Friday, June 28, 2013

The Myth of the L-3 Power and Armor Rings

The Power Ring L-3 and the Armor Ring L-3 were always perceived as the most powerful rings in Oracle of Ages & Seasons. First of all, you have to go through great hardships to find these rings. They can only be obtained in a Linked Game, where you have to beat the Hero's Caves, which are probably the most difficult dungeons in the games. And both of these rings come with a terrible price.

They must be great, right?

No, no, it's all lies. You've been deceived by all those little up and down arrows! Both of these rings rarely even scratch the effects of the Red and Blue Rings, which are easier to get and don't have any disadvantages.

WHATZITUYA from GameFAQs and I did some testing to figure out how those rings actually work. For reference you need to know the power levels of your weapons:

  • Fists: 1 damage
  • Wooden Sword: 2 damage
  • Noble Sword: 3 damage
  • Master Sword: 5 damage
  • Biggoron's Sword: 5 damage

Now, let's take a look at what the Power Rings and Armor Rings actually do:

  • Power Ring L-1: +1 Sword Damage,
    but it adds 1/4 heart of damage to every received hit
  • Power Ring L-1: +2 Sword Damage,
    but it adds 1/2 heart of damage to every received hit
  • Power Ring L-3: +3 Sword Damage,
    but it adds one heart of damage to every received hit

  • Armor Ring L-1: -1 Sword Damage,
    but it subtracts 1/4 heart of damage from every second received hit
  • Armor Ring L-2: -1 Sword Damage,
    but it subtracts 1/4 heart of damage from every received hit
  • Armor Ring L-3: -1 Sword Damage,
    but it alternately subtracts 1/2 heart or 1/4 of damage from received hits

No, it's not a mistake that all the Armor Rings only reduce the Sword damage by 1, in contrary to the ingame description, but that doesn't prevent them from being useless. Now compare this to the Red and Blue Rings:

  • Red Ring: Sword Damage x2
  • Blue Ring: Damage taken 1/2

The math is very simple. With the Red Ring and the Master Sword you cause 10 damage. With the Power Ring L-3 it's only 8 damage. Only when you use the Wooden Sword, there's some actual advantage. But this doesn't even take the one heart of extra damage that you get from every tiny scratch into account.

With the Blue Ring all received damage gets halved. If an enemy deals four hearts of damage, you will only lose two hearts. With the Armor Ring L-3 you will lose 3.5 or 3.75 hearts. Only when you receive 1/2 heart of damage it actually makes a difference from the Blue Ring. And again, this doesn't take into account that it weakens your sword.

So, yeah, do not use the Power Ring L-3 or the Armor Ring L-3. They are deceptions and nothing else.

The Double Edged Ring is very interesting by the way. It increases your sword damage by 8, so the Master Sword deals 13 damage. You will take one heart damage with every strike, which renders this ring useless on small enemies, but on bosses it can be absolutely devastating.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting all 64 Rings (Again)

As I told you earlier, I was replaying both the Oracle of Ages & Seasons at the same time. I used the same Hero's Secret to start a new game in both games, which allowed sharing the rings, even though both games weren't really linked, story-wise. I regularly switched between the games to transfer rings and basically played both games side by side, dungeon for dungeon (see this post for more details on how to do that).

It was a very cool experience, because you get to see how differently the games evolve and how they compare directly to each other. I would basically see how many items and hearts I got while being at the same point in the two games. For example in Ages you can get the L-2 sword right after Level 4, but the L-2 shield not until after Level 6. In Seasons you get both after Level 5. Or how the dungeons compare next to each other. The Sword & Shield Maze is a way more awesome eight dungeon than the Ancient Tomb, which felt somewhat bland compared to the later dungeons in both games.

Well, but comparing the games was not the point. This was done many times already and I love them equally. My big goal here was to get all 64 rings again from scratch - something I haven't done in ten years. I had a complete ring collection on the GBC and after my original playthroughs I never bothered with collecting them again. Whenever I decided to replay the Oracle games, I simply used a pre-existing Hero's Secret together with a Ring Secret that gave me all 64 rings right from the start. It was lazy, but it felt great to start with all the useful rings like the Blue Ring.

But I was missing out. It's definitely one of the most interesting and challenging collectible side-quests in the Zelda series. I had a lot of fun doing this a second time. Because I didn't have all the good rings (like the Blue Ring) right from the start, I paid more attention to the rings, which I normally wouldn't use at all. And some can give you big advantages. Especially the Joy Rings, which give you double amounts of Rupees and other items, are pretty powerful. Normally I would just use the Blue Ring all the time and not bother with the other ones. But some effects are really interesting.

I haven't completed my collection yet. I'm at the end of both normal games and I'm down to the seven rings, that are exclusive to the Linked Games: Power Ring L-3, Armor Ring L-3, Heart Ring L-1, Aqua Ring, Ice Shoe Ring, Spin Ring and the Blue Joy Ring. Those you can only get in Linked games, with half of them being exclusive to a specific order. Right now I have finished both the unlinked games in Ages and Seasons and got all the 57 rings that you can get without linking the games. So, I'm past the worst.

And it was a fruitful experience. I finally got to study the true nature of how the random rings work in thins game (see my latest post). I could also update my Ring Guide on ZeldaEurope with some spots, which I had missed before.

If you know how the random system works, you can easily figure out the best spot(s) for getting a specific ring. So, collecting all random rings went surprisingly well. I got all 31 random rings when I reached the end of the games without any extra farming, just by planting and harvesting Gasha trees between the dungeons. Compared to collecting all 64 Ship Parts in Phantom Hourglass, which can be a very tedious and repetitive task, this was rather enjoyable.

The only problem are the rings exclusive to mini-games. Actually that's only two rings: the Light Ring L-2 from the Target Shooting game in Lynna Village and the Bomber's Ring for getting a perfect score in the Platinum level of the Goron Dance minigame.

