The title is like that because I'm going to write at least two of these posts where I talk about my hatred toward games that other people like. (Knowing me there could be even more of these coming, but no promises) First on the operating table is the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, for GameCube. I know that not everyone loves it, but it has some really praising reviews on the Internet and the friend I borrowed it from said that it's his favorite Zelda title. (I don't respect his opinions on games anymore.)
For you inpatient people out there, the short version of this post. I dislike Wind Waker and it's easily the worst Zelda game I have played. It's not all horrible though, not at all and I will mention the good points, but I also will tell why the bad weights so much more than good.
I think that I remember back in the day some people criticizing the graphical style of the game. The small round headed cartoony Link and his colorful surroundings. Well that is not one of the things I'm dissing here. Quite the opposite, I really love the style of this game. The graphics have aged a bit, but I'd still say that Wind Waker looks great. The character designs are just awesome, especially Ganondorf. I just loved what they did with Ganondorf at this game he was simply great in this iteration. Big intimidating figure who sprouted cool dialogue and still was as cartoony as everything else. Yup, Wind Waker was one fine looking game.
One of the best things in the game. Ganondorf.
The game also has some good writing carrying the plot. I like it how the usually very blank mute protagonist Link has quite a lot of characterization in this one. He might be mute, but he has an expressive face that usually tells more about his feelings than any words could. The beginning of Wind Waker is a quite a nice story of little boy who is forced to leave his small safe surroundings and face the big world. The ocean filled worldmap really works for that (too bad it doesn't work for gameplay as well).
So gameplay then. It is a big word that means lots of things. At least I have to admit the basics are put in place well in Wind Waker. Controlling Link as he walks and rolls around and occasionally fights is easy and enjoyable. I really liked the dodge-counterattack move that was added to Wind Waker. It has nice little risk – reward thing going on there, when you wait for enemy to attack to make your counterattack, but time it wrong and get hit in the head. Only thing on controls that doesn't receive praise from me is the targeting. Sometimes while fighting a bunch of enemies of a tight spot getting the right one on lock-on was harder than it should have been. Also although I will be bitching about the sailing later the actual controls of the boat, sailing around, worked quite well.
Now before you all forgot that I'm here to bitch about Wind Waker let's talk about that sailing. The world of Wind Waker is big and it feels big and it takes time to get anywhere as a big worlds tends to do. I appreciate how the sailing makes the world seem big and the adventure epic, but after a while when you have seen the sea already sailing becomes a boring chore. Even epic big things are epic only for a while, after that they are just big. When moving from an island A to an island B there might be some enemy encounters or treasures on the way, but it's not enough to make sailing interesting, especially when best way of dealing with enemies while on sea is running (or sailing) away. Also the need to chance the direction of the wind now and then can get quite annoying. Even when, on its own, it is pretty small thing, short waiving of the wand and short animation of Link going “WTF wind changed direction” it doesn't take long, but when you do it again and again while playing the game that little bit of time gets multiplied by hundreds. The game could have had some kind of sail upgrade that lets you sail anywhere full speed no matter the wind. So now that we have established that I have short attention span and I can't stand things that even seem boring let's talk about something else.
You will be doing this until you get bored of it and then more
What about the dungeons. Dungeons (or castles or temples) have always been an important piece of any Zelda game. Stereotypical Zelda game in the nutshell is collection of dungeons spread over the map of overworld. That said, I find the lack of dungeons disturbing in Wind Waker. Yes there are dungeons and they are variable in quality, but there should and could have been even more even better. But dungeons weren't really the problem in Wind Waker, but what we got after them was.
Imagine this, you are playing a game, eager to get to the end of it, to see the ending to the epic adventure you have played. Then when you have finally finished the final dungeon before the lair of final boss game goes. “Oh yea, remember that you have to find all the pieces of the Triforce first. For that you have to do tedious, boring sailing around the world looking for every corner of the map for hours and hours.” That is somewhat the feeling I got, but instead of the game telling me that finding the Triforce pieces are tedious and boring and time taking job I had to find it out the hard way, by doing it and getting bored.
