Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 – The Year of Fighters

Another year has passed and it's time to look back once more. 2017 was an important year for the Zelda franchise with the release of Breath of the Wild, a massive milestone for the series and by far the most extensive Zelda game yet. Chances are that many Zelda fans were still playing the game in 2018 and with that a pause for the franchise was to be expected.

Still, 2018 wasn't a year without anything of interest for Zelda fans. Already early this year the Definitive Edition of Hyrule Warriors was announced for the Nintendo Switch, bringing (almost) all the features of the Wii U and 3DS versions together in May, as well as some Breath of the Wild costumes for Link and Zelda. The game is still a nice diversion and certainly was a good source of entertainment for many Zelda fans in 2018, who already own a Nintendo Switch.

Otherwise Zelda fans in the West were mainly served reading material by Dark Horse, who published both Hyrule Encyclopedia and Creating a Champion this year. The first book went over the contents of all the Zelda games prior to Breath of the Wild, while the second book was entirely dedicated to the new Zelda game.

The big highlight in 2018, however, was probably Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Sadly, the Zelda series didn't get to see a new fighter in this installment (yet), but it was treated fairly nicely otherwise. They finally brought Young Link back and overhauled everyone but Toon Link with new designs and interesting moveset changes.

Every Zelda stage returned in Ultimate with enhanced visuals and the series got a new stage (which are rare this time) with the Great Plateau Tower. All Zelda items and Assist Trophies returned as well with the exception of Tingle, who returned as part of the Great Bay stage. The series also got lots of music, including an amazing remix of the Nintendo Switch Presentation Trailer, and many different Spirits from almost all the Zelda games (the exceptions being Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and Four Swords Adventures).

So, overall Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was still an interesting title for Zelda fans or any Nintendo fan for that matter and a major source of entertainment in 2018. While the game wasn't released before December 7th, ever since the game's announcement in April the speculation was a big part of the fun and spawned many posts online, like on this Blog. Speaking of...

2018 on Hyrule Blog

2018 was a dark year for this site, where since May it rested in private mode and couldn't be viewed by anyone except for its author - me. This was necessary to avoid any legal warnings caused by the GDPR. To be honest, this was probably blown out of proportion and it doesn't seem like many blogs got affected by warnings, but Google also wasn't really helpful with the matter and there still is a risk of losing lots of money for something that gets done as a hobby... And it's better to be safe than sorry.

But I'm still sorry that I had to shut down the site like this, because there have been quite a few interested readers, who keep asking about it. But I'm planning to make it public again eventually, so that hopefully one day someone will be reading the posts from 2018, including this one.

Despite all of this, the Blog has been going strong with a twelve post per month pacing. As you can see, every month of this year has exactly 12 posts for 144 posts in total in 2018. What are the odds? During the first months this was really just a coincidence, but then I realized that this was a nice pace, so I kept working towards the dozen posts on purpose. In some rare cases this caused me to create filler postings (like the Smash Bros. Zelda stages series) or withhold posts until a later date, but overall it came all together very naturally. I probably won't be sticking to this pace in 2019, however, because I don't want to artificially restrict myself, in case we're getting new Zelda games.

The biggest topic of this year was without a doubt Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so many of the posts were about that game, speculating about its potential contents. This includes questions like "Are we getting Skull Kid?", where most of it can be answered with a "no" in hindsight, but it was still fun to think about the possibilities.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Koholint, Island of No Return

We have to go back!!

Ah, Link's Awakening, my first Zelda game and still one of my absolute favorites. Christmas 1997 turned me into a Zelda fan and for me it was a small tradition to replay the GameBoy classic each year around Christmas.

But we have 2018 by now and Breath of the Wild happened. The game really opened the next level for the Zelda series. It's not perfect and might still learn a thing or two from past Zelda games, but overall it's so much more extensive and modern than anything that came before it that the older games simply aren't as interesting any longer.

Before the game got released, I also had made it my mission to replay all Zelda games on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS (see here for the final list). With that came a certain closure and this certainly is another factor, why I didn't have much desire to return to any of the previous games since then.

And Link's Awakening is the prime example here, where this came apparent because of my Christmas tradition. I already tried to replay the game last year at Christmas (which leads me to talk about the game around this time of the year once more), but I only finished the first dungeon. Now, one year later, I tried picking up from there, but then stopped at the entrance of Level 2.

It kind of felt pointless. I've replayed the game so many time that I know it inside out. I remember it so well that I can replay the game in my head, whenever I want to, with frightening accuracy. And I've already got two fully completed savegames on my Nintendo 3DS, covering different choices like the first photo posture and the color of my tunic (though the latter can be changed at any time). And there was no point in adding a third. Instead I chose to play another game on 3DS with "Awakening" in its title, which I haven't beaten yet - Fire Emblem: Awakening.

