My Hylian Summer Vacation

Yesterday, I finally completed my quest to play through Breath of the Wild, completing every shrine and finding every. single. Korok seed along the way. I just happened to sit down to play some Switch and felt like playing Breath of the Wild. I had been meaning to play the game some more as, there was still plenty I could cross off the list from my first play through, such as the Master Sword Trials or the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 quest. I had also just finished a weekend blog listing some of my favorite Summertime Games and had mentioned BOTW as a game I distinctly thought of the summer months, as I spent the summer of 2017 playing through it my first time. So I decided to begin the game a second time with the thought that if nothing else, I would gain a deeper appreciation for the game. There are games that you always wish you could go back and experience for the first time all over again, usually epic games like Breath of the Wild, Fallout 3, GTA IV, etc. While I knew that you can never go back to your “first time” with a game, but I do enjoy going back and revisiting games like this and note what still stands out about the game or what is it that you still dislike; I seem to do this with Zelda games in particular as I played through Majora’s Mask a few months ago with that intent. I wanted to play through BOTW again to see what parts of the game stand out or plain irritate me a second time around. As someone who by nature(?), seems prone to making things more difficult than they would normally be, I had the brilliant idea, “I’m gonna finish every shrine…and get every Korok seed too!”. Here I am today, 26 days and roughly 140 hours of gameplay later – 4 Divine Beasts, 120 Shrines, and all 900 Korok Seeds. I also thought it would be interesting to take some notes as I go through the game and write up a summary of my experience afterward.

I spent the next few weeks playing Breath of the Wild, marking out areas on my Sheikah Slate locations of shrines and Korok seeds. I will make it perfectly clear that I was using the giant fold-out map of Hyrule that came with the player’s guide I got shortly after buying the game, as well as the interactive map from Zelda Dungeon(one of my favorite sites! ). There is no way I was going to be able to find every Korok seed completely on my own, some of the locations were incredibly cryptic and it’s a wonder how some of them were ever found in the first place. I also learned that you can only place 100 stamps on your Sheikah Slate map at any given time…yeah, ONLY 100. At one point I zoomed out a bit to look at the map and it was overrun with little stamps showing the location of seeds in a specific region, and noticed it looked a bit like a map from just about any Ubisoft game. I tackled one region on the map before moving on to the next, beginning with the Great Plateau and then making my way through the Dueling Peaks region. I approached the game like a job essentially, I would wake up and try to chip away what I could after I woke up and before I would go to sleep at night. I don’t want to make it sound like I was miserably grinding away, I truly enjoyed the many, many hours spent mindless chasing marked areas on my map. It was like I just couldn’t stop, one of the highest praises I can usually give a game.

Upon finally completing all the shrines you receive a new “quest” from the monks to go retrieve your reward from the treasure chests located at the Forgotten Temple located at the northern end of Tanagar Canyon. Your reward for completing all 120 shrines is the “Outfit of the Wild” which includes cap, tunic, and trousers that resemble Link’s attire from the very first Legend of Zelda game and looks pretty cool. The “reward” from Hestu however, for scouring every nook and cranny throughout Hyrule for all 900 Korok seeds is simply called “Hestu’s Gift” and appears to be several Korok seeds layered precisely in a way to make it look like a “poop emoji” …yup…that’s right. Upon further reading, I found that indeed, the joke all along is you were collecting Korok poo…umm…great? The symbol itself is known in Japan as Kin no unko, which translates to “golden poo” and is considered a good luck charm. Adding to this wondrous discovery is also a glitch that was found in the game which makes it possible to “collect” infinite Korok seeds, it’s a good thing I like the game that damn much upon realizing the goal of collecting all the seeds was simply a fool’s errand.

In a break from my ramblings of golden Korok poo, I have listed some of my favorite aspects of Breath of the Wild, as well as things about the game that I still don’t love and would like to see changed by the time the sequel to BOTW is released. The things I loved about BOTW…

  • Hyrule – I absolutely love the giant sprawling landscape of BOTW’s Hyrule! While playing there were many regions that reminded me of areas of Tamriel while playing Skyrim, but liked even more. The rocky coastal areas of the Akkala region, with its hills and cliffs overlooking the sea are my favorite. The Wasteland and Gerudo regions providing a mostly barren, arid landscape where you deal with temperature extremes and the occasional sandstorm, making travel difficult. I also loved the Lake region of Hyrule; one of my consistent favorite areas in any given Zelda game would have to be Lake Hyrule – I first fell in love with the idyllic scenery surrounding the giant lake in Ocarina of Time, where I spent much of my time fishing. In BOTW, the massive Bridge of Hylia spans the entire distance across the lake. I also really like the Faron region with the lush, tropical environment that really reminded me of Link’s Awakening and The Wind Waker (even if it’s home to many violent thunderstorms and lightning striking). The Hyrule that Nintendo created for BOTW is probably my favorite aspect of the game.
  • Intro/Setting – The opening of Breath of the Wild is probably my favorite of any Zelda game, beginning with Link’s awakening(get it?…ok, sorry) in the Shrine of Resurrection. You are then given first views of the Great Plateau and the vast land of Hyrule spread out in front of you, in one of many epic moments of the game. The overall setting of the game is great, providing a cryptic eerie sense as you survey the ruins of Hyrule after your hundred-year slumber, piecing together your forgotten memories of just what happened before you were placed in the Shrine of Resurrection. I loved just wandering around the ruins of forts and villages, risking attack by numerous enemies, including the dangerous mechanical Guardians. This reminded me a lot of the Fallout games where you emerge from a stasis chamber to a world completely foreign to you.
  • Combat – I know the combat in the combat has been ridiculed by some after the game was released, with the majority of that I believe rested primarily on the fact your weapons are breakable(still NOT a fan). I really enjoyed the combat and felt it does stress tactics and strategy in choosing which enemies to engage and which to simply avoid; rushing at an enemy and trying to hack your way through has a very low success rate in this gameI would come across a blue-maned Lynel and think, “no way…he’s WAY too strong of an enemy to engage at this point in the game” – as I’m already pecking away at it with arrows from my Boko Bow… that didn’t end well. As much as I hate using this as a reference for anything with the slightest difficulty curve, the combat in BOTW DID in many ways remind of Dark Souls.
  • Princess Zelda – There was a greater resonance to Zelda as a sympathetic character in Breath of the Wild than in other games. In other entries, she seemed essentially a priceless artifact to be rescued, like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. In BOTW, she’s more of a three dimensional character; her frustration from the expectations placed upon her to contain the darkness threatening Hyrule and the consequences of failure to do so. We may have played the game through Link’s eyes, but the heart of the story was Princess Zelda. The irony that the title of the series has always been Legend of Zelda.

As for the things I still dislike about Breath of the Wild…there isn’t too many things. This is also some things that I didn’t hate about the game, but merely would prefer changed around a bit for the sequel announced back at E3.

