Monday, February 11, 2013

On Zelda: A Duologue

at 1:13 PM
Most of the time, I try to direct my spew of pointless babble onto this blog, but occasionally I have a comment so inane or inside-jokey that it lands in Greg L.'s inbox instead. Last week, a particular instance of this kicked off a Zelda conversation of enough depth that I'd hate to see it go to waste. Not to mention it makes a great follow-up to my recent ode to Twilight Princess. So enjoy our conversation, presented in its original email finery.

Yourself: NintendoLife had a pretty hilarious list of improvements they want from Wind Waker HD. Hilarious in the "you know none of this is going to happen, right?" way. They annoyed me by saying the game needed more dungeons and that the Triforce-pieces-quest needed to be reworked, then annoyed me even more by providing quotes from Aonuma that agreed with those sentiments. I have to say, the more I read about him, the more it sounds like he just completely caves to whatever public opinion is. Get some artistic integrity, man! Pass that on next time you see him.

Golem: Sure, I definitely will.

Aonuma struggles with that too much. I liked Skyward Sword a lot, but I wouldn't say it's a return to form (for him as a director, at least--I enjoyed it more than MM and WW, but it doesn't match their creativity). At least the handhelds have gotten some more out-there ideas. It is sad to see him say those things, like he doesn't respect his own team's work.
That said, I wouldn't mind bonus dungeons or something like that. Not sure how you'd rework the quest for Triforce pieces, though I'll admit I never got why they made it so difficult to pinpoint underwater treasure. Why does the glowy bit go away when you get close to it?

YourselfAgree with you about grappling treasure, but the one thing I would hope that even lazy-ass Nintendo will do is move the charts to the GamePad (is that the official name? So generic). It would make navigating the open seas more fluid (no pausing to check the ocean chart) and treasure-hunting would be a snap (you could take the glowy circles away altogether if you just showed the treasure chart on the GamePad). Can't remember how Phantom H. handled treasure - if that game didn't have that stupid central dungeon, I'd be a lot more likely to replay it.

Do you consider the handhelds to really show more out-there ideas? As I mentioned in my blog post about TP, they seem to me to be perfunctory exist-because-they-have-to iterations. They're fun, but that's because the whole Zelda thingy is fun. I can't say they inspired in me much reflection. PH? What did that do new? And the whole train thing from Spirit Tracks... eh. I've said before that it's functionally identical to every other Zelda overworld, except that it can get more annoying if you make a wrong turn or don't know where you're going. 

Guess I never gave the Capcom games a fair shot but... should I have?

I guess I didn't realize you had played Sky-Swo. Thoughts (other than what you just said, that you found it funner than precursors)?

GolemIt's been forever since I've touched Minish Cap, and I never tried Oracle of Seasons, but Ages played as much like Link's Awakening 2 as you'd expect. Fun times, nothing new, but the bosses are actually pretty cool.

A map on the gamepad would be awesome. Aside from practicality, it would be cool to say that you have in your hands the map that Link himself is holding.

The handhelds may not have necessarily had good ideas, but I'd say they had ideas. The fact that Spirit Tracks' overworld is functionally identical to every other Zelda overworld inspires thought, since it plays so differently. (It serves the same purpose and provides just as many options.) Like Hylia Field, you're really only interested in the destinations, but you're stuck on a track. It dashes the illusion of freedom and exploration some Zelda titles have, I think. There's also something a little cool about getting to pilot (conduct? I forget) a train in the same sense that sailing a boat is cool in Wind Waker. You get to do stuff like plan routes and throw switches and toot your horn. Can't say I ever appreciated having to appease passengers.

As for Phantom Hourglass, I don't have any experience with it, but it seems like the central dungeon would have to mix up the structure somehow. It's at least some kind of riff on how you have to retraverse parts of the overworld time and time again over the course of the game. Is "riff" the word I want?

YourselfThough Link's map probably doesn't have an indicator of his location....

To me, being on rails is a gimmick. Perhaps to someone out there it dispelled the illusion of a broad, open world, making them reflect on the reality of Hyrule Field (Hylia is the lake), but it didn't offer anything compelling A.) outside of the Zelda architecture or B.) to those already disabused of that notion.

