Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Link to the Past as 3D Classic

What a day on Hyrule Blog...! I think this is a record, I've never made so many posts on a single day, today I posted as much as I would normally post in a month. But there has been a lot of news lately and another one is the following:

Miyamoto mentions a possible remake of A Link to the Past for the 3DS. A quote from Edge Magazine:

With an Ocarina Of Time remake on the way in June, Miyamoto says the one game he would most like to see remade for 3DS would be another Zelda classic. “I think A Link To The Past,” he says. “Do you remember Xevious? It’s two-layered and I really wanted to create that at the time. So to see Link To The Past in two layers would be quite attractive for me.”

Okay, and while you're at it, add Ancient Stone Tablets as a 2nd Quest and Four Swords with online multiplayer. Thank you. Or just let GREZZO do the job, they'll probably come up with ideas like that on their own.

Well, the Nintendo 3DS will offer "3D Classics" as a feature in their eShop and I already speculated that they will release a 3D layered version of the classic The Legend of Zelda for the 25th Anniversary on that platform. It could be, that A Link to the Past could get the same treatment. If that's the case, it would be nothing new, just an added 3D effect and probably better visuals. Features like the return of Ancient Stone Tablets or an online version of Four Swords is just something we can only dream of. But it would be an option.

Source: Edge (via Zelda Universe)

Zelda and Project Café

You've probably all heard by now about the upcoming Wii successor (if not check at IGN). It features next gen graphics and a new controller, which has two analog sticks and a touch screen in the center. But it will still use the famous Wii remote and Nunchuck as another controle scheme, the system will be fully backwards compatibly with all Wii games. It's dubbed "Project Café" for now, a lame name that probably gets replaced by something fancier (like "Nintendo Stream", see here), according to Nintendo it will revolutionize online gaming, and it will be playable at E3 2011 and ship in 2012.

The Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii were revolutionary systems, featuring innovative and intuitive control schemes, opening a new market and attracting many new people, who never have played games so far. Values shown by Sony's and Microsoft's system, like next gen graphics, online gaming or games for the gamer demographic of young males, who dig video game violance and big boobs, became irrelavent. Both systems were a full success and were sold out at many occasions. Nintendo printed money in the time of recession. But what's this now? They're falling back into old schemes, it's Nintendo 64 and GameCube all over again. Nintendo 3DS might be fine with the 3D and all, but it's all about the visuals again, it's too expensive and still doesn't offer any interesting software. And then Nintendo wonders why the sells dropped so fast. And this Café thingy doesn't sound any better. In fact, this is nothing new at all. They're aiming for the values of XBox and Playstation, graphics and online gaming, and this while the "inferior" Wii outsold those two systems nearly all the time.

The only new thing is the controller, but actually this is nothing new at all. It's the GameBoy Advance to GameCube connection all over again. The only main difference is that they ship a GameBoy as a standard controller, which makes this playing style somehow more affordable. They even experimented with the Nintendo 3DS as a controller (source), but this would be one hell of an expansive controller, so they probably decided to go with the much cheaper touchscreen Gameboy variant.

Well, the most important question here on Hyrule Blog is: What's in it for Zelda? The first thing that comes into mind are re-releases or even remastered versions of the Zelda games, which used the GameBoy Advance to GameCube connection, namely The Wind Waker and Four Swords Adventures. Well, The Wind Waker only uses it for the Tingler Tuner and works completely fine without such a connection, you would only miss the Knuckle figurine and the five golden Tingle Statues, no big loss. But Four Swords Adventures is a different case. I always thought that Four Swords Adventures will be the first Zelda game to die out, because it heavily relied on such a big gimmick. But I guess, I was wrong. In fact both of this games could be already remade for the Nintendo 3DS, you could use its touchscreen for the Tingle Tuner and to emulate the GBA connection in FSA multiplayer matches, while the 3D screen shows the main environment much like the TV screen.

But Project Café makes things even easier. One of the main problems with Four Swords Adventures (and Four Swords) was that it's really hard to set up a multiplayer session in this game. Every player needs a GameBoy Advance and a GameBoy Advance to GameCube connection cable. I never had any friends, who buy Nintendo hardware or games, so I had to buy another GameBoy Advance, so I could at least play it with two players. It's by far not as easy as setting up a New Super Mario Bros. Wii match with four players for example. Four Swords Adventures on the Nintendo 3DS would be essentially the same as Four Swords on the GameBoy Advance, if you don't have any friends, who like Zelda and who have a Nintendo 3DS system, you're screwed. Unless of course they would add online multiplayer, this would change everything. But since Project Café's default controller features a screen, it would make setting up a Four Swords Adventures match much easier, if buying a second controller isn't too expansive.

And if they remake or re-release Four Swords Adventures for Project Café they could add Navi Trackers to the Western versions this time. Would be a selling point for some fans.

However with this new controller in the background you can expect to see The Wind Waker and Four Swords Adventures reappear on the new system.

As for a new Zelda game, it will probably just keep using the Wiimote and Nunchuck controller. Aonuma already stated that he wants Nintendo to keep the controller, so they can use it for future Zelda games. But the new controller could be used for some gimmicks like a Tingler Tuner 2.0. And we all know how much Aonuma loves gimmicks.

Skyward Sword Vanished

Ocarina of Time 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D!!!

