Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 – The Year of Zelda

The year is coming to an end and there's no overstatement in saying that this year was the year of Zelda. While celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the franchise we were blessed with many new things. Alone three new Zelda titles were released this year:
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
There's no doubt that Skyward Sword was the biggest of these releases. Five years in the making, revolutionary controls, great gameplay enhancements and fun environments make this one of the best Zelda games and a fresh experience. It certainly wasn't perfect though, issues like bad fetch quests, linear game design and mediocre dungeons make it obvious that Zelda still isn't fully back on track. But it's a great game nonetheless and probably the pinnacle of the Wii experience.

The other two games weren't exactly new, but enhanced ports or "remakes". Ocarina of Time 3D made the old N64 classic feel much more contemporary, it looks great and plays nice and smoothly. It's the perfect way of reexperiencing Ocarina of Time, however, the lack of any new content was disappointing. The Four Swords Anniversary Edition on the other hand was my personal highlight this year, finally after eight years I get to play Four Swords whenever I want and the game offered one of the biggest challenges of the entire Zelda series - the Hero's Trial.

Next to these new games some Zelda games got a re-release on the 3DS Virtual Console:
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
  • The Legend of Zelda (3DS Ambassador Program)
  • Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (3DS Ambassador Program)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (3DS Ambassador Program)
So far only one of these game is available to everyone, the other three were part of the 3DS Ambassador Program and are only available to you if you were stupid enough to buy a 3DS early (you've learned your lesson). But they'll most likely will be sold on the eShop sooner or later, for example The Legend of Zelda is already available in Japan. Well, the point is that this year was very strong release-wise. Only 2003 and 2007 have been as strong and only in Europe.

But that's not all of it, it wouldn't be the biggest Zelda year ever if it only was for the games. Nintendo celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Zelda and they celebrated it big time with different merchandise, special releases and events. Let's take a look at all their efforts:
  • Robin and Zelda Williams commercials for Ocarina of Time 3D,
    Four Swords Anniversary Edition and Skyward Sword
  • Ocarina of Time 3D Soundtrack CD for all early registrations
  • Link's Awakening DX as the first GameBoy Color Virtual Console game
  • a special remake of Four Swords dedicated to the anniversary available for FREE
  • a Zelda Flipnote contest
  • the Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony orchestras around the world
  • Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony CD bundled with all
    first edition copies of Skyward Sword
  • Golden Wiimote bundled with the Limited Edition of Skyward Sword
  • special Zelda stage in Super Mario 3D Land
  • three 25th Anniversary Zelda eShop cards
  • Limited 25th Anniversary Zelda Nintendo 3DS Edition Bundle
  • Golden Nunchuk (only Japanese Club Nintendo so far)
  • Hyrule Historia Artbook (only Japan so far)
  • the revelation of the official Zelda timeline
  • other merchandise like t-shirts and posters
Just compare this to the 25th Anniversary of Mario or Metroid. Mario got red colored hardware, the Flipnote contest and a disc re-release of an old SNES game. That's it. Metroid basically got nothing so far. Nintendo really put all their efforts into celebrating the 25th Anniversary and that felt great. Zelda got a lot of attention this year and saw many great additions to the franchise. Some of it was awaited for many, many years. Finally singleplayer for Four Swords, finally orchestrated Zelda music, finally the official timeline! What a year!

Of course most of it was done for marketing reasons, to built the hype. And I'm not happy with some of their stunts, for example adding preorder bonuses to Ocarina of Time 3D and denying a special Zelda 3DS bundle at first, so that Zelda fans would go for the game (and maybe a 3DS) early, and then releasing a 3DS Zelda bundle half a year later anyway. This is something that somehow ruined the Anniversary for me and I'm still pissed about it. Luckily I could sell my red 3DS for a good price, but I still lost quite some money and I probably won't ever buy a Nintendo system earlier than really necessary again. I've lost some of my trust in Nintendo due to this action.

Well, for myself I celebrated the anniversary by replaying pretty much all Zelda games, which was a nice and refreshing experience. I also finally got to 100%ly complete all Zelda games before starting Skyward Sword, a longtime goal of mine. So, that was basically my 25th Anniversary, I used the year to play a lot of Zelda (it's also my 25th year of age by the way, I'm as old as the franchise, I like that). And I will definitely always remember this year.

As a conclusion I can only say that this was without a doubt the greatest Zelda year ever. The only downside is that we probably won't get another year like that in the next 25 years until the 50th Anniversary. This amount of new Zelda games, merchandise and events in one year is pretty much unsurpassable. So, I hope you all enjoyed 2011, I sure did.

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hyrule Historia Artbook Reveals Zelda Timeline

I guess you've all heard about the Hyrule Historia Artbook by now. It seems like the 25th Anniversary celebration never stops. Well, this artbook contains not only tons of nice (concept) art for all the games, it seems it also reveals the timeline! Yes, you've heard me right. For the 25th Anniversary Nintendo actually releases a timeline! Some people wished for that, but no one would have thought that Nintendo actually does that. All they ever did was talking about their super secret document that nobody is supposed to see. I guess they changed their mind (that or this is not the official timeline). The artbook will be released this Friday in Japan. There are currently no plans for this book to appear in the West.

I always wanted to post my own timeline here on Hyrule Blog. But I really hate the discussions and it seems like making your own timeline isn't necessary anymore. I like the idea of having an official timeline. Now if somebody says things like "it's still a linear timeline" or "The Minish Cap takes places after Spirit Tracks", you can say to his face "that's wrong!!" - and I love that.

Well, here it is (courtesy of Glitterberry):

The A Link to the Past split is caused by "Link failing". That's interesting and really weird. If Link failing is an option, it should be available for every game. So, each game should create a split with a hypothetical alternate reality where Link failed. Skyward Sword should create a new timeline, where everything got eradicated by Demise. It feels weird, so far the only game where Link's failure really gets hammered into your head is Zelda II - RETURN OF GANON. But I guess the third branch also was created by all the time travelling and I'm eager to read the full explanation.

However, generally I like the idea of having three splits. Usually you would cram all 2D games right into the child timeline after Twilight Princess creating one long branch. But giving the 2D games their own branch makes it look neater.

It also follows the symbolism of the series, where each branch of the timeline basically represents a piece of the Triforce. The Adult Timeline with The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, where Zelda has been an important character, represents the Triforce of Wisdom. The Child Timeline on the other hand represents the Triforce of Courage, where Link goes on his own, scary adventure with Majora's Mask, while Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures are also quite dark games. And the new branch of the timeline displays Ganon's rise to power, which is perfect for the Triforce of Power.

But I don't like the placement of the Four Swords games. Four Swords Adventures was basically the direct sequel to Four Swords, at least the intro makes you believe that. Well, on the other hand Aonuma once made a statement that Four Swords came before Ocarina of Time, which is probably the reason why the timeline puts the game there, but obviously it's contradicting with the intro of FSA. Also, I'd say that FSA really fits more into the story of the 2D games, especially since it shows how Ganon got the Trident. For me FSA was the Imprisoning War. You get the dark clouds covering Hyrule, Ganon is building an army inside the Dark Realm and the Knights of Hyrule are disappearing. It's all there and it feels much more war-like than Ocarina of Time, the only difference is that the Master Sword wasn't involved here. Instead they used the Four Sword to ban Ganon. However, the GameBoy Advance version of A Link to the Past basically backed this up, there you find the broken Four Sword inside the Pyramid. It's like Ganon broke from the seal and cursed the Four Sword, so that no one could ever use it against him. Also, in the child timeline they protected the Sacred Realm from ever being invaded by Ganondorf. But FSA deals with the Dark World in its entirety. So, if FS and FSA would take place before A Link to the Past, the timeline would be near perfect in my eyes. But I can live with that.

UPDATE: It appears that Aonuma was one of the editors of this book and that the timeline is indeed credible. I also did some "research" about FSA. The game was originally intended to be the Imprisoning War, which is why there are so many similarities, but then they simplified the storyline (see here), which is why the game was placed where it's now. It's sad actually, the game would have been awesome as the Imprisoning War. And yeah, Four Swords is not necessarily the direct prequel. So, well, I'm good with the timeline.

Source: Kotaku & Glitterberri

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Skyward Sword: Second Game Breaking Glitch

By now you've all probably heard about the game breaking glitch in Skyward Sword, where you can't advance in the game during the Song of the Hero quest. It's somehow triggered if you chose to visit the dragon in the desert first and by speaking to the Goron in Lanayru Cave before and after getting the part of the Song of Hero. The events in Faron Woods and Eldin Vulcano will now no longer be triggered. But fear not, Nintendo will provide a tool to fix your savefile.

It's sad that the only real non-linear part of the game seems to be the one causing the most trouble. Funnily while playing the game for the first time I actually tried visiting the Thunder Dragon first, but the Goron wouldn't let me enter Lanayru Gorge for whatever reason. So, at that time I actually thought that even the Song of the Hero quest would be entirely linear.

