Posted by: zsaberlink | March 15, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets

The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets

Navigation

Here are parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the guide. Also, here’s some some notes before you begin playing and my review of the game.

Background Info

The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets, called BS Zelda no Densetsu: Kodai no Sekiban in Japan, was a downloadable game released in 1997 by Nintendo. The game was made for the Broadcast Satellite (BS) Satellaview, a satellite modem add-on to the Super Famicom (the Japanese Super Nintendo) that was released in 1995. This service was a subscription based service where subscribers could get radio shows, download both new and original games, and read newsletters. There was essentially a Satellaview radio guide that would tell users what media would be available at a particular time of day. This service, at its peak in early 1997, had over 100,000 subscribers. Nintendo released several downloadable games for this platform, including this Zelda title.

Ancient Stone Tablets was built using the engine of a Link to the Past and this is like a second quest for a Link to the Past. However, it has an altered overworld, different dungeon locations, and completely different dungeons. Ancient Stone Tablets was split in 4 separate episodes. Each episode would unlock more of the game’s world, and allow the player to proceed farther in the game. Each episode was playable during a specific time of day (one hour long) for a whole week in April of 1997. When the week ended, the next episode began to broadcast. This strict timing arrangement was needed because the game used the SoundLink technology of the Satellaview. SoundLink was essentially providing a streaming audio (included orchestrated music and voice acting) on top of the game that was specifically timed to correspond with cutscenes in the game.


The folks at ZeldaLegends.net actually have managed to recreate this experience almost in its entirety. They first obtained the ROM (software copy) of the game, but found the interiors of all the buildings and dungeons to be missing. However, they brilliantly recreated the dungeon interiors based on videos of the original game hosted online. They then translated the streaming audio from the cutscenes and all the in-game text into English. In addition, they also added the title screen above, and added appropriately themed music from a Link to the Past. I’d like to really thank the people involved in this project for their efforts since it’s made the game available to a much wider audience.

Normally, I would not be supporting emulation, but this is a game that Nintendo only released for a limited time in Japan and is not available or on sale any longer. I feel emulation serves as the only way to enjoy an otherwise lost Zelda game. I will not be talking about the technical emulation details here, but if you wish to play the game yourself, go to Zeldalegends.net and follow the instructions on their site.

Note: Veterans of a Link to the Past or other 2D Zelda games will probably be very familiar with the mechanics of this title. However, I have some notes that you should see before you begin playing this game. It also details some of the changes between this game and Link to the Past that you should be aware of.

If you have not played Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past, I highly recommend that you play that first. It’s available for download on the Wii’s Virtual Console, or you may be able to find a copy of the Game Boy Advance port somewhere.

Links to the four parts of the guide (one for each week), the before you begin notes, and the review are below.

Notes Before You Begin Playing

Guide Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4

Review

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Posted by: zsaberlink | March 8, 2010

Is it time for a new Mega Man series?

With the recent release of Mega Man 10 and the success of it and its downloadable predecssor, Mega Man 9, fans seem quite pleased with the Mega Man series. The idea of making an 8-bit game seemed almost ludicrous more than 2 years ago. However, these two titles have gone to show that good gameplay and level design can make gamers truly enjoy a classic series all over again. However, even with the resurgence of the classic Mega Man series, I believe it will soon be time for a new Mega Man series.  If so, what direction could they take?

Mega Man Anniversary Picture

Mega Man’s many incarnations

First, I think it’s important to understand Mega Man, his series, and their current states. Mega Man has been Capcom’s lovable mascot for over 20 years now. He has spawned many series including the classic, X, Legends, Zero, Battle Network, Star Force, and ZX series. Capcom has been also known for milking its Mega Man series, and as such there’s a large quantity of Mega Man games out there. Now you may be thinking, “He has over 6 series. Why would you need more?”

