Sunday, August 30, 2009

Retro Studios and Zelda Wii

The rumors are up again. Last Monday the Metroid Prime Trilogy was released in the US and IGN did a little Retro Studios studio tour. However, in the conference room used for brainstorming you could spot a Hylian Shield and Master Sword on the wall. Which is interesting, because the entire rest of the studio was solely plastered with Metroid stuff. So, why put Zelda decorations in one of the most important rooms?

The rumors, that Retro is working on Zelda Wii or even their own Zelda game, are about two years old now. I even have talked about it a year ago, here. So, is it possible, that Retro Studios is working together with Nintendo EAD3 on the upcoming Zelda title for Wii? I bet, it is and I believe, that they were at least involved in the project at some point. Nintendo showed interest in the idea of a first person Zelda for a while, Link's Crossbow Training and the first person demo of Twilight Princess are proof of that. And Retro Studios does have immense experiences when it comes to First Person Adventure games, so I wouldn't wonder, if Nintendo at least consulted Retro Studios at some point. You could also assume, that they were involved in the development for a while.

But what happened? Miyamoto happened, in one of his recent interviews he stated, that Zelda Wii is not going to be THAT different. Which I interpreted as that Zelda won't go first person. Maybe the idea didn't work out so well as they thought and they screwed it. But of course this doesn't mean, that they had to ditch Retro afterwards. This probably depends on how much they were involved in the project, it's not like they can only develop first person games. So, I wouldn't rule out entirely, that we will see the Retro Studios logo next to Nintendo's while booting up our new Zelda Wii game.

As a long-time Zelda fan I personally would love to see them working on Zelda right now. They have a vast comprehension of what the fans of a franchise want, which would be a good counterweight against Nintendo's focus on games being open for everyone (which is not bad, but you still need to satisfy the fans somehow). And Metroid Prime was pretty much the Ocarina of Time of the Metroid franchise, the Metroid Prime Trilogy consists of three of my favorite games ever made and I would have a good feeling about Retro working on Zelda.

But enough talking about rumors, what we need, are some answers. I'm waiting for Nintendo's fall press conference.

Some sources:
IGN video tour
Zelda Informer talking about the rumors

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Secret Spot in Dodongo's Cavern

Yesterday a guy over at Zelda Universe Forums reported, that he found a hidden Recovery Heart inside the Dodongo's Cavern dungeon in Ocarina of Time, which apparently no one ever has found before. It's in a hidden chamber behind the lava waterfall in the room, where you fight the two Lizalfos for the first time (or second time, if you're playing Master Quest). So, in case the Lizalfos give you some trouble (which they shouldn't), you can go there any time to recover additionally to all the pots in the room. I know, this isn't very spectacular, but I'm highly interested in those kinds of small curiosities. And there haven't been any news lately anyway.

I made two screenshots (sorry for the bad quality) how to get there, in case you want to check it out for yourself. The lava waterfalls, which incidentally come from the above room, where you fight the other two Lizalfos, are to the right of the entrance. Just jump from the platforms into the leftmost part of the falls and you should find it. I wonder, wether the Lizalfos will follow you there or not.

By the way, Nintendo should have used this spot for something in Master Quest. Like one of the hidden Gold Skulltulas, that would have been nice, because this definitely would have given people some trouble.

Source: Zelda Universe Forums

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Minigames in Zelda

While I was aware of that issue for a long time now, I currently have to deal with it again while replaying Oracle of Ages. For me a bad minigame in a Zelda game can be a huge problem. It's something that can really burn itself into your memories. It's funny, if I sometimes decide to replay a Zelda game, I usually think about the effort I have to put into sidequests and minigames first, because I of course want to get a 100% finished save file again. Bad minigames can be a huge turn off here, it's like "Oh no, I have to go through THAT again?" The problem with minigames is, that they can be completely different from anything you usually get in a Zelda game. You can expect Zelda fans to beat the hardest puzzles and enemies, but there's no guarantee, that they will beat a really hard minigame, especially if it doesn't feature any of the usual gameplay mechanics in the game. On message boards you will often hear people complain about certain minigames, mostly the same ones. Which is why I want to talk about this topic today.

