New year – New hopes

January 7, 2011

The new year of 2011 has begun and left us with an interesting time shortly to come. The last year wasn´t necessarily spectacular, but it had its high times. The game that made me start this blog, Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, turned out to be a topnotch atmospheric experience, unfortunately suffering from out-dated gameplay mechanics. Monster Hunter Tri marked the first online-gaming experience that I totally loved. And Dragon Age Origins showed me that not all BioWare-games are that great. In the end, 2010 was a run-of-the-mill year for gaming as far as my gaming flavor is concerned. But what can you expect in a time where all available systems start to feel old in one way or another? The Wii´s graphics were old from launch onwards, but due to the lack of MotionPlus-based games, there really isn´t that huge difference in gameplay compared to other systems. Meanwhile, the HD-systems are spammed with known and already-seen experiences. Shooting someone just doesn´t get any fresher the tenth time, ya know. On the handheld front, Nintendo DS could never fully grasp my enthusiasm since I´m not much of a 2D-fan, and 3D-games on NDS aren´t exactly the most fun. Not to mention that I was severely disappointed by Dragon Quest 9, my first DQ-game. Maybe it really were the ugly visuals, because if I look at DQ8, I want to give it a try again. As every year, I´d like to take the time to express how I hope to see this industry heading more towards a gameplay-experience over the currently popular hollywood-experience.

Now, for the year 2011. Let´s not hesitate to start with the big one here: Nintendo 3DS is going to launch somewhere between March and April in both Europe and the USA. I might have mentioned it before, but I´m actively looking forward to become a handheld-exclusive gamer once this attractive piece of hardware finds its way into my hands. As said above, graphics on the NDS were always a problem for me, but that´s exactly where the 3DS comes in, offering pleasant 3D-graphics on par with GameCube/Xbox/Wii, even featuring certain effects that put it above those systems. Not only do 3D-games look nice, also Paper Mario looks just like its console-predecessors. Unlike any former Nintendo-system, the 3DS seems to get software-support from about every important Japanese publisher, and I´m looking forward to Resident Evil Revelations, Pro Evolution 3DSoccer (or Fifa, depending on what leaves the better impression on me), Dead or Alive Dimension and Street Fighter 3D (which, again, I´ll have to choose between the two). There´s also some fantastic stuff coming from Level 5, but I´ll stay away from getting too hyped about their announcements for now – you never know if their games will see a release in the west.

And then there´s Nintendo´s first-party offerings, of course. Surprisingly, Nintendo still has not announced a big 3DS-title. Sure, we have Kid Icarus, but that looks rather like a small title with its arcade gameplay. And we have the Ocarina of Time-remake, which I´ll be all over, especially if it features new content, but it´s a remake nonetheless. Same goes for the Lylat Wars-remake. There´s Mario Kart and Paper Mario, too, but I believe both will take some more time.  Nintendo wanted to have third-parties support the 3DS at launch, and that´s a pretty understandable course, then. But I can´t wait for Nintendo to get serious with their new handheld. I´m thinking along the lines of Super Smash Bros. 3DS, Metroid Prime 4, or a new Mario-platformer. Personally, I´d love to see the first 3D-Yoshi platformer instead, though. And don´t forget about new IPs! I´d always love to see RetroStudios get back to Raven Blade.

But it´s not all about 3DS – not yet. The Wii seems like a forsaken system in terms of software, even when its hardware-sales are through the roof again. I don´t know about Japan, but dear Nintendo, just release Xenoblade, The Last Story and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011, and I´ll have nothing but praise about the Wii´s 2011. So far, all we have is a delayed Zelda-game an Mario Sports Mix, hooyay! :/ Can´t remember the last time a system´s lineup could go that easily from yay to nay to yay to nay …

My Xbox 360 is waiting for exactly one game: Mass Effect 3. Let´s see if Bioware can really release it at the end of the year. I´m not a fan of the much discussed plot of gathering all the different races´ loyalty only to attack the Reapers in one big attack – feels too unbelievable for me that none of the previous galaxy´s  inhabitants would have tried that. But whatever BioWare decideds to go with, I´ll be there. Let me end it all with a bang – and show us Tali´s face FFS! The last game I´d like to mention is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Much like the Mass Effect-trilogy, Deus Ex promises to be an incredibly immersive, interactive experience, both in terms of story and environmental interactivity. Will be bought for PC.

