Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hero Mode again?

Link fighting Moldorm in an extra dungeon

In Aonumas interview with Gameswelt it sounded like A Link Between Worlds would get an actual 2nd Quest instead of just Hero Mode... however, it seems like he only meant that it won't be an option like in The Wind Waker HD, because Nintendo just confirmed Hero Mode as the 2nd playthrough in their latest press release:

For those who can’t put down this latest title in The Legend of Zelda series, once a player has completed the main game, a Hero Mode will be unlocked, in which Link takes greater damage from enemies when hit. Intrepid explorers may even find a small hidden extra waiting to be found somewhere in Lorule during a second play through…

I hope this "small hidden extra" is a new dungeon... :D

I'm a little bit disappointed that Nintendo contents theirselves with the simple "double damage" thing. The difficulty of a Zelda game is more than just damage values. It includes enemies, puzzles, secrets... Which is why the original 2nd Quest in The Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time's Master Quest are the only truly satisfying higher difficulty levels.

You need stronger enemies to appear. Imagine Eastern Palace plastered with Eyegores. You need more complicated puzzles. Like the ones in Master Quest. And things need to be more hidden. Like the dungeons and many caves in TLoZ's 2nd Quest. With a topdown Zelda game changing the dungeons should be a lot easier to do than in a 3rd person Zelda. So, I was actually hoping that they would consider doing this in A Link Between Worlds.

Of course having Hero Mode is still better than nothing. It's just that it would probably have been better to make this available from the start like in The Wind Waker HD. But I'm eager to see what this "small hidden extra" will be.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Preview: A Link Between Worlds

artwork of the Master Sword in the Lost Woods with Mural Link on a stone wall

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

Yesterday I had the chance to playtest The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for ZeldaEurope.de at a press event in Berlin, the "Nintendo House Party". I played it for about 3,5 hours, enough to test the first three dungeons and pay attention to many details in the game. My full German preview can be found here.

My overall impression is very positive. The game is everything, Aonuma promised it would be. It's very open, there's lots to explore, there's nearly no hand holding, there are puzzles that can you get stuck, etc. It's also very addicting and should offer good replay value. Can't wait to play it again!

Read the fully translated preview below:

 

Sword Walk

After warming up with the two levels of the demo known from E3 and gamescom (the Tower of Hera and an overworld segment), I got handed over the full version of the game. The beginning was already skipped on the save file, which is why I can't really say anything about the intro, but I was more interested in trying as many things out in the available time as possible than I was in the story, anyway.

But the game starts at your house from where you go to the smithy, which like in the original sits right next to Kakariko. The major difference is that there is now a direct pathway between these two places. The smithy is run by a three-person family, which we already know from the artworks, as well as a dwarf, who swings the hammer, just like in the Super Nintendo predecessor. Link is some sort of apprentice and you get the task to bring it to the captain of the castle guards.

Since I wanted to experiment, I ignored my first task right away and walked that sword (which you can't use yet) all over Hyrule. And if this were Twilight Princess, Spirit Tracks or Skyward Sword, I wouldn't have gotten far with such a crazy endeavor...

But this is A Link Between Worlds and this game let me visit a huge part of the overworld, completely unarmed. I could go all the way around Lake Hylia, up to the cave where you'd originally find the Ice Rod. And I've ran into some monsters in the Lost Woods, where I had to retreat. But the game let's you go there anyway. There is no fairy popping up, telling you to go the other way. There are no artificial obstacles blocking your path. A Link Between Worlds returns to the freedom of the Zelda classics and this feels really great.

And it looks equally great at that. Even with the 3D on it runs smoothly in 60 frames per second, where everything looks quite nice. It's the good, old Hyrule from A Link Between Worlds, brightly polished and with actual depth perception. It's a true eye-catcher. And even if you turn the 3D off, everything looks very three-dimensional, which should be great for people, who can't play with 3D on or only own a Nintendo 2DS.

The controls are precise and as smooth as the visuals. The touchscreen gets used sparingly, for example to study the map, but everything else runs on the press of a button. And the slide pad works really well. However, if you want to use the d-pad instead, you'll notice it's only there to shift the camera around. This is useful for looking around, but might be disappointing for those who like the simpler input. 


Of Gravediggers, Merchants and Princesses

After exploring Hyrule for a bit, it was time to continue with the story. A guard at the castle gate points you towards the Sanctuary, where you meet Dampé, the gravedigger known from the Nintendo 64 Zelda games, but also the blue-haired maiden Seres, who gets trapped by the androgynous villain Yuga inside the Sanctuary. So, Boris tells you to make actual use of your sword and find the back entrance of the church at the graveyard.

Fans of A Link to the Past will probably remember that there was a second entrance to the tunnels, which connected Hyrule Castle with the Sanctuary, at the graveyard. And indeed you will find one under one of the tombstones, leading into the dark sewers full of rats and bats (Keese). This is where you find the lantern, which actually doesn't use up the new Energy Gauge. That bar isn't even there yet in the beginning of the game.

Well, the lantern brings light into the darkness and lets you light the torches all around, where the game's charming visuals create a nice atmosphere here. It's also where you get to fight enemies for the first time, which works as smoothly as everything else. Overall the tunnels are quite different from the Super Nintendo version, where you also can't go into Hyrule Castle from here any longer. But it's about as straight-forward and ends with the same classic puzzles, where you have to pull one of two levers.

Afterwards you'll meet Yuga at the Sanctuary, who abducts Seres by turning her into a painting. And as Link tries to fight Yuga, he literally runs his head against a wall...

You then wake up in Link's house, which is where you meet Ravio for the first time, the mysterious merchant in a bunny costume. This character seems quite funny and charming, but there is also something evil about him. It feels a little bit like the Happy Mask Salesman, where it was hard to figure him out. But this connection might also be raised from the fact that Majora's Mask is hanging on the walls of Link's house. You don't really know how it got there, but it's certainly an interesting detail.

Ravio suggests to report the incident to Princess Zelda, which brings you back to Hyrule Castle. Funnily, the outer castle walls got vandalised with graffiti of the evil soldiers that you know from A Link to the Past. The castle guards are trying to clean this up, but without success... This might already give you a bad feeling, but you can enter the castle safely for now.

On the outside this place is pretty much the same as in A Link Between Worlds, but the inside might remind you more of the castle in Spirit Tracks. There are training guards everywhere and the side entrances lead to their quarters.

Zelda in A Link Between Worlds

After an argument with one of the guards, Impa grants you an audience with the princess. In the halls before the throne room you will find the five pictures, which already got released as artworks and tell the stories of how a past hero and the seven sages sealed the evil Ganon. While it's all very familiar, in detail it doesn't really fit after A Link the Past, nor after Ocarina of Time, because Ganon got sealed here (and not destroyed) and the Seven Sages don't include Zelda in this story... But before I really could come up with new timeline theories, Impa tells me that Zelda is waiting.

The princess is very charming and lovely, like in Skyward Sword. And the next destination gets set right away: Sahasrahla in Kakariko Village.


Shopping in Kakariko

Last weekend I've played through A Link to the Past again to refresh my impressions about the game, so I can make comparisons to its successor without being blinded by nostalgia. And one of the best parts of A Link to the Past was leaving the Sanctuary, where the world of Hyrule lies at your feet. You can go almost everywhere and get many items, especially in Kakariko. This is where the game really draws you in.

A Link Between Worlds is in no way inferior to this, where Kakariko is also a place with lots to discover and obtain. There is now a Milk Bar in the southeast of the village and the owner looks quite similar to Talon. The building is decorated with a cow and there are milk canisters everywhere. And if you get thirsty, you can already find a bottle, as well as the Bug-Catching Net. Like on the Super Nintendo, you can catch bees with it and put them into a bottle, where there is also a place to sell for them 50 Rupees. Easy money.

