Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Four Swords, Round 5

Another round of Four Swords with Rob, we tried to get Hero's Keys both in the Sea of Trees and Death Mountain. Sea of Trees went smoothly except for the annoying Manhandla boss, however, collecting 5000 Rupees in Death Mountain seems to be a very challenging task. Even with Rupee Fever this is already getting very close, but there's stuff that can hurt you everywhere to disrupt your Rupee Fever. Lava pits, hot steam and fire all over the place. And instead of grass you have to cut fire, which can also hurt you. It's really important that you stay patient and DO NOT open any treasure chests without Rupee Fever. Rob did so in some occasions and I'd say otherwise we could have made it, we had about 3800 Rupees at the end... considering that we already struggled to get the 3000 Rupees last time in Death Mountain this is quite good. To make things worse the game spawned Red Rupee Likes all the time. If there's no second player near you, they will cost you a lot of Rupees.

However, this is the last time, where we will ever have to collect enough Rupees again. In Vaati's Palace you only collect Rupees to pay for deaths, which is relaxing, since you don't die that often anymore. So, only Death Mountain stays in the way of my fully finished Four Swords file.

In the Sea of Trees right after the goal on the 2nd floor we had a second closed door. However, we couldn't find a second key anywhere. Maybe we've overlooked something, but we really looked in every corner. Or we were supposed to take a second key from the previous floor, but I'm not sure if you can do that and we also cleared all of the 1st floor. Or maybe it was a bug in the dungeon generating... but since we already had 5000 Rupees at that point, we didn't really bother.

And today was my first encounter with Darknuts in this game! They look differently from The Minish Cap, but they use the same movements. I didn't even have the chance to defeat them, though I was using my mega cool Hurricane Spin Attack, which always worked wonders on Darknuts in The Minish Cap. But they vanished before I could kill them. There are mostly no pre-placed enemies in this game like you would normally have in a Zelda game, but here the game randomly spawns enemies in the area near you. But they also vanish after a short time to avoid that there are too many enemies at once.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zelda II joins Ambassador Program

It looks like Zelda II will be one of the 10 NES titles, that ambassadors get to download for free at the 3DS eShop. It's good to see, that The Legend of Zelda never gets re-released without its younger brother at its side, it would have been the first time. Both were available on the Collector's Edition, both were part of the NES Classics series for the GameBoy Advance and both were released on the Wii's Virtual Console.

It's still interesting, because neither Super Mario Bros. 2 nor 3 will be available, so you might think that the 25th Anniversary of Zelda has a finger in this pie. On the other hand Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 also weren't part of the NES Classics series, while Zelda II was... but I wouldn't be surprised, if The Minish Cap will be part of the 10 GBA games, that the ambassadors are getting.

And I still think that re-releasing NES games on the 3DS is a stretch. I mean, how many copies of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II do I have to buy? I already bought those games three times and in case of The Legend of Zelda I also own the NES original... I think I deserve to get to download both games for free by now. I know, I'm an idiot to keep buying the same games over and over again, noone forces me to do that. But in the end it's still Zelda and I will always get all available Zelda games for all my systems, even if it's just for the sake of having a complete collection. But I've downloaded both games already for the Wii Virtual Console and I've got a Nintendo account, where all my purchases are registered. There Nintendo can clearly see that I already own both the VC and GBA versions of both games and there's no reason, why I should pay for the 3DS VC versions again. And I still think it would look better, if the 3DS VC had focused on GameBoy games and not on games that were already re-released many times... but it's not that big of a deal.

Ah yeah, Metroid will be also part of the 10 NES games.

Source: Zelda Dungeon

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four Swords, Round 4

It's time to fully beat this beast. It's getting harder to convince my friends to join me in a game of Four Swords and I even have to play the "you're doing me a favor with this"-card by now, but the goal is getting closer. And as soon as I've beaten Vaati in the highest level, I will be done with this game. Probably forever, unless I'll get to know some dedicated Zelda fan in the future, who also enjoys playing this. But I'm primarily doing this right now to get the "I've beaten and 100%ed all Zelda games" bragging rights and after that I will be satisfied. And I have to say that the fact, that I can't play this game whenever I want, that I'm dependent on a 2nd player, really annoys me. Zelda is after all a singleplayer game. But otherwise playing Four Swords wouldn't be such a big deal for me and I would have beaten the game already eight years ago.

Well, today I only played one dungeon together with Rob. The dungeon was Talus Cave and this was our first Hero's Key. Getting the 5000 Rupees went surprisingly well, even though we screwed the first level up. There were multiple locked doors and only one key and I used the key on the door, that would immediatly lead you to the goal. That way we skipped a part of the level, where more Rupees would have been waiting. But we were focusing on having Rupee Fever all the time and that way we gathered enough before the boss. What really helped was diving, on the second level there was water and in Four Swords usually every water block got one Rupee. That's not much, but if you got an entire lake and dive through every spot you can gather a good amount of Rupees, especially if Rupee Fever is on.

The boss in Talus Cave, the Delu Zoll, interestingly used a new technique this time. It made itself invisible to one player and only the other one could see it. Later it would make itself invisible to all players and you could only guess where the boss was by the dust it was whirling up.

So, only one dungeon today and only one key. But that's still one step closer to a 100% completion of Four Swords and every single step counts. Until next time.

Skyward Sword Limited Edition Announced

OMFG... this looks awesome. And most importantly... it's GOLDEN! Yeah, baby, Zelda games used to be all golden back in the days. Golden package, golden cartridge, Zelda used to be the golden game. And it's nice that Nintendo brings this back.

And not only does this include the golden WiimotePlus, it also comes with the previously announced 25th Anniversary Symphony Orchestra CD! That's a nice deal and really handy, I thought I would need to look for that one separately. I love this, thanks Nintendo! So far it was only announced for the US, but I hope that we in Europe will get this, too. I'll be the first to preorder this baby.

And here are some more pictures of the Golden Wiimote Plus:

It looks good with the white, originally I was thinking about adding a black Nunchuk, but I guess it looks better with a white one.

Update: the price is 69,99$, about 20$ more than the regular game, for a Wiimote and a CD this seems fair.

Update2: This is also coming to Europe, yay.

Update3: The regular version of the game will also contain the symphony CD in its first edition. This is called "Special Edition".

Source: Facebook

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aonuma Nintendo Power August 2011 Interview

“I really think [having two screens is] one of the most exciting features of the system. Unlike the Nintendo DS, there’s distance between the television and you and your other screen. That really allows for some different interactions, some of which you saw [at E3]. For example, imagine having the contents of Link’s satchel available to you on the screen of your controller, and using elements of the pouch to interact with gameplay on the television.”

“With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, we had the Nunchuck and Wii Remote sort of stand in for the sword and shield that Link carries. But in a game for the Wii U, I can definitely see something like the controller itself becoming the different items that Link is using, allowing you to interact with the game world and with the game items in a very different way.”

