Friday, September 17, 2021

Skyward Sword HD: Official Soundtrack Announced

Well, it's happening again. Japan is getting an amazing soundtrack collection for the latest Zelda release, in this case The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. But the 187 tracks also include the Wii title screen music, so everything is there.

There are two editions of the soundtrack, where the Limited Edition (as shown above) comes with a small music box. You can find all the info and more pictures on NintendoEverything and Nintendo of Japan.

This looks to be on par with the beautiful soundtrack collection for Breath of the Wild, which got released in 2018. It's a similar box and the same number of discs, while the Limited Edition also comes with a musical extra. I like the little music box more, though.

If I still had anything that played music CDs, other than my 16 year old Xbox, then I would probably try to get my hands on this. But since this only gets released in Japan, it's quite some effort for just a pretty box. Let's see...

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Zelda Contents?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the second most successful Nintendo Switch title, having outsold the evergreen Breath of the Wild by ten million already, and the biggest game in the Animal Crossing franchise. Still, there are lot of things missing from previous titles, like the contents from The Legend of Zelda, which includes special clothing, furniture and even villagers.

Almost all of this was present in Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS, where most of it stemmed from the "Welcome amiibo" update, as well as the "Nintendo set". Next to the four amiibo-exclusive villagers, there were 26 clothing items, 15 furniture items and more. This is actually one of the biggest crossovers the Zelda series has seen so far, next to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

On the crossover wiki you can find an excellent overview of all of this, but below is also a list of all the Zelda things in New Leaf.

graphics of Ganon, Wolf Link, Epona and Medli from New Leaf

Villagers:

  • Ganon (cranky pig)
  • Wolf Link (smug wolf)
  • Epona (peppy horse)
  • Medli (normal bird)

 

Outfits:

  • Epona outfit
  • Fi's Mask
  • Ganondorf wig, Ganondorf outfit, Ganondorf pants
  • Hero's Cap, Hero's Tunic, Hero's Pant, Hero's Boots
  • Link hat, Link outfit
  • Majora's Mask
  • Makar's Mask
  • Medli outfit
  • Midna's Mask
  • New Hero wig, New Hero's outfit
  • Outset Shirt
  • Princess Zelda Dress, Zelda Wig
  • Sheik mask, Sheik outfit, Sheik pants
  • Tingle Hood
  • Wolf Link outfit

 

Furniture:

  • Bomb
  • Cucco Ornament
  • Fairy Bottle
  • Gossip Stone
  • Heart
  • Heart Container
  • Hero of Time Scroll
  • Hylian Shield
  • Hyrulean Treasure
  • Lon Lon Milk
  • Master Sword
  • Piece of Heart
  • Rupee
  • Termina's Moon
  • Triforce

 

Wallpaper / Flooring:

  • Hyrule Wall
  • Zelda Floor


Now, in New Horizons you can get a Leaf Mask and a pair of maracas for an excellent Hestu impression.  You can also craft an ocarina and play random notes on it. While these things already have a Zelda vibe to them, none of the above items have made a return yet, which is quite suspicious.

But earlier this year the game got an update for the 35th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros., where items from the Super Mario franchise became available for purchase, including the very useful pipe. And it seems likely that Nintendo will do the same for the 35th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, where they could bring back most of the missing Zelda contents from New Leaf and maybe even add some new Zelda goodies.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Started Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Me in Animal Crossing next to Saharah in front of Anabelle's house

It has been a quiet month so far and this probably won't change, unless Nintendo is delivering one of their September Nintendo Directs this year. But we probably will have to wait until their next big release, which is Metroid Dread on October 8th, together with the Nintendo Switch OLED model.

In any case, it's the perfect time to catch up with some (Nintendo Switch) games – whether that's games in your backlog or games that you've wanted to play for a while, it doesn't really matter, as long as it's fun. In my case it wasn't something on the backlog, but a game that I've been looking at for quite some time now and finally decided to try it myself – Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

This was one of the most popular games in 2020 and while the hype is already over, it's still worthwhile to get into this game. As a Zelda fan you will most likely have heard about Animal Crossing before – may it be from Super Smash Bros., from the Zelda cameo items that are in those games or simply because it's from Nintendo and very popular.

