Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Breath of the Wild Master Log, Entry 2


Since the last time I followed my goal of beating Vah Rudania and clearing enough Shrines around Death Mountain to claim the Master Sword.

And I have to say that Vah Rudania is certainly the most impressive Divine Beast when it comes to moving around the environment. It's not the most dangerous in the environment, however. Other than the scripted sequence, when you enter Goron City, it only shot at me one more time, when I was moving down the way to the Abandoned North Mine for a second time. With Vah Ruta and Vah Naboris you get a clear feeling that those things are causing natural disasters. Vah Rudania has the potential to be on the same level, but it doesn't really use it. Of course it would probably be annoying, if it constantly hailed molten rocks at you, but it could have been more threatening. Well, still better than Vah Medoh.

But I just love watching this thing climb around Death Mountain, it's always an amazing sight. And that's why I decided to go for all Shrines, Koroks, treasure chests and quests around Death Mountain before entering the "dungeon". This way I always had the moving titan in the background:



It was also a good idea to go to Akkala first, because I could make good use of the free Ancient Arrows that you get from Robbie, because there are two Guardian Stalkers roaming the grounds below Eldin Tower. Of course you can also get some free Ancient Arrows from Beedle around Hyrule Field, but I didn't go there yet.

The Eldin Tower is also one of the few places around Death Mountain, where you have the new floating platforms in Master Mode. It's probably because they are made of wood and would burn in the inner perimeters of Death Mountain, but so far they seem quite rare in general.


In general I also have to say that I enjoy doing the Sheikah Shrines again. I wandered around all of the landscapes many, many times and for hundreds of hours, when I was searching for all the Koroks, but I visited the insides of nearly all of the shrines only once. So, it's nice to refresh my memories here and there with the puzzles. Sometimes I'm even finding easier or at least different solutions to some of the puzzles, which is nice.

However, it also seems like they upgraded some of the Guardian Scouts in Master Mode as well. I would have to check, but I don't remember fighting three Guardian Scouts III at the end of the Shora Hah Shrine, which was near impossible for me at this time. I had to run past them carrying the torch with the blue flame. I've heard that the basic Guardian Scouts will even be completely gone after some point. Oh, joy.

Overall it seems like you can do almost all of the Shrine and Side Quests around Goron City before dealing with Vah Rudania. That's quite different from the Zora and Gerudo, but I don't mind much in this case, because it allowed me to engage in all Goron activities with the Divine Beast crawling through the background.

On a side note, I got the "Death Mountain's Secret" Side Quest this time by talking to the Goron kid named Dugby at the Hot Spring. It did appear in the Adventure Log, which during my Normal Mode run wasn't the case. There I found the stash with the Drillshaft before ever talking to Dugby, which caused a glitched behavior, where I couldn't figure out what to do. See Entry 35 of my Adventure Log.


Majora's Mountain


Again Majora's Mask has proven to be a very useful tool in my Master Mode run. For example, there were two Koroks around Death Mountain, where you have to take a stone from enemy camps to bring them to a stone circle. Normally you would cause an alarm and have a horde of monsters on your back, but not with Majora's Mask.

It was also a little helpful with the "A Brother's Roast" Shrine Quest, where you have to carry up a Rock Roast up a slope full of monsters. It doesn't help with the Keese and the Chuchus, and the Moblins will start shooting at you eventually, but it gives you a head start.


Also, with a good majority of the enemy camps you can just glide in, be safe thanks to Majora's Mask, steal the treasure and go. This only works, if the camps don't have a "Skull Chest", where you have to defeat all enemies to unlock it. But if it's any other chest you can just take it without much risk.


At least with the Kilton masks you still would have trouble in camps, where there are mixed types of enemies, like Bokoblins and Moblins. But Majora's Mask tricks all of them likewise.


Akkala Aufräumen


So, I wanted the Heart Container from Vah Rudania to be the one that completes the 13 hearts for the Master Sword. But even with all the shrines around Death Mountain done, I was still short five Spirit Orbs. And as it so happened, there were exactly five Sheikah Shrines left in the Akkala region, right in the neighborhood. Of course I could have went back to some easier areas and do some shrines there, but it felt right to complete these two areas next to each other in one swoop.

However, I was up for a little challenge with all of the remaining Akkala shrines. For starters, I needed to conquer the Lomei Labyrinth Island. It's quite rewarding, so it was certainly worth the trouble. You get the Barbarian Helmet, a Diamond Circlet and the Travel Medallion, all in one swoop. I also noticed, how you mostly run around the west half of the labyrinth to find everything, including all the treasure chests. You don't have to touch the southeast corner at all.

The basement room of the Lomei Labyrinth Island was probably the most interesting part, but I managed to grab the chests there without any real confrontation. The Travel Medallion is right below the southern exit of the labyrinth, but you can go there without awakening any Guardians. Do this first and open the chest with the Diamond Circlet afterwards, where you can just quickly escape from this hell. I used my last of the three Ancient Arrows from Robbie on the Guardian Stalker above, however, so I could get all the treasure chests in peace.