First there was the finding of the charts that tell where the triforce pieces are. That on its own took forever and at some point I gave up and started using walkthrough. Then after I had found every chart I got the chart that would have told me where those triforce charts were, that came little too late. Then there was moneycollecting to that greedy, annoying, wannabe fairy, Tingle. After that once again slow, boring sailing over the map, this time to pick up the Triforce pieces. It all felt like a padding to lengthen the game. The Triforce which is supposed to be the most important thing in the world of the game was reduced to boring treasure hunt. It left so bad taste to my mouth that now whenever I think of Wind Waker I can only think of that and how much I hated it.
I hate you, please die!
Now when I think about it Wind Wakers biggest problem might be its unbalance. First dungeons were quite fine and I don't remember being that annoyed at early game to anything (on the other hand it took time to get bored of sailing). Then the dungeons with the shamans or elders or whatever they were, were less so. Well to be exact, Wind Temple and flying around as the winged girl was alright, but Earth Temple wasn't that great, at all. And then came the treasure hunt, said enough about it already. The end of the game, what happened after finding the Triforce piece was good, but it was too little, too late, my hatred had taken its place already in my soul, the game couldn't have done nothing to redeem itself at that point. Also overall the game felt slow, in a bad scene. It was already mentioned that I have short attention span and get bored easily so when game feels slow, it loses points in my eyes.
So now when I look what I have written there really is two big things I disliked and some positive points on the beginning. So if it has some good, some bad why I'm so against Wind Waker then? Simply because those negatives were too big on my eyes to just go and say “Well every game has it's downsides and nothing it perfect”. That thing with the trifocre pieces is unacceptable in my mind, some people might say that it's not that big of a deal, but seriously that thing basically ruined the whole game for me, I can't just call it a little flaw. That added with the annoyances of sailing during the “good” part of the game makes a quite bad combo. Maybe I should change the title to “How can people love this?” On the other hand that title is just fine for now.
Once again I admit that I don't think that Wind Waker is totally shitty game that should never been played, but I just can't understand when people say it's their favorite Zelda game or among their favorite games of all time. It has it's good parts, but it also has some huge bad parts that I couldn’t ignore. Actually I'm interested of hearing how people can and will defend this game. I'd like to be proven wrong on my opinions and I like to see comments on this. I promise to respect you opinions, except if I don't like them.
Ok, let's be truthful, I don't hate getting levels, I dislike the whole game mechanism of levels altogether. I have been called a person who dislikes everything when it comes to videogames (not true), but one of the things I dislike and have most to talk about is leveling and why in my dream world it wouldn't had ever been invented.
Let's start with, what we are talking about here. By level mechanic I mean a game mechanic where you gather experience points (or something similar) to gain levels (bigger your level, stronger your character). Experience points are gained by killing enemies and sometimes by completing in-game quests. This is mostly seen in the rpg genre, and if we have rpg-x where x is some other genre, in 90% of cases it means that it's just a game of genre x, with leveling mechanic. I hope that this is nothing new to you listener, I just like to define the terms before talking about specific subject.
Still long way to go.
So let's go to the main thing, my hatred towards levels. Well exp and thus also levels is a reward mechanism, you do a right thing in game and it gives you a reward. The thing is that this means, that game rewards you for doing boring repetitive task of running around killing same enemies again and again. Of course you don't have to do that, right. Well sadly far too often you have to. Like I said, in games bigger level means stronger character, thus many games make you gather exp and get levels to be able to beat strong boss enemies.
Also, besides of grinding (the act of gathering exp by killing same enemies again and again, without moving forward) and the warm feeling you get when you see numbers on screen go up, levels as a game mechanic doesn't really bring anything additional good to the game. Let's take a generic rpg XYZ, and run it through a little thought experiment. YXZ has multiple characters with different stats, so they all their strengths and weaknesses, characters use weapons and armor and find better ones during game also characters have different special skills to use in battle. Leveling in the game of XYZ, makes characters stats go up and characters learn new skills at certain levels.
Now let's modify this game and take the levels off. Characters still have stats so they are different, now stats just don't go up they are there just to show different characters and monsters strengths and weaknesses, also we have to balance the later monsters of the game for the now leveless game. Also in this version of game skills aren't learned with levels, but from magical items found in gameworld and gotten by beating bosses and going forward in game. Weapons and armor can stay as they are. Now it doesn't really matter what kind of gameplay game XYZ had originally, because it can stay mainly same even with these changes. What has changed is that now, XYZ doesn't reward you for grinding, but for exploration and going forward in game (aka, killing bosses).
