Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Dear Nintendo,

Let me first start this letter by saying that I have had a lot of fun starting to play Pikmin 3 and Super Mario Bros U. These are two game series that have been done a few times but continue to bring entertainment to the masses. In particular, I appreciate the fact that both series can make a combination of minor and major changes but still hold the great elements that we love to experience. If games like these are what we can expect out of the Wii U’s future, there is the possibility of some amazing things down the line.

Now my true full feelings…WHERE ARE THE GAMES? When the system first released, the only truly playable and enjoyable games were Batman: Arkham City, Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land. Zombie U was not an enjoyable and comparable game to the other major console players and third-party development was weak. Since its release last November, the system has seen one of the slowest opening years I have seen with a gaming console. There has been a lack of new, innovative Zelda, Mario and other franchise games. Third-party developers have continued to shy away from making games for the console, and some (like EA’s NCAA Football) have abandoned the system altogether.

If Nintendo is going to fail at attracting third-party developers and instead focus on their franchises, get some games out already! Rehashing Super Mario Bros U and making a New Super Luigi U may be enjoyable but it is still lacking in innovation. Looking to the past (and not re-releasing Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker) could be a way to accomplish this.

Let me give you some ideas of where you could score big…

The Legend of Zelda: I know that a new game is in development, but it felt like there was going to be a Zelda game sometime around the Wii U release or within the first year. Instead, we have to wait until 2014 and an undisclosed date. This is my favorite of all of the series you have produced and I can just hope that whatever new elements get added can be as enjoyable as the previous console games.

Super Smash Bros: This is another series that is just a given. The game has added elements that keep expanding its gameplay, but the online play is where the biggest focus needs to be played. If it were possible to play the adventure/story mode online, that would expand the gameplay in a major way. Online fighting/melee matches are also fun, but add the coop element to expand the concept. A few new fighters will also be nice, but think about ones that expand the gameplay and not just characters that are similar (i.e. Waluigi, Funky Kong, etc.).

Mario Kart: Yet another given…the portable systems have expanded this franchise a lot faster than the console versions, but a merging of the two lines of development could be amazing. Pulling elements from the short-lived Diddy Kong Racing, like flight and hovercrafts, would be interesting. A story element here could be interesting as well.

3D Super Mario: It was Super Mario 64 that did some amazing things for the franchise. While Sunshine took a step back, it would be easy to recreate the awesomeness that was the 64 version. Galaxy certainly felt much more like 64. It is unclear if the game this December will live up to this standard.

Metroid Prime: With no announcement about the release of another Metroid game, Prime 3 was the last Samus adventure that took advantage of a 1st-person shooter that could challenge the likes of Halo. The tablet could add new elements for item management, mapping and other characteristics of the game…just as long as the new element is not using the pad to scan everything.

Castlevania: I know this game took a detour toward Sony, but this was one of the most enjoyable NES games of all time. I do not care which protagonist would take the lead, as long as it recaptured the magic with the capabilities of the Wii U.

Mega Man: Please do not explore the Battle Network anymore. The X series was amazing and could be adapted in the way that Super Mario Bros U was. Just keep it a side-scroller.

Final Fantasy: I do not see a reason why Sony has to completely steal this away. Some of the best Final Fantasy games were on the NES and SNES. Final Fantasy 6 is the game that I have played the most out of any RPG ever. Messing with this Crystal Chronicles is unnecessary, unless it took more of the route of Tactics Advance.

Star Fox: How cool would it be to pilot Fox’s ship with the tablet? Why this was not even attempted with the regular Wii is something that still boggles my mind. This would quickly become one of the highest rated games on the system by name alone. There would be no need for an adventure game like Adventures…just an amazing space flight simulator with a battle mode.

Pokemon: The handheld versions of the game have been major hits. Console versions have failed to live up to the expectations. While Stadium gave a sense of the battle element of the game, it lacked the adventure, catching and leveling RPG elements. With the internet connectivity and graphic abilities, a console adventure RPG Pokemon game would be an amazing hit.

Super Mario RPG: If Final Fantasy is not going to happen with Nintendo, make this one happen. The SNES version was a smash hit and gave a new dimension to the Mario franchise.

TMNT: I know that there is a newer version of the cartoon out now and although I did enjoy the NES version, Turtles in Time was one of the best side-scrolling games of the 90s.

X-Men Legends: This was a third-party game that worked across platforms. It gives a chance for another action RPG to grace the system and bring a popular fantasy franchise to a system that needs more recognizability.

Fire Emblem: The characters from this franchise are recognizable because of Smash Bros, but it still has yet to grace the console.

Luigi’s Mansion: The Gamecube game was not particularly challenging, but it was more complex than I original envisioned. There is the newer version on the 3DS but not on a console.

Does this give you all something the start with? I know that comes off as a bit snarky but I have been very loyal and owned every major console system you have produced. I want to continue to support the Nintendo family but do not have the confidence in the poor production of games I have seen for the first 9 months of the Wii U.