If you want to spend this money right away, then there will be a shop waiting for you in the northwest of the village. It offers a shield, as well two fruits, which are new to the series. The "Foul Fruit" stuns enemies around you (but I haven't really tried this) and the "Scoot Fruit" lets you teleport out of a dungeon, basically as a replacement for the Magic Mirror. Thanks to my bee selling business I could already afford all of these items and fill my inventory quite a bit.

Another item was waiting at the Fortune Teller north of Kakariko. This is where you get the Hint Glasses, which lets you see Hint Ghosts. With these glasses on the environment gets darkened and the music damped, which might remind you of the wolf sense from Twilight Princess, especially since it lets you see ghosts as well. These ghosts wear glasses themselves, read books and share their wisdom for cash – not Rupees, however, but the Nintendo 3DS Play Coins.

I've only tried this feature once, right at the large rock behind the Fortune Teller's tent. The ghost told me which item is required here, which I won't spoil, but A Link to the Past veterans can already imagine.


Eastern Palace

Sahasrahla tells you the game's backstory about Ganon and the Seven Sages again, where he's afraid that Yuga might be after their descendants. He sends you to the Eastern Palace to look for one of these descendants, before it's too late. You won't be getting far there, however, because a gate secured by a classic crystal switch is blocking the way, where you can't reach the switch with your current items. But the pillars with a bow symbol on top of them will give you a clear hint of what you need here...

And this is where Ravio comes in, who wants to open shop in Link's house – an item rental shop. The bow will be a free sample and you also get Ravio's Bracelet as a gift, which adds the Energy Gauge to your screen. All of Ravio's items use this, where now one shot with the bow won't cost you any arrows, but a part of the gauge, which then refills automatically after a short cooldown.

On the compound of the Eastern Palace the usual enemies will be waiting for you. Fast Octoroks, which will fire in different directions. Armos statues, which will become alive, once you get near them. And also Tektites, where their high jumps look especially impressive with the 3D on. Compared to A Link to the Past the enemies feel a lot smoother and you also don't have the problem that the enemies might just run into you for some frustrating hits. It's more pleasant to fight foes, but this might also make the game a little easier.

At the entrance you'll meet the descendant of the Sages, who also seems to be one of Ravio's customers. He has the item looking like a fancy shovel – the Sand Rod. You probably won't be getting this item until later in the game, because the Sand Rod gets put together with the guy into a painting by Yuga and abducted.

Sand Rod Artwork

And this is where you get into the first dungeon, the Eastern Palace itself. The Tower of Hera dungeon from the demo was very linear, so I was afraid that the other dungeons might be similar. In the past ten years Nintendo developed a preference for linear dungeon design, which I personally find to be quite boring. A good dungeon feels more like a maze and has optional parts to explore.

The Eastern Palace took some of my worries, however. There were usually multiple paths to take and when I arrived the end of the dungeon, there were still three bigger rooms unexplored and a couple of treasure chests left on the map. This is quite the unusual picture for a total Zelda nerd like myself, but a picture to my liking. It seems like Nintendo wasn't just oriented towards the classic overworld, but also the classic dungeons. 

One of the main aspects of the dungeon were platforms that can be altered in height, which makes good use of the 3D effect. But of course there also had to be the huge iron balls, which you need to dodge and which look even more dangerous in 3D. And the classic music of the Hyrule dungeons from A Link to the Past sounds better than ever during all of this.

Link shooting an arrow from an elevated platform at a crystal switch

The first boss wasn't the set of the giant Armos Knights, however, but your first battle with Yuga, who uses his ability to turn into a mural quite well to avoid Link's attacks. He also creates paintings on the wall, which will cause bursts of lightning and fire. Good use of the bow and sword are needed to finish this battle quickly and without harm.

And here it's time to nitpick somewhat, because the aiming with the bow wasn't to my liking. In Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks you could perfectly aim in all directions and you would assume that they would offer something similar with the slide pad of the Nintendo 3DS. Instead Link moves around while aiming in the same direction, where you also only can fire in eight directions.


One Bracelet to rule them all

When things are looking bad for Yuga, he turns Link himself into a mural and disappears... But what he didn't anticipate is the power of Ravio's Braclet: it turns you back to normal and even gives you the ability to turn into a mural at any time (whenever there's a smooth wall).

Through a rift on the wall of the boss chamber you'll be able to get outside, where you'll learn this new ability in an impressive way on the outer walls of the Eastern Palace. There are also some purple jars, which will refill your Energy Gauge instantly. It seems like this is the part, where you can get to all those treasure chests and rooms that I've missed earlier, but I decided to proceed in the adventure instead.

Mural Link on the outer walls of Eastern Palace

Yuga's next target is Princess Zelda and Hyrule Castle gets shrouded in a dark barrier, where the demonic soldiers now come out of the walls and occupy Hyrule. And while the enemies so far seemed somewhat easier when compared to their Super Nintendo counterparts, the soldiers are more dangerous than ever. Especially those that are using a lance are hard to fight with a sword, where you can't be shy with using your bow. You also have to actively shield with the R button, which makes fights a little bit more interesting.

The fights are also somewhat more realistic, where the soldiers are actually able to hurt each other, for example with their arrows. And it's fun to experiment here and try to lure one enemy into the line of fire of the other, where the combat is more engaging than it used to be in A Link to the Past.

Like in A Link to the Past, you'll get the Pendant of Courage at this point in the game and you're tasked by Sahasrahla to find the other two. One is located in Hera's Tower again, but the other is at an entirely new dungeon. You'll need new items for both of these, where it was time to pay Ravio another visit.

Link in Ravio's shop

At the time I could only rent his items, where the prices vary between 20 and 100 Rupees. The ones for 100 Rupees are the Fire and Ice Rods. Boomerang cost 50 Rupees, the Hammer only 20 (this was a discount). Since I had more than 700 Rupees in my wallet, I decided to simply rent ALL of the items. And yes, this is possible with one exception: the Sand Rod went away with the person you met earlier and therefore is not available right now.

But my item menu got expanded by seven additions at once go: Bombs, Boomerang, Hammer, Hookshot, as well as the Tornado, Fire and Ice Rods. I've only really needed the Hammer and the Tornado Rod for the next dungeons, but you have to take what you can get. And this is how I already got to enjoy almost all the items right from the start, which is a lot of fun.

The rented items have purple bunny ears attached to them and this is also where the role of Ravio's little bird-like companion gets explained: if you die, then it will collect all the items. I never experienced this myself, but there were some close calls, where the first half of the game is quite similar to that from A Link to the Past. And this gives you hope that the game will get a lot tougher later on.


Realm of Possibilities

While the game was already quite open up until this point, now it shifts up a gear. Not only are there two dungeons waiting for you, the many items in your inventory let you discover something new in every corner.

The Bombs for example let you open up caves in many places, including the one for Mother Maiamai. 100 of her little fellows are hidden in the world from now on and you can conveniently check on your map how many Maiamais are left for every area. And they can hide everywhere. Behind houses, in jars, in trees, under water...

Usually you just hear their squeaky noises around, but it's hard to tell where it's exactly coming from. It's like a mix of the Secret Seashells from Link's Awakening and the Gold Skulltulas from Ocarina of Time, two of my favorite collectible quests.

And it's certainly worth it to collect the little animals. Mother Maiamai will upgrade one of your items for every ten Maiamais. But only if they aren't rented. While I already was able to collect ten of them, I wasn't able to purchase items from Ravio yet... And I couldn't find out when Ravio let's you purchase the items for real. Maybe you have to die once, maybe this happens after a certain point, I don't know.

