Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Future of Metroid

We are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Metroid and despite its name, Hyrule Blog is currently focusing on the Metroid series. But Metroid always was the younger Sci-Fi sister of the Zelda franchise, this site was even named "Torvus Blog" at the beginning and is run by a guy named "TourianTourist", so it shouldn't be all that surprising, if we're taking a little pause from Zelda every now and then and talking about Metroids instead.

And this always would have been the case, if Nintendo had given us anything to talk about. Since the foundation of Torvus Blog in 2008 the Metroid franchise hasn't seen much love. In these eight years only Other M and Federation Force have been released, both not the most favorable titles of the series. But let's take a brief look of what could await us in the future with Nintendo's upcoming system, the NX.

Warning: this post will contain SPOILERS about the endings of various Metroid games, including Fusion, Corruption, Other M and Federation Force.

The multiplayer outlet Federation Force aside, there hasn't been any new Metroid game in the current generation, on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. It was similar with the era of the Nintendo 64 and GameBoy Color, where they didn't even release the planned GameBoy Color version of Metroid II - Return of Samus. But in the following generation, on GameCube and GameBoy Advance we saw four excellent Metroid titles: Metroid Prime, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid: Zero Mission.

While we probably shouldn't expect as much from the NX, it's entirely possible that the NX will see two different Metroid games similar to the Wii - one new Metroid Prime experience by Kensuke Tanabe and Retro Studios and a more traditional Metroid experience by Yoshio Sakamoto, Nintendo and Team Ninja (the "Project M" team). Both could even tie in together. It's also thinkable that the Nintendo 3DS still might get a proper 2.5D Metroid, because Nintendo isn't finished with the system just yet.

At least Metroid Prime 4 seems to be on the table following the endings of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Metroid Prime: Federation Force, where Sylux is pursuing Samus and gets his hands on a Metroid. Kensuke Tanabe already talked about his ideas for Metroid Prime 4 on last year's E3, where he explained that the game will focus on Sylux and his hatred for both Samus and the Galactic Federation (source). And Federation Force now gave further evidence that this is a story that we're going to see in the future, probably even on the NX.

And this could tie nicely with the classic Metroid series. Maybe Sylux and his actions were the last straw that broke the camel's back and led to the events of Metroid II - Return of Samus, where the Galactic Federation ordered Samus to terminate the Metroid threat on SR388. And a new game by Sakamoto in the style of Other M could very well be a remake of the GameBoy Classic, where you get to see the "Baby's" origins and the evolution of the Metroid species in full 3D glory, while fighting them with the smooth Sense Moves and auto aim system of Other M.

In fact a game in the style of Other M would be well suited to remake SR388 and its Metroid life cycle. The Metroid Queen looked amazing in Other M and it would interesting to experience the other Metroid iterations in the same style. Also, the eerie atmosphere of the Bottle Ship would be a nice match for recreating the ambience of SR388. And while Samus gets to see her "Baby" for the first time, the story probably wouldn't end in the same disaster that Other M offered. In the very least, items should be found and not be authorized.

It would even explain, why Nintendo is so interested in taking down the excellent fan project AM2R, if they are having similar plans for a remake... In any case it wouldn't be the first Metroid remake, because Sakamoto and his team already remade the first game with Zero Mission on the GameBoy Advance.

But that's just a possibility and in general it would be interesting to do something with the life cycle of the Metroids again, because the full thing only ever got featured in the GameBoy classic. Only an Omega Metroid at the end of Fusion and the Metroid Queen in Other M provided a taste, while the Metroid Prime Trilogy focused on dealing with new Metroid mutations caused by the Phazon. But maybe Metroid Prime 4 already deals with the classic life cycle again and lets us fight all Metroid variants in first person.

And Sylux is not the only open end in the series, because ever since Fusion in 2002 the story of the Metroid universe never went forward. After the events of Fusion Samus and the Galactic Federation probably parted ways, since the Federation tried to exploit Metroids as biological weapons. This theme was further explored in Other M, but we ultimately never saw the consequences of Samus' actions against the Federation. And if there's ever going to be a new story after the events of Fusion - a true "Metroid 5", it probably will be developed by Sakamoto and his team(s), where "Metroid Dread" was brought up several times as the next title and even got teased in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

In any case the Metroid series offers enough potential material for new outings in the future, where we'll hopefully get something on Nintendo's upcoming system, the NX.

See you next mission!

Another Metroid 2 Remake 1.1

Project AM2R has released a new version of the game, which already fixed some of my complaints from my review, so I gave the game another run. It took me about 4 hours to achieve the 100% again and beat the game, so it's a perfect evening game.

Probably the best thing from the patch is the new warp pipe that connects the final area with the second area. It's located right next to last save station, the one before you encounter the classic Metroids, and it leads back into the early regions of the game.

This was perfect for me, because I missed a Super Missile expansion that got hidden in the first big Metroid nest, the really dark area. And you want to have as many Super Missiles as possible for the Queen fight, which is still very tough.