There are three types of minigames distinguished by their level of optionality. There are the ones, that are completely optional, because you don't get anything, you can't get anywhere else. For example the gambling minigames. You usually can skip on those, except if you want to try them out once or have fun with them. Then there are the complete opposites, the mandatory minigames, the ones you have to go through in order to beat the game. Mostly they are part of a quest and normally also get harder afterwards, then serving as a sidequest. Everything in between are the minigames used as sidequests, which usually give you something like a Piece of Heart. Of course you don't need to play them, except if you want to get every item in the game.

The Legend of Zelda did have the "Money Making Game". Go look the current episode of Legend of Neil, if you want to know more. However, it was completely optional and only helped to win or loose rupees. A Link to the Past did have a similar game, as well was a completely optional shooting gallery, a digging game and an enhanced version of the gambling using a room full of treasure chests. The latter one and the digging game were basically the first sidequest minigames, because both were holding a Piece of Heart as the prize and you needed to beat them, if you wanted to get everything in the game.

Link's Awakening did a pretty good job at minigames. It introduced the Fishing, where you could get a Piece of Heart, and it had the Trendy Game. This one was mandatory in order to beat the game, but getting the Yoshi Doll was very easy and the items on the conveyors were completely optional. But if you got the knack, it was very helpful to get enough money for the Shovel and Bombs and even to get the Magic Powder early.

Ocarina of Time then delivered the next level like in so many things. There were plenty of different minigames here including shooting galleries, horse riding, fishing and the infamous Bombchu Bowling. The latter was really annoying, because it could be quite unfair and frustrating. Also, you got two valuable prices here, a Piece of Heart and a larger Bomb Bag, so you had to beat it at least twice. I also didn't like the horse riding minigames and the race with Dampe too much. Majora's Mask then really overdid it with more than a dozen minigames. I didn't like, that you also had to beat several minigames multiple times in order to get the prize, like the Beaver Race, which you need to beat FOUR times alltogether. Wasn't one already enough? Some people struggle with the perfect score in the shooting gallery in Clocktown, which gives you another Piece of Heart. When I was replaying the game recently on the Virtual Console, I even taped a large note with all the locations of the Octoroks next to my TV screen, so I could react and pre-aim accordingly without having to remember which formation comes next. Otherwise I simply couldn't beat it. And I remember that the Goron Race can be quite unfair.

But the award of being pinnacle of bad and annoying minigames in the Zelda series definitely goes to Oracle of Ages. This game really jumped the shark minigame-wise and I'm really concerned about Capcom's (or "Flagship's" at that time) definition of fun minigames. The worse thing is, that some of the bad games are mandatory to beat the game. Like the stupid Tokay tossing game, it took me like ten times to get the scent seedling. Or the repair ceremony, it wasn't really hard, but I just don't like it at all. But the worst was definitely the Goron Dance minigame. Especially if you wanted to get the Bomber's Ring. Frustration is NOT fun, Capcom, get that in your head. Oracle of Seasons on the other hand didn't have too many minigames, nor really bad ones. Except maybe for the swimming game to get the Swimmer's Ring in one of the linked quests, but I don't remember this one too clearly. Surprisingly the Subrosian Dance minigame was quite okay and forgiveable, like it being the exact opposite of the Goron Dance. Subrosians are the better dancers after all.

