Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Zelda on Smartphone: Thoughts & Ideas

This year in May there were rumors about an upcoming Smartphone Zelda game. And the more I thought about the possibility, the more I grew excited about it. Unlike my Nintendo 3DS, which I mostly play at home, I use my smartphone quite often on the go, where a real mobile Zelda experience seems quite appealing by now.

Looking at both Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, we can get some ideas of what Nintendo could and should do (differently) with a Smartphone Zelda title.

Controls and Playstyle

Unlike the smartphone titles that Nintendo has developed so far, Zelda would probably utilize a horizontal playstyle in landscape mode, where you hold your phone sideways with one hand and play with the index finger of the other hand. The classic Zelda topdown perspective is best suited for this. Imagine something like in the following mock-up:


The touch controls would be almost identical to the Nintendo DS Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. Link follows your finger around the environment, where moving your finger along the border will scroll. You can interact with anything by tapping on it: tap an enemy to attack it, tap a treasure chest to open it or tap a sign to read it. Simple as that.

You can use items by tapping on the icon in the top right corner of the screen. Link will then stand still and the game lets you utilize the item via the touchscreen, e.g. aiming and shooting with a bow. The menu in the bottom right corner will let you switch items, view the map or your inventory. These icons may move into the opposite corner for lefties.

So, this isn't exactly new, but it has worked quite well on the Nintendo DS and can give us a proper Zelda experience on the phone. There's no need to alter or simplify the core gameplay of Zelda to make it work on a smartphone, unlike what they did with Super Mario and Fire Emblem.


Anthology Game

While the core gameplay would be classic topdown Zelda empowered by familiar touch controls, this shouldn't be just one classic Zelda game, where you make one playthrough and be done with it. Of course Nintendo could release a classic Zelda title in the size of Link's Awakening or A Link Between Worlds on smart devices, where you pay once, beat the game and that's it. However, this ultimately wouldn't be very satisfying on the long run. In times of DLC it's nice to get some new content on a more regular basis. It would even fit the free-to-play concepts better, which Nintendo is trying to use on smartphones.

How would this look like? There's one central Zelda title available on mobile devices, which they could call something like The Legend of Zelda: Tales from Hyrule or The Legend of Zelda: Ever Adventures or whatever. This hub game then gives access to smaller, individual Zelda episodes, where a new one gets released every few months.

One episode would basically be a small Zelda game with a normal overworld, a small story, about four dungeons and a few items. In each episode Link could be send to a different kingdom / country to help, similar to how it's done in the Oracle games. In fact this would become what Capcom originally had envisioned on the GameBoy Color, where they wanted to release six individual Zelda games one after another with a couple months between them.

Each episode could become completely different in tone, like one game that takes entirely place in some dark and scary country, where you have to defeat its evil lord. Items would also be different from game to game, so in one game you might get the Hookshot, while the other offers you the Boomerang instead. It's all about the variety and always having something to look forward to in the near future. Maybe there is even a bigger story that looms over all the games and that gets uncovered, if you play it all.

You would get the first "game" for free and if you want to play any of the future episodes, you will have to purchase them. Some progress would be shared between the games, e.g. certain items that you can use everywhere or a global Rupee balance. This could be used to unlock things that you normally wouldn't be able to access.


Multiplayer and Rewards

The nature of such a title would even allow for multiplayer-centric episodes, where you play with other people, similar to Four Swords or Tri Force Heroes. Here you would buy individual level packs that support certain player counts, though they should probably keep it dynamic between one and four players to avoid the inconveniences that Tri Force Heroes had.

One thing they probably could keep from Tri Force Heroes, though, are the outfits, because they would make an excellent reward that gets shared over all the games, both singleplayer and multiplayer. So, while Link might lose everything else on his journeys, he will always bring his wardrobe, where you can get the typical benefits. Maybe the outfits are even split up like in Breath of the Wild, where you could chose different headpieces and maybe even boots (probably not the latter, though).

My Nintendo then could be used to unlock special outfits or to get treasures and Rupees for buying outfits, if you're too impatient to actually collect enough in the game.

With a multiplayer in place, there also should be an arena mode for battling other players. Similar to the singleplayer episodes, there could be new levels released from time to time in both the coop multiplayer and the arena.


Conclusion

This might seem like a lot at first, but the idea really is to give the Zelda fans something more byte-sized in quick succession, instead of waiting for a new game for years. We already got a taste of that with all the DLC for both Hyrule Warriors and Breath of the Wild, but the 2D Zelda style should make it a lot easier for Nintendo to continuously produce new content and keep the Zelda fans out there excited.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Metroid Fusion Revisited


Another month, another Metroid.

