Sunday, January 30, 2022

Age of Calamity: Requested Sooga

Sooga fighting a bunch of Hylian Soldiers at Hyrule Outpost

The interview with the developers of Age of Calamity by Nintendo Dread continues, where there's again a translation provided by Nintendo Everything. This times it's all about the additions of new stages and fighters that came with the Expansion Pass.

The most interesting fact is probably that there was no intention of making Sooga playable, but there were so many requests from fans coming that they decided to go for him. Again, like with the Expansion Pass as whole, which only came to be because of fan requests, this feels somewhat weird. Sooga's fate was left ambiguous in the main game, but you can still see him alive and well in the bonus credits. And if there was one more playable character, he simply made the most sense. He was already in the game and he is very cool, so naturally fans were asking for him (including this blog).

It's absolutely great that Koei Tecmo focused on what the fans wanted. You rarely ever hear anything like this from Nintendo, where the developers usually just follow their own vision, often for good reasons. If you just focus on what the fans want, you won't be able to surprise them and you won't be able to innovate. Often the players want something that they don't even know about yet. But with a game like Hyrule Warriors, a game that's all about appealing to the fans, it simply makes sense to give the fans exactly what they want.

Still, it's perplexing how Koei Tecmo didn't see any of this coming... The fans wanted DLC? The fans wanted to play as the badass Yiga commander? Who would have thought...? No one could have ever guessed that...!

Also, they clearly state that they had other ideas instead of Sooga, but I don't think anyone would have been against getting whatever character(s) Koei Tecmo had in mind here in addition. The more, the merrier. So, why didn't they make more fighters? With Age of Calamity they had the chance to create a product that can be called very much "complete", where all suitable characters and locations are covered by the game. This is something that never would have been possible with the original Hyrule Warriors, because there were too many possibilities. And they were so close here.

At the same time you wouldn't expect that the fans are fully content either. Don't they ask for even more DLC? Don't they ask for Astor or Kass? You would think so... And with the narrative of this interview doing another season of DLC feels like a good call, unless the first Expansion Pass severely underperformed. But we're talking about the best-selling Warriors game as of yet.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Age of Calamity: Unplanned Expansion Pass

Terrako looking at the camera

With Hyrule Warriors, Hyrule Warriors: Legends and Breath of the Wild we learned about their DLC expansions quite early, with some of them even before the release of the game, where those were obviously planned some time before launch. This was different for Age of Calamity, however, where it took months before we heard anything. Now, a recent interview with Nintendo Dream (as translated by NintendoEverything) throws some light on the situation.

In fact, the development didn't even start until one month after the game's release, where the team got already disbanded and had moved on to other projects. But they received so much feedback asking for DLC on the game's website that they decided to bring everyone back and work on the game some more.

It's really nice to hear that Nintendo and Koei Tecmo were listening to the fans here, but at the same time it's weird that they didn't plan on making DLC in the first place, since such a title lends itself to expansions. It's a no-brainer, really. And even with Robbie, Purah, and Sooga now finally playable in the game, there are still some more boxes left to check (see more ideas for DLC).

With most Nintendo games these days there is always this little bit left. You know, some obvious omissions that would make a game feel more complete, but they simply aren't happening. And that's not even talking about any more playable characters, where the roster feels very complete for what they were going for, but it's often about small things, like Zelda's Royal Attire (which exists in the game's code as a playable costume), or alternative ways of getting some of the DLC's one-time weapons. Let's hope that the Japanese fans keep asking for such things on that website.

The interview clearly states that they have wrapped up once more, however, so unless they decide to bring the team back together a third time this was probably it and we shouldn't be expecting any more updates or DLC. But let's see...

It's also interesting how much priority this had over any other project. Well, it's the best-selling Warriors game to date, so making DLC for this probably was more important than whatever the different team members were going to do next.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Press Y to Attack

Link in Breath of the Wild attacking a Lynel with a Royal Broadsword

With early Nintendo games there was always this rule of thumb about the controls: press A to jump and B for whatever else there is, like attacks. Super Mario Bros. and Zelda II - The Adventure of Link are good examples of this. And despite having more than two main buttons to use with later video game systems, this common understanding really persisted through the generations, where even some games on the Nintendo Switch might follow this formula for the controls. You press the A button to jump still in many games today.

However, things got more complex over the decades and there is really a variety of such understandings that have been established. The Zelda series for example heavily popularized the usage of the A button for context-based actions, like interacting with the environment in different ways. That's even still true today.

