New JRPGs for Wii announced

January 31, 2010

Many hate it, some love it: Nintendo´s new announcement policy. There wasn´t any kind of special conference, yet Wii-gamers got two new titles to look forward to. Both of the are JRPGs, a genre that had been lacking on the Wii.

Both will be released in 2010, with Xenoblade making it as soon as this spring. Xenoblades is technically no new game, as it is the game formerly known as Monado: Beginning of the World. The Monolithsoft developed JRPG has only been shown in one trailer, presenting a game world that looked a lot like Final Fantasy 12. The new artwork shows two giants, one of them possibly being a battle mech, the other one looking more organic. It is unknown if the game uses any kind of motion controls or if it is completely classic.

The other announced JRPG is The Last Story, developed by Mistwalker that are known for their Blue Dragon-game. Hironobu Sakaguchi is working on it, with seemingly Nobuo Uematsu working on the soundtrack. Release date is some time in 2010 as well.

If you follow the links to these games´ official websites you can hear nice pieces of music. Really beautiful tracks, especially the Xenoblade one.

The Last Story – Official Website

Xenoblade – Official Website


The beauty of 151

January 23, 2010

Once upon a time a phenomenon was born. This phenomenon, called Pokemon, started in 1998. Ever since then the Pokemon-series has become one of most successful and popular franchises of all video games history times. Just this year Nintendo released the Nintendo DS-remake of the Silver and Gold edition, originally released for the classic GameBoy. Soul Silver and Heart Gold are already selling in the multi-millions in Japan, and there´s not doubt that this kind of success will carry over to Europe and the US as well.

So Gold and Silver are ten year old now. And they´re not even the original Pokemon-games. I´m lucky enough to have been there when Red and Blue were released in 1998. Got myself the Blue edition and loved it. Back then, the game concept was completely new and unique. What made the experience near-perfect was Nintendo´s “marketing”. I don´t really want to call it marketing, because it made the franchise so much better, but of course, in the end it was one big marketing campaign. Talking about the anime-series. As far as I remember the anime started even before the games were released, so it built greatly upon the already existing hype. What made the anime so enjoyable was how true it stood to the in-game story of Red and Blue, From meeting Professor Oak, visiting the various towns, to fighting the well-known arena-leaders. It was all there. And while you watched the series on a daily base, fleshing out the Pokemon-universe, you yourself could become part of the universe by simply switching on your little GameBoy. And thus, the Pokemon world came into existence.

We´ve seen four generations of Pokemon-games since then. While the series has still many, many fans, there´s also quite a lot of former fans that feel the typical Pokemon-formula has gotten stale. From personal experience, that´s true. While Red and Blue were a great adventure, Silver and Gold already felt less motivating. Ruby and Sapphire were horrible in the sense of engaging me into the story. I just walked through the world, beating enemies, beating the Top4. Diamond and Pearl then marked the peak of me losing interest into “these” games. That´s not to say that my opinion is better than anyone else´s. Looking at the unbroken popularity, it´s hard to make a sentence against these games. Still, personally talking, I have a hard time getting into the well-known game setup. But that´s not just the gameplay´s fault. There´s a lot I´d change if I was in charge of the Pokemon-series (I kind of already described my dream Pokemon-game), but there´s also one important fact that plays a big role: The horrible design of modern Pokemon.

When you look at the original 151 Pokemon, you´ll see with how much love for detail these unique monsters were created. They´re all original in a way, they´re charismatic, they give you the impression of another world. Instead, if you take a look at the newest additions in Diamond and Pearl, you´ll see a lot of Pokemon that are basically real animals slightly changed in appearance. Sure, there have been real life-inspired Pokemon in Red and Blue as well, but these were few and they complemented the other Pokemon in a good way. In the modern games you have a hard time finding nice looking Pokemon.

That is why I love to look back into the original 151 Pokemon and pick a few that I believe really show the difference in design quality of now and then. Even if you like the modern Pokemon, it´s nice to get a little bit nostalgic and review the past designs. And without any further prologue, some of my favorite Pokemon from the original 151:

#006: Charizard

I´ll start with my favorite Pokemon of all times. Charizard represents a classic dragon-design. I remember how I started out with Charmander, only having this cute, little fire-attack, and fighting my way forwards. As many will remember, the first arena-leader featured rock-type Pokemon, so choosing Charmander at the start of the game really puts you at a disadvantage. But not for long and your Charmander evolves into Charmeleon, losing his cute look, and finally turning into Charmander. The combination of the strongest fire attacks,  strong normal type-attacks and his special ability to use the optional flying-power make him a real powerhouse. Not to mention his appearance in the anime that really gave him a rich character (omg, poor Charmander almost died in its first episode!).

#027: Sandshrew

Admittedly, he´s not nearly as impressive as the above Pokemon, but once you made it through the moon stone cave and reached Azulea city, he came in quite handy. Sandshrew is just normal in every way, which his “variety” of attacks shows. Still, his scratch-attack was powerful and if you let him evolve into Sandslash he could keep up with many different enemies.

#039: Jigglypuff

The Pokemon that reinvented the term “annoyance”. God, the way it looks at you with his overly cute eyes and then uses his stupid pound-attack. If that wasn´t enough, the anime made sure to hate this little pink monster. The oly good thing that came from Jigglypuff is his inclusion in the Super Smash Bros.-games…nothing beats making fun of other playes by starting to sing inmidst of a battle.

#063: Abra

Psycho-Pokemon are just the coolest, no way to argue that. Abra looks so unique. It also looks weak, which makes it that much more awesome to use some of the strongest attacks the franchise has to offer. Both evolutions of Abra look great, too, though Abra wins due to cuteness. Oh you little, sleepy psycho.

