Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - The Year of Crossovers


Another year has passed and for a year, which didn't see a new title in the The Legend of Zelda main series, this was probably a very lively one, especially when compared to the voids in 2008 and 2012. It all began end of January, where Iwata announced in an investor briefing that Nintendo is going to be less protective about their character IPs:

We will actively expand our character licensing business, including proactively finding appropriate partners.

And this ultimately led to various cameos for the Zelda series in other video games this year. There was the "The Legend of Zelda Zone" in Sonic Lost Word, Link costumes in Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2 and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and of course Link's infamous appearance in Mario Kart 8.

As a perfect fit for this "year of crossovers" we saw the release of the next Super Smash Bros. game, both on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Though nothing much happened with the Zelda franchise in the next iteration of Nintendo's allstar fighting game. We got new stages with the Spirit Train from Spirit Tracks, the Gerudo Valley from Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyloft from Skyward Sword. The Zelda franchise also saw a significant upgrade in the field of items with the Gust Bellow, the Beetle, Bombchus, a Fairy Bottle, Cuccos and three new assist trophies: Skull Kid, Midna and Ghirahim. But there were no new playable fighters from the Zelda series and the recurring ones only changed a little, so overall the new Smash probably wasn't all this exciting for Zelda fans.

However, Zelda finally got its own well deserved allstar fighting game with Hyrule Warriors. You could probably even name this the "year of Hyrule Warriors", because this title was huge. Speculating about new characters and weapons, marveling at artwork and of course playing the game, where you can easily invest hundreds of hours - Hyrule Warriors dominated the free time of Zelda fans in the latter half of the year. And it will still keep going. Two more DLC packs are coming in early 2015, one about Majora's Mask and one adding new game modes. Hyrule Warriors will probably keep the fans busy, until the next Zelda games get released.

2015

This time there's actually not much to speculate about the upcoming year, since Nintendo already laid out the Zelda road map for 2015. Fans of Majora's Mask will be happy that their favorite game will finally receive full attention in the first half of 2015. First there's the Majora's Mask content for Hyrule Warriors, which certainly will be exciting, and then there's the remake for the Nintendo 3DS with some improvements and additions.

There will also be new songs from Majora's Mask in the "Master Quest" program of the Symphony of the Goddesses, which returns in 2015 to North America and Europe (I'll be in Dusseldorf). Certainly an event to look forward to.

The 2nd half of 2015 will revolve around the new Zelda game for the Wii U. This year they already showed us the visual style, the open world and a battle against a giant hybrid of an Octorok and Beamos. There's a lot more to learn at the next E3 and the game is still slated for a 2015 holiday release, so in exactly one year we might all be playing the new game!

We also know that there's a new 3DS Zelda game in development, probably based on A Link Between Worlds. However, I suspect this game will be shown and released in 2016 to not steal attention from the new Wii U game. There's also the question, if Hyrule Warriors will receive a 2nd wave of DLC or not, e.g. Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time packs. I personally don't think so, the next step will probably be a sequel, but it's still a possibility.

In any case: Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: 8-Bit Magical Sword?

I was thinking about this and I guess, it could be possible that the Magical Sword gets to be the 8-Bit variant of the Master Sword. It would get listed under Master Sword and be unique in the same way, so you cannot get duplicates or sell it. And it comes with the same Evil's Bane seal.

Also, Link would have the 8-Bit Magical Shield while wielding the 8-Bit Magical Sword.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Super Smash Bros. 4 Unexcitement

When I started this blog in 2008, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was huge for me. Sadly I have deleted most of the post from the time, because they were more of a backlogging nature, but they showed my excitement for the game. I invested about 300 hours into Brawl, collected all stickers and nearly all trophies, created many stages and overall had a lot of fun with it. It's probably my favorite game on the Wii next to the Metroid Prime Trilogy.

Now we got this:


I could not replicate the same excitement this year with Super Smash Bros. 4, which just recycled Brawl in many ways (lots of stages, music, almost all characters), but also lacked some of the good parts like most stage editor elements, the Subspace Emissary or the stickers. Overall it feels all very lazy and that should not be of surprise, when the director of the game publicly states that he doesn't want to work on Smash anymore.