Finally last two hours of just killing imps paid off.
So let's talk a bit about action-/shooter-/buttscratching-rpgs, where well developed genre has been tainted with leveling up mechanic. Seriously, I don't see the point. For example newer metroidvania-style castevanias. I absolutely love those games, but I see no real reason for them to have leveling mechanic, I have had no reason to grind in those games, because the gameplay is such that with skills you get past any enemy and boss no matter what your level, but still I sometimes get the feeling that if I'm having trouble with some boss I get the urge to go grind a few levels. Some people might welcome the possibility to manipulate difficulty of game with waste of time, but I want to beat the game with my skills not with my patience for grinding levels. Actually many games leave bad taste in my mouth when after dieing in battle I have to ask myself, was that because I'm bad player or because my levels were too low. I hate it when that happens.
But still I play and sometimes even love games with levels and I have accepted it as a necessary evil that I have to live (or play) with, especially if I want to play games of rpg genre. But it would be nice to see gamedevelopers to go new directions with mechanics that are usually paired with levels. But before that hapens I go grind some levels to my pokemans.
For longest time I have been thinking about writing in Destructoids community blogs and doing some Monthly musings but I never before actually got around doing this. When I read about this months topic I first thought that it seemed stupid, then I thought about it a bit and desisted to take it as a challenge and write about it, even though I initially had no idea what could I talk about. Enough of meta for now, let's go and dive to the subject at hand.
So we all know that there is violence in videogames, not in every game but in many of them. There is all kinds of violence, cartoony and over the top, realistic and gritty, there's war, murder and torture. And I don't have problem with that. When I shoot a bunch of pixels that look like a man with pixels that look like gun and bullets I don't feel that I'm killing or hurting anyone, enemies are just bits in the program. In real life I could never do the things I do in videogames, I'm basically a pacifist, I don't like the thought of hurting other person and not to even talk about possibility to kill someone.
Here comes the alternative reality bit. What if real world would be like in some videogames where violence is normal and part of everyday life. What would become of world, where when you go to school bunch of bullies attack you and only thing you can do, is to beat up those bullies so that only thing left is their pocket money. World where kill or be killed should always be taken literally.
What a horrible life could that be and potentially very short life also. How it would feel to see and experience death and violence everyday. Well if would have lived you whole life in a world like that maybe it wouldn't bee so hard to rise your fist (or a weapon of some kind) against other person. But think how would react if your normal peaceful life would suddenly change to that of violenceland. Could you watch other people dying by your hands, not once or twice but time and time again.
Lucky in videogame land you don't always have to fight against your fellow man, maybe idea of killing zombies or monsters feels any better. It's somewhat of a fact that geeks like zombies, they have their zombie survival plans and whatnot, but how would the reality of that kind of situation to be. Could your average gamer really bash the head in on something that still looks kinda like a man. Feeling the bones to crack and blood spatter on you, how many people would have a stomach for that. And don't think that non-human monsters are really that much easier to stand, they too probably have blood or other liquids splattering to your face.
So, in the beginning I said that I didn't like this months musing topic, remember? One of the reasons was that I didn't really get how I could get there something else than just alternative reality fanfiction. Little written fiction might be nice, but I like my blogs to have some point, maybe something to think about, so let's get away from my fantasy land (it's not a nice place to stay for long) and analyze it a bit.
In one way of thinking the fictional scenarios I described could be the final form of video game realism. Games have tried for long be more and more realistic and all this new stuff that is coming out, motion control and 3D, it's partially there to make games more realistic. So think about as realistic as possible videogame violence, it would be like a real thing, but you couldn't get hurt and you don't actually hurt anybody. I don't think that I would really enjoy that kind of overly realistic violence in my games. At the beginning of the article I said that I have had no problems with violence in videogames, but I think that videogames have stayed still quite far of realism and that is fine for me.
I don't want to wait for the day when I'm able to swing down my [controller of future] and feel it to connect with the head of my enemy. Maybe that future won't come, maybe it will, but it's not for me.