  • Breakable weapons – Let’s get this one out of the way first…I dislike breakable weapons in any game, I end up spending the majority of the game cautiously avoiding the better weapons I have hoarded to that point, out of fear that they’ll just break after a couple enemies(if that). I don’t think it ruined the game by any means, it’s simply something I have never liked in a video game.
  • RAIN! – I love the traversal in Breath of the Wild, then a rain shower inevitably comes along to bring any progress to a screeching halt. In specific areas like the tropical Faron region, I understand the frequent rainstorms, but it happening at nearly that frequency just about everywhere else got a bit tiring. This is probably my biggest annoyance in BOTW, more even than breakable weapons. You are encouraged to climb just about anything and explore the land, but it becomes incredibly difficult when it’s always raining. This made me appreciate the Gerudo, and Wasteland regions, I will gladly take a sandstorm over the rain.
  • Dungeons – I really like the Divine Beasts and Shrines throughout the game, however I would like to see a more traditional dungeon layout for BOTW 2. The length and sheer number of Shrines in the game don’t provide as much cohesion compared to other titles, like Twilight Princess or Majora’s Mask.
  • Boss Battles – This may be equal parts boss battles AND combat, actually. The boss battles in the game with the different “blight” incarnations of Ganon didn’t seem to be quite as memorable as other Zelda titles. Another thing I thought was strange in BOTW is how much easier the boss battles feel than some of the higher level Bokoblins, Moblins, or Lizalfos. The boss battles can be defeated primarily by spamming arrows, and occasionally using the Runes on your Sheikah Slate, whereas the sub-bosses like Hinox or Lynels, take a much more time and strategy to bring down. This makes certain elements of combat seem a little off-balance.
  • Fishing – One of my favorite and most enjoyable activities in Zelda games has been fishing. It was curiously absent in Breath of the Wild and I would love to see it implemented in the upcoming sequel.
  • Hookshot – A favorite weapon since A Link to the Past, I really hope to see it in the next game

Over the 140+ hours I spent playing Breath of the Wild, I kept track of some of my favorite moments of the game…

  • Master Sword – The moment you pull the Master Sword has been one of the defining moments of a Zelda game since A Link to the Past.
  • Typhlo Ruins – The Shrouded Shrine quest is located in the Typhlo Ruins just north of the Lost Woods. You land on a small island covered in darkness, you must feel your way around the island and light torches along the way. The path eventually leads you to the center of the island where you find the shrine orb, hanging around the neck of a sleeping Hinox. Finding my way through the pitch black with only the light from the occasional torch felt similar to the eerie, cryptic puzzles of early Zelda games.
  • Eventide Island – The Stranded on Eventide quest begins the moment you set foot on Eventide Island. The quest takes away all of your items and equipment and challenges you to activate three shrine pedestals which are being protected by an assortment of enemies. This shrine quest, as well as most of the Faron region provided many Link’s Awakening vibes.
  • Shield Surfing – Once I finally learned how to do it, the shield surfing in Breath of the Wild is a blast!

At the end of the day, was it worth it? yes and no. Experiencing everything the main game has to offer was as great as my first time through, if anything I have an even greater appreciation for what Nintendo accomplished in creating Breath of the Wild. If you’re the type of gamer into collecting Achievements and Trophies, then you will most likely be quite disappointed in what lies at the end of your journey to 100% the game; you’ve earned bragging rights if nothing else. I did also take a few pictures to remember my “summer vacation” in Hyrule.

Wow! that was a bit longer than I had planned. Has anyone else out there played finished every shrine and seed in Breath of the Wild? What other games have you played so obsessively you felt at times that you couldn’t stop? I am quite satisfied to have this completed and will be shortly setting my sights on the new Fire Emblem game next.

Keep on playing…

My Mario Maker 2 Courses

Today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my created courses on Super Mario Maker 2( The tutorials insisting they be called “courses” and not “levels” ). Mario Maker 2 has been out for a month now and was one of this summer’s Nintendo games I was looking forward to as I had only played the 3DS version which seemed to be a slightly watered-down version of one of the Wii U’s few games that got much attention. The ability to share created levels online was the highlight of the Wii U version and to not having that option on the 3DS version was disappointing. I have spent quite a few hours of Mario Maker 2 between Story Mode, which boasts 100 different pre-made courses and in playing other user-created courses online. I have also spent a few hours trying to muster any creativity in creating some courses of my own. It’s incredible seeing some of the leve…COURSES that others have created online and I have included a couple of my recent favorites that I’ve played. I ask in advance to please excuse the lame titles I have used for my humble creations ๐Ÿ˜‰

Swing carefully…

Swinging Blooper Reel – Course ID – XB9-J2P-JHF

One of the first courses I created where the easiest thing to do I make a short course that can be completed in mere seconds, but will have a few tricky jumps thrown in here and there along with scattered enemies in an attempt to pose some sort of challenge. The first few courses I created I probably had some of the platforming sections of games like Mega Man in mind as I made a few of those so you would really have to time the jumps. You will need to swing your way through the grapple claws to reach the end before time runs out. There is an upper and lower path to take as you maneuver around the numerous Bloopers floating around.

More Bloopers…

Calamari Challenge – Course ID – J2N-D55-X36

I always loved the underwater levels in Mario game as a kid, so I wanted to try to create something similar to World 2 of Super Mario Bros. This time you need to defeat the 10 Bloopers around the area before heading for the finish. I worked in a different areas through the course via warp pipes and threw in a few Cheep Cheep to avoid as well.

Classic Castle Course – Course ID – L1T-T8T-TDF

Another creation where I wanted to bring the similar feeling to the castle levels of Super Mario World. There is nothing too difficult here, just a more straightforward trip through a lava-filled castle, complete with giant blades and Dry Bones. Bowser Jr is also waiting at the finish line.

Wintertime Coins – Course ID – RYQ-16G-GVG

The course requirement here is to collect five 30-Coins before completing. There’s nothing too difficult here, outside of a few Spinies and some falling icicles. I wanted to make an easy coin-collecting course for this one, rather than create something that makes you rage quit after dying fifty times in a row( **NOT from experience ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Rock Wrench & Bullet Bill – Course ID – 6XG-5FQ-QQF

Mario 3 just may be my absolute favorite game, so I wanted to create a flying ship level similar to the ones you had to clear at the end of each world in Mario 3. As you would find in the game itself, there are Rocky Wrenches and Bullet Bills throughout the course as well as the giant flame burners that one would expect to find on a flying wooden ship. You will again need to defeat Bowser Jr. before completing the course.

I do go back and play through all of my created courses; I don’t usually make them with “how many people can I get to play these courses?” in mind. I wanted to make something that I would enjoy playing myself, and I have. In addition to some of my created courses, I have included a couple others that I have played online that I really really enjoyed.

20 Seconds: Cannonball Capers – User ID – bruhhhhhh Course ID – 9QD-V7X-2JF

Along with enjoying an easy stroll through a Mario Maker 2 course, I have spent a fair amount of time( and frustration) playing other user’s speed run courses, some of these are absolutely genius…and difficult.

Super Castlevania Bros – User ID – Nocturnowl Course ID – 5WW-0MF-TMF

I started seeing different “theme” courses online in Mario Maker 2 right away; some users have created everything from movies like Evil Dead to other video games like Metal Gear Solid. There are not surprisingly many levels where other users have re-created different worlds from Zelda games, such as the Great Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time. I came across this level and absolutely LOVE Nocturnowl’s creating of Dracula’s Castle from the Castlevania games. I definitely recommend checking out this one.

