Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Link to the Past (New 3DS VC Review)

A Link to the Past logo next to the Hylian Edition New Nintendo 3DS XL

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2022 by the same author. Nintendo had provided a download code.

Since this month the Virtual Console on the New Nintendo 3DS offers a selection of Super Nintendo games, which includes The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And after completing the classic on the new Nintendo handheld it's time to offer a summary whether it's worth it or not.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is without a doubt a must-have title for the Nintendo 3DS. And its success doesn't come from nowhere, where the Zelda classic A Link to the Past was used as a basis. A Link to the Past also laid the foundation stones for many things Zelda. The Master Sword, cutting grass, dashing into trees, enraging Cuccos – all these are staples in the series, which have their origins in the SNES game.

22 years later A Link Between Worlds returned to game world from the Super Nintendo and revived it in fantastic 3D. Now, owners of a New Nintendo 3DS have the opportunity to experience the origins of A Link Between Worlds and compare both games hand in hand on the handheld. This should be especially interesting to those who have played A Link Between Worlds, but not yet A Link to the Past.

Owners of a normal Nintendo 3DS or a Nintendo 2DS will be disappointed that this isn't available to them at all. But this should be a similar case to GameBoy Advance games, which were part of the Ambassador Program, where it wasn't possible to switch into the Home Menu and use the Miiverse for example. With paid-for games there should be a certain comfort and this was seemingly only possible with the New Nintendo 3DS.

Speaking of the GameBoy Advance, this actually isn't the first time that A Link to the Past was available on a handheld, where it shared a cartridge together with Four Swords. This version seems to be lost in time, really, where next to the Riddle Quest and the Palace of the Four Sword it offered many small improvements, which are easily missed here. For example, you were able to break pots with your sword and the save system was just better.

The latter isn't really as important on the Virtual Console, of course, since you can create Restore Points at any point, like right before a powerful boss. So, it comes with the typical Virtual Console features. Like with all Virtual Console titles on the Nintendo 3DS, however, there is no way of changing the controls, but in the least there is now an option to change the resolution. Previously this was only possible by holding down the Start or Select button while starting the games, if you wanted to play in the smaller, but sharper original resolutions.

screenshot of the sharp resolution in the cave with the Maimai creature

And not only does it look sharp, it also feels faster – for a good reason. At least in Europe. For the first time ever the Virtual Console actually makes use of the 60Hz NTSC versions, which previously were only available in North America. The PAL versions, as offered on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles in Europe, only had the 50Hz. The difference is that the PAL versions ran about 17% slower to make them compatible with the 50Hz TVs at the time. This may not be a big deal for games like Zelda, but it's certainly of note in something like F-Zero and can be quite important. There were even petitions that Nintendo of Europe should offer the 60Hz versions on the Virtual Console.

It seems that Nintendo was listening, but there is a catch: the game only comes with the English screen texts, but not German or French. For some this may even be an additional reason to buy this (in Germany the game was only available in German on Wii and Wii U), but if you prefer the other translations, then this won't offer them. Ideally, there would be options here which version you want to play, but options never were Nintendo's strong suit.

And of course a remake of A Link to the Past in the same style and engine as A Link Between Worlds would have been preferable overall. But you can't have everything and this will have to make do, where it offers an interesting alternative to what we already have on Wii and Wii U.

My Nintendo and Miitomo Launch

My bet for Nintendo's next generation: it will be all digital. No cartridges or discs anymore. Physical releases will have download codes inside. Nintendo is already testing this with releasing Pokémon Virtual Console games in retail or with Starfox Guard. And now they're pushing the eShop a lot more with their new My Nintendo rewards nonsense.

I liked the Club Nintendo, collecting stars and "buying" some merchandise. This sadly is now gone and the whole new My Nintendo rewards system looks like an early April Fools' joke instead of a meaningful replacement. I personally just want to get this:

A Twilight Princess Picross? Why not? However, you can't just buy it in the eShop, you can only get it through My Nintendo, where you have to jump through hoops to get enough Platinum Points for the game. I'm not interested in Miitomo, so the only way for me to get enough points is visiting Miiverse and the eShop on a weekly basis. That's not a big deal, because I do that anyway, but accumulating enough points for the Zelda Picross will take many weeks and it's all so boring.

The gold point reward system is even less exciting. You get discounts for buying games on the eShop? Too bad that the prices on the eShop usually are a lot more expansive than in retail, so it doesn't really save you any money.

Anyway... for Nintendo going all digital is very convenient and also more profitable, since they would save the costs and losses for distribution. So, I can see, why they want to push into this direction. I'm just not sure, if I'm a big fan of it. On the one hand I like having download versions of the games, because it is very practical, if you don't have to change cartridges and discs all the time. On the Wii U both physical and download versions share savegames, so sometimes I even like having both. A disc release for my collection and the download version for playing. On the Nintendo 3DS this doesn't work, because the cartridges keep the savegames on them. With all four 3DS Zelda games I own two different copies and I somewhat feel inclined to also complete them both, which I recently did with A Link Between Worlds. It would be more convenient, if the savegames worked like on the Wii U, though. It would keep my Backloggery a little bit smaller.

If Nintendo goes all digital, there still might be something left for collectors. The GB Pokémon retail versions actually come with maps and other extras, instead of just housing a download code. I always loved the NES and SNES times, where retail releases had colorful and detailed manuals full of artwork. A Link to the Past came with a map of Hyrule and so on. Today you get a recycling box with nothing but the game in it and some sheets. But Nintendo could return to the old sensation of boxed games, if they want to still sell retail versions and especially Limited Editions in an all digital era. The irony will be that these boxes will have everything, except for the game...

Hyrule Warriors Legends Collector's Guide

Got this yesterday:

I also have the old one for Hyrule Warriors and there's only one good reason to get these guides: they include the official artbook in English translation and high resolution, which was otherwise only available in Japan as part as the Premium and Treasure Box sets. I think, in case of Hyrule Warriors: Legends the English artbook also was a preorder bonus here and there, but this still has the bigger pages:

It's nice to have this. Originally only the eGuide was supposed to have the artbook section, so I was positively surprised that the Collector's Edition guide also has it at the end. Because besides the artbook, there is no real reason to go for the guide. The Legend Mode scenario guides are well done for the most part, but the Adventure Mode guide is (still) a mess.

For some reason they completely inverted the chessboard notations. So, the bottom row is referenced by the letter "H" (instead of 1). And the entire Adventure Mode guide is just a list of mission statements and reward - things you can clearly see in the game. They don't even have the locations for the Gold Skulltulas or Fairy Rewards. They just briefly mention that you can find Skulltulas usually in the center of the web (which is not true at all) and Fairies inside pots, but not where exactly. They post outlines of the maps for every Adventure Battle, where only keeps with treasure chests are marked. Other than that the maps are completely useless, but make up a good chunk of the guide. The old guide for Hyrule Warriors had the exact same issues, but simply was a lot thinner...

This one is 448 pages strong, the same as the Twilight Princess (HD) guidebook. I wonder, if this really is the limit for Prima's printing machines, because this can't be coincidence... Lucky for them that they didn't have to cover the DLC Adventure Maps.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hyrule Warriors (Legends): Marin Announced

When I returned last evening I was greeted with some awesome character news about Hyrule Warriors: Marin just got confirmed at Wondercon 2016 last weekend.

She was probably everyone's best guess, including my own, so it's not the biggest surprise. It will still be amazing to see her in action and Koei Tecmo already delivers some beautiful concept art. She was basically my first video game crush and it will be nice to have her in 3D for the first time.