But now it seems that there's yet another game breaking glitch. It was reported once at GameFAQs and there's also someone over at ZeldaEurope who experienced a similar glitch. The glitch triggers the vulcano eruption sequence early in the game. You get trapped in the cell, but there's no way to escape it. The Mogma giving you the Mogma Mitts after lifting a barrel doesn't appear. In fact the barrel isn't even there. For the guy at GameFAQs it happened after the first dungeon while visiting Eldin for the first time. For the other guy it happened while he or she looked for the pinwheel. So far it's unknown what triggers the glitch, but it seems to be a rare occurrance.

Well, but lately Nintendo really has a thing for weird game ending glitches. Remember Metroid: Other M, anyone?

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Hero Mode

So, after writing the sidequest guides for ZeldaEurope and farming like a lunatic I've finally started playing the Hero Mode. I will share my experience here similar to the Blade Journal, though probably not as thorough and interesting.

For starters, the Hero Mode is a simple 2nd Quest that features the following differences:
  • you take double damage
  • there are no hearts to heal you unless you're carrying a Heart Medal
  • the Goddess Sword already got the fully powered Skyward Strike
  • the True Master Sword now instantly loads Skyward Strikes
  • the Sheikah Stones offers you all visions right from the start
  • you keep your collection from the previous savegame
  • you can also fight Demise in the Lighting Round Boss Battle mode
That's about it. It all would be pretty cool, if they changed some more things. I would like to face tougher enemies like the rare Stalfos on a more frequent basis for example. But that's not the case, the rest of the game stays the same. Or they could have mixed up some sidequests like placing the Goddess Cubes in different locations. But they haven't. So, there's a lot of wasted potential here and all we can do is enjoy what little the Hero Mode has to offer.

Well, the problem with the missing hearts and the double damage can be quite tough in the beginning. Three hits kill you and this can easily happen, if you're surrounded by Bokoblins. However, it gets balanced by two things. You can now use the full Skyward Strike right from the beginning, which deals four times as much damage as the Goddess Sword itself. This is usually the best way to fight normal enemies from a safe distance.

Secondly you get to keep your collection, which was the main reason for me to farm items to begin with. And my collection is crazy. I got full 99 of each insect type and of 11 treasures. I didn't fully farm Eldin Ore, Ancient Flowers, Evil Crystals, Golden Skulls and Goddess Plumes, because there wasn't a real quick and effective way of farming those. However, I still got between 40 and 50 of each one of these. So, yeah, my collection is MASSIVE. This has two advantages. First of all you can now upgrade all items early, because you got all the necessary resources right from the start. The only remaining issue is money. However, Rupees aren't an issue at all, which is the second advantage. You certainly don't need so many insects and treasures, not at all, so you can sell them at night and make a lot of money. For example the Blue Bird Feathers are worth 100 Rupees. I collected 99 Bird Feathers, that's 9900 Rupees, which is the maximum your wallet could ever hold and more than enough to buy every last item. I'm not far into the game, but my equipment is already pretty impressive. I just got the Slingshot from the woods and the next thing I did was buying every single item from Beedle's Airshop except for the Piece of Heart (I need another Wallet Upgrade first). I got all three Extra Wallets, all three Adventure Pouch Expansion, the Life Medal (which might be a life savior), the Bug Net and the Bug Medal all at once. I also fully upgraded the Wooden Shield, the Slingshot, the Net and my first Seed Satchel, as well as my Heart and Revitalizing Potions.

When you first play the game you can't effort all this stuff for a long time. So, being able to buy all of it right away really feels great. I'm fully powered and ready for the first dungeon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Miyamoto on Retro and Zelda

In an interview with 1up Miyamoto said the following:

As you know, we have already collaborated with Retro for the Metroid Prime series in the past. And I think when we talk about any other franchise, Zelda might be a possible franchise for that collaboration.

That's the best fucking news in a while. If you followed my blog, you know, that I'm a huge fan of Retro Studios and their work. The Metroid Prime Trilogy is godlike and Donkey Kong Country Returns is one awesome platformer even for someone like me, who doesn't really enjoy platforming games that much. Ever since Metroid Prime I wanted Retro to work on the Zelda franchise. They are very good in understanding what made the classic games awesome and they know how to infuse this into a modern game. A Zelda game codeveloped by Retro could easily turn into the best Zelda game in a long time.

Well, it seems that after the successful collaboration between Nintendo and Retro to make Mario Kart 7 the chances for that now happening are quite high. And for me this would be a dream coming true.

Japanese Club Nintendo gets Golden Nunchuk

Seriously, I want one of these. But our Club Nintendo just sucks. I've been waiting all year for some nice Zelda goodies. Because of the 25th Anniversary I though the Club Nintendo would be swimming in Zelda merchandise. But there's NOTHING. Nothing at all. I saved a lot of stars over the years and there's nothing I could spent them on. And right now I'm constantly using them each month. This month I will lose 600 stars. 600!! I bet the Golden Nunchuk will be available next month and I won't have enough stars, because I lost the 600. It's times like these where I am just pissed about Nintendo.


The Minish Cap joins Ambassador Program

The full list of ambassador GBA games has been revealed and as expected The Minish Cap is among them. It's a very strong line-up of GBA games that also includes Metroid Fusion, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Yoshi's Island and Wario Land 4. But the Minish Cap is definitely the highlight of the list. If you bought a 3DS early, you can now get this game and enjoy it for free. It's also the fifth downloadable Zelda game available on the 3DS. Only the the Oracle games and the Game & Watch Zelda are still missing (and a potential 3D Classics version of A Link to the Past).

Well, so far there are no plans to make the GBA games available for purchase at a later date. But we all know that Nintendo will release them at some point.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Skyward Sword Sidequest Guide (German)

Just so you know what I've been up to lately, here's an update. I've been working on the sidequest guide of Here you can find individual guides. And this file contains all information in one 51 page large pdf file.

It covers basically everything. Pieces of Heart in order, Goddess Cubes sorted by region and order or by chests, Gratitude Crystals, wallets, adventure pouch ugrades, empty bottles, medals, and upgrades. It also contains the best farming spots and strategies for all treasures and insects. It got all the Gossip Stone informations, Goddess Walls, tricks and easter eggs. I think it's the first complete sidequest guide of the game available (for example IGN is still missing one Goddess Cube xD). Unfortunately it's all in German and I don't plan to translate it. But since I have some readers from Germany, I just wanted to inform you.

Check it out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Got Zelda 3DS Limited Edition Bundle

I'm weak. I admit it. I'm weak. I should have boycotted this thing. For the simple reason that Nintendo screwed every Zelda fan, who bought a Nintendo 3DS early. For releasing Ocarina of Time 3D with not one but two preorder bonuses, so that a lot of Zelda fans would buy Ocarina of Time 3D at its release (like I did). For even denying that they plan a bundle at E3. This was probably the most evil marketing move Nintendo ever pulled off. And I'm still totally angry about it.... but I still couldn't resist buying it. :D It's really the bundle I've been waiting for ever since the start of the anniversary. And there's no excuse that this wasn't already released in June.

Well, here are some photos:

The Zelda 3DS is really beautiful, it's not a simple Cosmo Black mod, the entire lower side looks completely different and everything that was white or silver on the normal 3DS model is now golden. Some outer parts of the 3DS are sheer, which isn't the case with a normal model. And I got lucky this time, I got one of the "clicky" 3DS models, the one that makes a clicking sound when open and close it. Also, the buttons feel a little bit "clickier". While playing Four Swords on my red 3DS, I got quite some problems with the stiff D-pad. It even made some weird squeaking sounds. It might be just me, but the D-pad of my clicky Zelda 3DS feels much more responsive.

I think the "clicky or not" 3DS situation is another big issue. You don't have any control over what model you'll get, I think it depends in which factory the 3DS was made. You might as well get a not-clicky Zelda 3DS, if you're unlucky. I've never seen such differences in the production of a Nintendo product, that's not something that you'd expect from Nintendo.

However, the red 3DS is really sexy and until this point I wasn't sure, if I'm going to keep it or sell it. For now I have to keep it, because I need the system transfer update first, which will be released somewhen next week (what coincidence, Nintendo... a system transfer tool right when some idiotic Zelda fans might decide to buy a second 3DS? what are the chances? :D) - I hope it lets you transfer ALL of your data. Like Miis, Play Coins, play data and what not else. Because I got lots of play coins and I got lots of Nintendo employees from the press event in October in my Mii plaza. I wouldn't want to lose any of it. If this is done, I will probably sell the red one. There's no point in keeping two 3DS systems.