But with Nintendo's games you can also observe a new trend, one that might have been started by Breath of the Wild. This is not to say that other games haven't done this earlier, they have, but at least for Nintendo this change seems like it becomes more and more common now in the Nintendo Switch era. It's about how you attack. Most Zelda games in the past utilized the B-button to swing your sword – you still do this in the remake of Link's Awakening for example. But Breath of the Wild in all its unconventional wisdom changed this to Y, while the B button is used to dash.

The Warriors games did this long before Breath of the Wild, where Hyrule Warriors offered two different control schemes: one where your regular attacks are performed with B, like in traditional Zelda games, or with Y. Age of Calamity dropped this option and simply stuck to the latter, where the B button is used for dodging and dashing.

Samus shooting her Wide Beam in Metroid Dread, at centre of Dairon

Another Nintendo series that has adapted this is Metroid, where both Metroid: Samus Returns and Metroid Dread let you fire with Y and jump with B. With the Pro Controller your thumb can comfortably rest on these two buttons, so you can do these actions simultaneously with ease thanks to this layout. And that's of utmost importance to the gameplay. Super Mario games also have offered an option to flip the controls for quite some time, so you can jump with B and dash / use your power-ups with Y, probably for the same reasons.

There seems to be a growing consensus that B and Y should be used for the most important actions, where B is usually your main movement action and Y your primary way of attacking. The X button then often gets used for a something that's still important, but not as central as the other two, like the Melee Counter in the modern Metroid titles or the strong attacks in Hyrule Warriors.

Min Min punching towards Little Mac in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

This is just a small observation and nothing extraordinary, but I've personally grown so used to this that I've even changed my button layout in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate accordingly. So, I jump with B and do normal attacks with the Y button, which also makes short hop aerials quite easy to perform. And the X button is used for Special Attacks. This matches most of these games quite nicely, so I don't have to adapt to different controls as much.

Luckily, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate let's you do this and it's of utmost importance that games let you remap or the change the controls to whatever you're most comfortable with. But this is rarely the case. While the Nintendo Switch system lets you alter the button layout at any time and even save presets for that, it's still quite inconvenient, because this changes it for all games. Ideally, there would be presets for each game, but since the Nintendo Switch doesn't have this, games need to implement such a feature for themselves. But having this in the game also makes it easier to understand what you're doing by setting actions to buttons, instead of swapping buttons. So, you want such control options in any case.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Death's Door: Perplexing Puzzles


While I'm at it with all the Death's Door hype on Hyrule Blog, I want to reiterate on a small point of criticism I had with the game in my review, where I want to talk about two puzzles that really had me stuck for multiple hours during my first playthrough. Ultimately, I had to get a hint from the internet to finally be able to move on, where in one case I was missing something that I would have never even considered and in the other I simply couldn't solve the puzzle at the given time.

You should stop reading here if you don't want any spoilers on puzzles. Or you can keep reading if you don't want to fall into the same traps as I did...


Puzzling Pots

One of these puzzles was the pot constellation in the northwest corner of the Estate of the Urn Witch. You have 13 pots here arranged on something like a smaller chessboard. Once you break five of them, they will glow and be put together again.

five glowing pots in of thirteen next to a tomb, one pot remains broken

It was pretty clear right away that you have to destroy five specific pots. Five out of thirteen already leads to thousands of possible variants, but the game also actually wants you to destroy the right five pots in the right order, so it's nearly impossible to accidentally find the solution simply by trying.

So, what to do here? Naturally, you would assume that there is a clue in the environment somewhere. It could be an inscription giving you a hint, or maybe the Pothead character is saying something about it. I was going as far as drawing the whole estate, keeping note of all the statues in case they were giving a clue here. But nothing.

This was driving me crazy, because I usually want to find things out myself, before I seek aid. For a while I even considered "simpler" solutions, like maybe I had to destroy all the pots at once. So, you can destroy up to four pots and then you will have to quickly do the rest. I managed to pull this off this eventually, but to no avail.

Problem was that the clue that I needed completely eluded me. And here is what you will have to do:

Flooded Fortress

This is not so much a puzzle, but about getting to an area that seems impossible to reach. When you first go through the swamps of the Flooded Fortress, you may spot some additional marks of land in the distance by shifting your camera.

a hookshot post and a switch in the far distance with lots of water between

This caught my attention after I got the Hookshot and assumed that I would be able to get everywhere in the game. The area has these switches that can make platforms appear and you can even see one of these switches over there, so it was definitely something that you're supposed to reach eventually.