I also like playing as pretty females in video games and Hyrule Warriors really does deliver in this department. So, having Koei Tecmo work for the Zelda franchise, certainly has its merits, and over half of the roster is made of female characters. There are now 14 female and 12 male characters on board (if you count Sheik as female, that is). But if my predictions are right, this will change with the upcoming DLC, because unless they go for Hilda or Irene in A Link Between Worlds, the three new characters will most likely be male.

Anyway, Marin is the first character from a pure 2D Zelda game that will be turned into 3D art for Hyrule Warriors. This opens new possibilities, though there are not all too many potential characters in the classic Zelda games. Agahnim from A Link to the Past comes to mind, but he only fights with magic from his hands, which would be too similar to Wizzro and even lack a good weapon type like the Ring. But we'll see...

There's still the question about Marin's "weapon" as well, where they showed something that seems to be the Sea Lily's Bell. I really hope that she will direct all eight Instruments of the Sirens with her singing voice, because this would be the perfect fit. And it would be weird, if she only uses one of the instruments. It's not like the rest will get used by other characters, since we already have many musical instruments as (potential) weapons.

And we still don't know anything about Linkle's weapon yet, where my best theory was the Flying Rooster. Having played Linkle's campaign, where she even uses Cuccos for her army, it would be such a nice fit.

30th Anniversary Replay List, First Update

For the 30th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise and the release of new big Zelda game I made plans to play through as many Zelda games again as possible. I've already started last year and by now I went through over half of the series:

For the most part I have been covering the topdown Zelda games, where only the Four Swords series would be missing. I've played The Minish Cap in 2014, when it got released on the Wii U Virtual Console, and I've already beaten this game seven times in total, so I'm not eager right now to play this again. With Four Swords Adventures I really want to experience this with three other people, where I might have the chance at a Zelda fan meeting in August. And with Four Swords at least I want replay the Hero's Trial at some point, which requires some high levels of masochism though.

The same goes for Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. In February I returned to a savegame on my Nintendo 3DS, where I got to the town of Nabooru at beforehand, but I didn't make much progress there and focused on replaying The Legend of Zelda instead. Even with Restore Points Zelda II can be fairly difficult, but I might play it a little bit alongside Hyrule Warriors: Legends.

Hyrule Warriors: Legends will be my main focus in the next months, probably even until The Legend of Zelda for Wii U arrives, however, I still would like to go through all 3D Zelda games again in order, before the new one gets released. Those would be:

  • Ocarina of Time
  • Majora's Mask
  • The Wind Waker HD (2nd Quest)
  • Twilight Princess HD (Hero Mode)
  • Skyward Sword

I might play all of this on the Wii U or will aim for the Nintendo 3DS remakes with the Nintendo 64 Zeldas. I'm not sure yet, but probably the latter. With both The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD I saved the 2nd playthrough option for later, which I certainly will do before the new game. And Skyward Sword I haven't played since it was released, so this is a game that I'm really looking forward to playing again. It should also be a fitting finale for my 30th Anniversary replay run.

Replaying A Link to the Past on the 3DS

As stated in my previous post, I also went through A Link to the Past again, while finishing my 2nd Hero Mode run of A Link Between Worlds. Surprisingly, I did so on the 3DS as well, where Nintendo introduced the Super Nintendo Virtual Console for New Nintendo 3DS this month. Because there's no cross buy functionality and I still didn't touch my Wii U copy, I actually didn't want to get this, but then I received a review code from Nintendo and having it next to A Link Between Worlds on my New 3DS during my travels was nice, so I could easily switch between both games and enjoy them on the same system.

There was also another perk: in Europe they went for the 60Hz NTSC version of the game, instead of the usual 50Hz PAL version. This also let me experience the original game for the first time in English, because the console versions in Germany were locked in German and there was no language selection at the time.

In any case this was the first time that I've played through A Link to the Past again since the release of A Link Between Worlds. The latter became one of my favorite Zelda games and now I had the chance to compare, how the original holds up. And... it's alright, but I enjoy playing through A Link Between Worlds a lot more. Both games have a strong beginning, where you can prep in Kakariko and get some stuff like your first bottle and the Bug Net, before you head for the Eastern Palace. A Link to the Past starts out way more epic with Hyrule Castle in the rain, but I feel like this is a long and linear part, where I have to drag myself through, before the real fun begins.

And the "fun" feels a little bit like Hero Mode early on. I was actually searching for some fairies to put in a bottle, where you can't find them in the same spots as in A Link Between Worlds or Ancient Stone Tablets. There are some fairies south of Eastern Palace, but I forgot about those at first, so I went to the only spot, where I was sure to find fairies: the ice cave at Lake Hylia. However, getting there right in the beginning can be quite tough with those Sand Crabs, which are fast and deal TWO HEARTS of damage for some reason. So, it would have been smarter to go to Eastern Palace first.

And except for the Ice Rod and the Magic Powder, which you can both get early, it feels somewhat more restricted than A Link Between Worlds. After the Eastern Palace there isn't much to do except for going to the Desert Palace, because only the Power Glove really opens the Light Worlds up for you, where you finally can get the Zora's Flippers, which also give you some restricted means of teleporting with those vortexes in the water. You can't get the Ocarina until after the Palace of Darkness and I really missed Irene's broom. In A Link Between Worlds the game really opens up after the Eastern Palace. You can get the Power Glove and the Zora's Flippers right away, you can teleport early on and you can rent all items except one, opening all of Hyrule except for the desert.

I also feel like the Hyrule in A Link Between Worlds is more enjoyable to explore. A Link to the Past invented one of the best overworlds in the series and A Link Between Worlds perfected it. It start with small things like the pathways east of the smithy, which I immediately missed in A Link to the Past. And A Link Between Worlds makes just better use of all the areas, like the Flute Boy Meadow, even if it's just because you find Maimais there or Shadow Links. But there are also significant additions like the Rupee Rush minigame, one of my absolute favorites. In A Link to the Past you have this little parkour minigame, which you only play once and then never visit the same spot again. So, it feels like a waste of space. The world has more substance in A Link Between Worlds and the Light World was for me always the strong part of A Link the Past, because the Dark World basically just is dungeon crawling with little to do on the overworld.

The controls are also not ideal. For some reason someone decided it was a good idea to put the map on the X button, instead of using this button for a 2nd item. Also, the Pegasus Boots are used with the A button (which takes some time getting used to after playing both A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes), while the shoulder buttons don't really do anything. Later Zelda games handled the controls a lot better.

It's also curious, how throwing pots at enemies is the best way of fighting early in the game - it's a lot more powerful and effective than using your sword. But of course there are only a limited number of pots around, usually as many as there are enemies, so you have exactly one shot with each pot. It really seems like this even was an intended feature, using the "pots of power" as weapons, which got lost later in the series (it's still a thing in Link's Awakening, but there you have to earn the Power Bracelet first).

It's also noticeable, how you can get many Rupees early on, I got more than 700 Rupees before Eastern Palace. But the only thing to spent Rupees on are the Zora Flippers for 500 Rupees and then the Pond of Happiness, which takes up to 1400 Rupees... As soon as you did that, the only thing really requiring Rupees are potions, where a Blue Potion costs 160 Rupees. I abuse those together with the Cane of Byrna quite a lot for the bosses and then I refill my Rupees at the treasure chest game in the Village of Outcasts. But that's really all there is to the currency.

