Posted by Pip
R3S17- Black Plague Friday
I know all our US fans out there are recovering from turkey and stuffing overdoses so sorry for throwing something as heavy as the return of an Armageddon minion at you on a day of rest! You don't get to be the enforcer for the world's biggest Baron without being able to survive for at least two story arcs! And the first thing it does is chuck a hunk of the Tree at lovable Sloth. Those guys WERE hardcore.
Yeah, Pride knows how to do some campaigning. Just because you're running away from a giant monster, that doesn't mean you can't still throw out a few campaign slogans or shake a few hands.
“Quick” Review: Zelda: A Link Between Worlds- ALBW feels like Nintendo testing the waters for a free-to-play game but being totally afraid to commit to it so we get a weird mishmash of an over-reliance on nostalgia and some bad game mechanics. A Link to the Past is an amazing game. One of the best Zelda games and one of the best SNES games. The connection to it from this new game only hurts ALBW. If this game hadn't been set in the LttP world, it would simply be a mediocre Zelda title. If it hadn't been a Zelda game, it would have been a pretty okay, maybe even good, action-RPG. But ALBW has an emphasis on soft currency (rupees) for your items and quests, restricting gameplay based on said currency forcing grinding, and then a secondary currency (monster bits) to buy some potions that act like cheats. You can practically feel the game's desire to pop up an IAP prompt any second now. However, this gameplay loop is utterly broken. I had enough money to “rent” every available item after the first dungeon. You rent items until you die and then the shop keeper supposedly takes them back, forcing you to grind out rupees until you can afford the item again and continue your quest. Only, I never died. I never even came close to dying so this system was completely irrelevant and only served to remove items from dungeons and make the game less interesting. The closest I came to dying was that I knowingly wandered into an area I wasn't strong enough for while exploring and got down to one heart, but I still had two fairies in bottles and there was a fairy pond one screen away. Once you progress further, you can now “buy” your rented items and keep them forever. Since the game is pretty danged easy, there's no need to do this, but I did it anyway and was able to buy every item one dungeon after the option became available. Further compounding these pointless systems is that most of the items are utterly useless outside of very specific circumstances. The boomerang is used in maybe two rooms in the entire game and other weapons are far better at stunning enemies. The Pegasus Boots are used for knocking some collectibles out of trees and never come into play in any puzzles and you will frequently forget that you own them. The Wind Rod is barely even useful in the dungeon that it's designed for. The change to the formula doesn't work. They messed with the good part (finding items in dungeons and using them to advance and beat the boss) but kept all the boring stuff (running around an uninteresting overworld, backtracking, bad characters, the whole "been there done that" feel to the entire game that's made worse because it apes one of the best games in the franchise). I'm all for reinvigorating Zelda, but you do that with fresh situations and characters, not pointless and bad mechanics that users will likely bypass. It does some nice things to correct some old Zelda issues though. The shield and Pegasus Boots no longer take up an item slot, you just activate them with R and L and you have the ability to swap between two special weapons, so you're going back to the inventory screen a lot less. That's fantastic! Kudos! Do that in future Zelda games! But then you can't move with the D-Pad so the controls don't feel right. You can never run out of bombs/arrows since everything works off of a regenerating magic meter, but most items take huge chunks of this meter so it leads to a lot of standing around waiting for it to refill. And it doesn't make sense for some items. Using the boomerang or hookshot costs magic so you can get into situations where you can't attack or progress in a puzzle until you stand around for a bit. The main gimmick is the ability to turn into a painting and walk on walls, but it doesn't add much to the formula and ultimately the game just doesn't need it. Adding pointless gimmicks isn't going to make new Zelda games exciting. If anything, it just makes me paranoid about missing hidden secrets, so I flipped onto every wall that doesn't face the camera just to make sure nothing was there. Then the game actively punishes you for exploring by putting blockers past the halfway point of a trip. Since you spent over half your magic to get to that point, you know you don't have enough magic to get back to where you started, so you just have to pop out of the wall, fall into a pit and take damage, and then go about your business once more. With its release on a 3D system, the game pushes vertical level design, but it doesn't help at all. A few puzzles almost require 3D. If you can't use it (say because of a medical issue that makes it physically impossible to use this feature), these rooms just become super frustrating trial and error due to the focus on depth that isn't illustrated in 2D. Am I above that moving platform? How high above it? You need to know how much higher you are than it so you can judge how long it will take you to fall to it. If you're too early or too late, you miss the platform and fall in lava and then start that all over again. Lava! There are some Street Pass battles you can engage in, but regular combat has never really been Zelda's strong point. The boss battles that have puzzle-combat are where the series shines, but these battles are just you against an AI Link that mostly just runs at you and slashes its sword over and over.