That´s it so far! The Nintendo World 2011-expo will start tonight, featuring playable 3DS-stations and presentations, and then on January 19th, Nintendo´s going to have a simultanous conference for both Europe and the USA, which is expected to tell us non-Japanese people all the final details we need to know about the nextgen-handheld. I also hope to see something from Zelda Wii soon, but I think that the less hype now, the better the game turns out in the end. Just remember the situation before The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

Happy new year, everyone!


Give the Hero of Time an epic end

October 27, 2010

Just yesterday, some videos from Nintendo´s fall conference in Japan were released on Youtube. Besides Resident Evil: Revelations, which looks absolutely stunning, there´s also a video showing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, the Nintendo 3DS-remake of the famous N64-title and, according to general perception, best video game of all times. For what is worth, I´m of that opinion, too.

It is simply awesome to see this grand adventure running on a handheld, featuring vastly improved visuals and super-smooth animations. The environment´s objects are still N64-level, but that´s definitely due to Nintendo having chosen to leave it at that, not a shortcoming of the 3DS´ power. If you forget about the simple structured buildings for a moment, it looks really close to Twilight Princess and makes one wonder, if we´ll actually see a ground-up for 3DS-Zelda game. I sure hope so.

There´s even a possibility that Nintendo had more reason to do this remake rather than simply rushing out a big 3DS-game. Said possibility is that Nintendo plans to do another Zelda-game starring the Hero of Time. It´d certainly have less impact on new Zelda-fans if they didn´t even know who that Hero of Time was and why he´s so famous and important. What better way to introduce new fans to this part of the legend than by having them play the hero´s game itself?

On top of hoping that Majora´s Mask will see the same treatment, I really hope that Nintendo considers a third Hero of Time-game. For what we know, that Link simply vanished after saving Termina. But did he really vanish or did Nintendo just leave him be and proceeded to create The Wind Waker? As a matter of fact, the Hero of Time IS the center core of all 3D-Zelda games. Starring in two games, having a statue in Hyrule Castle in TWW, and being referenced in Twilight Princess, where we see what happened to Ganondorf after young Link went back in time and warned princess Zelda. The only 3D-Zelda game that might not be related to that one hero could be the upcoming Skyward Sword, but even then, weird, crazy stuff could happen. All I know is that I´d love to play one final game as the Hero of Time and see how he ends up. Besides the needed conclusion to his person, it could end up revealing further connections to other Zelda-games. I don´t want to start writing about fan-theories in this blog-entry, but …


Splitting the Zelda-series in two

August 25, 2010

Now that sounds crazy, but after watching a slideshow featuring the first screenshots of Ocarina of Time 3DS again, I thought about how special Ocarina of Time still is. Both to us, the gamers, and to Nintendo, who obviously acknowledge the importance of this one Zelda-game. And to be honest, OoT will never cease to amaze gamers. It´s that once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that no other game will ever beat per se. So no matter what Nintendo does, gamers will remember OoT. At the same time, there´s a growing group of Zelda-fans that are growing tired of the traditional formula, which even Skyward Sword, the upcoming Wii-entry, doesn´t seem to shake up that much. So why not simply split the Zelda-series in two?

By splitting in two, I imagine two Zelda-series that are developed at the same time, as in, not consuming each other´s development resources, but two completely separate installments. One of these Zelda-series would be “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. Yes, read that right, OoT would be its own “series”. There appear to be quite a lot people that criticize the Zelda-games for being too similar to each other. While I´m personally not in that camp, it still exists. So instead of doing “similar” Zeldas one after another, time after time again, let´s take OoT and turn it into the “classic Zelda”-series. Each entry of this branch of the Zelda-franchise would intentionally be similar to the previous one – with appropriate differences, of course, such as new dungeons, new story, a few new items and so on, you get it. It´d be the Zelda for all those fans that still like and love each and every newly released Zelda-game.

