Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A chance to unwind

  Thunderbolt’s boy form is Dylas, who remains passed over night with Dr. Jones and Nancy.  He escapes, and when Nancy discovers him gone, the whole town is in an uproar, sending Lest (of course) running around to find him.  When Lest catches up with Dylas, he is passed out again in Ventuswill’s chamber.  Venti asks Lest to retrieve the new arrival, but the friends’ brief exchange hints that Ventuswill is surprisingly exhausted.  Once again hauling the body unconscious back to the Clinic, Lest is discharged of duties for the day, and permitted to work quietly on the farm, or on his crafts.  My calendar called for a Fishing Tournament, and fun was had by all while the NPCs thoroughly out-fished me!  Grumble, grumble…

  Rune Factory 4 treats its players to another Saturday morning anime-Jump story, as Amber, the girl I was sure was going to be trouble, pulled something I’d never expected.  Her guardian, Illuminata, comments off-handedly about a random spot in the fishing pond and that it feels like it is missing something.  The next morning, Illuminata is tearing her own way through town proclaiming that some of her flower stock is gone, and that there must therefore be a thief!

  Xiao Pai, for whom this really isn’t her business, asks Lest to believe her, that she knows that whomever took it must have had a good reason.  Lest is given a choice to believe her or not, but believing her adds Xiao Pai to the party and sends them of looking for the thief, trying to beat the mystery-addicted Illuminata to the punch.  The next scene is a comical, but highly cliché scene proving that it is not wise to get between Illuminata and her mark, as she blows them down without a care, tearing off into the fishing hole.  Belatedly, Xiao Pai and Lest give chase.

  The source of the trouble turns out to be Amber, who must have heard Illuminata talking, and took the flowers to decorate the random spot on the map.  Players have to look reeeeaaal closely, and sort of imagine them there.  I kid, the spot continues to look for all the world, like a random rock on the wall.  Continuing to play up the family TV vibe, Amber explains her indiscretion.  Illuminata does the only thing a responsible business person could do… she smacks Amber, then scolds her for taking the flowers without asking, then agrees to support her decision to spread flowers.

  The slightly hammy plot lacks nothing for charm, but there are many problems that emerge from this type of narrative delivery.  Setting aside the parental abuse issues, Lest and Xiao Pai are both conscripted into witnessing this scene directly, but don’t actually contribute that much to it.  Their roles are pretty … well serving as a witness in a child services investigation is a full narrative role, maybe something will come of it later.  For right now, it feels like there is no real point, and I can’t say the game generally is feeling any better than this one small scene.

  What would I have done differently?  Hard to say, but …

  Okay, so Illuminata is still tearing up the town, and Lest and Xiao Pai leave unmolested towards the fishing hole.  When they near the fishing hole, Illuminata is still somewhere else, anywhere really, but it is still implied that the two will have to hurry to beat her to the culprit.  Once in the fishing hole area, they find Amber, and with patience and understanding, they talk Amber into confessing what she has done to Illuminata.  Maybe she agrees, maybe she stares blindly and uncomprehendingly.  Maybe they go find Illuminata, maybe Illuminata finds them.  I’m 50/50 about the bitch-slap scene.  The scene, and its message, is largely unchanged, Amber learns a valuable life lesson, let’s go get some flowers.  The difference is that Lest and Xiao Pai now play an active role in this drama, with the key word being “active.”  This is a video game after all… actions are everything!  Aside from witnessing some shockingly bad parenting, the player and his accomplice haven’t *done* anything. 

  But what do I know of drama?  Such a scene probably wouldn’t stand out in memory so starkly if I’d been in it, rather than trampled under it…

  The next day Dylas is back on his feet again, and a totally amnesiac.  After giving Dr. Jones, Nancy, and Lest a heaping dose of attitude in his thank you, he wanders off, complaining that he needs to know who he is.  Porcoline intervenes, announcing that he requires a new waiter, and has a room to spare if Dylas can be persuaded to take it. 

  Amber is a character who largely shrugged off her memory problems, but Dylas has much more trouble accepting this state.  He hints that he was doing something important, but of course can’t recall what.  With more tall hints at the larger metaplot thus dropped for Lest and the player to ponder over, RF4’s designers must have taken immense delight in dropping the next micro event virtually on top of Lest, and sweeping him into his next big adventure.