The story doesn't suffer from too many changes for the sake of changes like the gameplay, but it's just bad from the start. I applaud the return to the 2D style gameplay because those Wind Waker-style Zelda games on the DS are garbage, but ALBW has a horrible art style and maintains the terrible character design of modern Zelda games. Since it is the LttP world though, there are a lot fewer of the stupid new races. You get some terrible looking Zora and the completely forgettable bad guy (Yuma? Yuga? Something like that) looks like a Gerudo, but no Gorons or Subrosians or those god awful bird people from Wind Waker. The intro is very much modern day Nintendo with far too much talking and has that Nintendo nanny state feel. It over explains simple mechanics, characters yammer on but ultimately say nothing, and it warns you that you've been playing for too long if you play for more than half an hour and it does so in slow moving text. By setting it in the LttP world, they recycle a lot and it hurts the experience. Most of all because of the repeat boss characters. You fight Blind, that eyeball thing (Arrghus, I had to look that up), Helmasaur, and Kholdstare (who now looks like a not-Vaati). And you can probably guess who the final boss is, what item you need to deal the final blows, and that the battle involves bouncing orbs back and forth. The plot is like Internet fan fiction. Calling the dark counterpart to Hyrule “Lorule” really put me in a bad mood from the start and it gets worse from there. If you're a continuity freak, this game will bother you. Is Lorule the same as the Dark World? It looks mostly the same, has the same creatures, and has a similar layout but it seems to be maybe different because they still make mention of the Sacred Realm. So if Lorule is a dark counterpart to Hyrule but isn't the Dark World, the other dark counterpart to Hyrule, why does Lorule suck so much? Nobody there actually likes it and they all hate what their world has become but they just go along with it. The Dark World sucked for a reason. It was a world of evil. Lorule is just bad... because? The reliance on the Triforce makes me hate the Hylians and not only because it means that Lorule is horrible simply because they don't have a Triforce. If the only thing keeping Hyrule good and pure is that the people are reliant on the Triforce, aren't they essentially mindless slaves to gods that control their actions and force them to be mostly pure? Your oppressive god is a glowy magic basic geometric shape. Hylians, you people are terrible and deserve whatever Ganon is going to do to you. There's a plot twist that's super obvious as soon as a character is introduced near the start of the game so all of the big reveals fall flat. And furthermore for continuity nuts, it's implied that the LttP Link is still alive so all of the game's events happened within a lifetime of the events of LttP. Ignoring how stupid all these people are to let their world fall to ruin AGAIN in a single lifetime after the Hero of Time/Destiny just saved your sorry butts, but think about what this means to have two Links coexist in one lifetime in the same town. If your Universe has a reoccurring cycle of bad guys fighting princesses named “Zelda” and heroes named “Link” over and over and over, and then the king has a daughter named Zelda and a young boy that looks A LOT like the Hero of Time (just with a different hair color, booooo, pink hair forever!) is born in your town, that is the time to get your stuff together, man. You train the hell out of that kid, gather up all the bombs, bows, and hookshots everybody knows about and give them to him, make sure he knows where the Master Sword is, and then you prep your bunker because something seriously bad is about to happen. This isn't a “legend” at this point, it's a “go talk to the two dudes down the street that has been through all this before” situation. Back on track, there's a generic fire temple, ice temple, and a water temple (yes it involves raising and lowering water levels and it's super dumb) and then there are dungeons modeled after the LttP ones, so you feel like you've seen it all before even if they are new layouts. When did Zelda become THE place to stick crappy mini games that aren't even worthy of Mario Party? Was it the Oracles games that started this crap with the dancing/Simon games? If so, geometric gods I retroactively hate those games now. I know LttP had the mystery chest and digging games, but they weren't offensively bad, they just relied on randomness and were stupid, but this crap these days... I will never get the final heart because of that dumb as shit baseball game. The music is okay and, again, just apes the LttP music but doesn't do as good of a job. It's a lot of remixes of the classic music but it's not anything that you couldn't hear on OCRemix or Youtube. To have one last harp on the story, Ganon is no longer an effective villain. Characters like Bowser, Robotnik, or Dr. Wily work as reoccurring villains, Ganon doesn't. Bowser's ultimate goal is to capture a princess for mostly unexplained reasons, he flies around in a clown mobile, and does some pretty crazy things. He's a goof and an awesome one at that. Seeing him come back in every Mario game, have a new crazy scheme, and then ultimately get trounced is all a part of the game and in good fun. Ganon is not a goof. Ganon wants to destroy the world. He's supposed to be a serious and threatening enemy that's a danger to everybody, but that he shows up over and over and gets beaten by pretty much the same guy every time has removed any threat from the character. I haven't even played every Zelda game ever made and I have stomped him in Zelda 1, prevented his resurrection and defeated his magic in Zelda 2, beat him and his top minion in LttP, stopped a nightmare form of him in Link's Awakening, beat him mere seconds after his resurrection in Oracles, and shoved swords in his both human and monster faces in Ocarina and Wind Waker (I never bothered to finish Twilight Princess and don't think I've ever met somebody that actually owns a CDi). We'll ignore the horrible things I've done to him in Smash Brothers because when we get to the point that I've beaten the destroyer of worlds with a Pikmin to the face, that doesn't count. Ganon isn't a threat or a powerful villain, at this point he's Cobra Commander. I have no respect for Ganon and don't take any plot involving him seriously.
The Zelda franchise is now a lot like the "New Super Mario Bros" games. They're perfectly... adequate? Safe? Uninteresting? You know that you can pay your money, pop the game in, and play a completely acceptable game. It won't thrill you or show you anything amazing but it won't completely ruin your day either. For all the pomp a new Zelda release gets and that they pushed A Link Between Worlds's connection to A Link to the Past, I think I'd rather Nintendo just put LttP on the eShop and called it a day. Seriously, Nintendo, why the hell can't I play SNES games on my 3DS? But that's an issue for another day.