Well, the next shrine was at the Spring of Power and I thought that this was going to be the easiest, because I only needed a scale of Dinraal, who happens to fly around the north of Death Mountain. Perfect. But I forgot that the shrine wasn't a Blessing like the others, but a Major Test of Strength. Well, I can't let me stop this now, so I took on that Guardian Scout IV...


Luckily, this was one of those rooms with a water floor, where you can use Cryonis at any time to defend yourself. But the regeneration puts quite a lot of pressure at you at the end. You can't just wait too long for the right opportunity. And I had trouble parrying the consecutive laser shots at the end. I need to practice this... But it's good to know that I can take those guys on already. This step took me certainly a lot longer on my first playthrough. But this also means that I can get the full Climber's set next.

Next shrine was the hidden Ke'nai Shakah Shrine in the mining area northeast of Ploymus Mountain. When I first found this shrine, I could easily use some Bomb Arrows to open the cave. But this time I still had Vah Ruta giving me a constant shower, so Bomb Arrows were not an option and I actually had to shoot one of the many rocks with stasis in the right angle and speed. Still a lot easier than getting the second part of the Mirro Shaz right... Well, this had a Modest Test of Strength, but this was child's play after the Major Test of Strength before.

From there I made my way over the Tingle Islands to the Kah Mael Shrine. And I wonder, if it was a conscious choice to fill "Tingel Island" with the most annoying enemies in the game... Octoroks!


The last step was carrying the orb over the spiral shore. Again, this is a scenario, where Majora's Mask shines. You can just keep carrying the orb without being hassled by the Bokoblins, Moblins or the Lizalfos. The Octoroks, however, are still happy to annoy you even here. They might even draw attention to you for the other enemies... Well, for once I was happy about receiving a Blessing. Ritaag Zumo's, to be exact.


Vah Rudania Revisited


Similar to re-experiencing the shrines, it was also nice to be back in one of the Divine Beasts again. The "dungeons" are certainly underrated for what they are. Yes, they are all very similar and they are all quite short, but I still find the idea of having giant mechanical beasts as dungeons, where you can alter their state at any time, quite amazing.

And Vah Rudania is quite nice in this regard, because you can flip the entire dungeon around in 90°. It requires some good three dimensional thinking.


Naturally, I got through this dungeon a lot faster this time. Only the chest behind bars got me confused for a little while, but the spawning enemies on the outside gave it away. The boss was also much easier than expected, even with the regeneration on. It's funny, when mini-boss-like enemies like Guardian Scouts IV or Lynels give you A LOT more trouble than the regular bosses. But I suppose, this isn't the first Zelda game with this "issue".


13 Hearts to Claim it All


After completing Vah Rudania, I bought my house in Hateno, put the Boulder Breaker on its wall, finally got the Fierce Deity's Mask from the Majora's Mask Link amiibo (I usually use all the daily amiibo next to the house in Hateno) and then I claimed the Master Sword in style:


It's on, now! But I won't visit Vah Medoh anytime soon. My plan is to focus on some areas without Divine Beasts, like Faron or Mount Lanayru to collect all the things there. I also want to battle at least 10 Blue Lynels, before they grow extinct in Master Mode.

So, here's my Hero's Path for the majority of this entry:


As you can see, it's a much more defined route. I'm actually done with everything around Death Mountain except one enemy camp or so. But for the entire east half of Death Mountain one single tour was enough to cover all Koroks, locations and chests. There is little to nothing to find there. To think that on my first playthrough I climbed every single rock around the mountain... I also left my Travel Medallion back at the Deplian Badlands again. This should come in handy later on.

I'm not completely done with Akkala yet, however. There are still some Koroks left to find and some Hinox to crush. And of course there is the Tarrey Town quest, which I just have started.


Master Mode Progress:

  • Divine Beasts Freed: 1
  • Main Quests: 6/20
  • Shrine Quests: 12/42
  • Side Quests: 25/90
  • Memories: 4/23
  • Shrines: 36/136
  • Koroks: 162/900

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Breath of the Wild Master Log, Entry 1

Welcome back!

Last weekend I finally decided to start the "Master Mode" of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my Wii U. Originally I thought about waiting until I bought a Nintendo Switch, but I got in the mood for the game and didn't have anything really left to do in Normal Mode. This way I will also have the Wii U version fully completed on both modes, after I'm finished. And if Breath of the Wild is getting a sequel, I most likely will want to replay the game shortly before, which means that I will play it on Switch in the next years eventually.

So, this will continue my Adventure Log series, but with focus on replaying the game through Master Mode. It won't be as detailed as my previous logs, so I will mostly talk about the ups and downs of Master Mode, my general progress and anything that I haven't noticed during my first playthrough.

My motivation is to complete Master Mode this Spring and generally I will be playing a lot faster than before, because I know where everything is located this time and all the things I have to do. So, I won't run around aimlessly looking for Koroks for months. It will be more about planning a different route through the game to alter the experience as much as possible.


Master Mode? More like Majora's Mask Mode!