#083: Farfetch´d

It´s a duck. And yet, the game manages to present Farfetch´d in such a unique way that it loses any kind of boringness. It´s behavior portrayed in the anime and his stick that it fights with it are so funny.

#038: Ninetails

Fire-type Pokemon are a rarity. Which shouldn´t make it surprising that the rare monsters of this type are some of the best designed ones. Ninetails is one of them, and only years later should I get to know that the Kyuubi is part of some Japanese myth.

#096: Drowzee

Wanna get to see the second most annoying Pokemon? Here it is! Oh well, it´s neither the games´ nor the anime´s fault. It´s Pokemon Stadium´s. That one minigame totally killed Drowzee for me. I could only ever look at it with a disgusted look on my face. God, did I hate that minigame. Still doesn´t change the fact that is Drowzee´s great design.

#012: Butterfree

Another one of these animal-inspired Pokemon, yet charismatic and unique. Butterfree was you best friend if you chose yourself Charmander at the game´s start. With a bit of grinding, Butterfree would learn a psycho-attack, basically the only somewhat effective attack against the first arena-leader that´s available in the starting area. Reading the Pokedex to learn that Butterfree dies after mating added something tragic to this otherwise happy looking Pokemon.

#129: Magikarp

The most boring designed Pokemon, one could say. And yet it evolves into the most angry- and fierce-looking Pokemon of them all. The huge difference between its evolutions makes Magikarp one of the most hilarious Pokemon.

#079: Slowpoke

I love how it just lies around, totally out-spaced.

#093: Haunter

I like all three ghost-type Pokemon of the original two games, but Haunter features the best visual design. It looks just like a ghost. I may add, though, that to this day I don´t know how there can be ghost-type Pokemon. As far as I know they´re not supposed to be the ghosts of dead Pokemon of other types, so what…are they?

#133: Eevee

That was just a mastermind-like idea: A single Pokemon that can evolve into three different kinds, depending on what you choose (nowadays, there´s even more options). Both the evolutions´ designs as well as the whole idea for Eevee shows how unique the first two Pokemon-games were.

#137: Porygon

What the heck?! That was probably everyone´s first reaction about this Pokemon. You could only get it at one of these shops by doing something (I cannot remember, maybe it was related to that casino-mini game). An artificial Pokemon. And its metronome-attack is one of the most unique attacks in all the Pokemon-games.

#123: Scyther

We´re close to the end, so you´ll see some of the, well, coolest Pokemon of the original games. One of them is Scyther. I don´t even know what to write, as it is so obvious as to why this Pokemon was so liked back then. Aside from all the obvious cool parts, the fact that it is an insect-type Pokemon made it that much better, as all other insect-type Pokemon looked just too insect-like, with Scyther giving a more unique impression.

#126: Magmar

It almost killed Charizard in the anime, can it get more badass within the Pokemon-series?!

#141: Kabutops

I´m a fan of fossils and such in reallife, so I absolutely loved Kabutops. And it´s one of the most badass-looking Pokemon, too. I remember it being one of my six regulars, nicknamed “Grimreaper”. Good times. And it´s water-rock-type. Also very special.

#142: Aerodactyl

How could I not mention it when I just told you that I like fossils. And dinosaurs (pterosaurs, to be more correct in this case). Aerodactyl was also featured in the anime, becoming a real threat to the series´ heroes.

#145: Zapdos

I usually try not to use legendaries in my regular team, but Zapdos was the exception of that personal rule. A flying-typ Pokemon that also was of the electric-type. Another strange, special combination. And I love the black parts of his wings. Gave him the nickname “Nightbird”.

#150: Mewtwo

The epitome of badassness. This Pokemon ruled everything back then. Its design is unique, its abilities some of the strongest. Having the most powerful psycho-attack AND the regeneration-ability, it could easily become your best companion or worst nightmare. It also had a very cool appearance in the anime and was the villain in the first Pokemon-movie.

#151: Mew

The Pokemon everyone wanted, but only lucky people could actually get. I still remember the rumored ways to get Mew. That there is a Pokeball with Mew inside somewhere near a truck at the ship´s harbor. I never got it. Nintendo only gave away Mews at special events, and of course they never happened anywhere near me.

That´s it. Writing this article made me look forward to Heart Silver even more. And, of course, the inevitable Gen 5-Pokemon game that should be announced rather sooner than later. Nothing is known about that new game, but let´s hope it  introduces some spectacular new features and polishes the existing gameplay mechanics.

Feel free to post your favorite Pokemon in the comment-section. Maybe I´ll take my time and do a similiar article for the other Pokemon-games. They´re inferior in terms of quality Pokemon, but there´s some gems in there, too.


The world we live in…

January 15, 2010

The Wii just sold 3.8 million units in the US in December alone. Third parties won´t care. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the one western high quality effort, bombs, no advertisement at all.

It´s a strange world, to say the least. And a sad one, in a way.

That´s all I wanted to get out there. Fellow Europeans, make sure to buy Silent Hill Wii once it hits the shelf, and to everyone in the world: Don´t forget Fragile, which is being released really soon. Newsflash over.


Top 30 expectations of Zelda Wii

January 8, 2010

Just now, Satoru Iwata, head of Nintendo, announced that The Legend of Zelda Wii would be released in 2010. That is quite the suprise, as most gamers expected the new Zelda-title to be a 2011-release. That also means that we´ll see all the three big Nintendo-franchises, Zelda, Mario and Metroid, in one year. In terms of just time that´s not unprecedent, but seeing all three combined under the same year is a new one.

