Monday, February 22, 2016

Tri Force Heroes: Potential Outfit Characters

This is following my post about potential outfit abilities in Tri Force Heroes, where I simply thought about what abilities could still become a thing for future outfits in the game. Now, this time let's sort of do the opposite and think about, what characters from the The Legend of Zelda series could be turned into costumes for Toon Link. He already does a cosplay of Darunia, a Zora, Zelda, Tingle, the Lady and even a Hammer Bros. And in the first DLC they added Fierce Deity Link and Linebeck, both offering quite the amount of fan service. And something tells me that this is what they will keep doing in future DLC.

Here are some things that I could imagine or would like to see:

  • Cucco
  • Ganondorf
  • Great Fairy
  • Groose
  • Postman
  • Ravio
  • Retro Link
  • Skull Kid

I already mentioned the Ganondorf idea in my previous post as a potential reward for a Boss Rush. Toon Link dressed up as Ganondorf could look glorious and I'd imagine that he keeps a tiny trident instead of a sword. Link already dresses as Zelda, so it makes sense to also offer a Ganondorf costume to complete the trio. I'm not entirely sure what kind of abilities a Ganondorf costume would offer, maybe something shooting fireballs... But this should be different from sword beams, since we're already having three outfits with that.

A Postman outfit would be great as well, where the ability to hold onto things, even if you get hit, would be a nice fit. This idea comes from DJLazerBreakfast on Reddit and I really like it. The ability certainly would be helpful in the "Don't drop the pot" challenges or whenever you fight in totem formation.

I keep mentioning the Great Fairy outfit, simply because it used to be a thing in development, but it also showed that originally the game used to have the classic Link from A Link Between Worlds. Toon Link was the better choice stylistically, but they still could add a costume, which makes you look like Retro Link, simply by using the model from A Link Between Worlds. This would be similar to the Timeless Tunic and I'm not sure, what it should do besides changing the music again.

I thought about having a costume, where Link has a shield and automatically uses it, much like he did in the first three Zelda games. But that's basically what the Serpent Toga already is doing and I still think a shield would be best implemented as an item, where you would have a new outfit that upgrades your shield to Hylian Shield levels.

Not really a character, but probably a nice idea is the Cucco Costume, which lets you fly without holding a Cucco. And whenever an enemy hits you multiple time, it will summon a short Cucco Revenge Squad to hit the enemy. As a bonus, glass and ice floors won't crumble, since you are a light weight. I already had similar ideas in the past, where I thought about a "Roc Suit", but this is now probably more fleshed out.

Groose, Ravio and Skull Kid would make great costumes, where I'm completely undecided about the abilities. Groose could throw stuff further and with Ravio you'd expect something with Rupees, but we already have that...

I still do expect that we're going to get four more DLC outfits and if I had to decide, I would probably go for Ganondorf, the Postman, the Great Fairy and the Cucco.

Tri Force Heroes: Anniversary Area Ideas

Following my previous post about the Realm of Memories I still hope that they will also add something similar to Tri Force Heroes for the 30th Anniversary. It shouldn't be the exact same thing, of course, because recycling old graphics and areas wouldn't work well in Tri Force Heroes. It should follow the simpler level designs and you want those pretty visuals. Also, there already exists lots of stuff from A Link to the Past in the game, e.g. bosses like Arrghus or Moldorm, since it was based on A Link Between Worlds. So, having new levels based on A Link to the Past wouldn't add much. But I imagine that having levels in a reminiscent style of the original NES dungeons could feel fresh. Something like the Royal Tomb in The Minish Cap, where they played the classic underworld music and sounds, but it still fit into the game well.

The dungeons in Tri Force Heroes and A Link Between Worlds all got these polished looks, like the bad guys are constantly scrubbing all the walls. But this actually fits the NES dungeon visuals very well, all you need are the more vivid colors for the rooms. Add the classic underworld tune and you would feel like getting a remake of The Legend of Zelda on the 3DS. I could even imagine to have one new area solely dedicated on first game, instead of going through several games again. After all we're celebrating the birthday of the first game...

There could be two levels on the overworld and two in the underworld, which alternates betweeb overworld, underworld, overworld and underworld, so it feels like playing two classic dungeons. For the overworld part they could bring back more enemies from A Link Between Worlds, like Lynel and Armos for a Death Mountain section.

And to make things more interesting in the dungeons, they could even remake at least one of the classic bosses, where I feel like Gleeock would be the perfect candidate:

They could use his three-headed form and make it so that every head is in a different color, where only the Link in the same color can attack the head. Since this game works with depth, the heads would also change their heights, so that the Links would have to use the totem mechanic to adept. Of course this is nothing the game already hasn't done, but as a surprise comeback boss it certainly would be a nice addition.

Manhandla could work as well, but they already used her for both Four Swords games, where it would be a little bit boring to do the same thing again. Also, the Dum Dum boss ("Prismantus") already is reminiscent of Manhandla in a way. Gleeock would feel a little bit more special.

I would also love to see Aquamentus again and even he could be interesting for this game. I imagine a boss fight, where the camera is up front, similar to Blizzagia, and you see how Aquamentus comes marching forward towards you. You have to totem up to attack his head with sword beams or items, but he shoots fireballs at you to destroy the totem. He could be the middle boss of the 2nd level, while Gleeock gets to be the area's boss in level 4.

Getting new bosses might even explain the lack of a Boss Gauntlet so far. They will add this in the end, when all bosses are in the game. So, in a final update they could add a Boss Rush as a 2nd level to the Den of Trials, where you fight all bosses from the game in succession. The level would be divided in zones like the original Den of Trials, so it doesn't get too frustrating.