It's still a quality game and the gameplay certainly has improved over Brawl, for me it's the best gameplay and controls in the series. But while the core is great, the package feels entirely inferior to Brawl. One of the reasons might be the development of the 3DS version, which probably cut the resources in half. If they didn't make a 3DS version and put all their efforts into the Wii U game, it probably would have a lot more going for it.

Another big reason is Hyrule Warriors, where Zelda finally got its own allstar game. Ghirahim or Midna might not be "worthy" enough to be playable in Smash, but they sure are in Hyrule Warriors. And Koei Tecmo's character design is just absolutely splendid and beautiful, they did such a great job with this game that it's very easy to ignore the new Smash as a Zelda fan.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Beaten Link's Awakening Again

I honestly don't know, how many times I've played through Link's Awakening by now, but definitely over 20 times. The only other Zelda game, where I'm not exactly sure, how many times I played through it, is Ocarina of Time. With all the other games I remember quite well, how many times I played them.

But with Link's Awakening this has become some sort of Christmas tradition for me. It was Christmas 1997, where I got the game. And it was my first Zelda game. It took me months to beat it originally, I got stuck so many times in the silliest situations. I cried, when I finally beat the game, because such an amazing journey came to an end.

Today I beat it in one evening. It's a very short Zelda game and I know all the best routes through the dungeons, but it's perfect, if you want a quick Zelda experience.


It also brings back so many memories, each time I play it. The mystery the game had, when I only knew it from Club Nintendo magazin articles. The imaginations about the island Cocolinth running wild. It was like reading a good book.

I picked up the uncensored, original, monochrome German version of the game, which has the Claude M. Moyse translation humor. He was known for sneaking in some kinky translation here and there, so you get Buzz Blubbs talking about condoms and sharing juices. Or one of my favorite parts is the quest with the mermaid. She actually lost her bikini top and if you dive in front of her, she gets upset... and when she offers you a scale, pervert Link grabs something else first. Good times. :D

What I also enjoy a lot about the game are the secrets. Some of the Pieces of Heart and Secret Seashells are so well hidden that you really have to be thorough to look for everything. This was my first Zelda game and it taught me that there can be a secret behind every wall and under every bush. Sadly Zelda games kind of lost this, by now it's always very obvious, where things are hidden. Take the Maiamais in A Link Between Worlds for example. It's a fun collectible quest, but way too easy.

Hyrule Warriors: Fishing Rod?

This might sound weird, but when I look at Link's weapon list, it really feels like he's missing one weapon. Of course he already got seven weapons in total, but his tabular weapon menu basically screams "give me one more weapon". It just looks incomplete.

And there's still the issue that we haven't seen another new Water element weapon so far. There's one new Light, Fire and Lightning weapon and four new Darkness weapons. At this point I wouldn't even be surprised, if the Majora's Mask pack added yet two more Darkness weapons with Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid. And only a Deku character would probably add another Water element weapon, however, there are more likely candidates for the remaining two character slots.

The solution? Give Link the Fishing Rod! This would happen as part of a free update - probably the last one, which comes alongside the Ganon/Boss pack and the two new game modes. That way the final update would be more exciting and Koei Tecmo could use this as a "thank you". On the other hand they could also add the weapon and/or its upgrades to the Termina Adventure Map, since Majora's Mask is now getting fishing ponds in the remake.


It would be a pure joke weapon, which is why it's not really potential paid DLC. But seeing, how they made the Spinner and the Dominion Rod work, they could easily come up with a full fishing moveset, where Link whips his enemies using the Fishing Rod and smashes them with giant fish that he pulled out of nowhere. Something absolutely ridiculous, but fun.

Hyrule Warriors: Majora's Mask Pack Speculation

One of the most fun to have with Hyrule Warriors besides playing the game is speculating what the game might offer in the future. We have two more DLC packs left. The last one will include two new game modes and isn't that interesting (yet), but the Majora's Mask pack certainly is, especially since it's accompanied by the 3DS remake later next year. Early 2015 will be all about Majora's Mask.