With the Restore Points of the Virtual Console I even went for a clear zero death savegame for the first time, similar to The Legend of Zelda in February. On the GameBoy Advance this wasn't an issue, because this version didn't count saving as "dying". The original did though, so you had to beat the game in one run in order to get this:

(When I replayed the game in 2011 on the Wii Virtual Console I also didn't die, but I saved about ten times. I remember that a friend watched me beat the game and then made fun of how I died ten times, where I had to explain to him that this happens with saving the game... Well, buddy, here's your proof.)

The one thing I always claimed to be a lot better in A Link the Past were the dungeons and even with those I now feel like they are a lot more enjoyable in A Link Between Worlds. The classic dungeons make better use of enemies, that's for sure - I really wish the Eastern Palace in A Link Between Worlds had some Eyegores for example. But save for this the dungeons were not really that much more difficult. Most people also remember the classic dungeons to be longer, but that's not actually the case, they are about the same. In some cases they are even shorter, e.g. Tower of Hera, which is so much more amazing in A Link Between Worlds and doesn't have the annoying Moldorm mechanic, where in A Link to the Past I now abused Restore Points to make things less frustrating. I always hated this fight.

Or if I compare the Ice Palace to the Ice Ruins, there's a clear winner. The Ice Palace isn't really that enjoyable. I avoided getting the Cane of Somaria in advance and going through the same trite set of rooms again and again is just absolutely tedious. Even the new Turtle Rock, where people seem to complain about how short it became, has a lot more to it than the classis SNES version, which was just a mess of Somaria roller coasters and tube mazes. And it was a very short dungeon also. The only bigger exception, where I still prefer the classic version, might be Skull Woods, as I explained in my previous post.

But... that's how it should be. A Link Between Worlds built on an amazing game and improved upon many things. A Link to the Past has the more serious / epic story, but overall I have moved on to the successor. It's still quite a short game, so this probably wasn't the last time that I've played it though.

Replaying A Link Between Worlds in Hero Mode

Between Twilight Princess HD and Hyrule Warriors: Legends I've been replaying A Link Between Worlds and A Link to the Past, where I finished them both last Friday. Because I visited home over the Easter holidays, I will now post my thoughts with a slight delay.

Well, in case of A Link Between Worlds, I've already
replayed the game last year on my cartridge copy and I started playing Hero Mode right when Tri Force Heroes was released. So, my replay session of Hero Mode got split into several parts over the course of about five months and in the beginning I played the Hyrule dungeons. Late February I returned to this savegame, when I visited home to help my mother moving, and there I was going for the Titan's Mitts and all 100 Maiamais, basically completing about all sidequests.

StreetPass Frenzy

Less than two weeks ago then there was a Manga Con in Leipzig, where I visited all four days of the convention to meet some friends and participate in some Nintendo events (I scored 2nd place in a Mario Kart 8 tournament). And a convention like this is perfect for getting lots and lots StreetPass hits, where I returned again to A Link Between Worlds to fight all those Shadow Links of people.

This was actually the first time, where I cleared all 50 StreetPass challenges legitimately and even got all 20 apples on the Apple Tree without setting up fake StreetPass hits with one of my other 3DS systems. And with so many StreetPass encounters it was also the fastest. There are even many 50 Rupee bounties, because some might just set up StreetPass in the beginning and then never bother with it again. But I didn't have to use my dummy Shadow Links for some of the tougher challenges and strategies from my StreetPass Guide like the "Bombos Byrna Drink" worked like a charm.

Still, there were also quite some people with tough Shadow Links, which can be dangerous in Hero Mode, so I kept playing until my StreetPass Meadow got filled with golden signs. Having lots of those is also good to fill up your total Rupee counter quickly, because you can get up to 999 Rupees with a single StreetPass fight. Now, all there was last to do last week was clearing the remaining Lorule dungeons, getting the best equipment and then battling all the Shadow Links.

I still played quite some Rupee Rush though and even managed to break the 1000 Rupees in the Lorule version. I even had a run, where I got exactly 0.00 seconds left... So, I was quite unhappy that I didn't have internet access to show these records on Miiverse....

Hero Mode Course

When replaying the normal game, there are tons of possibilities in what order you play the dungeons. 2520 different possible orders to be accurate. In Hero Mode, however, I feel like the game is getting quite linear for myself, because there doesn't seem much of a choice for me. The quadruple damage is very tiresome, so I want to get the Blue Mail first and then go for the Titan's Mitts to get as strong as possible for the difficult stuff.

So, my order of the Lorule dungeons was as boring as this:

  • Swamp Palace
  • Thieves' Hideout
  • Desert Palace
  • Skull Woods
  • Palace of Darkness
  • Turtle Rock
  • Ice Ruins

When I played normal mode, I actually started with Ice Ruins and then cleared Turtle Rock next. It was still easier than doing them last in Hero Mode, because only with the Red Mail you receive as much damage as with the Green Mail in Normal Mode.

Skull Woods is still the downer, because this dungeon is just a massive disappointment over the original. Now, that I had the chance to directly compare the dungeons between A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds, I'm actually quite fond of most of them. They could use some tougher enemies here and there, especially in the earlier dungeons, but over all they are very well designed, in my opinion much better than the originals. Except for Skull Woods. They turned an open dungeon with multiple entrances, which is a pretty cool idea that rarely ever has been utilized in Zelda, into a linear mess...

But the other dungeons make up for it. I still think that the Ice Ruins are one of the best dungeons in the series, it's just so well designed and also offers a good challenge. I also enjoy Turtle Rock a lot, as well as the Desert Palace. And after going through A Link to the Past again, I also prefer the new Palace of Darkness and Tower of Hera over the originals.

Anyway, this was the fourth time that I have fully completed the game (except for the 999.99 seconds Cucco Run), twice in normal mode and twice in Hero Mode. And I enjoy it a lot, this probably wasn't the last time. I love the ending, gets me every time. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wii U Discontinued in 2016?

Naturally Nintendo is denying the current rumors, because they have no other choice. It's ultimately the same as when they say that the NX will be a third system and not a replacement for either Nintendo 3DS or Wii U. They said the same with the Nintendo DS and those are lies to protect their current systems from losing sales. But with all the rumors it really seems like Nintendo will be pushing a new console in 2016 and that The Legend of Zelda U will be one of its start titles.

Last month I already made a post about this, where it seemed like a mistake to me, because if it wasn't for Hyrule Warriors, it felt like the system ultimately wasn't worth it. That's a crazy and spoiled notion, if you think about it, but I've been saying that as a fan of Zelda and Metroid, where I expected to have a new Zelda game and Metroid Prime 4 already.

Otherwise the Wii U actually became the game system with my largest library with a total of 24 games. There are even quite some games, which I've only started playing like New Super Mario Bros. U, Super Mario Maker, Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2 and Splatoon. So, there's still enough entertainment for me to squeeze out of the system until Zelda and the new console arrive. It's simply that except for Hyrule Warriors and maybe Mario Kart 8 I wasn't really excited about any of the games... I had far less games on GameCube and Nintendo 64, but those were strong games like Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and Metroid Prime, which stuck with me. Or I really enjoyed the Super Mario Galaxy games on Wii, while Super Mario 3D World seemed "okay", but it didn't really excite me as much. Overall the Wii U always gave me the feeling that Nintendo could have done more with it and The Legend of Zelda certainly arrives way too late.

But I'm making my peace with the fact that the Wii U will be said and done with Zelda and there's even a bright side to this. As for the new Zelda game it certainly will be a good thing, if it becomes a launch title for the new system as well, because this will heavily increase the sales over a just having a Wii U release now. Zelda needs this, because if this massive game doesn't sale, it will hurt the series.