Now if you look at the series closely, there have really only been 3 types of Mega Man games. The classic, X, Zero, and ZX series have all been essentially been an evolution of the original series’ gameplay. Each time Capcom wanted to change the gameplay in a significant way, a new Mega Man series was started that had a relatively separate and new plot. While I’ll admit the changes in the X series made the series feel quite a bit different than the gameplay of the original, it was much harder to differentiate the Zero and ZX series from entries of the previous series. Secondly, we have the Legends series, which was Capcom’s first attempt to take Mega Man into 3D. However, it’s been over 10 years since the last game in the series came out, and thus it’s currently on hiatus. Finally, we have the Battle Network and Star Force series, which take Mega Man into grid-based battles using “battle chips” and add exploration in an isometric world. Of these series, currently the revived classic, ZX, and Star Force series are the only ones being produced. The latter two, however, haven’t had a sequel since 2007 and 2008 respectively. Unfortunately, as with any of the Mega Man series, I believe the novelty of the revived classic series will slowly fade away, and Capcom will eventually cease production of these downloadable classic titles. So, what options does Capcom have to take Mega Man in a new direction?

Use of the Wii Remote?

The first and probably most obvious direction is to take Mega Man to 3D. While this was done in the Mega Man Legends series, which I have unfortunately not played, I’m sure that new technology would enable a huge advancement in a 3D Mega Man adventure. From what I’ve seen of Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Legends 2, their biggest problem seems to be the camera of the two games. The game unfortunately requires the player to adjust the camera very frequently in order to navigate the towns and fight enemies around Mega Man. The camera itself could be controlled using a new control scheme, like the Wii remote’s pointing capabilities or possibly the upcoming Natal and Arc. Classic controls, like two analog sticks, could also be used to help camera control. I believe Capcom has two main options in terms of taking Mega Man to 3D.

Mega Man Legends

First, it could revive the Mega Man Legends series. With this, it would have to expand on the plot it used in the earlier games, but can update the gameplay experience to meet modern expectations of 3D games. In addition to fixing the camera, it would certainly be possible to add more gameplay elements in order to change up the series.  The advantage of this approach would be that there is already a fanbase for the series and more people are familiar with its name. The disadvantages, however, are the fact that they have to respect the story of the previous entries in the series, and probably build on top of the basic concepts used in the Legends series.

Capcom’s second choice would be start an entirely new Mega Man series for his new adventure to 3D. Mega Man himself already is quite well-known, so it may make it easier to establish a fan base for this new 3D series. The biggest advantage of this approach is that the developers would have complete freedom in how the games would play and how the storyline progresses. In addition, there would be less expectations for the game compared to being Mega Man Legends 3.

Mega Man’s 2.5D future?

Capcom could also take Mega Man into a couple other different realms. First, Capcom could create a Mega Man series focused on a multiplayer experience, like a multiplayer platformer. Capcom would have to be careful with its implementation, but after looking at New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I believe it would be possible. Secondly, Mega Man could take a pseudo-3D approach as shown in this video.  This would be an interesting concept, and I’m sure Capcom could take this idea and develop it further. Finally, Capcom could surprise us by taking Mega Man in an entirely new direction that I haven’t mentioned. Mega Man could enter different genres, like his experimental venture into the RPG realm (Mega Man X: Command Mission). I’m sure Inafune and others at Capcom have thought about the future of Mega Man just as I have, and may have had very different ideas than my own. I’m sure Mega Man fans around the globe wonder at what directions the blue bomber will take in the future, and only time will tell.

Posted by: zsaberlink | March 5, 2010

Link to the Past Dungeon No Sword Run

I happened to be playing Link to the Past recently and decided to try something odd. When you give the Master Sword to the blacksmiths in order to be tempered, you are temporarily without a sword. Normally you just move to another screen and come back to the house. At this point, your new “Tempered Master Sword” would be ready. Instead I decided to try to attempt completing the Ice Palace without my sword. In most other “no sword runs” they actually opt not to use the sword. However, here I cannot use my sword at all, as I don’t have one. I’m posting my first attempt at the Ice Palace. Keep in mind that I was figuring out how to defeat different enemies, and thus this was easily a failed attempt. However, I found it amusing and thought I’d share.

Note: I did figure out how to get through the dungeon without my sword (actually the hookshot works rather well as a weapon), but that video turned out pretty long to upload.

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 28, 2010

Gameplay Elements to bring back from Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo was a large leap forward for the Zelda series when it was released in 1992. Not only were the graphics updated and the world expanded, the game also introduced a large amount of new gameplay elements. Six years later, when the series was brought to 3D by Ocarina of Time, the majority of the gameplay elements were derived from Link to the Past and then beautifully transitioned into 3D. However, there are still many new ideas introduced in a Link to the Past that never made the transition to 3D, and that could be amazing if implemented correctly. Just to forewarn you, this article will contain spoilers of a large part of a Link to the Past.

