latter.

But let's sum this up. Some don't like the graphics, some don't like MotionPlus and some don't like both. So, let's take Skyward Sword...



and now let's remove the new visual style and the MotionPlus controls. Angry Zelda fans are really getting excited in this very moment. "No stupid comic graphics? No stupid wiggle waggle motion controls? This sounds so awesome and exciting!" Let's put these Zelda fans out of their misery and show them, how the next Wii Zelda game could have been. The curtain drops, ladies and gentlemen, this is how the improved Skyward Swork looks like:



Yes, we would get Twilight Princess. Again. But do we really want a Twilight Princess 2? I wouldn't be so sure about that... In fact I would even go so far and say that everyone would whine about a Twilight Princess 2 as much as they whine about Skyward Sword right now.

The Wii Sports Resort Check

It's summer time and the perfect summer game is definitely Wii Sports Resort. It has this great vacation feeling to it and the minigames are perfect for a time, where you don't want to play videogames all day long. I also got in the mood for Wii Sports Resort because of Skyward Sword, since most of Wii Sports Resort's mechanics are going to be used in the next big Zelda title. So, I'm doing the "Wii Sports Resort Chech" right here and now. Which sports do have an influence on Skyward Sword and which might?



Swordplay

I have to admit, I don't like the swordplay in Wii Sports too much. It's because it's not real swordplay, where the blades clash. You have this blocking mechanism while holding down B and if you hit someone's sword, while he blocks, you will be stunned for a moment. I see, that this was necessary for the duel play, because otherwise people probably would just mindlessly attack each other. But on the other hand it feels quite awkward and doesn't have these sword fight dynamics, which I want.

Zelda could make up for it. In Skyward Sword you'll get the real deal, swords clashing, no stupid stunning effects, real men sword fights. And it's gonna be tons of fun.


Frisbee

It was weird, that they didn't include any Boomerang item in the Skyward Sword E3 demo, that could work similar to the Frisbee. But if you think about it, throwing a boomerang like a real boomerang would lack the precision. And that would be annoying. So, maybe there's an item in the game, that will replace the boomerang and works more like the Frisbee from Wii Sports. Or it might be there's no Boomerang at all and the Beetle is the replacement.


Archery

My favorite of all the sports in Wii Sports Resort, I just love it. Yesterday I forced myself to play the archery like you would do in Skyward Sword. Which means I held the Wiimote in my right hand and the Nunchuk in the left. Additionally I was sitting in my armchair all the time. That way I could support my right hand on the arm rest to improve the precesion. And guess what? It worked fine. In fact it worked so good for me, that I broke all records. I achieved the Superstar rank, got the "Secret Target" stamp and nearly got the final stamp, "Sharpshooter" (all times bullseye), as well. I never could do that in the classic play style, where you stand and hold the Wiimote in your left hand.

Additionally in Zelda you will have a real crosshair and not this big circle. Which will make the aiming even more easier. So, I'm very confident about the bow in Skyward Sword.


Basketball

I guess, throwing bombs will be somehow similar to Basketball, just heavier. I don't want to stretch it, but remember the bomb basketball minigame from Majora's Mask?


Table Tennis

Yeah, no. I don't see how the Table Tennis mechanics could find their way into Zelda. Maybe real tennis though, the energy ball tennis (Agahnim, Ganondorf, Phantom Ganon, Puppet Zelda, Cubus Sisters, ...) was always very popular in Zelda games.


Golf

Like Table Tennis I don't see this happening unless you play Golf with your sword.


Bowling

You can bowl bombs. And maybe there will be a bomb bowling minigame (hopefully better than Ocarina of Time's Bombchu Bowling).


Wake Boarding / Power Cruising

The point of these water sports was the steering via Wiimote. I could only see this happening while riding the horse. Remember that weird inflateable horse seat patent from last year? There you would use the Wiimote to steer and the Nunchuk to attack with your sword. Could be in the game, but I'd prefer it if the game would have a more intense overworld without any space or use for a horse.


Canoing

That's a must. I always thought, that the canoing in Twilight Princess didn't hit it's full potential without real Wii paddle controls. It was one of those things, where the old Wiimote without MotionPlus just was not suitable enough. This changed and Wii Sports Resort shows how it could have been.

