Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Wind Waker's Foundations for Breath of the Wild

What are the most important Zelda games? The ones that really defined and revolutionized the series and maybe even gaming as a whole? The common answer would be: The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time and by now also Breath of the Wild.

The first The Legend of Zelda game created the series and was one of the first true Action Adventure and open world games, establishing the formula of underground dungeons on a connected overworld. A Link to the Past then defined Zelda as we know it by adding the classic charm of the series and many elements that are seen as typical for a Zelda game, like cutting grass, opening treasure chests or lighting torches...

Ocarina of Time then took what A Link to the Past had created and successfully transferred it into the third dimension, revolutionizing 3D gaming on its way with context sensitivity, the Z-targeting and more. It also introduced many recurring things to the series like Epona or the different tribes, shaping the series on top of what A Link to the Past already had created.

Breath of the Wild now fully returned to the open world origins and showed how it's done by using the player's urge to explore, where you can freely climb almost everywhere, look for a destination and then glide there. It also introduced a physics engine to the series, which is used for many of the game's puzzles, as well as a heavy focus on mini dungeons and resource management. And all of that got wrapped by a focus on ancient technology, which essentially became the new magic.

Now, there have been many Zelda games between Ocarina of Time and Breath of the Wild, thirteen to be exact, where the series certainly didn't stop to evolve. There have been many experiments with gameplay, controls and art style, creating what's one of the most diverse series in gaming history. But there also has been a big focus on one-game-gimmicks, which helped to make a game unique within the series, but which rarely ever had a lasting impact.

However, there's still one Zelda game in all of this, where you could make an argument that it had this lasting impact: The Wind Waker.

Back when Breath of the Wild was still in early stages, producer Eiji Aonuma mentioned, how the development of The Wind Waker HD influenced the new Zelda game (see here or here). And this shows. Breath of the Wild took many of the things that first were introduced in The Wind Waker and made them bigger and better.

Cel Shading

Probably the most controversial part about the original game were the visuals. The Wind Waker took the Zelda series in a whole other direction with its toon style, which wasn't to every fan's liking. When Twilight Princess later was revealed at E3 2004 with its more "realistic" and grittier art style, the audience cheered in joy and everything seemed right again. But over a decade later things look quite differently. The Wind Waker's art style riped like a good wine, where the game still looks beautiful today, while the visuals of Twilight Princess haven't aged that well.

The toon style also fully stuck with the series, where the Four Swords games, the Nintendo DS installments and Tri Force Heroes adopted it for their character and enemy designs. Toon Link even exists next to Link in games like Super Smash Bros. or Hyrule Warriors and fully has his own individual charm as a character.

While Breath of the Wild didn't use the toon style, it did find a common ground by using a realistic art style with cel shaded graphics. It has the mature appeal of games like Twilight Princess, but at the same time it also comes with the timelessness that the visuals of The Wind Waker prove to have. It's the best of both worlds.

A Seamless Overworld

One of the most impressive feats about Breath of the Wild is how the game handles its massive world, where other than the outer borders there are no limits. You can walk seamlessly between the areas without any loading times at all.

Due to technical limitations Zelda games usually segmented their worlds into smaller areas, rooms and screens even, but The Wind Waker was really the first Zelda game to attempt a seamless overworld similar to the one in Breath of the Wild. Of course the technical limitations were still in place at the time, where the game tried to hide them by letting you travel over an ocean and islands were loaded, as soon as you get closer. But the approach was there. You can travel from one corner of the map to the other without ever changing "screens".

While Twilight Princess had one seamless passage through Hyrule Field, where you can travel through the world in a circle without visible loading times, most of the overworld was still segmented into "rooms", especially around the villages. And while Skyward Sword featured a set of larger areas, they were all fully segmented from each other.

Breath of the Wild now finally returned to the seamless approach and has a world similar to that of The Wind Waker, but with a massive mass of land instead of a mass of water. It even took the seamlessness to the next level with villages, where the insides of houses were for the first time in the series accessible without any transitions. However, the big downside were longer loading times when teleporting or entering a Shrine of Divine Beast, where the game even saw a dedicated loading screen for the first time in the series.

The Deku Leaf

Even though it's one of the most versatile items in the series, the Deku Leaf often gets overlooked. It has two main functions in The Wind Waker, which got split later in the series. It can shoot gusts, which was copied by items like the Whirlwind, Gust Jar and even the Korok Leaf in Breath of the Wild. With this ability it gave a glimpse at what physics could achieve in Zelda, where you could influence many things in the environment with this item.

But it's really its second ability that was ground-breaking for the series: the gliding. It introduced a new level of freedom in movement, where you could use any vantage point to glide on top of rocks or buildings. At the time it was limited by the magic meter and the nature of the ocean world in The Wind Waker, but Breath of the Wild took this idea and brought it to the next level with the Paraglider item. Combined with the free climbing ability, it's a big part what makes Breath of the Wild so fantastic.

Scope and Camera

The Sheikah Slate in Breath of the Wild has many useful features, along them are a scope to view the distance and a camera to take pictures at any time. Technically, both of this got featured for the first time in the series in Majora's Mask, where you had the Picto Box as an item and where you could use a telescope in certain locations. But The Wind Waker fully expanded upon that.

The Telescope became an item in your inventory to be used at any time and the Picto Box was featured in one of the most extensive side quests in the series: the figurine collection of the Nintendo Gallery. This can be compared to collecting pictures of everything for Hyrule Compendium in Breath of the Wild, though that's probably closer to the scanning in the Metroid Prime Trilogy.

Anyway, The Wind Waker HD even added funny selfies to the camera feature, which made a return in Breath of the Wild as well.


