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!

Nintendo Switch – Called it!

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Rexis here!

The news is in! Have you seen the Nintendo Switch reveal yet? Take a look here.

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And its funny Kotaku should ask this question because… YES! This is exactly what I expected! As a matter of fact, on Feburary 6, 2015 I said “this would be the last generation of strictly handheld systems like the 3DS and Vita.” And look at what has happened! The 3DS has received some adjustments, but nothing new has been slated for a handheld system from Nintendo. All the patents we’ve seen regarding a new handheld were actually for the controller for the new Nintendo Switch. The Console Fusion Era is upon us! Nintendo is merging its console and handheld lines with this new Switch machine hybrid!

Okay. Okay. Enough gloating, I guess. But you can’t blame me for being excited about making an accurate prediction about the future of gaming, can you?

This new and innovative idea looks really cool for your gamer on the go and the system looks like it will be powerful enough to run Skyrim at the very least (isn’t that a five year old game?). So it would seem Nintendo isn’t really embracing a new powerful console, but once again relying on innovation to sell the product. Its worked for them before, but personally, I won’t be buying one.

I have my XBOX One and PC at this point, and I’ve no interest in going further with consoles myself. I’ve said all this before. Of course, I also have a 3DS I never play. So it wouldn’t make sense for me to get something like this. I can certainly understand the appeal, but its not for me. And I have some serious doubts about the scenarios presented in the video. I doubt anyone is having a rooftop party with friends and bringing their Switch to the mix. (I know they are just showcasing the capabilities, but honestly, I just need to see a guy sitting in his game room to relate. Because that’s all I do.)

Other concerns I have involve the battery life (my Wii U gets about 4 hours so its not lasting on any flights) and the comfort of those tiny “joy-cons”. If you’ve recently picked up an NES controller or GBA Micro, you’ll understand. How are you supposed to play first person games with one joystick anyway? (I’m talking about multiplayer here. You wouldn’t be able to tilt the camera or turn in some situation.) A lot remains to be seen in this regard and since full specs haven’t been released yet, people will speculate for the time being.

This leaves me with one other question. What does the console part do? We’ve seen that the system can function fine without it, so what is the purpose of slotting it into the console other than broadcasting it to the TV? This remains to be seen as well. If its only function is to send the video to the TV or upgrade graphics to 4K maybe, then would Nintendo consider selling the Switch sans console?

Seems all eyes are going to be on Nintendo, at least until Microsoft opens up about Project Scorpio a bit more. Like I said, I’m not buying one, but I will certainly be following its story. Nintendo has a history of either blowing people away or letting them down completely, so this console could be a make or break deal for them.

More over, did you see the obvious comparison between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Skyrim? I’ve read articles comparing the two, but I found it interesting that they chose those two games as the demo for the hardware. If this Zelda title was inspired by Skyrim, this could be the best Zelda game yet. Luckily, I’ll have my Wii U to experience it on.

So what do you think? Is this thing going to take off or is it just a glorified tablet with controls attached? Is Zelda going to be amazing or too much of a break from tradition? I’d love to discuss it in the comments.

The Hero Fails

The heart is a faint and fickle thing,

Enlivened by the thought of spring,

Of bugs and birds who chirp and sing.

I sit here and watch the moon.

The hammers bang away all day

Drowning out the words I say

Warning them that its too late.

I sit here and watch the moon.

Inevitable as a man’s Demise,

Death looms over, ever high,

A single tear falls from my eye.

I sit here and watch the moon.

Somewhere distant, children laugh.

It reminds me of my past.

Its true that nothing good can ever last.

I sit here and watch the moon.

They’ve no idea of what’s to come.

The end is nigh, yet, they don’t run.

Soon, it will block the sun.

I sit here and watch the moon.

Our final moments do reveal

Emotions we just can’t conceal.

Our deepest fears are all too real.

I sit here and watch the moon.

There’s no hero, no one will come

To save us from what he has done.

A mask, dark magic, evil’s won.

I sit here… I fear the moon…

~Excerpt from a journal found near Termina Crater

 

 

 

 

 

I Love Zelda Because… – Changing the Fandom

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Rexis here!

Friends, it is time we had a serious discussion. I am outraged by what I’ve been seeing in social media and it has led to disassociating myself with certain Zelda themed pages and publications. I am beginning to question the state of the fandom and, because of it, my own obsession with one of Nintendo’s most beloved and iconic franchises. I will stand for it no longer! Here, in this blog post, I will solidify my resolve. I will stand up and say what we, true fans, should be thinking. I only hope that I can sway a few opinions and help promote a more unified fandom.