This sounds a little bit different from before, where he wasn't sure how the new controller will incorporate with Wii MotionPlus and Nunchuk, which seems like the best way to play Zelda. And from what I've seen about Skyward Sword, which already features quick item selection and intuitive controls, I honestly wouldn't know what they want to use the tablet for or why they would want to abandon the Wiimote and Nunchuk. Note how he's using past tense there, as if the WiiU Zelda wouldn't use the Wiimote and Nunchuck. But the WiiU doesn't look good and now all developers at Nintendo probably have to be "excited" about it to calm down investors. They probably think it's better to damage Skyward Sword by saying that MotionPlus still isn't the best way to experience Zelda, instead of damaging the WiiU by saying that Zelda won't really use the tablet.

I can imagine different ways how the WiiU controller could be used for the Zelda franchise, but only for side games, re-releases and gimmicks, not the next big Zelda game. Something like the Tingle Tuner would be possible. It also could be used for a 2D Zelda game, something like Four Swords. Or a port of The Wind Waker could utilize this thing in many ways. But I don't see a reason why they should abandon the MotionPlus after Skyward Sword. For me the MotionPlus controls are the most exciting thing about this game. And I wouldn't want to put sword and shield, which is what MotionPlus and Nunchuk represent, down to do... what exactly? I mean, what item could the tablet possibly represent? The only thing it really could represent is a map, but like I said, that's more Tingle Tunger material. And except for Tingle Tuner style coop there's no way that you could both use Skyward Sword's controls and the tablet simultaniously in a game. It's either sword and shield or the tablet and I really would prefer the sword and shield.

Source: Nintendo Everything (via Zelda Informer)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Treasure and Ship Part Values

I played Phantom Hourglass three times now and each time I got quite different values for my treasures and ship parts. I thought I should share and analyze it.

Well, there are four different values a specific treasure or a ship part might have - 50, 150, 800 or 1500 Rupees. Those are randomly chosen when your savegame is created with a certain balance between common and rare treasures / ship parts. Those with a value of 50 or 150 Rupees are considered to be common and those with a value of 800 or 1500 Rupees are considered to be rare. Note that the Regal Ring and the Golden Ship Parts will always have a value of 1500 Rupees and therefore always belong to the rarest treasures / ship parts. The values of the other treasures and ship parts are randomly chosen and shuffled to encourage trading between different players. You can trade online or in local multiplayer using the Freedle and the Contact Mode. A ship part that is "a trifle" in your savefile, might be very rare and valueable in someone's other file.

In most locations you will get a common treasure or ship part more often than a rare one, naturally. However, there are certain spots in the game, where it's more likely to get something rare like a Golden Ship Part. For example scoring more than 2000 points in the archery minigame gives you rarer ship parts. Or when you replay the Temple of the Ocean King two treasure chests will appear at the end and their value is determined with how many time you've got left on the clock (it's possible to beat the dungeon with full 25 minutes in the hourglass, see my guide).

So much about the theory, here's my list of values. Each ship part in a set will have the same value and the values of the sets are the same of the treasures in order. So, for example all parts of the Demon Ship will have the same value as the Goron Amber.

1st game:

Pink Coral / Bright Parts: 50
White Pearl Loop / Iron Parts: 50
Black Pearl Loop / Stone Parts: 50
Zora Scale / Vintage Parts: 150
Goron Amber / Demon Parts: 150
Ruto Crown / Tropical Parts: 1500
Helmaroc Feather / Tourist Parts: 800

2nd game:

Pink Coral / Bright Parts: 150
White Pearl Loop / Iron Parts: 50
Black Pearl Loop / Stone Parts: 800
Zora Scale / Vintage Parts: 150
Goron Amber / Demon Parts: 150
Ruto Crown / Tropical Parts: 50
Helmaroc Feather / Tourist Parts: 800

3rd game:

Pink Coral / Bright Parts: 1500
White Pearl Loop / Iron Parts: 50
Black Pearl Loop / Stone Parts: 800
Zora Scale / Vintage Parts: 800
Goron Amber / Demon Parts: 50
Ruto Crown / Tropical Parts: 50
Helmaroc Feather / Tourist Parts: 50

I prefer the first one actually, mainly because the values grow in order, which looks nice. Except for the Tropical and Tourist set, if those two were switched, it would be perfect. But overall I like it. The 2nd one didn't have anything worth 1500 Rupees next to the golden stuff and it took me very long to collect all 64 Ship Parts in this one. A common treasure worth 50 Rupees was missing at the end and it took me forever to get it. The 3rd game was quite interesting, because it doesn't feature any stuff worth 150 Rupees, but two things in the 800s and two things in the 1500s. So, half of the sets and treasures were considered to be rare. I made a lot of money selling treasures and duplicate ship parts in this savegame, money that I could easily spent on buying all expensive items at the shops and more ship parts for my collection. This might have been the most valueable set up and it could be, that collecting all ship parts might be easier with such prices, but I never tried, the savegame was on a rented copy and I never finished all sidequests there. And I didn't like that there wasn't anything in the 150 Rupee category.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Replaying Phantom Hourglass

I admit that I'm really overdoing it with all the replaying lately. It all started innocently last December, when I decided to play through Spirit Tracks again. More and more games would follow and there's no turning back now. I do this to celebrate the 25th Anniversary and to prepare for Skyward Sword, which will be released this November. By now only few games are left and one of them was Phantom Hourglass.

However, replaying it proved to be a rather problematic case. The issue was, that the cartridge only got two savegames instead of the usual three. It's one of three Zelda games to do this, the other ones being Majora's Mask and Spirit Tracks. In case of Majora's Mask that never really was a problem. Deleting a savegame there doesn't hurt much and I also got three different copies of the game (N64, Collector's Edition and Virtual Console), so that's six savegames alltogether (even more if I use multiple memory and SD cards). But in case of Phantom Hourglass I only got this one copy and I already used both savegames, both of them with a lot of "personality" in them. It might sound strange, but I didn't want to delete either one of them. See, the first savegame was my first playthrough. It still got lots and lots of notes on the maps, for example a nice sketch of the Uncharted Island, solutions to puzzles, paths of the Phantoms, locations of all red and golden pots in the Temple of the Ocean King or sometimes just funny comments. These are all memories of my first time playing the game and that's not something you want to delete. During my second playthrough I wouldn't take much notes and usually delete them afterwards. But in my second savegame I got this huuuuuge ship part collection. I was down to one last part but I couldn't get it (the Tropical Prow, only worth 50 Rupees, lol). So I kept collecting and collecting and collecting until I finally got it. And until then I would gather tons of ship parts, more than half of them are in the double digits. And that's also something you wouldn't want to delete. Not to mention the fact, that both savegames are 100% ones - and especially collecting all 64 ship parts is so much work, you don't want to delete such a file, because otherwise would have to do it all over again.

