Show, Don’t Tell: Horizon: Zero Dawn vs. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn Logo

Zero Dawn vs. Zelda

I’m having a lot of fun with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I am also a big fan of game narrative, but sometimes there are just too many words. Today I’m going to compare the design styles of the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the aforementioned Horizon. Specifically, how they use (or don’t use) voiced narration to lead the player.

In the first few minutes of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s gameplay, the protagonist, Aloy, points out what’s going on in the environment. Verbally. Even though there’s no one around to hear her. You could argue that you’re hearing her “thoughts,” or that she’s talking to herself because she’s scared, but neither case is a good excuse.

The player simply doesn’t need to hear it

Horizon Zero Dawn game
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32545636372/

Aloy will describe her surroundings, talk about what she should be doing next, talk about what she just did, and ultimately treats the player like a blind person with short-term memory loss. It’s as though the writer wrote a book and adapted it verbatim for the game, cutting out the he-saids and she-saids and leaving everything else.

Again, I love game narrative. I think games are a powerful storytelling medium. But just because a game can have more words written or lines spoken, certainly doesn’t mean it should. Ideally, the player should be able to play the game with the volume and subtitles off, using only art and design cues to figure out what to do next.

Look at Breath of the Wild. While it’s a longstanding tradition for Link to not speak, many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time gave the player a talking companion who points out everything you need to know. Navi, Midna, the… blue person from Skyward Sword whose name I forget. They all helped lead the player without needing Link to speak a word.

But in Breath of the Wild, like the original Zelda games of yore, has no quest-long companion jabbering in Link’s pointy ear. The game simply trusts the player to figure things out on their own.

This is the ideal design

Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

The ironic part is that Zelda is a game for kids and adults alike on a Nintendo platform that facilitates new gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is rated T for teen, and requires the player to use a PS4 controller and its dual-analog configuration that new gamers struggle with.

In essence, Horizon: Zero Dawn holds the player’s hand despite there being very little chance that the player is someone new at games, while Breath of the Wild trusts the player to figure things out without someone yapping at them the whole time.

It’s easy to look at games like Horizon: Zero Dawn as the way of the future and games like Zelda to be relics of the past. But with these two game releases, both at nearly the same time, the “relic” has shown itself to be much more comfortable as a game. And future designers—especially narrative designers—should take note.

Check Out The Latest Rodea The Sky Soldier Gameplay Trailer

The Sky Soldier

The Sky Soldier

NIS America, subsidiary of Nippon Ichi Software, Inc., has released a new gameplay trailer for the upcoming Wii U/3DS game Rodea: The Sky Soldier.

The game takes place in Garuda, a kingdom that lies in the sky, 1,000 years after an Emperor by the name of Geardo of the Naga Empire sent an army of machine soldiers to invade. Princess Cecilia and Rodea, a machine soldier who promised to protect Garuda, defeated Emperor Geardo’s assault and saved their kingdom.

In the present timeline a young female inventor named Ion discovers Rodea, abandoned and in need of repairs, in the heart of a scorching desert. Upon completing her repairs Rodea boots back up is stunned to find himself in the future and learns that the Naga Empire is no more and that Garuda has known peace for 1,000 years.

Soon the forces of Naga emerges once again to wage war against Garuda. Remembering the promise he made 1,000 years ago, Rodea takes to the skies to defend Garuda from the Naga Empire once again.

Rodea the Sky Soldier is set to release in North America on October 13, 2015 and Europe on October 16, 2015 for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. First print copies of the Wii U version will also come packaged with the Wii version of the game.

Wii U E-Shop Goes Dual Screen and Retro

Wii

Todays Nintendo Direct unveiled many interesting and exciting things, but the biggest change however,  coming is to the E-Shop. Over a year ago Nintendo announced they were going to make DS games playable on the Wii U. It makes sense right? I mean you have the game pad, so playing all your classic DS games on a Pad/TV combo would be awesome. Considering the DS has one of the best game line ups in history, you cant blame people for getting excited. As of right now, the long awaited dream has come true!

Whilst the library cannot be considered a library at all in its current state, Mario Kart DS and Wario Ware Touched are available to purchase right now. Mario Kart is immensely popular at the moment, so having yet another title on the Wii U is great if you want to relive those glory days of yesteryear on the big screen, and Wario Ware, as usual, is a brilliantly addictive minigame collection. The DS announcement was only half of the story however, as we finally have access to the N64, which again, is full of classics. Again, with only 2 titles to choose from you are somewhat limited but when those 2 titles are Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64  you can forgive them. Each game can be purchased for £8.99, and for a short time, if you buy 3 of the 4 games, you get the 4th free.

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To top it all off, the next 2 Wii games coming to the E-Shop are Pandora’s Tower, a pretty obscure RPG set in a rather large tower…oh and their is a rather creepy old woman obsessed with “Beast Flesh”, and Sin and Punishment, a sequel to the classic N64 ‘Shmup. Pandoras Tower is due for release on the 16th April, whilst Sin and Punishment is coming on the 30th. Additionally both games are 25% during their first week on sale, so grab them on launch.