While past Zelda games let you travel via raft in certain places, The Wind Waker with its ocean world turned a boat into the main method of transportation for the first time in the series. The sequel, Phantom Hourglass, brought the ocean world back and let you travel via steam boat, which then got transformed into a train in Spirit Tracks. So, this certainly left a mark on the series.

Unlike in Breath of the Wild, this was really the only means of going from one island to the next, while Breath of the Wild doesn't even have a dedicated boat for its ocean areas. Instead it brought the traditional raft back, where it's subject to the game's physics and can be propelled with the Korok Leaf item. A real boat probably would have been more convenient, however, and it's thinkable that a sequel to Breath of the Wild might introduce a mechanical boat spawned by a Sheikah Slate Rune similar to the Master Cycle Zero.

Lookout Platforms

Having a massive open world like in The Wind Waker or Breath of the Wild comes with a price. Filling the environments with content isn't an easy task and often leads to repetition, where certain elements get copied and slightly altered. In Breath of the Wild these are for the most part the many Sheikah Shrines and Towers, but also the different enemy camps, which are made of skull-shaped caves, campfires and even larger constructs of watch towers, both on land and in the ocean.

These towers aren't exactly new, but were a recurring structure in The Wind Waker as well, where many of them can be found all over the Great Sea. Often they are inhabited by Bokoblins, but they might also feature cannons, Wizzrobes or gliding puzzles.

The lookout platforms aren't exactly popular and are more a sign of cheap open world design, but they were prominent enough to be featured in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U:

And that's something, right?

Expressive Enemies

Lookout towers and rafts essentially served as little homes for Bokoblins, who were scouting the oceans as pirates and got introduced in The Wind Waker as a new, expressive type of enemy. Alike, Moblins were patrolling the Forsaken Fortress and you could really see the surprise on their faces, when they eventually spotted you. Enemies never felt as alive before The Wind Waker, where they became a real part of the world, instead of simply being nuisances on your way through Hyrule and its dungeons. It was fun to interact with them in different ways, like making their butts hurt.

Twilight Princess didn't really capture this, where even its Bokoblins felt quite dull overall. In Skyward Sword the Bokoblins felt more alive again, but the game still didn't reach the same level of aware enemies that The Wind Waker offered.

Breath of the Wild now brought the Bokoblins back to old glory, leading their little lives around campfires. The same can't really be said about the Moblins, who still were a lot more charming in The Wind Waker, but at least the Lizalfos became more sentient and interactive alongside the Bokoblins. Lynels leave a big impression as well and the Guardians, while being machines, still felt very alive and like an important part of the world that keeps reacting to you in its own way.

Spoils and Treasures

Defeated enemies in the Zelda series usually drop Rupees, Hearts and ammunition (like Arrows or Bombs). It wasn't until The Wind Waker that enemies also might drop special dedicated items, like ChuChu Jelly. It introduced a Spoils Bag for this, which could store up to 99 of different enemy spoils. Those spoils had different purposes, but also acted as an alternate currency, where some of it could be traded for Rupees.

Sadly, this idea was completely dropped by Twilight Princess, but the Nintendo DS Zelda games later introduced treasure items with a dedicated menu screen, partly based on the spoils from The Wind Waker. These treasures weren't dropped by enemies, however, but were instead found in treasure chests, found in the environment, purchased in shops or won in minigames. Skyward Sword then created a mix of both, where some treasures were dropped by enemies with a certain chance and others were found in the environment or a prize for minigames. It also added a collection of insects on top of that.

Breath of the Wild now took all that and blew it out of proportion with over a hundred of different "materials" to collect for cooking, trading or enhancing your armor. Some of these items could even be dropped again for different uses, e.g. creating campfires. It's a big feature of the game, but it all started with the Spoils Bag in The Wind Waker.

Enemy Weapons

Spoils weren't the only thing that the enemies in The Wind Waker left behind. For the first time in the series you could actually disarm the enemies and use their sticks, swords, machetes, spears or clubs. You weren't able to put these weapons in your inventory, but they certainly provided a nice diversion from the usual sword play.

Sadly, this didn't see a return for a long time in the series. Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks featured special mini bosses, where you would obtain their weapons after the fight, while Skyward Sword only lets you use an enemy's weapons during a single boss fight. And it was a shame that the games didn't do more here.

Breath of the Wild finally returned to form, where you can obtain and use the weapons, shields and bows of almost every enemy in the game (the exception being the big bosses). You can even store them in your inventory this time and use them anywhere to your pleasing. On top of that Bokoblins, Moblins and Lizalfos are able to use any weapons they might find against you.

As a downside the weapons might lose some of their ridiculousness, like Toon Link swinging a sword that's twice his size, because the weapons scale based on the size of their wielder. So, that massive sword used by a Moblin will be normally sized in your hands... But it was certainly a giant step back in the right direction.

The Rito and the Koroks

Ocarina of Time characterized and shaped the different tribes of Hyrule next to the Hylians. The Sheikah, the Kokiri, the Gorons, the Zora (as a peaceful tribe), the Gerudo and even the Deku got introduced and established in this game. This remained for the most part and especially the Gorons were so popular, they got featured in almost every Zelda game after Ocarina of Time.

When later Zelda games introduced new tribes or races, they usually didn't become a staple in the series. The most prominent ones were developed around a one-game-story like the Minish, the Twili or the Lokomo, where it's unlikely that they will ever be featured again. Others were merely there in one or two games, like the Tokay, the Subrosians, the Anouki or the Zuna. Ask any Zelda fan about the latter and you most likely will look into confused faces...

Skyward Sword had probably the biggest failed attempt at introducing new races with the Kikwi, the Mogma, the Parella and the Lanayru Mining Robots. But being featured in an origin story, where the rest of the series never starred them again, put them in a bad place to begin with.

