Posts Tagged ‘Zelda’

Sad Mario

A couple of days ago, Nintendo finally set a launch date for their next console along with the next entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise.

The NX (codename) and The Legend of Zelda will launch in March of 2017.

Obviously, the WiiU is finished, though Zelda will reportedly be launching on it as well as the NX. The same tactic was used with Twilight Princess on the Gamecube and Wii, so this isn’t exactly new territory.

Firstly, I’m quite sad to see the end of the WiiU so soon. It was handled so very poorly, but the system itself is not a bad system. There are quite a few very enjoyable games that can be found only on it – Super Mario 3D World, The Wonderful 101, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze to name just a few.

Wonderful 101

People, seriously! Play The Wonderful 101!

There was a time that the system still had some promise. It actually did outsell the PS4 a couple of times. It received sales boosts when Mario Kart 8 and Smash Brothers launched, but in the end, it never really had a shot. It was launched against far more powerful systems, and was therefore going to miss out on the big AAA third party games that would help sell it. It also had a gimmick that was much more difficult to sell people on than the Wii Remote. You almost feel like Nintendo should have made the WiiU and launched it when the Wii was launched (instead of the Wii, I mean, but with the same input options), but that didn’t happen. Now, as a result of some very bad calculations, the WiiU will slowly disappear. It just didn’t stand a chance.

The positive here is that we’re getting a new Nintendo console. Currently code named the NX, it will be launching in March of 2017. It is being billed as a brand new platform, showcasing a new concept. This scares me just a bit, as Nintendo seems to be too worried about changing how we play instead of just focusing on great games, which Nintendo makes consistently. Still, that said, I try to continue to have faith in Nintendo. I believe there was some arrogance after the phenomenal success of the Wii, so they felt they could make the rules of the market, but you can’t catch lightning in a bottle, and there was virtually no chance of recreating the Wii’s success. My sincere hope is that Nintendo has learned from this mistake and the NX will not suffer a similar fate as that of the WiiU.

Still, you have to wonder if this is all that wise of a move. They are, again, launching a console mid-cycle. It can’t be that much more powerful than the PS4/Xbox One because Nintendo MUST have third party support. They simply can’t be the only game maker for their own systems, no matter how good those games may be. That said, if the NX has comparable specs to the current consoles, then it is already behind the curve. Honestly, even as an admitted Nintendo fanboy, it’s hard to see how this can be a win for Nintendo.

There’s also the fact that Zelda is a launch title for the system. No, having Zelda at launch isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a WiiU game being launched to showcase a new system that is replacing the WiiU. What will be a last-gen game immediately at launch is not a great way to herald your new system, even if it is Zelda. Now, I could be very off base here. We know very little of the next Zelda, and frankly, Zelda is going to sell regardless of system.

Zelda Wii

Twilight Princess is a special case what with the aiming and waggling.

I do truly believe that if any company can pull this off, it’s Nintendo, but I am truthfully a bit skeptical at the moment. They’ve made some very questionable moves since the Wii, and have come to a point where they need to prove themselves again, which seems unfair, but is the nature of the beast. I’m an extremely optimistic guy, but I’m still in “wait and see” mode on this one. I hope they prove my skepticism wrong.

Now, all of the above being said, if the official name of the NX is revealed as the Wii3 or some variation thereof, I think we can safely start carving the tombstone.

 

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Hyrule Warriors - Title

First off, I have never played a Dynasty Warriors title, so when Hyrule Warriors was announced as a sort of hybrid of the two franchises, I literally had no clue what to expect. As more trailers and gameplay segments were released though, it continued to pique my interest, and I ultimately ended up owning it (Thanks, Christmas!). The question is, does it hold up well in the Zelda franchise?

The Set-up:
You are Link…well, initially you are Link. You will eventually be Impa, Zelda, Midna, Ruto, and a whole other cast of characters from all walks of the Legend of Zelda games. An evil force has invaded Hyrule, and you, along with the other good guys, begin a journey to stop it in its tracks. Along with the numerous familiar heroes you’ll control, there are also an equal number of villains that make an appearance, ranging from the “big guys” such as Ghirahim, to more minor foes such as Dodongo and Lizalfos. Each character has a different weapon to use (along with upgrades and weapon augments), and attacks vary, meaning that there is some variety in the combat, which is crucial since this game is VERY combat-centric.

Hyrule Warriors - Enemies

Maybe they just want to talk.

