Sunday, June 30, 2024

Four Swords Online, Round 4

two Links fighting the Dera Zol boss in the Talus Cave

Problem already solved... Earlier today I left off worrying that I might not find anyone to collect Medals of Courage with, because there was simply not enough interest within the ZeldaChronicles community. I can already be happy enough to have found a round where we want to beat the entire game, and not just the simple Silver Keys level.

This is clearly not like the early days of Tri Force Heroes, where it was generally easy enough to find someone who wants to play and where people where genuinely interested in doing all the challenges and such. To be fair, Four Swords is not a new multiplayer Zelda game, it's over 20 years old. But being able to play this online on a Nintendo system is still a novelty, at least officially...

Now, I looked in other communities where I am or was active, but to no avail. Either people already had someone to play with or there was no interest at all. Finally, I hit pay dirt in the r/Zelda Discord community, which is quite active at the moment about seeking other players, and I was able to find someone there immediately. A guy named Carlos helped me to get my last two medals and now I'm happy.

on a giant pedestal with 2780 Rupees

Again, much thanks to Carlos (should you ever happen to read this)! I really appreciate it. And I will still hang out there in case other people need help as well. So, should you be in the same position as I was, where you need more medals, or generally looking for other players, check out r/Zelda.

(Update: People on this Discord are mainly from North America and playing the US version, so if you're looking for European players it still might be tricky. I was just lucky enough to run into someone else playing the EU version at the time when I joined.)

You can now do the Hurricane Spin in Four Swords!

file select screen with the current progress: 10 medals and everything unlocked

Anyway, I've cleared both the Riddle Quest and the Palace of the Four Sword right afterwards, so now I'm done with A Link to the Past (more on that in a separate post) and ready for the big finale.

Four Swords Online, Round 3

file select screen with A Link to the Past beaten, two Hero's Keys and 8 Medals of Courage

Today we had another stream of playing Four Swords together, which you can watch on Twitch. And we've made some good progress here, as you can see above, where we got two out of the three Hero's Keys by now: in the Sea of Trees and Talus Cave. So, only Death Mountain is left, but since the final version of Vaati's Palace is essentially all levels combined, we have saved those for the next time.

We had some connectivity issues early on, where the game really became hard to play due to the lag. Like, there was a part in Vaati's Palace where you have to carry a teammate onto platforms of your color from moving platform, which normally should be easy enough, but the delay makes you just run straight into the abyss...

Karl carrying me on a moving platform

We lost a lot of  health there, I can tell you that much. Luckily, the connection became more stable afterwards, because otherwise we probably would have aborted the session.

Then, after failing miserably with the Hero's Key at the Sea of Trees, there was a clear shift from competition to pure cooperation. Without Rupee Fever it's very difficult to reach the 5000 Rupees required and you really want to make the most out of it. So, we had to stop messing with each other and even save treasure chests until everyone was at full hearts. And we've made good use of the Rupee Wraith exploit, where you recollect the Rupees that it makes you drop and this gives you double the amount back (this was fixed in the DSi version). It's overall super satisfying to get enough Rupees in the end, it feels like a real accomplishment and good team work.

Despite moderately holding back, I still managed to snag three Medals of Courage today, only two more to go. Though, I would love to complete the Riddle Quest and obtain the Hurricane Spin Attack before the last stream next Sunday, because otherwise I won't have much use for it. I've also finished A Link to the Past in the meantime, except for the Palace of the Four Sword, where I want to have the Hurricane Spin for that as well.

Sadly, we haven't played in the other round a second time, because those two of the guys were too busy with Among Us. And the last one might not have any interest in continuing after the credits have rolled, I'm not not sure. So, now I'm hoping to find someone, anyone really, to help with those last two Medals of Courage, because I really want to finish this. But I seem to be the only one who cares about the A Link to the Past connectivity from the two groups that I've joined, so that will make things difficult.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

The Spin-Off Debate

Zelda summoning a Deku Baba to attack monsters

The upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom features a playable Zelda as the main protagonist for the first time and a completely new gameplay mechanic, where both fans and gaming journalists were quick to call this game a "spin-off" to the Zelda series. And it's far from the first Zelda game to be treated that way, where the most prominent examples are the multiplayer-centric episodes, like the recently re-released Four Swords.

But are these games truly spin-offs? And what is even a spin-off to begin with? Let's start by answering the second question. According to Giant Bomb a video game spin-off is the following:

A game that takes gameplay mechanics, characters, or story elements from an existing series in a separate and different direction, sometimes changing genres along the way.

That's a very loose definition and here it's easy to see why fans and professional journalists alike may classify Echoes of Wisdom as a spin-off. You play as Zelda and fight with summons, which is a different direction from the rest of the Zelda series, where you've always played as Link and primarily fought with weapons, so it can really be seen as its own thing. The Tingle games are spin-offs after all, because you play as Tingle, right?

Well, it's not as simple. The Zelda series has always been highly experimental and gimmick-based to a degree where you could identify many of the games as a spin-off somehow, because they do something extraordinary, which makes them stand out within the series. You may look at Majora's Mask as a spin-off, because there is a clock running at the bottom of the screen. And some fans do. Some fans also consider all handheld games to be spin-offs, because they were made for inferior hardware... Heck, there are even fans who think of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom as spin-offs, because the open world direction isn't a traditional Zelda.

Luckily, Nintendo has made it easy to identify which games are part of the official The Legend of Zelda series and which games can be considered as spin-offs. All mainline Zelda games do the following:

  • Their title starts with "The Legend of Zelda".
  • Their story is part of the official timeline.