That’s about it for this week! I made the Rock Wrench & Bullet Bill course the other day and thought it would be fun to show some courses in a blog post. Have you played Super Mario Maker 2? if so, what do you think so far? Let me know in the comments. See…I HAVE actually played something other than Breath of the Wild this week! ๐Ÿ˜€

Keep on playing…

Weekend Gaming Review – Small Retro Game Haul

Due to being out of town for most of the weekend, today’s post will be a summary of whatever games I was able to play over the weekend and any general video games related thoughts I had the urge to discuss. I also have included a few photos of some older games I happened to pick up over the weekend as a pat on the back for actually leaving my apartment ๐Ÿ™‚

The past week…or few weeks, rather, I have spent the largest majority of my time spent playing games was my continuous march towards completing Breath of The Wild a second time WHILE finishing every shrine and collecting every Korok seed. I first decided rather impulsively to begin BOTW a second time and thought to myself, “what the hell…I’ll see if I can get EVERY Korok seed and shrine along the way”. To my surprise, I have been able to keep grinding away and am currently sitting at 64 of 120 shrines completed and 431 out of 900 Korok Seeds, and it’s only taken me about…um, let’s see here…50+ hours so far…I have been keeping some notes and screenshots while playing as I intend to go through and write up some of my thoughts and observations from playing through the game. I can already say that I have an even deeper appreciation for the game than after my first time through…just have 3 Divine Beasts, 56 shrines, and 469 Korok seeds left…not bad ๐Ÿ˜‰

I did actually play a couple other games over the past week other than Breath of the Wild; I spent a few hours over Thursday and Friday night participating in the final Splatfest as part of Team Order against the Team Chaos’ agents of mayhem (You’ve doomed Inkopolis, you monsters!). Splatoon 2 is a great game and it’s a bit of a shame the online play can be a bit obtuse at times…like most other Nintendo online multiplayer games, sadly.

I also played a little bit more of The Witcher 3, which sounds like insanity, or I just have too much time on my hands that I would even think of juggling both Breath of the Wild and The Witcher 3 at the same time, but had the urge to go back in and play some more after I had spent the afternoon on Twitter reading about the upcoming Netflix series as well as seeing more pics of Henry Cavill as Geralt. Oddly enough, I had just mentioned in the comments below Hannie at The Hannie Corner’s post – Fifteen Games I’d Like To Beat Before 2019 Is Over that I am doubtful that I could finish both The Witcher 3 AND Persona 5 before 2019 is over. Funny how all it takes is to read about a related tv show or merely mention a game that creates the urge to play it (NOT easily swayed by outside influence at all, huh?).

My video game haul from over the weekend

This past Saturday I made a trip to my local used game store in town and picked up a few games I had been wanting to play. I bought a very nice copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, a game I have been wanting to play for quite some time, even more so since I finished up Link’s Awakening on my Game Boy Color a few months ago. I haven’t seen a copy of Oracle of Seasons in a while, but I would like to get a copy of that so I can play through both of them. While there I grabbed a copy of The Force Awakens that was in pretty nice condition; I never completed the entire game after it was first released and intend to correct that in the near future. The store was also having a “buy two used games, get one free” sale over the weekend, so as my freebie I took a disc-only copy of X-Men Legends for my Gamecube. Legends being another game that I played a fair amount of on my Gamecube with my younger brother after its release, but never finished. My wife and I tried it out for a while earlier today and it plays just fine, those old hack & slash type games are still fun to play after all these years, even with the fuzzy 480p GC graphics. It occurred to me after buying the games that I had taken the “poor man’s approach” to newer games, with X-Men Legends being a predecessor to the newly released Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order and a good deal of the gameplay elements from The Force Unleashed will be used(from what I’ve seen so far, at least) in Respawn’s upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order that comes out in November.

A nice copy of Oracle of Ages

During my trip out of town, I happened to stop at a couple garage sales and someone was trying to sell a DS Lite that their kids had played on but no longer use. It seemed to be in decent enough shape, and the owner offered $15 for the DS Lite, case, and a couple games included – Mario + Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and a cartridge-only Donkey Kong game of some sort (the label on the card was scratched off and simply had “Donkey Kong” written on it). I had been wanting to buy a DS Lite, mostly as a cheaper, backlit means of playing Game Boy Advance games since I no longer have my old original “fat” DS. I gave the man $15 for the DS and everything with it and only upon inspecting and testing out the handheld I found out that the “Donkey Kong” game was actually the DS port of Diddy Kong Racing from the N64, pretty sweet :D. The DS itself is in pretty good shape as a result of the Cars protective case covering most of it; there is a bit of a scratch on the upper screen, but I believe I can buff that out when I go through and thoroughly clean it. I have seen people making and selling “replacement labels” for game cartridges online, so I can see about getting one of those so it’s not simply a piece of tape of the card. I don’t do a ton of retro game collecting anymore as I plain don’t have room for boxes and boxes full of old games…<sigh>…but it’s still fun to go and see what kind of treasure you can find. A few years ago, I stopped by someone selling a few assorted N64 games at a garage sale and notice there was Conker’s Bad Fur Day in great shape so I asked the guy standing there how much and he tells me “the games are $5 a piece”, obviously either not knowing or caring this particular game re-sells for $75+ online and at used game stores, probably my greatest find at a garage sale.

I was pleasantly surprised to find “Donkey Kong” was actually Diddy Kong Racing for the DS. You can see the scratch on the upper screen, but I think I can clean that up a bit.

That’s about it for this week, do you collect many physical copies of games, retro or not? What’s your best “haul” at a garage sale or used game store? Let me know in the comments. I’m off to try and collect a few more Korok seeds and make my way through the Gerudo and Wasteland regions of Breath of the Wild.

Keep on playing…

Nintendo Flips The Switch Lite

I don’t usually get a chance to write any new posts during the week, but had a few thoughts about Nintendo’s announcement and figured I could stand to “Switch” things up a bit…<crickets chirping>…anywho…Today Nintendo confirmed the rumors circulating that they had been working on a newer model of their mega-successful hybrid console by announcing the Nintendo Switch Lite, which releases in a mere seventy days on September 20, 2019 for $200. The newest version of the Switch is indeed a more compact version to be played exclusively in handheld mode. The Switch Lite will be a smaller all-in-one handheld system featuring built-in Joycon controllers as well as an improved battery Nintendo claims will last 20-30% longer than its bigger brother. Other notable changes to the Switch Lite include:

  • A 5.5 inch screen versus 6.2 inches
  • Not dock compatible, charges via USB-C cable
  • Does not have HD Rumble or IR Motion Sensors
  • D-pad positioned on left Joycon
  • Longer lasting battery – the example used by Nintendo was four hours of playing Breath of the Wild with the new battery versus three hours on the current model
  • Available in three different colors, including a Pokemon Sword/Shield Zacian and Zamazenta Special Edition announced as well ( looks sweet!)

