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Twilight Princess HD Impressions

It is a strange thing to admit considering how long I’ve been gaming, but the first Legend of Zelda game I ever touched was Wind Waker on the Gamecube.  The second, naturally, was Twilight Princess, also on the Gamecube.  (I’ve never actually played the Wii version, and I’m afraid I often forget it exists.)  Those two games provide an interesting jumping on point for the series, since, as a pair, they’ve become an interesting dichotomy in many gamers’ opinions.  Wind Waker has ascended in the mindset of many due to its cel-shaded art style which was unconventional for the series.  Meanwhile, Twilight Princess is usually contrasted as a weak game that was overly reliant on the formula established by Ocarina of Time.  

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Personally, I’ve always been a big defender of Twilight Princess.  In some ways, it’s easy for me to be one.  I didn’t play Ocarina of Time until the 3DS version, so of course I never really felt like Twilight Princess was a retread of the OoT formula.  And I didn’t have to bother with the motion controls since I played the Gamecube version.  And while I understand the complaint that Twilight Princess has a lot of filler content, Wind Waker isn’t innocent of that flaw either, considering the slow speed of the boat and the late game Triforce hunt that bogged down the original version.

But I don’t want to be overly critical of Wind Waker in my defense of Twilight Princess.  And to be fair, it’s been a long time since I played TP anyway.  While I usually shy away from HD re-releases of games I’ve already played, as I get older, I strangely find myself becoming a sucker for Nintendo content.  I’m now a few hours into Twilight Princess HD just released for the Wii U.  I’ve just completed the first dungeon, the Forest Temple.  And so far at least, I’m enjoying the game as I did back in the Gamecube days.

Twilight Princess is a really beautiful game.  It doesn’t get often complimented as such, because it’s usually compared to its visually charismatic cel-shaded predecessor.  But playing through the first few hours of the HD version, I’m beginning to realize that Twilight Princess has an artistic flair that is highly underrated.  The world of Hyrule presented in this iteration has a strong fairytale-like quality that reminds me of ‘80s fantasy movies like The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal.  The world is covered in dark natural colors, principally greens and browns, that are punctuated by more exotic artificial pigments like violet, jet black, and neon.  And while the Great Sea in Wind Waker served as breathtaking overworld, the dungeons in that game were often incredibly drab and flat. I don’t think the cel-shading served the interior environments as well as it did the outdoor presentation.  Meanwhile, I think the dungeons in Twilight Princess have more character as a result of the interior surfaces actually having textures.  However, one major thing I think Wind Waker has to its credit is that the cel-shading hid the edges of the polygons better.  Twilight Princess very much does feel like a world made up of polygons, with edges conspicuous on many naturally-occurring objects that shouldn’t have them, like rock formations and trees.  

One negative that I’m noticing so far is that the lock-on system in TP is incredibly finicky.  There’s been plenty of times I’ve hit the lock-on button when an enemy was right in front of me only to have nothing happen.  It seems to me that you have to be fairly close to an enemy to get the lock-on to register it.  I don’t seem to remember this being a problem in Wind Waker HD.  Maybe it was a problem in the original TP, but I should think that an HD release like this would have some fine tuning applied to it like Wind Waker HD had.

One final thing I’d like to mention is that the amiibo that comes with the game is actually an excellent figure.  I’m no amiibo super-collector.  I have an 8-bit Mario and a Donkey Kong sitting on my desk that were both gifts, and a Dr. Mario that I bought for myself because Dr. Mario is cool.  But I do have a feel of what quality to expect from them.  The Wolf Link amiibo that comes with Twilight Princess HD is by far the most intricately detailed amiibo I’ve ever seen, both in figure and coloration.  It deftly models Midna sitting atop wolf Link standing on a sloped white rock formation.  The are a good many little details captured on the figure including the golden insignia on wolf Link’s forehead, the ornate grooves on Midna’s mask, the lines of fur on Link, and the broken chain above his paw.  I hesitate to say it, but I actually kind of wish the in-game models of these two looked more like the amiibo.  Of all the amiibos I’ve seen, this is definitely my favorite.

I’m looking forward to playing more of Twilight Princess HD to see how the whole thing pans out, and if my defense of the game for all these years was worthwhile.  So this won’t be the end of my thoughts on the game, and I’ll do a more thorough write-up once I’m finished with my playthrough.

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November Update: Fallout 4, Tri Force Heroes, and Blue Stinger

Now that we’re out of Daylight Savings, the days have become way too short.  I only have about an hour of sunlight available when I come home from work, and the darkness and the chilling weather have sapped my desire to go out.  The plus side is that I find myself having a lot more time for gaming!  And that’s way better than basking in sunlight and physical activity, right??  Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to lately……

Fallout 4

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I’ve been playing Fallout 4!  But chances are if you’re reading a gaming blog, you have been too, judging by the rest of the attention I’ve seen this game get on WordPress.  I just started it last Saturday morning on PC.  I’ve been playing for ~15 hours, but I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface.  

So far, I’ve only had one serious bug to contend with, but I was able to fix that pretty easily after some snooping on the Steam forums.  When I started the game, I experienced some pretty severe stuttering whenever I moved the camera.  It actually started to make me motion sick, which never happens to me in games.  I found out that if I ran the game in windowed mode as opposed to fullscreen, the issue went away completely.  I now run the game in a *borderless window* that takes up the full resolution of my monitor…..i.e. exactly the same thing as full screen…. and it is a silky smooth experience for me.  What an absurd fix to an absurd problem.