~A concerned Nintendo fan

PS: After drafting this post, I read several articles on highly recognized blogs saying the same thing. Just sayin…

Wii U: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Video Games

As with the previous Nintendo systems, the Wii U had plenty of hype around its release this year, but not in the same way as when the original Wii was release. Other than knowing that there were improved graphics and a new tablet controller, the speculation around what this new system would bring was somewhat confusing. Was the new controller backwards compatible with the original Wii? Were 3rd-party developers going to take more to this new version of the system than they did with the original Wii? Was Nintendo going to be able to compete with the other systems and their stronger gamer bases?

The only one of those questions to be answered was the first one. The controller was part of the new system, which did make the older Wii obsolete (except if you want to go back to play Gamecube games). The Wii U was released in mid-November with two bundles to pick up. The first was the basic package: white, new controller, no game. This was actually the first time that Nintendo has released a system that does not even contain an introductory game. The second was the deluxe package: black, new controller, Nintendoland game, charger base for the controller. With only a $50 price difference, shoppers have been easily able to track down the basic models but not the deluxes. Luckily, I took a trip to NYC and was able to find one easily.

SONY DSCFirst, the controller is a rather interesting design. The tablet interface is rather responsive and allows the gamer to continue to play games on the controller screen while watching TV on the big screen. The contours fit the hand well, though it still remains to be seen if this will hold true for games that maximize the use of all of the controller’s buttons. The controller can also act as a TV remote once paired. The buttons on the remote are your standards one for any Nintendo controller, but the screen does add the possibility for a slightly larger set of button options depending on the type of gameplay you are enjoying.

The Wii U home screen is the same as the regular Wii with the difference in that the main screen shows the Mii plaza while the controller shows the menu. You can use the touch screen to select items and scroll through the system options.

On to the games…

Nintendo-Land_510First up is Nintendo Land…the distant cousin of Wii Sports. Armed with one of the most annoying and slow interacting guides Nintendo has created, it takes a moment during the first load to get to the actual gameplay. Once you do, you will be pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply putting together a random assortment of games to show off the controller, Nintendo chose to infuse some of their franchises into the mix. Included within the games are a Legend of Zelda-themed game where your character works through stages while taking down enemies with the bow & arrows, a Pikmin-themed game where you make your way through levels to reach the spaceship at the end, Metroid-themed game where you take out enemies from your ship and Yoshi-themed game where you collect fruit and try to draw lines on the tablet to make your way to each goal. Each of the games has decent replay value and a solid difficulty curve. I have not gotten to try out the games in a¬†multiplayer setting, but I can imagine that they bring more of a party element to the gameplay.

New Super Mario Bros U

Besides Nintendo Land, I picked up Super Mario Bros U. While the game is not that different from the original Wii version, there are some new items and new playable elements. The new power-up is the flying squirrel, which allows you to glide and have a quick boost upward when needed. It also lets you cling to the walls. The basic map is not so basic anymore. There is not a necessary linear path you have to take after the first two worlds. The path splits and there are hidden paths that can boost you forward. The Star World levels at the end are out of control, as the difficulty level is ratcheted up. The other major addition to this game is the challenge mode elements, including coin grabs, survival levels, time attacks and 1Up challenges. These are quick and give a little bit of competition to achieve gold medals. I have not been able to play this in multiplayer yet either, but I am sure that it is a blast.

There is still a lot of room for this system to grow, as I am still not sure if there will be a great 3rd-party presence. Here are some of my can’t wait and hopeful games on the horizon:

Can’t Wait List

  • Pikmin 3 – coming soon
  • Legend of Zelda – coming in 2013
  • Super Smash Bros – in the future

Hopeful

  • Metroid Prime
  • Pokemon – still without an RPG console version
  • Mario Kart
  • Mario ??? – Galaxy or something similar
  • Final Fantasy – something closer to the PS games instead of the Crystal Chronicles
  • Star Fox

A lot of criticism is out there about individual who spend time playing video games. Certainly a sedentary lifestyle is not a healthy one, but there is more value to many games that button mashing. Unlike State of Emergency, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, most games have some sort of purpose or meaningful storytelling element.

First to highlight the purposeful concept, each genre of games serves as a simulation or escape from the ordinary. Most sports games allow individuals to either experience the success of the real athletes or play out a season to their liking. Games like LittleBigPlanet allow anyone to take their imagination and make it appear on-screen, tapping into one’s creativity. The craze involving rhythm games may not have been perfect translations of real instruments, but Guitar Hero encouraged a large portion of young people to take up learning guitar and some instruments (mainly the drums) actually simulated the real thing.¬†Even most shooting games and action/adventure games include deep, engaging stories that let the player escape into an entirely new universe. With the more recent additions by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, all of the major consoles include motion gaming that allows players to move with the game, including hitting a tennis ball or swinging a sword.

