Friday, September 30, 2011

Four Swords Anniversary Edition, Round 1: No Rupee Fever and Realm of Memories

The irony of buying a Nintendo 3DS to play a 2D game is quite big, but Four Swords is the game I was playing this evening. And I managed to beat Vaati once, as well as the entire Realm of Memories stage. Took me a couple of hours and that was not even half of the game. I'm very happy that I've beaten the GameBoy Advance version just recently, because now I can compare both versions in detail.

Well, it took me only one minute to notice that there was something very wrong with the new singleplayer mode. There's no Rupee Fever! For those, who never played Four Swords before and don't know what Rupee Fever is, in multiplayer when all players have full health a nice catchy music theme starts and all Rupees are worth twice as much as normally. This is Rupee Fever. Do not take Rupee Fever lightly, Rupee Fever is the one and only method to get Hero's Keys. To get a Hero's Key you need to collect 5000 Rupees in one stage. But there are no 5000 Rupees in a stage, no matter what. 3000 might be possible, but only if you're lucky. The only way to score 5000 Rupees is a permanent Rupee Fever. This leads to completely different tactics. For example you don't cut any bushes until it is necessary to look for hearts and fairies (or when the floor is wiped). Or never open a treasure chest unless you have full health. It was very challenging to get all the Hero's Keys in the original game, but with these tactics we made it.

I don't know how I am supposed to get all Hero's Keys without Rupee Fever. It seems the only way to farm enough Rupees is defeating the respawning enemies again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again until you got enough Rupees. But that takes forever and is boooooooring. This is not some stupid RPG, this is Zelda! And Rupee Fever was such a nice tactic. I do not understand Grezzo's decision to remove Rupee Fever from the singleplayer mode and I do not support it. Luckily this is a downloadable game and they can patch it. So, pretty please add Rupee Fever to the singleplayer mode!

What I also noticed are the changes in the sound effects. They changed a lot of sounds like for example the Roc's Cape or when you move a block. If you want to know, how the original game sounded like, play The Minish Cap, because pretty much all sound effects carried over from Four Swords. So, the new sound effects feel weird and it's not like the new sound effects are better than the old ones. Because they aren't.

But there's also good stuff. Remember that I wanted them to include the Rock Breaker, because lifting up all rocks and pots takes forever? Well, you still have to pick up rocks, but you can now smash pots with your sword. That's really cool and saves some time.

The singleplayer works well so far, as far as I can tell you play the same old two player mode all by yourself. However, they had to dumb some parts of the game down to make it work. Most noticeable is the expanded time window for all sorts of switches, like those pull levers or the eye switches. Normally this stuff has to be done all at the same time, but now you have a huge time window. You don't even have to switch between the two Links to do it fast enough, you just keep activating the switches with one Link. I don't know, this feels quite strange and kind of lame. And the Bulbuls (those red enemies with a huge green ball belly) got a lot easier in singleplayer, it's basically the same as with the levers, you have much more time for the repeated strikes. But okay... Four Swords was never meant to support a singleplayer mode, it's only natural that some stuff had to be simplified. It's not the only thing that makes the singleplayer feel inferior to the multiplayer. You're not competing who gets the most Rupees, which always was part of the fun. The fact that you're not competing for Rupees makes the game feel a little bit like Ancient Stone Tablets. There you also collect tons and tons of Rupees for no real reason.

Well, in Vaati's palace I haven't encountered a single pothole trap. Usually there are many potholes under the bushes and you have to be very careful while cutting grass. However, there wasn't a single hole anywhere. It might be that this is only the case in the easier difficulty level, the holes might return after I got the Golden Keys... We'll see. Also, Vaati used his Patra form more often than usual. I don't mind, because I like this form, but it was kind of strange. In the GBA version he mostly used the arms.

And they changed the credits. The credits are a lot longer now and different stuff happens. Now at the beginning Rupees appear on the platform, but some of them are Rupee Likes. Then the fairy part from the original game starts, however, at the end multiple treasure chests appear now.

So, after all this the Realm of Memories stage got unlocked. Naturally I had to play this one next. And boy was that fun! It felt good to finally get something new after all the replaying, which I've done this year. And the retro levels are great. Spoilers ahead! Do not read, if you don't want to know what the retro levels have to offer!

Well, each level gets two overworld settings and a dungeon, the first dungeon of each games to be accurate. A Link to Past got outside and inside Hyrule Castle and the Lost Woods. Link's Awakening has the Mysterious Woods and Goponga swamp as one floor, the Tail Cave and the Tal Tal Heights. And finally The Legend of Zelda gets some one floor around the big lake, one at the graveyard and a replica of Level 1.

The A Link to the Past level was pretty basic. It's kind of like the game would have looked like, if Capcom had been too lazy to make their own engine. Interestingly there were many areas, where lots of treasure chests would spawn. Now this really, really reminded me of Ancient Stone Tablets. The stage ends where you got the Master Sword in A Link to the Past, which fits very will. Because after all this stage unlocks the "Master Sword". Well, you only get the Sword Beam, I don't know why they called it "Master Sword", but whatever...

The Link's Awakening stage is my favorite one. This definitely brought back many memories, the GameBoy visual style is very impressive. And the details are great, for example they added the rare Chain Chomp item to the Goponga Swamp. Originally in Link's Awakening you had to take Bow Wow for walkies at the swamp to open Level 2. And the replica of the Tail Cave was amazing. I wondered what the final floor could be and it took me only one second to realize that the goal would be on top of Mt. Tamaranch at the Windfish Egg! Very nice! And the mountain music theme is still the best! Love it.

The The Legend of Zelda level then got more crazy and intense. Lots of Moblin fights and the graveyard with all the spring floor tiles was quite tricky. Visually not as good as Link's Awakening, but still very cool. Though I have to say that this was my least favorite one out of the three stages.

But overall the Realm of Memories stage is awesome, awesome, awesome! Great idea, nice way to celebrate the Anniversary, lots of cool and crazy stuff. The name is absolutely fitting, because this stage brings back a lot of memories.

