Sunday, October 30, 2011

Farming Big Plays

I love my shiny new Nintendo 3DS, because it lets me do lots of Zelda related things, which I wanted to do for a while now. For example farming Big Plays in Phantom Hourglass. You could say that until this point I never had a 100% savegame of Phantom Hourglass, because I never got the 16 Big Plays (those are awards you earn in multiplayer). The multiplayer isn't much fun, so I never really played it online. And tracking someone down, who also wants to farm Big Plays, is somehow inconvenient. And I never really thought that Big Plays count as something that you have to do for a 100% completion anyway. Scoring all Big Plays in multiplayer adds four treasure chests to the house on Cannon Island. All of them include golden ship parts, which is awesome, but you can easily get them on other means. And since I already got all golden ship parts, I never really cared about the Big Plays. But of course you could say that I never got all treasure chests or just count the Big Plays theirselves as part of your completion level.

But now I did it anyway. If you have two DS systems you can easily do it yourself. But you'll need a second copy of the game, because you can't earn any Big Plays if your opponent uses Download Play. So, I went back to the video store and rented Phantom Hourglass again. I already did the same earlier this year to replay the game, because I didn't want to erase one of my two 100% savegames. Funny enough my old file on the rented game was still there. And no one created a second savegame. It seems like I'm the only idiot, who's renting this game. But thanks to that I could now transfer all the golden ship parts, which I got during my replay session, to one of my old files using the Contact Mode. You never can have enough of those shiny gold pieces.

Using a second DS and a second copy of the game also has the advantage, that you don't have to lose to someone. If you farm Big Plays online, you will need to let your partner win multiple times as well, which then counts against your win percentage. Unless of course you use two savegames, your actual one and a dummy. But that's even more incovenient and in my case I have two fully beaten savegames, which I wanted to keep.

I farmed all 16 Big Plays in both of my savegames. So, it did the whole thing twice. Here's the list of what you have to do:

  • No Items: Win without taking a single item.
  • No Dribble: Win, but don't drop Force Gems outside bases or safe zones.
  • Limit: Win a match, felling Link in the last 20 sec. of two turns.
  • Solo: Defeat Link in any one turn using only one Phantom.
  • Break: Break 10 or more of your opponent's helpful items.
  • Take: Pick up 10 or more of your own helpful items.
  • Perfect Master: Complete a Perfect and Limit at the same time.
  • Quick: Win a match, felling Link in the first 20 sec. of two turns.
  • Miracle: Win 1-0.
  • Get Everything: Win, turning all the Force Gems your color.
  • Guardian: Win without letting your opponent score any points.
  • Perfect: Complete both the Get Everything and Guardian together.
  • No Miss: Win without being taken down once as Link.
  • Guard King: Take Link down three times as the Phantoms.
  • Master: Complete a No Miss and Guardian at the same time.
  • Battle Master: Complete a Limit and Master at the same time.

Some of these goals are conflicting, for example you can't do Limit and Quick at the same time. But you can make it easily in three games. First focus on Quick and Get Everything, ignore all items. In the second game focus on the Perfect Master. In the last game go for Miracle. This is the perfect opportunity to get No Dribble, as well as Break and Take.

After scoring four Big Plays you will get a letter that a prize is awaiting you at Cannon Island. So, you get four letters in total. Talk to Fuzo, Eddo's apprentice, on Cannon Island and he will add a treasure chest to his room. The prizes seem to be fixed:

4 Big Plays: Golden Chimney
8 Big Plays: Golden Handrail
12 Big Plays: Golden Cannon
16 Big Plays: Golden Hull

I also used this opportunity to take a good look at all eight stages. Stages 1 and 4 are probably most suitable for farming Big Plays.

Well, that's it. After beating both versions of Four Swords, beating Ocarina of Time 3D and now farming all the Big Plays I can now claim that I have fully beaten all Zelda games with a 100% completion rate. That is until Skyward Sword appears in 19 days. But still this was one of my longtime goals and I'm really happy that I finally achieved that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thieving Bokoblins

In the latest Nintendo Skyward Sword press material we get to see how Link is robbed of all equipment by Bokoblins:

Why am I posting this? Primarily because this is again something that reminds me of the Oracle games. As you all know Fujibayashi is the director of Skyward Sword and his influence on this game is heavy. He was previously know for directing all Capcom Zeldas and various elements from these games will be present.

When playing the full version of Skyward Sword at a Nintendo press event last week, we ran into two events, where certain ingame characters were attacked by Bokoblins. These scenes totally reminded me of similar scenes in the Capcom games, like when Impa gets attack by Octoroks in Oracle of Ages or when you first meet Ezlo in The Minish Cap. And the concept of the medals sounds very similar to the Magic Rings in the Oracle games. And the most obvious influence might be the return of both the Mole Mitts and the Gust Jar items from The Minish Cap.

Now the stealing Bokoblins remind me of Oracle of Ages, where the Tokays steal all your items on Crescent Island. It was a cool puzzle, where you had to get back all items one after another. I hope it will get more in this direction, because I seriously wouldn't want another full Silent World stealth sequence. I guess at the beginning you're helpless, but you will grow stronger continiously. You get your shield back, so that you can defend yourself from attacks. You get your whip back to attack and stun enemies, etc... And it would be interesting, if the Bokoblins use your items against you. This would be similar to Metroid Fusion or Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, where the X and the Ings stole your abilities and used them against you. It was a cool concept.

Source: ZeldaEurope

Entering Dungeons

From the latest issue of Iwata Asks:

Fujibayashi: On the other hand, we paid a lot of attention to how to enter dungeons. In the original Legend of Zelda game, Link went into a dungeon with a tomp-tomp-tomp sound. I really wanted to recreate that!

I like Fujibayashi, I'm currently thinking that he has a good influence on the Zelda series and comes up with the right ideas. And the way how you enter a dungeon was a lost art. It basically started with Ocarina of Time, where they introduced the temple concept, which by now became very stale. The temples were basically holy places that got cursed. And because they were holy places, they are mostly open to the world. But I think a real dungeon should be a dangerous and scary place, something that has to be sealed to protect the people from what's inside. As you might know one of my favorite Zelda games is Link's Awakening and one of the many things I like about this game is how they sealed the dungeons. Usually you have to find a key to open it first and sometimes they were sealed on other means. That was a smart concept only copied by the Oracle games. And this now returns in Skyward Sword, for example to enter the Earth Temple you have to get its key first. Dungeons look way more dangerous, if they are not something out in the open.

Dungeons used to be places going deep underground. What you see on the overworld in earlier games is only the small entrance. That's part of what Fujibayashi meant about how you enter a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda, where Link goes down a staircase with a simple animation and sound effect. The way how they recreated this feeling is pretty impressive, we've seen footage of Link entering the Skyview Temple and the Earth Temple. In both cases he walks down a long staircase leading underground. Howling wind blows towards you and it's all very atmospheric. This is very reminiscent of classic Zelda and one of the many things in Skyward Sword done right.

Nintendo is Spoiling Skyward Sword

Seriously... each Friday Nintendo adds a huge update to their sites showing you more environments and dungeons of the game. With all these previews they might as well just show us a walkthrough of the entire game. What are they thinking? And it doesn't seem like it will stop until the game gets released.

I don't get it. Never has there been so many preview informations for a Zelda game in advance. But they release all of this for a reason, they want you to see it. And it's hard to ignore it. I said to myself that I will stop looking at any preview material, but then I watch it anyway. And I'm beginning to ask myself, how much of the game actually gets shown here. How much will be left to be discovered by myself? It feels like they have already shown us more than half of the entire game. And I seriously hope that I'm not going to regret watching any of this.

Replaying Majora's Mask

Since last December I was busy playing through the entire Zelda series again. It started with Spirit Tracks and at that time I wasn't even thinking about replaying all Zelda games, but I slowly began to revisit other titles like A Link to the Past or Twilight Princess. And before I knew it, it became a little project, where I would beat all Zelda games again before Skyward Sword arrives. I even replayed the BS Zelda games. And now this was my final destination. Actually I started replaying Majora's Mask on my Wii two weeks before I got my Nintendo 3DS. Then I paused to play the Four Sword Anniversary Edition and Ocarina of Time 3D, but two days ago I returned to finish the file.

