Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Retro Gaming: Legend of Zelda

Got myself a Nintendo DS! I'm behind by more than a decade but bear with me :D

The novelty of the Famicom Mini wears out pretty quick until i found out about Hakchi2, a homebrew posted at that allows users to hack into the NES/Famicom mini and run not only NES roms, but roms of other platforms on emulation. So i've got some games from Sega Genesis (Sonic!), MAME (Super Monaco GP!) and even N64 (Mario Kart! Ridge Racer!), but relevant to this post - SNES games, specifically Zelda's Link to the Past. I had never gotten into Legend of Zelda (and adventure games in general) on the NES - as a kid i was more into shoot/beat em ups, button mashers basically - but LttP really got me hooked into Zelda's storyline and gameplay. The critics have been right in its consistent praise of the game: engaging gameplay, pretty graphics, even the music is great.

That said, the gameplay is very deep which requires hours of sitting at a time and i didn't really have that luxury to sit in front of the TV at home for hours playing it on console. Which is where the DS came into play. Came across an online article on how the DS can be made a portable retro gaming machine and it's the ideal platform for me because it allows me to play the game during commute and down time at work.

My impressions on LttP:

- Holy shit, how did y'all finish this game back in the day without guides? The solutions become apparent once you acclimate to the game's routines, but without guides some of the puzzles would take hours of continuous play to stumble on the solutions. It's a punishing game despite the cutesy design.
- I love the depth and breadth of the gameplay: exploring the overworld, solving the the dungeons, increasing complexity by introducing the dark world. You really had to explore every nook and cranny and try out every trick to squeeze out tips and hints - with modern games its a lot of hand holding and extraneous cut scenes.
- The ramping up in difficulty level is excellent - by the time you reach Ganon, the final boss, its a really rewarding feeling to beat the game's final act, feeling assured you couldn't have beat the game without the experience of all those hours you put in.

Finishing LttP, i immediately jumped into Minish Cap (purely based on how it looks) and was pleased that it gave me the same kick - its remarkable that the gap between these two games is practically a decade, yet they didn't have to improve much to update the game. Just goes to show how good LttP was. Minish Cap impressions:

- Oh man, i forget how annoying game guide characters can be. Ezlo adds an integral and fun element to the gameplay (shrinking, floating) but even in text the character's 'voice' is grating.
- This game is so pretty. Too pretty actually, because the game's bright color palette actually cause the game to lose the grittiness suggested in the LttP's more muted colors.
- The whole shrinking gimmick is pretty cool and actually stumped me in some places. I actually prefer the Minish miniature world compared to LttP's dark world.
- There's also a lot more character integration in MC with the whole kinstone fusion thing so it really creates incentive in further exploration, rather than just collecting hints and tips.

I tried out Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, which are native to the DS. I enjoy the story aspect but i think i still prefer Zelda's 2D gameplay to 3D - currently playing Link's Awakening and the Oracle games, i find them more engaging despite the simple graphics.