The only real potential apparently came with the Koroks and Rito featured in The Wind Waker. However, they evolved from two races from Ocarina of Time, the Kokiri and the Zora, which connected them to the past in an interesting way. It also helped that a representative of both races followed you through a part of your adventures and could even be controlled by the player.

The Koroks and the Rito were something to remember and both returned now in Breath of the Wild alongside the Gorons, the Zora, the Gerudo and the Sheikah. Zoras and Ritos now exist alongside each other, but they were different enough to begin with. And Koroks now exists in the hundreds, creating the most extensive collectible quest in the series yet with lots and lots of charming little puzzles. And after Breath of the Wild it feels like we haven't seen the last of these races.


Last but not least, The Wind Waker introduced a recurring character to the series, who really has his own charm and isn't despised by many of the fans (yet): Beedle. The funny merchant traveled the Great Sea in his endless quest to make money, but also had appearances in The Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword and finally Breath of the Wild. To be fair, his last appearance wasn't his best one, where his constant nagging for rare beetles in your inventory was rather annoying, but he's still the same unique character with the funny voice acting that we know and love.

Thaaaaaank youuuuu....!!!


The Wind Waker isn't among the best-selling Zelda titles and with its art style and setting it split the fanbase, when it originally was released. Still, it had a lot of influence on the new and successful Breath of the Wild and the series a whole, where it could be viewed as one of the few pillar games that really shaped Zelda into what it is today.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Breath of the Wild: The New Best-Selling Zelda

Nintendo released their Fiscal Year Earnings from April 2017 to March 2018 and with that they updated the current sales numbers of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where it now became the new best-selling Zelda game.

According to this document, the game sold 8.48 Million copies on Nintendo Switch. The Nine Months Financial Results Briefing from three months ago put the Wii U sales of the game at 1.5 Million copies. So, unless Breath of the Wild completely stopped selling on Wii U, the game most likely broke the 10 Million mark, which no other Zelda games has done before.

As a reference, the combined sales of Twilight Princess on GameCube and Wii were at 8.85 Million copies (source), while Ocarina of Time sold 7.6 Million copies on the Nintendo 64 and the original The Legend of Zelda sold 6.51 Million copies. Of course this doesn't factor in any remasters, remakes or re-releases, where Ocarina of Time 3D shipped 5.62 Million copies (source on page 11). So, Ocarina of Time has the advantage of time here, but even if you would combine the sales of all its versions, Breath of the Wild still might top that at some point. It's just been a year for the game.

And these sales numbers are well deserved. Breath of the Wild finally made the Zelda series popular again, the same popularity it had with Ocarina of Time back in the 90s. While Twilight Princess had very good sales, it wasn't as impactful overall and probably profited from being a launch title of the popular Wii. With Breath of the Wild it's the other way around, it's an absolute system seller and one of the driving forces behind the Switch. People buy the Switch to play Breath of the Wild.

For the first time in the series, the game also sold DLC, as well as dedicated, separate amiibo, making it even more profitable. You can find Breath of the Wild merchandise left and right. The game is a huge success, the biggest success of the series so far.

And that's because Breath of the Wild finally remembered what's important and fun about Zelda: mainly, the exploration. Having Hyrule as this massive playground, where the player can freely do what he wants, was the right move. And the sales numbers back this up, which is a good thing, because the series will keep moving in this direction, instead of going down the linear route again. Aonuma already confirmed as much in an interview with IGN.

Zelda has great times ahead!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Awaiting a Smartphone Zelda Title

If there was one Nintendo game this year that could really excite me, it wouldn't be Metroid Prime 4. It wouldn't be the new Super Smash Bros. either. I don't have a Switch yet and I'm still holding off to buy one, until Nintendo sells the inevitable golden Zelda Special Edition, so for me there's no reason to get excited for Switch games yet.

A new Nintendo 3DS Zelda game would be nice, but the rumors from the beginning of this year about a Link's Awakening 3DS remake or requel were most likely fake or otherwise Nintendo would have announced this game at the last Nintendo Direct, which heavily focused on upcoming Nintendo 3DS games in 2018.

And even if another Nintendo 3DS Zelda game was coming, it still wouldn't be on the top of my excitement list, because it probably would just be another short game that you can beat in one weekend. What would excite me, however, is a Zelda title for Android and iOS.

But whyyyy...?!!!

There are multiple reasons here. For starters, I really like the classic topdown Zelda gameplay and I think that with the touch controls of the Nintendo DS Zelda games the smartphone is the platform, where this type of Zelda gameplay can and will stay alive. Of course there could be topdown Zelda games on the Switch, but it probably wouldn't be the focus, since the system can run something amazing like Breath of the Wild. For smart devices on the other hand it would be the perfect choice, when it comes to Zelda.

The most important reason, however, is that I have about 60 minutes of Smartphone game time per workday, because I'm going to work via tram, which takes half an hour. So far I've spent this time with Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, which has been nice, but I need something new soon.

I've already completed all the worlds in Super Mario Run and unlocked all characters. And I've only got eleven more items for the Kingdom Builder left to collect, where four of them were restricted to some Mario Kart promotion and aren't available right now. The rest will need extensive grinding in the Toad Rally and Remix-10 modes, which isn't that much fun anyway...

Fire Emblem: Heroes on the other hand is potentially a never-ending story, where I still like the simple strategy gameplay and the character designs. But during this Eastern the Gacha Goddess hit me hard, where I went from 300 Orbs down to zero trying to get a certain character, which sort of killed my motivation for now. Usually, when it comes to getting banner characters, I have some good luck and it only takes a certain amount of tries to get what I would like to have, but in this case there were two banner characters of the same color and I kept getting the wrong one. And once you're invested in the gambling, it's hard to stop. I wouldn't put any money in this game, but others do, seeing how it's Nintendo's most successful smart device title yet. And this leaves a sour taste...

