Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Year of Rupees

Another year passes by, time's running fast and as Zelda fans we look back to what I dub the "Year of Rupees". It's the year of rupees, because in the two new Zelda games that were released in 2013 - The Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds - Rupees are very important and because this year unleashed a giant attack on the wallets of the Zelda fans. I'm not kidding, when I say that this was the most expansive year to be a Zelda fan and collector. It makes the 25th Anniversary two years ago look fairly moderate.

Actually the year started with the aftershocks of the 25th Anniversary with Hyrule Historia getting its English release. It's the bible for every Zelda fan and it's nice to have it for the timeline section alone. Also, the Symphony to the Goddesses came to Europe with concerts in London, Paris and Berlin. I visited the one in Berlin and it was an unforgetable experience. In North America the 2nd Quest of the concert started shortly after and there were concerts in Australia as well. So, probably many Zelda fans worldwide visited the event and might count this as one of the most exciting days of the year.

While in 2012 it was totally silent around Zelda, we didn't have to wait long in 2013 to get our first Zelda announcement. Already in Januar Mr. Aonuma presented the first images of The Wind Waker HD, which would be released later this year.

In April we then got our first on the new handheld Zelda game, which was later titled A Link Between Worlds at E3. As I expected last year, they handled the newest Zelda handheld installment similar to Spirit Tracks: show the game in Spring, big presentation at E3 and then release the game before the end of the year. Nintendo likes to keep their games close to the chest lately. But it also turned out to be much more traditional than expected, while the 3D got utilized in a topdown view, the game also returned entirely to the world of A Link to the Past.

To bridge the time until the new release, we got to enjoy some old Zelda games again. Oracle of Ages & Seasons were re-released for their first time on the 3DS Virtual Console after 12 years and there are probably quite some people out there, who actually got to play these game for their first. I personally used this occasion not only to replay these games, but to compile the first thorough Ring Guide for the games, because it was about time that someone did this. I only played two Hero starter gamers though and I plan to replay the Linked Games in 2014 and also collect all 64 rings again for the first time since playing the original games on the GBC!

After the adventures in Holodrum and Labrynna gamers returned to the Great Sea in September/October, but this time in HD. With the Wii U Nintendo decided to take similar paths with Zelda as on the 3DS. They remade/updated an older Zelda and bundled it with special black hardware decorated with golden ornaments from the game. This time with The Wind Waker HD and the black Wii U Gamepad, which nicely matches the black 3DS from two years ago. The game alone probably wouldn't have lured all too many Zelda fans in, since it lacks any new features, but with the bundle one or the other Zelda fan might have bought a Wii U this year. I'm actually one of them. Though I haven't used my Wii U all too much after finishing The Wind Waker HD, however, next year looks quite promising for the Wii U. And if you're still interested in the "limited" bundle, you can still get it pretty much everywhere, which is a little sad.

Harder to get might be the Limited Edition of the The Wind Waker HD, which came with a special Ganondorf figurine. Since Nintendo doesn't bundle physical games anymore (the Wii U bundle only has a download code), the whole thing was a pure collectible item for people, who want the game with disc, box and cover together with something special.

The game itself did a great job to streamline the original The Wind Waker experience. It's all faster and more fluid, mostly thanks to the new Swift Sail. Another new addition are the selfies for the Pictobox and the Miiverse integration via Tingle Bottles, which led to a new and fun way to communicate with other Zelda players. The HD graphics are beautiful, though it doesn't feel as fresh as Ocarina of Time 3D did. Also, you only need to pay for three Triforce Charts this time, so Rupees aren't actually as important in the game as they used to be.

But Rupees are very important in the new game, A Link Between Worlds, which got released at the end of November for the Nintendo 3DS. While it features some new ideas like renting items, it's overall a back-to-the-roots Zelda experience close to A Link to the Past. It's open, non-linear, heavy on exploration, fast paced and lots of fun to (re)play. I like to call it the best Zelda game since Majora's Mask. As a fan of the classic Zelda games, A Link Between Worlds is the answer to all my prayers. Many years I have talked about the issues of linear and slow Zelda gameplay of the recent installments in the series, but A Link Between Worlds is finally a Zelda game that does everything right. Or at least most of it. This makes me really happy and this also marks the year 2013 as the return of classic Zelda.

It's still the "Year of Rupees" though. While Ravio takes all your money ingame, Nintendo and Prima Games aimed to empty your wallets in real life. As if the Wii U bundle wasn't enough, Nintendo also bundled A Link Between Worlds with a 3DS XL. And it's not half as good as the 3DS bundle for Ocarina of Time 3D was (which actually had the game in physical form, an AC adapter and other accessories), but still more expansive. Also, Nintendo released a small treasure chest with sounds to store 3DS cartridges (in case you actually got the game as a cartridge and not as a mere download), which depending on where you live could be quite hard to get. In Germany it was only available in Club Nintendo and sold out after less than 7 minutes.

Another treasure chest got released by Prima Games with the "Zelda Box", literally the heaviest Zelda collectible yet. It contains six of their collecter's edition hardcover guide books, one of them new (Ocarina of Time 3D) and one of them expended (Skyward Sword). They also released new hardcover guide books for The Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds, the latter not included in the Zelda box.

If you add all of this together, Hyrule Historia, tickets for Symphony of the Goddesses, two special hardware bundles, the Wind Waker HD Limited Edition, the Zelda box, other guide books and collectibles, then that's more than 800€/$ spent throughout the entire year on Zelda alone. This is ridiculous, it even makes the 25th Anniversary look cheap. Needless to say that there are probably many Zelda fans, who missed one thing or another, because they simply couldn't effort it.

However, the big storm should be over now. With the exception of the 2DS there's a limited Zelda edition of every current Nintendo hardware out there and considering how badly the current Wii U bundle sells, they probably won't make another Zelda themed bundle for the Wii U. The Zelda Box from Prima Games should be an one time thing (they made make a second box in the future though, starting with the A Link Between Worlds guide). And the Symphony of the Goddesses is on pause next year, so things should go back to normal, where Zelda things are rare and never too expansive and where the wallets of Zelda fans have a chance to regenerate.

And it's nice to see Zelda getting so much stuff and attention without any special occasion like the anniversary.

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