It's dangerous to go alone...take this
[Want to see what I thought of Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds 3DS? Read past my 2011 quest to beat every core Zelda game ever made.]
Halfway through beating Ocarina of Time 3D, I had a pretty neat thought: I decided that in honor of Zelda's 25th anniversary, it would be fun to play through every mainstead Zelda game, including the upcoming Skyward Sword, and beat all of them before the year's end.
Here we are a mere day before the release of Skyward Sword, and my journey nears its final leg. Now is the perfect time to look back on the whole thing, warts and all.
There are so many hidden bomb rooms that don't have telltale cracks, and tons of absolutely insane secret areas, that it would take a guide to complete everything. Either way, the first game laid the groundwork for future Zelda titles, and helped pave the way for Action RPGs all around.
Zelda II is also notoriously hard, but not nearly as hard as the first game in my opinion - I mean, at least there's some clear idea of where to go. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend dropping the $5 on the first Zelda, depending on your tastes, I heartily recommend picking this one up on the Virtual Console - it's one of my favorite Zelda games that I both enjoyed at release, and years afterward.
The game is an absolute classic, and the art style still holds up to this day. One of the best things about the game is the lack of pageantry in the beginning. There's no lengthy boring cutscene like future Zelda games - you just press start, jump in, and your epic quest to rescue Zelda immediately begins.
Out of all the Zelda games, I'd say Link to the Past is probably the most polished.
Some time later, Nintendo released DX for the Gameboy Color (and eventually 3DS), which was basically the definitive version that added colors, and a new color-based dungeon. I played that version for this quest, and it was nice to rediscover the magic all over again.
Many people knock on Ocarina for being dated - I implore those folks to check out the 3Ds remake, as it smooths out some of those nasty 64 graphical limitations, and offers a better overall gameplay experience.
Make no mistake - Ocarina of Time still holds up.
I'm currently playing through the game now, and all it makes me want to do is play Ocarina of Time over again. Thankfully, Majora's Mask is still a really fun, really solid game in it's own right.
Termina didn't really feel like one cohesive world so much as a bunch of different planets. Some people say that's good -- but to me, it didn't feel as magical. I could go on and on about Majora's Mask, but I think I'll leave it at this: although I had issues with it, this game has character in spades, and I wouldn't even put it close to the bottom of the Zelda pile.
These are probably the only Zelda games in the entire series I literally have nothing to say about - I played them, I barely remember them, and they're on my list.
The game link system seemed pretty gimmicky at the time, but years later, it's actually a pretty fun way to experience both titles. As for which one is better, I'd probably say "Seasons" - the time mechanic in "Ages" has been done in just about every Zelda game, so it was fun to see something refreshing.
Thankfully, Nintendo is planning on releasing Four Swords for the 3DS and DSi platforms in September - I may beat them to the punch, however, by playing it with a friend by way of a Gameboy Advance link cable.
Four Swords might seem bite sized, but it's easily in my top five Zelda list. In order to play it, I bought two copies of A Link to the Past GBA, and an official Nintendo GBA Link Cable (a universal one will not work): however, Nintendo is releasing it in September 2011 on DSiware, for the DSi and 3DS handhelds.
Although I wasn't a huge fan of Wind Waker at release, as time went on, I grew to appreciate the game more and more, and now it's near the top of my list. I barely remember beating this one (my friend beat it, mostly), so I'm looking forward to my full completion run this year.
In terms of the gameplay, the swordplay is probably the best in the series, and the rush you get from exploring the ocean depths is second to one. Beyond the childish looking veneer, Wind Waker is full of character, and one of the best Zelda games to date.
Oddly enough, if you wanted to play multiplayer, each gamer had to have their own GBA, and system link cable. Of course, I was intrepid enough to engage in this particular activity a few times, but I never ended up beating the game. I didn't feel too bad after finding out it was the least successful Zelda game of all time, but I just picked this up for Gamecube recently via physical copy, and I plan on beating it in 2011.
Additionally, the game is incredibly long for a level based, non-open world Zelda title (about fifteen or more hours) and at times, it feels a bit boring. Despite these shortcomings, the Tower Of Winds is one of my favorite dungeons of all time, and there are easily a ton of good things about Adventures - even if it overstays it's welcome a bit.
In fact, I never fully experienced it at release, making it one of the few Zeldas I haven't beaten yet. Honestly, I have no idea why I haven't truly sat down and experienced this gem, but let's just say I'm excited to pop this one in my GBA.
Minish Cap however, at times, felt like a completely different series - which is easily a good thing. Nintendo and Capcom did a good job mixing up the swordplay and nearly all of the items are completely new to the series.
Under the veneer of motion controls, which were nothing more than waving your wand back and forth every...single...time you wanted to attack, the game was drab, and nothing was memorable. While I can pretty much recall the floor plans of each Temple after my first completion of other games, I am completely drawing a blank as to what Twilight Princess's dungeons even were. I'm very reluctant to beat this one in my 2011 quest, but considering it is a main series Zelda game, I think I'll do this one last.
