Tag Archives: The Legend of Zelda

Alundra dreams about one obtuse puzzle at a time

alundra early thoughts PS1

According to an online walkthrough, I’m just about halfway through Alundra. And yes, I’m playing with a guide at my side; if I didn’t, I would have given up on the action-adventure Legend of Zelda wannabe sometime back during the saint puzzles in Lars’ Crypt. Or maybe even in the Coal Mine. No doubt about it. But like a bad dream, I’m jumping around and getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back to the start, just after the awesomely anime cutscene that reinforces the fact that this was most definitely made in the 1990s by Matrix Software, a Japanese video game development company from Tokyo.

The story, while cliché in places, like collecting a bunch of crystals via one dungeon at a time to stop a big baddie, is actually kind of interesting: Alundra, the silent protagonist you control and name of the game, is an elf from the Elna clan of Dreamwalkers. He comes to Inoa after getting shipwrecked, but also because of a recurring dream where a mysterious figure calls him “Releaser” and says he must save the villagers from the evil wizard Melzas. After a while, the people of Inoa begin blaming Alundra for all of the terrible happenings despite his earnest attempts to save them. It’s a pretty straightforward and rather serious story, with some goofy moments and characters now and then, such as Bonaire, the surfer dude and his dream of winning over Sara, a bodacious babe.

I can’t recall if Alundra was ever called “the Zelda killer” though I do know that phrase was used around Dark Cloud, which was not at all a Zelda killer, but did eventually lead to a fantastic sequel that I still need to beat one day, but only after I restart and get all the vital photos along the way. Sorry, got distracted. To get to the point: Alundra is no Zelda killer. Far from it. If anything, it’s a Landstalker/Zelda clone, but much harsher, with subpar controls, and doesn’t give a lick if you can’t figure out its puzzles. Sure, you are traveling across an open world, slashing grass, tossing bombs and pots, charging your sword up for a more powerful attack, and gaining new powers after specific dungeons that can help you advance in the next one, but that doesn’t mean you can toss away your yellowing copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past now that Alundra is in your life. We all know that Charles Caleb Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and I’ll leave it at that.

Just kidding. Alundra is not terrible, but it’s probably one of the more frustrating games I’ve played in a long time, and I really don’t know how people played this back in 1997 without a helpful walkthrough at their side. I’ve had to look up just about every puzzle past the first few dreams Alundra jumps into, and it’s not because I’m a mindless idiot; in fact, I’d like to think I’m fairly smart, intelligent enough to figure out many point-and-click game puzzles. For many of Alundra‘s puzzles, it’s not all about figuring out the solution, but also executing the moves to get the job done. There’s a lot of platforming- and timing-based moves you have to do to open the door to the next room, and unfortunately, Alundra does not move very well. You can only walk in four directions, and the jumping never feels good. Run is assigned to the triangle button, but it is useless because you can’t run and jump–only run. Plus, there’s a lot of depth perception going on in hopping from one column to another, and oftentimes, if you miss a landing, it means starting the jumping all over again, usually from much earlier in the process. That’s my biggest hurdle here: identifying what jumps can and cannot be made.

A couple of negative nitpicks include that while you pick up new armor, like boots and chestplates, these are not visible on Alundra. Fine, I can let that slide. Not every game is about that, but unlike The Legend of Zelda, you can’t even see what gear you have collected in your inventory menu. You just have to remember. It is automatically found and applied, which is disappointing, especially since you get a decent jingle when opening treasure chests and defeating dungeon bosses. I like seeing everything I’ve found along the journey, whether it is useable or not. Fighting enemies is tedious due to Alundra’s inadequate ability to move fast, as well as move and attack at the same time, leading me to avoid combat in most cases.

But despite all that, I’m still really curious. About everything. Just to see what happens next, what special tool Alundra will earn, and so on. It’s probably because I’ve been dreaming myself of playing this game for so long, ever since I read about it in some nascent issue of PSM, but by the time I got around to being able to buy videogames at my leisure, stores no longer carried PS1 games. Flash-forward many, many years, and you can now find Alundra on the PSN for a couple of bucks, and dang it, I really need to know if it was worth all the waiting, all the hoping. Given how much frustration I’ve already encountered eight or nine hours in, I’m thinking no, but one never knows, and I’d rather see it to the end and know for sure then spend some more years living in uncertainty.