Skull Woods Dungeon Entrances Map

First, Link to the Past had a couple of non-traditional dungeons. In a Link to the Past, Skull Woods, the 3rd palace in the Dark World, was essentially split into multiple parts. Throughout this dungeon Link needed to find different entrances to the dungeon. Each entrance led Link to a different section of the dungeon, most of which were ultimately connected once all barriers and so forth were removed. One of the most fascinating parts of the dungeon was that you could often see important items in a room that you currently could not access. An example would be seeing the dungeon’s big weapon chest in a room on the other side of a wall. You would then go and explore outside the dungeon, find a different entrance, and then proceed with the dungeon further. This twist in a normal dungeon would be interesting to see re-imagined in 3D. The only problem I could foresee is how would you allow players to see what’s in the inaccessible room next to you beyond a wall without an overhead view. I believe that could easily be fixed by replacing the opaque wall with a transparent wall or a bottomless pit. This split-dungeon concept was quite interesting in Link to the Past, and I could see this being even more fun if it was fully fleshed out in a larger 3D dungeon.

Another example of a non-traditional dungeon was the 4th palace of the Dark World, Gargoyle’s Domain. Before entering the dungeon, Link is told bits of a story about a thief named Blind who hated light from various NPCs and signposts. In this dungeon, you save what seems to be a maiden that was inside a prison cell. In reality, she’s actually Blind the thief, who’s the boss of this dungeon. So, using hints scattered throughout the dungeon, you leave the “maiden” in the boss room and eventually open a hole in the ceiling with bombs in order to let light fall inside. This reveals Blind’s identity and then the boss fight commences. In most of the 3D Zeldas, most of the dungeons have been fairly traditional in their approach. The dungeon consists of a series of challenges dealing primarily with switches, keys, pushing blocks, fighting enemies, and occasionally raising/falling water levels. That is a large part of why we love Zelda, but I would love to see some surprises in dungeons like the two examples I gave above. Considering they were able to come up with new and interesting dungeon designs in 1992, who knows what new and amazing ideas they could come up with next.

Magic Cape

Magic Cape

The next concept that was present in Link to the Past was the idea of optional weapons. This has been somewhat prevalent in the 3D Zelda games, like Majora’s Mask’s bunch of extra masks, but I wish this was done more often. Link to the Past had several weapons not found in dungeons that were not immediately or ever necessary to finish dungeons. However, they allowed you to fight or complete dungeons in different ways. Some of these weapons essentially had mini-puzzles or very small dungeons that you needed to complete in order to obtain the weapon. For example, the Ice Rod and Quake medallion can be obtained rather early in the game in the overworld, but both are only used in the last two dungeons of the Dark World. On the other hand, the Ether Medallion, the Bombos Medallion, the Magic Cape, and the Cane of Byrna were completely optional, but they provide you large scale magic attacks and invincibility respectively. I personally find these optional weapons as much better rewards and incentives to complete a side-quest/mini-dungeon than a single heart piece or a large quiver/bomb bag. This also encourages exploring the overworld, which would really add to the adventure experience that the series has always tried to provide. Twilight Princess had a couple mini-dungeons available in order to obtain heart pieces. However, without any hint that there could be actual puzzles to be solved when digging as a wolf, I found no incentive to do any quest outside the story but the Cave of Ordeals in that game.

Next, Link to the Past took the magic from Zelda II and implemented it in a fashion which used in later entries of the series. In Ocarina of Time, Link used magic for the enhanced spin attack, the three magic spells, the magic arrows, and the Lens of Truth. This use of “magic” allowed for weapons to be more creative, as “magic” allows for things that might normally not make sense. However, in the most recent entries of the series, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks, there is no magic meter even in the game! Magic enables Link to be able to fight in ways far beyond normal physical means. For example, in a Link to the Past, the Ice/Fire Rods, the canes, the medallions, and the magic cape allowed Link to have awesome abilities that could not have been present without magic. For example, Link currently is rather limited when climbing up walls as he has to slowly move each of his limbs accordingly to maintain balance. The only time he can stand straight on any wall is while using the Iron Boots, with which he’s unfortunately rather slow. Imagine if he could run up walls without Iron Boots, but with Magic Boots instead. He could actually maneuver quickly while being on certain wall surfaces!  I hope magic plays a larger role in future Zelda titles, as it allows for more creativity for the Zelda team, and it fits the theme of the fantasy worlds of Zelda games.

