rynling: (Ganondorf)
I was in New York for work this week, so of course I made time to go to the Nintendo store, where I saw this great and terrible thing...

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I had known that this existed, and it's even more impressive than I thought it would be, but it raises some questions. Specifically, how did they decide on a price point? And who buys something like this? There's a small sign on the display case that says you need to place a special order from the cash register, and how awkward would that be? I mean, I can just imagine someone going up to the person manning the till and kind of mumbling, Yes, I wish to purchase that two foot tall statue of Ganondorf, let me spell my name out for you. And then, once it's actually delivered, what do you do with it? Do you create a special display, like put it on a pedestal or something? Or do you put it in one of those open wooden cabinets that people use as Buddhist altars? If you're financially comfortable enough to buy this, do you live in a place that's large enough for your Ganondorf statue to have its own room? Or do you hide it in a closet so that no one witnesses your shame?

On a similar note, I'm perplexed by the fact that Nintendo thought it was a reasonable idea to make a Wind Waker Ganondorf playset, which is a real thing that really exists in the world. I wish I were joking about this, but...

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rynling: (Ganondorf)
Rime (stylized as RiME for some reason) came out this past May, and people have been describing it as a cross between Journey and The Wind Waker. This comparison is apt, as Rime has the aesthetic sense of Wind Waker with a few design elements borrowed from Journey, and its particular brand of "exploration adventure" is clearly influenced by Journey, with a few gameplay elements (such as moving block puzzles) drawn from Wind Waker.

Rime is apparently supposed to be three to four hours long, and I think I'm about a third of the way through. This doesn't include the extra hour I spent trying to get past the first section of the game, an hour that I erased by resetting the game and starting over with a walkthrough. Overall, Rime isn't particularly difficult, but I want to talk a bit about this weird failure in the design of what it's probably fair to call the "tutorial mission."

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I frequently have trouble figuring out the internal logic of games that are new to me, so this could just be a consequence of my own relative lack of skill, but I still think exploration challenges with this level of difficulty should not be part of the tutorial mission. This wouldn't be a flaw in a game that is in fact meant to be difficult, but it's definitely a problem in Rime, and it could have been avoided with a focus group of literally one shitty gamer.

My experience of fooling around with Rime has been making me appreciate how good the game design of the Zelda series is, especially Breath of the Wild, which has no artificial barriers and doesn't force the player to use an action before they've figured out how it works in a more natural and intuitive context. That being said, there is more environmental storytelling in the first hour of Rime than there is in however many 100+ hours I spent with Breath of the Wild. After I finish Rime, I want to talk more about the intense Wind Waker feels this game has been giving me.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
It took me four months, but I beat Breath of the Wild. I... feel so empty inside.

I accidentally skipped through the end credits, so I don't know how many hours I put into Breath of the Wild, but the post-clear map screen tells me that I've only completed 39.48% of the game. And this is after me finding and upgrading all of the gear, finding and finishing all of the shrines, and thoroughly filling out the "Hyrule Compendium" (which is basically an annotated photo album). I think that the rest of the percentage points probably have something to do with collecting all of the Korok Seeds, of which there are 900 (I've found a little more than 200, which is all you need to max out your gear slots), as well as finding and defeating every instance of every monster. Maybe I'll pick these projects back up when there is DLC available... or maybe not.

To be honest, there isn't a lot of story or lore or worldbuilding in Breath of the Wild, and running around and poking Link's face into the various nooks and crannies of the overworld map doesn't really teach you anything. After a while, everything starts to feel a little generic, and actually playing the game isn't helping me get inspired to write fic about it.

I'm not sure what to do with myself now. I'll just wait patiently for FFXII to come out, I guess.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
It's funny, but I think I'm more disciplined about playing Breath of Wild than I've ever been about anything in my life.

Don't get me wrong, playing the game doesn't feel like work, but it does require mental energy. It's not difficult, per se, but it requires that you be fully engaged with the diegetic environment. Sometimes when I get home in the evening I just want to take a bath and read for a bit and go to sleep, but I've been forcing myself to sit down on the couch and turn on the Wii U so that I can get just a little farther in Breath of the Wild.

