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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda

loz

Release Date: 15 November 1987
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

In preparation for the upcoming release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I decided it was time to direct my nascent love of this franchise to its beginnings and see how far we’ve managed to come in 30 years. Since I was one of the fortunate few who was able to secure an NES Mini when it launched I decided to rock it old school with a controller far too small for adult hands, printed out maps of Hyrule, and a handy guide to see me through this adventure.

Was my day in Hyrule well spent? Not really, but it was insightful nevertheless.

Can't have a review of this game without this image somewhere.

Can’t have a review of this game without this image somewhere.

The Plot

Fun thing about this game – it tells you nothing. This wouldn’t have been a problem back in the day when the game cartridge came with all manner of accompaniments, including a story breakdown, but in 2017 it requires a little navigation of Wikipedia to understand your motivation.

In a timeline that would later follow the Hero of Time’s defeat in Ocarina of Time Ganon has invaded Hyrule and stolen the Triforce of Power. Princess Zelda, hoping to stop Ganon from gaining too much power, chooses to split the Triforce of Wisdom into eight fragments and hide them in temples throughout the kingdom before she’s eventually kidnapped (as all princesses back in the day were). Before being spirited away she did manage to instruct her nursemaid to find someone courageous enough to retrieve the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom, defeat Ganon, and rescue Hyrule from certain doom – and so Link’s adventure begins.

loz_map

This is an awful lot of map.

The Gameplay

This game is a bizarre combination of infuriating difficulty and mind-boggling simplicity.

Much like with the plot the game gives you nothing when it comes to telling you how to actually play it. Unlike later games which tend to point you in the right direction and arm you with a variety of assistants to give you a hint when you get a bit stuck, the original Legend of Zelda is entirely non-linear and completely unhelpful. Its exploration elements hark back to the days of playground discussions to find out what your friends had discovered and to trade in secrets found. There are no environmental clues to tell you where hidden rooms might be, nothing to tell you what the item you just found actually does, and dungeons aren’t so much areas with elaborate puzzles that need solving as they are mazes of similar-looking rooms that involve little more than key-finding expeditions. I’m nearly 30-years-old now, so it would be a little creepy for me to hop into a playground full of young children to discuss a game most probably haven’t even heard of, so I resorted to a guide by the good people over at Zelda Dungeon. It was that or spend days walking aimlessly through this 8-bit Hyrule without a clue about what I should be doing.

In contrast to this ‘you need to get this item but we’re not going to tell you where it is or what it does but you’ll die very quickly if you don’t have it’ approach to exploration, combat is relatively simple and few enemies provide any real challenge. Those that do tend to veer off to the decidedly difficult side of the spectrum, but other than that all it takes are one or two hits at something and you’re in the clear. This is particularly true of dungeon bosses, and if you know what you’re doing it often takes more time to walk from one end of a room to the other than it takes to defeat them. It can be rather anti-climatic in a way, given how tricky it can be to actually find the boss, but I guess allowances must be made.

Would have been useful to find this much earlier than I actually did.

Would have been useful to find this much earlier on than I actually did.

The Feelings

Here’s the thing – on the one hand it feels unfair to judge a game older than I am by the standards of modern gaming, but on the other hand you need to decide if the game is worth playing in 2017.

The Legend of Zelda is an interesting game to play because you can see all the rudimentary bits of what would later become franchise staples. If you know what you’re doing (or have a guide like I did) it’s also quite a short game – I finished it in one sitting that lasted around 5 hours, so it’s useful if you feel like saving Hyrule but don’t have a ton of time to spare. That being said I can’t say that it was a particularly fun game to play. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just that it’s a product of a different time and as a result didn’t offer up anything challenging since discovering things is more down to dumb luck and candle-driven pyromania than to clever deduction.

But at least I can say that I have played it, ever desperate as I am to avoid accusations of being a filthy casual.

My Final Rating: 5 / 10
Buy an NES Classic Edition at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Spirit Tracks

Release Date: 11 December 2009
Platform: Nintendo DS

Never one to leave a stone unturned, a game unfinished or a Zelda timeline unexplored, I decided to finish off this particular branch of the franchise with Spirit Tracks, the sequel to the rather charming Phantom Hourglass. One would think that a game that largely builds on its predecessor in terms of story, gameplay and visuals could only be as delightful as said predecessor, yet Spirit Tracks set out to prove that one could be wrong.

