Sunday, November 28, 2021

Replaying Link's Awakening (Game & Watch)

ingame logo

Link's Awakening on the original GameBoy was my first Zelda game, which turned me into a fan for life after Christmas 1997. It became a tradition for me to replay this game in some form every year, a tradition I broke once or twice in the recent years, which includes 2020. But I'm making up for this in 2021, where I've already replayed the remake this June, and this week I've returned to the classic GameBoy version via the new Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda system.

I've never been the biggest fan of the DX version (see Link's Awakening vs. Link's Awakening DX), where I'm really happy that Nintendo has now preserved the original version in some form. While I still own a copy for the GameBoy, its battery has died by now, so I can't save. I will fix this eventually, but hardware deteriorates and nothing is truly forever. Also, my best device to play GameBoy games is still my GameBoy Advance SP with a frontlit LCD screen, which is pretty dark...

So, having this Game & Watch system is actually quite neat for re-experiencing the GameBoy classic. And while they have altered some dialogues in the German version, it's still based on the "uncensored" Japanese version, so that's great as well. I also love how they've emulated the green GameBoy screen colors. It really looks like it was supposed to look on the GameBoy, which is something that the GameBoy Color and Advance couldn't replicate with their weird predefined coloring sets.

But playing through the GameBoy version one more time made me appreciate the remake even more. It's not just the constant item switching or the unnecessary text boxes, but the remake got streamlined in other parts as well, for example around Kanalet Castle. There you can just jump down from the castle balcony, so you don't have to walk back all the way through the castle again. I got used to this so much already that I was confused where the "gaps" in the castle wall went...

Or when you get the Slime Key, there is a shortcut to leave the Pothole Maze in the remake, which is just very convenient. And the additional teleporters really made traveling across Koholint so much better at almost every step after the second dungeon. All in all, there was a lot of "going back the way you came" as padding in the original, which all got shortened in the remake.

But to be fair, Link's Awakening on the GameBoy is a short game, probably the shortest Zelda next to The Legend of Zelda on the NES and Four Swords. If you remember the game well enough, you can easily beat it in one evening. While the remake offers some good shortcuts, it also takes much longer to complete thanks to the new mini-games and the Chamber Dungeon. Which is also good, but it's very much padding of its own.

So, if you just want to breeze through Koholint one more time for the sake of nostalgia, then the Game & Watch version might be the best way to do so. I can certainly recommend it.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda (Review)

a promotional graphic for the item, showing the device with Link and some Octoroks in the background 

Happy 35th Anniversary, The Legend of Zelda! To celebrate you got re-released together with your younger NES sibling for the seventh (or so) time, but this time on its very own video game system: Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda. Let's give this thing a look.



The new Game & Watch system is quite small, where with 11cm x 6.5cm it almost rivals the GameBoy Micro (10cm x 5 cm). It's also very light and the buttons feel a bit mushy, so it overall has a low quality feel to it. The LCD screen is pretty good, however, with sharp visuals and vibrant colors.

On the left side you can find a USB-C port, but the system won't come with an AC adapter, only a short cable. If you own a Nintendo Switch (Pro Controller) or a modern Android phone, however, then chances are that you will have everything needed for charging ready anyway. But keep this in mind when purchasing.

On the other end rests the speaker and there doesn't seem to be a way of using headphones with the device, which is a shame, because the speaker also isn't the best. For the most part its fine, but some sound effects don't seem to be well balanced, where it can make some annoying louder noises here and then during the gameplay. Some things also just don't sound the same with these speakers, like for example moving rocks and blocks in Link's Awakening, which just doesn't have the same heavy tone to it.

As a nice detail, there is a Triforce on the backside of the device, which gets lit when the system is turned on. However, you won't really notice this while playing or while keeping it in the stand that comes with it. This stand is just made out of cardboard, so nothing special either. With the exception of the display it's all as cheap as it can get.



There was already a Game & Watch: Zelda released back in 1989, but it's sadly not part of this system, which comes with a modified version of Vermin instead, where you play whack-a-mole with Link. But this is certainly not the main attraction of the new Game & Watch, which comes with a variety of five different games that you can select:

  • The Legend of Zelda (English and Japanese)
  • Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (English and Japanese)
  • Link's Awakening (English, French, German and Japanese)
  • Vermin
  • Timer

Believe it or not, the Timer is probably one of the most interesting things here, because it's like a mini-game where you battle foes from The Adventure of Link within the set time limit. It saves a separate high score for every time limit that you can chose, which ranges from one to ten minutes.

Link fighting in the forest against Moblins and Octoroks in the style of Zelda II, the timer is made out of Triforce shards and spells 02:21

These battles can even even have Dark Link in them, which is pretty badass. He falls in three hits, however, because otherwise this would be too brutal. And the corner trick doesn't work here, since the screen borders function like in Pac-Man, where you will appear at the right if you leave the screen to the left and vice versa. Should you camp in a corner, Dark Link will simply go to the other end and literally stab you in the back. This must be so satisfying for him after being cheesed for over 30 years.

This seems to be based on the Japanese version, however, so the sounds are slightly different from what you might been used to. And the combat isn't entirely the same either, where the Iron Knuckles seem to be a lot harder to hit. Luckily, the blue ones don't throw sword beams at you, but you don't get to throw any either.

Anyway, it's very interesting that you can play the games in the different language versions, where in case of The Adventure of Link there is actually a good number of changes in both visuals and sounds between the Japanese and English versions. Some enemies can be different as well. The original The Legend of Zelda mainly has differently sounding music, but it's still interesting to give this a try, since both games don't have that much text anyway.

It even treats each language version as its own game, so you can start playing Link's Awakening in both English and German for example, where it will create separate save states and you can keep playing these versions independently from another. A language switch probably would have been more intuitive, but since all of these versions are actually different in other aspects than just the texts, this does make sense from a technical point of view. And as already said, it can be interesting to try these different versions to experience the changes yourself.

For the German version of Link's Awakening they've actually altered some of the infamously lewd translations of Claude M. Moyse, however, where the Cukemen don't speak of condoms and sharing juices any longer. Some character names also got altered, just like in the Virtual Console release of Link's Awakening DX on the Nintendo 3DS. (BowWow used to be called "Struppi" originally, as a reference to Tim & Struppi  / The Adventures of Tintin, while Crazy Tracy was named "Geierwally", as a reference to The Vulture Wally. Those references got cut on the Virtual Console, which is the same for this new version, where now these characters are called "Komet" and "Trantrudi" respectively.)

Otherwise there don't seem to be any changes, however, so the mermaid will still look for her bikini top and get upset if you dive in front of her. And the hippo model has pixel breasts to cover when you enter the house of the crocodile artist, Schule Donavitch, where it implies that they are doing a nude portrait. All of this got censored in Link's Awakening DX for the German and French versions, where the mermaid has lost a pearl necklace instead and the hippo has lost her breasts entirely, where she simply sits down when you enter the room. For the English version this always used to be the case, even on the old GameBoy, while the Japanese versions both had the lewd jokes. Cultural differences and all that...

Link near BowWow with green GameBoy visuals

But if you're from Germany and you want to re-experience the game exactly like it used to be on the GameBoy, keep in mind that these texts were changed. The rest looks and feels pretty much like on the GameBoy, however, where it even emulates the green colors of the original display. You can also switch screen sizes between full width and original, just like on the GameBoy Advance. It's all pretty thoughtful and it's absolutely fantastic that Nintendo has finally preserved the original GameBoy title now in this form.

That being said, it still would have been nice to get Link's Awakening DX in addition, maybe even all GameBoy Color Zelda games, where they could have gone for a complete 8-bit Zelda collection. All these games can be played with only the A, B, Start and Select buttons, which is what the system has.