There is one exception to the first rule and that is Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. But keep in mind that it is called "The Legend of Zelda 2" in Japan, so this mainly due to the translation for the west. If this game were to come out today, however, it likely would be treated as a spin-off, since it falls into the Action RPG genre. But it would be unfair to do this retroactively, because when the game came out, the Zelda series wasn't truly established yet. That didn't happen until A Link to the Past came around...

As for the official spin-offs to the Zelda series, we are then left with the following:

  • Game & Watch: Zelda (LCD)
  • BS The Legend of Zelda (BS-X)
  • BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets (BS-X)
  • Freshly Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland (DS)
  • Tingle's Balloon Fight (DS)
  • Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)
  • Too Much Tingle Pack (DS)
  • Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love (DS)
  • Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
  • My Nintendo Picross: Twilight Princess (3DS)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch)
  • Cadence of Hyrule (Switch)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
  • Game & Watch: Vernim (Zelda version)

The Broadcast Satellaview games are probably the ones closest to the main series when it comes to gameplay, where the main difference was the division into playable episodes as part of a live broadcast. But fans have proven that Nintendo could remake these games into proper Zelda titles, if they wanted to.

In addition, there is the first Tingle game, Rosy Rupeeland, which also emulates the classic Zelda Action Adventure formula, even offering a set of dungeons. The later Tingle games on the Nintendo DS all fell into different genres, however, where the sequel was more of a classic Adventure and Tingle's Balloon Fight was a Wind Waker-themed reskin of the classic Balloon Fight.

And this is what most of the Zelda spin-off games have in common: they fall into different genres. Link's Crossbow Training and the My Nintendo Picross are a shooter and a puzzle game respectively, both based on Twilight Princess. The Hyrule Warriors games are Hack and Slashs. And Cadence of Hyrule combines your classic Zelda Action Adventure with a rhythm game.

Cadence fighting Bokoblins in the Lost Woods

What's also of note is that these spin-offs often have the potential to spawn a series of their own, like the BS-X and Tingle games. We also have two different Hyrule Warriors games by now and there will likely be more in the future. And even though we never got one, the My Nintendo Picross concept could have featured other Zelda games, e.g. one based on Skyward Sword. But we may a get a Cadence of Hyrule 2 one day, eventually.

Of course, this is far from what the Super Mario series has done with its many Mario Karts, Mario Parties, other sports games, RPGs, and so on, where this is way clearer, but in general this still holds true with the few spin-offs that Zelda has seen.

And would someone honestly expect The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom to spawn a new series? If anything, it will pave the way for a playable Zelda and other playable characters in future installments of the main series, just like how Four Swords also was followed by two more Zelda games focused on multiplayer. Or how A Link Between Worlds let you get all main items at the start of the game, which became a new trend.

However, this doesn't mean that it couldn't. With Super Mario we even have examples where main games are also the first game in a spin-off series. The first Wario Land was labeled as Super Mario Land 3. And Yoshi's Island was labeled as both Super Mario World 2 and Super Mario Advance 3. So, it could happen that we get more games focusing on a playable Zelda, which really do their own thing and also have a different title. But Echoes of Wisdom will still be a part of the main Zelda series in that case.

And honestly, playing as Zelda is not that much of a deviation from the Zelda core gameplay that it justifies making a different series out of this. And the echo mechanic is really this game's unique gimmick, which will probably never return, like the three-day time loop, turning into a wolf, or the Ultrahand...

Friday, June 28, 2024

Tantalus Developed Luigi's Mansion 2 HD

Luigi going through some sandy hallway with his Poltergust

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD was released on Nintendo Switch just yesterday and of course people have already seen the credits roll, confirming that the remaster was developed by Tantalus Media. The Australian studio is best known on this blog for their work on Twilight Princess HD and Skyward Sword HD.

Together with GREZZO they have supported the Zelda main team with such side projects, where both now have also worked on the Luigi's Mansion franchise in some form, since GREZZO has remade the first game on the Nintendo 3DS.

For a while I was worried that GREZZO is making the Luigi's Mansion 2 remaster as well, because I wanted some more top-down Zelda goodness from them, after their Link's Awakening remake became my absolute favorite Zelda game. And I got my wish, so I'm happy that these two studios are taking turns here. But of course there are Zelda fans who would have preferred to get Twilight Princess HD instead.

As for The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD on Switch, I believe that they became a victim of the postponement of Tears of the Kingdom. Originally, Nintendo planned to release the big new Zelda in 2022, but then they had to move it to 2023. In 2024 we're already getting the next Zelda game with Echoes of Wisdom, so there wasn't any real need for some filler releases. And Nintendo doesn't want to distract you from a new Zelda release with some remasters, which is why they have likely cancelled any plans of porting over the ones from Wii U. If there ever were any to begin with.

However, if Tears of the Kingdom's development had finished in time, we could have gotten The Wind Waker HD and/or Twilight Princess HD in 2023, just to have something for Zelda in that year. That wasn't meant to be, where Tantalus was available to develop else something else in the meantime... like Luigi's Mansion 2 HD.

But they are also available again now, where they might work on getting much requested Zelda HD ports out on the Nintendo Switch in early 2025. There won't be anything new in the foreseeable future for the Zelda franchise. They are apparently working on a remaster of Breath of the Wild for the next system (see U-King-O), but it will take many years to make new open world game. So, 2025 could become the year of remasters for Zelda.