A fitting reward for the Boss Rush would be a King of Darkness costume, which gives Link the armor, cape and hairstyle of Ganondorf and replaces the sword with a tiny Trident. I could easily picture an outfit like this - it would look glorious and add a lot to the humor of the game. However, I don't have any good ideas for its abilities, except for shooting energy balls.

The Anniversary Area on the other hand would offer a set of new materials, which are used to craft new outfits at Madame Couture's. This could include the Great Fairy outfit for example.

Replaying the Realm of Memories

The 2nd best thing to play for the 30th Anniversary right after the original The Legend of Zelda is the Zelda game that actually has "Anniversary" right there in the title: Four Swords Anniversary Edition. This game got released for free on Nintendo DSi and 3DS during the 25th Anniversary, as well as for a short time two years ago in North America. I can only hope that it will be released again this year during the 30th Anniversary for anyone, who originally has missed the game.

For the 30th Anniversary I want to replay as many Zelda games as possible, but with both Four Swords and Tri Force Heroes I doubt that I will replay them from start to finish. There's no real need, since you can replay every level anytime anyway. In addition replaying levels always adds to a savegame: in Tri Force Heroes you can keep collecting materials, while Four Swords Anniversary Edition has a six digit Rupee counter. Mine is currently at 500,000 Rupees, which is a lot and got accumulated by playing the levels over and over again. But I'd rather increase my numbers in an existing savegame, instead of creating a redundant new one. The exception might be, if this game really gets re-released and I decide to play it on one of my other 3DS systems.

Replaying Four Swords Adventures on the other hand would be different, because the game has cutscenes and dialogues that you only get to view on your first time playing through the game. And there's nothing much to add after you've completed the levels, save for having 99 Force Fairies. (Which is why I love the challenges and outfits in Tri Force Heroes, it adds personal progress and keeps you playing for a while.) But I hope that I will be able to play Four Swords Adventures in multiplayer later this year, where I will have a new experience with the game.

Anyway, for now I just decided to go through the Realm of Memories again, the levels dedicated to the Anniversary, where you play through areas of A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening and The Hyrule Fantasy covered in graphics and music from these games. It wouldn't be the first time that I've replayed these levels just for fun, but it's the first time after playing Tri Force Heroes, which opened a new chapter in the Zelda multiplayer games and which I have played a lot recently.

At the beginning I even had trouble adopting back to the singleplayer mechanics of Four Swords. I was more inclined to beat the level the way it's supposed to be done in multiplayer, instead of abusing the "call" mechanic. I even picked up the 2nd Link to carry him around at first. Which is an interesting development, after I felt like Tri Force Heroes was lacking some important singleplayer features from this game. Now the warping actually feels like cheating to me. There still should be something like a "follow" command in Tri Force Heroes, but the other Links shouldn't warp through walls.

And I have to say that GREZZO certainly improved on the level design, when you compare both games directly. It got a lot simpler and more straightforward, but I feel like their levels in Four Swords were very tiresome. The floors are quite large and while the course is usually linear, it's very intertwined throughout the entire area, which makes you feel like you're going back and forth. It's also overusing the enemy switches, where every player steps on a switch, doors get closed and you have to fight some waves on enemies. Tri Force Heroes still has this mechanic, but it usually dedicates its own floors to this, instead of doing it all the time. Overall the levels in Tri Force Heroes are much shorter, but they always give you the feeling that playing one more level is okay. If you keep saying "just one more game", it's multiplayer done right. GREZZO's levels in Four Swords on the other hand just make me want to quit after a while.

It's even worse with the Hero's Trial, which I will save for a later date. These levels are so diabolical and exhausting that I really have to be in the mood for some big challenge, much like with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. And the Hero's Trial levels are so long, I couldn't ever imagine playing them online with people. Which is why the Den of Trials in Tri Force Heroes got divided in so many zones with entry points...

But overall the additional levels for Four Swords were a good idea and I can only hope that Tri Force Heroes will get some special Anniversary levels as well. It would be very fitting.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Replaying The Legend of Zelda on the 3DS

Happy 30th Anniversary, The Legend of Zelda!!!

To celebrate I played through the entire game again on my Nintendo 3DS:

And for the first time ever I completed the game without dying. Saving in the game also counts as a Game Over, so I never attempted this in the past, because I don't like to play this game in one sitting. While it is as short as Link's Awakening, it's also a lot harder and I like to take pauses here and there. Now, on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console you have both Return and Restore Points to help you out, so there was no excuse of not trying a deathless run for the first time.

Update: I was mistaken on several accounts here. Unlike its successors Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and A Link to the Past, saving does in fact not count as a Game Over in the original The Legend of Zelda. I've also already managed to beat the game without dying both on GBA and the Wii, so this was not the first time.

In addition I also wanted it to be a thorough and complete 100% run. Leave no stone unturned. The goals for such a 100% run were the following:

  • Get all items and upgrades (duh)
  • Get full 16 Heart Containers
  • Open every cave on the overworld
  • Get map and compass in every dungeon
  • Explore every dungeon room to complete the Start menu map
  • Clear every dungeon room with rewards (Keys, Rupees, Bombs)

It's quite the task and I did, however, use solution maps pretty much the entire time, as I've already talked about with the Zelda Randomizer. This saved me the frustration of checking every tree and wall, but it also took away part of the challenge and exploration. I still have a blank copy of the game on my Wii U Virtual Console and I've decided for the next time, where I play through this game, that I will do it without any maps. But then I will most likely settle for getting all the important items and upgrades, instead of doing a thorough 100% run again

It's not that rewarding anyway, since you don't get to keep your savegames. It will always go to the beginning of the 2nd Quest, as soon as you beat the game. Your only option is stopping right before Zelda, if you want to keep your savegame as it is...