To be honest, my impression of Master Mode so far isn't really a good one. I wasn't a fan of the enemy scaling in this game to begin with, because for the longest time it feels like you aren't making any progress. You get stronger, but so do the enemies all the time. And since the enemies scale with you, it doesn't really matter where you go. Ultimately, the tiers of enemies should have grown regional, instead temporal. Much like in the first Zelda game. There should be Red and Blue Bokoblins on the Great Plateau, while Silver and Gold Bokoblins wait in Hebra. As simple as that.

With the incremented tiers in Master Mode, all it does is make me shy from conflicts, instead of embracing the fights. They put a White-Maned Lynel on the Great Plateau, so what? It makes absolutely no difference, because you just will go around it, much like with most of the enemy camps in the beginning, because fighting Black Bokoblins with a Tree Branch is suicide.

What would have made a difference, are Guardians. They actively hunt you down. But it doesn't seem like Master Mode added any of those, which is a shame, because this would have been an actual challenge. You can still beat them right in the beginning of the game, if you're good at Shield Parrying. A Pot Lid would be enough, if you have the godlike reflexes. But adding a Lynel in early territories, where you have little to no chance of beating him and where you will only run around him, isn't really that interesting.

To add to the whole avoidance of enemies, you even receive the new Majora's Mask item super early. In fact, I landed right on top of the chest, after I left the Great Plateau:


And it's quite helpful, because it keeps the more conscious enemies guessing for a while. You can wander around without becoming a target around every corner. It partially even helps with Octoroks, but not all the time. And of course the Guardians will ignore it. But it still helps quite a lot, which is why I keep wearing it most of the time. Still, it sucks that it made Kilton's shop items absolutely obsolete. In the least it should have been part of his assortment and much more expansive than the other masks. This would be more balanced and you would have to visit Akkala at first.

In addition I'm using amiibo to boost my gear. Getting good weapons and lots of food items helps, as well as some of the armor pieces, especially the Fierce Deity armor, which works the same as the Barbarian set, but is available instantly. I know that the Phantom Armor is also available early on around Hyrule Field, but I didn't want to go there yet.


Crossing off all the Things


Overall my goal is to play much more efficient, because I don't want to spend 600 hours on this game again. So, I'm using ZeldaMaps.com to cross off all the Shrines, Korok Seeds and Treasure Chests on my way.

And to be fair, if you take away the awe of exploration, playing this game feels more like a chore. You cross off things on a map and move on to the next things. Korok here, Shrine there. These things act as nice and interesting rewards for exploring everything the first time, but I don't really see the replay value, at least not for completion, because then it's just all about the completion.

I'm still not clearing all at once thanks to Master Mode. The rewards for fighting enemy camps aren't really worth the trouble, often you will loose more resources than you would gain. I will do those later for the sake of completion, but it's probably a lot more fun and resource-saving to clear them, if you have Urbosa's Fury ready, ideally the upgraded version.

Anyway, after leaving the Great Plateau I actually listened to the King this time and followed the way to Kakariko. Boring, really, but it's best to get all the basic stuff ready as early as possible, like the upgraded Sheikah Slate runes or expanding your inventory. Apropos, I completely forgot that you can actually have Hestu's Maracas as a key item in your inventory:


In Kakariko I also did all the Side Quests right away and even cleared the "Sheikah Heirloom" quest already. This one had me baffled the longest time on my first playthrough, because I was missing the "Journal of Various Worries" and with that the Side Quests that triggered the stolen heirloom sequence. But overall Side Quests are just another thing to cross off from a list, because they are completely unrewarding in this game. 50 Rupees for gathering all Cuccos in Kakariko? Come on!


Oh, Snap! No Snap!


After dealing with Kakariko I arrived Hateno and directly made the torch relay to the Ancient Tech Laboratory, where I got my Sheikah Slate upgraded save for Stasis+, because this one needs three Ancient Cores. But I got those soon after, since they aren't exactly hard to come by.


Anyway, one "quirk" for my playthrough will be NOT taking any pictures for Hyrule Compendium. With the way, how Nintendo implemented things, personal pictures are shared between Normal and Master Mode files and overwritten without any warning. So, the new Sunshroom shot that you have to take for Symin will now be displayed in my Normal Mode savegame as well... But because I put quite some effort into taking nice pictures for my original Hyrule Compendium, I don't want those to be lost.

So, I decided to completely buy all stock pictures for the entire playthrough. This would be interesting to have, anyway, but of course you can't get the stock image for the Sunshroom. I was missing Master Kohga and some Lynel weapons in my first game file, where I thought about taking the shots now, but I decided to go for the "all stock" choice now. Whenever I replay the game on Nintendo Switch, I can focus on doing "all custom" shots.

This will be quite expansive, however, it costs 36900 Rupees to buy all the current pictures from Symin... And this doesn't include the boss images yet. But since I had over 90,000 Rupees left on my Normal Mode file, it should be doable. It's just a problem early on, when you need certain pictures in your Compendium right away.

