Saturday, July 30, 2011

Replaying Oracle of Seasons

After replaying Oracle of Ages I linked the game to Seasons and continued my quest.

Overall I thought that Seasons was more fun than Ages. The story of Ages is definitely more developed and Ages has the better puzzles, while Seasons on the other hand is more straight forward and action-oriented. However, what I don't like about Ages is the overworld, while it's more realistic and consistent than the very colorful overworld in Seasons, it's just too empty, especially in the past. I mean there are actually screens with nothing but water on it, what's up with that? Couldn't they add at least some islands or something? A third of the overworld is ocean and the ocean area is just boring. Also travelling isn't much fun, because certain areas like Talus Mountain and require you to switch between present and past all the time, which gets annoying easily. Switching between different seasons on the other hand is fun. And Subrosia is one of the most unique and fun "overworlds" in the entire Zelda series, I just love this place. I'd also say that the dungeons in Seasons offer more variety and are more entertaining.

And Seasons has definitely the better gear. No, really, Seasons got all the good shit like Roc's Cape, Magnetic Gloves, Magical Boomerang or the Hyper Slingshot. You also get items more quickly in this game. A good example are the seeds, you just pick them up on your way and got most of them before the third dungeon, while in Ages at the same point you need to plant a tree and let it grow in order to get the Scent Seeds.

The best way to describe this game would be a mix between Link's Awakening and The Hyrule Fantasy. Because that's what it is. Originally Capcom was working on a remake of the classic NES The Legend of Zelda using the engine of Link's Awakening. At some point they added the seasons theme and the game would then become Oracle of Seasons. But the remake is still in there, the most notable part being the first dungeon. Same entrance, same layout, Aquamentus as a boss, it doesn't get more remake than that. The second dungeon, Snake's Remains, was also quite inspired by the 2nd level in TLoZ. All the bosses are there, you get Dodongo, Digdogger, Manhandla, Gohma, Gleeock and even Ganon when you're playing a linked game. And there are old men living in hidden caves under burnable trees and in some dungeon rooms, this is the only other Zelda game to do this next to the NES original and the one occurrence in Oracle of Ages, which I've mentioned in my last post.

Originally I planned to get all the items and upgrades from the linked quests (like Biggoron Sword, Bombchus, L-3 Sword & Shield, etc.) as soon as beating Level 2, but I forget to write down the random seed for my Hero's Quest and so I had to do it the traditional way. However, with an emulator using quick saves switching between games is much faster and easier than back then on the GameBoy Color.

I also screwed up the growth of Bipin and Blossom's child. I wanted to get the singer/musician this time, because I never had that one. I got the Slacker, the Arborist and the Hero on my GBC cartridges, so it would have been nice to see the fourth possible outcome. Well, maybe next time. In case you want to know what I got this time, it's a Hero.

One major complaint about both games is that getting all Pieces of Heart is way too easy. And I'm only comparing this with Link's Awakening, there you would have to check every wall in every cave if it's bombable or not and one Piece of Heart was even sunken in the ditch of Kanalet Castle. And some of the Secret Seashells are also very cleverly hidden, so in Link's Awakening you literally can't leave a single stone unturned, you have to check every wall, dive in every pool and dig through the whole island. And this is totally missing in Oracle of Seasons and Ages. As a big fan of Link's Awakening I was used to checking absolutely everything, but in both games I only got disappointed all the time. There's nothing really hidden anywhere except for some of the Gasha spots and all the supposed to be hidden stuff is way too easy to find. The only hard to get collectible items are the ones gotten randomly from Maple or Gasha Nuts... but this is not challenging in terms of exploring, it only exhausts your patience. It's not as terrible as getting enough treasures in Spirit Tracks, but it's an issue. Since I already got all 64 rings I only needed to look for the random Pieces of Heart during my replay, it's still annoying though.

As a sidenote, why is there no warp point in the Mt. Cucco / Goron Mountain area? It really sucks that you need to get up there from the Sunken Village, where you have to take an underwater path each time. (Update: There's another way up there from the Subrosia portal in Horon Village, which leads to the pirates' hideout. From there you can quickly reach another portal, which leads to Mt. Cucco.)

I really like the Golden Beasts. That's a really cool idea, which was sadly only copied by The Minish Cap so far. And The Minish Cap doesn't have as cool stuff as Golden Moblins, Darknuts or Lynels. I think Golden Monsters are a concept that has some potential.

I also made an exciting new discovery while playing the game. I never tried that before, but it's actually possible to beat Level 5 before 4. You need the Zora's Flippers for the dungeon, but not the Slingshot. As soon as you're done with the Sunken City, you can head there and play Level 5 first if you like. Or at least you can the Autumn and Spring upgrades at the same time and gain many advantages from that.

One of the main reasons why I decided to play Ages first and then link to Seasons was the Hero's Cave. I thought the one in Seasons was much cooler, however, this time around it felt like no challenge at all. Only the Boomerang puzzles would take some attempts and when I reached the end of the dungeon I asked myself, "that's it"? Well, the Hero's Cave in Ages at least has this nasty room with the colored cube and the lava, where you need to freeze the lava with the lever and quickly move the cube. If you fall into the lava, you get teleported out of the room and you have to start over again. I hated that room. Well, but there's an interesting fact for all those timeline theory gurus out there who only play the games for the story details. There's a friendly Sea Zora waiting for you in the Hero's Cave in Oracle of Seasons. Otherwise the game only features hostile River Zoras. See screenshot below.

I wonder how timeline theorists handle the fact, that there are four possible ways to get the Master Sword in the Oracle games. And in one case the sword is even fucking broken! I guess the timeline theorist's favorite case is the one where you find the Master Sword hidden in the Lost Woods of Holodrum:

That's more like it.