The Story:
The game begins with a large army invading Hyrule in an effort to take Hyrule Castle. The army is led by Cia, a new character, and her generals Volga, a flame-breathing dragon warrior, and Wizzro, an annoying as hell purple clad wizard, reminiscent of the Wizzrobes from the original Legend of Zelda (who were probably his inspiration). Cia is a sorceress, and guardian of the Triforce, maintaining balance. For reasons that aren’t initially clear, she has abandoned her post and is seeking to overtake Hyrule. Link, a trainee in the Hyrulean army, joins the battle, only to discover he possesses the Triforce of Courage.

In spite of a valiant effort, and a victorious battle with the giant Dodongo, Zelda is found to be missing at the conclusion of the battle. Impa asks for Link’s assistance in finding her, and they then journey throughout Hyrule, meeting up with the mysterious Sheik (we all know Sheik is Zelda by now, so don’t pretend that’s a surprise) and Lana, another sorceress from the same clan as Cia, only serving the side of good, assisting Link and Impa in their battles.

The story deepens when Cia opens a Time Portal to different eras of Hyrule, bringing the villains of those eras to her side. However, when these are opened, heroes from those eras arrive as well, assisting Link, Impa, Sheik, and Lana. Deepening this game’s ties to the Zelda franchise, each character is encountered in their specific era. For example, both Midna and Zant are encountered during a battle on the Twilight Field and Palace of Twilight maps. It’s obvious that great care was taken when designing the story to treat these characters with respect, and remain true to each of their origins.

Hyrule Warriors - Imprisoned

True to his original appearance, the Imprisoned is just as aggravating here as in Skyward Sword.

Much to my surprise, I felt that the story of Hyrule Warriors was quite strong, more in depth than many of the main entries’ stories, frankly. It wasn’t one dimensional, or straight-forward, but revealed a bit more with each battle you complete. This doesn’t mean that it stands up beside narrative powerhouses such as NIER or a Final Fantasy entry, but for a game that is, at its heart, a hack-n-slash, it was impressive that a cohesive story exists at all.

The Gameplay:
This game is most definitely a hack-n-slash title. You take control of a character, attack hordes of enemies with your weapon, rinse and repeat. This sounds boring and redundant, but it is spiced up with the inclusion of secondary weapons such as the boomerang, bombs, and bow & arrow. Fortunately, most enemies are taken down in one or two attacks, so you never feel overwhelmed, despite being attacked by hundreds of enemies. Harder enemies will require some strategy to take down, mainly consisting of dodging attacks, and waiting for a weak point gauge to be revealed. Reduce this to trigger a stronger attack with your character. Most bosses can only be harmed via this method. It must be noted that some characters have multiple weapons to choose from for each stage, and stronger versions of those weapons can be collected by defeating enemies.

One last element added to spice up the gameplay is the collection of items, much like the collection process in Skyward Sword. Collect a certain number of particular items, and you can unlock, or buy, various upgrades that increase attack power, add the ability to use health potions, strengthen secondary weapon attacks, etc… This is both fun to use and tedious at the same time. Some needed items are only dropped by bosses, and completing a level just to not receive the item you were after can be aggravating.

Hyrule Warriors - Strategy

Pictured: Strategy

Now, so far I’ve only spoken of the story mode (which includes free-play of levels once they are completed, with other characters). Also included are challenge maps (some are DLC only) that appear as overworld maps in the style of the NES Legend of Zelda. Each square has certain rules or requirements that make each battle unique. These can be very short, or as long as a story level. To unlock adjacent level blocks, you must achieve a certain ranking (bronze/silver/gold) in the current level. Again, the ranking is based on differing factors (enemies killed and time in story mode, any number of factors on the challenge maps). These maps unlock stronger weapons, different outfits, and even some new characters you may play as, so I never considered them optional in the slightest, though I imagine some people will.

Conclusions:
Hyrule Warriors is most definitely not for everyone. I can deal with redundant combat and levels, so I quite enjoyed the game, but if you prefer variety, such as you would find in the Arkham games, this is not the game for you. But then, this game doesn’t ever apologize for what it is. It is very much what you see is what you get. You’re never fooled into thinking that you’re getting a full-fledged Zelda adventure. This is a Dynasty Warriors game with a Zelda skin. At the end of the day, it appealed to my love of the hack-n-slash genre and my need to collect as much as possible in a game. There is also an odd benefit to a game such as this. It’s the type of game you can take a break from for weeks, then fall right back into. There are no complex button sequences to memorize, or the risk of forgetting where you are in the story and where you should go next. Again, this will be frowned upon by some, but I rather liked that aspect. Is this a great Legend of Zelda game? No, but it never really tries to be like other Zelda games. When judged by its own standards and not against the Legend of Zelda franchise, I think it stands up as a very good game.