I've said this before, but it still makes sense for Nintendo to port over the Wii U games onto the Switch, because on the next system they won't get away with mere ports, especially in the case of Twilight Princess. Time is ticking here.

As a side note, they did the Metroid Prime Remastered credits thing again, meaning that they only list the people who have worked on the remaster and not the original Luigi's Mansion 2. "Based on the work of the development team from the original Nintendo 3DS version."

Well, I get that the credits are already long enough as they are, but it's still disrespectful towards Next Level Games and everyone who has put their blood, sweat and tears into making this game. This new trend needs to stop. Credit where credit is due.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ Multiplayer?

Link and Ganon fighting

Before we knew about the remake of Link's Awakening, one of my ideas for a top-down Zelda game on the Nintendo Switch was to make it another cooperative title, but only for two people. One would play as Link, the other play as Zelda. It felt like the natural evolution of multiplayer Zelda, going from Four Swords to Tri Force Heroes to... the divine duo. It would have been more manageable to find someone to play with, and it would have also finally offered Zelda as a playable character in a mainline title, something that many people wanted.

Well, to my surprise and the surprise of many, with Echoes of Wisdom you can play as Zelda in a full singleplayer title. No Link needed. While it's safe to assume that Link will play a role later in the game in some form that will aid the player, even if it's only as an echo, the focus is clearly on playing as Zelda. And I do prefer this outcome, because I do prefer playing a new Zelda game for myself.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that a playable Link will be somehow part of this, because it looks like you will play as him in the beginning to fight Ganon. And they even made him special new gear, instead of simply giving him the familiar Master Sword, which is suspicious... Why go through all these efforts if they are just for show?

Zelda obtaining a water block at a floating island in the purple rifts

One idea was that you will be able to switch to Link inside the rifts, but we can already see in the footage that Zelda is able to go into the rifts herself. It's where she learns the water block, for example. So, that's probably not it.

And the idea of a coop game, where one plays as Zelda and the other as Link, still stands, where maybe Echoes of Wisdom will offer this as well. This could be a separate mode that unlocks after beating the game or so. It could even involve procedurally generated dungeons, like the original Four Swords did, just to offer some replay value beyond beating each level once.

You go on missions with Link and Zelda together, where Link gets to use traditional items, while Zelda will provide echoes. It would be a new take on the Zelda multiplayer format and an interesting addition to the game, maybe with some connectivity between the main campaign and the multiplayer mode, similar to A Link to the Past & Four Swords on the GBA.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ Princess in Prison

Zelda meeting Tri in a prison cell

One thing of note in the announcement trailer for Echoes of Wisdom is that Zelda finds herself locked in a prison cell at the beginning of her adventure, which is where she first meets Tri. She then disguises herself by wearing Link's hood and runs into some guards, on her way out of what's probably the dungeon of Hyrule Castle. A Sheikah, presumably Impa, takes them out for her with some ninja attacks.

a Sheikah in the middle of a sommersault in front of three Hylian guards

Of course, there are multiple references to the beginning of A Link to the Past here. In the SNES classic Zelda was also locked up in a cell below Hyrule Castle, where Link had to rescue her and this time she has to get out herself. In A Link to the Past, Link also got blamed for the abduction of Zelda and was hunted by the soldiers, where something similar seems to go on here as well.

The soldiers in Echoes of Wisdom don't seem to be cursed or evil, however, unlike the ones in A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds, or Four Swords Adventures. They look like normal, friendly Hyrulean soldiers. And in the sequence where the game's title appears, we can also see how two guards are coming to Zelda's aid and then kneel in front of her:

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom game logo above the new Hyrule with Zelda and two kneeling soldiers at a cliff in the southeast

So, how did Zelda end up from there in prison? It's a big mystery at the moment, but maybe someone or something blamed the appearances of the rifts on her. Mainly, this will be a plot device to explain why she is on an adventure of her own and not in the constant protection of her soldiers. It also gives her a reason to wear that Hylian Hood, making her more distinct from other Zeldas in the past.

It will be a tough sell in any case, however. And it also means that there is probably another villain, who we have yet to see, someone like Agahnim or Chancellor Cole, who will end up as a henchman of Ganon or even as Ganon himself. Or maybe it's someone like Yuga, who is using Ganon. Or maybe Ganon was even defeated for good at the beginning and someone else is stepping in as the game's main villain. The last option seems a bit unlikely, though, given that Ganon is very prominent on the game's box art.

In any case, a new female villain would be a good choice, where we already had some in the past, like Twinrova, Veran, and... the Lady. But it's not exactly the best track record, so this is a great chance to make up for it. Zelda should get an advisory who is equally fantastic. Maybe they are even going into classic fairy tale territories and give her an evil stepmother, who has put spell on the king.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ Night and Weather?

Zelda barely escaping a rift during the night

With Echoes of Wisdom Nintendo wants to break the conventions of traditional top-down Zelda games. What else they are going to do, other than letting you play as Zelda and place beds all over Hyrule, we don't know yet. But one thing the top-down games never have done, unlike their big 3D counterparts, is dynamic daytime and weather.

A Link to the Past starts in the middle of the night and during rain, but once you've reached the Sanctuary it has become a sunny day and it will stay that way. It will rain on the eastern top of Mount Crenel in The Minish Cap, but nowhere else in the game. So, changes in daytime and weather were either scripted or region-based.

In the announcement trailer we can see how the game also starts in the middle of the night, but there is no reason to believe that time will progress on its own. It will be a waste if they have made this nighttime version of Hyrule only for one sequence, though. And the game might use a similar system to Skyward Sword, where you can change between day and night by resting in a bed.