By the way, where is Skyward Sword? Lately it's all about Ocarina of Time 3D, all Zelda headlines begin with "Ocarina of Time 3D". Which isn't bad, Ocarina of Time is great game and the remastered version looks really good. But the game offers NOTHING NEW except the mirrored Master Quest and the Boss Challenge mode, but both of this isn't any real new content. Do you know what would offer new content? Right, Skyward Sword! This game made for Wii MotionPlus, which should have been released by now. There was the GDC2011 trailer, which didn't leave a good impression on me, and since then it was silent around this game, while we basically get flooded with Ocarina of Time 3D news. Yeah, yeah, I get it, the Nintendo 3DS isn't selling and Nintendo needs to advertise it with upcoming software, which isn't dull... and advertising and releasing Skyward Sword now could overshadow the remake. But on the other side the whole MotionPlus thing is getting ridiculous and damages Nintendo as well.

When the Wii came out, everyone dreamt of a Zelda game where swinging the remote results into swinging the sword ingame. Twilight Princess didn't deliver and the technology wasn't sufficient. Then MotionPlus came out and I ran into the store to get WiiSports Resort in excitement that a new Zelda game using this technology would be next. Nearly two years later the only MotionPlus game, which I have, is still WiiSports Resort. None of the other Wii games, which I have bought in that time (Metroid Prime Trilogy, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Wii Party), used MotionPlus and there's still no sign of Zelda. We'll get a new Wii Play using MotionPlus instead this summer. Rumors are that Skyward Sword will be released in October (source), which is still half a year away. And the Wii successor "Profect Café" is already on its way, so that IGN is speculating that Skyward Sword could be delayed for the new system... nooo, noooo, nooooooo!! This would be Twilight Princess all over again. I bought the GameCube in 2005 with Twilight Princess in mind, but they delayed the game for an entire year for the not so good Wii port. I bought the Wii with a Zelda game in mind, where you would swing the sword yourself, but we won't get this game until the console reaches its end. What's up with all that? The Wii was released in 2006 and we needed to wait FIVE years to get the game, which was highlighted since the beginning.

Ocarina of Time 3D European Boxart

Sometimes I just love living in Europe. Not only that studying here is very cheap and affordable and that we don't have any major natural disasters, but we also get the nicer covers for our Zelda games.

Remember when we got this nice cover for Spirit Tracks, while the US version didn't look as good? And remember when I said, that they should have used the teaser site artwork for the Ocarina of Time 3D boxart? Turns out they were listening, take a look at the European cover:

Doooooooooo waaaaaaaaaannnntttt!!! Beautiful, simply beautiful. I mean, the US cover isn't bad, but this cover just got it right. It's similar to our Spirit Tracks cover, it's screaming "explore me". And it looks beautiful. I would just buy the game for the cover.

Source: Zelda Universe

Zelda and a Replay Mode

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will be shipped with a Boss Challenge mode, where you can face all the bosses from the game again. Definitely a nice feature, but there's room for expansion.

Originally when the patent for the Super Guide was introduced, there were hints about a replay mode and I liked this idea ever since. Maybe I misunderstood some intentions of the patent, but the idea still stands.

So, what do I have in mind? Picture it like the demo of The Wind Waker, which was shipped with the Zelda Collector's Edition for the GameCube. The demo offered three savegames, from which you could choose.

"Stealth" dropped you off at Forsaken Fortress, "Island" dropped you off at Windfall Island after you got the sail and "Dungeon" starts at the beginning of Dragon Roost Cavern. You would get the default equipment, what you should have at the point. You can't save, but you can do anything you want until the game hits the time limit. Just remove the time limit and you'll get what I have in mind for a replay mode. Those standard savegames would be unlocked by simply playing through the game and you would get a Quest Log for each major point in the game. Continue the above list with a savegame for Gohma, another one for Forest Haven, one for Forbidden Woods, one for Kalle Demos, etc.

On the GameCube I used multiple memory cards to create many savegames for most of the dungeons in Master Quest and Twilight Princess. So I could replay them at any point. This was actually really nice, I played some dungeons like Arbiter's Grounds or the Gerudo Training Grounds many times just for fun. But the method with the different memory cards is very inconvenient. And it reserves many savegames that you could use for starting new games. And with games like the Nintendo DS Zeldas, which only offer two save slots, this would be impossible (not that I want to replay any of the boring dungeons there...)

Bottom line, a replay mode would be totally awesome. Just select a point in the game, from where you would like to start, and go ahead. Fast and fun. And this wouldn't be hard to implement, but it would be a major addition from which every single Zelda game could profit immensively.

The Wind Waker Japanese Version

On stranger tides...

A quote from Zelda Wiki:

Having a three-month difference between the game's Japanese release in December 14, 2002, as opposed to North America's in March 24, 2003, not too many changes were made from one version to another, aside from characters' and places' names. However, one of the few changes is noticeable: The fifth Triforce Chart is found after unveiling consecutively various Treasure Charts from the sea, one pinpointing another (these charts, in the NSTC and PAL versions, are found in the dungeons, pinpointing Silver Rupees). Also, some Pieces of Heart have their locations changed, so anyone expecting one of them at the end of, for example, the Savage Labyrinth will only find a yellow Rupee in the chest.