As mentioned with action/adventure games, roleplaying games contain the most engaging and immersive stories. One of the best series in existence (and still running strong) it the Final Fantasy series. With the exception of two sequel games, each of the main games exists in completely original environments with unique sets of characters. The general themes carry over between ¬†games, but each one sucks you in and including dozens of hours of gameplay. To exhibit some of the engagement element of the stories, let me provide a sample from the games I have played (some more than once)…

Final Fantasy VI:¬†Suffering from a bout of amnesia, a young woman named Terra is saved by some of the local residents of the mountain town of Narshe and a young thief name Locke. With Emperor Gestahl’s troops hot on their trail, Locke takes Terra to meet his friend, King Edgar. When Edgar and Locke learn about Terra’s mysterious magical abilities, they go on a journey to discover the mystery of her powers and her history. As the story unfolds, the band of misfits continues to grow and they learn about a devious mage named Kefka who is working with Gestahl to weaponize the magic in mysterious beings called Espers. The further that Kefka pursues his magical dominance, the closer he pushes the world into apocalyptic destruction.

The best aspects of this game are the depth of the individual character stories and the cliffhanger-like element at the midpoint of the game. The main character, Terra, starts with a bout of amnesia but discovers her connection with the Espers. She dominates the first half of the game as the heroes seek to understand the influence of magic in the growing imperial threat. Edgar and his brother Sabin are brothers with diverging lives. On a gamble, they flipped a coin to determine who would rule the land, but Sabin’s loss led him to flee and life a free, peaceful life. The arrival of Locke and Terra served as an opportunity to reconnect and reestablish their family bond. Even a minor character like Gau has his own story. As a wild child living off of the land, he was abandoned by his father. Later in the story, he gets his chance to reconnect but ultimately cannot live up to his father’s expectations.

The cliffhanger element comes up when Kefka successfully is able to access the statues that hold magic in check and have the ability to reshape the world if rearranged. While Terra and the others seem to reach him in time, he manages to double-cross Gestahl and reshape the entire face of the world. While the heroes make it back to their airship, the catastrophic changes cause it to crash and scatter the heroes across the globe. When Celes wakes up, she is stranded on a small island with Cid as her only companion. Living in quiet existence has been detrimental to Cid’s health, forcing Celes to find a way to get off the island and search for other survivors. Gradually, she comes across her friends and the group deems it necessary to find a way to get to Kefka and neutralize his power.

Final Fantasy VII: A former member of the Shinra Corporation, Cloud Strife has defected and joined a group called Avalanche. Along with Barrett and Tifa, they eventually agree on a need to bring down Shinra in a Robin Hood-like way. After one of their missions, Cloud meets a quiet florist named Aeris, who is actually a target for Shinra’s experiments. When their efforts lead them deep into Shinra headquarters, they learn more about the corporation’s plot to eliminate the slums and their residents. In the wake of their battle, Cloud and the Avalanche members are able to escape the pursuit of Shinra and recollect themselves in the town of Kalm. As the group seeks to understand the legendary SOLDIER Sephiroth’s plans, they discover more about Cloud’s mysterious past and Aeris’s importance to Shinra and the Jenova project.

The interesting element of this game is the twists and turns of the story involving Cloud and Sephiroth. Cloud originally believes that he was ex-SOLDIER but also recognizes how his memory is fuzzy. He remembers his mother and the fire in his hometown, as well as his time in SOLDIER with Sephiroth. As Avalanche continues their quest to understand both Shinra’s and Sephiroth’s plans, the story unfolds to reveal that Cloud’s memories were actually the experiences of a close friend, Zack. Cloud never made it into SOLDIER and simply served as a Shinra guard. As they uncover his story, Aeris falls victim to Sephiroth’s destructive tendency, which pushes Cloud to seek vengeance against the seemingly indestructible villain.

Final Fantasy X: Tidus, a star in the sport of blitzball, lives in a city called Zanarkand. When a massive evil creature named Sin attacks the city, Tidus is consumed by the beast but wakes up just off of an island called Besaid. Meeting up with three guardians (Kimahri, Lulu and Wakka) and their summoner (Yuna), he slowly discovers that he has passed through time and wound up in a world which seemed foreign to him. In an attempt to learn about his situation and adapt to his new existence, he chooses to volunteer himself to join Yuna on her quest. Tidus learns that Yuna’s quest will take her throughout the world to gather the assistance of creatures called aeons to battle and defeat Sin. Meanwhile, a part-human, part-Guado prince named Seymour has his eyes set on Yuna to become his bride, but seems to have ulterior desires for the future of the world.