So, by now I collected about 27,000 Rupees. Which means the Hero's Trial isn't far, I'm really looking forward to it, I have no clue what to expect except for the room with the many Stalfos. I've heard, that alternatively you can also unlock the Hero's Trial by collecting five Medals of Courage. That sounds fair and this is a good solution. That way the medals still have some value, but you can also unlock everything in singleplayer.

More tomorrow.

Got 3DS

Say hello to my shiny new blood red 3DS:

It's a real beauty. I'm happy that I waited for the red one, so I could compare all three colors at the store. And there's no question that the red one easily tops the other two colors, boring black and everyone's blue. The photo above or any images in the internet for that matter doesn't do it justice, it looks totally awesome in real. Thousand thanks to jsf132 from the comments, who inspired me to wait for the red one!!

I was also stupid enough to buy a screen protector. I hate those things, it's absolutely impossible to install it without getting any dust between the screen and the protector. And I'm a very clean person, but it's very hard to get it right, you have to be quick and very lucky.

For now the 3DS' battery is loading and the weather is so awesome, that I won't be playing until later this evening. But I guess I will check out Ocarina of Time 3D first for a short session only to dedicate myself to Four Swords AE later. Four Swords is more interesting at the moment, because that's the game with the actual new content. I want to play the Hero's Trial and the Realm of Memories. Ocarina's Hyrule with some flowers added to the fields can wait.

But it's somehow ironic, that in the end the game that got me to buy a 3DS is a free 2D game and not some big retail 3D title.

The 3DS also gives me the possibility of checking out the multiplayer mode of Spirit Tracks for the first time, as well as easy Big Play farming in Phantom Hourglass. So, there's even more Zelda stuff to do, but this will have to wait until I'm done with both Four Swords AE and Ocarina of Time 3D.

I also bought DOA: Dimensions today. That's the boob game from Team Ninja that got the Metroid: Other M bonus stage. I also got all DOA games for the XBox and I liked them (yes, I'm a pervert, but who doesn't like boobs?), so this was a game I was going to buy anyhow. However, I probably won't be playing this until later, I only bought this right now to still catch some of the free DLC before it's gone. I don't want to miss that sexy white cat costume for Tina, right...? :D

But my D-Pad sucks. It makes weird squeaking sounds and sometimes feels a little stiff. It's aweful to play Four Swords with this...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Zelda Galaxy Confirmed

Last year I started to fear, that Skyloft would result in some sort of Zelda Galaxy setting. Instead of a real overworld, you're getting the sky world as a hub and separate areas below. Now NGamer confirmed this. According to them the sky realm is the true overworld while Hyrule is made up of self-contained hubs.

Now the Japanese Skyward Sword site shows some sort of teaser map:

You have Skyloft in the center and massive areas around it. It sort of reminds me of Majora's Mask, where you got Clocktown in the center and one of the four different main areas in each cardinal direction. With the big difference, that the areas are self-contained this time.

On the bright side it seems that the areas will be MASSIVE. We already heard that you can spent hours in one area until you reach a dungeon. It might be that one area is already so large, that it makes you forget that there's actually more to the world. And the above map probably isn't all there is. We already saw, that there will be the forest, the vulcano and a desert area. But I doubt that this will be the end of it. Don't you think that there will be some ice area for example? And I still want my massive graveyard area! And look how the area in the east and the area in the west seem to be quite close. Maybe there's a connection there. And even if the three areas are completely independent, compare it to having three overworlds instead of just one.

Right now it might look like Zelda Galaxy, but I think the game still might be able to surprise us here.

Skyward Sword Overload

Kotaku, IGN, NGamer, GameInformer, name them... right now it seems like everyone got some new exclusive coverage of Skyward Sword. And the more gets shown, the less I want to see. I'm very excited about this game, but I don't want to get spoiled. Right now you can watch the entire intro sequence and read impressions of the game's first hours. And I don't want to do that. I want to experience this for myself. I want the game to surprise me as much as possible. I want to explore Skyloft on my own and not watch some IGN guru doing the job for me. So, this is it, from now on I will keep my Skyward Sword input to a minimum. I will try to catch some interesting stuff here and there, but that's it. And after all this is a blog and not a news site, there are tons of Zelda news sites out there, no need for another one.

But let's take a look at some stuff. IGN released three new trailers. The second one is really interesting, because it fully supports my recent article about how adorable the new Zelda is and that she is someone, who you really want to save. In this trailer it looks like she's actually you're big love interest in this game. Before she gets abducted, you get to spend some time with her and you get really close to her. And she's very lovely... well, Nintendo uses the "princess gets abducted" scenario very often in their games, but this might be the first time, that you as the player develop a real motivation to save the princess. And I'm looking forward to this.

And according to NGamer this is the toughest Zelda game yet. Maybe NGamer never played Zelda II, but who knows...? They also reported that you can get cornered by four Stalfos at once. Sounds thrilling. I'm looking forward to some good challenge.

And the sword tutorial is very similar to the one in Majora's Mask, there's a sword dojo and lots of logs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day & Night in Skyward Sword

There are lots of spoilers about Skyward Sword from the latest issue of Nintendo Power found at NeoGAF forums. The one that made me shout "hell yeah" was the confirmation, that this game will indeed have a day & night system.

I was starting to think that this won't be the case, there wasn't any material that indicated the existence of a day & night system. All screenshots and movies showed the game during daylight and the GameInformer playthrough of the Eldin Volcano area also didn't mention any transition between day and night, though the reporter played the game for hours. And considering that both Nintendo DS Zelda games also didn't feature any night time, I was beginning to accept the fact that Skyward Sword will be another nightless Zelda game. And for me this was a disappointing thought, the night time was always something that really added to the atmosphere of the 3D Zeldas, especially the N64 ones. Walking through Kakariko Village at night listening to the sounds of the birds, the windmill and rustling Skulltulas still gives me goosebumps. And I would have really missed the night time in Skyward Sword.

