Hyrule Warriors is Switching it up

I really enjoyed the Hyrule Warriors game that came out for the Wii U. The console kinda sucked, but the game was tons of fun! Until you got to multiplayer, anyway. If you tried to play multiplayer, one person using the little TV-Screen controller and the other playing on the main TV, the console would be unable to keep up with the demands of the game. There were whole levels and challenges I was unable to complete in multiplayer because the game simple wouldn’t render more enemies for me to fight. I’d be running around the battlefield, all but the last handful of goons defeated, but still four hundred short of the challenge goal because no new enemies would spawn. Story missions became impossible to complete because I couldn’t kill enough enemies to make the bosses appear.

The game was fun enough to play on my own that I don’t regret my purchase, but a lot of the achievements and post-story gameplay wasn’t as fun without a friend to play it with. The version they eventually released for the 3DS was better, since it required separate systems to play and they could share the load this way, but it wasn’t nearly as fun to play on the hand-held system (I’ve got huge hands, so even the larger “New 3DS” can cause my hands to cramp if I play it energetically). Plus, the screen was small and a lot of detail was sacrificed every time they shrank the screen from it’s “on TV” proportions. They also added a bunch of really cool DLC to the handheld version but it just wasn’t worth buying again, since no one else I knew was planning to buy it.

Now that there’s an edition coming out for the Switch, I might consider buying it again. I’m fairly certain my roommate would buy it and, since we’ve both got a Switch, we’ll be able to do multiplayer fairly easily. The screen is bigger and has a better aspect ration for these kind of games, so it’ll be less of a pain to play on the go. Best of all, it has all of the combined content from the previous iterations, all without needing to buy any kind of DLC for it! Though, to be fair, I would not be entirely surprised if they added more DLC for this version. While Nintendo isn’t as egregious about DLC stuff as most other game developers are (their DLC is usually more of an “expansion” than content that should have come with the game), they still do it with an increasing regularity. I just hope it never goes to Pokemon games! Or, maybe it would be better if they turned stuff like “Ultra Moon/Sun” into DLC so you wouldn’t need to buy an entirely new game…

The “Warriors” series of games, now in many different skins, all play much the same. You play as one of many heroes running through crowds of mooks, a few captains, and the occasional boss. You are mighty and they are weak. You kill hundreds or thousands of them and, unless you’re playing on a higher difficulty or are not actually trying to complete your missions, none of them can kill you. You can level up your characters, growing their power and unlocking new moves, using resources from the game and various weapons you get as prizes. The stories are simple and the point is to unleash incredible (but never very graphic) violence upon your foes.

While the original games never really held my interest, throwing a Legend of Zelda skin on them certainly did. You get all of the above paragraph and more! You can plan as any number of characters from across a few different Legend of Zelda games, use various items from the various games to hilarious effect, and do everything to some really amazing metal or heavy rock versions of classic Legend of Zelda songs. The music was amazing, though I’ll admit it doesn’t make for a very good YouTube or Spotify playlist. The music is best experienced as a part of wholesale slaughter and rescuing your friends from different time periods/universes.

If you want a casual game that’s a lot of fun and enjoy Legend of Zelda or Dynasty warriors, I recommend picking up some version of the game. If you want the Switch one, it should be out in the next three months. As of writing this, the scheduled release is “Spring 2018,” so I’d guess late March or sometime in April. Otherwise, grab a the 3DS or Wii U version and get to trotting around the battlefield as you wantonly murder a bunch of mooks.

 

Moments That Take Your Breath Away

I write about Breath of the Wild a lot. I play it much more than I write about it. I think about it much more than I play it. It would not be entirely out of line to suggest that this game is constantly on my mind. There’s a constant mixture of the desire to play the game more and my memories of past times I’ve played it, churning around in my head. Unfortunately, I don’t get to play it as much as I would like. Writing and general adult stuff, like working out and picking up extra hours to get some financial breathing space, make it difficult to get more than an hour or two in each week. Occasionally, I get the opportunity to binge it for a while, but that just reminds me of the first time I played it.

I missed my chance to pre-order a switch since I was just starting a new job and was too stressed to follow gaming news closely enough to sign up before they all sold out. Same for the special editions of Breath of the Wild. Instead, I spent all of March second camped outside the front doors of a Best Buy only to watch a bunch of shitty pre-order people show up in the last half hour and be allowed to get their pick of the peripherals because any of the people who had been waiting for twelve hours or more even got to step a foot inside. I’m still bitter about that. I got the last Pro controller, so I didn’t miss out on any of the peripherals I wanted, but I was the second person in line. The other hundred people behind me were shit outta luck.