Characters

Well, the Majora's Mask pack will contain two new characters, three new costumes and a new Adventure Map. While I don't like the lack of integration of the paid DLC characters, they are still the most interesting thing here. And I narrowed it down to five likely candidates:

  • Fierce Deity Link
  • Skull Kid
  • Tingle
  • Happy Mask Salesman
  • Deku Princess

Each of these have something going for them and against them. Right now I still consider Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid as the best choices. In some of my previous posts I had the theory that they might aim for less significant characters with the DLC, like Yeto or the Deku Princess, but that was obviously not the case with Twili Midna. They go for the big fan favorites here and those are certainly Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid. After all they are the ones represented as First 4 Figures from the game! And with them all F4F would be playable.


With Fierce Deity Link there is a chance that he might just be a costume for Link and nothing else. He also could be both a costume and a character. They could make him a separate character, but also give Link an unlockable Fierce Deity color swap on the new Adventure Map just for fun. Or even a full costume, since they simply could reuse and downscale Fierce Deity Link's model as a costume. I already made several arguments, why he should be his own separate character, but this only applies, if they plan a moveset. And I think both Sheik and Twili Midna already made this clear that these kind of transformed characters get their own slot and won't just be some costume or weapon.

In a way Fierce Deity Link is actually very similar to Twili Midna. Both only appeared at the end of a Zelda game, but have a cult following amongst the Zelda fans. From Aonuma's message about here on Miiverse:

When I was developing Twilight Princess, I thought it was such a waste to let a beautiful princess like her only appear in the ending. Now Koei Tecmo Games has made my wish to see more of her come true.

Something similar could be said about Fierce Deity Link and I actually hope that they give him more to do in Majora's Mask 3D, maybe like a Cave of Ordeals, where you can play as him. It's just so much fun to use him. But Hyrule Warriors is the perfect chance to give this character more action and he's predestined to be in the game. Fierce Deity Link was the biggest power rush in the entire Zelda series and he makes a great fit for Hyrule Warriors, which is a all about overpowered fighters. And seeing how powerful they made Twili Midna, I don't see an issue with Fierce Deity Link being more powerful than Link. The DLC characters are separate after all, so it's not like he's going to make the game any easier.

Also, with Twili Midna they recycled lots of Cia's animations, which they haven't done with any other character yet. All of them got unique animations. But that probably happened, because they are to get the DLC characters done. And with the Fierce Deity Link they could recycle lots of assets, including the voice and some animations, from Link. That way they have more time to get one fully original character done. Though even Skull Kid for example would probably recycle some things, like the special attack with the moon.

Skull Kid is easily the poster child of Majora's Mask and he's also the humanoid helper villain much as Zant or Ghirahim, so there's a good chance that he will become playable with the DLC. Majora fighting Fierce Deity might also be a theme for the new Adventure Map and it even could make sense, if they need each other's materials. Koei will probably add a Challenge Mode mission, where you can fight both characters, so that you can get their materials without buying the new Adventure Map. Or it works like with Twili Midna, where she simply drops Midna's materials. This could work for Fierce Deity Link, but not for any other new character.

The big argument against Fierce Deity Link and Skull Kid is that they most likely would add even more darkness type weapons to the game, while we already got eight. While the element balance already got screwed with the Twilight Princess DLC, it still would be weird to completely ignore all other elements over the course of two DLC packs. And this is where the other characters come in.

I often see the Happy Mask Salesman named by fans and he certainly would complement Skull Kid as well as Fierce Deity Link would, if you want to characters with a connection, where one needs the materials of the other. But I'm personally not a big fan of this character idea for two different reasons. One is that he never takes action. He's this mysterious background character, who lets Link do his deeds in all of the games, where he appeared. Him taking action would feel as weird to me as kid Kafei suddenly slaughtering thousands of enemies, while he originally couldn't even fight Sakon. Still Koei Tecmo could make him work with a moveset, where he utilizes different ability masks, but I fear a moveset like that would feel very gimmicky, which is the 2nd reason.