Some Zelda fans would say that I saved the best for last, but at first I didn't really want to play Majora's Mask again, even though it's actually one of my favorite games in the series. What really turned me off are all the unfun minigames, which you even have to beat multiple times. Like beating them once isn't worse enough. I got pretty mad at the Deku flying minigame for example, the game on the 2nd day was quite frustrating, and it's always exhausting that you have to race the beever brothers FOUR times to get everything. I think all those minigames killed a part of the replay value for me. There's just a lot of stuff, which I don't want to do again. But after you've cleared the majority of minigames it gets better.

But the game allows you to replay basically every single part of it whenever you want. So, as a kid I replayed individual sections many, many times. Like replaying the Skulltula Houses, I love those and already played them a dozen times. Or rebattling the bosses using the Fierce Deity's Mask. That is fun and on the Nintendo 64 I spent a lot of time screwing around. It was like a giant playground. Today I wouldn't have much fun doing this, because it would feel meaningless. I only do stuff to get new items, everything else gets ignored. But as a kid I spent a lot of time with this game without ever actually playing it a second time from start to finish. However, I didn't have many N64 games and I just probably did it because I had nothing else to play. :)

Well, my main motivation to replay this game now was gaining a higher appreciation for a potential Majora's Mask 3D remake. I wanted to look for things that could be done in a remake, especially how they could rearrange the dungeons in a Majora's Mask 3D Master Quest. However, playing Majora's Mask on the Wii first and then playing Ocarina of Time 3D in comparison made me wanting a remake for the improved frame rate and better graphics alone! Ocarina of Time 3D just plays so much more nicely and smoothly than this game, I really want Majora's Mask to get the same treatment. Especially since the frame rate on the Wii Virtual Console version is quite slow and it's even worse on the Collector's Edition. The game running smoothly alone would be a huge improvement. Luckily I already was at Ikana and cleared all sidequests at the point where I would return to the game. If I wouldn't have been so far into the game, I probably couldn't have built up enough motivation to continue. I'm now spoiled by the quality of Ocarina of Time 3D and I want my Majora's Mask 3D next year.

It's also a game, where the 3D could shine. In fact it might be even more impressive than Ocarina of Time 3D, let alone the moon come closer at you in depth. And there's lots of stuff in this game, which could look quite impressive in 3D, it already starts with the chasing sequence at the beginning of the game. Or where Skull Kid turns you into the Deku, you get surrounded by lots of large Deku Scrubs. I would love to see this in 3D. Or the giants or Twinmold or... everything. A more subtle example would be the Mirror Shield. Unlike in Ocarina of Time the Mirror Shield here shines all the time when you stand in light and not only when you use it. So, if you look at Link from behind, the rays of light are coming right at you. This would make a nice 3D effect that pops.

While they're at it they could fix a bug that always bugged me. Namely that Link is missing in certain cutscenes. For example when you place yourself at the entrance of the clock tower at the night of the 3rd day and the cutscene starts, where the tower opens, Link isn't seen anywhere. They should fix this for the 3DS version. I also never understood, why Deku Link can't use the Magic Beans. After all the Business Scrubs are selling them exclusively to Dekus. And why can't Goron Link use bombs? After all that's their number one merchandise.

I already complained about all the minigames, but the hardest thing might be scoring a Perfect in the town's Shooting Gallery. The one with the Octoroks. You have to be really quick here, remember the formations and aim in advance. When I replayed the game on my Wii two and half years ago (see here), I came up with a nice solution. I forgot to mention this at that time, so I'm going to do this now. I made a list with sketches of all the formations and sticked it to the left side of my TV. Luckily I still have this list, so I could use it again. This is how it looks like:

It's certainly not pretty, but it gets the job done. It tells me where the next targets will be, so I can preaim accordingly. The little circles are the targets and the crosses are the blue Octoroks, which you shouldn't shoot. Well, if you try often enough you memorize the formations on your own, but the list heavily fastened the process this time. And nothing makes me happier than completing a frustrating minigame as soon as possible.

Overall minigames are also something, where a 3DS version would automatically improve the game. Aiming with the gyroscope is much faster and easier than using an analog stick. I doubt that I would have to stick such a list onto my 3DS. It wouldn't fit anyway. Or the Deku flying minigame is another example, it would be much easier to judge the jumps in 3D.

And the masks were basically made for the touch buttons! In Ocarina of Time 3D I complained that you can only use the touch buttons for items like bottles, something that doesn't get used extensively like the bow. Now more than half of the game's items would be masks and there are even six bottles... this item collection is perfectly suitable for the touch buttons!

Giving Link silly names is always funny, but this time I didn't do it on purpose. My first savegame on the Wii was called "Tourian", so I called Link "Tourist" this time (the file menu now reads Tourian Tourist, I do that all the time ^^). Well, Anju now actually called me "Mr. Tourist" when asking for the reservation. At first I thought that it was a little bit demeaning that she calls her guests that way, I mean a doctor doesn't call his patient "Mr. Patient" or a shop owner doesn't call you "Mr. Customer", but then I realized that she was actually using the name which I had entered, lol.

Yeah, and did I mention that I love the Skulltula Houses? If GREZZO adds something to the game, please let it be a third Skulltula House. You could get the Shard of Agony there or whatever.

And it always surprises me if I discover something new after all these years. I've been playing this game up and down ever since it was released in 2000 and you should think that I know all about it, but this time I actually discovered something new. I have several rituals at the beginning of the first day. I usually slow the time down first by playing the inverted Song of Time. Then I enter the Bomber's Hideout and use the Blast Mask to get the 100 Rupees behind the Skulltula in the left sewer tunnel. Then I leave the sewer and use the Bunny Hood to get the 100 Rupees above the Shooting Gallery. That's an easy 200 Rupees for every cycle. Then I warp to the Southern Swamp and head to the Woods of Mystery to get a Magic Mushroom. I give this mushroom to Kotake to get a free Blue Potion. Now it turns out that I actually never had to enter the stupid Woods of Mystery for this part. On the way to the witch's hut there's actually another mushroom, next to a sign before the pathway with two Deku Babas. I could have just picked this one up all these years and save myself some time. You have no idea how many times I went into the Woods of Mystery for basically nothing!

Well, it has been fun. I replayed all Zelda games, no exceptions, and I'm now fully ready for Skyward Sword, which will be released in exactly three weeks. The only other game that I might add to my current replay list is Link's Awakening DX, as soon as I get one of those Zelda prepaid cards for the eShop. I already played Link's Awakening earlier this year, but luckily only the classic monochrome version and not the DX one. But this might have to wait until after Skyward Sword, I'm probably going to play this on my 3DS when I travel home at Christmas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Review)

If there's one issue with the Nintendo 3DS, then it's the current lack of good software. The biggest must-have title for the 3DS is actually 13 years old, the remake of Ocarina of Time. But is this game really something, which makes buying a 3DS worth it? Unlike my review of the Four Swords Anniversary Edition this review will only deal with the qualities of the remake itself, because there's no point in reviewing Ocarina of Time. We all know that the game is great, many still consider it to be the best Zelda game and it's certainly one of the greatest games of all time. If you haven't played Ocarina of Time yet, then go play it now. This review should primarily concern people, who played the original game and now want to know how much better the new version really is.

Technically this isn't really a full "remake", it uses the original game as a base and it tries to be very faithful to it, it's more like an updated, remastered version. I will still use the term "remake" throughout the review.

Graphics and 3D

The main focus of this remake lies definitely on the visuals. This is primarily a graphical update of the game. And at first it's quite stunning, you will be amazed with all the new details, which they added to the game. And it runs so much more smoothly on a steady framerate, it's really enjoyable. But the euphoria about the new looks wears off quickly. The problem is that the level of detail is varying a lot. At some places like Hyrule Castle Town they went through a lot of troubles to remodel everything and add nice details in every little corner. You can spent hours just studying the new details. However, in other places it just looks like a simple texture pack. For example the staircases in Kakariko Village are still just simple textures and you start wondering how hard it can be to model an actual staircase. Another good example would be fences, in some places they are now actual 3D models, in other places like Hyrule Field or Hyrule Caste they are still 2D objects. If you look at them from the side they are nearly invisible. This shouldn't appear in a game, which is all about 3D! Some things even might look worse to you, the best example would be the muddy textures for Like Likes and the Dead Hand. They really looked much better on the N64.

But the 3D effect definitely works nice for this game. Unlike the flat 3D effects in Dead or Alive: Dimensions the 3D here goes very deeply and there are actually things popping out of the screen, for example when you get certain items or look at the lens flair effect of the sun. And if you think about it, this game was originally made for 3D, it was the first 3D Zelda game and one of Nintendo's first biggest games with 3D graphics, so the environments were really made with 3D in mind, even though at that time there were no 3D screens like today. I don't have much experience with the 3DS yet, but I'd say that Ocarina of Time 3D is probably one of the best showcases of 3D on the system.

