Thursday, January 30, 2014

Four Swords Anniversary Edition Available Again

Well, at least in the US... and only for four days, so grab it while you can! It's still for free.

I hope they will make it available in Europe again as well, so I can download it on my 3DS XL. Or they should consider selling this title.

Zelda U will be the GamePad Game

With video games I enjoy options. Different controllers. Changing the button layout. Changing the visuals. Calibrating the game in a way that's best for you. But when it came to options, Nintendo was usually very reluctant to put it mildly. Usually there are only a hand full of options, if any at all. So, I was positively surprised about how, with the exception of Nintendo Land, all big Nintendo titles on the Wii U so far give you the option to play with different controllers. I've accustomed to the Wii U GamePad by now, but it's nice to play with the Wiimote here and there. Also, some might prefer the Pro Controller over the GamePad, though I personally see the lack of a gyro sensor as a big design flaw (gyro aiming ftw).

In some games it even looks like the GamePad just gets in the way, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for example looks like it defies the GamePad as a whole, staying true to the controls of the Wii predecessor. And this instead of creating Metroid Prime 4, which probably would make great use of the GamePad. This let some to speculate that Nintendo might be thinking about a version of the Wii U, which will be sold and playable with the Wii U GamePad. However, it turns out that quite the opposite is the case...

From Iwata's investor briefing:

Our top priority task this year is to offer software titles that are made possible because of the GamePad.

We have managed to offer several of such software titles for occasions when many people gather in one place to play, but we have not been able to offer a decisive software title that enriches the user’s gameplay experience when playing alone with the GamePad. This will be one of the top priorities of Mr. Miyamoto’s software development department this year.

And we all know what game will be THE Wii U GamePad game...

In the last eight years the Zelda series has always been the forefront of Nintendo's integrated hardware and software design. Motion controls? Zelda uses them. Touchscreen controls? Zelda uses them. Microphone input? Zelda uses it. No options allowed. While Zelda games like Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword made great use of the existing hardware for a unique gaming experience, they weren't really popular with players, who preferred more traditional controls. And at least with Twilight Princess on Wii there was no excuse that the game didn't offer an option to play with the Classic or GameCube controller. You had to buy the GameCube version to use the latter.

Now, The Wind Waker HD was the first ever Zelda title that gave the player options. You can play with the Wii U GamePad, but you can also use the traditional controls with the Pro Controller. They even added options for inverting the sticks. This gave me the hope that the upcoming Wii U Zelda game might aim for different options as well. Motion controls like in Skyward Sword, traditional controls with the Pro Controller, but also advanced controls with the Wii U GamePad. Each of them having their perks, but none of them being used for bad gimmicks. Skyward Swords' controls were great, but all the silly "please slice in the right direction" fights and puzzles similar to Wii Sports Resort or Nintendo Land took the fun out of them.

But it should be clear that Zelda U is probably going to utilize the Wii U GamePad in a way, where it can't be played with any other controller, because it uses the touchscreen and maybe the microphone for new gimmicks. So better get used to the big thing.

I already had the theory that Zelda U might set its focus on the bow as an item, another possibility might be maps. Like drawing on maps directly changes the environment in a way. This I could imagine for a Zelda game. But at E3 in the latest we will know, how Zelda U will look and play like.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Majora's Mask 3D Wish List

As you might have seen, Majora's Mask 3D got teased yet again by Nintendo (Link) and I still believe that Majora's Mask 3D will be released this year, so it's time for me to throw around some ideas about what they could improve in the remake, before Nintendo makes an official announcement.

Improved saving system

Probably one of the biggest complaints about the original and one of the main incentives for the remake (Aonuma personally mentioned this) is the saving system of the original game. Japanese version only allowed saving via the Song of Time and the western version got the temporary save states via owl statues. Well, with the 3DS you can always simply go into sleep mode, which helps, but there are no technical limitations that should prevent a better saving system, where you can simply save at any time and anywhere.

Improved time system

If you use the Song of Double Time, it should give you the option to pick a specific time to skip forward to. Like 3PM at Day 3. Similar to Skyrim. This should annihilate the annoying waiting times during certain sidequests.

Master Quest / Hero Mode

This is a question, of how much effort Nintendo/Grezzo is willing to put into the remake. But since Ocarina of Time 3D is already providing the engine and many of the assets, they should have more time to focus on additions. But one way or another the game should get some sort of 2nd Quest / hard mode. A Hero Mode, where they double or quadruple the damage should be the minimum effort. Nice would be, if they follow the idea of Master Quest and re-arrange the dungeons. There are only four main dungeons, but it would be nice to see some changes here and there. There's lots of potential here for some really clever puzzles and great challenges.