The latter used to be a pure nightmare on the GameBoy Color. It's THE definite main reason, why I never wanted to collect all 64 rings again. If you've ever played the Goron Dance minigame, you know what I'm talking about, because lots of people struggle with this game for getting the Mermaid Keys alone. And the Platinum level is ten times worse. You have to beat eight rounds without making a single mistake and some of the "songs" are just ridiculous. I personally struggle with getting the long pauses right. And even if you happen to win, it's not guaranteed that you receive the Bomber's Ring. You can also get a Protection Ring (which is plunder and basically just saying "screw you"). And the chance for the Protection Ring is slightly higher.

a screenshot of the Goron Dance

Surprisingly it went really, really smooth for me. On the 3DS (or any emulator) you can use Restore Points between the rounds. So, if you mess up, you would just reload. And I got the Bomber's Ring on my first try! I can't tell you how happy I was, I jumped in joy. It's probably the hardest to get ring and it went really well.

The Light Ring L-2 was a different story, though. It's not hard to score 350 points in the Shooting Gallery, but you can win three other rings (Blue Holy Ring, Red Luck Ring & Octo-Ring - all plunder basically) and the probability for getting the Light Ring L-2 (which you can only get in this game) is really low. Below 5% definitely. I had to beat the game 30 times to finally get it. And I'm not the only one with this problem. Imagine collecting Wither Skeleton Skulls in Minecraft, but with a minigame instead of killing a skeleton. It's ridiculous, but I got it eventually.

The Restore Points also helps with the Piece of Heart from Maple. Just save before meeting her and in case, she drops it and you miss it, you can reload and try from a different angle. Restore Points definitely make the games a lot easier (and enjoyable). On the GameBoy Color/Advance you didn't have this luxury and some parts, especially the Goron Dance, could be really frustrating (I remember that I broke a table when I was furious about a part in Oracle of Ages :D).

The next step would be playing the Linked Games and collecting the seven missing rings there. But I'll save that for later, maybe next year, because replaying the games right after replaying them wouldn't be much fun. But I'm looking forward to both Hero's Caves, where you get the L-3 Power and Armor rings, especially the one in Ages - I haven't beaten that one in ages (pun intented).

And the Aqua Ring might be a good challenge, because the minigame here was really hard and I haven't beaten it since my first time in 2001 or 2002. I can hardly remember it, besides the fact that it was really annoying. The other rings are basically free gifts though, nothing to miss.

So, yeah, did you ever try to get all 64 rings? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oracle of Ages & Seasons - Random Rings Guide

It appears that there's no English guide helping you with the random nature with the rings in Oracle of Ages & Seasons. 31 Magic Rings are gotten randomly from different sources. Usually you would just get the info "Maple/Gasha Nut", which isn't really helpful, since there are multiple tiers and different sources and Gasha Spots yield different results. In German we do have good guides about this topic, so I decided to translate this into English to help everyone, who's struggling right now with the rings on the 3DS Virtual Console.

First I'll list all the random rings. They come in five different tiers.

Tier 1:

• Cursed Ring
• Blue Luck Ring*
• Green Holy Ring*
• Blue Holy Ring*
• Red Holy Ring*
• Octo Ring*
• Moblin Ring*
• Like Like Ring*

Tier 2:

• Maple's Ring
• Toss Ring*
• Roc's Ring
• Quicksand Ring*
• Red Luck Ring*
• Whisp Ring
• Zora Ring
• Fist Ring

Tier 3:

• Power Ring L-2*
• Heart Ring L-2
• Red Joy Ring
• Gasha Ring
• Peace Ring
• Whimsical Ring*
• Protection Ring*

Tier 4:

• Expert's Ring
• Charge Ring
• First Gen Ring
• Bombproof Ring*
• Energy Ring
• Dbl. Edged Ring

Tier 5:

• Green Ring
• Rang Ring L-2

The rings marked with * can also be gotten from fixed places, like a chest or in a minigame.

Now I will list the sources for the random ring a long with their offered tiers in square brackets. The Gasha Spots are listed in the order, how you normally would get access to them (this order can be broken though).

Maple [2-3]
Chest Game (3 consecutive chests) [1]
Chest Game (4 consecutive chests) [2]
Chest Game (5 consecutive chests) [3]

Oracle of Ages Gasha Spots:

• Lynna Village, toilet house [1-2]
• Yoll Graveyard [2-4]
• Talus Peaks (past), east of Restoration Wall [2-4]
• South Shore (past) [1-2]
• Crescent Island (present), on the hill [2-4]
• Crescent Island (present), small island in the northeast [2-4]
• Crescent Island (past), One Eyed Tokay Statue [3-5]
• Nuun Highlands [2-4]
• Fairies' Woods [1-2]
• Rolling Ridge Base (past) [1-3]
• Rolling Ridge (past) [1-3]
• Rolling Ridge (present), south of Target Carts [1-3]
• Talus Peaks (past) [1-2]
• Talus Peaks (present) [1-3]
• Zora Village (past) [2-4]
• Sea of Storms (present), Linked Game only [3-5]

Note how certain early spots like Yoll Graveyard yield good results, while certain hard to reach spots like at Talus Peaks are pretty bad. The best spot in the game is definitely the one in front of the One Eyed Tokay statue in the past. You can reach this spot with your raft right after Level 3, so you have early access to it in the game. You can get the very useful Green Ring even before Level 4!

Oracle of Seasons Gasha Spots:

• Horon Village. at Mayor's house [1-2]
• North Horon, at Impa's house [1-2]
• Woods of Winter [1-2]
• Temple Remains, entrance [1-3]
• Holodrum Plain, riverside [1-3]
• Spool Swamp, floodgate [1-2]
• Spool Swamp, southeast corner [1-3]
• Eyeglass Lake [2-4]
• Sunken Village [1-2]
• Holodrum Plain, small island [1-3]
• Goron Mountain, east of Temple Remains [3-5]
• Mt. Cucco base [1-2]
• Mt. Cucco (fall), by the Flying Rooster [2-4]
• Tarm Ruins [3-5]
• Samasa Desert [1-3]
• Western Coast [1-2]

Yes, the last spot, which you can find in the game, is not better than the ones in the beginning... The best spot is at Tarm Ruins. Easy to access (there's a warp point right next to it) and best results. Before you get there you can use the hidden spot next to the lower entrance to Goron Mountain. But it's hard to navigate there. However, if you've gotton Dimitri's Flute you can get there even before Level 3.