I really hope that the fishing on a canoe returns. Fishing was one of the sports, that was planned for Wii Sports Resort, but then got scrapped. But we all know Nintendo and this idea will probaly find it's way back into Zelda once again. The fishing Twilight Princess was really good, but with MotionPlus it could be the perfect fishing experience. Yay!


Cycling

No. Just no.


Air Sports

This is probably where the Beetle came from. The airplane controls are very similar and what they have both in common is the exploring. I loved the Island Flyover mode, where I could collect all those sight seeing points and shoot all the white balloons. It was great. And I guess, the Beetle will be very important for exploring Hyrule as well.

There's also the Sky Diving. In Skyward Sword. Link will descend to Hyrule and we already saw the sequence where he jumps down from a cliff. And he also wears these saggy skydiver pants. So, maybe Skydiving is in the game as well.


What remains the most important question to many is, can you play while sitting? Zelda fans are afraid, that they have to stand all the time while playing the game. Because they are irrational and play a new Zelda game for ten hours straight, when it's out. But I say no, stay calm, you can sit down while playing. Archery worked fine for this and I guess during the swordplay small gestures from your wirst will be suitable for most situations. You may have to lift your arm for sword fighting tougher enemies, but as soon as it gets more intense you will probably stand up automatically. I mostly did that in Twilight Princess already, standing up during the boss fight, because it's cool and epic. But don't be afraid, my guess is, that you will be able to play most of the time while sitting in your couch (even though it might be better for most people, if they'd get their asses up :D).

Skyward Sword's Timeline Placement

Aonuma confirmed in the latest issue of the Official Nintendo magazine, that there's indeed an official timeline document and that Skyward Sword will take place before Ocarina of Time.

"Yes, there is a master timeline but it is a confidential document! The only people to have access to that document are myself, Mr. Miyamoto and the director of the title. We cant share it with anyone else!"

"I have already talked to Mr. Miyamoto about this so I am comfortable in releasing this information, this title [Skyward Sword] takes place before Ocarina of Time."

"If I said that a certain title was 'the first Zelda game', then that means that we cant ever make a title that takes place before that! So for us to add titles to the series, we have to have a way of putting the titles before or after each other."


Both news aren't very surprising. We knew about the timeline document for a long time now. I guess, it's very simplistic and just shows the basic relationships between the games. Because that's the only way it could work fine. Zelda fans tend to get too much into details, when it comes to the timeline. Like which side character appeared in which game or what's up with the Master Sword in the Oracle games and so on. As a Zelda fan, who likes to write about Zelda, I surprisingly talk very rarely about the timeline. Maybe it's time for an article about that. :D However, even if the official timeline might be simple compared to most fan timelines, it's still very confusing and complicated. Which is why Nintendo will probably never show this to the public. With all the different eras, the different Links and Zeldas it's probably quite a mess and not as clear as the Metroid timeline for example.

About Skyward Sword's timeline placement, we could have guessed this pretty much since the artwork from last year's E3:



At E3 2010 they even confirmed, that the "Skyward Sword" is the girl and that it will become the legendary Master Sword at one point in the game. So, if the story deals with the origins of the Master Sword, the game pretty has to be placed before Ocarina of Time. This should be logical. But what's interesting is that in Ocarina we were told the origins of Ganondorf. Which could mean, that there's no "Gannon" involved in the new game.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Metroid: Other M Boxarts

Remember the nice red New Super Mario Bros. Wii boxart? Yeah, that was a cool one. "Must buy the red box." Well, Japan now brings out quite a cover for Metroid: Other M:



DO WANT!
This is a great cover. Simplistic and striking. Even if the game turns out to be bad, at least the cover looks awesome. UPDATE: It's also a slip cover, we got a younger Samus under the red helmet. Nice effect. Now, let's take a look at the US/European cover:



Duh... boring, duh. What's this? The cover of a boring Star Wars novel? Who came up with that? Metroid is about the exploration of an isolated Sci-Fi world, but this cover tells me, the only thing, that I'm going to explore in this game, will be Samus' feelings. I will probably call the game "Metroid Mother" from now on. Not only because "Other M" is an anagram for "mother", but because Samus' maternal feelings for the Baby Metroid will probably more important than anything.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Taking the Sword Away Again...