So, what did I do? The solution was pretty simple, I just rented the game. It sounds stupid to rent a game, which you already own, but it only cost me 2 Euro and this had three main advantages. First of all, I could replay the game without having to delete my old savegames. And because I wasn't going to keep the new savegame anyway, I didn't have to bother with the 100% again, I would just return to my completely finished savegames and enjoy them.

Like in my previous playthrough of Phantom Hourglass I tried getting both the 3rd and the 4th Seachart in the same run. And it turned out to be quite challenging, I got caught by Phantoms multiple times, which costs you 30 seconds with every hit. Without Bombchus and the Grappling Hook you're missing vital shortcuts and you have to spend quite some time outside of Save Zones. When I reached the 13th Bottom Floor I would only have 40 seconds left on my clock! That was a close one. Normally I could beat the dungeon with a full hourglass at the end, 25:00 Best Time. But as challenging this might have been, it's also very rewarding. After this both the 3rd and the 4th sea are fully open to you, you can visit all the islands and play all three Temples in any order you want. And the best thing, you don't have to return to the Ocean King Temple until the end of the game, where you already got the Phantom Sword and the temple gets easy. Usually people complain about having to return to the Ocean King Temple so many times, but with this strategy you avoid one visit and you can play three normal dungeons in a row, that's the entire second half of the game. This really adds to the replay value of Phantom Hourglass.

What also adds to the replay value is the non-linearity of the game's second half. There are six different orders of the temples and naturally I tried a different one this time. I would go for the Ice Temple first, because the Grappling Hook is very useful on many islands. Then I would go for Mutoh's Temple, the Hammer makes fighting much easier, especially in the Goron Temple, which I would play last. It's these kind of options which made the early Zelda games fun and I like it that Phantom Hourglass isn't so linear as the rest of the modern Zelda games.

And I have to say that it was overall much more fun than replaying Spirit Tracks. If you go into a Zelda forum you normally will get the opinion that Phantom Hourglass is the worst Zelda game ever. This game gets a lot of hate from the community. But I have to admit that I don't agree with this, I really like the game despite its flaws like the easy dungeons or the random collectibles. When the game came out I really praised it, even ranked it Top 5 of my Zelda charts. I wouldn't go as far today, but I still enjoy the challenge of the Ocean King Temple, I think the game has a unique charm even with the minimalist music tracks and I like the collectibles, especially the Spirit Gem abilities and the customization of your ship. In my recent Phantom Hourglass vs. Spirit Tracks article I said that I consider both games to be equally good or bad, but after this replay I would say that I like Phantom Hourglass more. Well, at least it got the higher replay value, mainly because the game isn't plagued by slow train travelling. The boat goes slow as well, yes, but you can warp and that way you can reach every place within a minute. Replaying Spirit Tracks took me days because going from A to B takes forever. Phantom Hourglass on the other hand went smoothly, I was able to beat this game within two days including most of the sidequests.

I also have to add that the bosses in Phantom Hourglass are much more fun, I enjoyed battling all of them, while I hated some of the bosses in Spirit Tracks. This game should have a boss rush mode like Spirit Tracks does, it would be much more fun.

And it really felt like a relief, that when picking up a Boss Key no Key Masters would appear. The adrenaline was already rushing through my body, but then all I had to do was carrying the key to the goal without any trouble. While I despise the lack of challenge, I really, really hate the Key Masters in Spirit Tracks (and Zant's Hands in Twilight Princess) and I was glad, that Phantom Hourglass didn't have them. Also, Phantom Eyes do not respawn here, that was also a big relief.

And the Ghost Ship gets really easy, if you know what switches and treasure chests to avoid. Only one Reapling will patrol the ship, the other ones won't appear, which makes the dungeon much easier.

The only thing that really annoyed me was Jolene. She would ambush me so many times, that Linebeck actually ran out of money. She would always come for me. But at the end of the game, where she finally wants a final confrontation, she wouldn't show up.... I had to travel through all four seas to finally meet her. But she is by far not as annoying as the Dark Trains in Spirit Tracks for example.

What I really love about Phantom Hourglass are the Spirit Gems and their related abilities. The red and blue ones are basically your optional sword and shield upgrades, each Zelda game should have something like it. And they are similar to the Red and Blue Mail in Link's Awakening DX or the Red and Blue Ring from the Oracles. You can only chose one, but you also have a third option here with the Sword Beam. I think it's a nice system and collecting Spirit Gems is fun too, because they can be found everywhere. It's not like in Spirit Tracks, where most collectibles like the bunnies are bound to the train travelling and their positions are too predictable.

And I'm always impressed by the Isle of Ruins, I guess it's already a preview of what we can expect from Skyward Sword, where the overworld is said to be one giant dungeon. It's also something that Spirit Tracks doesn't have, most stations there are very small and you access the dungeons directly with your train.

Renting the game also came with some disadvantages. When I rent something, I always want to return it as fast as possible, so I really rushed through the game and also missed quite some Spirit Gems and Treasure Maps on my way, which I normally wouldn't. However, there was no point in collecting every item anyway, because I wasn't keeping the file. But I'm that kind of Zelda player, who always tries to get everything, that's just how I play Zelda games and it's also the reason why I never would do a Three Heart Run. So, I still went for the sidequests except for the ones that involved random factors like collecting ship parts and fishing. And as soon as you start collecting Spirit Gems and what not else you get invested. You're investing time in completing this savegame, but then you have to give it away. I really had to pull the break and return the game as soon as the credits rolled...

Overall I would say that the replay value of Phantom Hourglass is certainly not bad, definitely better than Spirit Tracks. However, my judgement was clouded by the fact that I didn't have to collect all 64 Ship Parts again. By the time the credits rolled I collected 24 of 64 Ship Parts not counting any duplicates (and I got quite of them), that's not even half. And collecting all parts again would have taken forever in a boring and repetitive process of playing the archery minigame and the Temple of the Ocean King over and over again... that was one peace of work and I'm glad I didn't have to do it again during this replay. An option where I could transfer Ship Parts from one savegame to the other would have been nice. Because that way I could have transferred all the Ship Parts from my second savegame to the first, delete the second savegame for my replay and then transfer the Ship Parts back. That would have been nice and save me the trouble of ever collecting Ship Parts again or renting the game.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Replaying BS Zelda Map1 & Map2

After replaying The Legend of Zelda I thought it was only natural to also try the BS-X remake for another time. After all I also replayed Ancient Stone Tablets right after A Link to the Past, so here we go. Actually I hoped that there were some new developments after I've played the game the last time for my "BS Zelda Tour" in 2009. But this wasn't the case, the game was mostly the same as two years ago. I guess the guys from the BS Zelda Homepage already did their best to make their restored version of the game as original as possible. And we can't thank them enough for making it possible for all Zelda fans out there to experience these lost tales of the Zelda saga.

This time I swapped genders, I used the girl for playing Map 1 and the boy for playing Map 2. It's nothing special, I just did for the sake of having some variety.