With later Zelda games I enjoy having a 100% savegame around. You can return there, if you want to travel through the game world, try out all the things, replay minigames and so on. It's a nice thing to have and to show off. With NES Zelda games on the other hand there's nothing much to do in a completed savegame. But they make up for it by having immense replay value.

And I enjoyed playing through The Legend of Zelda a lot! I'm not only saying this, because it is its birthday. I'm not too fond of most NES games, but this one I've always liked. I originally played it on the NES back in 1999 and at the time I was fascinated by what gameplay elements, items and enemies already existed in the first game. Before that I only knew the game from Club Nintendo magazine articles... So, there's some nostalgia involved, but I also feel like it has the right level of challenge without ever becoming too frustrating, unlike Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. (I would never attempt a deathless run in that game. I even calculate exactly, how far I can get with my three lives and what I can achieve before the inevitable "Game Over - Return of Ganon" screen.)

Anyway, while replaying I've also noticed some things that I want to return in Zelda. One is the boss breath - whenever you're next to the boss chamber, it makes that heavy breathing sound. It's atmospheric and something that didn't return in any later Zelda game. It's also just a part of a bigger picture, where the dungeons are mazes and not constructed step by step puzzle chores. The puzzle was getting to the boss, especially in the 2nd Quest, where the path to the boss could be very well hidden. And without a compass the boss breath was a nice indicator that you're getting close to your goal.

Another thing are interchangeable keys. Starting with A Link to the Past keys became only usable in the dungeons, where you found them. But in the NES classics you have this interesting mechanic, where you can just take a key from one dungeon and use it in another. This can be useful to retrieve a dungeon item earlier. It lets you explore more difficult dungeons for a bit without the need to fight strong enemies for keys. You could even buy keys, if you want some paid shortcuts, though I never did this. However, it's something I would like to see Nintendo try again in a future Zelda game... Maybe even Zelda U might be doing this...

What Zelda U might also do again, is using powerful enemies as obstacles instead of artificial obstacles, where you need an item to progress. With the exception of two islands the entire overworld in The Legend of Zelda can be explored right from the start. There are some shortcuts, which are created by the Power Bracelet and the Ladder, but overall there are no real boundaries. Still, you get a good feeling for where you belong early on, because areas like Death Mountain are so difficult that your chances of survival are very low, unless you're really good at the game. It would be interesting to see Zelda U do something similar. The further you go, the more often you get hunted down by mighty creatures...

Also, sword beams are essential in this game, not just a nice bonus of a stronger sword. You can shoot beams with every sword in the game at full health and the beams will deal the same damage as your sword and not just the minimum. Without the distance attacks the game becomes a lot more difficult, since your sword has short reach and it's easy to get hit by the enemies, especially the devastating Darknuts. Sword beams make fighting so much easier, which is why you want to keep full health as long as possible.

In the remaining post I will talk about my approach on a deathless run. It's not rocket science, since it's not a swordless run or any similar challenge, but mainly with the 2nd Quest I felt it would be interesting to take note of my steps.

1st Quest

Well, this is rather trivial, so I would cut things short. Right in the start of the game you can already become very powerful. Before you enter Level 1 or any other dungeon, you can find three more Heart Containers, get the White Sword, get the Letter, buy Medicine, buy the Blue Candle, the Blue Ring, the Magical Shield, the Arrow and more.

All these items already turn you into quite the powerful force. I then just went for the dungeons in their intended order. Nothing too special here.

2nd Quest

Now, the 2nd Quest is a little bit more interesting. You can't just go and grab three Heart Containers plus the White Sword right away, since most Heart Containers require some item to get them. The only Heart Container that is free to get lies on the graveyard, but good luck with getting there alive. And the dungeons are a lot tougher than in the 1st Quest, so you want to be prepared as much as possible.

Keep in mind that this was supposed to be a deathless run. So, I couldn't just storm in somewhere, go for the desired item, save the game (or get killed) and repeat. I also had to return alive! You always have to plan your next steps.

One essential strategy in the 2nd Quest is "item scooping". Instead of going through the entire dungeon at once, you only go for its main item and then return later, after you've become more powerful. This works well, because many of the dungeons in the 2nd Quest offer their item very early on, sometimes even in the first few rooms. As soon as you've collected enough items, you can start actually beating the dungeon.

In the beginning there isn't much that you can do:

  • buy Blue Candle
  • collect 100 Rupees in the west forest
  • buy Magical Shield
  • get Boomerang in Level 1
  • collect and grind Rupees for Blue Ring
  • buy Blue Ring
  • complete Level 1 (+1 Heart Container)

The Boomerang in Level 1 is in the room right next to the entrance, so it's easy enough to get and it helps you with grinding Rupees and Bombs in the woods, because you can stun the Moblins. As soon as you got Bombs and the Blue Ring, you can complete the rest of Level 1 and collect your first additional Heart Container. The following step in Level 2 is probably one of the more difficult ones and you certainly want all the health for that:

  • get Flute in Level 2
  • collect Heart Container from desert
  • buy Arrow
  • collect White Sword
  • buy Food
  • get Magical Boomerang in Level 3
  • complete Level 3 (+1 Heart Container)

The 2nd Quest's Level 3 is one of the easier dungeons in the entire game, so this is the next dungeon for completion. You have to beat some Triple Dodongos to score, but with some practice they are not too bad and you want that Heart Container, because the next steps bring you on dangerous Death Mountain grounds...