Choo choo motherfucker!

Choo choo motherfucker!

The Plot

Welcome to New Hyrule, a massive land discovered and settled by Tetra following her and Link’s adventures in Phantom Hourglass. Set 100 years after Phantom Hourglass, we open with the latest version of Link, an engineering apprentice, who is on his way to Hyrule Castle to receive his engineer’s certificate from Princess Zelda. Things take a turn for the worse when it turns out that Chancellor Cole, Princess Zelda’s advisor, is trying to resurrect Malladus, an ancient evil locked away long ago by the guardian spirits and held in captivity by the Spirit Tracks.

Cole, with the help of his evil apprentice Staven, manage to steal Zelda’s body and, with the help of the Demon Train, severely disrupt the powers that hold the Tower of Spirits together. The Tower of Spirits is the nexus from which power flows along the Spirit Tracks, and without it functioning properly evil begins to spread across the land and to the temples of the various realms in New Hyrule, themselves also sources of power for the Spirit Tracks. Zelda’s body, imbued with the power of her ancestors, is the perfect vessel through which Malladus can be reborn.

It will be up to Link and a disembodied spirit Zelda, with the help of the Lokomo (the guardians of the Tower of Spirits and the Spirit Tracks), to restore the Tower and the Tracks and prevent Malladus from escaping his prison and plunging New Hyrule into a world of darkness.

Admittedly it's a very different look for her.

Admittedly it’s a very different look for her.

The Gameplay

Broadly speaking the gameplay in Spirit Tracks, as well as the graphics and various other little pieces that make up a game, has been lifted wholesale from Phantom Hourglass. Like its predecessor Spirit Tracks is controlled solely using the DS’ (or, in my case, 3DS’) touch screen with one or two actions mapped to the shoulder buttons, although a few tweaks here and there have made the control scheme a lot smoother than the one found in Phantom Hourglass. A big shout out to the Tower of Spirits, which was much improved compared to the Temple of the Ocean King, and the ability to have Zelda control phantoms gave you the sidekick that Link has always deserved.

That being said, however, it was the retention of this control scheme, coupled with the new ideas that the game was trying to introduce, which led to what at times was an incredibly frustrating experience. Let’s start with getting around New Hyrule: where Phantom Hourglass had a boat, Spirit Tracks has a train. At first riding the train is quite fun since you need to plot your course, learn how to break properly, when to go at different speeds and the like. Unlike the boat, however, the train’s movement is limited to where Spirit Tracks have been laid down, and the further into the game you get, despite there being more Tracks to follow, it became extremely tedious to ride from one area to the next. New Hyrule being enormous was a great idea, but in practice the DS wasn’t powerful enough to take advantage of all this space, so it’s really just a train going through a field while you blow up boulders over and over and over and over again until you eventually reach your destination.

One thing in this game which nearly made me rip my hair out was the Spirit Flute. A key item in the game, you use it by blowing into the DS’ mic while controlling the notes on the touch screen. Playing the songs correctly is integral to the game’s progression, as different songs unlock the Tracks to the various temples. This would have been fine if the game was able to properly pick up what you were doing all the time, and on occasion it took me hours to get a song right just because it happened to not pick up that I was using the mic or because the stylus slipped off a note by mistake.

This isn’t to say that the whole game is bad, and in fact it had some truly charming moments. It did try to increase the challenge from that found in Phantom Hourglass, the success of which is a bit mixed – where it got it right it was absolutely brilliant, but at times it felt like the puzzles were a little too complex or required slightly faster timing that the touch controls really afford you.

I never want to see a set of pipes as long as I live.

I never want to see a set of pipes as long as I live.

The Feelings

Very mixed feelings.

At the end of the day I did mostly enjoy Spirit Tracks. Hands down it has one of the best story lines of the Zelda games that I’ve played, particularly in the way that it portrays Zelda and her interactions with Link that’s both touching and completely hilarious. In fact, I would say that 75% of the game is highly enjoyable.