So, part of the fatigue is probably that I do have completed savegames for all my copies on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS (the sole exception being Zelda II - The Adventure of Link on my Wii U). And that was exactly the point of the whole endeavor - to complete all the games once more to gain closure. I've achieved what I wanted and can hardly complain.

Of course, if Nintendo were to release new versions of the old games, especially some remasters with new features, I would be absolutely interested in playing them and the fire would burn again. It's probably also a reason, why I liked the idea of remaking Link's Awakening on the 3DS earlier this year and why I'm currently looking forward to Skyward Sword HD - I would be eager to play it, despite its limitations in face of Breath of the Wild.

So, let's see when I will finally return to Koholint for real.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Stage Pass DLC?

According to Nintendo's website, in addition to the Fighters Pass for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there will also be Mii Fighter Costumes sold separately for 75 Cent each. So, they probably weren't that unlucrative after all, weren't they?

Of course the wording isn't really clear here, because it only talks about a "Mii Fighter Costume". It could be in the same sense as the "Individual Challenger Pack", where there will be five of them, but it could also mean that there is really only one, where they sell the Rex costume for anyone, who wants the costume, but not the Fighters Pass... We'll see.

But there is a chance that there will be more DLC than what they have announced so far. And here stages come to mind. With Ultimate there certainly was a focus on bringing a majority of past stages back at the expense of new stages from newer games. So, getting some more stages would be nice in any way, especially new stages for existing franchises, which the Fighters Pass probably won't provide.

They could add another column to the stage select screen, so that there would be ten more spaces for additional stages. They could sell those separately, but they could also provide a "Stage Pass", where you can pre-order / buy all the stages in a pack for a refund.

So, let's get to the fun part: what stages could they offer as DLC? Let's say they are also trying to bring back more past stages to make list look more complete, they could aim at five returning stages and five new ones for a 50:50 ratio. And here are some ideas...

Returning Stages:

  • Poké Floats
  • Rumble Falls
  • Rainbow Road
  • Woolly World
  • Orbital Gate Assault

This spans various Super Smash Bros. games and franchises, as well as stage types. All of these stages are scrolling, shifting or moving around and therefore would require quite some effort to remake them. In some of these cases it's probably even the only reason, why these stages haven't returned in the base game already. Especially the making of "Orbital Gate Assault" took them about a year, originally. And with such development efforts, adding these stages as DLC would be justifiable - certainly more than selling cheap-looking N64 stages on Wii U.

On the other hand, if they really wanted to go that route again, they could bring back "Planet Zebes" instead of Orbital Gate Assault. This way there would be one returning stage from each past Super Smash Bros. title. But of course Planet Zebes looks quite similar to the existing Brinstar stage, just with a different layout, so it wouldn't stand out as much in the DLC. (Same goes for "Sector Z".) Alternatively, they could go for the infamous "Metal Cavern", which is an often fan request.

Another candidate would be "Mute City" from Melee, but it's quite similar to Port Town Aero Drive already and also to Rainbow Road from the Nintendo 3DS, where the latter would probably be more popular, interesting and impressive as one of the DLC stages.

"Pac-Maze" would also be nice to have, but the ghost gimmick probably has to stay exclusive to playing in online multiplayer or in local multiplayer with multiple Switch systems, which might be the main reason, why they didn't bring back the stage at all. It could be interesting, however.

The remade "Poké Floats" stage could be using something from the new Let's Go games, maybe even some of the assets. This would be a good throwback to the original, where they used the models from the Pokémon Stadium games... But it could be an update similar to Corneria being based on Star Fox Zero to cover one more recent game.

New Stages:

  • Planet SR388 (Samus Returns): could have the Diggernaut and/or the Metroid Queen as stage bosses.
  • Sky Arena (ARMS): could have Max Brass and/or the Hedlok as stage bosses.
  • Anything from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
  • Anything from Pokémon Sun & Moon.
  • Anything from Yoshi's Crafted World.

With that I would already be a lot happier with Ultimate's selection of new stages. Some good games from the past five years are simply not all that present in the new Smash, where Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is easily the worst offender. The game had godlike music from David Wise, where the DLC stage would be worth it for the new tracks alone.

The only problem with this selection is that there are many overlaps in franchises with the proposed returning stages above: Donkey Kong, Yoshi and Pokémon would receive all two stages each in the DLC. The rest goes to Mario Kart, Star Fox, Metroid and ARMS. And admittedly there could be more variety here. However, this wasn't really an issue for Nintendo with the stage DLC for Smash 4 either, where most of the separately sold stages were from either Mario or Zelda.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Impa?

This idea got already mentioned in various posts before, but it deserves one of its own, where we go over another potential Zelda newcomer in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, much like Skull Kid, Tingle, Vaati and even Hilda before: Impa.