I woke up this morning to read Nintendo had finally confirmed they are releasing a newer model of the Switch and spent the majority of the day reading about it, as well as perusing Twitter to see others reactions. I am genuinely excited about a new and improved(?) version of the Switch coming in September and have a few thoughts about it.

The Zacian/Zamazenta Special Edition of the Switch Lite looks pretty nice

Is the price tag worth the trade-off? – Obviously this completely subjective and depends on your needs and preferences. For someone that plays the Switch primarily in handheld mode as I know many do, as well as those with children this will be a great purchase; the Switch is perfect for commuting from work or school and surely worth the $200 price tag. Features like the HD Rumble, motion sensors, kickstand, and detachable Joycons I find myself not typically using a great deal, so other than not having the option to “dock” the console for charging purposes I think it’s justified. Hell, just the fact you have a legit d-pad to use for games like Tetris 99 seems appealing enough.

What about games you can’t play in handheld mode? – I don’t believe the list of games that you are simply unable to play in handheld mode is a very long list, with the biggest titles being games like Mario Party or 1-2 Switch. Nintendo has stated that for games such as these you will be able to connect additional Joycons to play….but…if you need additional Joycons to play games on a HANDHELD console….how do you HOLD the console? The Switch Lite does not have the built-in kickstand so there is no tabletop mode along with docked. Another game I thought of was during Mario Odyssey each level upon has specific power moons that you will need to detect the rumble on the controller to know where to ground pound to get the power moon, how will that work? I admit these probably aren’t huge deal-breakers, but it was something I thought of this afternoon.

What about the 3DS? Will we get a Switch “Pro” – Nintendo already set the precedent of making differing models of their handhelds to best fit customer needs, but with the Switch Lite being exclusively a handheld console, what does that mean for the 3DS? The 3DS was incredibly successful but is getting on in years after seeing several different versions including both XL and 2DS versions; does Nintendo plan on finally putting the little guy out to pasture? The 3DS has been home to some great games over the years and Nintendo has been committed to having both home console as well as handheld supported at any given time, but with the Switch being a hybrid of both it will be interesting to see what happens next. Also, with unveiling of the Lite, does that mean that Nintendo will be releasing a beefed-up “Pro” model of the Switch? Something with a little more horsepower( if possible) and possibly an improvement to the dock that would include an ethernet port for the “hardcore gamers” like me ๐Ÿ˜‰ that spend most of their time playing in docked mode ( translation: NEVER leave home) and would like a little more stability in using a wired connection? I would love for Nintendo to bring something like that to life, but for now I still love my regular old Switch.

How is it a Switch if it doesn’t “switch”? – I came across more of these comments than I can count today? While I agree Nintendo kind of painted themselves into a corner with the name branding, I don’t think it’s a big enough concern to warrant a lengthy response, smart guy.

How great does the rest of the year look for Nintendo? – This was my biggest question this afternoon after realizing Nintendo launched the Switch on the same day as Breath of the Wild, and will be releasing the Switch Lite on September 20 – the SAME DAY as the much anticipated Link’s Awakening remake….coincidence? The Switch Lite is releasing right alongside a Zelda game, right before new Pokemon and a few months before a new Animal Crossing; Nintendo is looking to have a huge remainder of 2019 and into 2020. Here is some of the exclusives coming out for the Switch in the upcoming months –

  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order – July 19
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses – July 26
  • Astral Chain – August 30
  • Daemon X Machina – September 13
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – September 20
  • Pokemon Sword/Shield – November 15
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 – November 2019

That about does it for now, what do you think of the Switch Lite?( they couldn’t have called it a “Lite Switch” huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) What games are you looking forward in the upcoming months? It’s a great time for video games!

Keep on playing…

My Summertime Games

I’m going to start off by apologizing for not having a blog post ready for this past weekend, my brother was in town for the week and I didn’t have much time to sit at my computer and write anything out. I had an enjoyable week playing games and visiting our local used game store in town. As this past week was the 4th of July, I thought it would be fun to write about the games that I associate with summertime. I have made a list of the games that always remind me of those summer days as kids where my brother and I would come inside from playing baseball out in the backyard, grab a couple cold sodas, and then proceed to play some games during the hottest hours of the day. First off….

All-Star Baseball – “America’s Pastime”, this was a bit difficult to name just one single baseball game as my favorite, but the first memories that come to mind are playing the All-Star Baseball games on my N64. I started as a kid playing La Russa Baseball 95 on Sega Genesis all the way through to present day MLB The Show games. We would play outside and pretend we were hitting in major league stadiums like Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Piazza and then head inside to continue on as our favorite players on the N64. The games have improved by light years from the simple design of the 16-bit days, and the yearly offering of MLB The Show is still probably the games I play most during the summer months. I often think of all the time spent playing baseball on N64, as well as in the backyard with friends and family, being inseparable from any mention of summertime.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – Growing up in the 90’s and into the early 2000’s before extreme sports games like skateboarding and snowboarding seemingly went extinct, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater most successful series of the genre and helped bring extreme sports even further into popular culture of the time; remember Jackass or Viva La Bam on MTV? or when the X Games drew massive viewers on ESPN? I first played the original Pro Skater the summer of 2000 after a cousin brought the N64 version of the game over and spent the day playing. I got my mom to buy my brother and I a copy of the game from a local Kmart and we spent the rest of the summer obsessively playing it; I remember waking up in the mornings that summer just to try and collect more tapes thereby unlocking more levels. As someone unable to even stand on a skateboard( and living in the middle of nowhere) this was like discovering another world. Pro Skater, along with Rogue Squadron 2 were the first games I got when the GameCube came out in 2002. I still have copies of the first couple Tony Hawk games for Playstation that are still fun to go back and play every now and then, despite the camera and controls which have not aged particularly well. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a huge game for me during all those summers as a kid, not to mention all of the cool licensed music that were used for the games. Ask anyone who played the game to NOT think of THPS upon hearing Superman by Goldfinger.

Mario Golf N64 – I dragged my trusty N64 into my living room a few weeks ago and Mario Golf was one of the first games that I popped in. I spent countless hours with my younger brother and our neighbor friend trying to unlock all the extra characters that you needed to first beat in Match Play, which proved quite challenging to say the least. I remember taking turns playing one hole each trying to beat Metal Mario…I don’t think we ever did? The music and sound effects from this game still bring forth all those warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings after all these years. I dragged my trusty N64 into my living room a few weeks ago and Mario Golf was one of the first games that I popped in and plan on going through and writing about the Mario Golf series as I love all the games. While many consider Mario Golf for the Game Boy Color to be the high point of the series, my favorite would still have to be the N64 version.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Man…I can’t even imagine the hours that were spent playing this on Playstation 2. GTA: Vice City was the game my brother and I saved every cent of allowance money and traded in several stacks of games just to buy a PS2, because we knew we HAD TO GET THIS GAME. Vice City took everything that GTA 3 had pioneered in open-world games and added even more. My friends and I used to take turns playing the game for hours on end without even attempting to actually complete a storyline mission. I had never played anything like it to that point, it was so fun to run around the neon, tropical landscape of Vice City set during the 1980s. The carefree do-anything gameplay, music, and chaos that Rockstar created in Vice City is still one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of video games in the summertime.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – I ACTUALLY have a more recently released game on my list! It has been two years since I was able to get a Switch and the obvious choice of game to go along with it is Breath of the Wild. I spent the rest of the summer completing shrines and gathering Korok seeds in Nintendo’s open-world Zelda masterpiece. I had been itching to play through the game all over again, so I started another playthrough over the weekend with the intention of completing every shrine and finding every Korok seed, along with finally completing the Master Sword Trial( wish me luck! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). There really isn’t much to say about BotW that hasn’t already been said, if you have not played it yet…YOU NEED TO PLAY THIS! The game is an experience.