But it’s that other 25% that was just so intensely frustrating that at times I needed to take a few days’ break from the game for fear that I would otherwise set the cartridge on fire. This is actually a game I would love to see re-imagined with a more traditional control scheme, because what it got right was just so right that it deserves to shine a bit brighter than what Spirit Tracks‘ current setup will allow for.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks at Amazon.com

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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: Yoshi’s New Island

Release Date: 14 March 2014
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

I like to consider myself an extravagant cheapskate: I won’t spend a lot of money on one thing, but I’ll happily spend triple the value of the one thing buying several other things. Given that I loved the original Yoshi’s Island so much I was torn between which of its sequels to play: the one on the Nintendo DS that I’d have to play on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, or the one on 3DS that got the very middling reviews. Nintendo solved that problem for me by adding this to the Nintendo Selects range, and my cheap self was delighted to order a copy.

I’m so grateful that I bought this once it was added to Nintendo’s discount range rather than buying it full price earlier on; while charming to a certain degree, Yoshi’s New Island isn’t deserving of a full retail price tag.

I'm blue da ba dee da ba die.

I’m blue da ba dee da ba die.

The Plot

In what will become a recurring theme for this game, the plot is only slightly different to that of the first game.

This game picks up right where the original Yoshi’s Island left off with the stork flying off to the Mushroom Kingdom to deliver baby Mario and Luigi to their parents. The stork was obviously suffering a concussion because he’s managed to deliver the babies to the wrong couple, and now needs to set off with the babies again to deliver them to the right people. As he takes off, however, he’s attacked by Kamek, Bowser’s magical babysitter, who once again tries to kidnap the babies.

Kamek manages to steal Luigi but Mario slips free and falls down to Egg Island, a floating island also inhabited by Yoshis and currently under the control of baby Bowser. Using his psychic link to Luigi and with the aid of the Yoshi clan Mario and the Yoshis once again set off on a mission to recover his stolen green sibling.

I will give the game credit for having Shy Guys that do little booty shakes.

I will give the game credit for having Shy Guys that do little booty shakes.

The Gameplay

Again, not much has changed from the first game, with the mechanics of Yoshi’s Island being taken over almost wholesale into this 3DS adventure: throw eggs, transform and make sure the enemy doesn’t make off with Mario.

The only real additions are the giant eggs, underwater stages and flutter wings. The giant eggs aren’t so much new as they are a variation on Yoshi’s traditional egg throwing – by ingesting a giant Shy Guy or Metal Shy Guy you’ll create either Mega Eggdozers or Metal Eggdozers, which can be used to clear paths and destroy obstacles. While interesting, these can only be created at specific points so there isn’t any real strategy involved when they become available.

The underwater levels aren’t particularly different to land based ones, mainly because you’ll use a Metal Eggdozer to weigh you down. Since Yoshi floats the Eggdozer will allow you to walk normally on the ground underwater, and usually you just have to find the right spot to get rid of the egg and float back up to the top. Again, while interesting, it’s nothing that’s overly inventive.

The flutter wings aren’t so much a new kind of gameplay, but rather than a useful helper – should you die more than three times in a level the option to use the flutter wings will become available, allowing you to softly drift over most obstacles rather than engaging in the more tricky platforming. None of the stages in the game are so challenging that you need them, but I did occasionally make use of them just because I couldn’t be asked to go through a particular section again.

What an angry child Bowser was...

What an angry child Bowser was…

The Feelings

Underwhelmed.

At its core Yoshi’s New Island isn’t a bad game and is a more-than-competent platformer. The problem is that it plays almost exactly like Yoshi’s Island without any of that game’s magic or charm. While all the stages, the art style, and the music are also all lovely there isn’t enough variation throughout the game, and what starts off as delightful becomes very repetitive by the time you reach the end of the game.