We know that Tingle was already in development (see here) together with a Tingle Balloon weapon. But that doesn't have to mean anything. Like Midna's "Hair" weapon, he simply could have been scrapped. Maybe even Aonuma told them not to include Tingle, since he's not very popular in the west. And with the DLC there's now the problem that you can preorder everything without knowing what characters exactly will be included. So, it should better be something that doesn't disappoint the masses.

Also, Tingle is a recurring character like Impa or Ganondorf. And like these two he should get his own Hyrule Warriors incarnation and not be specifically from the world of Termina. So far all the characters taken from specific eras like Fi or Darunia only ever appeared there and nowhere else. While this also wouldn't apply to the Happy Mask Salesman and Skull Kid, these two at least had their only main role in Majora's Mask. So, it still makes sense to use their Majora's Mask versions. Tingle on the other hand probably had his most important role in the Wind Waker, but he even got his own games. I think Tingle would make the most sense as a character in the sequel, where he appears as part of the world of Hyrule Warriors. And in a potential sequel they have the room for more silly characters like Agitha, while in the DLC they want selling characters. However... we know for a fact that they already were working on Tingle, which is why he's still a very likely candidate. Either he got scrapped or he gets finished up for the DLC.

The Deku Princess is also more likely to appear in the sequel than in the DLC. In my previous post I gave several good reasons, why she should be an addition to the game. It would be important to have a Deku next to a Goron and a Zora to complete the Majora's Mask race trio. She would add another (much needed) water weapon and could come with a Woodfall stage, Deku troops and maybe even an Odolwa boss. However, seeing how the Twilight Princess Adventure Map didn't have any new content AT ALL, we're lucky to get a Clocktown Stage, if anything. So, my ideas were probably too optimistic for the DLC and it's more likely to have all these things in the sequel together with a Deku character. And while I still think that the Deku Princess would be the best Deku representative, she is certainly not Twili Midna level of popular to be hot cake DLC.

I should also mention Mikau, since he would be an awesome addition using the guitar as his weapon type and playing with electric attacks. He's a rockstar and the perfect fit for this Zelda rock music game. However, since we already have a Zora character, he's more likely to appear in a sequel as well.


Adventure Map

We can already listen to the 8-Bit Clocktown Music of the upcoming Adventure Map, so it's probably going to be an 8-Bit version of Termina. I thought the Twilight map was well made visually, though it lacked any new content. I still have the hope that they at least might make a Clocktown stage for this. Maybe they even create a free new scenario for Legend Mode in the 1.5 update, where the heroes got side tracked in Termina and where you're able to face the new characters without the DLC.

However, I thought the difficulty level of the Twilight map was a pain. It's not so much about the damage output, which totally makes sense for characters, who can have up to 40 Heart Containers by now, but about the A rank and 2nd Skulltula requirements, where you can't take more than 10/25 and 4 hearts of damage. It only results in a pure "All Attacks are Devastating" playstyle, where I use the Item Power-Up mixture to kill everything with the Sacred Bow at a safe distance. And that's not much fun.

So, if they really have to keep the same silly A rank and Skulltula requirements for everything, I hope that they will aim at a different difficulty level for Termina Map. The Master Quest Map was overall easier, but had the rules. The Twilight Map was very hard, but it gives double material drops. Maybe the Termina Map will aim at time limits, but you can use Ocarina item cards to get rid of them. So, this would be similar to the Twilight Zones on the Twilight Map.

Overall for the item cards they could use different masks. Use the Mask of Truth to read Gossip Stones and reveal enemies. Or use the Postman Hat to look into post boxes and unlock rewards. As for the rewards, those will probably have 8-Bit variants for the remaining six original weapons. I really liked the Power Bracelet + Raft combo and the 8-Bit Keys for Ganondorf, those were cool choices. Let's see, how the remaining 8-Bit weapons could look like:

  • Great Fairy: 8-Bit Fairy
  • Naginata: 8-Bit Bow
  • Portal: 8-Bit Compass
  • Baton: 8-Bit Recorder
  • Hammer: 8-Bit Food
  • Scale: 8-Bit Heart

Those are different from previous ideas, mainly because it seems that DLC characters and weapons are not getting 8-Bit variants. I used the Food as the Hammer because of the shape and because it's a reference to the Rock Sirloin from Majora's Mask, which was a Goron item in the game. The only other major items would be the Bombs and the Magical Sword. But it could be that Darunia is using the Bombs as his Hammer. The 8-Bit Hammer from Zelda II was also a nice idea, but it seems like they only use items from the first Zelda game.