I got home, played for an hour, and then finally went to bed at around three because I was falling asleep despite my excitement. Over the next three days (of course I took that Friday off of work!), I got maybe fifteen hours of sleep and put in over fifty hours of game time. By the end of the third weekend after getting the game, I had it beaten (except for Korok Seeds) and was sitting in the 125-150 hour range. It was amazing. I don’t think I’d ever focused on something so completely in my life. I’m not one to binge games that much, though I do enjoy a good weekend of playing only one game, so it felt strange to realize just how much I’d been playing every day. It still feels strange and other-worldly to think about. I miss it.

When I started playing, the world was new. Every corner held something new to experience or explore. I was constantly figuring out new things like shield surfing, mounting Lynels for a few quick hits, and the fun things you can do with balloons. I felt excited every day to go home and play. Wandering around a world that felt dangerous, new, and so incredibly sad was probably the happiest I felt during 2017.

The game came at a bit of a crossroads for me. I hadn’t been able to get myself and my now-roommates together in time to move out before our lease needed to be renewed, so I was stuck living with someone who was stressing me out for another six months. I’d started a new job that was so much better than my old job, but I was struggling with impostor syndrome. Home life had been stressful because stuff just kept going wrong around the apartment. My depression was at its worst because of the cloudy weather that we had for long periods and winter in general. My roommate was becoming more and more stressful, and the release of the Switch marked his decent from stressful but tolerable to intolerable and misery-inducing. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Breath of the Wild was not only the best thing that had happened to me in almost a year but that it was the last simply good thing to come into my life for another six months after that.

Even though my life has greatly improved since this time last year, I still wish I could recapture the wonder and excitement I felt at stepping into a new world. No other video game I’ve ever played made me as excited as Breath of the Wild did. No other video game has ever felt tantalizingly real as Breath of the Wild did. It made me feel like I do when I read some of my favorite books, but I can’t seem to recapture that feeling as closely as I can when I reread those books. I can still get lost in it, and I haven’t yet gotten bored with running around the world to find something new I’ve never seen before, but that’s different feeling.

I’ll cherish the time I spent with the game when it was new and all I can really do is hope that I can find that again in some other video game. Maybe the next Legend of Zelda. Current information suggests it will also be open world, so maybe I’ll be able to experience that wonder and joy all over again. Until then, I’ll content myself with my books and the few hours of Legend of Zelda I can work in every week.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Sweet Scent of Rain on a Damp Morning

In a game that keeps on giving some nine months after I started playing it, one of my favorite random occurrences is the occasional rain storm. As I play through Hero Mode (enemies are stronger and regenerate health, plus there are more of them), I’ve changed my settings to get rid of as much of the Heads Up Display as possible, using the “Pro” layout. Gone is my clock, my sonograph, my thermometer, and every other indicator that I’m playing a video game aside from my health bar and occasionally my stamina wheel. If I could hide those, I’d do that as well. Not to make the game harder, but to bring me closer to the game. That way, when it begins to rain, my only indication is the growing cloud cover or the first tell-tale drops as I ride through an area occupied by a storm.

I feel a certain amount of anxiety at times, not knowing what the weather will be before I decide to climb a mountain (you will slide down the cliff you’re climbing if you move at all during rain storms), but it quickly fades once I actually get absorbed into the game. I climb and either hurry if it gets cloudy or resign myself to being rained off the cliff. I also don’t know if it is a rainstorm or a thunderstorm until the first lightning strike, so that means I have to avoid using any metal weapons or armor. If I can climb or fight most enemies, there’s not a whole lot left to do if I don’t want to teleport away and do something else until the rain ends.

I’m quite patient. I’d rather set the controller down for a few minutes while the rain storms itself out than warp away and lose track of what I was doing as I get distracted by some new quest. When I first started doing this, I’d grab my phone and browse Twitter or Imgur for the storm’s duration. As time went on, I paid more attention to the storms in the game. There are things that only show up in the rain, certain bugs and flowers, and AI characters, both enemies and NPCs, behave differently when it is raining. There are parts of the map that flood when it rains. Rain and thunderstorms aren’t just a detriment to your ability to climb or a barrier to work around when you’re fighting, they’re actual players in the world that cause everything in it to respond. There is so much to do during a storm that I’ve stopped setting my controller aside and spend the four or more in-game hours exploring my local environment to see what changes.

The more I played, the more I noticed that I felt similarly during a game rain storm compared to how I feel when I sit in a real rain storm. Now, I split my rain storms between exploring and finding a nice sheltered place, out of the rain, to have Link stand while I look out at the rain-soaked world around him. My inner pluviophile has taken control and now I love nothing more than a surprise rain storm so I can watch the water drip off of link’s clothes and the weapons he’s holding in his hands. I love to watch the world go soft and grey as it rains during the day and then dim as the sun sets and night begins.