Every night I try to play through at least one shrine. Shrines are puzzle-based mini-dungeons, and since they're hidden all over the world (often in dangerous areas) locating and then being able to access a shrine is often a major task. There are 120 shrines in the game, and some of them are significantly more difficult than others. If I can, I've also been trying to complete or at least trigger one side quest a day.

Meanwhile, I haven't gotten very far in the main quest at all. The story (such as it is) is told through a series of flashback sequences, and I watched them all on Youtube a day or two after the game came out. I mean, this game really isn't about story. There's a princess who wants to be a hero, but because she's a girl and doesn't have The Phallus Of Destiny her job is to sit in the castle and wait for the hero to save her. Some story, right? Nothing in the game really changes if the player completes one of the dungeons, so I'm saving them for when I get around to it.

For the time being, my goals in the game are to make Link (1) rich, (2) swol, (3) fashionably dressed, and (4) a certified master chef, and I am making good progress.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I've really been enjoying Breath of the Wild.

To be honest, I wasn't crazy about the game when I first started playing, as the "go anywhere and do anything" mode of gameplay can be a bit overwhelming. Now that I've put more than fifteen hours into it, though, I can say that I'm having a crazy amount of fun with Breath of the Wild. It's everything that I've ever enjoyed about the Zelda series in terms of adventure and exploration and the thrill of discovery. The player is free to go off on her own in any direction, but there's just enough guidance to ensure that you're never going to be completely lost or unsure of what to do next; I think the game developers were able to create a perfect balance between creative direction and player agency.

Breath of the Wild is deep and rich and full of cool things to interact with, and it's super saturated with color and charm and humor that ranges from stupid dad puns to surprisingly clever sex jokes. Also, it's been breaking my heart with its sheer beauty. The music and lighting effects are phenomenal, and the characters are gorgeously written. Link has depth, Zelda has depth, a ton of the NPCs have depth, and their stories build slowly and gradually gather momentum.

My favorite thing about the game is that it's filled with plants and animals in a vibrant and interconnected set of ecosystems. Basically Link can ride around on a horse all day hunting and fishing and collecting mushrooms and herbs, and it never gets boring. Whatever you chose to do (or not do), the game will reward you by being an absolute joy to play.

Breath of the Wild feels infinite, and its plot and background information is offered to the player in such small fragments that people will probably still be trying to put everything together years from now. I have some major concerns about the story, but it's easy to put them aside and just have fun in the wide open world.

TL; DR: Breath of the Wild gives me life.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I keeping thinking about Ganondorf as a representation of a complicated ethical position, and I keep finding interesting references in the weirdest places. For example, these are two panels from a comic (link) illustrating one of the more disturbing ideas to come out of contemporary posthuman philosophy:

rynling: (Ganondorf)
I had to work on Friday, and I didn't want to get myself too psyched up by the Nintendo Switch presentation broadcast to fall asleep, so I skipped it and went to bed.

When I woke up at six the next morning, the Nintendo Switch was sold out. Everywhere.

The Master Edition of Breath of the Wild was also sold out. Everywhere. Even in Canada.

On one hand, I don't care. I will get the Switch eventually, and despite being a huge nerd I have no use for video game memorabilia cluttering my home and office. I've had the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild preordered for months, so it's not like I'm not going to be able to play the actual game when it comes out.

On the other hand, I've had the Nintendo Switch listing pages of several online retailers bookmarked since June, and I checked them almost every single day, just in case. To have made diligent efforts in tracking this console for eight months only to miss my opportunity in an eight-hour window is beyond frustrating.

This is an important life lesson, I think. In order to succeed, you really have to be at the right place at the right time. If you're not lucky, or if you don't possess sufficient foresight, or if you don't have insider information, no amount of persistence or hard work will help you achieve your goals. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about this.

