Tag Archives: Zelda

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Originally released for the Game Boy Color back in 2001, just as the ageing handheld was being superseded by the Game Boy Advance, Oracle of Seasons is an odd fish.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.

5 Comments

Filed under The Year of Zelda

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.

72095_front

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.

14 Comments

Filed under The Year of Zelda

Spiffing Reads: Sonic’s Tweets, Biased Game Journalists and Link’s Awakening

Just a trio of articles on Spiffing Reads this week, kicking off with a comeback from Sonic in an unlikely quarter.

How Sonic the Hedgehog’s weirdo Twitter account could bring him back from the brink (Polygon)

clffti5veaeyiqp
Most corporate Twitter accounts are harmlessly banal, and the same was true of the official Sonic the Hedgehog account – until Aaron Webber took over. Now Sonic’s famed ‘attitude’ is very much in evidence, and we get plenty of cheeky digs at other games and companies, such as this zinger on the disappointing launch of Mighty No. 9: “Congrats on the launch, ! It’s better than nothing.” Yowch.

It’s interesting to draw back the curtain on corporate social media and see the attention to detail and sheer strategy that goes into every post. Long gone are the days when a social media manager was just someone doubling up on their day job and firing off the odd tweet.

HOW BIASED ARE GAMES JOURNALISTS? – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

narrow

Answer: just as biased as everyone else. Mr Biffo has given several takes on this subject in the past, but it’s always fascinating to read his well-formed opinions. Certainly games journalists aren’t any more biased than regular journalists or film critics – but perhaps video game fans are more vocal than most. Well, some are, at least.

Link’s Awakening: Rendering the opening cutscene (KZone)

6-diff-honzwave-rain

This is a fascinating look at all the coding tricks that went into making that impressive cut scene that begins The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy. Man, they worked that little grey box hard to pull this off. I’ll admit to getting lost in the technical details about halfway through, but I can appreciate the skill that went into this.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

2 Comments

Filed under Spiffing Reads

A few thoughts on today’s Nintendo Direct

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from today’s Nintendo Direct, seeing as Nintendo have said they won’t be revealing the NX just yet, even though it’s supposedly imminent. So what would they be showing then? Surely the pipes for the 3DS and Wii U must be a little dry right now as development swaps to the NX? Well, yes and no. There was nothing to really set the world alight in the presentation, but a few things made me sit up and notice, and even perhaps let out the odd ‘ooooooh’.

  • The reveal that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is out to download RIGHT NOW from the Wii U virtual console only served to make me chastise myself for the fact that I still haven’t gotten around to playing this game, DESPITE OWNING IT SINCE LAUNCH. I am mentally moving it up in the ‘to play’ order in my head as I write this.
  • zelda amiibosThose Zelda 30th anniversary amiibos were a nice surprise, and yet more fuel for my amiibo addition. To be honest, none is as cool as the Wolf Link amiibo that came out a little while back, not to mention the stonkingly brilliant Breath of the Wild amiibos that are on their way, but Ocarina Link is pretty cool. Look at him there, all wistful.
  • crrmmkewiae0w1bjpg-2c51a9_765wSpeaking of amiibos, the Poochy amiibo is just taking cuteness to the next level. I’m tempted to get it just to sit next to Yarn Yoshi on my shelf, even though I wasn’t too fussed about Yoshi’s Woolly World as a game.
  • Oooooh, another StreetPass Mii Plaza update! So now you can have 100 Miis in your plaza instead of just 10? And you can opt to skip most of the dialogue? And there are five new games that have been designed to be played in extremely short bursts? It’s like they read my mental tick list of all the things I wanted them to do to improve this. OK, the 3DS is going back into my bag, we’re-a-going Mii hunting.
  • 20160901_084223Ever Oasis is without doubt my highlight of the presentation. It’s from Grezzo, who did the wonderful 3DS conversion of Majora’s Mask, and Koichi Ishii, creator of the Mana series, is behind it. I love the idea of expanding your desert oasis and attracting more people to live there – building up bases and getting people to live in them was one of my highlights of Xenoblade Chronicles.
  • Now this was a surprise – a 2D Pikmin game for the 3DS. Looks kind of interesting, but I can’t help feel it might simplify the gameplay a little too much. And now it’s billed as an ‘action game’ rather than the puzzle/resource gathering game of old. Hmmm. I’m all for more Pikmin games, as I loved the first three, but I’m currently not sold on its reinvention as a 2D platformer thing. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out…
  • I’m looking forward to the rerelease of Dragon Quest VII – I’ve never played a Dragon Quest game, and I reckon it’s about damn time I tried one. I remember when Dragon Quest VIII was released when I was living in Japan, and pretty much the whole country stopped just to play that game. Happily, that’s coming to the 3DS as well in 2017 – nice to know there’s another one lined up if I enjoy number seven.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit Justice is obviously a must buy when it’s released on 8th September. Shame they seem to have skipped out on releasing the Sherlock Holmes one in the west though.
  • WiiUDS_JotunValhallaEdition_03_image912wOut of all the indie games in the line-up, the one that stood out by a country mile was Jotun: Valhalla Edition. The hand-drawn graphics look amazing. Apparently it came out for PC last year, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it. I’ve no idea whether it’s any good or not, but I’m tempted to buy it for the graphics alone.