But luckily it's there, it just works differently. The transition between day and night doesn't happen automatically, you have to go to your bed to change between day and night (maybe later there will also something similar to the Sun's Song for your Harp, so you can change the daytime whereever you are). In Skyloft monsters will appear during night, which sounds similar to Outset Island. However, those monsters seem to be some scary kittens, lol.

But since the transition between day and night is missing, a part of the atmosphere might be gone as well. You know, this feeling when the sun goes down, wolves are howling to announce the start of the night and suddenly everything is silent. It's still better than having no night at all though.

There are many other details mentioned in Nintendo Power and I suggest that you take a look. But the Shiekah Stones from Ocarina of Time 3D will be back and you will be able to switch between three different HUD settings. There's also some bad news, you actually will only be able to save at the bird statues. As someone, who likes to save as often as possible, I don't like this much. It feels like going back to the save system of Majora's Mask.

Source: iZelda and ZeldaInformer

Four Swords Anniversary Edition Released

It's out! (At least in Europe, Australia and Japan.) You can download it now for free on you DSi or 3DS systems.

I will get a red 3DS on Friday, until then I won't be able to play the game. It's really hard to wait, because I want to play this so badly, but the weather is awesome, so the two days will probably fly fast.

Source: Nintendo Life / Nintendo

Friday, September 23, 2011

Aonuma Plays Zelda For You

Nintendo released a series of help videos for Ocarina of Time 3D, where Aonuma himself plays the game and gives tips. Naturally this includes the infamous Water Temple, a dungeon Aonuma apologized for multiple times. But he gives credit that (some) fans of the game actually liked the dungeon, so instead of dumbing the dungeon down Nintendo focused on making it less confusing by adding different markers on the walls. That was a good decision. (Well, plus they already made a dumbed down version for Master Quest years ago. And it seems that they made the Dark Link fight significantly easier, which I don't like at all.)

But this looks like the real deal here, his 3DS is hooked up with different cables and he talks the way, how you would talk while playing the game. And it's nice to see the producer himself playing the game and giving hints, slaying Stalfos and Dark Links. After all that's the guy, who originally couldn't beat any Octoroks.

I think what he really should do is playing the classic NES Zelda games, both of them, giving tips like where the dungeons and items are located in the first game and how important leveling is in the second game. THAT would be awesome and Aonuma would totally redeem all his earlier statements how he couldn't beat the first Zelda game. Both games were just re-released as part of the ambassador program and it would be nice to see the man behind Zelda giving hints to newcomers, not dismissing these games anymore.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Massive Hyrule

Every time I had played Zelda II - The Adventure of Link I wondered what the area below Spectacle Rock was all about. There's a graveyard, one larger and a smaller forest area, but nothing hidden in all of these places. It seemed weird. However, one day it struck me like a lightning, which led to one of my biggest WTF-moments in gaming. It's also probably the most shocking easter egg in the entire Zelda series. That tiny area is supposed to be the Hyrule from the first Zelda game!

Just take a look at it. You have the Spectacle Rock, where originally the final dungeon was located, as well as the rest of Death Mountain. In the middle you can see the lake area, where Level 1 and 4 used to be. Then there's a large forest area and a graveyard in the west. And there's a smaller lake and a forest in the east, surrounded by desert and beach. This is without a doubt supposed to be the old Hyrule.

It's so shocking when compared to the rest of the world in Zelda II. That's not even 5% of the entire overworld. It makes sense in a way, because villages and the castle are displayed as one block after all... but so are Link and roads. So, you usually don't think that you're dealing with a landscape of this massive size here. This lets the overworlds of all other Zelda games look really tiny. And there's actually a graveyard area in the game, which is larger than this! Imagine an entire graveyard in the size of Hyrule. (Actually that's kind of cool, now I definitely want a large graveyard area for Skyward Sword.)

I always thought it would be cool if any future Zelda game were to play in Northern Hyrule. But Nintendo is probably too afraid of the massive size.

Fun fact: In the extended Hero's Cave in Oracle of Seasons you can see a similar miniature image of Holodrum made by different floors. There you had to open eight treasure chests in the right order, the treasure chests basically represented dungeons.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's the difference between Virtual Boy and the Nintendo 3DS?

There were no Zelda games released for the Virtual Boy, luckily.

Imagine Nintendo made a Zelda game for the Virtual Boy, it really would be a lost piece of adventure, even more than the BS Zelda games, which luckily got restored by fans.

I usually buy Nintendo hardware for Zelda games. There were only two Nintendo systems, which I didn't buy in order to play a certain Zelda game. The first one is the original GameBoy, because at that time I wasn't a Zelda fan yet. It was the system that would lead me to Link's Awakening, my first big love in gaming. And the other system was the Nintendo Wii. I didn't buy it for Zelda, because I played Twilight Princess on the GameCube. But the Wii has an impressive library even without any exclusive Zelda games, I bought it to play Metroid Prime 3: Corruption mainly, but also for Wii Sports and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the latter would be released two months after I bought my Wii. Link's Crossbow Training and the Wii version of Twilight Princess were merely a bonus.

Right now I'm struggling whether I should buy a Nintendo 3DS or not. I was resisting until now, because I fear that Nintendo might release a better model at any time in the future. At first I thought they may release a special golden Zelda Anniversary 3DS, which they won't, but now you have to consider that they will release some revised model next year, one that comes with better 3D screen (there have been quite some developments in glasses free 3D since the 3DS was released, saw it all at the IFA), longer battery life and a second circle pad plus two more shoulder buttons attached to it. It's completely reasonable to expect this, especially after how many revisions the original DS got, as well as the GameBoys.