Everything old is new again in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

TLOZ A Link Between Worlds early impressions

The first thing I did when I got my copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is make a silly Vine video. However, the second thing I did, once the game opened up enough to allow me the freedom to explore, was travel this way and that way and every way possible across the Hyrule map, seeing all my old stomping grounds. Because, in case it wasn’t clear from Grinding Down‘s never-changing header image, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my absolute favorite game of all the times, of all time. It is only closely followed by Suikoden II. And I, more or less, know it by heart.

To be honest, when ALBW was first announced, I was put off. Very put off. How dare Nintendo create something that seems to exist solely to play with my childhood and early gaming experience nostalgia! HOW DARE THEY. And even as time went on, as previews and early impressions leaked out to the public and even final copy reviews, I refused to give in. No, I will not stand for this. I cannot. This game needed no direct sequel, and all they really had to do was put ALTTP on the 3DS eShop and watch the rupees flood in.

For one, I thought Nintendo’s newest take on Link and Zelda and the realm of Hyrule looked terrible, like some kind of knockoff, straight-to-DVD version called The Tale of Telba: Princess Panic that you’d find in the bargain bin and toss aside without a second glance. When you think about it, the newest game’s graphics are that way and not SNES era sprite-based because you are playing on the Nintendo 3DS, a system able to produce 3D effects sans glasses. However, by the time ALBW came out, Nintendo itself was over the gimmick–and rightly so–but it had been produced that way for a reason from the very start. Which is a shame. I’d rather have had what looked like ALTTP and no 3D than what we have now, even if it does look pretty nifty in a few cinematic spots.

I’ve only played about an hour or so of ALBW since Tara and I were playing catch-up with The Walking Dead, and it’s nice and bouncy and brimming with wonder, but I’m not sure if those warm, fuzzy feelings in my belly are because the game itself is fun or if it’s just reminding me very much of the same kind of fun I had in ALTTP. I guess that’s going to be the real question throughout is whether or not I enjoyed this very same dungeon more some twenty-two years ago or if the new twist on it is enough to warrant it some distinction.

ALBW opens innocently enough: Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, wakes Link up because he has a job to do, which is deliver a finished sword to the Captain at Hyrule Castle. Why Gulley himself couldn’t do this is beyond me. However, Link eventually finds the Captain stuck inside the Sanctuary by a mysterious man called Yuga–hey, that’s A GUY backwards–who turned the Sanctuary’s minister Seres into a painting before running off. Princess Zelda informs Link that he has to obtain the three Pendants of Power to gain the Master Sword, which can defeat Yuga, and yadda yadda yadda. You kinda know the drill by now. Oh, and thanks to some strange, purple rabbit squatting in your house, Link now also has the power to turn into a painting and move along walls and into cracks.

While I still stand by my negative reaction to how the game looks, thankfully it plays like a dream. Moving around with the circle pad instead of the d-pad makes for speedy trekking, and slashing at grass, firing arrows into trees, and bothering chickens is just as enjoyable as it once was. Navigating Hyrule is a joy thanks to the timeless, slightly remixed tunes, as well as the ability for fast travel via a witch’s broomstick. You can also now acquire all of the items before tackling a dungeon by renting them from that previously mentioned purple rabbit. This allows you to take on the dungeons in your order of choice, which sounds really awesome. Alas, so far, I’ve only done the first mandatory one at the Eastern Palace so I can’t speak to exactly how effective this works. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff here to do–that chicken-avoiding mini-game in Kakariko Village is silly fun–and collect, and a lot of other parts have been streamlined for playing portably, which is always appreciated.

I’ll definitely be eating up more ALBW over the upcoming holiday break, but don’t also be surprised to hear that I went through the trouble of dusting off and hooking up my SNES to play the realest, most amazing Hyrule adventure that Link ever played part in. You know that which I speak of. It’s the one that begins with, “Help me… Please help me… I am a prisoner in the dungeon
of the castle. My name is Zelda.”