I am referring to the constant bombardment of competition between the games we love. I saw a video today from a channel on YouTube that I greatly admire called The Game Theorists. This particular video pits A Link to the Past against Ocarina of Time for an all-out fire fight, with the winner claiming the title of “better Zelda game” (I guess?). This has become the staple argument across social media. Which game is best? Which song is best? Which item is best? Which version of Link is best? I cannot take it anymore!

I am sure I am not alone in this. These arguments scroll across my phone screen so often that I don’t even look at them anymore. Why do we, the fans, insist on fitting ourselves into these little boxes as if to say “If you don’t like my favorite Zelda game, then you aren’t truly a fan.” This animosity toward another person’s opinion drives a wedge between us. Don’t you see that?

These arguments accomplish only one thing, to point out the flaws of the games rather than celebrate the unique differences instilled in every title. I understand that you hate Skyward Sword because of the linear progression and revisiting worlds, but it was so cool to wield the master sword. I know you don’t like Z-targeting, but Ocarina of Time was a beautiful and inspired game. Focusing on the negatives only damages your opinions of the franchise as a whole.

Let this serve as a call to arms for my fellow fans of the green clad hero. Do not take part in these “surveys”, refuse to be a statistic, think before you speak, and above all else, celebrate what was done right instead of focusing on the negatives. Everything in this world can be improved, and Zelda is no different in that regard, but only by focusing on the positives can we influence this great franchise. As an example, fans praised the open world systems of the original title and A Link to the Past and we got A Link Between Worlds as a result. Even the Wii U title is said to be embracing this open world formula.

I love the Zelda franchise above all others. I have my favorites, of course, but I am not going to stand on a soap box and tell you that you are wrong because of yours. I want to hear why you love a particular title, not why you hate one. I want to see your eyes light up when you recall your favorite memory of the game. I want this fandom to be excited about a new release, not angry about the console it’s going to be released on. (Isn’t more Zelda always a good thing?)

We are bound by Zelda. We love it. Now let’s get out there and share what we love. I would challenge everyone here to go to your preferred social media outlet and post “I love Zelda because…” Support each other and share that positivity!

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.

Plugged-in Players – Zelda / Sheik Gender Controversy

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Rexis here!

Hello internet and welcome to… Plugged-in Players. Kudos if you got that reference. Do you remember 1998? Were you alive then? When Ocarina of Time came out, it was something of a “big deal.” Phrases like “most anticipated game of all time” were being thrown around all willy-nilly. And rightfully so. Despite the complaints about Z-targeting and repetitive sword play that permeate today’s reviews, Ocarina was a great game!

One of the most memorable additions to the franchise, in my opinion, was the introduction of Sheik as a character. Throughout the game, you were never sure of his purpose. He would show up, teach you a song, say something wise, and then vanish before Link could approach him. He represented a power we were working to understand and possibly emulate. He was a mentor. He provided encouragement. He showed that Link was not alone in his conquest to save Zelda and Hyrule.

Then the reveal came. Sheik had been Zelda in hiding all along. Apparently, during the seven years Link was unconscious in the Temple of Time, Zelda was training to be totally BA. So how is it that 17 years later the internet could be so obsessed with what Sheik was packing below the belt?

Theorists are as fascinated with Sheik’s crotchial-region as that double-rainbow guy is with that, you know, double rainbow. (Outdated meme reference? So what? It’s MY blog.) So why all the confusion over something as simple as a woman dressing in drag to hide from a deranged demi-god? I’ll bet no one questioned what was under Mulan’s… uh, typical Chinese crotch armor (does it have a name)?

Being the guy that I am, I started the old Google screen and found a few interesting theories as to why people think Sheik is actually male. The first one I want to debunk requires you to understand the term canonical, as in canon, as in an official part of the franchise. Zelda’s magical transformation in Smash Brother’s Brawl is non-canonical. It is not an official part of Sheik lore. The second debunk is the magic issue. In Ocarina of Time, when Sheik reveals his true identity, Link looks away, there’s a flash, and Zelda is standing there. The flash is caused by what looks and sounds like a deku nut. If Link were frozen in place she would have had plenty of time to change her clothes. The last reasoning I will touch on comes from the idea that transformation is common place in the franchise. Link become a bunny, wolf, deku sapling, goron, and zora to name a few, however, in all cases he is still male. So why is it that Zelda’s transformation should come with a sex change? (Sexist gamers lashing out? Women can’t be awesome in games?)

Theories (and sexist agendas) aside, I’d like to think that no one who worked on Sheik’s design was ever worried about her alleged gender swapping ability. Most likely, they were no more concerned about what was beneath the costume than Stan Lee was about the Thing’s… thing. Luckily for us, we no longer have to debate this issue because Nintendo has finally put the sword to it.

