Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Swap Earth and Wind Temple

I keep getting ideas for an expanded 2nd Quest in the Wind Waker HD (so much potential!). After swapping out all the islands, I think another nice step would be swapping the natural order of things.

In the original I was disappointed that you couldn't play the Earth and Wind Temples out of order. Because if you look at the items alone, it should be an entirely possible. You can get the Iron Boots and the Power Bracelets at the same time. You can even get the Wind God's Aria first. What prevents you from entering the Wind Temple then is Makar, who doesn't start playing his violin behind the waterfall until after you've finished the Earth Temple. That's only the ingame mechanic that stops you from swapping the temples. You don't need the Mirror Shield or the Power Bracelets for the Wind Temple.

Well, Nintendo did it probably this way to prevent you from running around with Medli and Makar at the same time. So, they had to do it that way to prevent any conflicts or glitches of the sort. (Though other solutions that allow a variable dungeon order would have been possible, but oh well...)

But to make the 2nd Quest more interesting they could swap the order this time. They could make it so that this time Medli doesn't appear playing the harp until after you've finished the Wind Temple. They could even make it more clear by preventing you from getting the Power Bracelets without the Hookshot. They could hide the Power Bracelets in the Ghost Ship or the Overlook Island, where you need the Hookshot. And at Fire Mountain you would simply find one of the Triforce Charts.

Of course this wouldn't really make the game any harder, but it adds to the replay value and it would surprise the longtime TWW fans, who think they know the game like the back of their hand. And it shouldn't be hard to implement this.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Debunking Zelda Wii U Fake Rumors

Rumors from 2ch (must be credible, right...? :D), repostet on GameFAQs:

> The game is using the E3 2011 Tech Demo graphics. The Tech Demo was actually footage from a pre-Alpha version.

> The game is a direct sequel to Twilight Princess.

> The game will be Open World. The player will be able to explore a vast and seamless Hyrule. Around 70% of the development team are solely working on content to fill this Open World. The aim is to make it full of content and have more side-quests, sub-dungeons, and collectibles than any past 3D Zelda.

> Motion controls have been dropped. The game will use the Wii U Game Pad and build off the controls of the GameCube version of Twilight Princess. There will be heavy use of the Game Pad screen in a variety of unique ways.

> There are 10 dungeons. You can play the first five in any order, and when all are complete, you can play the later five in any order. The game now features a term Aonuma calls "Parallel Dungeons". You will have to multi-task between all 5 dungeons to complete them. Solving puzzles in one dungeon will open doors and change the layout of another. Aonuma states that playing through all 5 dungeons simultaneously will feel like one giant Water Temple (from Ocarina of Time).

> Princess Zelda will have a deep involvement in the story. Princess Zelda didn't get much development in Twilight Princess, but many fans have said they loved her detailed costume design. Aonuma wants to rectify this issue by making her character as complex as her elaborate clothes.

> The game began development in Q1 2010, almost two years before Skyward Sword was released. It was being made by a different team than the one that developed Skyward Sword. However, the staff of Skyward Sword have now joined the development head count on Zelda Wii U.

> The game will be the directorial debut of Satoru Takizawa. He previously served as Art Director of Twilight Princess. Aonuma personally feels that, due to Takizawa's experience being in charge of the visuals of Twilight Princess, he's the most qualified staff member to direct a realistic Zelda. Takizawa has worked on every 3D Zelda game since OoT. He designed Ganondorf and all the bosses in OoT, all the bosses in MM, Ganondorf and the Moblin in TWW, and didn't do much on SS as he was moved off the project midway to direct the next realistic Zelda.

> Online co-op that functions like a 3D version of Four Swords is being included as a separate multiplayer feature. The mode will have paid DLC content. This will be in the form of dungeons, powerful enemies, new items, and unique tunics.

> Regarding the scale of the Open World, Aonuma is aiming for it to be on par with Skyrim.

> All the NPCs will be voiced. They will speak in a fictional language that will represent Hylian.

> Aonuma states that the game will definitely be announced in 2014. E3 is the most likely venue, not a Nintendo Direct.

Well, it's obvious that the author of these fake rumors tried to incorporate various statements made by Aonuma in the past month, for example that Aonuma is looking on Skyrim (source) or the whole "give Zelda larger role" thing, which wasn't a thing until after E3. In my job as a news poster on ZeldaEurope I have to read all of these Aonuma comments, but some stuff here doesn't add up. For example he said various times that the E3 2011 tech demo doesn't indicate the graphical style the Wii U Zelda game. The tech demo was made by a different team and didn't have anything to do with the actual game. And in interviews with Wired and NintendoLife Aonuma explained that Zelda Wii U won't have traditional multiplayer, but focuses on aspects like the Miiverse. Like The Wind Waker HD did. He clearly stated that there won't be something like Four Swords.