And as a collector I won't have to worry about a golden Wii U Zelda Limited Edition release. If Nintendo stops producing the Wii U and start producing a new console this year, I really doubt that we would see something like a golden Wii U. In fact Nintendo already could have released a bundle for Twilight Princess HD, but they didn't. And this way the Wind Waker Edition certainly was the right choice for any Zelda fan:

I did not regret buying this edition and it would be nice if this remains to be the one and only version of the Wii U for Zelda fans. And this will be the console that I'm playing The Legend of Zelda U on. If Nintendo is making a new Zelda console bundle, it will be for NX, which might be too early on launch, but you can never know with Nintendo... But if those pictures about the new screen controller are true, it wouldn't really be a thing for a special edition anyway, because it doesn't have any front for decorations, it's all screen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hyrule Warriors Legends: Predictions per Pack

You can read my thoughts about the announced Season Pass plans for Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends here. Now, the fun part starts again, where we think about potential characters and weapons!


Master Wind Waker Pack

This is pretty straight forward. This pack won't contain any new characters and weapons, so it won't be even available on Wii U. But at the same time Medli gets released, who probably gets all her weapon upgrades, Heart Pieces and Heart Containers on the new Master Wind Waker map on the Nintendo 3DS.

I'm curious to see, how this map will look like. I'm actually hoping that all the DLC will have the 8-Bit style of Link's Awakening including this map. The NES style is getting boring and since I'm a huge fan of Link's Awakening, which was my first Zelda game, I would be happy to get have as much representation as possible. In the very least it will get its own pack...


Link's Awakening Pack

This posed me a riddle at first. With the Twilight Princess and Majora's Mask packs on the Wii U nearly all the DLC content (with the exception of two Ocarina of Time costumes) was based on the respective games. But as much as I love Link's Awakening, it doesn't strike me as an immediate source for new characters and weapons. But it's unlikely that the new character or the new weapon won't have anything to do with Link's Awakening, because the pack on the Wii U, which only contains those, is still called "Link's Awakening Pack".

My best guess for the character is Marin, who uses the Eight Instruments of the Sirens as her weapon, directing those with her singing voice. Each move could correspond to a different instrument and she might even call the Windfish as one of her more powerful moves, similar to how you call Levias with the Great Fairy. And she would be able to turn into a seagull, probably while running. I think, overall this would be pretty amazing.

Richard might be an alternative, who played an important role in For the Frog the Bell Tolls, which was used as a basis for developing Link's Awakening. But overall he's not important enough and would just be another sword wielder. His moveset probably would have something to do with frogs though...

So, Marin is a safe bet and it will be amazing to see her in 3D for the first time. With all the characters coming from specific Zelda games, Koei Tecmo so far stayed very close to their original designs. Now they only have basic artworks for her and they might impress us here, since Marin has never appeared in 3D before (not counting trophies in Smash Bros.). Koei Tecmo's original designs for Link, Zelda, Impa and Ganondorf were pretty amazing, where I wish that they would do more of those. (Update: Marin confirmed!)

As for Linkle's weapon, I still hope that she will get the whip at some point, because it would fit her so nicely, but probably not in the Link's Awakening pack. And there isn't much left in Link's Awakening that could act as a weapon. Most of the items originally came from other games, so I think the weapon will have something to with Link's other companions on Koholinth. The Chain Chomp Bow-Wow could work as some crazy weapon. He's already a skin for the Ball & Chain in the game, but this wouldn't stop Koei Tecmo at this point.

However, Linkle is a Cucco girl, so the one and only perfect weapon for her from Link's Awakening would be the Flying Rooster, who is also one of Link's companions in the game and therefore basically the most special Cucco in the entire series. It would be a Cucco based moveset, since the Cucco itself won't be playable anymore on the 3DS. But I suppose, this would be the best choice for Linkle.

Another possibilities could be the Fishing Rod that I had in mind for Link for a while. Link's Awakening was the first game to feature fishing... However, so far Linkle didn't show any affinity for it and other games like Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess are more prominent when it comes to fishing.


Phantom Hourglass & Spirit Tracks Pack

This pack is like the opposite of the Link's Awakening pack, because there are lots of possibilities here. I would even say that both games could have gotten their own, individual packs, because there are potential characters and weapons (for Toon Link) in both of these games including Linebeck, Oshus, Byrne, Cole, the Grappling Hook, the Whirlwind, the Whip and the Sand Wand. I guess, the character will be from one game and the weapon from the other. Or they use someone and something that appeared in both games...

I wonder, if the Adventure Map will combine the Rail Hyrule with the Realm of the Ocean King... You just would have to connect the Ocean Realm of the New Hyrule with the sea of Phantom Hourglass to the east. Still, both games could have gotten their own map and it's likely that we will probably just get a Rail Map, because another ocean map wouldn't add much at this point.

Well, let's start with the characters, where Oshus (with his cane as a weapon) is probably the least likely candidate. King Daphnos is already getting a Oshus color costume, which doesn't have to mean anything, but Oshus is more likely to appear in Hyrule Warriors 2. If there's any character from Phantom Hourglass, then it would be first and foremost Linebeck:

My issue with Linebeck is that he would really stretch the concept of turning Zelda characters into fighters of mass destruction, because in his nature he is a coward, who hides in a box, even if he had a change of heart during the end of the game. Marin at least had the courage to try and wake the Windfish herself, where I could imagine that she could become some magic force given the Eight Instruments of the Sirens.

Well, but Linebeck is certainly a fan favorite and a game like this would be the chance to finally redeem himself in the eyes of everyone. I could imagine him riding his boat over the battlefield, blasting all enemies into eternity, as some ridiculous over-the-top moveset. His weapon type might be the Telescope similar to how you fight with a telescope in Tri Force Heroes, if you use the Linebeck costume. One of the tiers could even be Aryll's telescope. Also, he's featured in both games, which makes him an excellent choice for the Phantom Hourglass AND Spirit Tracks pack.

Byrne and Cole I've always pictured as fighters in Hyrule Warriors, especially Byrne, even when the toon style wasn't yet a thing. Byrne could have easily matched the realistic style of the early Hyrule Warriors and his Clawshot weapon is a no-brainer. Cole's pseudo weapon type would be "hat", where his moveset revolves around dark blasts, ghost rats, Puppet Phantoms and maybe even a Malladus transformation.

As already mentioned, Toon Link has many options for new weapons. I wouldn't be surprised, if he ends up with the most weapons next to the main Link. The Four Sword for example would be great, but I don't expect to see this now in this pack.

I hope, it won't be the Whip, because I really, really want its Skyward Sword version to become Linkle's weapon in the future. And Toon Link could have a great alternative with the Grappling Hook - he used this in both The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass and it could become some real fun moveset, where he whirls it around and grabs enemies. I'd even say, it has more potential than the Whip, which just replaced the Grappling Hook in Spirit Tracks. Actually one of the tiers could even be based on the Whip from this game, where it uses the snake head as the grapple. (Thanks to Marandahir from the comments for this suggestion!)

It could also be something crazier, e.g. Phantom Zelda or the Spirit Train. But if Linebeck really makes it in, his boat will probably be an important part of the moveset, so having also the train would be too much of the same craziness. So, if I had to guess, I'd say Linebeck and a Grappling Hook / Whip weapon would probably be the most likely candidates, since they also would span both Nintendo DS games.


A Link Between Worlds Pack

I've been always sure that the trio Ravio, Hilda and Yuga will be part of Hyrule Warriors in the future - now the question is, which one of those three will have to wait for Hyrule Warriors 2 to make it in.