  • cross the Lost Woods (never had to do this in 1st Quest)
  • collect Heart Container at Graveyard
  • get Power Bracelet
  • collect Heart Container near Spectacle Rock
  • get the Letter
  • teleport to safety
  • buy Medicine

This is the turn point. Getting the Letter in the 2nd Quest is like getting the Hammer in Zelda II. Suddenly the world feels open to you and you have many more options, because the big increase in health lets you travel a lot further and even face some more dangers. And as I've already said, many of the dungeons in the 2nd Quest offer their item very early on, which is why I just go in the dungeon, get the item, leave the dungeon and focus on something else, while using the advantages of the new item. So, these are the next steps:

  • get Stepladder from Level 6
  • collect Heart Container at East Coast
  • get Magical Rod from Level 8
  • complete Level 2 (+1 Heart Container)
  • get Book of Magic in Level 4
  • collect Bomb upgrade in Level 4
  • beat Level 4 boss (+1 Heart Container)
  • get the Raft in Level 4

The Raft part is a little bit tricky. If you don't have enough bombs left before Digdogger, you can't get to the Raft, since the Dodongos will block your way. But the dungeon also traps you in its upper half and since I couldn't kill myself to get out of there, I had no choice but to fight Digdogger. And if you return there later to get the raft, you can't simply use the Triforce to warp yourself out. But there is a one-way walkthrough wall in the Triforce room, which puts you back in the 1st half, but you also have to survive a room full of Blue Darknuts to get out... yikes.

  • get Heart Container on island
  • get Magical Sword
  • get Red Candle in Level 7

I also wanted to beat Level 7 at this point, but there's a Gohma in the way, so you need to play Level 5 first. Also, Blue Darknuts are not my friends, even though they are easier to deal with the Magical Sword. But it's best to have some more bombs ready. And both Level 5 and Level 6 have a Wizzrobe infestation problem, which can be deadly as well, though I personally hate (Blue) Darknuts the most.

Level 8 on the other hand mostly has Goriyas, which are the easiest to deal with of all these candidates. This dungeon still used to be challenging with its Triple Dodongos and the evil rooms filled with only Red Bubbles to take your sword away until you touch a Blue Bubble in some other room, but Restore Points really make that tolerable. In addition it has some more useful upgrades to get. And this is why I played Level 8 next and my remaining course looked like this:

  • get the Magic Key in Level 8
  • collect the Bomb Upgrade in Level 8
  • complete Level 8 (+1 Heart Container)
  • get the Bow in Level 5
  • complete Level 5 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 6 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 7 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 9

In any case this felt like the right order. Level 8 was certainly the easiest out of the remaining dungeons and Level 7 the hardest. But it's interesting, how the Bow ended up to be one of the last items that I got during my run, while in the 1st Quest you get the Bow quite early on in Level 1.

But this is it. Happy 30th Anniversary, everyone!! I can only suggest to play this game today.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Legend of Zelda Wii U on NX?

Will Nintendo's new system launch in 2016 and will the new Zelda be on it?

This seems to be the popular question at the moment, especially with rumors like this one. After I shared a similar rumor story last year, it would be presumptuous to completely deny it. Also, my guts tell me that this will very likely happen, because I personally don't have a good feeling about this and it's certainly a blow to all Wii U adopters. Nintendo is currently desperate to make money and they do it on the expanse of their fans.

And since the new Zelda game uses Cel Shading, it's technically very possible that it will get ported on a more powerful system for higher resolutions without any loss in visual quality. It really depends on what the NX will be and what kind of input it will feature. Skyward Sword could have been a Wii U launch title as well, but ultimately it didn't really fit the Wii U GamePad, while the new Zelda was developed around this thing.

Still, if Nintendo releases a new home console in 2016 with the right setup, it's very like that it's also getting the new The Legend of Zelda as a launch title, much like with Twilight Princess on both GameCube and Wii ten years ago. The big difference is that the Wii U never really got its exclusive Zelda game. Even without Twilight Princess the GameCube felt like a very satisfying machine for Zelda fans. It did have The Wind Waker, Master Quest and Four Swords Adventures, while with the Collector's Edition and the GameBoy Player you could play all Zelda games on one system. It was nice to have a GameCube in any case and at the time it only angered fans like me that the Wii version of Twilight Princess came out weeks earlier.

The Wii U on the other hand only got two Zelda remasters, one of which is probably Nintendo's laziest excuse to make money ever. There is also Hyrule Warriors, where I ultimately felt like the Wii U was worth the purchase, since I put hundreds of hours into this gem. But it's not something for every Zelda fan and the truth is that the next console will probably have an even better Hyrule Warriors 2, where you didn't miss anything.

And this leads to a problematic conclusion: you could have skipped the Wii U. Three years ago Nintendo made the Wii U tempting for Zelda fans with the Wind Waker HD and the Limited Wind Waker Edition release of the console, as well as the promise of getting a new amazing Zelda game. It's now three years later and they still haven't delivered. Of course we will get our Zelda game on Wii U this year, but there also might be a better version for a better system, which in worst case even gets released earlier that the Wii U version. And this will anger all those, who have bought the Wii U in good faith and in anticipation of Zelda.