And then there´d be the other Zelda-series, we could call it “The Legend of Zelda: Beyond Time”. This would be the branch of the Zelda-franchise for all those fans that love the Zelda-series, but want it to do more fresh, creative, different stuff. Think of all the stuff your heard someone say and thought “eww, then it wouldn´t be a Zelda-game anymore”. Perfect, that´s what this series would be for! Some examples of what kind of features this branch could have: Direct jumping control, no gamey puzzles, more/less linearity, selectable difficulty, multiplayer-modes, and so on. It´d be the playground for Nintendo´s creative minds, and it´d be the fresh adventure many of us want to have, set within the Zelda-universe.

And, I mean, this would give us a second big action-adventure franchise, so to speak. Will probably never happen, but I´d really like it to. After all, even though I want BIG changes to the Zelda-series, I also still like the traditional formula, and experiments could go wrong, too. However, maybe this will kind of happen with the split between home console and handheld Zelda-titles. If we take a look at the two Nintendo DS-entries, they surely are very different from Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. With the added power of the 3DS-hardware and Nintendo showing that they´re going for a real 3D-Zelda on a handheld this time, we really could get more of this great action-adventure franchise in a shorter time frame. Of course, that still doesn´t mean that on of the two systems´ Zelda-titles will be more creative than the other one.


Short report: What does that mean to Zelda Wii?

March 31, 2010

Time to talk about Zelda Wii…again. But with all the recent showings of other games, one wonders what exactly Zelda Wii will be able to bring to the table.

A new Super Mario Galaxy 2-trailer was released today and showed how great music in an action-heavy game can be. The trailer-composition is a pure joy to listen to and instantly gets you in the mood of wanting to play its predecessor again. Then there´s the two Nintendo-published JRPGs, Xenoblade and The Last Story. The former already gave us an impression of its gigantic, yet non-generic looking world-design. Big, open fields, monsters walking around and doing something. In The Last Story, Sakaguchi seems to be busy creating the most immersing ingame-town of all times. The way he talks about that game just makes you look forward to it. And then there´s Metroid: Other M. Now, what could a Metroid-game demonstrate that a Zelda-game needs? Well, except for the extreme fluidness of movements, as shown in the latest trailer, Metroid: Other M actually manages to feature a real forest. And a great one. No walls with plant-textures, but real, single trees that you can run around. Last but not least, there is Red Steel 2, the only third-party-game here, which introduced great sword-fighting controls to a singleplayer-experience.

That´s reality, that´s what we´re at. Great music, a great world, a great town, a great forest, and great sword-controls. All stuff that many, if not most, fans expect from the next Zelda-game for Wii. Usually, one could say “no problem, of course Zelda Wii is going to bring it all together“. But with this many games already featuring the most important parts of a Zelda-game, it´s questionable if that Zelda Wii is going to be all that fresh of an experience. Surely, it´ll be great to experience all those features at once, but still, the fear of “ah, nice….that´s like playing X” remains. And isn´t it a totally fresh experience that we look forward to? How will Zelda Wii comparte to these above mentioned games?

Basically, it comes down to this: Can Zelda Wii manage to be that fantastic, unrivaled experience that the fans´ expectations made it grow into? On the one hand, I totally hope so and I see a nice chance of it coming true. On the other hand, I look at Twilight Princess: No great forest, no great town, no great world, (imo) no great music (but good), and better controls than its GameCube-counterpart, but obviously far from great due to its waggle-aspect. But it´s not like these contents are impossible and unprecedent to the Zelda-series. We have TWW´s great world, Majora´s Mask´s great town, Ocarina of Time´s great music and we have great 2D-forests. It´ll be Zelda Wii´s task to get it all together. Then, and only then, will it be able to succeed to everyone´s expectations.