Zelda on a staircase out of beds to enter Gerudo Town, it says "Rest" for the A button

If you look closely at the above trailer, during the part where Zelda builds a staircase out of beds to enter Gerudo Town, you can briefly see how a "Rest" interaction pops up, meaning that Zelda can in the very least lie down in beds. But maybe this has the same functionality as in Skyward Sword, where another good comparison would be Minecraft, because in Echoes of Wisdom you can place your beds everywhere, so it wouldn't be as limited as in the Wii game.

Changing the time of day might even be faster than in the early 3D Zelda games. You don't have to play a special song – you place a bed, sleep in it, done. Well, the fires in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom work similarly, but here you don't have the extra step of lighting the fire up.

Zelda jumping over palm trees during rain

As for weather, we have seen it rain in some tropical area, but this really might be just tied to that area. Maybe it's the Faron Woods and as a joke it always rains there, because that's your usual experience for that area in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. Or maybe it can rain in certain areas, but it will do so randomly.

Once Nintendo releases more footage, this may get cleared up. Like, if they were to show an already familiar spot during the night, this would be a big indicator for being able to switch between day and night.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Four Swords Online, Round 2

three Links at the end of Sea of Trees Stage

Another day, another round already. I've played in a slightly different group this time, organized from the ZeldaChronicles community. So, no stream to show today. But I still had this one guy (again as the blue Link) with me, who is really ambitious about getting all the Rupees before everyone else, so it was as competitive as yesterday, probably even more so. It was also more balanced, where everyone scored first place at least once, so that was great.

In the beginning we were only three, which made it feel like Tri Force Heroes, but after one stage we had the fourth guy join us for some mad fun. And we've beaten the game on the easiest difficulty, so we've played five stages in total. Well, a little bit more than that, because there have been accidents...

GAME OVER above a fallen blue Link

If a stage starts on a difficult section and you don't have any Rupees yet, it's easy to get a Game Over, especially if people are screwing around.

Anyway, in case you're wondering how progression works with different people, the progress is saved individually for every player in the form of the different keys for each stage. And you're always playing by the lowest common denominator. So, even though two of us had Golden Keys already and I was the host, we still were playing for the Silver Keys to let the other two players catch up. But now that we've beaten the first version of Vaati's Palace, we're all eligible to earn Golden Keys, which we will do next time.

green and red Link waiting at the end of floor 1 of Vaati's Palace

Why even bother and not just stay in the same group, you may ask? Well, I suppose, here it's actually a good thing that you need ten Medals of Courage in total. This encourages you to play with less experienced / progressed players, because this gives you another / a better chance.

So, even though blue Link and me didn't see any actual progress in the game today, we still made some progress by earning medals. I got two more, which brings me to five, only five more to go!

place 1, 2, 3 and 4 in order from left to right

Overall, we had some good laughs. At the end of the floors we often just started attacking each other maniacally, so it became impossible to finish. Or some levels in Vaati's Palace have these bridges, where one player has to stand on a switch to keep them retracted. Of course he wouldn't dare to step off right when everyone else is crossing... right? And it was always a fierce fight for every treasure chest. The possibilities to mess with each other in this game are priceless.

The guy who played purple Link, who has joined us last, also brought in some nice dry humor, which is perfect for a game that you shouldn't take too seriously. Would love to play Tri Force Heroes with him one day and hear what he has to say about those epic tales from the Drablands.

Can't wait to continue this!

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Four Swords Online, Round 1

in Vaati's Palace as the red Link

We are live! Quite literally. Today I had the pleasure of playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords with four people at the same time, for the first time in my life. Best I was able to do before was three, usually just two, so this was interesting.

You can actually watch the whole thing on Twitch, but it's in German. A friend of mine, KarlderHeinz, streams there regularly, just for the fun of it and to stay in contact. Mostly this is singleplayer, but from time to time he plays multiplayer games with people from his small, but great community, usually on Sundays. In the past two years this was almost exclusively Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, where we've checked out the new courses...

Now I had made the suggestion that we should give Four Swords a try via Nintendo Switch Online, because I had a feeling that this could be a lot of fun in this round. In fact, some of us had played Four Swords Adventures together in 2018 and I still remember the laughs.

And it was fun, more than that, because the motivation to keep going is there. I went in with the expectation that we would play this until the credits roll and then be done with it, but we've actually got two Golden Keys already and are planning to complete the game eventually. There was a spark there. Getting the Silver Keys is too easy, so there was the ambition to play this a bit more seriously, as far as this was possible...

standing together in front of the Great Fairy of the Forest

But let's start from the beginning. This was the first time that I've played any of the classic games online and it's about as bumpy as you would expect. It's peer-to-peer, as most Nintendo games with online multiplayer, so there can be some lag with four players. For the most part it went well, but you want to make sure to play this with people who live in the same state or country as you. It probably also helps to only play this with one other person, but that wasn't the goal here.

There can also be some visual glitches, like flickering shadows, which is notable in the stream. However, I personally didn't have such issues on my TV. But what I really dislike with the Nintendo Switch Online emulators in general is that it shows you part of the controls at the bottom and there is no way to hide this information. It's just wasting space and looks ugly. (Update: you can turn this off in the options, but you'll need to do this before you go into a game.)

