The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess

81c9da0f-07e4-45fd-a7b2-e7a98b77c1a1_1-e14cbcb4ecd1f43c9b74f04410c4d2c6Date Completed : October 24, 2016

I had been thinking about re-playing Twilight Princess and then BOOM! HD remake!  What wonderful timing!  I think Nintendo has implanted some sort of eavesdropping device in my brain so they can always provide me with what I want, when I want it.  Either that or they’re really good at marketing.

 

The original Twilight Princess came out in 2006 with the launch of the Wii console.  My girlfriend at the time (soon to be wife) tried to buy me a copy of the game and the gentleman at Toys R Us said “We’re all sold out”.  “WHAT?” I said.  “Software never sells out.  Hardware is hard to come by but pressing discs is easy!  How can you run out?”  In the end it didn’t matter, as Nintendo isn’t the kind of company to leave money on the table.  They printed more discs, I got a copy.  The world carried on.

My first play through of Twilight Princess was right after I was married but before we had kids.  I have fond memories of that time.  Many fond memories of sleeping in past 5:30.  Not wiping jelly off my game controllers.  Having time to play.  Perhaps that’s why I look back on this game so fondly.

Twilight Princess is kind of an odd duck.  It has all of the qualities that you’d expect to be present (more realistic graphics, mature story) in the greatest Zelda game of all time, yet somehow it fails to live up to the standard set by Ocarina of Time.  I suppose this game is the proof that we don’t always want what we ask for.  Not that it’s a bad game.  Even an average Zelda game is generally far better than anything else available.  Just in the grand scheme of ranking Zelda games Twilight Princess isn’t in my top 5.

My two boys love Zelda games ( I have taught them well ) so I wanted to make sure to play the game when they could watch.  This policy made it hard to find time to play.  I ended up moving the Wii U to the family room from the bonus room upstairs because I thought it would be more convenient.  It took a lot longer than my first time through the game but I finally finished up in time for the holidays.

So we have come full circle.  My marriage began with Twilight Princess, and now it has brought us closer together as a family.  Even my two-year-old daughter got to enjoy the game this time around (She especially enjoyed Link riding Epona and helping me tap Amiibo figures ).  I’d say that’s money well spent.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~40 hours
  • System: Nintendo Wii U
  • Genre: Action / Adventure

Triforce Heroes

91zvmp3i6l-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed: December 8th, 2016

Zelda games have never let me down.  Even the bad ones are usually pretty good so there was a pretty good chance that I’d eventually be buying a copy of The Legend of Zelda : TriForce Heroes.  I probably would have pre-ordered the game and had it for launch except for the fact that I saw the story trailer on YouTube.  After seeing that…I suspected that the Nintendo devs had lost their minds and I wasn’t sure I wanted to have anything to do with it.

The story of the game follows a princess who (I kid you not) has been cursed to wear an unattractive unitard.  It is your goal to steal articles of clothing from a witch so that you can dress up in drag and un-curse the princess.  The main game mechanic involves you changing your clothes to gain new powers.  I have no idea why they chose to green-light this mechanic.  I can only imagine in horror any ideas that didn’t make the cut.

Goofy premise aside the game is pretty fun.  It can be played single player but it is meant to be multi-player.  In a somewhat unusual twist it can only be played by exactly one or three players.  This game is download play enabled so you only need a single cartridge to start a multiplayer game.  I started the game on my own but ended up playing most of it with my two sons (who both received 2DS consoles in the last year).

The first several missions were easy and I was able to carry my sons on to victory.  Later missions require some teamwork that my younger son ( who was 5 at the time ) wasn’t ready for.  My older boy would get frustrated and yell at his brother, which led to much crying and shouting.  I sure love family bonding time.

My older son got really into the game and purchased his own copy of the game with his saved up allowance money.  He played the game almost constantly, often while crying with frustration because some part of the game was too hard.  He’d beg me to help him but I always refused instead informing him that he’d never get any better if someone else played the game for him.  Tough love seems to have worked.  He has now surpassed my level of completion with the game, has beaten all of the bonus levels and is only missing one outfit.