About the second Ocarina copy, I love the dual-sided cover. The US boxart isn't actually so bad as I thought, you just can't really see the golden effect on pictures. But they should always do this, I mean there have been at least two different covers for all the latest Zelda games. Instead of going with one cover in a region, they should include a dual-sided cover in all copies. That way I can chose which version I like more.

Well, so much about my big Christmas gift to myself.

My opinion? If you're a Zelda fan and don't own a 3DS yet, this is definitely worth getting. And it's not just Ocarina of Time, you will also be able to play the Four Swords Anniversary Edition, which you don't want to miss. If you're a Zelda fan and already got a 3DS, then I know exactly how you feel, because I am in the same stupid situation. And if you aren't a Zelda fan, then I'm not sure what you're doing here on my blog anyway.

Update: one thing though, they should have added Link's Awakening DX to the preinstalled software. That would have made the bundle a little bit more complete. And maybe Four Swords too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 12

Yesterday was the first day since the release of Skyward Sword, where I didn't play the game. Just didn't get to it, but today I was playing all day long.

warning: potential spoilers

Well, most of the day I was farming. Looking for spots, where it's easy to farm certain insects. For example if you want a lot of Volcanic Ladybugs, there's the spot with the waterfall at the Vulcano Summit. Right next to the exit there are usually up to three Ladybugs at the wall. Just reenter and collect them, it's just a matter of minutes to collect 99 of them. I'm crazy about 99ing stuff, as long as it doesn't take a lifetime. I would never think about 99ing ship parts in Phantom Hourglass for example, that would be ridiculous. But for example I 99ed all spoils in the Wind Waker. All except the Blue Chu Jelly, you can only get 23 of those. Why did I 99 all other spoils, you ask? Well, why not? It was mostly about killing some time and the green numbers in the menu look nice. That's my collection so far:
  • 99 Deku-Hornets
  • 99 Blessed Butterflies
  • 99 Starry Fireflies
  • 99 Rhino Beetles
  • 99 Volcanic Ladybugs
  • 99 Sand Cicadas
  • 99 Faron Grasshoppers
  • 99 Lanayru Ants
  • 99 Eldin Rollers
  • 99 Amber Relics
  • 99 Monster Horns
  • 23 Goddess Plumes

Most insects are easy to collect in great numbers, when you know the right spots, where you can reenter an area. Only the Gerudo Dragonflies aren't too easy to catch, so far I only got 19. And the sky insects also would take their time, because there are no spots with more than one of them at a time. So, I probably wouldn't waste time with those. But it doesn't really matter. I collected more than enough to upgrade everything many times in the Hero Mode. I do the farming, because I enjoy it. Usually I would say that farming items in RPGs is totally idiotic. But in Zelda I kind of like it. Well, there's lots of variety to it, catching the insects and birds can be fun and there's usually an ideal spot for farming a specific item.

And in Hero Mode I can sell most of the unrequired items to get stuff from Beedle's Airshop as soon as possible. For example a Sand Cicada is worth 50 Rupees. I got 99 of them, do the math. I only need a few of them for Heart Potions++ and maybe one or two Revitilazing Potions++. Let's say, I just sell half of them, that still would already be 2500 Rupees. You only need 3 Goddess Plumes for all upgrades, unless you want more than one Large Quiver. So, I could basically sell 20 of them to make another 2000 Rupees. To buy all of Beedle's items you need 5850 Rupees, if I'm correct, that's already pretty close and I got tons of other stuff to sell. For example those stupid Blue Bird Feathers aren't hard to get, but one of them is actually worth 100 Rupees! So, yeah, farming is worth it, if you want to make your life in Hero Mode a little easier.

I practiced the third Ghirahim battle and I got a lot better at it. I can now easily beat him in the Boss Battle Mode, meaning within 18 Hearts. My problem was the thrusting. You have to thrust to attack his weak spot, but I usually fail at thrusting. This was already a giant problem with the Scorpion Boss. When I try to thrust, I usually move the Nunchuk slightly as well, but the Wii recognizes this and thinks I want to do a vertical spin attack. Sometimes it even just activates the shield and I don't attack at all (which is actually better, because then I don't get my ass kicked). I really have to focus, that I make a clear thrust forward without moving the Nunchuk in any way. In a heated battle this can be quite hard for me. But once I got the hang of it, Ghirahim became a lot easier. In his second phase you basically just have to shield bash all his attacks and then thrust. Which was the problem, I have to spam Nunchuk attacks and then I have to hold the Nunchuk perfectly still right afterwards, which doesn't always work. And the attack window is very small... But if you can reflect his sword beam shots successfully, then you can thrust him three or four times in a row to finish it. I got a lot more confident in fighting now.

I also played the minigames a lot as research for the ZeldaEurope sidequest guide. I got very good at the Rickety Roaster by now. My problem earlier was that I probably tilted the Wiimote too much. And I would say that the collection of minigames is very solid. Usually there's something that brutally annoys me (like the Rollgoal game), but all minigames are manageable, some are even a lot of fun. And half of them are entirely optional, you can play them to get some Rupees or treasures, if you want, but it's not necessary. Some minigames give you rare treasures early in the game, for example you can win an Evil Crystal at the Bamboo Slicing, which is required for the Big Net. Otherwise you would have to wait until the Ancient Cistern, but thanks to this minigame you can get the Big Net early. I think this is a nice solution for a minigame instead of always giving you a Piece of Heart.

The Rupee Dowsing gets more and more interesting. There are many weird spots, where Rupees just come out of nowhere. Usually you just can shoot something with the Slingshot and a Rupee pops up. Or roll against certain walls. The Gust Bellow also reveals some Rupees between flowers, mushrooms or something. It's really weird sometimes, but it's interesting. So, use the Rupee dowsing for some surprises.

Something what totally annoys me in this game is the low battery warning. As if the blinking red icon the in the lower right corner wouldn't be enough, each time you change the area, Fi starts to call you about the battery issue. The problem is, the batteries easily last another four hours. And during all those hours you get annoyed for nothing.

Also, it seems that the last part of the game is indeed supposed to be non-linear... but it might cause some glitching. Actually I tried getting to the Thunder Dragon first, but the Goron wouldn't let me... :D

That's it for today. I haven't started writing the review yet, because I'm busy with the sidequest guide for ZeldaEurope (just finished the minigame guide today), so don't hold your breath. But if you speak German, you can go to the Pirateboard, there I posted a "short" review. However, most of it is about what I don't like, like the weak dungeons. But the game has also tons of positive aspects, which I will highlight in my upcoming review.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Days 10 and 11

Yeah, I'm still playing.

At first I played the Hero Mode for a while. And I can't tell you how much I'm disappointed about this missed opportunity. Just some tougher enemies here and there. That would have been all to make this 2nd Quest really great. But instead it's the same old thing. It's a little bit tougher at the beginning without any hearts, but you'll make it. Because your sword is stronger now, you can use the fully powered fast loading Skyward Strike right from the start, which is quite useful. I've heard that when you get the True Master Sword, it shoots Skyward Strikes with every attack. That would be badass, I'm really looking forward to that. I think the only real problem might be the Boss Battle Mode, where you can't heal yourself this time, especially in case you have to fight Ghirahim 3 or Demise. I still can't beat Ghirahim in the old Boss Battle Mode with normal damage. Getting the Hylia Shield might be a tough challenge.

However, I quit playing the Hero Mode and returned to my old file for various reasons. I'm currently working on a sidequest guide for ZeldaEurope and today I was busy catching insects. I wanted to figure out the ideal farming spots for every insect. Also, you keep all your insects and treasures when you start the Hero Mode. So, I made it into my goal to collect as much stuff as possible and then start a new Hero Mode file with all that stuff. That way I can upgrade every item as early as possible. The only issue will be the Rupees. But for example I can get a Lvl3 Wooden Shield right away. Or upgrade the Bug Net immediatly into the Big Bet, get the Spreadshot right after the Slingshot, etc. And that feels great and might be helpful. So, I'm getting a giant collection first and then I play the Hero Mode.

The Boss Battle Mode actually includes the fight against Ghirahim's Army, which is great. That was a fun sequence, though the Hack'n'Slay'ish feel can get boring after a while. I prefer enemies, who offer some real fights. But I think it's also the only place, where you can find Stalfos now. Or any enemies for that matter. They even removed the freakin bats and slimes from Skyloft! I think this is connected to the Gratitude Crystal quest, as soon as Batreaux gets human, the monsters go all away. Even from the cave. That was a nice farming spot for Monster Claws and Jelly Blobs. And now it's gone. And the cats aren't aggressive anymore. For me this all of this was part of what the atmosphere in Skyloft at night so great. I think it's a bad decision to remove enemies from anywhere. Especially in a game, where you really want to hit things with your sword, because it feels great. Eldin is also very empty by now, only the Lanayru Desert kept its enemies, but fighting electric slimes isn't much fun. Well, that the enemies got wiped was related to the story, I get that, but in this case the story just sucked.