Similar to FFVI, the character depth is the most intriguing part of the game. Tidus’s arrival in Besaid is believed to be his travel through time, but his reality is that he perished during the Sin attack in Zanarkand. His existence is being maintained by the Fayths, beings that provide the ability to access the aeons. The Fayths hope to support Tidus and his crew in the destruction of Sin, but their victory will lead to his existence fading into memory. Auron, who serves as Tidus’s guide, existed back in Tidus’s time but actually fell to a similar fate and is only a corporal memory attempting to support the defeat of Sin. Yuna, daughter of the great summoner Braska, is trying to follow in his footsteps and bring calm to the land through the defeat of Sin. She also understands the truth about the end of her journey, which involves sacrificing her life to the final aeon to subdue Sin. Wakka, a blitzball player like Tidus, has been unable to succeed at the sport but found purpose through his relationship with Yuna. Lulu, who lost her love to the war against Sin, seeks to avenge his death. Even the villain Seymour has a deep story, involving the marriage of a Guado with his human mother. He became enraged by a difficult childhood and believed that destroying the world would help people get their release from misery and suffering. To accomplish this, he looks to defeat and become Sin itself to accomplish his goal.

Refocusing on Tidus, his subplot involves the abusive relationship of his father, who was also a blitzball player in his time. Jecht was often found drunk and went missing during a training at sea. Though he was transported to the future, he too had died and his corporal existence landed him in Braska’s journey as a guardian. While Yuna had the best impressions of Jecht and Auron periodically defended him, Tidus rejected any positive change based on his childhood memories. When Tidus learns that Jecht sacrificed himself to defeat Sin and had become the creature, his hate intensified. The further Tidus traveled on the journey, the more he began to understand Jecht’s situation and hope he could find a way to release him from his misery as the creature.

FFX also became the first game to lead into a sequel, which focused on Yuna’s quest to find what happened to Tidus. She stays connected with Rikku and adds in a new character, Payne, on her journey discover a way to resurrect her lost love. The chaos of Seymour’s and Yu Yevon’s plots from FFX left the world divided in their beliefs about progressing forward. The three groups (New Yevon, Youth League and Machine Faction) now struggle to rise as the new leadership for Spira.

While video games are not for everyone, it is difficult to ignore how many people become engrossed with the complexity of the stories.

No, I am not going into a whole VH1 tribute or parody. Instead, I would simply like to share a little about the music behind one of the greatest game franchises in the history of gaming. The Legend of Zelda’s main theme is one that is recognizable to so many as the games have been enjoyed across generations. From the original NES world theme to the most recent orchestral soundtrack to Skyward Sword, the music evokes emotion, excitement and joy to match the experience of the adventure on screen. By itself, you may not even recognize that it actually came from a video game.

This past year in celebration for the 25th anniversary, Nintendo hosted a concert in Los Angeles to highlight the music that helps to define this character and the whole franchise’s universe. The 70-piece orchestra played a series of selections and medleys from the games, spanning the entire history of the series. It was originally announced at E3 to joyous applause of the fanboys and was performed on October 21st.

To celebrate the series and reward the fans, a CD was added to the recently released Skyward Sword featuring the music of the concert. Here are the selections from the performance:

The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Medley –¬†http://youtu.be/UCExYO-NNMA

  • Random assortment of themes and musical selections between the original and up to/including¬†Spirit Tracks
  • Original theme appears toward the middle in a light violin section
  • Includes the following elements: Triforce Theme – A Link to the Past;¬†Theme from Spirit Tracks;¬†Dragon Roost Island – Wind Waker;¬†Original Theme similar to Twilight Princess version; Dark Word Theme – A Link to the Past;¬†Combination of Main Theme and Zelda’s Lullaby

Kakariko Village (Twilight Princess Theme) –¬†http://youtu.be/t_FmaQiQcNE

  • Similar in sound to the theme from Ocarina of Time
  • Very smooth and slightly regal sound, particularly toward the beginning

The Wind Waker Symphonic Movement –¬†http://youtu.be/J7yZ-jAj7Zk

  • Includes music that follows the chronological progression of the story
  • Strong moments featuring the boss themes and sailing theme mixed in with the lighter elements of character interactions

Gerudo Valley –¬†http://youtu.be/THdRs7grqhE

  • Taken from Ocarina of Time
  • Bolder and more defined than the original

Great Fairy’s Fountain Theme –¬†http://youtu.be/U7JQgyNw068

  • Orchestrated with a series of harps to capture the mystical side of the series
  • Not specific to one game but captures the spirit of all of them

Twilight Princess Symphonic Movement –¬†http://youtu.be/nKhLkgqEFZM

  • Similar to the Wind Waker¬†movement, captures the excitement and energy chronologically through the game (particularly in the most bombastic world theme out of the series)
  • Captures the essence of the story more than the actual music programmed into the game

The Legend of Zelda Main Theme Medley –¬†http://youtu.be/qkYSuWSPkHI

  • Greatest focus on 2D games appears in this medley
  • Consists of a collection of interpretations of the main theme across the entire series

Ballad of the Goddess from Skyward Sword –¬†http://youtu.be/hetWofrCz7U

  • Serves as the newest of the main game themes and will fit in nicely among the best of the series
  • One of the few main themes to be set in 3/4 rather than 4/4 time

Not only is this album one of the best orchestral video game collections but it was FREE with the game. I will definitely be listening to this entire album over and over again.