Due to the crying, whining and fighting my wife was less than thrilled with me for bringing this game into the household.  We had to confiscate 2DS’s multiple times because the kids were getting frustrated or refusing to sleep.  All in all I think this is a pretty strong endorsement for the game.  It’s a little inconvenient that it requires three consoles to play multiplayer but if you have the equipment it’s worth the price of entry (That’s what she said?)

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 6/10
  • Length:  ~10 hours
  • System: Nintendo 2DS / 3DS
  • Genre: Action / Adventure

 

The Legend of Zelda : Oracle of the Ages

Date Completed : September 5th, 2015

I promised in my The Legend of Zelda : Oracle of Seasons (OoS) review that I’d be playing through the Oracle of Ages soon…and I was wrong.  It took nearly two years for me to finally get through it.  Why you ask?  I made it about 3/4 of the way through the game and came upon a particularly involved side-quest that was required to enter a dungeon.  I took a short break from the game and when I couldn’t remember any of the details about where I was or what I was doing.  I waited for two years in case my memory came back to me but I finally resorted to using a walkthrough off the Internet and finished the game.

The Oracle of Ages and The Oracle of Seasons were meant to be played together, as a way of tricking poor college students into buying two games instead of one.  The joke is on them though! Now I own two copies of EACH!  The main difference between the games is that Oracle of Seasons uses a season changing mechanic and Oracle of Ages uses a time travel mechanic.  When I originally played these games I thought Oracle of Ages was the slightly better game but this time though I think I slightly preferred Seasons.  This is probably due to the fact that I got burned out partway through Ages and took a two year hiatus.

OotA follows Link’s adventures through the land of Labrynna to save Nayru (The Oracle of the Ages) from the evil sorceress Veran.  If you happen to have started the game with the password given after beating The Oracle of the Seasons then periodically characters in Ages will give you a password that you can enter in your game in Seasons for some reward.  There is also a bonus mission at the end of the game that is not otherwise accessible.

Nayru_(Oracle_of_Ages)

Nayru – The Oracle of the Ages

I really liked how the two games were able to interoperate with each other.  Characters that you met in one game would be able to remember you in the second, and passwords could be used to exchange items back and forth.  The password system was the best option we had at the time for enabling this, but with the technology of today this could be implemented much more seamlessly.  I hope Nintendo considers doing something like this again.

Pros

  • Password System
  • Memorable Characters

Cons

  • Only two buttons for items.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  8 hours
System: 3DS (Virtual Console)
Genre: Action / Adventure

Trine 2

Trine-2-Complete-Story-LogoDate Completed : June 23, 2015

Today I will tell you a tale.  A tale of a time, long ago when I saw the first screenshots of Trine, and the obvious beauty of the game encouraged me to purchase it.  It was clear to me that this game would offer a superior experience on a console but a series of circumstances lead me to purchase it for the PC.  What sort of circumstances you ask?  I became addicted to the price savings offered by the Humble Bundles, and in 2011 they offered the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle, which included Trine 1.  I tried playing Trine on the PC, and it was certainly beautiful but it pushed my laptop a bit too hard and it became uncomfortably hot and overheated my nether regions.  They keyboard controls were also as poor as I expected.  I was able to make it a few levels in but I never gave the game a fair chance.

The years rolled by and I didn’t give Trine another thought until one day I heard that Trine 2 had not only been released, but it was being made available FOR FREE to Playstation Plus subscribers.  FREE! (With paid subscription) is one of my favorite price points so I immediately downloaded and tried the game out.  Then I didn’t play it for three months.

Trine_2_2011_Oct_001_720p

My daughter was born in August 2014 and when up late, or early, or both with her I’d set her into the crook on my left arm and sometimes I’d play some Trine, but usually I’d watch Star Trek : TNG on Netflix because I didn’t have the mental energy to engage in a video game.  I’ll be honest too – I wasn’t enjoying Trine that much.  It is beautiful, challenging, interesting and unique but it is too slow.  It may be the Mario player in me, but I wanted to be able to run faster, jump higher, but Trine is a puzzle game first and an action game second.