While searching for the Maiamais you'll start to take a closer look around all over Hyrule. And this is where Link's new mural ability starts to shine, because the shifted perspective offers a variety of new discoveries. For example there are paintings of Rupees and Hearts at the backside of houses, which you can now collect. And there are some funny details, like Majora's Mask hanging on the wall in Link's house. If you merge right there, it looks like Link is wearing the mask...

The GameBoy Advance version of A Link to the Past also wasn't forgotten by Nintendo, where the sparkling Rupee Rocks re-appear in this game. Those will scatter Rupees all around them, if you hit them repeatedly with the sword.

Since Rupees are very important in this game, you will be able to find them pretty much everywhere. There are even new mini dungeons in the Eastern Palace area and next to the graveyard, where you can score bigger amounts of Rupees. And you often find treasure chests in the environment, which will take good use of all your abilities. But sometimes they only contain 20 Rupees or even less, which seems somewhat unbalanced, considering how quickly you can make many from selling bees. It doesn't seem worth the effort.


Even More Items

With all these new toys and discoveries it's easy to forget that there are two red markers on your map, urging you to explore them. Ravio's arsenal of items isn't enough to get to these dungeons, however, where you'll also need the Power Glove and the Zora's Flippers respectively. The latter aren't as easy to get, because you have to find a stolen gem, which prevents the Zora queen from getting fatter and fatter. But this also shows that there are some items that you will still obtain traditionally.

On your adventures you'll also run into the flying witch, Irene. There was a similar character in Oracle of Ages & Seasons with Maple, where you'd literally run into her, but Irene in this case is a little friendlier and acts as this game's teleport service. She gives you the Bell, which can be rung from the bottom left corner of the touchscreen to call her. This flying broom taxi then takes you to one of the weather vanes all over Hyrule, which works very similar to the Wind Crests in The Minish Cap.

The weather vanes have to be activated first and they also are the only way to save the game, similar to the Bird Statues in Skyward Sword. And that's a shame, because with a handheld game you'd want the ability to save at any time.

Link at his house with a weather vane next to it

I was also able to find a second bottle, which had a message inside, reminiscent of Ocarina of Time. With that I already had 15 of the 20 item slots in my inventory filled. Assuming that there will be two more bottles to find, as well as the already sighted Sand Rod, this means that there are only two unknown items at this point. So, it feels very weird to have such a wide arsenal so early in the game. But weird doesn't necessarily mean bad, where this is also quite exciting. It's fun to try all the items and see what you can do with them.

It's not like you need all these items already, however. Hookshot, Boomerang, Ice Rod and Fire Rod aren't really required for anything at this point and are only there to play around with. They probably will be more relevant later in the game, though.


House of Gales

Since I had already played the Tower of Hero in the demo, I decided to head for the completely new dungeon – the House of Gales. It's some kind of windmill house at Lake Hylia, which Nintendo also showed in one of the trailers. If you're wondering why the journey didn't go to the Desert Palace: the desert is entirely sealed off this time with no way in. My best guess is that the desert works the other way around to A Link to the Past and you'll only get there via a portal in the Dark World / Lorule. We'll see!

But what's more interesting than the mystery of the desert is the new dungeon. You'll need the Tornado Rod to get in, where the item creates a gale, which blows you up and stuns enemies around you. You can also put out fire with it. The Tornado Rod essentially acts as a key for the dungeon, so you can't even enter the place without it.

And on the inside the item will be used in a variety of ways, where it's easy to forget that there's also the new wall merge ability. Eiji Aonuma wasn't exaggerating when he said that you might get stuck in the game because of it, which happened to me twice in this dungeon. You have to think outside the box and this creates some fresh puzzles for Zelda, which were much needed for the series.

Mural Link in the House of Gales

The boss of the dungeon was quite impressive as well. It was some kind of moving pillar with an eye on its top, which tries to push you into the abyss. The battle is a lot of fun and looks incredible in 3D, where this was a creative and perfect finish for the dungeon.


Summiteer

My left thumb hurts, my stomach is growling. There is a buffet on the Nintendo House Party waiting, as well as nice people having fun with titles like Wii Party U or Super Mario 3D World. But I couldn't just put down A Link Between Worlds yet and throw myself into the fray. The game was just too much fun and there was still a lot to explore, where I've decided to climb Death Mountain as well.

And for the first time since A Link to the Past this area lives up to its name. Spectacle Rock is now an active volcano shooting lava rocks down at you, while rolling rocks reign over caves. The latter can be destroyed with the Hammer or dodged by turning into a mural. But some of the rocks also have Rupees on them, which get dropped when you destroy them.

The "Deadrocks" also return, which are these fast enemies, which turn into solid stone when you attack them. Overall Death Mountain is an area full of dangers and Link's new mural form gets used cleverly to walk along the cliffs.

Mural Link on the cliff sides of Death Mountain

After all these obstacles you will eventually reach the west peak of Death Mountain. And I've decided to look around a little bit more, before going into the Tower of Hera, where I noticed that I can use the Hookshot to reach the east peak as well...

And this is where a long forgotten concept of the Zelda series awaited me: enemies as obstacles! Lynels, the centaur-like creatures, which do a lot of fire damage, greet you there, posing a huge threat at this point in the game. While they force me to retreat, it's an exciting encounter, because it's been a while that a Zelda game dared to do this. The newer games usually played it safe.

If A Link Between Worlds were anything like that, you wouldn't even be able to get the Hookshot, before you are strong enough to face the corresponding enemies. But A Link Between Worlds lets you test your own limits and offers a bit of that RPG aspect that the Zelda classics had. It's refreshing and also interesting for experienced players seeking a challenge. And this is much more memorable way for the game to tell you to turn around than some abyss that you can't cross just yet.

The Tower of Hera seemed to be identical to the demo level. Since I had already played this just earlier, I tested that new Scoop Fruit to exit the dungeon part-way. When jumping back to the entrance the screen then gets pixelated, similar to using the Magic Mirror in A Link to the Past, which is a nice detail.

But overall I found it more interesting to explore Hyrule a little bit more, collect some Maiamais and enter caves. I would have loved to take the game right home with me to continue all this, but I had to say goodbye to it and with it to my save file. Once I get the game myself, I will have to play it all over again from the beginning...

And if this was Spirit Tracks, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword with their slow and tutorial-heavy starts, I would have dreaded the thought of repeating the first three hours. But not so in this case. The beginning is so well made and offers so much freedom that I'm looking forward to playing it all again. A Link Between Worlds could become one of those Zelda games that has the right amount of replay value, inviting you to play it again from the beginning. And we didn't have such a Zelda for a while.

One thing was clear: once you have the game, you won't be putting away that Nintendo 3DS anytime soon. Thanks to Nintendo and Popular PR for the invite! It was a lot fun and I'm really looking forward to the game.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Link Between Worlds: Reversible Cover for Germany

This has just been revealed by Nintendo DE on Twitter: Germany will get a reversible cover for A Link Between Worlds, where the other side won't have the USK logo and comes with the normally colored artwork instead of the golden one. And this is actually part of the normal retail release.

It's not exactly the change of artwork I was hoping for (I wanted this one), but at least we're still getting the colored version somehow and I personally hope that this will become a new standard, where previously only the Limited Edition releases of Ocarina of Time 3D and The Wind Waker HD got something similar. But it would certainly nice to get this on a more regular basis, especially since the USK logo can easily ruin a cover.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Maiamais in A Link to the Past?

