Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Necklace or Bikini Top?

Now we're asking the important questions...

Between the North American and Japanese versions of Link's Awakening, there have been a variety of differences (see TCRF). In Germany we even faced these differences, among various adjustments to the original free translation by Claude M. Moyse, between the original GameBoy version and Link's Awakening DX, which was somewhat of a disappointment when the new version came out (see here).

Well, the most infamous change is probably the one around the Mermaid Martha. Originally, the lost her bikini top (the "Pink Bra") and you find it for her as part of the trading sequence. This got changed into a Necklace for various versions, however, and it explains why she's acting so weird around you, especially when you're diving in front of her.

As for the remake we should assume that they are going for Necklace in all versions, not only because they would want to avoid bigger version differences this time around, but because of another potential improvement to the game: water.

What about it? Well, in the original you couldn't see through the water surface, much like in any older 2D Zelda game. This allowed for the original joke, where you have a topless mermaid looking for her bra. But in the remake we should assume that you will be able to slightly see below the water surface, similar to A Link Between Worlds, which would make such a joke even less appropriate for a Nintendo game.

At least a change in water visibility would come with an advantage, making this "censorship" justifiable: it would be possible to spot the two sunken Pieces of Hearts in the game. In the original finding those often happened either by luck or because you had a guide telling you.

I remember, how I found the Piece of Heart in the suspicious flooded cave next to Level 4, where you get the Zora's Flippers. From there on I investigated all of the waters, which ultimately led to the discovery of the Piece of Heart in Kanalet Castle's moat. But it certainly would be nicer, if you could simply see it from the shore and then remember it for later.

But to allow this, you can't have bare-breasted mermaids swimming around.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Potential Follow-Ups

When A Link Between Worlds was first announced in April 2013, one of the first things that came to mind was a new Four Swords for Nintendo 3DS, which in a way became a reality two years later with Tri Force Heroes.

Now, after the announcement of Link's Awakening for the Nintendo Switch, we're looking at a shiny new style for 2D Zelda games and with that come many possibilities for future titles. While we haven't even seen much of the remake yet, it's already quite likely that this style will be re-used for at least one more release on the Nintendo Switch. So far every 2D Zelda game on a handheld has gotten at least one follow-up title with the same graphics...

  • GameBoy Color: Link's Awakening (DX) → Oracle of Ages & Seasons
  • GameBoy Advance: Four Swords → The Minish Cap
  • Nintendo DS: Phantom Hourglass → Spirit Tracks
  • Nintendo 3DS: A Link Between Worlds → Tri Force Heroes
  • Nintendo Switch: Link's Awakening → ???

Whatever comes to our mind now could become a reality in a couple of years, so we shouldn't dismiss any ideas right now, even if it's quite early to think about the next games already. Let's go through some of those ideas here.


Oracle of Ages & Seasons Remakes

This is by far the most obvious thing to do after Link's Awakening. Both games follow the same graphical style, where everything is in the GameBoy "chibi" graphics. Remaking the Oracle games would be already worth it for Subrosia alone. This place was practically made for the new art style and would certainly look amazing in HD on the Nintendo Switch.

One major reason to remake the Oracle games, however, would be the outdated password system. Linking the games with the "secrets" had its merits, because you could manipulate the passwords or even use password generators, but it always has been an inconvenient way of linking both games. With new games on the Nintendo Switch, there would be no need for passwords. They could simply share a save file, where everything gets transferred automatically.

Ideally, both games would even get released together as one big game (on one cartridge), so you don't have to (physically) swap between both games all the time. This alone would make the remakes more than worth it.

This all sounds so good that there shouldn't be any reason not to do it... However, we don't have a clear picture of the legal situation here, since those games were made by Capcom's studio Flagship. There might be some issues with character and music rights that we don't know of.

We know that Nintendo has the publishing rights for the old games, since those are on the Nintendo 3DS. We also know that the Oracle games got featured like any other Zelda game inside the Goddess Trilogy books. But we also know that Koei Tecmo had difficulties with Vaati in Hyrule Warriors and that the Symphony of the Goddesses doesn't have any rights for music from the Capcom Zelda games. These cases might have something to do with licensing things to third parties, but right now we can't be sure that Nintendo can just remake these games without getting any permissions. We'll have to see.


Third Oracle Game

Let's say both Oracle of Ages & Seasons get remade and both games share a save file, where everything gets linked and shared automatically without the need of passwords. Without any of these "secrets", there would be one person in the game without a job: Farore, the Oracle of Secrets.

Well, she still could be responsible for giving you item upgrades from the other game or she still could reside inside the Maku Trees for a new feature, but it's also possible that she could finally star in her own Oracle game that gets added on top. It would have to be a standalone episode, however, because squeezing in a third game between the two existing ones would still be difficult, even without a password system. But the game could still receive item upgrades from the other two Oracle games and share the list of Magic Rings.

It doesn't even have to be anything out of the ordinary. It could be a short game that mainly focuses on some challenges for seasoned Zelda players. A fun bonus episode that explores some more possibilities within the era of Oracle of Ages & Seasons.