The Magical Sword is a bit iffy. It could be used for the Naginata, but I guess it's also possible to have an 8-Bit alternative to the Master Sword, which works exactly like the Master Sword. And I also heard that someone met a Wiizro with an 8-Bit Blue Ring in a Network Link battle. Can't confirm this yet though. But the same guy also spotted Agitha with the Rupee as her Parasol.

And yes, I want to see a huge 8-Bit Fairy... lol. She would probably even carry an 8-Bit Potion around as her bottle.


Costumes

Next to 8-Bit weapons there should be 16 more recolored default costumes, but also three new full model costumes. If Fierce Deity Link is not a playable character, he at least should be a full costume, which models the armor based on the artwork and every detail. A cheap color swap like in Super Smash Bros. 4 would only be acceptable, if he's also a playable character.

But since Link already got so many costumes, they should try to give other characters something here. So far only Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, Lana and Cia received real costumes and it's time for some other characters to get some costume joy. Here are some ideas:

  • Goron Link costume for Darunia
  • Garo Ninja costume for Wizzro
  • Cremia / Malon costume for Lana or Zelda
  • Tingle costume for Volga

Goron Link is a no brainer. Darunia would get Link's hat, the gloves, the pants and the necklace, so that he looks like Link transformed into Darmani. This would be different from the Ghost Darmani costume, since it requires a modified character model and it would be based on Goron Link.

In any case it's weird that Darunia and Ruto already got Majora's Mask color swaps on the Master Quest Map. You would have thought that they save this for the Ternina Map. Or maybe they get Majora's Mask themes here as well. For example Ruto could have a Mikau reskin, where she has all his tattoos. Not sure about Darunia though...

I've always been a fan of the Garo race in Ikana and it would be nice to have a full blown Garo costume for Wizzro, since he's kind of the playable representative of all ghost beings. He also could just get a Garo Ninja or Poe Collector color swap on the Adventure Map, but I'm personally not a fan of color swaps, which could have been real costumes (like Skyward Sword Impa).

If Tingle's not playable, he could also be a ridiculous costume for someone. Volga in a Tingle costume would be fun, but I guess it's also a possibility for Link or even Darunia. But I hope that they give costumes to characters, who haven't received any special costumes yet. Link, Zelda and Ganondorf already got lots, Lana and Cia got a nice costume in the first pack and the Majora's Mask pack should have something in store for others. Impa or Sheik might be candidates as well. Maybe we might just get their Ocarina of Time costumes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: Costume Packs Released

By now Nintendo has released the costume packs in Europe for 0,99€ each. With a small price like that I wouldn't mind more costume packs. Though I'm not entirely happy with the preorder costumes. The Twilight Princess costumes all look too dark and Zelda's dress in her Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess versions looks messed up while running. Besides these issues I really enjoy the variety. My favorites are Ocarina of Time Link and Skyward Sword Zelda.


I still think similar costumes for Impa and Sheik would be nice, as well as a Demise costume for Ganondorf. The Ocarina of Time costume for Link also could have red and blue versions.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Legend of Zelda U - Game Awards 2014 Footage

Watch it here.

Impressive. I wasn't all that excited about the E3 footage, but that's more like it. It overall reminds me a lot of Far Cry 4, just more beautiful. But it has a lot of similarities like the large mountain areas, the towers and parachuting around the area. Actually they even made the first Skyward Sword trailer finally come to life here, where Link jumps off a cliff and skydives into a landscape. That never happened in the actual game, but is now part of Zelda U. It's also reminiscent of the well know artwork from the first Zelda game:


28 years later their original vision of The Legend of Zelda now comes to life.

In general I have the feeling that this might be the next milestone for Zelda after Ocarina of Time. Zelda on the N64 was the big game of its generation and ever since Zelda only has seen experiments. The biggest game during all these years was Twilight Princess, which evolved from Ocarina of Time, but also made several steps back like with the very linear game world. I personally enjoy having an open world in Zelda more, because for me exploration is really the most important part of a Zelda game. It also adds to the replay value.