Some of the other bosses did get rebalanced, though. The Omega Metroids are now much easier, in fact they maybe became a little bit too easy in comparison. In 1.0 it was really a fight to the death, because they did immense damage and had tons of stamina. Now they feel quite similar to the Zeta Metroids in their threat level... Somewhere in between would probably the sweet spot, but it's good that the developer(s) are listening to feedback.

The Torizo fight also got easier, but it now feels just right. Before it was an ordeal, where you had to learn the Space Jump mechanic and fight a Rocket Pack powered Chozo Robot at the same time. It took me many tries to master this fight in version 1.0, but in version 1.1 it's much more manageable and that's great.

So, overall it was very good and enjoyable to replay. I can only advise every Metroid fan to play this game. It's out there, whether Nintendo wants it or not.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Metroid Prime Hunters Revisited

Not only the Zelda series is currently celebrating 30 years of existence, but also Metroid. And as with Zelda I also want to revisit most of the Metroid games for the 30th Anniversary, some of them even for the first time. And Metroid Prime Hunters is one of these titles, which I haven't touched since my original playthrough. In this case I had never even gotten the 100% rating, because I had been missing some of the scans.

But playing the multiplayer was always a lot more fun, so I never really bothered with the singleplayer mode again until last weekend. As a huge fan of the Unreal Tournament series and Unreal Championship 2, I really like what Nintendo has done with the multiplayer part of Metroid Prime Hunters, where you get a nice First Person Arena Shooter with unique characters. If you can get used to the rather exotic controls of this game, there are seven different game modes and many different arenas to enjoy. And the character design of the individual hunters is absolutely outstanding, they've done in amazing job of making every single hunter unique in both design and abilities. It's all really great.

The singleplayer, however... not so much. It's really just the multiplayer arenas connected to each other with corridors on a series of four different planets / stations. In some cases it's hard to say, what came first: the arena or the singleplayer environment? It's probably a mix of both, but sometimes it can be tough to orientate, because some of the places are entirely symmetrical or just hard to overlook. And this gets really annoying in the escape sequences, which you have to do a total of eight times for no good reason. You can't use any portals in them, so you have to run through the entire place again and you often get involved in fights with either Guardians or other Hunters. There it's easy to lose your orientation and then you might run back, from where you came from. This happened to me in Celestial Archives multiple times and to make things worse, the enemies will just reappear and you have to fight them again... ugh!

There are also lots of cheap deaths. Abysses are an instant kill and while there aren't many in the game, the moving platforms above them can be a deathtrap, if you accidentally jump, which might happen, if you look around with the Stylus (double tapping the touchscreens makes you jump). Or if you get squeezed in Morphball Mode, it's Game Over as well. In the Metroid Prime Trilogy you would only get hurt, but here it's an instant death and there's an entire sequence of blocks that want to squash you... I rarely ever died to actual enemies, it was usually either pitfalls, squashing or timers running out. Sadly, the game does have a Death Counter at the end to taunt you, but I'll settle for the 100% rating and leave it be. No way that I'm going through this mess again.

It's not all bad, though. I do like the focus on collecting the various beam weapons from the other Hunters instead of the usual Metroid power-ups and using them to explore new areas in places that you've already visited. The weapons could have been made a little bit more interesting, because for the most part they just disable force fields of the same color and help you with certain enemies and Hunters, e.g. Spire is weak against the Judicator. I also like, how in the 2nd half of the game the hunters are all free roaming and you can meet them anywhere, which makes the game world feel a little bit more alive and threatening. You're not alone in this Metroid game...

The Hunters are really the star of the game, which isn't saying much, because there is nothing else really. It's the only Metroid game without any actual Metroids (funny enough, the demo Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt did have them, as well as an alternate controls scheme) and besides the final boss there are only two different bosses that get repeated four times in total, where each time they evolve somewhat and become more difficult. But you still keep fighting a pillar and a giant eye ball again and again. The game is quite stale and repetitive.

From what we know Metroid Prime 4 will focus on Sylux and his hatred for both the Galactic Federation and Samus. Federation Force even supports this idea. But I really hope that the other Hunters will return as well and we will get another excellent Metroid arena shooter on the NX. I would love to play a game like this with better controls and HD graphics.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nothing on My Nintendo

In April I couldn't wait to finally get the 1000 Platinum Points for the Twilight Princess Picross, but by now I've accumulated over 2000 Points, where I have no idea, what I should do with them. To make things worse, these points expire after six months, so starting from November I will basically hit a maximum of points, where I lose as many points, as I get per week.

Unless of course there's something in the meantime that's worth getting, e.g. another Zelda Picross game. Skyward Sword Picross, The Wind Waker Picross - I don't really care, something. The Twilight Princess Picross is only available until October 1st, so that's where I hope that we'll get the next Zelda Picross installment, basically one per half-year.

