Thursday, May 14, 2020

Another Game of the Decade

It feels like yesterday that The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has claimed the title "Game of the Decade" on GameFAQs.com (see here) and now another Zelda game has done it again, beating The Witcher 3 in the finale — The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Link standing on the cliff at the Shrine of Resurrection at the beginning of the game

Of course GameFAQs isn't exactly the most representative site and it's all just in good fun, but it's still nice to see that Breath of the Wild is getting some more praise. I'd even say that it deserves the title "Game of the Decade" more than Majora's Mask did for what it has accomplished. The game truly has been a success to the Zelda franchise and has been the biggest milestone for the series ever since Ocarina of Time, as well as an important milestone for open world games overall.

However, I personally would not say it's the Game of Decade. That title should probably go something that has defined gaming even more in the last ten years...

screenshot of Minecraft showing my village with a pixel art of Link in the background

Minecraft. Rarely ever there has been a game so successful and influential as this one. It sold ten times as much as Breath of the Wild and became the beautiful childhood memories for an entire generation of gamers. Exploration and a great joy of discovery, which have made Breath of the Wild so good, also are a huge part of its experience, on top of the high amount of creativity that this game supports. Minecraft is just pure gaming magic.

Breath of the Wild can keep you playing for hundreds of hours until you've done and explored everything. And it does so really well. Minecraft, however, can be played forever.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

2nd Person Perspective in Zelda (and Metroid)

3D video games are usually known for being played from a first person view or a third person view. Either you interact with the world from the eyes of your playable character or you watch your playable character from an outside camera, which can be still or locked to your character or even controllable.

The Zelda series even uses both methods, where you normally play in third person, but you can also switch into first person view to look around or aim with certain items, like the Hookshot or the Bow. In the Metroid Prime games it's actually the other way around, where you normally play in a first person perspective from Samus' eyes, but go into third person for certain actions, like the Morphball.

But what if I told you that there are instances where both Zelda and Metroid are offering a 2nd person view? And what's even a 2nd person view?

The different perspectives in video games stem from writing, where there can be three different point of views for the narrative:

  • 1st person: "I'm a hero."
  • 2nd person: "You are a hero."
  • 3rd person: "Link is a hero."

In 1st person the story is directly told by the main character or one of the characters in the story, while a 3rd person narrative is talking about all the characters from an outside perspective. But in second person view, which is quite rare, you're basically told by someone else what you're doing...

If we translate this to video games, you would view your playable character from the eyes of someone else. So, a second person view still is like a first person view, just that you're not playing as that person. And after watching a video about the 2nd person view in Driver: San Francisco, I had this little epiphany about how Zelda was using this unique perspective in a very memorable moment:

Toon Link being held by Clayk as seen from the eyes of the boss

It's the boss fight against Crayk in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. In this fight the boss turns invisible, but the second screen lets you watch the action from the perspective of the boss — which is a 2nd person view. You still aim with your bow on the lower screen, but you have to do it in a way that you're pointing directly at Crayk's face on the top screen.

It was truly an out of body experience and is one of the examples where Phantom Hourglass tried some really unique things within the series. The game isn't exactly a fan favorite, but you have to give credit where credit is due.

Of course this use of a 2nd person view is more or less only suitable for gimmicks, like this particular boss fight, so it's probably not something where you would design an entire Zelda game around it. But it's still interesting to see that it can lead to some crazy interactions and maybe this can be used for something more extensive in a future Zelda title.

So, what about Metroid? This is actually a simple one, because basically all classic first person shooters on consoles with a split-screen multiplayer, like for example GoldenEye 007 or Turok 2: The Seeds of Evil on the Nintendo 64, offer multiple 2nd person perspectives. Everyone's screen is a second person view except for your own and you can even use this to spot yourself in the action.

The Metroid series had this with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which came with a very traditional multiplayer mode:


In the above screenshot you can see how the two players on the lower screens are watching each other, probably in the middle of a fight. And this is where the 2nd person view comes into play. Part of the fun of these old couch-multiplayer shooters was basically cheating by looking at what your enemy is doing and where he's going.