Yoshi’s New Island doesn’t deliver enough to be worth purchasing at full price, but if you want a decent platformer that’s enjoyable enough but ultimately forgettable once you’ve played it once, then the Selects version might be worth a go.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Yoshi’s New Island at Amazon.com

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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles

Release Date: 19 August 2011
Platform: Wii
Wii U eShop Release: 5 August 2015

I’m hardly what you could call a hardcore gamer: I’m not good at moving in a 3D environment, I don’t like big scary monsters, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of the longest games I’ve played in terms of story, and Kirby’s my personal hero, so I don’t quite know what I was thinking when I dived into a JRPG that would ultimately rob me of 90+ hours of my life, took me 5 months to finish, and left me a little crippled once the end credits rolled. I guess the fact that it was on sale and I had no real concept of what a JRPG demands of its player and that I don’t really think things through before diving into them may have been partially to blame…

But it was a helluva ride, and I enjoyed it immensely 🙂

In the beginning, there was the throw-down.

In the beginning, there was the throw-down.

The Plot

Eons ago at the dawn of creation two titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, came into existence on a world of endless ocean. The two titans engaged in a battle that was seemingly without end, until eventually they managed to strike and kill one another in a set of final devastating blows. Their corpses, locked forever in battle, became the ground on which life arose – biological life on the Bionis, mechanical life on the Mechonis.

The lifeforms on the two titans don’t like one another, and the game picks up one year after the devastating Battle of Sword Valley on the land bridge formed from the Mechonis’ sword that connects the Bionis and the Mechonis. The story follows Shulk, a young Homs from Colony 9. Shulk is a scientist investigating the Monado, a mystical weapon that was supposedly used by the Bionis itself in its battle against the Mechonis, and the only weapon in existence that can kill a Mechon (the various mechanical lifeforms from the Mechonis).

When Colony 9 suffers a Mechon invasion and a number of its inhabitants are killed, including Fiora (Shulk’s lifelong friend and mild crush), Shulk vows to get revenge on the Mechon for what they’ve done. He and his friend Reyn set off on what will become a truly epic adventure that will span the entire world, bringing them into contact with various creatures that make their home on Bionis, in an attempt to restore peace to the world and to ultimately learn why the two titans engaged in battle in the first place.

Behind its lush blue scenery lurk monsters that want to beat the crap out of you.

Behind its lush blue scenery lurk monsters that want to beat the crap out of you.

The Gameplay

Let me start this off by saying that I’m 99% sure that Xenoblade Chronicles was actually made by a coven specialising in black magic rather than actual game designers. Not because the game is particularly amazing visually, but because I can’t believe that the humble Wii could actually run this. Granted I was playing a download version that booted directly from the Wii U’s internal harddrive which would speed up load times and the like, but in terms of sheer scale and what is on offer visually it’s far and beyond anything else I’ve seen Nintendo’s last-gen system throw out.

In terms of gameplay, there’s an awful lot to learn, but thankfully everything’s introduced in a nice steady manner to get you accustomed to activities both on and off the battlefield. If you read all of the on-screen prompts that display during the game’s early stages (which I didn’t) you’ll be well prepared to take on the world of Bionis (which I wasn’t).

The first thing is your team, which is made up of three characters. To begin with you’ll have Shulk, Reyn and Fiora, but over time the party will grow and deciding which three you want as the active party will make all the difference to how battles play out. Each character has their own set of strengths and weaknesses (my usual party was Shulk, a good all-rounder, Reyn, a tank that would distract the enemy, and Sharla, who essentially acts as a medic), and these make up what are known as talents. In battle the player controls the lead character, but all three will auto-attack the enemy provided they are in range. This gives you the chance to manoeuvre around the battle field and focus on talents; these are essentially special attacks that do additional damage and have bonus effects (even more damage, status effects, etc) but take time to charge up between use. Defeating enemies will award you battle points, which can be used to level these talents up more. The more talents you use in battle the more the party gauge fills, which you can use either to activate chain attacks or to revive members that have been knocked out (I only figured this out at around the 60-hour mark).

It’s essential when picking your active party that, in the event you use a chain attack, that everyone’s talents line up with one another. Since some effects, such as dazing an enemy, require three separate moves, the party’s talents need to be complimentary in order to pull things like this off. Of course, it’s all a bit in vain when you run into an area when you’re at level 15 or so, with all the enemies being around levels 12 to 14, when suddenly a level 81 creature comes out of nowhere and promptly beats you to a pulp. Thankfully the game is forgiving in that, if you’re defeated, you’ll just be sent back to the last landmark you visited without losing any experience gained from the battle and then you can try it all over again.