I can't say there's enough interaction with the train for me to get any appreciation of conducting it. Most of the travel time is spent shooting stuff with the cannon, which is an abstract enough pastime that it fit equally well on a boat. Mapping out routes and throwing switches made me feel no more like an engineer than commanding a jet across the terrain of StarCraft makes me feel like a pilot. I have the same comment for the sailing - the experience of boating isn't what made me enjoy the open seas segments. Especially because the whole wind/sail not working like it does in reality was an annoying niggle. 

As for Phantom Hourglass - are you sure about that? If they wanted to "riff" (yeah that word is fine) on the idea of retraversal, wouldn't the entire game be set in a dungeon? As is, you have to retraverse the overworld in order to retraverse a dungeon... they've doubled the displeasure there. Anyway, the entire value of revisiting locations on a map is discovery - finding new things along the way. The repeat-dungeon doesn't offer any such luxury, as anything "new" you discover is just a quicker way to solve a puzzle or avoid an obstacle - you end in the same place after seeing the same sights. Your "reward" is that it didn't suck as much this time.

I didn't like the Spirit Tracks central dungeon for much the same reason - I felt like I was seeing the same thing over and over, repeating the same style of puzzles just gradually getting harder. Too much.

GolemTrains: I can agree that it doesn't offer anything interesting outside of Zelda architecture--it's kind of a companion piece, in that sense? As for someone already disabused, I don't think the effect is totally lost, but that seems a little more subjective. In other words, it's easier to say, "this approach doesn't make sense unless you know Zelda," than it is to say, "this approach won't interest you unless you have thought about Zelda in a particular way."

As for sailing, yeah, the mechanics weren't really part of the fun now that I think about it, so it wouldn't be "in the same way." What I should've said is that they both made you feel like you were at the helm of a vehicle: Wind Waker for its vast oceans and Spirit Tracks for the mechanisms. I also can't deny that a lot of my train time in Spirit Tracks was spent bombing stuff. I dunno if there's any great way around that, since the alternative is shoveling coal or something like that. Now that I think about it, I also spent a fair bit of time just looking around with the camera, which I also did on the King of the Red Lions.

Hey, if Spirit Tracks took place on the Metro, the train could've been called the King of the Red Line.

On Phantom Hourglass, I have to take your word on that. I was under the impression there wasn't much of an overworld outside of the central dungeon.

Skyward Sword: There's a lot I could mention liking, but as a dungeons man, the dungeons struck me as particularly strong. I enjoy Wind Waker and Twilight Princess dungeons, but they lacked the structural direction of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. If we understand Zelda dungeons as mazes, anyway. Skyward Sword played like a precursor to Ocarina of Time and stuck to that idea, developing various basic aspects of Zelda mazes over the course of the game from one dungeon to the next. I kind of hate that Skyward Sword comes before Ocarina of Time in the timeline, because then it sounds like my reading of the dungeons is me trying to shoehorn the game based on its story. But no, Ocarina of Time was all about keys, and Skyward Sword was like a layup to keys. If uh, that makes any sense.

Favorite Skyward Sword dungeon moment: on the pirate ship, you stand outside in a lifeboat and shoot an eyeball above deck. Zelda mazes are all about effects carrying over from one room to the next, and I think that's a great example; you occupy one room and hit a switch in another.

Yourself"Companion piece" is a good description. The handheld games ask us to ruminate on the nature of Zelda, rather than introducing any particularly high concepts.

You may want to be mindful around whom you call yourself a "dungeons man". Someone might take that the wrong way. I found that TwiP contained the highs and lows of series dungeons: Snowpeak Ruins was a gorgeous mystery and Arbiter's Grounds was a literal roller coaster, while the Temple of Time was everything that is wrong with the series, a linear, overlong, gimmicky trudge. Coming off that, I was expecting mediocrity from SkySwo. I can't honestly say it defied my expectations - I actually could only remember one without Googling "Skyward Sword dungeons". I've waxed on before about my love for Skyward's intermediate surface world - a return to the extra-dungeon interactivity that has been missed from the 3D series. That semi-open world full of battles and obstacles brings challenge back to exploration. A side effect of this is that it makes dungeons less unique - we get a spectrum of gameplay instead of the traditional (OoT) black and white.

Final thoughts? This might not go up til Monday, since tomorrow is gonna be all about Cyborg Justice.

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