Well, after playing Zelda I just yesterday the collision detection of the BS-X remake felt a little "off". You get hit easily if you're too close to an enemy, but the stabbing of the sword doesn't have a wide range, so you have to get close... I got quite some problems to adept and even died two times in the first dungeon. I never died while replaying Zelda I. And while got used to fighting Darknuts there, they gave me a lot of trouble again in the BS Zelda version.

What I loved on the other hand was switching items by using the L and R buttons. Really cool feature, it's much better than having to go into the menu each time you want to change your item.

But what sucks are the waiting times. Well, you have 50 minutes per episode and each episode covers two dungeons. But believe, the 50 minutes are more than enough for veteran players, you should never get into time trouble, actually you have plenty of time left that you will spend with waiting for the next event or episode. Sometimes I would just grab something to eat or surf in Zelda Universe Forums, while the game ran in the background. Or I used the time to harvest some Rupees. At the end of the first episode, there's a power up, where every killed enemy would leave a fairy or if you got full health a blue Rupee. That felt like Rupee Fever from Four Swords and was ideal to stock up as much money as possible, because in the second episode you would have to buy the Blue Candle and the Blue Bracelet, the latter one being rather expensive. The enemies respawn every time you reenter the screen and while this can be very annoying in dungeons, it's very cool during "Rupee Fever". There is also a power up that gives you infinite bombs and I would spent the time playing Bomberman with Oktoroks.

What also sucks are the announcements from the old man. They would pop up, fill the whole screen and they won't go away for at least 30 seconds. It interrupts the game and the BS Zelda team should have made them skipable by pressing a goddamn button.

Having four different maps for the same game basically gets a little confusing after a while... especially when you play the games one after another. You would think at a certain place you can bomb a wall to reveal a hidden cave, but as it turns out that was only in the 1st Quest of TLoZ, or only in the 2nd Quest or only in the BS Zelda game, but definitely not in the game which you're currently playing...

Well, I told you all you need to know about the BS Zelda games in my BS Zelda Tour. So, I suggest to check out the articles from 2009, they're really cool. But replaying this game wasn't all too satisfying, I just did it for the sake of completion mostly.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Replaying the Zelda NES Classics

You can say what you want, but I'm proud of myself. While I have replayed most Zelda games this year by now, I originally didn't want to play the NES Classics again. Not much fun I thought. But I'm glad I did it anyway, because of all my replays this has been the most rewarding so far. I've still got it and that feels great.

I played both games on my Wii Virtual Console, I had started to play both games when I downloaded them, but I never got to finish them. Originally I thought the only way I ever could beat Zelda II again was using an emulator with quick saves and maybe cheat codes. So, I'm really proud that I could beat this monster of game again without any help. But after I got the Hammer, the game went down quite smoothly actually. Even the Blue Iron Knuckles, which would give me nightmares in the past, didn't gave me much trouble. Probably the toughest enemy later in the game would be pits. Because unlike in all other Zelda games, if you fall down a pit, you won't just loose a heart, it's an instant death. And Link gets knocked back easily, later in the game there are some tricky parts, where enemy would try to fuck you up by pushing you into a pit, after you jumped over it.

My strategy for both Zelda II and the also quite tough 2nd Quest of The Legend of Zelda is gearing up as early as possible. Getting optional items and additional Heart Containers early or in case of Zelda II leveling up as fast as possible. In the dungeons I would only go for the item and leave the rest of the dungeon for later. In the 2nd Quest this only works with the last three dungeons, there you would get the Stepladder, Red Candle and Magic Wand very early. So, I would go to these dungeons early in the game to get an advantage for the other dungeons. In Zelda II, however, going for the items and not for the boss is a common strategy. It really helps, what you basically do is saving all six bosses until you're down to the last six levels. Because delivering a crystal gives you an auto level up, so you don't have to get ridiculous amounts of EXP to max your levels. Leveling up is something you're not used to in a Zelda game, but in Zelda II it's really the difference between life and death. For example I had big troubles with Death Mountain at first, but after adding some levels it got much easier. You really feel how you're getting stronger in this game and by now I could go through Death Mountain without a single scratch.

For me personally the NES Classic Zeldas focus on two things: exploration and getting stronger. And the difficulty is respectively based on maze-like dungeon design and fighting. While the games are very primitive by nature and miss a lot of elements, that make modern Zelda games great, these are essential aspects, which I would like to see getting more focus in the Zelda series again. And honestly Skyward Sword looks like a start here, it really focuses more on combat and it's said to feature non-linear exploration. But I doubt that we will get massive maze-like dungeon structures.

I really started to like the combat in Zelda II. You would always face one tough enemy at a time and it would feel like an epic duel. Unlike the enemies in Zelda I the tough guys would come right for you. You grow with every encounter and you get better and better in fighting. Replaying Zelda II really brought back my appreciation, no my love for this game. Beating Zelda II again was really an accomplishment for me and quite a rewarding feeling, though the game basically lacks everything I like about modern Zelda. But I can't believe how could write something like this not a long time ago...

Fighting in Zelda I actually wasn't as much fun. In the 2nd Quest you basically would just get tons of rooms filled with lots of nasty enemies, like Blue Wizzrobes, Red Bubbles (those steal your sword fuckin permanently!!! I just hate these things), Like Likes and Darknuts, who would all run around aimlessly being hard to dodge. I'd rather fight one of the Blue Bird Knights in Zelda II than going into a room filled with that crap... but whatever. What makes the 2nd Quest also very challenging is that the Letter is guarded by Lynels. That's my milestone for this game, after you got some Potions it's getting easier. And this basically has to happen before you enter any of the dungeons. But I've already beaten the later dungeons of 2nd Quest last fall (finished my unfinished GBA version), so overall it was not as a big deal as Zelda II.

About the other big aspect of the NES Classics, the maze-like dungeons, I'll admit that I sometimes used maps for navigation to beat the games again. And that's basically like using a guide for these games. It makes it significantly easier, if you plan a route beforehand, because you don't run aimlessly into dead ends. In Zelda II it's called "dead end", because you die (much like it's called "Death Mountain", because you die there)... going for the shortest route saves you many unnecessary encounters that just eat your health away. But anyway, since I'm not playing the games for the first time, I thought it's okay to use the stuff from VGmaps. Because after all I should be able to remember the dungeons anyway (I remember the layouts of most dungeons from all the other Zelda games, but these are mostly simpler...) and in some cases I even did. For example I still remembered the route through the Great Palace. But especially the later dungeons of the 2nd Quest are really crazy with those walls, where you can simply walk through, one way doorways and tunnels. Those dungeons are still very tricky even if you use a map on your computer while playing. You can really got lost there. Try getting lost in one of the dungeons of Twilight Princess. And I really appreciate the unconventional dungeon design of the 2nd Quest. For example the boss can appear somewhere in the middle of the dungeon or there might be something hidden behind the Triforce room.

What I noticed during replaying the 2nd Quest was that playing the Flute opens a lot of hidden caves. It doesn't do that in the 1st Quest. However, some Zelda games would later adopt this feature, namely Ocarina of Time with the Song of Storms that might open hidden grottos and Spirit Tracks with the Song of Discovery.