I think it's high time I accepted that, at this point in my life, I am not an outlier. I am never going to be in the right place at the right time. And that's okay! It has nothing to do with me. So why am I working so hard? I should really spend more time chilling out and enjoying myself.

And honestly? I'm not actually that excited about the new Zelda game anyway. Let me tell you about the sexism.
rynling: (Default)
This is dibeediboop's finished illustration of The Modern History of Zelda, which she posted along with the character designs on her Tumblr.

It's incredible, right?

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rynling: (Default)

I'm still working on the design of Zelda from "The Modern History" with dibeediboop, and things are coming along!

There are still some kinks to work out with this design, but next up is Ganondorf. The character is more of a personality than an actual physical presence in my mind, so this is going to be tough. For some reason, male characters are always way more abstract to me than female characters.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I commissioned dibeediboop on Tumblr to do character designs and an illustration for The Modern History of Zelda, and she just sent me her rough sketches for Zelda.

This is exactly how I imagine Princess Zelda in her twenties: cold, proud, magisterial.

Because this artist is a boss, I also got four different versions of her clothing, which is pure Victorian military chic. The artist is so ridiculously talented, and I am so excited about working with her.

I'm a bit worried about how to describe Ganon to her, though. I more or less imagined him as Frantz Fanon, but that's not really something you can come right out and tell someone.
rynling: (Default)

The commission in question is (here) !!
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I take back everything I said about Spirit Tracks. As an actual game, it has a number of weaknesses, but it's a fantastic relaxation tool. It's linear, filled with cut scenes, and super low-stress. The controls are more intuitive than they are in Phantom Hourglass, the graphics are less pixelated, the text scrolls faster, and the music is almost as catchy as the music in Wind Waker.

The Zelda character who appears in this game is a selfish and obnoxious little creature, and I had forgotten how much I like that about her. She travels alongside Link as a ghost and can possess suits of armor to help him overcome obstacles, but she's not happy about it. Her constant interruptions of the gameplay are comedy gold, and her facial expressions are crafted from pure stardust.

I think the important thing to keep in mind as I play Spirit Tracks is that my boredom threshold for the game is relatively low. What this means is that, if I play Spirit Tracks for more than half an hour at a time, I tend to become frustrated with its relaxed pace. Spirit Tracks is soothing and enjoyable, but only in small doses. It's therefore important to approach the game casually, not play it too frequently, and not get burned out.

Once Pokémon Sun and Moon are released on November 18, I don't think this will be a problem.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I finally returned to my current playthrough of The Wind Waker.

According to my save file, the last time I played the game was back in April. It feels weird that it's been so long, especially since I've been listening to game's soundtrack and the audio of the Game Grumps playthrough more or less on loop for the past few months.

When I left off, I had apparently just finished the Withered Tree sidequest, so there was nothing else I could do at this point except to go to the Forsaken Fortress to save Link's sister and confront Ganondorf. Although navigating the Forsaken Fortress is a pain in the ass if you don't know exactly where you're supposed to go, I actually really enjoy this part of the game. It's like, Get in the boat kids it's time to go see shitty grandpa!!

The Forsaken Fortress segment consists of a fun boss fight with Phantom Ganon (in which Ganondorf laughs a lot and does zero damage to Link), a cute cut scene with Tetra and Aryll, another fun boss fight with the Helmaroc King (which also does hardly any damage), and then a cool cut scene with Tetra and Ganondorf. It's strange to say this about video game characters from 2002, but there's so much chemistry between Link and Tetra and Ganondorf. The character models are surprisingly expressive given the level of technology, and the cinematography of the cut scenes is incredibly creative.