Well, replaying the Oracle games was quite cool. Both games really offer quite some replay value thanks to all the different choices you can make. The most important choice is the game that starts your adventure. Depending on that decision one dungeon (the Hero's Cave) and all the linked game events will look completely different leading to a different experience and different items. Your next choice is your animal buddy, there are three options here and it's not just what animal you would prefer, one entire area in the game will look different (see my post about the animal buddies for more info). Last and least there's Bipin and Blossom's son with four possible outcomes. So, you can replay both games at least four times and there's still something new for you to discover.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Replaying Oracle of Ages

Well, after watching some Four Swords sessions (man, this game really looks like fun) I was in the mood for some more GameBoy Zelda. And since I've already beaten Link's Awakening and The Minish Cap this year, only the Oracle games were left. And the Oracle games are celebrating their 10th birthday this year, which is definitely a great reason to replay them. Actually I wanted to wait until the games appear on the 3DS Virtual Console, but this might take a while. So, I decided to play them on emulator, which has always the advantage that you can quick save and take screenshots. And I don't want to use my original GBC copies of the games, because they are "full" and I don't want to delete any of my old savegames.

I decided to start with Ages and link to Seasons. There are some reasons why I prefer this order. First of all, if you play Ages first, you'll get this super awesome Link statue:

Actually there's two of them. The second one stands next to the Maku Tree. Another reason is the Hero's Cave. I think the Hero's Cave in Seasons is much more fun and enjoyable than the one in Ages. The Hero's Cave in Ages has one of the nastiest traps in the entire series and I didn't feel like playing this again. Also, when fighting Twinrova you have a greater advantage with the Hyper Slingshot and Roc's Cape.

Well, I did use the Oracles Secrets Generator to start a Hero's Quest for an extra Heart Container and instant 64 rings. You might call this cheating, but I've earned this. Back when the games were originally released on the GameBoy Color I played the hell out of them. I played the games in all possible ways and I got all 64 rings along the way, which was a lot of work. The Hero's Secret, which you unlock by beating Ganon, gives you the main advantage, that you can start a new game and copy all your old rings right from the start. This saves a lot of time. Well, I still go for the rings hidden in treasure chests and other fixed locations just for the sake of beating all sidequests, but you don't have to worry about the randomly gotten rings anymore, the ones you get from Gasha Seeds or minigames. Especially the Goron Dance can be a pain in the ass, so I'm very happy that I won't have to do this ever again (except for the Mermaid Key).

My animal of choise was Ricky of course. For reasons check here.

There's this popular misbelief, that there were originally three Oracle games and Flagship scrapped one. And then some Zelda fans wonder what happened to the content of the third game. And while it's true, that three and at some point even six games were planned, Flagship never made three games. For most of the time there was only one game, a prototype. It all started as a remake of the classic NES game The Legend of Zelda using the engine of Link's Awakening. At some point they added the idea of changing seasons and this game would later become Oracle of Seasons. And this prototype was all they had for most of the time, "The Mystical Seed of Courage and Wisdom" were only games on the paper. Wisdom was supposed to feature color puzzles and Courage was said to have different times of a day, morning, noon, evening, night. However, they realized early enough that the link system was too complicated for three games, so they only made two in the end. So, don't worry, I bet every content ever made by Flagship was actually included in the Oracle games. Nothing was scrapped.

In the end Ages got a time travelling theme, but it still features a lot of color puzzles. For example the rooms with the blobs who change their color according to the color of the floor. Or the those blue tiles that get red when you walk on them. I blamed The Minish Cap for featuring dumbed down versions of this puzzle, so it was nice to actually have a little challenge in Ages again. Usually you would say, that puzzles have no replay value (typical Malstrom rand). Once you know the solution, a puzzle is boring. However, this is not the case in Ages, this game has some really smart puzzles, which will get you to think again, even though you've already beaten the game a couple of times. May it be the blue floor tiles or navigating Jabu Jabu's Belly, this game has some of the best puzzles in the series. But the fact, that this game features many color based puzzles is interesting. It's like they started to make the planned color puzzle game (which was supposed to feature Nayru), but at some point it became Ages.

It's also strange how around Level 6 the game suddenly feels a lot like The Hyrule Fantasy. It starts with an old man living under a tree at the base of the Rolling Ridge. I like the gag, how the old man in the presents charges you for door repairs and the old man in the past gives you money. Well, old men used to be much nicer back in the day. And in the Mermaid's Cave there's suddenly an overload of classic NES Zelda dungeon enemies, something you've never encountered before in Ages. There are suddenly Floor Masters, Red Bubbles and Blue Wizzrobes (the ones going through walls) all at once. It feels quite strange, but it's only the part around Level 6. Seasons is the game, which actually got all the Hyrule Fantasy remake stuff, Ages only got few things, like Eyesoar, who is remake of Patra.

When you play the games on emulator, it usually crashes when you switch floors in the map screen. This can be really annoying, I had to replay lots of dungeons parts because of this. But I guess you can't complain when using an emulator and ROMs. The original games work fine for me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nintendo 3DS: Massive Price Drop, GBA and NES Classics on Virtual Console

I might be buying a Nintendo 3DS next month. As of August 12th the price will go down to 170, which is one massive price drop and looks much more effortable.

Also, 10 GBA and 10 NES game were announced for the 3DS Virtual Console. This includes The Legend of Zelda and Metroid Fusion. That GBA games are coming to the service is really nice, however, the NES games might look like an overshoot, because we already have a Virtual Console for NES games on the Wii. Also, some NES and SNES games will be already ported as 3D Classics. I mean, where's the end? They could basically re-release the entire Wii Virtual Console library, which would be too much. It would be much more classy, if the 3DS Virtual Console focuses on portable games only. So, what I believe is that these are actually not NES, but GameBoy Advance games, namely the ports from the NES Classics series. There were a couple of NES games ported to GBA, which includes The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and Metroid. And I think all Nintendo does is re-releasing the NES Classics series on the 3DS Virtual Console. I could be wrong though, it's just a guess. For example they announced Donkey Kong Jr., which originally wasn't part of the NES Classics series... But it just seems so unnecessary to re-release NES games a third time, I don't know...

GameBoy Advance games are awesome though. I guess everyone would see it as a natural development, when the Virtual Console offers GBA games at one point. However, right now Nintendo has no plans to make the GBA games available to the general public in the future. They are only available to people who bought the system before the price cut. If you've already bought the 3DS, you must feel pretty pissed right now, so Nintendo offers you all 10 NES games and all 10 GBA games for free, which is not a bad deal, not at all. And those GBA games are said to be exclusive to the so called "ambassadors". However, I doubt that there are really no plans for GBA games on Virtual Console. They say so now to make the ambassadors feel better, but I guess same time next year they'll make GBA games available to the public because of "popular demand". Nintendo loves making money from re-releasing games and not offering GBA games would be a missed opportunity, a big one.