At the ending of Zelda II the first thing I wondered was... "how the hell did Link get back to North Castle so fast? Ah wait, he probably just killed himself..." Anyway... good stuff, I can only repeat myself by saying that replaying Zelda II was tough, but really rewarding.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Heart Pieces in Skyward Sword

It's funny that no one reported this during E3, but there's actually a Piece of Heart hidden in the E3 demo dungeon, that now happened to be found in some Gamescom coverage. It's in that large round room, there's a switch on top of the center room, where the Beedle Upgrade is hidden, that removes some bars to an alcove with a treasure chest inside. But just watch for yourself.

You need four pieces to assemble a new Heart Container. And I have to say that I'm disappointed. And not because it's not five pieces, like some people would want. I would prefer full additional Heart Containers instead. Like in the NES Classics. Or the Nintendo DS Zelda games, just not hidden so obviously in minigames and shops. An extra Heart Container should be really hidden and it should feel rewarding to get one. You really should be in need of them, especially early in the game. But that doesn't happen anymore. Zelda fans are making "Three Heart Runs", because that's the only challenge they'll get from the new games. You don't need any extra Heart Containers and collecting 40 or more Pieces of Heart is not a rewarding activity. I want the space for more interesting collectible items. Something where collecting actually feels rewarding.

Source: Zelda Informer

Friday, August 19, 2011

Zelda at Gamescom 2011

Actually I wanted to go to the Gamescom, but none of my friends wanted to join me and going alone there sucks... but seeing the recent images from Kotaku makes me regret my descision.

There are basically two huge walls devoted to the 25th Anniversary. One shows the history of the franchise and on the other one you can post your best wishes for the franchise on a birthday card. The wall got already covered yesterday and it certainly looks impressive.

However, the waiting line for Skyward Sword was supposed to be quite long, two hours waiting time to play the demo from the E3 (we always get the demo from the E3). And that was on a Thursday, where mostly people who live by would visit the convention. I was going to visit the Gamescom tomorrow, where people from all Germany would come...

Originally the German Games Convention used to take place in Leipzig. That's only two hours from here and I definitely would have gone there, alone or with company, doesn't matter. But Cologne is on the other side of the country and going there takes quite some time and money... I really hate that they took the Games Convention away from Leipzig.

25th Anniversary eShop section

The eShop today got a section dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Zelda. It contains the following:
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
  • Make Your Own Zelda Flipnote Video
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Commercial
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Post-Launch Trailer
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Video
  • Zelda Williams at E3 Interview
  • Zelda 25th Anniversary: E3 Developers Interview

Well, I don't like the fact that Wii doesn't get some 25th Anniversary channel, but on the other hand this doesn't look like I'm missing much.

I wonder if Link's Awakening DX and Four Swords will be the end for this year's line of downloadable Zelda titles. I mean they could also add the Oracle games to the Virtual Console. And what happened to the Game & Watch Zelda game? They remade lots of Game & Watch games as DSiWare, but not the Zelda one. I mean, they wanted something Zelda for DSiWare and because of that they even will give you Four Swords for free. Why not also add the Game & Watch Zelda?

Source: Nintendo Everything (via Zelda Universe)

Fanmade Skyward Sword Boxart

Probably from the same guy who did this 3DS bundle boxart comes this fancy Skyward Sword artwork. I still hate how the artist likes to add a "The" before the title. It's "Skyward Sword", not "The Skyward Sword". And overall it looks more like a box for a Final Fantasy game and not a Zelda game. I still like it though.

What's really important here is that the box looks like something epic, something magical. Zelda games used to be epic adventures in the past and the adventure would already start with unboxing the game. It featured some epic artwork on the box (the sword and shield from the Zelda NES Classics for example), the box included a map of Hyrule and the manual would feature lots of beautiful artwork and descriptions for all enemies and items. That was something! What do you get today? A recycling box with a small sheet for the basics. That's it. And that's an insult to the Zelda series. Zelda needs to be the epic game that everyone wants to play again and it already starts with boxes that scream "omg buy me".

Source: Go Nintendo (via Zelda Informer)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Four Swords, Round 3

Third evening in a row with Four Swords goodness. Den came over and we got the final Golden Key from Death Mountain and we defeated Vaati a second time.

At the entrance of Vaati's Palace there's now a new sequence, where you chose which door to open based on your keys. And while the three normal stages didn't feel like they got harder, the golden level of Vaati's Palace did. The first floor got a moving platform that moved around the entire area and on which you would have to dodge obstacles. There where eye switches everywhere and you needed to hit them while standing on the moving platform and dodging the obstacles. Took us some time and many falls to get that done. And the second floor/level actually was a forest stage, where we got raped by Moblins. It sometimes happens, that enemies corner you and just kill you by collision damage. While fighting Vaati I got frozen at the center of the stage, Vaati would place himself there and just kill me that by continuous damage from collision. And that sucked...

Ah yeah, when we first played Vaati's Palace, there was Bow-Wow from Link's Awakening as an item. You can take him for walkies by pressing A and put him back again. He eats enemies and attacks the other players, they don't lose health but they will drop some of their Rupees, so you can steal them. It's really fun to annoy everyone with this item.

I have a suggestion for the DSiWare port. Namely adding more unlockable sword techniques. You could use the Medals of Courage to unlock more than just the Hurricane Spin Attack. Like the Peril Beam for example. But what I really want is the "Rock Breaker" technique from The Minish Cap. The one that lets you destroy pots and rocks by swinging your sword. That would be handy in Four Swords, because right now you have to lift every single pot and rock up and throw them, which takes quite some time, because there are so many of them and you want to check everyone for Rupees and other items... they could also make it so that collecting two Razor Seeds gives you this ability. You would lose it at the end of the stage, but it would be a good reason to look for Razor Seeds.

So, I just checked the golden level of Vaati's Palace again and I started right in a tough Death Mountain area. So it seems not only the templates but the entire setting is randomly chosen each time in "Vaati's Palace L-2". I guess L-3, after you got all Hero's Keys, with its 12 floors will be the ultimate level then, where anything can happen. And by now I can confirm, that all three bosses actually got an advance form after getting all three Silver Keys. In case of Hot Head he only takes more shots and you have to play the ball more often. That's probably why I could beat him easily alone when playing for the first time.

And I am really impressed by the large number of different level templates for all the stages. The game manages to surprise me again and again with crazy new setups. It really adds to the replay value and makes hunting for the Golden and Hero Keys more enjoyable.

Accomplishment of the day was finally getting 10 Medals of Courage. I've also already beaten the Riddle Quest (guess, I could have saved me the trouble the other day) again. But now I can use the nice Hurricane Spin Attack in Four Swords.

Skyward Sword Release Date

We have a date, baby! 18th November, European stores. That's three months from now. Can't wait. US stores get the game two days later on November 20th. Also, Zelda Four Swords (DSiWare) is still scheduled for next month and Metroid II - Return of Samus was announced for 3DS Virtual Console.