The emulators employs suspend points for everything, so you can leave a game at any time and then return to it exactly where you left off whenever you want, similar to suspended Virtual Console games, which is highly convenient. It doesn't offer restore points, however, so you can't make your own save states that you can create and load, which would have been very nice to have for the unforgiving Zelda II - The Adventure of Link.

Still, you might find a couple of secrets to make the games easier or harder, mostly by holding down the A button when selecting the game mode or save file. With Vermin you'll get the much harder "Game C" for example. In Zelda II you can get eight lives and everything maxed out right from the start, which makes the game a breeze. If you really want to give the Japanese version a try, then this might even be a good idea, because there it resets your levels to the lowest one on a Game Over, which can be quite demotivating.

However, this trick also unlocks all magic spells right from the beginning, which is a little bit too much and removes part of the fun of collecting everything. Same with the Life and Magic Containers. A middle ground, where you get the highest levels from the start, but still have to collect all the items, would have been great here.

Other than the playable timer, there is also the main clock, where it animates gameplay scenes from The Legend of Zelda and shows the current time on the background / underground. You can also take over and play Link yourself, but unlike in the timer there are no highscores here or anything. It's just for fun.


The Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda system does a good job at preserving the different language versions of three 8-bit Zelda classics, while offering some nice little mini-games as extras. But a couple more games would have been nice, like the original Game & Watch: Zelda or the GameBoy Color titles, where it's a shame that Nintendo didn't go the extra mile with this device, which also doesn't have a high quality to it.

The Good:
  • Sharp and bright screen.
  • Includes all the different language versions.
  • Nice preservation of the original Link's Awakening.
  • Suspend and switch between games quickly at any time.
  • Playable timer with highscores.
The Bad:
  • Feels cheap and too small.
  • The speaker isn't very good and there's no support for headphones.
  • Doesn't come with the actual Game & Watch: Zelda.
  • Doesn't come with any of the GameBoy Color Zelda games.
  • No manual restore points.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Got the new Zelda Game & Watch

photo of the package and the item next to the Link's Awakening Nintendo Switch case

This has arrived in the mail today – Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda. It's the only 35th Anniversary item so far, but it's nice to have it as this modern retro system.

It's actually quite small, much smaller than I expected, where you can see the dimensions of the system against a normal Nintendo Switch game box in the above photo. It's 11cm x 6.5cm. Here is another comparison against the Nintendo Mini Classics version of the original Game & Watch Zelda:

It's not as small as a GameBoy Micro, but it's quite similar. It's also very light, where it feels a little bit cheap. The buttons could also be better, but the display is overall quite good.

Similar to the Special Edition of Metroid Dread, the box comes wrapped in a protective plastic casing (not pictured), where this time it even has some things printed onto it, like an Octorok. And I really like this development. Yes, there is a good argument against it, because it creates more plastic waste, but I'm not throwing it into the garbage anyway, because I like that it keeps the box protected from damage, so I put the box back into the casing. And since this one has things printed onto it, people might not throw it away anyway.

There is only the game device and its cardboard stand included, however, so there's nothing in the box to recharge the battery (correction: there is actually a small USB cable, it was just hidden inside the stand). It's just standard USB-C, so it's fine and you can use whatever you have for your Nintendo Switch to charge it. Also, there is even a sheet with Gold Points for MyNintendo included, so you get something there for this purchase, even though it's not Nintendo Switch related.

Well, I've already been playing a little bit with this thing and a separate review will follow in the next days, so I don't want to get too much into things here with this post. This is just to show some photos. But I can already spoil that my favorite thing is probably the playable Timer.

Overall, Zelda II - The Adventure of Link feels like the real star of this whole thing, instead of the original The Legend of Zelda. This is not only because of the fun timer, which is based on Zelda II, but also the fact that this device lets you play the Japanese version, which is quite different from the English one. And it's my first time actually experiencing this version.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Age of Calamity: Expansion Pass Development Backgrounds

Zelda rounding up some Bokoblins with the Master Cycle Zero at a village

There is a new interview with Koei Tecmo at the Japanese site Nintendo Dream Web, where they talk about the Expansion Pass in some detail. I've only looked at a Google translation so far and there is probably more to come, but there are already some interesting facts to take out of this.

  • The first teaser artwork for the Expansion Pass actually has the cone of the Master Cycle Zero's headlights in it, so you could technically see this coming.

  • They really wanted the prototype weapons and armor from Robbie look like DIY projects, where for example the Ancient Arrows are put on a stick, so this creates a visual difference to the same things from the future in Breath of the Wild. The new Prototype Ancient Gear set fully reflects that. (This means there was probably no intention of ever putting the real deals into the game, even though the ancient weapons were found in the game's code.)

  • The idea behind the Flail was referencing Link's weapon cycle from Breath of the Wild somewhat. You take a weapon from the enemy, it breaks after a little while, and then you take a new one.

  • They wanted to provide a new gameplay experience with the battlefields that are split in two separated areas, like Kakariko Village. This was only possible with the ability to swap between different playable characters.

  • Bokoblins had a life of their own in Breath of the Wild, where it was not possible to incorporate that into Age of Calamity. But they wanted to have some of that with the new cutscenes, where they carry around Terrako. Originally, there was going to be a scene about Bokoblins living their daily lives in peace, where they carry some prey, but then Link charges in and ruins it all. Kind of to show the other side of the war. They also had some back and forth with the Zelda team about how fast Bokoblins would react to Link in such scenes. They can't be too intelligent, nor too ignorant.

  • Sooga's flashback was shown in first person, so they wouldn't have to reveal his face (obviously). But this also helped protecting the mysteriousness around the character.

  • Astor's story is another such mystery, where they wanted to leave it to the players' imaginations.


The last point makes it seem quite final, like there is no intention of going any further with this. If there were more DLC, it would naturally put a focus on Astor. But at the same time, if there were more DLC, they wouldn't reveal anything right now.

Still, it would be a shame, if this really were the end, because there is enough stuff left untouched to potentially fill a second Expansion Pass, which includes Astor as a playable character. But let's wait and see.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Age of Calamity: More DLC Ideas

artwork of Astor and the logo of Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity

The Expansion Pass for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has been fully released by now and with its gap-filling story scenarios, as well as the additions of the Battle-Tested Guardian, Sooga and Purah / Robbie it made the game feel overall a lot more wholesome. However, with the scope on Breath of the Wild it wouldn't actually take that much to make the game feel truly complete – to go all the way with this particular Warriors title. In addition, like every game ever made, Age of Calamity does have some rough edges that could need some polishing.

So, let's go over the main ideas for even more additional content and also some quality of life improvements. Some of these things could be implemented via free updates, but most of it is meant for a second Expansion Pass. Also, keep in mind that there is no reason to believe that we might get any of this, so don't get your hopes up.

This article will contain spoilers about the playable characters in Age of Calamity!

Weapon Updates

Right now there is a variety of weapons in the game that can only be obtained once and then never again. Unlike the Master Sword and Bow of Light, which both get their own dedicated, fixed slot, those can be sold and fused at any time. But if you happen to do this, you won't be able to get them back, which shouldn't be a thing. Now, these are the weapons in question:

  • Lucky Ladle
  • Training Sword
  • Prototype Ancient Short Sword
  • Serene Champion's Spear
  • Steadfast Champion's Greatsword
  • Soaring Champion's Bow
  • Nimble Champion's Sword
  • Gallant Hero's Spear
  • Stalwart Hero's Feast
  • Swift Hero's Bow
  • Thunderous Hero's Bridle

The Lucky Ladle used to be a pre-order bonus for the game and you get the Training Sword when you also have a savegame for Breath of the Wild on your system. The rest of the weapons are from the Expansion Pass, where there was no good reason to make any of them limited to a single exemplary.