I mostly use the Sheikah Sensor+ on Treasure Chests, where luckily it's in the smallest category with only four pictures. I still had to buy all four to get the entry, but that's alright. Later on I will also need pictures of certain enemies and creatures, where you have to take photos for Side Quests, like a Red Lynel, a Blupee or the different Guardian types. I will need to buy the corresponding pictures before that... But luckily those Side Quests can wait.

(Ideally, Hyrule Compendium between Normal and Master Mode would have been shared, like in a New Game+. But this would probably have been difficult to implement, since you can restart both modes at any time.)


Following the Forest


After Kakariko and Hateno my next big goal was the Great Hyrule Forest, simply because I wanted the access to Hestu's stash expansions right away. I met him again at the Wetland Stable, where the Kaya Wan Shrine has an Ancient Core, which was helpful for getting Stasis+ on the way.

In general it's also good to pick up the Korok Mask as soon as possible, but since I'm using a map this time, it's not really needed. I think, Majora's Mask will probably replace the Korok Mask on this run. Apropos, with Majora's Mask on your face some of the dialogues in the game seem rather funny, especially in the Korok Forest:



I did the three trials of the wannabe Sheikah Monks right away, where the Test of Wood felt surprisingly easy. I just managed to use the updrafts created by the Fire Keese to fly over everything. I had more trouble with the "Lost Pilgrimage" trial this time, where you have to follow the scared, little Korok Oaki, because a Wolf spawned right at the end and attacked me, which revealed my presence to Oaki. Buttons. Apparently the wolf is part of the script, but it doesn't respawn on your second try.


Hearts and Goals


I want to do things differently in my Master Mode playthrough and in that sense I decided to do the four Divine Beasts in the opposite order of how I beat them on my first playthrough. So, the Master Mode order will look like this:

  • Vah Rudania
  • Vah Medoh
  • Vah Ruta
  • Vah Naboris

Also, I want to provoke different reactions from the NPCs as often as possible, where in my original playthrough I only brought the Master Sword to the Gorons. The other races noted that it was missing. This time I want to do it the other way around, so I will go to the Gorons before claiming the Master Sword and do the rest afterwards.

Right now I'm spending all my Spirit Orbs on Heart Containers, until I have reached the 13 hearts for the Master Sword, because I want to get it as soon as possible. Afterwards I will complete both additional Stamina Wheels, because having low stamina isn't much fun. And then I will get the rest of the Heart Containers from the Spirit Orbs.

But my next big goal for now is clearing Vah Rudania. Luckily, Death Mountain is just next to the Great Hyrule Forest, so there is no big detour from where I've already been. Exploring Death Mountain also has the advantage that you will get lots and lots of minerals, which you can sell. And I will need the Rupees.


Around to Akkala


Did I just say that there's no big detour from the Great Hyrule Forest to Death Mountain? Well, I lied. I did make my way to the Foothill Stable, where you can buy Fireproof Elixirs (something that I completely missed on my first playthrough). But from there I decided to head over to Akkala first, because it was "just around the corner" and there are some key places here, including a Great Fairy Fountain and the Akkala Tech Lab.


I also climbed the Akkala Tower, which is kind of funny, because it was my last tower the first time. I completely shied away from it then, but when you know, where to climb to avoid the Guardian Skywatchers, it's not an issue. Together with the Woodland Tower I cleared two of the most hazardous towers right away. I even found that you can climb a broken archway on top of the ruins to jump over the black goo surrounding the base of the tower. So, you don't need to bring any large metallic objects to build a bridge.

What give me more trouble was the Korok hiding under a slab in a ruined pillar of the bridge of Akkala Span. You have to remove the slab with Stasis, but it would always bounce back from the borders and hide the rock again... Kind of annoying, because it broke all of my heavy hitters at the time.


Game Plan


I'm really off to the Gorons and Vah Rudania, now. I'm kind of excited, because it's been a while that I played through one of the four Divine Beasts. This will score me an additional Heart Container, so I will only need to clear 12 more Shrines for the Master Sword. Half of those can be covered by clearing all Shrines around Death Mountain, so this should be easy enough without engaging another Divine Beast.


The only thing that I'm worried about now is the Trial of the Sword, specifically the Beginning Trials, where you have to face two Silver Lizalfos with insufficient equipment. That room seems totally unbalanced and I only hear horror stories about it and how you have to trick the AI into consecutive sneak strikes. Oh, joy... But I'm not going to do the Trial of the Sword until the very end.

Here's my current Hero's Path:


Yes, I actually died early on, after getting the Paraglider. I ran off the infamous edge at the beginning of the game in full excitement, forgetting about my limited Stamina, and then crash landed... I could have started over at this point to avoid any death marks on my map, but chances are that I might score some cheap deaths in the "One-Hit Obliterator" trial anyway. And this one might get erased eventually, though I don't plan to play over 200 hours...

By the way, I arrived at the 20 hour mark at this point. In the same time frame I could fully complete one of the Nintendo 64 Zelda games. Here I barely even got started.