Super Mario Sunshine – I am simply unable to think of summertime video games without Super Mario Sunshine being one of the first games springing to mind. I fell in love with this game from the first time I played in on my GameCube in August 2002 and Mario’s vacation-gone-awry on Isle Delfino is still one of my highlights on the console. The exotic Isle Delfino and the Piantas – its anti-pollution, fruit-loving denizens, simply evokes images of a dream summer vacation. The wonderful Koji Kondo soundtrack adds to the summertime mood as well. Despite the seemingly relaxed vibe of the game, it can be terrifyingly difficult; just take a look at some of the 3D puzzle-platforming levels in the later stages of the game. I recently wrote up a list of my “Switch Wish List” and Sunshine is one of the games I really would love to play on the Switch, as the predecessor of Super Mario Odyssey. While the camera is STILL the games biggest drawback, it is a pure enjoyable experience traversing Isle Delfino with your waterpack – F.L.U.D.D and still consider it one of the defining experiences on the GameCube. Switch re-release or not, Super Mario Sunshine is still my go-to summer gaming experience.

That’s going to be it for this week’s post, what games do you think of right away if you when you reminisce about childhood summers? What are you still excited to play the remained of the sumer? I did also pick up a copy of Super Mario Maker 2 and have been loving it so far; the depth of the course creator and insane user-created levels are really impressive. That along with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 when it releases in a couple weeks will most likely consume the rest of my summer. I still have a lot of games that I want to keep working on as the past week was spent mostly playing MLB The Show, Mario Kart 8, and an assorted few N64 and GameCube games and then of course, Season 3 of Stranger Things. I do plan to get more in the rhythm of writing weekly posts moving forward through the rest of the summer. Over the course of the week, I was able to come up with some ideas for future blog posts that I would love to experiment with as well, so I’m pretty happy about that. Happy National Video Game Day! Finally…a holiday for us gamers ๐Ÿ˜‰

Keep on playing…

Five Games I’m Most Excited About From E3 2019

The video gaming spectacle known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 is currently underway in Los Angeles, CA running from June 11-13. During this time game publishers, developers, media and gaming community in general gather to the Los Angeles Convention center to either showcase or experience the latest and greatest(hopefully) the industry has to offer. The event has come a long way since starting in 1995 as an offshoot of the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as everything around video games had grown exponentially larger – industry, media, and consumers. Every year multitudes of gaming fans keep watch on their online gaming news outlet of choice, or more recently Twitch and YouTube channels dedicated to showing every minute of the array of games and technology on display. Every annual E3 convention is kicked off with several days of press conferences from the major developers and publishers, and with these press conferences come announcement trailers and gameplay footage of upcoming titles. This has become a bit of a spectator sport in itself as game announcements can come as a surprise and create an enormous amount of excitement for anyone who loves video games. After some deliberation, these are the five games that I’m most excited about after seeing from E3 2019.

Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix’s remake of the beloved Final Fantasy VII has been in the works for quite some time now after being initially announced back in 2015. The game development seemed to go for very long periods of time without any word or update from the developers, with some skeptical the game would ever happen at all. Well…Square Enix finally showed off some actual gameplay of FFVII during its presentation on Monday night and this game looks downright gorgeous with the updated, NOT jagged angular character models of Cloud and Barrett’s boss battle with the Scorpion Sentinel from early on in the game. The combat controls have been reworked a bit, with a shift more towards an action RPG that I think is an interesting change particularly when dealing with a game as highly regarded by hardcore RPG fans as FFVII. Another aspect of the game that I feel is a bit strange is the fact it is going to an episodic release, with Square Enix stating the entire first episode will take place in Midgar. Square Enix also stated the game will be large enough to take up two entire blu-ray discs upon release in its completed form; though they admit they are unsure of just how many episodes the game be comprised. Final Fantasy VII is a game that while being the benchmark title for the series, is in need of a face lift as it is one of the first games I mention when the discussion of “games that haven’t aged well” comes up(along with Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time)…nevertheless I am incredibly eager to check this out when it releases in March 2020.

Watch Dogs: Legion

The announcement for Watch Dogs: Legion was leaked prior to E3 and like the other games in the Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs series, it looks to be a very ambitious game that I sincerely hope they are able to pull off as this game really piqued my interest after watching the demonstration during the Ubisoft E3 presentation. Watch Dogs: Legion is set in London of the not too distant future, where an authoritarian militia-government has control, with soldiers on patrol as well as drones surveying your every move…you know sci-fi dystopian stuff. The premise of the game is similar to that of the first two games, with a group of individuals with the ability to hack seemingly any device have decided to fight back. I admit I have missed out on the Watch Dogs games up to this point so this may be an excellent introduction to the series for me. One of the unique features of this game is the fact there isn’t any “main character” as you can recruit and then control ANYONE you see out on the street. The gameplay demo showed the character currently being controlled as they were able to scan and identify different people around the area, with their different abilities and skill sets being highlighted. You could recruit a retired police officer, an amateur MMA fighter, an expert hacker, or someone with an extensive knowledge of drones. The developers at Ubisoft stated you can recruit an army of resistance members with skills as varied as you choose. If a character is taken down while fighting, you are given the choice of either surrender and be escorted to jail with you being unable to use them for a set amount of time or you can choose to keep fighting. If you opt to keep fighting and the character is killed you lose that character indefinitely…perma-deaths will be a thing in this game. Ubisoft also stated that if one of your characters is taken to jail, you will be able to be released back into available use if any of your recruited members who have backgrounds as a lawyer. The highlight of the Watch Dogs: Legion was the portion of the demo where the control was switched over to Helen – an elderly woman who is also a retired espionage agent. Watching Helen shuffle around a London park, feeding the birds one moment and then the next moment she stealthily takes out an armed guard with a taser to the neck…I was pretty much sold by this point ๐Ÿ™‚ . Watch Dogs: Legion was announced for a March 6 2020 release.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Ever since Jedi: Fallen Order was officially announced I was eager to see more, especially knowing the Respawn Entertainment would be developing the game. I have stated in the past how much I loved the Titanfall games as well as Apex Legends after it was stealth dropped back in February, so that combine that with the fact it’s another Star Wars game it seemed a no-brainer. I really want to see EA get a Star Wars game RIGHT, especially after the debacle around Battlefront 2 and…really any AAA title they have released the past few years. This past Saturday, EA and Respawn demonstrated a gameplay video after much speculation within the gaming community as to what the game even was going to be. In Jedi: Fallen Order you control Cal Kestis – a young Jedi who survived Order 66 has joined a band of rebels led by Saw Gerrera – the guerrilla leader played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One; whose likeness is also used in the game. The gameplay video showed Kestis traversing the wookie planet of Kashyyyk and fighting Stormtroopers as well as hostile life forms. The gameplay we were able to see didn’t seem to be revolutionary in any way, with the traversal and general movements appear to be similar to that of any of the Uncharted games; the combat however, looks pretty enjoyable with really smooth looking lightsaber combat. The video shows Kestis will force-push a broken wall and then jump through and use the Force to freeze a Stormtrooper (a la Kylo Ren) in mid-movement before striking him down with his lightsaber. There is also the ability to freeze blaster fire mid-air and deflecting it back at enemies, along with the lightsaber throws we are used to seeing from the Force Unleashed games a console generation ago. What I did see of the game reminded me a bit of the Force Unleashed, with some of the jumping, and swinging across chasms we have seen from Nathan Drake in Uncharted games. I can’t help but still be just the smallest bit concerned given the track record EA has with their usage of the Star Wars universe, but the gameplay video did put my mind at ease quite a bit. Another interesting note about the game is the developers at Respawn have stated that among their inspirations for Jedi: Fallen Order were Super Metroid and Dark Souls and wanted to have the same nature of exploration and at the same time have the strategic combat of the aforementioned games. Jedi: Fallen Order is releasing on November 15 2019 and I certainly plan on checking this game out.