To get the Piece of Heart from a Gasha Nut, you need a spot, that offers level 4 or 5. And as you can see, in both games there are only two spots available for the Green Ring and the Rang Ring L-2.

Killing more enemies yields different (eventually better) results. Normally a tree grows after 20 killed beasts, the Gasha Nut after 40. If you wear the Gasha Ring those values are halfed, so the Nut will grow after 20 kills.

I hope this helps. I plan to write a full ring guide in the near future.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Zelda II and a Remake

What's Miyamoto's worst game? Wii Music? Super Mario Sunshine? Apparently it's Zelda II - The Adventure of Link... Miyamoto talked with Kotaku about why he's unhappy with how this very special game turned out. Here are some quotes:

"So one thing, of course, is, from a hardware perspective, if we had been able to have the switch between the scenes speed up, if that had been faster, we could have done more with how we used the sidescrolling vs. the overhead [view] and kind of the interchange between the two. But, because of the limitations on how quickly those scenes changed, we weren't able to."

"The other thing is it would have been nice to have had bigger enemies in the game, but the Famicom/NES hardware wasn't capable of doing that. Certainly, with hardware nowadays you can do that and we have done that, but of course nowadays creating bigger enemies takes a lot of effort."

Does this smell like remake to you? It certainly does. Usually Nintendo justifies their remakes and remastered versions of Zelda games with hardware limitations or because there were things, they weren't able to do the first time. On the GameCube they had trouble loading the islands, which on the Wii U can now be done all at once, so here comes The Wind Waker HD... Aonuma wants to fix the Water Temple, so here we go with Ocarina of Time 3D...

But actually I could imagine that a remake of Zelda II could turn into something amazing. Note that I'm saying "remake" as in real remake. Not just new graphics, but everything better.

(Artwork from ReddFloxy)

There's a lot of potential in this format. One of the biggest flaws of Zelda II for me personally was the lack of items. The enemies all get to use boomerangs, bombs and similar, while Link only has sword and shield. It's part of the challenge for sure, but also the reason why the game could feel frustrating at times. Adding items to the game would bring the combat to the next level. Using bow, bombs and boomerang could be a lot of fun and make you feel more badass.

While they fully employ the switch of between an overhead view map and the side scrolling perspective, they could add later traditional Zelda elements such as treasure chests, collectibles and similar. I would love to explore the vast world of Northern Hyrule in greater detail. The world of Zelda II is massive and exciting.

The game should remain challenging, but naturally it will become easier with various improvements that later became standard in the series. Like being able to save everywhere. Or not getting a Game Over from falling to your death. That way it could be more inviding for people, who struggled with the original game on the NES. They might give this one a try.

Oh, yeah, and the music! This game has simply some of the best music pieces in the entire series. Orchestral versions would rock (too bad that the Symphony of the Goddesses only featured one song of the game...)

Of course that's something for further down the road. With Ocarina of Time 3D, Four Swords AE, The Wind Waker HD, A Link Between Worlds and a potential Majora's Mask 3D Nintendo has re-explored many old Zelda worlds lately. Right now Zelda needs new worlds. But some day in the future such a remake could work.

Retro, Tingle and the Curse of Conversion

A Zelda game made by Retro Studios. That's certainly something many Zelda fans dreamt about, but was denied by Miyamoto, because he didn't want to outsource Zelda. But they can still mock the Zelda fans by letting Retro make the third Tingle game. I'm not kidding here.

Say "hello" to Kensuke Tanabe. He's the producer of all the Retro Studio and Vanpool titles. In case you don't know, Retro Studios made such great games as the Metroid Prime Trilogy (simply one of my favorites) and the latest Donkey Kong Country games, currently working on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Vanpool are the guys, who made the Tingle games including Rupeeland. Later they had invented the Dillon franchise.

In an interview with VentureBeat Tanabe admitted his obsession with Tingle. Even though the character is hated in the West, he still thinks that this can be changed, turn the hate into love, by making yet another Tingle game. And the head of Retro Studios even jokes that they could make that game. Of course this all wasn't really serious and Tanabe explains that's just some crazy idea from himself and not Nintendo, but still I could see this happening, no matter how ludicrous it might seem.

As of late Nintendo has a problem. When some of their products gets rejected, they think it's not because the people simply didn't like it or because the product was bad, but because the people didn't understand it properly. The Wii U is great, people just don't understand it! - That's Nintendo's statement. The Wind Waker's art style was great for Zelda, people just didn't understand it. - That's Aonuma's statement and the reason, why they keep making more Toon Zelda, even though the Wind Waker received a lot of hate and Twilight Princess outsold comic-look Zelda big time. And you can certainly expect Nintendo to make Metroid: Other M 2, just because they think the first game wasn't understood properly. ... That Tanabe wants to sell more Tingle just fits the whole profile.

And maybe his vision would come true... Most likely not, but if I said it would be impossible to convert the people to like Tingle, I would be a hypocrite. Because I got converted myself. Two times actually. One time with the Wind Waker and later with Tingle.

I'm not hostile towards the Wind Waker anymore, but I used to be when the game came out. I was 16 years old, so everything had to be cool and there's no way that I would buy that weird GameCube with the kiddy Zelda. Three years later at the German army, a comrade had a GameCube with the Zelda Collector's Edition, where I helped him with Majora's Mask. Of course I was curious about the Wind Waker demo and I gave it a try. And I liked it. The game was really charming and I loved, how dark and atmospheric the Forsaken Fortress and Dragon Roost Cavern dungeons looked despite the toon style. Windfall Island was great and probably my favorite town in the series. I would later get my own GameCube with the Wind Waker that year (though Twilight Princess at the horizon was the main reason to get the system). I got converted.

With Tingle it was similar. At first I hated him. Especially in Majora's Mask. As a young lad I considered him to be the one and only flaw of the game. I wished he wasn't in there. In the Wind Waker I thought he was more funny, even though he rips you off badly, but I never had problems with collecting enough Rupees. I still hated him for the Tingle Tuner, which simply was a terribly implemented feature and gave him more attention than he should have. Then one day I would win Tingle's Rupeeland in an online quiz game. At first I didn't want to touch this abomination of a game, but when I started playing it, I noticed the similar Action Adventure gameplay and that the game had a lot of charme. While this game is far from perfect, I really liked it for what it is. It made me stop hating Tingle and appreciate the weird sense of humor surrounding him.