Now, this should be addressed via a free update, because it affects things already purchased, and the solution is very simple: Quests. In case of the Champion and Hero weapons you could simply make the existing Quests repeatable, much like the Research Quests for the Flail and the Master Cycle Zero in the Royal Ancient Lab. Speaking of, this would also be the perfect place to add a similar Research Quest for the Prototype Ancient Short Sword. As for the Lucky Ladle and the Training Sword, they could add new Quests somewhere on the map, where you can obtain them (again).

Hylian Blacksmith Guild on the map

Another quality of life improvement goes into the Hylian Blacksmith Guild, where an option should be added to maximize the base attack value of any weapon. Like in Breath of the Wild, this value is random on any found weapon, but in that game weapons broke, so it ultimately didn't matter that much. In Age of Calamity, however, weapon building is an important part of the game and here players naturally want to work with the best possible basis.

Currently, the highest possible base attack damage for most third tier weapons is 84 (88 with Octo-Polish in some cases), but the only way of obtaining this is playing the same lengthy Level 93 Challenge over and over again to hope for the lucky drop at the end. It's atrocious, but that some fans are still willing to go through this effort simply shows how much they care for this game. Koei Tecmo might as well throw them a bone and let players fix up any good weapons that they already have found and built. This could be costly, but it will beat the grinding in any case.

Speaking of grinding, the Vicious Monster Battles should get a boost whenever there is a Blood Moon in place, where they go up into the 90s. This way you can also get best possible weapon drops from them. If players still need to grind for more weapons, at least they should have a bit of variety. And to further this variety it would also be good to get new "EX Alerts" for the stages that didn't any yet, like Hyrule Field.

New Characters

With the first Hyrule Warriors you could probably double the roster and still find more ideas for potential playable characters. But since Age of Calamity focuses on a single Zelda title, its roster is pretty close to completion already. Ignoring any characters that may be too huge, like King Dorephan, here is a list of the remaining viable candidates:

  • Astor
  • Harbinger Ganon
  • Kass
  • Beedle
  • Kilton

The Expansion Pass already made some of the NPC characters from the base game playable, like Sooga, one of Koei Tecmo's original characters made specifically for Age of Calamity, where Astor and Harbinger Ganon are the other ones left. However, unlike the Yiga Clan, these villains have no reason to join our heroes throughout the story in the battle against the Calamity, which is probably why they weren't made playable yet. It just didn't fit the narrative.

That Astor must have actually been planned to be playable at some point was indicated by some data-mined voice lines of characters calling each other for swapping. This also included Purah and Robbie, who now became playable.

But if they make Astor and maybe also Harbinger Ganon playable, then this should go hand in hand with some first real villain scenarios. The Expansion Pass already had a Challenge, where you play as the villains against the bad guys, which is quite fun, but more DLC should really expand upon that and explore Astor's storyline in a couple of scenarios.

During this storyline there also could be special Challenges, where you take control of the Blight Ganons, similar to the Divine Beast Battles. Some of them might be too large to become actual playable characters, mainly Windblight Ganon, but having special Blight missions would solve this issue.

artworks of Harbinger Ganon and Kass

Another character that definitely should come with a new storyline is Kass, where it's possible that he also made his way back in time somehow. This could have happened because of Terrako's "magic" or maybe Kass found a way himself, where for example he has learned the "Song of Time" (which would be the perfect title for that expansion). It doesn't matter, but it would be nice to have this beloved character playable after all. The story could also show us finally his teacher in person.

With the two merchants, Beedle and Kilton, we're already scraping the bottom of the barrel, but that's a good thing. These would be some pure fun additions, where Kilton could swing his Spring-Loaded Hammer to safely attack those precious monsters and Beedle could be fighting with a bug-catching net. Kilton is already referenced in Age of Calamity, while Beedle shows up all over the Zelda timeline anyway, so there would be no hurdle to add these characters from Breath of the Wild just like that.

New Weapon Types

This category isn't really that interesting, where the most important weapon addition already got covered by the Expansion Pass: the Master Cycle Zero. With most of the characters it's also hard to imagine anything outside of what they already have.

There could be horses, where the game so far makes it seems like they became extinct after Terrako's time traveling. They were a prominent way of transportation in the flashbacks of Breath of the Wild, but for some reason the heroes always travel on foot in Age of Calamity, even when time is of the essence... But if Koei Tecmo were to add a horse as a weapon for someone, then this someone would probably end up being either Link or Zelda again, where both really don't need more movesets. King Rhoam and Impa might be an alternative, though.

It would also be nice if Impa were to get something new in general, because she was kind of taking a backseat most of the game.

New Attire

One thing that the Expansion Pass didn't add at all were unlockable outfits. The only new outfit is the Prototype Ancient Gear, which came as the purchase bonus for the DLC. But that's it. Considering that there are still dozens of armor pieces for Link left, which didn't make it over from Breath of the Wild, that's quite strange, because those would have been the perfect reward for some more additional Challenges of all sorts.

Here is a complete list of what's missing, 47 items in total:

  • Ancient Helm, Cuirass and Greaves
  • Cap, Tunic and Trousers of the Hero
  • Cap, Tunic and Trousers of the Sky
  • Cap, Tunic and Trousers of Time
  • Cap, Tunic and Trousers of Twilight
  • Cap, Tunic and Trousers of the Wind
  • Fierce Deity Mask, Armor and Boots
  • Island Lobster Shirt
  • Korok Mask
  • Majora's Mask
  • Midna's Helmet
  • Nintendo Switch Shirt
  • Old Shirt, Well-Worn Trousers
  • Phantom Ganon Skull, Armor and Greaves
  • Phantom Helmet, Armor and Greaves
  • Ravio's Hood
  • Salvager Headwear, Vest and Trousers
  • Sheik's Mask
  • Tingle's Hood, Shirt and Tights
  • Vah Medoh, Vah Naboris, Vah Rudania, and Vah Ruta Divine Helm
  • Zant's Helmet

Of course not everything from this list needs to be there, obviously the game worked fine without any of them. And with some items they may not even want them in the game, like the ancient armor set, where they now have the prototype variant for it, or the salvager set based on Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

But it still would be nice to have some of it, especially all the items based on other Zelda games, which would be a nice and easy way of celebrating 35 years of Zelda in Age of Calamity. Those could even be locked behind special Challenges that reference the games and characters in question, e.g. a Rupee hunting mission for the Tingle set.

Link in his Tingle outfit in Breath of the Wild

They could also add some new things, where the most obvious choice is Link's ancient hero garb from the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild. This could be like a promotional item or something, maybe even unlocked when you have a save game of the sequel on your system.

As usual, that's a lot of stuff for Link and absolutely nothing for the rest of the cast. In the very least Zelda should also get access to her Royal Attire, the blue regal dress that she wears in some of the cutscenes:

Curiously, this outfit is actually coded into the game, there is just currently no way of unlocking it, except for mods. And that's a shame. Why would Koei Tecmo hold something like that back, if it wasn't for more DLC? Fans really shouldn't have to mod their Nintendo Switch systems to get access to all contents.

Golden Enemies

The first Expansion Pass has already explored the addition of enemies quite well, but we still didn't get the golden enemies from the Master Mode in Breath of the Wild. Koei Tecmo had the perfect opportunities to add them via the Blood Moons, the Apocalyptic difficulty or the Vicious Monster Battles, where it's weird that this hasn't happened yet...

An actual Master Mode where you start over might be too much at this point, but maybe they could still add them via new Challenges. Alternatively, with a new campaign focused on Astor, there could be something to unlock here to make Blood Moons stronger, where then the scenarios have even higher levels and upgrade all the default enemy tiers by one, just like in Breath of the Wild's Master Mode.

