dorchadas: (Toon Link happy)
Wind Waker is one of the few Zelda games I've played and beaten around the time it came out, along with only the original Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time. My sister owned a GameCube and kept up with the releases, though she never played the games for that long. She pre-ordered the limited edition--I still have the bonus disc with the Ocarina of Time Master Quest on it--and I'm not sure she ever played it, but when I came home from university that summer, I did. I played through and beat the game without reading any of the online invective about it and I really liked it. I didn't care about the happy, cartoony graphics. That was the year that Call of Duty first came out, and I was busy playing Morrowind and Warcraft III. Something light and happy was refreshing, especially when I spent every weekday at a summer job that I hated and was going to spend the next semester studying abroad in Ireland. At the time, it might even have been my favorite Zelda game.

On replaying, it's still good, but the cracks stand out to me in a way they didn't then.

The Japanese title, as is often true, is simple and straightforward--kaze no takuto, "The Baton of the Winds."

Wind Waker - Ship firing Cannon at shore
Incoming!

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dorchadas: (Toon Link happy)
I was originally planning to play both Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages--fushigi no kinomi -jikū no shō-, "The Mysterious Seed -Time-Space Chapter-"--together and then write a joint review because I wasn't sure there was enough difference beween them to warrant separate treatments. Obviously, now I know that's wrong. They have the same premise, where Link is tested by the Triforce and dumped into a land that may or may not really exist, but beyond that and the basic gameplay conceits of the Legend of Zelda series nearly everything is different. Oracle of Seasons focused on combat and the end result was mostly a disappointment for me, but Oracle of Ages focused on puzzles and that was a much better choice for the format. If I had played this game first and then played Seasons, I might have been happier overall. This is definitely my favorite of the two.

Oracle of Ages Nayru's Song

"Quiet! I can't hear Nayru's song!"

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dorchadas: (Toon Link)
I'm not sure I had even heard of Oracle of Seasons--in Japanese, fushigi no kinomi -daichi no shō-, "The Mysterious Seed -Land Chapter-"--before I set out on my Zelda chronogaming quest. It was twinned together with Oracle of Ages and released in 2001, the height of my anti-console snobbery. My loss. But the march of time and technological progress means I can go back to those games that I missed and play them now, when I'll appreciate them. Truly, we live in the the golden age of gaming.

Oracle of Seasons is another weird portable entry, starting a trend that began with Link's Awakening and continuing to this day. The mainline console entries, with the exception of Majora's Mask, are the traditional Zelda games where Link fights Ganon and rescues the Princess, and the handheld games are the ones where he talks to a psychedelic winged whale, rides trains, and plumbs the depths of the same dungeon a dozen times. Or here, uses the progression of the seasons to save a land where the seasons have been thrown into disorder.


Link's dancing was already disordered.

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dorchadas: (Majora A Terrible Fate)
Majora's Mask almost completely passed me by. I think the first time I even saw any of it was at the first Symphony of the Goddesses concert I went to, where the gameplay footage of a moon with an evil face, Link turning into some kind of plant monster and flying around using flower umbrellas, and mysterious giants assembling to defend the city completely confused me. What was this? What was even happening here? And what is it about Majora's Mask that leads Zelda Dungeon to have a huge philosophical exegesis on the game?

(The answer to that is "When there's only one Zelda game every 3-5 years, they've got to publish something")

When my sister bought a Nintendo 64, I played Super Mario 64 and I played Ocarina of Time, and sometimes I played Blast Corps, and then I played Quest 64 and that was basically it for me. The N64 was not the system for an RPG-lover like myself, so I went back to my PC games and that's why I didn't know anything about this game until I played it.

I feel like I'm still missing a lot, honestly.


"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"

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dorchadas: (Grue)
For all the time I spent on DOS games in my youth, I don't go back and play them very often nowadays, even compared to how often I go back and play old console games that I used to like. Some of that is because many of the games I liked were, objectively, not very good. Replaying Jill of the Jungle reminded me how inferior it is to Super Mario Brothers 3, with the central conceit of changing forms seemingly like an afterthought and the save system removing all challenge except for going for the maximum score possible, but without the bragging rights of playing in an arcade.

But other games were great, and Solar Winds is one of them.


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dorchadas: (Link and Zelda together)
This is the game in the lineup I was most worried about replaying.

I mean, even a cursory search on the internet will find an enormous crowd of people who think that Ocarina of Time is the best game ever made, or at least in the top five. I still remember the first time I played it--I have my original gold cartridge sitting by our television--and how amazing it seemed coming from the first Zelda game, since I had only played Zelda II on a brief rental and never owned an SNES or Game Boy. Going from 8-bit self-contained screens to a giant expansive world? Running across Hyrule Prairie that first time, seeing Death Mountain in the distance and getting that "you can go there" feeling that Todd Howard mentioned in an interview about Skyrim? Combat trading sword blows, dodging and circling? It was amazing!