So, mission successful, Tanabe! I got converted. But I'm an exception. In both cases I got my hands on the games by coincident (or you could say "fate"). If you're unwilling to buy something, no marketing will change that. You can't force people to buy Tingle games, if they hate Tingle. Tingle's Rupeeland sold poorly, it didn't change much about Tingle's reception. And yet another Tingle game won't change this, especially one made by Retro - in that case you would just make the Zelda fans furious.

Also, just because I grew to like the Wind Waker and Tingle, doesn't mean I want more Wind Waker and Tingle. I learned to like them for what they are in the Zelda series, but I don't really want more. I originally rejected both for a reason and that's never going to change. Nintendo won't change this, no matter how many Toon Zelda and Tingle games they'll keep making.

This behavior on Nintendo's site is very unhealthy. They should stop chasing ghosts and focus on what the people really want from games like Zelda. Instead they try to manipulate you into liking something that you hated.

GREZZO made StreetPass Garden

Today there's an update for the StreetPass Mii Plaza, that potentially kills the application and also SELLS you four new StreetPass games. I personally haven't bothered with StreetPass until after the Symphony of the Goddesses concert, where I had to learn that you can only collect 10 people at max... So, it's all pretty new for me and four games being added seems a little deterrend for me personally. Especially since they cost money.

What striked me was the fact that one of the four new games, StreetPass Garden, was made by GREZZO (source). You know, the guys who made Ocarina of Time 3D and the Four Swords Anniversary Edition.

This is sad news. I thought that Nintendo had them made the Zelda remakes, so they would gather experience with Zelda to potentially work on future Zelda side projects. I thought they might be helping with A Link Between Worlds.

But instead of let's say... pimping the Oracle games, Nintendo made them develop a gay garden "simulator". What a waste.

This also means less man power for Zelda. Hopefully they will return to Zelda now and start working on Majora's Mask 3D.

Some Improvements to Hyrule Blog

Looks like I'm using this blog more often right now and I guess this will continue, since we have a couple of new Zelda releases waiting for us.

I used this opportunity to make some long overdue improvements. The first thing you will notice that I finally changed the background a little bit more into what I always had in mind with it. Namely this original TLoZ artwork:

It's a little bit dark now at the sides. Maybe I'll find a better color later on. Or some texture.

Next change was moving the label widget down to the lowest point in the side menu. It has gotten very long and kept getting in the way of the Blog Archive. Also, a lot of posts are not labeled correctly, I have forgotten to use some minor labels such as "Zelda News", I really need to go through all the posts and label them correctly at some time. Maybe I will remove some labels entirely. It's bad that you can't collapse the label widget, it would make things less bloated. So, the labels are at the bottom for now.

Instead I decided to expand the hot buttons. I added buttons for more recent games, which includes the Oracle of Ages & Seasons (which have been re-released on VC), the Wind Waker (which is getting an HD port on the Wii U) and A Link Between Worlds (the next 3DS Zelda game). All three games have been an important part of my posts lately, so their buttons are definitely justified. I have also replaced the 25th Anniversary button with a button for the BS Zelda games, since the anniversary stuff feels outdated and the BS Zelda games were always an interesting and curious part of the blog. And there's now a search bar, where the labels used to be. So, if you want to find something quick, you can use that.

I know, it's not much. Baby steps. I'm still very lazy with this, but keep in mind that it's about the posts, not the design.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Aonuma Wants Your Feelings!

It's official. Aonuma doesn't care what you, the Zelda fans, want from a Zelda game. But he's really interested in your feelings. From ZeldaUniverse:

And with regard to the kind of opinions or fan response that I really want to hear, it’s “What stayed with you?” What left an impression? What made you feel happy? What made you feel sad? That kind of information is really helpful to me. I understand that people will have specific requests with regard to a certain dungeon, or “We want to see this particular item in the game,” or something like that. But even more than that I really value the emotional experience that people have, and as a creator it’s very important for me to leave an impression, and I’d like to hear what those impressions are. - Aonuma

He made a similar respond when talking about Skyrim with Eurogamer. There he said that he didn't look at the content of the game, but at how it makes you feel.

Also, a fun quote from EDGE magazin (source):

When I first started making Zelda games, I was more interested in the enemy characters than in Link himself. But while I was making Twilight Princess, I was listening to the theme on an iPod while walking hand in hand with my child, and I suddenly burst into tears. I was thinking about all the awful trials Link would have to go through in the new game. I realised that Link really is my other child. I don't inhabit the character so much as watch him from somewhere very close.

What a sissy!


So, he wants our feelings? Then let's talk about feelings.

When I play the classic Zelda games, they make me feel satisfied and happy. When I find a stronger sword in classic Zelda games or better armor, it makes me feel really powerful and like I have achieved something. When I enter the open fields of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past and especially Ocarina of Time, it makes me feel excited. Excited about all the things to explore. The classic games deliver a nice sense of exploration. When I play a classic Zelda dungeon, it makes me feel challenged. The dungeons used to be designed as mazes and navigating them, finding the best possible way through them is still challenging. It makes me feel smart.

When I play modern Zelda games, they make me feel unsatisfied and depressed. I'm unsatisfied and depressed because those game make me feel constrained and like an idiot, who needs constant hand holding and guidance. I feel constrained, because everything is linear, there's never a choice of path. It makes me miss the sense of exploration from the earlier games. I feel bored, because dungeons are just linear paths of easy puzzles. I feel unchallenged, because the game makes sure that I simply can't lose or get stuck anywhere. I feel like I've achieved nothing, when I find a new sword, because it's usually just a story tool and not something to help against stronger foes, which are nonexistent anyway.

So, there they are. My feelings... Now I just need Aonuma's email adress to channel my feelings directly to him... His Twitter account would work as well, I'll just tweet him everything feeling by feeling... Anynone?