While yet again the Zelda series didn't see a newcomer in Smash, but only a returning fighter with Young Link, it's still unlikely that anything in the upcoming Fighters Pass DLC will be from the Zelda series, mainly because the focus will probably be on new series joining Smash and because Zelda already got one of the few new stages.

There is still a chance, however, and that chance lies within Echo Fighters, where Impa could become an Echo Fighter of Sheik. Since they are quite close to their original fighters, Sakurai's team might consider developing some more Echo Fighters and releasing them for cheap or even free for promotional purposes, e.g. Jeanne promoting Bayonetta 3.

And if Impa joins Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it will be very likely her younger self from Skyward Sword, which could go hand in hand with promoting a potential Skyward Sword HD on Switch next year:

People like to believe that any character that is already a Spirit in the game won't become playable, not even as DLC. And seeing how Joker will be joining the roster as the first Challenger Pack, this might as well be true. However, in case of Impa this isn't really a hindrance, because her Spirit shows the Impa from Ocarina of Time, so her Fighter Spirit could still be the one from Skyward Sword. The other playable Zelda characters also have different Spirits from different Zelda games, e.g. Ganondorf from Twilight Princess or Link from A Link Between Worlds.

Another suggestion that seems quite common would be adding Impa from Hyrule Warriors as a unique character, however, there currently isn't anything from Hyrule Warriors in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and that will most likely not change, especially not with a main fighter. They are clearly going for the designs of the main games here, where Skyward Sword so far doesn't have a fighter from its game, only a stage.

So, overall things are looking quite promising for an Impa Echo Fighter. It all depends on whether they might consider Echo Fighters as some additional DLC next to the Fighters Pass or not. If they do, then Impa certainly would be one of the likeliest candidates.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Creating a Champion Curiosities

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Master Works is an extensive book all about the development of the latest Zelda title. It got released a year ago in Japan and now found its way to the West with Dark Horse's English publication under the title Creating a Champion. By now I went through the entire thing once and took note about certain parts that caught my interest.

The book is divided into four sections, where each section starts with a double page in the design of the loading screen from Breath of the Wild, which is a nice idea. Every section adds another Divine Beast, starting with Vah Ruta, and the last one comes in the red color of Master Mode. The first section collects all the beautiful illustrations and the second section goes through the entirety of the game's artwork and development drafts with descriptions for many things. The third section extensively goes through the history of this new Hyrule and its people. The last section then finishes things with some developer commentaries.

Page 83: Whip and Hookshot

This page shows some early drafts for the Champions, where it's interesting that originally instead of the Rito there was supposed to be a Kokiri. We knew this for quite some time now, but it might also explain, why the Rito feel so underdeveloped in this game - because they weren't even planned in the beginning.

What's also interesting is the weapon types of the depicted Champions. In addition to the short sword, great sword and spear, the Kokiri is holding a whip and the Gerudo a "Hookshot-like" weapon, which is simply a hook on a chain. And it's a shame that both didn't make it.

Given, the whip probably would have been another one-handed weapon type like the different swords, boomerangs and rods, instead of a weapon type of its own, but it still felt absent in the game. The "Hookshot" on the other hand is a chained weapon using two hands, which could have had various abilities, like using it to climb ledges more quickly. It even has the potential to become its own weapon type in the next game, where different balls & chains could be thrown into the mix...

Page 94: The Many Faces of Hyrule

In the Developer's Notes on this page they mention that they actually used a tool for face generation for both the Hylians and the Sheikah, where the faces of the side characters changed on a daily basis. This is good to know and also explains why many of the characters in the game feel so terribly generic...

Page 102: Sheikah Ghost

On this page we can see the ghost of a Sheikah woman, where this probably was supposed to be Dorian's dead wife, the mother of Koko and Cottla. She is depicted in the same ghostly style as the Champions and King Rhoam, but this never made it into the final game, sadly. Well, they probably didn't want to put her on the same status as the Champions in the game, but meeting the spirits of characters could become a more important part in the sequel.

Page 149: Wizzrobe Wonder

Here we can see what the Wizzrobes in Breath of the Wild actually look like under the robe, which is funny and disturbing at the same time. It's a dark creature with a crazy smile, where the head is attached directly on the torso and the pointy top of the robe is supposed to give the illusion of a neck.

They also have the draft for a more serious-looking version of the Wizzrobe with a mask and an Asian design influence. I personally like that one a lot more.

Page 196: Almost All the Armor

The book features artworks of all weapons and all the armor pieces in the game - all except three of them, for a total of 104 pieces. What's missing? They did leave out the Salvager set, the one to promote Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It's like the only thing from the game that didn't find its way into the book, which is curious, because this armor set got released some time before The Champions' Ballad DLC and the book has all the other DLC and amiibo stuff.

Maybe it's because this particular set of armor got ripped straight out of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and therefore didn't have to be designed. But it's still weird that they wouldn't show it in some form.