There are particular places in the game that are always raining. I like to go to them sometimes, usually when I need to relax, so I can have Link light a fire and stand next to it under whatever shelter I could find while it rains. The world falls silent except for the sound of rain on the ground, the moan of the wind as it whips the rain around, and the crackle of the fire. When I close my eyes and listen, I can almost smell the sweet scent of dirt churned into mud by rain and the fresh tinge to the air wafting in my window.

Eventually I open my eyes, pick up my controller, and go back to playing. I chase Koroks to expand my inventory, find new shrines, collect everything I can so I’ll be able to upgrade my armor, and find new ways to tackle multiple enemies at once when freezing them is no longer an option (the gold ones can’t be frozen, I guess? That’s super annoying). It may be a few days between play sessions or it may just be a couple hours, but I know I’ll eventually go looking for the rain again, just so I can spend a little more time bathing in the silence and peace the rain brings.

 

A Breath of Joy and Light in the Dark

In two days from today, on Friday the 30th of June, Nintendo is releasing the first segment of the DLC for their latest smash-hit Legend of Zelda game: Breath of the Wild. This bit of post-release content is going to add quite a few wonderful features to this already amazing game. The one I’m looking forward to the most is the map tracker. Finally, there will be a way to tell which parts of the map I’ve never actually been too. It, and the Korok Mask (that rattles when you near an undiscovered Korok), are what are finally going to let me find the other 100 or so Koroks I need to finish upgrading my inventory.

At a very close second comes Hard Mode. Basically, it’s going to let me replay the entire game with tougher enemies (every enemy has been replaced with a one-tier tougher copy and the maximum tier has been raised) and a few twists. The only twist they really detail is that now there will be little floating platforms with enemies and chests on them. I really can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Other than those two things, there are some outfits and a challenge mode they call “Trial of the Sword” that will get you a stronger Master Sword. Nintendo has done a pretty good job of outlining the DLC and driving hype for it. I know I can’t wait.

A project I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago, after I finished my initial play-through of the game, will be starting sometime this weekend. I’ve taken to calling it a “Naked and Afraid” run-through. The rules I’ve set include no armor other than hats, a new fire must be lit every 5 minutes or so, as long as there is flammable material around, and I must provide a running monologue of poor Link’s thoughts as he runs from everything, dies ignobly, and does his best to ward off foes in nothing but a hat and his shorts. I intend to stream it via my Twitch channel this weekend. Maybe on Monday, the 3rd, since I have the day off.

I am admittedly very fond of this idea because it juxtaposes quite nicely with the themes of the game. In the game, you are a warrior awakening 100 years after you nearly died, your land in ruins, your people scattered, and the woman you swore to protect the only remaining barrier between the evil scourge you must someday face and the final destruction of the world. So you run around screaming like a small, excited child wearing nothing but a hat and your boxers.

When I first played the game, it was rather depressing. You wander through a world destroyed long ago with a quiet, melancholy sound track fading in and out of the background to selectively emphasize the horror and sadness around you. One of the first places you find is a room that matches the iconic meeting between Link and Zelda in Ocarina of Time. In this game, it lies in ruins. Windows shattered, walls toppled, and serenity destroyed. All that remains of that memory is a quiet thread woven into the game’s theme, a slight change in the melody that plays Zelda’s Lullaby throughout the time you’re in or near it.

I won’t spoil what you find there, but Makar Island was the biggest blow to me. I remember playing Wind Waker and always enjoyed the little Korok named Makar, that you save from evil in your second dungeon and that you assist in bringing back the Master Sword’s power. Makar’s Island lies to the west of Hyrule Castle. I suggest checking it out.

The whole game is full of these moments. Sad little references to past games and people you’ve met throughout the years of playing Legend of Zelda games. All of it placed through this game to drive home that point that, yes, Good will eventually triumph over Evil, but you failed to keep it at bay and now it is impossible to return to the life you knew before. Nothing can ever be the same again.

I know they were working on the game for years, long before the current political climate in the US and most European countries reared its ugly head, but it really feels like the game was meant to come out now, to serve as another reminder that we need to keep fighting so we can salvage whatever we have left, even if we’ve already lost a lot.

That’s a lot of heavy themes for a game. I guess that’s why I want to do my silly play-through. Not to mock the severity and solemnity of the game, but to stick truthfully to my ideal that laughter and joy are our best defenses against this kind of evil and darkness. The DLC hits the internet Friday and my stream will hit it sometime shortly thereafter, so come laugh as I make an idiot of myself and one of my favorite protagonists so we can have some fun and fight off the gloom that threatens to swallow us whole.