They could also mirror the entire game world again for some cheap, but effective changes. Though then the clocks would move counter clockwise, which would be really weird.

Boss Battle/Gauntlet

This is a feature from Ocarina of Time 3D that could make it back. However, there are only five different bosses in the game and you can replay them anyway, whenever you want, thanks to the time loop. So, it's not really necessary, but still nice to have.

Improved Picto Box

Probably the best addition about The Wind Waker HD was the nice Miiverse integration via Tingle Bottles and the funny selfies that you can make with the improved Picto Box. Originally this item was introduced in Majora's Mask and it would be a shame, if it didn't get a similar treatment. It should store 12 Pictographs and you should be able to do selfies with it. While Toon Link has the greater ranger of emotional expressions, Majora's Mask has all the different masks! You could do funny selfies as a Deku, Goron, Zora, Fierce Deity Link or while wearing various masks. Could be a lot of fun.

Tingle Balloons (Miiverse Integration)

Now what would be all these funny selfies worth, if you can't easily share them with others? The Wind Waker HD handled its Miiverse connection very nicely with the Tingle Bottles and Majora's Mask 3D should follow with a similar concept. Similar to the Pictobox Majora's Mask was the game to actually introduce Tingle, so he should have the honor again. But maybe not with "Tingle Bottles", since this game doesn't take place on the ocean. Tingle Balloons could be an option, where you receive the messages bound to a ballon. Maybe you have to shoot them down in a similar style to Tingle himself.

Figurine / Painting Collection

When improving the Pictobox, we might as well do something more with it than just selfies. It didn't have much purpose in the original game, so they could/should add a sidequest similar to The Wind Waker, where you have to make pictures of everyone and everything. Thanks to the time loop it should be even impossible to miss any characters or enemies, which was the biggest problem with the same quest in TWW. Maybe introduce Carlov to Termina and let him make figurines again. They should look really nice in 3D. Or do something else like a painter, who uses your pictographs for inspiration.

However, if you think about it, a stationary collection similar to The Wind Waker wouldn't work because of the time loop. So, it would have to be something that you can take with you back in time.

3rd Skulltula House & Shard of Agony

Ocarina of Time 3D and The Wind Waker HD both missed the opportunity to add new dungeons, but third time is the charm. Since Majora's Mask doesn't have all too many dungeons, a new one would be appreciated. I always enjoyed the Skulltula houses (replayed them many times back in the day), so why not add a third one? Prize could be the Shard of Agony from Ocarina of Time 3D. In the original Majora's Mask you simply kept the Stone of Agony's ability, where the Rumble Pack vibrated near hidden grottos. This would feel out of place with the shard though, so maybe a nice way of obtaining it would be good. Though there are only two caves in the game, where the Shard/Stone of Agony resonates, and both of them are pretty easy to find, so maybe Nintendo decides to remove this item/ability alltogether.

Cave of Ordeals / Savage Labyrinth

A pit trial dungeon similar to the ones in Twilight Princess or The Wind Waker is something I really hoped for in Ocarina of Time 3D. But maybe this time. 50 floors of battling enemies is always a good and fun challenge.

Items and Masks

I have no idea, how they will reorganize the item menu with all these many items. Maybe they will keep the masks separate, but then the item selection style of Ocarina of Time 3D wouldn't work anymore. They should even save some item spots again by having the Ocarina on its own touch button and removing the three magic arrows from the menu (please let us toggle between arrows using R this time). In any case some more masks won't make the cow fat. There's some potential here and the wouldn't need to have some important functions. Sometimes a funny mask with some funny reactions from people can be reward enough. They could also turn the Shard of Agony into a mask, which glows near hidden secrets.

That's it for my Majora's Mask 3D wish list... I tried to keep it basic and as realistic as possible, because "some super boss dungeon utilizing Fierce Deity", "add four new temples" or similar probably won't happen with Nintendo. I would be surprised, if they covered even half of the list, if anything. But still I wanted to talk about the possibilities with the remake.

What would you like to see from a potential Majora's Mask 3D? Let me know in the comments!

Portal 2 meets Unreal Tournament: Deck16 Test Chamber

So, I was playing Portal 2 Coop with Canyarion from ZeldaUniverse forums lately, which got me back into the game a little bit. I first played this game in summer 2012 (Steam sale) and I even built some test chambers at the time, one of which I'm really proud of: Deck16.