Anyway, it would be nice to have something new from Nintendo, before Mario Kart Tour in 2019, which doesn't really feel that exciting to begin with. Also, I'm not that big of a Mario fan and I don't care much for Fire Emblem either. But I'm a huge Zelda fan and if the rumors from last year can be trusted, Nintendo planned to release a Zelda game for smart devices, following Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. And this would be perfect for me.

What intrigues me here is that this probably wouldn't be some "weekend" game like A Link Between Worlds. Nintendo's smart device titles are usually "dumbed down" in some form and are supposed to be played in short bursts, but they are also made to last and see regular updates and events. With Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem: Heroes it's the simplified gameplay, what's "dumbed down", while Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp aims at a smaller setting. But they all are perfect for the go and see regular content updates (less so with Super Mario Run, sadly).

With Zelda there is also no real reason to dumb down the core gameplay, because the Nintendo DS Zelda games already have proven that Zelda works with a touchscreen alone. But such a game would most likely aim at some level-based structure, similar to Tri Force Heroes or the Four Swords games, so that you can play it in short sessions.

In there is the potential of a Zelda game that regularly gets new content or even keeps creating fresh content on its own via randomly generated levels - like the first Four Swords game, just more extensive. Or you could take The Binding of Isaac as an example for a game that features generated dungeons in the classic Zelda style. And this is something that you could keep playing on a daily basis.

Ideally, such a Zelda game could keep me busy and entertained for the rest of the year and beyond, instead of being a traditional Zelda title that simply ends, after you've beaten all the dungeons and found everything. And that's what excites me, where I really hope that Nintendo will announce something soon.

Played Some Wand of Gamelon

Well, I always claim that I've played and completed all Zelda games in existence, but this is only true, if you don't count the Philips CD-i Zelda games. They don't count, though. While Philips held some character licenses that led to the games, Nintendo doesn't officially acknowledge them as part of the "The Legend of Zelda" series. Not even Hyrule Historia mentions them and for good reasons.

I do own a copy of Link: The Faces of Evil, but I never had a CD-i to play the game and I never had any real interest in it anyway. I just got it for cheap on ebay and thought it was worth a "lol".

Anyway, this weekend I visited a retro gaming "exhibition" in my town, where there was one lonely Philips CD-i waiting to be played with a copy of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon inserted. Of course I had to try this.

And it's as bad as they say. The system didn't have a real controller, but more like a remote with a large D-Pad and buttons in the left and right upper corners. It was designed for one hand, which played badly. The left button lets you attack with the sword, which at the same time also lets you pick up Rupees and talk to people. The right button opens the menu, but it's also a hidden interaction for doors and entryways, which took me forever to realize.

The worst part is the fighting, however. If you thought that Four Swords has a short and unforgiving recovery time, you haven't played this game. Enemies running through you will kill you, because you lose half a heart per frame or so. Even on full health this game can kill you in the blink of an eye.

Sadly, I couldn't experience the best part, which is the sound and music, because the TV was muted and I couldn't turn it up again. But I liked the overworld map, which seemed quite creative and intriguing. I didn't get far, however, because I started somewhere early in the game and it was entirely unclear what I had to. And of course I couldn't play it forever.

I've seen quite a lot of the games at Zeldathon, but I forgot most of it already. It's mostly the (unintentionally) funny moments that stick with you here. It was still interesting to experience it for myself for once and maybe I'll get another shot at these games in the future. I wouldn't want to try Zelda's Adventure, however, because it's so terribly slow between screens.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Breath of the Wild: My Armor Collections

As an appendix to my Master Mode Log for Breath of the Wild, I wanted to present my entire armor collection, once it was finished. I've farmed some more Star Fragments this evening and finally enhanced all the pieces to the max, thus "completing" my armor collection. So, here are all five pages from my Master Mode file:

Since this was a playthrough of the DLC mode, it only made sense to keep all DLC pieces this time. I also want all enhanceable armor pieces in my collection, just in case that Nintendo has a change of heart and still patches the current armor limit. Then I would only need to purchase missing pieces, which can't be enhanced, to finally complete my collection(s) for real.

In this case I sold the three armor pieces from the Great Plateau: the Old Shirt, the Well-Worn Trousers and the Warm Doublet. I also didn't get the four masks from Kilton's Bone and Fang: the Bokoblin Mask, the Moblin Mask, the Lizalfos Mask and the Lynel Mask. I do like them for the unique animations and sounds, but Majora's Mask made them fully obsolete, so there was no real reason to get them this time.

In my Normal Mode file I did keep these items, as well as dyed duplicates of the Hylian Hood and Hylian Tunic, while I sold three of the DLC armor sets, when I needed to make space for the final DLC: the Tingle, Phantom and Salvage Gear sets.

So, this is how my previous collection looked like:

I prefer the Master Mode variant, because it seems a little bit more practical, how important armor sets are placed and aligned. With sets that I use often, like the Climber's Gear or the Fierce Deity set, I prefer it, when the items are all right next to each other, so equipping the full set is as quick as possible. But overall this turned out rather well in both variants.

It's just that in the Normal Mode variant doesn't have any interesting items at all on its fourth page. There are only some of the Kilton shop items on top and the rest are amiibo tunics, where the Tunic of the Wild set on page 5 makes them fully obsolete.