Aonuma in an interview with Gamespot:

“If you look at The Legend of Zelda as a series, there are some things that are fairly traditional in the structure of the game in that you have a traditional field area and then a dungeon area. So, maybe we won’t have the dungeon area be that place where you go and you fight enemies and you solve a puzzle and beat the boss, but maybe we can make some field areas that operate sort of like dungeons. Or maybe we’ll have dungeons where you’re not just going in to battle enemies, but maybe a dungeon where you go in and you lose your sword, and you have to flee from the enemies and solve puzzles.”

Arggghhhhh, why the hell would you want to do this? How stupid is this? And how's that new? I mean, why does it sound so familiar? Huh...?



Remember this? We already had that concept twice in the Nintendo DS Zeldas and it wasn't that much fun. And it's surely not innovative for that matter. And why would they reuse that idea in a game, which heavily focuses on MotionPlus sword combat? That's absolutely ridiculous. I want to KICK ASS, blow my enemies away with the sword and not run away from them. Running away in fear is not fun. If I would enjoy running away from invincible enemies, I would buy Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. I haven't bought Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. I absolutely don't get it, why they would want to do this. And I really hope, it will be just one dungeon. Or that this was just a stupid example and it's not going to be in the game, where they actually will offer some good ideas, which Aonuma just doesn't want to spoil. But with ideas like the above, they'll never surpass Ocarina of Time. I see, that they want to include challenges in Zelda games, that's nice, but there are other ways to offer challenges than just throwing invincible enemies into the game.



Don't take it away, Nintendo. Don't!

About the field areas that work like dungeons. We already saw that in the demo and it's basically nothing new (Forsaken Fortress for example). It would be disappointing if this is all they had come up with in their "change the dungeon field formula"-plan.



Sources:
Zelda Universe
Gamespot

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Retro and Donkey Kong

Well, pretty much since I opened this blog, I've been speculating what Retro Studios' newest project would be. My guess was, that they worked together with the Zelda team on the newest Zelda game for Wii. This even might have been true at one point. After the release of Twilight Princess the Zelda team had experimented with first person gameplay in Zelda (with Link's Crossbow Training as the result). And they probably consulted Retro Studios at one point for their experience with the Metroid Prime Trilogy. However, the First Person Zelda idea probably didn't turn out so well and was dumped at one point.

With Nintendo been saying, that Retro is doing what they do best, I guess a lot of people including me jumped to false conclusions. What is Retro doing best? At that time you might thought it's first person gameplay, adventure and exploration, since that's what they've done for years now with the Metroid Prime Trilogy. But that's not what's their biggest strength is. What they do best is reviving old franchises, they are able to understand the essence of the franchise and make a game, that brings this essence back to life. They know what the fans of the franchise want and how to attract new players at the same time. It's what they've done with Metroid Prime and it's what they do now with Donkey Kong.



It's entirely different from everything Retro has done in the past decade, no one would have expected that from Retro. But we all agree that this is absolutely the kind of game, that brings Donkey Kong back in the spotlight. Well, it's a similar approach to New Super Mario Bros., but good 2D platformers on home consoles became a rarity since the Super Nintendo times and there's tons of demand for it (New SMB Wii sold over 14 million in half a year). The Donkey Kong Country games were very successful on the Super Nintendo, but since then there wasn't any other good Donkey Kong game. Well, I guess Retro did it again.

I personally haven't played any of the Donkey Kong Country games yet, but this might change with Retro's new game. They are that good. Nintendo really has found quite the ace in Retro, Retro is now what Rare once was for Nintendo in the 90s. And Retro making a new Donkey Kong Country game is symbolizing this very well.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ocarina of Time Not Number One Anymore

For longer than an entire decade Ocarina of Time was considered to be the best video game ever by many. It held the title of the best rated video game of all times. And in all these years not a single game could come close to the greatness of Ocarina of Time. Not a single game until now...