Cyberpunk 2077 – Special Mention*

I haven’t gotten to see any actual gameplay of developer CD Projekt Red’s follow up to the enormously popular Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so I wasn’t going to include it in a list of games that I was able to see actual gameplay from, but I after reading several accounts of the 50 minute gameplay demo being offered to those lucky enough to be at E3, along with watching the Cyberpunk 2077 cinematic trailer that was shown as part of Microsoft’s press conference on Sunday…and all I can say is that the hype for this game has been amplified tenfold; it looks to be the closest thing to a Blade Runner video game. Cyberpunk 2077 is set to be released on April 16 2020 and has the potential to be incredible, just watch this trailer…

Doom: Eternal

I really don’t need to spend much time discussing what the newest title in the Doom series from iD and Bethesda looks like other than saying “It looks like Doom 2016…just bigger and more of it!” The gameplay video shown at the Bethesda conference Sunday night showed plenty of the over-the-top demon slaying we have come to know and love about the series. This time around you will be fighting not only on Mars and in Hell, but also in other dimensions and planets which I have absolutely no doubt will still provide the same experience as the previous game. Doom: Eternal releases on November 22 2019 and I CANNOT wait!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake

I could have spent this entire time just talking about all the announcements from the Nintendo Direct Presentation of Tuesday morning. I could hardly contain my fanboy excitement as Nintendo announced a new Contra game – Contra: Rogue Corps, No More Heroes 3, a remake of Panzer Dragoon, Banjo and Kazooie FINALLY being added as characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and in the final moments played a very brief trailer announcing that a sequel for Breath of the Wild was currently in development…OH.MY.GOD :). Allow me to regain my composure for a minute and re-direct back to the game that I am probably most excited for after seeing more of it from E3 – the Link’s Awakening remake. I was intrigued when I watched the announcement that Nintendo was going to remake Link’s Awakening; a game first released on the original Game Boy back in 1993. I was also cautiously optimistic about the choice of animations used for the remake and being worried they may not do justice to a Legend of Zelda game however, after seeing extended gameplay segments shown by Nintendo over the last couple days I think the creative decision will work out perfectly. The graphics still remind me a bit of Peanuts movie, but it seems to make sense for this particular game. Link’s Awakening takes place all within a dream and has a bit of a goofy, oddball quality to it that I have begun to really like after watching the adorable cartoonish Link make his way around Koholint Island. They are including the Color Dungeon from the Game Boy Color DX version and what appears to be a Dungeon Creator in the remake that also looks fun. There is also a Link Amiibo that is being released at the same time as the full game on September 20 2019. I had embarrassingly never played through the entire game at the time of the remake announcement and quickly rectified that issue. (Side Note: I made a post about my thoughts about my playthrough of Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy a couple months ago if you care to read)

This fall is looking to be good for gamers as I am already game planning just the handful of games off the top of my head – Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Sword/Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Doom: Eternal, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Death Stranding just to name a few. What games are you anxious to play later this year or that you’re really hyped up about after seeing from E3?

Keep on playing…

Thoughts on Majora’s Mask (after all these years)

“Whether a parting be forever or merely a short time…that is up to you”

These are the words given to you by the Happy Mask Salesman upon leaving Link and setting out across Termina Field. His words seemed applicable as The Legend of Zelda: Majoraโ€™s Mask had taken me about a decade to finish and I had set out to play through the game a second time.

Getting my copy of Majora’s Mask in the mail is one of my fondest childhood memories. I was able to persuade my mom into ordering a special bundle from nintendo.com( online ordering was still a novelty in 2000, living in the middle of nowhere) that came with the gold cartridge collector’s edition of the game, the soundtrack cd, player’s guide, and a year subscription to Nintendo Power. I hadn’t really played many Zelda games until Ocarina of Time came out on the N64(and is still my favorite Zelda game…not a real original opinion), so I was excited to play the follow-up which for a considerable amount of time was listed as Zelda: Gaiden in Nintendo Power. I remember playing Majora’s Mask and really enjoying the world and the storyline, but for reasons I don’t remember to this day I kinda just stopped playing about 2/3 of the way through. I picked up the game a several times over the next few years with the intention of completing it, but never did. I read several gaming magazines saying it was EVEN BETTER than Ocarina of Time which I couldn’t comprehend at the time, I just wasn’t in love with the seemingly tedious item and mask quests that relied on a specific day and time to be completed and had a difficult time finishing the game. It was about nine years later by the time I finally finished it. I gained a better appreciation of the game once I made my way through the Ikana Graveyard and Canyon on my way to the Stone Tower and eventually the moon itself. Over time, developing a deeper admiration for the game that a very large portion of the audience did not or could not love as much as its predecessor – Ocarina of Time.

I eventually got the re-release of Majora’s Mask for the 3DS a while ago and made a conscious effort to play through the game within the same week to see what my feelings of the game would be after 19 years…

In the 3DS version of the game there are changes from the N64. There are a lot of minor location changes such as Heart Pieces and Stray Fairies within the main 4 dungeons. Several of the masks are located in different locations. The Giant’s Mask for example, is not acquired until mid-way through the Stone Tower boss battle with TwinMold whereas it’s located in a large chest before you enter the boss room. This made it tricky when I would pull out my weathered Nintendo Power Official Player’s Guide for the game and the items simply weren’t there.

Traveling back and forth throughout the 3 days before the moon crashes into Clock Town and destroys everything in a central mechanic to the game, and the 3DS version has streamlined this a bit. In the N64 version, if I wanted to be somewhere at 10pm for example, I would play the Song of Double Time and warp to either the dawn or night of a given day. You would warp to 6pm(nighttime) and have to wait around until the clock hits 10pm. In the 3DS version however, you can travel by 1 hour increments so you can warp directly to 10pm without having to stand around waiting. This isn’t an enormous, game-changing thing, but it does save a lot of annoyance at the fact you’re sitting waiting for something to happen.