Otherwise, I haven’t encountered any serious bugs.  I’ve clipped through a door into an area that I don’t think I was meant to go into, and I’ve seen things like a radscorpion freeze mid-animation when popping up out of the ground.  All these bugs are just the goofy kind.  I fortunately haven’t encountered anything game breaking, yet.

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I’ve heard some people say this game looks just like Fallout 3 on a technical level, which I find utterly absurd.  I think we’ve reached a point where many people are forgetting what 360/PS3 games actually looked like.  But I will say, it’s not the most visually impressive game of the last year or so, but it’s nowhere near Fallout 3-level visuals.  

Tri Force Heroes

A lot of people were very down on this game when it launched, but since this hasn’t been a particularly good year for 3DS releases, I decided to pick it up so I would have something to play on the handheld.  I was actually quite surprised.  With all the negativity surrounding the game, I was impressed that I took to the game as quickly as I did.

For those that don’t know, Tri Force Heroes is a 3-player co-op top-down Zelda game.  And by 3-player co-op, I mean 3 player co-op.  Notice the game is called Tri Force with a space.  It’s not possible to play with only two players.  If a member of your trio drops out mid-game, then both of the remaining players are kicked back to the game’s matchmaking lobby.  It’s possible to play it single-player, but in this mode the player has to swap control between the 3 characters.  The ones the player isn’t in control of have no AI whatsoever and just stand in place.  I only messed around a little bit with the single player mode and felt that it was rather tedious, so I stuck with online co-op.

This strict 3 player requirement makes sense in light of the game’s heavy puzzle emphasis.  The game is divided into 8 worlds (of course) and each world is divided into 4 levels.  At the start of a level, the players must each pick up one of the three items (i.e., boomerang, grappling hook, etc.) that are needed to complete the level.  Each player can only carry one item, and teamwork is required to solve the many puzzles that fill each level.  If there were only 2 players giving it a go, then the most of the puzzles would be unsolvable.  I was actually a bit surprised that they went for such a heavy emphasis on puzzles, when they could have went the easy route and made it a combat-focused game that wouldn’t have required as much teamwork.

This is where I thought the magic of the game really shined through.  Right off the bat, I was having a great time figuring out how to work with my team to use our items to progress.  I got a really glowing feeling each time everything finally clicked between us, and we worked out how each of our items figured into the obstacle at hand..  I’m surprised so many other people whose thoughts I’ve read on the game didn’t feel the same way.

Also, I fortunately didn’t encounter as many troll players as I feared.  I encountered one player who immediately began picking me and the other player up and would throw us off cliffs.  I disconnected from that quickly.  Fortunately, he started trolling us right away at the beginning of the level.  If he had waited until we were deeper into the level to show his true colors, he would have wasted a lot more of my time, because when you disconnect from a game, you have to start the whole level over again (and these levels can take ~30 minutes to beat sometimes).  There was one other player who I think might have been a troll, but I couldn’t say for certain.  If he was, he was impressively subtle.  He kept walking off ledges into pits, which is a problem since all players share the same life bar.  But he would only walk into a pit when he had “plausible deniability”.  He wouldn’t just walk off at random times.  For instance, when a moving platform was coming, he would *always* walk off the ledge toward it just a moment too early or too late.  And he did this *a lot*.  I eventually decided that no one could be this bad at the game and disconnected since the team was down to one heart and on our last life anyway.

Regrettably, the magic of the game didn’t last.  I was really enjoying Tri Force Heroes for the first five worlds, but the final three are really hard.  At a certain point, it became more tedious than joyful.  The levels are fairly time consuming, and if your team loses all four lives they’ve been granted, then the entire level must be redone from square one.  Considering the difficulty of the final stretch of the game, it ended up becoming a very repetitive affair for me, as I had to give several levels multiple attempts.  I honestly don’t think such repetition suits the game considering it causes the player to have to grind on the same puzzles they’ve already solved in previous attempts.

I don’t think I’ll ever really beat Tri Force Heroes, unfortunately.  After several attempts with multiple teams, I only managed to reach the final boss once in the final level.  And I didn’t even get to fight the boss because a connection error popped up almost as soon as the fight started.  As you can imagine, I was quite frustrated.  I soldiered on afterwards, but none of my subsequent teams even got close to the boss.  Eventually, I relented to my annoyance with the whole thing, and I’ve put the game away.  It’s been quite a disappointment in light of the blast I was having during the first half of the game.

Blue Stinger

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Some of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I bought a Dreamcast over the summer.  For my run of horror games that I played over October, I wanted to include a Dreamcast title and decided on playing a somewhat obscure game called Blue Stinger.  Actually, I had wanted to play Ill Bleed, but that game was way too expensive on ebay.  I decided on Blue Stinger instead, as it’s by the same producer and I vaguely recall reading about it around the the time of the Dreamcast’s launch.

Long story short, I didn’t make a post about Blue Stinger since I found that it wasn’t much of a horror game.  I’ve found out that some people categorize it as such, but others don’t, and I find myself agreeing more with the latter group.  The enemies certainly look like something out of a survival horror title, but that’s as far as it goes.  There is no real atmosphere to this game, as I’m not sure if it’s even supposed to be a scary.  The game’s environments are rather brightly colored and punctuated by this very jaunty and orchestral background music.

Anyway, I only bring this up on the off-chance someone who reads this may have played the game.  I’m not sure if I’m going to play much further than I have already (about an hour in), and I wanted to know if the game is worth completing.


Well, that’s all I have to discuss for now.  Thanks everybody for reading.

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