Ocarina of Time is finally beaten. Beaten by a game, that also comes from a long time running Nintendo video game franchise. The title of best video game of all times is well deserved for this game, it's a game that changes video gaming forever and moves the masses. Ocarina of Time was epic, was massive, was an unforgettable experience, but this game is just better. Of course I'm talking about no other game than:




OCARINA OF TIME 3DS

Items in Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword seems to follow the trend from the Nintendo DS Zeldas and keeps the number of main items relatively small. Less items, but all are used much more intensely and with greater variety during the game. This makes sense, on the Nintendo DS the Zelda team focused on items, that fully utilize the touch screen. Now with MotionPlus they focus on items, that make good use of the MotionPlus device. But of course then many old items won't make the cut. The game will have eight items in addition to sword and shield, which is one more than in the Nintendo DS Zelda games and the same number as in the original Zelda game, though there was one spot "wasted" on a potion and another on the bait. Potions will have their own menu in Skyward Sword and can be drunk while running around. Well, let's take a look at what items we already know and what items most likely could be added.



The Slingshot

This might look a little silly and pointless at first, because in the demo you already have the bow. But it's likely that you will get this item early in the game and the bow much later. Also, it doesn't look like you have to draw the slingshot like the bow with the Nunchuck, so you can use it much faster. I also believe, that this weapon might get different types of ammunition like the seeds from the Oracle games. No matter what, I just hope it doesn't end up like the slingshot in Twilight Princess. Because there are only eight slots for items, not a single one of them should be wasted.

The Whip

This new item returns from Spirit Track and will probably be similar. It's your secondary melee weapon and it might be that it entirely replaces Hookshot-like items.

The Bombs

Can be used for bowling. Nough said.

The Bow

Seems to work like in Wii Sports Resort. Use the Nunchuk to drawn your bow and the Wiimote to aim like a 3D-mouse. The big difference is, that you're holding the bow with your right hand instead of your left, but it still works. I wonder if the Bomb Arrow combo still is possible. If not, I would probably miss it, it was a blast.

The Beetle

This is basically the evolution of the seagull controlling idea from The Wind Waker (or the hawk from Twilight Princess, but this one offered no free control). The big difference is, that the beetle is always by your side and that it can carry dangerous stuff like bombs. But I guess the main use will be scouting. Controls seem to be similar to the airplane from Wii Sports Resort. Could also be the replacement for the Boomerang, since a MotionPlus powered boomerang would be inaccurate and annoying.

The Question Marks

There were three spots left open in the demo. Sword fighting, archery, bowling and the airplane made it from Wii Sports Resort into Zelda as different items. You could say, a safe bet would also be the frisbee, a Boomerang-like item so to speak. However, like I pointed out, it would lack accuracy and would rather be annoying than useful.

What I would love to see is a Ball and Chain. I was disappointed, that in the Wii version of Twilight Princess you wouldn't swing the Ball and Chain with your Wiimote. Because that would be tons of fun. But with MotionPlus this could work just fine. Some other big melee weapon like a hammer or a battleaxe would also be possible.

Originally they wanted to include fishing into Wii Sports Resort and since nothing gets lost at Nintendo, I would say the beloved fishing minigame will return with MotionPlus controls. However, whether the fishing rod really takes a spot in the item menu is the other question. Because the Slingshot already feels like a waste. It could be only available at fishing locations, similar to Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess (well, there you had this other simple fishing rod in your menu, but the real deal was only available in the fishing pond).

And don't forget, that just because the number of "action items" is low, it doesn't mean that there aren't any other items in the game like different armors or boots.

Essence of Lime



Thanks to Zelda Universe I discovered this amazing fan music project today. It's a group of people from OCR, who decided to release an album specifically devoted to The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. It's called "Essence of Lime" and here's the link to their site, where you can download their finished album and their very shiny artwork:

Essence of Lime Site

(The site was also added to my Link Gun.)

The album includes 42 tracks, which is definitely a meaningful number. And the whole thing is quite special, because Oracle of Ages is an interesting choice. I mean, other people would probably first think about an Ocarina of Time album, like ZREO did. But no, these guys chose a less popular Zelda handheld game, also they chose specifically Ages and not Oracle of Seasons or both Oracle games. But Ages has some very powerful tunes and I'm really happy with their choice. Overall the project is quite different from what ZREO does, it's much more fun. For example I like how they mixed sounds from the game into the music like the sword beam. And I absolutely love their Labrynna artwork, it's just awesome. Well if you're fan of the Oracle games, you shouldn't miss this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lefties Unsupported

From the IGN interview with Aonuma:

IGN: In past Zelda games, people noticed that Link was obviously left-handed. And I know that all the Zelda games are stand-alones -- but in this particular game, will there be a lefty option for left-handed people?