The Wind Waker then finally did it right again. There weren't too many minigames and most of them were either easily forgetable or quite fun. Especially the ones starring the amazing Salvatore, Sinking Ships and Barrel Shoot, were really good. So, I've got no complains about minigames here. I don't care too much about the Tingle Tower minigames in Four Swords Adventures, because they're all totally optional and you can't play them alone anyway. The Minish Cap was Capcom's last Zelda game so far, so you'd expect them to include some final cruelty. This job is probably fulfilled by the Cucco chasing game, which turned one of the best first time sidequests from Ocarina of Time into an annoyance. Seriously, I mean, why did you have to beat it TEN times to get the Piece of Heart? And why is there even a time limit? But on the other hand The Minish Cap offered the amazing "Mysterious-Dungeon Simulation Game". That one was awesome, because it did let you get into serious action almost instantly. The most insane fights in the entire game are part of this minigame. And it's almost totally optional, you get the Piece of Heart right at the start after the easiest fight, the rest is just for your fun and training. All Zelda games should have something like this. I mean, in Twilight Princess you have to beat 47 floors of the Cave of Ordeals again, when you want to have some serious fights (the ones with the multiple Darknuts + Aeralfos). Why aren't there any Secret Shrine / Triforce Chart arena type of minidungeons, where I can access those kinds of fights instantly. That would be nice.

Talking about Twilight Princess, this one was allright, especially the relaxing fishing was nice. It's nice to have something relaxing in a game, like in Wii Sports Resort, where people tend to go back to the Island Flyover mode after exhausting rounds of swordplay. The fishing is perfect, it's almost a shame that you didn't get anything useful for catching the Hylian Loach. But there's probably a pretty good reason for this. In order to catch the Hylian Loach you need the Frog Lure. In order to get the Frog Lure you had to beat Rollgoal. And Rollgoal is the hell of all minigames, a perfect example for how minigames never should look like. It's annoying, you have to beat it multiple times, it doesn't have anything to do with Zelda at all and it's not really easy. Seriously, I wanted to kill the fish girl for her constant "Oaahhh, oopssieee daisy, try again?" speech and it's never good sign when a game can make you enraged. Not as bad as Rollgoal, but still on my list of "minigames I wouldn't miss at all" is the Goat Herding. Because it's boring and you have to beat it two times in the stupid three day tutorial without getting anything for your efforts. But the overall awesomeness of Twilight Princess is a different topic.

Phantom Hourglass on the other hand, is a prove, that this topic can be of course highly subjective. Especially the shooting gallery was a matter of debate. But after I got the knack here, it was really helpful to get a lot of rare ship parts in a short time, so it turned into my favorite minigame of the game. But I thought, they screwed up the fishing, because it wasn't relaxing at all. And I disliked, that they turned the Salvaging into a minigame. The minigame is not hard or bad, but that you have to do it 32 times makes it easily annoying after a short time. Especially if you replay Phantom Hourglass for a second or third time, you just can't stand it any longer. It's never good, if you HAVE to beat the minigame multiple times. You can always go back and play it again, if you liked it, but you should never be forced to do so.

Overall I say, that minigames are more or less fuzz. If they aren't fun enough, Nintendo shouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt and include them. You can make a good Zelda game with only few minigames or even without any minigames at all. So, we basically could compile a list for Nintendo, the golden rules for minigames:

  • Quantity doesn't equal quality. Have less, but exciting minigames.
  • A minigame never should be mandatory to beat the game.
  • You shouldn't need to beat a minigame multiple times to get the prize. One time is more than enough.
  • Stupid minigames should at least be easy or even better - not in the game.
  • People enjoy relaxing minigames like fishing, be sure to add some of those.
  • But most important, a minigame should be universal FUN for everyone.

The last rule is definitely the hardest one to achieve, because everyone has a different opinion on what's fun. But since Nintendo achieved to make Wii Sports (Resort) a collection of minigames, which nearly everyone enjoyes, they should know how to do it. Well, let's see, how the minigames in Spirit Tracks will turn out, I will definitely take them into my consideration when reviewing this game.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spirit Tracks at Gamescom 2009

Ah, the Gamescom. In the last six years the German Games Convention took place in Leipzig. And although I lived in different places over the years (for example in Berlin), Leipzig was always about two hours away. Which made the trip more than worth it, even if I always was interested in a few games like Zelda only. I would have liked to check out the Spirit Tracks demo, but I don't have the time to go to Cologne. And the long trip really doesn't make it worth it, especially if you're only interested in ONE game.