From GameFAQs:

[About the sunken warships at Needle Rock Island] The next complaint is that you didn't get a Triforce Map. Well, in a sense, yes, you're not going to get one. Instead, you'll be able to get Treasure Map 16. However, if you look at that map, you'll realise that the wordings are in RED in contrast to the other Treasure Maps.

So it's a simple case of following the directions given in the Treasure Map to get the Triforce Map...or so you think.

Treasure Map #16 will lead to a chest containing Treasure Map #28.
Treasure Map #28 will lead to a chest containing Treasure Map #3.
Treasure Map #3 will lead to a chest containing Treasure Map #40.
Treasure Map #40 will lead to a chest containing Triforce Map #5!

I didn't know this until recently. And this is quite interesting, I like the idea of one treasure map pointing to the next. While the treasure layout of the Western version might be better, I think they should have at least kept this for the 2nd Quest to add some more variety to it. (This and mirroring the whole game for the sake of confusing everyone.)


I was looking a little bit more into this and this is what I found out (source):

- The Piece of Heart from the Savage Labyrinth is now located in the chest under Grandma's house instead of 100 Rupees.
- You get a Piece of Heart on the grassy island outside of Forest Haven instead of Treasure Map #3.
- You only get a Deku Baba Seed on the Platforms near Seven-Star Isles instead of Treasure Map #16.
- You get a Piece of Heart on Horseshoe Island instead of Treasure Map #28.
- You only get a Golden Feather on the Platform near the Southern Fairy Island instead of Treasure Map #40.
- You get 100 Rupees from the guy at the bench for decorating Windfall instead of one Piece of Heart. (You need to spend at least 140 Rupees for the decoration...)
- You get Rupees from the chest that appears after lighting the Lighthouse at Windfall instead of a Piece of Heart.
- The Tingle Pot at Outset Island gives you 20 Rupees instead of 100.
- In other places Rupees are missing, mostly the pots near Triforce Chart locations.
- There's no IN-Credible Chart (it was added because the Triforce Quest was too hard without it).

The Treasure Maps #3, #16, #28 and #40 all lead to 200 Rupees each in the US/EU versions. So, that's 800 Rupees less to have in the Japanese version. And overall the Japanese version is really trolling you in many occasions.

Replaying The Wind Waker

We're currently celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda Franchise and one way to celebrate is replaying some of the Zelda games. In the last months I've replayed Spirit Tracks, A Link to the Past and Ancient Stone Tablets, as well as Twilight Princess and Link's Crossbow Training. Some of these games were definitely some odd choices, but I had my reasons, which is also true for the The Wind Waker...

At first I was thinking about replaying either Link's Awakening or Ocarina of Time – Master Quest. However, both games are going to reappear on the Nintendo 3DS and I will play them on this system sooner or later. Then I thought about replaying The Hyrule Fantasy, but I just played that last fall. Majora's Mask would have been another nice candidate, but I already replayed it when it appeared on the Virtual Console in 2009 and I'm expecting a 3DS version of this game as well.

So, you see, The Wind Waker wasn't really my first choice, the game has a terrible replay value save for the 2nd Quest, where you complete your figurine collection and where you get nice extras. But after the 2nd Quest I was done with this game, I played the 2nd Quest in 2005 and I never played through the game again after that. I revisited the save file from time to time to catch some of the game's atmosphere, I also played the demo in the Collector's Edition just for fun, but replaying the full game was never an option for me.

The game is just so sloooooooow. And with that I don't just mean the sea travelling. Actually for some odd reason I always enjoyed the sea travelling itself, but all the other things in the game are made in a way, that they will always slow you down. And as someone who is used to playing fast paced games like Unreal Tournament, The Wind Waker felt especially slow.

It's not the overall gameplay, it's how a lot of things are handled. For example the Grappling Hook: normally it would be just shoot and swing, Metroid Prime style, but it's not that simple. After you threw your Grappling Hook at a grappling post the game shows you a lengthy and dramatic cut scene of how the Grappling Hook gets attached to the grappling post. And most times after that the Grappling Hook is latched differently than you aimed at the post, which is inconvenient, because now you have to stop swinging in order to re-align. In other Zelda games you shoot your Hookshot and "boom" - you're on the other side of the gap. Well, The Wind Waker also has a nice Hookshot, but not until later in the game...

And the Grappling Hook is just an example, everything in the game is just trying to slow you down in similar fashion., like for example salvaging treasures. Those treasures are just a distraction from your previous goal to begin with, but in other Zelda games you open a treasure chest and you go on. Here you have to stop your boat at the right point, hope that you got the right spot, let your Grappling Hook sink, watch another cutscene how Link slowly opens the treasure chest and get ... 20 rupees. Yay, those were definitely worth your time! Ironically the fights in this game are some of the fastest in the series, especially when you're surrounded by tons of enemies, that's usually fast action and tons of fun. But most of the other stuff is slow.

If I replay a game, I always go for the 100%, but The Wind Waker is one pain in the ass to get a 100% again. The biggest turn off are all the "side quests" on the ocean. Travelling the oceans of The Wind Waker is never as simple as going from A to B, there are always many distractions on your way. "Well, let's look out for the Fishman first, so he can draw me a chart of the next island. Wait, there's a Platform out there, let's conquer this first before I visit the island... oh, wait, there's a Light Ring out there indicating a treasure. Oh, wait there's another one..." – this is how the game rolls for a looooong time.