Next time: Selphia is haunted!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Noises in the Night

  With Amber joining the group, new stories begin to unlock.  Porcoline, given a chance, will run Lest all over town to announce that he has a new bucket of slop.  It was slop right?  New quests at the billboard open up more layers to the game’s ever complicating crafting system.  Even so, these quests feel almost like busywork compared to the adventure in the forest.  Lest goes to bed, perhaps dreaming of what tomorrow might bring.

  Late one night, Lest finds his sleep disturbed.  He wakes to confront the noise, but finds it to be coming from Ventuswill’s central chamber, so he thinks “Venti” is responsible for it and decides not to disturb her.  In time, though, he will find that the noise is setting everyone on edge, and they have come to Ventuswill to have something done about it.  Her brilliant plan?  Get the Prince to do it!  Argh!

  The fallen tree due south of Selphia can now be removed by Volkanon, and new combat weapons like the gloves are added to Lest’s inventory.  He takes a mission to go and explore the Water Ruins to the south and east, and barriers remain in place to keep Lest from wandering too far off of the path.  A clear pattern is certainly being set in place, as Doug and Kiel will both drop in to check on Lest’s progress, offering helpful advice and tips to help him go further.

  The Water Ruins will allow Lest to see the path forward early, even if he cannot travel it yet.  The boss causing all of the trouble is directly north of the entrance, but Lest will have to travel the long way around in order to flip two switches, one opposite and in sight of the other.  Once both switches are flipped, the entire temple is open to Lest at any time.  But there is always a catch… the long way around is quite LONG around, and filled with enemies that are far more dangerous than the undisciplined targets populating the Yokmir Forest.

  There are many more summoning portals, each summoning goblin soldiers with a variety of available attacks, from melee to archers.  Fish enemies flip about, using Water rune magic that can knock Lest about while damaging him.  The best part of this is only that their magic is on a rune that Lest can claim and turn back on them, called Water Laser.  Turtle enemies stand out; their shells reduce melee attacks to glancing blows, but they are more vulnerable to magic.  Lest needs to pace himself, and take care, especially of ranged attacks.  Plentiful food and healing items are a must!

  The boss is a different beast altogether, a fast moving horse monster with a penchant to fake dying in order to lure Lest in for the kill.  Hey Ref!  Are you seeing this?  Oh right.  Listed in the wiki online as Thunderbolt, it cavorts about the narrow boss room hurling cutter blades and lighting strikes along the ground.  Hey, that’s not how thunder works!

  Before this fight, I was comparing RF4 unfavorably with both the Sims and Animal Crossing.  This stage recalls strongly Monster Hunter.  Lest cannot use any items while pausing the world around him, he needs to engage an animation that otherwise slows him down.  Thunderbolt is just waiting for these moments to pounce, hurling Lest around the tiny room like a rag doll.  He also resists magic effectively, necessitating the player constantly be on the alert for moments to capitalize and heal, or otherwise set up the next attack.  You may become upset that you cannot find time for Lest’s full combo, but be serious: mobility is more valuable here than combat damage.

  After a few tense moments of smart fighting, Thunderbolt will collapse, for real this time.  After the obligatory, and as cool as ever, explosives go off, a boy materializes in the last place Thunderbolt previously occupied.  Lest shoulders the duty to drag the chump, I mean boy, back to Dr. Jones himself this time, and all sorts of consequences from that decision flow (next time).

Friday, 25 October 2013

Out into the world

  The wild lands outside Selphia’s main gate at pretty tame overall.  The region is populated by weak creatures akin to bunnies, who hop about menacingly but aren’t much more aggressive than the sign posts.  Resource points here are frequent, and while Lest may not have all of the tools he needs to harvest resources here yet, this region is rich enough to make passing through profitable, and safe, early venture. 

  A fallen tree prevents movement to the south, but areas to the east of the gate allows Lest to go just far enough to find the entrance to the Yokmir Forest.  Hazards within are a little more acute, but hardly dangerous for the prepared.  I found the great challenge to be keeping my inventory empty so that I could harvest more of the plentiful goodies I can’t use yet.

