Rex’s Top Five Zelda Games of All Time

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Rexis here!

How sick am I of social media outlets pushing this topic on me and asking me to vote for my favorite Zelda game?! Sick enough to clarify it on my own blog, that is! Seriously, how many deciding votes do me need to finally declare OoT and/or ALttP the overall winner? These are always the two that come out on top and I think it has a lot to do with the years they were released. More on that later perhaps. For now, let’s jump right into this.

5 Ocarina of Time

That’s right! Sitting at the number five spot on my list is the game that brought link into the 3D world for the first time. I vividly remember buying the gold edition of this game the day it released and saying goodbye to what little social life I had when I was 14. I was lost in a massive (for its time) Hyrule full of new dangers and puzzles. I was a Zelda fan already, but I was blown away by this game. This is the game that solidified my love for the franchise. (A love built on entry 1 – you’ll see. Don’t skip ahead.)

4  A Link Between Worlds

I feel like this game may have slipped under a lot of people’s radars and its really a shame. I enjoyed the ever loving crap out of this one. It broke from Zelda tradition by incorporating an item/weapon rental system and allowed you to complete the dungeons in any order, harkening back to the first Zelda title on NES. This would prove to be a test for the upcoming Breath of the Wild. People don’t want linearity in their adventure games, and while I’ve had no problem with it in the past, this title proves Zelda can be versatile.

3 Windwaker

If you know anything about me at all, and I would think some of my regular readers do, I love me some pirates. Anything and everything pirate related (looking at you Black Flag <3) so Windwaker immediately gets points for having them. When it first came out, I picked it up as I do with most Zelda games, but I wasn’t fond of the cell shading. As the years have gone by I have fallen in love with the style. Not to mention I always find something new in this one whenever I play through it because I’ve never reached 100% on a single play through.

2 Twilight Princess

This game was a sleeper hit for me. I know I’ve played it before, but I picked it up on HD for the Wolf Link Amiibo. How could I not? If I can get a wolf pet in Breath of the Wild, shut up and take my money. Playing through it now, I realize how much I LOVE this game. It is my absolute favorite of the console titles and 3D titles for good reason. Not to mention Zelda is so awesome in this game. If you haven’t played this one, for whatever reason, do it!

1 Link’s Awakening

You read that right. This little gem originally released for Game Boy is my all-time, hand down, no regrets, favorite Zelda game. And it doesn’t even have Zelda in it! I used to play a lot of Game Boy. A lot. So much. And it was usually this game. I know it like the back of my hand. Then they released it in color and it got better. Currently, I play it on my 3DS from time to time. Its the only Zelda title I can just sit and play through without feeling like it repetitive. I never get tired of it.

So that’s it. My top five Zelda games. Now shut up social media sites. I will not vote again!

Game Review – Ori and the Blind Forest + Side Scrolling Zelda?

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Rexis here!

Miyazaki. Rayman. Metroid. The Iron Giant. The Lion King. What do these big names have in common? Let’s find out!

Those of you who follow my blog will remember that I have recently acquired an XBOX One (I did a whole post about it! Get with it, man!). One particular title I was totally amped to play was Ori and the Blind Forest. Yes. That is the answer to the previous question. The game was inspired by all of those things above and if the amazing reception and numerous awards don’t convince you to try this game, perhaps my little piece of the inter-netro-sphere will.

I initially saw the intro to the game on a YouTube video and knew immediately that I had to have it. The first ten minutes of the game (much like the first ten minutes of J. J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie) sucked me in and pulled at my heartstrings immediately tying me to Ori, the main character, and from then on I just had to see Ori through his journey. There is no simpler way to say it. When I play a game, I like to feel an emotional attachment to the main character to some extent. This game delivers it in spades.

For a 2D side scrolling platformer, you normally don’t expect much. This is a mindset brought on by the early years of gaming. With the birth of the Nintendo 64, side scrollers fell to the wayside and three dimensional worlds became the rage. Sure, there were a few attempts at side scrollers that live on in the pop culture memory of the gaming days of yore (looking at you Nights Into Dreams), but for the most part, side scrollers were scrapped. Once FPS really hit the scene, these types of old school genres were relegated to the back shelf of the rental store (those used to be a thing!).