It's a shame that there wasn't anything like it afterwards, but maybe Metroid Prime 4 will offer an interesting multiplayer mode as well, maybe even something that uses split-screen.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

No Nintendo Direct in June?

Nintendo Direct logo

According to VentureBeat there won't be a traditional Nintendo Direct around the E3 time frame in June this year, because the "work from home" covid-19 initiative has set many things back.

Well, we will survive, if this turns out to be true, but this is still a shame, because right now there is a serious news drought. We should still be getting that ARMS fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in June, but otherwise there isn't much to talk about... Which is normal for this time of the year, but normally things also get exciting in June again and then stay exciting for the rest of the year, until the next big release hits us.

I wouldn't be surprised, if Nintendo skips E3 this year completely and instead puts all their energy and big reveals into the usual early September Direct. But I wouldn't mind to be wrong here.

For May I have planned a special on this blog about one of my favorite video game genres outside of Nintendo's scope, Arena Shooters, but I understand that this will be only be interesting to few of my readers. But it will be still better than nothing and I want to get my thoughts about this topic off my chest.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Majora's Mask 20th Anniversary

old cover art of Majora's Mask with a green background and the mask at the center, stating 20 years

Every Nintendo lover out there seems to make a hot story out of this anniversary, since there doesn't seem to be anything else to talk about right now - other than turnip prices in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, so I might as well as join in on the fun. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask just turned 20 years today, congratulations!

This actually caught me off guard, because for me the 20th Anniversary of the game would have been in November, which was a much more fitting time for this type of game. But it seems that Japan got it half a year before the rest of the world, which wasn't unusual back then...

Majora's Mask was actually the first Zelda game, where I got the game on launch day (November 17th in Europe) and where I closely followed any news about the game from magazines and TV, because of the lack of internet. This started with articles about "Zelda Gaiden" and later "The Mask of Mujula", depicting how very different the game will be and feel from Ocarina of Time.

Not counting Ancient Stone Tablets, this was actually the first Zelda game that re-used the engine, graphics, sounds, characters, enemies and items from a previous title to save some development time. To me it never felt like this was a bad thing, because Ocarina of Time was absolutely amazing and I was excited to get more like it. To get a game that expands many of the ideas, like the masks, the time system and the different tribes. The idea of transforming into a Deku, Goron or Zora was ingenious and still is.

In many ways both N64 Zelda games also complement each other. Majora's Mask had very different environments to offer and set its focus clearly on side quests and character interactions, while it only offered four main temples. And together both games create one big experience that shouldn't be missed by anyone.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Majora's Mask!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Back to Arena Shooters

For me currently history is repeating itself from exactly ten years ago. We got the latest topdown Zelda the year before and the next big Zelda game is in the making, but there probably won't be any news about this game until June (or even later this year) and there aren't (m)any interesting Nintendo topics to talk about, at least not for me personally.

Instead I have invested time and money in some new PC hardware and got back into my favorite genre that doesn't have anything to do with Nintendo: Arena Shooters. Ten years ago this has been Unreal Tournament 3 (as evident here and here) and now it is mainly Quake Champions, but I've also tried the "new" Unreal Tournament, as well as some others.

promotional image of Quake Champions with the Ranger fighting Visor

Overall this is a genre that has been nearly dead for a decade now, where the shift has been clearly towards more tactical and console-friendly experiences like Call of Duty and of course the latest Battle Royale trend. The new Unreal Tournament was even abandoned in a pre-alpha state in favor of the very popular Fortnite by Epic Games, while Quake Champions is seemingly only developed by a single guy now (still better than no one). These type of games are just not popular any longer...

