Sunday, July 31, 2022

Twilight Princess Manga, Vol. 9 & 10

The manga of Twilight Princess almost makes the story of the original game feel like some epic saga, where everything is coming together at the end. Volume 9 dives into the Twilight Realm and shows how Midna and Link fight against Zant. In the manga Zant wants Midna as his wife, which adds some weird undertone to it all, but isn't entirely out of character. The fight still plays out quite similar to the game, with Zant taking different forms and Midna using her powers against him at the end.

What's not in the game at all is Link's backstory, where he once lived in a city near the Arbiter's Grounds. There a sword rests, the "Gaurof Sword", which like the Master Sword could only be pulled by Link, which caused the entire city to disappear into the Twilight Realm. And there they are alive and well, waiting to be found in the second half of the ninth volume for some weird scenes.

It's honestly a lot of filler, where the only purpose is to show that the Twili can be also kindhearted, since they've provided the Hylians with supplies to survive. But the manga could have done without all of this and maybe even ended after ten volumes if it weren't for all the unnecessary additions.

Or it could have focused a little bit more on what was already there in the game. The manga creates new things, while the source material already had similar stuff to work with. For example Impaz and the Hidden Village don't appear in the manga at all, while there was this lost village and the girl in the seventh volume, which feels very similar in tone. I guess that a young girl was simply more interesting than some old woman, but this whole part around Ilia's plot was dropped entirely.

And even though Ilia has some nice additional moments, like the one where she shows some empathy towards King Bulblin in the eighth volume, the characters from Ordon don't really play any role any longer. Instead you have Link's new friends from that desert town that never existed... Well, they are there to fight at Hyrule Castle in the great finale, but there was already the Resistance for that.

But credit where credit is due: the manga really makes it feel like a great finale in its tenth volume. Ganondorf unleashes his army of darkness onto Hyrule, which puts all life at stake. In the game no one really cared what happened, since there was no imminent threat to the people of Hyrule, unlike in Majora's Mask for example. The manga changes this and it even gives a sense of desperation, because the force field around Hyrule Castle prevents the Resistance and the knights of Hyrule from achieving anything. It's only thanks to Midna that they can enter the castle, where they storm it with Link at the forefront. Absolutely epic. And it even manages to let Ashei look cool.

The manga also makes use of King Bulblin's change of heart in all of this, where here he follows the strongest in action, not just in words. It's written quite well and proves that Akira Himekawa can make the most out of what the game has to offer. If they had focused more on that instead of adding whole new plotlines and characters, then the manga would have been much better.

Well, it all ends right in the middle of the final battle, so there is one more volume to go. This hasn't been released in Germany yet, so I will have to wait a couple of months for the conclusion.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Twilight Princess Manga, Vol. 7 & 8

The seventh volume of the Twilight Princess manga probably contains one of its most memorable scenes: Link climbing a steep mountain wall just like in Breath of the Wild. It's just the best reference they could have done.

No, of course I'm talking about the part in Hyrule Castle, where Ganondorf invites Zelda to a cup of tea and they discuss the events of the child timeline. The Triforce of Wisdom let Zelda "awaken", so she knew of her past incarnations' doing to send the Hero of Time back in time, thus changing the course of history, which led to Ganondorf's execution.

When banished into the Twilight Realm, Ganondorf also became aware of what changed his fate. So, he puts Zelda at a fancy table and asks her what she knows about all of those shenanigans. And it's really nice how the manga dives deeper into the lore created by Hyrule Historia, putting together the events of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

It also doesn't stop there, where the Hero's Spirit is finally confirmed to be the Hero of Time. There is this amazing scene in the Temple of Time where Link sees the Hero of Time drawing the Master Sword and becoming an adult. You can also see briefly how the previous hero looks as an older man in the first half of the volume, where Link gets nurtured by a girl named Anika in some vacant village, which probably could have been the Hidden Village. But it's somewhat unclear (at least to me) how the Hero of Time made it into the Twilight Realm, where he stood at Midna's side as the golden wolf. So, it feels like a bit of a mess.