The atmosphere, the sounds, the music, the whimsy, and all the things in Ori just add up to a completely immersive world! The technology of the eighth generation of consoles allows for a more organic feel. The background and foreground are dynamic. The moving shadows in the foreground made me feel like I was watching Ori through some foliage, but never obstructed my view. Coupled with some of the tightest controls in recent memory, I found very little to complain about.

Ori also seems to take a page out of Mega Man X’s method of teaching the player before challenging them. What I mean by this is that the game will show you the obstacle before challenging you to overcome it. This type of game design prevents cheap deaths like hidden spikes or unexpected pitfalls. The game tallies your death count. Mine was somewhere around 250 before I finished the game with eight and half hours on the clock. Every one of those deaths were entirely my own fault. I never, never, never, not even once found a way to blame the game for my short comings. It fairly presented me with obstacles and the time needed to react and overcome them. If I missed my mark, it was my own skills that hindered me. This echoes Tetris. If you can’t do it, it’s your own fault. In a similar fashion to Tetris, the difficulty does ramp up as the game goes on, but it feels so natural that you barely even notice it.

As challenging as the game was, I often found my most difficult adversary was saving. It has an active save system. If you die, you go back to the last point you decided to save at. Saving can be done on the fly, which is intensely helpful, but don’t forget to press that button after accomplishing something. This might sound like a pain because most games feature auto save, Rayman being one of them. Ori is unforgiving in this regard and for good reason! It makes death matter! In an age where dying and respawning nearby has become the norm, we don’t even consider death an issue.  Games offer no challenge when death is not a punishment. I’ve played Lego games with my kids and it simply doesn’t matter if you die. You simply respawn and continue plugging away. There is little reward for becoming skilled.

As I was playing through the game, I noticed quite a few similarities between it and Metroid. It’s an interesting term I’ve only recently learned, actually. This type of game has its own genre now called Metroidvania (because Metroid and Castlevania). It features a large map with interconnected areas that can only be accessed at certain points. Power ups are placed throughout the world and you must backtrack to obtain what you couldn’t on your first pass through. Ori takes an extra step over Metroid and adds a level up system as well. You can unlock abilities that will enhance your power ups. It just feels so very thought out and well done.

My final verdict on this game: YOU MUST PLAY IT! Seriously, do not miss this game! If you are appreciative of good game design, a good story, an immersive world, lovable characters, fantastically written villain motivation, and whimsy then this game is for you. If you are an old school Metroid fan, this is a spiritual successor. If you enjoy Rayman’s platforming, you will find similar mechanics here. If you are nostalgic for side scrollers, but don’t want to deal with dated graphics and clunky controls, try this out.

As I finished Ori, I came to yet another realization. This type of gameplay is EXTREMELY well suited to a side scrolling Zelda. I don’t want to spoil anything in Ori, so I will simply say that everything Ori learns, each ability, can be duplicated by Link. I can see it in my head and I only wish I had the artistic ability to show it to you.

The Legend of Zelda has had a rough time in regards to side scrollers. In fact, there are only three of them. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Wand of Gamelon, and Faces of Evil, the latter two being two of three (terrible, terrible, I wouldn’t normally mention them) CD-i releases. There are proponents of Zelda II out there who would say it is the best Zelda game for whatever reason and I can’t argue against someone’s opinion, but my thoughts on the title are not favorable. I have it on my 3DS and I find it simply unplayable.

There are only two other instances of Link performing in a 2D world, Soul Calibur 2 on GameCube and the Smash Bros. franchise. During your play through of Ori, keep the Smash Bros. version of Link in mind, remember his arsenal of weapons and how they could apply in the 2D landscape, then I think you’ll understand what I mean.