“The definitive answer is that Sheik is a woman – simply Zelda in a different outfit.” – Bill Trinen, Nintendo Senior Product Marketing Manager

Keep gaming, keep learning, and stay plugged in.

Game Review – Majora’s Mask 3DS + Nostalgia and Memory

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Rexis here!

Bringing you guys another quick game review with an extra bit tossed in.

So I’ve been playing through Majora’s Mask and having a great time with it. I’m going slowly since it isn’t a huge game and I really don’t want to resign it to the shelf too quickly. MM is easily in my top three favorite games. Not favorite Zelda games, but favorite games ever. I first experienced it in 2000 when it debuted on the N64. I remember having the golden cartridge with the holographic label. I spent a lot of time working through it back then and enjoyed every minute of it, hence my love of the game. Imagine my sheer giddiness when the 3D remake was announced!

I loved what Grezzo was able to do with Ocarina of Time 3D so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed with MM. I picked the game up the day it launched and dove right in. I was flooded with nostalgia almost immediately. I haven’t actually played MM in years so it felt like I was in a familiar place, but it was somehow changed, like when you visit your childhood home and find a new tree in the yard. As I went along, I couldn’t place my finger on the differences between the N64 version and its 3DS counterpart, so I looked it up.

I was disappointed in a lot of the reviews I saw that decried the changes. The biggest issue I saw was that the game is too easy. I had to take a step back and ask “When was MM ever hard?” Then it hit me. Nostalgia is the real problem, not the changes in the game.

In his report, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” Alan Hirsch explains that  nostalgia is “a longing for a sanitized impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory — not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out.” Unfortunately, memory is subjective. Our memories can actually alter over a period of time, and what’s more interesting is the role emotion can play on memory. These things, when combined, influence in ways we don’t even realize.

For example, when you were younger, you played a video game and you loved it. As you grew older, memories of your childhood begin to trigger nostalgia and filter out the negative. We tend to look back at our childhood as one of the best time of our lives (Not everyone of course. I’m personally more nostalgic for my teen years.). Anyway, that video game joins the ranks of your favorite childhood television shows or activities you enjoyed. The emotions you experienced during those activities are the reason those memories are so prominent to you. This is why you may not remember a drive down the road, but you do remember your first kiss. Unfortunately, memories can be altered. People can be influenced to believe things happened, or didn’t. The brain is a strange thing. So now, when you think about that video game, you remember the emotion you felt during that time and you feel nostalgic. You remember your adventure, but forget the parts that challenged you. You remember that the princess is in another castle, but you don’t recall how many times you died getting there. See? We filter out the negative.

Applying this to Majora’s Mask, is the game really easier? It may have taken you a while to overcome the challenges as a child, thus the emotions you connect to the game are of a grander adventure. In reality, you’ve been a gamer for the last 15 years, since the game was originally released, and you’ve gotten much better at gaming. When reviewing a game like MM, a remake of a classic title many people hold dear, I understand the desire to compare it to the original. Is that what we really want though? Do we want a snapshot of our nostalgic view of the N64 version? I don’t. The N64 is dated, really dated. Many of its games didn’t age well and the library of titles worth playing is rather small. So in an effort to review the game effectively, I say review it as a new stand-alone title.

Majora’s Mask is a remarkable adventure where you take on the Hero of Time’s adventure to save Termina from a prank playing skull kid possessed by an evil entity intent on bringing down the moon. The game is solid and fun throughout. The difficulty is what we have come to expect from a Zelda title, not too difficult, but still challenging. It manages to be somewhat easy to play through, but the real fun is in the puzzle solving and side questing. Utilizing the Bomber’s Notebook, the NPC’s daily activities are recorded so the player can easily keep track of all events. It can feel a bit tedious as the primary play mechanic relies on traveling back in time before the moon can destroy Termina. You may find yourself short on time and repeating the same area, but I believe that is the fun of the game. In the early age of video games, you had to learn sequences to pass certain areas and MM is no different in this regard. The music is nothing short of incredible. The sound effects are familiar without going over the top. The gameplay really shines as it incorporates masks and even allows the player to transform into three different races familiar to Zelda canon.  And it accomplishes all of this without the Master Sword or Zelda (except for a small cameo appearance).

Majora’s Mask is a great game and a stellar title for the 3DS, but I believe the 3D truly brings the game to life, especially if played on the new 3DS with face tracking technology. It is insanely satisfying to use the bow so accurately in 3D. (In the past, you’d have to turn off the 3D because tilting the system would cause it to go out of focus.) Changes or not, if you are a fan of Zelda, this is a title for you. Don’t let your nostalgia get the better of you and try to enjoy this game for what it is now rather than what it was back then. Can you imagine if we held a game like Elite Dangerous to the standards set by Asteroids? Seriously, go make some new memories in Termina!