New Stages

If they were to add more story scenarios, e.g. for Astor or Kass, then those should have new locations to visit. And there are actually still a couple of empty areas on the map of Age of Calamity, where additional battles could take us to these places:

  • Deep Akkala
  • Deya Village
  • Faron Grasslands
  • Gerudo Highlands
  • Lake Floria
  • Lake Hylia 
  • Lurelin Village
  • Mount Lanayru
  • Tabantha Tundra

That's enough possibilities for two more DLC packs. And this leads us to...

Expansion Pass 2 Concept

If they were to add some of the things mentioned in this article, then this would most likely be done via a second Expansion Pass. Here is a concept of how this could look like, where like the first Expansion Pass this would come in two waves. These two waves would be more similar to "Guardian of Remembrance", meaning the focus is on adding new story scenarios and playable characters.

Wave 3 – Gears of Prophecy

  • New story sequences following the mysterious prophet Astor, who supports the diminutive Guardian harboring Calamity Ganon's Malice and its dark vision of the future.
  • New playable characters: Astor, as well as Harbinger Ganon.
  • New locations: Deya Village, Gerudo Highlands, Mount Lanayru and more.
  • Blight Ganon Battles: take control of the four Blight Ganons in newly added Challenges.
  • Raise the power of the Blood Moon with new golden enemies.


Wave 4 – Song of Time

  • New story sequences following the bard Kass, who traveled back in time to learn of new heroics.
  • New playable characters: Kass, Beedle, and Kilton.
  • New locations: Lake Floria, Lurelin Village, Deep Akkala and more.
  • Legendary Challenges: unlock attire based on past legends from newly added Challenges, where you also battle against golden foes.



The more you think about the remaining potential with Age of Calamity, the more it will hurt if there's no more DLC left. There is enough possible content here to fill a second Expansion Pass, where this would also make the game feel really complete, something that was far harder to achieve with the first Hyrule Warriors. So, hopefully Koei Tecmo and Nintendo aren't already done with the game.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Age of Calamity: Expansion Pass Review

Almost one year after the release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity for the Nintendo Switch the game's Expansion Pass has been completed. It came in two waves: Pulse of the Ancients and Guardian of Remembrance, where the former was already released back in June and the latter at the end of last month, two weeks ago.

Now that the entire Expansion Pass has been released, it's the perfect time to evaluate it. How much does it really add to the base game? How does it compare to the DLCs from Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Legends? Well, let's find out. If you haven't played Age of Calamity yet, then keep in mind that this review might contain some spoilers, mainly about the playable characters!

No Freebies

One thing Koei Tecmo and Nintendo liked to do with the original Hyrule Warriors was giving free "samples" of the DLC that everyone would receive with the updates, which even included new playable characters. The villain trio of Cia, Volga and Wizzro were originally NPCs, but they became playable with version 1.3.0. And Hyrule Warriors: Legends added Medli for free as its first DLC character. There were also other additions and changes that came with the updates, like increased level caps for all the characters or new features for the weapon smithy.

Impa dodging an explosive barrel from one of the new Moblin variants

There is none of that in Age of Calamity. Well, there is, but it's all tied to the Expansion Pass and if you don't purchase it, then your game will stay exactly the same, except for some under-the-hood improvements. To be fair, most of these freebies in Hyrule Warriors were still tied to the paid DLC somehow and were essentially meant to lure you into buying the additional contents. For example the free characters didn't have any of their weapon upgrades or additional Heart Containers, unless you got the new Adventure Maps as well. Still, you were at least able to try these characters a bit and also to complete all their skills.

With Age of Calamity it's actually much easier to add a new character with the full package, because all they need are practice mission and a dozen of Quests for all their upgrades, which both can be placed anywhere on the map. No big extension of the game is needed and thus the game truly could have gotten some free character additions without any drawbacks at any time, but Koei Tecmo and Nintendo decided not to, which is somewhat disappointing... Of course this is not a big complaint, just an observation how things have changed since 2014.

However, a line needs to be drawn for any quality of life improvements, where those should not be locked behind paid DLC. The Expansion Pass offers you the possibility to store more weapons for all characters and to finally purchase apples, but both have to be unlocked via the new Royal Ancient Lab, while the original Hyrule Warriors had offered similar changes for free. This was already a bad trend in Breath of the Wild, where the paid DLC included items to make your life easier, like calling your horse from anywhere or getting help for finding Koroks. This was not okay back then and this is still not okay today.

Quality Before Quantity

Overall the Expansion Pass expands Age of Calamity on all fronts by adding new playable characters, new weapon types, additional Quests, Challenges, story scenarios, as well as even new enemies, music, stages, moveset additions, and more. It's as full-featured as it gets, but you also have to judge the Expansion Pass by the number of additions. Here is how much the Expansion Pass adds to your game, compared to how much of the same was already in the base game (in parenthesis):

  • New Characters: 3 (18)
  • Additional Weapon Types: 2 (3)
  • New Attire: 3 (69)
  • New Stages: 5 (21)
  • New Scenarios: 8 (20)
  • New Challenges: 36 (161)
  • New Quests: 112 (376)

Given the price of 19.99€ for the Expansion Pass, this doesn't really add all up. To be fair, the base game is quite extensive and can keep you entertained for over 60 hours (a lot more on the higher difficulties), where it also had an unusually large amount of characters for a new Warriors game. And getting three more characters and two new weapon types (movesets) for existing characters was essentially the standard with the similar DLC bundles for Hyrule Warriors, so this is absolutely decent.

The one thing that is mainly lacking is the number of additional Challenges, which was a strong suit of the DLC for Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Legends with the additional Adventure Maps. While arguably being quite repetitive, those could take many, many hours to complete, but the Expansion Pass for Age of Calamity doesn't really have anything comparable. The DLC itself aims at the late game, where its new Challenges are all above a recommended level of 50 and even go up into the 90s. But at this point all of it might feel like a drop in the bucket, where it won't take long for experienced players to overcome them.

At the same time you have praise that they were going for many new things with the additions. While the DLC Adventure Maps for Hyrule Warriors (Legends) offered a ton of new missions, those missions usually just recycled the existing contents. There were no new enemies, no new stages, and no new music (other than for the overlaying Adventure Maps themselves), where this always felt like a missed opportunity – not so with the Expansion Pass for Age of Calamity. It has all that, which is absolutely great and where Koei Tecmo really has put quality before quantity this time.

It's still a shame that they couldn't have done some more things to keep players busy. While the game now has a couple of new stages, those new stages rarely get even used by the DLC for additional Challenges. And this feels like a missed opportunity of its own.

However, there is a new type of Challenge, where you battle "Vicious Monsters", which keeps respawning and has some random elements to it. Those make use of all the new stages, as well as most of the enemy additions, where you can keep playing them for grinding. But of course this is not as exciting as completing a whole new set of Challenges.

One thing that is completely absent from the Expansion Pass are unlockable outfits, which could have served as a great reward for additional Challenges. The only new attire you get is the Prototype Ancient Gear set for Link as the purchase bonus, but otherwise there is nothing to find. Well, with the DLC for Hyrule Warriors (Legends) you didn't get many full costumes either, it was mostly just color swaps, which wouldn't be a good fit for this game's attire system. But in the very least they could have brought back some more of Link's many armor pieces from Breath of the Wild and maybe also offer that blue regal dress for Zelda.

Pulse of the Ancients

While the Expansion Pass is probably best enjoyed in its entirety, it originally was split into two halves with a very different focus. The first DLC wave was all about adding new Challenges and Quests to the game, where many of the latter take the form of "Research Quests" in the Royal Ancient Lab. This point on the map opens its own progression window, in which you will unlock the aforementioned quality of life improvements, as well as the new weapon types for Link and Zelda, the Flail and the Master Cycle Zero.