Page 203: Dragonfly Spy

There were lots of ideas that they had for the Sheikah Slate and its items, including the Hookshot and the Beetle, which both didn't make it into the final game. Page 203 shows us, how the Beetle might have looked like on what was called the "Conductor" at the time. It was actually the eye on the back on the Sheikah Slate, which could be detached and then turn into a dragonfly. This looks like a really cool idea and I would have loved to have this rune. Maybe in the next game...

Page 232: Hyrule Castle Town in Full Glory

Here we have an actual early ingame shot of Hyrule Castle Town from before Calamity Ganon destroyed it. What's weird here is that you can see the temperature and sound meters in the bottom right corner, as if this was something run during the game, so you could explore it. It probably means nothing and this was just used for the cutscene, where the Guardians destroy the town, but they've still put quite some detail into it.

Overall it's certainly a place, which is missing a memory. It would have been nice to see Hyrule Castle Town in its prime, before it got destroyed. They could have used this for another carefree memory scene, where Link and Zelda go shopping together or so...

Page 255: Ancient Tree Stump

This is just a random note. The actual double page here deals with the amazing Astral Observatory below Hyrule Castle, but at the right side they go through some other notable locations from Central Hyrule with screenshots: Satori Mountain, the Lost Woods and ... the Ancient Tree Stump.

It's kind of weird, why they would put the last place on the same level of importance as the other two, but seeing this screenshot and the way they described this, it reminded me somewhat of Level 1 from the first The Legend of Zelda game or the Gnarled Root Dungeon from Oracle of Seasons (which is the same thing, really). And maybe this place was supposed to be a reference to these classic dungeons?

Page 290: Welcome to Tarrey Town

The Hudson statues at the entrance of Tarrey Town here are absolutely hilarious and should have been in the final game.

Pages 296 & 297: Goron City

The Faces of four Goron Heroes carved into the rocks behind the village, which looks a lot like Mount Rushmore in these drafts. With the final version the focus was clearly on Daruk instead.

Also, Goron City looks in its rough design a lot more like what I would have hoped originally. It's large and has multiple layers, similar to the Goron City in Ocarina of Time, and railtracks going around the whole thing. The final version of Goron City felt somewhat underwhelming and it would have been nice, if the place was somewhat larger and layered, like an actual open-cast mine.

Page 337: Epona Co.

This is a nice detail that never really got mentioned in the game, if I'm not mistaken, but all the stables are run by a company called "Epona Co.", a horse good maker. So, they named their company after the "horse of legend".

Page 356 to 413: The History Section

Creating a Champion has a dedicated history and timeline section with over 50 pages just for Breath of the Wild alone. The legends from previous games are only a side note here, so things date back to 10,000 years ago and the first battle against Calamity Ganon.

And that they developed this rich history for one game alone really speaks for itself - it's a big new chapter in the timeline of Zelda and certainly an interesting new starting point for games to come.

Pages 386 & 387: Akkala Citadel

This is quite the impressive double page, where they go over in detail about the tactical functions of the Akkala Citadel, how intruders from the sea were fought off with the batteries of cannons and how the fortress ultimately fell to the Guardians. You can grasp some of this by studying the environment in the game, but it's nice to finally learn part of the story behind the Citadel.

Page 394: Mabe Village

"Watching this town disappear in a flash of light from across Hyrule Field must have made it seen like a fleeting dream."

Nice nod to Link's Awakening.

Page 397: Great Plateau Gate

This is something that you can notice in the game, if you pay close attention, or completely miss it. But there's actually a gate at the foot of the Great Plateau, which leads up to it, explaining how people got to the Temple of Time in the first place. The gateway got buried at the bottom and flooded at the top, so it's impassable in the game.

Page 413: The Zonai Tribe

This is by far one of the most interesting details found in this book, which completely escaped me, when I played and explored the game. There are the Zonai Ruins in the Faron area and apparently these come from the "Zonai Tribe", "magic wielders who vanished suddenly thousands of years ago". This sounds a little bit like the Dark Interlopers, but it probably is something else entirely. The name also sounds a little bit like the "Zuna" tribe from Four Swords Adventures, but again it's probably something else entirely.

The Zonai are also responsible for all these weird pillars with the occasional treasure chest on top that you can find in various parts of Hyrule, as well as the gigantic Lomei Labyrinths - their spiral mark is all over them. This is highly interesting and we might learn more about the Zonai in a later game.

Final Page (424): Timeline Placement

Maybe they wanted to save the best for last, but the commentary of series producer Eiji Aonuma comes at the very end of the book and at the end of the commentary he confirms that they left the timeline placement of Breath of the Wild ambiguous on purpose. We knew this since the book was released and we expected as much, once the game was released and gave no clear answer.