I'd like to write a Wind Waker meta post analyzing the Forsaken Fortress cut scene with Ganondorf using the formal vocabulary of cinematography. Basically I'd argue that it's really well done from a technical standpoint. I also think it's interesting that the scene is shot from Ganondorf's perspective, with the camera situated at his eye level. It might also be interesting to compare the way Ganondorf addresses Link as opposed to the way he addresses Tetra. I'm really enjoying not getting death threats on Tumblr right now, though, so maybe I could publish this essay elsewhere?
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I downloaded A Link to the Past on my New Nintendo 3DS, and I've been playing one dungeon every night. I've gotten all the way to the end, but I don't feel particularly compelled to fight Ganon. I'm just going to let him be; he's not hurting anyone. It's surprisingly difficult to play A Link to the Past on such a small screen. It's always been my experience that gameplay is much easier on larger screens. I wonder why that is?

Speaking of large screens, I downloaded Super Metroid onto my Wii U. The game isn't as difficult as I remember it being, but I also haven't gotten very far. The Wii U allows the player to create save states on Virtual Console titles, so hopefully I'll be able to cheat in order to compensate for the difficulty level if it ever becomes a problem.

What I really wanted from my extended SNES nostalgia trip was to play is Secret of Mana, so I pirated a ROM. I've been playing the game about fifteen minutes every morning, and it is still a beautiful shining treasure.

I still haven't beaten Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. I feel like I should grind to raise my levels before I face off against the Bowsers, but every battle that gives decent experience takes five minutes to work through, so I haven't been making much progress. I should probably just challenge the Bowsers, enjoy their ridiculous dialog, and move on.

According to my PS4 trophy achievements, I think I'm probably halfway through I Am Setsuna, and not much has changed. It's still all snow all the time. Sometimes there is ice.

Meanwhile, I don't know why I'm still playing Pokémon Go, but I'm currently at Level 24. There have been a lot of public demonstrations in my neighborhood this weekend, and two separate reporters have stuck cameras in my face and asked to talk to me. Because I was standing alongside the sidewalk and futzing with my phone, they apparently thought I was blogging, and I had to tell them that no, I was just playing Pokémon Go. They were not impressed. I keep telling myself that I'll quit the game after I get to the next level, but that hasn't really worked out.

It seems as though I've been playing a lot of games recently, but what can I say? Sometimes I go through periods when I'm absolutely not interested in engaging with the real world.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
Phantom Hourglass was recently made available on the Virtual Console for Wii U, and I bought it on the very hour of its release. This was a mistake.

Phantom Hourglass is a Nintendo DS title that can only be played with the stylus. Although the stylus controls are... fine, I guess... I've always wanted to play the game with a more traditional control scheme. Barring that, I assumed the bottom DS screen would be displayed on the Wii U remote, while the top DS screen would be projected onto the television. Or something?

Instead, both DS screens are made to fit on the screen of the Wii U controller, which is unfeasible for two reasons. First, it's way too small; and second, it means that the player can't look at the television screen, which defeats the purpose of playing a Wii U port. After two hours of disappointment, I returned the game to Nintendo for a refund. I still wanted to play Phantom Hourglass, however, so I ended up buying a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Unfortunately, Phantom Hourglass has problems on the New Nintendo 3DS as well. The major gameplay issue is that in-game postal mail is not delivered (perhaps because the system uses slightly different internal software to register the passage of time), which means that I had to return the cartridge to a regular Nintendo DS in order to advance the game. The major hardware issue is that the New Nintendo 3DS wasn't designed for the sort of heavy and rapid stylus movement necessitated by Phantom Hourglass, and I ended up scratching the shit out of the console's touchscreen (and I'm actually really pissed off about this).

I remember being annoyed with the game when it first came out because of its lottery mechanics, and my feelings haven't changed. I'm generally not a completionist, but one of the things I love about the Zelda games is that it is in fact possible to complete them. However, by my estimates, "completing" Phantom Hourglass would probably take at least three months. Specifically, the game randomly offers items that change from day to day in much the same way that Animal Crossing does. I want to think the developers included this feature in order to simulate a sense of a larger world, because I can't think of what purpose it could fill other than to hook players into returning to the game every day.