Aonuma: It's interesting because people say "all you have to do is switch it." But in reality, it's really hard. You have to change all the models -- you have to make two of everything. So really you're making two complete games, one left-handed version and one right-handed version. We just can't do that. For Twilight Princess, what we did was just create a mirror -- we flipped everything. And if that worked I guess we could do it that way, but again having to create two games is not something we want to do. We just hope that people will play it right-handed.


Not supporting a left-handed playstyle is a very bad choice. Not only because of all the lefties, who want to play the game, but because there are many Zelda fans, who just don't want to see a right-handed Link. They're obsessed with it and they even would play the game in the left-handed style (even though they are right-handed) because of that. Well, I'm not one of these fans, but it's still a topic, that shouldn't be ignored.



And Aonuma is massively exaggerating here. Making two games? Seriously? They would have to do mirrored models of Link and all his enemies, adapt the controls, but that's it. I seriously can't see where the problem is. There's no need to change the environments, unless there are some stupid puzzles, where the exact position of the player is important. But "making two games" is definitely not what they would have to do. Well, they were totally lazy with that in Twilight Princess, where they just mirrored the entire graphics of the game, but you would think, that after four years of development they would come up with some better solution than "we don't want to do it".

I really start to dislike Aonuma, I see him as a problem. First he doesn't want to use MotionPlus and now he doesn't want to support left-handed players. And he wanted Link to ride on a train in Spirit Tracks, because his stupid son likes trains or whatever. But it should never be about, what the developers want. If a developer talks about, what he wants or doesn't want to do, than it's a fail already. It should always be about the player. Their approach, that they want the players to have fun with the swordsplay and everything, is great, that's the right direction. But then saying "we won't support lefties, because we're lazy" is simply a letdown. But I hope Miyamoto slaps them in the face for this, so they'll have to implement a solid left-handed playstyle in the next sixth months. :D

Interestingly enough some people at E3 played the game left-handed and it worked fine (this guy for example). The same goes for Wii Sports Resort. Nonetheless Nintendo should fully support lefties.

Zelda Galaxy

Watch this interview with Aonuma at Gamespot.

One of the most interesting comments here, is that you will travel between the "sky loft" and the lands of Hyrule multiple times during the game. Initially it sounded like that Link will descend at the beginning of the game and that's it. But in this interview it sounded more like the familiar two worlds concept, which is totally overused in the series. A Link to the Past did it, Ocarina of Time did it, both Oracle games did it and even Four Swords Adventures and Twilight Princess did it to a lesser extent. It's nothing that we need to do again. And I can't map my mind around, how the sky world and the below overworld would interact with each other and why Link would need to travel between them.



Then I began to fear that the sky world could be more like the observatory from Super Mario Galaxy. Actually the fear began with the screenshots and demo videos with the very beautiful landscape in the background. My question was, if you would be able to fully travel through these landscapes. I already said in my last post, that I want the game to have a free and open overworld ready for exploration. But judging from all the Zelda games after The Wind Waker, the changes for this are very slim. I don't believe anymore, that the Zelda team is able to pull it off. The changes are higher, that they devided the overworld into areas, pretty much like in the Nintendo DS Zeldas. But instead of travelling between these areas with a boat or a train, you will ascend back to the sky and from there you will "select" another area to descend to. Some of these areas will be dungeons disguised as overworld areas, pretty much like the forest from the demo, which is basically a typical 3D Zelda forest area but with dungeon elements, like the forest levels from the Four Swords games. Four Swords is a good example, because travelling between the worlds this way would be no different from the level selection in the Four Swords games, just more cinematic and with an observatory level like in Mario Galaxy.

Of course this would suck hard. There's nothing more important than the overworld and this is the worst thing, they could possibly do. So, I really hope, that my concerns about this will be layed down soon, when they talk more about the game.