Interface and Controls

Of course the game plays slightly differently on the 3DS than it did on the N64. It heavily uses the touchscreen for your interface and it adepts to the button layout of the 3DS, which is missing the four C-buttons of the N64. You only get to use the X and Y buttons for your items, but as a compensation the four corners of the touch screen now act as touch buttons. On the left side you will find the button for the camera and Navi and the button for your Ocarina. The buttons on the right side can be assigned with items of your choice. But since the touch buttons feel somehow unresponsive and you may not like touching the touchscreen with your fingers, they are only suitable for items like the Eye of Truth, bottles, masks or boots. Something that doesn't get used extensively.

The new item menu works similar to the one from the early GameBoy Zeldas, you can swap items all around. The Iron and Hover Boots are now normal items like in later 3D Zelda games, which makes swapping them much faster and more comfortable. Overall the new item menu works nicely except for the Fairy Bow. To switch between the different arrow types you have to tap on the bow icon to open a little submenu and then select the arrow of your choice, which is even more inconvenient than it used to be. They also removed the nice glowing effect. It would have been better if they handled the bow like in The Wind Waker, where you can toggle between the arrow types live by pressing R.

The Ocarina is now played with the L, R, Y, X and A buttons in that order from lowest to highest note. You need to get used to it and you won't like it at first, simply because you have the original songs memorized, but after a while you will realize that it actually plays much better than in the original. And quicker. I can now play the Requiem of Spirit at the split of a second. You can also now look at all the songs while playing, which is nice and really helpful with the change of notes.

But the best addition made to the entire game is the faster screen text! It was probably the most aweful thing in the original version, that you couldn't skip a text and you had to wait for it to appear slowly letter for letter. This could heavily test your patience during replays, like the four carpenters telling you the EXACT SAME things four times in very slow tempo. You should buy this version for the faster screen text alone.

The only real complaint I have about the interface is the use of the map. It's like they totally ignored the Nintendo DS Zeldas, which made really good use of the second screen for a map. The touchscreen just shows the entirely useless world map while you play the game or the current floor if you're inside a dungeon. The navigational map is still on the top screen, just very tiny and unlike in the original N64 version you can't deactivate it. There's also a larger version of the navigational map, however, it only appears if you visit the map menu! What were they thinking? The navigational map should always be visible on the lower screen. And the 3D screen should have as few HUD elements as possible, certainly not a map.

Master Quest

Master Quest was originally released on a bonus disc for the GameCube and was basically the same old game with rearranged dungeons. I really like Master Quest and it's great that they added this as a 2nd Quest to the game, which makes it finally complete. The new Master Quest comes with two twists, one of them literally. They mirrored the entire game and you now have to endure double damage.

For the mirroring they basically flipped the entire game graphics horizontally. What used to be left, is now on the right. What used to be in the east, lies now in the west. If you've played both the GameCube and the Wii version of Twilight Princess, you know what this feels like. It can be very confusing, it's the same old places, but everything is in different locations. You know where everything should be, but you lost your sense of orientation. It basically should be as simple as flipping left and right in your brain, but it isn't. Some areas look like completely new places alltogether and you can get confused easily. While you may not like it, there's no arguing that this really adds to the replay value. The dungeons might have been remastered in Master Quest, but the rest of the game, everything on the overworld, is the same. Playing Master Quest right after the normal quest would have been really boring if it wasn't for the mirroring. But now you won't really bother that you're actually doing the same quests again, because you're too busy getting used to the mirrored game world.

Additionally you will lose twice as much health if you get hit. This can lead to some challenges, for example Iron Knuckles now cause eight hearts of damage, but experienced Ocarina of Time players shouldn't have any real problems with it. It's definitely a great idea though.

New Features

Ocarina of Time 3D introduces two new features to the series, which will also be present in the upcoming Skyward Sword: the Sheikah Stones and a Boss Battle mode. One is meant for beginners and the other one for veteran players.

The Sheikah Stones are basically an ingame video guide feature. There are only two of them, one at your house and one inside the Temple of Time. They show you visions of how to progress through the game the game. These clips are quite short, for example there's only one vision for the entire Bottom of the Well dungeon. It's about 10 seconds short and it only shows four flashes, Link entering the dungeon's main area through a fake wall, Link playing the Ocarina to lower the water, Link entering a crawl space tunnel and Link fighting the Dead Hand. That's it. Reading my description here probably takes longer than the clip. And I can't really evaluate if this is actually helpful or not, since I already knew the game and wouldn't use such a feature to begin with. It would be nice to know if new players actually found any assistance in this, but some people just need full hand holding and might be still lost after watching these short clips. The Sheikah Stones are not present in Master Quest, which only makes sense, since Master Quest is supposed to be a challenge for expert players.

The Boss Battle mode is definitely more interesting for seasoned Zelda players and it let's you rebattle all eight normal bosses. Ganondorf and Ganon are not included, probably because you can replay them whenever you want anyway. You only get what you could consider to be the minimum equipment for each boss and you fight them against the clock going for personal highscores. If you've rebattled all eight bosses, the Boss Gauntlet opens, where you fight all eight bosses in a row. You get no recovery items at the start and only few Heart Containers, but after each fight two treasure chests appear, which might contain something useful like the Longshot or additional Heart Containers or something completely useless like Deku Nuts. It's a gamble, but it's a fun mode. In Master Quest the whole thing gets a little bit harder, because you get even less Heart Containers and the bosses all deal double damage, which can potentially kill you in one hit. The Boss Battle mode can be accessed by going to your bed after you've talked to Sheik at the Temple of Time.

The new features are basically entirely optional, you don't have to use them, if you don't want to, and they don't effect the original game in any way.

New Content

The biggest complaint about this remake is about the lack of new content. If you expected anything new, like new dungeons, new enemies, new sidequests, new items or new characters, you will be heavily disappointed. There's nothing new save for the added graphical details and the Boss Battle and Sheikah Stone features. And it's hard to understand, why GREZZO didn't add anything here, new content can be an important selling point. The best example would be Link's Awakening DX. When the game was released in Europe 1999, I didn't buy it because of the colors, I bought it because I wanted to play the new bonus dungeon, the one that comes with lots of new puzzles, enemies and two new tunics. This was an awesome addition and it was the main reason to buy the new version. Not the graphics. And if they would have added anything to Ocarina of Time 3D, it would be the same. But there isn't anything, in that sense they stayed a little bit too faithful to the original game. And it wouldn't be hard to add something, just place a new hidden grotto somewhere leading to a new minidungeon. Even another Cave of Ordeals clone would have been fine, in fact I would have liked something like this. They could have added enemies from Majora's Mask to make it more interesting. The item menu has two open slots, which is weird, so why not use them for some new items? An item like the Telescope or Hawkeye from previous games would have been awesome in 3D. Or add Pegasus Boots to make Link walk faster. Anything. But the lack of any new content is really disappointing and prevents this remake from being "perfect".

Other Changes

There are some small changes here and there, which should be noticed. Overall GREZZO really tried to be faithful to the original game. So faithful in fact that they even preserved some "bugs" like back flipping over fences. On the other hand they made a series of questionable weird changes.

Some of the sound effects changed like breaking pots, like in the Four Swords Anniversary Edition they are not really better or worse, they are just different for whatever reason. And there's a cool new detail, where adult Link twirls the sword while fighting an enemy like he does in Twilight Princess. That's really cool, I totally love it!

In the normal quest all puzzles that required you to spin through bars to activate a crystal switch were removed. There was one in the Water Temple and one in the Spirit Temple. They just placed the crystal switches in different locations for whatever reason. In Master Quest these puzzles are still present, so it's not a problem with the new engine. They must have thought that these puzzles were too tricky for the average or inexperienced player. However, this raises the question why they added the Sheikah Stones in the first place. They could have easily added a vision that shows Link spinning through bars. It's much better than dumbing down two entire puzzles.

Who also got dumbed down is Dark Link. It's now easier to fight him with the sword instead than with the Megaton Hammer or Din's Fire. Well, I guess, it definitely turns this fight into a more dynamic sword battle, but it also destroys an old phenomenom in this game. They could have at least preserved the old Dark Link for Master Quest.

Cojiro doesn't crow anymore in the Lost Woods. It's not really important, but it's also a part of the game's original atmosphere missing.