But the purpose was to spark the imaginations of the fans again - to have them discuss about the timeline once more, after the official timeline of the previous Zelda games got revealed with Hyrule Historia and Hyrule Encyclopedia. And this certainly worked, every since E3 2016 and to this day fans are still arguing over the branch Breath of the Wild falls into.

The book itself also states on page 361 that it's "impossible to tell which legends are historical fact and which are mere fairy tale". It's all "myth" at this point and the best thing is to view it that way. There is no real solution to this new timeline problem and that's on purpose, because Breath of the Wild takes places such a long time after all the other games that continuing the three branches would be absurd. It's in a way a soft reboot for Zelda, but at the same time it makes the fans argue and theorize again.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Got a Sheikah Slate Light

I got some Christmas presents early this year and this was one of them: a Sheikah Slate Light. I love this thing, it creates a soothing, blue light and looks really cool. It's perfect for this time of the year, where you want to have some smaller lights around during the dark hours.

It was made by Paladone, the same company that produces all these Zelda glasses, cups and coasters under official license. I have quite a few of those as well (most of them were also gifts), which I might show off some day.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Got Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Limited Edition

I would say Christmas came early this year, but in fact it came a week too late...

Look at that, I finally got my own copy of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate today with the European Limited Edition. Why today and not one week ago like the rest of the world? Well, Amazon really screwed up here. Despite pre-ordering this in August with my Prime membership, they decided to send the item on release day with slow shipping in a gigantic box, which took forever and some detours before it could arrive in my home...

But it's finally here and overall a very nice item to have, so it was worth the wait. It comes with the game (duh), a GameCube controller adapter (which I didn't have yet) and a GameCube controller:

It's also a very shiny box overall, but there's one big downside here: they didn't update it with Ken and Incineroar. They are not on the mural and with the portrait collections on the inside and the backside of the box they leave these little "box theory" holes in the corners. Did Nintendo really produce this so early, they couldn't put the final characters on the box? The North American Special Edition with the Pro Controller did get updated properly, so why not this? It's a shame.

On the bright side, the game case that comes with the Limited Edition doesn't have any age ratings and therefore looks much nicer than what you normally find on the shelves. Here's a comparison between the Limited Edition (on the left) and the normal retail game (on the right), which I borrowed from someone together with a Nintendo Switch:

The logo is nicely centered and you actually get Yoshi on the box... It's much better.

However, on the inside and the backside they have actually one big difference, where the normal version is better: Ken and Incineroar. That's right, they are missing on the case of the Limited Edition as well. It's like they produced this way too early, while the normal edition got produced right on time.

Anyway, as you can see in the first picture, I also got the Smash Edition Pro Controller, which is good to have as well, I like it a lot. The Switch has even this nice touch, where it shows you this controller with the white handles in the menus. I prefer using this one over the GameCube controller, so buying the Limited Edition on top wasn't a necessity for me. But it's good to have another GameCube controller available for my old GameCube and I know people, who prefer to play with this controller, so it's good to finally have the adapter.

And I also got the Ridley amiibo - twice, because I was worried I wouldn't get one, so I pre-ordered two of them at different places. It turned that this was completely unnecessary, because you can find them easily in stores. But you never know with amiibo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Free Content Coming?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will get a paid DLC of five "Challenger Packs", where each of them come with a fighters, a stage and some music. There don't seem to be any plans beyond that, at least not for paid DLC, but it's always possible that Nintendo might add some free goodies like some Echo Fighters or an additional stage. And by looking at the current menus, there are some gaps here and there supporting this thought.

It's noticeable that the Training Stage replaces the random stage selection button in Training Mode, so the bottom right corner of the stage selection screen is still open and there would be space for a 109th stage in addition to the five stages coming with the DLC. It could be the rumored Minecraft stage, but at this point I would really like it more if Minecraft got its own Challenger Pack instead, because the player character ("Steve") would have lots of potential for Smash.

But it could really be that we might be getting an additional DLC stage for free. Both Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U even got one as well, with the Duck Hunt stage on the 3DS and the Miiverse stage on the Wii U. So, it's a possibility. Maybe they'll bring another past stage back (like Rainbow Road or Woolly World), maybe there will be something new. Or maybe there will be nothing at all... We'll see.

It could also be that the last slot will be used for a "second page" button like we had in past Smash games, which leads to your custom-made stages. Well, stages from a Stage Builder could also get their own tab on the top, so this doesn't necessarily need to be the case, but it would fit and make sense. (However, it's unlikely that the Stage Builder will return as a download. Sakurai's team will probably operate on bare minimum to get the new fighters and stages done from now on, while the rest of the development team moves on to new projects.)

