Sunday, January 31, 2016

Remaking Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks

While replaying Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks it became very apparent to me that these two games are going to be the next big Zelda remakes, maybe even made by Grezzo. I know that a lot of Zelda fans are probably sick of remakes / remasters by now, especially Twilight Princess HD seems somewhat unnecessary at the moment, but it's also partly our own fault, since we literally begged for Majora's Mask 3D to happen. Anyway, I'm not talking about this generation, but about the next with the NX and whatever there may come. Right now you can still play these games on both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, so there's no direct demand. We all want Zelda U next and if we get bored in a couple of years, let us have these.


The current Wii U versions certainly do tell their age. The Nintendo DS wasn't really great for 3D graphics starting with an entire lack of shading and quite pixelated 3D visuals. When I rode the train in Spirit Tracks, I constantly imagined, how the beautiful the game world would look like in a 3D or HD remake. Of all Zelda games these two certainly would require the graphics update the most, since early 3D graphics didn't age well, unlike 2D sprite graphics, which still look fine today.


A lot of Zelda fans also probably would wish for optional button controls and especially after coming from Tri Force Heroes I also felt the urge to play these games with the GamePad in my hands. However, while an analog stick or slide pad certainly offers the same precision as the touchscreen controls, it would not offer the same speed. This is very obvious with the archery minigames, where there's no way that you would be able to pull off a high score with button controls. You really need that point and click speed.

But for the most part I could see the games working with button controls, at least during topdown view. The boat and train rides on the other hand were really developed around touch, but even there I could imagine that you would steer with the left analog stick, view around with right stick and precisely aim with the gyroscope. That could work just fine.

This way you could also play the games on a 3D screen...

Treasure System

This needs to change so badly. There's an annoying level of grinding required in both games, if you want to complete your collections of Ship Parts and Train Cars. And fighting a random number generator is usually not the best use of your gaming time. In Phantom Hourglass the massive size of the collection was an issue, where getting the last few parts could take a while, while in Spirit Tracks they improved the system, but made some treasures super rare for you, so you would have to trade with others.

But Phantom Hourglass should simply follow the approach of Spirit Tracks. Instead of finding the Ship Parts everywhere, you simply buy them from treasures. The best place would be the Treasure Teller in Mercay:

It makes a lot of sense. He has the money and the goods, while he lives right next to Mercay's shipyard. This certainly makes more sense than finding gigantic Ship Parts in small chests... Just replace all those with treasures, which you then use to buy the Ship Parts.

In the game one treasure corresponds to one set of Ship Parts in their values. Like this:

  • Pink Coral ↔ Bright Parts
  • White Pearl Loop ↔ Iron Parts
  • Black Pearl Loop ↔ Stone Parts
  • Zora Scale ↔ Vintage Parts
  • Goron Amber ↔ Demon Parts
  • Ruto Crown ↔ Tropical Parts
  • Helmaroc Feather ↔ Tourist Parts
  • Regal Ring ↔ Golden Parts

And I wouldn't go for crazy prices like in Spirit Tracks, since there are so many Ship Parts. I would simply make it so that one treasure gives you a Ship Part of the corresponding set. So, from a Ruto Crown you can get a new tropical part. And from a Regal Ring you earn a golden part. That way you won't keep getting duplicates like in the original, where you might find five Golden Chimneys in a row, but not that Golden Wheel that you still need. Here you simply would get another gold part, as soon as you find another Regal Ring. And if you've already completed the gold set, you can still sell the Regal Rings for 1500 Rupees, which was their original use.

In Spirit Tracks they just have to get rid of the random rare treasures per savegame. Treasures of the same price should all have the same chance of appearing. This already would improve and fasten things a lot.

But additionally they should also add more spots, where you can find a specific treasure. The game already has this partly: you can get Stalfos Skulls from killing Stalfos, you can get Bee Larva from destroying bee hives and you will always get a Regal Ring in the Lost at Sea Station. They could do more than that, e.g. scoring high in the Goron Target Range always gives you Goron Amber. Something that makes sense.

Ship Parts and Train Cars Abilities

Tri Force Heroes showed that appearances alone don't matter: the outfits in the game might look interesting, but they most importantly give you different abilities. And this could even be adapted here in various ways by completing a set of Ship Parts and Train Cars.

So, each completed set would offer a certain perk next to the additional hearts. These could be things like:

  • Enhanced Speed
  • Big Cannonballs
  • Triple Cannonballs
  • Scaring Enemies
  • Higher Jumps (PH)
  • Quicker Salvaging (PH)
  • Happier Passengers (ST)
  • Freight Protection (ST)

For example Demon Ship and the Dragon Train scare enemies away, so you won't get attacked as often by pirates and the like. The Iron Ship and Skull Train could offer stronger cannons, while the Cake Train makes its passengers extra happy, so you don't lose points as easily. Stuff like that.

Other Improvements

Since improving the game flow was a big thing in all Zelda remakes so far, the Nintendo DS Zelda games certainly wouldn't be an exception. I guess, the Temple of the Ocean King is the first thing that would come to mind for many Zelda fans, but I personally enjoy it the way it is. They could add more midway points though. Some people only have an issue with repeating sections, so let them skip them. I never use the midway point, because I want to use shortcuts for an optimal time, but I wouldn't mind the option.

But I personally would look more into Spirit Tracks when it comes to improving things, starting with the slow train rides. Just make it faster, problem solved. Add a 3rd gear and maybe a 2nd reverse gear. And maybe even add some of these insane Tears of Light on the overworld for light speed travel. Those could even be unlocked by Force Gems and new tracks, since some of the additional tracks are quite useless. Naturally the boat in Phantom Hourglass also could need an additional gear, but thanks to the teleporting the boat rides are not as tedious already...

