Day 94:Rick recently got me a copy of Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for Christmas. I’ve been vey skeptical for this game for the longest time, mostly because I never really finished the SNES original and the graphics truly looked uninteresting for me. Who knew I’d become a believer the second I started this game?
This game is all about layers and depth, but you couldn’t tell from any of the game trailers. It’s only when you switch on the 3D does that world come alive. Ten hours and I’ve yet to be able to put this game down.
I remembered in middle school, I would try my hardest to save my allowance just so I can buy a $29.99 game to feed my Nintendo Gameboy. In high school when I was working part-time at the SFUSD as a web designer, I would do the same thing and buy not some, but ALL Squaresoft (now Square Enix) game releases on the original PlayStation. Final Fantasy VII, Parasite Eve, Bushido Blade, Brave Fencer Musashi, Xenogears— you name it, I have it. Everything was so exciting for me and the creativity I found in videogames seemed limitless.
Fast forward to today when games are more accessible and affordable than ever, and I find myself lacking the motivation to even pick up the game controller. I’ve bought my fair share of games in the past twelve months, from Zelda: Skyward Sword to Dark Souls to Rayman Origins, yet the only game I have actually finished was Uncharted 3 back in December of last year.
Part of that reason is the overall direction of gaming. A medium that used to transport me to another world has become something I’ve seemingly played just eighteen months before, changed only by the edition or version printed on the cover. Slowly but surely, I find myself turning on my PS3 at the end of the work day only for Netflix and nothing else. Not even for a quick round of Street Fighter IV.
Games are now created with increasing production value, they are also taking less risk to ensure profitability. Assassin’s Creed II was amazing, but in what way were the next two follow-ups original? Resident Evil 4 was a complete turnaround for the series, but how successful did Capcom in taking Resident Evil 5 to the next level?
Walt Disney didn’t build his empire by creating Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and then follow-up with Snow White 2, Snow White 3, or even Snow White 3: Ultimate Remix Edition. So how can videogames possibly be mainstream (or otherwise be taken seriously by critics) when most games out there just look like a ripped-off Michael Bay movie? Alien first-person shooters in a post-apocalyptic setting, really?
That’s why I’m honestly more interested in an offbeat game like Rhythm Heaven Fever than Skyrim or Syndicate, just as I’m more interested in risk-taking game like Bastion than another generic modern war shooter. Videogames are created to inspire and introduce people to new experiences, so perhaps ideas should come from organic inspirations instead of market research data.
I’d happily play an original game with a distinctive message instead of a rinse-and-repeat game that offers little more than an upgraded weapon. Until then, I don’t mind using my PS3 as a glorified Netflix player.
Winson Shuen works at IGN but is not an editor. All opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not represent his employer by any means. You can follow him on Twitter @vdot90.
From Luigi in Super Mario Bros. to Jimmy Lee in Double Dragon, being the younger brother often means I have to settle for Player 2 characters. But using the term “settle” isn’t really justifiable because these lesser-known sidekicks were the ones I know and love; they were the ones who were there for me growing up.
My love affair with support characters began with Luigi. Before Nintendo made Luigi a more distinguished, overall sloppier character we know (but mostly loathe) today, he was initially created as a direct replica from his A-list celebrity brother Mario. That meant that even though I was the second player, I had the same potential as Mario. Born with the same jumping gene as the so-called original, I was always the one who ended up saving Princess Peach Toadstool — not Mario.
In my mind, Mario games are wonderful, but it’s Luigi’s Mansion that’s captured my heart. The way he’s forced to vacuum the entire house (much like me growing up) only to clumsily fall off the stairs is infinitely more relatable than a fat man’s ability to fly from wearing a fursuit.
Unlike the main characters in videgames, born with gold PSN trophies in their mouths, stories of supporting characters are much more interesting to me. Gamers often talk about Cloud, Aerith and Tifa, but only those who went out of their way were able to convince Yuffie to join the quest in the battle against Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7.
I’m more captivated by these unsung heroes in almost every thing I play, watch, and read. While Batman can’t seem to ever stop whining about his massive fortune and deceased parents, Dick Grayson is the one who has to deal with his parents’ death without any fortune left behind, all while struggling to become his own man. Sailor Moon may be the moon princess, but there’s something undeniably cool and admirable about the ever independent, yet unfortunately named, Sailor Uranus. Darkwing duck is the terror that flaps in the night, but Gizmoduck is the one who ends up saving the day with his built-in can opener.