Flipping Turtles in Link to the Past

Finally and most importantly, Link to the Past brought a lot of what I’d like to call “puzzle-based combat” to the series. Basically you had to figure out how exactly to kill a lot of your enemies rather than simply slashing at them mindlessly. First we had Stalfos, who you slash with a sword and then blow up their remains with a bomb. Next, there were turtles that you had to flip using the magic hammer and then defeat using your sword. There were also the Gibdos, who were mummies that were very resilient against sword strikes, but who were weak to fire attacks. However, you could also freeze and then smash with a hammer, which is actually how I beat them. Then you had helmasaurs, which were creatures with hard shells on their head. Here, you either had to hit them in the back with your sword, or remove their protective shell using your hookshot. Finally, you could also knock enemies into bottomless pits, which for some reason isn’t present in any of the 3D games. I could go on and on about how each enemy was defeated in Link to the Past, but I think these examples give you a good idea about what kind of combat was present. While there is some-puzzled based combat in the 3D titles, almost every enemy either is the same enemy as they were in a Link to the Past, or an enemy whose strategy was the same as some creature in Link to the Past. Some of the few exceptions are Re-deads in Ocarina of Time, and Darknuts. Link to the Past was the game that made puzzles into a main part of the series, and the games afterwards continued this trend. However, Link to the Past had a nice mixture of strategy involved in both puzzles that needed to be completed in order to proceed, as well as needing to think while combating non-boss enemies. I really hope the strategy in combat returns to the Zelda franchise to non-boss enemies as well in new and different ways. I see some promise in Zelda Wii, as the 1:1 sword control will provide a lot of flexibility and innovation in terms of Zelda combat. Imagine stabbing with your sword in order to pierce armor, or running into enemies in order to knock them down. The Zelda team has even been hinting at how it’ll even be a puzzle on how to defeat enemies.

These are just some of the gameplay elements that were present in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that I hope could be used more in future Zelda games. I guess we’ll see how the series could evolve with its announced Wii entry.

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 27, 2010

How to get a demo of Monster Hunter Tri

Capcom is really trying to get Monster Hunter to become a phenomenon in the US as it has done with the series in Japan. As such, Monster Hunter will have a demo that will be released March 8th. One way of getting the demo is by picking it up at GameStop stores throughout the US. (I’m unsure about how this may work in other countries.) In addition, you can actually have the demo mailed directly to your home. Monster Hunter Tri seems like it will be a quality game made for the Wii, and as such I wish to increase awareness about the game. What better way is there than to play a FREE demo of the game? Thus the following instructions detail how to get a demo of Monster Hunter Tri delivered to your home.

Note: Each step will have a corresponding screenshot ABOVE the instruction.

1. Create a capcom-unity blog at www.capcom-unity.com by clicking the sign-up link (boxed in red) in the site’s header. The sign-up process itself is rather self-explanatory so I’m not going to go over it here. It just uses a confirmation e-mail in order to verify the validity of e-mail, etc.

2. Go to Monster Hunter Tri’s Community website and you’ll see something like the picture above. Get the banner to pop out by placing your mouse towards the top of the page. Then log in by clicking the login link in the pop-up banner of the site. The banner itself is arranged similarly to the capcom-unity banner, and the login link is to the bottom-right of the banner as well.

3. Once you are logged in, look for the above navigation bar on the page. Click the rewards icon (boxed in red), and you’ll get a message telling you that you’ve been registered to receive a demo of Monster Hunter Tri! In addition, the message will also say “Is this your correct address?” and a box below will display the mailing address associated with your capcom-unity account. If you haven’t entered a mailing address into your blog account, this will be blank. In order to make sure the demo gets to you, click the “update address” link right below this mailing address box. Once you have updated your mailing address, you should be all set to receive a Monster Hunter Tri demo in your mail when it’s released.

If you have any questions or are having troubles with these instructions, just post in the comments and I’ll try to see what I can do to help.

Update: On a related note, there is also a manual for the Monster Hunter Tri demo that’s available on Capcom’s site. The manual is about 40MB as it’s full of illustrations.