A New (Multiplayer) Game

Other than a new Oracle episode, they could do any new Zelda game, really. It's actually been over 14 years that we've gotten a new connected 2D Zelda world with the Hyrule of The Minish Cap. All the other top-down Zelda games either re-used some older 2D worlds (A Link Between Worlds, Link's Awakening) or segmented their world into smaller areas or levels (Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, Tri Force Heroes).

It would be really refreshing just to get a new, normal 2D overworld at this point for us to explore. But at the same time it feels more likely that Nintendo and Grezzo will just do another multiplayer game like Tri Force Heroes, because multiplayer Zelda games have become a thing of their own and want something new as well. However, it's already possible that Link's Awakening might feature some sort of (coop) multiplayer in some form.


Zelda Maker

Well, if Nintendo is unwilling to make a new 2D Zelda world, they might be willing to give us the tools to make our own. The idea of a "Zelda Maker" has been in people's minds ever since Super Mario Maker made its debut. And if Nintendo doesn't want to make a Shrine Maker, they could go for a tile-based 2D Zelda Maker instead.

Of course this wouldn't end up as sophisticated as the "RPG Maker" for example. We probably wouldn't be able to write dialogues or even use NPCs in any form. Maybe even creating full Zelda games won't be an option. But it could go in the level direction of Four Swords and Tri Force Heroes, the multiplayer Zelda games, where you work with item sockets and the like.

Basically, they could even let this go hand in hand with a new multiplayer Zelda game that comes with a main campaign, but also with a level editor to create more stages.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Dungeon Room Transitions?

One of the nice aspects of the Link's Awakening remake is that we get to experience a seamless Koholint without any screen transitions, at least from the looks of it so far.

This won't be the case for dungeons, however, where so far we've seen two enclosed rooms. One in Level 3, the Key Cavern:

And the mini boss chamber in the Tail Cave:

Those are all shut off by doors, either locked with a key or shut automatically. And in the original game these were two of many rooms in the size of the GameBoy screen, which follows the dungeon design of the first The Legend of Zelda game on the NES, where one room always equals one screen.

Not every room in Link's Awakening was like that and the trailer also gave us a glimpse at one of the side scrolling sections:

On the GameBoy this used to be two "rooms" with a screen transition at the center. In the remake, however, it's one long tunnel, where it scroll seamlessly.

That's a real difference and this theoretically could apply to all dungeon rooms that are openly connected. The six rooms around the Nightmare Key at the center of the Tail Cave, for example, could be displayed as one big room. A majority of Level 4, the Angler Tunnel, could be arranged as one giant room as well. Also, the individual floors of the Eagle's Tower could work without transitions for the most part, where this would feel like the dungeons in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

Of course the have to be careful not give away hidden rooms and other secrets, but that's probably why we're still getting the small, isolated rooms as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Keep the Power!

With a remake like Link's Awakening it's easy to come up with new ideas, but at the same time you're also worrying that certain things simply will be lost in translation. As a Zelda game, Link's Awakening was unique with its way of letting Link become very powerful. Some of it has never been replicated by the rest of the series, where Nintendo might consider these abilities as "overpowered"... It would still be a loss, if they didn't make it back into the remake, so let's go over them.

Piece of Power

Link's Awakening is one of the few Zelda games, where enemies can drop temporary power-ups: the Guardian Acorn and the Piece of Power. Those could be a little annoying with their text boxes and change of music, but ideally the remake will simply fix these issues instead of removing them entirely. And if they still get removed, in the very least these abilities should remain with the Blue and Red Tunics, because they were quite handy and in case of the Piece of Power / the Red Tunic also lots of fun.

It was extremely satisfying to smash enemies all over the screen with a single blow. Sadly, it doesn't seem like the sound effects for hitting enemies and bosses are any similar to the original, but at least the sound of this powerful blow needs to replicated in the remake. There's just nothing like it in the rest of the Zelda series and it would be a shame to lose it.

Seashell Sword

Similar to getting a Piece of Power, getting the Seashell Sword felt extremely powerful. It feels even better and stronger than the Master Sword in the Oracle games...

It's perfectly demonstrated by the moment, where you leave the Seashell Mansion with it. Suddenly, you can kill the Moblins that used to take two hits with a single hit. From a distance. The Sword Beams of the Seashell Sword are really fast and as powerful as the sword itself, something the Zelda series has never done afterwards – usually the Sword Beams are weaker. Only Fierce Deity Link came close to this power. And the Master Sword dreams of being the Seashell Sword.

Powerful Items

Thing is, you don't even need the Seashell Sword to become really powerful in this game. Many of the items are as good and there is a reason for that. Link's Awakening was the first Zelda game to let you freely swap and combine two items. This was a necessity due to only having two action buttons on the GameBoy, but it also lets you de-equip both Sword and Shield, which is unusual in the series.

But with that they've made other items more versatile and deadly than they normally would be in other Zelda games. The best example is the Boomerang. Most Zelda games give you the Boomerang early on, where its main purpose is to catch distant items and to stun enemies. The Boomerang in Link's Awakening, however, is hidden behind a lengthy trading sequence and can't be gotten before the fifth dungeon. It also is one of the most powerful weapons in the game, which kills many of the enemies in a single hit and even enemies that normally can't be destroyed like the Sparks.