Nintendo 3DS and the final two months of 2013

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The next two months are looking to be pretty fantastic for the Nintendo 3DS, with a lot of big name games coming out for the holiday season. However, there’s also a number of smaller, indie-esque titles that look just as interesting, so many that I felt the need to make this post to keep everything clear and tidy and all in one place, as well as a good reminder to myself to spend that cash money for digital entertainment when all of these things drop.

Now, I’m not covering every game coming out for the Nintendo 3DS over the following sixty days (a rough estimate), just the ones that I’m genuinely interested in. Sorry, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. Let’s take a look then at those vying for my attention.

Pokémon X/Pokémon Y (October 12)

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Ever since Pokémon HeartGold, the unwritten rule in my life now is that I will buy every new Pokémon game that comes out, no hesitation. And then I’ll play it for a bit, get stuck at a certain gym, and put it down for some time until I get that itch to go back. The newest iteration looks really neat, and I love that the battles will now be more animated. Plus, sounds like you can ride some Pokemon around town. That take, bicycle. From early reviews, it sounds like not a whole lot has changed gameplay-wise, but I’m okay with that. I just now have to figure out which one to get, X or Y, and I guess that really depends on what version Garbador is in, as that hunk of junk is my absolute favorite. Guess I gotta do some light research later on…

Hometown Story (October 22)

HomeTown-Story-Trailer

Having almost nearly given up all hope on a North American release for Fantasy Life, it looks like Hometown Story will have to fill my “take on a non-traditional role in an RPG” gaming void. It’s a life simulation game created by Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada wherein you run the small shop you inherited from your grandmother. You can interact with customers and watch both your shop and town grow in response. That’s all I know so far, but it looks cute and charming and I never did get around to trying out Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, so this will be my first taste of this niche genre.

Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate (October 25)

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I don’t know much about the Batman games as of late, though I did eventually purchase Batman: Arkham Asylum for five bones during a PSN summer sale, but haven’t played it yet. Hopefully before the year’s out. Anyways, this Blackgate Metroidvania romp through a 2.5D prison space looks a lot like Shadow Complex–which I actually dipped back into recently and continue to enjoy–more my thing, and I’m real curious to see how faithful to its genre it stays or sways. I’m not a huge Batman fan, and not even LEGO Batman could sway me, but if this what I think it is and the billionaire’s array of expensive and effective gadgets are innovative enough to use, I’m in.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (November 22)

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My love for A Link to the Past demands I get this and see what Nintendo has construed in this so-called sequel to one of the best SNES games of all time. I am worrisome in that it looks kind of…lazily designed, and by that I mean that the world looks like a simple update of graphics, but I guess there will be all new dungeons. I also don’t yet grok the whole “turn into a piece of wall art” element, but I want to give this a fair shake. It might be riding a bit too freely on nostalgia’s back though, if you get what I’m saying, and that would be a dang shame, but a new Zelda game is few and far between these days, so this is a must-buy regardless.

Grinsia (Release date TBD)

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This Grinsia looks like some straight-up, old-school JRPGing, and I’m a-okay with that, especially since it’ll be a downloadable title from the eShop. Sounds like some treasure hunters looking for special relics or something like that. Isn’t that the plot in Wild Arms? No matter! Give me, give me, give me.

Treasurenauts (Release date TBD)

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In Treasurenauts, which comes from the same team that made the delightfully challenging Mutant Mudds, your goal is to collect enough treasure to pay for an escape from a perilous, uncharted island. It is an action platformer, and when you get hit, your treasure explodes from your body like those gold rings when Sonic would land on spikes, and then you have to maddeningly hurry to collect all your jews. Here’s an early tip then: don’t get hit. It looks like quite a lot of fun despite the simple premise, and hopefully there is more to the gameplay than what I’ve seen in trailers so far.

And that’s all I can list for now, otherwise my wallet will just up itself from my pocket, flip me the bird, and run off into the Pennsylvania woods, to see if it is better off without me. Chances are it probably is.