Overall I didn't experiment much with dyeing, as you can see. There are two sets, where I insist on the red or crimson color, which are the Gerudo Vai set and the Tunic of the Wild set, simply because I think they look better that way. The red Tunic of the Wild reminds me of the classic Red Tunic from A Link to the Past. Here and there I also did some "color corrections" on individual pieces, but nothing special.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Metroid: Samus Returns Revisited

For the last two weeks I've been traveling quite a lot and since Nintendo's Smartphone games don't work without a solid internet connection, I had to resort to my Nintendo 3DS, where I was in the mood to play Samus Returns again.

For my review last September I've played through the game in both the Normal and Fusion Mode difficulties. This time I opted for a Hard Mode playthrough, where I followed two rules:

  1. No Scan Pulses
  2. No Backtracking before the end of the game

The only exception to the second rule would be revisiting the Surface area once before facing the Metroid Queen to complete the map there with Space Jumps, which isn't possible anymore, as soon as you are in company of the Baby Metroid.

But this gave me a lot of time with the baby, where for the first time I could take some of the shortcuts that it provides for obtaining various power-ups. I also scored the second best "ending" in Hard Mode with a time of 7:40, which leaves a lot of room for improvements. But I wasn't speedrunning, I was playing more casually and I also had the goal of completing the entire map without any Scan Pulses, which wasted quite some time.

When filling out the map, the game can be a little annoying, because there are many squares, where you often have to touch some weird corners either by jumping against the right spot or by using the Spider Ball. So, sometimes for one little spot on the screen it creates an entire square on your map, which caused quite some short-notice backtracking on my end. "Oops, I missed some weird corner again."

On the long run I want to unlock all nine ending eventually, but beating the game under 4 hours will require a lot of practice and perfect knowledge of the game world.

At least I enjoy replaying the game a lot. It might even become the Metroid game with the highest replay value for me and it will certainly replace Super Metroid and Other M on that regard, the two Metroid games I've beaten the most so far. It just has the fast paced and smooth gameplay that I enjoy about Other M, but it's a lot closer to the classic Super Metroid gameplay, where the SNES game sadly feels very sluggish with its controls from today's standards.

Samus Returns is quite linear with its strict area-by-area approach, but most Metroid games follow this approach, some are just better at hiding it than others or offer some weird sequence breaks as compensation. But the areas of SR388 themselves usually feel quite open and the game doesn't have this "in your face" linearity of Metroid Fusion or Other M, where you're always told where to go. There's also no forced backtracking to previous areas, which was super confusing in some of the Metroid Prime titles. All of the backtracking is just there for you to discover more hidden power-ups.

Already with the GameBoy Classic I thought that the approach of killing all Metroids within one area to proceed felt quite smart. And Samus Returns really did a good job of developing this formula into a game that has a nice flow. I enjoy it a lot and this certainly wasn't the last time that I've played through this game.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Experiencing Four Swords Adventures in Multiplayer

Four Swords Adventures was the only Zelda game that I didn't touch during my 30th Anniversary Replays for two reasons. One, I played all the games on either Nintendo 3DS or Wii U, where Four Swords Adventures was the only game that's not available on Nintendo's latest systems. Two, I didn't want to play through the entire game in singleplayer again, which is kind of dull, but instead experience everything in multiplayer for a change.

And during this week I finally got the chance to play the game with others at a Zelda fan gathering organized by ZeldaEurope. It's not easy to get a full round of Four Swords Adventures to happen. For a four player session you need a TV, a GameCube, the game, a memory card, four GameBoy Advance systems, four link cables and three more players willing to participate. I could only contribute two GBAs and cables, the rest of the hardware had to be brought by others.

But getting the players was probably the hardest part, because not every Zelda fan is interested in the multiplayer installments - some even downright hate them. In addition there had been many different activities during said fan gathering, where people preferred doing something else and I had to keep asking around.

Another obstacle was created by the fact that we had four GameBoy Advance SP systems, where you can only charge them while playing with some 3rd party cables that don't cover the entire back of the the system, so you can plug in an AC adapter in addition for even more of a cable clutter. While I had one of those "special" link cables, the rest were the official ones from Nintendo. So, the GBAs kept running out of battery and had to be charged separately, which created some downtime.

With all these factors in place we only played through three out of the eight levels, where one level (consisting of three stages) was covered by one play session. But in each session I was playing with a different group of people for quite different experiences, which was nice to have.

The first session, where we played the "Whereabouts of the Wind" was absolutely chaotic. Everyone was fighting everyone, blocking paths with Fire Rods and Bombs, stunning each other with weapons, even bombing each other to death to steal the Force Gems, or simply screwing around for the fun of it. It was hilarious and the levels probably took twice as long because of all the shenanigans, but I had a good laugh and it was probably the most fun of the three sessions.

Sadly, one of the guys from the first session, who really wanted to play the game, had to leave the gathering early and the other two lost motivation / interest afterwards, so I moved on with a completely different group of people for the second level.

Here, during the "Eastern Hyrule" part, one of the guys fully played cooperatively, not caring about grabbing Force Gems himself. I played some Tri Force Heroes with him before that and this showed in the way he played. He was also really interested in the game, so that was good. Well, the second guy was screwing around a lot by accident, while the last guy played fiercely with a competitive mindset, going for the Force Gems whenever possible and voting very strategically at the end to solidify a win. I can go either way, but if you have a player like this in your team, I'm in for the competition as well. But playing against him wasn't much fun, to be honest...

Overall the second session was the most cooperative one, probably because the stages really demanded that. "Village of the Blue Maiden" is a very puzzle-focused stage, where you have to keep guessing, where you can proceed, which is a little annoying in multiplayer, because switching from one big screen to the next requires the full team. And in the "Village of the Blue Maiden" you might keep running around a lot, because the course isn't exactly clear.

