Yeah, I'm also bored enough to do something like this here, too! This is the Pit of Reckoning; It's a sort of review section, if you dig. Which I know you do, you gravedigger jelly thou! So, basically, what I'm going to do is analyze all the multiple facets of all the Zelda games (except Four Swords Adventures and Four Swords that I am not likely to be able to play in the near future since I have no friends with said games, and said games are multiplayer games as far as I know). So, enjoy, or something? Yeah.
Well, the first game on the review slate is A Link to the Past, the one and only Zelda game for the SNES, the greatest console ever. I HAVE played it on the original SNES, of course, but that was many years ago. So I bought the Advance port some years ago, and as far as I know there aren't that many changes in them, none that affect gameplay at least (don't mention the Skeleton Forest/Skull Woods thing guys...), so might as well review that eh? A Link to the Past was the second Zelda game I played and finished.
Everybody knows the stories of Zelda have never been as deep as many other films, books or games have had, but they still retain this timeless and sometimes insightful quality to them.
It all starts off with Link waking up in his bed. Link is contacted through telepathy by the captive Princess Zelda. He is called to Hyrule Castle. After his Uncle is murdered, he braves the castle and rescues the Princess. She explains that maidens all over Hyrule are being imprisoned by the evil wizard Agahnim, who is trying to break the seal on the Dark World. Link must stop him. His quest will lead him through darkness, light, and mostly everything in-between. Classic, yet engaging!
At times, the game's story is very majestic and poetic, and all characters involved help greatly in applying that "Zelda" feel to the game. Basically, it's just a classic story, performed in an awesome and original way. While there are of course better stories out there, both in the Zelda series or otherwise, there's just not much to fault in this.
My doctor once said, "everything is relative" (this is the first of many Kaizers Orchestra references that will be featured in this review article). Graphics too. All things considered, the graphics in ALttP are still flawless, even to this day. They may be 2D, yes, but the designs are just well done, it might as well have been made today! Of course, everybody who knows me knows that I'm probably the guy in the world with least interest in the graphical capabilities in a game. If only anyone DID know me.
Anyway. Everything from the range of different regions of Hyrule to the many enemies look absolutely great, graphics-ish. The enemies have this sort of cartoonish quality about them most of the time, but can sometime look downright awe-inspiring (Helmasaur King), but at all times, the character design is good. The Overworld looks pastoral and lush, and to this day works as therapy from the stress of the real world. The Dark World looks in contrast haunted, desolate and generally malevolent.
All in all, all aspects of the graphical side of the game still have mass appeal to this day. Evergreen, that's what I call it.
A Link to the Past gives nothing but the very best the SNES has to offer in the terms of gameplay and controls. Controlling Link feels completely natural, and it never goes out of its way to be innovative, maintaining effectiveness and accessibility all the time.
The puzzles set the standard for all Zelda games since. They're challenging, at times near mind-boggling, but most of all, always fun to do! Every single puzzle leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling of completion and satisfaction. And never once does it fail to do this. And most importantly, one rarely gets stuck for a long time. Getting stuck is a nice chance to settle down and really think, but if it's too much stuckness, one gets ANNOYED. However, A Link to the Past never does this.
Utilizing items and fighting at the same time is never hard. Even though there's a lot of item-switching, and you have only one slot for an item, it never bogs you down...that much. And don't forget the delicious fact that you can dash with the R-button! Genius! Simplistic and enjoyable.
Again, the sound in the game is still of high quality in every way. The sort of awkward little noises have become classics in their own right. It's that SNES feeling. You know what I'm talking about. If you don't, you're probably one of those youngsters that got into video games during its decline age, that is 2000-currently, without feelings or emotions. Every little bit of music, from the uplifting fanfare of the overworld theme to the creepy-crawly feelings of the dungeons to the tension-sweat-and-maybe-even-some-tears-inducing final battle theme. It just shows what a true master can do with a "limited" music sequencer.
As for sound effects, they may be a bit dated and monaural, but they still work. The chopping of the sword, the clink of Rupees, the strange almost comical sound of an enemy being defeated. Man, it's still as good as it ever were. It also fits in with the rest of the game, like a wondrous jigsaw puzzle.