The problem was to find an angle of getting over there and hitting the switch, where I was running all around the swamp to figure this out. But it felt like it couldn't be done and that's probably because it couldn't be done at the time, because you won't be able to get there until the postgame. And even then you will still be missing a key if you go there right away. I've wasted a lot of time investigating this for something that's super easy to figure out at the end of the game...

So, my best advice here is to ignore this entirely. This riddle will solve itself if you simply keep going.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Death's Door: Umbrella Undertaking


Today I've finished my second run through Death's Door, a game that I can't praise enough, so let's go for an extra round here. After my review this will be a little bit more about my personal experience with the game.

During my first playthrough I failed quite a bit, especially early on, because I was too spoiled by Zelda games, where you often can just mash at enemies. Another problem was using the Rogue Daggers, which can perform up to six hits in a row. So, my mindset often was that of going in for a series of hits, but this usually gets punished quickly by enemies like the Brutes, those hammer-wielding armored knights. I was simply too greedy during fights and this caused quite some frustrations on my end.

I became much better at the game once I've started using the Thunder Hammer weapon, where your focus is really about landing one or two hits, before you retreat. The combat in Death's Door really is about timing and playing smartly. Let the enemies take out each other for example. Use enemy fire against them. If you play it smart, then you will survive. And this can make the game quite addicting, where you want to prove yourself again and again.

But what's left after fully beating the game are all the Steam achievements (or PSN trophies and so on), where most of them come with 100% completion anyway. But there is the "Academy of Umbrellas" achievement (probably a reference to Umbrella Academy), where you're supposed to beat the game with only ever using the Discarded Umbrella weapon. It has the same stats as the Reaper's Sword, but only does half as much damage, so this is a self-imposed challenge, where I've never really done anything like that in Zelda games. I've never used the Cursed Ring in the Oracle games for example. But since the combat in Death's Door was so much fun in the end, I was up for the challenge.

The way it works is that you won't be eligible to get this achievement if you ever swing any other weapon. Even just pressing the attack button once right at the beginning will make it go away. There is an indicator in the weapons menu, where the Discarded Umbrella will have a glowing red background as long as you've only ever used this weapon:

Discarded Umbrella: an umbrella is probably not very useful in combat... but it will keep your feathers dry during bad weather.

This even works on the Nintendo Switch despite the fact that there aren't any achievements available on the system. But you can still do this for the bragging rights, I guess.

Anyway, after beating the game once this felt like just the right difficulty to do it all over again with an increased challenge. There is a good learning curve in Death's Door and once you've mastered its combat the game can be a little bit too easy at times, even with battles that felt really hard at first. Actually, I rarely ever died when compared to my first playthrough, where I had seen the "DEATH" screen quite a lot, but using the umbrella still kept me on the edge and also forced me to truly master the later bosses.

With spending souls at the Soul Vault my priority was the Strength skill to boost the umbrella some more, where at maximum strength it can finally take out the weakest foes in a single hit. I suppose with maximum strength the attack power is double at the end, where the umbrella will do as much damage as the sword at the beginning of the game. Anyway, the little spider enemies will take two hits and that's comfortable enough to grind more souls in the mini-dungeon beneath the Lost Cemetery:

lots of caskets and cocoons in an underground cave

This place filled with enemy cocoons is perfect for grinding, where you can get over 100 souls without much effort in a short time. There is a door back to the Hall of Doors near the entry and exit, so you can quickly reset everything and start over. But going through this mini-dungeon with the umbrella can be quite annoying when those critters still tank too much, so you really want the strength stat maxed out first for this.

As mentioned in the review, it's one of my biggest gripes with the game that you can't max out all stats simply by completing the game, fighting all enemies you find, and collecting all soul masses. And it's not even close, where you will have to grind thousands of souls at the end to truly max out everything. Or you simply don't care, where I also didn't bother during my second playthrough. But going through the mini-dungeon a couple of times was still helpful with upgrading some of the attributes here and there to gain a small advantage.

In any case, I wouldn't advise going for this achievement on your first run, because it's a lot more fun to experiment with the different weapons. I was also really missing their flashy weapon effects, both with visuals and sounds. Of course an umbrella is supposed to be weak, so it makes sense that it looks and sounds weak, but it's just not the same without the more powerful punch that you normally have. So, I probably wouldn't do this again the next time when I play the game, probably on the Nintendo Switch then, where I've pre-ordered a physical edition release for my collection.