But by now I could buy two Zelda Picross games and there doesn't seem to be anything interesting on My Nintendo. I don't care about Miitomo, I haven't even used it yet, so I can't even get the free items. There was this My Nintendo Link HOME menu design that I got for Nintendo 3DS, but I'm not using that either, because I'm very happy with the golden Majora's Mask design. Nothing beats that thing.

Discounts are also lame, especially low discounts on games that don't interest me. And many of the current rewards are tied to Gold Points, where you need to buy other games on the eShop. Usually retail versions of the games are cheaper and you can always re-sell them, so you don't save any money in this system. Interestingly I got ten Gold Coins from buying Majora's Mask on the Wii U Virtual Console. I "only" paid 1.99€, because I already had the game on the Wii Virtual Console, but this discounted purchase still counted towards the 5.00€ to 9.99€ range. But I probably never will be able to use them and I could have 30 Gold Points already, if DLC did count. But it doesn't... So, the only thing that you definitely want to get from the eShop, gets excluded for the rewards program. Thanks, Nintendo.

So far My Nintendo is a giant disappointment. I'm happy with the Twilight Princess Picross and I hope that there will be more like it, but otherwise this thing is a big fad, where Nintendo tries to cut the expenses of the original Club Nintendo and where they try to get more people to invest in the eShop.

But they should try a little harder. They have a vast library of Virtual Console titles that they can use. And don't just give us discounts for them... They could even put the Four Swords Anniversary Edition on there for anyone, who missed it back in the day. But that's probably not happening.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Mystery of Kasuto

Who is Kasuto?

That's probably a question that quite some Zelda fans have asked over the years. All but one of the town names from Zelda II - The Adventure of Link were later used for characters in Ocarina of Time, mostly the sages. There are the towns Rauru, Ruto, Saria, Mido, Nabooru and Darunia and we all remember the corresponding characters from the Nintendo 64 game. However, the final town with the name of "Kasuto" never saw a character with the same name.

And I just now had an epiphany, why that is. "Kasuto" is what the English translation gave us, but it's probably not what was originally intended as the name of the town by the Japanese development team. The name of the towns are written in Katakana, which is often used to transcribe English words. So, here we have:

カスト = Ka-Su-To

Both the U and the O can be silent to form the English word "Cast" and "Ka-Su-To" is actually a possible conversion of "Cast" to Katakana. And "Cast" might just be what the name of the town is, which makes thematically sense, because it's in the hidden town of Kasuto, where you find the "Spell" Spell that you only cast once in the game in the same town to find the Magical Key. You even find the last Magic Container in this town. Also, it's Old Kasuto, where you get the Thunder Spell, which you have to cast on the final boss. While every town gives you a new spell, it's really Kasuto where whole magic spell casting peaks. Which is why this town actually might go by the name "Cast".

This might not be very original, but it's not like all the towns in the Zelda series have highly original names, e.g. "Skyloft" or "Castle Town". Even "Kakariko" comes from "Cocorico", the sound of a crowing rooster in French (or it's just the clucking sound of Cuccos in Japanese). So, a town about Magic Spells being named "Cast" isn't far-fetched. This would also explain, why there never has been a character with the name "Kasuto". And if there ever will be one, he or she is probably a wizard / a spell caster.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

30th Anniversary Replay List, 2nd Update

For the 30th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda and before Breath of the Wild gets released, I want to re-experience as many Zelda games as possible. I already started at the end of last year with Phantom Hourglass on the Wii U and by now I went through my entire Nintendo 3DS library of Zelda titles:

After Twilight Princess HD I almost exclusively played on my New Nintendo 3DS, where the focus was on Hyrule Warriors: Legends, but I also went through the Nintendo 64 remakes again, played more of Four Swords and also had some fun with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. On the Wii U so far I've only played Twilight Princess HD, which essentially counts as replaying Twilight Princess, and both Nintendo DS Zelda games on the Virtual Console:

I haven't played the Hero Mode of Twilight Princess HD yet and this is something that I'm saving for the last weeks before Breath of the Wild gets released. It's the same with the The Wind Waker HD, where I still need to finish the 2nd Quest mode. And I also want to replay the Hero Mode of Skyward Sword, which is a game that I haven't played much since the release five years ago. So, these three games will be the final part of my journey, where I most likely will play them in the following order: The Wind Waker HD (2nd Quest), Twilight Princess HD (Hero Mode) and Skyward Sword (Hero Mode). Ideally I will be done with Skyward Sword right before Breath of the Wild comes out, so there is a nice transition from the previous 3D Zelda games to the new one.