30 Days of Gaming, #30 – Your favorite game of all time

Well, this has been a long-time coming, but here we are, the final topic. “Of what?” you ask, looking around with wide eyes, a dribble of drool leaking down your chin. Clearly you’ve forgotten. That 30 Days of Gaming meme that I started back in…oh gawd, March 2011. With the new year swinging on in, we’re almost at the 365 days mark for a meme meant to be completed in thirty days. Thirty topics for thirty days. Don’t label me a slacker just yet as I was totally honest about this meme in that it was going to be a slow crawl, a thing I went to here and there to fill in the gaps when all I could find inside my cranium were dustbowls and old photograph albums. In truth, the final few topics have been pretty tough to nail down, and I’ve been less interested in thinking about them discerningly.

And the final topic is the topic, the one that puts it all out there. The kicker: name your favorite game of all time. OF ALL TIME.

::inhale::

::exhale::

Right. It’s actually quite easy to name my favorite videogame of all time. That’d be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I mean, the image on Grinding Down since its very birth has been the Master Sword in all its forest-hidden glory. Should’ve seen it coming, people. The hard part comes with writing about it, as it’s a game so close to my shaping, a game so perfect in memory and nostalgia that I am scared if it’s even possible to express so with an ounce of success. Guess I’ll give it a shot. Maybe even a hook shot.

I don’t remember how A Link to the Past ended up in my SNES collection. I don’t remember saving up money as a kid from mowing the lawn or washing neighbors’ cars or my allowance in general to pay for it. I don’t remember trading with friends or borrowing it from a friend and then just keeping it like a horrible goblin. I don’t remember getting it as an older boy, a teenager, or a man, meaning it had to come into my hands around the time it came into many others’ hands, near its launch date of late 1992. I don’t remember how I got it, but I’ve had it ever since, as it’s one of the few SNES carts that did not get traded in when I was young and dumb. I do, however, remember playing it. And playing it again and again.

For those that don’t know, A Link to the Past is a coming-of-age tale where a young Link has to save a princess and defeat Agahnim not once, but twice and then slice Ganon apart for peace to return to the land of Hyrule. To do this, he has to travel between a Light and Dark World to collect the Master Sword and three mystical pendants, as well as uncover the Seven Sages. In between all that, you’ll explore villages and dungeons and rivers and forests for items and people to help you along the way.

There was a time when the Internet didn’t spoil videogames for everyone, and during that time I played A Link to the Past. I found my way into the castle during a rainstorm via a hole in the ground without anyone pointing it out to me. I attacked chickens until they attacked me without knowing that would happen. I made it through the Ice Palace dungeon without a walkthrough. I totally cried in frustration when I couldn’t figure out how to beat Moldorm, and it knocked Link off the screen for the umpteenth time. I helped the lost old man on Death Mountain without knowing whether it was a trick or not. I revealed a monster with sunlight, I blew apart cracks in walls, I dashed into a tree to unleash a swarm of bees…I…I…

This is a videogame stuffed to the brim of little moments, tiny secrets, and gleeful nods. And that’s a big part of why it’s so special to me. The “main quest” of stopping the evil overlord is by the books, but it’s all the little moments that make the adventure so spectacular. And the music. And the fact that there’s an entire second world to explore, which comes seemingly out of nowhere, and you can flip to and from it with ease, on the fly, giving you freedom to explore and try things out. And the graphics, the kind that are ever-lasting, the kind that evoke warm feelings upon seeing them today, tomorrow, and years down the road.

I love it immensely, though the last time I sat down to play it on my still working SNES was many moons ago. Maybe even in the early 2000s. I’m probably overdue for a trip down memory lane with a game that has still not been reproduced today. There is nothing else like it, not even other games from The Legend of Zelda. Though the DS ones come close in spirit.

So there ya go. My favorite videogame of all time. A Link to the Past. I probably didn’t do it enough justice, but whatever. This isn’t a college thesis here. Agree or disagree or move on silently to something else on the Internet. We’re done. Though there’ll be a roundup post on the 30 Days of Gaming meme soon, too. Until the next meme, I guess!

Games Completed in 2011, #34 – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures Anniversary Edition

This year marked the momentous 25th anniversary for The Legend of Zelda franchise. Nintendo celebrated with elaborate symphonies, commercials purporting that Robin Williams and his pixie-haired daughter Zelda Williams gamed together, and a free copy of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for those rocking a Nintendo 3DS. Hey, I’m one of those! A 3DS owner, that is. Not Robin or Zelda Williams. Snartleblast, I know.

Some history first. Four Swords Adventures was originally for the Nintendo GameCube and, while containing a lot of familiar faces and gameplay aspects, was a little different than Link’s previously traditional treks to save the princess. This time, it was all about multiplayer chaos, with multiple Links having to work together to solve puzzles and at the same time trying to one-up each other in terms of collecting the most rupees. If you had friends and a lot of systems/cables, you had a solid Friday night. I never got to play it way back when, but it sounds like a fantastic party game, with plenty of room for hijinks and backstabbing.

The 3DS version–well, it’s actually available as a piece of DSiWare, meaning gamers with either/or system can play–was redesigned slightly to include a single-player mode, as well as new enemies, maps, and puzzles. Thank goodness for this. I’m sure many of us went into the freebie with high hopes of playing with friends over WiFi, but the 3DS is still not a great system for online play. I have one person on my 3DS friends list that I know also downloaded the game, but for us to communicate and set up a gaming time session would probably be more hassle than fun. So yeah, more like The Legend of Zelda: One Sword Adventures. Eh…Two Swords, really.

If you don’t have anyone to play with and you’re going the single-player route, the game tosses in a second controllable Link. If you’re familiar with using the Phantom Knight from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for solving puzzles then you’ll pick up the pace pretty fast here. A lot of switching and throwing each other at levers. Strangely, at the end of each level, the game still tallies how much your Link earned rupees-wise versus how much the second Link did. Either way…um, you’re a winner. Unless you picked up too many rupoors.

So, there’s three main worlds to traverse across, split up into different levels. I’d say that each averages around 15 minutes to complete. End bosses have a pattern to discover, and there’s also a main end boss who is not named Ganon. Sure, it’s weird, but it is what it is. After completing the game, a new world opens up, the Realm of Memories, letting Link hop into theme-based worlds of Zelda yore. The one based around A Link to the Past is simply fantastic, mainly from a visual standpoint. I am now just daydreaming about getting a 3D version of it down the line. It’s okay, Nintendo. You can charge e-money for it; I’ll pay. Oh, I’ll pay.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was a free download, and I had a good time playing it. Alas, I’m not getting the mileage from it that Nintendo probably hoped for, but it’s a great experience nonetheless. Get it before it stops being free.

The Top Five Worst Fishing Minigames

Some of my favorite memories are based around fishing, which I find funny as it’s an activity I haven’t done in many years. Or desire to do anymore. I don’t mind crabbing and pulling up traps to see if anything crawled on in, but hooking a worm and just waiting for a tug is no longer ideal for me. Plus, the last time I went fishing, I ended up standing still for so long that the back of my legs got some wicked sunburn on them, an unfortunate lesson definitely learned.

And yet, when it comes to videogames, there’s something addicting about fishing minigames and trying to catch the biggest or rarest sea critter possible. Crack-like, almost. In some games, fish means food. Others use it as just a means to money. And some have it simply for the sake of another thing to collect. To this day, I’ve still not caught a coelacanth in Animal Crossing: Wild World, but I know my sister has, and for that, boat-loads of respect. I did get every other fish and enjoyed every minute of it.

However, this list is not about my favorite fishing minigames. No, this one’s all about those that didn’t do it for me, that were too complicated or not deep enough. These are the ones that should’ve been tossed back in during development.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

To unlock the fishing minigame, Link has to first complete a totally optional sidequest. One that’s easy to miss, too. Something to do with a mermaid, and I don’t remember any of the details except that your reward is a fishing rod. You can then go fishing, which uses the DS touchscreen to its fullest: tap to cast your line, then place stylus over Link and pull down on him without ever lifting the stylus off the touchscreen, and if you are good enough, you’ll snag a fish on your hook. Now it gets even tougher. Two meters pop up, distance and your rod’s strength, and you have to pay attention to both as you try to reel in your catch. LET GO and PULL constantly pop up on the top screen. It can take several tiring minutes to be successful, and I think I only caught two fish in total before not caring anymore. The minigame was too hard, too technical.