Zelda and DLC

In a recent interview on Nintendo Life Aonuma says that DLC is something they are considering - I always wanted to talk about DLC in Zelda, so why not now?

I must say that I do not have many games that support DLC. I'm a PC gamer, where DLC doesn't really work because of modding (unless you use Steam or something) - you make real expansion packs here. Or the DLC is free entirely, like the Bonus Packs in the Unreal Tournament series. Not counting the Nintendo 3DS I only have one console that did follow the modern trend of DLC, which is the Xbox. Which I only bought (for cheap) to play Unreal Championship 2 - The Liandri Conflict, which is a great game, probably the best console arena shooter, but that came with a flaw. While the DLC was free, it was on disc DLC - a really bad way of making DLC, basically content gets cut from the original game and you have to pay for it afterwards (even though it's on the disc that you've already paid for). That's a no-go and luckily nothing Nintendo would do. But I didn't have a broadband connection at the time and I honestly didn't want to pay for Xbox Live (ugh), so I had to mod the Xbox to get the stuff that was already on the disc...

The way I see it DLC has one big advantage and one big misadvantage. And you really have to weight this for Zelda.

DLC keeps the game fresh

This is the deal. You love a game, but after a while it becomes boring and you move on. But suddenly a new level gets released (ideally for free) - and of course you're going to check it out. And it's awesome. It really gets you back into the game, you're starting to have fun with it again and return to other older maps as well. It revives your passion for the game.

But that really only works for games, which you would play continuously, usually a multiplayer game. For me it was Unreal Tournament (2003/2004/3), where new free levels from both the developers and the community would heat up the game again. Another big example would be Minecraft. While it doesn't have any form of DLC, it gets updated regularly and the new content keeps you going. Next update will have horses and I can't wait to ride through the endless fields of my world. It brings you back into these games, that you stopped playing for different reasons.

However, this only works with games that you can play over and over again. Like a multiplayer shooter. DLC would be perfect for Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. - download new race tracks, carts, characters and stages. I think especially Mario Kart can be a lot of fun online, but for me it gets boring fast. So, I only play it occasionally with friends. Games like Mario Kart 7 would really profit from DLC. But for some reason Nintendo prefered to add DLC to New Super Mario Bros. 2 instead, which frankly didn't work so great and felt like a rip-off. And now they're considering Zelda?

Zelda is a very closed game with a start and a finish. It's a game that you intensively play for a while, let's say a couple of weeks depending on your free time. And then you reach the end, maybe collect all Piece of Heart and then finally put the game aside. Maybe you pick it up again one or two years later and replay it. Which again will be only a short time period, where you actually play the game. Zelda is not a game that you keep playing continuously. And throwing in DLC would probably work in a similar fashion. You play the new content, finish it and then you leave. It doesn't keep you playing non-stop, so the main advantage of DLC isn't really there for Zelda.

And how should Zelda DLC look like anyway? They could add new areas and dungeons. Like for example the Color Dungeon that got cleverly added to the DX version of Link's Awakening - however, what would you gain from it? The Color Dungeon gave you new tunics. But if you already reached the end of the game, those new items aren't worth anything unless you decide to replay the entire game. Even if it's newly created content, it would feel like it got cut from the original game and added afterwards. And with Zelda you really want the full and closed experience right from the start. They can't just suddenly add side missions to the game (even though I wanted this for OoT3D, but it's too late for that).

New content would have to take place after the finished game. Maybe as an additional challenging quest that takes everything you've learned from the game and further explores the storyline. Like the Palace of the Four Swords in the GBA version of A Link to the Past. That dungeon can't be accessed after you've beaten Ganon (and Vaati) and it offers a new quest with ultra challenging bosses, where you collect the shattered pieces of the Four Sword and where you get a new ending sequence. Something like that could work potentially.

Another great possibility would be a downloadable 2nd Quest. Something like Master Quest for Ocarina of Time. How many times did I complain that Zelda games don't come with a real 2nd Quest anymore? They could fix this with DLC.

And if there's multiplayer, they could just release DLC for that. Let's say A Link Between Worlds gets a Shadow Battle mode similar to Four Swords Adventures, which was really fun. But it could get become boring fast, unless Nintendo regularly adds new arenas that keep people going. Or let's say they really make a new Four Swords game with the Between Worlds engine, there they could easily add new areas like the did in the Anniversary Edition. So, for Zelda multiplayer DLC would work great, definitely.

DLC will be lost over time

One of Nintendo's biggest strengths was always that they created timeless games. You can still pick up a GameBoy, get your hands on a copy of Link's Awakening (maybe you have to replace the battery, but mostly it's still fine) and be able to enjoy the full experience. It's timeless. And old Nintendo systems are so robust, they'll survive anything. When talking about the whole DRM issue that Xbox One has, Miyamoto compared Nintendo's products with your favorite toys that you would like to keep (source). And it's really like that.

But with entering the digital age, Nintendo risks to lose their timeless value. Link's Awakening can be still played and fully enjoyed twenty years after its release. But will you be able to do the same with A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS in twenty years? Servers will shut down eventuelly. If I buy a Xbox now to play Unreal Championship 2, there's no chance of legally obtaining the extra levels and characters, because all Xbox Live servers for the old Xbox are down. I have to go through the hassle of modding the system to get the content. And I'm lucky that there are actually people, who put it on the internet, and that Microsoft hasn't taken them down yet...

So, let's say they add new digital content to A Link Between Worlds. It will be lost over time, unless they make a re-release that includes the content. With a game like Mario Kart this wouldn't be so bad. Even if you decide to pick it up in twenty years, you most likely do so just for fun. You probably won't even notice that it's missing some downloadable tracks. But with Zelda you want the full experience. You want it all. You're not picking up the game to play only half of it.

So, with a game like Zelda, where you want a full and closed experience, DLC doesn't really seem like an option. But let's wait and see, what Nintendo has in stores here. The DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U turned into its own full game, New Super Luigi U, which is a good sign. And if you think about it, the creation of Majora's Mask originally started out as add-on content for Ocarina of Time for the N64DD. This also spawned Master Quest. So, with Nintendo, DLC could turn into something big. Let's just hope this will be the case with the first DLC for a Zelda game.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A New Link Between Worlds

Aonuma just confirmed in an interview with Kotaku that A Link Between Worlds won't take place at the same time period as A Link to the Past, the Oracle games and Link's Awakening, but a long time after. It will feature a new generation of Link and Zelda.