Speaking of Zelda Wii, the fans´ expectations are extremely high. After Twilight Princess, that perfected the Zelda-formula, many fans want bigger changes to the series. And looking at recent interviews with Eiji Aonuma, Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata, that hope seems to come true. Miyamoto talked about thinking of Wii Sports Resort when trying to figure out Zelda Wii´s controls. Aonuma specifically mentioned that they´d change the typical structure of Zelda-games. All these tidbits get the fans´ hearts beating faster, but if you take a look into what Zelda Wii SHOULD FEATURE, the list is long. It is really long, which is why I started doing said list. Just by brainstorming for about two minutes, I came up with over thirty things that I´d love to see in Zelda Wii. From here on out I´ll start with what definitely has to be featured, getting to the more visionary, hopeless wishes the further down the list we go. While reading the following list, please keep in mind that there are many kinds of Zelda-fans out there, so my list doesn´t necessarily match your´s. Though feel free to post your own list in the comment-section. Here we go:

1.) Motion-Controls:

That one is basically confirmed for Zelda Wii. Shigeru Miyamoto himself said to think of Wii Sports Resort when trying to imagine what Zelda Wii would control like. Eiji Aonuma, too, talked about MotionPlus playing a huge role for the upcoming game. While that sounds all fine, it´s not that easy if you think about it: The bow and arrow-shooting in WSR is near perfection. Shooting arrows in a videogame won´t be getting any better in the near future. It feels great. But with realism in how you control an action comes realism in how it pans out. Or in short: Bow and arrow-shooting a la WSR takes a lot of time. Should Zelda Wii make use of the exact same controls, the whole game has to be structured differently. You cannot quickly shoot something, because you need to grab an arrow, pull back, take aim and hope that you aim was correct. That means two things: a) It´s still okay for most puzzles, but b) it´s completely useless against many or quick enemies. Now while you can say that against quick enemies you simply have to choose another weapon, the means that there cannot be fast enemies that will be fought with bow and arrow, and that there either won´t be larger groups of enemies or that the controls will be gimped down in some respect. Personally, and that´s going to be mentioned later on, I hope for the former. There´s also some possible issues with the sword-fighting, but except for controls themselves, nothing regarding the sword-fighting would affect the rest of the game. 1:1 sword-controls are what are expected and what everyone hoped for when Twilight Princess was announced for the Wii. They will be there.

2.) Link, Zelda and Ganon:

You´ll find a lot of Zelda-fans that long for different villains, but my opinion on that matter won´t change: I want the game to be about some brave boy (that most gamers will call Link), princess Zelda and evil mastermind Ganon/Ganondorf. There is some truth to this setup getting boring at times, but firstly, the last Zelda-game to feature that classic setup was Ocarina of Time (TWW had a great Ganondorf, but Link and Zelda felt detached from the well-known villain, and Twilight Princess kind of throws in Ganondorf at the last minute), and secondly, that´s just what the “Legend of Zelda” should be about. Within that context Nintendo can go crazy and do all kind of twists and additions, but i want these two characters and the player character be there. Some fans mentioned that there could be Ganon, but also an even worse villain. The only way I´d accept anyone to be more evil than the great master of evil was, if it was a story about how there´s a fourth part of the Triforce, the part that´s missing in-between the other three, that somehow is the “Triforce of Evil” or something along the lines. But making up a random super evil villain? No thanks. Link traveling around an unknown world, saving the helpless princess, saving the world, fighting the epitome of evil. That is what a Zelda-game should be like. At least Zelda Wii.

3.) Different camera-view:

That´s something following the new control setup, a consequence of it. Even if it sounds completely crazy, not that long ago there has been a lot of talk about Zelda Wii going first-person. I don´t think it will, but if we assume that 1:1 motion-controls are used, it´d make sense. A camera that´s as far from the player character as the one in Twilight Princess takes away from the immersion that the new style of controls intends to create. It doesn´t feel like I am swinging the sword when I am watching it from virtually 20-30 meters away. Yet, first-person doesn´t seem right, as well, because it could make the game feel less epic. If you think of Metroid Prime, it fits the series as you´re running around in small areas, gangways and such. In Zelda, however, we want to look at epic landscapes, wide open areas. First-person´d make all this feel more claustrophobic. I also don´t believe that Shigeru Miyamoto changed his mind from back then, when he said he wanted the player to see Link in Ocarina of Time. The best possible way to solve that issue is actually already solved, if you, again, take a look at Wii Sport Resort, sword fighting. Unlike WSR, though, the ingame-model could be placed peripherally to the left, leaving more free sight onto what´s happening on-screen. By using that kind of camera-view, also called over-the-shoulder-cam,  we´d be close enough to Link to immerse ourselves with the new 1:1 motion controls, yet the game would maintain its epic feeling of freedom. And to make things perfect, the camera-view could slightly change depending on the circumstances. Run around normally, the camera is a bit farther away from Link. Draw the sword, and it goes into what is described above.

4.) Less focus on story:

The one biggest problem Twilight Princess had was its focus on an exciting story. A lot of (may I say “strange”) fans want the Zelda-games to have better stories. Looking back at the series-entries that made me a fan, I just cannot agree with that wish. Zelda was never about a detailed, elaborate story in a microcosm. It was about an epic legend  in a macrocosm that transcends all single Zelda-games and unifies them, yet leaves each game enough room to develop into something of its own. Ocarina of Time´s story went like that: Princess is kidnapped, evil guy gains reign over kingdom, hero rescues princess and kingdom. That´s all of the story and it was great. Then you had the macrocosm-story about three goddesses creating the world, building a thing called Triforce and for some reason setting up a repeated cycle of hero, princess and evil guy. Where the Zelda-games excelled was pure atmosphere. And said story made Twilight Princess suffer, as it became extremely linear, even if it really wasn´t. But it made you run from one event to another, and everything you did was part of that story. There were no optional paths, nothing to decide for yourself. Basically, Zelda did what all modern games are doing, flashy, scripted events. But Zelda should not do that. So give it a nice story, but something that doesn´t overshadow the whole game. The game should overshadow the story.