Nintendo abandoning the Wii U this year could be a mistake. Even the GameCube, which used to be Nintendo's least successful system before the Wii U, was worth it. It had many great new games like Metroid Prime. And that's the key factor. The games! The Wii U might have had bad marketing, a bad name and what not, but ultimately the games count. And here lies the Wii U's main problem.

On first glance the Wii U might have had a good share of good games, but most of them were just the newest version of what we already got on other Nintendo systems. The Wii U was also actively competing with the Nintendo 3DS, because with the Wii U GamePad it shared a handheld gaming mentality, while the Nintendo 3DS focused a lot on 3D gaming. The result were many similar games like New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U, Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World, or even ports like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends...

At least with the The Legend of Zelda main series they are keeping the games different between handheld and console, where the 3DS right now is certainly the preferable choice, because it actually got good new Zelda games next to good remakes. And overall the Nintendo 3DS and its games are just "good enough" for many people. Why invest in an expansive home console, if a cheaper handheld can deliver the same things? At the same time there are people, who still play on their Wii, because its Wii Sports and Mario Kart Wii are still "good enough".

This is why the Wii U has failed so far and at least with titles like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker Nintendo seemed to change tack. And it would be important to keep this up. Games like The Legend of Zelda should give people a good reason to buy the Wii U, but if it's also available on the NX right away, the Wii U will die on the spot. In fact rumors like these are already hurting the Wii U quite a lot, since there are certainly people holding out for Zelda. With these rumors going on, it would be stupid to buy a Wii U right now, while games like Metroid Prime 4 might not even come to Wii U. And this will set an example, where it's clear that not every Nintendo system will be worth it. Not every Nintendo system will fully deliver.

We're already at a mentality, where it's best not to buy at launch and to wait as long as possible, because otherwise you will be faced with a better model or a shiny Zelda Limited Edition later on and regret your early purchase. Nintendo was making early adopters unhappy for years. Now Nintendo will also cement the thought that you can and should skip every 2nd Nintendo system. And while The Legend of Zelda U on the NX might be better for the NX and even increase the sales of the new Zelda, which probably was one of Nintendo's most expansive games ever, it will hurt Nintendo in the long run.

The solution? Don't push a new console in 2016. Give the Wii U powerful must-have games in 2016 like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid Prime 4 to make the Wii U owners happy and make others want to buy a Wii U. And then release the new console in 2017 with Super Smash Bros. for NX and a port of The Legend of Zelda U as launch titles. I feel like this would be the better and more promising scenario. They could even use the year to improve Zelda U like adding a 2nd Quest to the game (if it didn't have one already). And then they could focus on working on a sequel right away.

For the game of course it's best, if it also appears on the new console in any case. The better it sells, the better it is for the future of the Zelda franchise. We don't want Zelda to end like Metroid and The Legend of Zelda alone can't save the Wii U.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Harvest Moon GB

For the GameBoy Color I had exactly four games: Link's Awakening DX, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages and Harvest Moon GB. One of these is the odd one out...

Actually it's not even that odd, because it still uses the same overheard perspective as the GBC Zelda games. Back in the day I even imagined, how it would be to have a hybrid of both games. Like settling on Koholinth and starting your own farm there, while you still go and explore dungeons, kill monsters, etc. - I know that games like this exists by now, where I mostly got my fix from Minecraft, but I also like to take a trip down memory lane.

Which is probably why I own the four exact same games on the 3DS Virtual Console and just for the old times' sake I had returned to this game as well, when I replayed all the GBC Zeldas earlier this year. Harvest Moon GB a watered down version of the vastly superior Super Nintendo Harvest Moon, but at the time I didn't have a Super Nintendo, so I didn't really care about that. It wasn't until years later that I discovered the beauty of the SNES version on emulators and the Wii Virtual Console.

By now Harvest Moon has become a big franchise with the latest outlets being Story of Seasons on the 3DS, but I've personally only ever played the originals, Harvest Moon on the SNES and this one. I've never really gotten into any of the sequels, because for me they lacked the unique charm of the originals. It's the farm, the characters in town and the music that have really grown on me. I'm sure that some of the sequels might be very good, but when I play Harvest Moon, I do it for the retro feels.

And this would actually be the first time that I will have completed the game for the GBC. Back in school we used to borrow GameBoy games a lot. And since this game only had one save, I lost all my progress a couple of times. It also consumes the battery a lot faster with the timer feature, so eventually the battery died and I never bothered with the game again. Luckily that's not an issue on the Virtual Console.

And they even managed to keep the timer features on the VC in tact, though they are only important to upgrade your Sickle and Hoe. You give those to the dwarfs in the cave below your farm and they tell you to return in 12 and 24 hours respectively. You would assume that this means ingame time, but it actually means real time. You have to activate the timer feature and turn the game off for 24 hours. When I originally played the game, I didn't have internet access, so I actually had to call Nintendo's hotline to figure this out!

Another cryptic thing was that you get different crops in Fall and Winter based on your ingame name. You have to start it with a symbol to get all possible crops, so I'm ❤TT in the game... which can be funny in the conversations with the town's folks.

Anyway, this is how I've organized my farm:

It's exactly 1671 squares of plowed soil, while you need 1600 squares to "win" the game. I planted all the grass, because it looks nice and because you can easily make so much money to afford it. But actually the small patches of grass next to your house and the tool shed are more than enough to feed your animals. The giant field of grass to the east is on the farm expansion, which you receive after the first year, where the fence marks the original border.