So, I got the last Dowsing ability from the Mogmas: Rupee Dowsing. And it's actually not that unreasonable this time, because it shows a lot of hidden stuff, which I never would know about. For example there are many spots, where Rupees come out when you shoot things with the Slingshot. I never knew that. And there are many bombable walls, which I just missed. They were all cracked, but the crack in the wall is very hard to see in Eldin. But I like this, ever since A Link to the Past bombable walls were way too easy to spot. And I was surprised how many spots I've missed, though there wasn't really anything valueable hidden in these places. No new medals or something, just some Rupees and treasures.

That's it for this post, nothing special, just a small update.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 9


So, that's it. I've beaten the game. Or at least half of it. Thanks for the anonymous tip in the comments to copy my savegame right before the final boss.

Well, the Sky Keep dungeon was totally awesome. It was smart, offered the right amount of challenge, got some good fights, it was non-linear (or at least it made me think that I have full freedom, still good enough) and you collect all three parts of the Triforce - something, which you've never done in the entire series. Surely one epic dungeon, it's without a doubt the best dungeon of the game and maybe one of my favorite dungeons in the entire Zelda series. It's the complete opposite of what the game showed so far, dungeon-wise. The only downside was that it reused old settings, that felt cheap in a way and reminded me of the game's bad dungeons like the Lanayru Mining Facility, ugh. But at least two of the rooms were placed in the "underground" setting, probably the coolest dungeon setting in the game. The game actually gave me a shock for the first time I obtained a Triforce, because it was located in the Silent Realm. But it was always just a room... though it would have been nice if the Triforces were actually guarded. Nothing big, maybe just a hallway full of those knights, where you have to dash to the Triforce. But better not, of course you want to enjoy the epic moment of obtaining Triforce.

Talking about the Silent Realm, in my search for the final two Pieces of Heart I also tried the Silent Realm Speed Run. Though so far I've only got the best time for the forest, I got raped multiple times in Eldin (usually in the beginning with the slope full of Sentrys) and Skyloft. I never even dared to try the desert. Well, that's something for later, it appears that you only get rare treasures for your efforts. The final two Pieces of Heart were given by the rare Gorons. One from demonstrating those sky walls in front of the archeologist (probably could have done that way earlier, I just happened to notice that now that you had to return to this area more often) and one from the Rickety Coaster minigame. The latter was a pain in the ass, this was the only time in the game where I would have preferred traditional controls. The motion controls for the mine cart are broken, it happened often to me that Link would turn in the wrong direction... But it appears that it's exactly like I said, the 19th and 20th Heart Containers are made by the two Life Medals. So, if you want all 20 Heart Containers, you have to sacrifice two spaces of your Adventure Pouch. That or it always looks like you haven't fully completed the game. I think that this is a weird design choice. But it's also somehow interesting. No matter what I now got 100% of all the sidequests, I think. Oh, wait... I'm actually missing something. Fi unlocked four more spots for dowsing abilities. I got treasure dowsing, Gratitude Crystals and Goddess Cubes. But what's the fourth one used for? (Updated: It's Rupee dowsing...)

As much as I was satisfied by the final dungeon, I was satisfied by the final boss fights, both Ghirahim and Demise. Those were very tough and challenging sword battles. Maybe a little bit too tough, you practically weren't prepared at all. But that's the rest of the game's fault for not throwing enough tough enemies at you. You were thrown in cold water with these fights, but I enjoyed the challenge. And there wasn't any bullshit. Just sword duels, the way I like it. Normally a final boss fight would utilize as many gimmicks as possible, but not even the Skyward Strike was needed. It was all about blades clashing at each other. And I love that.

The Ghirahim fight starts with this awesome sequence, where you run down the Sealed Grounds and fight against tons of enemies. Sooo much fun. I wasn't exactly sure, if there was some time limit (like at the same point in the Minish Cap), so I basically run from one green fruit to the next, only fighting the door guards. But I've never seen so many enemies at the screen AT ONCE in any game, let alone a Zelda game. I can't believe that this is actually a Wii game - that is something that striked me multiple times during the game, they really, really pushed the Wii to its outer limits, it's incredible. The system is five years old and was technically already completely outdated on its release. Yet this game looks as good as any other current game, just not in HD. But on my small tube the game looks awesome, I can tell you.

It turned out that Ghirahim is basically the Fi of some evil Master Sword. Nice twist, I didn't see this coming, but the game made the similarities obvious at the point. And fighting his final form was tough. I thought bringing two Heart Potions++ into the fight would be enough, but I was so wrong. I already accepted the fact that I had to start over, however, I could beat him with my last breath.

And Demise is actually a very nice guy. If he had fought me right there, he would have easily killed me. But instead he lets me save the game and fully regenerate. I used the opportunity to come prepared, it was time for a Pouch Change! Two Life Medals, three Heart Potions++ and my first Guardian Potion in the game, even the upgraded version that makes you invincible, combined with a Potion Medal to lengthen the effect. And my Hylian Shield of course. I think this was a 100% suitability rate for the fight. So, ultimately his kindness was Demise's demise.

The fight itself was epic. It was similar to the Ganondorf battle in Twilight Princess, my favorite fight in the game, only much tougher. But like with the Fishing Rod in Twilight Princess you could also use the Bug Catching Net to distract him! Hahahahaaa! This was even the first thing I tried! We made jokes about this long before the game was released and it's funny that this actually really worked. I loled so hard. But it was really tough and he would even pull out the electric sword joker. For the Technoblins I would usually use the Slingshot to stun them, so I didn't really have any good practice. But luckily I brought my Guardian Potion+! It's a cheap way to win, but he called it.

Yeah, and his hatred would later reincarnate to take the form of Ganondorf, we saw that coming, Nintendo spoiled this already miles away. Come to think of it, they even released an artwork of the final boss! They spoiled the entire game up to the final boss! The only thing I hadn't seen before was the Sky Keep.

Well, but I'm really happy with both the final dungeon and the final boss fights. The were epic, they were challenging and they were awesome! That's the way I like it! I will definitely practice both Ghirahim#3 and Demise later, Ghirahim was added to the Boss Challenge and you can always jump right into Demise.

And the conclusion of the story was nice. I was right about Impa, though it was obvious somehow. I loved the "Legend of Groose" joke, this could be a nice new Zelda spin off game. And I loved how this game sets everything in motion for future incarnations of Link and Zelda. It was touching to know that Fi's spirit basically always rested in the Master Sword in all the other Zelda games. Now when you pick up the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time you will definitely think of Fi. You might even miss her and wish that she would be with you instead of an annoying fairy. And unlike Midna it's entirely possible that she could return in a later game. "See you in another life, Master." (Loved that quote, it's so LOSTish)

However, it doesn't really fit. The resting place of the Master Sword looks more like the location in A Link to the Past. And the Temple of Time is a different location in this game, unless the Seal/Hylia Temple later becomes the new Temple of Time. After all it also got a time gate. But there's no Sacred Realm here. According to Ocarina of Time the Triforce was left in the Sacred Realm, but now it's out in the open, though it was hinted that they would hide it again somehow. I don't know, but I'm curious to see what timelime theorists will make out of this.

The credits were interesting, because they showed Zelda's side of the story. I always wondered "how the hell did she get through the temples?", well, it didn't really explain how she managed the Skyview Temple, but at least it showed her in peril at the Earth Temple. But it's better than the traditional "let's show all environments again"-part of the credits, which would follow. That part totally lagged. I don't know if this was on purpose or if my Wii finally gave in, but it only happened during these shots in the credits.

After beating the game, you can overwrite your savegame to access the "Hero Mode". I was actually totally hyped about this, "a 2nd Quest, yayyy", but according to GameFAQs the only difference is that you have double damage and that you won't find any hearts unless you use the Heart Medals. That's it? I mean this is better than nothing, but I was at least hoping for some stronger foes. Like more Stalfos. You rarely fight any Stalfos. I wasn't expecting a full fledged Master Quest, but would it have been so hard to add some more enemies in the dungeons? Come on... that's just disappointing. But I wanted to replay the game anyway, so here I go. And at least it let's you skip cutscenes now.

In case you wonder, it took me 71 hours to fully complete the game with all sidequests. Aimlessly running around included.

I will write a full review while replaying the game.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 8

SPOILER ALERT: up to Dungeon 7

If saying that there's actually 7 dungeons is already a spoiler for you, then I apologize.

Well, what a day! I've started to play exactly one week ago, I'm 64 hours in the game and I haven't beaten it yet. Well, I wasted a lot of time with running around, looking for treasures, insects and other stuff, but I'm overall very happy with the amount of time that I was able to spent with the game. And it doesn't seem to be over yet.