  It is also hard to get truly lost within the Yokmir Forest, as by and large, the region is a straight line running from the save pillar at the entrance, to a save pillar just before a dark grove.  Colorful butterflies lead the way before Lest, further pointing the direction with infallible skill.  Sooner or later, Lest must enter the dark grove, out of boredom is nothing else.

  Waiting within is something that immediately reminded me of Metapod, a large, larger than Lest anyway, cocoon suspended on a bent branch.  Battle music plays, and the mood is set for a titanic encounter.  Of course, the cocoon is non-combative, and simply hangs there until its hit points are wasted.  Lest can take his time with this stage of his target, striking, cavorting around looking for weak points, it is all the same here.

  Once the cocoon is cracked, though, a beautiful girl emerges from the cocoon spreading butterfly wings behind her.  Lest can be forgiven for trying to talk to this creature, who looks for all the world like the humans in town but bigger.  She kicks about as hard as any girl I’ve met (don’t ask).  Lest now finds himself in a swiftly moving “dancing battle,” where his opponent may be a little sluggish, but has enough hit points to last through his clumsy attacks.  Getting struck by this butterfly girl not only hurts, it sets her up to use moves that I swear reminds me of Butterfree.  Paralysis, sleep spores, and a frequent use of waves makes this butterfly girl dangerous enough, but avoiding her attacks keeps Lest on the offensive and able to act.

  The battle is swift and fierce; Lest with patiently raised levels is more than a match for the hentai-mon.  After knocking her down twice, the butterfly-girl proceeds to explode repeatedly, a scene right out of the old school rpgs, and then flash a white light.  In the next scene, the butterfly girl is replaced with a much less suggestively dressed normal girl.  Doug wanders onto the scene with perfect timing, and agrees to help Lest carry the girl back to Jones’ clinic.

  The next day, “Amber” has joined the cast of Rune Factory 4.  She’s apparently a bachelorette, but that’s talk for another day.  Right now, she has amnesia, and Illuminata instantly opens her home to her. Worryingly, Amber clearly retains butterfly wings, though no one else seems to notice.  If Lest wants to return to the grove, he can find another “Ambrosia” monster waiting to challenge him again, but without the chance to create another marriageable girl.

  Before moving on, I should ponder the messages this chapter brings forward.  Absolutely no part of the game is necessary, and players can be completely satisfied busying themselves with farming, cooking, and a few forms of crafting.  While there is certainly always more to do, the main quest is opening up, and challenging the player to rise to the challenge.  How does anybody refuse such a calling-out?

  But there are messages being communicated, deliberate or not.  Ambrosia is a monster; every player knows it and we laugh at the player characters that are not able / permitted to know it.  Illuminata, just as a for instance, is a self-styled detective searching for supernatural occurrences.  How fitting, then, that the most supernatural of all housemates is now living under her roof!  It is simply not possible for Lest to warn Illuminata of the girl she so enthusiastically embraces as family, so the only thing Lest can do is keep an eye on Amber and make sure she never transforms again.

  The narrative recalls more than a few after-school anime programs from Japan, and reflects a good bit of paternalism and faith in martial power to boot.  After all, suppose Amber did revert to Ambrosia, what could Lest do about it except pummel her one more time?  It is a point of view that plays fast and loose with violence, gender relations, and I’m sure eventually, sex. 

  Regardless, Yokmir Forest plays its role in the game perfectly.  The wilds outside of town may have monsters running about, but Yokmir demands more than “run up and swing” tactics.  It demands planning, and punishes foolishness.  By the time Lest has KO’d Ambrosia, he has learned a great deal of when to attack and when to run, and is probably quite fast on his feet.  I didn’t find any attack runes before this battle either, suggesting that the chapter is more like a final exam on attacking and moving.

  I actually did get a bit further, but I’m going to save that for the next post.  TTFN, kiddies.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

In a New Town

  I will be pleased when I have cleared my way through this tax course.  The exam must be completed next week online, so expect further delays.

  After the month of only playing fairly ancient Nintendo games, I desired strongly to try something different.  Pokémon X & Y have, of course, been out since mid month, and they continue to compel me.  Still, there was another game that I decided quite a while ago that I wanted to try: Rune Factory 4.