Anyway, Animal Crossing is a rather simple and open loan repayment social simulation with anthropomorphic animals, where you gather materials and design your own village or, in case of New Horizons, your own island. It's in many ways like Harvest Moon, just without crops, livestock and the pressure of making as much money as quickly as possible. The latter still helps, but you can really do things in your own pace.

Because I enjoyed the early Harvest Moon games and because I like Nintendo games in general, I've always been toying with the idea of playing Animal Crossing, but I was usually put off by its real time aspect and its usage of events, because I hate missing things in games and I don't want to feel inclined to play a game at specific times.

Now, in the era of free-to-play games with constant events, daily challenges, and all that stuff, this is just business as usual and was especially problematic in Pocket Camp, where my first contact with the franchise wasn't a good one. However, New Horizons is far from as bad and demanding, where the game lets you do most things at your own pace. Plus, you can change the clock of your Nintendo Switch if things need be, though I personally want to avoid this and find it exciting to try the game at different times of the day whenever I can.

Also, I've learned that the mindset of "gotta collect it all" isn't really appropriate in a game of such a scale, since you have limited space anyway and you should just focus on the things that you want to have. It's still fun to catch and collect all the different fossils, insects, fish, sea creatures and art pieces in order to complete the museum, however, where this can be compared to your typical collectible quest and is entirely different from getting furniture, decorations, clothing and so on.

me on a bamboo mystery island

In fact, a lot of it feels like an Adventure game and even reminds me of Zelda to an extent, at least in the early game. There you can only access a part of the island, but then you get the vaulting pole to cross rivers and later the ladder to climb up to higher levels, which both gives you access to other fish, insects and resources. Animal Crossing: New Horizons really makes me want a new top-down Zelda game that is more extensive and lets you do these things inside a beautifully crafted world, together with all the other goodness that comes with a Zelda game... But this game will have to do for now and also comes with the merit of enjoying your island life in more personal and creative ways.

The island theme really hits a nerve, where islands in video games have a special place in my heart. After all, I got into gaming on the GameBoy and its various digital islands, like Mario Land, Kitchen Island and of course Koholint. It's also something that I've enjoyed a lot in other games, like The Wind Waker or Phantom Hourglass. Speaking of, visually this feels very similar to the Nintendo DS Zelda games, both in tone and how everything is laid out in the world design.

It even crossed my mind to recreate something from these games, like Mercay Island, or some part of Link's Awakening, like the Animal Village. But of course I wouldn't be the first to do any of this and instead of being fixated on remaking environments from other video games, I just want to do whatever I feel like...

 

The Legendary Plan

So, my island is called "Dodolint", as a pun on Dodo (Airlines) and Koholint, with a Windfish pixel art as its flag (based on the Nightmare boss chamber in Link's Awakening DX) and the Metroid "Get Item" melody as its island tune, for now. It's still all in the early stages, where I don't have much to show and the whole Zelda theme hasn't come fruition yet. I'm mostly focused on collecting all the different critters that are available right now, as well as planning my overall island by moving around buildings and thinking about what villagers I want in the future.

My hopes are that Nintendo will release a big Zelda update in the next months, which brings back most of the Zelda contents from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, including the four Zelda villagers: Epona, Ganon, Medli and Wolf Link. Those are hilarious and I'm really banking on them making a comeback later on. After all, New Horizons has almost all past villagers with a few exceptions, where they've already brought back some of the missing Welcome amiibo villagers with the 1.9.0 update earlier this year...

But I'm really just preparing things for such an update, so that I have everything in place once it's available. As for the rest, I've made a list of other four personality types with the villagers that should fit a Zelda theme the best (check out all of them on the wiki):

  • Ankha (snooty cat)
  • Lucky (lazy dog)
  • Phoebe (sisterly ostrich)
  • Sterling (jock eagle)

Sterling is the most obvious one, because he's a knight that comes with a medieval theme. Then there's Lucky, who is essentially a Gibdo dog and even came with Zelda items in his house in earlier Animal Crossing titles, where this is probably the villager with the biggest Zelda connection besides the four ones that directly came from Zelda.

Ankha has an Egyptian theme that fits an Adventure island generally quite well, plus you have desert temples and an entire Egyptian tribe (with the Cobble Kingdom) in the Zelda games, so it's not a bad fit in any case. Phoebe doesn't have such a strong connection as the others on this list, but at least the inside of her house is a lava cave. Plus, she looks really cool.