I had more fun using the ship’s crane to pull up underwater treasure chests. If only it could snag fish, too.

4. Final Fantasy XII

I spent well over 70 hours romping through Ivalice, completing as many marks as I could safely find, filling out the license board, and killing judges with extreme glee–and yet I never stumbled across the fishing minigame. Oh, it’s there. I’ve seen talk of it on the Interwebz. But like the entry just above in this grand ol’ list, you really have to work towards unlocking it. According to others, the fishing minigame becomes available after Vaan and the gang visit the Draklor Laboratories area during the main plot. However, to get the most out of the minigame, several mark hunts have to be completed, as well as the Barheim side-quest. I’m guessing I never did any of that stuff. Supposedly, the fishing game consists of a very basic button memory test, with six opportunities to catch a bottle or fish. Through this, you have the chance to catch the ultimate reward, the Lu-Shang Badge, a key component of the most powerful weapon in the game. I consider it one of the worst fishing minigames because it seemed to be dropped into the game like an afterthought.

3. Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times

This game is, for all intents, a Hogwarts-themed clone of Animal Crossing: Wild World, which would lead many to believe that I’d absolutely love it. But no, I don’t. The devs added a middle man to their fishing minigame, one that’s fairly annoying. In AC:WW, you catch a fish and you either donate it to the museum or you sell it directly to Tom Nook for some sweet bells. In MG:MT, you catch a fish, and your only choice is to donate it to a magical book, which will then give you an item based on the type and size of the fish, which you can then bring to the local shop to sell for some money. It’s a slow, unpredictable process, but unfortunately it’s one of the main ways to make money to buy new brooms and CDs. If only you could just take the fish to the shop and cut out the middle man book.

2. Nier

My experience with Nier so far has been this, word for word, fish fail for fish fail. I’d like to play some more of the game, as there were a few interesting bits, but if there’s any more story-related fishing quests, I don’t think I can soldier on.

1. Professor Layton’s London Life

Yup, a minigame within a minigame–and it’s atrocious. Fishing seems simple enough in London Life: acquire a fishing outfit, find a good spot, and cast away. When the exclamation mark appears above your avatar’s head, press the action button to reel in the fish. The wet noodle is that it’s seemingly random. If you’re not fast enough–and you have to be super fast as one millisecond off is enough to fail–you won’t catch the fish and lose a ton of Happiness. Maybe between 2,000 to 3,000. Which only then makes catching fish even harder, as a happy fisherman is a successful one.

And right now, I have two quests for one character. Deliver a note, and the other is to catch two Thames trout. However, I can’t turn in the former quest until I complete the latter, and that might take awhile as I’ve tried numerous times to catch these special fish. It’s frustrating, and I find myself trying once, losing Happiness, and going off to do some other actions.

More than likely, I’d rather be really fishing than testing my patience with these fishing minigames. Got any fish stories of your own? Speak up in the comments below!

I poor, you poor, we all poor when picking up rupoor

All my life, I’ve been led to believe that rupees hid in bushes, and that slashing at shrubbery was beneficial to both my bank account and ego. We can blame The Legend of Zelda for this, as rupees are the consistent currency throughout the franchise. You want a new shield? Better have some rupees. Interested in a bigger bag for your bomb collection? Pay up. Want someone to warm your bed at night while Zelda is all off getting kidnapped? Um…well, uh…

So there I was, playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for free on my Nintendo 3DS, clearing out some bushes and tall grass in hopes of earning some kaching-kaching when a black-tinted rupee popped out and I picked it up on total basic instinct. Suddenly, four to five of my very own rupees jumped off Link’s body, screaming in pain, and these were red rupees, the ones worth a decent amount. Maybe 20 each, I think, and so we’re looking at losing 100 rupees upon contact. Now, as enemies began swarming, I was scrambling to recollect money I had already picked up before it disappeared. Everyone, meet the rupoor.