To prepare for Samus' Return on the Nintendo 3DS, I decided to play through the major 2D Metroid games on the Wii U Virtual Console again. After Zero Mission in June and Super Metroid in July, it was now the turn of Metroid Fusion, the last one on my list. (I've skipped the first Metroid game, because I don't like it that much and it's not as fleshed out as the others.)

And out of the three, I probably enjoyed replaying Metroid Fusion the most! It's been many years that I've played through the game and I remembered it to be much harder, but playing through Hard Mode in Zero Mission probably prepared me on a level, where the game gave me little trouble. The European and North American versions of the game also don't have a Hard Mode or a Gallery, so it's already much easier to complete than Zero Mission. Similar to Super Metroid, I only went for one 100% run here.


The bosses can be still quite tough, though... But I like, how they are done in this game. They are usually the main goals, but not in some artificial way, where defeating the bosses destroys some statue or gives you some key item. Here they are direct targets, because they are either causing trouble on the BSL station or they provide you with a necessary power-up or both.

The X-Cores at the end of each boss fight could be annoying, but they really made me master all the boss fights in the game. There are no close calls allowed here, because you still have to face the X-Core at the end, which can give you quite some trouble, especially early on. But of course you can master this part of the boss fights as well.

Overall, I enjoy, how this game plays quite a lot, probably the best out of the 2D Metroids. The controls are spot on and collecting the X has a nice vibe to it, while the power-ups all really feel powerful, especially all the beam upgrades.

I also like very much, how the Missiles are upgraded to Super Missiles, because this streamlines everything much more. In both Super Metroid and Zero Mission you would have to switch between missile types, while Super Missiles were the real deal. You want to use Super Missiles in boss fights, because normal missiles are too weak. And often you are grinding for Super Missiles during boss fights... Metroid Fusion bypasses all this nonsense by simply turning them into an upgrade.


Of course the big downside of this game is the high linearity, always sending you from A to B, even closing doors right behind you.

At the end this shocked me a little, because I was missing a few items before the final boss. I then went back to a Restore Point to get them. One was a Power Bomb near the "Ridley Freezer" on the Main Deck and to get back there I had to go all the way over Level 2 and the Reactor Core. I also missed an Energy Tank on the Main Deck, right above the first boss, but luckily you could still get there via Screw Attack.

But I still ended up with only 98%, because I thought that 70 Power Bombs is the maximum (74 really is a weird number for one), so I was missing two of them in Level 5. Anyway, that's when I learned that you can freely explore the entire station after you've beaten the final boss. It even shows on the map, where you're still missing items and how many there are, similar to a New Game+ in Zero Mission. I didn't know that! I always thought that you have to be very careful not to miss anything, before you go to the final boss...

In a way this is similar to Other M, just without the added Phantoon fight. And both games certainly share many similarities, where Other M copied many of the concepts. I also think that Other M plays and feels very nice, but suffered mostly from the high linearity. But Metroid Fusion certainly has the better story of the two, leaving only a sequel to be desired...


See you next mission...?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hyrule Warriors Legends: My Fairy Still Incomplete

I'm on vacation right now and brought my Nintendo 3DS with me, where last week at a Zelda fan meeting I was able to get the "Circle of Friends" Medal in Hyrule Warriors - Legends. This brought me back into the game for now, where other than completing Legend Mode on "Hero" difficulty I mostly just have grinding left to do.

Part of that is the new "My Fairy" feature, where I wanted to get at least one fairy with all skills unlocked. My motivation is quite low, however, and to a certain degree that's because Nintendo / Koei Tecmo never bothered with fully offering everything there is. Or does anyone outside of Japan actually have the following costume...?


No? Me neither. And that's bugging me, because I would really like to use it on my developed fire fairy, since most fire outfits don't look as nice.

Together with Link's Classic Tunic, there were four sets of My Fairy Clothing only available as rewards in special offers, e.g. as a preorder bonus. This was over a year ago and today Nintendo could offer these as a reward on My Nintendo. There are hardly any worthwhile rewards available anyway and these gifts were originally received as download codes, so it would work pretty well.

Other than that Koei Tecmo started adding new fairy designs, including the following beauty:


They only did so for the elements Light, Darkness and Water. But they never bothered with adding new fairies for the elements Fire and Lightning... Those could have been retroactively placed on any Adventure Map, but we never saw any more updates. And at this point it's doubtful that Koei Tecmo would provide another update for the game. They are busy with Fire Emblem Warriors right now and probably are going to work on Hyrule Warriors 2 afterwards.