The VGamerZ Monster Files: The Boos (Super Mario)

Super Mario

Oh yes indeed. Everybody knows these cheeky buggers. They’re gaming’s most adorable ghosts, with their hiding-faces-in-their-hands-like-a-three-year-old shenanigans. The last thing you’d ever expect to KILL YOU RIGHT IN THE FACE.

Don’t turn your back on them!

The Boos made their first appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3. Back then, their official name was the puntacular ‘Boo Diddleys,’ and they’d dwell in the dark levels of World 8. From this inaugural encounter, all of the Boos’ trademarks were in place: they hide like big girls when you look at them, they careen murdererously at your face when you don’t, they’re pretty well impervious to attack, and they’re just all-round ghostly pains in our big ol’ Italian butts.

Later, with Super Mario World, they learnt a new trick. There, they were found within not-so-fiendish Ghost Houses. These twisty-turny, deceptive levels were packed with hidden doors and dead ends, and more of those freaking Boos. The little buggers loved to fly around your cranium in formation, safe in the knowledge that your standard jump right on their darn faces combat tactics wouldn’t work at all.

Boos 2

The plucky poltergeists’ finest hour came in Luigi’s Mansion. This Gamecube launch title saw them dethrone the mighty Bowser as antagonist, and their king kidnap Mario himself. The underlings were safely ensconsed in the mansion’s rooms, detectable only by use of Luigi’s radar attatchment. They couldn’t fight as such, but did have a knack for tricking you and trying to blow your dumbass moustache off with a Boo-shaped bomb.

On ocassion, the Boos will stop their dastardly antics and join the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom in some sports. They’ve appeared in such spin-offs as Mario Hoops 3-on-3, Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix and Mario Tennis. In a sneakier capacity, of course, such as the Tricky class of tennis player (able to bend the ball like a racquet-flailing David Beckham), but they are there.

The devious dudes have become more iconic, and more central to the series, over the years. In the Mario Galaxy games, our hero is given a new power-up which transforms him into one. As you nonchalantly cruise through that first wall as Boo Mario, you realise how awesome it is to be one of those tiny ghosts.

Is it Really the Best Game Ever? #2: Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario

In the last installment, we admired The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There were collective oohs and aahs, like super mario, we were attending some kind of nerdly gaming fireworks display. Because Ocarina is just that beloved by players and critics.

Not all of them, naturally. It’s impossible to please everybody in any walk of life, perhaps especially the gamertastic (you know the philosophy of the Internet, I whine, therefore I am, after all). But we’re looking at the most celebrated games here, and the best-reviewed of all time –according to gamerankings.com– is Super Mario Galaxy.

The hype was strong with this one, there’s no doubt about that. This much ballyhooed Wii release was Mario’s first for the system, and it had the full force of the franchise to live up to. Super Mario 64 was among the most prestigious platformers ever made, and was the game that thrust our ol’ moustache buddy into the third dimension. But hell, that’s a classic for another day. All we’re concerned with just now is: how do you top that?

The N64 launch game added a liberating sense of scale and freedom, with its big ol’ mountain slides and vast castle hub. The Gamecube’s Super Mario Sunshine was quite the curve ball, sending us a-platformin’ across the verdant tropical paradise of Isle Delfino. Thinking big has been the key for the series’ designers.

And what’s even bigger, more ambitious, than these huge worlds? Outer darn space, that’s what. Because if a world is vast, a galaxy must be vast..erer.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Wasn’t this a sight during the previews/screenshot/sneak peeks phase? Prior to its release in November 2007, there was a lot of anticipation about this odd new direction Mario was taking. The Mushroom Kingdom was nowhere to be seen. The hub would be the Comet Observatory, from which we would transported to planets, moons and satellites across the cosmos. It was all shiny and new and exciting.

After all, Mario has only rudimentary knowledge of space travel. It isn’t his domain at all, as the franchise hasn’t really ventured into that area before. Beyond the fleeting Space Zone in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Golden Coins, that is. You would think it’d be an idea at odds with the games’ legendarily brightly coloured, toon-tinged funtimes. The endless black bleaky blackness of space is an odd fit in this vibrant cartoon world.

But wow, does that juxtaposition work. It’s rather a gimmicky concept, and running across those rotate-y planets and asteroids is a strange feeling at first. But then you’ll encounter the giant goombas on the supersized world, or the thwomps, and you’ll wonder why they didn’t think of this before. As is the case with the other 3D games in the series, there are no ‘levels’ as such. Instead, you are exploring the same locations with a different objective, and this is the key to Galaxy’s success.

Whatever you may think of Super Mario, the quality of its platformery –because that’s a thing– is pretty well unrivalled. As the genre goes, they are always polished to a delightfully shiny shine. What Galaxy did was literally take this to a place the series had never been before, and try to enhance that sense of wonderment, grandeur, freedom and plain fun the mascot stands for.

It will only take your first joyful journey on a Launch Star to see that they succeeded.