I really liked the fact they moved the location of the Clock Town Bank in the 3DS version to right behind the clock tower and owl statue, which serves as your fast travel points throughout the game. There are countless times where you will pull out your ocarina, Deku pipes, Goron drums, or Zora guitar(coolest instrument in ANY Zelda game, IMO) and play the Song of Soaring to fast travel to Clock Town solely to deposit all of your rupees in the bank as your item inventory will reset once you play the Song of Time and return to the dawn of the first day. Again, this isn’t something that warrants the long explanation but it’s one less inconvenience that I had a hard time liking about the game back in 2000.

My favorite battle is still Goht – the Snowhead Temple Boss

The boss battles are still one of the most memorable parts of Majora’s Mask. The battle with Goht in Snowhead Temple taking place within a circular “track” where you must derail him with your spikes while rolling with your Goron Mask on, seems akin to chariots slamming into each other while racing in the Roman Colosseum. Your fight with TwinMold at the end of the twisting upside-down and then right side up Stone Tower was also memorable. The boss battle that turns into a giant(PUN!) wrestling match once you acquire and wear the appropriately named Giant Mask. In which Link, grabs the stunned TwinMold by the tail and swings it around like Mario fighting Bowser in Mario 64.

The music in the game is still probably my favorite from any Zelda game; from the intro – a sunny, baroque madrigal-esque passage before taking an ominous and foreboding turn, to the Astral Observatory theme – an absolutely enchanting and sublime melody which still brings out all sorts of warm, fuzzy nostalgic feelings after all these years. ( I have included a link below to listen)

There is always the sense of catastrophe hanging overhead…

In summary(finally), my admiration and respect for Majora’s Mask has grown deeper and more affectionate over the years with a better understanding of the game’s darker, more mature themes. It is equal parts beautiful and tragic, showing parallels between the story and our own lives. We go through our lives in a frantic state simply trying to accomplish our goals and ambitions because there is the constant feeling of impending doom, along with helplessness and loneliness; the sense of not having enough time for everything. I am beyond satisfied to have re-experienced this game. Majora’s Mask is a dark masterpiece that I did not or simply could not understand at the time.



Catching Up On Games – Guacamelee!

One of the problems that come along with having a wide interest in different game genres is – You simply don’t have time to play them all. Some games for one reason or another end up being put in the back log and you have to come back to them at a later time(sometimes much later…). I just recently had the chance to play through Guacamelee! the incredibly fun to play metroidvania style action platformer made by Drinkbox Studios. Guacamelee! was first released on the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita in April of 2013 and is currently available on just about every gaming platform. I’m embarrassed it took me this long getting around to it.

Players control Juan, an agave farmer living in rural Mexico. Juan is called to the local town after receiving word that his former flame and daughter of El Presidente – Lupita has been abducted by the evil Carlos Calaca. Juan dons the mask of the mystical Luchador and sets out to save Lupita, learning new abilities along the way. The backdrop is set with traditional Mexican culture and folklore as the events of the game are set during Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead). The visuals are colorful and make this game as satisfying to look at as to play. One of the favorite touches is right before you fight one of the game’s bosses such as the Trio of Death (a three headed skeleton armed with mariachi instruments) or the aptly named Flame Face (armed with a pistol and tequila bottle) there is a colorful billboard showing “Juan Vs. Flame Face!” that flashes before the screen adding to the Mexican wrestling vibe.

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania style side scrolling action game that isn’t completely non-linear, but leaves ample room to backtrack and explore the different levels. You come across “Choozo Statues” which from the name right down to the appearance are a nod to the Metroid influence of this game. You learn different move and abilities such as a double-jump, a destructive headbutt, or my favorite – Pollo Power! which allows you to switch back and forth to a chicken inside an egg( an allusion to your Morph Ball upgrade in the Metroid games). There is also the really interesting game mechanic where you gain the ability to switch between the plane of the living or the dead, which adds complexity to the puzzles and combat with the game. The combat of the game is much deeper than I would have guessed with move lists much more extensive than the majority of indie games like this.

The “Choozo Statues” should look oddly familiar to Metroid fans…

The game has many nods to vintage games, but don’t take this as merely a “cover version” of a Metroid game, Guacamelee! is it’s very own unique game. I played the Super Turbo Championship Edition of the game on my Switch, which this edition of the game would suggest a reference to previous Street Fighter 2 titles( Super, Turbo, and Champion). I am making an effort to get caught up on more of these indie titles that I haven’t gotten to play yet, and the Switch is the perfect place to play them. I sadly admit I still have to finish the last level of Shovel Knight as well as pick back up where I left off in Hollow Knight and Journey. Guacamelee! 2 was also released back in October 2018. I very heartily recommend Guacamelee! to anyone, I assume I’m not the only one who hadn’t played it yet.


My 5 Favorite Current-Gen Games

The current generation of gaming has been an incredible time for players with video games being bigger than they have ever been before. Today, I’ve listed what I have narrowed down to my 5 favorite of the games offered on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, etc. These are not in any particular order, and may change as there are some excellent games released just a few months into 2019. We also have not received much news as to when the next-gen consoles will be released.

Far Cry 5 – I have lost track of approximately how many hours I’ve spent running around Hope County’s gorgeous landscape in the fight against the Eden’s Gate cult. I have completed the game a few times and seem to keep coming back with how much I enjoy the mayhem the inevitably seems to follow me wherever I go. The rush of chaos and explosions is some of the most satisfying I have ever played in a game. Far Cry 5 and the entire Far Cry series for that matter are essentially being tossed into an action movie from the 80’s. Side note – Far Cry: New Dawn was released a month ago and I highly recommend that as well.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – There isn’t much I can say for Red Dead Redemption 2 that hasn’t been said already. Rockstar’s open-world wild west masterpiece will be discussed and played for years to come. The game is a very heavy, slow burn that certainly pays off in the end. The story is very nuanced, with new detail that I notice every time I play it. The in-game environment is easily the most impressive I have ever seen, with a landscape truly seems alive. The game conveys desolation, loneliness and at times hopelessness as well as the beauty and brutal struggle of life in the Old West. This game is a bucket-list worthy experience for anyone.

Super Mario Odyssey – When Super Mario Odyssey was announced, I admit I was mildly skeptical. So…Mario is running around a metropolitan looking world inhabited by humans…and he’s throwing a hat on things to transform into them? I mean…that is pretty accurate, but I absolutely loved this game! The main story itself is a little on the short side, but I invested 90 hours into this game going through and collecting all 999 power moons and different outfits for Mario. This aspect of the game along with the heavy dashes of nostalgia is where the most memorable moments of the game were for me. Going through the different worlds and collecting all the power moons and purple coins was reminiscent of the old “collect-a-thon” games on the N64 that I spent my childhood years playing. Super Mario Odyssey was the most fun I had playing a Mario game since the first Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.