The part with the three dragons sadly didn't offer any new dungeons or revisited dungeons and unnecessarily you had to play all three dragons in a given order (Update: that's actually not true, but it's the only non-linear section), but this part of the game offered some fresh surprises. It was mostly about reexperiencing old environments in a new way. You already did that with the Silent Realms, but now it was time for something different.

The forest area was completely flooded and you can dive all over the place. I had three empty bottles at that time, so I used this opportunity to try the air potion, I bought three of them and upgraded them all, so that your air doesn't go away. I also combined this with the Potion Medal, so I could dive for a long time without breathing. It's not necessary to do this, but thanks to the potions you can endlessly spin, which is quite some fun. Flooding the entire area was literally a fresh idea and I enjoyed it while it lasted. However, flooding the area had the goal to get rid of all the monsters. And save for Takkuris, Keese and Deku Babas this succeeded. No Moblins, no Bokoblins... even one of the Kikwis actually says that this is boring! Fighting is the most fun part of the game, so don't take away the enemies!!

Next stop was Death Mountain, errrrh... I mean Eldin Volcano. The volcano errupted, you get caught in an explosion and Bokoblins use this opportunity to steal all your stuff and to imprison you. You now have to break free, avoid the guards and get your items back in a certain order. It was basically a mix between the Forsaken Fortress from the Wind Waker and the part where the Tokays steal your items on Crescent Island in Oracle of Ages. This is the best way to describe it. It was well made, the lighting of the errupting volcano was incredible and the atmosphere was dense, you could hear your pulse when you get near a guard. However, the whole thing came to a sudden end. At the beginning you lose basically everything except for the Sailcloth, the Scale, the Earrings and your wallet. I was freaked out at that moment, my Adventure Pouch was full of upgraded potions and the Goddess Shield. And I actually thought that I had to track down individual "Bokoblays" to get all of my stuff back, I imagined that gettting the contents of your pouch back would result in later sidequests. But you only had to reclaim the Gust Bellow, the Clawshots, the Whip, the Sling/Spreadshot and the Bomb Bag. Then you get the Master Sword and the Adventure Pouch with all of the other missing items in it... then you meet the Dragon and the story is over. It felt a little bit sudden, I was thinking that I had to get the rest of my items at the Volcano Summit. And I was thinking that I would finally get to revisit the Earth Temple, but not a chance. It would have been nice if you had to track down some of your items at the Earth Temple. Maybe you get the Master Sword at the Volcano Summit and then you return to the Earth Temple to look for the rest of the items. Sounds awesome right? But nah... and after this part, it seems that the Moblins are gone. Whyyyy?! I'm at the end of the game, why do they REMOVE enemies? If anything, the places should be crawling with the most dangerous enemies! Everything should try to stop me. But instead they clean the forest and now even the volcano area of all stronger enemies? What is going on here?

The Desert didn't get any flooding or erruptions, instead you explore yet another new area! The desert is by far the largest area in the game, Eldin Volcano looks like your dooryard compared to the desert. I mean there's an entire ocean area in the size of one Phantom Hourglass map and that's not even half of it. It's impressive. Well, I was eager to meet the third Dragon, because a Gossip Stone tells you that he puts you into trials and may reward you with the Hylian Shield. It turns out that the third Dragon manages the Boss Challenge mode. And it's well made, you can pick a battle and at the end of the battle he gives you a choice. You can either leave and pick a price or continue playing, but you carry on your health and you don't know what the next boss will be. You're fighting against them all, but the order is random. Well, if you win four battles in a row, you can get a Piece of Heart. And if you win eight battles in a row you can get the Hylian Shield. He also let's you replay the Silent Realms, which is nice, because now you can always get more Dusk Relics if you need them. It's a nice challenge and there seem to be some prices as well, but I'm not sure, I haven't beaten any highscore yet.

Talking about Silent Realms, when I said "unless there's another trial in Skyloft" I was actually joking! JOKING! You should have seen my face when the game told me that the final trial handn't been final at all and that I had to do another one in the village! But it was fun, it was weird to see the guardians in the village, it wasn't really hard and by now I know Skyloft like the back of my hand. Unlike the forest. I replayed the Forest Silent Realm twice now and both times I got lost... lol. Interestingly Skyloft got its own submenu in the Silent Realm replay mode called "other places". Does this mean there's even a fifth Silent Realm? Because otherwise they could have just made a normal menu made of four selections like with the bosses. I hope not...

And nothing in this game is meaningless. I like how you stumble over certain details and wonder what they mean. Like when you find the windmill at Eldin Volcano, it seemed like a random detail, but later it would turn into a quest. Or those holes in the ground, you can plant a seedling there, even though only one hole results in a tree. I don't know why you can plant the seedling in the pumpkin fields or if there's any other sidequest that involves planting later on. And there was this weird bird statue with only one eye near the water fall in Skyloft. I always wondered what that thing would mean, but I never imagined that it would open the entrance to the final(?) dungeon!

Opening the dungeon was certainly an epic scene. When looking for the Gratitude Crystals at night I checked the sidewalk, where you followed Fi at the beginning of the game, maybe two or three times without any success. Turns out that nothing was hidden there for a reason, the whole thing crumbled down. But there was a treasure chest on that path containing 20 Rupees, first missable detected in this game. :D Not that this really matters.

The dungeon itself, called the Sky Keep, looks very, very promising. It only has eight rooms, but they are organized like a tile puzzle. You can move them around freely and try to proceed. This might turn into the smartest dungeon of the Zelda series yet... or not, I can't tell yet, because I left the dungeon to get the Hylian Shield first. I also want to finish all sidequests before the finale. Save the best for last. And the Sky Keep is actually the first thing, where Nintendo hasn't shown any preview material, right? I'm really excited about the dungeon, but this will have to wait.

I opened all of the black treasure chests in Skyloft by now, well, at least the menu entry of the cube dowsing tells me that there are no cubes left for my sword to react to. But I am disappointed about the content of the last chests. The best thing I got was the fifth empty bottle. Then I got a small quiver and a lot of Rupees. Like this chest in the Bazaar, it gives you 300 Rupees and I was disappointed. This was the most exciting treasure chest, because you see it plenty of times during the game. I expected some nice new medal for example. But there were no new medals. So far I only got ten medals, seven different ones and three duplicates. But there must be a duplicate for the Treasure Medal as well, so there might be more. I'm guessing the total is 12. I'm also missing three Heart Containers. I got two Piece of Hearts right now, so there will be at least an 18th one coming from sidequests. But I doubt there will be eight more Heart Pieces left. What does that mean? Two more bosses leaving Heart Containers? I doubt that somehow as well. Or is 18 the actual maximum? Because I got two Life Medals, which add an extra Heart Container. So, if you want all 20 Heart Containers you have to carry both medals with you? But this would suck, it just wastes space in your Adventure Pouch. Well, you don't really need all 20 Heart Containers, because the game is easy, but it just looks so unfinished. With 18 Heart Containers I always feel like I'm still missing something. It would have been better to get extra Heart Containers instead of those medals. But.. I don't know yet, it might as well be that I'm really just missing some Heart Containers and/or Pieces. Hopefully.

I finish this post with some minor details, which I've noticed. You can actually light torches by blowing up bombs. Considering that there hasn't been a single "light the torch"-puzzle yet, this is an impressive detail. And you can blow up Gossip Stones with bombs like you could in the N64 Zeldas. Nice. However, you can't scoop in the Potion Shop. Remember the little Potion Shop in Faron Woods in Twilight Princess? The one run by a bird? There you could scoop a potion and pay by putting Rupees in a box. Or simply steal it. It's not a big deal that this doesn't work in Skyward Sword, but it would have been a nice detail. The way I see it this game is all about the nice details.

Ah, wait... I've heard there's something called "Hero Mode". I'm curios what this will be. Of course I'm hoping for a full fledged 2nd Quest with Stalfos in every corner, that would be totally awesome. But I'm keeping my expectations low, maybe it's just a forced Three Heart Quest or something lame like that. But if the game manages to offer some challenge after all I will be pleased. And please don't tell me what the Hero Mode is, I want to find out for myself. It's actually already bad enough that I know that it exists.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 7

SPOILER WARNING: post Dungeon 6 + sidequests

The guy who upgrades your potions always says "I hope your expectations weren't too high"... While playing the Fire Sanctuary I had Aonuma's and Miyamoto's faces in my mind telling me the exact same thing. It was visually a nice dungeon, it was also the largest dungeon so far. But it was way too easy. Lizalfos were still treated like minibosses. The place should be grawling with those guys instead. Skyward Sword could be quite tough early in the game. You had to get used to the fighting mechanics and simple mistakes could kill you. You start with 6 Heart Containers for a reason. However, while you constantly grow and get stronger, the game itself doesn't. It doesn't even try. You will still fight bats and slimes as your regular enemies. I've only met Stalfos three times so far and each time they were a miniboss. By now they should be regular enemies. I have 17 Heart Containers by now, I can carry four Heart Potions++, which means I can fully heal myself eight times! I became very efficient with the MotionPlus controls. I'm a monster, ten times more scary than the Imprisoned. There should be much more tough fights. Lizalfos, Stalfos, Moblins... it doesn't have to be the pucking Hero's Trial, but at least try something! And where are Darknuts? Are there even any in the game? Probably not, because otherwise Nintendo would have showed them already like they did with ALL of the bosses.

