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.

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