Grabbing the Master Sword in A Link to the Past

Well, I was the group's overachiever, because I'm the only one who is bothering to also play A Link to the Past, where I had obtained the Master Sword beforehand. This unlocks sword beams in Four Swords, which was giving me a bit of an edge, but for the most part it didn't matter, because you only get them at full health. Still, you want to be at full health for the Rupee Fever, where for the Golden Keys we already had to be a bit more strategic and make sure that everyone gets enough health.

Now, I should be the only one in this groups who cares about earning the Medals of Courage, but I still have to fight for them. One guy in particular (he was the blue Link) has this mindset of "I don't care what Rupees will do for me, I just don't want any of the other players to get them." It's absolutely infuriating, but believe it or not, this is also exactly what I was hoping for...

In the past I was either playing this game alone, thanks to the added singleplayer mode in the Anniversary Edition, or I had someone who helped me out to finish the original Game Boy Advance version. So, I've rarely played this in an environment where the people would fight for Rupees.

scoring first place

Four Swords has this mix of cooperation and competition what makes it so unique. You have to work together to make it, but you also want to snatch all those Rupees for yourself, where this encourages toxic behavior. You may, for example, let two other players do the work and then harvest the fruits of their labor. And you can always carry and throw other players, where once their fate is in your hands, they can't do anything about it. In German we say "Kameradenschwein", someone who betrays their comrades. And you sometimes have to be the Kameradenschwein in this game if you want to score first place.

Or maybe you are just lucky. That also helps a lot, but I've ran out of luck at some point in my life, where today's session was proof of that. Whenever there are two treasure chests, usually one of them has a big Rupee and the other has a small one. And I always got the small one, every single time, so that didn't help.

current progress on the file select screen with ten hearts in ALttP, two golden keys and three medals in FS

We've finished half of the game by now and I only got three medals out of ten, so I certainly won't be able to complete everything in this round. But the requirement of ten Medals of Courage is way too much in any case. If nothing goes wrong, you will be playing twelve stages in total. And if you keep things even, then every player will end up with only three medals... Even if you're only playing two-by-two, you won't get enough. The Anniversary Edition was a lot fairer here, where either you needed five medals or 30,000 Rupees in total.

rescuing Zelda from the prison cell at the beginning of ALttP

But I will try to play with some other people as well. And once I get all ten medals, I will keep playing A Link to the Past some more. It's actually a great choice for replaying right now, before Echoes of Wisdom returns to the same Hyrule. And it's been a while since I have played the GBA version with its extras. In case you don't know, here's a summery of how the two games interact with each other:

  • Obtaining the Master Sword in A Link to the Past unlocks Sword Beams in Four Swords.
  • Scoring ten Medals of Courage in Four Swords unlocks the Riddle Quest in A Link to the Past.
  • Solving the Riddle Quest unlocks the Hurricane Spin Attack in both games.
  • Beating both games opens the Palace of the Four Sword in A Link to the Past.

Most of this was impossible (or very hard) to do on the Game Boy Advance if you didn't know anyone else with the game. So, it's really nice that after all these years this title has become a bit more accessible.

Echoes of Wisdom ~ amiibo Ideas

the amiibo of "Toy Link"

According to the official Japanese website, The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom will support amiibo. That's not really surprising, since every Zelda game has done so on the Nintendo Switch: Breath of the Wild, Link's Awakening, Skyward Sword HD, and Tears of the Kingdom.

Well, Skyward Sword HD only really supports the Loftwing amiibo to give you a teleport function, which should have been a free quality of life update, but otherwise the new Zelda games tried to make use of the different Zelda amiibo somehow. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are the best examples here, where scanning the amiibo can give you daily loot and some exclusive items based on the individual amiibo, like weapons, armor pieces, and Paraglider fabrics.

In Link's Awakening, however, only its amiibo of Link gives you something unique: the Shadow Link +effect for the Chamber Dungeon. Otherwise you can unlock five special chambers, but those aren't tied to any specific amiibo. Instead, any Zelda amiibo will do the trick, but you will need five different ones. The advantage here is that you don't need to own all the different amiibo to unlock everything, but it was still quite odd and having rewards based on the respective amiibo at least creates the illusion that such unlocks are justified to begin with.

Zelda in her hood at the gates to Hyrule Castle, holding the Tri Rod in her hand

As for Echoes of Wisdom, it's safe to assume that the game will launch next to an amiibo of Princess Zelda in the same style as the one for Link's Awakening, probably with the Hylian Hood and the Tri Rod. It simply makes too much sense and the two will look adorable right next to each other. Such an amiibo wasn't announced yet, but this will certainly happen at a later point.

(It would be awesome if such an amiibo were to get support in Tears of the Kingdom for a Paraglider fabric, based on the new Hylian Hood. They could even offer a new variant of the Hylian Hood with that design, but then you should also be able to find it somewhere in the Depths.)

Zelda obtaining a Lizalfos echo

You also don't have to think too hard about how the new game might utilize amiibo: the echoes created by the Tri Rod immediately come to mind here, where maybe amiibo can spawn special objects and enemies that let you learn their echoes. These could be reskins of existing things or new things entirely.

As an example, Zelda can spawn a Peahat to fly. There also seem to be birds, which she can use in the same way. So, why not have a Loftwing from the respective amiibo? And the Link from Ocarina of Time could spawn a Time Block, which works like normal blocks, but looks more fancy. Naturally, Wolf Link could finally return. Or Link's amiibo from Tears of the Kingdom could spawn a Construct as an enemy that you can't find otherwise.