Hungry Hunches Research Quest

This is the part of the DLC that can already be started quite early in the game, right after the first chapter, where you can continuously work on clearing all the Research Quests. The ultimate goal is finding the Battle-Tested Guardian, but you really need to complete a whole series of Quests before that. These special Research Quests still work like any other Quest in the game, so you supply a number of materials to solve them. The catch is that some of the required materials are entirely new, like research papers that you obtain from certain actions, where you aren't able to get any of them before installing the DLC.

Some of the materials are also gotten as rewards from the new Challenges. Those start from Level 50 onward, so they are definitely not meant to be taken on in the early game. There aren't many new Challenges to find here, only 15 in total (ten more with the second DLC wave), but Koei Tecmo tried to offer some new things with them. For example there are Challenges where Robbie and Purah want to do some research and ask you to defeat your enemies in a specific way.

One of the new Challenges asks you to rack up a certain number of K.O.s within a time limit and there is another one about getting Rupees, which is reminiscent of similar missions from Hyrule Warriors (Legends). But these are kind of weird and don't work in the same way, because they keep shifting the goal post and it's not really clear how much you really have to get in the allotted time.

In "Survival of the Fittest" you're asked to simply survive for ten minutes, where the game keeps throwing tough enemies at you and it's really up to you how you do this. You can try and fight them all, or keep running in circles, or make good use of Daruk's shield. There is no wrong, as long as the clock keeps ticking down.

Other Challenges try to emulate some small stories, where there is even one which pitches the villains against the good guys. The game otherwise doesn't really have much in this direction, so it's a quite refreshing take.

Urbosa fighting one of the new Meteo Wizzrobes near Rito Village

But overall there isn't that much to play here, as already mentioned, where seasoned players will be done with all the new Challenges fairly quickly. So, if you're hoping to be kept busy on a similar level as the Adventure Maps in Hyrule Warriors (Legends), then you're out of luck.

As a slight compensation Koei Tecmo introduced "Vicious Monster Battles", called "EX Alerts" on your map, which keep re-appearing and offer different of these "Vicious Monsters" at the end. Those are your typical tough foes, ranging from Moblins to Lynels, which also includes most of the new enemy types introduced in the DLC. But they all have crazy modifiers to them, like lots of health, or insane attack powers, but rarely also beneficial things, like better drops.

What enemy or enemies you're getting is pretty much random, but it adds a certain replay value to these Challenges and makes them a nice place for grinding. You even have to grind these missions for a while, because they are the only place where you can obtain the Vicious Monster Reports, which are required to complete a variety of the Research Quests in the Royal Ancient Lab.

Luckily, they don't have any time limits, where they are relatively stress-free, save for the waves of elemental enemies it always keeps spawning at the end. Sadly, these missions don't make use of all the possible stages, not even half of them, and they don't provide the best possible outcome for weapons in the game. Otherwise this would have been perfect to keep the game going and the ideal way of farming good weapons without getting bored too quickly.

And you still might want to work on your weapons in case you're venturing into the new Apocalyptic difficulty mode. However, this mode is just another modification of the damage values, so it's not very exciting. While the damage you take is atrocious, you can at least compensate the tankier enemies with better weapons, especially now that you can upgrade them to Level 50 for some crazy good values. Unlike the other difficulty modes, Apocalyptic does even affect drops – weapon drops to be more specific –, where there is a slight incentive to play it, other than the for the challenge.

If this mode did more, it would have been much more interesting, however. This was the perfect opportunity for adding the golden enemies from Breath of the Wild's own DLC, where Koei Tecmo could have utilized the same system for upgrading the enemies. But there's nothing like that, where this new difficulty mode feels like a cheap addition, rather than something that adds true replay value.

Guardian of Remembrance

The second half of the paid DLC offers eight new scenarios, which take place all over the base game's storyline and come with a variety of new cutscenes. If you're in this game for the story, then this will be the heart of the Expansion Pass for you. Still, you shouldn't expect anything overly important, where similar to The Champions' Ballad it gives you some more fractured insights into what has happened, filling some of the gaps, but without offering a new story arc or something like that.

Rhoam meeting with Urbosa at the Great Plateau

Generally, this is all about giving most of the characters (that aren't optional) some more screen time. Half of the scenarios focuses on the Champions and their descendants, where they are put together on a mission and share some nice moment together. If you always wanted to see how Sidon interacts with himself as a little kid, then you might be in for treat.

Both King Rhoam and Master Kohga get their own scenarios as well, which is pretty awesome and makes the game feel overall more wholesome. Only Hestu is out of luck here and doesn't get much love, but in the least he shows up for some final montage that you can unlock by clearing all "Memory Quests".

These Memory Quests are special conditions that have to be fulfilled during the scenarios, where there is three of them for each. They are similar to the Hard Mode Gold Skulltulas in Hyrule Warriors and the third condition is always obscured as "???", where you have to figure out what to do for yourself. In some of the scenarios it's quite obvious what it wants you to do, in others not so much, where this can be quite frustrating if you don't want to look things up on the internet.

Half of the new scenarios also come with new battlefields: Goponga Village, Kakariko Village, Lanayru Road and Mount Daphnes, where the latter includes the Coliseum. Together with the Forgotten Temple, which gets used for some Challenges in the "Pulse of the Ancients" DLC, that's five new locations from Breath of the Wild for you to visit and they all look really great in action.

Vah Rudania above Kakariko Village

The big highlight is probably Kakariko, where Vah Rudania came for a visit. While the stage feels very cramped around the town center, it looks gorgeous and even comes with an amazing new music track. Sadly, they don't have any new Koroks on them, where the Memory Quests are kind of the replacement reason for you to explore the entire battlefield at all times.

The other half of the new scenario also reuses some of the old stages, where so far each new scenario got a unique battlefield for it. Even when the base game returned to previous locations, it heavily altered them in some form or explored new areas around the same stage. This doesn't happen here, which isn't too bad, but it would have been great if Koei Tecmo kept up the stage variety. In the very least they could have gone with different times of day or weather conditions to offer something more fresh. Imagine the Breach of Demise at night example.

But the new stages don't get used too much anyway. For the most part it's only two or three new Challenges for each of the new stages, which already includes the randomized Vicious Monster Battles, where they could have done a little bit more here.

The Challenges that got added with the second DLC also aren't as creative as the ones from "Pulse of the Ancients". For the most part it's the typical boss fights under time limits, where the base game already had one too many of those. So, some more Challenges that take place on the new stages and make use of some new ideas would have been really nice here.

New Weapons

Of course with every Warriors game the most important thing are the playable characters, where three new ones were added with the DLC and two of the old ones got new tools to play with. Let's first talk about the latter, because this is what you also can get the earliest in the DLC. The newly added weapon types are the Flail and the Master Cycle Zero, which go to Link and Zelda respectively. Now, these two happen to be the only characters who already had additional weapon types in the base game, where they really didn't need the extra attention...

Zelda driving the Master Cycle Zero

It still fits them best, however, where it's especially nice that Zelda was given the Master Cycle Zero – after all she is the one using the Sheikah Slate in this game and who is always very interested in technology. This moveset is as crazy as you would expect and actually even gives you a speed boost, which is something that normally doesn't happen in Hyrule Warriors. Even Link on Epona used to ride only as fast as everyone else was running in the previous title. So, this is a welcome change and can be quite useful.

The Flail let's you copy the basic weapons of your enemies, which leads to some interesting results and also different attack speeds. Overall this moveset feels reminiscent of Link's Gauntlet from Hyrule Warriors, just not as completely over-the-top.

Link in the Prototype Ancient Armor attacking some Bokoblins with the Flail at the Tabantha Frontier

Both the Master Cycle Zero and the Flail come in three different variants, which all have the same base attack values, but a different strong attack. This can be a dash attack, a shield or a laser, where it's really up to you what you like best. But it's certainly an interesting change from the usual three tiers that weapons get in this game and Hyrule Warriors in general.