So, naturally the new Zelda game fully appeals to me. But with games like these, there's always the same problem: having empty worlds. Even The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess already had this issue, where they filled the world with repeating elements like having the same towers and islands all over the ocean. While the landscape here looks rich and natural, there isn't much to catch your eyes. And for a Zelda game it's important to have something interesting in every corner. It already lacks the enemies, Aonuma took even a while to find some during the video, which is a bad sign. Or more enemies come out at night, since this game brings the day cycle back, you even have a digital clock on the map:


You can spot quite some interesting things here, but not many. What I like is that the maps looks really natural with its river courses and lakes. It doesn't have the artificial vibe of past Zelda games, where the world usually was made from chambers.

In the northeast you can spot something that looks like a lake in the shape of a skull and might be related to Death Mountain, maybe you even have the classic Spectacle Rock there. There's also some spiral formation southeast of it.

In the southeast corner of the map you can see something, which looks like Crescent Island. And maybe it is. It would be interesting to have a world here, which also connects Labrynna and Holodrum to Hyrule. But I doubt that this will be the case, though it's entirely possible that this is named "Crescent Island" as a reference.

And in the southwest you can spot something, which appears to be a tower above clouds or snowy mountains. All of these and the mountain top in the south, which is shaped like a fairy, are the landmarks catching my eye right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hyrule Warriors: Costume Frenzy

In case you haven't heard yet, the preorder costume sets for Hyrule Warriors will be available on the eShop later this month, on the 18th December. At least this was announced for Japan, but I guess this will be the case in the other regions as well. It kind of fits, because the December is the only month without a new DLC pack and it could be a nice Christmas present.

Overall I enjoy having lots of different costumes for a character, because it adds quite some variety. Some of the reskins, which you unlock on the DLC Adventure Map, are pretty cheap though. It would have been nice to get some actual costumes out of these ideas, like a full Skyward Sword costume for Impa or a true Rutela costume for Ruto for example, though her pink recolor actually looks really nice. But having only reskins feels like wasted potential with some of these. Others look really great, like the silver golden Fi or Cia in blue. And Ghirahim even got a costume without his cape, which is pretty cool. I made a picture series of all Twilight costumes on ZeldaEurope, in case you want to take a look at all of them.

And I would actually like to see some small costume packs released alongside the preorder ones, mainly with these costumes:

  • Ocarina of Time Sheik
  • Ocarina of Time Impa
  • Skyward Sword Impa
  • Demise costume for Ganondorf

While Impa and Ganondorf already got Skyward Sword recolors, I still want full costumes for these, mainly for the sake of completion. Not only Link and Zelda should have all their reincarnations. And those could be released as Ocarina of Time Pack 2 and Skyward Sword Pack 2.

Then there's still the question of the dark costumes:


Only Link got his so far, but everyone in the game has a dark version, where it would be fun to have them playable. But I was thinking that maybe the new game modes in the final DLC pack will provide that, so you will be able to unlock the dark costumes there. Maybe even the Wizzro imposter costumes, where the characters appear in a ghostly tone.

On the Majora's Mask Adventure Map I expect to see more recolors and I'm hoping for some of these:

  • Lana in Red
  • Cia in Red
  • Ruto with Mikau's tattoos

A Fierce Deity Link recolor à la Smash 4 could be possible, but this would be the cheapest and most disappointing way of dealing with Fierce Deity Link. Unless of course Fierce Deity Link is a full character and they just add the recolor costume for fun.

A red costume for Lana would give her one color scheme for each goddess / Oracle, which fits her character design very well. Cia has all of Lana's colors and she would look good in red, too.


Apropos red costumes, what Koei also likes to do is Christmas costumes and I was thinking that this might not be too bad. Link in a Santa outfit is not too far from his usual clothes, a Santa Darunia could be fun and imagine a sexy Santa costume for Cia and Twili Midna, something like that:


Artwork by VanEvil

Of course there's no Christmas in the Zelda universe, so this probably won't happen... :D