After just completing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I definitely have that feeling achievement and reflect on the quality of the game. Overall, I would give it a lot of credit for living up to the hype and certainly would say that I appreciated the combination of the Twilight Princess models with the Wind Waker cell-shading technology. There are a number of critics that have issue with the art design, but I think it works well with the style of game created. Without being all dramatic with providing a score at the end of a long analysis, I will simply say that it is worth the wait and the cost, especially with the added elements of a Hero Mode (replay with greater challenge) and Boss Mode (fight after fight of each boss completed in the game).

Main Characters

  • Link – A young man, seemingly an orphan, who is a student at the knight academy in Skyloft. Unaware of his role as the hero of destiny, he is the childhood friend of Zelda.
  • Zelda – Daughter of the academy’s headmaster, Zelda has always been a close friend to Link. Her status affords her royal-like attention and she serves a special role in the ceremony attached to the race involving students rising to the status of knighthood.
  • Lord Ghirahim – A member of the tribe that rules the surface world, he appears to be the one most interested in resurrecting his dark lord, the Imprisoned.
  • Fi – Serving as Link’s guide, she is a spirit that lives within the Skyward Sword. Though she is extremely calculated in her analysis and communication, she appears to understand the difference between good and evil.
  • Demise – The dark lord who was banished and imprisoned in monstrous form. His goal is to absorb the power of the Goddess and take control of the world.
  • Gaepora – Zelda’s father and headmaster of the knight academy. He appears to hold a greater status among the people of Skyloft, but it is a little undefined within the small community.
  • Groose – One of Link’s competitors at the knight academy, he is the leader of his peers and has a little thing for Zelda. Though seemingly unimportant to Link’s story, he has a purpose to aid the hero’s quest.
  • Impa – She is the guide who aids Zelda in her quest to discover her true power. With Zelda lacking any physical treat or defense, she protects Zelda with her agility and strength.

                            

Main Bosses

  • Lord Ghirahim – Link battles Ghirahim three times throughout the game. In the first session, Ghirahim only uses a fraction of his power, taking pity on the weak hero. The second session included a bit more of a struggle, leaving Ghirahim in retreat to resolve his issues of vanity. In the final battle, he cuts loose his full power and transforms his sword. These are some of the more interesting fights of the game as Link has to follow certain patterns to land hits and expose the weak points.
  • Scaldera – Located in the Earth Temple, this fire beast is a molten crab-like creature which shoots fireballs from its mouth. A fairly easy battle, the key for Link is to use bombs to disable the beast’s momentum.
  • Moldarach – In the Larayru Mining Facility sits the arachnid beast. With an eye on each claw and a hidden eye in the middle of its head, the beast uses claw and tail swipes to disable its opponents.
  • The Imprisoned – Though actually the monstrous form of the demon lord, this beast is located in the Sealed Grounds and continually tries to break free. The first attack includes the beast with just two massive legs. When it breaks free again, the beast has sprouted arms and can climb up the side of the pit. In its final escape attempt, the beast learns how to fly. Aiding in his attempts to take down the Imprisoned, Link has to rely on Groose’s technology to subdue the beast.
  • Stalmaster – More menacing than the hordes of Moblins, this boney creature has four arms and four swords to take on Link’s one sword. ¬†Unable to block every angle, the creature relies on different sword patterns to block oncoming attacks.
  • Koloktos – Deeper in the Ancient Cistern, Link finds the mechanical creature with six arms. Though the weak point is easy to spot, the arms help to prevent Link from having a clear shot at its chest.
  • Scervo – The former captain of the large pirate ship, Scervo blocks Link’s path to the ship’s major treasure. It is a battle of back and forth blows from sword to sword.
  • Tentalus – Awakening near the pirate ship, this leviathan uses its numerous tentacles and snake hair to protect its weak point on its eye. Link must dodge tentacles flying in every direction or get taken overboard.
  • Levias – Though not inherently evil, this sky whale has been taken over by a parasite. Adding a collection of tentacle eyeballs, the creature can only be battled while riding a Loftwing.
  • Bilocyte – The parasite that has taken over Levias, this acid shooting creature burrows deep into its host. It has few ways to defend itself if an attacked can get close enough.
  • Demise – The demon lord responsible for the villainous takeover of the surface world, Demise’s resurrection is the only focus for Ghirahim. Armed with Ghirahim as his sword, he uses raw power and a similar version of Link’s Skyward Strike to take down his opponents.