This Thursday I might get the chance to play A Link Between Worlds for the first time, so I'm currently replaying A Link to the Past to freshen up my memories of the game, before touching the all new sequel for the 3DS.

It's mostly the usual business. I've played the game several times already and therefore know it quite well. However, there's one thing that really caught my attention in the Dark World, in the cave, where the Sanctuary would be:


Is that a small versions of Mother Maiamai? Looks just like it. I completely forgot about this thing!

I wonder if it was already called "Maiamai" back in A Link to the Past and the character in A Link Between Worlds just was based on this one. Also,now I think that the Maiamai cave in Lorule is at the exact same spot (it was said that Mother Maiamai travels between the dimensions). This would be a nice reference. I imagine that there will be some people, who would be surprised about that, if they happen to replay A Link to the Past after A Link Between Worlds. Or play it right now like I did.

But I guess, it might even make more sense to replay A Link to the Past AFTER finishing A Link Between Worlds, because this might not be the only insignificant thing in the game that became important in the sequel.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Link Between Worlds Features a 2nd Quest

According Gameswelt.de Aonuma told them that A Link Between World will unlock a higher difficulty level, when you beat the game once. What would be changed, he wasn't saying.

I really hope that they did more than just another Hero Mode, where you take double damage and find no hearts. Because that should have been implemented as an option similar to The Wind Waker HD. And with a topdown Zelda game it's a lot easier to change to environment and dungeons to offer a true 2nd Quest / Master Quest experience.

Update:
By now Gameswelt has released a video version of this interview, where Aonuma says that this 2nd playthrough won't be the same as the "Hero Mode" in The Wind Waker HD.

Maiamais & Upgrades in A Link Between Worlds


You've probably seen this before. If not, let me introduce to you what could potentially become one of my alltime favorite collectible sidequests. Maiamais are basically a mix between the Secret Seashells from Link's Awakening and the Gold Skulltulas from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask and the upgrade system in Four Swords Adventures. There are those little shell creatures hiding in the environment, making whiny noises. And you have to detach them from the walls using wall merge or Pegasus Boots and bring them back to their mother, who lives at Lake Hylia. For every ten Maiamais you can chose one of your items to be upgraded. Nintendo showed us the bow upgrades, which shoots three arrows at once.

The upgrades seem to be similar to Four Swords Adventures, where you can give a Great Fairy an item and she makes it better. This is what the upgrades did, to get an idea what they could to in A Link Between Worlds:

  • Bow: shoots an array of three arrows, faster charge
  • Boomerang: greater range and speed
  • Bombs: four times the size
  • Hammer: bigger shock wave
  • Slingshot: scatter shot of three seeds
  • Fire Rod: Cane of Somaria
  • Roc's Feather: double jump
  • Pegasus Boots: air walk
  • Shovel: dowsing
  • Lamp: no upgrade

Well, some of these upgrades were mandatory to beat the game. Since the Maiamais are an optional sidequest, I guess that all of the upgrades are optional as well. So, you won't turn the Fire Rod into the Cane of Somaria, I guess. Unless of course there are certain mandatory upgrades received in other means. For example the shop in the Lower World could be an upgrade shop, if this does make sense. The upgrade for the Pegasus Boots is probably not an option though, since the wall merging ability covers crossing abysses in a way.

Skyward Sword had also certain upgrades, the only interesting one though would be the one for the Bug-Catching Net. I guess, it's safe to assume that we will get a similar upgrade for the net in A Link Between Worlds as well. For the bombs they could give them the "Remote Bombs" upgrade from The Minish Cap. Unless it's necessary to lay multiple bombs at once. I don't think that you can undo the upgrades.

I'm hoping that they find a nice upgrade for the lamp, which they weren't able to do in Four Swords Adventures.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Link Between Worlds German Cover



Yes, looks identical to the North American one. Usually we are getting something different, more colorful. However, according to Nintendo the European cover will be dual sided with a colored variant on the inner side.

The main reason, why I make this post, is that unlike the North American cover there's no Nintendo Network logo anymore... why's that? I was hoping for a new multiplayer mode in the style of Shadow Battles from Four Swords Adventures...

My best guess would be that they originally planned Miiverse integration, but the Miiverse update for the Nintendo 3DS won't arrive in time, so they have cut the feature or plan to add it as an update for the game.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Link Between Worlds Limited Edition Nintendo 3DS XL Announced


I miss the times, where they just release a Zelda game without any big limited stuff next to it. No big fuss, just the game... I don't want to buy a new console with every Zelda release (but I'm a collector, so it's hard to resist).

But it seems like Nintendo really, really wants all the money from Zelda fans this year. I'm not kidding, this already was the MOST EXPANSIVE year to be a Zelda fan, but now you can add 200€/$ to the equation. Hyrule Historia, the Symphony of the Goddesses, the Limited Edition Wii U, the Limited Edition The Wind Waker HD and now this. And from Prima Games there's the Zelda Box and one more Collector's Guide. The year of the 25th Anniversary was a cheap joke compared to this. You need a big wallet for all this stuff. That's 800€ spent for Zelda alone.

Well, I was flirting with the 3DS XL recently, so a part of me was hoping they would do this, because my rationality wouldn't let me buy one, since I already got the 3DS. But my love for Zelda outweights my rationality.

The problem with this thing is that there already has been a Zelda limited bundle for Ocarina of Time 3D. I even had to sell my previous 3DS to get it. And now it kind of looks like Nintendo is saying "Hey, Zelda fans! How do you like your 3DS? Want to buy a 3DS XL as well? Come on!"... Since the XL is a really different model, they might get away with this. However, I really hope they won't do the same for the Wii U. Like when the new Zelda game gets released, they release a fully golden Wii U or something. This would be terrible and a big kick into the balls of every Zelda then, who now bought the The Wind Waker HD bundle. I can have both a 3DS and a 3DS XL, many do, but buying two Wii Us is a differemt story. This thought scares me.

Of course they cleverly waited to announce this bundle until after the The Wind Waker HD bundle got released. Because now the message is "don't buy the remake bundles, the new games will get better looking ones". By now it's best to really wait many years before you buy a new Nintendo product. Really wait until the last minute. Otherwise they will find a way to punish you for early adopting.

The thing is that you can never know. It might as well be that they won't release a special bundle for the Zelda Wii U game and in this case you will regret not getting the The Wind Waker HD bundle. But in case they do release a better looking all golden Wii u system, you will regret buying the The Wind Waker HD bundle. As a Zelda fan you can't be sure anymore what to buy... it's frustrating. However, with Nintendo the safer bet now is that they probably will screw their early adopters. This has been the case for many years now. So, if history will repeat itself, you don't want to get a Wii U just now. You want to wait.

Of course the 3DS XL bundle is awesome for every Zelda fan, who missed the Ocarina of Time 3D bundle. I'm not saying anything against that. But all those bundles will have to backfire eventually. Nintendo is training their customers not to buy their products early.

The Return of Non-Linearity

*celebrates*

Here are new Aonuma quotes (source):

The other main thing, along with the item rental system and the order of dungeons, is this idea of linearity versus non-linearity. Recently Zelda games have been very linear, and the idea of being able to do things in any order is something that only games can achieve. When you watch a cartoon or a movie, you watch from beginning to the end and you have the story. If a game only tells a story linearly, it's not really using that full potential of the game. The main thing we wanted to accomplish with A Link Between Worlds was to have that non-linear style.

For Skyward Sword, that kind of narrowed, focused world helped us with that, but at the same time it meant you didn't have that wide-open world to explore. We've heard the complaint about lack of openness from a lot of fans. As we're deciding what the core gameplay mechanic was, we have that open-world desire at the forefront of our minds, and we're trying to figure out how to incorporate that as well.


