Saturday, October 1, 2011

Four Swords Anniversary Edition, Round 2: Hero's Hell

By now I've beaten the game on gold level. Getting the Golden Keys without Rupee Fever went surprisingly smooth. I had to farm some Rupees killing Rupee Likes and Fire Wizzrobes, but it wasn't that bad. And I don't worry too much about the Hero's Keys. It will take it's time, but it's manageable. It would be a lot more fun with Rupee Fever, but I can't help it right now. Unless Nintendo hears the voices (I'm not the only one complaining) and releases a small patch, there's no other way.

It also seems that Rupee Shards got rarer. This makes sense, because normally you would have to share the Rupee Shards with others. If there are four Rupee Shards and player 1 got three, but player 2 got one, you don't get anything. One player must assemble four shards, it's even a "common" multiplayer strategy to leave the shards to the player, who needs them the most, if you find them under bushes for example. Since there are no other players, it would be probably too easy, if there are too many shards. But Grezzo made them a little too rare. I only managed to complete a golden Rupee once so far... however, while Grezzo made it generally harder to collect Rupees, the lowest time bonus is now actually 50 Rupees. You always get 50 Rupees at the end of a floor. In the GBA version if you took too long, you would only get 2 Rupees, one per player.

Vaati's fight was very different from last time. He didn't use the Patra form, but the arm form and the volleyball form. It's the first time that I managed to beat Vaati using the volleyball form, in multiplayer we never could do it. That's how smooth the singleplayer works. I got really good at using two Links.

And there's a reason for that. Called the Hero's Trial. Or how I call it, the "Hero's Hell". I was always asking for some more challenge in Zelda games, because for a Zelda veteran the last games were a mere routine. However, you should always be careful with your wishes, because what Grezzo delivered here might be over the top. Even as someone, who likes playing Zelda II - a game that gives other Zelda fans nightmares -, I'm right now quite frustrated by this stuff.

Well, let's start with the basics. I was expecting some new settings and visuals, but there aren't any. It uses the graphics and everything from the original four stages. However, it now looks all gloomy. The forest stage looks wintery, but there's no snow, it's just that they added a different color tone to everything. The ice in the ice cave looks black for example. I guess the looks were inspired by the Silent Realm from Skyward Sword, the visiuals are quite similar. And considering that this game was made within three or four months, expecting all new graphics might have been too much. Well, the first door offers two floors in the forest and one in Vaati's Palace. And the second door offered two floors inside the ice cave... I haven't reach floor 2-3 yet, so I can't tell how it looks like. But I'm guessing the third floors always take place in the sky dungeon.

The first time I played the Hero's Trial it kicked my ass. It's main feature are mass enemy fights. Something you didn't get in the original stages, because the GameBoy Advance only could handle so many enemies at the same time. But the enemy combinations can be aweful and your biggest enemy is collision damage. I already complained about the enormous collision damage while playing the GBA version, if an enemy corners you, it's a safe death. There is litte invulnerability time and the enemies like to ran into you. That got me killed multiple times in the first door. The room, where four Darknuts spawn at once then gave me the rest, I managed to beat them, but I lost all Rupees during the process. Then the whole floor went crazy, respawning flying floor tiles everywhere, all hell was loose. That killed me in the end. The problem with the mass enemy fights is that you're all alone. Normally there would be three other Links helping you out, Four Swords Adventures style, but here you can only fight using a single Link. And you have to be very careful.

Well, the new singleplayer offers a nice tactic for being cornered, namely switching between both Links strategically. Let one Link rest in a corner (he can't be hit while he waits) and as soon as you get yourself trapped, switch to the other Link and attack from behind. You basically use one Link as bait and the inactive Link as your safety anchor. After I learned how to do this, the first door went down quite smoothly. But of course this was only hell's warmup...

Welcome to the Frozen Hell behind the second door! Navigating on ice floors in Four Swords is aweful, in no other Zelda game walking on ice floors feels so terrible. And this level abuses this big time. It adds Moblin archers to screw you hard while you try to walk on the ice... but the worst part are the enemy combinations. Ice Wizzrobes and Ball&Chain Soldiers for example. The Ice Wizzrobes freeze you and the Ball&Chainers give you the rest while you can't move. Not fun. And as soon as you die it's one giant downward spiral. You lose all your powerups, so it already gets much harder. And with each death you have to pay more. Before you know it, you lose 500 Rupees per death, which gets you a Game Over easily. And naturally there aren't too many Rupees in the Hero's Trial stage. Or health. In the normal stages you can find more fairies then you can count. Now a fairy is a rare sight in the Hero's Hell, if you're lucky you'll find a single heart inside a treasure chest...

Well, with four players the Hero's Trial probably would be easier. Because dealing with so many enemies at once using only one fighter is really hard. An alternative would be the Hurricane Spin Attack, using it could be very helpful inside the Hero's Trial. Unfortunately you have to beat the Hero's Trial to get the Hurricane Spin Attack! That's another Circus Leader's Mask. Remember that one from Majora's Mask? It's only use was to stop the Gorman Brothers from attacking the carriage. However, to get the Circus Leader's Mask you have to defend the carriage first. It feels similar, because you don't really need the Hurricane Spin Attack in the other stages. Maybe I'll replay the first door using the Hurricane Spin Attack, if I manage to beat the Hero's Trial. But right now I don't feel like replaying any of it.

While I think it's great to get some challenges and evil fights, the main problem is the length of the floors. They are massive and they go on forever. And Grezzo's level design is aweful, they are all very linear and all you do is running from one big switch, that rains enemies down on you, to the next. You get sick of this easily. And I hate the mere thought of having to go through any of this again. Luckily there's the new Retry function, which lets you reset a floor in case you've screwed up, however, both times I completely lost motivation to go on and didn't bother... I was looking forward to some challenge, but I wanted it to be fun. Not frustrating and demotivating.

However, there's a nice easter egg at the end of the first floor of door 1. They made a large 25 out of bushes on an island in the water. As in 25th Anniversary. I've heard that there are other 25s hidden, but I have yet to see one.

I also replayed the Link's Awakening level just for fun today. I just love how they made it, there's lots of cool stuff. For example where you would fight Moldorm in the Tail Cave, it spawns a Mini Moldorm. I thought that was funny, but it definitely fits.

Well, I hope that I can somehow beat the Hero's Trial. I've heard, that there are some hidden shortcuts, which make the floors easier. That would be totally awesome. But right now I'm taking a vacation in Ocarina's 3D Hyrule, it's very relaxing to play Ocarina of Time 3D after burning inside the Hero's Hell.

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