  The game opens with a Japanese pop singer and a montage emphasizing the game’s main draw: the characters.  I’m already feeling nervous about the purchase, as I enjoy meeting quirky characters and being delighted by them, but I was looking for something high on gameplay.  The game proper begins with a selection screen offering a choice of two fully formed protagonists, a male and a female, and the option to rename them, but not to change them in any other way.  Everything I’ve said about Animal Crossing’s narrow market focus thus extends here to, as every (both) character is white, flat, and white-haired?  That’s not like Animal Crossing at all.  The reaction is staying with me, as RF4 is consistently very much like AC, until it spontaneously changes.

  Our hero Lest (I chose the guy, but the name had to go) has a terrible first day in town, as he is attacked aboard an airship, his unexplained macguffin shiny is damaged, then kicked overboard by minions who need to return to minion school.  How does one raise one’s “minion stat” anyway?  Falling out of the sky, L-guy (can I just use my own custom name?) loses his memory and is now completely dependent on the kindness of strangers. 

  How fortunate then, that he should fall into Selphia, and on Ventuswill specifically.  Ventuswill is one of the native dragons and local guardian of Selphia.  Sensing L-guy is more important than he can remember at the moment, Ventuswill declares him to be the Prince Arthur that the Selphians have been waiting for.  In a world-wind tour day, Lest becomes both Prince and dirt farmer, because what else can you do with a Prince besides put him to work in the fields, then exposed fraud before the sun sets.  While Lest never desists in protesting his unprincelyness, the real Arthur comes along, takes one look at the serfdom waiting for him, and blesses Lest with his permission to continue to pretend to be him.  Though the dialog is rubbish, I think the characterization is spot-on.  Incidentally, I both love and loath the real Prince Arthur!  Jerk!

Before going on, the following reactions demand to be voiced.
  1. RF4 has a lovely, self-referential JRPG style.  The character models and setting are 3D, but recall to mind the delicate sprite work of the SNES age.  The music is also top notch, which is good because I have already heard the main town song more than I could ever care to again.  I kid, in 5 years I will find a remix on OCRemix and love it to pieces but right now I find great solace in the moments when it is not looping the town theme endlessly in my ears!
  2. RF4 has a lovely free move system built in; unlike something like the Sims, the protagonist has no free will outside of the Player’s, hence he moves when and as the Player desires it.  This would be even more satisfying in the later hours, when the main tutorials are cleared, and the game stops railroading the player about!  Clearing these tutorials is no big task, but there is perpetually “one more thing” that makes dutifully performing the tasks feel … unsatisfying.  Sure I learned how to save my game, sleep in a bed, till the fields, plant seeds, water the crops, and make royal proclamations in one day, but did I do any of that, or did the game just play itself to my button presses?
 All and all, I guess I’m feeling a little buyers’ remorse about Rune Factory 4.  I probably shouldn’t; the game has even trusted me enough to start playing it yet.  Most JRPGs perpetually suffer from long introductions; surely this game gets better, just as the reviews said it would!

Day 2 (and 3, and maybe 4, I lost count)
  Day 2 in Selphia isn’t much better.  I haven’t yet found my way out of town to begin adventuring until, maybe day 4!  The ensuing days are filled with tutorials, and a help personified job board that no other character even knows it can talk.  The game’s first few days are dry and boring, but completing the board’s fetch-quests yields useful tools to help complete daily tasks.

  RF4 keeps track of which of its silly cast Lest has talked to in that day, and once Lest has talked to them, there is little reason to talk again until he needs something or has a gift; the characters say only one thing per day, usually.  After hunting the yellow speech bubbles of citizens through Selphia, Lest begins to come across some NPCs who have useful skills to pass on, such as the chef Porcoline de Sainte-Coquille and the doctor Jones at The Little Bandage Clinic.  Such study permits Lest to learn cooking and herb craft, though only slowly and in baby-steps. 