For me it's been over six and a half years since I last replayed the game, during the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda series in 2011. So, my memory was kind of foggy about the details in the stages, but this was a good thing. Since I wanted to play as much of the game as possible, I was kind of impatient, so I didn't take the backseat here and guided the team with my remaining knowledge of the levels. But since I forgot some of the details, levels like the "Village of the Blue Maiden" demanded the guesswork of everyone.

During the third and last session at "Death Mountain" things were much more straightforward again and the competitive guy got replaced by a greedy girl, who was so greedy for Force Gems that a good part of the gameplay revolved around stopping her in her greediness, which was fun. It also had some absolutely hilarious moments with the Hinox, because when they grab you, they drop ALL your Force Gems. All of them. One time I went from over 1000 to zero, while the other players would just enjoy the loot

At the end of each stage, before the rankings are calculated, you can actually upvote and downvote one player, based on who was the most helpful and who caused the most trouble. The third session was the only one, where this worked the way it was intended, instead of simply downvoting the guy with the most Force Gems (which was often me) and upvoting the guy with the least Force Gems for strategic reasons.

And it was quite interesting to see, how the competitive factor kicks in here. Unlike in the first Four Swords game on the GameBoy Advance, where every player has his own savegame tied to A Link to the Past and where you need to collect the "Medals of Courage" by winning to unlock stuff, in Four Swords Adventures you have no good reason to compete. You don't get anything for winning a stage other than the win.

Still, people can go crazy for Force Gems just like that, while the original Four Swords might even incite players to cooperate more. "You collect all the Rupees this round for a Medal of Courage and I take the next one", until every player has enough Medals of Courage. Meanwhile in Four Swords Adventures you have people bombing each other to death just for the loot.

Four Swords didn't really allow that, because you had a common Rupee account, where every death was paid from this account and you needed to collect enough Rupees for the Great Fairies at the end of each stage. So, killing a player in that game for whatever reason would be very stupid, while in Four Swords Adventures you might just want to do it to steal someone's Force Gems or for the fun of it.

If I got this correctly, unlike in the singleplayer mode you don't even get a "Game Over", when you run out of Force Fairies, but it will take much longer for a fallen player to be revived, which gives other players the chance to loot more. So, go have fun and kill your buddies.

But with all this chaos I can fully understand, why Nintendo dropped the competitive part in Tri Force Heroes with its online play, outside of the Coliseum Mode. There were enough trolls in the game already, so there didn't need to be an incentive to play like that for real in an online environment.

In local multiplayer this can be a lot of fun, however, and hopefully I will be able to continue the game on the next ZeldaEurope gathering. Five levels are still left and sadly we didn't play any rounds of "Shadow Battles" yet, though the "Hammer Tag" game in the Tingle's Tower minigames was kind of similar and also quite some fun.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Got a Sheikah Slate Keychain

Last Friday I went to a Zelda fan gathering, which was arranged by ZeldaEurope and lasted for about a week. It was a lot of fun with many different activities, including a Zelda trivia quiz. In the past I helped organizing these quizzes, but this year I was able to participate as a player for the first time, where I achieved the best score with some luck and won this really nice item:

I hadn't seen this before, but I really like it. This Sheikah Slate keychain made out of some metal alloy and has a nice weight to it. It can hang out of your pocket, so that you can carry around this miniature Sheikah Slate like the real deal.

It was one out of various prizes, where the best scoring players could chose one after another. The other prizes included a DVD of the Zelda Animated series, a Sheikah Eye laptop sticker and some self-made items. But I'm very happy with my choice and keep marveling at it, because it's so shiny. It will stay with me and always remind me of the nice fan gathering that we had.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Breath of the Wild & Super Mario Odyssey: Zelda x Mario Crossover DLC Concept

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have quite a lot in common. Both were released in 2017 and both are two of the most successful games on the Nintendo Switch, driving the sales of the system. Both put a much bigger emphasis on exploration than their predecessors and both also let you dress the main character in many different outfits.

There are 107 different pieces of armor in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where you can change Link's hat, shirt and trousers for different effects and abilities. Meanwhile Mario currently has 46 different hats and 47 different outfits to chose from, mainly for the looks, with more to come in future updates.

So, wouldn't it be a nice idea to have simultaneous updates for both games, where Link receives a Mario outfit and Mario receives Link's clothings? Let both our heroes swap their clothes! This could happen to celebrate the success of both titles.

References to a Link costumes in Super Mario Odyssey even had been discovered by dataminers already, as documented on Cutting Room Floor. These were the descriptions of both items:

Link Hat: A hat from a far-off land.

Link Suit: This outfit from another land comes complete with back accessories (sadly nonremovable).

However, as of version 1.2.0 the references to the Link costume were removed, while all the other references to upcoming outfits, like a Santa or a Zombie Mario, stayed in tact and even more references got added, like an 8-Bit Mario.

So, this might be an idea that Nintendo had, but which got scrapped in the meantime. It also doesn't look like Nintendo has any interest in updating Breath of the Wild ever again, which makes this even less likely.

Still, let's think about how this could have been implemented in Breath of the Wild. For the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 collaboration they had this neat little side quest, where treasure chests were falling from the sky at certain positions. But they probably should do something else to include a Mario outfit.

One thing that comes to mind are the many traveling merchants in the game, where they could bring a classic Zelda character back, who would be perfect for the job: Tarin.

With Tarin it's pretty obvious that he was originally a walking and talking Super Mario reference. He looks quite similar to Mario and he loves to eat mushrooms to a fault, where he got temporarily transformed into a raccoon. He was replaced by Talon in later Zelda games, who still has the resemblance and used Mario's sleeping pose in Ocarina of Time. He also wears a Bowser pendant as part of his outfit and gives you a Mushroom in Oracle of Seasons.