And if you would ask any Zelda fan how to improve Ocarina of Time, they would all give the same answer: mute Navi! She's such an annoying little fairy and this was the best chance to make her a little bit less annoying. But instead they made her even worse. Now she also bothers you in dungeons telling you to visit one of the Sheikah Stones or to take a pause from playing. And like this wouldn't be already bad enough, they added a blinking NAVI sign on the lower top screen. "Hey, listen, Link, hey, listen, listen, hey, hey!" It really distracts you from the 3D, which makes ignoring her even harder than in the N64 version.


Ocarina of Time 3D is all about reexperiencing an old love. At first you will reexperience it thanks to the visual makeover and marvel about all the new models and textures. Then you will experience it's mirror version in the new Master Quest. And this is great, replaying Ocarina of Time never was as exciting as on the 3DS. The lack of any new content is definitely very disappointing and some of the changes are actually questionable, but this still should be considered to be the ultimate version of the game. If you've played Ocarina of Time 3D, you never want to go back to the original version. Is it worth buying a Nintendo 3DS for this game? No, definitely not, just pick up an older version for ten bucks and save yourself some money. Don't buy a 3DS for this game. But if you ever decide to buy a Nintendo 3DS, this game shouldn't be missing in your shopping cart. It's probably the best game on the 3DS so far.

+ faithful remake
+ rexperience an old love with new looks and through the mirror
+ Mirrored Master Quest with double damage
+ new improved item menu
+ easier handling of Ocarina and the boots
+ new Boss Battle and Sheikah Stone features
+ fast text
- lack of any new content
- varying level of details
- questionable use of map
- inconvenient way of switching arrow types
- Navi as annoying as ever
- some weird changes

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (Review)

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise Nintendo decided to do something special. Not only is there are huge live Zelda Symphony orchestra, but Nintendo also decided to dedicate a new Zelda game to the anniversary. This game is an enhanced port of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords as a downloadable title for Nintendo DSi and 3DS. And it's entirely free. If you got a DSi or a 3DS there's no excuse for not downloading and playing this game right now! However, the game will only be available for a limited time (until February 20th 2012) and in case that you don't own a DSi or a 3DS yet, you might have to consider buying one of these systems in order to get this game before it's gone. This review might help you with this decision. Unlike other reviews about the game, this one will be very thorough. So, beware of potential spoilers.

The Original Four Swords

Four Swords was originally made by Capcom for the GameBoy Advance and came as an addition to the GBA version of A Link to the Past. It was the first multiplayer Zelda game and it introduced Vaati, as well as the concept of the Four Sword to the Zelda series. And when it comes to multiplayer, I'd say that Four Swords still offers the best multiplayer Zelda experience. It's pretty much all about collecting as many Rupees as possible, but while you have to cooperate to beat enemies, overcome obstacles and solve puzzles in many clever ways, you're also competing all the time. The player, who collects the most Rupees, gets a Medal of Courage at the end of the stage. And it's fun to fight each other for who gets the precious gems first. It's this mix of cooperation and competition that makes this multiplayer game really unique.

Unlike all other Zelda games with the exception of the successor Four Swords Adventures this game is divided into individual stages. The original game only got four different stages (not counting the tutorial): the Sea of Trees, the Talus Cave, Death Mountain and Vaati's Palace. That's a forest area, an ice cave, a fire area and a sky dungeon. So, at first glance it might be deceiving that this game doesn't have much to offer. In fact you can go through this game and beat Vaati within an hour. It's that short and most people stopped there, expressing their disappointment about the length of this game. However, the game is far from over when the credits roll, actually it merely started. The stages are randomly generated and offer three different difficulty levels for immensive replay value. The randomization works quite smart, a stage usually consists of three floors, where the final floor is the boss. The other two floors are completely random. You never know, what you will get. Well, it isn't fully random as in Minecraft for example, Capcom made all the environments per hand. But there are many different frames for a setting and one of these frames gets randomly chosen. The frames may also get one randomly selected puzzle room, where you usually earn a key. There are also many different puzzle rooms and countless combinations between frames and the rooms. And there are enough environments to play through the game dozens of times. Additionally the content of treasure chests (with the exception of the keys) is randomized each time. The player count is also taken into consideration and the levels get modified based on how many players there are. So, the large 4x4 blocks only appear during four player mode and so on. The only downside is that the ideas for puzzles and obstacles are somehow limited and it can get repetitive after a while. But it still offers enough variety for you to replay the stages many, many times.

Well, the game also encourages you to beat it at least two more times thanks to two additional playthroughs. To open Vaati's Palace you need to collect the three Silver Keys first. But Vaati's Palace has actually three doors, each of them leading to a different challenge. For the second door you need to collect all three Golden Keys from the normal stages. These require you to get 3000 Rupees instead of just 1000 and the bosses also get harder. And in the final run the Hero Keys demand a staggering amount of 5000 Rupees per stage, which can be challenging. Opening Vaati's Palace with the Hero Keys leads to a 12 floor stage, where the settings can be entirely random and where you face all four bosses from the game in their strongest form. Playing this final stage alone takes at least as long as beating the game for the first time. So, there's a lot to do to keep you and your friends busy for many play sessions.

If you want to know, how this game plays, feels and looks like just play The Minish Cap. Capcom basically recycled everything from Four Swords to make The Minish Cap, the entire engine, graphics, sprites, sound effects, items and even most of the enemies. However, this game has little to no story, you can compare it to the complexity of a Mario game's story, princess gets abducted by bad guy, hero splits up into four copies by using a magical sword, beats the bad guy, end of story. The only NPC interaction in this game happens with fairies inside the tutorial. So, if you're looking for some big epic tale, this game is not for you. It's all about the multiplayer idea and for this it sacrificed some of the things that might be important for you in a Zelda game.

Like in Four Swords Adventures you can only hold one additional item at a time. You start with shields, but you can also find Remote Bombs, the Bow, the Boomerang, the Magnetic Glove from Oracle of Seasons, the Pegasus Boots, the Roc's Cape, the Gnat Hat (the inspiration for the Minish Cap) and the rare, but fun Chain Chomp, inspired by Bow-Wow from Link's Awakening. Each item gets at least one secondary use in the game, for example the Gnat Hat doesn't only let you shrink, it also prevents you from sliding on ice, and all of the items get used equally throughout the game.

Something unique in Four Swords are the temporary collectibles, the Magic Seeds and Rupee Shards. You only keep them during the stage and they are always randomly distributed all over the level. The seeds can be found below grass, pots or rocks, the Rupee Shards can also be gotten from treasure chests. The idea of the Magic Seeds came from the Oracle saga, but in this game they are used to boost your stats. The red Razor Seeds boost your sword attack power, the blue Armor Seeds increase your defense and the Pegasus Seeds make you walk faster. You can collect two of each, but you will lose them if you die. The Rupee Shards are like Pieces of Heart only for Rupees, if one player collects four of them he gets a large golden Rupee worth 500.

Well, that's pretty much everything there is to the original Four Swords. For a little game that was meant to be a simple bonus to A Link to the Past this is pretty impressive. Capcom made their own engine and graphical style for this game, all of which later became popular with The Minish Cap. And the individual stages offer immensive replay value thanks to the randomization. It's a small game that got heavily overlooked due to the fact that you couldn't play it alone. Until now this might have been the most unrecognized game in the series save for the BS-Zeldas. And that makes it the perfect choice to be the base for some Anniversary game.

The Singleplayer

The biggest complaint about the original Four Swords was that you couldn't play this game on your own. You needed at least a second player, who also owns a GameBoy Advance and a copy of the game, and a connection cable. Otherwise you never got to play it and considering the fact that you were also missing out the new content in A Link to the Past that way, this was really disappointing. There were many Zelda-fans, who never got to play the original game or who went through quite some efforts like playing coop with themselves using two GBAs at once or linked emulators.

Luckily GREZZO came up with a solution here. They added a singleplayer, where you play the two player mode on your own by controlling two Links at the same time. It might have been inspired by the singleplayer mode in Four Swords Adventures, but it's actually quite different. You switch between both Links by pressing L or R. The inactive Link stays at the same spot and is invulnerable during the entire time. By pressing X you can summon the second Link to your side with your whistle, he will follow you around and automatically assist you in different actions. The best example would the Hikkuns, red enemies that you have to pull apart from two sides. The moment you start pulling one side, the other Link joins you by pulling the other side. He also assists you to push or lift large blocks, to kill Nokkens (those are enemies that need to be thrown), to light torches, to drive mine carts, to destroy rock walls and to attack Vaati's flowers. That's about it, but it's all you need to get through the various floors.