  When I finally did blunder outside the main-gate, hidden as it was in plain site as a plain wall (in a plain game), I breathed a sigh of relief!  I’m outside!  I can finally do whatever I want!  Hurray!  Then Forte strolls up and locks Lest in place for another “just one more thing” tutorial.  Gaw-awh!  Recruiting Forte as a part time front-liner, I finally broke loose and began cavorting about slicing the weak enemies in this region, collecting the fixem’s for healing items.  I challenged the forests beyond this area, and won a few nice trophies, such as a shield and a level of fighting experience.  I decided to return before pushing my luck at night, and was delighted to find a teleport function that allowed Lest to return swiftly to the last save pedestal.  Convenient!

  The next day was a cooking contest; I rather failed to impress!  But this is to be expected from my (total) 2 days mucking about with cooking.  Rune Factory is just opening up before me, and asking what I would do in a world like this.  There’s doubtlessly much left to discover, and with time being what it is, I’ll be taking a lot of time to learn.  Still, there is a glimmer of hope, as the tutorials appear to back off, and the game proper begins to look inviting.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

New Victories

  Mission all but accomplished.  One month ago, in memory of the now passed Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, I had pledged to play only the games he would have approved while he was president.  Looking back, it should have been much easier, but real life tends to get in the way, as it does.  It is all water under the bridge, as I’ve now completed the month, and as of just this afternoon, I’ve got a new victory to brag about (if screen shots of title screens still permit you to brag).

  I knew that Ocarina of Time would see me through, but I didn’t know finishing it would become such a chore.  This last week, the course that I’m taking has kicked into high gear, and is gobbling up all of my time.  Still, finishing this game over again has proven a great bit of nostalgia, and I’ve greatly enjoyed being transported back the last (checking the GC box, it says 2003) 10 years.  Wow!

  I’ve been poking away at this Collector’s Edition for a while, including the recent triumph in Zelda II: The Adventures of Link.  I’ve made playthroughs of Zelda I and Majora’s Mask recently, but I think Zelda I was as long ago as last winter (2013).  Good times. 

  I’ve started to notice how much more clearly I can see the flaws; parts of the game don’t transition all that well, as though large chunks of the story are missing (see for example, any part of Link’s relationships with Impa and Nabooru).  But it delivered brilliantly on its anime fantasy themes, challenging to player to master both the combat and puzzle solving controls.  Something else I’ve discovered in the post Skyward Sword days: I hate analog aiming!  It feels so unnatural now!

  Well it is done, and what a way to thank Mr. Yamauchi.  What’s that?  Playing his games is not a meaningful way to express thanks?  Well, my faith in Thanksgiving is shattered!  What would be the difference in giving thanks for food by feasting and giving thanks for games by playing.  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving (month) everyone.  The day itself was actually last Monday, in Canada anyway.

  Well that’s my success: eh what?  The title promises victories, plural, does it?  Well, who am I to refuse?

  This one comes to you courtesy of the eShop on the 3DS (could you tell; it has no color).  Here we see the tables turn on Donkey Kong, Mario experimenting with being the bad guy, and the incredibly annoying Donkey Kong Jr. leaping to the rescue while Pauline looks on.  In case you were wondering, this is the end of the game … or is it the beginning of a sequel?  Nah, they never remade DKJr.  It is the end!
There are few games I love more than Donkey Kong arcade; Zelda surely stands above it.  In a former life, I had been giving a free NES download of my choice onto the Wii virtual console, specifically because Nintendo changed the price of the Opera browser from $5 to zero, and handed out these freebies to loyal customers who had already paid.  No other NES game would do but Donkey Kong, even if it wasn’t as good as the original arcade.  This one above is better!

  Donkey Kong for GB is a 90s through back to a still earlier age of gaming.  It preserved the fun and unpredictability of the original, but gave Mario a host of new moves, powers and tools, and allowed Donkey Kong to run further than ever before or since, and way farther than the Country series would let him.  It’s unbelievable the number of stages that Nintendo packed into this tiny cart, and most stages were plain too big for the screen.  I hesitate to say that they scroll very far; this is certainly nothing like Super Mario Bros, but each stage is packed to overflowing with challenges to show off Mario’s truly mind boggling skill list.