At the beginning of the eighth volume the Hero's Spirit then trains the new hero in most of the Hidden Skills, like the Back Slide, the Helm Splitter, and the Mortal Draw. It feels a little bit video-game'ish, but I suppose this came with the territory of a more accurate translation. But it probably could have worked without the Hero's Spirit explaining these techniques in details. Just show them training and then the fruits of that labor.

Anyway, the rest of the eighth volume dealt with the City in the Sky and wasn't as good overall. Midna activates the cannon found under the church in Kakariko Village, which comically blows away the roof, complaining how the people of the Light World can't get anything done themselves. This doesn't sit right, considering how they needed some clown to fix said cannon in the game.

And there is more weird stuff coming ahead, not just the Oocca themsevles. Argorok is actually not a Kargarok mutated by the Mirror Shard, which is a popular fan theory, but some golden dragon deity, which normally protects the City of Sky. Now it does the opposite, where is there is this funny scene with an Oocca stating that over two thirds of the City of the Sky already got destroyed by the dragon.

For Shad, who has joined Link on his travel to the sky city, this is actually a motivation to fight the dragon, because he wants as much of the city to be preserved as possible. During one point of Link's battle against Argorok, where in the manga he also fights an Aeralfos at the same time, he loses the Master Sword and it sticks into the ground. Then Shad comes to save the day, where he is able to quickly pull it out and throw it into the Aeralfos by accident.

Like... okay? Is Shad also a chosen hero now? Can anyone just take the Master Sword as long as it doesn't rest on its usual pedestal? Or maybe this is yet another reference to Breath of the Wild, where even a Moblin can take the Master Sword when it finds its way through the Lost Woods? We will probably never know...

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Twilight Princess Manga, Vol. 5 & 6

photo of all ten volumes of the manga by Tokyopop

Well, since there currently aren't any news about Zelda, I decided to finally complete my collection of the Twilight Princess manga series, where by now ten volumes have been released. It really got up to ten, where Twilight Princess has as many volumes as all previous Zelda manga combined. And that's not even all of it, where the eleventh volume has yet to be released in English or German. Akira Himekawa really must have loved the setting. Anyway, I will still be going through this two volumes at a time, like I did before, because this feels like a good pace.

The fourth volume ended on a cliffhanger with Zant appearing at Lanayru Spring, which was a cool way of ending one of the books. The "Midna's Lament" part then led to the only appearance of Agitha in the manga so far, where her only purpose was to stir up the other townsfolk after seeing Wolf Link. Maybe she isn't as popular with the mangaka(s) as she was with Omega Force.

Otherwise the manga tries to create more connections between the characters, connections that weren't there in the game, e.g. Auru being Zelda's tutor. The biggest of these new connections is probably between Princess Zelda and Princess Midna, who were able to see and speak to each other as children through some magic well inside in Hyrule Castle, which let young Zelda see into the Twilight Realm.

So, Midna and Zelda are childhood friends in this, which feels weird at first, but you can't really blame Akira Himekawa for adding some more relations, because the Zelda in Twilight Princess didn't really have any. This was always an issue of the original game, where Zelda was only there for some cutscenes and the final battle. She always was one of the most dignified versions of the character and also very pretty, but the game just focused on Midna and her story, while it probably should have been a story about two princesses from different realms.

But their friendship in the manga didn't last long, because when Zelda gets spotted using the well, Auru commands it to be closed, because the Hylians see everything in the Twilight Realm as evil. The manga explores both sides of this whole Twilight Realm idea, where from the perspective of the Twili the people in the Light World are bad, because they use to discard anything unwanted into the Twilight Realm. In the game it was really just Ganondorf and this was only an act of desperation, where the Sages wanted to kill him with their sword first, but then had to resort to other means.

But in the manga they use the Mirror of Twilight as a tool of banishing people on a more regular basis, mainly to create some more conflict, where we even get to see the king and how he commands that Ganondorf is to be banned into the Twilight Realm. Hearing about all this, Link is questioning how the gods let Ganondorf have the power of the Triforce and not differentiate between good and evil. It just doesn't make any sense to him and he sounds somewhat entitled, like the Triforce is only something for "pure" people like Princess Zelda and himself.