Well, the ambassador-program only works if you connect your eShop before August 12th. But maybe you're lucky and you get a price cutted 3DS early, so you get the cheaper 3DS and all 20 free games. I'll definitely try this, because this would be a hell of a deal.

Source: Nintendo / Kotaku

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Operation Moonfall

Operation Moonfall is an initiative by Zelda Universe, Zelda Dungeon and Zelda Informer and an answer to Aonuma's recent statement, that a Majora's Mask remake for the 3DS would be possible if fans want it. Here's the quote again:

It’s been 13 years since Ocarina of Time was originally released, and one of the big things that we made this remake possible was that there was an outpour of emotions from people who said they would like to see this game done. We said we could do it in 3D, so we did. I think certainly if there was a similar output of emotion and clamor from fans for a remake of Majora’s Mask, it wouldn’t be an utter impossibility.

I totally support Operation Moonfall, I already signed the petition and I'm following them on Twitter, Facebook and stuff. However, I'm very skeptical, that this will have any impact at all.

First of all, why does it have to resemble Operation Rainfall? Is this a mocking or something? Operation Rainfall failed big time, Nintendo just replied with "no", which fans answered with hard feelings. Why in all the world would you want to copy this campaign? The whole thing left a sour taste and you don't want to carry that over to the Majora's Mask 3D campaign... you might have more luck joining my Operation Reinfall, at least that one doesn't take the whole thing seriously.

I'm also not sure, what "outpoor of emotion and clamor from fans" Aonuma meant exactly. Did he mean last year's E3? Because prior to the E3 there certainly wasn't anyone even thinking about a remake. Then at E3 they showed a demo of Ocarina of Time 3D and maybe the positive reactions further lead to the development of the full game, but it really looks like Ocarina of Time 3D was already in development at that time. I'm not buying the "giving fans what they want"-speech, because Nintendo is way too busy with their own creativity. It's the sad truth, but they rarely listen to the fans. In case of Zelda this never really bothered me, because pretty much every Zelda fan wants something different from the games, for example some are all about the story and timeline theories, while I couldn't care less about these things. Nintendo certainly listens from time to time, but not on a level, where fans could have a major impact on the games. Nintendo usually does, what they want to do. And Ocarina of Time 3D was made, because Miyamoto wanted to see it in full 3D and because Aonuma wanted to fix the Water Temple. We can only hope, that Aonuma has enough regrets about Majora's Mask (like the saving system, which he already mentioned), which might lead to a remake. Because there certainly won't be a Majora's Mask 3D demo shown somewhere, where fans can directly express their "outpoor of emotion and clamor".

Well, but Operation Moonfall is certainly better than doing nothing and has my full support. And if it really somehow manages to have an impact, I will be impressed and certainly happy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Majora's Mask 3D in Discussion

There's an interview with Aonuma in the latest Nintendo Power magazine. There he confirms again, that Skyward Sword will be rich of content, but he also discusses the possibility of Majora's Mask 3D:

It's been 13 years since Ocarina of Time was originally released, and one of the big things that we made this remake possible was that there was an outpour of emotions from people who said they would like to see this game done. We said we could do it in 3D, so we did. I think certainly if there was a similar output of emotion and clamor from fans for a remake of Majora's Mask, it wouldn't be an utter impossibility.

Thinking on it now, having a handheld Majora's Mask where you could kind of just set things down on your own time - close it, set it aside and come back to it later - might be a game play element some fans will actually take to and might really appreciate. Especially considering how you really had to rush through the original game, in a sense.

It's important that the game somehow benefits from the remake. Link's Awakening DX was made, because the original version was the only Zelda game without colors. And Aonuma wanted to make Ocarina of Time 3D badly, because he wanted to fix the Water Temple. The game really benefitted from the new interface, switching boots was never so easy. Majora's Mask didn't really have the same problem, because switching masks was already easy enough. However, one big issue with the game is saving. Either you play your current quest to the end or you would need to use the inconvenient save system with the owl stones. With the 3DS you would just turn the system into stand by mode and then pick up your last session easily. That's really something that the game would make more comfortable. Well, and there's always the fact, that this would be a portable version of the game.

Now all we have to do is make noise. Show Nintendo your "output of emotion and clamor" that you want this remake. I already bought Ocarina of Time 3D and I would also want a Majora's Mask 3D. Pretty please.

I'll ignore the part about the Zelda movie. Insulting idea.

Source: Zelda Informer

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Four Swords DSiWare and Online Multiplayer

Ever since I've opened this blog I talked about the possibility of porting the first Four Swords game and adding online multiplayer. I wanted to play the game so badly, that I never really thought about how this should work. And still some people hope, that the upcoming DSiWare port will be online. But it won't. Never ever.

It's not just the fact that the game will be available for free, which means Nintendo won't put any big efforts into it. Actually there are three big issues which prevent this game from smoothly working with online play.

I already talked about quitting. May it be intentionally or accidently, as soon as a player quits the game all other players are screwed and can't finish the current dungeon. They just wasted their time. This game is not like Four Swords Adventures, where the levels are all predefined and where take over other players' Links when someone is missing. The dungeons are randomly generated based on the player count, all puzzles are designed with that specific player count in mind, there's no way that a player could leave or join the gaming session.

Another issue is coordination. Just watch the Four Swords footage from the recent Zeldathon, it's already hard to coordinate with four people sitting in the SAME ROOM. Especially if they're unexperienced with the game. Sometimes you just have to tell the other players what to do and you can't do that with some random stranger on the internet. It would be brutally frustrating to play with people, who have no clue what to do, while you can't do anything about it. They would need to add a speech chat to the game and even then there's no guarantee, because not everyone uses this or the players might be from different countries not understanding each other. And as soon as one player doesn't "get it", it might be a dead end for all players.