In the meantime there are more virgin Virtual Console copies waiting to be completed on the Wii U:

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II - The Adventure of Link
  • A Link to the Past
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Majora's Mask

These are all games that I've already replayed on the Nintendo 3DS in some form, so it's not that interesting, but I still might give it a go and have some goals here. With the NES Classics I want to replay them without relying on, because I noticed that I grew dependent on these solution maps in the case of these two games. I study them and plan ahead to get the safest and quickest routes through the dungeons. You avoid the literal dead ends and this makes both games a lot easier. So, this time I will go in without the help of any maps or other guides from the internet for a challenge. When I originally played the games on the NES I also didn't have any internet access and the only solution maps I had were coincidentally both Level 5 and the 5th Palace from the Club Nintendo magazine, as well as some tips and tricks for certain parts of the game. But the other dungeons I had to figure out on my own. Of course by now I do remember some critical stuff, so it won't be blind runs, but it's hard to memorize everything with these classic maze dungeons, especially the ones from the 2nd Quest.

With the Nintendo 64 games I just want to see well they hold up after playing the Nintendo 3DS remakes. And I also want to experiment with Restore Points, especially in some of the more annoying minigames. This could be interesting.

A Link to the Past on the other hand won't offer anything new, but there's nothing wrong with replaying the SNES classic. The same goes for The Minish Cap - I've already completed the Virtual Console copy on Wii U, when it was released in 2014, but it's a sweet little game, where I'm not opposed to another run.

The only Zelda game that's not on any list here is Four Swords Adventures. It's not possible to play this on either Nintendo 3DS or Wii U, but I'm staying with the current gen systems for now. And if I replay Four Swords Adventures, I don't just want to go through the singleplayer mode again - I want to play it with three other people to get the full multiplayer experience.

Replaying Zelda II on the 3DS

The Inspiration for Grand Theft Auto

It's Master Month on Hyrule Blog. After the Hero's Trial and Master Quest 3D the only challenge left for replaying was Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, the toughest Zelda game in existence.

With it I'm finally done with my entire Nintendo 3DS Zelda library, so this was the main motivation to beat this title yet again. That I couldn't gather enough motivation before can be displayed alone by the history of this savegame. I started it in September 2012, which is when the game originally was released for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console. I then played the early parts in January 2014, continued a little bit in July 2015 and February 2016, after which I was about halfway through the game, getting the Up Thrust and Reflect Spell from Darunia. This is where I now picked off to finally finish the task.

And I had to do a "little" grinding at first in order to get to the levels 6-6-6. I didn't touch any bosses yet, so the final six levels were gained by placing the crystals in their statues. There is a more effective leveling system by skipping Magic and Life boosts at the right time and using the crystals to buy multiple level ups. I might try this, when I decide to play the game another time, but for now it was too late, so I was stuck with slaughtering Octoroks again and again.

I was also stuck with the tough second half of the game, where you are much more reliant on Magic and where the 5th and 6th Palace really increase the difficulty with their enemies. You might think that the Restore Points of the Virtual Console will help significantly with the game, but the game is still very brutal and at first it feels like the Restore Points don't make much difference. They are really helpful for every room with abysses though, since falling into one costs you an entire live (unlike every other Zelda game since then). And it happens more than once that you might get knocked back into one. Some of the rooms can be really nasty with its flying enemies and similar obstacles.

The Restore Points also help with bosses, if you happen to have enough Health and Magic or an extra live right before them. And they might also help with getting there, if you use them at the right time and are willing to replay rooms, if you took too much damage. They let you push your luck in places, where you potentially can get a Red Jar (or a Red Iron Knuckle to screw with you). So, there are many possibilities to make your life easier with Restore Points, but for most part I was still frustrated and I felt like I was just brute forcing my way through everything, trying to get as far as possible with the three little lives that you have. I didn't even finish a single palace in one turn (except the last one), because the three lives were barely enough to get the Palace Item and then the boss would require another run...

The tables then completely turned with the 2nd Quest. This is, where the game suddenly gave me a lot of fun instead of frustration up to a point, where it amazed me. I've never bothered with the 2nd Quest before, because you just play through the same game again and get to keep...

  • Attack, Magic and Life Levels
  • Magic Spells
  • Up and Down Thrust

But this changes everything! Having 8-8-8 from the start makes you very powerful in the first half of the game. You can kill both Horse Head and Helmet Head with two hits and every other early enemy (including the Dairas and the yellow and red Iron Knuckles) with one hit. Death Mountain suddenly gets to be easy and you overall feel super powerful. It's very satisfying and it fully changes the game. I've actually managed to beat the first five palaces without dying a single time and I've accumulated a total of ten extra lives during that run!

And with that I was able to beat the entire game without a single Game Over:

I was more careful and kept using Restore Points a lot more than in my first run. I also had a lot of luck with finding Red Jars, so there's that. But you can also shortcut through some parts of the game, for example you don't have to go to Darunia at all, since you already got all the Spells and Sword Techniques. You can just head straight for the Maze Palace.

Of course after the 5th Palace your advantages get nullified, at this point it's pretty much the same turmoil as before, but thanks to the many extra lives that you've collected (you get one after every palace for the 9000 EXP level up) you can do it all in one go and you don't have to return from the Northern Palace again and again. It doesn't make Death Valley any easier, but I normally just abuse the Fairy Spell on every screen and fly through the mess...