As for the remaining two slots, I might just rotate these or pick whatever I like best, where currently I'd like to get Coco. But let's see... Luckily, you can use amiibo / amiibo cards for all of these, so getting these villagers will be easy enough, because with amiibo you can replace an existing villager of your choice at any time. Otherwise you would need the right villager to leave and then find the right villager in time by using Nook Miles Tickets. Or be very lucky with the campsite... Speaking of being lucky...


The Bumpy Start

While this is all fun and exciting, getting into the game was actually quite awkward, because a lot of it is left to chance. You might enjoy getting something completely randomized, but if you have specific ideas for your island, then the lack of options is really frustrating.

You're only given the choice between four different randomly generated island and you can't trigger a new seed. If you want different choices, you will have to restart the entire game and all the other dialogues with Tom Nook, where you enter your name and so on. And even then it will be random what starting villagers you get, what fruits and flowers you have, among other things...

me and my starting villagers, Fuchsia and Billy, at a bridge ceremony with Tom Nook

Here it helps a lot to know which things can be changed later on and therefore don't matter, like the starting villagers. And what things can't be changed and therefore will stay like they are forever. Overall the entire terrain of the island can be changed, with the exception of the location of the service center. So, anything else on the "inside" of the island shouldn't really matter, but of course it's still nice to have something that you like somewhat, because it will take a long time until you can start terraforming.

The shoreline, however, is completely fixed and you won't be able to change any of it. This includes the location and size of your pier, the spit, and coastal rocks, as well as the location of the river mouths, the secret beach and the airport. The latter will also have one of four colors, which can't be changed for some reason. And while the flowers don't really matter, your main fruit does.

So, these are a lot of variables and the game doesn't really let you make any choices, other then the four islands it has generated for you. It would have been nice to generate new ones on the spot. It also would have been nice to see what fruits and airport color these islands have in advance. And ideally, you could still change the latter later on.

Well, once you've got past all of this and finally made a choice that you're somewhat happy with (you probably won't get it all, unless you're insanely patient), then the game really doesn't cover itself in "quality of life" measures. While it's supposed to be a laid-back experience, where you dilly-dally through the game, it still should respect your time more than it does.

Like, why can't I craft multiple of the same item at once? Why don't manila clams stack? Why is Harvey's island the only place where I can put things into my storage from afar? These and many other similar questions can be simply answered with "because Nintendo", where we all know that they are terribly stubborn about not making things more comfortable...

But overall the early game is really enjoyable and adventurous with its theme of camping on a deserted island. Of course things get more and more urbanized the more you play, where some of the nature charm is inevitably lost, but at least it feels like you're making some progress.

me at Anabelle's house again with Pekoe sitting next to a tree during the night

Let's see how far my efforts will go. I probably won't be blogging more about this, unless we really get a big Zelda update for the game. If this were to be the case, then Animal Crossing: New Horizons would naturally have more relevance for this blog and it would be interesting to show some of the Zelda-themed things. Until then...

Friday, August 27, 2021

Metroid Dread Reports Vol. 1 to 6

Samus facing a number of dark orbs with a red eye next to a Chozo Warrior statue

Week for week Nintendo has been sharing more information about the Metroid series and its new title, Metroid Dread, via their Metroid Dread Reports, where this week this came together with the second trailer for the game. If you want to go into the game without knowing too much, then this will be the time to isolate yourself from all things Nintendo until October 8th. When it comes to advertisement and social media, Nintendo isn't all that sensitive towards spoilers. They show whatever they want to show you.

In the same vein, stop reading this post now, because we're taking a look at some of the things that have been shared over the past couple of weeks.

 

Non-Linearity

This might be some of the best news for the Metroid series in a long while. In the Metroid Dread Report Vol. 4 Nintendo goes over all four mainline Metroid titles and discusses their potential connection to the upcoming fifth installment, Metroid Dread. The Super Metroid part is probably the most interesting one, because it focuses on the game's high level of freedom:

"Super Metroid can be said to offer the greatest flexibility for exploration in the series. You can enjoy similar flexibility in Metroid Dread, depending on how you take advantage of your abilities. You might be able to find ways to obtain weapons, items and abilities earlier than the intended timing. We encourage you to try to discover alternate routes of exploration."