Horizon: Zero Dawn – Giant. Robot. Dinosaurs. That’s all I really knew going into my first play through of Guerrilla Game’s newest ip Horizon: Zero Dawn. There is so much more to this game than what may be first apparent. The gameplay itself is as good as it gets for an open-world sandbox game. The hours flew by just exploring the post-catastrophe world with terrain from snowy mountains to lush green open areas to vast expanses of rocky arid desert. The story is great and protagonist Aloy is one of my new favorite game characters as she is looking for answers to the world’s history as well as her own. An excellent brand-new series entry in a crowded space of remakes and remasters.

God of War – Another game that doesn’t need much else said about it, the most recent(and best) entry in the God of War series is as good as gaming gets. Kratos’ journey this time taking place with his son Atreus at his side. The game is this time around set in Norse mythology rather than Greek. The journey Kratos and Atreus embark on is as much personal as physical, as the story deals with grief, loss and allowing yourself to move on. Game director Cory Barlog stated he wanted to create a more mature Kratos whose past still weighs heavily on him. Everything about this game is excellent, and showcases what games can do as an artistic medium. The only thing left to say is…”Boy!”


Dreams of the Wind Fish – My First Playthrough of Linkโ€™s Awakening

To the finder…
The Isle of Koholint is but an illusion…
Human, monster, sea, sky…
A scene on the lid of a sleeper’s eye…
Awake the dreamer, and Koholint will vanish
much like a bubble on a needle…
Cast-away, you should know the truth!

These cryptic words are etched into a wall in the back of the Southern Face Shrine. Link our shipwrecked hero finds them after gaining access to the Face Shrine – one of the latter dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

I will begin by stating my quest was to play through Link’s Awakening for the very first time, which I completed very recently. I sheepishly admit I had never actually played the game even though it had been on my list for quite some time. I am even more ashamed to admit I have only completed a handful of the 16 Legend of Zelda games as I begin far more games than I fully complete(I counted the Oracle games as 1, and am not counting the Phillips CD-i games at all…). I decided to set my sights on Link’s Awakening as I knew very little about this particular Zelda game and also the fact it was recently announced from Nintendo that a remastered version for the Switch will be released in the near future, so it seemed a good place to start. There is also the fact that I have been playing more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games that I had missed out on. I had played Tetris and few other games on a friend’s Game Boy, but didn’t get a Game Boy Color of my own until after Poke-mania had swept across the country and I begged my parents for one.

I played through the original version on my Game Boy Color, though many prefer the colorized DX version that was released later. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Link’s Awakening was originally released for the Game Boy in August 1993 and Link’s Awakening DX was released for the Game Boy Color in December 1998. I played through the original version as I haven’t come across many copies of the DX version on the past. The differences in the two versions are minor, the DX version has an extra dungeon – the Color Dungeon which incorporates the fact that it’s….in color as well as the picture mode in the game which you could then use the Game Boy Printer to print out copies of the in game pictures.

The game takes place after the events in A Link to the Past and the opening of the game shows Link sailing over the ocean on a mission to recruit others in the fight against evil but is caught in a fierce storm and ends up shipwrecked on the beach of the strange island of Koholint. Link then comes across a mysterious owl( A different one – Kaepora Gaebora isn’t introduced until Ocarina of Time)who informs him that the island is being terrorized by nightmare creatures and tasks Link with waking the mythical spirit – The Wind Fish who sleeps in a giant egg atop Mt. Tamaranch. The owl tells Link to find the 8 Instruments of the Sirens found in dungeons throughout the island which will wake the Wind Fish and dispel the nightmares from the island. It is in the latter stages of the game you read the above verse and discover that the island itself along with its inhabitants are merely a dream manifested from the Wind Fish’s slumber.

I was impressed with how well the controls worked, given the limitations of the Game Boy(s) having only a D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons. You have an inventory item assigned to each button which can seemingly make for a lot of pressing the Start button to pause the game and assign different items. This can mean switching items over your 2 buttons every few screens. You can have your sword equipped with A and your shield with the B button and go up a screen or two and then will need to press Start to assign bombs or your bow to a different button. There are also items that you can use by pressing A and B simultaneously like the Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Feather which allows you to dash jump over greater distances or if you have your bow and bombs equipped to A and B you can press both at the same time to shoot bomb arrows which I found interesting. The saving mechanic for the game(in the original GB version at least) is….interesting however. You need to press the A and B buttons along with Select and Start at the same time with will prompt you to save and quit the game, this proved the be a minor inconvenience though.

Walking Madame MeowMeow’s “dog” BowWow. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The items are all the typical items we’ve come to expect to see in a Legend of Zelda game. You find your sword and shield and then will eventually acquire more items like the hookshot and bombs, as well as the wonderfully overpowered boomerang. The game has the distinction of having absolutely no mention of Princess Zelda(other than titular) or image of a Tri-Force. Another anomaly is multiple crossover characters from other Nintendo franchises are present on Koholint Island. There are goombas and bloopers along with a small round enemy that tries to inhale you known as an Anti-Kirby. You come across a Yoshi doll in a multiple item trading sequence through the game, during one of these trades you bring a letter from the character Christine the Goat who is an actual goat to her pen pal Mr Write who then proceeds to show you the enclosed picture of his pen pal which has an image of Princess Peach. My personal favorite though, is the island denizen Madame MeowMeow who asks you to walk her “dog” – a giant chain-chomp named BowWow.

The dungeons I found interesting; each getting less linear and more complex in design as the game progresses, with some having multiple levels to navigate. From the first dungeon, the straight forward Tail Cave to the labryinthian Turtle Rock. Each dungeon has a Nightmare Boss defending one of the 8 Instruments of the Sirens, along with a mini-boss(sometimes two). The final dungeon Turtle Rock was one of the highlights of the game for me. A dungeon of 4 floors culminating with a battle against the Evil Eagle on top of the mountain. After collecting all 8 instruments you play “Ballad of the Wind Fish” on your ocarina(another game mechanic that is further expanded in Ocarina of Time) to break open the giant egg and stumble down into the maze below. You then battle the Shadow Nightmare which takes the shape or shadow, rather of some familiar foes including Moldorm, Agahnim, and Ganon before transforming into the cycloptic creature Dethl, who you must slay in order to wake the Wind Fish.

The boss battle with Evil Eagle at the top of Turtle Rock dungeon was my favorite. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The game design I found was interesting and really enjoyed the general “strangeness” of this particular Zelda game. This has a more lighthearted, whimsical tone to it, whereas other later entries have a decidedly darker feel. There is however, still a lingering feel of something sinister lurking within the island. Game Director Takashi Tezuka has stated his intent was to create something akin to the tv show Twin Peaks. You are washed ashore on an island with very odd, quirky inhabitants and full of monsters which you are throughout the game questioning what is actually real, if anything at all. The Owl admits during your quest that even he himself didn’t believe you are real at first. After you recover the 8 instruments, you discover the Owl is actually the spirit of the Wind Fish guiding you along. I do very highly recommend this game as it was a great experience. I am now planning on playing through the Oracle game(s) on the Game Boy Color next. I am truly glad I was able to experience this entry into the Legend of Zelda timeline and this makes me EVEN MORE excited to play the remake on the Nintendo Switch…whenever that is.