5.) A friendly, welcoming world, set within a fairy tale:

Coming from the above, instead of going for an exciting, fast told and dark story, do the opposite: A colorful world, full of interesting, but not dangerous stuff. A world that makes you want to explore, but does so out of pure enjoyment, instead of challenge (in terms of combat). Let me wander around through high grass that´s luffing in the wind. Let me see a glade full of animals having a party (I look at you, Link´s Awakening). There should be dangerous challenges, too, definitely. But the parts where the Zelda-games always shone was when it was just about exploring, not about “enter a dark, creepy place and fight or die”. In the end, it´s the balance between friendly and dangerous places that makes the game, and that is something many fans these days don´t seem to get. The last Zelda-game where I felt “welcomed” was The Windwaker. Twilight Princess was just too abstract with all its NPCs, noone there to relate to or that did relate to the player. And even TWW was not that strong in that regard. Give me back the feeling of meeting Salia (or Saria).

6.) Rich characters that make you feel for them:

Thinking of Salia, that is another weak point of modern Zelda-games. There just aren´t any NPCs in the game that make you feel for anymore. Maybe, and it is a big maybe, Midna was such a character, but even then: She was with you all the time for the whole game. That cannot be the only way to create strong characters! There was a time when well-developed NPCs were a strength of the Zelda-series. Not even mentioning the obvious Majora´s mask, characters like the windmill guy from Ocarina of Time or Malon, Impa, Ruto and so on, were such great characters that made the game so much better. In Twilight Princess (and Phantom Hourglass) it felt a lot like a Metroid-game, in that there wasn´t anyone that actually cared about you. Even if not attacking, the NPCs in these games presented a kind of creepy carefreeness. Instead of becoming less developed, less relating to the player, I believe Zelda Wii should go for even more important NPC-bonds. Make them rejoice when you return to town from one of your journeys. Make them dislike you if you do certain things (breaking their pots, rolling against them). And most importantly: Make them reappear throughout the game. Nothing is worse than characters that are used once and then be forgotten. That´s filler stuff right there and no one likes filler stuff.

7.) No special moves

Keep the combat down-to-earth. For my likings, Twilight Princess went already overboard with all its special maneuvers during combat, not to speak of the auto-kill that was introduced in TWW. I realize that many video gamers are going to disagree with me about that, but to me there´s no better combat-system than the Zelda-series´. I hate all these flashy combat systems from games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta or God of War. In Zelda it´s just your sword and shield and simple, realistic movement-choices. Movements that make you think “hey, that´s something I could do, too!”. Instead of jumping, double-jumping and doing abstract combos, you fight your enemies fair and square. And there´s no better feeling than it. The greatest moments in terms of combat were the rare fights against Stalfos knights and the single greatest fight in videogame history, Link vs. Dark Link. That was so great. And without anything flashy or cool. Looking at Zelda Wii, the combat will already gain enough simply by using MotionPlus. Manually parrying the enemy´s sword, choosing the way you strike your sword, will be great enough. And if you want further combat-options, just use other items. But really, no jumping up three to four meters and doing silly combos. That´s not Zelda.

8.) Free, open world:

The one thing that was most disappointing about TP,  coming from TWW, was the return of the bubble-map. A world map that´s made up from many smaller and bigger areas, each one cut from another by a load screen. Even though TWW didn´t have it perfect, the sense of freedom and grand adventure by sailing one giant ocean was great. To go back to small areas was a big let down. It surely is more difficult to do, if your world consists of more land than water, but it should be doable nonetheless. When it comes to exploration, nothing breaks that sense more than artificial borders. Load screens are such borders. This expectation should be higher on the list, but I fear that TWW might remain the only Zelda with a truly free game world.

9.) The world is your playing ground:

Have something to interact with everywhere! And make it interesting interactions. The big areas in TP were too empty, and the little interaction there was, was boring. An enemy every 30 steps isn´t what I´d call great interaction. We all looked forward to the gorgeous forest shown in the first TP-trailer. Now, such a forest wouldn´t be enough. There are a lot of games that had stunning forests, like Drakensang or The Path. Being a Zelda-game, a forest hast to transcend above simply being a visual variety. Make it something to experience. By that I mean: Let me climb every single tree (if it´s thick enough). Let me cut in little notices for personal orientation improvements. Maybe even make them destroyable; not by your sword, but when using powerful fire magic. Whatever it is, make it something that´s not just eye-pleasing. Make it part of an interactive experience. And even beyond a forest, let there be stuff to do everywhere, even on plain fields. When I´m inside a town, let me climb all roofs like Altair from Assassin´s Creed. Give me the ability, maybe in form of some new item, that lets me climb EVERY wall in the game, without it being a special marked wall. There should be dozens of ways to interact with one and the same object.

10.) Animal Wildlife:

One of the Zelda-serie´s worst parts: There are hardly animals out there that won´t harm you. Almost everything alive you encounter is there to kill you. As mentioned above, Zelda is not Metroid, so give me friendly stuff, too. Have bunnies, foxes, deers and different kinds of birds running and flying around. Improve the cats and dogs, which looked horrible in TP. Have not only fish, but other, bigger sea animals. And please, don´t just include them to make Link help proceeding his mission. Animals can be animals.