  I can’t even think of any “flaws,” as compared to Ocarina, Donkey Kong is perfectly focused and linear, even as it is expansive.  Okay, yeah, my photography is pretty bad, I’ll admit that’s a flaw.  As for art, my first exposure to this game was on the Super Gameboy, in (mostly) color.  That version was surely much better.  I wish the Virtual Console included features like that, but nothing beats Gameboy grey-green for that nostalgic feeling!

  So yeah.  Thank you Mr. Yamauchi.  You’re games are a credit to your skill, both in recruiting and retaining the best names in the business you chose to lead your company into, and in your ability to encourage them to always deliver the best.  I can’t think of any person who would disagree.

  And with that, tomorrow I am free to go back to “playing” Animal Crossing!  Woohoo!  I missed the first fishing tourney!  Booh!  But I can earn bells again!  Woohoo!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Holiday Gaming

  Ah…holiday times.  Rarely are the options extended to gamers so compelling.  Traditionally, I set aside some time to dream about games that I wish I could play, but for lack of funds, time, or other precious resources I always wind up short of.  The addition of the oath holds me back this year, but that will shortly clear in about 5 days.

  So, A Link Between Worlds.  I couldn’t guess how highly I’ve telegraphed my interest in any of the Legend of Zelda series’ games, and Nintendo’s devs are expertly skilled at playing my violin like heart strings.  I’d call ALBW a day one purchase, not least of which because family are unlikely to go looking for it for me. 
A while ago, I was carefully researching Animal Crossing, not sure why I would want to play it.  The rest is history, of course, as Animal Crossing likewise plays my Link to the Past heartstrings perfectly.  While researching it, I looked up games that seemed close to the idea, because this is a game design I’m not widely familiar with.  The search turned up four names, two of which I have: Ubisoft’s Anno 1401 and EA’s the Sims.  Yes, I still play EA games even as I curse their phoney-baloney monetization schemes, which is why I decided to get the game on the DS.  See?  Smarts!

  Both these games emphasize their Simulation based roots, but Anno 1401 is flat-out the better game; it draws from the Age of Empires tradition of simulation, without giving you a player character to worry about.  Sims 2 Castaways is a Sims game, as much like any other Sim game except necessitating a crafting system to compensate for the lack of ability to buy whatever you need.  S2C still suffers from the weaknesses of the Sims, including giving you minimal time to work, little tools to satisfy needs, and a player Sim with a mind of his own to manage.

  Even through all of that, Animal Crossing is much better, as the entire experience is not a simulation, but is instead an experience – eh, let me word this right, because the player’s experience is the core of the product, and every bit of programming is spent to make the player feel important, content, warm, comfortably, relaxed, or in-need.  Both the other designs reflect these emotions as design goals, but lose the emotions in the engineering of the experience.

  Two more names came up at the same time: Atelier Annie and Rune Factory.  There were others, like Farmville and Harvest Moon, but these interest me far less for their reputation of focusing on purely casual farming.

  Atelier Annie is a “sim” game by Gust and NIS America about a young female alchemist whose life’s ambition is to sleep in, marry rich, and be wealthy.  Sent off to alchemist camp by her parents, she is given a chance to catch the eye of the young prince, and with that, she is inspired.  Annie works to restore a run-down island to a functioning theme park, and much of the game is spent working with the common folk to get them to help in her boutiques and attractions, or so I gather.  I haven’t played it, myself.  But it sounds clever and witty.  It’s on the Nintendo DS, so playable on the 3DS, and I can see it on eBay for about cost.
Rune Factory 4 is just released Oct 1 on the Nintendo 3DS.  This venerable franchise Harvest Moon creator Natsume involves mixing combat and farming in an odd brew.  Dungeon crawling buffs entirely different stats than farming and crafting, and different again from socializing.  But it can also recruit monsters to help with the farm, and odd reinterpretation of Pokémon’s formula.  I admit being curious, but I hear bad things, like the tiresome tutorials, and use of limited energy to limit how much a player can do in one day.  I enjoy games that let me iterate on failure until I succeed, quite a bit different from RF4.

  Speaking of Pokémon, X & Y have both launched, and the consensus is online that it is the same old game with a 3D model coat of paint.  Not too shabby considering the base game is in no danger of running stale any time soon. 

  Sonic Lost World is another compelling choice.  I’m no great Sonic fan, but I enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy quite a lot, and SLW surely copies everything it needs to and innovates where it SMG came up short, which is not at all often, let me tell you. 