Ironically the Great Palace then is the easier part. On your first playthrough it's nice that you can continue from here, if you get a Game Over. I don't think that I would have ever been able to beat the game, if I had to go through Death Valley every time. But overall the Great Palace isn't that hard. I've completely memorized the fastest way through the thing, where near the end you even get a Link doll for an extra live and a fairy.

But the dreaded Fokkā enemies on the way aren't as troublesome as the Iron Knuckles in my opinion. They have similar powers and gained the ability to jump, but their jumping is what makes them easier to fight and even avoidable. When they leap over you, you an attack them with a well timed Up Thrust. Or you can just run for it and leave them behind you, which is hardly ever possible with the Blue Iron Knuckles.

So, it's not hard to get to the end of the Great Palace and there you only have one real obstacle: the Thunderbird. If you go all in with Magic (Thunder, Shield, Jump and Reflect), the battle is not too bad, though. Also, you have Restore Points as your safety net. And Dark Link can just be easily defeated with the corner trick, so once the Thunderbird is gone, the game is essentially won.

But with the 2nd Quest I've replayed the entire game just now in two evenings and it was probably the most fun that I ever had with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. It's really the better game, if you don't have to level up anymore. And if you've never beaten the game before, I can only recommend to try the Virtual Console version on either 3DS or Wii U, because the Restore Points really can change things for the better and make the game less frustrating.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Metroid II Revisited

Return to Return of Samus

After playing through Another Metroid 2 Remake I also decided to give the original Metroid II - Return of Samus another try, this time on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.

And I've actually beat it twice in a row. First time I ended up with a time little over 3:00 hours, but that's where you get the best ending with Samus in her bikini. So, this is why I decided to beat the game quickly again in one evening (with 100% items), where I was able to shave off an entire hour.

It's really a short game, but not a bad one. I like it more than the first Metroid, because it offers more variety. But compared to the first game it's also quite easy and it's probably one of the easier Metroid games overall. And also one of the more linear games, where you basically just follow a long tunnel and explore the four larger areas at the sidelines, which are quite open. Items are hard to miss and there isn't all too much to collect. There are 22 Missile Expansion, six Energy Tanks (one of which seems to optional) and only few upgrades to your suit.

There are also 47 Metroids to hunt and they are A LOT easier to kill than in AM2R. In general I like the concept of the evolving Metroids and hunting them down, where a remake of the game in the style of Metroid: Other M would have been absolutely amazing.

But... I'll settle with the AM2R remake for now, which is a lot more challenging and offers many more hidden secrets, but still stayed quite close to the original game. I was actually surprised about how "accurately" some parts were translated in the fan remake.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scary Night

The night is dark and full of terrors...

But not in The Legend of Zelda, thanks to Eiji Aonuma. This is what he had to say about the light night in Breath of the Wild in an interview with EDGE (source):

"We didn't want to create something that was dark and scary. I've been up a tall mountain at night and seen the stars; it was completely dark, but the starlight made it brighter. I wanted our nighttime environment to be something like that. And when it's dark, there are elements in the environment that glow, so the player can use those to find their way."

Well, that feeling of wandering under a bright moonlight sky is something that almost all 3D Zelda games offer. I remember, how I was disappointed about the bright night in Twilight Princess, after the E3 2015 trailer had this excellent scene of Link walking through a dark forest with a lantern:

It just looks so atmospheric and offers a meaningful use of the Lantern, but in the final version of the game the night became so bright that you never really needed the Lantern here. And stuff like Poes would glow in the dark from a long distance. So, nothing of the Breath of the Wild nights is really new.

It also takes me back to a Zelda game concept that I used to have back in the day. It was somewhat similar to Majora's Mask with a large city in the center of the game world, but instead of 3 day cycle the game would focus on a more interesting day and night cycle, where at night scary monsters would come out and terrorize the world. Early on you would even travel only during daylight, because the terrors of the night were too dangerous.

Of course that's something that Minecraft sort of offered many years later, but it's still an interesting idea for Zelda, which could even be combined with the Guardian concept of Breath of the Wild, where you may have similar creatures that only roam during the night and become inactive during the day...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Replaying Ocarina of Time 3D Master Quest

Sheikah Slate Required. Access Denied.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, which is the evilest dungeon of them all...?!

In a twisted world, where everyone is left-handed but Link, my journey of re-experiencing various Zelda games for the 30th Anniversary continued. After replaying Majora's Mask 3D it kind of was weird to return to Ocarina of Time so shortly, because it feels like a downgrade. Majora's Mask simply has the richer game world and a much more interesting selection of items thanks to the masks. It's just more interesting to play this game, but what Majora's Mask doesn't have, is many dungeons, and this is where Master Quest came in with a total of 12 completely re-arranged dungeons. It's what kept me going and ultimately puts Ocarina of Time on par with its successor.