In addition, if you look at the character select screen with different options and scenarios, it does look like there are still three spaces for potential Echo Fighters. Together with the random button, the roster usually does form a perfect rectangle when you look at the combined character screens, where Echo Fighters share a slot with their originals and the Mii Fighters get combined in one slot as well. This looks perfect and this won't change with the six DLC fighters, because by expanding the roster there will simply be another column with six additional slots, where it adds up perfectly.

The full roster, where the Echo Fighters and individual Mii Fighter types are separate, however, always has three open spaces in the last row - with and without the DLC. Again, the six DLC fighters will be handled by another column for the six rows, so they change nothing. But theoretically they could add three more Echo Fighters to make it a perfect rectangle in all scenarios and to make it a nice total of 10 Echo Fighters. And with that they could cover some more fan requests like Dixie Kong, Impa and Jeanne...

The last two could even be there to promote new games on the Switch, like Skyward Sword HD and Bayonetta 3. And their Fighter Spirits could even be different from the Spirits they already got in the game. Impa's Spirit is based on Ocarina of Time, so her Skyward Sword incarnation could become the Fighter Spirit. And Jeanne's Fighter Spirit could be simply use her design from Bayonetta 3.

Alternatively, one of these slots could go to a Mii Magician type for the Mii fighters. This class makes way too much sense, where it's weird that this isn't already in the game. Some of the Mii costumes, like Skull Kid, Viridi or Ashley, don't even really fit any of the three existing classes, but would be perfect for "Mii Mages".

Of course this is wishful thinking. Hyrule Warriors never got a 30th character for example and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U didn't have a perfectly even character select screen at the end either. So, these three slots on the character select and the one slot on the stage select might stay empty forever. But since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is quite the ambitious project, adding some free Echo Fighters and some more stage content on top could turn into a reality. Let's hope for the best.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: First Impressions

Sadly, I haven't gotten my copy of the game yet. But I had to borrow a Switch from someone anyway, since I don't have a Switch of my own yet, and that someone also got the game, so I could play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate quite a bit over the weekend despite my circumstances.

During the weekend we / I unlocked all the characters, either by playing the Smash mode together or me playing the new Classic mode with various characters. Overall unlocking all the characters was quite fast and fun. I would even say that stages should have been unlockable on similar terms, because it's nice to have a small selection in the beginning and then unlocking everything bit by bit gradually to try things out when you unlock them.

On the other hand I haven't unlocked all stages in Super Smash Bros. Melee to this day, because some of them were tied to rather difficult tasks... So, I'm happy that I don't have to go through something like that again to have a full selection of stages and characters ready. On the other hand they could let you unlock stages in a simple fashion as well, where it's fun to get one stage after another.

It's also fun to have the revert with the new "Smashdown" mode, which is really interesting for me, because I tend to play the same character(s) in fighting games. In case of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and so far Ultimate it's Zero Suit Samus, but I've been playing many other characters more frequently in the latter, including Simon and Richter, Ridley, King K. Rool, Young Link, Cloud, the Fire Emblem cast and more. But with "Smashdown" I again wish that this mode would apply to stages as well, where once a stage has been played, it can't be picked again for the remainder of the mode.

Stages, Stages, Stages

Overall most of my complaints about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate revolve around stages. For starters, while I like the new rule sets, I really don't like that Stage Morphing and toggling Stage Hazards are part of them. This should have been on the stage select screen and not in the rule sets. Because the way it is now, I have to make four variants for each rule set, depending on whether I want to turn on morphing or hazards or both... It's super inconvenient.

As for stage hazards, turning them off does not stop the scrolling stages, they are still going. With that there is actually no reason why they didn't bring back (vertically scrolling) stages like Rumble Falls other than that they would bring some development efforts. The only stage that probably wasn't brought back due to technical limitations is Jungle Hijinx, because the background layer wouldn't work with the Stage Morph feature.

The stage select screen is a mess as well, where both this and the character select screen should get an option for sorting everything by series.

And while I enjoy having this gigantic collection of past stages, the lack of new stages made things boring fast, because I was already familiar with over 90% of the content here. Luckily, I didn't get the Mario Maker and Midgar stages for the previous games, so I had two more new stages to explore. It's also nice to re-explore the Melee and 3DS stages with nice new graphics. But it was overall quite disappointing to only get a few new stages, where some of them aren't even all that good. I like the Great Plateau Tower and Dracula's Castle is amazing, but the Moray Towers and the New Donk City stage weren't really my thing.

In addition, there's no Stage Builder, so I can't even make my own stages for now and maybe ever. There's some hope that they might patch one in, but that's quite unlikely.

Classic Mode

While I haven't tried the "Spirits" stuff yet, including World of Light, because in the end this won't be my savegame, I was really busy playing a good part of the new Classic Mode, which I enjoy a lot. Every character has a short campaign of six different fights and a boss at the end, where it's a different experience for everybody. This is so much more fun to play this with all the characters than it was in previous games and it's easily the best Classic Mode yet. It's short, it's simple and it's addicting.