  Finally, Etrian Odyssey: Millenium Girl revisits the first game in the series that I missed.  I didn’t dislike EO2, but I wasn’t wowed by it enough to keep following Atlus’ signature dungeon crawler, and that may be a shame, as it surely looks impressive.  While I’m at it, I’ll toss EO4 onto the list as another that I wish I could play.

  All of this on the Nintendo DS or 3DS, and none of it including the impressive looking games for the WiiU, which I still don’t own, including Watch Dogs, Super Mario 3D World, and Wii Fit U.  They are all quite phenomenal looking games, and I wish I could buy them all, but money only goes so far.  Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is already a day one purchase.  So which other games are best for me?  It’s a vexing problem, but comparatively, it’s the sort of problem that I wish that I had more of.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Update - One More Week and One More Zelda

  I remain as shamed as ever for letting this blog go without posting for so long.  I wish I could say that I just forgot about it, but the truth is I now have dozens of unsatisfactory, and incomplete posts saved to the hard drive.  I’ve simply been caught where emotion outstrips writing ability, and that’s a rotten feeling.

  Update on the Month:

  I’m still plugging away on older games, but Zoda’s Revenge turned out not to be the magic bullet I needed.  That’s okay, though, as I always knew that Ocarina of Time would be.  As I recall, I pledged to play only games directly approved by the now departed Hiroshi Yamauchi for a month.  It was September 19th that I made that (admittedly rash) promise, and I’ve mostly stuck to it (although Animal Crossing has proven too much to resist, and I’m only turning that game on to maintain my town). 

  Since this is now the 12th, I have to make it through another week.  In that time, Pokémon X&Y have just launched today (which tempts me, I’m not going to lie) and I’ve skipped Etrian Odyssey Millennium Girl. Not forever, but, (sic), you know.  Also, I’ve downloaded a demo for Ace Attorney 3DS, which I have not played.  Gah, stop thinking about the great games uplayed!

  So Ocarina of Time.  Classic.  I’ve actually avoided playing for so long, I had to relearn some of the controls.  Some; it didn’t take long to relearn in any case.  I’m still playing on the Zelda Gamecube Collector’s Disk, much as the recent play-through in Zelda II.  I’m not terribly keen to return to Zeldas 1 and Majora’s Mask, though, as I have been there very recently. I’m taking my time, and soaking up everything in this game, as in frank truth I am killing time until the end of the pledge next week.

  I wish that I could say there was some new achievement or discovery here, but I've poored over OoT so many times in the past, that is unlikely.  The plot holes, for instance, are pretty darned obvious.  Just as a for instance, the Gerudo custom is to make the only man born among them in millennium become their king.  Link kills their King, there is a party in the end credits at Lon Lon Range, and only then does Nabooru return to lead them.  Plot hole, one of many.  Nobody really cared though, as it was the game play that interested us back then. 

  But warts aside, the game’s themes are brilliant. To support this, consider the sages, or even Epona.  Link must venture into the world and build the relationships that he needs to conquer evil.  I don’t think there are too many games out there that stress a lone hero needing help; Elder Scrolls, just as a for instance, focus’s much more on skills, spells, and now dragon shouts.  There are plenty of team building games out there, but Link faces Ganon alone in the last moments; it is literally man to man fighting at the top of the tower, and brilliantly done at that.  But he couldn't even have reached that point without the sages’ assistance, and a lot of characterization went into each of them to build those relationships.  I really hope these sorts of themes never go out of the franchise completely.

  As you might have guessed, I cannot wait for A Link Between Worlds.  I can’t wait for any opportunity to revisit Hyrule, to see it grow, and meet the new characters inhabiting it.  There’s a good bit of violence to be done to reach them, but that’s never stopped me before.  I've noticed before how much the series has in common with Animal Crossing, but even AC has a hard time conveying the sense that you've earned that mansion.  The characters are dynamic puzzles with cute faces, but earning the ‘friend’s pic’ item is hard and awkward.  I can’t hide that I love Zelda because it is so familiar.

  I got a week to go before trying anything new.  I sure don’t mind spending it doing something comfortable.