So, either Tarin or Talon would do fine, where the above artwork of Tarin fits the role of a merchant pretty well. He could sell various mushrooms from the game, like the Rushrooms or Stamella Shrooms, in addition to the Plumber armor set.

You would be able to purchase more than one and also dye it, where different colors could turn this into the outfits of different Mario characters. Green dye for Luigi, yellow dye for Wario and purple dye for Waluigi. The white dye could be used for the classic Fire Flower look. So, there would be many options to make this set entertaining.

The set itself could provide the "Climbing Jump Stamina Up" set bonus and maybe even let Link do funny sounds while jumping. It would be nothing out of the ordinary, so like most of the DLC armor pieces this would be just for the looks and the fun of it.

(As with any potential additions to the armor collection in Breath of the Wild this comes with the disclaimer that such an update should also expand the armor inventory by at least one page, so there's enough space to get all armor items in the game. Currently it's capped at 100.)

Breath of the Wild: Kinstone Concept

Kinstones! This was arguably one of the most charming side quests in the series, which was featured in The Minish Cap, where fusing Kinstones with people (and even certain objects in the environment) would lead to something lucky. It might open the door to a cave, it might drop a treasure chest in the environment or spawn a golden enemy, which drops many Rupees.

Overall this is something that would have been an interesting addition to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At this point we shouldn't expect any more updates or DLC for the game, but in five to ten years they might re-release Breath of the Wild on the next system, where it receives some "Deluxe" or "Definitive Edition" version with all the DLC already included from start and several improvements on top.

One of these improvements could be "Kinstones", which probably wouldn't be actual Kinstones, because this was a product of the Minish, but something as part of the Sheikah technology. These "Sheikah Kinstones" could be broken data chips, where assembling the two pieces would have a positive effect somewhere on the map, like special treasure chests appearing or even new Sheikah Shrines. This should be marked on your map right when you fused the Kinstones, so you know where to look immediately.

They could even use the golden enemies for this, where fusing Kinstones would spawn them somewhere on the map and they drop many Rupees, minerals and Star Fragments (they probably should do this anyway). This could even work in Normal Mode, though this would technically create more chances to miss photos for Hyrule Compendium...

The Kinstones themselves could come in several types again and would be stored in either the materials or the key items inventory tabs, probably the latter. They could also have an inventory tab on their own. You would find them in treasure chests, but they would also be dropped by defeating the various types of Guardian enemies.

And overall this would solve several issues with the game:

  • There's no real incentive to talk to many of the NPCs in the overworld.
  • Treasure chests often contain weapons or materials that you don't really need to a point, where opening treasure chests feels like a chore and isn't really rewarding.
  • All the DLC EX chests with the new armor pieces just got hidden in the world out of nowhere with lots of "EX Side Quests" being spammed into your Adventure Log all at once.

A new version of Breath of the Wild could tie most of the DLC armor pieces into the Kinstone quests. So, only after fusing Kinstones with certain people, the treasure chests with the new armor pieces would appear in the world.

When standing next to any NPC in the game, you would get the option to fuse Kinstones by pressing X or Y instead of A for the talking. This would open a small menu like in The Minish Cap, where you see the Kinstone half of the NPC and your Kinstone collection to chose the right one for a fusion.

There are many NPCs in the game, where you never really have to talk to them, e.g. Benny on a rock at the east border of Hyrule Field. Many of them are adventurers, so it's likely that they might have found some Sheikah artifacts on their way. And adding Kinstone fusions to these characters would turn all these characters into actual points of interest, where it's worthwhile to check everyone out, as Manny would say.

Breath of the Wild: Inventory Improvement Ideas

I've recently played through the entirety of Breath of the Wild again in my Master Mode 100% Completion Run and while it was overall a lot of fun to replay the game, I had a constant gripe with the inventory. It's just so inconvenient in many ways, managing it wastes a lot of play time and sometimes it's even downright limiting. This is, where Breath of the Wild is in most need of improvements and maybe even another update by Nintendo, so that my inevitable third playthrough would be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.

There is also an excellent article, Thoughts on UX of Zelda: Breath of The Wild by Junyue Hua, dealing with the same issues. I've taken some ideas and modified screenshots from that article for this post.

More Armor Space

Broken record here, but it's still an issue that the game offers 107 individual armor pieces, while there is only room for 100 armor pieces in your inventory. So, if you're getting it all, you will have to get rid of at least seven pieces. At the same time the game even invites you to buy duplicates of armor pieces for dying, as proposed by a merchant in Gerudo Town. But this isn't really feasible, if you want as many unique armor pieces as possible.

The solution would be simple. Just let the armor inventory expand by at least one more page. Ideally you could have up to eight pages, which is the same number as the materials inventory and which would allow you to store many duplicates, if you really wanted to.

Armor Quick Equip

Changing armor in the game can be somewhat inconvenient. Not only do you have to navigate the lengthy inventory, but if you want to change to an entire set, because you want to utilize its set bonus, you have to select and equip each piece of the armor set individually. A better solution would have been to give you an "Equip set" option:

The "X"-button doesn't have any functionality within the inventory, except for holding materials. In case of the armor inventory it could have been used as a shortcut to equip pieces and entire sets at once.

With alternate headpieces like the Divine Helms, which you can get from the Champion amiibo, equipping a set on these items would automatically equip the corresponding rest of the set, like the Ancient Cuirass and the Ancient Greaves in this case. This would be really useful considering that the Divine Helms were placed at the end of the armor inventory, instead of next to the rest of the Ancient set, where it would belong. But of course the flawed sorting is another problem in itself here.