The bonus games, however, show how terribly repetitive it can be to play the same thing over and over again with different characters, so ultimately the mode would probably have been better without the Bonus Stage and playing the credits each single time (though you can skip the latter, but it means that you get fewer rewards).

But it's nice to see what you will have to face with each characters, where some ideas are quite interesting and unique. For example you keep fighting dark enemies as Link, including Dark Pit, Dark Samus and of course Dark Link and at the end...

There's other interesting details as well. For example in Isabelle's Classic Mode you fight the entire female staff of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And for the last battle they let you face Sheik alone, which might be a big hint at the forever ongoing debate about Sheik's gender.

Zelda Contents

While it is still disappointing that Zelda didn't get a newcomer this time around, you have to say that they treated the Zelda franchise quite nicely and with care in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I've already mentioned some cool Zelda things from the Classic Mode, but the redesigned characters all look and play great as well. Zelda looks cute and Link's Remote Bombs are a powerful tool.

Even Ganondorf feels quite good in this, the higher speed of the game does him well and his new Smash Attacks with the Spaceworld sword are fantastic and a killer. I even used Ganondorf to unlock quite a few of the later characters, where the AI gets a bit trickier. I kept calling him the "Unlocker" during this, because that's what he did for me (King K. Rool also did a good job here).

It's also fun to use Ganondorf in an 8 Player Smash in a crowded stage. Just stand there and smash and you're almost guaranteed to make some easy kills. Of course he's still quite slow and the Special Moves still aren't the most fitting choice, but it was a step in the right direction.

And then we got Young Link back, who currently seems really overpowered with his Fire Arrows. Those things launch you, where you can even snipe characters into oblivion, who are trying to get back on the stage. But it's likely that this will be nerfed soon...

I also like the Great Plateau Tower stage quite a bit and all the past Zelda stages are looking better than ever. The only complaint I have here is about the Pirate Ship's Omega form, which doesn't have a roof anymore, probably to match the Battlefield version. But I liked the Wii U version a lot more, because it really looked like one of the Lookout Platforms from the Wind Waker there.

For the first time I also found interest in the Mii costumes and making my own Mii Fighters. While Skull Kid might not be playable, his outfit is really nice and makes a Mii almost look like him. Of course that's just a sad consolation price, but it's still nice to have. And I really like the Yiga costume, which even gets used in some of the Classic Mode scenarios for the Zelda characters. This is the type of stuff the Mii costumes are ideal for. I never would expect a Yiga to become playable, but as Mii Sword Fighters they leave a good impression. Good stuff!

Still, it's a shame that Zelda didn't get a newcomer in all of this... But maybe, just maybe, there will be some free DLC Echo Fighters, where Impa could be one of them. Which leads us to the next topic... (Upcoming post.)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x The Game Awards

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got officially released today and the Game Awards ran last night, where it's not a surprise that Nintendo would heavily advertise the game at this event. What was surprising, however, was the announcement of the first DLC character: Joker from Persona 5. They just started developing the DLC, so this seemed somewhat early, but as a result we didn't get to see any gameplay in the trailer.

It was clarified again that these "Challenger Packs" are a unit of a character, a stage and some music, where we're getting something entirely new for Smash. This is reminiscent of my idea for game-based DLC Packs, where you now get another crossover like "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x Castlevania".

However, this announcement also deepens the fear that most, if not all of the DLC will be 3rd party. Vergeben, the guy who leaked Ridley, Simon, Isabelle, Ken and Incineroar, keeps insisting that there will be one more character from Square Enix, as well as some content from Minecraft (a boss in the least). With that we're already looking at three fifths of the Challenger Packs being from 3rd party games. And with contenders like Monster Hunter, Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden / Dead or Alive), a character from Bethesda (Dovahkiin or even Doom Slayer) and another Bandai Namco representative, it's not unlikely that the entire DLC will revolve around 3rd parties.

On the other hand we have excellent Nintendo games on the Nintendo Switch, which only get represented as Spirits, Mii costumes, Assist Trophies or not all... Games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, ARMS and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. And with that it would be a shame, if all of the DLC would put the spotlight on external parties, instead of Nintendo's own creations.

Persona 5 and Joker feel already quite "out there" and another Cloud-y case. The Megami Tensei franchise has its history with Nintendo, however, and this also might mean that Persona 5 is coming to Switch, but it's still not exactly what a hardcore Nintendo fan would have expected or wanted from the DLC. Well, let's see, where this will be going...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A New Zelda Every Year?

Currently there is a Eurogamer article making the news, where it's quoted like Nintendo is planning to release a new Zelda game every year on the Nintendo Switch. However, this is really just speculation from the editor, Tom Phillips, who accounts Hyrule Warriors - Definitive Edition for this.