As for the Steam version I was already playing with the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which worked fine and was really comfortable. It will suck that I have to change the controls on the Switch via the system settings, because I had changed the button layout on the PC somewhat.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Death's Door

Death's Door title screen with a tall black door in the middle of the air in front of a cliff with a large crow on it

This is an Action Adventure game that I've been playing between Christmas and New Year. This came out the same time as Skyward Sword HD last year and can be best described as a "Zelda-like" with a more challenging difficulty. But since this blog is all about Zelda (and Metroid), it's interesting to take a look at other Action Adventures or Action RPGs from time to time, where this one is truly a gem.

The game really shines with its otherworldly experience, where everything has its own unique charm to it. The team behind Death's Door, Acid Nerve, is very small with only two developers and a couple of artists, which makes this game appear even more impressive, but also led to the kind of simplicity that early video games had – in visuals, gameplay, and character designs. So, let's take a look.



In Death's Door you're playing as a "Reaper", a silent protagonist crow that is hunting souls for the Reaping Commission Headquarters, some kind of office for the afterlife, where time stands still. Those souls you're after don't want to go to the afterlife willingly and therefore need a little push. But an older Reaper steals your assigned soul and brings it to "Death's Door", where it wants to open it. You learn that a lot of shady things are going on with your organization, especially with its leader – the Lord of Doors. And the old crow asks you to bring three giant souls, who all have lived long beyond their time and grown corrupted, in order to open Death's Door.

The story plays with the topic of death in a very unconventional way and has its moments, but in typical Zelda-fashion it's mostly an excuse to have you hunt for a number of things all over the world. What's really memorable are certainly its characters, who are all quite charming and unique. You don't get many persons with actual faces for example, instead you will meet curious guys like "Pothead", who has a pot for his head. It's super silly at first, but there is a serious story as to why he ended up like that, which also goes hand in hand with the general theme of the area, where you first meet the guy.

Pothead, the Reaper and Steadhone standing in front of a giant urne

It's also of note how most of the bosses in the game are actual characters, which you usually meet a couple of times before you truly fight them for some memorable moments. They all have understandable motives, after all they just don't want to die, but these interactions let them appear a lot more special and as a real part of the game world, while it also creates a nice build-up for their fights.

And in all that the game really understands to play with you on an emotional level, despite the quirkiness. It's no Shakespeare, it's not some extensive fantasy RPG with lots of dialogue, it's short and simple, has quite some black humor, but can still move you for a bit. Something on the lines of Link's Awakening would be a good comparison, just more gritty.

Death's Door is actually the sequel to Acid Nerve's first game, Titan Souls, which is 2D pixel art boss rush game, where you only have one arrow as a weapon and one life. These two games are quite different from each other and Death's Door really stands on its own, so you don't necessarily have to play Titan Souls to understand things. Fans of the original title will be able to appreciate some of the references, however.


Death's Door is using an isometric view most of the time, which makes it stand out for this type of game and is also good for some unique puzzles, where it uses the perspective to hide things in the environment. The camera then usually shifts around to reveal these things, once you get close to them, where sometimes it feels a little bit like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker with a fixed camera, especially since you can't jump in either game.

a pretty garden area with a red tree

But the cel-shaded visuals are really pretty and often surprisingly detailed, where this already gives the game the sort of timeless appeal that will make it age very well. Maybe even a little bit too well for the liking of the reapers, because it doesn't always run perfectly smooth, where there some noticeable drops in the frame rate every now and then, even on a stronger PC. The Nintendo Switch version also only runs in 30FPS and has considerable less details.

The soundtrack by David Fenn, who is one of the two developers, is absolutely fantastic and really adds tremendously to the charm of the game, which can't be praised enough. A lot of is quite melancholic, but of course this comes with the territory in a game that is all about death. But the melodies are absolutely beautiful, using a variety of instruments and memorable themes, where there is never a dull moment thanks to them. (Since words often fail to describe things, it's probably best to listen to the soundtrack yourself, which you can find on Youtube.)


With one exception the controls of the game are as simple as it can get for this type of Action Adventure. You have a normal and a strong melee attack, you can roll, you use your items for ranged attacks, and there is a button for interactions, like reading, talking, or using switches, just like in Zelda.

Even though you're playing as a crow, rolling is curiously the only way of going faster and of dodging enemy attacks, where it has some invincibility frames to it. In combat this is absolutely crucial, but for moving around it feels a little bit archaic, where you just keep rolling all the time, like in Ocarina of Time, The Minish Cap, or Four Swords Adventures. It would be great if you could hold the roll button to perform a dash afterwards in order to move around faster, because the movement feels a little bit slow overall, even when you've upgraded your base speed via the "Haste" ability. (Curiously, such a dash is exactly what Acid Nerve had done in the predecessor, Titan Souls, where it's weird that this wasn't carried over.)