It's also an awesome combination with Flying Rooster, where it keeps circling you, which basically makes you invincible. You can fly around, while the Boomerang takes care of all the enemies around you.

The Hookshot is also quite deadly, killing many foes in a single hit as well. It is your best way of dealing with Helmasaurs and can also be quite effective against various mini bosses, which makes the Hookshot feel like a significant upgrade to your fire power.

And another ridiculously powerful weapon is gotten at the end with the Magic Rod...

It burns almost everything, which includes Cuccos and Mutts, which would normally can't be killed and even fight back when you attack them. The Magic Powder also lets you burn many things right from the beginning of the game, but the Magic Rod can do so from a safe distance and without limitations in use.

Bomb Arrows

The free assignment of items to the A and B buttons also lets you combine certain items for crazier effects. Combine Pegasus Boots and the Roc's Feater for longer jumps... Combine Bow and Bombs for Bomb Arrows. Those almost feel like a glitch and are super powerful and fun to use.

They also provide various shortcuts, many of which are inside the Turtle Rock dungeon. Which leads us to the final topic:

Non-Linear Dungeons

While the overall course of your adventure on Koholint can be rather linear, the dungeons are certainly not and allow for many different routes through them. Later Zelda games would limit more and more the choices of where to proceed inside a dungeon. And if they give you choices, it's usually a mandatory set of rooms that can be done in any order. The Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild for example are all very open, but in the end you still have to visit all the terminals.

The dungeons in Link's Awakening give you both freedom and optional parts for exploration, which despite their short size turn them into memorable experiences. The best example of how far this can go is the Turtle Rock dungeon, where with the clever use of keys and the help of Bomb Arrows you can skip more than 50% of the rooms:

map of Turtle Rock with only half the rooms visited

You got the Instrument of the Siren, but there is still so much to explore! That's quite impressive and a more maze-like dungeon design seems like a lost art, which empowers the players to go their own way. Luckily, Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild does exactly that as well, where a less scripted dungeon design might be in the cards for future Zelda games.

Right now we've only seen three dungeon rooms of the Link's Awakening remake, but they all seemed to be accurate translations of the same rooms from the original GameBoy version. So, there is hope that at least this aspect of Link's Awakening won't change with the remake and that the new old dungeons provide the same level of freedom and exploration.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Potential Additions and Improvements

Like with any Zelda remaster, the remake of Link's Awakening opens the doors for many improvements and additions to the original game. For veteran players, who already know and love the original game, it's especially the new stuff that will make a remake like this interesting. And from an improved interface to whole new content, there are many possibilities here. So, let's discuss some of them...

Better Input

This should be a given and it was already partially showcased in the trailer. The original GameBoy only had two buttons for actions, A and B, and thus you had to use all your items with those, including Sword, Shield and Power Bracelet, which resulted in a lot of item swapping.

Luckily, the Nintendo Switch has more than just two buttons. If the game supports single Joycons, then you still will have at least six buttons to work with. Sword and Shield could get their own dedicated buttons, if the Shield isn't already used automatically. Now, the A button could work like in any other Zelda game with context sensitive actions, where the Power Bracelet could simply be the upgrade for a "lift" action, much like in A Link to the Past.

Speaking of, the Pegasus Boots could also be assigned to one of the shoulder buttons. Other items would probably go to X and Y, where you can still assign them freely. So, overall this would resemble the control scheme of A Link Between Worlds on the Nintendo 3DS. And we already saw a glimpse of that in the trailer, where Link was equipped with Sword and Shield while using the Roc's Feather. No big surprise here.

It's not clear, however, how the Roc's Feather should be handled. Ideally, it would get its own designated button as well, but it could also still be one of the items.

No Unnecessary Texts

The GameBoy classic was a really solid Zelda game that has established many things for the series, but if there's one point of criticism about the game, then it's the slow and often repeated texts, unnecessarily so. Who doesn't get annoyed by text boxes like this?
Wow! This looks
pretty heavy!
You won't be
able to lift it
with just your
bare hands...

Or this?
You've got the
Compass! Now,
you can see
where the chests
and Nightmare
are hidden! This
Compass has a
new feature-- a
tone will tell
you if a key is
hidden in a room
when you enter!

Every, single, time...

Other than the fact that texts could appear a lot faster, it probably would be a good idea to remove any repeated tutorial texts entirely.

Reunite with Companions

During your adventure in Link's Awakening you're joined by several companions, but only for a brief period of time. It would be nice, if you could get the back at any time for the fun of it or to experience some otherwise missable stuff or even for new features. This includes the Chain Chomp dog, BowWow, the lovely Marin and of course the Flying Rooster. For the Ghost this probably wouldn't be necessary, because he wasn't of much use anyway, but you could still revisit him at his grave...

Well, this would work similar to Rosa in Oracle of Seasons. You want to date Rosa again? Just ask her out. You want to date Marin again? Just ask her out!

Ask Madam MeowMeow to borrow BowWow again or visit the Hen House to get the Flying Rooster.

More Hearts

Link's Awakening is unique in the Zelda series with its maximum number of Heart Containers: 14. Usually it's either 16 or 20. So, it shouldn't be surprising, if Nintendo decides to add at least two more.

One possibility would already come with the Color Dungeon. If Nintendo decides to keep it, the boss could give you an extra Heart Container. But more Pieces of Heart are always welcome as well. Link's Awakening had only twelve of those, but some of them were very devilishly hidden.

With that it's to expected that they make some of them easier to find. For example the sunken Heart Pieces could be slightly visible from above. How were you supposed to find the one Heart Piece at Kanalet Castle anyway? It's often just found by coincidence... But at the same time they could come up with some new secret spots for additional Pieces of Heart to make up for the easier discoveries.

One idea would be additional mini games, where some of them could utilize your companions in some form. For this you should be able to borrow BowWow or the Flying Rooster again, as already proposed.

More Secret Seashells

The Secret Seashells were basically the first item, where you have to collect a certain number to receive rewards. You needed 20 of 26 Seashells to get the awesome Seashell Sword and some of them were very nicely hidden as well. They could be under bushes, under rocks, in treasure chests and even under the earth...

But these type of quests heavily evolved throughout the series, where the numbers have increased significantly, e.g. 900 Korok Seeds in Breath of the Wild, or where you get a number of different rewards like for the Golden Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time.

It should be easy enough to expand the Secret Seashell collection and add a couple of rewards on top. It doesn't have to be 900 or even a 100, but the thought of discovering more Secret Seashells in new locations would be quite exciting. This would be a good reason to explore Koholint all over again!

Improved Warp System

While exploring any world in a Zelda game, a good warp system always comes in handy. The original warp system of Link's Awakening was quite rudimentary, however, maybe even one step back from A Link to the Past. Similar to Ocarina of Time, this game has to different warp mechanics entirely. One were the Warp Holes:

There are four of those on Koholint and by jumping into one of them it will send you to the next, but only to holes that you've already visited on the map. This works, but it already can be improved by adding more Warp Holes to the island and a selection, where you can chose your destination on the map.

The other warp mechanic was Manbo's Mambo, a warp songs that sends you to Manbo's Pond. Inside a dungeon it will take you back to the entrance. Again, this works and Manbo's Pond is at a central location from where you can get to one of the Warp Holes rather quickly. However, ideally there would be a Warp Hole right next to it...

Alternatively, they could remove the Warp Holes entirely and turn them all into little Manbo Ponds, where you can chose your destination after playing the song. But this would also mean that you can't teleport before the Level 4 dungeon, where the Warp Holes were quite useful on the quests before by connecting Mabe Village with Animal Village.

Overall you can travel around Koholint rather quickly by foot, because the island isn't that large, which should be even faster in the remake without the screen transitions and maybe a good use of the Pegasus Boots. So, the game doesn't necessarily need major upgrades to its warp system, but some improvements would be nice to have nonetheless and if it's just some more Warp Holes.

Multiple Tunics

You couldn't swap clothes in the GameBoy original, but with the colored version on the GameBoy Color they introduced the Red and Blue Tunic, which permanently reward you with the abilities of the game's temporary power-ups. If you wanted to swap them again, you had to go back to the end of the Color Dungeon, talk to the fairy again and select the other color.

Ideally, you could choose between all three tunics (including the green one) at any time like in Ocarina of Time. Now, we could take this even further and add a collection of outfits to the game, like in Tri Force Heroes, where some of the items could be gotten from amiibo, like in Breath of the Wild, but lets keep things simple.


Speaking of... the game could support all the different Zelda amiibo in some form. Either by giving you costumes or other small bonuses. They could even release new amiibo for Link and Marin in the chibi style of the game.

New Dungeons

There is no such thing as "too many dungeons". To be fair, Link's Awakening DX already has added an additional dungeon to the game with the Color Dungeon, where it's currently questionable whether this will return or not. It really should and if it does, it would be nice to get maybe one more dungeon as a challenge in addition.

Theoretically, they could use the Dream Shrine to add various dungeons without finding a spot for them. They could even use it for randomly generated dungeons, where every time you enter the Dream Shrine it results in a different challenge. Of course the original mini dungeon should still be there, but maybe it lets you chose between different dreams...

This would be similar to Simon's Simulations from The Minish Cap, where a trial cave is always the most trivial thing they could add to the game. They could turn it into a place, where you fight most of the bosses and mini bosses in a row or so.

More Freedom

The original game was rather linear, at least when it comes to the order of the dungeons. Usually you need the item from one dungeon to get to the next. And sometimes there are even special events that prevent you from proceeding unless you've beaten the previous.

It would be wrong to assume that much of this will change, but it's still possible to loosen some of it. Mainly the last three dungeons could theoretically be played in any order, since you only need the items from the previous dungeon to proceed in one single spot. It could mess with the story telling, however, e.g. meeting Marin in the mountains on your way to Level 8.

Nightmare Mode

The "Nightmare Mode" would be this game's "Hero Mode" or "Master Quest". Preferably, it would go more in the direction of the latter, where not only the taken damage gets increased, but the difficulty as a whole by adding tougher enemy occurrences and re-arranging the dungeons. It could even go as far and offer completely new dungeons in this mode, which are larger and more difficult than the original ones.

This is something that every fan of the original game would appreciate, which can be an easy game on multiple playthroughs, once you know all its tricks and secrets.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Modern Title Logo

The new remake of Link's Awakening also comes with a fancy new logo for the game:

What's interesting about this new logo is that it follows the same white flat design of the logo from Breath of the Wild has. Instead of the Silent Princess on the "Z" it has palm trees on a tiny island with seagulls above them next to the "A", but it's overall the same style. Both logos also got introduced against a landscape:

Well, the Breath of the Wild logo isn't entirely flat, because it still has the Master Sword going through the "Z", but there is a variant where the Master Sword is in the flat style as well.

These similarities also exist in the Japanese version, where they've moved completely away from the stylized "ZELDA" for their newest games:

It still translates to "The Legend of Zelda: The Dreaming Island" and it's very similar to what they've done with the first four games in Japan, including the original Link's Awakening, but also the recent Breath of the Wild:

What does this mean, exactly? Usually, when two Zelda games appear on the same system or use the same art style in some form, they often come with a similar logo. This could be the case for Link's Awakening and Breath of the Wild, but so far the only thing these two Zelda games have the common is the same system: the Nintendo Switch.

Let's first take a look at the history of Zelda game logos over the years:

It really follows the paradigm of Zelda games appearing in pairs. It's most notable in the first four generations up to the Oracle games. But even later on there are clear pairs like Four Swords and The Minish Cap, The Wind Waker and Four Swords Adventures, and of course the two Nintendo DS Zelda games.

It starts to divert somewhat with games that are drastically different like Twilight Princess, but another quite quite interesting exception are A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes. Both games appeared on the same system with the same engine, but they have different art styles, which even shows in the logos, where the latter is more similar to the style of the Nintendo DS games.

But despite the differences in various places, there has been a clear logo design ever since A Link to the Past. The new Link's Awakening and Breath of the Wild logos, however, set themselves really apart from the rest of the series. Their modern look feels almost as different as the ones for the NES games.

It really feels like Breath of the Wild started a new era for the Zelda series and the flat design is standing for this new era. And every new Zelda game might be using it from now on, which even includes the remake of an old Zelda game. In a way this goes hand in hand with the title of the remake, which is the exact same title as the original instead of "Link's Reawakening" or "Link's Awakening HD". This is the Link's Awakening of the new era. (I would not expect remasters to use it as well, so the logo for Skyward Sword HD will probably look similar to the one for Twilight Princess HD).

It could also be a thing just for the Nintendo Switch era, we won't know for sure until it's over. But it's certainly a fresh new look for the Zelda brand.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Link's Awakening Remake: Photo Quest & Color Dungeon?

From the looks of it, Link's Awakening for the Nintendo Switch will be quite the accurate remake of Link's Awakening for the GameBoy. That game already got an enhanced version in 1998, however, with Link's Awakening DX for the GameBoy Color. The colored version came with a couple of additional features, most notably the Camera Shop and the Color Dungeon. And there is the question right now, whether these things will make it into the remake or not.

Camera Shop?

In case of "the Travels of Link", the Photo Quest, this doesn't seem likely. The whole photo feature was added to promote the GameBoy Printer hardware, where you could print out the twelve little pictures if you wanted. Some of the moments also felt a lot like they were tacked on to a point, where the GameBoy original felt a little bit better because of it (see Link's Awakening vs. Link's Awakening DX).

Now, it doesn't seem likely that this will return, but it's entirely possible that some of the photo moments will be translated into ingame cutscenes. The different scenes with Marin come to mind, especially the one where she drops on you in the well. Otherwise they could capture the moments, where Link returns to ghost to his grave or where Link gets overwhelmed by BowWow in greater detail as well.

So, in the end moments like this:

Could be shown like this:

It's certainly interesting, how in Link's Awakening DX all photo sequences are in a chibi art style, which back then created a stark contrast to the more realistic portrayals of Link in the beginning and the end of the game. But this even might have been an inspiration for the remake, where the game starts with the anime cutscene from the trailer and could possibly end in the same style, but everything on Koholint during the game is portrayed in this cute chibi art style, as if it's all part of some dream. *cough*

Anyway, the photos themselves wouldn't be a huge loss and it might even be for the better, since four of the photos could be missed and one required you to become a THIEF. They could even go as far as giving you your own camera this time, so you can look around in first person and take some memorable photos yourself.

Color Dungeon?

Like the Photo Quest, the Color Dungeon was mainly there to promote hardware. While Link's Awakening DX was backwards-compatible with the GameBoy, the Color Dungeon with its color puzzles could only be played on the GameBoy Color. This was achieved by two skeletons at the entrance that were asking for their color, though you had a 50:50 chance to get in anyway.

In any case, there won't be no need for the gatekeepers any longer, but overall the Color Dungeon still could have its place. The puzzles and enemies are mainly about colors, but this shouldn't be a reason not to include the dungeon, even if these puzzles lack some novelty. But Oracle of Ages has many color puzzles as well, for example.

Alternatively, they could use this place for a dungeon of their own, maybe even something that makes use of some Nintendo Switch gimmicks like the HD rumble, but then again, they could still bring back the Color Dungeon and then add a bonus dungeon somewhere else in the world.

In any case, it would be nice to get the Red and Blue Mail back, especially if the Piece of Power effect is as satisfying as it was in the original.

Link's Awakening Announced

Wait, what's happening? Did this blog travel back to the year 1993? It is quite unusual that Nintendo releases a game of the same name again. Usually they add something like "DX" or "3D" or "HD" or they change the title around like they did for Metroid: Samus Returns. They could have called this "Link's Awakening HD" or "Link's Reawakening" or even "The Dreaming Island" as a nod to the original Japanese title, but this game is just called "Link's Awakening", exactly like the GameBoy original.

But it also looks pretty much exactly like the GameBoy original, if you see through its new clay graphics. It's like a one-to-one conversion of the original game's environments, like every bush and every tree and every sign is in the same place.

And this feels almost odd. In the past, whenever Nintendo attempted to truly remake a Zelda game, it turned into its own thing. When Capcom remade the first The Legend of Zelda for the GameBoy Color, it turned into Oracle of Seasons. When Nintendo remade the overworld of A Link to the Past for the Nintendo 3DS, it turned into A Link Between Worlds. And with Link's Awakening it was only natural to expect something similar, a "requel" for the game. But we're getting probably the most accurate Nintendo remake ever here (not counting remasters like Ocarina of Time 3D).

The new clay visuals also take some getting used to. They are cute and it explains why Grezzo was looking for experience in Unreal Engine and Unity, because it looks a lot like modern topdown adventures with this art style. Let's see, where they will go from here. Remakes of Oracle of Ages & Seasons immediately come to mind as well and hopefully we're also getting a new multiplayer Zelda in that style.

But maybe this will also feature some sort of multiplayer. From what we've seen so far, it really is just an accurate remake, but they could add some features on top of it. After all Link's Awakening was a game, where Link had many companions, with the Chain Chomp, Marin, the Ghost and the Flying Rooster. Maybe they'll add a special companion for a coop mode or so.

What I really like is the seamless overworld. It makes a big difference, if you can peek over from Mabe Village into the Ukuku Prairie without any transitions between screens. In a way this is even somewhat a realization of the environmental teasing in the original game, where you had screens that showed you what's ahead of your current area. You could even take a peak at the final dungeon's area before visiting the second dungeon... And it is nice that this has been brought to the next level with this remake. You can even see the soldiers at the bottom of Kanalet Castle while on top of the castle.

There also seems to be one item-based change compared to the original: Link is always auto-shielding, like in the Nintendo DS games. This was not the case on the GameBoy and there are probably some more changes for convenience in item handling, e.g. placing the Pegasus Boots onto a shoulder button or so. Also, he's using a Hylian Shield for the job, but it does make sense considering that he brought it from Hyrule.

What's also interesting and unusual for Zelda are the anime style cutscenes. We've never had this before, but it looks like Nintendo is cooperating with some studios here, since Fire Emblem: Three Houses is getting lots of anime cutscenes as well.

Anyway, at the end of last year, I have expressed troubles about replaying my beloved GameBoy classic (see here), because I've played through the game so many times already. But this is exactly what I needed to get back to Koholint, where I certainly will replay the original once more before getting into the remake, just to have the comparison.

After all, it will be the differences that make this interesting.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Stage Builder in 3.0.0?

In the latest Nintendo Direct something unusual happened: Nintendo teased an upcoming update for a game without any real details. While version 2.0.0 mainly added Piranha Plant to the game, version 3.0.0 will do more than simply adding Joker, where Nintendo showed two pixelated screens of a Nintendo Switch system.

And one of these screens stands really out:

It looks like the generic Battlefield stage but with more "mass" and with a sidebar to the left. Could this really be it? Could this be the long-awaited Stage Builder?

For me personally the Stage Builder is the biggest omission in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It was possible that they didn't bring back this feature, because some functionality would only work in handheld mode, where you have the touchscreen available. But since this isn't an issue for Super Mario Maker 2, there is no good reason to keep a Stage Builder away from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

The redacted "screenshot" above even is shown on a Switch in handheld mode, which might not be a coincidence. So, maybe this will get added with version 3.0.0 and be even a part of the Smash World app, which will probably be released around the same time.

The fact that the background resembles the one from Battlefield might also lead to the option to use any backgrounds from any stage this time. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here...

In any case it's likely that there will be a dedicated Super Smash Bros. Direct near the end of March or in April with the following topics:

  • Joker
  • Additional features in version 3.0.0
  • Smash World app
  • More amiibo
  • Maybe additional DLC like Echo Fighters or stages
  • Teaser for Challenger Pack 2

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Nintendo Direct February 2019 Predictions

We're finally getting a new Nintendo Direct after half a year...! It's about time. According to the announcement, it will focus on upcoming Nintendo Switch games, so no 3DS this time around.

What to expect? Well, if we were to believe "king zell", the new popular leaker on Resetera, who predicted the date for the Direct (see here), we can look forward to at least one interesting title. He posted a listed of Switch games last Friday that we can expect in 2019 (here), including:

  • Pikmin 3 port
  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • New 2D Zelda
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy port

Of those, the latter will "probably" be at the Nintendo Direct. This seems somewhat weird, because if they had a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD ready to be announced for Switch, they could have done so earlier this year, when they gave the development update for Metroid Prime 4. But you never know with Nintendo and this is a title that I'm expecting sooner or later for the Nintendo Switch anyway.

But likewise I'm expecting Skyward Sword HD. If Aonuma goes on stage and teases an audience with that title, it should be nearing completion. And next to Skyward Sword HD, a new 2D Zelda (developed by Grezzo) also has been on the list of possible games for 2019, where something with a coop mode would be nice.

As long as we're getting some Zelda game for Switch this year, I will be excited, because it could lead to the Nintendo Switch Special Edition hardware that I've wanted from the start.

As to the rest, if there really is going to be a Mario Maker for Switch, it will be interesting to see, how they handle the controls.

As for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I doubt that we'll get any new information, except for maybe some new amiibo announcements. Joker is probably still in the middle of development and it will probably take some time for them to show him ingame and to reveal the second Challenger Pack. Maybe in a dedicated Smash Direct in Spring.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Super Mario Land Trilogy

Inspired by this video and the recent release of Piranha Plant for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I want to talk about my personal gaming origins: the Super Mario Land Trilogy for the good old GameBoy.

The GameBoy was my first own console and Super Mario Land, next to Tetris, was my first major video game experience. This would led to the sequels and eventually to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, making me a Zelda fan for life. And because of this those three titles will always be my original Super Mario games, despite the outings on the NES and SNES.

These three Mario titles probably couldn't be any more different to a point, where the one major thing they have in common besides the Jump'n'Run action is the "Land" in the title. And there is certainly a big emphasis on the lands in these games. Just look at the covers:

Sarasaland, the actual Mario Land and Kitchen Island. They are all the real stars of these games and are there featured quite prominently on the covers of the Super Mario Land games. The pyramids and Moai statues on the cover of Super Mario Land, the castle and different islands on the cover of Super Mario Land 2 and finally Mt. Teapot and Syrup Castle on the cover of Wario Land – it's all intriguing and exploring these worlds was a part of the excitement about these games.

You weren't just playing generic Jump'n'Run levels in the same generic plain, desert, forest, snow and volcano scenarios (looking at you, New Super Mario Bros. series), you were diving into interesting worlds, all completely unique within the Super Mario universe. That makes these games stand out and the exploration is certainly also part of what makes Super Mario Odyssey currently so successful.

Let's take a brief look at each of the Super Mario Land games individually:

Super Mario Land

This is the most straightforward experience out of the three games, but since this was one of the GameBoy's launch titles, you can't really complain about it. It's an entirely linear game with twelve subsequent levels divided into four worlds. No Warp Zones or other shortcuts.

Today I can beat the game within under an hour, but as a kid beating this game was considered a noteworthy experience. I remember, how I talked with schoolmates about the game's later levels, as if they were some far-off mystery...

We also talked about the various secrets within the levels, like the hidden elevators in World 1-3. And there was always a certain wonder about the worlds in Sarasaland, which were mostly inspired by real world locations from ancient history, like ancient Egypt.

But the graphics were quite basic at the time. Everything was designed around an 8x8 pixel grid, where Mario and his enemies were quite small when compared to other games in the series. The music on the other hand was really catchy and offers something that sticks with you for the rest of your life.

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

The sequel, dubbed Six Golden Coins, became graphically a lot more advanced compared to the first game to a point, where it doesn't have to hide from its big brothers on the console. It is quite the charming the game, where the music admittedly isn't as remarkable as in the first game, but still very good and catchy.

The world also became a lot more important, where you're exploring the eponymous Mario Land itself, an entire island. Yes, Mario has his own island with a castle at the center – something you never hear about in later Mario games again. And unlike the first game you get a real world map that you can navigate freely after the first level:

With that Super Mario Land 2 is also one of the most non-linear Mario games ever created, where you can compare its overall structure to that of completely non-linear Zelda games. There is Wario's Castle in the center, which is your ultimate goal, but to enter the castle you need to collect the "Six Golden Coins" first, which are earned from bosses in the six main worlds, the Zones. And some of these Zones are also very unique within the series, where the most notable example would be the Mario Zone, where you play inside a giant Robot Mario and where the final level is even made out of N&B Blocks – Nintendo's own version of LEGO. Or in the Macro Zone you shrink down to a level, where ants are the same size as Mario.

However, like with A Link Between Worlds, the non-linearity also came with the price of a washy difficulty, where everything is quite easy, since everything can be played in any order. This results later in a massive difficulty spike, once you finally enter Wario's Castle, which is by far the most challenging and demanding level in the game.

Some levels also offer hidden exists to secret levels, which are often quite rewarding, where it can be quite fun to explore the entirety of Mario's own island. There isn't really anything to discover beyond the secret levels, however, which is something that was done a lot better in the sequel...

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

With the final Super Mario Land game Nintendo took an interesting risk, where instead of following Mario's adventures, you were now playing as the antagonist from the second game: Wario. And it was a risk that paid off greatly, spawning the Wario franchise along with it.

This game can also be considered as the pinnacle of GameBoy gaming. For a GameBoy game, the visuals, the sound effects, the music, the atmosphere and everything else was absolutely superb. When it comes to presentation, I would put Wario Land even above Link's Awakening, which is saying a lot.