Now, what's changing my mind? The Four Swords Anniversay Edition is. It might sound completely crazy to buy new hardware to play a FREE game, but while it's a free game, it will only be available for five months. So, renting/borrowing a DSi or 3DS is not an option, if you want to keep this game for the future. You need your own DSi or 3DS now. I have neither, so I have to buy one of these until February. Buying only a DSi would be an option, but the 3DS and the DSi are in the same price class, in our stores the 3DS is even cheaper than a DSiXL! So, it would be stupid to buy a DSi instead of a 3DS, especially considering that a DSi won't be able to play my copy of Ocarina of Time 3D, which I already bought in June and which I also want to play, though maybe not as badly as Four Swords AE. You can say what you want, but the price cut made the 3DS look very effortable and there's no point in buying a DSi instead of a 3DS.

Also, I don't believe that Nintendo will release a better 3DS model until February, otherwise they would have announced it at this week's conference instead of new colors for the current 3DS. They are even denying that a new model is planned and they also denied any future price cuts. I don't believe the former, but I also don't think that the new model will appear in the next five months. So, there's no point in waiting until February.

And I really want to play Four Swords AE right now, this is something I always wanted since I got the original version on the GBA eight years ago. I was able to ignore Ocarina of Time 3D, because it didn't have any real new content. Four Swords AE, however, is stuffed with cool new content and I want to play this on day one. If I hadn't beaten the original version in multiplayer just recently for the first time (it's ironic that Nintendo announced a singleplayer for FS right after I finally got to play the game), I probably would be totally overhyped about this right now and there wouldn't be any question about buying new hardware at all.

So, I might be buying a 3DS next week, unless some big insight is going to stop me.

Overall it was a smart business move to make Four Swords AE free, but only available for a limited time. Everyone, who wants the game, but doesn't have a DSi or a 3DS yet, now has a problem. It might be that they will bring it back later and sell it "because of popular demand", but I'm not taking that risk. This is not something, that I want to miss.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Four Swords Anniversary Edition Screenshot Analysis

Here you can find many screenshots of the upcoming DSiWare version of Four Swords. Instead of just dumping all screenshots here like other sites do, I'll only post some of them, but add a detailed analysis.

That's a screenshot of the multiplayer inside Talus Cave. You can clearly see, that they used the touchscreen for the map menu. In the GBA version you would get a transparent map menu by pressing L. There aren't any details on the map, because of the randomisation. It only shows the location of the other players and the goal, so that's normal. They changed the icon for the goal, originally it was a Heart Container, now it's a flag pole. Maybe they did this, because the Heart Container was misleading, since only one player can get the Heart Container. Or maybe it's because of the new stages, which don't have bosses, so the final floor probably only has a goal, but no Heart Container.

In case you wonder, what the stuff on the left and right side is good for, I explain it for you. On the left are your Sword, Armor and Speed levels. You increase them by collecting the red Razor Seeds, the blue Armor Seeds and the green Pegasus Seeds. Those are randomly distributed over the course of the entire stage and they give you a good advantage. However, much like the Heart Containers or for example the Blue Bracelet in Four Swords Adventures they will be gone as soon as you leave or finish the stage. On the right side are Rupee Shards. They are like Heart Pieces only that they form a huge golden Rupee worth 500 Rupees, when one player collects four of them. That's the most valuable Rupee in the game. They are also randomly distributed and sometimes it's wise to let a player grab one of them instead of taking it yourself, in case the other player already has three.

On the lower left you can see a small wireless connection icon, which indicates that this is a multiplayer game. Then there's the name of the stage, the floor number and the time.

Player 2 (the red Link) is a n00b, because he tries to pull a block. That never works. Shot is from the Sea of Trees stage. That one was always my favorite, except for the boss. Manhandla is the most annoying boss out of the four, I wonder how the fight will work in singleplayer.

Okay, this one is from the singleplayer. You can easily tell, because on the top right there are two items shown instead of one. Green Link got the Roc's Cape, Red Link got the Shield. You might wonder, why both Links don't have the same item, just like in Four Swords Adventures. Well, unlike in FSA sometimes interaction between different items is needed. For example one player has to get a Gnat Hat to go through a Minish tunnel. On the other side there are bombable blocks and another player now has to toss bombs to the player with the Gnat Hat, so he can destroy the blocks. But right now both Links are pushing a large block through Vaati's Palace. You can also see that the player already collected one Rupee Shard.

That's another singleplayer shot from Death Mountain. As you can see, the Links now raise their swords into the air while standing on a switch like they do in Four Swords Adventures. I mentioned this earlier, that this was not in the original game.

Those are shots from the Realm of Memories stage. The extra stages will have three doors similar to Vaati's Palace. You have to beat what's behind each door to beat the entire stage and get the sword move. Door 1 will have floors from A Link to the Past. Door 2 leads to the Link's Awakening area and door 3 to the classic NES Zelda area. These shots were taken from the 1st and 2nd floors of the A Link to the Past area. Both take place at or in Hyrule Castle, I hope the 3rd floor will be something different, like Eastern Palace for example.

Each stage has it's own icon. The icon is show on the stage selection, the lower map screen and on large switches on the floor. The icon of the Realm of Memories stage is a Triforce.

That's the result screen from multiplayer. It's so interesting, because the lower screen basically shows your save file. You got your name and everything, which you have unlocked. Under your name you can see icons for the Hurricane Spin Attack and the Sword Beam. They are the same as in the original. Next to them are the icons for the new stages. It looks like the Hero's Trial will have a scimitar as its icon. On the top right there's the number of Medals of Courage and your keys. All players got silver keys from the Sea of Trees and Talus Cave. Below that there's the total amount of Rupees. I doubt that this is the current score, because that would mean that they have collected 9907 Rupees in one stage, which should be impossible. It also wouldn't match with the current rankings. And Four Swords AE now got a total score of Rupees, you need to collect 30,000 Rupees alltogether to unlock the Hero's Trial.

This is the new stage selection screen. You can compare it with the screen in this post and you can clearly see how they added the new stages. There's a huge Triforce hovering above the Sea of Trees, which is also currently selected. This one is the Realm of Memories. The indicator next to it shows how many doors/parts of the stage have been beaten, in this case only the A Link to the Past section.