What makes the re-arranged dungeons so good is that they don't bother you too much with stuff that you already did in the original game. Like for example there are no rolling boulders inside the Fire Temple. And a majority of the dungeon is completely optional. Or the Eye of Truth sees little to no use inside the Bottom of the Well. Instead you often get a tougher selection of enemies and some crazier puzzles that require out-of-the-box thinking. It's all very refreshing and makes this "2nd Quest" worthwhile.

On the 3DS version you also get the mirrored game world and that really feels like a totally different game, which is weird. All you basically have to do is flip right and left in your head, but the world just looks very strange and unfamiliar, even though it's the same places. I still would have liked a similar game mode for Majora's Mask 3D, because this can offer a quite unique experience, even if it's confusing and keeps being confusing.

There's also the double damage, which is only really an issue early on and with some tougher enemies. In fact I tried to get some fairies for a bottle as early as possible, where it seems like holding a Deku Stick next to butterflies is the earliest chance of finding one. That trick takes some patience and I remember that in the past I even thought it was just a myth that this really works...

I was also taking my time and doing some silly things like showing the first four masks to Zelda, where some of her reactions weren't really what I expected...

She also really likes that Spooky Mask, but at least that fits with the ending sequence, where she just calmly passes a Redead. As a kid she probably sneaks out to the graveyard at night just for fun.

Apropos fun on graveyards... of course this was a 100% run and of course with that you have to get through Random Dampé, who was giving me a hard time as so often. But I had an unusual experience here. After many unsuccessful tries I was running out of Rupees and leaving the graveyard, but that's where the bushes near the entrance would suddenly give me Red Rupees, so I could try again. And then I just got the Piece of Heart on my first try on the first soil. Weird. But maybe there's some mechanic here, where you just get the Heart Piece after a certain amount of failures.

Anyhow, here is my order of dungeons and important places after the Deku Tree and leaving the forest:

  • Dodongo's Cavern (Bombs)
  • Jabu Jabu's Belly
  • Dodongo's Cavern (Boss)
  • Lon Lon Ranch (Epona)
  • Gerudo Fortress
  • Ice Cavern
  • Water Temple
  • Forest Temple
  • Bottom of the Well
  • Fire Temple Entrance (Megaton Hammer)
  • Spirit Temple
  • Gerudo Training Grounds
  • Fire Temple
  • Shadow Temple

This looks very chaotic, but I did a similar run before, so it's not that extraordinary. When becoming an adult, I like to cover as much ground as possible and get as many things right away as possible. And here it's nice that you can get both the Hammer and the Longshot very early in their corresponding temples. It's quite reminiscent of the 2nd Quest in The Legend of Zelda, where in some of the dungeons you can also find the crucial item early on. Then you might just want to grab them and leave the rest of the dungeon for later, which is what I did with the Fire Temple. And it looks really nice to have the Mirror Shield in the rest of the Fire Temple later on:

In any case, what you want to do first as an adult is getting your horse and then right straight to Lake Hylia and get that Scarecrow's Song. It really annoys me that you have to talk to Bonooru again, before you can actually summon Pierre. Because it's useful in the Sacred Forest Meadow and even required for a Piece of Heart at the Gerudo Fortress, which is why you want to have the scarecrow ready, when you go to these places...

What else was there to talk about? Ah, yeah, the fishing is especially horrible after playing the same minigame in Majora's Mask 3D. I kept losing fish and after all these many years I still haven't fully figured out, when and why that fish breaks from the line. It's just annoying and doesn't happen as easily in Majora's Mask 3D.

Probably the toughest part was the Boss Gauntlet, because one hit here can potentially kill you, but it went rather well, where I finished the thing on my 2nd attempt. And it wasn't Bongo Bongo, who gave me trouble this time. First I died to Phantom Ganon's lightning strike, who came in from behind me, where I wasn't fast enough with shooting him. Usually the lightning bolts go into the corners, so you're safe in the middle of one of the cordons, but not this time. Also, Twinrova nearly killed me a the end, because Koume's fire beam wouldn't connect with my Mirror Shield and just fry me. Luckily I found two extra Heart Containers at beforehand or else my run would have ended at that point, probably leaving me quite frustrated.

You might also want to try killing all Redeads on Hyrule Market and then asking out loud "Anyone else want to complain?" - there's a good chance that Navi will "hey" you at that very moment. They really should have added an option to mute her in the remake...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Another Metroid 2 Remake

For the 30th Anniversary the fan project Another Metroid 2 Remake produced by Milton 'DoctorM64' Guasti has been released in its first full version. Nintendo already has taken actions against it and you can't really blame them, since it's their IP, but you still might be able to find it somewhere. It's out in the public.

And I can only encourage every Metroid fan to play it, because it remakes Metroid II - Return of Samus in the 16-bit graphics and play style of Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission. It also adds beam stacking and some items such as Super Missiles, Power Bombs and the Speed Booster that weren't featured in the original game.