Hilda is probably the one, who has the least unique potential. There's already a Hilda color costume for Zelda and she would be just another dark element user, where we've already got too many of those. Cia even already got a "scepter" weapon type, which they might want to rename for Hyrule Warriors 2, though Hilda's type could be "Triforce Scepter" or "Triforce Staff".

Yuga will be in with utmost certainty, because his "Brush" weapon would offer a very unique addition, where he could turn enemies into paintings and summon monsters by painting them.

Ravio is in a way similar to Linebeck. He's a coward at heart, but he might redeem himself here in Hyrule Warriors, where he finally finds the courage to become the Hero of Lorule. In the past I already imagined him to have a "Bracelet" weapon type, where each move would have him use a different item from his shop in a humorous way. It all should look somewhat clumsy and Sheerow should also be part of the action.

It might also be that they add all three of them and offer one of them for free as the 30th character, similar to Medli.

Another candidates from this game would be Irene with a broomstick weapon and Osfala with the Sand Rod. But they will certainly go for the main trio first.


Update (April 21st):

  • Linkle's weapon could also be the Fishing Rod, since this item first appeared in Link's Awakening. It was more iconic in other games though and I still think that a Cucco / Flying Rooster weapon will be her thing, while Link will get the Fishing Rod at some point.
  • As for the Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks Pack I'm now convinced that it will be Linebeck and the Grappling Hook. The Whip from Spirit Tracks could simply be one of the Grappling Hook's tiers (thanks to Marandahir for the suggestion). That way both the weapon type and the character were actually featured in both games, which makes them the likeliest. Linebeck could even get a hat costume for his Spirit Tracks version. Of course Toon Link could also have some super crazy weapon, like the train.
  • They could go for the full trio of Ravio, Hilda and Yuga by releasing one of them as a free character alongside the pack, similar to Medli. Probably Hilda. This would bring the roster to a nice number of 30 characters.

Hyrule Warriors Legends: Season Pass Announcement

Last Friday the future DLC plans for both Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends were revealed. There will be four packs in a Season Pass again, three of which are also going to be available on Wii U, but only contain the new characters and weapons. The 3DS version will also get new Adventure Maps and lots of My Fairy costumes.

The Wii U version won't be all that interesting, because characters and weapons alone don't do much, since you'd also want new missions for them. This was already a problem with the DLC characters Twili Midna, Young Link and Tingle in Hyrule Warriors, where now nearly half of the roster will be in the same state, when the new DLC is done.

I'm not too unhappy about this though. I've put over 700 hours into Hyrule Warriors on Wii U and I was 100% done with Adventure Mode, all A ranks. All that's left to do for me there is Challenge Mode, where you get the same missions for every character. It will be nice to try all the new characters in HD, but my main focus will be on the 3DS version from now on, where I made my peace with going through Adventure Mode all over again. It seems to be a lot more well balanced, where even the Twilight Adventure Map can be enjoyed on lower levels.

Currently my New 3DS is my gaming system of choice, so Hyrule Warriors: Legends is a welcome addition, even if it's a graphical downgrade. If they also would release all the new Adventure Maps on Wii U, I probably would be overwhelmed...

Ideally both games would have completely different Adventure Maps though. My original idea was focusing on the style of Link's Awakening and then make maps for the handheld games, instead of recycling all the Wii U Adventure Maps again. But it seems that this is what they will be doing with the DLC maps. At least I hope that they will go for the Link's Awakening 8-Bit style and not just redraw Koholint in the NES style. Even the "Master Wind Waker" map could be already done in the Link's Awakening style. We'll see.

Capcom Zelda games?

It's obvious, how they are going for all the handheld Zelda games, except for Tri Force Heroes, which is probably still too new (A Link Between Worlds was also "too new", when Hyrule Warriors came around) and the games made by Capcom. No Oracle of Ages, no Oracle of Seasons, no Four Swords and no Minish Cap.

Make your peace with this. There might be some issues with rights here, similar to how the Symphony of the Goddesses can't play any pieces from those games, because the music was made by Capcom. Now, Hyrule Historia also covered those games and their characters, so the rights weren't a problem there, but the main problem probably lies in the heavy rivalry between Capcom and Koei Tecmo. Capcom even successfully sued Koei Tecmo around the time, when Hyrule Warriors was released, about their ten year old Xtreme Legends expansion system for Warriors games, which was absolutely ridiculous.

Even if the rights were fully available, Koei Tecmo might just avoid all Capcom Zelda games for the sake of it. If there is even the tiniest issue with character rights involved here, Capcom won't allow any of it or will try to sue again. I already took note in the past, how Cia, Volga and Wizzro essentially acted as replacements for Veran, Onox and Vire, while Lana shared traits of all three Oracles. And I'm quite happy with what Koei Tecmo is doing with their original characters here.

At least the Four Sword as a weapon for Toon Link should be possible at some point.

3DS Character Usage and Costumes?

It also seems that this time the new characters and weapons won't be available on their own in Japan. This is a good thing, because this way the new characters and weapons might be well integrated into the new Adventure Maps, making it all more valuable. At least Medli should be an important part of the Master Wind Waker Map, since she gets released for free similar to Cia, Volga and Wizzro with the original Master Quest pack.

It's also noteworthy that they didn't announce any new costumes. I guess, the Adventure Maps will have the usual color costumes, but maybe some more original costumes will also be unlockable on the maps, e.g. a train engineer costume for Link on the Phantom Hourglass & Spirit Tracks map. This goes hand in hand with having actual packs this time. On the Wii U the better costumes could be bought on their own in Japan, but on the 3DS all those costumes became now unlockable in Adventure Mode.

A post about my predictions for the individual packs will follow! It's nice, how the individual packs are spread over the entire year, instead of being released one month after another. This will keep the talk about Hyrule Warriors up!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Review)

Twilight Princess HD Logo

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

Ocarina of Time 3D, The Wind Waker HD, Majora's Mask 3D... For five year Nintendo has been busy with giving the various 3D Zelda titles a fresh paint in the form of remakes and remasters. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is the newest episode of these efforts, released on the Wii U earlier this month, where now it's time to have a more detailed look at it.

For Zelda fans who own a Wii U the real highlight will be the upcoming new The Legend of Zelda game, which should finally be released this year. The wait was long and there were already good reasons to buy a Wii U back in 2013 with The Wind Waker HD and a Limited Edition of the console. The new Zelda, which was also promised back then, isn't here yet, but to shorten the waiting time a little bit more there's now an HD remaster of the other big Zelda classic from the GameCube era: Twilight Princess.

Since Nintendo got their hands full with the new Zelda, they've hired the Australian studio Tantalus to take care of this HD re-release. This team is known for porting a variety of games to a variety of platforms, where they have extensive experience in this field of work. But this is the first time that a studio outside of Japan has worked on an official Zelda title, which was done under the supervision and direction of Tomomi Sano, who also has coordinated with GREZZO when they were making Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.

The original Twilight Princess got released over nine years ago, at the end of 2006, for both the Nintendo GameCube and the Wii, as one of the launch titles for the latter. The Wii version can actually still be played on the Wii U and cheaply so, because it's part of the "Nintendo Selects" budget series. And naturally, this raises the question whether the HD remaster is worth the full price or not, for owners of the original or new players alike.

As usual, the review will primarily focus on the qualities of the remaster. How are the graphics? How does it play compared to the GameCube and Wii? What has been improved? What new features are there? For this review the game was completed 100% in Normal Mode and some more time was spent in Hero Mode as well. But let's first talk about the original game a little bit...