Yeeeees! Yes! The main message of this blog always has been "make the Zelda games less linear, more open, more fun to explore". It's basically the one most important thing I wanted back from Zelda and I've written countless blog posts about this topic. While I doubt that anyone at Nintendo studies this blog (if you do, thanks for your time!), it seems like I wasn't the only Zelda fan, who wanted this. And it feels like a huge success that the tides are finally turning. It's great to see that Aonuma has finally gotten some insight and that Nintendo returns to the origins of Zelda.

Nintendo even went so far that they made multiple versions of specific cutscenes, depending what dungeons has been completed at the time. I really hope that this is not just some trend, where Nintendo returns to linear Zelda in a few years. But I will really enjoy the upcoming games starting with A Link Between Worlds.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Review)

Wind Waker HD game logo saying review next to it

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

With the Wii U and Zelda, Nintendo decided to take a similar route to the Nintendo 3DS: "Let's produce a remake / remaster and release a Limited Edition bundle to make sure that fans are going to buy it anyway". Take the black model, put some golden decals on it, bundle it with the game, done. 

But this works and now it's time to review The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U. Similar to Ocarina of Time 3D, this review will focus on the qualities of the remaster itself, not the original game. So, the focus will be on the changes when compared to the GameCube original, where the review can go in greater details and might contain some spoilers for all those, who have never played The Wind Waker before.

 

Overview

It's been ten years since the release of The Wind Waker for the Nintendo GameCube and at its time it was quite the controversial topic for Zelda fans. After Nintendo had presented a more realistic Zelda for the next generation at SpaceWorld 2000, the surprise came one year later with the cartoony cel shading visuals. Instead of a serious, adult Link we got "Toon Link", who expressively fought his way through equally expressive Moblins. And it certainly wasn't what everyone had expected for the future of Zelda at the time.

Now, ten years later Toon Link is everywhere – he is iconic and the symbol of the Zelda franchise's diversity in art styles. And those, who disliked the toon style originally, might have warmed up to it by now and gave The Wind Waker a second chance – maybe even now with The Wind Waker HD, where the game is experiencing its renaissance on Wii U.

Whoever is already familiar with the GameCube original knows that it's a carefully crafted game with timeless visuals, which weren't actually a negative, but one of the game's strengths. The Cel Shading is in perfect harmony with the ocean, which for the first time became the setting for a Zelda game. But The Wind Waker also surprised with its story, which for the first time referenced previous generations of Zelda's history with the events of Ocarina of Time. It was clear from the start that you're playing a completely new Link in a very different time.

While the visuals, the atmosphere, the story and gameplay of the original were quite good, it didn't come without any shortcomings. Often criticized were the low difficulty or the slow pacing, while two dungeons didn't make the cut and the endgame's Triforce hunt wasn't for everyone's liking. But those are even more good reasons for a remaster, where The Wind Waker HD is the perfect opportunity to not only show off the game in HD, but also improve some it on some ends for a better gaming experience... So, let's take a look at how good the remaster really is.

 

Graphics & Sound

If you were to ask Zelda fans which game should be getting an HD update, Majora's Mask or Twilight Princess would come to mind, but not necessarily The Wind Waker. Unlike Twilight Princess, the graphics of The Wind Waker have aged remarkably well. The cel shaded visuals still look good today, where the original can already create some stunning pictures when properly upscaled.

It's a timeless style, but that's probably the main reason, why Nintendo went for this remaster. Let's not fool ourselves here: The Wind Waker HD exists mainly because it was easy to make. Nintendo has confirmed as much, where only a handful of people were working on this title for about half a year, while the rest of the Zelda team at Nintendo EAD3 were busy with the new game for Wii U and A Link Between Worlds.

Link on an island next to a Korok tree

But sometimes it's enough to put things into a different light. The 3D models and environments were ported from the GameCube game over to the Wii U, while the textures have been reworked by Hexadrive. Add some bloom and other shading effects to it all and there you have your HD remaster. While for Ocarina of Time 3D the developers put a lot of work into new models and adding more details to the environments, you get none of that here. The Wind Waker HD takes the original and shines a new light on it.

This might sound disillusioning, but in the end this is all that was needed to create one of Wii U's most impressive looking games. From the moment on where you set your feet back on Outset Island and see the place bathed in sunlight, you can't take your eyes from this game. It's eye candy and the Great Sea has never looked better, where the new lighting makes it even feel more realistic and alive, all in harmony with the toon shading of the original.

What works great for the outside, doesn't really look so good on the inside, however. In the original the interiors of houses and dungeons were lit by an ambient light, where there's no perceptible light source. But the remastered version now took its new shading effects and applied them to indoor environment as well, which just looks weird and wrong. There are shadows casts on places that shouldn't have any shadows and where you can't tell where the light is coming from. It even creates bizarre scenes, where doors and pillars cast shadows, but not the walls surrounding them. And once you start noticing these details, they can be very distracting Take this shot of the Wind Temple for example:

screenshot of the Wind Temple with shadows being cast by walls

Where does the light come from? Why do the pillars have shadows, but not the walls? The dungeons would have required some actual light sources (like lanterns) instead of some global lighting that's coming from behind the walls, removing any authenticity from the scenes.

When there are lanterns and such present, however, they shine with soft color transitions, where this technically isn't cel shading any longer, where there's clear cuts between different colors. But this also makes Toon Link often look more like Clay Link, which is even the case, whenever he shows off some item from a treasure chest, which casts a light on him, making him look quite odd...

It also doesn't seem like the engine was improved much, where there are even frame drops in the same places as in the original, like certain boss fights or intense battles on the sea. And that's quite the disappointment, considering how this is a ten year old game running on Nintendo's newest console.

Also, it didn't really improve the loading very much. Aonuma claimed that the entire ocean could be loaded at once (see the Developer Direct), but you don't really notice that while playing. While you're traveling on the ocean, enemies and other entities still appear from nowhere right in front of you and you can clearly see how certain details of islands only pop in while you're approaching. It's still better than on the GameCube, however, and you don't notice how it loads between quadrants any longer.

And those who have played Ocarina of Time 3D and hope for a similar overhaul from The Wind Waker HD, will ultimately be disappointed. With the 3DS remake it felt like experiencing the classic from a new perspective, where there were new details everywhere. But with The Wind Waker HD you'll be getting the same old game with some new lighting effects. It can look very pretty, but it's still the same old.

Unlike Ocarina of Time 3D, however, not only the graphics were overhauled, but the sounds as well. Mainly some of the shorter music pieces, like for opening a treasure chest of playing the Wind's Requiem, got new versions in orchestrated quality. Some of the longer songs, like Windfall Island, also got new versions, but not every song in the game got remade... Some more re-orchestrated music would have been nice, but at least the remaster also offers something new for the ears and not just the eyes.

 

Controls & Interface

Not only the timeless visuals made The Wind Waker the perfect choice for Nintendo's first HD remaster on Wii U, but also the fact that the game was practically made for the Wii U GamePad. On the GameCube you often came into situations, where you had to switch between menus and game, often to do simple things like salvaging treasures.

You won't have this problem on the Wii U any longer, at least not as long as you play with both the TV and the Wii U GamePad, because in that case you can go through menus, change your items, navigate maps and read Miiverse messages all while the game is running. You can still pause the game, if you need to, but using the GamePad during your sea travels is certainly practical and let's you navigate to sunken treasures on your map with absolute precision.

item inventory

You can swap your items traditionally by pausing the game, but you can also flip them onto the button slots via the touchscreen without any bigger interruption of the gameplay. Plus, you don't need to assign certain items to buttons any longer, where for example the Wind Waker itself can now quickly be used via the D-Pad.