Hyrule Warriors - Chickens

The game clearly takes itself very seriously.

Ocarina of Time Title

Hey! Listen!

I had to, sorry. If you ask anyone with knowledge of gaming what the best Zelda title is, most will say Ocarina of Time without even thinking twice. It’s understandable. Ocarina of Time still sits atop virtually all cumulative ratings sites and has managed to stay relevant long after the console it was built for has faded.

That said (or typed, as it were), is Ocarina of Time actually the best Zelda title? Or has it just become something of a sacred cow among gamers? A situation where it’s so renowned that we proclaim it the best without actually giving the question of another Zelda game being better any consideration. This was raised on my Twitter feed recently:

If you aren’t following Spoony Spoonicus, do so now.

By my count, there are around 17 titles I’ve come up with in what I consider mainstream Zelda games. The less said about the CDi games, the better.

Good Lord...

Good Lord…

For the sake of this blog post, I’m only going to concentrate on the following three: A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess. A few notes on omitted titles:

– The Legend of Zelda (NES): It is a classic, but is also the first. It’s an iconic game, but it’s hard to argue that it’s better than an Ocarina of Time or Skyward Sword. Mega Man is iconic as well, but Mega Man 2 & 3, surpass it easily. The same is true here.

– Majora’s Mask (N64): Great game, but it feels like an expansion to Ocarina of Time. It has never felt as revolutionary or had the same “Wow” factor that Ocarina of Time had.

– The Wind Waker (GCN): More than virtually any other Zelda title, it has divided fans since its release. I admire what Nintendo did with the title, but feel it just has too many faults (such as the mundane sailing sections).

And honestly, I've never been a fan of the art style.

And honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the art style.

You may disagree with the above, but this is totally subjective. I feel that if we are naming the top three Zelda titles, the three I’ve picked out would probably sit at the top of most people’s list.

The case for A Link to the Past:
Prior to this game being released, Zelda was a known franchise for Nintendo, but was considered no more important than a Metroid or Kid Icarus. With A Link to the Past, Nintendo delivered an adventure that would become timeless, and would define what The Legend of Zelda was for years to come. It’s influence can be felt in games as new as Skyward Sword. It has this legacy because, frankly, it’s just an extremely well developed game. The controls are spot on, the progression of the game is perfect, and the open world lets you explore, but never leaves you lost for very long. It lets you progress at your own pace, but doesn’t let you wonder into an area you aren’t prepared for, largely by using the Metroid tactic of requiring new power-ups to progress to new areas. A Link to the Past is the kind of game you play, and then wonder if you were going to make the perfect game, is there anything you would do differently from what Nintendo did with A Link to the Past.

I don't know why, but this part always gets to me.

I don’t know why, but this part always gets to me.

The case for Ocarina of Time:
Did I mention influence above? If A Link to the Past was influential, then Ocarina of Time was genre-defining. For the first time, Hyrule became more than a flat map that you could explore up and down, left to right. Hyrule became alive with fields, towns, volcanoes, new races/species, and more secrets than I could ever list here. It’s battle system became a standard not just for future Zelda titles, but many other 3-D based adventure and action games. The lock-on targeting mechanic completely (well, almost completely) solved the issue of losing your foe in a 3-D world. Aside from the 3-D design and groundbreaking controls, Ocarina of Time delivered one of the most epic stories ever seen on any system. You would follow Link from childhood through a time warp that would see Hyrule devastated and Ganondorf all powerful. Familiar areas would be radically changed, and areas that were once bustling were now home to the slowly shuffling, yet terrifying, redeads. For me, this was the first Zelda title to pack an emotional punch, as characters you’d come to know from the first portion of the game, were suddenly missing or facing dire circumstances once you emerged from the time warp. A Link to the Past introduced a myriad of characters, but it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time that those characters actually had a life of their own.

Hyrule Field seems bare now, but upon first playing it, it was simply amazing.

Hyrule Field seems bare now, but upon first playing it, it was simply amazing.

