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Jet Presto Plays Zelda!
Posted: Posted August 16th by Jet Presto
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So, since I've had a ton of time being furloughed, I've been trying to knock out a bunch of games from my backlog, or games that I downloaded because they were free at some point on PS Plus and I never got around to it (*cough* Mad Max *cough* don't bother with it). And as more and more people told me I should just get into Breath of the Wild, a game I admittedly feel a little iffy on given everything that I've heard about it, I would respond with, "I'm not really a big Zelda guy." While I've tried my hand at a few of them, the only Zelda game I ever beat was Ocarina of Time.

I figured, ya know what, though? Maybe now that I'm more of an action RPG guy, I can get behind this series. I should just do a "freshrospective." A retrospective on a series that I actually don't have much experience with. (Still workshopping the name.) I started with the SNES "A Link to the Past," mostly because I forgot that the Switch has that NES emulator and I could play the first two through that. (Not every Zelda game is going to be available to me, as I don't own pretty much any hand held gaming system. I'm just skipping them.)

But when I remembered that, I went back and played the original and some of Zelda II. I'm about to start Ocarina of Time, having beaten The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening. (I, perhaps predictably, gave up on The Adventure of Link. Got to Death Mountain and was just so fed up with it.) Here are some thoughts so far as a newby to the whole series:

1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA

I feel like this is a game that is peak "you had to be there" to fully appreciate. Historically, I understand and recognize its significance. And even appreciate its design choices on the most part. But I don't think NES games have aged well, and I found it borderline unplayable. I got through it, thanks in no small part to the ability to perform copious amounts of save scumming (which I'm not gonna apologize for; I might have a lot of time, but I don't have *that* much time or energy these days, and I wanted to see what the rest of the game brought). A lot of it is just the practically ancient technology. Secret walls that you need to bomb are literally impossible to see (something they'd address almost immediately in Link's Awakening and Link to the Past). The total lack of direction I'm sure is appealing to the hardcore fans, but I dunno, I kinda needed a little more direction. More on that in a moment, though.

Bosses felt like a mixed bag, too. On the most part, I didn't have a miserable time with them, though I found the final boss to be kinda cheap. I actually had a much harder time with many common enemies. Like, those orange and blue knights who you can only attack from the side or behind but they also just stop and change direction on a dime was incredibly frustrating and cheap. And given the NES, trying to attack directionally felt suuuuper awkward and clunky.

Overall, it's one of those games that like, I know it's super important. I feel this way about the original Final Fantasy on NES, too. I recognize its significance, but I never played games until the dawn of the Willennium (my first console was a PS2 in like, 2002). So I don't have any nostalgia for it. And I also don't really love that kind of arcade-style game that's design to be brutally difficult. But I'm glad I played it, even if I cheated, as I got enough of the original experience to "get it."

2. THE ADVENTURE OF LINK

I appreciate the desire to try something different, but this ain't it! I know this game is sort of notorious, and rightfully so. It's, uh, bad? It's honestly more bad because it's just bad than it's bad because it's different. I don't necessarily hate the experience system, where you get points and can level up health, magic, and attack power if you want. The stacked number to level up each stat was kind of interesting.

But the core of the problem is this game is just not fun to play. I thought some enemies were cheap in the first game; holy crap are they cheap in this one. Sure, it's maybe not the hardest game that came out for NES, but it's still pretty difficult. And it's just not a fun combat system. I played up to Death Mountain, which was a few hours of gameplay for me. Not sure what percentage of the game it actually was, but I had to stop.

3. A LINK TO THE PAST

I actually think the SNES might be the console that holds up the best over time. I was a bit surprised at how playable this game was. There's still some awkwardness around diagonal attacking. And some of the bosses had frustrating gimmicks that bordered on cheap. I also felt like this one was actively fun, breaking from the previous two games. Like, I could see myself playing this game again in the future, whereas I'm absolutely never wasting my time with the NES games.

It also just looks better. The SNES's colorful sprites really give it that "classic" look that a lot of indie developers have tried to mimic. It feels a lot more stylized than simply dated. (Something that the age of "realism" struggles with - when I did my Splinter Cell retrospective, I was blown away at how awful those first three or four games look by comparison to the last couple. And I just don't think the more realistic 3D graphics of the PS1/PS2 era will age well.)