Otherwise there are also new "skins" or specimens of existing weapon types for half of the original cast. There is the Prototype Ancient Short Sword, which you will get right away with the purchase bonus and you can also unlock a special weapon for each of the Champions and their descendants after their new story scenarios. Those all behave the same way, where they have the same starting base damage as the Master Sword and come with a free "Attack Speed++" seal pre-installed, which is favored by most players anyway. Their growth is much stronger than other weapons, however, where at the end their damage will go above 200. That's still not as good as tier 3 weapons with a high base damage, which is quite disappointing and feels somewhat pointless, but it's still a very solid alternative. And they look really cool.


New Characters

Moving on to the new characters, which are undoubtedly the true highlight of any DLC for a Hyrule Warriors game or Warriors games in general. All of the three newcomers play very differently and offer some interesting options over what the base game roster has already provided, where the additions are overall quite satisfying.

A Guardian firing a laser at a horde of Bokoblins in the canyons of the Breath of Demise

The first DLC wave offered the Battle-Tested Guardian, which is effectively your typical Guardian as a playable character, with a few extras to make the moveset more complete and a small story as to why this isn't just your typical Guardian after all. But they are the signature enemies of Breath of the Wild, where it's great to have one playable in Age of Calamity. Visually the Battle-Tested Guardian is heavily inspired by the first Guardian that we ever saw, the one from the first teaser for the game at E3 2014, which is a nice throwback to where it all started.

It's free from any malice and it feels right to finally use a Guardian for its intended purpose: defend Hyrule from evil. With its ZR ability you can actually lock on to foes and then fire the laser beam with your strong attack, just like you would expect, which feels absolutely great, but of course isn't as overpowered as when enemies are using it against you. The animations look fantastic as well, where it only turns its head whenever you steer it, but the body stays in position and the tentacle legs do the job.

The Battle-Tested Guardian also does some crazy things, where for example it turns basically into a U.F.O. whenever it needs to fly. And it has the usual problems of playable characters of its size, where the hitbox is quite big, which makes it very difficult to dodge various attacks.

Robbie slicing some Bokoblins at Akkala Citadel with Purah standing right next to him

Then we have Purah & Robbie, which is also a very unique character, because it's actually a character duo, where the two scientists are finally working together to battle some foes themselves. There is an argument to be made that they could have been two separate playable characters, where Purah kind of got the short end of the stick here, because Robbie does most of the work. But it's really their teamwork and their interaction that makes this character so special.

Robbie uses some sort of robot suit with two long blade arms, which has a huge range, one of the largest attack ranges in the game, but it's a little slow as a compensation. He even has his Ancient Blade Saws from Breath of the Wild installed in the best version of the weapon, which is a nice detail.

Purah on the other hand supports him by deploying machines based on the Divine Beasts, which you can call via the ZR button. Which of the four inventions you get is random, but like in Tetris it shows you the next one. And once deployed they unleash a powerful attack, which even depletes the weak points of enemies, which is very, very useful. You just have to be careful not be hit yourself, which can stun you or knock you down.

Overall these two characters are the real star of the DLC, where they are in charge of the Royal Ancient Lab, they narrate the new stories and then even become playable themselves at the end. The only downside is that they don't become playable as part of the new story scenarios, where there is an actual reason for them to fight or defend themselves. So, it feels more like an afterthought and at the point where you get these new characters there might not be anything left for you to do in the game... And that's a shame.

Sooga doing a ninja pose with an explosion behind him... he doesn't look at it, because he's a cool guy

There is one more DLC character, whose identity has been officially revealed by Nintendo and Koei Tecmo in the meantime, so it probably doesn't count as a spoiler any longer: Sooga. This character fills another obvious gap in the roster, where Master Kohga was already playable, but we didn't really know what has happened to his reliable right hand man. Now you can take control of his destiny and make him join the ranks of the playable fighters.

And it's really good to finally have him playable, where Sooga is one of Koei Tecmo's original characters for this game, who is essentially a unique Yiga Blademaster and a really cool guy. His moveset is a lot of fun and very strong in boss fights, because he comes with a new counter mechanic for his ZR move, which feels really good to land. So good in fact that you might want a similar mechanic for everyone. Three successful counters without getting hit also boosts his normal attacks significantly, but you will lose everything once you take damage.

The only complaint about this character is that his moveset doesn't contain everything that you would expect. The long-distance sword beams, those signature wind attacks used by the Yiga Blademasters and also Sooga himself, are completely absent. Some of his attacks have similar effects, but the reach is quite limited, so it's not the same thing... You are also not able to actively teleport around, like Yiga usually do. Considering that even Mipha can teleport herself for some reason, this feels like a weird omission.

New Enemies

Not only does the Expansion Pass add new stages to the game, there are also about a dozen new enemies as well. Of course most of these are simply new variants of existing enemies, like three new types of Moblins, but they are quite creative. The bomb barrel throwing Moblins for example, which already could be annoying during the Divine Beast missions, now face you actively on the battlefield. And there are new flying Moblins, who are using a backpack full of Octo Balloons as a funny sight.

But they shouldn't be underestimated, which also goes for the three enhanced types of Wizzrobes, who are returning from Breath of the Wild, but are much more deadlier in this game. The same is true for the Giant Chuchus, which can be surprisingly fast and almost feel like a new boss battle.

Daruk fighting a Giant Fire Chuchu

Speaking of boss battles, the DLC also adds two of them. The first is against one of the new characters, where this one can be quite tricky, because the fight goes cleverly against your expectations at some points. For example this boss knows how to actively dodge your rod attacks, so you can't just spam for some easy weak point attacks. But the fight still stays entirely fair, so it's an overall refreshing battle.

The same can't be said about the other new boss, which is part of the new story scenarios and also gets used in some of the new Challenges. This one is best described as an abomination and it completely goes against the rules of this game. Your rods and even Stasis have no effect on this boss at all and it can land some very cheap hits. Its weapon arms also get their own weak points to take them out, which is something new, but this feels more like a distraction at times. It's almost like Koei Tecmo wanted a little bit too much with this boss, where the whole story around it also feels very unnecessary.


The Expansion Pass for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity really puts quality before quantity with its new story scenarios, new battlefields, new music, new enemies, and so on. It's a good change from the similar DLC seasons for Hyrule Warriors on Wii U and Hyrule Warriors: Legends on Nintendo 3DS, which lacked in some of these categories, while also providing the usual addition of three new characters and two new weapon types, which are fun as always.

However, some more quantity wouldn't have hurt, especially when it comes to the new Challenges, and the lack of more attire is disappointing. And while the game feels a lot more complete after the Expansion Pass, it's still not completely satisfying...

Friday, November 12, 2021

Age of Calamity: Kohga and Sooga Revealed

Kohga doing a pose in spotlights

Yes, this doesn't qualify as news, because we already know the game's full roster, but for some reason Nintendo has decided to announce that both Kohga and Sooga are playable characters in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity today on Twitter. Officially, this wasn't revealed until now, where last year that had only shared artworks for some of the characters, which included Kohga, and for the DLC they only said that there is one more character without revealing that character's identity. But the Yiga cat is out of the bag now.

Curiously, they make it sound like Master Kohga became playable with the Expansion Pass. This is their wording:

The Yiga Clan strikes! Master Kohga joins the battle – and Sooga too! – in the #HyruleWarriors: Age of Calamity Expansion Pass.

Well, he already joined the battle in the main game, though... But the Expansion Pass does give him a scenario, which shows us what happens after their confrontation with Astor. And this is where Sooga may or may not join you.