Source: Nintendo Life

Four Swords, Round 2

Played Four Swords again this evening. This time not with Den, but with another buddy, let's call him "Rob". It surprised me, that he wanted to play this game, because he's more the guy who would bash Zelda games, but the more I get to play Four Swords the better. We've played four stages, but only got two of the Golden Keys... and I also failed to get one of the Golden Keys yesterday with Den.

The results were very different. For the Golden Keys you need 3000 Rupees per stage. And it really happened to me twice now, that we would get about 2950 Rupees. That was really frustrating, you basically played the stage for nothing. Well, nothing except the Medal of Courage. Talking about that, I got nine of these by now. Only one more to go! But it can really depend on the levels, that you get. Some generated areas give you tons of rupees, others don't. One time we would get only 2000 Rupees, the other time about 8000. Playing the same stage.

What really helps is the so called Rupee Fever. If all players have full hearts, you will get double Rupees. The very annoying Rupee Wraiths (that's a ghost, who looks like the one who haunts Gregal in The Minish Cap and who drops your Rupees) can even be abused during Rupee Fever, the Rupees you drop will double if you recollect them. The same goes for Black Rupees. So, as soon as one player gets hurt we would focus on getting his health back to max. So, you need to work together more in the Golden Quest and I guess it gets even more intense in the Hero's Quest, where you need 5000 Rupees per stage. For example right now when you see a bush you would cut it, but you really need to save some for restoring health...

While the stages remained mostly the same concering the difficulty, the bosses definitely got tougher. Manhandla would grow more heads who shoot seeds at you and the Delu Zol would create three fakes (similar to Agahnim in Oracle of Seasons, the real one has a shadow). Hot Head didn't seem to become tougher though... I don't know, it also might be, that we've beaten the Delu Zol during the Silver Quest fast enough so that he wouldn't create the fakes and the number of heads Manhandla spawns might be random. I'll see.

Well, it was fun, hopefully more to come soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nintendo Selects Twilight Princess in Europe

The first badge of the "Nintendo Selects" budget titles didn't include Twilight Princess unlike in the US and I was disappointed about this. However, next month both Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy will be available for a lower price in Europe as well. Nice.

The first for games are sold for 25€ in my local retail store. I was hoping for 20, but it's still a good price... if you haven't gotten the Wii version of Twilight Princess yet, I would take this into consideration.

It should be noted that Nintendo puts this under the 25th Anniversary banner. From the press release:

This year Nintendo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda video game series and in celebration of this has selected The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to join its Nintendo Selects range. [...] Fans or newcomers to The Legend of Zelda series of games should keep an eye out as additional 25th anniversary activities will be announced throughout 2011.

Source: Nintendo Life

Replaying the Palace of the Four Sword

Sometimes your memory plays tricks on you. So, it's a good thing that I'm currently replaying all Zelda games to refresh my memories and get my facts straight. For example I remembered the bonus dungeons made by Capcom, the Hero's Caves in the Oracle saga and the "Palace of the Four Sword" in the GBA version of A Link to the Past, to be way harder than they actually are.

Or maybe I just got tougher. Especially playing Zelda II again lately probably toughened me up. Well, after beating Four Swords yesterday the Palace of the Four Sword finally became accessible and I used this as a opportunity to replay the dungeon. I originally played the dungeon only one time using the jump-with-mirror-and-go-through-walls-glitch to enter it on a different save file. That was a little bit inconvinient, because you couldn't come and leave as you please, but it worked.

And back then the bosses gave me a hard time. Especially Arrghus II was tricky, the electric Bari can be dangerous if you're not very careful. However, this time around Arrghus II felt like the easiest of the bunch. Mothula II and Blind II were also not a problem. Only Helmasaur King II and the four Shadow Links were still able to deal quite some damage. I used three Blue Potions and I abused the Cane of Byrna a lot, so my performance was still pathetic actually. But to enter the Palace of the Four Sword you have to beat both A Link to the Past and Four Swords and at that point you're definitely fully geared up and I'm not hesitating to use everything in my power.

But the bosses are the only highlight of the dungeon. The rooms before the bosses were mostly a no-brainer.

It's interesting how storywise this dungeon basically connects to Four Swords Adventures. In my theory FSA covers the Imprisoning War, however, there not the Master Sword but the Four Sword was used to seal Ganon away in the Dark Realm. But the backstory of the Master Sword got changed anyway... Well, at some point Ganon broke the seal and he split the Four Sword and cursed it by creating Dark Links guarding it, so no one could ever use it again to ban him. That's what you then get inside the Pyramid in the Palace of the Four Sword. And what you basically do is restoring the blade, though you don't get to use it, because the game ends at that point.

Beaten Four Swords

Yayyyyyy...! At last. From this day on I can finally say, that I've beaten all Zelda games in existence. (Well, except Ocarina of Time 3D for now, but that's just a matter of time, can't avoid the 3DS forever... or can I? But I got the game and I will eventually play it someday.) But this evening I finally had the chance to blast through Four Swords. So, how did I get the chance to play it? To make a long story short, I just asked one of my buddies. It's as simple as that. My buddy, let's call him "Den" for now, is more a PC gamer, but I've played quite some games with him in coop including New SMB Wii and Unreal Tournament 3, so we were already a good team. He doesn't have any Nintendo systems except for the SNES and he never played any Zelda games except for A Link to the Past, but that's fine. None of my friends actually play Zelda, otherwise I would probably have beaten Four Swords already...

Well, I have two GameBoy Advance systems, I got one cheap on ebay some time ago as well as a second copy of A Link to the Past: Four Swords. Primarily because I wanted to try both Four Swords and the multiplayer features of Four Swords Adventures. You can play alone by trying to use both GameBoy Advance systems simultaneously. In case of Four Swords it's even easier when you use the GameBoy Player. And actually I've managed to beat both Talus Cave and Death Mountain that way... so we only needed to play the Sea of Trees and Vaati's Palace to finally beat the game.

You might ask, why it took me so long then, after all I got all the necessary gear and someone to play with... and I honestly don't know. One reason is that all my old video game systems including both GBAs were over at my parents' house in my old home. I only got Wii and DS in my student apartment. But two weeks ago I was visiting home, there I replayed Four Swords Adventures and during that I thought I should bring the GBAs with me back to the university and ask one of my student buddies... but yeah, I've could have come up with that idea earlier. I was hesitating, because none of my friends play/like Zelda and I was secretly hoping that someday I would get to know someone, who actually likes playing Zelda... I was thinking that this game is something that only hardcore Zelda fans would want to play, nothing for my friends. But it seems I was wrong. Well, whatever, doesn't matter anymore. What matters is that I finally got to beat the game.