And while it's nice that there's so much stuff on the ocean, it's extremely boring stuff. None of this is exciting, the Platforms get boring fast and salvaging treasures is slow. Or there are these terrible dice shaped "Eyed Reef" islands – who thought that something like that would be fun? Most smaller islands look the same and don't offer much to do. Clearing the ocean of The Wind Waker is just a long series of repetitive stuff and a very tedious tasks. It just isn't fun.

And it's hard to keep track of things, especially the uncharted treasures. I wonder if there's a map which really covers the Great Sea in detail, showing the exact positions of all islands, the Platforms, Submarines, Big Octos, enemies, all Light Rings and so on? That would be handy. I'm always taking notes, where I conquered Platforms, found Blue ChuChus and so on, on a small minimap, but a large detailed map would be a huge help. (Update: Found some stuff on GameFAQs.)

But overall it's boring, because it's completely lacking in variety. It's common knowledge that Nintendo prematurely ended the development of the game and that some parts just couldn't be finished in time. But the ocean just feels like they took the few things, which they've made, and copy pasted them all over the place. Pirate Platforms, Submarines, similar shaped islands, sunken treasures, cyclons, all of this gets old fast.

However, the question remains, why I decided to replay this game, when it's so not fun to replay. Well, there was always something I wanted to try with this game, namely getting a complete Minintendo Figurine collection during a 1st Quest. Usually you'll play through the game once, where you miss at least some of the figurines, but then you'll play the 2nd Quest, where you start with the Deluxe Pictograph Box from the beginning and all your figurines from your 1st Quest save file. But I always claimed, that it's entirely possible to complete your collection during your first run and I wanted to prove this to myself by trying it myself. Well, the following shots and their resulting figurines are permanently missable:
  • Big Octo
  • Helmaroc King
  • Knuckle
  • Kogoli
  • Phantom Ganon
  • Puppet Ganon
  • Tetra
  • Wizzrobe King
  • Zephos & Cyclos

The Big Octos and Phantom Ganons appear multiple times during the game, so they are no big deal. Kogoli (one random Rito that just disappears later in the game) must be gotten before you play the Earth God's Lyrics to Medli. Knuckle (the Tingle Brother that only appears after a Tingle Tuner side quest) must be gotten before you get all other figurines. And during some of the bosses you'll have to save & quit during the fights to get them.

However, this doesn't work for the Helmaroc King. If you snap him and try to quit, you'll start at the beginning of the fight, where the tower is flooding. This makes the Helmaroc King and Tetra the most critical shots. Remember that you don't have the camera at the beginning of the game, so your only chance to snap Tetra is at Hyrule Castle after fighting the Helmaroc King. So, you have to beat the Helmaroc King, go through all the cutscenes, take a shot of Tetra at Hyrule Castle, go through some more cutscenes and all without saving. Then you'll need to go to Forest Haven and if Carlov wants to be a bitch rejecting one of your Pictographs, you'll have to reset and start all over again at the beginning of the Helmaroc King fight, watch all the cutscenes again, etc. It makes the quitable cutscenes in Twilight Princess look like one of the greatest inventions for the Zelda franchise in the last years.

However, if you go through all that, you'll have a perfect first save file. If you now start a 2nd Quest from this save file, you'll start with a complete figurine collection from the beginning, so you'll never have to take any pictographs again. It's like in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, where you carry over your scans. If you get a complete log book there, you'll never have to worry about scanning anything ever again on your replays. But getting a complete Minintendo Figurine collection is a much longer task than the scanning in the Metroid Prime games, where it's definitely one of the longest collectible quests in the Zelda series.

It's also part of the "slow you down" thing that this game likes to do. You can't just snap something and that's it, like basically in Metroid Prime. You can take three photos, bring them to Carlov, show him the first one, pray to Din that he doesn't reject it, then skip to the next day (fortunately you can skip through time, imagine this side quest in Twilight Princess, where you can't) and then you'll get the figurine and you can show him the next photo. And this you'll to do for more than a hundred snapshots. It's quite a task. So, having an original save file with a finished collection like described above is definitely nice and adds to the replay value.

However, having this save file now doesn't do me anything good, since I probably will never replay the GameCube version again. I might be playing the game another time, when it gets a re-release for Project Café or whatever and then I'll have to do this all over again. But collecting the figurines actually isn't so bad as I made it sound. Most characters are all cumulated in the same places, so the whole thing went down faster than expected. The only real problem are the missable figurines. And other sidequests in this game, like exploring the ocean, can be more boring.

Some interesting/stupid sidenotes:

  • The spiral rock at Great Fish Isle totally reminded me of a similar rock next to the Snow Peak Mansion in Twilight Princess. Probably recycled, wouldn't be the only thing.
  • Salvatore's Battleship minigame actually gives you THREE items, a Piece of Heart and two Treasure Charts. It's a nice minigame, so I don't complain, but the auction does the same. What's up with that?
  • On the other hand there are lots of places, where'd you expect to get something of worth, but you only get rupees. Like the crazy grotto on Shark Island or the cruising minigame. What's up with that? That's quite some imbalanced item distribution.
  • And why do I have to hit Orca like ten thousand times until he gives me the Piece of Heart? What's up with that? You would think that I've proven that I know the drill after one hundred blows.