It also really got into the more diverse environments in a way that made it clear they were really focused on advancing this series. But I will say, this one like the original kinda made me wonder how on Earth I was expected to do this without the help of a guide. While slightly more focused, and willing to mark some objectives on your map, I felt like I had some idea of where to go or what to do, but there were a *lot* of places where I was just like, "Ok...now what?" Then I'd check a guide and be like, "WHAT? How the hell was I supposed to figure that out?" (At least in this game, they made bomb-able walls actually stand out so you could notice them.) And I'll also say that I will never not hate games that penalize you for going to bed. It's sooooo infuriating to beat a boss, grab that health container and have my life restored completely, then I save the game and quit so I can go to bed. Only to return the next day and it starts me in a different location (which is mildly annoying but fine), but it also costs me like, five hearts (which is not fine). Like, fuck off, Nintendo! I'm a human and I need sleep! I can't just sit and play your 10-15 hour game in a single day! Gimme a break!

4. LINK'S AWAKENING

So I played the Switch remake because that's what I own. I used to have a Gameboy Advance SP, but god only knows where it is at this point. Without question, this is the easiest of the bunch so far. Although I will say, it gets weirdly tricky in the final boss. Like, there's a stage where I found it next to impossible to avoid his attacks and hit him without taking damage. It felt like the difficulty just suddenly spiked at the end! Still, it ultimately took me just two or three tries before I got it. (By contrast, I kept getting knocked off the edge in the final boss in Link to the Past and it took me like, 15 tries - which, I know I just said I had fun with that game, but c'mon; just give me a fight that kills me. Ending the fight by knocking me off the edge is annoying.)

I also felt like this one didn't require a ton of guide checking for me. I try not to use a guide unless I feel genuinely stuck. Still had to refer to one often enough, but more or less even if I did, I'd find that I was kind of on the right track. Dungeons were also fairly easy to solve. Got stuck a few times, but think I only needed a guide at a couple points. The Switch version especially makes diagonal attacking substantially cleaner and easier, which helps. And the game definitely seemed to be more forthcoming with restoring health. (Link to the Past could be frustrating with how often I had half-health, would smash pots, and it'd be like, "Here are arrows you can't carry!" "Here are 5 rupees!" "Here's a couple bombs." Whenever I needed hearts, it felt like the game was going out of its way to NOT give them.) But that definitely helped make the game feel easier.

Wasn't into the art style of the Switch remaster at first, but by about hour 6, I realized that I was finding it really endearing. I was a bit curious though, since I never played the original Gameboy Color version: are there supposed to be these Mario things in the game? Like, there's goombas and the chomping ball dog things. There are side scrolling tunnels with pipes and the flower things. I think one dungeon even had Kirby as an enemy. Was that in the original game?

I don't think I died in this game except at the end in the final boss. There were still some moments where I'm like, "How was I supposed to know to do that without a guide?" But overall, this game - or at least the Switch version - felt pretty all ages for the first time. And I kinda really enjoyed that after two games that were nearly impossible and a third one that felt like a good challenge but nothing incredibly difficult.



So today I'm starting up Ocarina of Time, provided my N-64 still works (who knows? It's been a while). I think my plan is to play this and then Majora's Mask, then get Wind Waker (which I played a fair amount of before, though never finished), Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and then finish up with Breath of the Wild. (I will chase it with some Cadence of Hyrule for good measure, but that won't really be part of the "retrospective.") I suppose there's a chance my friend will be able to lend me his Wii-U, in which case I could also play some of those 3DS games or whatever that are available on the Wii-U Virtual Console. But honestly, there's so many games I might just use the excuse to not play them all.

Do you Zelda fans think I'm missing something if I don't play Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Phantom Hourglass, or Minish Cap? Or do you think I should bug my friend about borrowing his Wii-U and adding them to the list? Which are your favorites? And what are your bets that, having really enjoyed Link's Awakening and A Link to the Past but never wanting to play The Legend of Zelda or Adventure of Link, that I get into Breath of the Wild?

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I can't really speak for Oracle. But I personally like Minish Cap quite a bit.

Breath of the Wild is literally a breath of fresh air for the series. They finally got away from the Ocarina of Time formula with it and the world is just so much fun to explore. It's a liiiiiitle tough at first, but it's not too hard once you get the hang of it. Basically, BotW is a game that will hopefully change how open world games are made.

A Link to the Past is one of the best Zelda games.

Can't believe you haven't played Zelda while playing Final Fantasy! The two have much in common, though Final Fantasy is better to me.

Posted August 16th by Laxan
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Laxan
 

BOTW is one of my favorite games. Other than minish cap I never really got into the series so BOTW was a surprise treat for me.



Posted August 16th by S.O.H.
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S.O.H.
 


I should just do a "freshrospective." A retrospective on a series that I actually don't have much experience with. (Still workshopping the name.)


Freshpective. You're welcome.



Posted August 16th by Q
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Q
 

I wasn't a big fan of action RPGs for a while. If I were gonna do an RPG, I wanted something more menu-based or turn-based, so I was able to get into Final Fantasy, Chrono games, Breath of Fire, et cetera. I also remember giving both the original NES game and A Link to the Past a try waaaaay back when on an emulator back in the day, and not having any idea where to go or what to do. None of the Final Fantasy games are like that, really. So it was easier to get into that.