                    

Link’s Inventory (showing highest upgrades)

  • Shields – This game features four different shields, including the wooden, iron, sacred and Hylian versions.
  • Swords – After receiving the practice sword, Link eventually finds the Goddess sword (which becomes the Master sword).
  • Wallets – Though he only can store 300 rupees at the beginning, he can later hold as many as 9900.
  • Seed Satchel – This bag holds seeds used by the slingshot.
  • Bomb Bag – Holding explosives, this bag can store bombs found around the surface world for later use.
  • Quiver – Used with the bow, this item holds as many as 35 arrows at a time.
  • Adventure Pouch – Used to hold a variety of items, Link needs as many as possible to go on his journey.
  • Fireshield Earring – This jewelry helps Link keep from burning up when traversing areas with extreme temperatures.
  • Water Dragon Scale – Allowing Link to swim, this item opens up a number of new areas to the hero.
  • Beetle – This mechanical creature allows Link to reach items out of reach, similar to a boomerang.
  • Bottle – Used for a number of different items, bottles can hold potions, water and faeries.
  • Bow & Arrow – As a longrange weapon, the bow can be used to attack targets far out of reach or knock down opponents.
  • Bug-Catching Net – Used to capture many of the insects around Skyloft and the surface world, it truly has a singular use.
  • Double Clawshot – This item allows Link to travel to locations above pits and to greater heights.
  • Gust Bellow – With a never-ending amount of wind, this can be used to remove sand or move objects.
  • Mogma Mitts – An upgrade from regular digging mitts, this set allows Link to travel underground.
  • Sailcloth – Given to Link by Zelda, this cloth allows Link to glide down from great heights.
  • Scattershot – An upgrade of the slingshot, pellets fly out in a circle pattern to catch enemies on the periphery.
  • Whip – This item can be used to grab levers from a distance or to swing across pits.
  • *Medals – Creating additional effects like increased rupees or hearts, medals help to bolster items needed to complete the journey.

                                          

Major Areas

  • Skyloft – The town above the clouds, the townspeople call this place home. This is also the only true organized community in this world.
  • Faron Woods – This is the home of the Sealed Grounds and woodlands. Among its inhabitants are the Kikwi and an sweet old woman.
  • Skyview Temple – Home of the first prayer location for Zelda, the Lord Ghirahim encounters the hero first at this location.
  • Eldin Volcano – Covered in lava, the Mogma call the heated terrain their home.
  • Earth Temple – Holding a similar danger of high heat, Link encounter the Scaldera on his path to meet up with Zelda.
  • Lanayru Desert – The barren landscape includes timeshift stones which cause the earth to revert to its former lush greenery.
  • Lanayru Mining Facility – Timeshift stones affect the state of the terrain in the facility as well. Moldarach awaits Link’s attempt to pass through.
  • Isle of Songs – Hidden in the Thunderhead, the alter provides owners of mystical musical instruments to learn songs which grant access to secret areas.
  • Lake Floria – Home of the Parella, the lands are home to the Water Dragon.
  • Ancient Cistern – Hidden in the Faron Woods, this temple holds Link’s first opportunity to restore the power to his Skyward Sword.
  • Lanayru Sand Sea – To the east of the desert, the sea had dried up years ago, but can be restored using a timeshift stone.
  • Sandship – This ancient ship used to be run by robots but has been taken over by moblins and the pirate Scervo.
  • Volcano Summit – At the peak of the volcano, this serves as the pathway to the next temple.
  • Fire Sanctuary – The next temple for Link to restore his sword’s power, the Lord Ghirahim chooses this place to yet again stop Link.
  • Sky Keep – A part of the Skyloft, the Temple used to exist on the surface world and holds the three pieces of the triforce.
  • The Sealed Grounds – This location serves as the prison for the Imprisoned and the place of the resurrection of Demise.

                              

Extras of the Game

  • Hero Mode – After completing the game, the story can be replayed with a few changes. Recovery items are harder to come by and enemies do twice the damage.
  • Boss Mode – In the Larayru Province, the Thunder Dragon is the keeper of a special game, battling each of the bosses over again. The mode bosses defeated equals the quality of the prize, but there are no recovery items available for use.
  • Gratitude Crystals – Across the Skyloft and floating islands, Link can collect gratitude crystals after completing tasks of kindness to be shown to the misunderstood Batreaux.
  • Bug Rock Mini Game – Taking bug catching to the next level, Link can compete to catch a specific collection of bugs within a given time limit.
  • Goddess Cubes – Throughout the game, there are cubes that have the triforce symbol on them. With a Skyward Strike, the cube dissolve and open up treasures in the clouds.

It is interesting that the Zelda franchise has gone on for so long without an explanation of the connection between the individual games. I have had my many theories but, in a recent release, Nintendo has finally released somewhat of an explanation of the storyline. Here is an image to get a sense of the timeline:

What is interesting about this recent release is that it takes an approach that the legend actually starts with one progression but breaks into three different tracks based on Link’s success or failure in Ocarina of Time. My original belief was that the progression was actually something like this (with some of the game stories I do not know being omitted):

  • Skyward Sword
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Majora’s Mask
  • Twilight Princess
  • Link to the Past
  • Link’s Awakening
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Adventure of Link
  • Wind Waker