Since Death's Door is played in an isometric view and you often go diagonally, you will move around with the analog stick. The D-pad instead is used to switch your magic weapons, where there is one for every direction. This makes it very simple to switch items in the middle of combat, where unlike in most Zelda games you don't have to open a menu to do so. Simple press up to switch to the bow and so on. It feels great, but of course also limits the game to four items in total, where its world and progress was really designed around this fact. You already start with the bow, but you will find the other three items in the three dungeons for the three main bosses.

Aiming with these items doesn't feel as simple as the rest of it, however, where like in Metroid: Samus Returns and Metroid Dread there is a dedicated (shoulder) button for aiming. You can only shoot your magic weapons while aiming and most of them have a charge, so you are holding down the fire button anyway and it would make much more sense if both aiming and shooting were just the same action. The way it is you always have to hold two buttons to shoot, which seems needlessly complicated at first, but also let's you spam weapons while keeping your position and direction.

On the PC you're able to fully remap your controls, but not on the Nintendo Switch version, which seems to be a bad habit of most developers. While you can change your button mappings on the system, this changes it for all games and therefore isn't a permanent solution, even with the presets, so it's generally a good idea to provide such options with every game. 


The combat is really the bread and butter of Death's Door, where this is what sets it mainly apart from your usual Zelda game. Like with Metroid Dread for example, there is a learning curve and some frustration in the beginning, but once you get better, then so does the game. Now, if you're used to combat how it works in Zelda games, then you will have to adapt a bit, because you can't just stunlock enemies by hitting them. Most of them will attack you, no matter what, so you always have to be aware of that and dodge at the right time. If you're greedy with attacking, then you will get punished for it.

Often a good method is to sweep in with a roll attack, where you perform a powerful swing after a roll via the strong attack button, and then dodge away right after. It works quite well for many of the stronger enemies, but overall you will have to find the right strategy for the given situation and enemies.

The visuals during combat are somewhat morbid, because enemies will bleed and leave visible parts all over the place, which can create quite a mess. So, that's something that's definitely different from your typical feel-good Action Adventure, but it fits the overall theme of death. It's also often not too bad, where gore and splatter are not a focus of this game, but keep in mind that it can get macabre at times...

the crow after a finished battle in a mansion. there is lots of blood splatter and broken pots on the ground

What's interesting about Death's Door is how it displays enemy health by giving them visible cracks, often with a red glow. The more cracks they have and the bigger those cracks get, the closer they are to dying. This is such a cool design choice and so much better than displaying giant health meters somewhere on the screen during boss fights.

Apropos, the bosses in this game are all fantastic and well executed with multiple phases, where you have to learn their patterns and try to find the best openings to attack. You can get back into these fights right away after a failed attempt, where it never feels too frustrating. The earlier bosses also aren't too hard, but the later ones will require some learning, before you are able to beat them.

What actually can be even more challenging are the fights against normal foes and mini-bosses, however, where the game loves to pitch you against multiple waves of enemies, similar to Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. And here the game can be relentless and sometimes also a bit frustrating, because unlike the bosses you will sometimes have to walk all the way back to where you died earlier. There are always shortcuts to open up the environment, so it's rarely ever truly bad, but there can be some lengthier enemy gauntlets and you will hate to fail at the end of them.

Those fights can be so difficult, because it's much harder to pay attention to a number of foes and all their attacks, where you often have to play very strategically to survive. Unlike Zelda or Metroid, enemies in Death's Door don't drop any health, only their souls, which don't have any direct advantage in battle. The only way of healing yourself is consuming special flowers that you have planted in pots, where you can find them all over the world. You will need to collect seeds for them and the flowers will only bloom again when you die or leave the area. So, at best, you can heal yourself once in a battle, given that there is such a pot nearby, which is rarely the case.

On top of that you only get four containers of "vitality", your life energy, so you can only tank three hits before you die. You will be able to extend this to six eventually, but the necessary Crystal Shards, which act like Pieces of Heart, are hard to come by and you be stuck with four health for the majority of the game. Death's Door constantly puts you on the same edge as the Hero Modes do in an early Zelda game, where you only have few Heart Containers and maybe no bottles.

But this edge is what can make Death's Door so addicting, especially since the battles are tough, but never unfair. You can always find ways to avoid enemy attacks if you know what you are doing and a very skilled player might be able to get through the game without getting hit at all. You can use enemy fire against them, for example, where one essential mechanic is being able to reflect fireballs with your melee weapon. And the right usage of your weapon arsenal also can play a key role in this...