There are a lot of possibilities with this, but they would need to make sure that this isn't game-breaking in any way, where this let's you learn objects that you're not supposed to have yet. In the very least, with special allies and enemies they can make them cost more of Tri's stamina, where a Wolf Link may use up four triangles or so.

Nintendo might also just go with something simpler, e.g. different hoods for Zelda, which would be similar to the Paraglider fabrics from Tears of the Kingdom. But at this scale this probably wouldn't have the same value, because you would barely notice the designs. Or maybe the game will have another feature, where amiibo could be used, something that we haven't seen yet.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Metroid Dread: Nintendo Switch Icons

Mission & Rewards - Metroid Dread Wave 1 - 3

Currently, you can obtain profile icons based on Metroid Dread in the Nintendo Switch Online application. This really should have happened three years ago, back when the game launched, but better later than never.

It looks like the announcement of Metroid Prime 4: Beyond makes Nintendo highlight what's already there on Nintendo Switch, where you can obtain the icons for Metroid Prime Remastered again as well. Both games are also discounted at the moment.

Let's hope that Nintendo will keep focusing on Metroid for the time being, where the best case scenario would be another shadow-dropped remaster of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Get as many Metroid games on the system as possible.


Metroid Prime 4 ~ Starting Equipment & Secondary Weapons?

Samus fighting Space Pirates on the outside of a GF research station

Unlike The Legend of Zelda, the Metroid series has a continuous storyline. And while it's not the most accurate with its continuity, it always creates the question of how did Samus lose all her power-ups from the previous title. Some Metroid games try to answer this, some don't.

Well, luckily for Metroid Prime 4: Beyond, it doesn't really have to give an explanation, because Samus simply lost all her previous upgrades alongside the P.E.D. at the end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. It was similar after Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, where the third game gave you some starting equipment and then went from there. There is no need to take away the basics, like the Morph Ball, with every new game.

Metroid Prime 4 might do something similar. They've shown us what's likely the beginning sequence and you already have the Varia Suit, Missile Launcher, Charge Beam, Morph Ball, and Bombs. The last one wasn't showcased, but you can still see the three dots in the HUD for them while Samus is in Morph Ball mode:

running through a shaft above a research lab currently raided by Space Pirates

Of course, it could be that Sylux then hits you hard with the Shock Coil and you lose all that as well, but this is getting old and it's generally more interesting to get new abilities instead of items that you've already collected two or three times before in the Prime series.

What's already interesting is the D-pad selection in the lower left corner of the HUD, which is different from the previous games. In both Metroid Prime and Prime 2 you had the visors there, while it showed the beam selection on the right side. Here there is only one selection and it includes the Missile Launcher:

scene from the very start of the beginning, "Missile Launcher" is stated at the bottom left of the HUD

This tells me that this time we're not going to swap between different beams, but secondary weapons, which may all use different types of ammunition. If this were about different types of missiles, then it wouldn't say "Missile Launcher", but only "Missiles". So, this is likely about other weapons.

This would be similar to Metroid Prime Hunters, and therefore not too surprising, since this game will feature Sylux as a primary antagonist. But we're not going to get six alternative weapons this time, only three. Still, those might come from other hunters, though this is what they already had done in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where you've obtained new weapons and abilities from Rundas, Ghor and Gandrayda, like the Plasma Beam.

Speaking of the Plasma Beam, with a secondary weapon system it's likely that the beams will stack in this game, like they did in Prime 3, where the Plasma and Nova Beams upgraded the basic Power Beam. I personally prefer such a system, because it's not much fun to have the Power Beam as your default weapon throughout the entire game. And it makes you truly feel more powerful. But if you can now swap your missiles to something else, Metroid Prime 4 may offer the best of both worlds, stacked beams and the strategic choice of swapping weapons.

Beam combos could also still work, but what combo you get will now be based on your secondary weapon, not the beam. So, if you want the Super Missile, you swap to the Missile Launcher (instead of the Power Beam). And so on. It makes sense and could become the best system in the Prime series.

scanning a near-dead Space Pirate

It's also of note how you instantly swap to the Scan Visor, like there is a dedicated button for it. The D-pad is still briefly visible during that, but doesn't show the Missile Launcher any longer. So, it could be that it will also let you select between different visors when you hold down that visor button, which would be similar to the beam selection with the Dual Sticks control scheme in Metroid Prime Remastered. This control scheme is probably also the reason why'd they want to avoid having two selections at the same time again, because that right analog stick should be free for aiming.

Well, this is all just speculation, of course, where they've shown us only the most basic action. But the idea alone that the Missile Launcher is part of something that you can swap, already sounds quite promising. Let's hope that Nintendo won't wait too long until they reveal more.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ Tri Rod Heroine

Zelda obtaining the Tri Rod

Let's talk about the core gameplay mechanic of the upcoming Echoes of Wisdom, which wants to break the conventions of traditional top-down Zelda games by sticking to the convention of developing the entire game and story around one or two features. What was the wolf in Twilight Princess, the shrinking in The Minish Cap, or the train and Phantom in Spirit Tracks, that's going to be the Tri Rod here, a staff that let's you copy and paste both objects and enemies.

On top of that, they are giving Zelda a companion with the fairy Tri, who is also directly tied to this main ability, just like Midna, Ezelo, or... well, Zelda herself used to be. Now, the Tri Rod was designed as a tool for a playable Zelda, but it may also be that its existence is the reason why they've decided to make Zelda playable. Whether it's the Cucco or the egg, we don't know yet.