You can easily compare this to Zero Mission, where they re-imagined the first game in a wonderful way, just without that terrible Zero Suit part - which is a good thing. I hated the parts in both Fusion and Zero Mission, where you have to run away from foes. In AM2R it's all about confrontation and hunting down all the Metroid in their various forms.

The game can still be very challenging, particularly the later Metroid forms and some of the mid boss fights can be very tough and might need you to retry a couple of times. I remembered the Torizo fight to be especially troublesome and also the final boss fight against the Metroid Queen. You really need to master these fights and you can't just expect to randomly survive them.

This is also, where you realize that you might want to backtrack and find these last Energy Tanks and Super Missile Packs to help you with the battle. And Metroid II wasn't particularly suited for back tracking, quite the opposite. The world was following a long tunnel through the planet SR388, where you have larger areas at the sidelines that are explored one by another. Going all the way back to the first area is not something that you'd want to do. Luckily AM2R provides a series of tubes that connect all the areas with each other, which gets accessible towards the end. The only problem is that the final area doesn't seem to be connected in such a way, while that's probably where you realize that you're still missing stuff (Update: version 1.1 added a shortcut to the final area as well). And then you have to follow a loooong tunnel to get back to the areas...

And it's easy to miss something, because the items are all very well hidden in creative ways - there is even an entirely optional area to be found that wasn't there in the original game. You also need some slight skill and have to use Shinesparking for a couple of items, where it might even feel overused at some points. You discover a secret item somewhere only to realize that yet again you need the Speed Booster to get it. But it never turns to the extremes of Fusion and Zero Mission, luckily, where you had to shinespark through multiple hallways and similar nonsense. Going for the 100% in AM2R was quite doable and enjoyable.

The areas are also all very well done. Metroid II kind of provides a blank canvas, because the theme of the game pretty much was "spelunking". You explore caves and hunt Metroids. AM2R tries to stay faithful to the original world design, while at the same time it adds "themes" to the individual areas, like technological stuff or underwater sections. Some of it doesn't feel all too original, but it's certainly better than what the original had and still fits the original game world nicely.

And the music is just wonderful. There are some new themes, which are really good, as well as remixes not only from Metroid II, but also other Metroid games such as Super Metroid and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The soundtrack alone makes this worthwhile and is a massive improvement over the original.

If you like fan fictions, there's also a massive logbook about all the major enemies and areas that you can study. It also never gets in the way, you can press "Start" whenever a new log entry gets recorded to read it or just ignore it and keep playing, because it's non-canon anyway.

Controls are also spot on and provide options for the Metroid playstyle that you like best. For example you can switch between items in the same way as in Super Metroid or you can hold a button for Super Missiles and Power Bombs, as it was done Zero Mission. You can activate or deactivate auto grapple and auto Morph Ball functions. And more. It fully supports joypads and lets you customize everything in the way you prefer it.

There are still some issues and bugs, e.g. it happened to me that I fell through the entire world, which was pretty crazy. Some of the boss fights may need some further balancing and the later enemy design was all about "running into Samus", which gets annoying easily. The vertical transition between areas can also be troublesome, if you're in the middle of space jumps, because then it just keeps switching between the screens and it's hard to land. So, it's not perfect yet, where it's a shame that it might be difficult to find the updated versions of the game in the future.

But overall this is a very fine product and a true masterpiece of fan games that doesn't have to hide from anything that Nintendo has done with the franchise. Nintendo wouldn't be ill advised to hire the people from the AM2R team and have them work on an eShop version of the game. I would gladly buy it!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Most Disappointing Secret Grotto in Ocarina of Time

The one in Goron City:

You can see this magma path very early in the game and as new player you might even wonder, how you can get over there. It does take the Longshot and the Song of Time to cross this river of molten rocks unharmed and when you're finally at the other end, all you get is a hole full of Business Scrubs...

Pretty much anything else would have been better, because a lush green cave with Business Scrubs feels a little bit out of place and disappointing after all this trouble. There's a grotto with 200 Rupees in front of the entrance of Goron City that could have been swapped. But the best outcome probably would have been a third cave with special looks, where you fight some enemies for Rupees, e.g. Dodongos.

Now, this is just a minor complaint that always comes up, whenever I replay Ocarina of Time (currently in the Master Quest variant on the Nintendo 3DS, as indicated by the screenshot). And since this annoys me every time, I thought it was worth a small post.

It's not the only disappointing grotto that easily can be ignored, e.g. there are Secret Grottos below grey boulders, which require the Silver Gauntlets, but where you don't really get anything worthwhile in the end. However, the one in Goron City is certainly the worst.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Skyward Sword Month?

In March 2016 we basically got a "Twilight Princess Month" with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD on Wii U and My Nintendo Picross - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Nintendo 3DS.