Vertical Inventory Tab Navigation

Even with a quick equip feature, changing armor within the inventory would still be quite slow, because you have to find the right pieces first. This is easy enough early in the game, but the more you play, the more the inventory grows. There can be five pages of armor (which isn't even enough), eight pages of materials, three pages of food and two pages of "key items". Together with weapons, bows and shields that's a total of 21 inventory pages that you need to navigate.

The armor inventory is right in the middle of the action, between shields and materials. While you can quickly navigate between pages using R-Stick, it still takes many flicks to get where you want. And holding the stick almost always guarantees you to miss your target.

While the full horizontal navigation of the inventory seems intuitive, it just isn't practical later in the game, where it would have been good to have an option to arrange the inventory tabs vertically. So, one flick to the right moves you from shields to armor and the next flick from armor to materials. Inside these tabs you could now move up and down between the pages.

With such a mechanic, it would only take you three flicks at the most to get to the armor inventory tab, where then you can quickly navigate vertically to find the right pieces of armor. Since the vertical boundaries are refined to the armor space, you could even hold the R-Stick here to quickly switch to the first or last armor page.

Additional Sorting Options

There could be additional sorting options to make things even easier and quicker. With the materials inventory, the two materials you will hold the most often are Apples and Wood. Apples are found right in the beginning of the first materials page, while Wood is located right at the end of the materials list as the last item, where you would need to scroll all the way down or right. But a reverse sorting option for the materials would make things a lot quicker.

Also, it would be useful, if you could sort materials by their effect, e.g. have all speed boosting ingredients right next to each other.

Quick Swap Weapons, Bows and Shields

"Your inventory is full."

That's the one sentence that you will read the most often in Breath of the Wild, along with "You can't carry any more melee weapons." And it's always annoying. You open a chest or you find a good weapon, but you can't pick it up right away. Instead you have to open your inventory and drop something first.

A more convenient interface would at least give you the option to swap your currently selected item with whatever is lying on the ground:

In case of treasure chests, you would drop your current weapon, shield or bow on the ground and take the contents from the chest. Afterwards you could swap them again, in case you didn't really want the chest's contents.

There could even be an option to quickly "discard" the content of chests, where the item drops on the ground instead of your current gear. This would be useful for everyone, who simply want to have opened all the chests in the game, but aren't really interested in the contents. Of course chests, where you have chosen to discard the content, shouldn't re-appear.

Sorting during Quick Change

You can change your weapon, bow or shield on the fly by holding left or right on the D-Pad without opening the inventory screen. While this is nice to have, it arranges all items in a line, where you can have up to 20, which results in a lot of scrolling and flicking with the right analogue stick to get to your desired item.

After you've "swapped" items, your currently selected tool will also be at the end of the line. So, if you want to change from a new weapon back to the Master Sword you would have to scroll all the way back to the beginning.

To make the "quick change" really quick, you should have the same sorting options as in the actual inventory by pressing the "Y"-button. So, when you currently have a sword at the right end, sorting would potentially move you quickly to the left half.

In addition they could let you navigate up and down with R-Stick during the quick change, which would behave the same way as in the inventory, where you have four lines of five items.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition - Balance Changes

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition was already released last month in Japan for Nintendo Switch, on March 22nd. We won't get the western version before May 18th, but some guys on Reddit and GameFAQs already got the Japanese version and have been reporting various improvements to the game's overall balancing.

Director Yosuke Hayashi had already announced in an interview with Famitsu that they "adjusted the balance so that the game becomes easier to play" (source), but back then we didn't know in detail what this would mean.

Overall the game keeps most of the improvements that were made with Hyrule Warriors: Legends on the Nintendo 3DS, so the difficulty of the Twilight Map isn't absolutely ridiculous anymore and so on. But there are some additional changes on top of that.

This is what has been reported by players so far:

  • A-Rank and 2nd Skulltula requirements in Adventure Mode are now percentage-based instead of a fixed value. It's 100% for basic A-Ranks and 40% for the 2nd Gold Skulltulas.
  • You can now store up to 20 weapons per weapon type instead of just 10.
  • Removing a weapon skill now only costs 30,000 instead of 300,000 Rupees.
  • The "Exorcism" (and presumably "Legendary") weapon skill now only take 15,000 K.O.s to unlock, "Evil's Bane" needs 10,000 K.Os.
  • Some Badge material costs have been reduced. The badges for powering items longer now only require silver materials.
  • Rupee costs of Potions have been reduced. For example, the "Guard Breaker" potion now only needs 20,000 Rupees instead of 40,000, while the "Weak Point Smasher" went down to 5,000 from 25,000 Rupees. Material costs are still the same, however.

There are some really good news in there. Reduced grinding is always a good thing, where the Rupee costs in the original game were way too high in many situations, especially with removing weapon skills.

But the best news is certainly that the damage requirements for A Ranks and Gold Skulltulas are now percentage-based, instead of using a fixed numbers of hearts. This finally gives collecting more hearts for every character a real purpose other than powering the "Heart Power" weapon skill, which was introduced in Hyrule Warriors Legends with the "A Link Between Worlds" Pack.

This should also make it much more easier to get A Ranks and Gold Skulltulas in many situations, where originally you had to resort to tricks like shooting everything with a Power-Up Bow from a distance, instead of fighting for real.

They used the original games' basis for the percentages, where you could take 10 hearts of damage for an A-Rank in most missions, as well as four hearts of damage for the 2nd Skulltulas, while the characters usually start with 10 hearts in total. That translated to 100% and 40% respectively. So, with these percentages it never gets harder than in the originals, it only gets easier, the more hearts you collect.

Sources: Reddit, GameFAQs (1), GameFAQs (2),