It was amazing, I won't deny that. At the time I first played it, I thought Ocarina of Time was the greatest game I had ever played. But I figured that it was mostly nostalgia and that since much of the amazement was based on technical innovation that had long since been obsolete, I'd have to force myself to play through this to get to Majora's Mask and then other Zelda games I haven't played.

I'm glad to say that's not the case. It's not the greatest game ever made, but I had a lot of fun with Ocarina of Time.


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dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I first became aware of Hyper Light Drifter a couple years ago, after the kickstarter had finished but before there was much more info available about it, when I saw this promotional image that seared itself into my brain.



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dorchadas: (Zelda Dark Princess)
The Game Boy was kind of a weird time. There were a ton of puzzle games, exhaustively (and exhaustingly) covered in Jeremy Parish's Game Boy World series. There were the games that were brought over and then jammed into an existing series, like how 魔界塔士 SaGa (Makai Tōsho SaGa, “Spirit World Tower Warrior SaGa”) became Final Fantasy Legend. There were the ever-popular licensed platformers with almost nothing to do with their source material, like the Batman game where Batman ran around shooting all his enemies in the face. And there were the spinoffs from popular Nintendo franchises. Sometimes this turned out badly, like the first Castlevania Game Boy game where the developers had to add a ton of invincibility powerups as compensation for the incredibly cheap enemy attack patterns and level design. And sometimes it turned out well, like Link’s Awakening.

A couple of years ago, I went to a concert called Symphony of the Goddesses that features orchestral arrangements of Legend of Zelda songs--I first wrote about it here when I went to an earlier arrangement--and they had a focus on Link’s Awakening. In addition to gameplay sequences from the DX version of the game, they had anime sequences they inserted cutscene style, made specifically for the concert. It was listening to that, to the music from a game I had never played and watching Link work his way through the dungeons, that first got me interested in playing through Link’s Awakening. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and [livejournal.com profile] slarnos’s advocating for it also helped, and that’s why I started this game so quickly after I finished the previous Zelda game.

And I like the name a bit better in Japanese, I admit. ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島, “Legend of Zelda: The Isle that Dreams.”


I, too, write my name on the back of all my possessions.

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dorchadas: (Link to the Past Comic Master Sword)
This is my favorite Legend of Zelda game.

I think.

I know everyone thinks that Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game and that it keeps winning polls as the best game of all time--with the notably infamous exception of last year at GameFAQs--but A Link to the Past has always been the game I went back to. My doubt is because of Wind Waker, but I won't be getting to that game for a while, so Link to the Past stands for the moment.

I never played it except briefly at friends' houses before emulation revealed the wonders of everything I missed by being a PC gamer, but I still got Nintendo Power through most of the Super Nintendo and part of the N64 era, and what I remember are the comics. Nintendo power serialized a comic based on A Link to the Past. Very loosely based--the constant vision, wings to fly into the desert, and balloon to get into Hyrule Castle had nothing to do with the game--but the game I imagined based on them was amazing. I still remember the story the tree tells Link about Ganondorf and the corruption of the Golden Land.
"Until then, I remain a fool in the shape of a tree."
Fortunately, though the game I eventually played was different, it was still excellent.


The graveyard is much more pastoral this time around.

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dorchadas: (Toon Link Feels bad man)
The Legend of Zelda was a staple game of my childhood, and I eventually managed to conquer the entire game without resorting to more help than we were expected to get in those days. Friends on the playground, questions to the counselors in Nintendo Power, and the dogged persistence of a kid who has an enormous amount of free time and a finite amount of ways to spend it. Particular circumstances that have almost vanished, now that a simple internet connection provides everyone who has one with more entertainment than they could ever watch even if they spent a thousand lifetimes on it.

Do you remember those long summer days, when you had no more media to watch because you had consumed everything available to you? Because kids today don't. They don't know what that's like.

Anyway, I rented Zelda II because I liked The Legend of Zelda and it was the sequel, right? It had to be good. Little did I know that it was very different from its predecessor and mostly in ways I didn't appreciate. Towns? An overworld with random encounters? Experience points? Maybe Nintendo was building off the obvious success of Dragon Quest, but I didn't know that. And neither did other Americans, because we didn't get Dragon Quest until two years after Zelda II hit North America and three years after it first came out in Japan. I flailed around for a while without much idea of what to do, never accomplished anything, and then didn't bother renting it again. And never even played it again, until now.


Well excuuuuuuuuuuse me, princess!

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dorchadas: (Link with Shield)
Kind of like when I played Super Metroid, playing this makes me wonder if I'm really a "Zelda fan," whatever that means. I've played even fewer Zelda games than Metroid games, but in part, this is an attempt to remedy that. Since Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the original Legend of Zelda coming out, I wanted to go back and play some of the earlier Zelda games I missed as well as the good ones that I loved, so I thought why not start at the beginning? And, since I've never played it, why not start with the Japanese version like I did with 悪魔城伝説 and see what the differences are?