Because of the limitations of the Nintendo DS hardware, Phantom Hourglass is a small game, and it takes place in a small world. I wish that, instead of attempting to expand the scale of the game through artificial means like a lottery mechanic, the developers had allowed the game to be relatively short and self-contained, which is what many Zelda fans love about Link's Awakening. From what I remember, Spirit Tracks takes these clumsy attempts at expansion and exacerbates them with a literal lottery system of mail-in postcards. The game also exaggerates its scale by restricting the player's movement to a path laid out on literal rails. As much as I love the Zelda series, I didn't enjoy Phantom Hourglass as much as I wanted to, and I think I'm going to take a hard pass on replaying Spirit Tracks.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I didn't actually play Zelda II. What I did instead is binge-watch episodes of Game Grumps while trying to kick my addition to Ambien.

I've never been able to play Zelda II for more than an hour; it's too damn hard. Last summer I taught myself to play the first Zelda game, which is also hard, but Zelda II is on a completely different level. I kept meaning to schedule training sessions for the purpose of git gud, but after spending a few hours watching a skilled player with a walkthrough die repeatedly, I now realize that I am never going to be git gud enough for this game.

Something that Dan and Arin bring up repeatedly during their playthrough is that there's no way that even an experienced player would be able to figure out certain things. For example, there are no clues to suggest that the player should jump on the roofs of the houses and press down to enter a chimney in a certain village, a mechanic that's only used once. There are also no clues guiding the player to jump into a death pit in a certain dungeon, a strategy that is, again, only used once. Because the game is so punishing, there's no reason a player would experiment enough to consider the possibility that either of these mechanics exist.

What Japanese players had at the time (1987) was an extensive series of publications devoted to video games in general and Nintendo games more specifically. If you and your friends couldn't figure something out, you combed magazine racks for several weeks until someone arrived at a solution. Since many people in Japan tend to sell their stuff to used bookstores instead of throwing it away, a lot of these publications are still around. They are brilliant, with hand-drawn maps and super unofficial fan art and letters from frustrated gamers that use surprisingly colorful language (why settle for one generic mushroom-themed Mario dick joke in English when you could have dozens of delightfully specific dick puns in Japanese, am I right ladies).

Meanwhile, players in the United States were shit out of luck, and it's my understanding that not that many hardcore Zelda fans have gotten farther into Zelda II than I have. Even the walkthroughs on sites like Zelda Dungeon are garbage, as if the people writing them either have no idea what's going on or can't be bothered to care.

When people like Tevis Thompson talk about the joy of unguided exploration in the early Zelda games, I don't think they're referring to Zelda II. They don't talk about this game because they've never played it, because no one plays it, because it's not challenging yet fun in the way that Castlevania II and Super Metroid are. What I'm trying to get at here is that "hardcore" attitudes toward gaming are not necessarily backed by "hardcore" gaming experience, because let's be real – unless you're certifiably obsessed with a certain game, hardcore gaming kind of sucks most of the time.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I just posted the last entry of a 30 Day Zelda Meme on Tumblr.

The whole thing ended up being around 12,000 words. I'm not entirely sure I had fun doing it, but it's nice to know that I'm capable of producing that amount of material if I just sit down every day and write.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I started replaying A Link Between Worlds on the plane home from Tokyo, and I just finished it yesterday evening. This time around I played it in Hero Mode, which I've never attempted before. It wasn't that difficult, but the beginning was full of quick and dirty deaths because three-heart Link goes down with only one hit.

Unlike Ocarina of Time, there isn't anything substantially different in the Hero Mode of A Link Between Worlds. Link takes double damage, of course, and at the end he can fight the old man in Kakariko Village who handles the Street Pass challenges. In addition, there's a short diary in Ravio's house, which doesn't contain any interesting information aside from the fact that Ravio debated with himself for three days before leaving Lorule. This unfortunately doesn't answer many questions, such as what precipitated this decision or how long Lorule has been in decline.