A great advent for the SNES, my second-favourite console of all time. Although it falls somewhat short of perfection in the story and audio department, it provided some of the best SNES gaming out there, and still packs one hell of a punch today.
Yessir, the Pit of Reckoning has now been re-opened. Today's victim of gross and unecessary disembowelment? Why, 'tis The Wind Waker, the first Nintendo GameCube Zelda game and the very reason I bought a GameCube. Zelda's first entry into what was then a next-generation console (or is that current gen? So confused.) you know they had to impress people to be taken seriously. And quite frankly, they did. However, they made some small changes to the gameplay and overall presentation that I didn't enjoy as much as I could have, but we'll get to that.
For some reason, the game's story felt pretty iffy to me, as some parts didn't make sense, and a lot of narrative was lacking to help flesh out a weak, confusing story. Either way, it's the classic tale of the young hero, Link, being drawn into events beyond his small home on Outset Island. From all over the now flooded land of Hyrule, girls are being kidnapped and taken to the Forsaken Fortress.
A very convoluted story takes you from the anti-climactic return of Ganondorf, to something stolen from Back to the Future to a confusing, dissatisfying ending. There is also too much time between each storyline advancing scene; these could have been more evenly spaced. In the end, the game's story left me feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. Also, unlike certain other games, I had trouble finding a moral or lesson therein. As such, the story doesn't get a high score, while it does try at times to be engaging.
One of THE stand out things about the game is its graphical style—all graphics are rendered in toon/cel-shading, effectively making everything in the game look like something out of a highly imaginative, colourful comic book or cartoon. While many people have criticized this, I personally like it. It's a change of pace, but a nice one at that.
Many of the characters have exaggerated features and body shapes, but it fits well in with the cartoonish graphical style. One of my particular favourites among the graphical aspects of the game is the smoke that appears when you've defeated an enemy. It looks so sweet! The menu and item sprites also fits in with everything else. However, if you look closely enough you can tell that the textures are bad and somewhat low-res at times. But it doesn't really matter. I like the toon-shading style. While a realistic style is still preferable, I still think it's an entertaining and refreshing change.
The gameplay is largely the same as the one found in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. You control Link with the control stick, change the camera angles with the C-button, target with L, perform actions with the big A button and attack with the small B button. It has a good flow to it and is easy to get into.
But due to the somewhat iffy design of the GameCube controller, what with its R and L buttons that have to be pushed way down to react and the Z button that has to be pressed pretty hard, it can sometimes get frustrating to get things done in time, especially blocking with the shield. Other than that, it feels slick and the game is easy to control.
The controls for the game's eponymous instrument, the Wind Waker work very well indeed, requiring you to use the C-stick in different directions to conduct the voices of the wind. By pushing the control stick in different directions, you can also change the speed of the song.
The game also demands you to go through a nightmarish amount of sailing on the Great Sea. While sailing controls are all pretty easy, with the constant camera changing you have to keep up with and having to use the Wind Waker to play a song every time you want the wind to change and carry you in another direction, it can be a pain and directly aggravating at times.
However, all in all, the controls are responsive and all easily accesible. There's never any real problem getting anything done.
Very little of the game's sound department can be criticized. Largely, the audio effects are not only pretty high-quality, instances of environmental effects have been added, so that within a cave, the soundscape sounds similar to what the inside of a cave would sound like, with, like, echoes and stuff. Very impressive, and helped lend to the atmosphere of the game. All the weapon and enemy sounds sound cool, and there's always these cheesy soundbits exerted by characters that seem to be as far as Nintendo will ever stretch as far as doing voice-overs in a Zelda game are concerned.
As for the music, it's pretty good, but at times, it felt pretty basic and I found myself not even noticing it. One of the main reasons other Zelda games have been so successful was due to the music, but it somehow feels a bit subdued and understated in this game, at times. Despite this, there are some memorable tunes, and the many cued pieces of music, such as in the opening sequence, help flesh out the narrative and add a filmatic flare to the game.
While I can find little to fault about the game's sound, some sounds can quickly get annoying, and like I said, the music can at times be a bit "absent" as it were. It don't stick in my mind the way many other games' music and sound effects have.