Evidently, rupoor showed up in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, a game which I played all the way up to the final dungeon and even took the time to unlock the fishing minigame, but I do not ever recall picking any of those black beasts up. If I did, I surely would’ve cried out in dismay. But in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, your rupee count is pretty important. Well, mostly if you’re playing co-op/against other players. Me? I’m doing the adventure solo, with a second controllable Link, but whether the first Link earns 578 rupees or the second Link earns 47 rupees, it ultimately doesn’t matter. We are one in the same, making the count-off at the end of each level rather silly. If was playing competitively against other Linkers, picking up a rupoor would be devastating.

What I find so fascinating is that, despite now knowing what rupoor does to my moneybag, four out of five times, I still end up picking it up. It’s just a reflex. Slash a bush, grab the item. Usually it’s something good: a health fairy, a green or blue rupee, a power-up. Sometimes I like to charge up the sword and spin in front of a bunch of bushes, collecting items like woah. It’s only now and then something pure evil pops out, but everything is already in motion.

At this point, I’ve completed the first three main levels (and a bit of the lengthy tutorial hub), and now I’m off to Death Mountaintop (?) to fight Vaati. I bet he just loves rupoor. After that, if rumor holds water, there’ll be some other levels to play based on fantastic themes such as 1993’s Link’s Awakening, 1992’s A Link to the Past and the 1987 original Legend of Zelda from the NES. That’s pretty exciting. Hopefully by then I’ll have learned to avoid rupoor, but somehow I doubt that. Feel free to ride my coattails in hopes of picking up some free cash.

Link’s first outing in The Legend of Zelda is full of hard times

My first experience with The Legend of Zelda series was on the SNES in 1993 with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In that one, Link, a young boy, awakes from sleep, contacted telepathically by a kidnapped princess named Zelda. He then to journeys through a rainstorm and into secret pits next to the castle’s walls to rescue her, eventually trying to track down the Master Sword. It’s a fantastic journey, full of surprises and a killer soundtrack. I’m fine with this being my first taste, genuinely pleased to have such a perfect game start it all. It’s like if the first piece of bacon you ever had was wrapped around succulent lobster and personally served to you by Gordon Ramsay while high as a kite. No bacon could ever beat that bacon.

And so, with the 3DS Ambassador program that gave us early adopters 10 free NES games, I was looking forward to experiencing where it all truly began, back with The Legend of Zelda, no freaking subtitle needed. Little did I expect it to be so…difficult. It’s a challenging game. It’s hard because you only have three hearts to start out with, and each screen you encounter is filled with enemies, the worst being those sandbugs that burrow beneath Link’s feet, surfacing the moment he walks over them. It’s hard because it is unclear where Link should go first, often wasting time exploring the overworld and losing precious hearts. It’s hard because you only have a sword starting out, and to kill enemies you have to get right next to them (unless at full health when you can fire a projectile from the sword), a risk in that if you miss and they move a fraction closer, Link loses some health. And then there’s the dungeons. Fear Wizzrobes (blue and red) and Wall Masters.

Heck, even series producer Eiji Aonuma has never completed it. Yeah, that’s kind of crazy.

At least dying doesn’t truly restart you from square one. Instead, you revive back at that initial overworld screen, that one we’ve all seen time after time after time, with all of your items still in your inventory. Well, I think you lose your dungeon keys though. Can’t confirm that. And so back into the wild Link and I go, nervous yet aware, trying to find some kind of clue as to what’s really going on, and hoping we can at least make it into a dungeon with full health and a couple of bombs…

30 Days of Gaming, #26 – Best voice acting

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is infamous for its truculently long loading times, but I actually really liked the game, especially its voiceover work. If anything, that’s what I remember most, Kain narrating his own journey to the Pillars of Nosgoth. Now, I know the topic train for today’s meme entry calls for the “best voice acting,” but there were really too many choices to pick from these days, as the bar has been raised and re-raised over the last few years thanks to titles like L.A. Noire, Mass Effect, and Bioshock. So, instead, I went with a game that had great voice acting though I’m positive nobody would back me up if I called it the best.