Just sorta realized that I've turned more into an action RPG guy after my love affair with Dark Souls. And there's definitely a lot more in common there.

Posted August 16th by Jet Presto
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Ooof. I can't quite tell if it's that my cartridge doesn't work, or my N-64 doesn't work. Damn, I wish I took better care of my older systems. Might have immediately run into a snag with this series now that I'm onto systems that are a bit more unreliable and everything is suuuuper expensive.

Posted August 16th by Jet Presto
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(Emulation.)

You played Kingdom Hearts, right? That combat is my favorite type of action RPG combat because it so fluidly combines the comnand menu with action! FF7 Remake did something similar.

Posted August 16th by Laxan
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Laxan
 

I only have a Mac and there's not a ton of space left. I think my friend is checking to see if he has that GameCube re-release, which would be rad since I think that also has Majora's Mask. But my Zelda quest is momentarily on hold (I do want to play these before I move onto Wind Waker.)

I wasn't suuuper into the Kingdom Hearts combat system. I felt like I wanted it to be more either actually action or actually menu/turn-based. But I got the hand of it with relative ease and it wasn't bad. I really did love what they did with Final Fantasy VII: Remake. I really loved that game. Wild that was only a few months ago!

Posted August 17th by Jet Presto
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I know! I'm surprised to be actually looking forward to part 2.

Posted August 17th by Laxan
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Laxan
 

1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA


I feel like this is a game that is peak "you had to be there" to fully appreciate.


Well, this game was designed for people who would play some, then think about it or discuss it with friends, then play some more later. Gaming culture has changed a lot since its release -- these days you have either clear objectives (gross!) or you have better UX guiding you into being able to do whatever you need to do in the game to progress. Occasionally, you get a game where you don't have either, but the documentation or wiki makes up for it.

With Zelda 1, the arcane secrets were a core feature of the game because you were meant to play it in short bursts and think about it or discuss it with other people playing the game, in a localized way rather than a worldwide "I'm going to hack the ROM to figure out its secrets" way. We have a game culture now where playing a game "blind" is an alternative rather than the way you play every game.

It's, uh, bad? It's honestly more bad because it's just bad than it's bad because it's different.


Yeah zelda 2 is objectively bad. It's pretty cool if you like obnoxiously hard games though -- I have more of an appreciation for it now that I've grinded my way through most of the megaman X series.

I played up to Death Mountain


Death mountain is the place most people quit, so don't feel bad.

But I will say, this one like the original kinda made me wonder how on Earth I was expected to do this without the help of a guide. While slightly more focused, and willing to mark some objectives on your map,


Yeah this was definitely a problem back in the day before guides (or back when you had to get permission to tie up the phone line only so you could scroll through a long gamefaqs text document). Some objectives in earlier zelda games are ridiculous bullshit -- like for the first ten years of owning OOT I never knew the back alley was a thing.

So I played the Switch remake because that's what I own.


While it looks good (if you like claymation), the switch remake is missing a lot of the atmosphere of the original. They also ruined the face shrine song, which is unforgivable.

I was a bit curious though, since I never played the original Gameboy Color version: are there supposed to be these Mario things in the game? Like, there's goombas and the chomping ball dog things. There are side scrolling tunnels with pipes and the flower things. I think one dungeon even had Kirby as an enemy. Was that in the original game?


Yes!

Do you Zelda fans think I'm missing something if I don't play Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Phantom Hourglass, or Minish Cap?


The oracle games were fantastic, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise. The others are up to you.

Don't play links on a train spirit tracks. The first couple hours are "This isn't so bad, idk why everyone hates it" and then you have to blow into the microphone with the right timing or you can't get any further.



Posted August 17th by Xhin
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Xhin
 

Ha, ok. I know the whole thing of Link's Awakening is that it's a dream and all, but I couldn't tell if this were Nintendo being cute in the remake since Nintendo is like, huuuuge now. Glad to know that was in the original, too. Really should try to figure out what the hell I did with my Advance SP... I checked a few boxes, but no luck.

I do like having that atmosphere of "go and explore!" I just feel like I need a little more direction than what those early games do. I kinda appreciate that after every dungeon in Link's Awakening, the owl gives you a clue. I appreciated that. Didn't feel like it was holding my hand exactly, but felt like it was pointing me in the right direction if I wanted to try to just immediately figure out the next place to go. I guess it's a fine line for me between a game being too linear (which I sorta remember being the case with Wind Waker for a while) and too open.

Posted August 17th by Jet Presto
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