Category Archives: The Year of Zelda

From The Armchair: Accidental JRPG July

I only just found out about JRPG July, and it turns out I’m already participating in it – quite by accident.

The other week, after reading reviews of the just-released Valkyria Revolution, I decided to have a go on Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, the first game in the series. I got it for my birthday last year, but this is the first time I’ve played it. And whereas Valkyria Revolution has met with generally terrible reviews, Valkyria Chronicles is already shaping up to be one of my favourite games ever.

I was delighted to discover that it’s a tactical turn-based game, which happens to be my favourite genre – games like XCOM (review), Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (review) and Fire Emblem are some of my most played. I was also delighted to find that Valkyria Chronicles stars Vyse and Aisha from Skies of Arcadia among its cast, which was a lovely throwback to that fantastic Dreamcast RPG. Seeing them again has made my yearning for a Skies sequel all the more keener.

I’ll post a full review of Valkyria Chronicles when I’m done – I’m over halfway through now, so I should be able to get it finished in time for the end of JRPG July. But it’s not the only JRPG I’ve been playing.

Valkyria Chronicles is astonishingly good.

I finally finished Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest the other day. To be honest, it was a bit of a slog after Birthright, thanks to its much greater difficulty – even playing on Casual, it got really tough towards the end. I’m glad I didn’t play it with permadeath on, like I did with Birthright, as I’d probably only have half a dozen characters left by the final level. I’m interested to play the third and final Fates game, Revelations, if only to fill in some of the plot holes, but I’ll leave it for a while – I’m a bit Fire Emblemed out right now.

I also started playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. First impressions? Link is surely at his most beautiful in this game. What a handsome youth he is, in all his cel-shaded glory – the game seems to hit a perfect sweet spot between Toon Link and the more gritty Ocarina Link. But aesthetics aside, I’ve loved what I’ve played so far, particularly when the cook scolded me for breaking pots. Nice subversion of expectations there, Nintendo. I’m going to get straight back into it when Valkyria Chronicles is done and dusted.

So how about you lot? What have you been playing for JRPG July?

What a good-looking chap.

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The Year of Zelda: Link Archer Amiibo

For The Year of Zelda, I’m aiming to finish all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to complete before treating myself to Breath of the Wild at the year’s end. It’s going pretty slowly so far – I’ve only managed to complete Oracle of Seasons from the list – but that’s mostly down to putting 100+ hours into the sublime Xenoblade Chronicles X, as well as going mad for Fire Emblem. Now that Xenoblade is nearly done (my level-50 Skell is fully tooled up and raring to defeat the final boss), I can throw myself into my Zelda quest with renewed vigour.

But even though my intended purchase of Breath of the Wild is still months away, I couldn’t resist treating myself to one of the sweet, sweet amiibo that accompany the game.

Pre-orders for Breath of the Wild amiibo came and went in minutes, but I was lucky enough to spot the Link Archer for sale in Sainsbury’s of all places.

As ever, the detail on these amiibo figures is fantastic. I love Link’s little pointy ears.

Link has now taken pride of place on my office-desk amiibo line-up, right next to Chibi-Robo. I’m tempted to get all of the Breath of the Wild amiibo, but realistically I’ll probably stick at the Link Archer and Zelda – if I can get hold of her. Last time I checked, the Breath of the Wild Zelda amiibo was going for silly money on Amazon (one reseller was charging a hopeful £118), but as with other amiibo, she’ll probably come back into stock at a reasonable price once the initial demand fades.

I can wait…

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The Year of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

A while back, I set myself the goal of finishing all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to play before I start the latest game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oracle of Seasons is the first one I can tick off that list.

Originally released for the Game Boy Color back in 2001, just as the ageing handheld was being superseded by the Game Boy Advance, Oracle of Seasons is an odd fish. For a start, it was the first Zelda game to be developed by an outside studio, Capcom, and confusingly, it was actually released as two games – Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. At the time, I assumed that this dual release was a way to jump on the Pokemon bandwagon, a tactic of releasing two basically identical games with a few minor differences. But that’s not the case – each game is a fully fledged, unique, standalone adventure, although there’s an overarching narrative that spans the two. Cleverly, you get a password when you complete one of them that lets you carry over your save game to the next instalment, although it doesn’t matter which order you play the games in.