The Wind Waker is a good game, but there were a few facets of a Zelda game that it came a bit short of fulfilling. The gameplay is neat and fun, the graphics are relatively awesome, but the confusing and badly paced story that could have been done so much better and the musical department didn't manage to create a memorable, transcendent score that sticks to the brain like bees on a piece of sticky tape. And those damn sailing parts nearly had me grind my teeth down to the knob. It's a game with its goods and bads, with certain parts that needed improvement. But all in all, I walked away a happy man, albeit with lowered expectations.
Yessir, it's time for another review that will irrevocably require two months of complete ignorance on my part in order to be finished. What's up this time? Why, 'tis none other than the only Zelda game ever for the Game Boy Advance, the first good portable console in colour: The Minish Cap. Naturally, this would be the first portable Zelda game with graphics that could be called something similar to "good". Let's get to it eh.
Even as far as Zelda stories go, with their typical way of unfolding, The Minish Cap is thoroughly uninspired and feels about as fresh and exciting as something that doesn't feel all that fresh and exciting. The evil Emo Prince Vaati seeks a mysterious force with which he can control all the land. After his bid to obtain the force fails, and it spreads across the lands, he turns Princess Zelda to stone, forcing Link to go on a quest to restore the Four Sword, a sword that holds the power to dispel Vaati's magic and end him. Between the dungeons and fetch quests, there is virtually no story development between the beginning and end of the game. An unsatisfying conclusion also does not help in the slightest. Also, as I'm sure some people should have noticed by now, Vaati's among the worst villains of all time to me. Nothing special about him. In the end, the story section of the game is wholly bland and uninteresting.
One of the aspects in which the game truly shines is the graphics; ironically, the least important facet of a game to me. The sprites are detailed, the animation is fluid and the environment is diverse, nice and lush. Character design is also among the best in the series; even with the limitations of sprites, they look pretty darn individual and are easy to make out. The colouring isn't entirely to my liking though, featuring too many bright colours and often seguing into cartoonish colorization. That aside, the graphics of this game is top notch and thoroughly impressive.
The gameplay is perhaps the most refined and tight of all top-down perspective Zelda games, post-A Link to the Past. Even though you're only allotted two slots for items, it's not that big of a problem. Just playing the game feels damn good; the controls are responsive and you get used to them right away. The R-button is incorporated for the first time, used for rolling and pulling, and feels totally natural. Fighting enemies, the process of fighting not being too slowly paced or too fastly, is also fun. There are some clever puzzles around, but not too many of which are stumpers (which usually isn't a bad thing) and there are no tedious sections that slows down the game experience (sailing, I'm looking at you!)
However, a major problem the game has is its insane level of padding. While most are fun, some get tedious after a while. In order to get the most mileage out of the game, you're going to want to do most of them. Some get grating and don't feel as satisfying after the downer that is the game's final story section. Sure, you can argue that Majora's Mask has an even more skewed plot-sidequest ratio, but goddamn, that game is magical. Overall, the gameplay of The Minish Cap is one of the departments in which it truly delivers, and feels crisp and new.
The sound department is also quite sound (if you'll forgive the pun,) especially considering the limited capabilities of the Game Boy Advance. Sound effects are varied and appropriate, but the overall low, muffled quality of the audio of ruins their impact somewhat...heard regularly that is. As always, all Game Boy/DS games should be played with headphones for maximum enjoyment. But even with headphones, the quality of the sound is still not all it should be.
On the other hand, the musical score is one of the best Zelda scores in recent history. The music is energetic, inspired, catchy and has a good level of mileage before it becomes grating; at which point, just turn off the sound and listen to Rubber Soul on your MP3 player, that's what I did when I got to the final stretch of mini-games. In addition to many new tunes, familiar leitmotifs and musical pieces appear; the Hyrule Field theme is a little less grandiose than usual, but still packs a punch of the inspirational, heroic kind. The usage of the version of "Zelda's Lullaby" that appears in the ending of Ocarina of Time must be applauded and immediately took me back to those days of yore. Great soundtrack.
While hampered by a badly written story, a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE villain as well as a tad too much game padding, The Minish Cap is still a joy that plays the cards right in every other aspect. Fun, somewhat challenging and true to the formula.