FINAL UPDATE (3/1/2010):

So as you may have noticed, the rewards link was removed. After sending a message to capcom-unity’s monster hunter admin, I got the following response:

Hey ZSaberLink,

Nice work on getting people pumped! But, unfortunately, we had limited quantities of the demo (as was stated in the “Rewards” section). So since we’ve reached our limit, we removed the icon for now. To make sure others get the demo, it would be best to direct them to a GameStop store.

Keep your eyes peeled though, as we have another item for the “Rewards” section in the coming weeks.

Best,

Shawn

So, it seems like we rallied up enough support to actually make them run out of copies to mail out for now. Fortunately, that still means all of you who signed up will still get copies mailed to your house. These will be mailed out at around March 8th, so if you wait a bit afterwards, those will reach your homes.  For those of you who haven’t signed up for a copy, GameSpot is for now the only option you have to get the free demo (unless they happen to get more copies and restore the link). As you probably read in the e-mail above, there will be another reward in the upcoming weeks. So I’ll make a post if anything changes with the rewards icon and the demo, and will post in the upcoming weeks when this other reward appears.

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 25, 2010

Impressions about Nintendo’s Media Summit

I personally was quite pleased by the Media Summit and was surprised by the large amount of games that will be released in the first half of this year. I would have never guessed that Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, Sin & Punishment’s sequel, and WarioWare D.I.Y. would all be released before E3 2010.  Nintendo’s titles are also supported by a large amount of promising third party titles. We have Megaman 10, Monster Hunter Tri, Max and the Magic Marker, and Cave Story all being released before July 2010 as well. (Megaman 10 is actually being released next Monday.) The complete list can be seen here at GoNintendo. I’m most excited about Galaxy 2, as the screenshots and videos seem to show that we’ll be able to play around with gravity quite a bit and that the levels will be quite a bit more challenging.

For those of you who are wondering about what games will be released in the latter half of the year, there have been some hints scattered about during some interviews. First, both Cammie Dunaway of NOA and Miyamoto last year mentioned that Zelda will be at E3. Cammie says that she’d win a bet that the Zelda would come out this year along with Mario and Metroid. However, we’ll see whether Zelda actually does come out in 2010. Other than unannounced titles, both Xenoblade and Last Story could still be possibly released in 2010. Cammie Dunaway actually was aware of these titles, which is promising as well. Both RPGs are being published by Nintendo, so I believe Nintendo would have a large marketing push behind one or both of them.

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 23, 2010

Oh the Irony… Comments from top Japanese RPG Developers

I realize that these comments are about a week old, which I read back then, but I just found this clear difference in opinion between 2 Japanese RPG developers still worth talking about. On one hand, we have the director of Final Fantasy XIII, commenting on its direction with the main series.

“In terms of Final Fantasy in general, the teams are really aiming for movie quality graphics and really dramatic storylines. For now, at least, consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 are the best place for this kind of cinematic experience to take place.” – Motomu Toriyama, director of Final Fantasy XIII (quote from Kotaku.com)

On the other hand, we have the director (Tetsuya Takahashi) of the upcoming game from Monolith Soft, Xenoblade, talking about the new direction he plans to take with this new game.

“Most of the RPGs we’ve created had their main focus on story and cutscenes, but I think that approach has reached a dead end,” Takahashi said in an interview with Famitsu magazine this week. “This project got its start because we wanted to return to basics — we just wanted to create a fun adventure. We’re trying to give the player a lot of freedom without having them feel lost.” – Tetsuya Takahashi, founder of Monolith Soft and director of Xenoblade (quote from 1up.com)

Just to give you some background, Tetsuya Takahashi was originally part of Square and made Xenogears there. He later moved on to create his own company Monolith Soft. Takahashi made the Xenosaga series with Monolith Soft. Later Nintendo bought Monolith Soft, and so Xenoblade is the spiritual successor to the other two games/franchises and is being developed for the Wii.

The ironic part about this is that Xenosaga was known for its long cutscenes, and now Takahashi thinks that it’s time to move on. On the other hand, Square Enix is now focusing on the high-definition cutscenes more than ever. Both are very different approaches to games, and we’ll see how both perform when the games are released. While Xenoblade is essentially an entirely new series, I do hope it turns out to be a good game. The details that have been unveiled are promising. With Nintendo publishing it, it may have a chance to do well, but it’s somewhat a matter of luck. Also, if you’re into Nintendo franchises (as you probably are if you’re reading this blog), be sure to check out the news coming from Nintendo’s media summit tomorrow, Februrary 24th.