Outside of battles there are also innumerable side missions to complete. The reward for these differs depending on the type of mission, be it for currency, experience or gear. Completing missions also increases affinity between the party and the area, which unlocks more missions and assists in the way your characters interact with one another.

In addition to all this is the almost endless customisation of your characters – defeated enemies and completed quests will often reward you with armour and weapons which can be used to boost your party’s stats, and a side game allows you to craft gems to attach to different pieces of the armour for further stat boosts. Again, making sure that the party is properly balanced in terms of its stats will have a huge part to play in the outcome of a battle.

Well don't you look friendly?

Well don’t you look friendly?

The Feelings

Overwhelmed, frustrated, satisfied and sad.

For people who’ve played this kind of game before Xenoblade Chronicles might not be all that and a bag of crisps, but for me it was amazing. My review doesn’t really do justice to the sheer complexity of its story, character development, and very involved gameplay. It’s an unforgiving game in that it will demand of you your time, your emotions and the bond between you and your firstborn, but if you’re prepared to give that all up it’s a game that returns the favour in spades.

The only problem now is that I find myself unable to start a new game because they don’t offer the same depth as this one, so the only option is to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles X and immerse myself in that for what will likely be the rest of 2016.

My Final Rating: 10 / 10
Buy Xenoblade Chronicles at Amazon.com

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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

LoZ Phantom Hourglass

Release Date: 19 October 2007
Platform: Nintendo DS

While I know that those of you in the North are starting to gear up for a rather bleak and miserable winter, those of us down here in the Southern Hemisphere are just starting to get re-acquainted with the sun. As Mother Nature awakens from her beauty rest I felt that I needed to bring some of that Springtime glory to my gaming, and nothing says ‘Spring’ quite like an inundated world awash with monsters.

I was so excited to play this game, primarily because it took so much bloody effort to get my hands on a copy. I remember a few years back when you could pick this up at any electronics shop for about R100 (about $7.34 or £4.80 at the moment). Now that I’m in the swing of the Legend of Zelda series I thought that there had to be a copy of it lying around somewhere in South Africa, but apparently not. On the upside the experience taught me how easy it is to buy things off eBay, and here at A World of Weird we really are all about educating people and learning through experience.

This is some RuPaul-level of shamelessly plugging a product.

This is some RuPaul-level of shamelessly plugging a product.

The Plot

Phantom Hourglass picks up right after the events of The Wind Waker, with Link and Tetra having left the Great Sea and the flooded Hyrule in search of a new land to call their own. As they’re peacefully sailing along they come across the Ghost Ship, which Tetra goes into and has her life force completely drained. Link tries to save her but falls into the ocean instead, waking up a bit later up on a little island with no idea of where he is or what happened to Tetra.

On the island Link meets Ciela, a fairy, and Oshus, Ciela’s adoptive grandfather, who explains that the Ghost Ship is essentially a proxy for another greater evil that lurks across the sea. Ciela and Oshus offer to help Link find the Ghost Ship, defeat the evil that powers it, and reunite him with Tetra. To do this Link will need the help of Captain Linebeck, a sniveling little man with a penchant for easily gained treasure.

In order to defeat the evil that lurks behind the Ghost Ship Link will need to find the Spirits of Wisdom, Courage and Power and forge a sword powerful enough to vanquish the evil that stalks the inhabitants of the various islands. He will also need to make various trips into the Temple of the Ocean King, a once vibrant place now overcome by evil that saps the very life force of anyone who dares to enter it without the protection of the Sands of Hours and the Phantom Hourglass. In the very bowels of the Temple lurks the evil that has drained the power from the Ocean King, and it is only by vanquishing this evil and returning the Ocean King to his Temple that the seas will ever know peace.

Prepare to set out on Link’s most pointy adventure yet!

Link's a little rough around the edges in this game.

Link’s a little rough around the edges in this game.

The Gameplay

I’m not a whore for graphics, but in this instance I feel that they warrant a bit of a warning. When the DS came out in 2004 it wasn’t the strongest little machine out there. Flash forward 11 years and play the game on a New Nintendo 3DS XL and you certainly aren’t helping matters. The textures are blurry and Link’s so pointy he could cut someone by simply touching them. For the most part you play the game from a top-down perspective, which is perfectly serviceable, but Phantom Hourglass truly does begin to show its age when it occasionally switches to a 3D perspective or when it plays cinematics using the in-game engine.