The 21 crop fields in the southwest are, where the magic happens. I put them there, because they are close to the shipping bin, which is important early in the game, before you get the horse and saddle (where you can put in the crops alternatively). But they are arranged in a way, where you can efficiently water them with the Sprinkler and harvest them with the horse in a short time. This is especially interesting with the regrowing Tomatoes and Broccoli in Summer and Winter. You can easily farm more than half of it and water all of it in a day and then repeat the next day to get a nice farming cycle, where you reach the full 99999 Gold in a short time and ultimately dominate the game.

Winning the game was another mystery back in the day, because the requirements weren't exactly transparent. You need:

  • 1600 squares of plowed soil
  • 4500 shipped items
  • 65536 Gold
  • 250 Happiness (out of 255)
  • Six Power Berries
  • Four adults of each animal
  • Largest house

Especially the happiness rating isn't exactly clear and there is many misinformation about all of this on the internet. Many of the guides just tell you wrong things. I found that this Ushi no Tane site is pretty good and accurate, but it does not cover the happiness rating. Luckily there's one post on GameFAQs, where someone looked into this with interesting results of what increases and decreases happiness. Simply put, as long as your cows don't get sold, sick or dead, you're fine. The church offers a way to gamble with your happiness (lol), which you can use, if you should fall short, but by the end of the 2nd year you should have reached the maximum by normal activities anyway. You don't even have to attend any of the celebrations like Christmas.

The happiness of cows is another example, where the guides are misleading. Most guides will tell you to feed, brush, milk, walk and talk to them every day, however, only the feeding is purely necessary, so they won't get unhappy or sick. Everything else just boosts the happiness of a cow, but is optional. I wish, I would have known this 16 years ago, because now I found that milking them and talking to them (which is the fastest) is more than enough and saves you the other troubles, which saves quite some time. Walking them even makes them unhappy in the rain and moles might scare them. So, don't ever walk them.

Also, some guides tell you to pray in the church ten times per day every day to get blessed cow, which can't ever get sick. However, it's purely random, so you don't have to pray every day and certainly not ten times, which would be annoying.

Anyway... you can't win the first year, because it's impossible to find more than five Power Berries without the farm expansion or the Pickax, which gives you access to the west caves for mining. And by the end of year 2 you're basically done with the game. At that point I shipped over 11,000 items (this is cumulative over the years), had maximum money, planted all the grass, bought 99 of all nine seeds and all foods and so on. There was nothing left to buy, except for the occasional refill of food and drinks, which gets covered by the milk and eggs that you sell. At that point there's nothing left to do except for feeding your animals and the dwarfs each day and skip as fast as possible through the year to get the remaining rewards.

Each year you can earn something:

  • Year 1: Ranch Expansion
  • Year 2: Ranch Master Trophy + Credits
  • Year 3: Fishing Rod
  • Year 4: Pickax
  • Year 5: Umbrella

If you don't meet the Ranch Master requirements in year 2, you will get the Fishing Rod instead. You need to win in order to get the Pickax and the Umbrella the following years though. And the year, where you earn the Ranch Master trophy, you won't get any of the other items (which most guides also tell you wrong and got me worried / confused at first, because I expected the Fishing Rod).

However, collecting these rare items is only for the sake of completion. The Fishing Rod works like in Minecraft or the bobber fishing in Twilight Princess. It's slow, but also powerful, because you fish in the underground cave, where the time doesn't progress. So, you could infinitely ship things and earn endless money in one day. But you don't really need that anymore. The Pickax gives you access to the mines, where you can find more Power Berries and gold. Power Berries boost your stamina, but that's also not a concern anymore.

And the magic Umbrella lets it rain the next day, so you don't have to water your crops. However, there's no need for shipping crops anymore. And even if there would be, it's only partly helpful, because the regrow-able crops still need to be watered again, after you pluck them, even if it rains. Which is a bad oversight in this GBC game. But getting these items so late in the game is not very rewarding, so they probably should have been available on other means.

Okay, this post now turned more into a guide, but since most guides about this game tell you wrong stuff, it might be helpful for someone out there... I just felt the urge to document my discoveries about this old favorite. It's weird how you may return to some beloved games from your childhood to find some closure, but that's also what I'm doing with the Zelda games at the moment. I will return blogging about Zelda soon.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Zelda Randomizer

While I'm currently replaying The Legend of Zelda on the 3DS Virtual Console, I find myself being too reliant on solution maps. I constantly check, where everything can be found, to plan my playthrough efficiently. It keeps me alive in the game and it gets stuff done, but it's also more boring and takes away the exploration.

When I first played this game on the NES, I didn't have the luxury of the internet. I only had some maps that came with the Club Nintendo magazine, e.g. I had a map of Level 5, but the majority of the game I had to discover fully on my own, exploring every nook, bombing every wall, burning every tree.

And there's a way to fully get back to this level of sensation, where you explore Hyrule in its fullest. Via Kotaku I discovered the Zelda Randomizer, a nifty tool that basically creates a ROM hack for The Legend of Zelda, where it shuffles dungeon rooms, location of caves and items or enemies. It can't change the overworld layout, but everything else can be mixed up, even to create something that makes the 2nd Quest look like a walk in the park.

I gave the whole thing a try and the first result was already quite interesting. The cave in the northwest of the starting point didn't have a shop, but it gave me an extra Heart Container. Enemies around here were also a lot tougher, where I even faced Lynels on my way to the first dungeon...

Level 1 then was a giant troll. Two locked doors and one door leading into a room with an old man, but no keys. Interesting, I would have to find another dungeon first to steal some keys. Or a shop that sells them. However, navigating the overworld is so much deadlier with Lynels everywhere! On my current playthrough of the original I haven't died a single time so far, while here I easily stacked up multiple deaths within minutes.