Aurion

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 19, 2010

Evolution of Zelda since Ocarina of Time

Recently, many fans of the Zelda series have been disappointed in the latest outings of the series.  At the same time, they are eagerly awaiting a new Zelda game that simply amazes them like some of the classic entries of the series. With the latest console Zelda title, Twilight Princess, fans complained about how it just felt too similar to Ocarina of Time. I personally enjoyed the game, but I too felt that it could have benefited from being just a bit more original. However, I think this problem actually stems from the direction the series has been going in for a while. Since Ocarina of Time, very few large new lasting concepts have actually been introduced to the Zelda series. I believe in order to create a lasting new concept into an established franchise, the idea needs to not only be interesting, but it needs to feel as a needed addition to the game’s current framework.

Since Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there have been several Zelda games released, including Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I’m choosing to focus a bit more on certain entries of the series as I remember these best. In Majora’s Mask, the major new innovations were the masks themselves and their transformations, having a more active, lively town, and the 3-day system. The three-day time limit was an interesting concept, but it felt it a bit overbearing for a significant portion of players who like to take their time as they play games. The masks themselves were an interesting and welcome addition to the series, as it allowed for Link to control very differently in his multiple forms. It seems like the Zelda team decided against that exactly reappearing in the series, but in a way Twilight Princess’s wolf seems to somewhat reflect the mask transformations. The activity within a town seems to vary between games, but I would say that I feel the towns are more interactive than they were in Ocarina of Time.

The next console game in the series was Wind Waker. Wind Waker presented the cel-shaded graphical style, sailing, and a slightly enhanced combat system. Since I’m primarily talking about gameplay mechanics, I’m going not going to discuss the game’s graphical style here. Miyamoto created the original Zelda to satisfy his dreams of adventure and exploration. As such, sailing seems like a nice extension to that idea. However, sailing pretty much only allowed you to steer with the wind, shoot bombs with a cannon, and dig up treasure. Sailing just seemed to be much more limited and lacked the variety of Link’s land ventures. As such, while it reappeared in Phantom Hourglass, I’m unsure whether it’ll continue to reappear throughout the series. The combat system was nicely enhanced. While it didn’t provide a job dropped amount of new abilities, it did allow players to at least attack in a couple new ways. This clearly seems to have a lasting impact on the series, as it was used in Twilight Princess.

Wind Waker and its Sailing

Twilight Princess brought to the table a horseback combat, a wolf transformation, and a couple of new items. Horseback combat was a great addition to the Zelda franchise, and I believe it’ll definitely reappear in future games. The reason this was such a great addition is because it felt like it added to your capabilities rather than limiting it. In addition to being really fast, you could run over enemies and use most of the weapons you could use on the ground. On the other hand, the two newest portable titles, also introduced new forms of transportation. Both the new sailing and the train definitely once again felt limited, and seem like a separate experience rather than adding to the traditional movement on the ground. Unfortunately, horseback combat was used rather infrequently (only 3 times) and as such players didn’t get to fully enjoy it. Once again, the wolf transformation also felt limited, and seemed like an oddly different experience than that of Link. You essentially only could bite an enemy individually, or use Midna’s lock-on attack. Finally, too many of the new weapons in Twilight Princess were used outside of their dungeons. The Ball & Chain had minimal uses to kill Redeads after its dungeon. On the other hand, both the Spinner and Dominion Rod were essentially useless except for their dungeon’s puzzles and boss fights. I will say though, I absolutely loved the use of the Spinner in its boss fight. Zelda weapons are all about having uses in the overworld and later dungeons as well. Having these “puzzle weapons” only helps you create a single dungeon, rather than new concepts that last throughout the series.

For any new concept to be liked by Zelda fans, I believe that the concept should fall into one of these two categories. On one hand, you can have a fun new concept that fits into the current gameplay scheme and makes the player feel more capable than before. On the other hand, it could be an entertaining new experience separate from normal gameplay in which you don’t feel limited by your new environment. I feel that this concept generally applies to any aspect in a Zelda game, whether it be a new way of traversing through dungeons or a new weapon to aid Link on his journey. As long as the Zelda team is keeping this big picture in mind for future Zelda games, I believe that we’ll definitely be in awe of a Zelda game once more. I find that the Wii Motion Plus may enable the next Zelda game to truly make a lasting impact on the series. This is because 1-to-1 sword and other weapon control could easily make a natural and amazing extension to current Zelda combat. I guess only time will tell (or that conference on the 24th).