However, people seem to complain about, that the demo at the Gamescom is the exact same one from the E3. Actually this has always been the case, we always got the E3 demo. And it's not a bad thing, since when does a regular gamer in Europe get the chance to go to E3? In 2004 I could lay my hands on the 4 level demo of The Minish Cap, it had this really cool modified version of Southern Hyrule Field, where you could check out the Kinstone quest. There were a lot of people there to fuse Kinstones with including Malon and Epona, who came over to your house to sell milk. That year we also got a playable version of Four Swords Adventures, but I don't remember, if it was a demo or the full game. 2005 was quite the highlight with the 4 level demo of Twilight Princess playable on 12 GameCubes, Nintendo had its own exhibition stand for the game and it really got me excited. And in 2006 we got the demo of Phantom Hourglass, which blew away all my doubts about the touchscreen controls in an instant. It also got full exclusive content, except for the Boss (Cyclok), but the part of the sea, the Island and the dungeon were exclusively made for the demo. I guess, this might also be the case for the Spirit Tracks demo, so you probably won't see the track fields and the dungeons from the demo in the full game, only the Boss.

So, basically there are no news. The only new detail, which I didn't notice before, is, that there can be enemy trains and you have to switch the tracks or else you collide with them. But I haven't found a video yet, which actually shows this, it was only mentioned in the new IGN article. I will edit this article, if more details come up, but I doubt so.

PS: According to Amazon Spirit Tracks will be released on December 4th in Europe. Of course there is no guarantee, that this will apply, there weren't any official release dates announced yet. But this release would be perfect for me and I hope the rest of the world doesn't get it a month or so in advance, because I hate those times, since I can't go ANYWHERE in the internet without getting spoiled. So, let the different release dates be as close together as possible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oracles Secrets Generator

Sorry for the silence lately, but there haven't been any interesting stories. Which is why I come up with old stuff like the following or articles about additional bombbags. I'm currently replaying the Oracle games and my problem is, I'm too lazy to collect all the rings again. It was a hell of a job back then to get all 64 of them, especially the Bomber's Ring in the Goron Dance minigame or the L-3 Armor Ring from the Hero's Cave in Oracle of Ages, just to name a few. I think the only sidequest, that comes close to these efforts of "getting them all" is the figurine quest in The Wind Waker. But fear not, there's an easy solution for that problem: The Oracles Secrets Generator made by Paulygon in 2001, when the games came out.

Download it here.

Hah, doesn't that site look classic? However, this tool is especially helpful, if you want to play a linked game, but only own one of the Oracle games. I noticed, that people are still asking for secrets on message boards, so it's obviously something, not everyone knows.

The tool let's you create (nearly) every password you want. You can select the game it should be for, start a linked game or a Hero's Quest, choose your name and the rings you want. If you started a linked game, you can also choose your favorite animal, the name of your kid and its behavior, and the tool will also print all the passwords for the link game sidequests. It's basically everything you need. The only thing, you can't do, is creating a linked game for a Hero's Quest, but that's basically the same as a normal linked game except for the Triforce symbol, which would decorate your save game file.

"What's a Hero's Quest?", you ask? Well, that's what I call it, when you start a new game with the "Hero's Secret", the one you get after beating Ganon. This kind of a 2nd Quest lets you essentially start a completely new game (like without any passwords), with a few differences. The save game file has a Triforce symbol in its stats, you start with four Heart Containers, you have the Victory Ring in your equipment and you can already copy all your rings from the last playthrough.

"What's that good for?", you ask? Well, let's say, you have played Oracle of Seasons first, like most people did (most of them, I started with Ages for example), then linked it with Oracle of Ages and beaten Ganon. Then you have finished, seen and done everything in the Oracle games, right? No, that's false. You're still missing out stuff, which you can only experience, when you play in the opposite direction by starting with Ages and then linking with Seasons. The only thing, that is entirely the same in both possible directions is the Room of Rites and the fight against Twinrova/Ganon (except for the available items there), but the rest is unique. The Hero's Cave, the quite hard bonus dungeon in a linked game, looks entirely different in both games and offers a different ring as a price. The Hero's Cave in Seasons for example gets you the L-3 Power Ring. Also, the additional side quests, minigames and events look different and you also get different rings here. There are at least 3 rings you absolutely can't get, if you only play in one direction. Which is why you have to start a new game with the Hero's Secret and play in the opposite direction in order to get all 64 rings. It's basically like the 2nd Quest in The Wind Waker, which helps you to complete your figurine collection, which is hard to do in a first playthrough thanks to all the missables, and also gives you some other extras like the new outfit.