The game has five different melee weapons and four different magic weapons to collect. You start with a sword and bow, where the latter lets you attack enemies from a safe distance, but this costs magic. Like with your vitality, you get four rounds of magic and you can eventually extend this to six.

You can always refill your magic by hitting things that can be affected by your melee weapons. Those are enemies, of course, but also pots, mushrooms, ice, switches, or crates. The latter won't respawn once they are destroyed, but some other elements, like the mushrooms, will after a short time, so you can use them to replenish your magic at any time.

The reaper fighting a Silent Guardian with the bow

It's a very interesting system, where it limits your defensive play, but always lets you get back to it by playing offensively for a bit. If you're out of magic and there is nothing else around, you will have to attack the enemy to get your arrows back. And this works very well.

Over the course of the game you will find more magic weapons with different abilities, which are all necessary to progress through the game. The fire spell lets you set things on fire, the bomb spell blows stuff up and the Hookshot works mostly how you would expect it from a Zelda game, so you can use to pull yourself over gaps via certain poles.

The Hookshot doesn't use up any magic, however, and can also be used on every enemy to pull yourself towards them. The only time a Zelda game let you do this were the Shadow Link battles in A Link Between Worlds, but here it's one of the best moves, where it lets you slash your foes on arrival. This even can be used to cross over gaps, for example if you need to reach nasty archers attacking you from the other side. This is one of the best Hookshot implementations in a video game and it's a lot of fun to use, where Zelda could learn a thing or two from Death's Door.

This Hookshot slash and all magic weapons can be upgraded by defeating a series of secret bosses, called the Silent Guardians, which take quite some skill to beat them. These upgrades are fully optional, but all very much worth the trouble.

The additional melee weapons are all optional as well, where the three main ones – sword, daggers and hammer – are well balanced in terms of power and speed. There is an overpowered weapon to find later on, however, and you can also use an umbrella as a joke weapon, which only does half as much damage as your normal sword. So, this is a self-imposed challenge, similar to the Cursed Ring in Oracle of Ages & Seasons, but there is an achievement / trophy called "Academy of Umbrellas" for beating the game with only ever using this weapon. (This doesn't apply to the Nintendo Switch version, since there is no achievement system there.)

World and Exploration

You start in the "Hall of Doors", a timeless void where you get your assignment(s) as a reaper. A first door opens here for your mission to reap a giant soul in the Grove of Spirits, but you will find your way into a forbidden region, the Lost Cemetery, and from there to all the other areas of the game. On your journey you get to unlock new doors, which all lead back to the Hall of Doors. So, this area acts as a hub for portals, where you can quickly switch locations.

Hall of Doors, Reaping Commission Headquarters, a black and white hovering mass with lots of doors on it and all around it

The Lost Cemetery on the other hand is your usual central area, like Termina Field in Majora's Mask or the Temple Grounds in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, so from there you will get access to the other areas of the game, where the dungeons are found. There are three more giant souls waiting for your in three different regions all around the Lost Cemetery: the Estate of the Urn Witch, the Overgrown Ruins and Castle Lockstone.

Each area has a dungeon, of course, where in each dungeon your goal is to track four souls of your fallen fellow reapers. This will open a door to an "Avarice" trial, which lets you earn the additional weapons. Those act as your primary way of progression, so you can move on to the other areas with them already. This also means that you can save all the main bosses for later and beat them in any order, like you could in Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. It's even more convenient here.

Unlike in Zelda games, the bosses don't wait at the end of a dungeon, instead you will progress to another area, which acts more like an enemy gauntlet. And only after you've made it through this, you will be able to face the boss. It's quite formulaic, but since there are only three of these parts, it never feels repetitive or stale. It also helps that the main areas feel all very distinct from each other.

The first area for example is entirely themed around pots, which makes it very unique, not only in this game, but overall. There are pots everywhere, living pots as enemies, pot puzzles, and also the aforementioned Pothead character. The Zelda series used to do something similar with its Bottle Grotto dungeon in Link's Awakening, but Death's Door is taking this a step further and really proves Action Adventure games can and should get a little bit more creative with their theming from time to time, instead of going for the typical forest, fire, water, and desert tropes. That the entire game is themed around doors also adds to its uniqueness.

the reaper with a hammer weapon at the entrance of a massive fortress, Castle Lockstone

Sadly, the other areas are more on the lines with your typical fantasy cost, where you will have a jungle and swamp setting, as well as your classic frozen fortress in the mountains. This doesn't mean that they are bad, quite the opposite, they all look great and come with a series of mechanics completely unique to them. The swamp for example has switches that can make tiles appear above the water, but those tiles can also be destroyed again.