I was hoping to learn what happened to Link after the events of Link's Awakening, but at least this explains how the Eastern Palace could change into freakin' Hera's Tower (I really hope that's just the case in the demo though :D).

But I guess the game might still take place before the NES classics. Maybe it explains how Ganon got back to life after A Link to the Past and the Oracles.

The Mystery of the The Wind Waker HD Triforce Quest Optimization Revealed

This is kind of funny... from Kotaku:

"As for the Triforce quest, it was basically a process of finding maps and then following that map to another location," he recalled, "but I think what some people didn’t like is that sometimes you would find a map and it would take you to another map. It was a series of steps you had to take in order to get to the Triforce. Maybe people felt like they were getting the runaround a little bit."

"We’re planning on streamlining that a little bit. Maybe you’ll get a map, and it’ll lead you to the Triforce and then you’ll get it and move on to the next one."

Doesn't make any sense to you? Well, it shouldn't. Maybe you remember my post about the Japanese version of the Wind Waker. There I explained, that the Triforce Quest there includes a series of five treasure maps. One treasure map is leading to the next until you get the Triforce Chart.

Well, in the West this already got fixed! They relocated a couple of Treasure Charts and Heart Pieces to remove this cumbersome series.

But why does Aonuma even mention it? Is he not aware that this got already fixed in the West? He's at E3, where most people are from the West. This information would be more exciting and less confusing for the Japanese audience in Japan.

And this also raises this question, if they are just using the Western version or actually fixing it again... and maybe fixing it differently? Because they made many improvements to the Western version of the game, not just the Triforce Quest. I would hate to get to the end of the Savage Labyrinth only to find 10 Rupees. And how can they be so confused to announce this at E3? It's all still a mystery...

It turned out that they took both versions into consideration for making The Wind Waker HD and improved the Triforce Quest even beyond the original improvements made for the US / Europe releases by removing multiple Triforce Charts! Savage Labyrinth now has the Hero's Charm.

The Wind Waker HD Already Disappoints

No new content for the port. None at all. I should have saw that coming. If Nintendo had added anything besides the faster sail and the Tingle Bottles, they would have shown it. But I always get too excited about the possibilities.

I remember clearly that when Link's Awakening DX came out, I didn't care about the updated visuals. In fact I still prefer the monochrome GameBoy original, because it has more class and style than the colored mess on the GBC. But I really wanted to play the DX version for a simple reason: the new bonus dungeon. I was just too excited about experiencing a new challenge in one of my favorite games.

Adding new content to these ports and remakes is very important. It gives the fans, who already played the game, a good reason to go through it again.

But Ocarina of Time 3D managed to sell 3 million copies without having any new content at all (there was the Boss Battle Mode and the inclusion of Master Quest, but this does hardly count as new content). For Nintendo this was probably the sign that they don't have to try at all with these remakes.

And Aonuma now confirmed that there won't be anything new in an interview with Eurogamer:

"I've received many questions about additional content beyond what was in the GameCube version of the game, but our desire is to stay true of the story that was in the original. If we add dungeons then that will affect other parts of the GameCube version, which we really want to stay true to."

What a lazy excuse! I understand what he's saying and I wouldn't want them to make crazy alterations to the original game either. Like suddenly adding a Jabun's Belly dungeon to get Nayru's Pearl. It's a possibility, but it would feel weird.

But that doesn't mean that they can't add any new side quests to the game. There are many islands with no content at all, some island couldn't even be entered, because they were just some needle rocks in the ocean. If there's one Zelda game, that badly would need more content, then it's the Wind Waker. But according to Aonuma the lack of content is not the problem:

"If it felt like there were maybe too few dungeons then I feel that what was wrong with the GameCube version was the pacing. It was thrown off because it took longer to get to certain dungeons. There was a waiting period, and then when you arrived there the experience maybe didn't feel as big, as you'd waited so long to get there."

Or maybe it felt that way, because there were too few dungeons? But this doesn't occur to Aonuma. Adding new content would be work.

"We're tuning the game to alleviate all that. The pacing should feel appropriate to the overall experience this time... We need to tighten those [gaps] and make the overall experience and story feel tighter."

I hate Aonuma's fuzz talk. He never talks straight about something. How do they change the pacing? How do they improve the Triforce Quest? I bet all they have done is adding the faster sail. But Aonuma can't just say "we added the faster sail and that fixes everything", because that would look lazy. So, he babbles about how they changed the pacing and the game's flow, blah blah...

But there's also some interesting information here:

"Quite honestly, those dungeons we removed we used in other games, so we can't use them in this version!"

That makes sense. A lot of ideas and content that Nintendo scraps in one game, usually gets reused in a later game (and not for that game's advantage). But like in Ocarina of Time 3D I never expected to see the cut dungeons in the Wind Waker HD anyway. They scrapped the content for a reason, for example you probably wouldn't want to play the Unicorn Fountain stuff planned for Ocarina of Time, because it's most likely just garbage.

But I would like to see all new content. Something made with the ambition to really add something to the game. To give the veterans something nice to play with! A reason to buy the port... But nooooo...

On it then was confirmed, that they're not adding a Hard Mode. The game's 2nd Quest would have been perfect for that, but Nintendo doesn't care. I could have excused the lack of new islands and dungeons, when they actually tried something with the 2nd Quest. The possibilities to please the Wind Waker veterans here are endless. And that's not really hard to do, they wouldn't have to design new islands or dungeons, they just need to alter the already existing ones. The Wind Waker is way too easy and needed a good 2nd Quest. And it already got a 2nd Quest implemented, it's just that it doesn't do anything besides changing Link's clothes and some other extras. They could have used this for so much more.