A Legend of Light and Shadow

Twilight Princess is the most successful Zelda game next to Ocarina of Time, where this certainly isn't just because it was one of the Wii's launch titles. When the game got first revealed at E3 2004, the reactions to the trailer where overwhelmingly positive. After the comic-like episode of The Wind Waker, the realistic look appealed more to the masses and everyone who likes Zelda to be as dark and mature as possible.

Bigger, better, and more epic was the name of the game, where its development was all about surpassing Ocarina of Time. And for some fans it certainly did, where this Zelda title knows how to win you over with Midna's story, the polished dungeons and its rustic items. Others may have critized the high linearity, the tedious sections, the somewhat empty overworld, and the lack of utilization of said rustic items.

What makes the game stand out in the series is the wolf transformation, where Link bites his way through enemies, uses his senses, or digs into hidden caves. However, it never reached the same level as the transformations in Majora's Mask, which is why the game essentially forces you into the wolf form several times, where you have to collect a series of items before turning back into a Hylian again.

Midna looking at Wolf Link who got defeated by Shadow Beasts

The horse did get some more attention in Twilight Princess as well, where now you finally could swing the sword during horse battles and ride over the far fields of Hyrule. It looks like horses will be important in the new The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U as well, where Twilight Princess HD might be Nintendo's way of offering a foretaste for what's to come.

Graphics & Sound

When the Wii U got introduced in 2011, there was a tech demo that showed how Twilight Princess could look like in HD on the new console. In this demo Link fought Armogohma inside the Temple of Time with impressive real time lighting effects. And if they were to make the game actually look as impressive, it would have meant a lot of effort – efforts that neither Nintendo, nor Tantalus were willing to take.

Twilight Princess HD is a simple "remaster", similar to The Wind Waker HD. And they've probably used the same technology to port the title over, because like in the previous remaster you still get the same drops in the frame rate, especially if you're playing on the GamePad. In certain areas, like the swamp in Faron Woods, the game feels as if it ran in slow motion at times.

This shouldn't be happening on a much more powerful console like the Wii U, because nothing much has changed since the GameCube graphically. Sure, there are more polygons here and there, but Tantalus's main task was essentially making an HD texture pack. And while many of these new textures are very pretty and detailed, the game still is on the technological level of 2002, where it doesn't even offer any bump mapping or displacement mapping to add more depth to the textures. It's a shame.

Well, to be fair, The Wind Waker HD has seen even less effort, where they had re-used existing assets in HD, but in this case the timeless appeal of its cel shaded visuals made the transition into HD simply natural. In addition, Nintendo used a variety of lighting techniques to add a fresh, new look to the game, where Twilight Princess HD doesn't have something similar and clearly shows the age of the original.

Link on Epona near Kakariko Gorge with 20 blue hearts

Actually, some visual effects even got reduced or removed entirely, like the bloom all around Hyrule or the heat effect inside the Goron Mines. On the one had it makes the game look sharper and clearer – especially the rides over Hyrule Field offer a clear look at the landscapes of this game, making you want more. On the other hand it also all looks paler and less vibrant in comparison, while there are also some flaws, like incorrectly cast shadows.

The crucial difference to the previous remasters and remakes of Zelda titles is, however, that it doesn't have the same sense of rediscovery. Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora's Mask 3D and also The Wind Waker HD let you visually re-experience these games in a new way, with new looks and added details. It simply felt fresh and that's what's missing in Twilight Princess HD. It looks sharper and comes now in a higher resolution, but that's about it. New details are only found in the textures and the rest is the same game as it used to be.

The same goes for the acoustics, where music and sounds simply got reused. The quality has been improved, but you won't find re-orchestrated pieces or alike.


Controls & Interface

Since Twilight Princess HD is based upon The Wind Waker HD, you would expect it to play similarly well. You can either use the Wii U GamePad or the Pro Controller, where the GamePad lets you swap items and view maps on the fly whenever you're playing in combination with a TV. However, for some reason not everything works as nicely as it did in The Wind Waker HD.

item selection screen showing all the items

For example, when you play with the GamePad and pause the game, you still have to use the touchscreen to swap items. You can't do it the traditional way via the analog stick or D-pad, which is quite inconvenient and can keep your touchscreen smeared with fingerprints, unless you're using either gloves or a stylus all the time. The analog stick simply does nothing when the game is paused, which feels very wrong and weird, and the only way to use it for changing items, like you do in any other Zelda game, is by playing with the Pro Controller.

Now, if you want to do that, you have to restart the game and choose your controller at the start. So, it's also not possible to change the controller while playing any longer, even though this swap worked fine in The Wind Waker HD.

Some options are missing as well, which curiously includes separate camera controls for the first and third person views, where it's not longer possible to set up everything how it worked on the GameCube. Either everything is inverted or nothing. And stuff like this can nag you for the entirety of the game, simply because you're used to different controls from other Zelda titles.

Speaking of, if you're a fan of the original Wii controls, then you will be out of luck here, because those are not available in the Wii U version. The controls are mainly based on the GameCube version, but also offer the necessary precision for aiming with the bow and similar items via the gyrosensor. However, it's still not as fast as on the Wii, where you could hit enemies by using the pointer while walking or riding around. It's not possible to aim and move at the same time this time (unlike The Wind Waker HD again), which can be quite the disadvantage when approaching enemy archers.

The Wii controls also offered other finesses, like performing a Spin Attack by shaking the Nunchuk. This quick spin method isn't possible any longer and with all of this in mind, it would have been nice to have Wii controls available as a separate option.

The supposedly improved controls while swimming or riding don't really shine either. There is a new camera option for swimming and you're slightly faster, but that's about it and it all feels quite similar to the original, where the under water movement already was quite good.

Riding, however, feels like it got worse, because Epona handles somewhat stiffer, where she is even more prone to get stuck in obstacles or walls. And as already mentioned, you can't steer your horse while aiming any longer, where Epona loves to ride into walls in those narrow passages between the fields. This can be quite frustrating on the Wii U, especially during the mission where you have to escort a carriage. And this doesn't look great when Nintendo apparently claims to have perfected horses for the next Zelda game on Wii U... You certainly wouldn't have guessed that after Twilight Princess HD.

There are some other small improvements here and there, like the ability to turn into a wolf and back via a button on the top right corner of the touchscreen. That's quite useful when you're playing with a TV and the GamePad, but for all other options it would have been besser to assign this to the D-pad instead. And the climbing speed has been increased, which is a good change considering how awfully slow it was in the original...

Additions & Improvements

In The Wind Waker HD Nintendo managed to achieve great effects with little changes, like the removal of some of the Triforce Charts or the addition of the Swift Sail. Twilight Princes HD tries to go for something similar, but not to the same effects, since the issues are more fundamental and would have required more extensive changes.

A controversial part of the game always has been the hunt for the Tears of Light, where you had to find a number of Shadow Insects within the Twilight covered provinces of Hyrule. In all three main provinces this number got reduced from 16 to 12, probably in order to accommodate the people who didn't like all this searching. But this doesn't really change much, because if you didn't enjoy hunting the Shadow Insects, you most certainly won't like it any better now. Those who did like the Twilight Realms will miss some nice hiding spots in Kakariko. Otherwise only some groups of insects have been reduced, where overall there isn't much of a difference in the other provinces.

And that's about it in terms of streamlining things. A big point of criticism always has been the long tutorial phase at the start of the game, which only got shortened at one part. Now you only need to catch one fish for the cat, instead of two. But you still have to herd goats twice, show the children how to use weapons and go through the same forest area a total of three times.

At least the situation around Rupees has been improved significantly. For starters, the game doesn't explain the values of all the Rupees that aren't green to you again in every single play session. (We can only hope that Skyward Sword will get such a remaster as well, where they fix the same issue with its treasures and insects.)

In addition, the volume of the different wallets has been increased to 500, 1000 and 2000 Rupees respectively, so you won't get to the maximum amount as easily, while there is also now a "Colossal Wallet" for amiibo collectors, which can take up to 9999 Rupees. Even if you hit these limits, the game won't make you put Rupees back into treasure chests any longer, which was a curious quirk of Twilight Princess. Ideally, there should have been a choice of what to do, but this change is still great, because you won't be leaving chests behind involuntarily any longer. 

The main usage for all the Rupees always has been acquiring and using the Magic Armor, where there were simply too many Rupees to find. And to compensate this a bit, Nintendo has brought Miiverse Stamps into the game as a new collectible. The Wind Waker HD already has gained a lot from Miiverse, where the Tingle Bottles added a new element to the Great Sea and offered a great connection to the Miiverse itself. Twilight Princess HD doesn't have such a clever collection, but you now can find Miiverse Stamps almost everywhere, which then can be used to decorate your drawn posts.

Link getting the Hylian Letter A stamp from a treasure chest inside the Forest Temple

And even if you don't use Miiverse actively, it's actually quite fun to collect all of the stamps, because this adds a lot more variety to the many treasure chests. There are 50 Miiverse Stamps in total, with more than half representing the alphabet in a Hylian font, which can even be used as a reference to translate signs using the same glyphs. The rest are primarily the main characters with different facial expressions, as well as some other things. 

Now, the new stamps are mostly hidden inside treasure chests that previously only contained Rupees in Twilight Princess on the GameCube or Wii. There was an overabundance of these chests, where it's a delight to find something unique inside many of them now. This will also give a variety of hidden locations in the game a newfound importance if you want to collect everything. In fact, there used to be a bunch of cleverly hidden chests within the game world, which many people might have never found, simply because they weren't missing anything other than some Rupees., but now they have a real incentive for the player to look for them. But you can also find the Miiverse Stamps in new chests or as rewards from the other collectibles.

Speaking of, one of these collectibles were the 60 Poe Souls, where probably not many Zelda fans will speak enthusiastically of them, because it was a tedious task, which lacked good rewards and the necessary overview. At least the latter has been improved significantly, where now each province on the map has a counter for the Poe Souls.

To narrow it down even further you can also use the new Ghost Lantern, which will shine whenever there is another Poe left in the current area. However, this item could have been a lot more useful and let the Poes appear during the day or so. If the sun rises and the ghosts disappears, you will still have to wait until it gets night again, where this is an issues that didn't get solved in all of this.

Another addition to Twilight Princess HD is the Hero Mode, which can be chosen right from the start and traditionally makes the game so that you take double damage and can't find any hearts. It's a simple and established concept, which has been used in a variety of Zelda titles ever since Skyward Sword and will make everyone happy who found Twilight Princess to be too easy. But similar to The Wind Waker HD, this only makes the beginning of the game really harder, where later on this feels negligible, once you have enough Heart Containers and some bottles. To really increase the difficulty of a Zelda game, you need tougher enemies and modified puzzles, much like in Master Quest.

Speaking of, the Hero Mode in Twilight Princess actually has been mirrored, like Master Quest in Ocarina of Time 3D. The game has been mirrored before with its Wii version, where in the Normal Mode the game world looks like on the GameCube and in Hero Mode it looks like on the Wii. It's nice that both versions have been preserved this way, though ideally it would have been a game option separate from Hero Mode.

If you want the game to be harder, but play the unmirrored version at the same time, then your only choice is the using the Ganondorf amiibo, which brings us to the last topic...


Unless you count Hyrule Warriors, this is actually the first Zelda title to support amiibo in any form. You can use the five Zelda characters from the Super Smash Bros. series, as well as the new Wolf Link amiibo, which was made for Twilight Princess HD and even came bundled with the game in its Limited Edition. But it's available separately as well.

Don't expect much from the familiar Zelda figures, however. These basically work like cheats, where Link and Toon Link let you refill your arrows once per day, while Zelda and Sheik fully heal you, also once per day. And it's not like you really need any of that...

Only the aforementioned Ganondorf amiibo should be interesting for the Zelda fans. If you scan it, then your hearts turn blue and you take double damage. It's the only way to make the game harder in the original GameCube world. And in the mirrored Hero Mode this amiibo will cause quadruple damage for an excellent challenge.

This effects lasts until you get defeated or the leave the game. And you really can get used to the blue hearts, so that using this amiibo becomes a small ritual every time you return to Twilight Princess HD. It also fits the character quite well, where this amiibo essentially "curses" you and helps out the bad guys instead of you. So, this feels like a very fitting and good usage of the amiibo.

Still... none of this changes that past Zelda games had realized such an optional challenge via an item, like the Cursed Ring in Oracle of Ages & Seasons. Now you have to buy and use a figurine, which might not be easy to come by and also is much less convenient than a simple ingame item or option.

It doesn't even compare to the Wolf Link amiibo, however, which is the most important one and quite versatile. The first usage is linking it to a save file, where scanning the amiibo on the title screen lets you directly jump back into the game. This saves you some steps, but isn't overly spectacular and also not its main usage.

Wolf Link obtaining the Colossal Wallet for 9,999 Rupees

Scanning the amiibo inside the collection menu will save and suspend the main game, so you can enter the Cave of Shadows. This new dungeon isn't a place that you can find in the actual game world of Twilight Princess. Instead it can only be entered by scanning the Wolf Link amiibo, which feels weird at first. The Cave of Shadows is very similar to the Cave of Ordeals, but with the main difference that you can only enter it as Wolf Link and all the challenges were designed for the wolf.

Early on there are only six floors, which are visually identical to the Cave of Ordeals and quite easy. While progressing through the game you will be able to take on 20 floors and at the end of the game 40, where the main reward awaits. The later rooms get visually more distinct with new graphics and they also get a lot more challenging. The Cave of Shadows also makes use of other elements, which weren't present in the Cave of Ordeals, like lava pits or special walls that hide additional enemies and open up once you get close to them.

As Wolf Link you're limited to four different attack and while Midna's targeting attack is the answer to everything early on, it will later on lead you into some traps, where you have to play more methodically. And without the usual tricks that made your life easier inside the Cave of Ordeals, this can get very challenging. Some of the enemy choices and combinations are quite diabolical, where it sometimes feels like pure luck if you don't get hit. The Armos are a great example for this. You can't block as a wolf, so it's easy to get punished when they start rampaging after the last hit. Or you might get frozen by Gibdos, so that Bulblin archers use your lack of mobility to decorate you with fire arrows.

Even with some practice it's not so easy to finish the Cave of Shadows without healing yourself, which is why the Wolf Link amiibo offers a limited healing functionality. Once you've reached the (provisional) end of the dungeon, it saves onto the amiibo how many hearts you had left. On your next run you then get the same number of hearts refilled when you scan it. Twenty is the maximum and once you've reached that score you cannot overwrite it any longer. It also shows you other statistics, like how much damage you took in total and how long it took you to get to the end, but those are not of interest for the amiibo, only the hearts are.