11.) A world that feels alive:

Majora´s Mask 2.0 this is. And a bit of Animal Crossing. You don´t have to create a whole year-schedule (even though it´d be neat), but make it a one week-schedule, where every character follows his own plans. Nothing else to say about that, just do it.

12.) Adventurer´s diary:

That´d be like a dream coming true, personally speaking. I am envisioning this as the Zelda-equivalent of the Metroid Prime-games´ log files. Finally, we´d learn more about the world of Zelda! Instead of just interpreting the whole thing by ourselves (and of course, there´d still be enough stuff to interpret yourself, don´t whine). Collecting information about enemies, locations and NPCs. Even finding secret ancient patterns. And everything presented in an old-styled book, looking as if Link himself wrote it in there, featuring nice sketchy artworks accompanying the text. To make this an even more awesome feature: Make it 100% optional! Let it be a sidequests, where you get said book. If you don´t grab the book, there won´t be any “scanning” options for you. Also, don´t turn it into something that has the player feel forced to complete. Don´t make it a “oh, I have 100% of all scans, yay, now I get a special item!“. Make it something that´s worth it by itself. And divide the book into categories, but make the appearance of each in-detail entry random, as in: What is “scanned” first, is first in the book. Make it so that at the end of the game reading the book gives a picture of your personal experience of the game. Your adventure´s diary.

13.) Non-linear progression:

I´m not talking about making the whole of Zelda a sandbox game. What I mean is offering a game where you don´t feel forced to proceed a certain way. TP had an overwhelming pull to proceed its main story. The rare side-things got totally overshadowed. Something that happened both because of the focus on story AND making everything that happens mandatory. For example getting the iron boots to stand a chance at Goron-wrestling. Best would be to give me a chance without them, but at least don´t tell me exactly what to do and where I do it, aka “go to the mayor and…”. Remember when fishing was revealed to be back in TP? Yeah, that wasn´t really motivating when you´re inmidst of saving this, saving that and then there´s a cool cutscene, making you want to know what follows and so on. I´m not saying to make the main story so boring that you don´t care about it, but…let it all flow together, instead of letting one part dominate all others. And while we´re at it: Let the game indeed have some sandbox elements. At least make some dungeons/mission goals available to be beat in different order. I have this lovely memory of how I played Link´s Awakening. Was inside the 7th dungeon. Got to the boss and…sucked. I couldn´t beat the damn eagle, haha. What did I do? Take the mirror shield I just got, proceeded the way to the 8th dungeon…which I cleared half way, when I couldn´t find a small key. But i got the dungeon-item already. I went back to the seventh dungeon, got to the eagle…and dominated him. He stood no chance against my fireball spamming. And besides the typical rejoicing over having beat a boss…it felt great to know that I had done something out of the usual order. Give me that feeling, Zelda Wii.

14.) Less mandatory items – More optionality:

Sword, shield and bow. These are what I´d consider the three core items of any Zelda-game. And you know what? Just these three are fine. You don´t need ten or more other items that only have special usage for some boss-fight. Instead, give a smaller amount of items more versatility. I mentioned above how I´d like to have an item that allows you to climb every wall. You wouldn´t necessarily need a new item for that. How about using the sword for that? Link rams it into a wall, pulls himself upwards, grabs a hold with one hand, pulls out the sword and rams it into the wall at a higher position, repeat until you´re where you want to be. To limit your climbing abilities the game could have walls where Link cannot just grab the wall to hold his position and there needs another, maybe passively equipped, item. Also, the bow. Instead of being combat-exclusive (and for shooting eyes), let me combine it with a variety of items. For example, let me attach a rope to an arrow. The arrow is shot at a tree on the other side of an abyss and lets me get over there. To shatter the armor of well equipped enemies, let me use my sword as an arrow´s substitute. And for ultimate fun purposes, let me do the above rope-arrow, but when used towards a lower level, let me put the bow on the rope so I can slide downwards.

15.) Optional Items:

The above is only the first kind of optionality I´m talking about, though. The other kind is: Have a lot of completely optional items, fullstop. It´s kind of sad how the boomerang is a mandatory item in every Zelda except Link´s Awakening…where it is totally awesome to find out about it! There you change the mostly useless shovel against it. And how great it was to use the boomerang to hit switches, when the game actually wants you to do something else to reach it. The kings of optional items are Ocarina of Time and Majora´s Mask. All the different masks, many of them optional. The fierce deity mask as the ultimate optional bonus-item. The fairy sword. Then OoT´s biggoron sword, the golden scale, the whole magic, fire- and ice-arrows (maybe fire arrows weren´t optional, but the ice ones were definitely), the mask-quest, EPONA. Then there´s also A link to the Past, with it´s invisibility cloak, the magic rod. And don´t forget the bottles. It´s all these items that made exploring the world of these games so much more fun. But when your only reward is more rupees, there is no fun. Which is why TWW, as great as its free overworld was, failed. The only cool bonus item was the health meter-mask. And just to be clear: I´m not talking about offering the same, but a lot higher amount of optional items for Zelda Wii. Even past Zelda-games didn´t satisfy on that regard.