The puzzles in Trine require either thought, or brute force.  It’s not like other games where there is one correct answer, there may be many possible ways to get up to the next ledge.  Some of them require skill, others require patience but all require you to stop running and start thinking.  Levels generally took me 20-40 minutes to complete and I was never sure if I could save mid-level.  I couldn’t find a save option – I assumed the game had an auto-save feature.  Sometimes after reloading I would start at a checkpoint and other times I had to start a level over.  It was slow going for me.  I played a few levels a month and I monitored the list of Trophies to gauge my progress but I never seemed to be any closer to finishing the game.Trine_2_Complete_Story_Sandworm_720p

Then Sony bequeathed unto PS4 owners a glorious update.  The ability to suspend a game in the middle of a level and resume later without losing any progress was added to the system, and the people rejoiced.  Without concern of losing my progress through a level I began to play Trine 2 in smaller, bite sized sessions.  With the mighty sword of suspend, and the shield of resume I was able to conquer my foe and Trine 2 lies dead in the graveyard of my blog.

Trine 2 isn’t especially graphic but I tried to limit my kids to only watching the puzzle portions of the game and kicked them out when I was involved in goblin hacking.  Sometimes I’d get through a puzzle only to be thrown into a battle and forget to kick the kids out but they never seemed overly traumatized (I’m pretty sure my 4-year-old’s night terrors were unrelated).  They seem to be able to grasp that it’s only a game and most of the action on my 24″ monitor is too small to make out much detail anyway.Trine2CompleteStory_Wyvern_Screenshot_02

I discovered accidentally that Trine 2 is one of the few PS4 titles to support 3D, and as the world’s only fan of 3D I took the opportunity to play in 3D as much as possible.  The game looks absolutely amazing-er in 3D, although since it is a 2D side scroller 3D mode doesn’t accomplish much other than emphasize the distance between the graphics layers.

Suspend mode was the feature that really made it possible for me to enjoy Trine 2.  I had tried playing using remote play from my Vita (which worked well) but Trine makes full use of the controller and the Vita’s emulation of the extra shoulder buttons is…not fantastic.  After I got into the game I had a lot of fun playing it and I’m considering going back to that overheating laptop to give Trine 1 another shot, especially since I have three kids now and I don’t need my nethers anymore.

Pros

  • Stunningly Beautiful Artwork.

Cons

  • Can be a bit slow going.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 8/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action

The Legend of Zelda : Majora’s Mask 3DS

91MEVIjA-UL._SL1500_Date Completed: March 15th, 2015

When Majora’s Mask originally came out I felt like I was the only person in the world who actually liked the game.  In Majora’s Mask you have 72-hours to beat the game or the Moon crashes into the planet killing everyone.  Fortunately for you, you can use the Ocarina of Time to travel back to the beginning of the 72-hour period and start over. My good friend hated the feeling of being rushed through the game, but he totally missed the point.  Using a 72-hour timeline for the game makes it possible to script the actions of each person in the game beyond what is possible in other games.  Instead of characters who blandly say the same thing every time you talk to them, characters in Majora’s Mask move around town, say different things at different times, and interact with each other.  Most interestingly you can interact with individuals and change how the future unfolds.  Memorizing characters’ schedules can feel overwhelming at first but once you get to know the people in the game it makes the game feel alive.

Majora’s Mask 3D isn’t just a remake of the original game, it’s an upgrade.  The Graphics have been improved and several other changes have been implemented to improve the game from it’s original release.  This is in direct contrast to a Square-Enix ‘HD Remaster’, which generally is exactly like the original, except rendered in a higher resolution.  It had been long enough since I played the original that I didn’t notice most of the changes, but the graphical upgrade is quite noticeable and welcome (The old version had Link looking a bit jaundiced).

Majora’s Mask 3D released the same day as the ‘New’ Nintendo 3DS, which is different than the Nintendo 3DS.  The ‘New’ Nintendo 3DS came in three variants – Red, Black and MAJORA’S MASK GOLD.  I had been interested in owning a limited edition 3DS model for awhile – especially a Zelda themed one.  I had nearly purchased the ‘Link Between Worlds‘ variant of the 3DS XL several times, even though I already owned a 3DS XL, and my wife might have killed me.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself this time – this console was an actual hardware upgrade AND Zelda themed.  I began an epic quest to get one.