In this version, Hyrule is created and saved from the evil Demise, but his spirit remains and transforms into Ganon/Ganondorf. Locked away in the other realm, he is revived in Ocarina of Time when a new hero of destiny awakens in Kokiri Forest. Able to drive Ganondorf back into the shadow realm, he returns to his childhood and winds up battling the skull kid. At least a generation later, Zelda is a princess captured in the Shadow Realm. Link is awakened as the hero of destiny and opens a connection between the light and dark worlds. Ganondorf reveals his reawakening, but Link and Zelda drive him back again. A wizard is able to pull together the light and dark worlds again, forcing Link and Zelda back on the offensive. After defeating Ganon again, Link takes his vacation but winds up in a new adventure when he gets caught in a storm. The triforce being locked away, Ganondorf is able to free himself again and seek out the triforce for a wish. A young hero arises and is able to take down Ganon, and then prevent his return. Years later (possibly due to global warming), the face of the world has changed. Waters have flooded the land and people live by the open waters of the ocean. Ganondorf, struggling with reduced power, works to rebuild his empire once realized at the time of The Legend of Zelda.

I do not know if the picture above is 100% accurate, but I definitely am interested what the next installment will add to this already robust story.

So one part of me that I both own up to and hide at times is my gamer side. I certainly would love to be able to share it with others, but most of my friends I used to play with have moved on or stopped playing. This does not stop me. I have a few games I play online, but most of the time I am focused on certain series of games. One that has me occupied at the moment is the Legend of Zelda.

I have been playing through this franchise since the first game came out…well, not when it first came out. I own systems all the way back to an Atari 2600, but one of the first games I ever beat was the first Legend of Zelda. Though simple in comparison to the games out now, it was actually quite challenging and complex compared to the other games of its time. Starting off outside a cave, Link receives his first sword and is off on a quest to rescue the Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. Traveling throughout the land, he goes from dungeon to dungeon, collecting items/weapons to aid him on his quest and ultimately let him reach Ganon and Zelda.

Moving forward from original, the series began to evolve. Each story brought forth a new sense of the story and slowly a theme developed to help tie the stories together. Ganon/Ganondorf makes an appearance in most of the games and generally ends up being the final boss battle. It became apparent that the bloodlines of Link and Zelda allowed for a lot of the connections between games without starring the same individual Link and Zelda, though Ganon/Ganondorf is immortal and recurs in different forms. It was the Ocarina of Time that officially started to make the connection. Link gets the story from the Great Deku Tree at the start of his quest, which highlights the three goddesses that created the world but had to banish an evil presence which had recently escaped. Different races of characters and storyline themes were developed alongside of this story, including the solidification of the landmarks that make up Hyrule. Whether you look at the mountaintops in Wind Waker and the surface world during Skyward Sword, Hyrule remains fairly similar from that point forward.

In honor of the 25th anniversary and with my love of creating lists, I have my top 3s (specifically referencing the three parts of the triforce) of this great series. I will also point out that I have not played most of the handheld games and have only limited knowledge of Majora’s Mask, which means that those games will be highly unrepresented in my most memorable elements of the games.

Best Dungeon Bosses

  • Gohma – While not the most challenging of the bosses (especially when you consider the Twilight Princess version), he has been an enemy of Link since the beginning. The formula is always similar. The weak point is always the eye, whether it is on the front or on top of the body. Gohma has also appeared in both a spider and scorpion style creature. I would anticipate that Gohma will return in the future.
  • Shadow Link¬†– Appearing in a few of the major titles, it is never easy to battle yourself. The first carnation was in Link II, where the game ended with a fight against your shadow. While the fight proved to be difficult, any fight where the enemy mirror’s your motions seems like it would be a stalemate. To expand on the options with shadow creatures, several of the other major bosses ended up using shadow versions of themselves to slow Link path to Zelda.
  • Ganon/Ganondorf – The final boss is usually one of the best fights of the game. Whether you look at the first version which was invisible or the epic fights in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, this is always a challenging fight. In the more recent editions, Zelda has gotten in on the fight, using light arrows to stun the demon king. When you have an enemy that can only be defeated but not actually killed, there are excellent opportunities to revisit the intense battles with a well-matched foe.

Most Annoying/Useless Dungeons

  • The Water Temple (Ocarina of Time) – Probably identified as one of the worst on most Zelda fans’ lists, the constant tracking back through the dungeon to change the water level just feels exhausting. This gets magnified when you realize that you play the ocarina at the wrong time and have to correct the mistake. All of this ends with a decent boss fight against an eyeball traveling through jelly-like water, but at least the Shadow Link fight is in this level.
  • Lord Jabu-Jabu’s Belly (Ocarina of Time) – Odd that two of the dungeons in a nearly flawless game make this list, but this level includes having to babysit a very annoying Zora princess. The level itself is fine with the enemy fights and the final boss, but having to backtrack when she goes missing is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.
  • Snowpeak Ruins (Twilight Princess) – Again, this is not all horrible, but the sense of backtracking with the collection of items for soup is just too much at times. The puzzles are fine. The enemies are fine. The final boss is okay. Why are we stuck on a mission for soup?