Puzzles aren't a big deal in Death's Door, however, and are usually just the most basic stuff you would find in a Zelda game: light some torches, pull a lever, or bomb a wall. The focus was clearly on the fights and finding secrets. If a puzzle seems more complicated, it's often because you're still missing some key information, where it's just not possible to solve it yet. But this can also make you waste a lot of time on figuring out some puzzle, where you're still missing a clue or something else.

an arrangement of 13 pots near a tomb

And the game really doesn't hold your hand in any way, other than giving basic directions, where most of the things you will have to figure out for yourself. It's a game that respects the intelligence of its players, maybe even a little bit too much, because sometimes you might be at loss. For example, Death's Door has a sewer system, which works exactly like in Super Mario Sunshine, where it probably was inspired by that. But you might play through most of the game without figuring this out, because it never really teaches you this and the sewers only lead to some optional goodies, so they can be skipped.

The game also doesn't have a map, by the way, which can add to the confusion. It's only ever an issue in the more complicated main area, the Lost Cemetery, because it can feel somewhat maze-like at first, but once you know your way around it, it's not really a problem any longer. And most of the other areas are simple enough that you don't really need a map for them. Still, a map would have been helpful for orientation, but since the game likes to hide secrets via its isometric view, it probably would have been difficult to make a proper map without giving away too much. But maybe a simple sketch could have worked.


Talking about secrets, Death's Door wouldn't be a real Action Adventure game without a fair share of hidden things. This review has already mentioned some of those, like the optional weapons and weapon upgrades, or the 50 seeds, which are to be planted in 50 pots all over the world. Since these are your only way of healing, they are usually found on the road with the seeds hidden not too badly.

a bird shrine with red glowing eyes

Then there are the 16 Crystal Shards, which you will use to upgrade your vitality and magic meters. They function like the Spirit Orbs in Breath of the Wild or the typical Pieces of Heart, so you will need to collect four of them to complete a container. Curiously, they are all found in these large shrines, but despite this fact they are often cleverly hidden within the environment, where it can be quite impressive how Death's Door manages to play with secrets. The only problem here is that it can take too long to find enough of them to upgrade your health even once, which may make the game appear too difficult on your first run.

Otherwise there are also 24 "shiny things" to collect, which are all individual items with a small story to them, where you can look at them in a gallery. Some of them also act as keys to finding other secrets, so they are not just simple collectibles. And you might want to study some of them more closely...

Last and maybe least, there are also masses of souls to be found almost everywhere, which will give you a hundred souls. Your main way of acquiring souls is defeating enemies and the souls can be traded at the Soul Vault for various ability upgrades: strength, dexterity, haste, and magic. These enhance your melee damage, weapon charge speed, your base and dodge speed, and magic weapon damage respectively, where all of this can be very useful in combat.

Sadly, collecting all soul masses and defeating all enemies once won't be nearly enough to max out all of these stats, where some grinding is required to do so. Lowering the prices of these stat upgrades really would have made the game feel more balanced on this aspect, where this is one of the major flaws it has. Death's Door is a game that otherwise respects your time, where the pacing is great and there is rarely a dull moment. So, having to grind to truly complete everything in the game throws this somewhat off, even when these upgrades aren't necessary for anything.

Despite the fact that there is no map, the game offers a variety of indicators for where to look if you're missing something. So, you won't end up searching the entire game world for the one last thing that you are missing, where that's something every good Action Adventure should have. (Looking at you, Breath of the Wild.)


(Please skip this section if you want to avoid any kind of spoilers.)

When you get to a final boss in a Zelda or Metroid game this is normally where the game ends. You can save before the boss, but can't really play beyond that boss, like you could in Oracle of Ages & Seasons for example. But even there the linked game ultimately leads to a final final boss.

This isn't the case in Death's Door, however, where the game invites you continue after its final boss has been slain for an artifact hunt, which wants to find additional secrets in most of the areas. Yes, it's like the Chozo Artifacts in Metroid Prime, or the Triforce Shards in The Wind Waker, where the latter is probably the better comparison, because there is an unique task to fulfill for each of the artifacts, one of which even includes an additional boss fight.

The main difference is that this takes place after the main story, which feels like a good compromise, since these type of artifact hunts were rather divisive. Some loved them, while others hated them, mainly because it was this big roadblock of padding before the end of the game. Here you can experience the main story without such a filler and if you still want to scout the entire world again for additional secrets, then the game has a you covered as well.

a bell tower at the edge of the Lost Cemetery

For this it employs a nice twist to the entire world, which makes it even more interesting to re-explore everything and also opens up new paths. What is this twist? Well, let's just say that Death's Door does what this blog always hoped Skyward Sword (HD) would do...