But it's not all bad. Far from it. The game has a lot to go for it. The style is sweet, enemy design and behavior are great, the music is superb and the atmosphere is very atmospheric. While the smaller islands might be boring, the bigger ones are really well designed. Forsaken Fortress is simply one of the most impressive and atmospheric environments ever made in any Zelda game. Windfall is also my favorite town in the Zelda series next to Clocktown. I like how the houses are intertwined, walking alone through this port town is already fun. There's lots to do and the atmosphere again is great. I love how the windmill makes sounds at night, ahhh, good times.

Another nice thing worth mentioning are the spoils. Collecting spoils is fun, it makes fighting enemies really worth it. Sometimes I specifically go after certain enemies, because I want the spoils. And stealing the spoils from the enemies with the Grappling Hook is fun. The Spoils are great and much, much better than the treasure system, which they had invented for the Nintendo DS Zelda games, because the spoils are not random. When I want a certain item I just fight the enemies, who have it. Combining the spoils with the treasure system from Spirit Tracks, where you can buy something like train cars from the spoils, would be great. No randomized bullshit, but fighting enemies!

So, that's it for my replay report of The Wind Waker. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ocarina of Time 3D Boss Challenge, Super Guide, Mirrored Master Quest and even more Screenshots

Man, it's hard to keep up with all those Ocarina of Time 3D news lately. Well, let's start with some interesting screenshots of Hyrule Castle and Castle Town:

Looking good. Well, I'm disappointed that the camera is still fixed - who wouldn't like to freely explore Hyrule Castle Town? If there's one thing they should have changed from the original, it would have been this. But they did a nice job with the remodelling of certain buildings, like the mask shop. Find more screenshots at Zelda Informer.

Those screen shots come from a press release by Nintendo of Europe. It also gave away some more information. There will be a Boss Challenge mode, where you can replay certain bosses or chose to fight them in circles. Fans always wanted something like this, so I guess either GREZZO or Nintendo were listening.

And there's Super Guide. Yes, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will be the first Zelda game implementing the Super Guide. The game will show videos of how to solve certain puzzles. Lame, but I don't care.

However, there's one strange addition. In Master Quest the game will be mirrored. Like the Wii version of Twilight Princess. Seriously...? Okay, to be honest, actually I saw something like that coming. While complaining about the mirrored Wii version of Twilight Princess in earlier blog articles, I noticed how Nintendo was actually proud of that idea (from an Iwata Ask interview) and I feared that a Mirror Mode will become a normal addition to later 3D Zelda games. A Mirror Mode is a very, very simple addition to a game, that can change your gameplay experience entirely. May it be in Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country Returns or now in Zelda. Just flip the graphics and you'll get a new game mode. It's just interesting that they are fucking Master Quest up with this idea. The original Master Quest wasn't mirrored, it was just crazy. So, what if I want to play Master Quest in the way it was supposed to be? It would have been better, if the Mirror Mode was a separate option. So, you could play either the normal game or Master Quest and then select whether you want to play in Mirror Mode or not. That would be four different play styles. But I understand why they wanted to mirror Master Quest. Mainly because it only changes the dungeons, not the overworld. Half of the game was the same thing. So, now there literally would be a twist to the overworld as well, a new experience all the time. And it fits the idea of Master Quest quite well. The dungeons in Master Quest and their puzzles were designed in a way, that they screw you if you try to solve them in a similar way to the original game. You could say, the better you know Ocarina of Time, the trickier Master Quest can get. And the mirroring just adds to this concept, the better you know Ocarina of Time's Hyrule, the more confusing the mirrorred world might be. I guess, it could be interesting and definitely challenging for me. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. And I call it now, that Skyward Sword will have a Mirror Mode (for the lefties) as well.

Like always no news about any actual new content, like a bonus dungeon. I'm a broken record when it comes to this, this game needs something NEW. Mirrored Master Quest, Boss Challenge, Super Guide, updated graphics - all of them are nice additions, but no real new content. Link's Awakening DX did have new content (bonus dungeon, photo quest), A Link to the Past: Four Swords did have new content (bonus dungeon, riddle quest, an entire freaking multiplayer game) and Ocarina 3D is next in the line of remastered Zelda games. Why not follow the past trends and add for example a bonus dungeon to the game? But by now it really looks unlikely, unless they saved the big surprise for E3 2011.

Source: Zelda Informer again

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ocarina of Time 3D Ocarina Use, 2nd Quest and Stone of Agony

Check out this hands-on report from GameXplain. At first the talk only about the updated graphics, blah blah blah, but then they drop some interesting details.

At first there's the Ocarina, which isn't a normal item, which has to be assigned to a button, anymore. Instead it always uses the touchscreen button in the lower left corner (seen that on screenshots). The nice addition is, while playing the Ocarina the touchscreen displays your song list. That's handy. When I haven't played Ocarina of Time (or Majora's Mask) for a while I usually have the problem, that I don't remember how the songs went. Then I have to stop playing, open the menu, look up the song, try to remember it, return ingame and then finally play it or look it up again. But not anymoooore, yay. Well, I guess that's just one of the many benefits of having two screens. Like the boot swapping and so on.