But in the very least Nintendo should offer the missing clothing via My Nintendo.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Update 1.3.1 Released

Nintendo released an update for Breath of the Wild today, which does fix the Medal of Honor Glitch caused by the first DLC. According to this, they also fixed a "world reset glitch" that was possibly thanks to the Trial of the Sword.

Additionally, the News channel of the Nintendo Switch will provide "Tips from the Wild" for the game, where you can receive items, if you launch the game from the channel. This is starting tomorrow, August 9th.

It's nice to see that Nintendo fixed the Kilton bug in Master Mode already, instead of waiting for the next big DLC update, but I'm afraid they only did this, because they wanted to get this news channel feature out now. I'm a little bit worried that this feature will include exclusive items, because I don't have a Switch yet, but I think it will probably just give you food items or certain weapons in the game, which you can obtain otherwise.

They didn't fix the issue with the Hyrule Compendium picture overwrite between Normal Mode and Master Mode and I somehow doubt that they will fix this, because this is probably intentional to save memory... In the very least they fixed the glitch, which was holding me back from starting Master Mode.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Super Metroid Revisited


In anticipation of Samus Returns, I'm currently (re)playing several Metroid games. After Zero Mission, I continued on the Wii U Virtual Console and played through Super Metroid again.

Super Metroid was my first Metroid game, when I discovered the franchise for myself in 2008. It's even the game that made me chose the nickname "TourianTourist", some time before opening this blog. And since then it always has been one of my favorite Metroid games next to the Metroid Prime Trilogy, where I've also beaten the game a couple of times now. But after replaying the game now, it doesn't feel like it can live up to all that.

It's still a very good game, don't get me wrong, but it feels a little dated now, where most of the issues lie in its controls, especially after playing Zero Mission and seeing Samus Returns. The input seems to be quite stiff. It starts with the Wall Jumps that behave somewhat differently than in other games. You have to press into the direction and then press the jump button like a split seconds afterwards. If you press both at the same time, it doesn't work. And every time I play this game, it takes some time to get used to this again.

But it's still not as bad as the Grapple Beam. This item has some really awkward handling and probably the "stiffest" input in the game. It's just not fun to use this item. This goes so far that one time I played through Super Metroid without using the Grapple Beam at all. I did the entirety of Maridia with Wall Jumps, because it worked much better for me than the Grapple Beam. And that's saying something.

In addition there are some things in Super Metroid that are simply inconvenient. One is the item select, where you have to go through a list of five items with some of them even being situational. Both Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission streamlined this more by using the R button to toggle between Beam and Missiles, as well as Bombs and Power Bombs in Morphball Mode. Much better! They also got rid of the Grapple Beam and the X-Ray Scope. And I'm a little worried, how well switching items and beams in Samus Returns will work. From the looks of it, you have to use the touchscreen quite a lot...

Another issue is the map, where you can only view your current area. When I arrived at the end, I was missing three Missile Expansions, so I wanted to compare my map with item location maps on in the internet. But for this I still had to travel through each area individually, where again I thought that Teleport Stations will be the best addition to the franchise since the ledge grab (which is also absent from Super Metroid, since it was introduced in Fusion).

With all of this in mind, I wouldn't be surprised, if this game follows Samus Returns and receives a proper remake in the future, maybe even on the Switch. With that Nintendo would be remaking the Metroid classics in order, which makes a lot of sense. It probably wouldn't be necessary for Metroid Fusion, though, and at some point Nintendo should make a proper Metroid 5, instead of doing remakes.

Anyway, I still enjoy this game quite a lot. The music and atmosphere are absolutely great, all areas have a distinct feel to them and offer maze-like exploration. I usually enjoy the Brinstar area the most and the Wrecked Ship the least, where I kind of lost motivation around this part. Even though Super Metroid only takes around 3 to 5 ingame hours to beat, where you could do it in one evening, it took me several weekends to fully beat this game... It wasn't as exciting as it used to be.


At least the game keeps it simple, because you don't have to beat it six times under different conditions to unlock all endings. Overall the game is much easier than Zero Mission, which is especially noticeable with the bosses. I guess, in case of Ridley the Super Metroid version actually is a little more difficult, but the Kraid and Mother Brain fights are much, much easier, when compared to the GBA game. On the other hand Super Metroid doesn't hold your hand as much, where you have to find out on your own, where you can progress, while Zero Mission keeps giving you directions all the time.


Collecting all the items isn't as insane as it was in Zero Mission as well. There are no ridiculous Shine Spark stunts required and it's mostly about finding all the hidden secrets. Still, to get 100% under 3 hours certainly takes some practice and planning, because it's easy to miss a Missile Expansion here and there.