But it was still a solid dungeon. I liked the part, where you had to jump down at the end. This could have been a nice Link's Awakening-ish dungeon puzzle, if the solution wasn't told you early by a NPC. It would have been better, if somewhere in the dungeon there was a hidden tablet giving you the cryptic hint. It just isn't much fun, if some character tells you the solution. *stares at Fi*

It was nice that you battle Ghirahim again at the end of the Fire Sanctuary. For a brief moment I feared there would be a boss, where you need to utilize the Mogma Mitts. This would have sucked hard. And fighting Ghirahim is fun, it's a nice duel. It was also interesting that you get an empty bottle in this dungeon, that's not usual. Which makes it good, I didn't expect to get the last(?) bottle there.

The place, where you find the Piece of Heart near the entrance of the Fire Sanctuary was magical. This small little green haven inside a giant vulcano.

I always wondered what these holes in the pumpkin fields were good for. I actually thought that the Mogma Mitts would give entrance to a cave here, but they didn't. It turns out that you can plant trees there, but I couldn't figure out how to do it yet.

It was generally surprising that the game is throwing new sidequests at me at this point. Because I thought the game was going to be over now, which made me sad. It felt like I finished most of the sidequests and that the Fire Sanctuary would be the last dungeon. Interestingly I had yet to face the part, where the Bokoblins steal all of your equipment at the Vulcano Summit. I thought this was going to take place before the Fire Sanctuary. So, it was time to head on and meet the next story twist.

Actual story spoilers ahead!

Well, after imprisoning the Imprisoned once again, who now grew a pair of hands, it was time to finally reunite with Zelda. It was foreseeable that she was related to te Goddess and that the cute girl would be gone when you meet Zelda again, replaced by a more mature and reasonable woman, who has no time for old feelings and priorizes duty. It was a sad scene, because all you wanted to do was reuniting with your childhood friend. You have to accept your fate hand the emotions really striked me here. Normally I don't get emotionally involved in a game, so it did a good job here. And there's the hope that you can get the old Zelda back, when all is over. But the Sheikah symbol on Impa's face, the tear below the eye, was very fitting for this scene. Actually I wonder if the old granny inside the Seal Temple is Impa from the past, it appears that she has a faint tear below her eye. That and a Sheikah symbol on her back...

Well, whatever, the fully developed Master Sword now also lets's you load the sword beam faster. Nice. I wanted this for a while now, it's nice to finally get it. And now it's time to get the... Triforce. Okay, let's do... wait, WHAT?!!! This would be awesome. I mean, there aren't many Zelda game, where Link actually claims the Triforce. It only happened in Zelda II and in A Link to the Past, in other games he would usually just possess the Triforce of Courage, if any. It was already weird that the Triforce of Wisdom was glowing on Link's left hand after the Sand Ship, but actually I forgot about it, because someone interrupted my play session, so I never gave it any bigger thought afterwards. But yeah, this is exciting. The fact alone that I'm talking about the game's story at this point should indicate the importance of this story twist.

The Triforce also adds endless possibilities for the outcome of the story. If you observe the map, you will notice that Skyloft fits perfecty in the middle of the three areas. With the Triforce they could free Hyrule from the evil and let the humans come home down to earth. There's no Skyloft in all later Zelda games, so such a story development would make sense. I would also like to see how the Master Sword ends up in the Temple of Time.

It looks like the game is getting a little bit crazier right now. The next stop was the fight against the posssessed flying whale deity, which was a lot of fun. The bosses are really great in this game, I'm looking forward to the Boss Challenge mode. The whale's name is Levias and he seems to be the older brother of the Windfish and the Ocean King, I don't know. It would be nice if he dropped a hint at some point. Now I have to look for three dragons and it might be that this is the first real non-linear part of the game yet, but I haven't tried. Going to Faron Woods resultet in YET ANOTHER fight with the Imprisoned. I battled this guy like five minutes ago, he really means it! But this really shows the urgency and the pressure of the situation. It also appears that all of Faron is flooded, I totally forgot about that! It was shown in some trailer and early in the game I wondered, why I never came to a sunken forest area. But I stopped here, I want to do check out the other dragons first to see if this part might be really non-linear. And I don't know what to expect right now. But I'm actually hoping that there might be one or two more dungeons. Because that would be awesome, I don't want this game to end.

Talking about dungeons, I'm obsessed with the idea of revisiting dungeons. It was really cool in the Skyview Temple and I hoped the Earth Temple would follow at some point. I'm regulary revisiting the dungeon just to check if anything has changed. I'm not even sure if the dungeon would be suitable to be revamped. But I'm so crazy about this, when I had to look for the fortune teller's crystal ball I actually hoped the dowsing would lead me into a revamped Earth Temple. Instead the crystal ball was on a pillar at the entrance... but maybe there will be a revamped Earth Temple for the Eldin dragon quest, hope dies last. The Lanayru Mining Facility on the other hand can stay as it is right now, that dungeon sucked anyway. Of all the dungeons in this game it was by far the worst.

Forgive me Din, for I have sinned. I actually used dowsing to find the last Gratitude Crystal. I was weak and I feel terrible about it. But why did Nintendo have to include dowsing for these thing to begin with? It makes the whole idea pointless. It's a quest where you look for hidden items. If I can pinpoint the exact location of the items, they are not so hidden anymore... Might as well just give me them from the start. I'm really mad about this and myself, but I was looking for hours and couldn't find it. I wanted to use the dowsing to exclude certain areas, where I tought I was sure nothing was there, but this backfired. Well, it was cleverly hidden in the sword training school, where I even looked multiple times... But I should have kept looking instead of using the dowsing. And looking for the Gratitude Crystals was a lot of fun, I love Skyloft at night. And now I have no reason to aimlessly walk around at night anymore. Argghhhh... what have I done?! But at least I found the other 14 crystals on my own without any help.

And there's a nice new minigame. In the tornado cloud there always was this weird island which looked like an obstacle course. I feared for some minigame, where you had to reach the top in some time limit, though this didn't make much sense because of the multiple paths. But it turns out that this island is used for a bug catching minigame. On the island all 16 types of insects are present. The bug guy shows you a list of different bugs and you have to find them as fast as possible. It's a mix between memorizing where the bugs are hidden and being fast in the obstacle course. But I was disappointed about the prizes. If you beat the record on hard level, you still ony get five bugs. There should have been a better prize, the Bug Medal would have been the perfect reward for example. I love the Bug Medal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 6

SPOILER WARNING: Area post Silent Realm 3 + sidequests

My Phantom Hourglass boat trip continued. I love that part of the game, I love how Link gestures and makes "heyaaa" sounds to fire cannon and the robot pirate is a nice replacement for Linebeck. The are four different ports and the third one was a clever minidungeon, where you carry a time shift orb. The dungeon itself was called the Sand Ship, probably one of the most unique dungeon settings so far in the Zelda series. You could shift the whole ship between two times and I liked the joke how the "crew" that you had to rescue only consisted of one more robot. The dungeon also felt a little bit more open than usual, which was a good thing, still nothing on the level of classic Zelda dungeon layouts though. The boss was quite the stereotype though... tentacles attacking a pirate ship? Wait, where have I seen this before...? Oh, and this time we got the bow, so the boss must have a huge eye. And alltogether it was a silly looking mix of a Cyclops, Medusa and Kraken. Of all the bosses this was weirdest one so far.

The bow didn't let me down though. You can use it in two ways. Either you use it like the Slingshot just by holding down A. But you can also draw the arrow yourself with the Nunchuck, which loads the full power up much faster. Also, the bow gets two upgrades and you also can buy additional quiver(s), which also gets two upgrades. So, finally there was some new stuff for upgrading, something that I badly missed with the previous three items.

Talking about upgrades, by now I'm also looking further into potions and upgrading them. I never really did this before, because the normal Heart Potion was just fine, but I collected so many bugs and Rupees by now that I want to put them to use. And some of the upgraded potions can be quite useful. If you upgrade the Heart Potion twice, it restores all hearts and you can drink from it twice. The upgraded Revitalization Potion restores your Shield automatically when it breaks. I'm currently only using the Goddess Shield, which was very expensive, but has low stamina. It regenerates itself quickly, but sometimes in a heated battle I fear that it will shatter. But the Revitalization Potion gives me some reassurance.