Master Mode Progress:

  • Main Quests: 5/20
  • Shrine Quests: 6/42
  • Side Quests: 18/90
  • Memories: 1/23
  • Shrines: 24/136
  • Koroks: 108/900


PS: That black and red loading screen in Master Mode is absolutely atrocious and hurts the eyes. Who thought that this was a good idea...?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Breath of the Wild: Trial / Shrine Maker Concept



In my latest Future of Zelda article I mentioned the idea of a "Trial Maker" based on Breath of the Wild, which was supposed to be an alternative to a "Zelda Maker". You would slip into the role of a Sheikah Monk and build your own trials, where it's worth it to wait 10,000 years for a chosen hero to arrive and make it through your creation.

Breath of the Wild meets Super Mario Maker meets the Puzzle Creator of Portal 2 - this is probably the best way to describe it. Players will be able to create their own Sheikah Shrines, share them online and play the creations of others as Link. Let's put some more thoughts into the concept!


The Basics: Goal, Rewards & Inventory


Similar to Super Mario Maker you would need to complete your own level, before you can upload it. Here the "flag pole" would be represented by the shrine that houses the Sheikah Monk, who would give you a Spirit Orb. So, that's really it. You create trials and play trials, where you can rate the Sheikah Shrines made by others.


The Spirit Orbs earned by playing other trials could be used for some sort of progress in the game. Like in Breath of the Wild, you would be able to trade Spirit Orbs for either Heart Containers or Stamina Vessels. There would be a maximum, of course, but even if we keep it on the same level as in Breath of the Wild with 30 Heart Containers and three Stamina Wheels, you could still go for a total of 148 player created shrines (not your own), before you would have maximized everything. And Spirit Orbs as a reward would be a good incentive for you to actually try as many trials as possible.

At default the player only always has the Paraglider and the Sheikah Slate available, where a series of tutorial shrines could be used to introduce and activate the four basic runes - Bombs, Cryonis, Magnesis and Stasis - much like on the Great Plateau. Upgrades for Stasis and Bombs could be unlocked via Spirit Orbs or other means later on.

The rest of the inventory is predefined by the trial itself. So, the trial creator can hand the player a number of (already equipped) armor, weapon, bow and shield items from the start, as well as some food, similar to how it was done in the "Realm of Memories" in The Champions' Ballad. Alternatively all available items can be put into treasure chests somewhere in the trial as well.

To simplify things, the game would probably go without the materials. There's no need to collect them and the things you can do with them are rather limited, where using materials was never required to beat shrines of the main game. Armor would probably be reduced to one page, so the inventory here always only has five pages, where the need of a key item page is questionable as well.

Spirit Orbs could even be used to upgrade your weapon, bow and shield stashes in the inventory as a replacement for Korok Seeds. This probably shouldn't be exponential, where four Orbs for one slot seems fine, but the usefulness would depend heavily on trials, where you get and need many weapons. Otherwise the basic stashes should probably be enough for everything...


The Editor


Portal 2 has an excellent Puzzle Creator built into the game, which stands out with its simplicity. And since the test chambers of Portal are very similar to the Sheikah Shrines in Breath of the Wild, Nintendo could learn a lot from this tool, if they ever wanted to offer a 3D level editor of their own.

In the Puzzle Creator of Portal 2 everything is organized in a cube grid. Like with most 3D level editors you carve out a room in a space, but here you do it via cubes only, which would fit the Sheikah Shrines well enough, because often they use giant cuboid rooms as a basis. Anyway, on the grid you can then place elements like buttons, jump pads, laser emitters, turrets, stairs and more:


Some of this is even similar to what we would have in a Breath of the Wild trial creator. There would be droppers for orbs, bowls for orbs, crystal switches, bottom switches, gust emitters, Guardian enemies and even laser beams. Add treasure chests and torches on top of that and you get yourself a nice Zelda editor already.

You can connect elements, e.g. a bottom switch with a locked door, where the editor takes care of the mechanics for you. All you have to do is selecting the two elements that should be connected. Some connections might even be made automatically, e.g. while placing electric conduits.


Some features of the Sheikah Shrines from Breath of the Wild might be too complicated to be realized in such an editor, mainly the various versions of motion-controlled "Apparatus". But those were a nuisance anyway. Overall things should be kept as simple as possible.

The editor itself would be controlled with a mix of touchscreen controls and button inputs. Analog sticks could be used to turn the camera. However, this raises the question, how the game ultimately would work on a Nintendo Switch. For an editor like this, the touchscreen is a necessity, but this way the game would only be playable in handheld mode. To try a level on your TV, you would need to place the Switch back in its dock. It seems a little inconvenient. But we can also wait and see, how Nintendo will handle Super Mario Maker, if that game ever makes it to the Switch.


Survival Trials?


Technically, the "Trial of the Sword" was also just a larger shrine with many floors, where on each floor you have to defeat all enemies in order to proceed. On the one hand it could be interesting to offer something similar in a Trial Editor, but it certainly would make things already more complicated on the other hand, because you would create a series of rooms connected via travel gates, instead of one single room.