After this process you can basically start a new game using the Hero's Secret and get all 64 rings from the start. Which is one nice seed capital. I replayed the games a third time to have at least one save file with a different animal companion (Ricky, Moosh and Dimitri), because some parts of the overworld change entirely depending on what animal you got. The Hero's Secret combined with a 64 ring secret made replaying the game very relaxing in that case. Because you start a game like that:

So, if you're too lazy to get all the rings a second time or even for the first time, you can basically cheat using the above tool. I guess, in case Oracle of Ages & Seasons appear one day on the Nintendo DSi as downloadable games, this tool might become quite popular.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nintendo's Horseback Controller Patent

OH EMM GEEE. I mean, I'm cool with the Balance Board and the Wii Wheel, even with the useless Wii Zapper, but this one seriously goes too far. I really hope, that this is just one of Nintendo's random patents of things, they will never make use of. A patent doesn't mean, that they're using it as an actual product. They're probably patenting every idea, so they can charge all, who are developing similar peripherals. Because they would jump the shark peripheral-wise, if they release that, especially if they're using it in Zelda Wii. Of course something like this would be optional, but still... awkward.

But it's interesting that they show the horse riding in first person. I always thought, that especially the horse riding is one of the things, that wouldn't work too well in first person perspective. Click on the source, if you want to know more.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Third Big Bomb Bag Upgrade in The Minish Cap

Another curiosity about The Minish Cap. This is probably only interesting for people, who live in Europe. I'm recently replaying The Minish Cap, but this time I decided to check out the North American version, which is somehow special. Well, The Minish Cap was the only Zelda game, which was released in Europe, before it came out in the US. "OMG, nooo, say it ain't true, Europe got a Zelda game before the USA?" Of course the biggest insolence in the history of release dates did get a close shave by adding an additional feature to the U.S. version of the game, added by Nintendo of America. They advertised that the U.S. version would have "more", probably to reduce import sales, since the European version came with English screen text. There was speculation for a while, what this feature could be. A lot of people hoped for the missing third Oracle house, but what they did get probably wasn't so satisfying:

A third bomb bag upgrade. Which is availabe at Stockwell's for 600 rupees after you bought the Boomerang. If you collect all three bomb bag upgrades you can carry up to 99 bombs, while Europeans had to get along with only 50 bombs, which isn't much, if you want to blow up all of Hyrule. So, I checked this out by myself, because I couldn't believe this bomb storage miracle until I saw it with my very own eyes.

While this doesn't seem to be much (and we all agree, that American Zelda fans would have deserved at least the third Oracle house and an exclusive bonus dungeon, which holds the Cane of Somaria), if we here in Europe would have gotten an additional bomb bag each time we had to wait longer for a Zelda game than the rest of the world, we would swim in an ocean of bombs right now.

But this "feature" seems to be more or less just a bug fix. I'm not so sure right now, but it seems like the Japanese version did have the third bomb bag upgrade too and that it was just missing in the European version. Could have been easily a bug, that got fixed in the US version. Wouldn't be the only one, for example the nasty bug, where you can screw up the kinstone fusion with the scarecrows, which results in that you can't summon the Gorons and hence can't get one of the empty bottles and the Mirror Shield, got fixed as well.

But the moral of the story is a nice message to Nintendo of Europe. The last version should always be the best. Even if it's just a small gesture like an additional bomb bag, try to add something to the game to make good for the long waiting time. Because every day we have to wait, while the game is already released in other parts of the world, is a potential day, where someone blows an image of the final boss into our faces. The waiting time is always hard for European Zelda fans and it should be rewarded.