Third issue are griefers. People who have just fun in taking the fun from other players by sabotaging the game. And Four Swords would be the pure paradise for griefers. You can take someone and throw him into a pit. You can take a pot and throw it on another player to blindfold him. Or you can just kill yourself to make sure the team doesn't have enough rupees. How do you deal with that? It might even happen, that someone accidently sabotages a game. For example when he doesn't know what to do, when he idles or quits. All of this is not an issue in a local multiplayer session, where you can easily guide other players. And while you might have some fun with throwing other players around, you won't do it to a level where you piss your friends off.

These are the main reasons, why Four Swords just won't work with online multiplayer. Technically it wouldn't be a problem to add online multiplayer, but the game might be not the most enjoyable experience when played online, there are just too many issues. By releasing this game as free DSiWare, which works with a local wireless connection, Nintendo is already doing the best they can do to make Four Swords more accessible.

Well, Download Play would also be a nice option. So, you can also play with people who only have a Nintendo DS Phat or Lite. However, you can't save your progress then and if one player starts at zero, all do. ALL players have to be on the same key level in order to progress. So, using Download Play you would have to beat everything in one session, which would suck.

Actually that all players have to be on the same level is also a reason that speaks against online. You would have to find someone, who's as far as you are in order to progress. Imagine that all you have to do is getting one more Hero's Key, but you only find people, who are at the beginning of the game. That would suck. In local play you usually stick with the same people, so you're always on the same page.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Skyward Sword Comic Con 2011 Trailer

The trailer is really similar to the one from the E3 and not much new stuff is shown. There are some more faces from the town folk and in the world below Link meets a Goron!

No Zelda game without Gorons, huh? No, seriously, since their introduction in Ocarina of Time Gorons have been featured in every single Zelda game with the exception of Four Swords, which doesn't have any NPCs save for some fairies. And while everybody loved the Gorons back in Ocarina of Time, they got pretty boring over the time. It's like they only include a Goron tribe in every new game for the pure sake of having a Goron tribe in the game, because they were once funny in Ocarina. And they only evolved in Majora's Mask by adding Goron childs and elders, most of the other games just copied the concept. I thought the only other creative use of Gorons was in The Wind Waker with those wandering merchants, because you didn't expect Gorons to be in the game and then there were three of them in "disguise". That was funny and somehow cool. And the Goron from the trailer looks like he has a similar role. He looks like a wandering merchant. So, it might be that the Gorons are more interesting this time, but we'll see.

Like with the last two trailers from GDC and E3 the best thing about the trailer is the music. Can't get enough of this song.

Via Nintendo Life

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Metroid Portal Opens

I just visited Nintendo of Europe's site and today they've opened a new portal for the Metroid series. It's interesting, because it suddenly feels like they haven't forgotten about the 25th Anniversary of Metroid and unlike our Zelda Portal it covers nearly all games from the series. All except for Metroid II - Return of Samus that was available for the GameBoy. I still think that they will release this game for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console around the date of the 25th Anniversary and then it will probably get added to the portal as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wind Waker HD

This is old news actually, but with the WiiU on the horizon this is getting more interesting. With the Wii Dolphin emulator you can play games in HD. They are basically just scaled up and usually it doesn't look so good, for example Twilight Princess with its gritty textures doesn't really look much better. However, there's one game, that really profits from the HD feature and looks absolutely gorgeous. It's The Wind Waker, its cell shaded graphics can be easily upscaled and they look very sharp and great in HD. Watch this video or take a look at the following pictures:

Here's a gallery with many more screenshots of The Wind Waker in HD.

Considering it even looks more likely that The Wind Waker is going to be one of the first games ported to WiiU. Nintendo already announced an "HD Classics" programm for the WiiU, similar to the "3D Classics". They make you buy old games again on the 3DS by adding 3D effects and they will make you buy old games yet again on the WiiU by offering HD resolution. And The Wind Waker looks like a perfect candidate for the HD treatment (though probably not as a downloadable game), since you can scale its graphics up so easily without the need of adding high resolution textures.

It would also easily profit from using the new controller as a second screen. Primarily because of the sea charts. Normally when you salvage a treasure you might have to switch between the treasure charts menu and the game multiple times in order to place your boat exactly over the treasure's location. This wouldn't be necessary if the WiiU controller just shows the maps. The controller could also be used for the Tingle Tuner, maybe they would even enhance this feature to make it more interesting.

An important question would be the controls. Should it use simple Wiimote controls like Twilight Princess? Would they even mirror the entire game for this? These controls work, but they are also very gimmicky. And WiiMotion Plus probably isn't an option, because the original game wasn't designed with 1 to 1 sword controls in mind. However, they could use it to control the Wind Waker. Or should the game simply use the WiiU controller all the time? But the controller really looks uncomfortable...

Some might suggest a The Wind Waker 3D remake for the Nintendo 3DS, which also profits from two screens and where the controls wouldn't be in question. And while I support the idea of making Majora's Mask 3D, I'd say a The Wind Waker 3D might be overdoing it. And considering the nature of the game's graphics, it's much more likely that it's getting a HD remake/port. The game easily looks great in HD and I don't think that Nintendo will let this opportunity slip.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yet Another M

I just finished Metroid: Other M for the third time. Considering the fact that quite some people including myself gave this game a not so good review, this might actually be surprising. And most of the flaws are still present and an issue, the game is still very linear and still focuses on a bad story. And you still get annoyed by the stupid idea of authorizing items, it just doesn't make sense why Samus doesn't use Varia or Gravity Suite from the start for example. And that all the free exploring and item collecting basically happens at the very end of the game, where nothing much is left to do, doesn't really work either.

But some of the earlier issues are basically gone. The confusing scanning sequences are not a problem anymore, because you know what to look for. The story doesn't bother you as much, because you can skip all cutscenes, which really adds to the replay value. And if you mastered how to efficiently use the Sense Moves and Lethal Strike, the game gets rather easy actually. Not even Ridley could give me a fight this time around, because I finished him with a Lethal Strike (didn't know you could do that). So, the game actually gets a little bit more enjoyable, when you play it for a second or third time.