But I suppose that Nintendo's marketing wanted to step things up a bit for Age of Calamity. After all, the main game is almost one year old now, so they might as well reveal more of the playable cast at this point. Half of it is still a "secret", technically, where they haven't shown various of the playable characters in the official media to avoid spoilers. Which is good, but it's been a year and most Zelda fans should already know about the full cast...

Anyway, I didn't know about Sooga's ice statue move, but it's hilarious. If you press X immediately after using Cryonis, he carves the ice block into a statue of Master Kohga. And when an enemy destroys this statue, he gets super angry, which leads into an immediate weak point attack. That's such a funny detail in his moveset and very cool.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Got the Metroid Dread amiibo

Fusion Suit Samus to the left and the EMMI to the right against a white background

Better late than never, I guess. The figurines are quite nice, but not perfect. The E.M.M.I. has this pretty amazing pedestal to it, where it looks like a broken off part from an E.M.M.I. Zone. The attention to detail is quite excellent with both of these with all the robotic parts.

The new Fusion Suit is awesome and probably my favorite design for Samus in the series, where it's nice to have a small figurine for this. However, I'm not a big fan of the crouched pose. I guess they wanted to do something different from the previous amiibo, but it makes this one look too small and you also get one of these plastic supports on her right foot.

With the E.M.M.I. you have all the robotic parts in great detail and the red eyeball is also reflective, so it really looks like it might be glowing with the right lighting. But I don't like that it doesn't have the shielding on the head, where this looks more like a prototype design. The white E.M.M.I. still appears in the game like that, of course, but only for a brief moment, right before you blast it to smithereenes. But to me this just doesn't look complete and I'm not sure why they didn't went with the full design, which looks a lot more "organic" with these petal shields.

Here is a comparison to the previous Metroid amiibo that were released four years ago together with Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS:

all four official Metroid amiibo right next to each other

They are smaller in scale, but naturally this comes with their postures. Together with the amiibo from the Super Smash Bros. series, there are now eight Metroid amiibo in total, which is pretty nice. Well, half of the are just Samus in different suits, but this comes with the territory and also isn't much different for Zelda, where almost half of the collection is made out of different Links and it's a miracle that we got Zelda herself for Skyward Sword HD. I won't be surprised if Metroid Prime 4 also gets two amiibo like that, one for Samus again and one for Sylux.

As for their functionality, I will take the additional Energy and Missile+ Tank for my upcoming Hard Mode run. Those will be useful for sure, but of course this isn't anything exciting or any incentive to actually own these figures. But that's okay. They certainly have listened to the negative feedback that came with Samus Returns, where the new amiibo for the game unlocked a Metroid radar and the Fusion Mode difficulty, while these things should have been available to everyone.

In general it's not easy how to deal with the amiibo. Of course Nintendo wants some ingame reward, so that fans have an additional incentive to buy these figurines and so that it's also fun to actually use them. But fans are buying them anyway, no matter what they do, and this shouldn't take away from players who either can't get their hands on these figures or don't want to.

So, this is a balancing act. I can only keep saying how Breath of the Wild did it best with Wolf Link and some ingame cosmetics based on past Zelda games, which were cool, but didn't really belong into the game world anyway. Metroid Dread is entirely on the "don't need that" side, but that's better than locking away a third difficulty mode with them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Age of Calamity War Log, EX Entry 5

Expansion Pass Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • EX Battles: 8 (Completed)
  • EX Research Quests: 35 / 35
  • EX Quests: 77
  • EX Challenges: 26

Well, this is it, at least for now. I'm done with the game again with all Quests and Challenges completed, where the DLC really didn't add too much. Most of the play time after my previous post went into figuring out the secret Memory Quests and then there isn't really much anything left to do, other than the usual grinding. But more on these topics a little later.

Spoiler warning: If you don't know who the unannounced third DLC character is and still want to find out for yourself, then you will have to stop reading right now. I'm not turning this into some ultra secret, like I did with the final base game character. If you're looking for help to solve all the Memory Quests, then check out my updated summary post, where you can find a spoiler-free solution.

Anyway, moving on, you've been warned...

Intervention Inventions

While replaying the new scenarios and also grinding some more Vicious Monster Battles, I've been using Purah & Robbie quite a lot. I love this new character, it's a really great addition. The range is enormous, while Robbie doesn't have such a massive hitbox as some of the other larger fighters. And any hits on Purah don't subtract from your life energy, she's basically an invulnerable dummy and can even be used to block some enemy attacks, though it somewhat feels wrong to "abuse" her like that. But it's also hilarious when she gets flipped all over the place without a scratch.

Purah and Robbie standing in front of a closes Great Fairy plant near Kakariko Village

The real deal are the "inventions", however, which you can place with your ZR ability whenever the meter has refilled, which happens quite quickly. Not only are these some of the biggest area attacks in the game, they reveal weak points and eat away the gauge like crazy. It's like you're getting access to deployable Special Attacks all the time.

This ability is insane and really helps with groups of stronger enemies, which is why I've been playing them happily in the Vicious Monster Battles. It's probably my favorite of all the DLC movesets, because it's so versatile. The other one in this DLC wave comes close, however, but for different reasons...

But no matter how good the character is, one thing will always be devastating and those are archer attacks. I've probably mentioned this before, but I have to do this again: the lack of any invulnerability frames for your character is not okay. If you get hit by ten arrows within half a second, because a group of archers or Lizalfos is spamming at you, that's ten hearts down when one arrow causes one heart of damage. And this can cause some surprise Game Overs when you're getting hit by such a rapid fire attack that you can't even heal yourself in time. But that's just a side note, unrelated to the topic of new fighters. This can happen to anyone, even the best.

Mystery Memory

Okay, the obscured Memory Quests were absolutely dumb and I've wasted so much time figuring out what the game wants me to do, stuck in a frustrating replay loop of my own wrong assumptions, that this sincerely dampened the enjoyment of this last bit of DLC.

In theory it's a nice idea, but in praxis there shouldn't have been a character unlock tied to this and ideally these mystery quests are something that you can figure out yourself by observing the map, listening to the dialogues and exploring. And to be fair, this is the case for a majority of these secret missions. But it's a real problem for the ones where it's not. Three of them gave me some real trouble, where I've spent the entirety of two evenings playing them over and over again without a real clue

The first one is "EX Battle for Kakariko Village" and here I have to admit that my thorough way of playing was getting in the way. My first instinct was that this was about the many open enemy outposts all around Kakariko Village, but capturing them yourself doesn't do anything, so I assumed that it had to be something else. And since capturing them early prevents the many waves of enemies flooding into Kakariko, it gave me the necessary time to explore all of the stages for any other secrets. So, I've kept doing that out of convenience, all while being confused about what I actually had to do...

For a while I even thought it must have something to do with the Great Fairy pond. Maybe you're supposed to call her for help to fight Sooga or something, as a throwback to the first Hyrule Warriors? It's not like I knew what the game wanted me to do...

After a while the realization came that I had to do things differently and the most obvious thing was to stop capturing all the outposts. When I first played the mission I was so focused on defending Kakariko from the swarming enemies, because this was another Memory Quest, that I never even bothered switching to Daruk, so I didn't know that you could capture the outposts with Vah Rudania. Hence the confusion about what to do. Playing a scenario for the first time can be a little bit overwhelming, where I'm not paying attention to everything. But on my repeat playthroughs I was just too thorough for my own good.

The hidden Memory Quest in "EX Liberate the Ancient Lab" was by far the worst, because here I just had no clue at all. I've played this scenario a dozen of times without a single idea what could be the secret mission here. It was really bad and I became desperate eventually. I thought that maybe you had to defeat many enemies with lightning attacks, because there is a similar Memory Quest at Goponga Village and you're originally playing as Urbosa and Riju. With that also came the thought that the condition may be tied to a specific character, but that would be mean, because there are no fixed characters after beating the battle once. So, they wouldn't possibly do this. Right? Riiiiight...?