And the last thing Aonuma would want to do is make "one giant Water Temple". He got so much hate for the Water Temple, which still haunts him today and probably caused him to make dungeons easier and easier and easier. I really like the idea of parallel dungeons, but Aonuma would never make such a reference.

So, there you have it. It's fake. (Like this hasn't been obvious.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Island Swap

Another nice idea for the 2nd Quest of the Wind Waker HD: swap all the islands!

Well, certain islands would have to stay where they are, because the game has boat travelling sequences between them or their locations gets referenced elsewhere. This includes Outset, Forsaken Fortress, Windfall, Dragon Roost, Forest Haven, Tower of the Gods, Great Fish Isle and some minor islands (about 15 islands alltogether). But more than two thirds of the islands can simply be swapped to different locations. And this could be really funny to do that. And also add some challenge. Let's on your way from Dragon Roost to Forest Haven you run into much tougher places like the Islet of Steel.

This might or might not be easy to do. It depends on how the data for the individual quadrants gets stored. Normally each quadrant would have its own set of data, so it's easier to load its data. In this case you could easily swap around the quadrants by simply changing their coordinates on the main grid. You could even randomize the entire Great Sea, so that each playthrough would be different.

This would really add lots of replay value! And... it could be realized as a last minute feature, so it's entirely possible that Nintendo could add this before the game's release. There are only a few difficulties with this (like handling the Special Charts or certain other references), but overall it might be doable. So, cross your fingers.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Legend of Zelda: Bow of the Goddesses

So, I was thinking about how the next Zelda game for the Wii U could look like. And then the obvious would hit me. The game will revolve around the bow and will probably even have "Bow" in the title.

Why? Well, Skyward Sword focused on the Wiimote controls, where the sword would become the center attention. But this will be history on the Wii U. Nintendo is in desperate need of a game, which truly utilizes the Wii U GamePad, and most likely Zelda will become the guinea pig yet again. Zelda was the game to utilize the Nintendo DS touchscreen, it was the game to utilize the Wiimotion Plus and it will (sadly) be the game to utilize the Wii U GamePad. No questions about that. So, they'll most likely drop the Skyward Sword controls in favor of the Wii U GamePad.

However, the GamePad doesn't allow for motion controlled sword & shield (maybe the shield, but it would be awkward). It's best utilized for aiming for with the bow. So, it's only natural to assume that the Wii U Zelda game will have the bow as its big main gimmick this time. Maybe it has many different arrow types, where some of them can even alter the environment. Of course you would have some very special bow, like the "Bow of the Goddesses" → this could be even the title of the game.

If you look at what Nintendo has already done with Zelda on the Wii U, this is pretty clear. The Battle Quest minigame in Nintendo Land is essentially one big foreshadowing:

Suddenly the archer takes the center spot, becomes the most important fighter. The whole game was designed around archery.

And in the Wind Waker HD the two items, which profit the most from the Wii U Game Pad, are the Picto-Box and the Hero's Bow. So, yeah, I'm calling it now. The Wii U Zelda game will have the bow as its big thing.

(PS: Please note that this is not something I'd want. It's just me predicting Nintendo's next weird move with Zelda.)

Rumor: The Wind Waker HD Wii U Bundle

I currently don't have any interested in buying the Wii U in the near future. The games are not interesting enough. And not even a tougher difficulty level in The Wind Waker HD will change that, I can always play that later. What could convince me, as the crazy Zelda fan I am, however, is a special Zelda bundle. Similar to the Nintendo 3DS Zelda 25th Anniversary Limited Edition. That's something I can't say "no" to.

Well, according to NeoGAF such a bundle might come. Of course there are different criterias. For example the GameCube also had a The Wind Waker bundle, but it just was the normal silver version of the console. No special Zelda stuff. And that's not really interesting.

If they just sell the normal black console bundled with The Wind Waker HD, it's not going to change anything. But if they add a golden Triforce emblem on the system and call it "limited", I would have a hard time to resist... it's crazy, right? That's the fan madness. Of course I want the Zelda version of the system, no other version would come into question. But I think there never has been a special Mario or Zelda version of a Nintendo home console. That's always for the handhelds, which you want to be more personal and customized.

However, Nintendo has also this bad thing going, where they don't bundle their system with the game disc, but just install a digital release on the system. Which I hate. I'm a collector and I want my games with disc and cover. But I think the NintendoLand bundle still has the disc, so that's good. We'll see if such a bundle is happening and how it will look like.