But this alone isn't a good reason to replay the game. I replayed the game two times now simply because I wanted to. For once I enjoy how the game is played. I really like the controls and the fast and fluid action. It just feels great to play this game, I enjoy how the beams feel, how the Missiles blast and how the Screw Attack saws through things. How you fluidly can switch between First and Third Person modes. And I enjoy using Sense Moves and Lethal Strikes. The fights in the game are fun. And this is the main reason, why I enjoy replaying this game.

The Metroid Prime Trilogy games were certainly awesome, but they could also be quite slow and low to the ground. And some things from the earlier Metroid games like the Speed Booster just wouldn't work with the first person view. Metroid: Other M really offers a great, fast and fluid hybrid of both playing styles and I really would like to see another Metroid game using this style.

I also really like the atmosphere inside the Bottle Ship. Originally I stated that the lack of music is quite disappointing, but by now I really appreciate the atmosphere created by the simple ambient sounds orchestra. This space station really gives you a great feeling of isolation, it's so huge and empty and just thinking about the gigantic simulated outdoor areas can be overwhelming.

Well, that's it, for a game which I originally didn't hold in high esteem it's surprisingly fun to replay. It's certainly not the best Metroid game, but it's also not the worst. And if you know what to do, the game can be finished rather quickly, it took me less than eight hours to finish the game this time. It's perfect for two evenings of fun and fast Metroid gameplay.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

For the Frog the Bell Tolls

Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru or "For the Frog the Bell Tolls" is an Action RPG made by Nintendo in 1992. It's engine was the base for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and because of that some characters and other things from the game made a cameo appearance on Koholinth. Well, the game was never released outside of Japan, but recently I stumbled over an English translation patch via Metroid Database, so I decided to check it out. I'm a big fan of Link's Awakening, so I wanted to see which stones were already set by For the Frog the Bell Tolls. And there were some surprises.

The game's story revolves around two princes, Prince Sable and Prince Richard, who are eternal rivals. You'll play Prince Sable, who is the weaker of the two and who doesn't hold much respect among the people. But of course this will change during the game's quest, where both princes seek out to rescue a princess from a distant country, who was captured by some evil lord. An important theme of the game are frogs and snakes, both princes and all troops get transformed into frogs at one point and the evil lord is a giant snake.

It's said to be an Action RPG, but I would place it into the Action Adventure genre, the same as the Zelda series. There are no experience points and like in Zelda you'll only get stronger by collecting new items. However, the game features an interesting battle system, which is similar to the one found in Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. You do not actively battle the foes, but fight them in a dust cloud. In most cases the result of the fight is completely predetermined, based on how strong you are and how much health you have left. It feels weird first, but you'll get used to it easily. Progressing in the game is mostly based on this system. You will encounter enemies, who are just too powerful for you, and then you'll have to look for upgrades or other ways around the enemies in order to proceed. This makes collecting upgrades like the Heart Stones, which are your Heart Containers, feel very rewarding. But it also makes the game too easy. If you just cannot beat an enemy, you're usually not supposed to beat him yet. The game doesn't offer any real challenges except for some platforming and puzzles.

Another important gameplay element are transformations. You will turn into a frog if you touch water, but you will also be able to turn back into human form and to transform into a snake whenever you want. Each form has advantages and disadvantages. Frogs can jump very high and eat insect like enemies on the overworld, but they are easy prey for most other enemies. As a snake you can crawl through small tunnels and turn certain enemies into stone blocks, but you cannot jump. But of course you'll spend most of your time in human form.

The scrolling on the overworld works differently from Link's Awakening, it basically always shows one line from the next screen, that way it automatically prevents that a tree or a rock could get in your way when switching screens (otherwise you really would have to pay a lot of attention to this while designing the overworld). Villages are also shown as smaller regions and get "enlarged" when you enter a town. However, dungeons are shown in a side scrolling manner similar to Zelda II and there the scrolling works like in the Zelda series.

There's basically only one big dungeon in this game, the castle at the center. It's a master dungeon like in the Nintendo DS Zeldas and you will return multiple times there to explore new areas of the dungeon. There are also some smaller dungeon-like areas elsewhere in the game, but usually the different quests are quite rich in variety, they range from exploring some Lost Woods, over getting some Wasabi for a scienties to digging through a gold mine. It's a short, but rich experience.

The visuals of the overworld sometimes reminded me of Final Fantasy Adventure, better known as the first Mana game or Mystic Quest here in Europe and on my blog. The visuals are not as rich as Link's Awakening, they can be quite empty sometimes. And you're scaled up in the same way as in Mystic Quest, for example trees have the same size as you. What these games also have in common are one-way-pick-axes for destroying rocks, which I still think is a silly idea to replace Zelda's bombs, though running short on them is not such a big problem in For the Frog the Bell Tolls as it was in Mystic Quest. But there are also one-way-saws for cutting certain trees.

What I liked is that you'll get a map of the entire overworld early in the game, showing what's ahead of you. You could say that this spoils the big surprises while exploring the world and because of this in later Zelda games unvisited parts of the overworld are usually hidden under clouds. They want you to be surprised, when you enter yet another generic desert area or whatever. But I prefer having an entire overworld map right from the start. Link's Awakening also did this with the map in the library and I loved this. You would get a simple picture of the entire world and the map would tell you how all the areas are named. And there was interesting stuff there like "Signpost Maze" or "Face Shrine". It basically was a teaser, an appetizer. The map is only a raw sketch and you would fill it with your imagination. As a kid I instantly wanted to explore all of Koholinth, I was fascinated by this island right from the start. This can be a huge motivation for progressing in the game. Today the games only tell you what you need to know, but back then the games teased you. And these teasers were usually very exciting. I miss the teasers, I miss getting full maps from the start, I miss being excited about exploring the overworld.

The main reason for me to play this game was exploring some origins of Link's Awakening. The engine was used to built Link's Awakening and stuff like fonts, sounds and animations were reused. For example the animation where Link spins around when he dies is pretty common in For the Frog the Bell Tolls. But in the end the most important thing is the cameo in form of Richard's Villa. Both Richard and the frogs were taken from the game and until today I never knew what the frogs were all about. And the music in Richard's Villa is a remix of the overworld theme from For the Frog the Bell Tolls. Because of this playing the game really had a familiar feel to it. It's not a superb game, but if you're a fan of Link's Awakening you will easily feel at home and like it nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Portal Meets Zelda

Watch: Dorkly Bits: Link to the Past with a Portal Gun

This is epic. And funny, I especially love the last move, nice way to defeat Ganon. And the Moldorm scene is so spot on, oh how I hate this fight. Also makes we wanna play Portal right now.