When I heard that the game is played using the touch screen, my first thought was “surely not everything?”. My thought was wrong. Barring a few item and menu shortcuts that are mapped to the face buttons, literally everything else is done on the touch screen. Moving, attacking, steering a boat, shooting cannons, boomeranging birds – all touch screen.

All of this makes it sound like I didn’t have any fun with the game, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The touch controls, for the most part, actually work remarkably well. Difficulty has been toned down to make allowance for the fact that the control input is now a lot simpler, but this gives way to a far more analytical type of puzzle solving. This is particularly true of the Temple of the Ocean King, which needs to be revisited several times in order to advance through the game. The Phantom Hourglass only has so much sand, giving you limited time to make it from level to level and forcing you to plan your route very carefully. Throw in the Phantoms, virtually indestructible enemies that stalk the corridors of the Temple and who not only deal enormous damage but who can also steal some of your already limited time, and you’re gonna spend a fair bit of your game time standing in a safe spot trying to map out the way forward. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but for me it’s actually the type of thing that my mind reacts best to and that I can really chew over. The ability to make notes on the different maps (be it of the ocean, the island, or the dungeon you currently find yourself in) was also incredibly useful, and something that I would love to see carried over into future games in the series.

Even the graphics in all their blurry, pointy glory are charming in their own way and help to carry The Wind Waker‘s appeal over into this handheld outing.

Young man taps three on beach. Rated M for mature audiences.

Young man taps three on beach. Rated M for mature audiences.

The Feelings

Delighted.

Given the limitations of the hardware and its non-conforming control method, it’s remarkable that this game manages to capture that sense of adventure and wonder that I so enjoyed in its predecessor. It feels like a quest, and the characters that you meet along the way are all oddly endearing so you want to help them out.

Phantom Hourglass is a game designed specifically to take advantage of everything the DS brought to the table when it launched. As some of that novelty has worn off, so too has some of Phantom Hourglass‘ appeal. It isn’t a game for the ages, but for what it set out to do it’s a remarkable little title and a worthy sequel to The Wind Waker.

My Final Rating: 7 / 10
Buy The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass at Amazon.com

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

OoT

Release Date: 17 June 2011
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

As I throw myself further and further down the rabbit hole that is the mythos and story of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I felt that it was time that I played the game that so much of the franchise’s story hinges on. Ocarina of Time is revered by Zelda die hards and, in many quarters, holds the distinguished title of the best video game ever made.

With all that in mind and a new New Nintendo 3DS in hand I decided that now was as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about. The Gods above help me if any of the aforementioned die hards read this review, but I can’t sit here and claim that this is the best video game ever made, because it’s not. It’s a good game, and the 3DS remake has done wonders to rejuvenate its aging Nintendo 64 counterpart, but it has been far surpassed in the years since it came out.

The fuck is this?

The fuck is this?

The Plot

We begin yet another jaunt through Hyrule in the very pleasant Kokiri Village, where the Great Deku tree has sent a fairy called Navi to call upon a young boy named Link. The Deku Tree has been cursed by Ganondorf, and Link must do his best to lift the curse. Successful in this endeavour but too late to actually save the tree, Link is instructed to find Princess Zelda with Navi’s help.

After some serious breaking and entering into castle grounds Link meets Zelda; she believes that Ganondorf, who is currently meeting with the King of Hyrule to pledge his allegiance, is actually after the Triforce and the attainment of god-like power. She asks Link to find the Spiritual Stones which will give him access to the Spiritual Realm where the Triforce is kept.

Spiritual Stones duly collected and an ocarina fished out of a moat, Link proceeds to the Temple of Time to activate the stones. Unfortunately as he opens the door to the Sacred Realm Ganondorf appears and takes the Triforce of Power for himself, and Link awakens seven years later to a very different world.

To defeat Ganondorf Link must wield the Master Sword, but was too young to do so when he first opened to door to the Sacred Realm. For seven years his spirit remained dormant in the Sacred Realm until he was able to take the sword and defeat Ganondorf, but he will need the help of the Seven Sages. The Sages can use their combined power to seal Ganondorf away, but unfortunately five of them do not realise that they are Sages. Link must travel back and forth through time and scour the five temples under Ganondorf’s control to free the Sages that are held captive and awaken their power if Hyrule is ever to know peace again.