Most Innovated Additions

  • 3-D Gameplay – When Ocarina of Time was released on N64, a dynamic series was taken to a whole new level. A Link to the Past¬†included the most complex story up to that point, but the world expanded greatly on the day of the release. New weapons were added that increased the range of Link’s fighting ability and puzzle solving. It also meant swimming was added to include new underwater opportunities.
  • Motion Play – Though obvious, this added a true feeling of swing the sword and aiming the bow. With the latest installment, there is even more sensitivity and elements that require twisting, thrusting and snapping of the remote to achieve certain reactions.
  • Connected Storyline – Though not a visual element, Ocarina of Time¬†(as mentioned above) introduced a true backstory for the Link/Zelda/Triforce legacy. The creationism story became a staple to be highlighted in many of the games that followed. Wind Waker¬†was years after Hyrule was flooded over, with some surviving races rising to islands above the treacherous seas. Twilight Princess¬†takes place in Hyrule but introduced the new concept of the Spirit World¬†and the Palace of Twilight. Skyward Sword¬†starts away from Hyrule with a village of people who only know life in an island in the sky. Ganon’s story finally made sense and was getting explained in most of the major games after Ocarina.

Best Weapons (minus the Master Sword)

  • Clawshot¬†– Though it first started as the hookshot, this dynamic item worked as a weapon, item grabber and shortcut. Though not powerful, the clawshot can be used to stun enemies or take out smaller ones like Keeses (bats) without using arrows or the slingshot. Those pesky items that are out of reach are not as so when the clawshot can serve as a grabber. Finally with its ability grab hook points, vines and climbing walls, traversing dungeons and rough terrain is a bit easier.
  • Magical Key – Appearing in the first game, this key is a skeleton key that works on every dungeon lock. It only appears in dungeon #8 in both versions of the game, but it makes the rest of the dungeon and final dungeon easier to get through.
  • Musical Instruments – Each game has a different musical instrument, though the flute or ocarina appear in several of them. Instruments have the ability to warp link to other areas, open doors/gateways, change the time of day, call Epona and unlock secrets. Some games are more centered around the instruments like Ocarina of Time, where others are not even permanent items like with the reeds in Twilight Princess.

Most Annoying Secondary Characters

  • Midna, Navi¬†& Fi-¬†All of these characters are the guides for our hero, but all of them also overdo the help. Each are extremely talkative and cut off the action at some of the most annoying times. Navi, in particular, actually sometimes comes out flying into the view of the camera and can temporarily block a necessary item on screen. They are supposed to be helpful characters, but they are overused in each of their stories. It is also not explained what the real connection with Fi is.
  • Ruto – She is the Zora princess from Ocarina of Time¬†who requires way too much assistance in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s Belly. She comes off as a little too playful in a very dangerous situation and also has an odd crush on Link, which is clearly not reciprocated. The adult version is better as she only ends up being identified as a spirit guide for Link.
  • Old Man – In the first game, he is the man who both gives you your sword and then shows up all over Hyrule in caves and random dungeon locations. His guidance is almost Yoda-like and requires some deciphering to understand what he means. If you happen to make him angry, he starts throwing energy balls at you until you get out of his space.

Best Game Concept

  • Ocarina of Time – A boy of destiny is awakened as the Hero of Time. He is tasked with the responsibility to meet with the Princess Zelda, collect the spiritual stones and unlock the Master Sword. Transporting 8 years into the future, the world of Hyrule has changed, with Ganondorf’s minions having taken over the land. The universe was significantly expanded with this game and its ability to alter the entire concept of the game midway through.
  • Wind Waker¬†– While not always seen as a strong presentation of the series, the concept of the game is very different from the other major platform stories. Link is a child on Outset Island, unaware of the huge world beyond the shores. When a group of pirates give him a chance to get out on the open seas to search for and rescue his sister, he discovers a much larger quest to unlock the power to take out the evil Ganondorf and restore order to the world above the water. With the former Hyrule resting in suspension below the seas, Link gets to explore both the waters above and some of the land below.
  • A Link to the Past – Though actually the first game to set up the backstory (and potentially with more detail than Ocarina), it is easily lost if you do not read the manual. The tale starts with the creation of Hyrule and the goddesses of Power, Wisdom and Courage plowed the land, grew nature and created life. The Triforce was hidden, which contained the power of the goddesses, as the Hylians distorted the lore after many generations. The Evil Ganondorf was able to find and make a wish to the Triforce, bringing power and evil to the land. The Hylian knights fought valiantly, allowing for the sages to seal Ganondorf in the Golden Land, which under the evil presence had become the Dark World. When an evil wizard rises to restore the connection with the Dark World, ¬†Zelda calls on Link to first save her from the castle dungeon and then to go off on a quest to stop the wizard and keep Ganondorf at bay.

Though this series is not a secret to anybody, it is far from over. The coming release of the Wii U means that a whole new reincarnation of this amazing story. I certainly cannot wait.