The Sailcloth is now also gone from the item menu and can be used with the A-button whenever you're on the boat. In addition, both the cannon and the crane can now be activated via the D-Pad and then controlled with the A-button, so that you don't have to put Bombs and the Grappling Hook on your items slots (but you still can, if you want). On the GameCube you had to switch between items while traveling with the Red King of Lions quite often, but in the remaster your item slots are free for other things, like the Bow, which is certainly practical and more comfortable.

It's also of note that The Wind Waker HD offers an unusual amount of options, at least when compared to other Zelda titles. You can turn off motion controls, reduce the HUD and invert axis for both the normal camera and the first person camera. However, for the normal camera you can only turn off the inverted axis for moving left and right, bot not up and down, so it's not perfect.

You can also play the game directly on the Wii U GamePad or via a Pro Controller. In both cases you won't have the advantage of using menus and maps in parallel, but it's still a plus that Nintendo lets you choose freely what works best for you, mainly for those who want to keep it close to the GameCube original.

However, you won't be able to play it exactly like on the GameCube. Nintendo has changed certain aspects of the controls, where some of these changes make sense and feel right, while others might feel counter-intuitive, especially if you're used to the GameCube original. Then it might happen that you push a wrong button or the game doesn't react the way you expect it to, where it takes some getting used to.

This mainly goes for the first person controls, where you now can move around freely, similar to Skyward Sword. This can give you a big advantage in certain situations, but the downside is that you now need to aim with the right analog stick, in case you're playing with the Pro Controller or don't want to rely on motion controls, in which case items set to the X or Y buttons don't work too well, where you're stuck with the R button.

A better solution would have been, if it worked like in Metroid Prime and you could simply switch between walking and aiming with the L button. But if you're playing with the Wii U GamePad the controls are really good, especially the aiming via motions, which is similar to Ocarina of Time 3D and offers a new level of precision.

There are also some new gimmicks, where for example you can now control Link via the touchscreen while he's conducting. You will also be able to read all the songs on the touchscreen, similar to Ocarina of Time 3D.

You can also now read the hints of the fishmen on your map, so you don't have to spend more All-Purpose Bait on them and you can study their wisdom from anywhere. However, the info what kind of sunken treasure was found at a certain island is now gone, where it would have been nice, if both the fishmen and the treasure info were on the map.

But the only thing that really seems to be missing is some way to draw or mark things on your maps, similar to Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. This way you could cross off the different platforms, Blu ChuChus and so on, but sadly the game doesn't offer anything like it, where you're still stuck with a piece of paper, if you really want to 100% clear the Great Sea.

 

Game Flow

As discussed in a blog post from two years ago, one of the biggest problems of the original game was its terrible pacing. Gameplay was often interrupted, sailing could take forever and for every change of the wind direction you had to play the Wind's Requiem, which was quite annoying. And certain things like the Grappling Hook didn't work too well. Luckily, Nintendo has addressed nearly everything in the remaster for a much better gaming experience.

The biggest improvement probably came with the Swift Sail, which increases sailing speed by 80% and magically turns the wind with the boat, so you're always having the vital momentum of a tailwind. It's the salvation for everyone who found the sailing in the original to be too tedious. To go full speed ahead without worrying about the wind direction is a lot of fun and makes the sailing so much more tolerable, where you might even ignore the warping in this version, simply because you can go so fast from A to B anyway. Going back to the original GameCube version will be hard after this.

The old sail doesn't become obsolete because of this, however. With the high speed of the Swift Sail your boat gets harder to steer, where you might switch back to normal Sail for more precision. Luckily, this is easily done via the A button, which lets you switch between the two sails at any time.

Navigating can also be a little bit harder without a fixed wind direction, because normally it was an indicator of where you wanted to go, but now you have to make use of the compass needle in the bottom left corner of the screen. This was already there in the original, but it wasn't really that important and you might not even remember this feature, because the wind was usually good enough for orientation. And of course you can also use the map on the GamePad screen.

Link sailing new Windfall Island

You also have to find the Swift Sail at first. It's not served on a silver platter and there are only few hints, where you might get this magic sail. It might even happen to some players that they play through the entire game with the slow, old sail, because they aren't really invested in side quests and simply missed the faster traveling option. But you can get the Swift Sail as soon as completing Dragon Roost Island, which is very early in the game, so that you can make use of it for the majority of your sea travels.

But the Swift Sail is not the only item, which does things faster now, where the Grappling Hook would be another example. In the original you basically had to watch a small cutscene of how it gets attached to a pole, where the game flow was interrupted with every use of the item. Sometimes you also had to change the direction of the swinging, where you needed to stand perfectly still at first...

The cutscene is still there, but at least it's three times faster and you can now change direction while swinging. Especially when going to Forest Haven this is clearly noticeable how much this feature has improved. It's not as fast and ideal like the Whip in Skyward Sword, but still a lot better than it used to be on the GameCube.

That's all great, but there are even more time savers on top of that. Texts now run much faster and the salvaging of treasures only takes half as long. Also, once you've played a song, it won't be repeated the next time, but the effect gets activated immediately. This is a blessing for something like the Command Melody, which have to play very often inside dungeons to switch between characters. It's not as easy as pushing a button to do it, but still already much faster than in the original.

However, there are still things that The Wind Waker HD could learn from other Zelda games, like the Ending or Fatal Blow in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, which eliminates enemies on the ground. The Wind Waker introduced the possibility of knocking down enemies, but they are completely invulnerable during this, which removes the flow out of certain fights, because you're now waiting for the enemy to recover... With some enemies, like the Magtails, such a finishing blow even exists, but it's not available for Bokoblins, Moblins and alike.

But overall The Wind Waker HD did a great job at improving the game's speed and flow, where replaying it all has become much more enjoyable.

 

Triforce Quest

There is another big optimization to the game's pacing with the infamous search for the eight Triforce Shards, but this deserves a section of its own. This whole part of the game has always been controversial, where some liked it, but others might have lost motivation.

For the eight Triforce Shards you had to first find eight Triforce Charts all over the world and then have them translated by Tingle, a character as controversial as the entire Triforce hunt itself. But of course he doesn't do it for free, where he wanted 398 Rupees per Triforce Chart, which marks the first time in the Zelda series, where the players had to find large sums of Rupees to make progress in the game. And after translating the eight charts, you had to find and salvage eight treasure chests from the bottom of the ocean...

It's a lot of things that you'd expect to do as side quests, but instead it's all part of the main quest right before the end of the game, which seemed to be a popular design choice for the GameCube era. Both Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes did this as well with the Chozo Artifacts and the Sky Temple Keys, just that the search for the Triforce Shards is a lot more convoluted than the search for those.

For people, who just want to play through the story, this can be hard to endure. But not everyone hated the idea, where some might have also enjoyed collecting all the Triforce Shards, which is why it's good that Nintendo steered a middle course here, where they didn't remove the hunt for the Triforce Shards, but toned it down a bit.

The solution was quite simple: in The Wind Waker HD you will get five of the Triforce Shards directly in the places, where their Triforce Charts would have been. So, there are only three Triforce Charts left (certainly a fitting number), which need to be translated by Tingle, where this makes the whole process a lot faster and cheaper.

The nice thing is that this even still works, story-wise. The five Triforce Shards without a chart are for the most part found in underground mini-dungeons, which could be theorized to be part of the old Hyrule. It's in a way quite similar now to the first The Legend of Zelda game, where the Triforce of Wisdom was split into eight shards that are found in Hyrule's dungeons. And getting the Triforce Shard themselves inside these mini-dungeons now feels a lot more rewarding.