But placing objects with a staff feels very reminiscent of the Cane of Somaria from A Link to the Past and Oracle of Ages, where it was even used for platforms during side scrolling sections in the latter. It's a lot more versatile here, where it rivals the Autobuild from Tears of the Kingdom, but technically this is an item that they also could have given to Link.

Zelda summoning two Moblins to fight for her

What wouldn't be as interesting with Link is summoning monsters, however, because it's probably faster to fight them yourself with your sword and other weapons. In Tears of the Kingdom you can summon allies to your side or build machines that fight autonomously, but if you truly want to get the job done, you will take action and draw your weapon. So, this might be one of the main reasons why we're playing as Zelda this time, because with her you have to rely a lot more on the summons.

Of course we don't know yet what her other abilities are going to be. She may also get items that let her fight more actively or from a distance, e.g. a bow with different types of arrows. Maybe you can even fuse echoes to arrows and then shoot beds (just kidding). We will have to see about that.

But it looks like the Tri Rod is truly the main focus, the main gimmick. It's featured in the game's logo and title after all, so it probably won't be one of multiple super-crazy abilities, like how the Ultrahand in Tears of the Kingdom existed next to Fuse and Recall. That won't be the case here, but that's also not really needed for a smaller Zelda game.

Zelda jumping on top of trees

The Tri Rod already breaks many of the boundaries that existed in your traditional top-down experience. Trees used to be obstacles, which often acted as walls within the environments of games like Link's Awakening. Here you can build stairs out of junk and then climb on top of the trees. Walls aren't obstacles any longer as well. The Tri Rod is essentially what the climbing was for Breath of the Wild, a complete game changer.

It will have its limits, though. In Breath of the Wild nothing was stopping you from climbing the highest mountain right after the game's tutorial. There is the stamina wheel, but you just counter this with the over-powered food system. In Echoes of Wisdom it looks like this is tied to your fairy companion, Tri.

echo select menu on a trampoline

In the beginning Tri has a tail of three triangles, like little Triforces or Force Gems. Each object costs at least one of these triangles, so in the beginning you can only summon three basic objects at once. In the footage this already increases to four, where this is likely part of the progression in the game. So, you won't be able to climb Death Mountain with a stair made out of 100 beds right away...

Enemies can even cost more, where the Moblins use up two triangles each and the Redead three. Smaller enemies, like Keese, may still only cost one, so it likely depends on the usefulness of the enemy and object in question to balance things out.

There also need to be limitations in what you can copy. It looks like only certain objects in the environment are viable. And it would be heavily overpowered if you could create echoes of fairies, for example, that keep healing you on the spot... Or if you could summon the game's bosses to your aid.

But that it needs such limitations already shows the potential. Out of all the core mechanics the Zelda series has seen over the years, it's safe to say that the Tri Rod is one of the most creative and enabling. Still, we will have to see for ourselves if this is enough to carry the game.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ Timeline Placement?

the Deku Tree

With every new Zelda game that gets announced, there are always two questions that immediately come to mind to every fan: "Will you be able to play as Zelda?" and "Where does it fall in the timeline?" The answer to both of these is "yes" with The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom.

Well, we can get a little bit more specific in trying to answer the second question. While Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom have done their own thing, far beyond anything that came before, there is still the old timeline and future Zelda games still might go somewhere in there, which is likely to be the case with Echoes of Wisdom.

As already mentioned in my post about the new old Hyrule, the upcoming Switch title takes place in the Hyrule that we know and love from A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds. So, it's safe to assume that it will fall somewhere in the Downfall Timeline as well, which starts with A Link to the Past after the original Imprisoning War and currently ends with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. The fact that you fight the classic Ganon in the beginning, who has mainly appeared in the Downfall Timeline, also supports this theory.

Link shooting back a fireball at Ganon

And then there is the fact that this game uses the same engine and art style as the remake of Link's Awakening, where usually the games in the same style are also close together on the timeline. The only real exception to this is Four Swords Adventures, which visually resembles A Link to the Past and also features the classic Ganon, but takes place at the end of the Child Timeline. But as you may know, this game was at some point supposed to tell the original Imprisoning War and therefore a prequel to A Link to the Past, before it was decided to simplify the story.

In any case, the Downfall Timeline feels like a safe bet. But where exactly? Will this be a sequel to Link's Awakening? Or could this take place before or after Oracle of Ages & Seasons?

Well, what's interesting here is that Hyrule is a lot more developed when compared to the the SNES and 3DS versions. You can find tribes like the Gerudo, Deku, or the Sea Zora, for example, which wasn't the case before. There is a lot of stuff in the basement of Hyrule Castle, which used to be mostly empty, there is a Hyrule Castle Town now, and Kakariko Village has a windmill. What used to be Death Mountain has gone cold, and there is a new Death Mountain somewhere in the west. And so on and so on.

a look at Hyrule with the different mountains in the background

While there also were differences between A Link to the Past and Between Worlds, they weren't as drastic and the Hyrule on the 3DS felt mostly like a remake. In Echoes of Wisdom you can still recognize the basic layout, but a lot more has changed. This likely means that the game will take place long after A Link Between Worlds, maybe even at the end of the Downfall Timeline. Over time Hyrule has recovered from the destruction of the Imprisoning War and found back to its old glory.

You can already make some connections, even. In A Link Between Worlds Rosso started to mine Death Mountain. And now it looks like it was stripped on all ends, resembling the excavation sites in Breath of the Wild.

lab of a Sheikah scientist

Speaking of, we do have more than just a single Sheikah in this game and their design resembles the ones from Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom more closely. Even when it comes to their interiors, like the little lamp there in the above screenshot. That's like ripped right out of Impa's house. This could be another indication that this takes place later in the series, together with the Hylian Hood that Link and Zelda are wearing, which hasn't appeared in the old games before.