There's also a Mario one.

Via: Kotaku

Monday, July 11, 2011

Anime Expo 2011 Cosplay

Mhhh... I would like to play Zelda with her. Just gorgeous.

Source: Kotaku

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heart Pieces

Pieces of Heart were introduced in A Link to the Past as the first real collectable items and since then appeared in every Zelda game with the exception of the Four Swords and Nintendo DS Zelda games. It's a simple concept, collect four (or in case of Twilight Princess five) pieces and you'll get a new Heart Container. They can be gotten everywhere, hidden somewhere on the overworld, found in treasure chests, won in minigames or gotten as a reward from certain people. A few games like The Minish Cap or Twilight Princess even hide their Heart Pieces in dungeons.

However, the Nintendo DS Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, went back to the formula of the classic NES Zelda games, where you won't find any Heart Pieces, but additional Heart Containers found outside of dungeons, which gave more room for other collectible items. The problem with the Nintendo DS Zeldas, however, were the too predictable locations of the extra Heart Containers. They were either won in minigames or bought in shops. Additional Heart Containers should be hidden very cleverly, like in the NES Zeldas for the most part. In Spirit Tracks there were lots of cool opportunities for this like some of the hidden minidungeons, but instead you would only get treasures in these locations.

Another problem is that the need of additional health became lower and lower lately. Zelda games tend to get easier and usually you can even beat a boss with three hearts. In the NES classics the additional Heart Containers were an important upgrade that would help you a lot. The only exception in the newer games were collecting Pieces of Heart might be important is the new double damage version of Master Quest featured in Ocarina of Time 3D. Especially in the early game collecting Pieces of Heart might be a life savior. But otherwise collecting Heart Pieces doesn't feel really rewarding or exciting. You just do it for the sake of completion.

But this is the main reason why I'd say that getting back to additional Heart Containers is a good idea. Collecting Pieces of Heart became boring. It's much more exciting to collect something where the ultimate reward is unknow, like the Secret Seashells in Link's Awakening or the Spirit Gems in Phantom Hourglass for example. Notice how both of these collectible items were quite unpredictable, you could find them basically anywhere, which makes looking for them more fun and interesting. And the rewards were really nice, you would get the awesome L-2 sword from the seashells and the very cool fairy abilities from the Spirit Gems. This is how good collectible items look like. It's also exciting to collect something, where each item has individual value. The masks in Majora's Mask or the rings in the Oracle games would be a good example.

So, the Pieces of Heart should clear the way for more interesting collectible items. Additional Heart Containers are more than enough, but you should be in need of them and they should be hidden very cleverly, so that discovering one of the extra Heart Containers feels very rewarding. I guess Skyward Sword might follow the lead of the Nintendo DS Zeldas and won't feature any Heart Pieces, but only full Heart Containers. But hopefully their placement won't be the same as in the Nintendo DS games. And I'm really excited to see how Skyward Swords' other collectible items will be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Metroid Slime

While marveling at the new looks of the Inside Jabu Jabu's Belly dungeon in Ocarina of Time 3D, the doors there really reminded me of Metroid. And so I was getting this idea... Why not make a Metroid game, which takes place inside a huge living organism? This would probably be interesting and a diversion from the usual the usual planet and/or space station theme.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Majora's Blade

A popular question in Zelda forums is "will Majora ever return?" and until today my answer would be "most likely not", because Majora was an enemy exclusive to the mask idea and unless there will be another Zelda game revolving around masks, which I doubt, we won't see him/her/it again.

But then I had this Zelda game idea in my head. Actually I have lots of Zelda game ideas, but I usually do not talk about them. Well, but this idea isn't really new, every time when I played one of the Mana games, like Mystic Quest or Secret of Mana, I thought how it would be also nice to have different melee weapons in a Zelda game. I would like to see more variety in Zelda's melee combat, usually you get a sword and that's it. Maybe there's also a two-handed sword and/or a hammer, but there's never a bigger variety in the weapons. And lately this aspect became even worse, because sword upgrades weren't optional anymore and you got some story-relevant Master Sword copy or the Master Sword itself. It is always boring, if the sword upgrades are forced and part of the story, it's much more exciting if you discover a more powerful sword by yourself. Especially if it is really helpful, the enemies would always become harder and harder, so a more powerful sword was usually a big relief. But now it's all scripted, you get the Master/Four/Phantom/Spirit Sword at a specific time and then enemies automatically become somehow more tougher. This is boring.

But I'm drifting away, the core idea would be to have many different melee weapons with different combat styles and functions. It's always nice to have options and to make choices, as long as it doesn't get too complex. But it really worked great in the Mana games and I would like to see this in Zelda as well. A battleaxe for example would slower but more powerful and it could be used to cut down certain trees. A spear could be used to attack enemies from longer range, but it's not so good in close combat. And we've already seen Hammer, Ball & Chain and Whip items in previous Zelda games. I guess I'm not the only one wo had this idea before, but today I compared it to having many different masks in Majora's Mask. And that's when I had my epiphany. Why not call the game "Majora's Blade" then? In Termina Majora's Mask was an ancient artifact used for bewitching rituals. And it always felt like some evil spirit was trapped inside the mask. But Termina was a parallel world and there are still other possibilies for Majora in the world of Hyrule. Of course the game shouldn't include any moon crashing on Hyrule or a three day system. But there could be a cursed blade with the evil spirit of Majora trapped inside it, which would fit the theme of the game. Just imagine a sword designed in the style of Majora's Mask, it could be Zelda's version of the Soul Edge.

Of course you could apply this idea of having Majora's spirit trapped in something else than a mask to other things as well. But a cursed blade probably would be the best choice, no one would be frightened by "Majora's Train" for example... okay, wait, maybe that would have been more badass than Malladus, but it's too late for that. Well, it's still unlikely that Majora will ever return, but I wouldn't completely dismiss it anymore.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fear of Remakes

This post is a respond to this or similar posts in different Zelda forums. Because of Ocarina of Time 3D some Zelda fans became afraid, that from now on they will only get remakes instead of new games.