They also had to dumb down some stuff to get it to work in singleplayer. The most noticeable thing are the eye switches and levers. In multiplayer you have to activate them all at the same time. In singleplayer they now stay activated or retracted for a while, so you can hit or pull them one after another. You don't even have to quickly switch between the two Links, you can just use one and take your time. The timer is that long and it feels weird at first. Together with activating torches those were puzzles, where you had to time yourself with the other players. Coordination is a huge part of the multiplayer and simply not required in singleplayer, which is why some of the puzzles now feel somehow meaningless. Also, in the multiplayer there are certain levels, which were designed to encourage competition. For example there are raceways, where the fastest player gets all the treasures and the other players get locked out. These passages are completely pointless in singleplayer. And there are puzzles, where you need to find a way for all players to get to a certain point. In singleplayer you just use the whistle to summon the second Link and it's done. So, overall playing the game in singleplayer got a lot easier.

Some enemies were also dumbed down. Namely the Bulbuls and the Rupee Wraiths. The Bulbuls are red enemies with large, round, green belly and normally they would just bounce off your sword. The only way to defeat them was attacking them from two sides. Now in singleplayer you can defeat them with only one player, but you need to be really quick and persistent, so they are still quite tough enemies. The way how they changed them works really well. Rupee Wraiths on the other hand now do little to nothing. In multiplayer they make you drop many Rupees for a while. This keeps you busy with recollecting them and the only way to get rid of this annoyance is passing them onto other players. Well, in singleplayer there aren't any other players, so the Rupee Wraiths just disappear after they made you drop three Rupees. You can easily ignore them now. The amount of Rupees might get higher if you run into multiple Rupee Wraiths on the same floor, but usually they won't bother you anymore. Also, the boss Manhandla of the Sea of Trees now doesn't have any multicolored flowers anymore. But the boss is still very tough in singleplayer, so it doesn't really matter.

Those changes may feel like the game was dumbed down, but there's no real reason to complain about it. Unlike Four Swords Adventures the original Four Swords was never built with singleplayer in mind, this game was never meant to be played alone. So, what GREZZO delivered here is already as good as it gets. Because nothing was cut from the singleplayer. You get to play the entire two player mode expierence on your own, no floors or puzzles or enemies were cut from the singleplayer mode. And this is great.

Well, one thing got cut, the Rupee Fever. In multiplayer you earn double Rupees as long as all players have full health. Using Rupee Fever is the best strategy to get enough Rupees for the Hero Keys and without Rupee Fever it seemed pretty much impossible. Now you have to look for spots where stronger enemies respawn to farm enough Rupees, which can take a while and be quite boring. But this seems to be the only way to get the Hero Keys in singleplayer. On the other hand it might be that the Rupee Fever would have made the singleplayer even easier than it already is, which is why GREZZO removed it. There needs to be some balance for all the advantages that come with the new singleplayer. However, this isn't the only thing that makes collecting Rupees in singleplayer harder: the Rupee Shards became too rare in singleplayer. In fact you rarely will get four pieces. It happened to me many times that I found three Rupee Shards, but no fourth one despite opening every chest and cutting all the grass. This was not my inability to find the last part, there simply wasn't any fourth shard. They are hidden randomly and GREZZO just made them a little bit too rare in singleplayer.

The New Stages

In the GameBoy Advance version you could unlock two new sword techniques, the Sword Beam by getting the Master Sword in A Link to the Past and the Hurricane Spin Attack by solving the new Riddle Quest in the same game. Of course the new version doesn't come with a free copy of A Link to the Past, so GREZZO had to come up with different means of unlocking the sword moves. There would have been many easy ways to include them, but they chose to add two entire new stages to the game, the Realm of Memories and the Hero's Trial.

Unlike the four original stages, the new stages aren't randomized. You only have to beat them once anyway. But like Vaati's Palace they have three different doors. If you beat one door, the next one opens. Each door leads to a different level made of three floors with no bosses. That's 18 new dungeon floors alltogether, which is a lot. This is probably the highest amount of new content that ever got added to a revamped Zelda game. And it will take you a while to get through the new stages.

The Realm of Memories stage is entirely dedicated to the 25th Anniversary, here you walk through familiar areas from past Zelda games. The entire graphics are overlayed with sprites from classic Zeldas and original tunes are played. The first door leads to environments from A Link to the Past, the second to Link's Awakening and the third to the original NES The Legend of Zelda. You get to play the first dungeon from these games and two areas from the overworlds, usually a forest. Especially the Link's Awakening stage is very cool, everything is shown in the classic greenish monochrome GameBoy looks. Though it might look like some fan mod at times and not like some professional Nintendo product, it's still a fun addition and offers a nice feel of nostalgia.

The Hero's Trial on the other hand features dark and twisted versions of the game's original four settings. For example the forest area looks quite wintery now. This stage is meant to be a challenge for Zelda-veterans and it's a hard one, if not the hardest challenge in the Zelda series yet. They key element here are relentless fights against hordes of enemies in the most hazardous environments. The developers really use everything the game had to offer against you. The enemies come in large numbers in the most evil combinations. For example you might run into Ice Wizzrobes to freeze you and Ball & Chain Troopers to smash your frozen bodies. In the GameBoy Advance version of Four Swords you would never run into more than four enemies at once, however, in the Hero's Trial you will be overwhelmed by swarms of enemies. And the enemies of Four Swords can be very, very nasty, especially the bone throwing Stalfos, the Spear Moblins, the Darknuts and the Wizzrobes. They are usually harder to defeat than their counterparts in The Minish Cap, for example Darknuts and Spear Moblins are nearly impossible to attack from the front.

But what makes the whole thing so brutally hard is the very short recovery time in this game. The invincibility window after getting hit is really tiny, even a smaller enemy can easily kill you by simply running into you. And GREZZO really abused this in the Hero's Trial to create some cheap diffculty. You get cornered by lots of enemies, which are hard to fight back, and additionally other enemies will attack you from the distance. Imagine Stalfos and Wizzrobes shooting at you from all sides while Ball & Chain Troopers surround you. You can't dodge all of it and you will die a lot. A LOT. It also likes to use all kinds of traps like pits, ice floors, Blade Traps, air streams, spiked floors and similar to make the fights even harder. And it never ends. The floors are very long, the longest in the entire game, and when you think it couldn't possibly get any harder the game ups the ante. It's cruel, it's cheap, it's relentless, it's exhausting. It's hell in Zelda. If you've beaten the Hero's Trial, you can call yourself a Hero for sure. And if you ever wanted a real challenge in Zelda, then this is for you. (As a nice easter egg the number "25" is hidden throughout the stage several times.)

Generally GREZZO's level design is quite bland. The levels are very linear and repetitive. They heavily abuse the big switches that spawn enemies as soon as all players step onto them. You're basically running from one of these switches to the next. There's some platforming here and there, rarely a puzzle, but mostly it's just progressing through the areas on a linear path and fighting lots of enemies. It gets tedious and in the Hero's Trial this kind of level design might kill your last nerves. It also kills all possible replay value. You might replay the Realm of Memories once or twice, but only because of its nostalgic charme, not because of the level design. And the replay value of the Hero's Trial is pretty low, in fact you might never want to play it again in your life as soon as you're done with it. In this way the new stages are the complete opposite of the original four stages, which offer very high reply value and open gameplay.

On the other hand the new stages were fully made with the singleplayer in mind, unlike the rest of the game. At no point the stages will feel dumbed down or weird. In fact playing the new stages in singleplayer might be an advantage. In the Hero's Trial you can abuse switching between the two Links in order to survive. In multiplayer you might die much more often here, because there's no way to safe yourself from being cornered. The new singleplayer mode really gets to shine in the new stages.

Other Changes

Next to the addition of a singleplayer mode and two new stages the DSiWare version underwent a series of other smaller additions and improvements.

Most noticeable are all the new sound effects. GREZZO occasionally changed some sound effects in Ocarina of Time 3D, but here you really get the feeling that there was some overly bored sound designer working on this game. From collecting Rupees, over swinging your sword to using the Pegasus Boots or the Roc's Cape. Many actions sound different in this version. And it's not like they are better or worse than the original sound effects. They are just different for whatever reason.

Since the DSi has two screens, the second screen now is used to display your seeds, Rupee Shards, the map, the current time, the stage's name and the floor number. Originally you could display the map and the collectibles by pressing L, while the floor number was in the upper left corner. The icons for the seeds and shards are quite large, so you can also easily see them while looking at the upper screen. The whistle that summons the second Link in singleplayer can be used to draw attention in multiplayer. And all except the first player can freely chose their color. In singleplayer you can chose the color of the second Link.