It's also questionable, whether such an editor would provide the same level of detail. This starts with creating terrains for the environments, where you don't want to have just flat surfaces. There are simple terrain editors out there, so it's still a possibility, but again it makes things more complex and would go beyond the scope of a cube grid.

At least the editor could offer certain elements from the environments like enemy towers or skull caves, which you could place according to the grid. And of course it could offer the option to add enemies other than the various types of Guardian Scouts, like Bokoblins, Moblins, Lizalfos and even Lynels.


Release


Nintendo could release this as an add-on DLC to Breath of the Wild, but it's more likely that they would release this as a separate game similar to Super Mario Maker. It could still have "Breath of the Wild" in the title, like "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Trial Creator". Or they could go with something simpler to emphasize the spin-off nature.

Anyway, if they were to release this as DLC, then Nintendo would need to update the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild as well. But they most likely would like to put the Wii U behind them as soon as possible and therefore be done with updating Breath of the Wild at some point.

A Wii U version would also bring the advantage of using a touchscreen for the editor while playing the game on TV. That's something the Switch currently can't offer, but Nintendo wouldn't want to put a superior version on the Wii U in any case.

So, ultimately this would probably turn out to be Switch only.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Skyward Sword HD: Possible Additions and Improvements


It's likely that the Nintendo Switch will see an HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword at some point. The graphics of the original Wii game would only need some upscaling to look great in HD, as proven by most screenshots in this post, while the Joy-Cons of the Switch are predestined to bring back the motion controls of this Zelda title. It's also the only 3D Zelda game before Breath of the Wild, which hasn't been remastered yet. So, Skyward Sword HD on Switch seems like a safe bet.

Like with all the previous remastered versions of 3D Zelda games - Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora's Mask 3D, The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD - there are various things that Nintendo could add or improve. And in this post we will talk about what could be done with a potential Skyward Sword HD.

A big complaint about the game was the high linearity and the segmentation of the overworld. These complaints even led to the open world development of Breath of the Wild, which became a massive success for the franchise. But this puts a new version of Skyward Sword HD in a bad place on the Switch, because the game represents the exact opposite of Breath of the Wild, where this is a major design flaw that can't really be fixed without completely changing the game... Besides this, there's still room for improvement, however, so let's go through the list:


Reduced Motion Controls


The most common request about a potential re-release of Skyward Sword is offering an optional control scheme that works with a Pro Controller and wouldn't require any motion controls. But seeing how the entire Wii game was built with motion controls in mind, this is quite unlikely. Especially the combat would be tricky, where you often have to slash in the right direction.

While the same input could be achieved with directions on analog sticks, it probably wouldn't feel right. Instead, it would most likely be one of the few Switch games like ARMS that fully utilize the Joy-Cons. Of course, if Nintendo still offered Pro Controller support, no one would probably be opposed or unhappy.


In the very least they could tone down the usage of motion controls a bit. The worst offender was probably the swimming, where there's no good reason, why Link shouldn't be controlled with an analog stick in that case. The Rickety Coaster would be another example, where alternatively you should be able to steer the mine-carts with your analog stick. And of course the flying itself could be done via analog stick and button input as well. Both should work here, so the player can simply use, what is preferred. Don't force motion controls on everything.


Fix the Recurring Treasure and Insect Messages


This was probably one of the most annoying issues with the original Wii game. Whenever you boot the game, it would reset the explanations for all treasures and insects. So, when you pick something up again, it shows you the message another time and it even goes into the collection screen, where you have to watch, how the item's counter increments. Slowly. For every single treasure and insect in the game.

Afterwards it remembers, what treasures and insects you have found, until you shut off or reset the game. This would even lead to people letting the game run, even when they weren't playing, just to avoid this annoyance for when they returned to the game later in the day.


Twilight Princess actually had a similar issue with its higher valued Rupees, but they fixed this with Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U. It's quite likely that they would fix this problem in a Skyward Sword HD as well. They might even want to do this for treasures found in treasure chests to speed things up even more.


Skipping Cutscenes from the Start


Apropos speeding things up, this is would be another simple fix to improve the game quite a bit. You should be able to skip the cutscenes in Normal Mode like you can in Hero Mode. With the remaster there certainly will be some fans, who've already beaten the Wii version before and don't need to see the story sequences again. They should also let you skip cutscenes, which weren't skippable before.


Alternatively they could also give you access to Hero Mode right from the start. However, Hero Mode in Skyward Sword works more like a "New Game+" and they might keep it this way.

In addition, skipping through text should become much faster.


Improve the Bird Statues


Skyward Sword essentially replaced a convenient warp system, where you can warp at any time on the overworld to any warp point on the map, with its flying mechanic. To switch between locations you actually have to visit the next Bird Statue, go back to the sky, drop back down to the overworld and then select the Bird Statue, where you want to be... It's inconvenient, especially when compared to the extensive and simple warp system in Breath of the Wild.


In the very least, you should be able to switch between Bird Statues within the same area without going back to the sky. Ideally you also could leave an area for "warping" at any time. Since most overworld parts are open, your Loftwing could simply pick you up at any time...