The Wind Waker HD might get a Hard Mode

The Wind Waker HD got a lot of doubt, because the port didn't have anything new to offer besides lots of bloom effects, a faster sail and wannabe Twitter messages in a bottle. A good remastered Zelda-port should offer something new in the least. Link's Awakening DX had the Color Dungeon and Photo Quest, A Link to the Past on the GBA had the Palace of the Four Sword, the Riddle Quest and an entire new Zelda multiplayer game bundled with it. The Four Swords Anniversary Edition had a new singleplayer mode and 18 new challenging dungeons floors. And Ocarina of Time 3D had a Boss Battle Mode, as well as the "enhanced" Master Quest. All of these add some value for Zelda fans, who already expierenced the original version many times. It's a definite selling point, which The Wind Waker HD lacked so far.

And it seems that Nintendo has listened, which is rare enough. According to the newly released product description on Amazon.com, which was written by Nintendo, the game will have a "more challenging difficulty level", which "adds to replay-ability". Great! That's the stuff, we want to hear! Nice! The game really could use a tougher difficulty level, it's way too easy.

Now... don't get too excited yet. It could just mean that they took the original 2nd Quest (where Link wears the blue shirt, etc.) and made it so that you lose two hearts instead of one and don't find any recovery hearts. Like in the "Hero Mode" of Skyward Sword, which also was supposed to add to replay-ability, but failed to deliver ultimately. And maybe they mirrored the entire game again like in Master Quest for the 3DS. It could be just a really lazy last minute addition like that. However, the "replay-ability" would be questionable. The replay-ability of Skyward Sword's Hero Mode was zero to nothing.

If they're good, they really change around some elements in the 2nd Quest. Changing enemies would be already a good start. Let's say you encounter Darknuts already in Dragon Roost Cavern as the mid-boss, while the Moblins are common inside the dungeon. Or you get to fight Seahats and Gyorgs more often while on the boat. Just have more and tougher enemies everywhere. It's not hard to make and would be exciting enough for a replay. And they could relocate items like the Triforce Charts, the Power Bracelets and the Iron Boots to new places. For example they could make it so that you need to reach the end of the Savage Labyrinth to get the chart there. Or the Iron Boots are in a place, where you normally would get a Triforce Chart. Something that surprises people, who know the game well enough. There are many possibilities to twist the game and make it more interesting.

However, we are getting closer to release and there might be not enough time to test larger alterations. So, Master Quest-style dungeons are probably out of the equation, even though this would be great. Still, changing enemies and the location of things is a possibility that can be added last minute.

I'm excited to see how this new difficulty level will look like and I really hope it's not just the "take double damage" thing again.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Forget about Majora's Mask HD

Most of you probably know this video, which shows a very, very impressive Majora's Mask HD fake trailer for the Wii U. It's so good that many people actually believed it's a real thing. And ever since this video, Zelda fans are obsessed with it. They want Majora's Mask HD and they are angry that Nintendo is making The Wind Waker HD instead.

I hate to be that guy, but you have to realize that Nintendo is not some magic factory, where they throw Majora's Mask into some bubbling cauldron and suddenly a beautiful HD version pops out of it. Making a full HD remake like in the trailer above would cost a lot of time and resources. Time and resources better spent on the new Wii U Zelda game. And a remake like this would probably end up being a new game alltogether (like A Link Between Worlds did).

The Wind Waker HD got made, because they were able to produce it as cheaply as possible. The cel shading graphics allow easy upscaling and interpolation into HD, you can play the original GameCube game on an HD supporting emulator and it already looks stunning. TWW's graphics have aged very well and all Nintendo had to do is play with some lighting effects (where they arguably overdid the bloom). They were even resistant to add any new content to the game except Miiverse integration, that's how cheap this remake is. It was probably made in a month or so.

Majora's Mask HD? Making that would be as expansive and time consuming as making a new game. They can't just take the N64 game and it suddenly looks like in the trailer, they would have to start from scratch, which would be a very expansive project. So, don't expect it to happen. Especially considering that Nintendo already admitted that they are overwhelmed with making HD graphics.

If there's going to be a Majora's Mask remake, it will be for the Nintendo 3DS. Because there they can just use the original game as a basis, which still looks good on the system. Half of the work was done with Ocarina of Time 3D, where they can reuse half of the new assets. Nintendo is currently in recycling mode (just look at all their games from E3, everything is recycling previous games) and Majora's Mask 3D fits their current pattern.