I would try this as well, but currently my time is somewhat limited. Before Samus Returns gets released, I also want to play through Metroid Fusion on the Wii U Virtual Console. And I'm also currently playing through Metroid Prime: Federation Force with some friends, where we're having a blast. But more about this later on.

The next two months certainly will be Metroid-heavy!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns - amiibo Functionality Revealed


The four different Metroid amiibo will have two different functions in Metroid: Samus Returns. Ingame they will offer you Reserve Tanks and other cheats:

  • Samus (Smash Bros.): Missile Reserve Tank
  • Zero Suit Samus (Smash Bros.): Energy Reserve Tank
  • Samus: Aeion Reserve Tank
  • Metroid: reveals nearest Metroid location

It's not known, if there are any limitations to this, e.g. if you can keep replenishing the Reserve Tanks or if this only works once per day like almost all amiibo in Breath of the Wild. But considering that those are supposed to be Reserve Tanks, where you most likely won't be able to scan the amiibo in the middle of a fight, you can probably just keep filling the Reserve Tanks, whenever you're out of danger.

In addition the amiibo unlock new features within the main menu, after you've completed the game once:

  • Samus amiibo (Smash Bros.): Concept Art Gallery
  • Zero Suit Samus (Smash Bros.): Sound Test
  • Samus: Metroid II Art Gallery
  • Metroid: Fusion Mode

Fusion Mode is a higher difficulty like Hard Mode or Hype Mode, but you're wearing the Fusion Suit from Metroid Fusion, which also used to be a feature in Metroid Prime, if you linked the game with Metroid Fusion (or purchased it in the Extras Gallery of the Metroid Prime Trilogy).

However, all of this leaves a sour taste. The cheats are fine and seem like typical amiibo behavior these days, but unlocking galleries and higher difficulties always used to be something that you did by beating a Metroid game, which is still a requirement here. But now you will also have to track down and scan figurines to do this, which feels like a rip-off. Both amiibo and DLC shouldn't lock existing content in a game, they should add to the experience in another way...


Source: Nintendo.co.uk

Twilight Princess Manga, Parts 1 & 2


I got these last weekend and it's been a while, since I've read the other Zelda manga. It was in 2011, where I bought all ten previous books from the German publisher Tokyopop and it wasn't even on my radar that the first two Twilight Princess volumes were released in Germany already. But Tokyopop did a solid job at keeping it consistent with what I bought six years ago. Only the red unicorn icon (which stood for "fantasy") on the spine is now gone, which placed the author name and Triforce icon lower. The "Zelda" logo on the cover also doesn't have such a strong relief anymore, but otherwise it's quite uniform. I suppose that if you would buy reprints of the other Zelda manga today, they all would be completely consistent.

The content features the typical Akira Himekawa filigreed interpretation of a Zelda game, but it feels closer to the actual game than usual. The very beginning reminded me somewhat of A Link to the Past with an evil figure that resembled Agahnim and a story about the Light World and the Shadow World. Afterwards you are immediately introduced to the true Midna and you get a panel like this:


Shamed be he who thinks evil of it.

This certainly set the mood... And the manga even has a few brutal scenes, like Ilya being shot by an arrow and Link losing an arm, after it got cut off by King Bulblin. I don't remember the other Zelda manga being this dark and bloody. But the rating of the game was even, why the manga wasn't originally published in 2006, because the magazine containing the Zelda stories was aimed at grade schoolers (source). Now, ten years later Akira Himekawa returned to the task and apparently had more freedom with it.

What's also unusual is the length. All other Zelda manga by Akira Himekawa were concluded after one or two volumes. Volume 2 of Twilight Princess brings Link to the point, where he finds the first Fused Shadow. Volume 1 mostly focuses on Ordon Village, while Volume 2 is about Wolf Link meeting Midna and Zelda. At this rate it might take a couple more volumes to tell the story, where apparently four volumes are planned in total. But as already said, they are staying a little closer to the source material, save for the more graphic content.

Of course they don't have Link exploring dungeons (the Forest Temple mostly revolves around the cursed Ook and the monkey tribe) and Link talks like usual, where I found his character not as likeable in the beginning, because he only seemed to care about food and Rupees, while he then blames himself for all the misfortunes around him. They even gave him some weird backstory, where he originally came from a desert town that seemingly got destroyed, because he removed some sword from a rock, which wasn't the Master Sword, but connected to the Hero's Spirit...

There was a nice detail, where they had many souls of the soldiers in the canals below Hyrule Castle (Town). The GDC 2005 Trailer of the game did feature them there in high numbers also, but they weren't as present in the actual game.

Anyway, I'm curious to see, where this will be going. However, this might take a while, because Volume 3 so far is only available in Japan and Volume 4 isn't available yet at all.