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.

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