As will soon be revealed, I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s a game I’ve played and replayed, discovering new things in it each time and just losing myself in the world and its characters. I can still remember how confused I was when Link switched between the Light World and Dark World, turning into a bunny elf thing, a sad reflection of his inner self. And when he…wait, no. I’m not here to talk about Link’s journey to rescue Zelda from Agahnim, as well as get the Master Sword and three mystical pendants. That’s another blog post, definitely forthcoming.

Transitioning on, when Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain came out in 1996 for the PlayStation, it was like getting an adult version of A Link to the Past. There was blood and violence and cruelty and creepiness, all played in a top-down perspective with a journey across an expansive land where collecting items and power-ups would help the hero explore even further. Plus, you drank blood from unsuspecting humans to regain health. I don’t even remember how I was able to buy it at the sweet age of 13, but I had. Or maybe someone else had for me. Can’t really picture that happening, as the only times I used a neighbor’s help was for getting discounted games from the now extinct Kay Bee Toys, such as Suikoden and Wild Arms. Either way, I had a copy of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and I played it night after night, my best friend over, stretched out on the floor, wide-eyed at the crazy beheadings and bloody swordsmanship. It was crazy times back then.  And while FMVs were a new and cool thing at the time, they were bereft of voice acting. For that glorious work, you had to play the game and discover.

Going back, it’s amazing to hear how similar Kain narrates his journey in an almost Bastion-like way, commenting on items he picks and locales he passes by in real time. It’s hard to say what was more exciting: gaining a new power or hearing Kain’s description of it. Simon Templeman‘s confident, scorned voice does wonders to bringing Kain to life, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s undead. The soundtrack also plays ally, backing Templeman with bells and choir harmonies and ominously held notes. If medieval times had a soundtrack, this is it. Kain is certainly the star of the show in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, but there’s some other spectacular performances to call out, such as Paul Lukather as the ancient and reclusive vampire Vorador and Tony Jay as the cunning puppet-master Mortanius.

Some of my favorite quotes from the game follow. Naturally, they do not read as well as they are heard, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to link to a bunch of YouTube videos. Those interested can certainly seek Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen out to see and hear what it’s like. Right:

“In his life, he was unknown…a petty noble. In death, he was unknown. Yet by choosing oblivion, he restored balance to the land. Shades cast no shadows.” – Ariel

“I am the last Pillar. The only survivor of the Circle of Nine. At my whim, the world will be healed or damned. At my whim.” – Kain

“The world had changed to my eyes. I had not expected such cruelty from the light. For in the embrace of the sun, I could find no comfort, only malice. This would change in time for the worse, along with other thing.” – Kain

I never got to play any of the other games in the series, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but it seems like some of the same voice actors carried over. Might have to try and find a used copy or two. Y’know, just to hear my friends again.

Check out my coverage of the first 30 minutes of Link’s Awakening

Hey! That Ocarina of Time game is being released again for like the seventh time today, now gracing the Nintendo 3DS with its legendariness and N64 graphics. I’m still unsure if I even care enough to want to check it out; more than likely, my second Big Name retail purchase for the 3DS is gonna be the next Animal Crossing title. Which, evidently, lets your character dress up like Link. Life’s a funny thing.

But another Zelda game was re-released in the last week or so, and that one I’ve actually played a bit. It’s called The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and I covered the game’s first 30 minutes for The First Hour. CLICK THIS SENTENCE TO READ ABOUT ME FAILING TO REALIZE I COULD MOVE SEA URCHINS OUT OF THE WAY WITH THE SHIELD.

That was posted a few days ago, but I forgot to link to it. My bad. Yeah, Link’s Awakening is a lot of fun. Easy to pick up, easy to put down for a little break. The music, my gods…the music. I’ve progressed a little further too; now I’m trying to collect enough golden leaves to appease some dude who–I’m assuming–will help Link on his journey to make the world’s largest omelette. I’ve gotten four down, but still need one more. Hopefully I won’t have to resort to using a walkthrough, but the overworld map is pretty big, and Link–a.k.a. me–can get lost fairly quickly.