At least what's identical to the game is that Wolf Link seems to be the only thing the townsfolk of Hyrule worry about. In the manga it's stated that the barrier around Hyrule Castle can only be seen from a close distance to give some sort of explanation, but it's still silly.

Skull Kid first fights Link in the manga, like he did in the game, but he then starts to recognize him as the hero and says that he has been waiting for him for a long time. That's another nice connection here, where hopefully the manga will acknowledge the Hero's Spirit as the Hero of Time later on.

The sixth volume has only two chapters, where the first focuses on Snowpeak. Ashei used to live at Snowpeak Castle, which makes sense following her little back story that se gives you in the game... And this leads to yet another dungeon duo, where Blizzeta summons two Darkhammers, so that both Ashei and Link get to fight with a ball & chain afterwards.

Actually, it would have made the resistance troupe a lot more interesting if they assisted you like that in the game, basically like Medli and Makar before in The Wind Waker. But since nobody was ever supposed to see how Link can transform into a wolf, this would have been more of a hindrance, which is even a dilemma for Link in the manga.

But I have to say that I like some of the ideas presented here. Usually, I'm not a big of fan of what the manga try to add to the story and that's still true with Twilight Princess for the most part, but some of this would have made an excellent addition to the game.

Another example is Dark Link. The manga explores the concept of how the Mirror of Twilight is corrupting people, like Yeta, a little more. Link gets thrown into this dark void, where he faces his own hubris, taking the form of Dark Link. It's a lot like in Hyrule Warriors, where Akira Himekawa was probably inspired by that game a bit, but the mirrored depiction of Link and Dark Link fighting is absolutely excellent.

And this would have made for a great idea in the game. Image that you get to fight Dark Link after reassembling the Mirror of Twilight at the Mirror Chamber, as one more challenge before you can finally go into the Twilight Realm. It would have been a lot more climactic. They even already had Dark Link in the game, but only for a cutscene... Speaking of, this memorable and very creepy scene, where Lanayru speaks about the Interlopers, sadly didn't make it into the manga. Too bad.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Nintendo Switch: Splatoon 3 Edition Announced

Nintendo Switch with purple and green joy-cons that have gradients and visual details

This thing looks ridiculously gorgeous. I'd even go as far and say that this is the prettiest variant of the Nintendo Switch as of yet. It's an OLED model, of course, and comes with fancy Joy-Cons, which have ingrained details and color gradients. It's a real eye-catcher.



The dock reminds me of the loading screen from Mario Kart 8 with its style. It's okay, but I would prefer the plain white one, I guess. Still, it matches the Joy-Cons quite well, without drawing the attention from them, so it's fine.

Pro Controller

There is also a Splatoon 3 Pro Controller, which will be released separately, but it doesn't look as nice in comparison to the Joy-Cons. And the one for Splatoon 2 was much prettier, at least in my humble opinion, but these controllers reflect the main color schemes of their respective games, so I guess it couldn't be helped.

This also raises the questions, what's the target audience here? You would think that the Splatoon fans already own a Nintendo Switch and a Pro Controller due to Splatoon 2. Of course after five years they may be willing to invest into some fresh hardware (with the OLED model as an upgrade) and of course there are also some new fans who have missed out on the previous Pro Controller, but you can't tell me that there is anyone out there who has held off on buying a Nintendo Switch so far and where Splatoon 3 is now the game that he or she simply needs to play. Well, maybe there is, but it's an unlikely scenario... So, this seems mainly about double-dipping for Nintendo.

Anyway, I'm not a fan of Splatoon, so I probably won't buy any of this. I got the first game on Wii U, played it for a bit, but it never really got invested. However, like with Animal Crossing: New Horizons this may change, where today I regret that I didn't buy the Animal Crossing Edition two years ago, which looked also very pretty. Well, at the time I was still waiting for a Zelda edition...