So, despite no news of the NX, it turns out there’s plenty of upcoming Nintendo games that I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on – not to mention some tasty-looking amiibos. So much for whittling down the backlog.

Anyway, here’s the whole presentation if you want to give it a watch:

7 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Majora's MaskMajora’s Mask 3D is now officially my favourite Zelda game.

I never got around to playing the N64 original, although I remember my sister raving about it at the time. I seem to recall that it came in for some criticism for reusing a lot of the assets and game engine from Ocarina of Time, and the fact that it came out at the very end of the N64’s lifespan probably didn’t do it any favours in terms of reaching a wider audience. By the time of Majora’s Mask‘s European release in November 2000, I’d long since fallen in love with the Dreamcast, and I was happily hoovering up every SEGA game on offer. It wasn’t until the launch of the GameCube in 2002 that I drifted back towards Nintendo.

But it seems that during my Dreamcast love-in I really missed out on something rather special over on the waning N64. Majora’s Mask may share assets with Ocarina of Time – and in fact it’s a rare direct sequel in the Zelda canon, following on from the events of OoT – but in every other respect it’s utterly distinct from every other Zelda game out there, not least because Zelda isn’t even in it.

Link, there's something... not quite right about you. I can't put my finger on it...

Link, there’s something… not quite right about you. I can’t put my finger on it…

For a start, it’s dark. Whereas Twilight Princess was dark in a literal sense, as well as having the whiff of teenage angst about it, Majora’s Mask is dark in the sense that bad things happen to good people quite regularly. Oh, and the world is going to end because a massive evil moon is about to smash into it.

You can help the people of Termina with their problems, but at the end of the game’s three-day cycle, as the moon is just about to smash into Clock Town, you’re forced to got back in time and start over again, with everything reset except for a few key items in your possession. That means all of your good work is undone over and over again. At the end, I had the sudden realisation that although I’d managed to cease the tyranny of Majora’s Mask, all of the other terrible tragedies in the game had still unfolded in that time line, because it’s impossible to help everyone in the space of three days. The cows still get stolen from Romani’s Ranch. The robber still steals the bomb bag from the old lady. The Goron elder still remains trapped in ice. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt ennui at the end of a Zelda game.

And in fact, the ending itself is a bit melancholy. There’s no punch-the-air triumph. It’s all just… well, sad. And then there’s the fact that the masks you wear contain the spirits of dead people. And when you put them on, Link literally screams as his body transforms. Every. Damn. Time.

Interestingly, Skull Kid actually has a cameo in Ocarina of Time.

Interestingly, Skull Kid actually has a cameo in Ocarina of Time.

Majora’s Mask is also downright weird. It feels like the designers have been given total free reign to run with the strangest characters and ideas they could think of after the success of the relatively strait-laced Ocarina of Time. There’s a dead dancer who gives you a blank mask with a tiny version of his head poking out of it. There’s a huge, masked blacksmith who only communicates in grunts. There’s aliens. There are giants who are seemingly all legs and noses. There’s the utterly mysterious Happy Mask Salesman. There’s a ghost that lives in a toilet bowl. And of course there’s Tingle, the 40-year-old would-be fairy in a green unitard.