The Case for Twilight Princess
While Twilight Princess launched for both the Wii and Gamecube, the only differences were a map flip and some aiming and waggle put into the Wii version. Twilight Princess feels very familiar, but at the same time, still manages to carve its own path. Taking a cue from Ocarina of Time, enemy targeting is present, as is the presence of two adventures (as in, you complete one set of temples, only to be sent on a second quest). Twilight includes many items we’ve seen before, but introduces a few we haven’t, or allows us to use familiar items in different ways. In many ways, Twilight Princess feels like a game that takes Ocarina of Time, updates the graphics, and then throws in a whole bag of new ideas, but then virtually all Zelda titles can make that claim, so this is nothing unique. What truly sets Twilight Princess apart is the sharper graphical style, which we haven’t seen in a Zelda title since, as well as dungeon design and more character development. More than once, I found myself working through a temple that I wasn’t even aware was a temple. A neat surprise to a Zelda veteran that is used to defined entrances and such. As for characters, Midna is one of the best characters to come out of a Zelda game since Sheik, and has remained quite popular, while Zant served as quite an interesting villain for the majority of the game. All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the Wolf dynamic. Twilight Princess worked as both a swan song for the Gamecube, as well as a launch title for the Wii, and for both audiences, it delivered an amazing experience.

That is one beautiful background.

That is one beautiful background.

So, is Ocarina of Time the best Zelda title?

In my opinion, I don’t believe it is. I believe that that title has to be given to Twilight Princess, which is, frankly, a surprise to me. See, for years now, I’ve championed A Link to the Past as the top Zelda title, but as I was writing this blog, and truly started to compare the games, I realized that as amazing a game as A Link to the Past is, I believe that I actually enjoyed Twilight Princess more. I may not know the game world in and out as I did A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time, but that shouldn’t be a knock against Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess, for me, has become the apex of what a Zelda title is capable of. It strikes a perfect balance of gameplay, design, and pacing, and although I’m not one to champion graphics, still looks incredibly good for a title that was designed for the Gamecube, two generations ago.

I think many people will disagree with this blog, which is fine, it’s all opinion anyway. Arguing over these titles is like arguing over winning $50 million in the lottery or $55 million. You really can’t lose. I do believe though, that the reason Ocarina of Time is still held up so highly is partly due to the fact that it was the first to do what Zelda titles have been doing since. We don’t want to diminish the title that came first, so we continue to champion it as the best, even though it’s perfectly fine to champion it, and then believe that a sequel did what it did a bit better, and is therefore a better game. Now, the other reason Ocarina of Time is still held in such high regard is just that it’s a damn good game and, whether you put in at the top of Zelda titles or behind a few, that’s not going to change.

Also, I reserve the right to switch back to A Link to the Past upon replaying it. Again.


Clever Links/Random Thoughts Title Here

– So I let this blog go stagnant for a few months. I really had few ideas to write about, and essentially no free time to write about the ideas I did have. Now that I’m moved and have adapted to being self-employed, I’m hopeful that my blog posts will pick back up.

– HeavyMachineGames has a great read regarding the length of games, and how shorter games aren’t a bad thing.

– SNES A Day has posted reviews to two of my favorite Super NES titles: Claymates and SimEarth (which I actually played on a PC).

– Speaking of Zelda titles, Nintenlo of And Then She Games took on A Link to the Past in her latest That’s a Wrap feature.

– United We Game is asking for everyone to contribute their thoughts on what exactly a video game is. A question I’m not 100% sure I could even answer.

I’ve been playing games for around 25 years, dating back to the NES and Atari (2600, 5200…can’t really remember). When I put in an older cart such as Super Mario Brothers 3, Super Metroid, or an early Legend of Zelda, I’m playing the game, but I’m also getting a direct connection to memories from my childhood. I’m playing through levels that have been imprinted in my mind, battling enemies that have no chance because I remember their every move (except in Ninja Gaiden, geez).

I can think of no other medium that holds such nostalgic power. Sure, as much as I love a movie like Batman, I think Iron Man and The Avengers are better movies. It’s not even a hard call for me to make. While I love the works of Mark Twain and H.G. Wells, I prefer the work of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Video games though, are different. They bring you into their world like other mediums can’t. Allow you to make decisions about what happens and how you proceed (okay, Choose Your Own Adventure did kind of allow this). There is, generally speaking, no set path. For me personally, it makes playing through a game a very personal experience b/c I’m actively involved in it. I think this is a large part of what creates the nostalgic feelings I get with my older games. That said, is Super Metroid truly, objectively better than Bioshock? Is A Link to the Past better than Oblivion? Is Super Mario Brothers 3 really a better game than something like Ratchet & Clank? Or, has the nostalgia I feel for those games made me irreversibly biased. Seeing greatness that has since faded with the advancement in technology.

I don’t know if this question can ever be answered. How do you possibly make comparisons separated not only by time, but also by technological advancements? Also, for many long-time gamers, such as myself, I imagine that new games are going to be handicapped because they don’t contain that sense of wonder that older games recall. It doesn’t mean they aren’t as good as their older counterparts, they are just lacking an element that, unfortunately, can’t be recreated. Gamers growing up now will probably have this experience with current games. When they play an old NES, Sega Genesis, or Super NES game, I suspect that many of them see a fun game, but are probably underwhelmed, and assuming they do feel that way, they’re right to do so. For them, there is no rush of fondness, of easier times, summers spent roaming Hyrule or exploring the caverns of Zebes. What they will have is that rush of the first time they stepped off the elevator and into Rapture. I wish I could give them the wonder I feel with older games, but I also envy the nostalgia they are creating right now.

I’ve already told you that I’m a Nintendo fan. I can’t help it. I do come by it honestly, having grown up with the NES, Super NES, etc… Therefore, even though I do own other consoles, I also root for Nintendo just as I would a sports team. A console exclusive is a victory, a shutout in a game of baseball. It’s the icing on the console cake. For a long time, I loved seeing Nintendo get these b/c it was a win for them, another reason why people should try a console by a company I love.

With the WiiU, I’m beginning to rethink this stance. Now, to be clear, I’m not speaking of first party games. They will obviously be exclusive. Mario, Zelda, and Samus aren’t appearing on the PS4 or Xbox One any sooner than Master Chief will have an outing on the PSVita or Ratchet & Clank on the WiiU. No, I’m speaking strictly of third party games. A game like Dead Rising 3 being exclusive to the Xbox One isn’t a big deal to me b/c that is an established brand. It’s going to be fine, if only b/c of name value. And that is the case many times. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles moved over a million copies on the Wii b/c it is a known entity with an existing fanbase (and a pretty fun game, frankly).

I become concerned when I see a game like The Wonderful 101 being released exclusively for the WiiU. At one point in time, this would have thrilled me (it’s a win!), but I’ve come to reconsider this stance. Released in Japan recently, it moved only a few thousand copies in week one, disappointing by just about any measure. It’s not hard to see why it moved so few. A new IP on a struggling console? Not too unexpected, even if it is a fun game (reviews have been fairly positive so far, as has the Twitter feedback I’ve seen).

Making things worse for this game is that TW101 will never be ported b/c Nintendo is handling the publishing duties. It only goes somewhere else if they decide to send it there. I’m willing to bet that Nintendo won’t send it to Sony or Microsoft just for kicks.

The thing is, I wish it could be ported. This is a game that was crafted by a studio with a great deal of love and dedication, and now it could potentially die a slow death simply b/c of the console it has been tied to. This makes me extremely sad. I want as many people as possible to experience this game, and that’s not going to happen. Now, obviously, maybe Nintendo turns around the WiiU, the price on TW101 is dropped and it ends up experiencing a long sales curve and finds success. I never count out Nintendo, but I don’t think this is extremely likely to happen.

TW101 is only the most recent example. Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower are all well reviewed games, made exclusively for the Wii, but released very late in it’s life when WiiU hype (lol!) was taking over. Xenoblade has become something of a collector’s item in NA due to Gamestop controlling distribution. A copy can be had for around $80 now. The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower haven’t seen that fate just yet, but all three of these are good games that some people will never play b/c of the console they are available on and the timing of their release. The backwards compatibility of the WiiU doesn’t seem to be a factor in helping them either, at least, not yet.

I realize this isn’t exclusive to Nintendo, I just happen to know their recent library very well. I’m also not naive enough to think this will change anytime soon, and I completely understand why it wouldn’t. This is a business and success is key. Giving the consumer something your competitors can’t makes your product that much more appealing. I just hope that games like TW101 do eventually find an audience and succeed where it matters most to the businessmen that run Nintendo. Not b/c I want the success for Nintendo, but for the developers that gave so much of their time and effort to crafting a game that too few people may ever play. I’ve evolved from someone that supports a system or a company to someone that supports good games, no matter what medium they are on.