And that answer is...not that much, really. Other than being in Japanese--and that's not even entirely true, since the intro is in English--everything is pretty much the same. Most of the quotes are translated pretty literally, and the minor nuances in meaning don't affect what story there is. For example, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this," in Japanese is, "ヒトリデハキケンジャ コレヲ サズケヨウ," which is, "It's dangerous by yourself. I'll bestow this [to you]," though with a bit of an old man nuance that doesn't really translate into English and with some implied status differences--授ける is generally used from a higher-ranking person to a lower one, though here I think it's just that it's an old man giving the sword to a whippersnapper.

And yes, the katakana and spaces are in the game. I think it's the first time I've ever seen a ヲ in the wild.


Your powers are weak, old man.

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dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Secret of Mana is one of the games that I mentioned in my Jill of the Jungle review that I missed due to not owning any 16-bit consoles. I remember playing it at friends' houses, and at the time I thought it was fascinating. A multiplayer RPG? A RPG that's not turn-based? Charging up weapons? What is this sorcery?!

I didn't actually play much of it, though--I remember friends grinding spells in the Pure Land, and I remember the witch's castle in the haunted forest, but that's about it. Much later, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I tried to get through the game, but we missed a Sword Orb somewhere and couldn't find it, so we gave up. Over a year ago--November of 2014, according to the date on the first screenshot I have--we tried again, and this time we finally got all the way through.

And finally, I can say that I think Secret of Mana is stupid bullshit.


This would set the trend.

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dorchadas: (Green Sky)
A long time ago (ten years!), a game came out for PS2 called Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. And it had almost nothing to do with the original Baldur's Gate, but it was fun enough on its own, especially played co-op, that I played it through twice with the same characte. Then the sequel came out, and I played through most of it with [livejournal.com profile] uriany, but never quite beat it. About a year and a half ago, I decided to start playing it with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and slowly, haltingly, we finally made it to the end.

How long it took us to play through it isn't really a reflection on the quality of the game, because the moment to moment stabbing of the bad guys is fun enough. I say "fun enough" because I was playing the necromancer since necromancers are one of my favorite character types, but I had forgotten that his most effective skill builds require standing in place and channeling, which doesn't really fit in with the mobility that most ARPGs ask of you. Meanwhile, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was playing the barbarian, dual-wielding two-handed swords that I had enchanted to the hilt, and was doing at least three times my damage at a conservative guess. Maybe four times. It was kind of hard to tell what with all the huge numbers flying out of the bad guys and overlapping. There was definitely no LFQW here.

The plot was...serviceable. The bad guy only showed up in cut scenes for most of the game and we really had no idea what we were up again, but I admit some of that is probably just us clicking past the plot to get to the next part where we could stab ogres in the face again. There was a vampire lord and the Zhentarim and a dark elf claiming to be a very tan sun elf and a part of the elemental planes and the lizard man who commited a sudden but inevitable betrayal at the end of the first game and an obvious hook into the sequel when one of the pharaohs of Mulhorand was talking to a servant who was all like "The vampire has set sail for fail!" and the pharaoh was like "lol n00b if u wnt 2 do smthing good..." Except the sequel never came.

And I can kind of see why. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance was pretty fun, even if the sorceress was obviously the best character. The water effects look like the characters are walking through weird, perfectly-symmetrical jello, but I remember thinking that they were great at the time because they actually reacted the characters' presence. The basic formula of killing guys to get items to kill bigger guys to get bigger items worked, and all of that was carried over to the sequel, but Dark Alliance II just didn't have that much to grab me.

I think it's because there wasn't really much that's changed other than the new classes and the workshop. Going from Diablo to Diablo II had the new classes, but it also had the skill system, the gems, the runes and runewords, the additional overworld areas, the acts, the mercenaries, etc., etc. Dark Alliance II is essentially the same a Dark Alliance, and that's okay, I guess, but it doesn't lead to particularly memorable or exciting gameplay when compared to the first game. I actually think I liked playing the sorceress better than the necromancer, just because casting ball lightning is a lot more visually impressive than casting shadow spray.

I'm not sure I would have played through it at all if it weren't for co-op, but even there there were enough minor annoyances that I kept finding things that bothered me. Both players having to be on the screen at the same time got one of us trapped behind objects multiple times and even led to some deaths, and any time managing inventory or skills or talking to anyone was annoying. Basically, it actively decreased my enjoyment at any time that we weren't directly engaged in killing things, and even then it was a drawback.

A nice bit of fun, but with games out now like Torchlight II or full-patched Diablo III, I don't really think Dark Alliance II is worth much more than a footnote unless you're dead-set on playing your ARPGs on a console.

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