It's also the most explorative game in the Super Mario Land trilogy, despite the fact that the game course is overall quite linear. But there are quite a few secret levels and treasures hidden within the various levels, where finding them will reward you greatly at the end of the game. This gave you an incentive to explore every corner of every level to find all those treasures. And this made optional levels a lot more lucrative than in the prequel, where this goes as far as having an entire secret world in the game: Sherbet Land.

Exploring the levels of Kitchen Island can be a lot fun and some worlds also have interactions, where one level can completely alter others. For example you start the game on Rise Beach during a low tide, but you can later re-explore the levels there in a flooded state, which lets you find the secret treasures there.

The aspect of hidden treasures and secrets within levels also carried over to the sequel, Wario Land II, but the "land" was gone to a point, where it can only be briefly seen on the title screen as an island that has little to do with the actual levels within the game, which followed more a concept of alternate storylines... It was still a solid game, but not as a good as the original Wario Land.

The "Super Mario Land" subtitle was also dropped for the second Wario Land game, where Wario ultimately became more his own thing with transformations and other gimmicks.

Off to Koholint Island...

Now, the focus of this article so far was clearly on the "lands" in the Super Mario Land trilogy and this should give you a clear idea that I mainly played and enjoyed these three titles not for their Jump'n'Run gameplay, but for the exploration. Especially the islands of Super Mario Land 2 and Wario Land fascinated me to a point, where I kept drawing them in my notebooks at school.

Of course the exploration of those islands was limited by the Jump'n'Run level-based nature of Super Mario Land games. But it wouldn't take long until I discovered a game, which would allow me to explore an entire island from the bird's eye perspective in great detail – The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

So, in a way the Super Mario Land series is what ultimately brought me to Zelda, where still to this day I enjoy exploring the lands of Hyrule, Koholint, Termina and co.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Twilight Princess Manga, Vol. 3 & 4

My collection of Zelda Manga has been expanded this week by volumes 3 and 4 of Twilight Princess. Those have been out for a while now - the German Volume 3 got released in December 2017 and Volume 4 in September 2018. So, I've could have gotten them much earlier, but it's not like I'm in a hurry to read these...

And apparently Akira Himekawa isn't in a hurry to finish this either. Originally the artist duo wanted to conclude the Manga with the fourth volume, but at the end of Volume 4 it places the story right after the Lakebed Temple, so about a third of the game. At this rate the complete Manga of Twilight Princess will most likely have as many volumes as the rest of Himekawa's Zelda series combined, which would be ten books in total.

Anyway, books 3 and 4 mostly continue the quality of the first two volumes, where this time the story follows the events from the game closer than usual, but it still deviates from the source material quite a bit. But no funny Hentai scenes with Twili Midna on all fours this time, I'm afraid.

What I liked is how much larger the Manga portrays the Hyrule. It takes a day and a half to travel from Hyrule Castle Town to Kakariko for example, instead of five minutes, which feels a lot more in line with what characters are even saying about distances in the game.

Kakariko in the Manga has quite a population, which is weird, because in the game it's really just Barnes, Renado, and Luda. Talking about the latter, the girl actually follows Link to the Gorons and even through the dangerous Goron Mines in Volume 4, which is simply ridiculous. Later in the same volume Ralis attempts to do the same at the entrance of the Lakebed Temple, but Link stops him like he already should have with Luda... On top of that, the girl can actually see Midna. That's a lot of attention for a character, who in the game is really just there and has absolutely no importance at all. Before the Manga I even kept forgetting that Luda was actually a girl.

What also changed about the Kakariko part was the "Colin on a stick" scenario, which doesn't happen here (but he was put on a stick earlier in the manga). Link fights King Bulblin on invitation, who simply drops Colin in Kakariko, and the whole Eldin Bridge duel feels a lot less epic, where Link would have died without the help of his horse.

In general, Link seems to receive support left and right, where Midna helps him out in parts that Link mastered on his own in the game. For example, she pushes the Gorons away during the sumo fights, instead of Link using his own strength and some help of the Iron Boots, which don't appear in the manga at all. Or during the fight against Morpheel the ghost of Queen Rutela appears and lets Link ride on her back, Sidon style.

Overall Link also seems really whiny here. He keeps doubting himself as a hero and everything is so much to bear. I suppose it makes for a better character than the dumbfounded Link from the game, but I personally prefer Breath of the Wild Link, who stays mute on purpose. The Link in Twilight Princess already showed too many emotional bonds with the characters for my taste, which made it harder to identify myself with him, because I didn't really care for these characters at all and I didn't make the same silly faces as him in certain situations. I prefer the more silent and carefree nature of other Links. But of course this wouldn't be the best manga material.

In the least the manga has intrigued me with a connection between the Hero's Spirit and Midna, who knows the guy and had his support back in the Twilight Realm. He should be the Hero of Time if the Manga follows the lore, but it probably does not and my bet is that it's simply Link's father or so. Also, Link doesn't originate from Ordon here, but comes from a town that has vanished near the desert. This could be interesting, so let's see how this continues in a year or so...