The minimal time bonus at the end of a floor now is 50 Rupees per player instead of only one. This is a lot, you basically get a good amount of Rupees for free.

Pots now can be broken with your sword. Originally you had to pick them up and throw them like rocks. Smashing them with your sword is much faster and feels nice, it also got a nice new sound effect. And there's a little easter egg, where something from N64 Zelda games made it into the Anniversary Edition, which was a nice surprise.

A nice addition to the game is the total Rupee score. If you finish a stage, all your Rupees will be added to this score. If the score reaches 30,000 Rupees the Hero's Trial gets unlocked (alternatively you can also collect five Medals of Courage). The score is a nice addition, because now you never play a stage for nothing. If you fail to get a key, the Rupees at least get added to your score. And if you replay a stage just for fun the Rupees also count and you can watch the score growing higher and higher.

Collecting Medals of Courage in multiplayer is now entirely optional. In the original version collecting 10 of them would unlock the Riddle Quest in A Link to the Past, which then would unlock the Hurricane Spin Attack in both games. Now in this version everything can be unlocked in singleplayer, which is a good thing.

No Online, No Download Play

The biggest complaint you hear about the Anniversary Edition is the lack of online multiplayer. However, the game was originally designed for local multiplayer and it wouldn't work well online. Communication is very important, you can't beat the game without cooperating, telling other players what to do and spot on timing. Quitting and griefing are also huge issues, which could turn an online version into a frustrating nightmare. And an online mode is a little bit too much to ask from a free game. The new singleplayer eliminates the need of an online mode anyway, if there's no one around you can play the game on your own now.

Download Play would have been nice, so that you could also use older DS systems. However, you can't save your progress using Download Play, which is probably the reason, why this feature wasn't included.

Personal Thoughts

Ever since Four Swords was released for the GameBoy Advance I was obsessed with the game. For one simple reason: it was the only Zelda game that I couldn't play. You needed a second player and there was no one with a GBA around. This year, eight years after the original release, I finally got to play the game, I went both through the original version on the GBA and the new one on the 3DS. So, this was already a pretty big Zelda-year for me and Skyward Sword isn't even out yet. The new singleplayer is an old wish coming true. Thanks to this new addition I can finally play the game whenever I want. I don't need to track down a second player or sprain my hands by using two GBAs at once. Considering that the game was never meant to be played alone, GREZZO did a good job here. Yes, it might feel weird at times and it's nothing but an afterthought, but I can now play this game whenever I want and this is totally awesome. What I really like about playing this game is that it allows short Zelda sessions. If you feel like playing some Zelda, but you don't have the time for a fullblown singleplayer adventure, then this is perfect. You can just pick up this game, play a single dungeon and then turn the game off. And thanks to the random levels you don't know what you will get and you might even run into something new. I've fully beaten both versions of the game, I replayed all the levels just for fun multiple times now and I still get to see new areas. Which is absolutely amazing.

And the fact that this is a downloadable game makes picking it up even easier, because you don't have to switch any discs or cartridges. I just turn on my 3DS and tap the icon. Ever since the introduction of WiiWare I saw the future of 2D Zelda games in download services. What survived on the GameBoy for many years is now a dying breed. Classic 2D Zelda games with nice sprite graphics might be a thing of the past, especially now that the current handheld system is all about 3D. But as small downloadable games 2D Zelda still might have a chance to survive. And the Four Swords Anniversary Edition is the first step in this direction - while it's not an entire new game, it's the first exclusive downloadable Zelda title. It's also the first new 2D Zelda title since The Minish Cap. And I bet that many Zelda fans want more Zelda games like this.

As a longtime Zelda fan and a real veteran of the series I was looking for some good challenge for a long time now. Usually a new Zelda game doesn't offer any challenge at all, you know the drill, you know the tricks, it gets routine. So, naturally I was really looking forward to the Hero's Trial. However, I didn't think it would turn into my personal nightmare. When I first heard about the Hero's Trial I was thinking on the lines of something like the Hero's Caves in the Oracle games. These two dungeons offer some of the best puzzles and challenges in the entire series. And I was looking forward to get a good mix between tough fights and crazy puzzles. But if you're looking for any puzzles in the Hero's Trial, you won't find any. There's some platforming, but usually it's all about cheap traps and getting you killed by tons of enemies. I certainly like the idea of the tough fights, I always enjoyed the dungeon simulator minigame in The Minish Cap or the Cave of Ordeals in Twilight Princess. But in the Hero's Trial I got sick of it. Because of the low invincibility time the fights can be really frustrating and you get totally overrun by all kinds of enemies. It all feels so cheap, it's not the kind of difficulty you would ever expect to appear in a Zelda game. Well, but in the end I certainly can't complain that I wasn't challenged by this. And the frustration came mostly from the fact that I just had to beat this in order to get everything. Now that I've finished the Hero's Trial, it actually starts to get fun somehow, without the pressure I can enjoy the fights much more. It's definitely a great new challenge, something the Zelda series hasn't seen before. Something really hard. Something people talk about. Forget Zelda II, this is the new killer.


Of all the Zelda games that Nintendo could have chosen to be revamped for an Anniversary Edition this was definitely the best choice. With this new version Four Swords went from zero to hero. Thanks to the new singleplayer mode many Zelda fans can now finally experience this game for their first time. The new Realm of Memories stage offers a fun and nostalgic trip through old times, while the Hero's Trial will challenge even the hardest Zelda players. The multiplayer might be the best in the series, but after all this game was designed for multiplayer. And because of that you shouldn't expect a full epic Zelda game here, there's no big story or character interaction, this is a Zelda game reduced to dungeon gameplay. But you can't really complain about anything, because it's for free. You don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Even if they just had dumped the same old game with wireless multiplayer on the DSi it would have been fine, since this doesn't cost you anything. But instead they added an all new singleplayer and new stages, which is pretty impressive for a free game. The only real complaint would be that this only stays available for a limited time. But maybe they will sell it later on the eShop because of "popular demand".

+ intriguing Zelda multiplayer experience
+ great mix of cooperation and competing
+ very high replay value of the four original stages thanks to random floors and multiple playthroughs
+ new singleplayer mode lets you enjoy the game on your own for the first time
+ new stages offer nostalgia and challenge
+ can be enjoyed in between
+ great way of celebrating the Anniversary
+ it's FREE!!
- level design of the new stages is linear and repetitive
- Rupee Shards are too rare in singleplayer
- only available for a limited time

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Four Swords Anniversary Edition, Extra Round

Yesterday I had the chance to play the new Four Swords Anniversary Edition in multiplayer together with Evelyn Jade from She didn't have the chance to play through the game yet, so she was the host and we picked up her latest savegame. We've beaten the first door of Vaati's Palace, cleared the Realm of Memories and got all three Golden Keys. It was a lot of fun, after all this game was meant to be played in multiplayer and not alone. And I'm really happy that I had the chance to play the game with her.

It's also a little bit more challenging. You really have to work together at points and you can't abuse the warping. For example the Link's Awakening stage turned out to be much trickier in two player mode. You can't just go somewhere using the Roc's Cape, let the second Link appear right next to you and use his bombs to blow some cracked blocks up. One player has to get the bombs and he needs to find a way around the swamp. A lot more coordination is needed here. But after all that's what multiplayer is about... cooperating.

Okay... cooperating and competing. And what makes this multiplayer game so unique is that you do both at the same time. You work together but you fight for the Rupees. Since I already got the Hurricane Spin Attack I had the advantage and at the beginning I annoyed the hell out of Jade using that technique... :D It's especially helpful during Rupee Rain or during the credits, where all the fairies appear. Well, then I had to promise to stay fair and not use it. And resisting to use the Hurricane Spin was really hard for me, because after all I went through HELL to unlock this thing. But we both got some medals at the end and it's not like you need these things anymore. Unlike in the original version collecting medals isn't necessary to unlock anything. And maybe next time we will be equally powerful for a real match. ;)

Of course I wouldn't post this if I hadn't made any interesting observations. The 50 Rupee minimum time bonus stays in multiplayer and gets even multiplied by the player count. In our case we would at least get 300 extra Rupees per stage for doing nothing else but reaching the goal. In the original version it was 6 Rupees, one Rupee per player and per floor. This makes a 294 Rupee difference, which sometimes might be the difference between winning or losing. While playing the GBA version it happened that we were short on a couple of Rupees at the end of a stage. Something like 2930 Rupees while going for the Golden Key in Death Mountain for example... so, yeah, this can really make a difference. And in four player mode you would get 600 Rupees extra for nothing!