That's fantastic and certainly a change from most of the previous installments produced by Sakamoto, like Metroid Fusion. It will be interesting to see how this will be handled, because a lot of the "sequence breaks" in Super Metroid seem like they weren't really intended. But this will certainly add to the game's replay value, which is super important for a Metroid title.

 

A New Villain

You could see this coming ever since the secret teaser in Metroid: Samus Returns, but in Metroid Dread Samus' ultimate enemy won't be the Space Pirates, the Metroids or even the new E.M.M.I. units, but the Chozo themselves. More specifically, a militaristic and hostile faction of the Chozo.

Samus facing a Choco Warrior

In the memories of Metroid: Samus Returns we learn about the Chozo of SR388, who have created the Metroid in order to defeat the X and locked them under the planet surface. But when help from other Chozo has arrived, they cruelly wiped out the surviving Chozo of SR388.

The trailers of Metroid Dread also show seemingly different types of Chozo. There seems to be a friendly one, who was already shown in the first trailer and who might support Samus similar to other Chozo in the past. We can even see him bowing in the teaser at the end of Vol. 4, which also shows those memories from Metroid: Samus Returns again.

Now, the new trailer shows us scenes from the beginning of Metroid Dread, where Samus stands before a Chozo warrior, who seems to be unbeatable in her current state. It's a formidable foe and in many ways similar to the SA-X. The Chozo has a Power Suit together with an Arm Cannon and a variety of abilities, much like Samus. After all, Samus got her suit and most of her abilities from the Chozo, so facing one of the Chozo warriors will be like facing herself, probably even tougher, because they could have new technologies that Samus isn't even familiar yet with.

If it weren't for the E.M.M.I., the Chozo might even become another type of enemy that makes you run for your life, because you cannot defeat them yet. But the trailer clearly portrays the Chozo enemy units as something that you fight, where there are also "weaker" units in the early game, which seem to be entirely robotic and are fighting with some kind of staff or lance.

Of course it could also be that the Chozo warrior from the beginning is entirely robotic and that the real villain is someone or something taking control of all these artificial life forms, E.M.M.I. and Chozo robots alike. Update: One of the Chozo enemies, the golden one near the end of the second trailer, shows clear signs of organic corruption with some sort of black mass inside its monstrous mouth. So, there's probably more to it all and we will have to wait and see.

Visually, the Chozo enemies are somewhat reminiscent to the bird-like warriors from Stargate, by the way, where this probably not a coincidence, since the Metroid series took inspirations from a variety of science fiction movies.

We also see the return of a familiar villain with Kraid, who is in chains here, which potentially already demonstrates the powers of those Chozo, who are probably the ones who put poor Kraid into captivity. Forget the Space Pirates, the Chozo are the new king in town.

The evil Chozo warrior also seems to be the reason why Samus loses all of her abilities. She takes a full blast of his Arm Cannon and is then left in her basic state, where now she has to regain all of her items yet again. Well, this is a good explanation as any, which even ties her loss of powers to the current threat, similar to how Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes have done the same. And it's certainly better than not having any excuse at all as to why Samus has to collect her powers again, which leads us to...


Abilities

Volumes 5 and 6 of the "Metroid Dread Reports" also focus on Samus' abilities quite a bit, where we have a selection of new and returning power-ups.

Interestingly, there is a semi-new ability called "Spin Boost", which lets you perform one additional spin jump in the air. It's basically like the Space Jumps, but limited to one, which is exactly how the Space Jump ability worked in the Metroid Prime Trilogy games.

This is probably an upgrade that you get in the early game, while the unlimited Space Jumps are something that you get later on. Such "interupgrades" seem to be a thing now, where Samus can also perform her new slide kick as a means of getting through small gaps before the Morph Ball.

What's also similar to Metroid PrimeMetroid Prime 2 and Metroid Prime 3 to be exact – are the "Storm Missiles", which seem to work similarly to the Seeker Missiles from the Prime games. You can mark up to five targets and then let a storm of missiles hit them in quick succession.

The Speed Booster together with its Shinespark ability returns after its absence in Metroid: Samus Returns (though, I personally didn't miss it that much). Screw Attack, Grapple Beam and Gravity Suit return as well – there are no big surprises here, but the Grapple Beam sees some creative new usages, where it can even be combined with the magnetic surfaces for example.