If you don't know about this, then it might create some confusion, however, where you think that you should be able to get everywhere after obtaining the last item, but then you may spot places that are still unreachable for no apparent reason. And this might get you stuck in solving a puzzle that cannot be solved yet.

But this is a minor complaint about something that extends the game quite nicely. It might not feel completely worth it, however, where the postgame deepens the lore of Death's Door by linking it to its predecessor, Titan Souls, in a cryptic way, while also opening the path to what might become Acid Nerve's third game, all connected by the same strange being. It might leave you a bit baffled, especially if you haven't played Titan Souls, but for players who simply enjoy discovering secrets this encore will be pretty awesome.

There is no New Game+, nor a hard mode, where the replayability mainly stems from how nicely this game plays and how addicting its combat is. It's just fun to play Death's Door, where you might even decide to go for its umbrella-only challenge.



On your first playthrough the game will take somewhere between ten and twenty hours to complete, depending on your skill and play style. But it has the perfect length for an Action Adventure game that is supposed to be enjoyed the same way as the classics. There is enough meat here, but it doesn't overstay its welcome, where you may even end up wanting more. And once you've mastered the game, it can be replayed under ten hours, so it's perfect for a weekend title.


If Death's Door were a title in the Zelda series, it would without a doubt be one of the best. Its simplistic design, fantastic soundtrack, and charming characters make for a modern classic, while the secret-riddled environments and the skill-based combat offer a go-to challenge. It doesn't reinvent the wheel in any way or form, but does what it does so well that Nintendo should be taking notes here. All is not gold that glitters, however, where the game can be confusing at times and also requires you to grind to max out everything. So, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Dawn of a New Year – 2022

Hyrule Castle floating in the sky against the red sun

We have entered the promised year 2022, where Nintendo finally wants to release the long-awaited sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Of course we cannot be 100% sure of that, where originally Breath of the Wild was also said to release in 2016, but then came out in March 2017. Something similar could happen again and even if it releases in 2022, it's probably going to be late 2022, like October or November, or else Nintendo would have probably shown us more about the game already.

Right now it looks like they are going to tell us all about the sequel during E3 2022 in June, but we might get another trailer during an early year Nintendo Direct just to pass the time and to keep the internet speculating. A patent from last year has revealed that the mechanic of going through a ceiling could be literally ground-breaking and do for this game what the free climbing and paragliding has done for Breath of the Wild, so it will be interesting to see this in action.

And 2022 will be an exciting year for this title alone, where it doesn't really need more than that. Still, Nintendo could release some other things to keep Zelda fans entertained in the meantime and this wouldn't be Hyrule Blog without some ideas:

  • More DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
  • The Wind Waker HD / Twilight Princess HD ports
  • Zelda villagers and items for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

As for Age of Calamity, its Expansion Pass is done and gone, but they could still make a second one or do some updates with free DLC. And there are still some gaps to fill, where they would have the chance to make this special Warriors title truly complete. And from the prequel they would move on right to the sequel, where there could even do some special collaboration here, like unique armor pieces that become available when you own the other game.

With porting The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD over to the Nintendo Switch they could make all 3D Zelda games playable on the system, where this would be the perfect way to pass some time until the next big 3D Zelda game arrives. Ideally, they would put both titles on the same cartridge as a small collection, maybe even add Link's Crossbow Training to it, but you never know with Nintendo. Of course it's entirely possible that they might save these games for later, so don't hold your breath here.

Last but not least, there is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which got its extensive 2.0 update last November. Yes, Nintendo has said that this will be the "last major update", but technically it was also the first major update, where some smaller content updates could still follow. In March 2020 the game received an update with Super Mario items, where the same could happen with Zelda this Spring or later down the road. And it would be very nice to get those Zelda villagers from New Leaf back, as well as all the special items.

Meanwhile Nintendo and GREZZO might already be making the next topdown Zelda installment, following Link's Awakening from 2019, which could be remakes of the Oracle games, a new multiplayer title, or something else entirely. But GREZZO has been working in a four-year cycle for Zelda and also on one of their own projects, while Nintendo certainly wouldn't want this to steal any attention from the sequel to Breath of the Wild, so don't expect any news here in 2022. This is more likely to happen in 2023 or even beyond, after all the dust has settled.

In any case, 2022 won't be a boring year for Zelda fans, quite the opposite. We really can look forward to the sequel to Breath of the Wild right now and might receive some other goodies on the way.