16.) Sidequests – Lots of them:

It is what makes the difference between a fast food-game (a game you play, finish and proceed to the next game) and a game that leaves a lasting impression, no, even impresses after having left an impression. Fishing, Poe hunting, Kafei, Fiercy Deity, the hunt for the Biggoron sword – just a few examples of the great sidequests of former Zelda-games. Especially Majora´s Mask has to be mentioned again, featuring that many fantastic sidequests. Sidequests are part of the wish for more optionality. It´s the part of a game that is unpredictable. When you start a Zelda-game, the story unfolds pretty quickly. You get to know the tone of the game. Sidequests are cut away from that main path. They stray away from it. They can be funny, sad, weird, serious or just silly. They can be challenging, interesting or simply fun to do. And they make the game´s world feel more alive by giving insight into stuff that´s got nothing to do with world saving and such. If it was me, Zelda Wii would consists of like 200 sidequests, with 50 of them relating to the main story, while the other 150 quests flesh out the world of Hyrule (or wherever the game takes place). The reason of why sidequests are so important to many fans as well as myself is that they give off the greatest sense of exploration and adventure. You know “oh, that isn´t something I had to find out, but I did so by my own!”. On that matter: Optional dungeons. See the castle in Link´s Awakening. Such mini-dungeons would work well without taking too much effort to create.

17.) Mission-based sidequests:

That´s more of a formal way of how sidequests should be structured and presented. If you´ve ever played WRPGs with quest-logs, that´s what this is. It could be some category within the above mentioned diary. Next to your typical sidequests that just happen as you go along, there´d also be real missions. Difference to typical sidequests would be that these missions are more fleshed out, more dangerous, more time consuming quests. But no matter if typical or not, keep the sidequests you encounter organized in some written form that´s accessible all the time. It´d be a great way to keep track on what you can do, especially if you´re inmidst of another quest and don´t want to spend a lot time on something else at that moment. Give me missions like “defeat the wild dragon Archaeropterornis”, which has you journeying towards an otherwise unvisited area, overcoming difficult paths and finally climaxing in an epic battle that´s no less impressive than typical dungeon-boss battles. This kind of a mission could easily make Zelda Wii include Monster Hunter…as a sidequest.

18.) Flying:

I´d say it´s gut feeling, but at this point it is, in my humble opinion, safe to assume that there will be flying in Zelda Wii…in some form. Aonuma mentioned it just in a side-comment, but Nintendo-execs never mention something without meaning. Of course, there are many options in how Link could get to fly. We saw one of them in TP, where he´s simply shot from a cannon. To me, I´m still waiting for a game that does flying right. Giving you the feel of wind pressing against your body. Giving you freedom in controls and movements. That´s why I´d love to see Link getting some kind of ability that lets the player fly around freely. I don´t believe a flying horse would be fun, as I can only imagine it to feel very clunky more like a flying car than anything else. Be it a glider, a dragon or angel wings, something to give the player ultimate freedom towards the end of the game would be just awesome.

19.) Gorgeous visuals:

I originally intended to say “gorgeous toon-shading”, but Miyamoto or Aonuma, cannot remember, already said that they´d go for a more realistic style. That still could mean that they´d use the toon-shading from TWW, but simply apply a different, more realistic style. Think of TP toon-shaded. But toon-shading or not, there is one kind of style that´d probably make Zelda Wii the most adventurous feeling video game ever. You have probably noticed how this article is plastered with great artworks from past Zelda-games. These are made by Katsuya Terada, who created them for A link to the Past and Link´s Awakening. I can hardly describe of how much I´d love to see a Zelda-game use this visual style. The serious, yet charismatic look, the surrealism of unforgiving danger. I´m not a graphics whore, but oh yes, I am an art style whore.

20.) Return of Magic:

Yeah, I missed magic in TP. And I believe that the Zelda-series should integrate magic even more than past entries did. Link shouldn´t become an uber strong battle mage, but give him the classic fireball. Maybe some sort of telekinesis or a wind spell that replaces the boomerang. Make the usage of magic more active, instead of watching a cutscene like OoT did.Then again…be more creative than I am, Nintendo. The great thing about magic is that it´s not bound to reality, so you can go all out with it. Three nice, active magic spells is all I want. Maybe make at least two of them optional. But please, don´t take away the magic meter again.

21.) Less dungeons:

Woohoo, now I said it. Don´t kill me, but I hated TP´s focus on running from dungeon to dungeon. If you read everything up to this point you´ll have noticed that to me the most important part of a Zelda-game is it´s overworld. I´ve got nothing against well presented dungeons, but don´t make them feel so puzzle-like. I don´t want the Zelda-series to feel like a Dr. Kawashima with a different coat of paint. And I dare say that all the typical block pushing-puzzles are of no use anymore. The heck, even TP had only few ones of them already, so it´s not like Nintendo does not know about these puzzles becoming boring. Instead of eight or more dungeons, give me like three typical dungeons. Have one being a forsaken ancient ruin, one a legendary, rumored cave and a third one being a big, creepy castle high in the mountains. And that´s it. No forest-fire-water-and so on-dungeon. Keep the number of these low and include all the typical challenge into the overworld. By creating a complex forest, a big mountain-area or other hard-to-see through-area types. And scrap the whole “find small key, find big key”-stuff. It´s tedious and unfun. Also, and that´s what I hate most about dungeons in Zelda-games, give them a meaning beyond “get the dungeon item”. Afaik the OoT-manga is not canon material, but if it was, the Fire temple would be the greatest dungeon of all. Why? Because the dungeon itself is a place of the Gorons, Volvagia was sent there by Ganondorf to take care of the Gorons, and last but not least: Volvagia was once freed by young Link, but got under Ganondorf´s control somehow. And NOW Link has to fight his once beloved little friend. That is what I call meaningful. Instead of having me go through the temple of time and beat a random spider-boss at its end.

22.) Boss-battles under the sky:

That one should be a given, considering that Aonuma had it planned for TP already. Still, I´ll believe it when I see it myself on my TV. Fighting bosses on the overworld, without having to go through a dungeon. Aonuma even mentioned that there could be free-roaming boss-enemies that you´ll “stumble” over. All there´s left for me to say: Go for it, Aounuma!