Link attacking the Islet of Steel with a cannon early in the game

The three Triforce Charts that you still need to get are also the ones that you could do very early in the game with tasks on the open ocean. So, it even makes sense here that these Triforce Charts are still where they are.

(The only nitpick here is that the Triforce Shard sunken near Outset Island is now gone, where it always felt special to return to Link's home to collect a piece of the Triforce. But this is not a big deal.)

And it's not like the five Triforce Charts that were removed now leave any gaps. Instead you can now find five new Treasure Charts in various places, where originally you would only find Rupees or spoils, which makes visiting these places now more worthwhile. And that's great.

 

Rupees

With five of the Triforce Charts gone you save almost 2000 Rupees in the HD remaster. Plus, getting the 1200 Rupees for the ones that are still there should now be easier than ever. All the Light Rings on the open ocean, which indicate the location of a sunken treasure, now all lead to chests with 50 Rupees instead of 20, making them more worthwhile. And with that it's very easy to amass riches in The Wind Waker HD, where you don't have to worry about Rupees at all.

To compensate this a little bit the Magic Armor now works more like its name twin from Twilight Princess: it doesn't consume magic any longer and instead it costs you Rupees, whenever enemies are hitting you. Unlike the one from Twilight Princess it doesn't consume Rupees all the time, so you run around with the barrier as you see fit. But be aware that being hit can be costly, where a Darknut might cause "damage" in the triple digits. But it's certainly a good way of burning Rupees.

 

Tingle Bottles & Miiverse

Next to the Swift Sail, there's a second new item in the game now: Tingle Bottles. They allow you to directly receive and put out Miiverse messages from your game and demonstrate how a well done Miiverse integration looks like.

Miiverse is basically Nintendo's own Twitter for their games. Every game gets its own community for messages, drawings and screenshots. You can use Miiverse to share your creative moments, to grab about ingame achievements or to get help from other players.

Miiverse message examples with a sketch of Medli

This is all quite nice, but normally you have to interrupt your game and open Miiverse to do any of this. And some players might not even bother with that. With the Tingle Bottles in The Wind Waker HD, however, Nintendo found a charming solution for this issue. Using this item lets you directly post to Miiverse without interrupting the game, which all works via messages in Tingle-shaped bottles.

The nice thing about this is that these bottles can also be washed into your game world. You can find them on any beaches or on the open sea, where you can collect them like Rupees or other normal items. They are distributed rather well and collecting them can be quite addicting, even though you won't always get the most useful posts.

Link at Spectacle Island with a Tingle Bottle at its shore

This is especially nice during your boat tours, where the Tingle Bottles now give you something to find on the otherwise rather empty waters. And you can even read the messages on your Wii U GamePad while you're still sailing as a nice distraction, where in combination with the new Swift Sail this makes the boat trips a lot less boring.

Naturally, this depends quite a lot on the community, but while playing The Wind Waker HD in its early days the messages were for the most part surprisingly pleasant. Many of the posts are funny or helpful, where Nintendo does a good job of keeping the Miiverse clear of troublemakers.

Since Nintendo doesn't want you to miss the Tingle Bottles, you now have to free Tingle in Windfall Island, before you can buy the normal sail. But since you need Tingle to make progress later in the game, this is a thoughtful change in any case.

The Tingle Bottles are the replacement for the Tingle Tuner, which let a second player join the game via GameBoy Advance on the Nintendo GameCube to "support" the main player with bombs and other things. It seems somewhat ironic that this has been cut of all things, since the Wii U GamePad would have been perfect for such a feature.

But to be fair, it wasn't the best feature ever and felt more like a cheat tool, where you can buy invulnerability or refill your hearts for Rupees. And while the intention was for it to be a two player tool, where some might miss this, many just used this on their own to get the exclusive rewards...

Speaking of, the five golden Tingle Statues, as well as Tingle's missing brother Knuckle are still in the game, despite the missing Tingle Tuner. Knuckle will appear, once you've obtained all five statues and the Nintendo Gallery won't be considered complete without him now.

Curiously, the statues are hidden in the same obscure spots as in the original, but this time you won't be getting any hints where to find and how to find them. So, if you haven't played the original version of the game and did the Tingle Tuner quests there, you either discover the statues by sheer accident or you learn about them from the internet... And maybe it was even Nintendo's intention that people will use the Miiverse to find out about this secret, where people are actually sharing these kind of things.

But it shows that Nintendo is willing to include some well hidden secrets into their games again, where it makes you hopeful that they let their players into the wild without constant hints. If all fails, you can always seek help right away via Miiverse, where this could be one of the best things that have happened to Zelda in a while.

The only real problem with Miiverse are spoilers. You can mark your posts as a spoiler, but you might forget to do so. You can report unmarked spoilers, but in that case it might be already too late for you. And not everyone shares the same sentiment what counts as a spoiler and what doesn't. Of course this isn't really problematic for a ten year old game as The Wind Waker, but receiving pictures of the final boss in a new Zelda game would certainly be an unpleasant surprise, so Nintendo has to handle this with great care for the future.

 

Picto-Box & Nintendo Gallery

The Miiverse also brings another item in the spotlight: the Picto Box. You can now directly put your pictures into the Miiverse via the Tingle Bottles and to give these pictures a certain charm the Picto Box also lets you do funny selfies, where you can choose between ten different facial expressions. This is so much fun that the majority of pictures in the community for The Wind Waker HD are selfies, yet this never gets old. Especially silly scenes, like Toon Link posing in front of a dangerous boss, are always fun, where this could be the best addition to this remaster overall.

Link smiling in front of an artwork of the Hero

Luckily, the Picto Box can now store up to twelve pictures, instead of just three, which should encourage the players to take more photos during their adventures. It's also now easier to get the Deluxe Picto Box, where it's even possible to do so now on your first visit on Windfall Island.

You still need to become Lenzo's research assistant and complete the tasks he gives you, but you don't need a Forest Firefly any longer. Therefore this item doesn't have any real use in this version of the game, other than trading them for Joy Pendants. This might seem like a rather drastic change at first, but considering how many pictures on Miiverse are still in black and white, where players have no clue how to upgrade the camera, it probably would have been better to skip the normal Picto Box altogether.

But let's not forget what the Picto Box was originally for: collecting figurines. There's the Nintendo Gallery at Forest Haven, where Carlov will craft you a figurine, if you show him a good picture of a character, an animal or a monster.

There's 134 of them to collect and in the original version of the game on the Nintendo GameCube this was quite the task to complete, since you were limited to carrying three photos at once. This resulted in a lot of back and forth, while there was also the risk that Carlov didn't like the picture. And that could be especially annoying for the eight shots that can be missed entirely, where the respective person or monster can't be found later in the game. Plus, for each figurine you needed to let time pass til the next day...

Link outside the Nintendo Gallery with beautiful visuals

Needless to say that this was one of the slowest and most cumbersome side quests in the history of the Zelda series, where The Wind Waker HD improves this on almost all fronts. As already mentioned, you can now save up to twelve pictures, but Carlov can also craft twelve figurines at once, which will save you a lot of time and traveling.

In addition, your pictures will now have a special Carlov seal on them, if they are good enough for a figurine. So, you can always be sure that your photo will do the trick in advance and you don't have to make multiple pictures of the same being multiple times, which is especially helpful for the various boss monsters and the few people that can be missed. And if you happen to still miss one of them, you now also have the option to use a picture from a Tingle Bottle.