Speaking of, except for a pair of not-as-good-looking Joy-Cons, which came out with Skyward Sword HD last year, we didn't really get anything for our favorite franchise. Maybe the sequel to Breath of the Wild will finally offer that fancy Zelda Edition that the fans have been waiting for since 2017. So far you could have come up with the excuse that most Zelda fans already have a Nintendo Switch thanks to Breath of the Wild, Link's Awakening, Age of Calamity, Skyward Sword HD, and so on, but obviously that wasn't a concern for Nintendo with Splatoon 3 here. And if we get one, I hope they will make something that looks even more impressive. The right Joy-Con could have ingrained details based on Link's corrupted arm for example.

However, maybe the sequel will be released between consoles again if Nintendo is ready to go for a Nintendo Switch 2. In that case we will probably never get that Zelda edition. Then again, when the New Nintendo 3DS came out, we immediately got that Majora's Mask 3D Edition. So, you never know with Nintendo. They are probably just rolling a dice and only make a Zelda edition on a six (for the Nintendo 3DS it was anything but six).

Source: Twitter (1), Twitter (2)

Friday, July 1, 2022

Breath of the Wild 2: House Building?

The sequel to Breath of the Wild will re-use the same overworld, which makes it important for Nintendo to introduce new things, because otherwise it won't be very interesting to revisit this world for the players. And this is where some of their original ideas could come in, which ultimately didn't make the cut in Breath of the Wild, like the Hookshot.

One of these ideas was customizable housing for Tarrey Town, where there is an excellent explanation about this by DidYouKnowGaming. The original statement came from the Nintendo Power Podcast (found via ZeldaDungeon), where Aonuma and Fujibayashi have revealed in an interview that they wanted something where the players uses game design tools and create something of their own.

This is heavily reflected in the block housings invented by Bolson Construction. On page 291 of Creating a Champion it gets explained how these houses use a container design that can be stacked together any way you want. Then you can can add flower beds, decks, and similar elements to them. Maybe this idea was even an influence on the Chamber Dungeon in the Link's Awakening remake later on, just that it had evolved into stacking dungeon rooms together, instead of rooms for houses.

Link wearing the Zora Armor at Tarry Town looking at the sunset

Sadly, in Breath of the Wild we ended up with what's essentially a glorified fetch quest, even though it's one of the best, if not the best sidequest in the game. But the construction is all done by Hudson and his crew, the player has no influence on the house design whatsoever. The artbook implies that this type of new housing might spread all over Hyrule in the future, where it's likely that we will see more colonies like Tarrey Town in the sequel.

It's also possible that we will finally get that house designer, so we can put together houses ourselves, just like it was intended at first. With five years of adding more stuff to the same game world you would think that there was enough time for Nintendo to make this happen somehow. Plus, there are plenty of games by now that allow you to build things wherever you want in a 3D environment, like Valheim or Rust for example, so they wouldn't have to come up with something revolutionary here. But since this is Nintendo we're talking about, they probably would try to make things as simple as possible. Design a house via the containers and then place your creation. Stilts could be used to put them on uneven terrain.

Breath of the Wild also had randomizable characters for its engine, where it could just create NPCs on the fly. This is why many of the characters in the game look so awfully generic, but something like this could be used to repopulate Hyrule in the sequel. You build new villages with these Bolson block houses and then the game creates some random NPCs to live in them. Every player would end up with completely different villages at the end.

The only question is how this would work in a typical Zelda world. What would happen for example if you were to build some houses next to a Lynel spawning point? But maybe then no one will move in there and the Lynel may even go out of this way to destroy the houses. This could be an interesting gameplay mechanic, where it's your goal to find or create safe spots within the Hyrule from Breath of the Wild. If they only were to let you build in designated areas, like it was the case with Tarrey Town, this would be a lot more boring.

In addition, there is your own house at Hateno Village and there is the question how the game will handle this. It should probably still be Link's house and should also have all the things in it, just like the fully developed Tarrey Town should be there. It would feel disappointing if you were start from scratch with these quests and it makes sense for the sequel to continue from where you can potentially leave off in the first title. Alternatively, something may have happened to Link's house, like a rift to the underworld opening right under it, so it got swallowed by the earth or something. And this could even be the start of a new quest line, where Link seeks out to create new homes, first for himself and then for others.

In any case, there is a lot of potential with the idea of a house designer and hopefully Aonuma's team has kept the interest in something like this.