23.) Windfall Island x10:

TWW is not my favorite Zelda-game. I want to make that clear, because I am going to praise the game a lot now. I am praising it, because Windfall Island is the best video game town I´ve ever seen. And I´m not talking about visuals here (even though it´s doing a great job at that, too). Windfall Island is packed with stuff to do, see and simply enjoy everywhere. It´s on a single, not really large island, yet it is the most interesting video game town. There´s lots of sidequests to do. There are unique NPCs all over the place that do something. There´s many places to go to, especially in vertical ways, not only on a flat ground. And of course it´s gorgeous looking. I believe every game that wants itself to be called “adventure” should have a giant windmill. Now, for Zelda Wii: Create a town that´s ten times the size of Windfall Island, but every inch is as packed with interesting stuff as the original. I don´t need three or four or five different towns. Just one great town is all there needs to be. Fill it with unique characters (instead of what happened to TP, sigh) and Zelda Wii would be well on its way to becoming the best entry of the series.

24.) Less but stronger enemies:

I´m probably not the only one that shook his head when TP was played at Nintendo´s E³-conference back then, and in that room before the fire-boss, there come six or so enemies running towards Link…and Link does one spin attack and all these enemies are sent flying. I don´t want that. I also don´t want Zelda to become a creepy surivial-horror game, but at least give me challenge when there´s an enemy. For that purpose, away with all these two-hit-kill-enemies. It looks stupid anyway when there´s an enemy inmidst of the overworld, just waiting there for the player. Instead, divide the numbers of enemy by, maybe, five and replace them with a new kind of enemy. For example, instead of five Moblins, there´s one iron knuckle. Remember that mid-boss in the temple of time in TP? Yeah, that´s the kind of enemy that should replace all the stupid Moblins. There´s just no satisfaction in defeating such easy enemies. It´s filler. And as I said somewhere above, filler stuff is not something I want in a Zelda-game.

25. Emphasis on man vs man-battles:

Leading from #24, I definitely want to see more 1 on 1-sword fights. Fortunately, I think that the inclusion of MotionPlus almost guarantees that. And again, it´s such sword-battles that are the most intense. You don´t need a 30 meter monster to get the player excited. Just you and your sword versus the opponent and his sword. The battle of a knight. That´s what I expect from Zelda Wii and that´s why enemies have to be tougher.

26.) More realism in enemy behavior:

Not only make enemies stronger, though. Make them more intelligent as well. Or less intelligent, for that matter. When there´s, despite what I hope to see, a bunch of weak Moblins and you´re happily slaying through them…make them flee. Make them flee and even call for help (if there´s help around, don´t make a strong enemy spawn out of nowhere). On the other hand: Don´t give them a sensor that detects the player automatically when he´s nearby. Basically, include permanent stealth-mechanics. Not to the point where stealth is necessary throughout the whole game. But let me surprise-attack a bunch of enemies, or let me sneak by stronger enemies, especially if I´m low on health. The game that integrated this feature really well was Mini Ninjas. It had high grass and as long as you crouched, the enemy wouldn´t spot you. Even better, when you were spotted, you could still try to hide in high grass again and the enemy would lose sight and search. Stealth shouldn´t be mandatory in a Zelda-game, but like so many times before, it is about optionality.

27.) Voice Acting:

Not for Link himself, though. It´s time for voice acting, and the German Dub of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn makes me hopeful that a Zelda-voice acting wouldn´t be so bad. There´s just something missing when you´re in town, at the market, and there´s no voices. I want to hear NPCs shouting (“Fresh apples, fresh tomatoes! Only today!”). And I want them to talk to me. There really isn´t much to say, other than that the time is ripe. But let´s not stop there. What I also want is auto-active NPCs, in that they talk to each other even when I don´t stand in front of them and click the A-button. Though not having voice acting, Drakensang for PC does a great job at that. You´re entering a place with people around and you see them talking about all kinds of stuff. And they´re doing it without you having to click on them. Adds a great deal of liveliness and immersion to the game, creating a believable world.

28.) Multiplayer:

We´re going for a brand new Zelda-game, so let´s go all out. Everyone should agree that Zelda shouldn´t be ruined by making it some multiplayer-game, that´d be certainly fun to play, but not feel like a Zelda-title anymore. When I´m mentioning multiplayer here, I´m talking about two different modes.The first one would be a Wii Sports Resort-clone. Just let me fight 1 on 1 against a friend within an arena. Just that. It´d be like the sword duel in WSR, but with a Zelda-skin and thus more appealing. As outrageous as the inclusion of some multiplayer in a Zelda-game might sound, I almost believe that there´s a great chance for such a mode. Not so much the next idea: Don´t make the whole game multiplayer-capable, but certain missions. It´d be exactly like Monster Hunter, but set in the Zelda-universe. Bringing down super-dangerous foes together using all kinds of strategies.

29.) Customization:

Not only because of the just mentioned multiplayer-idea, but also because of creating an even stronger immersion. I had one article about how Link should change from his green tunic, and I still think the player should be able to that. But don´t make anything mandatory. Customization should be limited to small features only, not full fledged character-editor. Maybe let me change Link´s hairstyle, but no more than that and his clothes. Actually, clothes would be a great way to reward the player with more than just rupees, but wouldn´t take the effort that the inclusion of a new item takes. Link is the player character, not a character of his own. So let me at least choose his clothes.