Zelda Wii Artwork-theories: To be Continued

June 6, 2009

Hey folks,

my mind just won´t stop thinking about that first bit of stuff we got about the upcoming Zelda for Wii. So instead of annoying random people in chatrooms i hereby start a blog-post about all that. As a matter of fact, i KNOW that i will think about it in the future again, so i declare this a dynamic blog-posting, where i keep it updated with each new theory that i come up with. Anyway, let´s start with my most recent theory:

  • Visiting Ganon´s Hell Prison

In my first article about the artwork i already speculated that there seems to be some hot place in front of Link, a hole in some wall of rocks. Now, another person mentioned how it looks like Link protects the sword-girl from the direction of the hole´s inside. My theory is that Link´s mission in this Zelda is to visit a place we never saw before: Ganon´s Hell Prison. At the end of most Zelda-games, Ganon is defeated and banned back to hell. But what is that hell like? Furthermore, there is no real info on how the Master Sword was created, except for the mention that some ancient sages made…well, how about that: The Master Sword was created in the hot lava-rivers of hell. The same hell that is Ganon´s “home” for most of the time. It is that reason that the Master Sword is the one item that can seal Ganon: Because it´s part of Ganon´s world.

I can´t even start of how cool that would be. Then again, the Master Sword has turned into a girl. Or has it? How about that: This girl is indeed a fairy. It looks exactly like the fairy from The Wind Waker. Fairys are highly magical creatures, and if Ganon is a demon from hell, then why can´t the great fairy be an angel-like being? Basically some kind of counterpart. Obviously, there is no one single being on the good side that can defeat Ganon, but as the result of team effort, Link can, with the help of the Master Sword. So i´m saying: The girl in the picture is not the Master Sword, but it is the Great Fairy that created the Master Sword, originally. Or at least helped with its creation.

Now i´m getting really hyped, because what´s to come would be really exciting and interesting: Link´s task in the new Zelda is to escort the Great Fairy to hell, where she 1.) creates the Master Swords, 2.) re-creates the Master Sword. Each depending on when the game is set. If it´s supposed to take place before Ocarina of time, it could be about the original creation of the Master Sword. If it´s set after, it could be that the Master Sword broke and a new one has to be forged. If it´s the first, this could also explain the whole process of choosing a brave boy. This Link was the first to help and afterwards, the Great Fairy decided to choose brave younglings that would fight the evil of the  world. That would, to some extent, explain how that whole cycle of Link, Zelda, Ganon always happens again.

I´ll go even further: This new Zelda could start off with your battle against Ganon. Right after you finish him off, the sword breaks. But instead of enjoying peace until Ganon´s return…you forcefully go after him to find material for a new Master Sword. After all, it´d be kinda too late if they waited with that until Ganon is back. What further strengthens my belief in this theory is that there are statements of Miyamoto that hint towards a stronger focus on story. And what story could deserve such focus more than the origin of one of the most important elements of all Zelda-games?

This is my first Edit already, lol, but that just shows how excited i am. Anyway, if Link´s task is indeed to go down to hell, i could imagine a very nice game structure, of how the player proceeds in this game. Entering hell is a, well, hellish mission. To kind of compensate the horror that is the way downwards, the overworld could be filled of “light” adventures. Think of it like that: The game starts and you have to go down to hell. You start doing so, but at one point you cannot go further because of your limited abilities. Instead of doing the usual Zelda-hickhack and search for the treasure of a dungeon, you go back up where a fantasy-world, full of gorgoes sidequests, awaits. Complex sidequests. Or to be more clear: The overworld of this Zelda would be like Majora´s mask without dungeons, while the way to hell would be ONE BIG DUNGEON that you have to revisit all the time. Though, unlike the horrible Phantom Hourglass, you wouldn´t have to resolve already completed puzzles. Though i hate using the term “puzzle”, as i´d hope that this one-dungeon was more natural, really feeling like a way downwards a cave that becomes darker and darker, without your typical trigger-puzzles and stuff, but more natural adventures, maybe even horror-elements (it´s hell, after all). And once you´re back up in the overworld, you´ll see all the light, nice adventures, stuff like what we know from Majora´s Mask or Link´s Awakening. Nintendo could go completely crazy about all that, because of the seemingly non-mission that is Link´s adventure in this game.