And I would assume that we're getting something similar with Skyward Sword later this year, maybe even around its five year anniversary in November. I doubt that it's going to be an HD remaster, but they still haven't released the Wii game on the Wii U eShop yet, which they might have saved for a special occasion. And alongside the eShop re-release they might offer the next exclusive My Nintendo Picross in the form of a Skyward Sword edition. I can already picture, how Fi guides you through the tutorials... But the Twilight Princess Picross offer ends on October 1st, where a Skyward Sword Picross might as well be the replacement.

Anyway, I certainly want to replay Skyward Sword, before Breath of the Wild comes out. I played the game up and down, both in Normal and Hero Mode, when it got released, but I never really attempted another playthrough afterwards and I'm excited to give this game another go. But I'm probably going to save this for last.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

30th Anniversary of Metroid

Happy Birthday, Metroid! Today, 30 years ago, Metroid was released for the Famicon and was followed by eleven more games over the years.

Nintendo won't celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Metroid franchise, probably because there is nothing to celebrate. In fact the only thing that happened since the 25th Anniversary was the release of Metroid Prime: Blast Ball two weeks ago. We will be getting Metroid Prime: Federation Force soon, but otherwise the franchise has been pretty much dead.

There was no Metroid Prime 4 on Wii U, there was no traditional Metroid on 3DS. And if there was, Federation Force would probably see a better reception or at least more tolerance by the community. It's really the feel of abandonment that's the issue here, ever since Other M it seems like Nintendo is done with Metroid.

But still, the community is celebrating, where you can follow Metroid30th on Twitter for lots of cool stuff around the 30th Anniversary. And it gets even better: the Project AM2R - Another Metroid 2 Remake - was released just in time for the 30th Anniversary and remakes Metroid II - Return of Samus in the style of Zero Mission. So, even if Nintendo isn't doing anything for the 30th Anniversary of Metroid, the fans sure are.

For me personally Metroid still is my 2nd favorite Nintendo series, because with its Action Adventure gameplay it's pretty close to The Legend of Zelda. The Metroid Prime Trilogy is easily one of the best things that Nintendo ever has released and I also love the other games in the series, even Other M, which I have replayed one year ago in Hard Mode just for fun. With the 30th Anniversary I also want to play through most Metroid games again, but I'll probably save this for the next year, after I'm done with my current 30th Anniversary journey through the Zelda series and after Breath of the Wild, which does incorporate futuristic elements and might be a nice transition to Metroid.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Replaying the Hero's Trial

I was playing Nintendo 3DS with a buddy the other day in local multiplayer, where we battled in Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, Tri Force Heroes (Coliseum Mode) and even the Four Swords Anniversary Edition. In the latter we went through Death Mountain (Silver Key), Vaati's Palace and the Realm of Memories (Golden Door, Link's Awakening). And this also motivated me to try the Hero's Trial again, one of the toughest challenges in the entire Zelda series.

But it went pretty well. I beat the whole thing in one evening, died a couple of times, which is only natural, but never saw a Game Over. The Silver Door I even finished without dying, though it was very close at the end after the Darknuts, where the whole palace starts to attack you with floor tiles.

The Golden Door is much worse, where my first deaths were due to Spiked Beetle confrontations without a shield. You have to use Bombs to flip them and that's not exactly easy, when they run into you. I also didn't use the shortcut, but having the Great Spin Attack made the room with the many Ice Wizzrobes and the Ball & Chain Soldier much easier. In general the Great Spin Attack is a big help for replaying the Hero's Trial, but not always. Holding the sword to load the spin attack leaves you vulnerable, which can be dangerous with quick enemies like Moldorms. But what makes the 2nd floor so annoying is the terrible traction on ice, where you at first almost can't move at all and then can't stop, which makes navigating small ice pathways very tricky and deadly.

Now, on the Hero's Door the downward spiral of dying was even more noticeable. Razor and Armor Seeds help immensely, but as soon as you die, you lose them, and then you die even quicker, especially if you're overrun by enemies. You have a very few invincibility frames and little knockback in Four Swords, so enemies can quickly kill you by just running into you, which they abused a lot in the Hero's Trial to create a high amount of (artificial) challenge.

But there are many ways to avoid damage in the Hero's Trial. Bushes and rocks in the area can block enemy attacks, so it's best not to destroy them upfront. Sometimes you can move blocks in front of blade traps or wind fans, especially on the final floor of the 3rd door. If you keep this in mind, the Hero's Trial can be quite manageable. It's often about being careful upfront and having the right strategy in mind.

Anyway, after successfully going the Hero's Trial I also played through the Hero's Door of Vaati's Palace again, where you go through 12 floors and fight all bosses in their strongest form, which still was very relaxing in comparison to the Hero's Trial and a nice conclusion to my replay sessions of the Four Swords Anniversary Edition for the 30th Anniversary of Zelda. It's a real gem and it's sad that with the shutdown of the DSiWare shop the last hope of a last offering for anyone, who has missed it, will be gone. If you have this game, treasure it.

My current Four Swords Anniversary Edition stats:

  • Medals of Courage: 12
  • Rupees: 540886