30.) Different gameplay-styles:

I saved that for last, as it is the most unlikely, most wishful expectation of mine. By different gameplay-styles I mean changing the way Link moves and fights on-the-fly. Let me choose “classic style” and he moves just like always. But when I choose “arrogant style” he has a whole different moveset. Suddenly he can jump on the enemy´s edge like Dark Link in OoT, laughs while fighting and so on. When I choose “wild style” the sword swings become more unpredictable and Link moves in a half-crouched position, being able to jump farther, playing more roughly. These different styles could also be rewards for doing sidequests. But even on their own they´d offer a great deal of more interaction possibilities.

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So that´s it, my thirty expectations for The Legend of Zelda Wii. Some of them are almost certain, many others possible, and some just a fan´s wishes. Other things I hope for would be a story that relates to the hero of time from OoT, a photo-mode for taking screenshots at any moment and saving them onto SD-card, and most importantly, a companion that is not just a tool. We´ve seen the girl on the artwork that resembles both the queen of fairies as well as the Master Sword. It´d would be disappointing if she ended up as only a replacement for the usual sword, instead of being a character of her own. Without dominating the story (as much as Navi annoyed you at times, she was charismatic without stealing the showlight). Oh, and I didn´t write anything about the music, one of the most important parts of a Zelda-game. Let´s just hope that the music of Zelda Wii will be on par with the soundtrack of OoT. And use orchestrated music where it makes sense, and MIDI-music where it makes sense. Don´t just use orchestrated music for the sake of it. So, if we´re lucky we´ll see Zelda Wii at the end of 2010. First details are supposed to be shown at E³, though GDC could already give a first glimpse beyond just an artwork.

To finish this article I´d like to picture a scene that I have in my mind since months ago:

Imagine that: You´re running through a dark forest, suddenly hearing angry grunting and seeing something in about 30 meters distance: An iron knuckle! That guy didn´t see you, though, the forest is quite dark after all. You take out the bow, pull back the bowstring by pulling back the Wii´s nunchuck. You aim for the un-armored neck-area of the monster…ohoho, your hands start shaking….and release the Z-button which in turns releases the bowstring. The arrow is flying, you hear a gargling and the iron knuckle slumps down. Hereupon suddenly another iron knuckle appears from behind a piece of a wall, who´s hectically looking around. You draw another arrow, pull back the bowstring…WHEN THE ENEMY SEES US…you aim, the iron knuckle comes running, your shaking gets worse and worse…you release the arrow…DAMN, it bounced off the monster´s armor! Even before you can draw your sword the iron knuckle has charged his own attack and hits your hard. You´re sent flying several meters backwards. 2,5 of 8 heart cointainers remain. Still, you don´t want to give up and face the enemy…when you make out another iron knuckle that comes running. No chance, you flee.

Feel free to share your expectations of Zelda Wii and what you think about mine.


New year – New hopes

January 2, 2010

An old year ended, a new one began. The gaming industry isn´t developing exactly the way I´d want it to, but every now and, you find these little, underhyped gems that cannot get any of the spotlight. A game I´m totally into right now is Drakensang, a western RPG for the PC. I usually don´t like these classic Dungeons and Dragons-games, with their rather weird combat-system, but Drakensang does a great job at putting the player into this medieval fantasy-world, so it doesn´t make the game any worse at all. Did a little research, and seemingly the game sold about 100.000 units in Germany, which the publisher considered a big success, which makes me wonder how such a gorgeous, depth experience can make money with only that low sales numbers. It´s classic Pen and Paper, set in the world of Aventuria from the famous DSA-series. Which means that there has not made up yet another random fantasy-world, but used a rich, already existing setting. I´ve played the game for about 25 hours and I´m nowhere near the end. To summarize, I´d compare the game to Mass Effect, with less focus on cinematics.

Now, for the year of 2010. Most games I´m looking forward to are Wii-titles. Other than the obvious one (Super Mario Galaxy 2), there´s a bunch of third party-titles coming that could turn out being must-haves. If you ever clicked back to this blog´s very first entry, you´ll know that I´ve always been looking forward to that game: Fragile. The action-RPG is finally being released this spring. From everything we know this game appears to feature clunky combat and a heavy reliance on rich atmosphere. In other words: ICO 2. It has to be seen if Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon can live up to these expectations, but as gaming enthusiast, you should keep an eye on that title.

The biggest release in early of 2010 is obviously Mass Effect 2. It´s also when the biggest niche-title is released, Endless Ocean 2. Mass Effect 1 and Endless Ocean 1 tied as my Game of the Year the year they came out, so it´s an awesome start. I have no idea about what exactly Endless Ocean 2 is going to offer – new locations, actually dangerous animals, etc. – but I´m hoping for more mind-cracking locations like the Deep in its predecessor.

These two games have no release-date yet and it´s not even sure if they´ll be released at all, but from the little footage that was shown, I´m interested. Monado and Cosmic Walker. Monado looks like a more anime-esque Final Fantasy 12, and for all that´s worth, it looks like a great, classic RPG with a neat combat-system. Cosmic Walker was shown for like three seconds and never mentioned afterwards. The little we´ve seen, though, gets up my hopes. The game could turn out being this and that, but above anything else, it could turn out be a Endless Ocean in space-like game – which I´d die for.

That´s it so far. There´s a lot of big, hyped games coming out in 2010 as well, but you most likely have  heard enough of those by now. The one big game that isn´t announce yet is The Legend of Zelda Wii, but god know if that sees its release in 2010. Maybe if Nintendo follows my previous predictions of launching the Wii-successor in late 2010, and Zelda becomes the first hybrid-title for both Wii and Wii Too. Oh, and just before finishing this entry: Let´s hope 8ing comes back to senses and develops a proper Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! EX4…and finally improving the game-series as a whole.

Happy new year, everyone!