It's basically a remake of the popular DeathMatch arena Deck16 or simply "Deck" from the Unreal Tournament series. Probably one of the most iconic DeathMatch maps ever made. It's focused on a lot of action, there are many turrets around, but also on recreating certain parts of the original map using conversion gel and light bridges.

It can be pretty tricky. I first released this exactly one and a half years ago and this weekend I reviewed the map, where it took me about half an hour to solve it again. I basically outsmarted myself here, lol. Today I released an update to make one of the puzzles somewhat clearer/better and I suggest everyone to check out my test chamber, if you have Portal 2, even though nothing of this has anything to do with Zelda. (We had so much Zelda stuff lately that I want to focus on some other games right now.)

You can find the test chamber here:

Deck16 @ Steam Workshop

Wow! Epic Games just shared my map on Facebook and Steam! Thanks a lot!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dawn of a New Year – 2014

Link going against a Lizalfos and a horde of Bokoblins from Skyward Sword

Let's start the year 2014 with a little preview of what will and could happen throughout the year for Zelda. We can already say for sure that this is not going to be a silent year, where Zelda takes a big pause (like in 2012), since some announcements already have been made. But there might be even more.

One of the first things will be the Zelda level for Sonic Lost World. Nothing special, but it might be interesting to see how they will incorporate elements from Zelda into a Jump'n'Run like that. Super Mario 3D Land also got an unique Zelda level during the anniversary, but that wasn't all too special.

It's also for sure that we're going to learn about the Wii U Zelda game. How is it going to look like? How is it going to play like? These questions will definitely be answered in 2014. At E3 at the latest. Maybe even earlier in another episode of Nintendo Direct. We don't know, how far they are into development, so it's hard to make any other predictions. The best bet right now is that the game is slated for a late 2015 release and that we're only getting some first impressions. But considering that Nintendo was ready to show the game half a year ago and that Nintendo likes to keep their games close to the chest these days (A Link Between Worlds got announced seven months before its release), it even might be that the game is scheduled for 2014.

It all depends on how much progress they made in the last two years. It's hard to say. With Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword they took four and even five years, but it took so long, because they kept changing directions with these games. On the other hand they made Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker both in less than two years. A three year development cycle would be the perfect middle and that's probably what they're aiming at with this new Zelda game. But it might happen that they need the typical "extra year" for quality assurance. Or because they decide to change the controls again...

But in any case the Wii U will get some new Zelda fodder with Hyrule Warriors. It's a spin-off, it's not made by Nintendo and there's lots of skepticism about this, but it still might become some entertaining filler material. And it will get released in 2014, so the Wii U is slowly becoming more and more interesting for Zelda fans, even with the new Zelda game still on the horizon.

Zelda fighting Fox with a Phantom

And I should not forget about the new Super Smash Bros., which will be released in 2014 for both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. We already saw Link, Toon Link, and Zelda as characters, but also the Skull Kid and maybe a Phantom as assist trophies (the Phantom might be a new move of Zelda though). Skyloft, Gerudo Valley and the Spirit Train have been shown as Zelda stages and there's probably more. Maybe even new fighters from the Zelda series.

The Nintendo 3DS has already received its big share of Zelda love in 2013 with the excellent A Link Between Worlds. I'm positive that Nintendo will definitely be working on a follow-up to A Link Between Worlds, the engine and everything is way too good to not be used again in a second Zelda game. However, if they're producing a sequel, it won't be ready until 2015, so that's nothing to be concerned about in 2014. However, there's still the possibility for DLC. Fans (including myself) have been asking for boss battle and online battle modes and maybe Nintendo might consider this. A Link Between Worlds has just been released in Japan last week, so things are still going there and DLC for A Link Between Worlds might happen in the near future.

What also has been on the mind of both the developers and fans lately is Majora's Mask. There are quite some references to the game in A Link Between Worlds and the Skull Kid recently got announced as an Assist Trophy for the next Smash Bros. On the side of the fans this recent video shows how the people are still deeply fascinated with the world of Majora's Mask. And one of the most common posts on the A Link Between Worlds Miiverse community is about Majora's Mask 3D, usually with a screenshot of Majora's Mask in Link's house...

And I'd say that there's a fair chance that we get Majora's Mask 3D in 2014. Grezzo, the team that made Ocarina of Time 3D and the Anniversary Edition of Four Swords, finished their last project in June with the StreetPass Garden game. Their current project is unknown, but I wouldn't be all too surprised, if Nintendo announced Majora's Mask 3D for next summer. The timing is perfect.