The Stone of Agony is still in the game. But instead of using rumble, it tells you the location of hidden secrets with sounds. I'm actually quite interested in this, because I never used the Stone of Agony before. I didn't have the Rumble Pack for the Nintendo 64 (it was huuuuge), I turned off the Rumble in the GameCube version (because it created some lack and back then I didn't like rumble effects) and the Virtual Console didn't support it. So, I don't really know, when the Stony of Agony tells you anything. But I guess it's good for the secret grottos (especially the ones that are opened with the Song of Storms - how can you tell?) ...

Last but not least, Master Quest is unlocked by beating the game once, like the 2nd Quest in Zelda I. That's cool, I wonder if you can also start a Master Quest by using ZELDA as your name. That would be a nice touch. However, how GameXplain can call this a "minor addition" beats me, Master Quest rocks.

Besides all the known updates everything in the game itself, sounds and music are identical to the original. So, GameXplain calls this actually a "remastered version" and not a remake. Thank you! But again no infos about any new content.

Source: GameXplain (via Zelda Informer)

Ocarina of Time 3D April Screenshot Mayhem

Tons of new Ocarina of Time 3D screenshots were released this week. I won't post them here, you can view them all at Zelda Informer or any other Zelda site. Some look great, others aren't too impressive. Check out andriasang for some comparisons, some screenshots don't look all that different from the original. Some look even worse, especially the one where young Link draws the Master Sword. What's up with the textures there?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ocarina of Time 3D Japanese Teaser Site

News, news, news. To make it short, Nintendo of Japan opened a teaser site for Ocarina of Time 3D. It's no big deal, but just look at the beautiful artwork. It's fucking amazing and even has some pseudo 3D effects on the site (doesn't work on all browsers though). It's simply magical, they could have used that for the boxart. On the downside, the site doesn't offer any new infos yet except for the Japanese release date, June 16th, which is one day before Europe gets the game. Still it's such a shiny site.

Source: Zelda Informer

Enter Grezzo

So far we believed that Nintendo EAD3 was working on the Ocarina of Time remake for the Nintendo 3DS. And while Aonuma and Miyamoto definitely supervised the project, the work was done by another company called Grezzo. At least according to this sheet from Nintendo of Australia:

Okay, so that's why the game looks so good. And it's no big deal either, since Nintendo has outsourced Zelda games before, like the four Zelda games created by Capcom's studio Flagship. Or the Tingle spinoff games made by Vanpool. Of course you can't compare the infamous Ocarina of Time to the Tingle games. But you can't do much wrong with a faithful remake and placing such a remake in the hands of a small but motivated studio is actually a clever choice. It's not only that Nintendo saves their own resources, so they can focus on Skyward Sword, it's the perfect opportunity for the studio to get a name. And they won't do anything to hurt this classic or disappoint the fan base. I wasn't kidding when I said, this might be the reason why the remake looks so promising, in fact things like the added Master Quest or the potential new content might be the result of a small and young studio putting all their energy into this project. So, enter Grezzo.

Well, Grezzo is a relatively new studio, so you probably haven't heard of them before. They only released one WiiWare game called Line Attack Heroes in Japan. But their CEO, Koichi Ishii, was responsible for some of the Mana games in his career, games which are quite close to Zelda. In fact I replayed/reviewed one of the Mana games here on my blog, Mystic Quest.

And if this remake turns out to be good and successful, I already know, what Grezzo's next game will be. Majora's Mask 3D is waiting.

Source: Siliconera (via Zelda Informer)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Play Zelda Game & Watch Online

If you ever wanted to play the Zelda Game & Watch game, now is your chance. There's this site which devoted itself to accurately reconstruct old LCD games online with the help of some flash. It's a very cool project and their recent addition definitely should gain some attention. Because it's ZELDA. Yeah, you can play this Game & Watch classic online right now, if you want to. And I suggest you really play it right now, because I'm not sure if this is exactly legal. Nintendo produced the Nintendo Mini Classics remakes and the game was part of the Game & Watch Gallery 4, so the "this game is hard to get nowadays"-argument doesn't exactly count. And they released some Game & Watch games for DSiWare at some point, which they will hopefully continue on the new 3DS Virtual Console.

However, the effort, which was put into the Pica Pic project, is amazing. It feels so much like the real deal. I already own the Nintendo Mini Classic version of this game, but playing this in high resolution on my computer is much better. It even feels like it's a littler easier. The game itself is no big deal, just some Zelda II style action, you dodge and block attacks from the enemies and try to kill the Moblin to the right to clear the room. Then you proceed to the next room, where the process repeats itself. Until you get to the boss, which is a giant Dragon, that can be beaten with a tomahawk item. Something the Zelda series never has seen outside of this game.

I hope they'll also remake the Zelda Game Watch. That one had a top down perspective and Aquamentus as a boss. And I never played that one, so I would be really curious. And keep looking for my highscores! ^^

Source: Zelda Power (via Zelda Informer)

Ocarina of Time 3D Release Date & US Boxart

Nintendo released a press release today giving us the release date for Ocarina of Time 3D. It's June 17th here in Europe and June 19th for North America. That's basically just two months from now. And there's the not too shabby looking looking boxart as shown above. I was first wondering about the harp in the upper-right and lower-left corners, since Skyward Sword will feature a harp, but that's probably just Shiek's harp. Well, here's what the press release has to say about Ocarina of Time 3D:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D brings a completely re-mastered version of an epic entry in the beloved The Legend of Zelda game series to Nintendo's newest hand-held system, Nintendo 3DS. The game couples phenomenally enhanced graphics with stunning, glasses-free 3D visuals to bring to life the daring adventures of its hero, Link™. A streamlined touch-screen interface and newly implemented motion controls provide a fresh and intuitive feel as players immerse themselves in the tale of the creation of Hyrule and the struggle for control of its all-powerful ancient relic. The game will also feature new challenges not included in the original game. The Legend of Zelda veterans can look forward to the Master Quest – a second quest with revamped puzzles and redesigned dungeons that feature the same graphical and interface upgrades as the main game. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a masterful improvement on one of the landmark releases in video game history.