The only thing left to really discuss is whether or not a new side scrolling Zelda would sell. You can find a number of threads out there with people detailing their complaints about such an idea, but still, there seem to be more people who support the idea so long as the series doesn’t go that way completely, which it wouldn’t. I, for one, would buy it.

I know I say it a lot, but it really has been an interesting time for games. Spiritual successors are popping up everywhere like Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee. Side scrollers are coming into their own again with Rayman, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Shovel Knight. It’s not unrealistic to think a platforming, side scrolling Zelda could become a thing. What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you like Ori? Are you going to try it after reading this (Its only 20 bucks)? Would you like to see Zelda in this style? Let me know in the comments!

And you stay classy, gamers.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Capcom

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Rexis here!

Zelda. What can I say that hasn’t been said? This franchise is one of my favorites and has stood the test of time. It’s proved Miyamoto’s genius time and again and it’s given me hundreds of fun filled hours of exploring and puzzle solving. With so many games, 31 different Zelda titles if you include all the spin offs, there are a few that stand out: Minish Cap and the Oracle of Ages/Seasons.

A little company who gave us the blue bomber (Mega Man for those not in the “know”) was responsible for these titles. That’s right, I’m talking about Capcom (as if the title didn’t give that away).

Link’s Awakening stands tall as one of my favorite Game Boy games of all time. So what do you get when you use the art from Link’s Awakening, add color, add so much story it expands the game across two cartridges, and connect the games to one another using passwords? You get hired to produce another title. Oracle was so good; Capcom was licensed to make a game for the GBA. Keep in mind that Nintendo is not keen on letting other companies use their characters.

All three of these games were high scorers with critics and they still land pretty high on “best games” lists for their respective systems. That’s saying a lot for a company that has been receiving a lot of negative attention in recent years.

So what gives? Why isn’t Capcom still making Zelda titles? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Hidemaro Fujibayashi who worked on Oracle, Four Swords, and Minish Cap, then became a Nintendo employee, wrote Phantom Hourglass and directed Skyward Sword. Apparently, Nintendo saw something in this guy that they liked. I think it’s entirely possible that he is the reason these games were so good. Nintendo saw that and brought him on board. We don’t know much about Zelda for Wii U yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy’s name popped up in the credits.

My first thought was that Nintedo probably brought over a number of employees from Capcom, but after pouring over the credits of these Zelda titles, I’m not seeing any similarities. I did find that quite a few employees left Capcom and, in some cases, started their own gaming companies. Unfortunately, Wikipedia doesn’t have profiles for all of these designers.

It seems that with Hidemaro Fujibayashi on the Nintendo staff, there is no reason to license Zelda to Capcom. Can you imagine how that must feel for him? A man who started his career designing layouts for haunted attractions goes into game design. Then, with two Japanese only titles and a Tetris game under his belt, goes on to design for a franchise we know and love. It’s a dream come true.

If you haven’t played Oracle or Minish Cap, there is no time like the present. I have all three on my 3DS (as well as in original form) and just finished them last year. They are fantastic little games that take a detour from the usual. The ability to change the seasons or time in Oracle really makes you think about how you are traversing the over world. The ability to shrink in Minish Cap adds a kind of charm and interesting story elements. Go play them!

Another interesting aspect that was added to the Zelda universe, I believe, came from the Oracle titles. These were the first games to add in a gimmick for over world travel. Typically, you run from point A to B and use the item from the previous dungeon to move into the next, but Oracle changed the standard. A Link to the Past had the magic mirror that allowed you to travel into the dark world, but you didn’t acquire it until late in the game. The rod of seasons and harp of ages were required to progress throughout most of the game. This carried on into Minish Cap with the shrinking ability, Twilight Princess in becoming a wolf, and even as recently as A Link Between Worlds with the wall paintings.

I believe it is entirely possible that the magic mirror may have influenced Fujibayashi and, since he was director, planner, and scenario writer for the Oracle games, he could have made over world traversing options a staple in the series. He is well known in the Zelda community, but I wonder if anyone else has made this connection. He may have, literally, changed the landscape of Zelda games. Just something to think about.