But the real bad news comes from

Progress on the title's also being held up by Nintendo's development resources, or lack thereof. Right now, Aonuma's teams are spread a bit thin across A Link Between Worlds and Wind Waker HD, with priority going to that latter title. So before Nintendo can make any serious headway on Zelda Wii U -- let alone make the title's existence public -- WindWaker HD needs to be completed

This is the worst case scenario. I always defended TWWHD, because it could be easily made as a side project. It could have been done by anyone, while the Zelda team can focus on the real Zelda for Wii U. But how can they actually be busy with this port? They haven't done anything with it! They added some lighting effects, made it playable with the stupid GamePad, added Miiverse and that's it. There are no big graphical enhancements, there's no new content, no Master Quest, nothing. How can this hold up the development of Zelda Wii U? This is a giant joke. Unbelieveable.

And this has the priority over A Link Between Worlds? I bet the latter gets made by GREZZO after all, while Aonuma's team just watches them work.

This also doesn't match with Miyamoto's statement, that the Wii U Zelda was ready to be shown at E3... what to believe?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Wind Waker HD @E3 2013

As I already said before, this remake exists for one and one reason only: it could be cheaply made. The Cel Shading visuals allow simple interpolation and can be upscaled without looking bad. Play the original GameCube version on the Dolphin emulator. It already looks amazing there:

Nintendo just added some polygons here and some nice bloom lighting there, and the remake was done! Note how Aonuma solely talks about the lighting in the Developer Direct. Because that's all they done with the graphics!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. The cinematic HD remake fans wanted for Majora's Mask would have costed tons of money and effort. Money and effort better spent on the new Wii U Zelda title. The Wind Waker HD can be made without getting in the way of a new Zelda game. It's an enhanced port of the original game. Simple, but effective. And that's fine with me. I also like how smooth and fluid it all looks.

And we finally learned some new features of the port:

Tinge Bottles

I originally expected that they would do something crazy with the Wii U GamePad for the Tingle Tuner. So, I was positively surprised that they scrapped the Tingle Tuner alltogether and replaced it with a very charming way of using Miiverse. Messages in a bottle. At first I thought it was stupid, but it has a certain appeal to it. It's also a nice way of integrating Miiverse without forcing it. I'm not a fan of all the social network spamming, but I love how you receive the messages in a bottle that gets washed ashore.

But it leaves a question: what about all the Tingle Tuner exclusive elements? Originally there were five golden Tingle Statues that you could collect from dungeons. They were placed on Tingle's Island. Also, one of the Tingle Siblings, Knuckle, only appears if you looked for him on Outset using the Tingle Tuner. I hope both the Tingle Statues and Knuckle will somehow remain in the game.

Besides this I'm happy that the Tingle Tuner is gone. It was an aweful feature, terribly implemented. Good riddance.

Speed Sail and Picto-Goodness

Ohhh, yes, baby, yes! Probably the best addition they could make to the game. In the original game you could go faster by constantly removing and setting the sail. Basically you would press A and the button for the sail periodically. It was just a small speed boost, but it was something. I guess Nintendo noticed that and adopted it into a new sail item that makes you go faster with A. I like that you have to earn it. But it shouldn't appear too late in the game. After Forest Haven at the latest. And the 2nd Quest should have it right from the start, like the Picto-Box DX.

Talking about the Picto-Box, it now lets you save 12 pictures instead of three! Oh, this is gonna make the Minintendo figurine collecting so much more comfortable and enjoyable. I love it. When I play the remake (and I certainly will at some point, probably not this year, but some time) I'm going to try to complete the figurine collection on the first playthrough like I did in 2011 on the GameCube (that way you can start a 2nd Quest with an already completed figurine collection, see this post). And the new improved Picto-Box is going to make this a lot more fun.

Those are small improvements, but they really count. Sadly there seems to be no way of changing the wind in a quicker fashion. You can control the Wind Waker with the Stylus, but that doesn't really help. You still have to play the song before changing wind directions. It seems like they don't repeat the song afterwards, so it saves a little time, but it's still bothersome. And they still show you the annoying Grappling Hook cutscenes, though it seems to run quicker now... But hey, they really tried to improve the slow gameplay of the original, that's good.

Also, I can only laugh about Aonuma's comment how the sailing would have been too fast for the GameCube. I've played the GameCube version a lot and it's not like it's constantly trying to load new areas. You can always hear the disc move when you get near the border of an area and I'm pretty certain that a faster boat wouldn't have fallen off the ocean. But let him make excuses...

Improving the Triforce Quest

Aonuma wasn't really specific about this, so this leaves me both worried and excited. I know that they are many people, who simply hated that part. But I'm one of the few, who enjoyed it. I generally like these scavenger hunts, for example I enjoyed the similar artifact / key / energy cell quests in the Metroid Prime Trilogy. It's vastly non-linear and makes you re-explore every nook of the game world.

So, I'm worried that parts get removed or that they dumb it down alltogether. But... the way it sounded was more like they wanted to expend it. And that could work great. The main complaint about the Wind Waker was the low number of dungeons. And this is the part where they can easily add some new dungeons. For example the Island of Steel. In the original version you just enter it and get the Triforce Chart. They could have added an entire dungeon here with a steel theme. There are many possibilities here and I will explore those in a later post.

No infos about the 2nd Quest. I can't stress this enough. The 2nd Quest is the key for this port (I'm not gonna say "remake", because it really isn't). They need to make it harder. Like a lot harder. Like Darknuts crawling Dragon Roost Cavern hard. Make it an awesome Master Quest. If they won't, then the port will be right next to Ocarina of Time 3D on the throne of missed opportunities.

A Link Between Worlds @E3 2013

"A Link Between Worlds" - that's the new title for A Link to the Past 2. I like the pun. Actually it would have been the perfect title for the SNES original. But like I predicted, the painting form of Link is actually used to move between the Light and the Dark World (I bet you walk into a mirror to switch between worlds), so the whole pun works even better here.

What really strikes me is the Dark Triforce in the logo. That's really something. That would be a story. Imagine a story about a Dark Triforce that has its own "Unsacred Realm" and that follows "virtues" like Sorrow, Despair and Destruction (like in the Oracle games). That has its own dark gods, who created it. That would be a way to expend the lore of the Zelda universe. That would be amazing.