The second difference was that they fixed the exploit, where you abuse Rupee Wraiths and Rupoors (the Black Rupees) during Rupee Fever to your advantage. Ah, I missed Rupee Fever so much, especially the catchy tune. Scoring like 8000 Rupees? Not a problem when you really use Rupee Fever all the time (in case you don't know what Rupee Fever is, when all players have full health the Rupees count doubly). However, in the GBA version you could even exploit Rupee Wraiths and the black Rupees. You dropped Rupees, but you could recollect them and get twice the amount back. Let's say you touch a Rupoor and you drop four small red Rupees, that's 80 Rupees alltogether. If you recollected them, you would get 160 Rupees back thanks to the Rupee Fever. They fixed this in the Anniversary Edition, the dropped Rupees now also count doubly. You drop four red ones, you lose 160 Rupees instead of 80. So, no abusing of Rupee Wraiths or Rupoors anymore... that's bad, because it was actually a very clever tactic. UPDATE: Actually they didn't fix it, you can still use this tactic. I'm sorry for the wrong information, my mistake.

But except for these things the multiplayer works exactly the same as in the GBA version. They only other difference is that you can use the whistle to annoy the other player(s), which can be fun. The only thing that could make it more annoying would be Link shouting his "Come on!" phrase from The Wind Waker each time you use the whistle, that would be so unnerving.

Generally I'm pickung the game up every now and then for a short session. It's perfect for some Zelda action in between. I'm usually replaying one of the original stages, because maybe I get to see a new floor, which I've never encountered before. Love the randomization and I actually got to see some new stuff. It's really amazing how many different floors there are. The new stages on the other hand provide very little replay value. Especially the Hero's Trial. I replayed the first door, which isn't as bad as the other two, once using the Hurricane Spin Attack. But overall the level design is too linear and too tedious, one enemy spawning switch after another. And unless I feel like torturing myself I probably won't be replaying the other two doors anytime soon. But by now I collected a total sum of over 220,000 Rupees, which speaks for the general replay value. You're going to return to this game once after a while, which makes it different from other Zelda games. If you're finished with a normal Zelda game it might rest for years... but not this game and the fact that this is a downloadable game, where you don't have to swap any discs or cartridges, makes picking it up even easier.

Now after experiencing the multiplayer I'm finally ready to finish my promised review. Unlike all the superficial reviews of this game this one will be very thorough.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

25th Anniversary Poster and Ocarina of Time Pen

On yesterday's press event Nintendo gave both Jade and me nice a poster and a pen:

The pen uses a magnet to attach the Link chain. The poster is totally awesome, however, I'm sad it's missing Zelda II, the Oracle games, the Four Swords saga and Spirit Tracks... They added Ocarina of Time twice, but couldn't add any of the other games? :D Still very nice.

Skyward Sword Hands-On (both Demo and Full Version)

This preview was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author.

Today I joined Evelyn Jade from on a Nintendo press event in Berlin. We got to play both the E3 2011 demo, which was showcased in the lobby, as well as the full version of Skyward Sword, where we actually played the game for over an hour, which was enough time to get familiar with everything. And here are my impressions.


The Demo

Some of you might already have had the opportunity to try the demo themselves (like on this year's gamescom), but for me it was the first time, which is why it was still interesting to give it a try. Most of it should be known already, where the demo is divided into three levels and there's a time limit of ten minutes.

The first level is the "Wing Ceremony", a flying mini-game, where you have to catch golden bird to obtain a Bird Statue. I haven't played that one myself, but my colleague succeeded valiantly, where it didn't look all that easy. But I preferred playing the dungeon, the Skyview Temple, where you can just do as you please and play around with five of the later items, including the new Beetle.

One of the first things I tried was using the Beetle to activate the crystal switch on top of the central complex, which scores you a hidden Piece of Heart. The Nintendo PR guys were quite impressed by me starting things off like that, because most people trying the demo will miss this secret, but of course I simply knew about this from watching videos of the demo before.

The Beetle controls similarly to the plane in Wii Sports Resort. And the same goes for the bow. Overall, once you take the Wii Remote and Nunchuk into your hands, you feel great and powerful. The controls are very intuitive and it's a lot of fun to take the sword into your own hands, swinging it at the various enemies.

The highlight among them is certainly the battle against the Stalfos, who isn't a pushover. You have to react quite quickly to use the gaps in his defense. Often he changed the position of his swords right when I was about to hit him. It's challenging and I like that. One of your best moves is of course the classic Spin Attack, which you can unleash rather swiftly by moving both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk at the same time.

Both of us also tried the battle against Ghirahim, who just like the Stalfos knew how to pose a threat. This is where you might want to learn how to shield properly to not be hit by his projectiles. The shield gets triggered by moving the Nunchuk forward, similar to the Shield Bash in Twilight Princess.

But since the demo isn't exactly news, so let's move on to the interesting part...

The Full Game

Nintendo advised us to start a new save file to play from the beginning, but I insisted to pick the game up from where the players before us left off, which let us skip the tutorial phase and gave us access to the forest area right away. We only had about an hour and I really wanted to play in the Faron Woods, where this turned out to be a good decision and I met my goal. And not having seen the beginning also has the advantage that I can't really spoil the story for you.

The save file put us on Skyloft, but we were already ready to leave the sky island, where we had the "Goddess Sword", the Sailcloth and the Hero's Bag (Adventure Pouch). The latter is used for storing shields and bottles, where in the beginning there are only four slots, but you will be able to expand it to eight slots, just like in the demo. My first goal was to fill one of the pouches with a shield, because it might prove itself useful in the forest.

It didn't take us long to find the Bazaar, a place crawling with odd fellows. But with not much money in our pockets, we had to realize that we couldn't even afford the Wooden Shield for 50 Rupees. So, it was time to farm some Rupees, which didn't really work too well just by cutting grass.

But around a small lake with beautiful water effects we found a dark cave, full of Keese and Chuchus, where the latter now have monstrous face and bite onto you. That's new and therefore it was quite surprising. To free yourself you have to wiggle the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. But after beating a series of foes and discovering a treasure chests, we were able to buy the shield and set off for the forest.

Flying to the green beam, which marks the landing spot for the forest, was considerably short. In less than 30 seconds we were at the destination, where it doesn't seem like you have to be afraid of long, and boring tours, like in The Wind Waker or Spirit Tracks.

We then  landed at the Sealed Grounds, a spiral crater in the middle of the forest. It's close to where I wanted to be, but the gate to the woods was closed, of course, and a couple of Deku Babas were greeting us, giving me some trouble. Like with the Stalfos, it's not so easy to hit them in the right angle with the right timing. You need a little bit of practice, but the sword beams turned out to be a safe way of taking care of these evil plants. You have to hold your Wii Remore upwards for those "Skyward Strikes", where Link points the sword towards the sky to charge it.

Charging the beam takes somewhat too long for my taste, but I suppose that this will be shortened later in the game, e.g. by the Medals. We weren't able to learn anything about them, other than the fact that these are a new collectible. But from what we were told, it sounded like something similar to the Magic Rings from Oracle of Ages & Seasons, which boosted certain effects. The sword beam was also useful to activate a switch at the center of the Sealed Grounds, opening the way.

We met an old women inside the temple informing us about using the blue beacons. You can place them on any point on the map and this will create a blue beam into the sky, which you can see from everywhere. Combined with the "Dowsing", where you can use your sword to find things, it's quite the useful element for navigation.

And navigating the landscapes of Skyward Sword might not be that easy, where they aren't as linear and simple as in previous Zelda games. The forest area was already known from last year's E3 demo, where the full game has changed and extended things. Overall it's quite the spacious areas, but also has its nooks and crannies, where it's easy to get lost and it can take a while to learn the environment. There are also many things to discover, distracting you from your main goal.

In this case you had to find three cute, little forest dwellers, the so called "Kikwis", which are hiding in different ways. The first was behind one of the many colorful mushrooms, always staying on the other side, where it looked funny how he moved around. Another was hiding in the grass, where you had to cut it all for him to give up.

They are in hiding, because they are scared of the Bokoblins and confuse Link as one of them. Earlier we've also met a Goron archeologist, who got attacked by multiple Bokoblins as well. This was reminiscent of certain scenes in the Capcom Zelda games, where you had to save Impa in Oracle of Ages and Ezlo in The Minish Cap from Octoroks. And this probably isn't a coincidence, since the director of these Zelda titles, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, was also directing Skyward Sword, where you can clearly feel his influence.