Immediately after the Nintendo Direct that announced the US launch of the new 3DS, I went straight to Best Buy’s website and pre-ordered one.  I was quick enough and managed to get one and I was secure in my knowledge that I would finally have a limited edition 3DS.  Fast forward a few weeks and my credit card was re-issued because it was part of a breach somewhere (Home Depot, Target, who knows).  I tried to change my pre-order to the new card through Best Buy’s website but the site didn’t have the functionality to change payment information.  I didn’t want to lose my pre-order because of some technical glitch so I called customer service and they were able to switch my payment over to a different card.  No problems.  OR SO I THOUGHT.  About an hour after I made the call I received an email that my order had been cancelled.  I naturally called Best Buy back but they said they couldn’t restore cancelled orders and that I needed to re-order the item.  I explained that was impossible and asked to be transferred to a manager so they hung up on me.  I am now Boycotting Best Buy, and I hope you will join with me.  That store sucks.

Don't Shop Best Buy

Friends don’t let friends shop at Best Buy

 

Launch day rolled along and I still hadn’t managed to find the Gold 3DS available for pre-order anywhere else.  I figured my best shot would be to head to Target at opening time (8:00 AM) and take my chances.  I drove to Target early and I ended up being 7th in a line of about a dozen people.  We all rushed to the electronics desk at opening and they only had two Majora’s Mask consoles, both of which were snatched up by the first two guys in line.  Lamentations.

I wandered aimlessly around Target, cried a little bit and did some shopping for Valentine’s day which was the next day.  It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt as I wandered around Target – emotions of desolation and despair.  It’s also impossible to describe the emotion I felt when I heard my phone chime indicating that I had a text message.

You see, knowing that stock would be limited I asked a colleague if he wouldn’t mind heading over to the OTHER Target store, just in case it had a shorter line.  AND IT DID.  My friend had managed to get the very last one at the OTHER Target, and he was driving to my side of town to arrange a trade.  We’d made a deal that if I was able to get my hands on the Majora’s Mask 3DS I’d sell him my old 3DS XL for a fraction of the eBay value.  I didn’t truly believe in it until he arrived, but when he did he handed me the glorious golden box and my story comes to a very happy ending.

Majora's Mask New 3DS

It’s even more glorious in person!!

 

There was another Limited Edition item that came out at the same time as the 3DS – The game itself had a limited edition version that came with a Skull Kid Statue.  This didn’t cause as much trouble for me to order – Amazon had pre-orders up for months in advance and I ordered early on.  The statue looks great sitting next to my limited edition Gannondorf from Wind Waker.  🙂

Gannon and Skull Kid

These guys look lonely. It might be a good time for an HD remake of The Minish Cap.

I’ve since learned that the gentleman who was standing behind me in line at Target that morning was also able to get his hands on a Majora’s Mask 3DS (I bumped into him at Toys R Us while we were both trying to pre-order Amiibos…another Nintendo related problem) although he had to purchase his as part of one of GameStop’s ‘Premium’ bundles.  Everything has worked out in the end and I look forward to many happy hours of gaming on my new Majora’s Mask 3DS.

Pros

  • Upgraded version of one of the greatest games ever.

Cons

  • No Streetpass, if you care about that kind of thing.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action / Adventure

Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch

us_41-2Date Completed: Jan. 16th, 2015

Ni No Kuni wasn’t something I’d seen advertised heavily but it kept popping up as a suggested product for me on Amazon.  It looked interesting to me but I long ago realized that if I bought every game I had a passing interest in my wife would kill me and make it look like an accident (Not out of anger – out of necessity.  She’d need the insurance money to pay off my gaming debt and cover the mortgage).  Lucky for me some friends across town ended up buying it and when they were done they loaned me their copy of the game.  Having just finished FOUR SWORDS it made the perfect time to give it a try.  I put the game in, set my boys down and we watched the opening cinematic.  Both of my boys stared unblinkingly at the screen with their jaws hanging open.

When I was in middle school my good friend Bryce called me up to brag about how great Prince of Persia looked on his Moms’ brand new Macintosh computer.  He claimed that it was exactly like playing a cartoon.  I must admit, it did look light years better than anything I’d seen on my NES up to that point but unless you squinted and played the game from the other side of the room it fell quite short of being a playable cartoon.  Several other games have adopted a cartoon  graphical style over the years but Ni No Kuni is the new standard to which cartoon themed video games will be held to.  All of the animation is hand drawn by Studio Ghibli and playing the game feels a lot like watching a Studio Ghibli film.  We recently re-watched Kiki’s Delivery Service and at first my boys thought I was playing Ni No Kuni again.