Of course this is nonsense. If you mention a possible Majora's Mask 3D they immediatly get angry stating that they would prefer a new game instead. They pretend like developing remakes would hinder the development of new Zelda games. But this is not the case, remakes are usually outsourced to less experienced companies like Grezzo. Which is a good choice, with these remakes Grezzo learns how the Zelda series works and how a good Zelda game looks like and eventually they will be able to help developing a new Zelda game in the future. You might suggest, that they start working on a new Zelda game right now, but the lack of new content in Ocarina of Time 3D let's me think otherwise. I don't know whether they just weren't allowed to add anything like a new dungeon to the game or they just didn't dare. But if they can't make one single new dungeon, how should they able to make a full new Zelda game? Okay, there's Koichi Ishii, who has a lot of experience with the Mana series and at least the first two Mana games were really solid. But I'd imagine Majora's Mask 3D as a bridge, where step it up by introducing new content like a Master Quest.

And a Majora's Mask 3D remake would practically develop itself. All stones have been set by the Ocarina of Time remake, they only would need to make some more textures and models. Development time would take two months max, unless they really plan to add new content this time. And like Ocarina of Time 3D this game would be perfect to bridge the time until the next new Zelda game.

^this game is not your enemy

What Miyamoto suggested for an A Link to the Past remake was just adding 3D effects to the different layers, which means it's a candidate for the 3D Classics, similar to Excitebike or Xevious. There's a separate team working on that, they were making six 3D Classics games simultanously (source) and there's a good chance that A Link to the Past will follow. Development effort is also very low. You could call these "Virtual Console Plus" games.

I don't know where the impression came from, that remaking A Link to the Past in the style of Ocarina of Time 3D is even an option. Ocarina of Time was originally supposed to be a remake A Link to the Past in 3D, at least this was one of their early approaches, but not all stuff from a 2D Zelda game works in 3D. For example a giant pig would look stupid in 3D, which is why they made Ganondorf as a more serious antagonist. There's no way, that they're ever going to remake this game as a 3D Zelda. Or any other 2D Zelda for that matter, it would basically turn into an entirely new game losely based on the original. And it's better to just make a new game instead without being restricted in the game's design in any way.

And it should be clear, that Nintendo will definitely develop an original 3DS-Zelda game or maybe even two. Just because Nintendo likes to remake and re-release old games it doesn't mean they stopped making new ones. It's ridiculous how Zelda fans get scared that they won't get any new games anymore, just because Nintendo decided to remake one game after ten years. Just look back to the past, there isn't a single Nintendo system (except Virtual Boy) without a Zelda title and there are twice as much Zelda main titles as there are Zelda remakes and spin offs. This ratio is crazy good. Right after Mario the Zelda fanbase should be least scared of not getting anything new. And there's no reason to doom the remakes, ports and re-releases.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Well, I had a boring weekend ahead of me (no one was here, no parties and the weather sucked), so I thought I should rent a Wii game. I always wanted to try Monster Hunter Tri, however, I couldn't resist to rent Kirby's Epic Yarn as well, so I could take a short look at the game. But then Kirby got all my attention and I've beaten most of the game over the weekend, while returning the former game after a couple of hours.

(Don't get me wrong, Monster Hunter Tri is certainly an epic game, but while I like to waste my freetime with video games, a massive RPG like this one is just too much for me. I prefer games in the length of Zelda, something that can keep you busy for a while, but has a clear end. Monster Hunter Tri has a steep learning curve and no clear goal, where the game is going. You just hunt lots of stuff, so you can hunt more stuff. And the controls are absolutely terrible, if you're used to Z-Targeting and the intuitive camera controls of Zelda and other Nintendo games, playing Monster Hunter Tri feels very uncomfortable. So, I was sticking with Kirby.)

Actually I've never fully played a Kirby game before. I played Kirby's Dream Land on the GameBoy as a child, but I've never beaten it and never really got back into it again. And I didn't care about Jump'n'Runs for a long time, it wasn't until New Super Mario Bros. Wii that I got interested in the genre again. By now I also played both Mario Galaxy games and Donkey Kong Country Returns. But Kirby is also my main in the Super Smash Bros. series (not in Brawl though, there I prefer Toon Link) and he was getting more attention lately (his own TV channel on Wii, new Wii game coming), so this game seemed to be the natural next step. And I really liked it.

The first thing you have to mention about this game is the unique artstyle consisting of clothings, fabrics and yarns. Since the Wii's power is really outdated chosing a special artstyle to cover the system's limitations became a popular choice for Wii games - take Skyward Sword as an example. But the style of Kirby's Epic Yarn is just so lovely, unique and creative, it really makes the game.

It really does, because the yarn theme is not a simple visual style, it ties in directly with the gameplay. Everything is made of yarn, even Kirby. He literally doesn't suck anymore in this game, instead he uses a thread whip to grab his enemies and throw them. He can also change his form all the time, when you sprint he turns into a car or he can turn into a parachute to float. You can make use of these transformations all the time, but there are also special transformations in certain levels, where he turns into a tank, a fire truck, a buggy, a dolphin or a space fighter for some Xevious/Gradius/R-Type style of action. This adds a lot of variety to the different levels and can be a lot of fun.

What I also loved about the yarn theme is unlocking new levels inside a world. At the end of a level Kirby gets a patch and this patch causes some very creative transformations on the world map opening a new door. You're always looking forward to what they would come up next. It's a very, very creatively made game.

It's an easy game though. Compared to Donkey Kong Country Returns you might even call this a joke. It uses the concept of Wario Land II, which means you can't die, but if you get hit your crystal beads, which you're collecting in levels similar to coins in Mario/Wario games, are dropped all over the place. You should always be able to finish a level, but finishing it with enough beads is another question. In each level you can score bronze, silver or golden medals at the end depending on how many beads you've collected. The gold medals only add to your completion score, but you still might want to get them and in some levels you have to be really careful not to lose your beads. The more beads you have, the more you drop when you get hit. And if you fall into a pit, there's no chance of recovering them. It can be sometimes frustrating to collect tons of beads only to lose them all to a dumb mistake near the end of the level. But overall the difficulty of the game is quite low.