What people also tend to forget is that Majora's Mask was designed to be a sequel to Ocarina of Time. It's meant for players, who have played and beaten Ocarina of Time before. Majora's Mask can be a complicated game, even more so, if you don't have ever played Ocarina of Time before. It really builds on the experiences that you've made with the previous game. I would never recommend to play MM before OoT. So, putting Majora's Mask out there without Ocarina of Time in the foreground would be a mistake.

It's going to be Majora's Mask 3D or no MM remake at all.


Unless of course they do something like A Link Between Worlds, meaning they start with a Majora's Mask HD remake, but transform it into a new game alltogether. Aonuma wanted to use the GamePad for new items and I could imagine using the GamePad for masks... But this would mean that even Zelda Wii U will be just a half new game again... No, thanks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nintendo has an Overworld Problem

You step outside Kokiri Forest for the first time and enter the vast fields of Hyrule. In front of you are many places waiting to be explored. Go fishing at the beautiful clear waters of Lake Hylia. Go cliff diving at the Gerudo Valley. Find hidden secrets in the barns of the Lon Lon Ranch. Hunt for Gold Skulltulas at night in Kakariko Village. Go shopping in Hyrule Castle Town. There are many possibilities. Many things to do, many secrets to discover. It's exciting.

In my eyes this is simply one of the biggest appeals of a Zelda game: exploration. And with it overworlds are the most important thing in a Zelda game. A world that gets you excited, where you want to explore every nook, look for hidden secrets, learn more about the lands by talking with strangers. It's what keeps you going in a Zelda game. And the classic Zelda games all had very rich overworlds with lots to explore.

I remember looking at the artwork of Koholint island in Link's Awakening's manual and getting really excited. What would be up the mountain? What's this temple by the lake? Who lives in the lonely house in the center? Oh, the excitement. I remember how I got constantly got teased by the game with places in the far, which really got me going, because I wanted to explore the Ukuku Prairie or the Tal Tal mountains.

Or remember when you stood before the gates of Gerudo Valley as a kid and wondered, what would be behind? And the exciting feeling when you finally got to cross the bridge as an adult?

Or remember how exciting exploring every corner of Termina was, especially Clocktown and all its inhabitants. There is so much joy in discovering every secret and getting all the masks. It's what makes the game so great. Majora's Mask doesn't have many dungeons, nor particular good ones, but the rich overworld still turned this into a very good Zelda game.

Exploring interesting worlds is a big part of the Zelda magic. It's what makes you go. Exploration is key to the essence of Zelda.


But lately Nintendo has huge issues with designing good overworlds. Which is probably part of the reason, why the newer games fail to excite long-time fans.

The Wind Waker: This is probably still one of the better overworlds, but it's were the problems started. On the positive side the Wind Waker's overworld is entirely seamless and very open. It offers many optional islands to explore, which is exciting. The problem is that it's quite empty and full of copy pasted material, like many similar islands or all the pirate lookout platforms, which made exploring the Great Sea feel more like a chore than real exploration.

Four Swords Adventures: This one has no overworld at all, except for a map that acts as a level select. For a multiplayer game this is fully okay, but sadly this deeply influenced the overworld design for the later Zelda games. It's like the Zelda team really enjoyed having a simple level select instead of an overworld. It makes the game so much easier to design!

Twilight Princess: This aimed to surpass Ocarina of Time's overworld at every level. Everything is larger and more epic. However, it failed to deliver due to a few problems. Similar to the Wind Waker's ocean it all feels very empty with the rock bottom being Hyrule Castle town, which is full of NPCs that cannot be interacted at all. And the people that you can talk to don't have anything interesting to say. At least the Wind Waker had one of the best towns in the entire Zelda series. And unlike Ocarina of Time and most other earlier Zelda games the entire overworld is explored in a strict linear fashion. You explore it bit by bit following a path set up by the developers. Which is very boring and unsatisfying. You want to explore by yourself! Discover things on your own!

Phantom Hourglass: This is were the "level select" overworlds began. Unlike the ocean of the Wind Waker, which is one big seamless overworld, the islands are individual levels that are connected by boat travelling minigame. The islands itself usually get explored in a very linear fashion and don't offer too many interesting things. There are a few hidden islands, but that's it.

Spirit Tracks: It's like Phantom Hourglass, but instead of having a free roaming boat, the "level select" minigame this time follows linear paths by putting you on rails. No free exploration for you!

Skyward Sword: It's somewhat similar to the Nintendo DS games, but bigger in scale. The overworld gets divided in three massive Super Mario Galaxy style levels. They are entirely linear and don't have anything optional to explore. It's just big Zelda obstacle courses with no real sense of exploration. The only exploration comes from the sky, which again acts as a level select. The only optional thing to explore are the various sky islands, which are usually just rocks with a treasure chest on them making the Wind Waker's small islands look like wonderlands. The only enjoyment comes from exploring Skyloft, the town in the center. But is it as good as Clocktown or Windfall?