And placing the game there offers some interesting possibilities, because they could potentially hint at what has happened to the old Hyrule(s), before the Hyrule from the backstory from Tears of the Kingdom came to be. Fujibayashi explained once that there was potentially a collapse (source). And it is of note how the new games make no mention of the Triforce...

However, it's unlikely that the first game where you play as Zelda will lead to some kind of disaster. This would send the wrong message and Nintendo certainly wants to avoid that. It's for that reason why I also wouldn't place it at the beginning of the Downfall Timeline, somewhere before A Link to the Past.

It's technically possible that Ganon may have gotten out of the Sacred Realm somehow and now tries to suck in pieces of Hyrule to create his twisted version of it, which later then becomes the Dark World. But this would mean that our heroes can't really put an end to Ganon's threat, they will just imprison him again. And it would also mean that whatever happens in Echoes of Wisdom, it causes most of Hyrule's population to leave... Also, not exactly the best position to be in.

So, a placement at the end of the Downfall Timeline does seem to make the most sense. It explains how Hyrule has changed so much since the other games in this branch and it also makes the story more open ended, where we don't know what will happen next until Rauru comes and founds a new Hyrule. It may even act as a bridge between the old and the new.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Echoes of Wisdom ~ New Old Hyrule

Zelda viewing over the game's Hyrule akin to Breath of the Wild

Echoes of Wisdom is yet another Zelda game that will take place in Hyrule, where the Zelda games that don't slowly become a minority. From the trailer we can already see that this won't be a completely new version of Hyrule, however, but based on the one from A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds. If you look at the above screenshot, then you will notice how Zelda stands on a ledge above Lake Hylia. Hyrule Castle is in the center and the Eastern Palace is in the east, with the same old rock formation between the two. And then there is a forest area northwest of the castle.

So, this is clearly meant to be the Hyrule known from the Downfall Timeline, which we have explored a couple of times before. If you also count the BS-X Zelda game Ancient Stone Tablets, then this will be the fourth game to make use of it...

It has a lot more evolved from when we last saw it in 2013, however. What used to be Death Mountain now looks heavily mined and has turned cold, with snow on the top, like Death Mountain in Lorule. Hyrule Castle now has a small settlement in its walls, what could be a new Hyrule Castle Town:

screenshot of castle town with one of the houses ripped away

And to the west of the castle there now seem to be some new ruins, which haven't been there before, while there is now a giant rock wall north of Kakariko Village, separating it from the forest above. Also, if you study the main artwork of the game (see here), you can see how Kakariko now has a windmill, like it used to in Ocarina of Time.

Most importantly, though, the game world was expanded. You can now go south of Lake Hylia, as already mentioned, which is seemingly where the adventure begins. In the west you can spot a giant volcano, which might be the new Death Mountain. And below it there is a canyon with some sort of temple, which could be Goron City.

There is a more tropical, jungle-like area, which we have never seen before and could be the Faron Woods of this game or something new entirely. This one isn't really visible in the landscape shots that we got, where potentially this lies somewhere in the east or south.

Hyrule wasn't just expanded with new areas, but also with the tribes that live there. It's getting a lot livelier than in A Link to the Past & Between Worlds. As already mentioned, there could be Goron City at the new Death Mountain in the northwest.

Zelda entering Gerudo Town

But you can also find Gerudo in this game, which is their second appearance in a top-down Zelda title, the first one being Four Swords Adventures. (Unless you also count Cadence of Hyrule.) They have their own Gerudo Town / Fortress somewhere in the desert. Maybe we will also see the Rito at the snowy mountains, which would be their first appearance in a top-down game. And there is more than a single Sheikah this time around.

Four different Zora looking at each other in two groups

Both the classic River Zora and the Sea Zora co-exist in this version of Hyrule, which was an idea from the Oracle games, mainly Oracle of Ages, to explain why the Zora from the 3D Zelda games were so different. But in the Game Boy Color classics the two different types of Zora never interact with each other, one is hostile and the other is not. In Echoes is Wisdom it looks like there will be some conflict between the two different Zora groups, which is very intriguing.

a Deku Merchant

Finally, the Deku have returned, which marks their first appearance in a mainline Zelda game in almost 20 years. The last two games to feature them were The Minish Cap and Four Swords Adventures. Crazy, right? (Again, Cadence of Hyrule also got you covered there and even has a playable Deku.) We only get to see a Deku Merchant here, but there might be others around, probably in the Lost Woods.

Deku Tree

Speaking of, this even will be the first top-down Zelda game to feature the Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time, which probably is found somewhere in the Lost Woods, maybe even at the spot where the Master Sword used to be. There is still some pedestal there, but not the exact same one.

Is it a coincidence that LEGO will release a Giant Deku Tree set a couple of weeks before this game, a Zelda game where you can take things from the environment to build with it? I think not...

Anyway, this game has pretty much everything that you might have wanted from A Link Between Worlds already. While the 3DS game also has changed up the world from A Link to the Past quite a bit, it still stayed quite faithful to it, maybe a little too faithful.

With Echoes of Wisdom they could potentially be making the ultimate version of Hyrule for the top-down perspective by taking the beloved Hyrule from A Link to the Past once more and adding a lot to it. And I can't wait to explore this.