For me, however, Arena Shooters are still the way to go. And I don't even play first person shooters all too competitively, instead I play them for the fun of it, where fast is fun and unrealistic is fun. And I often find them relaxing, which may seem weird considering that these games are all about fast-paced, adrenaline-induced action. But Arena Shooters have this certain flow to them, where getting killed doesn't take you out of the game, where I rarely get stressed (unless you're doing flag runs, but that's part of the reason why I'm not a fan of Capture the Flag modes). And the high variety in different gametypes and maps always made sure that these game don't get boring too quickly.

I've also been playing the original Unreal Tournament quite a lot ever since its 20th Anniversary in November. Here I have been working hard on a quite extensive map pack, which I hopefully will be able to release in the next weeks. But more on that later.

In general I'm planning to talk a little bit more about this genre and some of its games from the last years in a special feature on this blog. Just so that you know.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Nintendo Switch 10.0.0 Update Teasing New Model?

Nintendo Switch logo

Nintendo has released a new major update for the Nintendo Switch this week, which comes with the ability to transfer data from your system memory to a SD card, as well as re-mapping the buttons of your controllers. This is certainly nice to have, but the interesting part is what normal users can't see. According to Mike Heskin on Twitter it points at a new hardware model "nx-abcd" with "evidence of a secondary display of sorts".

As someone, who's still holding out on buying a Nintendo Switch, this gives me hope that waiting over three years might eventually be rewarded. Now all this new Switch model needs is a shiny, golden Zelda edition right at launch.

It's also curious how it might support a second screen. Using two screens to play is the one thing that the Nintendo Switch currently can't emulate, even thought for most games there are ways around this, as demonstrated by Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch or Super Mario Maker 2. But there are certainly games that would require it or profit from a second screen.

A good example are the Zelda HD remasters on the Wii U, where the second screen could be used for maps and such. If they were to port The Wind Waker HD to Switch right now, it would loose one of the things that made it actually better and more convenient than the GameCube original. But on a new Switch that somehow supports a second screen, it would still be possible to carry over these advantages.

So, let's see whether Nintendo has something to announce about this in June...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Nintendo Switch Flipnote Leak

Update: This turned out to be an early April Fools' joke. Well, they got me and it hit the right nerves, I must say. :D

...

There are a couple of screenshots of Flipnote for Nintendo Switch going around, which according to this site were data-mined from Nintendo's servers. This is entirely possible and normally wouldn't be of any interest to this blog, if it weren't for this screenshot:

leaked screenshot of Flipnote on Nintendo Switch

It shows a couple of things drawn in Flipnote and the contents are really interesting. Of course none of this doesn't have to mean anything, but if this was to be presented around the next major Nintendo Direct in June, it could be in direct relation to some other upcoming announcement.

So, what can we see here?

  • In the top middle we can see a scribble of LD-002G Scervo, the robot pirate captain from Skyward Sword, holding a Nintendo Switch in his hand. He also seems to have Link's head over his shoulder, like a fairy. It's weird that they would go for Scervo out of all characters in the Zelda universe for something like this, but Scervo holding a Switch is even weirder. So, this is a really curious depiction and could point towards Skyward Sword HD finally coming to Nintendo Switch this year.
  • There are two drawings about Mario, which doesn't have to mean anything, but could be related to the newest Super Mario 35th Anniversary rumors, where we would be getting lots of Mario games this year.
  • In the same sense we can see Olimar from the Pikmin series. This is entirely harmless, so it's not anything as outlandish as Scervo holding a Switch, but it still could be related to either Pikmin 3 or even Pikmin 4 coming to Switch.
  • And there's Ribbon Girl. This could be related to ARMS in general, since Nintendo really seems to be pushing the game out of its grave again at the moment, but it could also be her, because she made it into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. However, considering how super secretive the development of the DLC fighters is, this is very unlikely.

But all of this could point at some really good news. I'm personally hoping for Skyward Sword HD, because it could finally lead to that golden Nintendo Switch Special Edition I've wanted for three years now. And Ribbon Girl would be my favorite fighter from ARMS to make it into Smash, where I would 100% main her. I would be really happy about all of this.

Well, let's stay cautiously optimistic and see if there is any truth to any of this in two months... .