While looking for the Kikwi, something funny happened: a Guay (one of the crow enemies) approached and pooped on Link's head! You then have to shake it off by wiggling your controllers, similar to the Chuchus, or else you can't really move in the stench. This was so unexpected and hilarious, I actually let the Guays do it all over again just for fun. And these kind of surprises is what makes Skyward Sword feel quite fresh compared to previous titles.

Other than Bokoblins and pooping crows, there are also some kind of new enemies: small spores that stick onto you. These are similar to the "Morths" from The Wind Waker, but unlike them they are ticking bombs, where you have to shake them off quickly, before you take damage.

We also had the chance to study the inventory for the first time, which can be opened with the "1" button. It has two pages, where you should be already familiar with the one for the treasures and insects. But the gear screen is quite interesting as well. At the center is the Adventure Pouch, which only had our Wooden Shield inside. But there are many open slots, including something that resembles the slates for the Rail Map from Spirit Tracks.

One thing I really liked was the sprinting. With Zelda games you had this silly habit of rolling all over the environment, because it was faster, ever since Ocarina of Time. Letting Link run faster on a button press feels a lot more natural and the Stamina Wheel regenerates quite quickly, where you can doing these bursts of momentum. Running at something also lets you climb, which takes some getting used to, because Link did this automatically in previous titles. But it feels intuitive after a little while.

And while running all over the Faron Woods, I ultimately managed to find all Kikwis and get to their chief... However, we didn't get the chance to find out what happens next, because our session ended at this point. Still, experiencing the playground of the forest left quite an impression already.

In summary, this was a great evening and we want to thank Nintendo for the opportunity again. Skyward Sword looks great and has a lot of potential. It seems like Nintendo tried to combine aspects of all the different Zelda games, while mixing things up with the new motion controls and some fresh ideas. The 18th of November can't come fast enough.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ocarina of Time 3D Master Quest Log 3

100%. I've also cleared the Master Quest Boss Gauntlet. Nothing left to do.

Well, there isn't much to talk about. The only new graphical detail, which I've noticed, are skull shaped winds when you ride the boat in the Shadow Temple. I didn't notice that during the normal quest, where I probably was busy with the Stalfos. But I got really efficient at fighting them, so this time I had plenty of time to actually enjoy the boat trip and look around.

I got really stuck in Gerudo Training Grounds. Which is interesting, because I've cleared the same dungeon on the GameCube not long ago. Well, problem was, that I was missing a key and I couldn't find it. It was the key in the room with the two Torch Slugs and the black Iron Knuckle, inside a treasure chest protected by a ring of fire. But I didn't know how to let the chest appear. There's a hidden crystal switch behind the Gerudo symbol above the door. You can't see at all in this version. But naturally I tried to shoot the Hookshot at the symbol, like you would do in the Fire or Water Temple, but nothing happened. It turned out that you actually had to use your bow...

Boss Challenges went pretty smooth, except for Bongo Bongo. The most critical point of the fight is right at the beginning. If you fail to target the hands properly, you're dead. They can cause four hearts of damage in Master Quest. After the beginning it's all pretty easy, as long as you're quick. But while struggling with Bongo Bongo at first, I cleared the Boss Gauntlet on my first try. Only Phantom Ganon could cause a critical hit with two hearts damage. So, I was on the edge during the Volvagia and Morpha fights. But the big chest after Morpha gave me a red potion to heal myself.

The Boss Challenges itself became harder in Master Quest, you don't get any recovery items like Milk or Red Potions. As a kid you only have three hearts in all fights and as an adult only five. The Boss Gauntlet was exactly the same as in the normal quest though, the only difference was the double damage and that you start with three hearts. But you get the same items and everything. I don't even think that the content of the two treasure chests is random. Because I got exactly the same stuff this time. Here's a list:

  • Gohma
    Small Chest: 10 Bombs
    Large Chest: ???
  • King Dodongo
    Small Chest: Recovery Heart
    Large Chest: ???
  • Barinade
    Small Chest: Heart Container
    Large Chest: ???
  • Phantom Ganon
    Small Chest: Empty Bottle (you need this for potions)
    Large Chest: ???
  • Volvagia
    Small Chest: Longshot
    Large Chest: ???
  • Morpha
    Small Chest: Green Potion
    Large Chest: Red Potion
  • Bongo Bongo
    Small Chest: Heart Container
    Large Chest: ???

As you can see, I mostly opened the small chest so far. The Heart Containers are important, so are bombs and the Longshot. I only opened the large chest in case of Morpha, because I knew that the Green Potion would be useless for me (you only need little magic during the Bongo Bongo fight). But I will keep playing and testing what items I'll get. From what I've seen on GameFAQs/Gamespot people were getting completely different stuff than me (like the Bigger Quiver) despite always opening the small chests... It was just weird, that I got exactly the same items as in the normal quest.

Well, I'm done here. Expect reviews of both the Four Swords Anniversary Edition and Ocarina of Time 3D soon here on my blog.

Little Update: If you've cleared everything in the normal quest, the Sheikah Stone turns red and doesn't move anymore. To clear the Final Battle I had to save right before giving Ganon the finisher. So, don't forget to save at this point if you want to clear everything.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stealing Weapons in Skyward Sword

There's ton of new Skyward Sword info at the moment, but the one that caught my attention is that you can actually steal your enemies' weapons. Like in the Wind Waker. This was one of the coolest features in this game, but it never appeared in any other Zelda game up to this point. I was disappointed that you couldn't do that in Twilight Princess and I'm happy that this idea finally returns. It also probably adds a lot to the whole MotionPlus thing. I wanted more melee weapons than just the sword and the whip. And it seems like I'm going to get a lot of them. Awesome.

Source: Zelda Europe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ocarina of Time 3D Master Quest Log 2

Well, let's start with some good news. All the puzzles, that require you to attack through bars in different manners to activate switches or light torches are still present in Master Quest and work the way they used to be. However, this raises the question, why did they change the puzzles in the normal quest in the first place? Did they think they were too difficult? But what did they add the Sheikah Stones for? If something appears to be too difficult for the average costumer, just add a stupid video that shows how to do it instead of removing the puzzle.

However, that the "spin through bars"-puzzles were still intact let me hope that in Master Quest I'm going to face the same old Dark Link, the one that's hard to beat with the sword. But no, he acts the same as in the normal quest... in fact, it's even easier now to fight him with the sword instead of using the Hammer. Since I had full weaponry this time I used all different techniques on him. And using the sword worked best.

I got quite good at fighting Stalfos again. I'm saying "again", because they didn't really give me any trouble back in the day. And they certainly wouldn't bring me down like they did in this new version of Master Quest. Well, the best way is just spam-attacking them. If you hit them before they hit you, they don't deal any damage. I just spam them with the Biggoron Sword and everything is fine.

The Forest Temple was pretty interesting. If you got the Longshot, you can actually skip two locked doors and save yourself a lot of backtracking. You can pull yourself to a treasure chest on the ledge surrounded by water in the second outdoor area. There you can built yourself a staircase using these Song of Time blocks. And from there you can enter the area with the falling ceiling without using the twisted path from above. I still got the two extra keys and opened the doors for the sake of a 100% completion, but for a speedrunner this might be interesting.

One nice thing to notice is, that they "unmirrored" the frogs in the frog minigame. Their positions still correspond to the button layout, so the outer left frog is triggered by the L-button. I previously feared that the controls might be mirrored in this minigame, which would have been confusing.

After the Forest Temple I cleared the Bottom of the Well. Then I hunted Big Poes, got the Biggoron Sword and cleared the Gerudo Fortress to make my way into the desert. I basically cleared all possible sidequests before entering another temple. Maximum heart containers and stuff. And now I'm going for the default order of the dungeons... I did the Fire Temple first without any surprises. Then I went for the Water Temple and Shadow Temple will come next. I was thinking about some other crazy order, but I already experimented with the dungeon order in Master Quest just recently and I also played the dungeons out of order in the normal quest, so playing them in their intended order is actually quite refreshing.

Their was an interesting change in the Master Quest Water Temple. In the original Master Quest their was a spare key right in the room, where you would find the Boss Key in the normal quest. Now, in Ocarina of Time 3D there's actually a second locked door now, right next to the room with the spare key. So, the spare key isn't a spare key anymore.