Seamless Skyloft


On the Wii switching between the sky and Skyloft required some loading from the disc. So, whenever you were flying, you weren't really seeing the real Skyloft, just a reduced dummy, where you land in designated spots after dropping down over the village.


On the Switch it should technically be possible to seamlessly switch between Skyloft and the sky at any time, as if Skyloft was any other island in the sky. And this would add a lot to the immersion.


Trial Cave


Skyward Sword has a Hero Mode and Skyward Sword also has the Lightning Round, where you can replay bosses and Silent Realms. What the game doesn't have is a trial cave (survival dungeon), which became a staple in the series as well. The Den of Trials in Tri Force Heroes, the Cave of Shadows in Twilight Princess HD or the Trial of the Sword in Breath of the Wild - Nintendo added such trial caves as DLC / add-on features to the last three Zelda releases. And they might as well keep doing this with Skyward Sword HD.


It would be an interesting challenge, because fighting foes with motion controls can be a tough job. Fighting waves of enemies is also something that the game doesn't really offer outside of the Lightning Round, where you can fight all bosses in a row. You get a taste for it in parts of the Sky Keep, but a trial cave would become much more intense.

They could let us access such a dungeon at the Isle of Songs in the Thunderhead, where you could enter it in a similar style to the Silent Realms or the Trial of the Sword in Breath of the Wild. The difference would be that you keep your Master Sword and all your equipment in here.

By putting you in some "spiritual trial", they could combine assets of all the existing areas. They could even use this to re-create that Moldarach battle in a forest cave:


This was part of the E3 2010 demo, where the overworld of Faron Woods in itself was supposed to be a dungeon. Nintendo dropped this idea, after adding temple-like dungeons, and Moldarach became exclusive to the Lanayru Desert. In such a trial everything would be possible, however, so we could go back to this scenario, where Link fights the giant scorpion in a different place.


Night Time Exploration


By now we should know that Nintendo doesn't really like adding new environments and dungeons to their remasters. There were the new Fishing Holes in Majora's Mask 3D and the Cave of Shadows in Twilight Princess HD, but that's really it. Most of the work usually goes in the new games, not the remasters.

But in case of Skyward Sword they could offer a whole new level of exploration to the game with simple adjustments. Just let us fly at night! The original game even teased the ability, because it shows you that the Knights of Skyloft can fly at night by equipping their Loftwings with headlights. So, quite some players assumed that they would get one of their own at some point in the game, which never happened. The game completely betrays your expectations here.

The HD remaster could fix that. Just let the player go anywhere at night. All they would need to do is to change the skybox and the lighting in the different areas and dungeons and we're good to go already. Of course revisiting all the areas without daylight alone probably wouldn't be all too interesting. There needs to be an incentive to explore at night.

One thing that they could add everywhere at night are Poe Souls, similar to Twilight Princess. The difference would be that there's no time limit in hunting them, since the night wouldn't end, before you go back to a bed. The game even has a similar enemy in the Silent Realms already, which they could remodel and re-use for this purpose:


Collecting Poe Souls would result in some new late-game rewards. It could be new, powerful Medals, it could be access to the Trial Cave, it could be something new entirely.

The surface at night should also be a lot more dangerous. More enemies and tougher enemies running around, which you normally wouldn't find at day, like Stalfos. Especially the latter were way too rare in the actual game. And since you rarely ever meet any NPCs on the surface anyway, only few adjustments would have to be made to implement such a scenario.

To an extent this would even fix the issue, where the game lacks optional parts on the overworld. Exploring at night would be entirely optional and might even lead to a few surprises. Of course this would probably only be possible very late in the game, maybe even after completing the Song of the Hero, so it doesn't interfere with existing cutscenes and events. For this you would acquire a headlight item from Instructor Horwell some time after mastering the Spiral Charge, maybe even after completing the Gratitude Crystal quest, where things become safer at night on Skyloft.


Add more Medals


The Medals were a great feature, where you could place them in your Adventure Mode for some bonus abilities. But it felt vastly underdeveloped, because you could only find 10 Medals in the game in total with three of them being duplicates. It was quite disappointing.


Back in the day, this blog already provided a list of ideas for medals with many possible abilities based on the Rings from Oracle of Ages & Seasons or similar buffs in the series. They just could go wild here. There's no real limit to adding Medals in a remaster other than the space in the Item Check. But even that could be expanded accordingly.

New Medals could also be a reward for completing the new Trial Cave or hunting down Poe Souls.


amiibo Support


With a total of 22 Zelda amiibo "available" (eight in the Zelda series, nine Breath of the Wild amiibo and five in the Super Smash Bros. series), it's quite likely that Skyward Sword HD will receive amiibo support, much like Twilight Princess HD. A Link amiibo based on Skyward Sword even exists already. They might also release some more amiibo based on the game: Link on his Loftwing, Zelda, Impa, Ghirahim or Demise seem like good candidates for new amiibo figurines.