Purah and Robbie at the end of the new DLC scenario at the Breach of Demise

Since you can use any character to replay the scenario, I mostly played whoever I liked best, where Purah and Robbie were usually my first choice. They were the new hot thing, after all... But this way I could have searched forever, because the super secret mission expects you to defeat Kohga with Riju. How are you supposed to know this? When I first played the scenario, I defeated him with Urbosa, simply because I'm more comfortable with her in boss fights. And since I didn't HAVE to use Riju for anything, it hasn't occurred to me that she was necessary for anything until much, much later. What an annoyance...

But the real tragedy lies in "EX The Yiga Clan's Retreat", where this is probably the most "obvious" one out of the three. Kohga makes a big fuss about not leaving anyone behind and I've been replaying the mission with Mipha specifically because of this to keep everyone healed and happy. However, there is the one guy who closes a gate behind him to purposefully sacrifice himself, where the gate normally doesn't open until he gets defeated by the Hollows. And I've kept assuming this was part of the script and you couldn't do anything about it. So, I thought it had to be something else, like getting to the end really fast, capturing all the keeps, not using the Sheikah Slate and other nonsense. I had lots of ideas, but I also never could be really sure what to do, where you're always in doubt.

Well, it turned out that you can actually open the gate to the guy who stays behind at a specific point during the battle, when the Hollows appear. There is this tiny window where you can actually save him and with that finally solve the puzzle. And when you do so, you can suddenly play as Sooga... You unlock the man.

This was the hardest facepalm moment for me in the entire game. When I first played this scenario I was convinced that this had to be the place where you unlock Sooga. And when for some reason this didn't happen, I was just so very disappointed. You should have seen my sad face last Saturday. He was my "most wanted" for the DLC and I was convinced that it had to be him, but at that point it just didn't look like it any longer and I simply assumed that he wasn't going to be playable after all. Maybe Koei Tecmo came up with some other great idea of who is going to be the character, like Malice Dumpster Ganon... You can never really be sure about these things and I was kind of nervous what all of this would finally lead to.

This could have been avoided if unlocking him wasn't tied to some obscure condition. Or if said condition wasn't obscured. I probably wouldn't even complain about these secret Memory Quests so much, if they were just treated as this 100% bonus and didn't prevent you from getting the last fighter.  Well, technically Sooga isn't even the last fighter, because you can unlock him even before Purah & Robbie... And I would have loved getting him right there at this point, without any shenanigans, just like any of the other characters you get from the story scenarios. Or if the game simply told me to protect all allies, then this wouldn't have been an issue as well. But no, it had to say "???". Thanks, Koei Tecmo... This was really not fun.

Supah Sooga

While the path to unlocking Sooga wasn't the happiest one for me, finally playing as him makes up for it. I loved Koei Tecmo's original characters for Hyrule Warriors, especially Cia, and Sooga is my favorite one in Age of Calamity. Sorry, Terrako, but you're just an R2D2 rip-off... Of course Sooga also nails a certain stereotype – the reliable and disciplined henchman who secretly runs the organization for his master, who on the other hand is incredibly incompetent. But there is just something about him that works so very well in contrast to the goofy Kohga.

You really have to give it to Koei Tecmo, they know how to stage characters. Kohga was just this one mini-boss encounter in Breath of the Wild and they've added so much to his person, it's absolutely incredible. And Sooga is a big part of this, where it's always a highlight when he appears.

Sooga fighting Sooga on Vah Rudania

It's so good that he's finally playable and he does not disappoint, at least for the most part. His ZR gimmick is a counter, which is such a good move that you'd wish that this became a thing for every character in the game. It's a solid alternative to dodging, where you can even keep up combos after a successful counter.

One of the biggest struggles with the whole battle system of Age of Calamity is that the game is quick to punish you for carelessly attacking while fighting bosses. It's always best to play it safe and should you start a combo when it's not, then pray to the Goddesses that Mr. Lynel isn't about to strike you. But with Sooga you can actually risk it more thanks to his counter, which is great and a fun mechanic.

Sooga in black and white

And his Special Attack is dope, it's the coolest animation in the entire game. The music stops, the visuals are all turned into black and white, all so that Sooga can do his red slash in style. Awesome, I love it. The only downer here is that it seems that Sooga doesn't really use any wind beams in his moveset, where this is actually his signature move and also that of Yiga Blademasters in general. Some of the weapon effects look similar, but they don't travel as far, where his moveset could have been even better with some more range.

There are apparently no restrictions to using Sooga in the scenarios, where you can go and fight Sooga as Sooga in many of the missions. But this also already worked as Kohga. Speaking of, they've also updated the DLC Challenge from last time where you play as the baddies, "EX Conquering Hyrule", so that you can now also play as Sooga. Very nice. For me personally this makes this Challenge so much easier to play, so that it's actually quite fun. And when grinding rod and apple refills on "Nap Quest!" Kohga now finally has the perfect partner for the job.

After obtaining all 21 characters the character select screens all look a little weird, though. There is always enough space to show all of the icons, but for some reason they decided to make it a panel that scrolls, where the character(s) on the last row are faded out at the beginning. And it just looks amateurish.

The End?

With everything cleared once more, I'm feeling a little unsatisfied. There simply wasn't that much to do in the Expansion Pass, especially when compared to the DLCs for Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Legends, where the additional Adventure Maps could keep you busy for countless hours. This isn't the case here. Well, the content certainly has more quality to it, where the existence of new stages alone is so much more interesting than anything Hyrule Warriors did with its DLCs besides adding more fighters. But at the same time these new stages don't really get used much.

So, this is a quality over quantity case, but with the addition of the two new characters, which are both really fun, I kind of want to keep playing. And the only options here are weapon grinding and playing through the game again on its "Apocalyptic" difficulty, which shouldn't make any difference until the higher recommended levels. But that's probably better than nothing at all.

The Sheikah Slate on a table in the Ancient Lab

Weapon grinding still puts me off, however. There is so much that you can do in Hyrule Warriors to build "perfect" weapons, but there is nothing really to use them at the end. The only weapons that I consider as part of 100% completion are the Master Sword and Bow of Light, because those are fixed. Everything that can potentially be sold or lost in any way doesn't count, even if you would never do so.

Getting the best possible base weapon damage for the normal tier 3 weapons also seems to be a massive pain after this DLC. This can be as high as 84 now (88 with Octo-polished weapons) and the only way of getting those is beating the new boss in the new Lv. 93 Challenge. And that's not a fun or quick mission to be playing over and over again. If the "EX Alert" Challenges could give these best possible weapons, I might consider doing it, because they at least offer some good variety, but there is no way I'm putting myself through playing the same painful Challenge again and again

With that in mind, the new special weapons for the Champions and their descendants are interesting, because they are a one-time offer and you can't get better versions of them at random. They work exactly like the Prototype Ancient Short Sword, which was the Expansion Pass bonus and has its own special growth rate, which is pretty good. So, you're free to work on them right away and I've already started upgrading them.

But there really should be a way of re-obtaining all these special weapons somehow. Same with the Training Sword and Lucky Ladle. If you fuse or sell these weapons, you can't get them back, which is stupid. A game like this shouldn't have anything that is lost forever. Why can't I just do the quests a second time? It works for the Flail and Master Cycle at the Royal Ancient Lab and it should be the same here.

Generally, there are so many things that they still could add to the game, like all the missing costumes, golden enemies, or even more fighters, that I feel like we might be getting a second Expansion Pass. But more on that in a separate post. I'm not holding my breath here, because we're talking about Nintendo, who loves nothing more than to leave potential unfulfilled. But it's still a possibility that this might happen next year as another way to pass time until the sequel to Breath of the Wild.