The fuck is that?

The fuck is that?

The Gameplay

With the exception of when I accidentally through the 3DS across the room trying to attack something (I forgot I wasn’t playing Twilight Princess anymore, which required flicking the Wiimote to attack) the controls for this game work a treat. Different buttons perform different actions depending on the item assigned to them, with the inventory of items appearing on the lower touch screen along with maps of either Hyrule or the dungeon you happen to find yourself in. Everything else is very intuitive.

I’ve never actually played the N64 original, but I have seen plenty of videos. At the risk of being burned as a heretic the original is starting to look damn ugly – polygon graphics are only well-remembered in games for which there is nostalgia. That being said, this remaster has largely done wonders for the graphics. There is the odd exception (that particularly butch Impa being an example) where they could have put in a bit more work making things a bit less blocky and pointy, but given that this was a launch title for the 3DS I’m not going to complain too much.

Where the game starts to show its age, however, is the overworld. Hyrule Field, which acts as a central hub, is nice and big and all that, but I get the feeling it was included more as a means of showcasing the environments the N64 could pull off than for actually adding any great value to the game. The problem is that, with the exception of a few side quests, there’s really nothing to do in this huge field other than run across it to get to the place you actually need to be. It’s all fun and lovely the first time, but after the 12th time you have to run to Kakariko Village it starts to get a bit mundane.

A nice addition to this version for the uninitiated is the Sheikah Stone, which will play short videos that give you hints and clues as to what you need to do next if you get lost. I do feel that Nintendo could’ve toned Navi down a little (to borrow from the game’s Honest Trailer, she’s the sidekick equivalent of the Microsoft Paperclip), but hey ho I guess you can’t have everything.

The fuck are you?

The fuck are you?

The Feelings

Mildly let down.

I think the main issue is that I went into this game expecting far too much based on the hype that surrounds it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can believe that when this game came out it must’ve been mind-blowing: the 3D “open” world, the graphics, the story and the admittedly very good dungeons combined would have made for an unparalleled gaming experience at the time.

Unfortunately for me, it’s the ‘at the time’ that’s a problem. I have no nostalgia attached to this game, and because of that it’s age becomes more apparent. Ocarina of Time is a product of its time when you couldn’t just hop onto the internet for a walkthrough or gaming tips; instead you relied on talking to your friends and seeing what they’d discovered and exchanging hints and tips. This mentality is very apparent because some of the little side quests have nothing to indicate that they’re there and actually coming across them without the help of a walkthrough would be down entirely to chance.

This isn’t to say that this is a bad game, because it certainly isn’t. It’s just that (1) other games in the franchise have so successfully built on what it established and (2) games have come a long way since Ocarina of Time first came out that I don’t think it quite deserves to overshadow everything else the way it does in some people’s minds.

My Final Rating: 7 / 10
Buy The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess

Release Date: 8 December 2006
Platform: Wii

Given that the original Legend of Zelda came out the year before I was born there is an argument to be made that I’m a little late to the party when it comes to enjoying this particular franchise. Having finally understood what it was that made this series so much fun (thanks to The Wind Waker HD), I have gone out in search of as many of the games I can get my hands on, and am slowly catching up on 29 years’ worth of monster slaying and princess saving.

Twilight Princess is everything The Wind Waker wasn’t (as I understand it, this was the point): it’s dark, it’s gloomy, it’s sombre, it’s incredibly gripping and, towards the end, actually rather sad. It also made me accidentally throw a Wiimote across the room during a particularly difficult battle; I was perhaps a little over-enthusiastic with the motion controller and effectively knocked out the three brain cells my poor cat had, but more on that later.

If nothing else, of all Gen 6 games ported to a Gen 7 console and played through backwards compatibility on a Gen 8 machine, Twilight Princess is by far my favourite.

This doesn't concern you..

This doesn’t concern you..

The Plot

100 years have passed since the events of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask in the second of the series’ timelines. We begin our adventure in Ordon Village, where a young man named Link is about to set off on a special errand to deliver a gift to Princess Zelda in Hyrule Castle.