At the end of the day, while everyone wants to be the main superhero who basks in the spotlight, I just want to be a useful sidekick who knows when to throw in the Master Sword (Ahem). Maybe being the younger brother makes me more aware of others, or maybe it helps me realize that I don’t need to be the center of attention in order to craft out my own identity. But just like Leslie Chow in the Hangover or Jack from Will and Grace, these under-the-radar, supporting characters may just end up stealing the spotlight at the end.
(This article contains minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.)
Having never been a Nintendo 64 owner, I’ve never had the chance to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time until Nintendo upgraded the graphics and rereleased the game for the Nintendo 3DS earlier this month.
I guess that makes me a bit of a late bloomer, but at the same time, I’m fortunate because I get to experience the game for the first time with a fresh 2011 perspective. Because I’m not tied to any sense of nostalgia, I actually noticed a lot of issues with Ocarina of Time that slowly helped me realize why Twilight Princess, despite its disrepute among fans, is overall a better game in every conceivable way.
The reason I’m comparing the two games — as opposed to Wind Waker or any other Zelda title — is simple: Unlike Wind Waker, which features a Hyrule drowned beneath a vast ocean, the world and characters of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are quite similar.
To start, Ocarina of Time has more than its fair share of annoyances. First and foremost is Navi. She is rarely helpful. Like a sugar-addled child with ADHD, she zooms around willy-nilly, often flying over to random objects and calling attention to them, even though they’re of no importance.
By contrast, Midna actually has a personality and is tremendously likable. She’s mostly stays out of your way, but in the instances that the player gets stuck, Midna jumps in with helpful, precise advice about where to go and what to do. Navi offers only generic, idle chatter that generally amounts to something like “Hey, let’s go to the next dungeon!”
Some of the puzzles in Ocarina of Time really bothered me, too. I’m not talking about finding heart-container pieces and Gold Skulltulas. Such collectibles are par for the course in any Zelda. It’s the puzzles you have to solve in order to keep the story going that get to me.
The challenges seem arbitrary compared to Twilight Princess. I would have never in a million years guessed that playing the Song of Storms at the windmill would drain the well water or that I’d have to take a leap of faith by walking through the wall at the bottom the well.
The same goes for the Spirit Temple. After realizing that I need to become a kid in order to pass through the small hole, I hastily warped back to the Temple of Time. Only then did I realize that I needed to walk outside the Spirit Temple first in order to get Sheik to teach me the Requiem of Spirit. Without it, young Link isn’t allowed to pass through the Gerudo Fortress. In the end, I had to turn back into adult Link, warp back to the Spirit temple, reenter the temple, and exit the temple normally in order to initiate the cut scene with Sheik.
I know I probably acted too fast for my own good, but what player would trudge all the way back to the Temple of Time by foot when they could easily warp to the destination? It would’ve been fine if Nintendo had provided some kind of barrier or advice (i.e., an actual reason for Navi to interrupt me) against prematurely leaving the temple. In Twilight Princess, players are not able to warp inside of dungeons, period.
The puzzles in Twilight Princess arise more organically. For example, when someone stole the medicine-soaked wooden statue, I instinctively knew to seek out the scent and locate it. People might think these puzzles are too straightforward, but at the very least they make sense.
I understand there’s an eight-year gap between the two original releases, but playing Ocarina of Time makes me appreciate what a great game Twilight Princess really is and why it deserves more recognition than it gets. When I finally returned to Twilight Princess after finishing Ocarina of Time, the detailed hubbub of the castle’s town market left me speechless.
Twilight Princess’ art direction is unbelievable. The fully developed characters populate a vast world and fill out a compelling story. The dungeons are challenging, and the minigames are bountiful. And best of all, it has the series’ most epic Ganondorf showdown. Players have always yearned for a darker, more mature Zelda game, and with Twilight Princess, Nintendo delivered.
Twilight Princess seems to correct many of Ocarina of Time’s misses while simultaneously hitting all the right notes with the things it changes. So what is keeping it from being an all-time fan favorite? Is it because it’s too similar to Ocarina of Time? Or is it because Ocarina of Time was the first encounter fans had with an open-ended Zelda experience? Maybe it’s just plain, old franchise fatigue.
I’m not saying Ocarina of Time is a bad game by any means. But playing Ocarina of Time so far after its original release simply made me more aware of the improvements Nintendo implemented with each successive Zelda. That said, it has been five years since Twilight Princess came out, and I am eager to see how Nintendo will take another step forward with the upcoming Skyward Sword.