So, again Master Quest confirmed. And there's talk about "new challenges", I hope they don't simply mean Master Quest with that, because that wouldn't be a new challenge. And the ESRB rating of the game is 10+, because of "Animated Blood", "Fantasy Violence" and "Suggestive Themes". Nice to know the blood effects stayed, even though it's probably just the green effects.

On a side note, in the press released Wii Play Motion was announced. That's special, because it's Nintendo's first MotionPlus game since WiiSports Resort. So, Skyward Sword doesn't have all the weight on its shoulders when it comes to delivering some MotionPlus experience.

Source: Zelda Informer

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns was already released in December and normally I get Nintento blockbuster titles at day one, however I hesitated with this game for two reasons. On the one hand I never really was a Jump'n'Run gamer to begin with, played the Super Mario Land games on the GameBoy and then never touched a Jump'n'Run game until New Super Mario Bros. Wii - a game I got primarily for the multiplayer. Then I played the Mario Galaxy games, which were really good, but when DKCR came out I just wasn't in the mood for Jump'n'Runs. And on the other hand I never really played the original Donkey Kong Country games. I tried them, but never started to like them. Yeah, yeah, shame on me. But because of all this I was uncertain whether I should get this game or not. But the fact that Retro made this game, a game studio that made the Metroid Prime Trilogy, three of my favorite games in the last years, certainly made me curious. And then there was a "buy 3 games get one for free" deal at our local media store, so I just couldn't resist anymore. And I don't regret it, this game is a blast.

This game has to compete with two other ones. These are the original Donkey Kong Country games on the one side and New SMB Wii on the other. I guess most people bought this game, because they liked the original games or because they thought they will get something similar to the very popular New SMB Wii. However, when you expect a faithful addition to the original games combined with New SMB Wii style multiplayer Donkey Kong Country Returns doesn't deliver so well. Fans of the originals express their disappointment about how the game lacks certain aspects of the classic DKC games like some characters or the realistic visuals. And the multiplayer certainly isn't as great as in New SMB Wii. But is DKCR a bad game because of this? Hell no, this is one real fun and solid platformer in it's own way.

The game doesn't have as many levels as New SMB Wii, but you'll play through all the levels many times. Unlike in New SMB Wii, where you'll play a level once and never touch it again. Maybe twice if you missed one of the coins or if there's a secret exit. But not in DKCR, there's many stuff to do with each level, which will motivate you to play all the level many times. And this without getting boring. Well, one of the first things to do in each level are the four KONG letters. They are pretty similar to the coins in New SMB Wii, but you'll have to get all four of them in one run without dying, though checkpoints count. You'll probably remember them from the SNES DKC games, however this time they are of more use than an extra life. Collecting all KONG letters in each level of a world opens the temple level (or K-level) in this world and those are really hard. Finishing all K-levels opens a crazy final level, where you can unlock the Mirror Mode. But getting all the KONG letters normally isn't a hard task, because they are alway in plain sight unlike the hidden puzzle pieces. I really like the puzzle pieces. You keep them even if you die, you just then have to complete the level to get them. And looking for them is real fun for me, it's an element from the Metroid games which Retro included here. You have to look in every little corner, can't leave a stone standing while looking for them. Collecting puzzle pieces unlocks stuff in the gallery, another nice feature Retro took from the Metroid Prime games.

Next to collecting stuff in a level there are two other disciplines: Speedruns and Mirror Mode. Most levels were designed in a way, that you can quickly speedrun through them, if you know the level really well and if your timing is perfect. Bouncing off enemies and the sorts. You'll notice this in some of the harder levels, where you die many times and repeat some of sections as often. You'll get better and better, faster and faster. However, you don't have to speedrun if you don't want to. You can earn four different medals for each level (bronze, silver, gold, platinum), but there's nothing else to unlock from speedruns. So, if you don't like speedruns, you won't have to do them. Mirror Mode is the hardcore mode of this game. It's not only that the levels are mirrored. In fact this is not even a big deal. I already told you how confusing the mirroring of Twilight Princess was for me and sometimes I have trouble with the mirror courses in Mario Kart, but in DKCR it was never a problem. However, in addition to the mirroring you won't get to use Diddy Kong and you can't get hit, it's one mistake and you're dead. In some levels this doesn't really make a difference, for example the mine cart or rocket barrel levels, in others this is a huge deal. Especially some of the bosses. So, beating the Mirror Mode can be quite a challenge and I haven't even done it yet myself.