Apparently, the whole thing was originally going to be THREE games, each representing an aspect of the Triforce. But the third game was cancelled, and the protracted development saw the concept undergo enormous changes – hence why the games were released so late into the GBC’s life cycle. In fact, they didn’t emerge until well after the release of the GBA, the GBC’s replacement. The Oracle games’ huge ambition and wonderful graphics are typical of late-stage software for an ageing console, as developers finally master the hardware and are able to push it to its absolute limits.

The Rod of Seasons lets you change, ahem, the season, which is key to solving puzzles.

But to start with, I wasn’t enormously enthusiastic about playing Oracle of Seasons. I recalled a few reviews from the time being a little lukewarm about the game, especially in the wake of the astonishing Ocarina of Time, so I never saw it as a ‘must-play’ title. How wrong I was.

I’ll just put this out there right now – I reckon Oracle of Seasons is better than Link’s Awakening. In fact, I’d easily class it in my top 5 Zelda games, it’s that good. It’s just packed with so many great ideas, such as a boxing kangaroo called Ricky that you can ride on to leap over holes and punch out enemies. (In fact, that bit was so fun, it’s a real shame that Link stuck to riding boring old horses in the later entries – bring back Ricky, I say.) The collectible items are also inspired, particularly the magnetic gloves, which allow you to attract or repel certain enemies and pull yourself across gaps by latching onto a metal pole.

Hey Ricky, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Ricky!

But it’s the brilliant dungeons that really make the game. The below instalment of Boss Keys does a much better job than I could of explaining what makes these dungeons so good. They’re a joy to play through – challenging but never frustrating, with a real sense of achievement when you make it through alive. Wonderful stuff.

I’ve already started on the next game, Oracle of Ages, and judging by how much I enjoyed Oracle of Seasons, The Year of Zelda is going to be a very fun year indeed.


This article is part of The Year of Zelda, an attempt to play through all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to finish.

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The Year of Zelda

zelda-breath-of-the-wild

Like pretty much everyone else in the gaming world, I’m very excited for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After the slightly lacklustre reveal of the Nintendo Switch, I’ve decided to get the game on the Wii U and hold off on purchasing a Switch until there are a few more games. But before I buy it, I want to polish off the few Zelda games I’ve yet to complete.

I’ve played almost every Zelda game out there, but there are still a few that passed me by for one reason or another. I missed out on Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance, although I recently purchased it for the Wii U. I played Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS, but I never got around to buying its sequel, Spirit Tracks. I got Skyward Sword just after its release, but six years on, I’ve still yet to play it. I’m not sure why I keep putting it off – somehow it just feels like I need to save it for a special occasion.

Well, I guess now that special occasion has arrived. The release of Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be a landmark moment for the series, and I’ve resolved to play through every Zelda game I’ve missed before buying this latest entry. That might mean I miss playing it at release in March, but I can wait – it will only make playing it for the first time all the sweeter.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

At the moment, I’m about two-thirds of the way through Oracle of Seasons, one of a pair of Zelda games for the Game Boy Color that were, uniquely for the series, co-developed with an outside developer, Capcom. I remember the two games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, got a lukewarm reception at the time, but I’m heartily enjoying my playthrough of Seasons. I’d even go so far as to sat that – heresy! – it’s better than Link’s Awakening. Don’t lynch me!

Anyway, here’s the list of Zelda games I’m planning to play through before finally getting my hands on Breath of the Wild, roughly in the order I intend to play them. I’m leaving out Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures and Tri Force Heroes, as really they’re spinoffs (and they don’t particularly appeal to me, anyway).

  • Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
  • Oracle of Ages (GBC)
  • Minish Cap (GBA)
  • The Legend of Zelda (NES)
  • The Adventure of Link (NES)
  • Spirit Tracks (DS)
  • Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
  • Skyward Sword (Wii)

I’m aware that the two NES titles might be a slog to play nowadays, and Adventure of Link is renowned as being the worst in the series, so I may very well just dip into these rather than playing them to completion. Similarly, I’ll probably only dip into Wind Waker HD, as I completed the original back in the GameCube days, but I’m intrigued to see how they’ve tarted it up for the HD generation.

I’m also intrigued to play Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland on the DS, starring everyone’s favourite fairy-wannabee manchild. If I can get hold of it, I might add it to the list.

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Are there any Zelda games you’ve missed out on? I’d love to hear if you’re planning a similar Zelda marathon ahead of the launch of Breath of the Wild.

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