And then they added this tower complex to the east coast. I guess this is the Hero's Trial and this location really fits best, because it's right above the tutorial level, the Chamber of Insights. So, basically the easiest and the hardest level of the game are right next to each other, I love this. And this was similar in Oracle of Seasons, the first game made by Flagship, who also made the original Four Swords. In an unlinked game the "Hero's Cave" would be your tutorial level. And in a linked game the "Hero's Cave" would turn into the most challenging dungeon. After all the "Hero's Trial" seems to be inspired by the Hero's Caves in the Oracle saga, so this is really fitting.

So, that's it for now. I hope I could give you some insights about what you can expect. If there are any more questions, feel free to ask.

Source: iZelda

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grezzo made the Four Swords Anniversary Edition

The guys behind Ocarina of Time 3D developed the 25th Anniversary Edition of Four Swords.

I previously thought that Nintendo EAD3 itself would work on this, because after all their team got some guys from Flagship like Hidemaro Fujibayashi, who have been working on the original version of Four Swords. And also some guys from the team who made Four Swords Adventures and the Nintendo DS Zeldas. All of them would have been perfect candidates for this project. So, to learn that Grezzo was actually behind this is an interesting surprise.

It's so interesting, because this is the exact opposite of Ocarina of Time 3D when it comes to remakes. OoT3D focused mainly on the visuals and while they added things based on available content like Master Quest or the Boss Challenge, there wasn't any real new content per se. Four Swords AE is the exact opposite, there's no graphical update here, you might even call the "Realm of Memories" stage a graphical downgrade, the focus was entirely on adding new content, two new stages containing many new dungeon levels. And a singleplayer to make this game accessible for everyone.

With this Grezzo has proven that they are not only able to improve graphics, they also know how to add cool new content. Let them combine both talents to make the ultimate Majora's Mask 3D and after that they should be ready for their own Zelda game. Grezzo could become the new Flagship and entirely take over the handheld Zelda domain.

It's also nice to know that everyone on the big Zelda team is currently working on Skyward Sword.

Update: New logo released.

Source: Nintendo Everything

Skyward Sword Upgrade System Trailer

Watch on Youtube. So, there's more than just collecting bugs. You collect all kinds of things to upgrade all of your items. This was already mentioned at E3, but now we finally get to see this in detail. There are slots for 12 different bugs, all of them probably caught with the Bug Catching Net. There are also 16 slots for various spoils, that get dropped by enemies or are found in the environment. Similar to the spoils in the Wind Waker or some treasures in Spirit Tracks. For example there are Amber Relics, Ornamental Skulls, Monster Claws and Jelly Blobs to be collected. And there are four more slots for what I call "rare treasures" right now until we know better. This is how the Collection menu looks like:

Those items can then be used to make upgrades for your gear. In the trailer the Wooden Shield gets upgraded to a Banded Shield. (That's the fifth shield already!!) This looks really similar to how you purchase Train Cars in Spirit Tracks, three individual items are needed for an upgrade, each of them with a different count, in this example you needed two Amber Relics, one Monster Claw and one Jelly Blob (and also 30 Rupees) to make the Banded Shield.

Overall this seems to be an improvement over the spoil and treasure systems from the Wind Waker and the Nintendo DS Zeldas. I really hope they don't mess it up again this time, I don't want to spent hours and hours repeating the same tasks until I finally get the required item. It was a real pain to collect all 64 Ship Parts in Phantom Hourglass and all necessary Treasures in Spirit Tracks. But since there probably won't be a trading mode, I'm optimistic right now. The main reason why they made some of your treasures in Spirit Tracks extra rare was to encourage trading between players. If you can't trade there's no reason to fuck with the probabilities.

It would also be important that each collectible item gets at least one solid spot, there doesn't have to be any randomisation at all. In the Wind Waker each one of the spoils got dropped by a certain enemies. If you wanted a certain kind of spoil you just hunted down the specific enemy. Easy as that. It looks like in Skyward Sword Bokoblins might drop these skulls for example. So, if I want skulls I hunt Bokoblins. The bugs should have habitations. Let's say the lady beetle lives in the forest, so if you need lady beetles you go to the forest.

But what I certainly like are the upgrades. It's already amazing that we will get so many different shields and I'm eager to see what kind of upgrades for the B-items will be available. Could be really cool stuff. Hype, hype, hype.

Source: Zelda Informer

Skyward Sword Japanese Cover

Does your head hurt already? Mine sure does, it's time for an aspirin. There's only so many amazing Zelda info to process at a time. I can't remember the last day where we got so many new Zelda information at once. All new version of Four Swords with lots of cool stuff, tons of new Skyward Sword material and infos, it's crazy, but I love it. Well, here's the Japanese cover for Skyward Sword:

I definitely prefer our golden cover. The Japanese one looks too much like Sci-Fi. And there's Ghiharim on it, I hate his character (which is a good thing, you're supposed to hate the bad guy, I still don't want him on the cover).

Source: Nintendo Everything

Cute Zelda

Zelda in Skyward Sword looks really adorable and lovely. I think you as the player can really fall in love with her during the game. This is important, the ultimate goal is to save Zelda at the end and there needs to be proper motivation. If she's some stranger, who you've never met before (like in the first The Legend of Zelda game), why should you care about her? Okay, sometimes "just because she's hot" might be reason enough, but it's definitely better when you really care about her character.

And YOU as the player should care about her and not only Link the character like in Twilight Princess. There you had Ilia, who doesn't really care about you and who doesn't even recognize you later in the game, while Link seems to have all these feelings for her. And you are forced to care for her as well, you have to rescue her and restore her memories. But as the player you don't really want to, the game never really established a connection between you and her, her connection with Link was basically a story preset. You've been told "this is Ilia, you have to care about her, period." And she gives you a hard time, at first she only cares about your horse and then she ignores you completely. There are many Zelda fans, who disliked Ilia's characters, and this is mostly because they were forced to care about a character, where no real connection with the player exists. Zelda in Twilight Princess was really gorgeous and majestic, however, you only spent so much time with her... again you should ask yourself, why is it that you should care about her? You only met her once and now suddenly it's all about saving her? I don't know...