It gives you a fresh experience, where you can explore the classic NES Hyrule anew, where you have to discover the locations of everything again. Maps won't help here.

Earlier this year I even fantasized about getting a "Random Zelda" for the 30th Anniversary, where Nintendo takes the original Zelda game and makes it so that it creates an unique world with unique dungeons on every playthrough. Or maybe even have "Zelda Maker" based on the first game.

The Zelda Randomizer isn't as powerful, but it certainly will be the most interesting way to re-experience The Legend of Zelda for the 30th Anniversary, unless Nintendo does something on their own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Let's Update A Link Between Worlds

"Let's Update" will be a new series on this blog, where I talk about hypothetical updates to Zelda games released on current systems - something like the Den of Trials update for Tri Force Heroes, but for the games that came out before. This is not really about, what I think might happen, because Nintendo is clearly done with the previous games, so they most likely won't see any updates. So, this is about, what I would have liked to see in hindsight, if the game ever got an update. But at the same time I still want it to be realistic in the realms of what Nintendo actually could have pulled off, so something like an entire 2nd Quest or new dungeons isn't exactly reasonable.

Let's start with A Link Between Worlds. What if A Link Between Worlds received an update? What would you add? How would you add it? What would you change? Other than the usual "stability improvements" and fixing of glitches, of course. (Some of this was inspired by a thread on ZeldaUniverse.)

Boss Rush Mode

I very much enjoy battling the bosses in A Link Between Worlds, so it's a shame that there's no quick way to battle them again. Every Zelda game should have such a feature and I don't understand, why Nintendo never did it again after Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword in 2011.

I would add it as another level in the Treacherous Tower. They won't let you enter it, unless you brought all items. It might also only extend to the bosses, which you've already beaten so far to prevent spoilers. And I probably would leave Yuga out of it, since his appearance there wouldn't make much sense and his boss fights are not that much fun anyway. So, it would be Moldorm, Margomill, Arrghus, Stalblind, Gemasaur King, Knucklemaster, Zaganaga, Grinexx and Dharkstare seeking revenge on you.

The reward for your troubles could be an upgrade to the Hint Glasses, which colors them blue, similar to the Super Lantern and the Super Lamp. It's the only item in the game, which didn't receive an update and it would fit the pattern. With the "Super Hint Glasses" you can not only see Hint Ghosts, but also the health bars of your enemies, similar to the Hero's Charm in the Wind Waker. So, whenever you fight a boss again, you can see exactly, how much health he has left.

Naturally such an item shouldn't be given to you at the very end of the game, like they did in the Wind Waker HD, because then it won't find much use. But maybe like the Hylian Shield in Skyward Sword, you can get it after beating a part of the Boss Rush. Let's say that only the bosses, which you've previously beaten, appear in this level. And if you can clear a course with five or more bosses, you will be rewarded with the Super Hint Glasses.

(Another item that potentially could be upgraded are the Pegasus Boots, so that they let you change direction while running, like the Pegasus Boots in Ancient Stone Tablets.)

Minigame Improvements

Make it so that the Endless Cucco Run rewards you with the Giant Cucco after 100 seconds, not the full 999.99 seconds. Make it so that the Endless Cucco Run rewards you with the Giant Cucco after 100 seconds, not the full 999.99 seconds! Make it so that the Endless Cucco Run rewards you with the Giant Cucco after 100 seconds, not the full 999.99 seconds!!

I admit that's all I really want, the rest is just a bonus. And this is certainly a change that would make completionists like me quite happy. The four people on this earth, who actually already did the full thousand seconds of torture, still get the bragging rights with the record. There's no need to keep the reward exclusive to so few individuals.

The Octoball minigame also caused quite some frustration, where they probably could have made things a little bit easier...

For example you should be able to give a horizontal window with the Circle Pad; center, left or right. And the timing for the precise aiming should be easier to hit by making the ball slower overall.

Buy Shadow Links from Play Coins

Currently, if you can't find people for StreetPass, the only way to complete all 50 StreetPass challenges are the pre-generated Shadow Links. However, those only appear after every five hours of unpaused ingame time. And that's too rare. They should reduce this time to two hours and/or even make it so that you can use Play Coins to buy Shadow Links from Gramps. After all that's what Play Coins are there for, they let you get stuff in StreetPass apps for whenever you took the 3DS for a walk, but didn't meet anybody.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Twilight Princess HD: Mirrored Hero Mode, Ghost Lantern

Next to the probably awesome stamp collecting there have been other reveals about Twilight Princess HD today, since we now officially reached the preview phase. Let's briefly talk about them.

Going through my suggestions from last month, you can cross out many things there already. Wii controls won't be supported, but I probably wouldn't have used them anyway, so I don't really mind. And the mirrored world is still in the game...

Mirrored Hero Mode

So, there really is a way to play the mirrored Wii world in this version, which is good, but they combined it with Hero Mode, which is bad. It's akin to the Master Quest mode in Ocarina of Time 3D, just without any actual Master Quest features. It mirrors the world, you take double damage and there are no hearts to find.

Now, I was actually looking forward to playing the GameCube world again, because that's how I love and remember the world of Twilight Princess. But I also wanted to play Hero Mode, because the game is too easy... Why can't I do both?

They should have made a "Mirror Mode", which is something you chose at the start, like a 2nd Quest. And in addition there should have been a Hero Mode like in The Wind Waker HD, which you can toggle on and off at any time.

I wonder, if it still can be toggled. It probably won't, because it would be weird, if you could flip the entire game world at any time...