For example if you forgot to take a picture of Tetra at a certain point in the game, not all is lost. In the original you had to wait until the 2nd Quest to finally take a picture of her, but in The Wind Waker HD you might find a good photo of her posted by the community for this very purpose. It's truly neighborly help among Zelda fans, which also shows how useful the Miiverse integration into this game can be, where everyone now should be able to complete their figurine collection on the first playthrough. (Sadly, Miiverse was shut down later in 2017, where this doesn't apply any longer.)

You now also can't miss Knuckle's figurine any longer, as already mentioned, but the figurine of Kogoli, some random Rito who disappears from Dragon Roost Island later during the game and never returns, is still missable. It would have been nice, if they fixed that as well, because that one is really hard to predict. But otherwise Nintendo has done everything to make the figurine hunt a lot more enjoyable.

 

Hero Mode

One thing many people complained about The Wind Waker was the low difficulty, where the game was way too easy and you never were at risk of dying, which could be quite disappointing for skilled players. Nintendo tries to improve things here with the "Hero Mode", which got introduced in Skyward Sword. Enemies will cause double the damage and hearts are normally not found, so that you can only heal up by using potions and fairies. Unlike in Skyward Sword there is no way of making hearts appear anyway and there are also fewer ways of healing yourself.

This can be quite challenging in the early game, where you might get into some hairy situations with no healing in sight. But the more Heart Containers and bottles you get, the less this will actually make a difference and put you in real danger. It's still an interesting change to have such limited healing possibilities overall.

Link fighting multiple Darknuts

Nintendo also listened to the fans who didn't like that you had to unlock Hero Mode in Skyward Sword by playing through the game once. In The Wind Waker HD the Hero Mode is now an option, which can be toggled on and off whenever you're selecting the game file. This means you can play in Hero Mode right from the start, which is great for veterans, but you can also turn it off at any time, in case things are getting too difficult for you.

It's not ideal for those bragging rights, however, because there is no indication whether a save file was completed in Hero Mode or not. So, maybe in the future you should get a choice between normal and Hero Mode right from the start, but you need to stick to that choice. In any case it's an option that shouldn't be missed in new Zelda games.

It's not an option that truly makes a Zelda game more difficult on all ends, however, where the "Master Quest" version of Ocarina of Time (3D) did a much better job here. Difficulty in Zelda games isn't just about combat and survival, but also puzzles or navigation, where the "Hero Mode" in Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker HD doesn't change any of that.

 

New Content?

If you know and loved the original game, there is mainly one thing that you might want to know about a remaster: is there anything new to discover? The Wind Waker probably is one of the most expandable Zelda games, where originally the game was supposed to have two more dungeons that didn't make the cut. Some fans have obsessed over these for many years, while others might be hoping to find more on the Great Sea, where it's rather empty and often feels like it was filled by using "copy & paste" with its various similar islands, watch towers, submarines and so on. Or you might not care about the ocean or dungeons at all and rather explore the sunken lands of Hyrule below...

There were many starting points to expand The Wind Waker and its experience, but Nintendo didn't explore any of this. Other than the new Swift Sail, the Tingle Bottles and the five new Treasure Charts (replacing the respective Triforce Charts) there isn't really anything new to discover for fans of the GameCube original. So, if you're hoping for new dungeons, islands, ships or quests, then you will be disappointed by The Wind Waker HD, where this feels like a missed opportunity on Nintendo's end.

Another possibility of changing the game in interesting ways would have been the 2nd Quest, which is still present in the remaster, but remains completely unchanged. Like in the original you get to use Link's blue outfit through the entire game, while his sister Aryll wears her pirate dress all the time. You can now understand the Hylian language and Treasure Charts have their locations slightly altered to make them harder to read. And you get the Picto Box Deluxe right from the start now, while your previously collected figurines are also still there, where completing this collection was probably the main reason to play the 2nd Quest for many. But since this can be done a lot more easily now during your first playthrough in The Wind Waker HD, the 2nd Quest kind of loses its edge here.

In the least they could have done some simple things, like mirroring the game world, similar to the "Master Quest" mode in Ocarina of Time 3D. Imagine having Outset Island in the southeast and Dragon Roost Island in the northwest. Or they could have taken advantage of the game's grid system to swap the locations of various islands on the map. Anything would have helped to provide a fresher experience...

 

Conclusion

With The Wind Waker HD Nintendo tried to utilize smaller changes for great effect, where this applies to graphic and gameplay alike. There hasn't changed much, but what has changed positively effects the entire game.

Once you've played the HD version, there is no going back to the original. Especially the Swift Sail and the improvements for the Picto Box are things that you wouldn't want to miss any longer. The game was also streamlined on various ends for a better experience and looks for the most part quite gorgeous with the new lighting effects.

The biggest downside of this remaster is that there is little new to discover, where it's hard to recommend this to players, who have already completed the original on GameCube and who want something new out of this. But if you haven't played either version yet, then it's highly recommended to go with this one, since it improves The Wind Waker on many ends and offers the better experience overall.

 

The Good:
  • Stunning visuals on the ocean and islands
  • Some updated tracks in orchestral quality
  • Various control options
  • Nice controls with the Wii U GamePad
  • Swift Sail and other fastened actions
  • Streamlined Triforce Quest makes sense
  • Hero Mode adds some challenge
  • Fun and useful Miiverse integration thanks to Tingle Bottles
  • Improved Picto-Box & Nintendo Gallery
  • Five new Treasure Charts

 

The Bad:
  • Weird indoor visuals
  • Frame drops like in the original
  • Counter-intuitive control changes
  • Can't draw on maps
  • No new or changed environments
  • No enhanced 2nd Quest

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Majora's Mask 3D for next year becomes more likely

Of course someone asked Aonuma about a Majora's Mask remake at yesterday's New York Comic Con panel and his response was that we might get an answer, if we play A Link Between Worlds (source). That's rather cryptic. I guess, he just meant the mask in Ravio's Shop though.

But since Grezzo got finished with their Street Pass Garden game at this E3, I have the feeling that they resumed working on Zelda and are making Majora's Mask 3D right now, slated for a summer 2014 release.

Well, it was always safe to assume that Majora's Mask 3D will be made eventually. Half of the work got already done and there's demand, so it's more a matter of "when". I really hope that they will update the Picto Box in this game to the same standards of The Wind Waker HD. Imagine Miiverse selfies with all those masks!

Aonuma wants to get away from Handholding and Linearity

Oh, Din! Aonuma is suddenly telling us the things, which I wanted to hear for years. Here are the quotes (source):

"We wanted to make it a game where it would be fun to get stuck and be lost."

"I think that one thing all game developers worry about when they're putting something into a game is, 'Will people notice it? Will people realize what they're supposed to do?' And we kind of have a bad habit of hand-holding, trying to make things easier for everyone. But more and more, I start to think that that kind of isn't actually that fun."

"There's actually one area in the game where I fought for three days with my director over whether we should have a hint in there or not. As a result, after the end of that we actually decided to take it out. So if that part of the game is too difficult, it's my fault."

I can't believe to hear stuff like this from Aonuma! Finally he's realizing what's good for Zelda! It's probably ten years too late, but better late than never.

For years I've been ranting about these points on my blog. Games (games in general, not just Zelda) have become more and more linear. Developers are constantly afraid that players are going to miss things. There's handholding and "in your face" hints everywhere. I want Zelda games, where I have to use my brain, where I explore things for myself, where I can potentially get stuck and lost. And it's great to see that Zelda finally returns to these qualities!

And if there's a part of the game, which is "too difficult", no one will blame you, Aonuma. Quite the opposite. It's about time that Aonuma recovers from all the Water Temple whining and finally dares to make a new Water Temple.

Even more excited for A Link Between Worlds now.