Skyward Sword doesn't seem to have this problem though. I haven't even played the game yet, but I already want to save her. What an adorable girl.

Skyward Sword gets 2nd Quest and Boss Rush Mode

This seems to be a new staple for the series and I can only appreciate it. All Zelda games released this year will have these features. Ocarina of Time 3D came bundled with Master Quest and got the new Boss Challenge and Gauntlet modes. Four Swords originally got two additional difficulty levels and you will also fight all bosses in the final final level (though not in a row). And Spirit Tracks at least got the Boss Rush Mode, though sadly not a 2nd Quest.

I can only hope that this will be the new standard for upcoming Zelda games. I'm not really interested in a boss rush, but I know many Zelda fans who are. And a 2nd Quest always really adds to the replay value of a game, it made the first game so much more interesting. But The Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time were the only games to get a real 2nd Quest, the Oracles and The Wind Waker got some kind of 2nd Quest with new features bot no increase in difficulty, Four Swords got its three difficulty levels, and that's it. So, it would be nice to see some fully developed 2nd Quest again. Well, I can't wait to see how the 2nd Quest in Skyward Sword will look like. Probably double damage and I bet it's mirrored. :D

According to Miyamoto the game will take between 50 and 100 hours to beat. But they said basically the same about Twilight Princess, so don't expect the longest Zelda game just yet. But it's definitely looking good, especially since it will get a 2nd Quest.

Source: Nintendo Everything

Game Informer Skyward Sword Cover Story: All Infos

Source. That's all the info from the Game Informer cover story. I will just copy paste the whole thing in here. Prepare for spoilers and prepare to get overloaded with tons of new infos. The facts are interrupted by Aonuma quotes. The whole thing is just FYI for now, I will comment on some stuff later.

Update: you can now view full scans of the cover story here or here.

Zelda History Video + New Skyward Sword Trailer

Go watch. In case you don't know all Zelda games yet, you might learn something new. No, in any case you will learn something new, because there's a Skyward Sword trailer at the end with even more new content... most of the things was shown during the conference, but you can also spot some new stuff. Like a motor boat, a new shield and a new mysterious character.

You're controlling a motor boat on a lake in the desert area, so I hope you liked the boat stuff from previous games. It seems to be a lot faster then the boats in The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass though. I wonder if this game also got trains in it... haha. If yes, please make them go faster as well.

And there's the fourth shield:

At first I thought that this was the new Iron Shield, the rectangle shaped one. However, that one is still in the game as shown during the conference. So is the Wooden Shield and the Hylia Shield. Which means that this is already the fourth shield that you can get. Amazing. There hasn't been any other Zelda game with so many different shields in it, the maximum so far always has been three.

And then there's this mysterious girl at the end of trailer, she looks like she's related to Ghirahim in some way, maybe his sister, lol. Or it might be one entire tribe of people. Maybe it's the Shiekah, what do we know about the Shiekah anyway? Except that they have red eyes?

It also seems like there will be lots of climbing, balancing and stamina "puzzles".

New Skyward Sword Footage at 3DS Conference

So, this is a 3DS conference, so what can we expect about Zelda? Nothing much really, oh wait, Miyamoto gets on stage with Master Sword and Hylia Shield... Waaaahhh, cool new version of Four Swords! Waaaahhh, tons of new Skyward Sword stuff!!!

The latter I did not see coming and there's lots of stuff to process here. I will update this post later after I got some sleep (it's 6AM here).

But... giant flying Windfish thingy, Dual Clawshot returns, the Bug Catching Net returns, collecting butterflies, the F.L.U.D.D. from Mario Sunshine as an item, Phantoms, awesome mincart rails, flooded forest area, giiaaaant dark boss thingy, stuff, stuff, stuff... they shown us more about this game in two minutes than have shown us before.

Update: You can watch the whole thing here. Let's start to talk about some interesting things here.

Most if not all B-Items are revealed at this point. The Bug Catching Net will return for the first time after A Link to the Past and Ancient Stone Tablets. No other Zelda game brought this item back yet (if you don't count the bunny catching net in Spirit Tracks) and it's definitely something that would utilize MotionPlus very well. The Double Clawshot from Twilight Princess also returns. It was definitely a cool item and one of the few items that got a lot of usage back then, but this is also the reason why I'm not really excited about this. Because we got that already. The last item is some kind of sprinkler, it reminds me of the F.L.U.D.D. device from Super Mario Sunshine. Wouldn't be the only thing taken from 3D Mario games. (UPDATE: Actually this item will be similar to the Gust Jar from The Minish Cap, very awesome.)

The Mole Mitts were also shown for the first time, though it doesn't seem to be a B-Item, but rather something, which you only use in first person scout mode. There you use the Skyward Sword like a compass, it points to many things including Zelda herself.

We get a larger look at the desert area for the first. I bet there are a lot of quicksand areas, where you can't touch ground. It looks like some giant, massive obstacle course, where you climb stuff and go on insanely fast minecarts, etc. And there are desert ships. I just love this idea in general, this was probably the best thing about Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and I welcome the sand sailors to the realm of Zelda. I always wanted something like this in a Zelda game ever since Oracle of Seasons, where you leave the Samasa Desert on board of a pirate ship.

The forest area from the E3 2010 demo seems to be flooded at the beginning. Nice clear water, reminds me of the GDC2005 trailer of Twilight Princess, where Links also dives in some clear water inside a forest area.

There are actually Phantoms in the so called "Silent Realm" (and not Siren Realm like thought previously), they look really badass and you can put them to sleep by collecting Tears of Light, however, when a Poe notices you they wake up anyway. I guess this part will be the one that's least fun for me, I hate running from enemies.