Aurion

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 13, 2010

My Opinions on Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Recently, I have noticed numerous articles discussing the latest game in the Zelda franchise, the Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. These articles generally mention how this game appeals to them much more than its predecessor, Phantom Hourglass. While I have not finished the game, I currently agree with these sentiments. As such, I would like to explain some of the reasons that I have enjoyed Spirit Tracks so far as well as comments about portions of the game. This blog post will contain some spoilers about the beginning of the game and some gameplay mechanics, so be forewarned.

First, I would like to say I really enjoy the music in the game. This made an impression on me as soon as I started the game, as I quickly started humming the title screen music. While I was enjoying that new music, I also decided to watch the entirety of the short, but cute intro movie. For me, the music plays multiple roles while playing a game. When a story is being told and actions unfold on the screen, music often can sway a player’s emotions. Good music generally helps set a mood that fits the game and made me feel emotionally attached to both the story and its characters. Such music also kept me entertained during the less interesting parts of the game. In this case, I’m talking about the train rides. Although after some time the train rides themselves were not very interesting, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the train music itself.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Intro

While I’ll admit the story was relatively simple, the premise immediately was different in the fact that Zelda temporarily “died” and turned into a ghost. Of course, the immediate goal at hand was to restore Zelda to her body. However, considering the usual stories of Zelda games, this was a nice change of pace, and the villains looked like they could lead to an interesting tale. The initial setup was great and made me interested in what would happen next. I’ve mentioned the beginning of the story as a strong point, but I’ll say that the pacing afterwards is not as good. Only after you complete a set of 4 main dungeons and visits to the Tower of Spirits do you get any progression in the story at all. At this point I was happy to see plot progression, but disappointingly realized I had already completed about 75% of the game before this occurred.

The main reason that I and many others liked Spirit Tracks more than Phantom Hourglass was because of the dungeons and their puzzles. While I admit I don’t remember Phantom Hourglass too well, I remember clearly that I was very bored after the first two dungeons. These dungeons were far too simple, and it almost seemed that they were simplifying the game in order to compensate for the precision lost due to touch-screen controls. Both these dungeons had very few enemies, and their puzzles were nearly nonexistent. The second offender was the fact that you had to repeat portions of the Ocean Temple far too many times. This repetition also hurt the experience of the game. Finally, I felt the sailing was too simple and also boring. Eventually Phantom Hourglass did pick up so that I did like the game by the end, but these three factors hurt the game and how much I enjoyed it. On the other hand, Spirit Tracks started with a much more traditional and challenging dungeon. Afterwards, the dungeon’s enemies and puzzles progressively got more difficult. I’ll even admit that I was initially challenged or even stumped by a couple puzzles throughout the game so far. In addition, they eliminated the repeating portions of the “returning dungeon”, making it a much more enjoyable experience. While I still did not think of the train as a perfect traveling mechanism, it was definitely more interesting as I could also observe the detailed environments of Hyrule.

While I did enjoy these puzzles, I’ll admit I did not find too many amazing uses of the weapons in the puzzles. Link applied ice and fire to his boomerangs very much like shooting arrows in Ocarina of Time. While I admit I liked the concept of freezing water to make a path, I saw that as an obvious progression once they decided to allow for a “freezing boomerang”. The whip was essentially used to pull and throw things, in addition to swinging like Indiana Jones. I found these portions fun and probably the more creative uses of the weapons. I have not had the time to use the weapon in the current temple too much, but the weapon seems like an interesting concept.

Overall, I liked the Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks because I felt that I was getting a much more polished and complete experience, which was complemented by the pleasant new music.  This post turned out a longer than I expected, but I hope you enjoyed the read. Hopefully this either gives you insight into the game or maybe sparks some discussion about the latest entry in the Zelda franchise.

Aurion

Posted by: zsaberlink | February 12, 2010

Starting a blog

I’ve never actually tried making a blog before, so I thought I would try out the medium to express my own thoughts.  This blog will probably contain many random thoughts of my own. We’ll see whether this turns out to be something that I use consistently.

P.S. For now I plan to have my larger posts every week. I may have small posts in between these larger posts on occasion.

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