For instance, I forgot how amazing a few of the dungeons are: the Arbiter's Grounds is one of my favorite dungeons of all time; The Stallord boss fight is one of the best in the series (if not the best), and the shoutout to Ocarina of Time's the Forest Temple is gold. Additionally, the Temple of Time is really, really fun (and introduced the "companion cube" concept approximately a year before Portal!).
As previously stated, I don't think Twilight Princess is a terrible game: I just think that overall, it's a sub-par Zelda title.
Like pretty much all of the other titles, I'm looking forward to fishing this one out of the game pile and beating it in 2011. It's not one of my favorites, but it's not bad by any means.
Having to re-do the main dungeon multiple times also grinds on you after a while, which leads to tons of breaks in-between play sessions; a stark contrast to pretty much every other Zelda game, which makes you yearn for more every single time you get a new item, or complete a new dungeon.
Stylus support also feels completely pointless at times, and I would have loved an alternate control scheme. All in all Phantom Hourglass isn't a poor game, but I'm in no hurry to play it again compared to most of the series, mostly due to the "touch" nature of the game.
I personally thought the only bad part of Spirit Tracks were the train sections, but unfortunately, there are a lot of those!
As a result, I am treating it as a separate release, and plan on tackling the solo adventure in an effort to complete the new levels.
Simply put, Four Swords Anniversary is one of the best Zelda games in the entire series - it takes an already incredible game and adds a much needed single player element, as well as a ton of extra content. After playing this remade masterpiece, I'd easily place it in my top five Zelda games of all time.
Motion Control also doesn't seem like a gimmick this time around, forcing you to actually think before you strike with motion plus, as opposed to waving your wand around like an idiot in Twilight Princess. The more and more I see of Skyward Sword, the more I think it will be the best title of 2011. Considering it was the catalyst for this entire adventure, it's pretty obvious that I can't wait!
Overall I thought it was a decent, flawed game. In my mind, I had it at least making it into my top five of Zelda list based on what I had seen, but after completion, I'm sure that it doesn't come close.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Wii U [owned], Wii U eShop [owned] - (Completed in September 2013)
As soon as I booted up Wind Waker HD, I knew I was in for a treat. There's something about the game's locales that really jump out at me, and seeing Outset island in glorious HD was a thing of beauty. For those of you who were wondering -- yes, Wind Waker still holds up, which is a testament to the brilliant design of the original.
But even though it is nearly the exact same game you know and love, it comes with a few welcome mechanical enhancements. For those of you who found slowly sailing across the world for objectives boring -- there's the Swift Sail item that makes traveling faster. If you found the Triforce collection quest to be too tedious (I happen to be one of those people), it's been shortened and streamlined.
GamePad support is also something I now can't live without, as you can not only instantly re-assign items during dungeons (which you'll need to do on more than one occasion) just like Ocarina of Time 3D, but you can also consult the GamePad as a map when sailing. Unlike the Wii Zelda games where I felt like it was a regression due to the unnecessary waggle, Wind Waker HD actually manages to transcend the original due to the core mechanics of the Wii U.
And you know the best part? The GamePad functionality is completely optional, and you can just cruise along with a Pro Controller without having to bother with the pad at all. This is a huge deal for me given the fact that so many recent Zelda games have had forced control schemes without options.
If you haven't played Wind Waker, I'd definitely recommend picking it up on Wii U, as it's one of the greatest action-adventure games of all time. It manages to capture that feeling of pure adventure that the Zelda series is known for, while maintaining relevance in an HD era with its gorgeous, timeless art style.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - 3DS, 3DS eShop [owned] - (Completed in November 2013)
A Link Between Worlds is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it has a lot of [positive] streamlining that really puts the emphasis on adventuring, and having fun. On the other, it's a very dry, unimaginative quest that doesn't really have a compelling world or cast of characters. Throughout most of the game, I felt like I was just going through the motions. The magic really wasn't there, even if it was technically sound, and played great.
I have to give a special shoutout to the ice dungeon, as it presented a perspective never before seen in the Zelda series, period. Set to the tune of a giant skyscraper-like layout, you're constantly falling down and making pinpoint drops, almost like it was a platformer without a jump button. The 3D effect only makes this dungeon (and the entire game, really) sing even more. But the rest of the game really didn't live up to that high standard.
If you're really itching for a Zelda game though, A Link Between Worlds isn't bad by any means. It should deliver the basic experience to fans, and if you've never played a Zelda before, this is a great start due to the fact that it's so straightforward and easy to play. Although I hope a lot of the concepts are used in future iterations, I similarly hope a bit more heart and personality is injected as well.
So what's your favorite Zelda? What's your least favorite? Is Majora's Mask better than Ocarina of Time? Feel free to leave a comment below!