Still, in Hero Mode this might not be enough, which is why the Cave of Shadows is also the place where you might want to scan the amiibo of Zelda and Sheik to fully heal yourself. You can't use any bottles, so the amiibo are the only way to heal yourself inside the dungeon, where at the same time this has the foul aftertaste of "pay to win".

Overall you have to say that the Wolf Link amiibo has a very extensive and worthwhile usage, where it offers a thoughtful challenge. So, if there's one amiibo you want to have, it's probably this one. But you also have to say that bonus contents, like the Cave of Shadows, should primarily be there to make the remaster more interesting for everyone who has already played the original game, instead of selling amiibo. Majora's Mask 3D for example had two additional fishing ponds as an excellent addition, which added multiple hours to the game an didn't require you to purchase any new amiibo. So, while the amiibo of Wolf Link and Ganondorf offer some appealing features, this whole development is rather concerning...


Nintendo advertises Twilight Princess HD as the "definitive version" of the game and it certainly is the best version so far. The efforts that went into this remaster are quite moderate, however, where they probably should have done more on all fronts to justify the much higher pricing compared to the Wii version. It's especially a shame that part of the new features are locked behind an amiibo paywall, but at least the added Miiverse stamp collection is really nice.

It would also be great if Nintendo were to update the game and fix some of the issues concerning the options and controls. Curiously, none of this was problem in The Wind Waker HD, where this remaster now feels like a step back.

The Good:
  • Clean HD visuals in 1080p
  • Collectible Miiverse Stamps
  • No more annoying Rupee problems
  • Better overview for the Poe Souls
  • New Challenges thanks to Hero Mode and Cave of Shadows


The Bad:
  • Only the textures were improved
  • No stable frame rate
  • Some deficiencies in options and controls
  • No Wii controls supported
  • The only major addition got locked behind amiibo

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Twilight Princess Master Quest

This is an idea that I had many years ago, but I don't think that I ever shared this in detail on this blog. It was about a Master Quest version of Twilight Princess. I fantasized a lot about this in the past and these fantasies now came back while playing Twilight Princess HD, where again they missed the opportunity to create some true 2nd Quest, instead of just doing the usual Hero Mode option.

Anyway... similar to the 2nd Quest from the Wind Waker you get to keep the Ordon Clothes. One of my main visions was Link fighting Darknuts in his starting outfit - this was basically the signature of this mode. Though in hindsight I don't think that the Ordon Clothes look that good, but it still would be nice to have them as an option, where wearing the clothes could cause double damage / a blue heart meter (instead of some amiibo doing this). Additionally there would have been a way to keep using the Wooden Sword for an even greater challenge. If the Wooden Sword burns, you can buy a new one in a shop. All the game needs would be two more inventory slots for this, one for the Ordon Cloths and one for the Wooden Sword. And in combination they would act like the Cursed Ring from the Oracle games.

Now, in the Master Quest mode the enemies would be completely re-arranged to add a Cave of Ordeals-esque challenge throughout the entire game. This would include all Poe Souls, where they would appear as early as the Forest Temple to annoy the hell out of you, because you can't beat them yet and you need to backtrack later on. Darknuts would already appear in Lakebed Temple and the miniboss fight in the Temple of Time would feature multiple Darknuts instead of just one. And even on the overworld things would be more difficult, e.g. armored Dinolfos appearing on Hyrule Field. The only place, where I probably wouldn't mess with enemies all that much, is the Cave of Ordeals, because that's already good enough.

The dungeons in Twilight Princess are arguably less open for modifications than the ones in Ocarina of Time, because they follow a more linear and scripted flow. Still, it's possible to partly change routes, especially in dungeons with two wings like the Lakebed Temple, Arbiter's Grounds, City in the Sky or Palace of Twilight, where you basically would let the player explore the other wing first. Or in Goron Mines the central room with the moving magnetic cranes could be used to change the course of the dungeon. There are possibilities. In the Temple of Time you could even twist the whole concept by giving you the Dominion Rod right at the start and having to move the statue all the way up, instead of down, in order to get to the Boss Key...

In addition to tougher enemies and modified dungeons it would also be interesting to have the sidequests changed somewhat. I already mentioned the redistribution of Poes, but in the least I would do the same for the Golden Bugs, so that they are not as pathetically easy to find. Try to hide them somewhere.

In any case I hope that Ocarina of Time won't be the last Zelda game to ever see a fully fledged 2nd Quest again. I'm getting bored of the lazy Hero Modes that Nintendo keeps throwing at us.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Twilight Princess HD Collector's Guide

Today I received the Prima Collector's Edition Guide for Twilight Princess HD. I completely skipped the guide for Tri Force Heroes, because that one didn't follow the usual design. It didn't have the title of the game on the book's spine and it had some colorful artwork on the front, instead of a golden crest or symbol. And since I buy these guides for my collection and certainly not for the content, I didn't want to spend any money on it.

The Majora's Mask 3D guide also already gave concern about the quality with its messed up spine, but luckily the Twilight Princess HD guide doesn't have any of these issues and it does go along nicely with the other books. Here's how it looks right next to the original Twilight Princess guide:

The contents of these two books are pretty much identical as well. Just as Nintendo has remastered the game with minimal effort, you just get a "remastered" guide here. They swapped all the screenshots for newer ones, which look arguably a lot better, since the original had screenshots with a pretty bad quality. They rearranged some stuff and made very little tweaks to the design, but overall it's the same guide. So, if you open both books at the same page, you get the very same content with the same wordings!

They added seven pages for the Cave of Shadows with some useful strategies (nothing that I couldn't figure out on my own already, though) and an INCOMPLETE checklist for the Miiverse Stamps, but both guides have the exact same number of pages, 448 in total. Before this section they only changed the Palace of Twilight, which saved two pages for some reason. What they did then was minimizing their "Legendary Checklists" at the end to the smallest font ever to save a lot of space. Otherwise this would have become the largest guide in the collection so far.

The Legendary Checklists are still not legendary by the way - they tried to fix some of the oversights in the original, but they keyword is "tried". For example they added four of the missing Dig Caverns, but they are still missing one at Kakariko Gorge... The biggest joke is the new Miiverse Stamp list though. They arranged it in the order, how they found them, which is very inconvenient, because the alphabet doesn't go "ANHUO" and I'm pretty sure that this isn't even the optimal order, if you would go for "early as possible". And for some reason they don't even have all the stamps in the list, just little over half, even though they claim it's a complete list!

There are even some weirder examples, e.g. they have the Cucco Stamp in their checklist, but in the treasure chest lists, as well as in the actual guide the same chest supposedly still has 50 Rupees (thanks to @Leothyx for pointing this out). What's going on here? As someone, who has assembled a complete stamp list in less than a week, I'm not sure, what they are doing. It's not that hard. Maybe Prima should hire me...

What I'm also missing is any new artwork. They just reused the same artwork from the old guide with nothing new to be found. To be fair Nintendo also didn't update any of their character and item artwork, they just released some new illustrations. But if you're looking for those, you won't find any of it.

Anyway, at least the guide is now based on the Normal Mode, so this time all the maps are as they should be and not mirrored. I like that a lot, because I never really was fond of the mirrored Wii version. And this is why I still prefer this guide over the original Twilight Princess version, even though it's just a lazy remaster as much as the game.

They added a different cloth map as well, which is nice and visually my favorite of the cloth maps so far:

The original guide had a different one, where they tried to mark all Poe Souls, Treasure Chests, Pieces of Hearts and so on. That's useful for when you play the game and don't want to use a large book all the time. The new cloth map is nice for putting it in a frame and hanging it on a wall, which I plan to do.