The ingame support would most likely be as basic as in Twilight Princess HD. Refill your Arrows and Bombs with any Link amiibo, refill your hearts with any Zelda amiibo and increase the taken damage with any villain amiibo like Ganondorf. In addition the amiibo could drop goods like in Breath of the Wild, where you could get the various treasures and maybe even spawn insects. Some amiibo could also unlock (exclusive) Medals.


Turn off Fi


Probably the most important improvement that they could offer is an option to reduce or entirely turn off any Fi notifications. The game also shouldn't force you into Dowsing mode, any time you receive a new target.


...


Conclusion


There's 99% probability that a potential Skyward Sword HD could turn out to be quite alright, if Nintendo were to add some basic features and do some fine-tuning. Upscale the graphics, fix some issues, add more options, add amiibo support, add a trial cave dungeon, add new Medals and done is the next Zelda title on Switch. If Nintendo wants to go one step further, they could also let us explore the entire world at night for an actual new experience.


Source of HD screenshots

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Skyward Sword HD @ E3 2018?


Following the fake rumors from today with a more than obvious E3 line-up for Nintendo, I have to say that I like the idea of bringing Skyward Sword HD to the Switch already this year. It's on my list of potential Zelda game for Nintendo Switch that would act as a filler, until the sequel to Breath of the Wild gets released. It might seem a little early, because the game will be only seven years old in November, but on the other hand Nintendo could keep riding the current Zelda hype wave and this one would be the easiest to make.

Such a remaster could be in the works at Tantalus right now, as we speak. Do some texture work, tweak some things, add some features and ready is the next Zelda title for Switch... Together with the Definitive Edition of Hyrule Warriors they would get all the port and remaster stuff out of the way, where from 2019 on we could expect new things for Zelda on the Switch.

This could also lead to a Special Edition Nintendo Switch bundle, similar to the Limited Edition of the Wii U that came with the Wind Waker HD, which would be perfect for me, since I'm still waiting for such an incentive to purchase a Switch. Skyward Sword HD would most likely focus on Joycon-powered motion controls and here it would make sense to offer a system with golden Joycons, which would be reminiscent of the golden Wiimote that came with the original version of the game. It would be nice to have and finally a reason to buy a Switch for all Zelda fans, who are still "happy" with their Wii U.

I have also a list of ideas what could be improved in a HD remaster, but more on that later.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition - Level 4+ Dual-Elemental Weapons!

This week's Famitsu magazine has another article on Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch and the official Japanese website for the game was opened. There are two interesting images in all of this, which indicate new stuff. The first one was an artwork of Zelda with the Sheikah Slate, but there's also a screenshot with new content:



This screenshot shows that not only the 4+ dual elemental will be in this version as well, they will get new looks and there will also be variants for previous DLC weapons, like Linkle's Shining Boots in this case. So, there's already more new stuff!


8-Bit Weapons?


For the sake of completeness they should also bring back the 8-Bit weapons and put them at least on par with the level 4 weapons. They could even add more 8-Bit weapons based on classic The Legend of Zelda items that originally didn't make it into Hyrule Warriors as weapons, like the Blue Ring, Potions, the Letter and so on. The Blue Ring could go to Wizzro, while Tingle could get 8-Bit Rupee Balloons for example.


Balance


Also, in the previous Famitsu, producer Yosuke Hayashi shared a message with the fans, where he said the following (source):

We’ve tuned the game for Nintendo Switch, upgraded the graphics to full HD, and adjusted the balance so that the game becomes easier to play.

Even easier? The Nintendo 3DS version already was pretty good, most of the Adventure Mode was balanced towards level 99, instead of 255, which was a good thing and made playing through everything much more enjoyable, because less grinding was needed.

But hopefully they will make similar adjustments to Ganon's and Cucco's Fury modes. Those have been extremely unbalanced and take an eternity of dull grinding to complete. Ideally it will be also scaled towards level 99. In fact this version could simply set the level cap back to 99, but they probably won't do this, because this seemingly is supposed to have all the things from the previous versions.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition - Sheikah Slate Weapon?

This week's Famitsu magazine has another article on Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch and the official Japanese website for the game was opened. There are two interesting images in all of this, which indicate new stuff. This is about the first one.

There's an artwork of the new Breath of the Wild costumes, where the one for Zelda shows her with the Sheikah Slate:


Most likely this is just a reference to her original artwork from Breath of the Wild, because they share the exact same pose:


But the Breath of the Wild artworks always gave me the idea for new Hyrule Warriors characters, especially with the Champions and their weapons. And if Breath of the Wild Zelda was her own character, the Sheikah Slate is the weapon type that I would give her. So, it's a possibility, but if the Sheikah Slate is not in this edition, Hyrule Warriors 2 will most likely introduce it as a new weapon.

I could see it as either Lightning or Water type, where the moveset uses Bombs, Magnesis and Cryonis to blow away enemies. I guess, it would be somewhat similar to Ravio's moveset, where he also uses Bombs and Ice Rod to attack in many ways, with a little bit of Twili Midna in there, where Magnesis would probably summon metallic objects out of nowhere to smash enemies with it. For the winning pose, Zelda could even use the camera and do a selfie.