Retro tried to make each level unique in some way. And some ideas are pretty cool, for example there is a level with a Kraken in the background, which destroy parts of the level or tries to attack you. Or in one level you're hunted by men eating killer ants, I hate that level. :D However, even if each level has something unique to it, some gameplay ideas are repeated to often and it feels like the game is lacking in variety. Especially the mine cart and rocket barrel levels, there are just too many of them and it gets annoying at one point. On the other side there are only three of those really awesome sundown background black foreground levels, they really look awesome. And you'll only get to use Rambi four times in the game, some more animal buddies would have been nice and added more to the variety. The worst thing, however, are the "collect 'em all"-minigame rooms, they get repetitive, boring and annoying. But you get a puzzle piece from each one of them, so you'll have to do them.

The difficulty level of this game is a good topic. This game has great difficulty level, it's really challenging, you'll die many, many time, but it never gets frustrating and you won't loose motivation so easily. In some levels I died about 30 to 50 times, especially the temple levels were really hard. In other games, when the difficulty level is too high, I get easily frustrated and ragequit. However, never in this games. The one thing is, the game is never unfair. Well, actually some levels can't be possibly beaten in your first run, because you have to know what's coming. But you'll always get a little further, you'll get a little bit better. You really have to study some of the levels, die many times doing so, but you get better and beat them at one point. It's this progress that keeps your motivation up, "on the next try I'll do it!". And before you know, you became so good at a level, that you could beat it blindfolded without getting hit (very good for Mirror Mode). What also adds to the motivation are the collectibles. "I have all those puzzle pieces, I just have to beat the level now, so let's keep going." Especially in the temple levels this was a factor for me, otherwise I probably would have lost my motivation and quit some of these levels early.

And in case you really struggle with this game, there's always Cranky Kong's shop, which really helps you. You can buy lives here for the coins, which you collect in the levels, there are enough of them to easily stock up 99 lives. In New SMB Wii I would play the first level over and over again until I got enough lives. But no need for grinding here. And then there are three other items, which you can equip for a level, Squawk the parrot, the extra heart and banana juice. Squawk helps you finding puzzle pieces by squawking at an area, where a secret is hidden. I normally wouldn't use something like that, but in longer and harder levels, where you only miss one puzzle piece, this can be a help. And the Squawk doesn't spoil how to get the puzzle piece, he just tells you an estimated area. The extra heart might feel useless at first, but becomes very handy in later levels. The banana juice works like 10 extra hearts, it's only good for boss battles though, because once you die you'll lose it. Also, the shop offers a key for each world, which unlocks a new area in this world.

Controls are okay. Shaking the Wiimote for certain actions was already used in the Mario Wii games, so I'm used to that. Only blowing stuff felt out of place. And the timing for bouncing off enemies by pressing A at the right moment felt sometimes very harsh. I don't know how many times I died just because I didn't really bounce of an enemy...

There is multiplayer, where you can play with someone else. However, like I said already it's no match to New SMB Wii. For playing DKCR I invited a buddy, with whom I played through New SMB Wii two times already, so we're a good team in this. But playing DKCR just felt terrible. To begin with as the main player you'll lose Diddy Kong, who is essentially a power up, which gives you two more hearts and floating ability. This is gone in multiplayer and you have to get used to it, if you haven't played without Diddy Kong yet. And there are just too many collectibles for multiplayer. I want all those puzzle pieces and KONG letters, the second player though does not, because he doesn't get anything for it. So, while the second player just wants to proceed through the level, I had to call him back, because I wanted to investigate a secret. "No, come back, come back, there might be something hidden here!!" - "Uhh, who cares?" With the coins in New SMB Wii this wasn't a problem, there were only three of them in each level and hunting them was fun. Also, it unlocked new levels. But all the stuff here is just too much for multiplayer. Don't get me wrong, I love all those collectibles and secrets, I'm a Zelda and Metroid fan after all, but it just doesn't suit the multiplayer. And most important there are many levels, where the second player is of no use at all. Mainly the mine cart and rocket barrel levels. The only difference is, that you will lose two lives instead of one each time you crash. Not fun. So, if you're looking for another game like New SMB Wii, you'll probably be disappointed with Donkey Kong Country Returns. This game is meant to be played alone.

And then there are the fans of the original Donkey Kong Country games expressing their disappointment with the newest installment. "It doesn't have the dark, realistic looks!", "Where are the Kremlings?" and so on. However, since I didn't really play those games, I couldn't care less about this. This game is really good as it as. And I like the Tiki as an enemy, especially their music (final boss was awesome). Talking about music, like mentioned in a previous post the soundtrack was made by Mr. Kenji Yamamoto, known for his soundtrack of the Metroid Prime Trilogy. He's really good at catching old tunes and mixing them with fresh tunes. The soundtrack of this game is great and already on my MP3 player.

There you go. Save for the multiplayer and some repetitive level ideas I would say that Donkey Kong Country Returns is a great platformer, probably the best Wii exclusive game of the last year. I had tons of fun with this game, in fact I'm still having fun, because I'm not done yet with Mirror Mode and speedruns. There's a lot to do, a lot to discover and collect, a lot to unlock, the difficulty is great, very hard, but never frustrating and you'll keep up motivation. Retro Studios has proven with this game, that they are indeed Nintendo's new ace in the hole after Rare. I can't wait to see what Retro'll do next, a "Donkey Kong Country Returns Again" was disclaimed for the moment. I really hope that they'll make a Zelda game at one point in the future, because this could turn out to be the freshest and most exciting Zelda game in years.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Donkey Kong Country Returns German Review

Review in German at my forums. I'm gonna translate this later for this blog, so this is just a filler.