As it was most likely ordained Ordon is attacked while Link’s trying to negotiate the return of his horse with a very irate female. The children of Ordon are stolen and Link is knocked unconscious. He gives chase but, instead of finding children, he finds a wall of Twilight and a hellish otherworld on the other side inhabited by creatures known as Shadow Beasts, who capture Link after his body has a negative reaction to the Twilight which turns him into a wolf.

On the other side of the Twilight Link is set free by a little imp creature named Midna. She’s a sarcastic little thing that doesn’t seem overly impressed by the world of light, but she needs Link’s help so she’ll tolerate him for the time being, and the two set off to find Princess Zelda in Hyrule Castle.

Once found Zelda explains to Link that Zant, an inhabitant of the Twilight Realm, has usurped the position of king and is now determined to spread the Twilight across Hyrule. It’s up to Link and Midna to travel across Hyrule and banish the Twilight and defeat Zant before all is lost to a perpetual gloomy sundown.

You know she knows things that are important but she's not going to tell you.

You know she knows things that are important but she’s not going to tell you.

The Gameplay

Controls admittedly take a bit of getting used to. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the control scheme, but since the game was originally designed for the GameCube motion controls were a much later addition. Movement is controlled with the Wii’s nunchuck, and that’s perfectly fine. Items can be mapped to three of the d-pad’s four directions (the other being reserved for interacting with Midna). The trick comes with using weapons. For Link’s sword you have to wave the Wiimote around for him to attack, and sometimes this isn’t the most reliable. Equally unreliable are certain attacks which require you to thrust the nunchuck forward, which the game often confuses with you shaking it, in which case Link will perform an entirely different attack and whatever enemy you’re fighting will smack you around a little. Weapons such as the bow and arrow and slingshot are controlled by pointing at the TV screen to aim, which works fine most of the time. Once you get used to them the controls are fine, but given the choice I would have preferred to use a more traditional controller.

Apart from that there’s nothing here to really complain about.

The graphics are nothing to write home about now, but considering that the game was made almost a decade ago they’re holding up very well. On a larger TV things start to look a little rough around the edges, but played on a smaller TV or the GamePad none of this is noticeable.

What I particularly enjoyed was the sheer size of the game. Again, taking into account its age and its system of origin, the entire map is impressively enormous, with plenty of main story line and side quests to keep you busy for hours (I finished in around 48 hours, which for me is a lot of dedication). The dungeons have been meticulously thought out, with some puzzles being absolutely brilliant in their ability to stretch the mind or to utterly infuriate when you realise how simple the solution really was after you’ve spent 40+ minutes pushing blocks around on a frozen surface.

Midna also grows on you and is there to give you little hints if you ask her for them.

And as the years go by, our friendship will never die. You're gonna see it's our destiny. You've got a friend in me.

And as the years go by, our friendship will never die. You’re gonna see it’s our destiny. You’ve got a friend in me.

The Feelings

For one who likes his games light and colourful, this took a bit of getting used to. Scary monsters are attacking and everyone’s screeching and ominous pixels are flying and that weird imp’s criticising my ability to be a wolf and it’s all a little stressful to be honest.

Once I got beyond that though I really enjoyed just how effective this game was at being gloomy and dark, with a constant layer of sadness over everything (the ending in particular). Through that there’s also this great sense of adventure as you travel around trying to defeat evil, which can be summed up as follows:

  • We need to get the Fused Shadows!
  • YEAH! We got all the Fused Shadows!
  • Fuck! We lost the Fused Shadows!
  • We need to find the Mirror of Twilight!
  • YEAH! We found the Mirror of Twilight!
  • Fuck! The Mirror of Twilight’s broken!
  • We need to find the pieces of the Mirror of Twilight!
  • YEAH! We repaired the Mirror of Twilight!
  • Nobody else want to steal anything or find anything or break anything? Good!
  • We need to vanquish evil!

The more of these games I play the more I realise how engrossing they are, and how wonderfully fun it can be to be a hero (in a very fetching green hat).

My Final Rating: 8 / 10
Buy The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess at Amazon.com

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Game Review

 

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