A Link Between Worlds: This is it. Nintendo has given up at this point. Why making new overworlds, when you can just recycle old ones? Change a few things and make new linear dungeons to call it a "new game". Exploring has been a big strong suit of A Link to the Past. And surely lots of Zelda fans are excited about a new game in the style of ALttP. But I rarely see anyone, who is really excited about A Link Between Worlds. That's because they already know the world of A Link to the Past, they have already explored it, which takes away from the excitement. A game like this, which takes place in a new world entirely, would be a lot more interesting and exciting. You want to explore new worlds! Not old ones with a few changes. That's what remakes should be for.


Nintendo doesn't know how to make good overworlds anymore. The last Zelda game with a solid overworld was The Minish Cap and that one was made by Capcom. Nintendo prefers level selects over coherent overworlds. They are unable to fill their worlds with interesting and diverse content. And if all fails they just recycle the worlds from the classic Zelda games, where the overworld hasn't been broken yet, in the hope that Zelda fans are blinded by their nostalgia. The overworlds are one of the biggest problems of modern Zelda. Getting this right should be the main priority of the Zelda team. Or else Zelda will just keep failing to excite.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SoulCalibur II HD not for Wii U?

Soul Calibur II gets an HD re-release. But of course this will only appear on Xbox360 and PS3, not on the Wii U. At least nothing has been announced yet. Which is really disappointing. I consider the GameCube version of SoulCalibur II as my favorite fighting game, the fighting mechanics are awesome, Link was a really good character (at least imho) and the excellent Weapon Master mode is the best and most enjoyable singleplayer experience, which I've ever seen in any fighting game.

I don't have a Wii U, but it would be one of the first Wii U games, I'd buy. The GameCube version was pretty successful, probably because Link was in it. However, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (which also had lots of Nintendo extras) bombed completely on the Wii U, which is probably why Namco is resistant to make more games for the system. It's a shame really. I was also hoping that SoulCalibur V might appear on the Wii U with a new Link cameo, but this doesn't seem to be the case either.

Nintendo really, really needs to get the Wii U going or otherwise it will miss more gems like this.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prima Kicks Zelda Collectors in the Balls

This got announced:

I've been collecting these guides since the one for Phantom Hourglass, not for the information, since I was already done with the games, but as pure collectible items. I eventually got all four of them for a good price and I really like the hardcovers, the color pages, the maps and other extras. It's a nice collectible and I was looking forward to get the one for The Wind Waker HD as well.

But now they do this? Well, it's definitely nice for everyone, who missed the previous guides, since they have become really expansive. But including new exclusive versions of these guides in the box is a nasty move giving everyone the finger, who has already collected the guides individually. The box comes with the hardcover Ocarina of Time 3D guide, which wasn't available until before and will be exclusive for this box, and a newly improved, extended version of the Skyward Sword Collector's Guide, which I had critizised as being incompleted and rushed.

Well, I guess I have to sell my previous copies and buy this box, if I want them all and satisfy my inner Zelda collector demon. But what I really want to do is give Prima the finger and not buy anything from them ever again. The box would be fine, if it hadn't any exclusives. But with the excluvises they clearly want the collectors to buy the whole thing again.

But that's the Collector's Curse. Eventually there always will be a shiny bundle that does everything better, which screws the early adopters. But you can never know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oracle of Ages & Seasons Ring Guide

The 64 rings in the Oracle games. Never has there been something from the Zelda series with so much misinformation. In the 12 years since the games' release there hasn't been a single accurate guide for the rings (at least not in English). No matter where you look, locations are missing, randoms rings never get explained and sometimes you even get false info.

So, I've decided to do it myself. To accumulate all my knowledge about the 64 rings in one big guide, which you can now find on GameFAQs:

Ring Guide (Oracle of Ages version)
Ring Guide (Oracle of Seasons version)

The guides explain how to link your games with the Hero's Secret to get all 64 rings, how to get the GBA rings on GBC or 3DS and how the random classes of rings and Gasha Spots work in detail. Finally there's a full list of all ring including their actual effects and all their locations. Check it out.

The guide is not perfect yet. There's still some rings from minigames, which I wasn't able to test yet (the minigames can be aweful and you rarely win the rings, so I had to rely on info from ZeldaWiki, yikes...) But overall I'm very happy with it. It's all I can teach you about the rings and should close this chapter for now.