Interestingly enough, there is a "philosopher" in Lorule who serves as the counterpart to the "priest" in Hyrule. If Link uses his lantern to light the torch in the philosopher's cave, this is what he says:

Ah, light...! How long has it been since I knew such comfort? Three years...? Or an eternity...? The world outside has long darkened with the menace of the masked. *sigh* What is a little light against the rising dark? No one honors the gods anymore. So beware, child. The end is at hand.

This is interesting, because it means...

...actually you know what, I don't think anyone cares what a paragraph of stupid throwaway flavor text means, Plato references aside.

I think it might be time to take a break from the Zelda series.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
My goal this past weekend was to finish playing Guacamelee. Instead of doing that I started playing the Master Quest of the 3DS release of Ocarina of Time.

In the Master Quest, all of the dungeons are different in strange and surprising ways. Last night I played through Jabun's Belly, which is the cavernous interior of a living fish. The dungeon is weird to begin with, with mucus and dangly bits and "suck holes" and breathing pink walls that twitch and bleed if Link strikes them. In the Master Quest version, there are cows embedded in the walls. This means that, in addition to all of the normal wet sloshing sounds of the dungeon, there are cow noises.

It gets better.

The cows function as switches, meaning that the dungeon environment changes in various ways if Link shoots their faces with his slingshot. In order to get to some of the cows whose presence is only indicated by their irritated lowing, Link has to blow up boulders stuck in the fleshy walls. Because they're in inconvenient places, he has to employ roving explosive devices called Bombchus, which are SO MUCH FUN to play with. When a Bombchu explodes a boulder, the dungeon goes crazy with spasms, presumably to indicate the Jabun is tickled or in pain. The final cow "switch" must be shot three times before the membrane blocking off the boss room becomes permeable. Each time it's shot it moves further up the wall, which is accompanied by a grotesque animation of creeping slime and muscle.

This is it bros, this is why I play video games.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
Thursday was hellish and exhausting, so I devoted Friday to playing video games. Gaming tends to stress me out when I'm busy, since all I can think about is how I should be working or sleeping instead of wasting my time. I sometimes forget that games are supposed to be fun, and that the point of fun is to distance oneself from work. This in and of itself is productive, as this distance allows for a broader perspective and encourages lateral thinking. Play enhances work, and work adds meaning to play.

Unfortunately, this cycle doesn't function properly if the game you're playing feels like work, as is the case with Oracle of Seasons, which I was fooling around with this month. That game is garbage, so much so that even thinking about how I would explain how it's garbage is exhausting. Oracle of Seasons managed to convince me that I hate the entire medium of video games, so I dropped it. I'll finish it later, maybe, if I have insomnia while I'm on a business trip.

Instead, I started playing the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, which is beautiful and perfect. I'm trying my hand at the Master Quest, in which Link takes double damage, all the maps are flipped along their Y axis, and the dungeons are substantially different. It's tricky, but it's a lot of fun.

I've also decided to tackle one level in Yoshi's Woolly World every evening. One day I'll finish the damn game, one day.

The game I'm really excited about, however, is Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, which is without a doubt the single best Metroidvania-style game I've ever been fortunate enough to lay hands on. The art, the music, the humor, the animation, the combat, the exploration - everything is ten degrees of amazing. I already get the feeling that this is one of those games (like Ocarina of Time) that I'll keep returning to as long as I have a game system to play it on, because Guacamelee! is pure unadulterated joy.

I'm also playing Bravely Second. I'm enjoying myself, and I'm doing my best to limit my play time to twenty minutes a day so that I don't get burnt out. One of the nice things about living in a big metropolitan area is that I pick up a lot of people through Street Pass; and so, even though I'm only a little more than four hours into the game, my moon base is already almost complete.

I can't wait for the new Pokémon games. According to the official website, the games' release date is "Holiday 2016." I don't know when that is, but it's appropriate, because I'm already planning to take a holiday when they come out; I'm saving money and vacation time so that all I do for ten days is travel and play Pokémon. Honestly, considering how stressful work has been lately, looking forward to the next generation of Pokémon is the only thing keeping me sane sometimes.

God I love video games. Is that sad?


rynling: (Default)
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