And it was fun. We were actually really playing against each others when it came to collecting rupees, but I managed to win every round. By now I have six Medals of Courage, only four more to go, so I can play the Riddle Quest on my retail copy. And exploring the levels is fun, it's really satisfying to cut all the grass, turn all stones, dive for treasures and look in all corners. It reminds me of Link's Awakening in some way, there could be hidden something in every spot. You really have to be thorough to uncover every secret. And next to rupees there's are three types of Mystical Seeds (obviously taken from Capcoms previous games, Oracle of Ages & Seasons) and the Rupee Shards to collect. The red Razor Seeds amplify your sword power, the blue Armor Seeds lowers the damage and the green Pegasus Seeds make you walk faster. All of them give you a major advancement over the other players, so you're really willing to cut all the grass, etc. The Rupee Shards work like Pieces of Hearts, only that collecting four gives you 500 rupees. They can also be found pretty much everywhere, I found lots of them under bushes for example.

Well, I was so obsessed with the game that I knew most about it in advance. I tried playing all the levels alone and I watched full playthroughs on Youtube or during some Zelda Marathon. Naturally this somehow spoiled the game experience, because I knew the solutions to some puzzles and I already knew what we needed to do in most cases, so the "figuring it out together" part was missing. It's still a fun game, especially this mix of competing against each other (you want the rupees!) and working together at the same time is very unique and some real cool multiplayer experience, something you don't get in many games.

And the game got some good replay value. The levels are not always the same but get randomly generated. Well, basically an area consists of a frame, which gets randomly selected out of let's say five, six, seven or so different templates, and the the inner parts of the frames get randomly chosen as well. There are multiple templates for each stage and many more combinations of them, so you can replay every stage many times until you've seen everything. And there were already some surprises for me, one area of the Sea of Trees for example was some Lost Woods type of dungeon with two treasure chests in every screen, never seen that before in Four Swords. The level generation is really cool and definitely adds a lot to the replay value.

Also, I love how the game set the style for The Minish Cap, it's always fun to see, what exactly was already made for Four Swords. Like certain enemies, gameplay elements or specific sounds. A lot of people think that everything was made exclusively for The Minish Cap and that it's the only Zelda game in its style, but that's not the truth. The Minish Cap is entirely based on Four Swords, you could go as far and say that all Capcom did was taking everything from Four Swords and forming a singleplayer game out of it.

However, what I missed from The Minish Cap was the rolling by pressing R while you're walking. If you try to do this in Four Swords, Link just stops and tries to grab something. This unnecessarily slows the game down and I hope that they'll fix that for the DSiWare port. It really would feel more naturally if the game fully adepts the control scheme of The Minish Cap. After all most people played TMC, but not Four Swords. (Update: This actually would destroy the concept of Pegasus Seeds, which is about having a Speed Advantage over the other players. So, this might be not a good idea.)

And I have to say that I'm not satisfied yet. Beating Four Swords once is certainly not all there is to the game, after you've collected all three Silver Keys and beaten Vaati for the first time you can go for the Golden Keys and beat him again. After that you can go for the Hero's Keys, Vaati's Palace then gets insane, it features 12 areas instead of the usual 3 and you fight all four bosses. Only if you beat that you've fully beaten Four Swords. So, I still can't claim that I've beaten all Zelda games for 100%. However, Den liked the game, so we will play some more rounds soon. I can't wait.

But that's the problem somewhere, isn't it? I can't wait, but I have to. Probably until the weekend. The fact that I simply can't play the game whenever I want, because I need a second player for playing it is still a problem. Please, Nintendo, never ever make a Zelda game again, that can't be played by yourself... Zelda always was a singleplayer game and no matter how fun the multiplayer in Four Swords might be, it doesn't justify that solo players are not welcome in this game.

For now I will revisit the Palace of the Four Sword. Beating Four Swords once finally unlocked the bonus dungeon. So far I only could enter the dungeon by using glitches, but now I can finally enter and leave the dungeon without any problems. It got some of the toughest bosses in the entire series, so replaying it will be a good challenge.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Got the Hammer

I'm currently replaying both NES Zeldas on my Virtual Console. Well, Zelda I is always really fun at the start, where you have lots of optional upgrades to find on the overworld. But after you got the additional Heart Containers, Blue Ring and stuff the game becomes mostly dull dungeon crawling and the dungeons are not much fun.

And Zelda II is one big pile of struggling. The struggle never ends in this game. But you still keep trying, you get better and you will eventually overcome hard obstacles, which is a very rewarding feeling. I'm posting right now, because of one of these milestone, namely getting the Hammer. I already tried that many times on my VC copy, I just couldn't do it... I would get frustrated and eventually give up. But now after some leveling (health 6, sword 4) I've done it without even losing a single life! Way to go.

I'm beginning to understand how I managed to beat this game 15 years ago on the original NES. The only other time I've completely beaten the game was on emulator using cheat codes (which was fun actually). But all my other retail copies of Zelda II - the GBA version, the one that came with the Collector's Edition and the one on my Virtual Console - all remained unbeaten. And in all of them I failed getting the Hammer and shortly lost motivation.

Getting the Hammer is a big milestone for me, because from there the game gets more enjoyable. It opens many shortcuts and gives access to cool new stuff like the Downward Thrust.

Well, I'll see how the game will go from here or what other obstacles will result in frustrating struggle (those damn Blue Iron Knuckles for example).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Crystal Flash

Crystal Flash is basically a spin-off to the Harmony of the Hunter album made by one of its contributers, Theophany. However, it's not only a tribute to the 25th Metroid Anniversary, but also a memorial to some guy called Avien, who made a Maridia remix at OC and recently died in a car accident. So naturally the EP is more silent and sad, but it's good quality and again all for free. And the cover art is absolutely beautiful. So download it.

Harmony of a Hunter

Harmony of a Hunter is a collaborative fan project to mark the silver anniversary of the Metroid franchise. Since Nintendo doesn't seem to have any plans for the anniversary, it's nice to see that fans are celebrating nonetheless.

It's a nice remix album featuring songs from ALL Metroid games remixed in various musical styles, for example there's a track from the well known Metroid Metal guys, there's a lot of electronic music naturally, but even a piano piece and a track sung by the Video Game Music Choir. The album has some good tracks, but also some not so good. Won't complain, since it's entirely free. So, everyone should download it and spread the good word.

I just would like a list telling me which tracks are supposed to remix which songs from which specific Metroid game. Normally I shouldn't have problems to tell, since I've fully beaten all Metroid games (wish I could say that about Zelda, damn you Four Swords!), but some tracks are not really clear to me. There's one track which sounds like it's from Unreal and one sounds like the theme from Back to the Future, lol... whatever, you can download the album here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Got Ocarina of Time 3D Soundtrack CD

I got a package from Nintendo of Europe today. It contained my copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition Ocarina of Time 3D Soundtrack CD, the one you get for registering Ocarina of Time 3D early.

I will listen to it later.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zelda 25th Anniversary Microsite

So, Metroid turned 25 this weekend and Nintendo celebrates this by opening the 25th Anniversary of Zelda microsite.