If they really do something like it, I still might have hopes for the game despite all the living paiting bullsh*t. But Nintendo put that art there for a reason. The logos of the Zelda games are usually quite simplistic, only using the most imporant main elements from the game. So, it could be, that the Dark World in this new game isn't actually the Dark World from A Link to the Past (which shouldn't exist anymore anyway), but the "Unsacred Realm" for this new Dark Triforce.

And remember Demise's Dark Mastersword, that had a dark inverted Triforce on it? ... Man, the potential! Sadly, like with Demise's sword, Nintendo probably won't do anything big here...

The new video also shows the Fire Rod, which as expected uses the new "Magic Meter". I wonder if the Cane of Somaria will still be in the game. Actually that item might be interesting in the new painting mode. For example you could create steps that Link can use to ascend while being a painting. As for the painting mode, I still don't like the feature, because it looks so silly. But... the way you can navigate the Easter Palace area with it simply amazed me. It does fit really well with the world of A Link to the Past.

Most of the new footage is from the early game though. I would be interested how hard the game will get. A Link to the Past had just the perfect difficulty level. Not as frustating as the NES games, but certainly not as easy as modern Zelda. I really hope they don't dumb it all down... but they probably will.

Also... they should offer the demo level as a download for the 3DS!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Playing Oracle of Ages & Seasons Parallel

With the release of Ages and Seasons for the Virtual Console, I started replaying the Oracle games. I already did that back in 2011 as part of my 25th Anniversary replays, but I only played in one direction (Ages → Seasons) and started with all 64 rings, so I wouldn't have to bother with them. This time I'll try to get all 64 rings again, something I haven't done since the GBC originals. Which also means that I have to play both ways (Ages → Seasons and Seasons → Ages). And while doing so I came up with a nice way of playing the two games simultaneously.

I simply started a new game both in Ages and Seasons using the same Hero's Secret. Even though those are not linked games, the games are already interacting with the rings. As I've explained in earlier posts, all files started from the same Hero's Secret share the same Ring Secret. And you can share rings immediatly over all the files. So, if I find a new ring in Oracle of Ages, I can use it right away in Oracle of Seasons, even though both are not linked games.

Both of the new games will eventually lead to linked games and at that time I will be able to share rings between four different savegames, all having slightly different scenarios. Whereever I find a new ring, all three other savegames will profit immediatly.

The nice thing with this method is that you don't have to stay with one game. Usually you would start with one game, play it straight to the end, link to the next game, finish the linked game, receive the Hero's Secret, play the same game again and then finish a linked Hero's game in the first one. It's somewhat tedious.

But by starting with the Hero's Secret right away, you can play the games simultaneously. You can jump around as you please. I usually switch games, when I hit the Ring Shop to appraise new rings. I would then switch to the other game and continue playing there until I found more rings. Then switch back.

Also, by starting with a Hero's Secret right away you won't miss the Heart Container in your first file. I think this is the most fun and benificial way to go at the Oracle games.

In case you want to do the same, you can use the password generator to make yourself a Hero's Secret (if you haven't gotten one yet).

Let Aonuma Go

Aonuma comment from the latest EDGE:

I’m 50 now, so I only have about ten more years to make games at Nintendo. I want to try all sorts of new things before it’s too late – I don’t want to get to the end of my career and only have worked on Zelda. But every time I come up with some good new ideas, they end up being used in a Zelda game! I need a six-month break to get away from the Zelda cycle and focus on something new [laughs]. But I’d probably end up making a game that’s similar to Zelda

His biggest cry for help was probably Spirit Tracks, where he wanted to make a game about trains for his little son, but was stuck with Zelda. So, he made his train game and wrapped Zelda around it.

His next step will be the rape of A Link to the Past. As much as I like the idea of getting a true A Link to the Past sequel, I'm pretty sure that they will ruin it. It already starts with the whole "turn Link into a painting" idea. Yes, it might be a good devise for interesting new gameplay features, but it's yet another ridiculous one game gimmick.

The Zelda series didn't evolve since Aonuma took over. Each new game revolves around one time main gimmicks like travelling on boat and train or tranforming into wolves and paintings. Together with new "art styles" they try to overshadow, that they never truly try to evolve Zelda. It always looks like they are doing something new and daring, while they really aren't. Changing the art style and making the game revolve around one new gameplay feature, that will never return to the series afterwards, is the same thing they did ten years ago. Zelda does not evolve.

The only game where they tried to make a greater and more epic Zelda experience was Twilight Princess. But they suddenly thought, that it would be a good idea to kill off exploration from Zelda to provide a scripted story. And they haven't recovered from that. Story and puzzles became more important than exploration and true action. And their stories are simply terrible. They are usually written around the new main gimmick, like a story about how Hyrule got covered in magic rails. And it will be the same in the A Link to the Past sequel:

We started out with the new play mechanics, such as Link being able to become a painting and walk along the walls, and then figured out from there how to build a story around them. Rather than forcing elements of the original story into this one, we’ve instead focused on bringing back the characters, so you can see what happened to them after the events of the first game.

A Link to the Past created all the impressive lore for the Zelda franchise, the Sacred Realm, the Imprisoning War, the Triforce - that's a story! The sequel instead will focus on how Link then turned into a painting. Great. And who cares about the useless NPCs in A Link to the Past? It's just silly.

And the next important thing are puzzles, that can be solved by a braindead monkey child in a coma. Offering no challenge or replay value whatsoever.

There are many things wrong with the Zelda series at this point. It needs fresh faces. Let Aonuma step aside and have someone else do the job. Someone, who isn't actually scared of the Oktoroks in the first game. Someone, who respects the NES games and knows their values. Fujibayashi might be a candidate, but it doesn't really matter. Any other would treat the Zelda series with the respect it deserves. Aonuma just uses it as a platform for his "ingenious" ideas.

Let Aonuma make his own game. Create his own gaming franchise. I guarantee you it will fail. It will sell worse than Metroid: Other M. The only reason, why Aonuma gets away with his bad ideas, is because he is allowed to wrap the name "The Legend of Zelda" around them. A name that still holds meaning to a lot of people. A name that is still able to move some millions despite the damage done to it.

As long as Aonuma is in charge, I doubt that Zelda will return to true greatness.