I misjudged the giant fire spider rock boss though. It's called Scaldera and you don't actually run from him. The boss arena is a ramp and you can now run up ramps using the dashing. Luring the boss up there seems to be part of the fight, so this is luckily not some giant chasing sequence like I feared previously.

Talking about awesome bosses, there was this huuuuge dark thingy and you had to climb on top of it. It's scary, dark, huge and there was a meter indicating the distance between the monster and some destination. You probably have to stop it before it gets there. That was some real crazy shit. But not as crazy as the giant flying Windfish monster with Eyesoar Bellum eyes all over it (it felt really similar to the Ghost Ship battle sequence in Phantom Hourglass). So, there's actually sky combat, however, you attack by dashing into things with your bird. And to get more Pirates of the Caribbean references, Link is on board a ship that gets attacked by same huge Kraken-like tentacles.

Another cool thing was the fighting sequence where Link dashes at one of the fat enemies and jumps over him. That was stylish, I'm really going to enjoy battling the stronger normal enemies. About the stamina stuff, you collect green fruits to recover your stamina instantly.

The first collectible quest got introduced next to the already established Pieces of Heart. If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of collecting items in Zelda games: Secret Seashells, Gold Skulltulas, Gasha Rings, Figurines, Spirit Gems, Ship Parts... I just dig that kind of stuff and it's really important to me. And now that we have the Bug Catching Net it makes sense that you collect bugs with it. In A Link to the Past you would use it for all kinds of stuff but not catching any bugs (only some bees). However, this kinda looks lame. It's seems to be the same like the Golden Bugs in Twilight Princess, only not golden, which makes it even lamer. But at least you get better uses for you bugs than just Rupees and Wallet Upgrades, you can upgrade potions using bugs for example. It looked like you can collect multiple bugs of one kind. For the potion upgrade you needed one yellow beetle, three blue butterflies and one lady beetle.

Yeah, and there was Beedle, who was powering his flying house by cycling on a bike, lol. He sold a Bombbag Upgrade (I think) and something that looked like a shattered Heart Container (not a Heart Piece). Update: this is one of the medals. However, expect some nice "oohhhhhhhhh, thaaank youuuuuuuu" in this one.

But I'm going to stop here, there's so much stuff to process and the video was only the beginning, it's a real overload of Zelda information today. More in upcoming posts.

Four Swords Anniversary Edition Announced

Just shown at the conference. But don't be lost, Hyrule Blog already prepared all the infos about this game! Some of these infos are exlusive to Hyrule Blog. PLEASE DO NOT POST ANYWHERE ELSE WITHOUT CREDITING!

  • There's a singleplayer mode similar to the one in Four Swords Adventures. It is based on the two player mode, so you only control two Links at the same time.
  • You can switch between both Links whenever you want. But there's also a mode, where the second Link follows you around. There he will automatically perform actions to assist you in certain situations. For example if you get near a large block, he'll "warp" to your side and start pushing it with you.

  • There are two new stages, each one has three doors similar to Vaati's Palace leading to different areas. Each area will have three floors, but no bosses. The areas won't be randomised.
  • Instead of keys for Vaati's Palace you will receive the unlockable sword moves, the Sword Beam and the Hurricane Spin Attack, at the end of the new stages.
  • The first stage is called "Realm of Memories", it features several retro themed levels and gets unlocked after beating Vaati's Palace once. There will be areas in the style of The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. The visuals will fully change into the different classic styles, for example the Link's Awakening area will be oldschool GameBoy monochrome.

  • The second stage is called "Hero's Trial" and really challenging compared to the rest of the game. It got some new settings like a wintery forest and features mass enemy fights like in Four Swords Adventures, something the GameBoy Advance game originally couldn't do. The stage gets unlocked after accumulating 30,000 Rupees from all levels. There's a now a total score of Rupees and each time after beating a level your Rupees get add to this score.

  • They added certain other stuff from Four Swords Adventures. For example when standing on buttons the Links will be holding up their swords and scream "hiyaah" when completing a level.
  • The Medals of Courage earned in multiplayer don't serve any real purpose this time except for bragging rights. Everything can be unlocked in singleplayer, luckily.
  • It will be available for both DSi(XL) and 3DS with cross platform play. No online or Download Play though.
  • This is how the DSi menu icon looks like:

  • The game is called The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords - (25th) Anniversary Edition
  • It will be released September 28th FOR FREE. It will only be available until February 20th 2012 though.

What can I say? What can I say except that this is probably the greatest anniversary gift ever? Because it is. The orchestra is epic, the music CDs are nice and the golden Wiimote is a must-buy, but this... they put real effort into the new version of Four Swords, into something released for free. And they made all my dreams about Four Swords (yes, both of them) come true. I will be finally be able to enjoy this game whenever I want. And the new stages are really cool and absolutely add something to the game. My biggest complaint about Ocarina of Time 3D was the lack of a bonus dungeon. Now we know why, they put all their bonus dungeon making energy into Four Swords AE.

Thank you, Nintendo! This is awesome!

UPDATE: The game will only be available for a limited time (source), from September 28th to February 20th 2012. That is the date when the 25th Anniversary ends (it started February 21st 2011). If this means that it will be completely gone then, this would suck and I would have to buy a 3DS now... so, this isn't just generosity after all, it might motivate some people to buy a 3DS or at least a DSi until that date.

Also, check out the nice trailer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Welcome to Eldin Volcano

GameInformer currently plans some extensive coverage of the 25th Anniversary and the upcoming game Skyward Sword. They also got some exclusive stuff like this video, where they take a tour to Eldin Volcano.

First of all, I love how the game looks and sounds, it's really nice, the bright visuals, the music, I love it. No doubt about it. I also love the tiny-ass parachute Link draws one second before he would crush to death. It couldn't be more unrealistic, but this is a game and it looks like fun.