It's nothing special, it got infos about the symphony concerts, a simple history of the Zelda franchise, a flipnote Zelda contest (couldn't care less) and some nice wallpapers.

The history could have been a little bit more thorough. It's missing the Game & Watch Zelda, the BS Zeldas, Link's Awakening DX, Master Quest and Link's Crossbow Training. I can understand why they probably won't bring up the BS Zeldas now in such an overview, however, the other stuff is worth being mentioned.

Replaying Four Swords Adventures

It's the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise and I celebrate by (re)playing as many Zelda games as possible this year. Next one is Four Swords Adventures.

I like to praise Four Swords Adventures for being a "Zelda for in between". You know, if you feel like playing Zelda, but you don't have too much time, then this can be a problem. Even for a short game like Link's Awakening I would at least need four hours, so replaying a Zelda game is not an option then. However, replaying a level of Four Swords Adventures doesn't take as much time and can still be satisfying. It offers a small dose of Zelda gameplay for those who need it. So, as it happens, I replayed each level of Four Swords Adventures at least once over all the years, some of them even many times. Naturally you play the levels you like more often and avoid the levels you don't like. However, I never replayed the entire game from scratch. So, this was the first time for me to create a new save file for Four Sword Adventures playing all levels from start to finish and going through all of the story again.

And while replaying single levels for the sake of playing a short session of Zelda can be fun, replaying the entire game feels dull. One of the most important elements of a Zelda game for me is not the story or the fantasy setting or sword combat - it's exploration and finding hidden secrets and items. I love exploring all of Hyrule and one of the best parts of a dungeon is finally getting a long awaited item that let's me progress in other parts of the world. As a kid, when I played Zelda for the first time, Link's Awakening to be exact, all I wanted to do is explore all of Koholinth. I didn't want to play the dungeons and when I finally got a new item from a dungeon, I would leave the dungeon immediatly to explore new areas on Koholinth. By now I enjoy playing dungeons a lot, but still exploring and finding new items are what I enjoy most about Zelda games.

And Four Swords Adventures just lacks this. There's a lot to explore in each individual level and there are many hidden Heart Containers, Blue Bracelets and Force Fairies to discover. And I enjoy that during a level, but in the end it all doesn't matter. As soon as you finish a level, it doesn't matter if you've discovered all of its secrets, it will reset and you will start from scratch again. There's no reason to fully explore a level, because nothing is saved. A completion score for example would be nice, whether I found everything in a level or not. Another possibility would have been some collectibles like in modern Jump'n'Runs. New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) got the large gold coins, Donkey Kong Country Returns got the puzzle pieces and Kirby's Epic Yarn got furniture to collect from each level. And something like that is definitely missing in Four Swords Adventures, collectible items have been an important feature in the Zelda series ever since A Link to the Past introduced Pieces of Heart, but Four Swords Adventures doesn't offer any of this.

But what I really like about Four Swords Adventures are the mass enemy fights. You don't get something like that in any other Zelda game and it's just fun to hack yourself through dozens of enemies at once. I also checked out Shadow Battles and the Tingle Tower minigames a second time by using two GBA systems and there especially the Monster Hunt stuff looks like lots of fun. And during my playthrough I noticed that the L-2 Roc's Feather is never really used during the entire game. You can built it in certain levels and it also appears in Shadow Battles, but there's no direct use for it anywhere. Each other L-2 item gets at least used once during the game, but not this one. And it could have been used for some puzzles in the platforming areas. But whatever...

As a conclusion all I can say is while the individual levels of Four Swords Adventures have great replay value, the game in its entirety does not. It's fun to pick a level and replay it in between for a short Zelda session, but replaying the entire game from start to finish isn't as satisfying.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

25th Anniversary of Metroid

Happy Birthday, Metroid! Today, 25 years ago, Metroid was released for the Famicon in Japan and was followed by ten more games over the years.

Nintendo won't celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Metroid franchise, primarily because it would overlap with the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Zelda, two anniversaries at once would be too much. As a Zelda fan I won't complain about this, however, you might also think that the underperformance of Metroid: Other M could be another reason for Nintendo's current disinterest in the anniversary. And after all the whole 25th Anniversary thing is just one big marketing move. There are no new Metroid games coming this year, unlike Zelda, where we're heading towards Skyward Sword... Nintendo isn't promoting the 25th Anniversary of Metroid, because there's nothing to sell.

But I'm still convinced that Nintendo will acknowledge this anniversary in some form, for example by releasing Metroid II - Return of Samus on the 3DS Virtual Console.

And even if Nintendo doesn't celebrate, Metroid fans certainly do by releasing various fan arts and music remixes. I'm especially looking forward to the Harmony of a Hunter album, more about that soon. And my contribution is the very simple 25th Anniversary logo which you can see above.

Metroid is my second favorite Action Adventure game after Zelda. I primarily play Metroid because it is quite similar to Zelda in a lot of ways, for me Metroid is Sci-Fi Zelda. You explore a huge world, you power up by collecting new items which let you explore new areas, etc. There are even collectibles in form of Missile Expansions and Energy Containers. The big difference is that most Zelda games devide their game world into overworld and dungeons and that the overworld may have friendly places like villages. Metroid doesn't have something like villages, it's all a giant complex of connected dungeons. But overall the gameplay is quite similar. And sometimes the similarities between both franchises are striking.

So, Happy Birthday, Metroid!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zelda Symphony Concert Dates

As part of the 25th Anniversary celebration Nintendo announced concerts all around the world. However, it seems there will be only one concert in each major region. There's one in Los Angeles on October 21st and one in London on October 25th. The one in London is the only one in Europe and I'm quite disappointed. I was hoping for one here in Berlin or at least anywhere else in Germany. Going to London for this is too expansive... I guess I only get the CD then. And I really hope the CD will be easily available to everyone. Because if not then this turns out to be quite a bad way to celebrate the 25th Anniversary. What's the celebration good for if only very few fans can enjoy it? UPDATE: I forgot that there will be a global tour next year, so never mind...

But the Zelda Symphony website really looks nice, the map in the background seems to be a mix between the maps of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DM-Kokiri_Forest (Beta)

Two of my absolute favorite gaming franchises, Unreal and Zelda, collide in this map made for Unreal Tournament 3 by Chris Pow aka ChangingZephyr. It's a remake of the Kokiri Forest setting as a Deathmatch arena. It's still in beta phase and far from perfect, but worth a look.

Over at Epic Games Forums you can download the map and give some feedback like I already did. If you do not have UT3, you can take a look at this Youtube video and these screenshots:

Lightning needs to be improved as well as item and weapon placement. And overall the Kokiri Forest isn't really the ideal place for a Deathmatch environment, it's too open and the Deku Tree area is completely disconnected from the action. Kakariko Village probably would have been a better setting, it's not as open thanks to the various houses and the tower in the center could be used for an awesome but very risky sniper spot. If I had the time, I would make a Kakariko Village Deathmatch map myself...

Well, I'll keep you posted about this map.