He isn't wrong, though. If you count the Hyrule Warriors games and the remasters, there has been at least one major Zelda release per year since 2013:

  • 2013: The Wind Waker HD & A Link Between Worlds
  • 2014: Hyrule Warriors
  • 2015: Majora's Mask 3D & Tri Force Heroes
  • 2016: Twilight Princess HD & Hyrule Warriors Legends
  • 2017: Breath of the Wild
  • 2018: Hyrule Warriors - Definitive Edition

One of Nintendo's goals in between 2013 and 2017 was to keep Zelda fans entertained, until the next big title comes out with Breath of the Wild. Especially the remasters on the Wii U served this purpose. And this trend will most likely continue in the next years, until Breath of the Wild gets a proper sequel.

Earlier this year we already looked at Zelda's Future on the Switch, where there are many possibilities. Skyward Sword HD will certainly be a start and might become the next Zelda release we get on the system, especially now that Aonuma himself has teased us with the title.

Otherwise the main Zelda team used to have a fraction, which was responsible for smaller titles on handhelds like A Link Between Worlds. And we have Grezzo, where last year it looked like they are hiring for Zelda. Both of this might lead to another top-down or side-scrolling Zelda game and/or something that involves multiplayer.

So, it's quite likely that we're getting one or even two Zelda games on Switch in 2019 and in addition Hyrule Warriors 2 might be already on the horizon, which could be a title for 2020.

PS: The Game Awards tomorrow night might give us already a first glimpse at what's coming. They could even reveal Skyward Sword HD there. But I'm mainly hoping for a first trailer of Metroid Prime 4 and an announcement of a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD release. This could be very interesting!

Monday, December 3, 2018

My La(te)st Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U Stages

One big thing that is absent from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be the Stage Builder and this gave me a solid reason to return to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to see what I will be missing. I've made four new stages in that notion, which I want to represent here. Sadly, you can't share stages over Miiverse anymore, so this blog post will have to do.

Two of these stages are very simplistic, while the others are more on the creative end of things. Take note, how I primarily used the grid to make the stages. While the free-form functionality is a nice feature, it rarely gives satisfying results and it's usually best to design stages via the grid. And that's why it wouldn't even be much of a loss, if the free-form feature was dropped in favor of a grid-only editor - which would be more suitable for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate anyway, since you could only use the touchscreen in handheld mode and the Switch doesn't even come with a stylus.


  • Music: Mach Rider
  • Size: Medium

This was just me playing around with the editor, trying some shapes and textures. It doesn't get simpler than that, but in the end it's simple stages like this one, which will be enjoyed in Smash, especially if you tend to play more competitively.

You don't need complex forms or even any elements like the cannons and springs - in most cases they even create something gimmicky, while the core gameplay of Smash works best without such gimmicks. Probably a reason, why many Smash fans are looking forward to the hazard toggle in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Blocks of Rage

  • Music: Attack (Fire Emblem)
  • Size: Small

This is another example of a very simple stage. It's just two blocks on each side above the volcano background with a platform in the middle. It's nothing special, but I had fun playing on it. I also really like the textures of the blocks.

And there are countless combinations of simple shapes and platforms and textures and backgrounds, so even with a very simple Stage Builder there would be tons of "good" stages that you could make with it.

The Longest Yard

  • Music: Brain Clearer
  • Size: Large

Springs and Cannons, this brings me back to one of my first stages: "Space Jump". However, this one is a little bit more clever and aims at recreating the map Q3DM17, also known as "The Longest Yard" from Quake III Arena. It's a cross section of the map with the Springs in the middle representing the collection Jump Pads going in all directions. The Strong Cannons represent the Jump Pads on the high ground that were facing each other and you can even collide in mid-air, exactly like in the original game.

It was a fun idea and it's fun to play, especially with aerial-focused characters like Zero Suit Samus. And overall it's ideas like this why I want and need a Stage Builder in Smash, though in this case it requires the gimmicky elements like the springs and the cannons.

Sky Pillars

  • Music: Great Temple / Temple
  • Size: Large

This is a more "artsy" stage... I wanted to do another stage with the sky background, which is very reminiscent of the Temple stage - still one of the best and most memorable Zelda stages in Smash with some amazing music.

In this case I wanted to draw three pillars on some sky islands in three different ways: one broken, one tipped over between the islands and one still standing. Funnily, it's the latter that makes the most problems, because the AI gets constantly stuck behind the pillar, because they fail to jump up there. I made sure that there aren't any grabbable ledges, but the AI still wants to move on the shape below the top of the pillar or sometimes even ends up running against it...

I made sure that the rest of the stage is a smooth ride, though. You can actually walk from the left end to the standing pillar without getting stuck once. You will get stuck on the top of the tipped pillar, if you go the other way around, but this couldn't be helped and you can simply jump over the obstacle.