99_ni_no_kuni_wrath_of_the_white_witch_screenshot_01

Cartoon Cut-Scene

The game follows the tale of Oliver, a young wizard who journeys to a parallel world full of creatures called ‘Familiars’.  They might as well have called them ‘Pokemon’.  Familiars can be captured, leveled up, metamorphed into new more powerful forms and used in battle, exactly like in a Pokemon game.  Familiars have types and affinities and elemental strengths and weaknesses but I didn’t find these to factor much into game play.  I mostly kept my starter familiars and bludgeoned my way through the game with them.  Not that I didn’t want to change my familiars out.  My boys had named each familiar as we caught it (our first familiar was named Grandpa) and they got upset when I tried to remove Grandpa from our party.

99_ni_no_kuni_wrath_of_the_white_witch_screenshot_04

Oliver with a Familiar

Combat gives you the illusion that you can run around the battlefield and accomplish things but it is all a clever lie.  Orders are issued via a command menu and where you are positioned on the battlefield doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot.  I didn’t find dodging to be particularly effective (except on certain bosses) and my attacks generally hit who I targeted no matter where I was standing when I issued the order. My normal strategy was to walk into combat, and mash the X button until all my foes had been defeated.  I even let my kids and wife try a few times.  As long as I wasn’t severely under leveled for an area this strategy worked nearly flawlessly.

I found the menu system to be hopelessly un-intuitive.  Pressing square or triangle when out in the world map opened up two different menus – one to use magic and save, and another to access a separate grid of menu options.  I don’t know why it is so hard for me to remember but I still can’t remember which button did what.  I was always pressing the wrong button when all I wanted to do was save my game.  Once you get into the menus there is further complication – familiars need to be equipped with weapons, armor and skills as well as fed treats and metamorphosed.  All of these features were buried in different sub-menus that I found navigation through to be very difficult.  I mostly tried to avoid using the menus as much as possible.

The game didn’t feel like a cohesive experience to me.  It felt like every different aspect of the game was designed by different teams and then stuck together with bubblegum and chopsticks.  The game was so easy to beat that I didn’t feel like I was playing it – it was more like the game played itself.  All I did was fill the role of brain-dead monkey pressing X button.  Mash X, watch a story sequence, mash X, beat the game.  The kids LOVED the game, and the brain-dead monkey inside me enjoyed it too but only because I was treated with beautiful cut-scenes every few minutes.  If this game had been a Studio Ghibli movie, I’d give it a solid three thumbs up.  If you removed the cut-scenes and slapped some ugly paint on it Ni No Kuni would probably not have be a game I played through to the end.

Pros

  • Studio Ghibli Animation!

Cons

  • Didn’t feel like a cohesive experience overall.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Adv / RPG

Skylander’s Trap Team

TTBoxArtDate Completed : Feb. 11, 2015

This will be my first post for a game I didn’t play myself.  When I purchased Skylanders Swap Force my my boys I assumed I’d be playing it and they’d be swapping the characters out but it turned out that on easy mode my 5-year-old was capable of playing on his own.  In fact, he loved Skylander Swap Force so much that when he heard about Trap Team he started saving up his own money.  On launch day we drove over to Toys R Us and he paid for it himself with cash (including lots of loose change) that he had accumulated through chores.

He played Trap Team almost entirely on his own.  The only parts of the game he had trouble with were some of the jumping parts, and the boss fights.  Boss fights could be tricky because it wasn’t always apparent how to damage the boss, and sometimes his go-to strategy of walk in circles mashing attack button of choice was inadequate.

The new ‘Trap Master’ figures look awesome, but the Traptanium plastic is brittle and breaks easily.  I’ve used more superglue on Trap Team figures than on the previous three generations of Skylander figures combined.  We have a new shelf for Skylander figures put next to the TV now so there is a safer storage location between games.

I asked my son for his official review of Trap Team so without further ado here is the transcript of his in-depth interview (May contain spoilers)

Me: “What did you think of Trap Team?”

Henry: “You helped to beat Kaos.”

Me: “Is there anything you liked about the game?”

Henry: “Wildfire has stronger lasers now.”

Me: “Is there anything you didn’t like about the game?

Henry: “I didn’t like the cheese that turned Kaos into a genie.