Ghost Lantern

From what it seems, this is another disappointment. If I understood this new item correctly, it only tells you that there are still Poes around in the area. You still have to wait until it's night to actually capture them.

Most useless additional item ever! I personally already know, where all the Poes are, so I have no use for an item telling me. I just want Poe collecting to be more efficient. They should have added checkmarks to the map, like Ocarina of Time had for the Gold Skulltulas. If you killed all golden spiders in an area, it added an Skulltula icon to the map. They could have done the same here with Poes. And the Poe Lantern should have been a way to make them appear during day, because waiting for nightfall takes way too long in this game. Or at least add a way to alter the day of time.

Sometimes I just can't understand Nintendo's game design decisions and I still hope that there's more to this thing... I haven't seen any preview yet that actually showcases this item.

Item Inventory

No fifth bottle, too bad. If you look at the item menu, there are 21 slots, one more than in the original. But that slot is probably used by the Ghost Lantern, because the bottles are visually connected and there are still only four of them. I guess, the open slot below the bottles will be used for the Horse Call and the Ghost Lantern will be among the normal items, probably right next to the Hawkeye.

It could be the other way around, but I suppose that both the Horse Call and the Ooccoo will be items, which you don't have to equip anymore to use them. Just tap them in the menu.

Cave of Ordeals 2

Yeah, this is a pure clone. It even has the exact same layout - talk about lazy! But it's apparently not an actual place in the game, it's more like a minigame, which starts, as soon as you scan the Wolf Link amiibo. And the whole point seems to aim for highscores, which are stored on the amiibo and even take the Ganondorf amiibo into consideration. So, for the most impressive results, you need that one as well. Combat will be quite boring though, because all you will do are wolf combos all the time.

But if it wasn't for the larger wallet, I would say that this is one of the better amiibo usages I've seen so far. Without amiibo you wouldn't miss anything essential and the whole thing revolves around the figurine, where you keep using it for highscores. However, thanks to the reward of the bigger wallet, completionists are now forced to buy the amiibo, if they want everything in the game. So, they should have made this a pure extra.

Twilight Princess HD: Miiverse Stamp Collecting!

Today there has been many more information about Twilight Princess HD and its new features. And the one that caught my attention the most was the Miiverse Stamp collecting!

I feel like this is going to be the best addition to the game without any doubt. No, I'm not joking - it basically adds a new collectible quest and at the same time it takes care of all these boring chests with Rupees in the game.

The Miiverse features were also one of the best additions to The Wind Waker HD, because the Tingle Bottles made the sailing less boring and it helped with completing your figurine collection. You can even get the missable figurines from Tingle Bottles, which was a gift from the goddesses. And receiving funny selfies from other people certainly was fun, too.

Now, in Twilight Princess HD the Miiverse features improve the game in equal quality, but with very different measures. It's not about Miiverse messaging this time, but about collecting the stamps, 50 in total. Games like Super Mario 3D World already had this and while the stamps won't have any ingame value, it still will be fun to collect them all. I love collectible items in the Zelda series and the more the merrier.

From what I've seen, they are hidden in chests, which originally only gave you Rupees. And the game has tons of these. There are many chests, which are well hidden throughout the game, and some which even require you to solve some clever puzzles. And every time I was disappointed to only find Rupees... Like remember the two big chests south of castle town? One was in the center of the fountain and the other one on the pillars. They are not easy to get to and you'd think that you would get a Piece of Heart out of at least one of them, but nope... In Twilight Princess HD they might hold stamps, though!

You also now finally have an incentive to check all chests on the game world, other than your personal satisfaction of being thorough. We recently had a discussion on this blog about how opening all chests is actually part of 100% completion, but it's a fishy requirement, because you can't clearly tell, if you really opened them all or not, except for chests in dungeons. But in Twilight Princess HD you at least want to find all chests with stamps, because those get counted in your inventory. If you don't have all 50, there's clearly a chest that you haven't found yet...!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tri Force Heroes: Lucky Lobby Music Ball Song Additions

I love the Music Ball or "Lucky Lobby Ball" in Tri Force Heroes, because it's a fun little minigame that keeps you entertained, while you wait for other players. And you might wait a while these days, where current selection of songs can get a bit stale.

Currently there are 23 different songs in the Lobby Ball game (a full list exists on ZeldaWiki) and hopefully they will add more in a future update of the game. Let's make that a 42!

(Capcom Zelda games are out of question though, because it seems that Nintendo doesn't hold the rights to the music from these games. So, no Dancing Dragon Dagon for us!)

Here are my additions, my Lucky Lobby Ball B-Side:

  1. Underworld (The Legend of Zelda)
  2. Overworld (Zelda II - The Adventure of Link)
  3. Town (Zelda II - The Adventure of Link)
  4. Palace (Zelda II - The Adventure of Link)
  5. Lost Woods (A Link to the Past)
  6. Sword Search (Link's Awakening)
  7. Mountains (Link's Awakening)
  8. Hyrule Field (Ocarina of Time)
  9. Astral Observatory (Majora's Mask)
  10. Deku Palace (Majora's Mask)
  11. Windfall Island (The Wind Waker)
  12. Dragon Roost Island (The Wind Waker)
  13. Lake Hylia (Four Swords Adventures)
  14. Midna's Theme (Twilight Princess)
  15. Title Theme (Spirit Tracks)
  16. Groose's Theme (Skyward Sword)
  17. Beedle's Theme
  18. Hyrule Castle
  19. Kakariko Village

What songs would you add to the Lucky Lobby Ball? Let me know in the comments!