And there seem to be huge beacons leading to your next destination, so you don't get lost. They remind me of the beacons in Unreal Tournament's Onslaught and Warfare mode pointing to the next Power Node(s). In case you don't get me, if something reminds of UT it's usually a good thing.

I still have concerns about the whole flying thing though. It looks really boring and since you use the MotionPlus for steering there seems to be no way to enable on-flight combat... It seems like Nintendo didn't learn from the mistakes made in The Wind Waker. I'm not extremely concerned, because I usually enjoyed the sailing because of the atmosphere, but there are many people who nearly got bored to death by The Wind Waker's sailing parts.

What concerns me more is the thought of a disconnected overworld. That you will get isolated areas with no connection between them. Because I don't want that, it's cheap game design, they just as well could give you a level select like in the Four Swords games. I already didn't want that for Spirit Tracks, but we still got a bunch of isolated areas connected by rails.

The music of Eldin Volcano sounds nice, the music while flying not so much... I was hoping that the catchy trailer theme would be played while flying, so at least I would get some nice music during the boring flights.

What's most interesting about Eldin Volcano is the name. It's obviously named after the Eldin Province in Twilight Princess, the area with Kakariko and Death Mountain. So, this means two things. The provinces in Twilight Princess will return and Death Mountain wasn't always called Death Mountain (this or Death Mountain isn't the only large volcano in Eldin). I would love it when this game explains how this volcano got its later name.

And the Master Sword's spirit actually calls you "Master". Nice one.

Well, I can't wait for more videos (they announced four more later this month). And I certainly can't wait to play this game. Color me excited.

Source: GameInformer

Friday, September 9, 2011

Predicting Zelda's Future by Looking at its Past

The changes that we implement often come from ideas for improving and expanding elements found in previous installments.
- Aonuma (GDC2004 speech)

An easy method to predict future Zelda titles is by looking at the past of the franchise. By listening to interviews with the developers when they talk about things they wanted to do but couldn't. By looking at beta material which didn't make it into the final game.

There are many examples, a recent one would be Ocarina of Time. Originally Miyamoto wanted to have real horse combat in the game not just archery (source), but they weren't able to do it. But it would later be an important part of Twilight Princess. Also, Miyamoto wanted Link to raise the sword over his head and now we get a game that is named after this pose. Aonuma always wanted to "fix" the Water Temple, there hasn't been a single Aonuma interview, where he didn't apologize for the Water Temple. And now he finally could fix this with Ocarina of Time 3D. So, it's always wise to listen to the developer's regrets, because someday they might bring back old ideas.

The probably biggest regret that is going to be fixed now is the ocean from The Wind Waker. They cut quite some content from the game and it was a common complaint that the game could have used at least two more dungeons. They also could have extended the underwater Hyrule into a full fledged overworld with multiple spots where you travel between the Great Seas and Hyrule. And I think this is exactly what they're doing right now with Skyward Sword. Instead of the Great Sea you will get Skyloft, however, this time the Hyrule under the ocean will be massive.

Beta content is a little bit trickier to judge, because sometimes things get scrapped because they simply didn't work out. But a recent example would be the giant spider chasing sequence from the Twilight Princess GDC2005 trailer. It never made it into the full game like tons of other stuff shown in the trailer. But then in Spirit Tracks we would get a similar sequence only on train this time. And now they even brought back the whole idea for Skyward Sword, only this time inside a temple and with the spider on fire. But it uses the same camera and everything.

^Remember me?

And who knows, maybe the Unicorn Fountain appears in Skyward Sword, too? (Nah, they would have included it in Ocarina of Time 3D if there really was the intention of bringing this back.)

The second method is dealing with minor game elements that might become the center attention of a future game. This is where the quote from the beginning of my post comes in.

The best example is probably Majora's Mask. Because this game really takes a lot of minor sidequest elements from Ocarina of Time and turns them into the game's central elements. Like the masks, the masks were an optional sidequest in Ocarina of Time and became probably the most important feature of its successor.

Another example would be The Minish Cap. The idea of the Minish Cap itself is based on the Gnat Hat item from Capcom's previous game Four Swords. Or the flying from Skyward Sword is actually based on the Zora River Kargarok flying sequence in Twilight Princess. Something that is some unimportant side feature in one game, could be the big idea of the next game.

The third method is predicting direct successors and their content. A direct successor is a game, that reuses the entire engine of a previous game. If two games of the same franchise are released for the same system, it's only natural that the second game would reuse everything from the first game. The first big example would be Majora's Mask, it was designed as a game that could be made within a year using the engine of Ocarina of Time as well as all graphics and game elements.

Mr. Miyamoto's goal of completing the game in a short period of time was a result of having spent so much time developing the 3D Ocarina engine. He wanted to make effective use of that engine in creating a new game. [...] We decided that this would be very important for future Zelda development.
- Aonuma (source)

It was not the only game to do that. Capcom's Oracle games were based on the Link's Awakening engine. Capcom would then later take their multiplayer game Four Swords and turn all its content into a singleplayer game, The Minish Cap. Pretty much everything from Twilight Princess was used to make Link's Crossbow Training. And the latest example was Spirit Tracks, which reused the Phantom Hourglass engine.

Even though [we] felt [we]'d done everything [we] could with The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask came out of it. Now, in the same way, [we] progressed from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass into making The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
- Iwata (source)

The first predictment I made on this blog back in 2008 was that we would get a second Nintendo DS Zelda before the Wii Zelda. I was laughed at for this comment, noone would have thought this at the time, but at GDC2009 then Spirit Tracks was announced. And this was simple to predict, because a second game using the Phantom Hourglass engine could be easily made, while the next Wii game probably was going to get its own engine, where the development takes much longer. If I would have looked further into this, I even could have predicted the train idea, because a third game on a boat would have been terrible, but they also wouldn't want to scrap the engine parts for the boat travel.

So, you want to predict how the next Zelda game looks like? Just look at the past, the game is somewhere in there.