Fi again spoiled a puzzle for me. In the Sand Ship there was a room, where had to hit the Time Shift Stone through the ceiling. It would have been a nice challenge to discover this for yourself, but instead Fi contacts you and tells you about it. I'm pissed about these things, why even put such a puzzle there, if Fi tells you the solution right away? If I'm stuck, I can always ask her or visit the Sheikah Stone. She shouldn't be telling you anything.

About that, with the second flame you can now dowse for all kinds of things. Some of it is useful, like dowsing for treasures. But other stuff is just a big spoiler. You can dowse for Gratitude Crystals for example. I think I'm only missing two single crystals and I will never ever use the dowsing feature for them. I will find them on my own. It's fun searching for them and it's terrible that the game offers such guides. Where's the challenge of hidden items, if you get a detector?

I wonder what the third flame will be. Well, the Skyward Sword will probably turn into the Master Sword, but there must be some new ability. Hopefully it lets you load the sword beam faster. This was an issue during the boss fight on the sand ship, where you had to cut the tentacles using the sword beam. A medal with the same effect would be fine too.

With the whip you can steal the horns that some Bokoblins are carrying. This is reminiscent of The Wind Waker, where you can use the Grappling Hook to steal the spoils from your enemies. But so far that's the only item that you can steal with the whip, but better than nothing.

I won a Dusk Relic at the Bow minigame. So, there's a way to collect them outside of the Silent Realms. Though I got a good stock by now, I collected 9 Dusk Relics during the third trial. I had some trouble with the first part to the west, where lots of Poes are on a sand slope. But before that part you could collect two Dusk Relics, which was a nice opportunity to farm them. I think you will be able to repeat the trials in the Boss Battles mode, but better use the opportunity right away. And I'm glad that I've beaten the final trial (unless there's another trial in Skyloft, lol), though I thought the second one was harder. The path was much clearer this time, in the second trial you could go anywhere and it was hard to figure out where to go next without running out of time. But in the mountains you follow a clear path.

The fire protection earrings are basically the Goron Armor of this game, much like the Water Dragon's Scale replaces the Zora Armor. I wonder if you actually could get to the Fire Sanctuary without the earrings. The path is not that long, you only need enough health. I never tried and I'm actually regretting that I never had the balls to do it. This would have been a cool discovery.

I finally got the chest in the Bazaar... and I was disappointed that it "only" gave me 300 Rupees, I was hoping for something more special. You're coming by this chest every day and you want to open it from that start of the game and then it only contains Rupees? Why not a cool medal? I still only got 7 different medals and two duplicates.... the whole medal thing feels like wasted potential right now. Every time I open a big treasure chest I'm hoping for a new medal. And most of the time I get disappointed.

I like that you get healed by sitting down on a chair or a bench. I never noticed until meeting the digging Goron in Lanayru Cave, he tells you something different if you sit next to him. During the talk I got healed, it takes a little time until the healing starts, which is why I probably have never noticed this before. But in the Sand Ship for example there were chairs in some places, so that you could heal yourself. It's an interesting addition, it doesn't make any sense at all, but it works.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 5

SPOILER WARNING: Area post Silent Realm 2 + sidequests

This game really takes me back to the Nintendo 64 Zelda times. I spent A LOT of time just running around trying to discover new details. And I usually even find out something new! And I'm not doing that at the end of the game, because I'm bored. I'm still in the middle of the main quests, I'm sidequesting, because I like it a lot.

The Gratitude Crystals are basically the Secret Seashells / Gold Skulltulas / Poe Souls / similar collectible items of this game. Though you earn most of them by helping people, it seems there are at least 15 of these crystals hidden in Skyloft at night. This was made for me, I love Skyloft at night because of the atmosphere and I love looking for hidden things. It's like Gold Skulltulas in Kakariko, just without the rattling. And they are cleverly hidden. I was right about Zelda's room though, you get in it through the chimney. There you can also discover, who's bathing at night. It's this humor and this level of detail which make this game great.

You get 5 Gratitude Crystals for helping people, but it seems there are various choices, that you can make, which leads to different outcomes. I already talked about the ghost hand and the couplings at the academy, now there's Peatrice, the Item Check Girl, who falls in love with you throughout the game. You can tell her at some point that you also like her or you can dump her. The first one definitely gives you 5 crystals, I'm not sure what happens if you dump her, my best guess would be that you get 5 crystals from the father... the father is funny, he's the guy from the bamboo slicing minigame and he's totally angry at you, which makes him "wanna slice bamboo", haha.

I love the medals, this system has A LOT of potential. However, I fear that this potential will never be fully tapped. So far I got 7 different medals and 2 duplicates. Yes, that's right, I got both the Life and the Heart Medal twice for whatever reason. The Life Medal makes sense, because it adds an additional Heart Container. The more you have the more extra Heart Containers you get. I'm not sure about the Heart Medal, do I know find even more hearts usual if I equip both? If that's the case I want two Treasure Medals, I ALWAYS have the Treasure Medal equipped, I'm such a treasure collecting junkie. But there's so much more potential in this, just look at the 64 rings from the Oracle games, which was a similar concept. They had tons of ideas for nice boosting effects. I hope there will be at least 16 different medals, that's a quarter of the rings and not too much to ask. But I guess I will be disappointed and maybe there are only 8 of them... I dunno and it's actually nice that I have no clue how many medals there are. Because the hope that there always could be a new medal left somewhere will keep me looking. But I definitely hope that there will be a red and a blue medal, one boosting your attack power and one boosting your defense. Like the Red and Blue Mail in Link's Awakening or the Red and Blue Ring in the Oracle games. It's a classic and this shouldn't be missing. Also, this would be a much needed optional sword upgrade, it's always boring when the sword upgrades are story related and not part of your own doing. Another possibility would be medal that lets you regenerate your health like the Heart Ring. I would also suggest medals boosting your stamina and air supply, but you already have potions for this and the Potion Medal to lenghten potion effects. But there are many possibilities. My favorite medal so far is the Bug Medal, which shows the locations of insects on your map. This is very useful, I would like a similar medal showing treasures you find out in the open. Another nice idea would be a medal, that makes your sword beam load faster.

I don't like the camera change to first person, it works different than before. In all other four 3D Zeldas you would switch into Link's point of view, but now Link will automatically look into the direction of your camera. I prefered the old way, but this is a minor detail.

I also got further into the main quests, I've beaten the Ancient Cistern and the second Silent Realm trial and I've explored the first two ports of the giant sand sea.

The Ancient Cistern was probably the best dungeon so far. It was still completely linear and not very large, but it got this underground area, which was simply amazing. That's how a dungeon is supposed to look like, visually. Dark, spooky, with chains on the wall, purple acid fluid, traps and Zombie Bokoblins. That's how you imagine a real dungeon. The atmosphere was totally awesome and a very nice contrast to the bright and colorful upper level. The boss fight again was a lot of fun, this game probably has the most solid and fun selection of bosses in any Zelda game. It was also the first and hopefully not the last time that you could swing an enemy weapon. I hoped that this feature from The Wind Waker would fully return, but instead it's just this one occasion. It would be nice, if you could use the Moblin's spears or the Hi-Tech Bokoblins electric swords for example. This is a game about swinging the Wiimote as your sword and there should be as many melee weapons as possible. But at least the whip is a nice item, it was already a winner in Spirit Tracks and might become a staple in the series.

The second Silent Realm trial was overwhelming. The area at Lanayru Desert was massive, you could easily run out of time and I was chased a couple of times. I never died though, only once at the beginning. It surprised me that the trial gave me the Clawshots, which then would lead to lots of sidequesting (fully explore Skyloft!). But yeah, it was mentioned earlier that they would give you all items as early as possible and I guess the bow will be next. Because before the Fire Sanctuary Bokoblins will steal all of your items (I remember that from Nintendo's spoiler marathon), which wouldn't be possible if you don't have all items.

But you actually got the full length Double Clawshots... especially in the first Zelda game that allows you to upgrade your items multiple times you would think that the Hookshot is the perfect candidate for upgrades. After all it's one of the few items that got constantly upgraded in older games. You get the Hookshot and then extend its chain to the Longshot in Ocarina of Time for example. Or the Double Clawshots were an upgrade to the Clawshot in Twilight Princess. You could have combined that like getting the Hookshot first, then add a claw, then extend the chain and then get a second one. The Beetle also got three upgrades and it feels a little bit inconsistent. Currently I can't upgrade anything anymore and I was hoping that some of the new items would upgradeable. But neither the Gust Bellow, nor the Whip or the Clawshots seem to have any upgrades. For the Whip it would have been nice to add an upgrade, where it damages enemies. But I still hope that the Bow will offer something...

However, the Clawshots let you do lots of sidequesting like entering Zelda's room. It was the second time in the game that opening closets was actually worth it. I do it all the time, but usually there's nothing in there. And you also get to peek into the bathroom... you basically could have guessed, who's occupying the bath all night, because he's the only character, who you don't meet at night...