Somewhat unexpected are the Ice Missiles, which might replace the Ice Beam yet again. There should be no good reason for this, since Samus has re-obtained the Ice Beam at the end of Fusion, but maybe we'll get both this time. However, Metroid: Samus Returns also treated the Ice Beam as a separate tool and didn't stack it with the other beams, where they simply might repeat this trend and simplify things by bringing back the Ice Missiles again.

The only completely new item shown so far seem to be the "Cross Bombs", which took a note from Bomberman and create blasts in four directions. This can even propel you up easily, without the need of convoluted bomb jumps.

Samus using Flash Shift in a green environment

We also get a completely new set of Aeion abilities, which seems to be balanced much better than in Samus Returns, where there was a huge reliance on these additions, much like with the Melee Counter. The Flash Shift seems to replace the Phase Drift and lets Samus travel quickly back and forth, up to three times in a row. This looks like it will be mainly useful in combat, but you can also use it for traversal.

The Pulse Radar is the replacement of the Scan Pulse and works like pared-down version of that. It only shows breakable blocks in the environment, but it doesn't seem to change your map in any way. But the markings of the Scan Pulse could be an incentive to not use the ability at all for some, to have a "clean" map at the end of the game, where this could be a nice compromise as something that reveals nearby secrets, but not too much.

Overall this looks pretty decent, where Metroid Dread might have some more surprises up its sleeves. But Nintendo will probably tell us about them in the upcoming weeks...

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Harmony of a Hunter Returns

Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run were two of the best remix albums ever made, full of different musical styles and lots of love for the Metroid series. Now, for the 35th Anniversary of Metroid, the project has finally returned for a third album with five hours of music. You can listen to it on Youtube or download it on the official website.

The album was already released two weeks ago, right in time for the 35th Anniversary, but I wasn't able to listen to it until now. It's as impressive and varied as the first two albums, where for me personally the use of vocals and choirs stick out this time, especially with "The Age of Gold".

I'm happy that this spans the entirety of the Metroid series, even Federation Force and Blast Ball, but they apparently didn't get past the title screen of these games. And with the latter they even had to mock it by making Samus say "ugh, I'd rather eat Phazon" at the end, as an attempt to be funny. But as someone who has really enjoyed the multiplayer title with friends and has some good memories here, I would have liked a little bit more seriousness towards these titles, where this has left a slight sour taste. Well, at least they have properly represented Metroid: Other M, despite its flaws.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

35th Anniversary of Metroid

First screen of Metroid

Well, look at that, it only takes a new Metroid title and Nintendo finally acknowledges one of the anniversaries of the franchise. It's been 35 years since Metroid was released for the Famicom and effectively what's Nintendo Sci-Fi version of The Legend of Zelda was born. And now it's time to celebrate the series for real. Happy Birthday, Metroid!

Anyway, we always knew that these anniversaries are just marketing ploys, but it still would be nice to get something more for Metroid this time around. An equivalent to Hyrule Historia would be awesome.

For now Nintendo has shared a new video, which confirms that Metroid Dread will really tie in to the secret gallery item from Metroid: Samus Returns, where a new side of the Chozo was presented to us. This could be exciting.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Skyward Sword HD x Tetris 99

Tetris 99 Skyward Sword HD theme 

Well, this isn't exactly the Skyward Sword Picross that I was hoping for, but at least this is how you get me to play Tetris 99 a bit more. I actually own the retail version of the game with box and cartridge, because it came with one year Nintendo Switch Online, which seemed like a good deal, but I haven't played it as much yet.

In fact, I haven't really played it until today, with the goal to unlock the new Skyward Sword HD theme, which is really nice. The game is really busy with all sorts of things going on, where I don't like it as much as the traditional Tetris, but the Zelda sound effects of the skin are charming.

Congratulations! You unlocked a special theme!

It also didn't take me all that long to unlock, maybe half an hour. You need 100 points and you get plenty of points just for playing, even if you don't make it into the top 10. If you've missed any of the special themes, you can still unlock them by collecting tickets, which can be obtained by doing daily challenges. Typical free-to-play stuff, but it's fine in this case. And you can unlock the current Skyward Sword HD theme via the current special event until Tuesday morning.