In short, it’s bloody brilliant.

And although I never played the N64 game, I’m extremely impressed with the job Grezzo have done with this remake after seeing some comparisons of it with the original. The 3D works wonderfully, and the graphics have been given a complete overhaul. But perhaps more importantly, they’ve made some very sensible tweaks to remove some of the frustrations of the N64 game, like giving you the invisibility-granting Stone Mask right when you need it, rather than just after the frustrating stealth section in which it would have been really kinda useful.

I simply couldn’t get enough of Majora’s Mask 3D. Whereas I eventually wandered away from Ocarina of Time 3D, leaving it unfinished, I spent tens of hours hunting out every last secret in MM3D – and I still want more.

Bravo, Nintendo. Bravo.

Buy The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D from Amazon.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Fun With Phantom Hourglass

20130519-080530.jpgSeeing as a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was announced for the 3DS just the other day, it seems like a good time to write about that other great portable Zelda game, Phantom Hourglass. I only played it for the first time very recently, but I was immediately struck by how well it suited being played on a handheld console – unlike the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, which tried to squeeze a console game to the size of a tiny box. Phantom Hourglass is designed to be played on the go for short stints, and it’s all the better for it.

I was also impressed by how well the controls have been mapped to the DS stylus. I wasn’t sure how combat would work, but it quickly became second nature, and the boomerang works particularly well with the touch screen. In fact I reckon that the Phantom Hourglass boomerang is the definitive version in the Zelda canon. I love the way you can scribble all over the maps too: it reminded me of making my own paper maps for Head Over Heels back in the old days.

20130519-080946.jpg

It was great to see the return to the Wind Waker cel-shaded version of Link as well: I love this design, with his big ol’ head and tiny little feet. I remember how controversial it was when it was first revealed, so it’s funny how now cel-shaded Link is now as readily accepted as the Ocarina of Time version. I think I prefer him, to be honest.

Having said that, I’m very much looking forward to returning to the top-down Link of A Link to the Past 2 later this year, but before then I still have loads of Zelda to catch up on: Skyward Sword is still waiting on my shelf to be played, and Spirit Tracks sounds worth a look, plus I never got around to playing The Minish Cap or Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons when they came out. So many Zelda games, so little time…

[As dictated by Lucius Merriweather. Another game falls from The Mantelpiece.]

5 Comments

Filed under Backlog - The Mantelpiece of unfinished games, Reviews

Amazing Zelda Fan Art

It fascinates me how gaming has gone from being a niche hobby to something that’s firmly ensconced in mainstream culture (even if there’s still some way to go before it gains widespread acceptance), and for evidence of this you need look no further than the burgeoning fan art community. The current generation of artists is the first one to have grown up under the spell of video games, and a quick look at deviant ART reveals no shortage of video game influences.

Some of the fan art involves interpretations of modern game heroes, but much of it also has a tint of nostalgia, and some of my favourite artwork features Link from The Legend of Zelda. In particular, I love the below interpretation of A Link To The Past, which is part of the Videogame Remakes series of pictures by Orioto. I like the way it captures the sense of forboding and the enormity of the quest to come. (You can find the original here.)

Through The Night by Orioto

Zac Gorman is deservedly famous for his video game-inspired artwork, and I particularly like the pic below, which is both funny and a little poignant. He’s used Link as his muse many, many times over the years, and I urge you to check out his excellent work with all possible haste at http://magicalgametime.com/. (You can find this Zelda pic here.)

Just one of Zac Gorman’s many excellent Zelda interpretations.

This black and white pic of Link, also by Zac Gorman, is another of my favourites – like the Orioto pic, I love the way it emphasises the frailty of the character.

Lost (in the ) Woods by Zac Gorman.

Finally, I’m also a big fan of the artwork of Link-obsessed Lara Crow over at Toastmonster. I particularly like this interpretation of Link’s remarkable ability to roll up stairs, and Lara even featured Link on her wedding invites.

Does anyone else have some amazing video game fan art they want to share?

[Penned in artistic admiration by Lucius Merriweather.]

6 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay