Tag Archives: The Legend of Zelda

2016 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Legend of Xenia

2016 gd games completed legend of xenia

Thought dead, the princess
Washes ashore, to find keys
Kill slimes, all colors

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap really makes you shrink

gd early impressions The-Legend-of-Zelda The Minish Cap

Don’t ask me why, but I often like to begin playing a new game–well, new to me, that is–during the Thanksgiving holiday break, with me digging into Metroid II: Return of Samus and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters in the past. Well, this year, I only had my Nintendo 3DS with me as I traveled down to South Jersey for turkey, Christmas tree decorating, and too much Black Friday shopping even during “regular” hours, and while I dabbled in my daily staples of Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade…I wanted something fresher. You know, from 2005, the era of the Game Boy Advance. Enter The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.

This is also one of those freebie 3Ds Ambassador titles given to all us early investors, of which I’ve played just about all of them for various lengths of time. You can read some words on things like Kirby and The Amazing Mirror, Metroid Fusion, and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 by clicking this very sentence. I think the only one left for me to really try, and maybe write about some day, is Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.

The Minish Cap‘s quest begins when Link, who I renamed Pauly, is chosen by the king of Hyrule to seek the help of the Picori after Vaati destroyed the Picori Blade and petrified Princess Zelda. Also, evil monsters are now running rampant in Hyrule, with Vaati creating as much chaos as possible in his search for the Light Force. Link was selected for this journey because he’s able to see and interact with the Minish, a race of small, elf-like people. Along the way, Link rescues Ezlo, a strange being resembling a green cap with a bird-like head, who joins him and is able to shrink the leading adventurer to the size of the Minish.

The basic gameplay is nearly identical to previous games in the series, with Link acquiring items, exploring dungeons, and defeating bosses for extra hearts and story-vital trinkets. The two stand-out elements that make this GBA adventure unique, as far as I can tell, involve Link shrinking down to the size of an ant and fusing kinstones. The former is used to open up new areas to explore, but also provides some stunning visuals, with plants now as large as trees and shoes on a tabletop a major roadblock. You see tiny doors everywhere, but you can only shrink in specific areas, which means you have to either figure out how to get there or come back later on when, I assume, you kill and roast Ezlo, gaining his powers by piercing his duck-like flesh with your cartoony chompers.

Fusing kinstones, is really addicting, mostly because it is really rewarding, and I hope the loop of finding a kinstone, fusing it with someone, going out for that revealed treasure, and finding more kinstones never fades. Basically, kinstones are items you collect as you cut grass and attack enemies, and back in town, if a person has a bubble over their head, you can take your half of a kinstone and match it with theirs. If they complete each other, something will reveal itself on the Hyrule map. So far, it’s been rupees, entrances to hidden areas, and more difficult enemies that drop a lot of money.

Look, I’m playing The Minish Cap with a guide open next to me on my laptop; however, I am not following the guide line by line. In the past, I’ve struggled to get through many quests involving Link, Princess Zelda, and the Tri-Force because I either get lost or forget where I need to go next or simply walk away from the journey for too long. There’s a reason why I still haven’t gotten through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and it’s because every random chance I hop back into it…I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, what world I’m supposed to explore. Anyways, at any time, you can press “select” to get a clue as to where to go next from Ezlo, but even that is not always crystal clear. My greatest fear is returning to a dungeon I already completed and spending a chunk of time in it before realizing I’m supposed to be elsewhere, using that boomerang. So I’m only using the guide to keep me on the main path; I will not let The Minish Cap suffer the same fate as Link’s Awakening.

I’m really enjoying it, and, through glancing at the guide, The Minish Cap doesn’t seem to be the longest of Link’s adventures. That’s fine by me. There’s only a month left for 2015, and I have a number of other conquests to see done before 2016 comes crashing into my face. Cue panic face.

Abobo’s Big Adventure is a risible romp through the NES era

AbobosBigAdventure001 gd impressions

I’m now at the point that I no longer remember where I download these strange little games. Could be a random website, some sort of bundle, or even just a blog post pointing me to something interesting. I just stumble across them in my “videogames” folder on my desktop days, weeks, and months later, with new names popping up left and right, often giving me pause. Maybe I accidentally fed one after midnight, and now they are spreading like wildfire, threatening to take over my time with so-called bigger games, despite many of these wee indie oddballs working a thousand times better than anything produced by an actual studio these days. Mm-hmm. Still annoyed about that.

Thankfully, Abobo’s Big Adventure helped put a smile on my face and keep me distracted while Dragon Age: Inquisition continued to fold in upon itself. And that’s surprising, because, while I appreciate the NES for what it was and still is today, I have little nostalgia for it. I never had one as a wee boy, though some neighbors did; videogaming didn’t truly happen for me until that Christmas morning when I unwrapped a Super Nintendo, which came pre-packed with a copy of Super Mario World. That said, Abobo’s Big Adventure is a loving tribute to the NES era, and I get a lot of the references and sprites and winking nods, but there’s also some more obscure elements zipping right on by. It’s an odd mix of old and new, but is thankfully a ton of fun to play, even rekindling my desire to trek through the original Legend of Zelda.

For those that don’t know–and I didn’t know upon starting up this free Flash game–Abobo comes from Double Dragon, appearing multiple times, often as a boss character. I played some Double Dragon in my early days, but this character never stood out to me; I guess the developers behind Abobo’s Big Adventure felt otherwise, thrusting him upon a quest to rescue his son, the hilariously named Aboboy. To do this, Abobo must travel through eight different levels, all themed to a classic NES title. I got as far as the one based around Mega Man, but more on that soon.

The controls are very simple, though they obviously change a bit from level to level. Basically, you move with the arrow keys and execute techniques with “A” and “S,” giving you the sensation of using an NES controller in terms of complexity. You can fill up a meter and tap both A and S together for a special move of sorts. Abobo’s actions change with each level, going from fighting goons in scummy alleyways to exploring a top-down dungeon to floating right to left thanks to some helium-pumped balloons. Abobo’s Big Adventure does a good job of mimicking how these old games looked and played, while also infusing them with modern mechanics and less-than-inspired teenage-level humor. Yup, looking at you, penis-shaped Zelda dungeon map. It’s probably silly to call this out in 2014, but the built-in Achievements system is quite flashy and reminded me of the days when Achievements were designed to be fun, rewarding, and experimental. After reading some descriptions, I went back and got a few out-of-the-way ones.

Much like their original counterparts, some parts of Abobo’s Big Adventure are tough, real challenges of skill. This mostly relates to the boss battles, such as the Old Man in the Zelda-themed one, but I found the entire Balloon Fight flight to be a tough grind, as well as the underwater level. The difficulty became too much once I hit the Mega Man level, which features everyone’s favorite off-screen laser beams to narrowly avoid. If you’ll recall, I’ve never been even mediocre at Mega Man games, and so, after multiple attempts of trying to take down the second form of the boss here, I’ve walked away. The keyboard’s not cutting it. And that’s okay. I got through most of Abobo’s Big Adventure, had a pretty good time, and saw plenty; I can’t imagine what comes later is too surprising, though I might find a Let’s Play to see what the last few levels act like.

While games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are obviously deeply inspired by the classics from gaming’s so-called Golden Age, Abobo’s Big Adventure is them. Just slightly warped and more accessible. If you’re itching for something kind of like an NES game, but also not, I say give this a go. Watch out for that damaging TMNT seaweed in the underwater level though.

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

3DS upcoming holiday 2013 games untitled22

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)

pok x heroine_main

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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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.



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!