And Lanayru definitely now is my favorite area in the game. It just gets better and better. A boat like in Phantom Hourglass with a robot pirate on it (so hilarious!!) and a time warp field around it, which turns the sand dunes into the water of the ocean which the desert used to be in the past? Hell yeah, why not? This stuff is amazingly creative and a lot of fun. No other game has crazy shit like this. The ocean area is about the size of one map in Phantom Hourglass. And the islands in the sand sea are very fun. Clawshotting my way through massive cliffs? Fast riding on minecarts? Rebattling old bosses? HELL YEAH!!

By the way, the Skipper's Retreat was a very nice spot for farming Sand Cicadas, Dusk Relics and even Goddess Plumes. Just go through the door on the top again and again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Skyward Sword Blade Journal, Day 4

SPOILER ALERT: PRE DUNGEON 4, most sidequests included

It was a FUN, FUN day. Again I was busy with lots of sidequesting, especially some FUN, FUN minigame, and the main quests offered a series of surprises.

Well, the first thing I had to do was sealing the Imprisoned. It seems there are two ways of fighting him, you can either jump on his back or attack his feet to make him collapse. I only tried the second method, but I've heard you can also beat him the other way. The harp is quite a weird instrument. You can't actually play a song whenever you want like you could with the Ocarina or the Wind Waker. You can play the harp freely not following any song, which can cause different stuff like calling Gossip Stones (yay! didn't see that coming), but you can't play a specific song whenever you want. There are certain points, where Fi joins you with singing to cause a certain effect like opening a gate to the Silent Realm.

The Silent Realm is terrifying, my heart pounded when I was done. The guards never got me, but it was very close at times. I still hadn't fully familiarized myself with the forest, even though I've spent hours in this place, so I lost orientation here and there. But luckily you have these beams, which show you the location of the tears. That made things easier. And Eldin and Lanayru were a little bit easier to overlook, so I feel confident. So far the Silent Realm was the only place, where you can collect Dusk Relics. You need these to upgrade the Slingshot and the Sacred Shield. I wonder where you will be able to get these at the end of the game? Because it seems you can't reenter the Silent Realm. Luckily I got my Treasure Medal equipped, so I got 7 Dusk Relics, which was enough to upgrade everything for now. But in case my Goddess Shield gets crashed, I would need more of them.

I love the salvage robot, how he admires "Mistress Fi" and bullies Link. It's just not what a robot would do, which makes it so funny. The robots are probably my favorite of the new races, but all four new races are really something. That's one of Skyward Sword's strong sides, there's only one Goron in the entire game (so far) and they invented four new creative races with interesting characteristics. Well, I liked how you got to see the salvaged goods earlier in the game, you walked over the pinwheel and this... wheel thingy the FUN, FUN island guy wants earlier in the game. You probably wondered what this pinwheel was doing in the middle of the volcano area for example, it seemed to be a random detail. It was not though and it might had been more interesting to look for it without the dowsing, just relying on your memory. "Wait, where did I see a pinwheel before?". But many people probably would have been frustrated, because they forgot...

So, after the third dungeon you finally get to enter the tornado, which is an atmospheric area. I love the ruined towers inside the storm and the puzzle with the bridge was really smart. Luckily Fi didn't spoil it this time. Interestingly I only found one open Goddess treasure chest in the tornado. Which means I'm still missing one, where I don't know where the chest went.

Skyloft at night, is there anything better? I just love the atmosphere. One funny thing that I noticed is that these cats can actually fly with their big ears. I throwed one down into the abyss (one of the scary night cats of course) and it came back, which looked totally funny. At night there's also one of these hands in the toilet asking for paper. This leads to a very interesting sidequest, where you have to make a choice. One of the bullies fell in love with the only girl in school, however, she has an eye for the guy in the yellow outfit. The bully has written a love letter to her and you can now make a choice. You can give the letter to the girl or to the toilet hand. I tried both variants just to see which one was better. The outcome for you is the same, you get 5 Gratitude Crystals, but you'll get a different couple each time. If you give the letter to the girl, she will be interested in the bully, but then the yellow guy then gets jealous and in the end the yellow guy and the girl will be together, which makes the bully sad. If you give the love letter to the toilet hand, it will fell in love with the bully and harass him at night, which gives him nightmares. The latter one was funnier and meeting the ghost hand was kind of cool, so I went with this one. I don't know at this point, if this sidequest gets any further. But in general I don't like these kind of choices in a Zelda game. Yeah, yeah, I said earlier that video games are defined by their interesting choices, but I always want an ultimate save file in my Zelda games, one where I got everything. The only other Zelda games to do that were the ones from Capcom, especially the Oracle games, so this was probably Fujibayashi's input. But it adds somehow to the replay value. If you play the game a second time, you can go for the other variant.

The Gratitude Crystals seem to be another nice collectible quest. You can get 5 for making a person happy, but they are also single ones hidden in Skyloft at night. The latter is fun, it's very atmospheric to explore Skyloft at night an the crystals are hidden in clever places. One is inside Zelda's room and there doesn't seem to be a way to open it. But on the roof ot the academy there's a chimney, which you can enter with the Clawshot. It might be the way to enter Zelda's room, but I will find out.

Well, I got the FUN, FUN minigame to start and like usually I got frustrated at first. It seemed impossible to do it right. But as usual you get the hang of it and get better at it. If it wasn't for the Piece of Heart, I probably would have ignored the minigame alltogether. Actually I didn't know what I would be getting, he just said there's a special price and I wanted to have it. I thought it probably would be a Heart Piece and I was right. But before I got it I won tons of Rupees. In the thousands. You can win 480 Rupees with one game. I got so many Rupees by just playing this minigame all over again, that I could effort EVERY item in Beedle's Airshop except for the Heart Piece, which is sold for 1600 Rupees. And I only couldn't effort it, because my wallet only extends to 1400. But I got the last pouch, the Life Medal and the Bug Medal. The latter is really helpful.

I also won my first Evil Crystal at the Bamboo Slice Guy's minigame. 25 cuts with the weakest sword. The Evil Crystal was important, because I now could finally upgrade my Bug Net to the Big Bug Net, which is awesome and very handy, it makes catching stuff much, much easier. The Spreadshot is also a lot of fun, I love the upgrades. But by now I've made all possible upgrades, so I'll need to get more items first.

Now the real funny thing today was that I tried to do some sidequests in the forest after the Silent Realm, but I would accidently run into the next main quests. Twice. First I investigated an underwater hole in the giant tree. This would lead me to the tree top, where an old Kikwi gives guidance (he actually tells you "it's a secret to everybody", nice easter egg). But the view from the tree top is amazing. We've seen this already in the E3 2010 demo, but finally experiencing it for myself was amazing. Absolutely stunning.

So, before heading to Lake Floria I wanted to do another sidequest. I remembered that in Skyview Temple there was one single digging hole. I couldn't reach it earlier, because you needed to dive to get there. So, with my new swimming ability I returned to the dungeon and you dcan't imagine how much I freaked out when I learned that the whole dungeon got changed. Harder enemies, encounters with a Mogma, new puzzles and even a new boss fight against three Stalfos. I was totally HYPED. This felt so awesome, like they included a Master Quest right into the main quest. BEST. SIDEQUEST. EVER. - so I thought, yeah, I actually thought that this was a very awesome sidequest. The Mogma was talking about treasure hunting anyway... but at the end of the dungeon I was confused. Nothing was there except for a Goddess Cube. And I thought that can't be it. I even tried harping next to all butterflies, I actually harped all over the place. It didn't make sense, so I thought that maybe I get something special from the treasure chest, leaving the place. Then I had to learn that this was actually part of the main quest. If you go to Lake Floria first, the guardian water dragon thingy (I have a real problem with names today) wants Sacred Water. As it turns out there's a special spot in the source of the Skyview Temple, where you can get Sacred Water. So, the whole thing wasn't a sidequest, it was something I was supposed to do afterwards!

And while I'm disappointed that this wasn't just a sidequest (it would have been sooo awesome!), I'm actually really happy that the game let me get confused like that by playing the revisited dungeon early. This is a non-linear game course, the game let me do things in advance, even though I wasn't supposed to do them yet. I discovered the whole thing on my own without any guidance, just because I was obsessed with sidequests. And that's something that I will remember! Skyward Sword just got so much more interesting today. This also directly hits on my previous complaints. My biggest complaint so far about the game was that the first three dungeons all have the same linear, boring, small layout. This still holds, but the revamped version of the Skyview Temple was a lot more interesting. Non-linear, optional parts with hidden treasures, just more the way I like it. I'm guessing that the Earth Temple and Lanayru Mining Facility will get revamped too and I'm looking forward to it.

I'm at the entrance of the Ancient Cistern right now. Let's see how this dungeon will perform.