Only collecting all treasures in a level might be somehow more tricky here and there, some of them require precise jumps and timing. Each level has two treasures and a music CD and you might want to find and collect them all. This follows the trend of the big gold coins in New Super Mario Bros. or the KONG-letters and puzzle pieces in Donkey Kong Country Returns and I think that these collectibles are important. I love this stuff in Zelda and Metroid, but it also gives me something in other games. If I try playing older Jump'n'Runs, like Super Mario Bros. 3, Kirby's Dream Land or Donkey Kong Country for example, where the games are just about platforming and reaching the end of the level, I get bored really fast. But add hidden secrets and collectibles to the equation and suddenly I'm hooked.

And Kirby's Epic Yarn hooks you in a nice way. The first world is actually like a town and Kirby got his own apartment there. And you can freely decorate it to your likings. You can place furniture and items and texturize everything with different fabrics. There are endless possibilities how to decorate your room and while it serves no direct purpose, there's now a creation of your own in the game and it's easy to get attached to something like this. The treasures found in levels can be used to decorate your room, but you can also buy furniture in a shop from the beads, which you've collected in levels. There are some items that reminded me of the Nintendo DS Zeldas - there's a blue hourglass, a toy train and a toy steam boat. Of course they are all part of my room. And overall it's nice to collect new items and try them as deco.

There's a second shop for buying fabrics to re-texturize your room and furniture, but most of the fabrics are gotten from minigames. There's another apartment next to Kirby's and you can even expand the building by two floors for lots of beads, which adds four more rooms. You have to decorate these rooms according to certain specifications and then they will be occupied by weird little flying creatures. They will play five different minigames with you, all with a time limit using modified parts of the game's 50 levels. There's Hide and Seek, where you have to find five of "your friends" in time. Or you have to collect a certain number of beads or defeat a certain number of enemies in time. There's also a racing mode and a mode, where you have to transport the thingy to a goal. However, you only get fabrics, which might not feel as rewarding as the treasures in levels. But that's okay, if you don't like the minigames, you won't miss much, if you don't play them.

Following the success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii this game also included a multiplayer mode. And it's quite good actually, unlike the multiplayer of Donkey Kong Country Returns, where you just get in each other's way and where the second player even might just be a useless burden, especially in the rocket barrel and mine cart levels. But this is not the case here. The second player plays as Prince Fluff, who looks like a blue Kirby with an angry look and a crown on his head and who has the same abilites as Kirby. The main advantage of playing in multiplayer is that you always have something to throw. This makes the parts easier, where you have to grab an enemy and throw him in the right way. Or certain areas are easier to get to. It's also nice, how they handled the vehicles. Either the second player gets a vehicle for himself or a special passenger seat, which offers a new functions. For example the tank would get giant boxing gloves. This is much better than in Donkey Kong Country Returns, where the second player isn't of any use in similar parts and just causes you to lose two lives instead of one. I guess it might be fun to play the whole game in multiplayer, the only problem is that it makes the game even easier than it's already is.

I rented Kirby's Epic Yarn for one weekend and was able to 100% most of it in that time - everything except for the fabric minigames. And that's the problem, as soon as you got everything, the replay value of the levels becomes very low. The multiplayer might be a reason to return to this game, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii is still the superior multiplayer Jump'n'Run. So, the game is just too expansive right now, it costs around 45 bucks, but it's not really worth that.

To sum it up, it's an adorable little Jump'n'Run with an unique and charming style, fine multiplayer and lots of nice collectibles. However, it's not long lasting and not worth its current price.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Wind Waker Ray Traced

Some Zelda fan decided to make renders of The Wind Waker using Ray Tracing (here). And it looks absolutely stunning:

I can't get enough of it, I just love the morning light and the calm morning atmosphere. (Ah wait, the sun comes from the west... but it looks like morning to me.) It's not realistic though, it reminds me more of these models, which the urbanists at our university make. But it's beautiful and already set as my wall paper. I'm normally not a graphic whore, but it would be awesome to get graphics like this ingame. But don't get your hopes up, I don't think that even the WiiU will be capable of smoothly running real time ray casting despite its power.

Via Kotaku

Operation Reinfall

You've probably heard about "Operation Rainfall" by now, it's a fan campaign for getting the three games The Last Story, Pandora's Tower and Xenoblade Chronicles localized and released in North America. But Nintendo just responded "no" on Facebook without giving any good reason, which understandably caused some giant pile of ruckus all over the internet.

I would join Operation Rainfall, however, I live in Europe and we're getting Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story anyway (update: Pandora's Tower will also follow). And I'm not even really interested in these games, I don't play (J)RPGs, I never liked the Final Fantasy series for example. Some Action-RPGs, that play like Zelda, like the early Mana games or Terranigma, are fine though. But from what I've seen from the three Rainfall games, I don't think that they are my thing. However, it's nice to have at least the option to buy these games in case I change my mind about them. Nintendo of Europe does a great job lately.

But to make you all feel better, I will start my own fan-campaign, which is destined to fail! I call it "Operation Reinfall" (if you don't get the pun, click here) and it's purpose is to get all three Tingle games that are currently exclusive to Japan including Tingle RPG2, also known as Color Changing: Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love, the Tingle Pack and Tingle's Balloon Fight localized for Europe.

They did release the first Tingle game, Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland, here in Europe, so why not the second one? (Well, maybe because the first one didn't sell too well, most European Zelda fans hate Tingle and because Nintendo of Europe is too busy localizing Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora's Tower and The Last Story...) But I somehow liked the first game and I won't give up! So, where can I preorder a game on Amazon, that probably won't ever be released here? And naturally it should accompanied by the Tingle Pack, which was a set of silly DSiWare applications, that no one needs. And members of the Japanese Club Nintendo were able get a limited Tingle version of Balloon Fight, but they should definitely re-release this as DSiWare. (Actually I think the latter would be a cool idea, Balloon Fight is a solid classic and this is basically a crossover with The Wind Waker.)