The whole Phantom mechanics in Spirit Tracks could also be smoother. Maybe add a way to control the Phantom directly, instead of just drawing paths. The Phantom should also be faster and less prone to run into obstacles.

With Phantom Hourglass I would also want the fishing to be improved, so it's less random, especially getting a Stowfish. Spirit Tracks on the other hand needs a bigger Rabbit Net, which you should get after collecting 10 Rabbits or so. The minigame is way too annoying the way it is...

Additonal Features

Hero Mode from the start. Clear thing. Easy Zelda games are too easy.

With Phantom Hourglass they could also add something similar to the "Take 'Em All On!" challenge, where you fight lots of enemies and have a way to rebattle all bosses again. Don't lock it behind amiibo though...


Eren Jaeger said...

Just my opinion, but I'd much prefer a remake of aLttP, LA, or the Oracles using ALBW's updated engine, and while we may not share the same opinion, I don't think LA and OoX aged well at all.

TourianTourist said...

Well, with the 2D games you would end up with actual remakes or even completely new games. You know, what happens, if you let Nintendo remake A Link to the Past? You get something like A Link Between Worlds, that's what happens. Oracle of Seasons even used to be a remake of the NES The Legend of Zelda... :-D

So far all the Zelda "remakes" were more in the remaster territory, polished re-releases with enhanced graphics and features, true to the original game. This is where I can imagine the Nintendo DS Zelda games next.

Something like "A Link to the Past 3D" still might be possible, considering the engine. That's something Grezzo could easily do on the sidelines. But remakes of the GBC Zelda games might not stay true to the original, I fear.

Also, with the Oracle games there will be at least some issues with the rights of the music... There's a reason, why you don't get songs from the Capcom games at Zelda Symphony or in the Tri Force Heroes music balls...

TourianTourist said...

Also, I have replayed both the Nintendo DS and all the GBC Zelda games in the last two months. And while I constantly pictured remakes of the NDS games, it never occurred to me that the GBC Zelda games are in need of an updated version. They have aged very well in my opinion.

There's certainly some things to improve, e.g. the need of a password system, but I overall find them still to be quite enjoyable.

Eren Jaeger said...

Isn't the point of them being titled remakes the fact that they're remakes, though? The FF7 remake is a complete departure from the original gameplay, but that isn't a bad thing, it looks way better than the original. Nintendo has been passing things off as remakes when they're remasters for farrrrr too long, and after looking at TPHD it's just not acceptable anymore. When WWHD came out and was laggy as it was on the digital version ( I own physical and digital, the difference is definitely there) I wondered why it was so laggy. They use the exact same engines, that's why. It's nowhere near a remake, and Nintendo needs to realize that.

TourianTourist said...

If the broad term "remake" bugs you so much, I can change the title to "Remastering Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks". :-D

While I agree that they could have done more with TWWHD and TPHD, remasters are still the way for Zelda. The games are good, they just need some polishing.

Remakes of the 2D games will also always result in something new completely. Something like A Link Between Worlds. And that's understandable, because the series has evolved so much and not just the graphics are outdated, but also the gameplay. So, they change a lot and the game changes into something else entirely. Which is what happened with A Link Between Worlds.

And if they ever remake Link's Awakening, it also probably would turn into another game with the Windfish, its own story.

Eren Jaeger said...

You can easily polish a 3D game though... It's really hard to just polish a 2D game, because it limits all the possibilities of models being used, which goes back to the game consisting of sprites, which we outgrew a while back.

TourianTourist said...

Exactly...! Which is why Nintendo focuses on all these 3D / HD "remakes" on 3DS and Wii U. And which is why I think that they will do the Nintendo DS Zelda games next, because they are the perfect candidates for being remastered.

With the 2D games it's either going to be completely new experiences based on a remake attempt (A Link Between Worlds) or some enhanced port without any major graphical updates (Four Swords Anniversary Edition).

Eren Jaeger said...

But that's not anything special... Earlier, you pointed out that if you try remaking a game like ALTTP, you get ALBW... How is that a bad thing? ALTBW even started off as an ALTTP remake, but Aonuma decided to just focus on an rntirely new game as a spiritual successor, which upsets me because of how amazing a remake of ALTTP could be.
ALTTP looks nice now and the gameplay is still decent, but it could just be... Better. ALTTP is my favorite game in the franchise, but I can admit that ALBW is a superior game (save for challenge.) If they just took the bare bones like the story, gameplay, and items of ALTTP and slipped them in the skins of ALBW, it would be godly. Same with The Oracles. Imagine how badass it would be, wielding the Biggoron's Sword in 2.5D glory!

Eren Jaeger said...

Also, the DS games already have universally bad namesakes, why would Nintendo want to remake a game that is already hailed as one of the worst? :P

TourianTourist said...

What kind of argument is that? The Wind Waker also had a bad reputation, which didn't stop them from remastering this game and improving it. And there's lots of room for improvement in the NDS games, which is what my whole blog post was about. If anything, this is pure motivation for Nintendo. And believe it or not, Phantom Hourglass is in fact one of the best selling Zelda games, even outranking A Link to the Past!

And I haven't said that A Link Between Worlds was a bad thing. As an avid follower of my blog you should probably know that it's one of my absolute favorite Zelda games. It's just the way it has been with these 2D remakes by now.

An ALttP remake now would also be somewhat boring after ALBW. I'd prefer it, if ALBW had better / more challenging dungeons... And I have trouble imagining the GBC games in the ALBW engine, since it was heavily based on ALttP and the GBC games had a very different style.

K2L said...

Since my opinion of "no more remakes, please" holds zero weight in a community of fans that embrace remakes as if they were new games, I will just say that, yes, it's likely these games will be remade sometime in the future.