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.

Five Ways To Improve Twilight Princess

The rumors are true. I’m ecstatic to confirm that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD has been announced for Nintendo Wii U. Recently been seen as more of a marmite choice in the series, I am on the positive side and even consider it to be not only my favorite Zelda but one of my favorite video games of all time. This was my first 3D Zelda which contributes to it having a special place in my heart. Considering this nearly ten years on the question begs, What improvements can be made?

Some fans believe the game should be preserved in its original glory, but really that would be pointless. So here I am going to pick five improvements that would bring Twilight Princess into the current generation and transform it from the “marmite” one into the great adventure we all want it to be.

 

Enhanced Visuals

One thing I learned from revisiting this gem is that the graphics have not held up as well as I originally thought. I still remember powering up my Wii on Christmas 2006 and being wowed by how lifelike Hyrule Field looked. Ten years on it doesn’t have the same impact. I will always have those unforgettable memories but by giving the visuals a new lick of paint I could relive this momentous moment only this time in dazzling 1080p. Following on from the direct i’m not going to lie the visuals were a little disappointing however there is signs that this could be stunning so hopefully by the time March rolls around we’ll have the perfect slick imagery.

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Ability To Skip Tutorial  

One common aspect that keeps getting thrown at Twilight Princess is the length of the opening tutorial. Some hate it with a passion due to it limiting the player with what they can do for a good chunk of time. Others enjoy going about Link’s daily routine. Basically enjoying the calm before the storm. Whatever your opinion because this was such a defining factor and put off many players, it would be better if you could choose whether or not to skip the opening. Yes leave the core bits but monotonous tasks like chasing a cat can be left out.

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Repetitive Rupee Messages

Another thing that most agree on that goes from a little niggle to a big annoyance is messages that continuously and unnecessarily repeat. The first time you find a rupee (no matter what the value) a message appears onscreen declaring this. An example of the text is “You got an orange Rupee”. Nothing wrong with this, it introduces the player to the currency of this world. What you don’t want is to be told that every time you boot up  the game. It may only seem a small grievance but trust me after ten hours of play time it grates heavily.

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Increased Difficulty

A feature of Twilight Princess I absolutely love is the scale of bosses. They are gigantic, yet for their size if you know what your doing they fall like dominoes. Some may be a bit awkward but all in all they don’t put up that much of a fight. So this time round I want these brutes given more of a bite than their bark, not the other way round. Really make these monsters pose a threat. An easy solution for this is to add a “Hero Mode” like Wind Waker HD received.

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Expand the Market 

Hyrule seemed a marvel at the time with its city centre bustling with townspeople, however for all the shops that surrounded, very little were actually accessible.  Marlo Mart was a great start but only wet our appetite for more. This felt like a missed opportunity, one that can be easily fixed. Add a clothes shop where you can customize Link, possibly even giving him outfits from other iterations. Install a mask shop in tribute to Majora’s Mask. Anything to make this town seem more alive. There is so much potential here so Nintendo please take full advantage.

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Apart from these minute issues, I adore Twilight Princess dearly and i’m thrilled to see a HD remake. Twilight Princess is due for release on March 4th 2016 for Nintendo Wii U. What’s your view on this hit or miss entry? What improvements would you make? Leave us a comment below to tell us why.

Top 7 HD Remasters I Need In My Life

This generation of consoles seems to be all about the remasters. Every week you go to your favourite gaming blog and find that yet another game has been remastered for release on the new consoles. It is the biggest trend in gaming right now and it seems like it will not slow until every last title can be scraped from the bottom of the barrel.

Not all remasters or remakes are bad. On the contrary, many are excellent and the very idea of a remaster means that potential fans get to try something they would’ve otherwise missed. Furthermore, those who really adored the game(s) can trek back into the world once more with a nice coat of paint and occasionally some new features.

All of this remake talk we see made me ponder what I’d personally love to see remade or remastered. After much thought and a ton of procrastination, this is what I came up with.

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VII – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

When Wind Waker was announced to be remastered for the Wii-U, many people wondered if we’d receive Twilight Princess at a later date. Twilight Princess was an incredible Zelda experience chock full of memorable moments, locales, and dungeons to explore. If any Zelda game deserves a remaster it is Twilight Princess.

What is surprising about the game is that despite not having vibrant, cartoony cel-shaded art like Wind Waker, it still manages to hold up as an astoundingly beautiful game. Varied environments, lovely and dark characters, and a slew of bizarre enemies to duel means that you’re missing out on seeing the game at it’s maximum potential.

Come on Nintendo. Your console is starving for games, and it’d be a great way to build hype for the next true Zelda game.

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VI – Jade Empire

It is very disheartening to know that many people are unaware that Bioware crafted such a beautiful and memorable experience on the original Xbox. Jade Empire had all the elements that make up a Bioware RPG. Great characters, terrific dialogue with freedom of choice, a morality system, interesting combat, an engaging and well-realised world to explore with many quests to embark on.

It would be truly wonderful to see this fantastic gem re-released and enhanced for those of you who missed out.

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V – Final Fantasy XII

When Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X got remastered,  all I did was scream to my friends about how one of my favourite RPGs, Final Fantasy XII, should come next.

With the north american release not receiving the Zodiac job system or the extra bosses, it would be a nice way for Square-Enix to give back to the fans that have supported the series for years. I loved the extra content in the Kingdom Hearts releases, and the new bosses in Final Fantasy X were great for someone who always wanted to give them a try.

You can do it with one of your most underrated titles Square. Please.

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IV  – Pikmin

With the Pikmin games being expensive and rare, it is probably no surprise that people missed them when they first came out. They were bizarre little games that many probably ignored, and that is very sad as they are uniquely engaging games that deserve to see the light of day once more.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of all three Pikmin games on the Wii U, each utilizing the Gamepad like Pikmin 3 did? Maybe a nice art-book and a limited Captain Olimar Amiibo that functioned with not only the third game, but the first two as well.

There are a lot of possibilities for this series to once again come into the limelight, and I’m not against any of these ideas.

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III – Operation Rainfall

The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora’s Tower. What do all three of these games have in common? They’re annoyingly difficult to find, they’ve had a price hike which makes them a difficult purchase, and they’re not on the Wii U.

Each of these games alone were worth all the work the fans put into Operation Rainfall, and each game deserves some polishing and a re-release for those that inevitably missed them the first time.

With Xenoblade Chronicles X coming out soon and many fans craving traditional JRPGs. now is a great time Nintendo!

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II – Persona

Persona 5 is coming. You’re excited, I’m excited, we’re all excited. What isn’t coming and what never came was Persona 4 Golden on the PS3 or PS4. Why is this Atlus? Why only the Vita?

Regardless of the answer, I will forever dream of seeing the entire Persona series on a single Blu-ray disc with a shiny metal case and some nice goodies that reference the game à la Catherine’s ‘Love Is Over’ collector’s set.

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I – .Hack

If you go to Ebay or Amazon and type in ‘.Hack’ you’re likely to see a game with a funky name that is priced at approximately 150-300 dollars. This is because .Hack is an extremely rare series and each game, while varied in price, got hiked to an almost unbelievable degree.

These games gave me endless hours of pure enjoyment with their wonderful recreation of an MMO, their gorgeous soundtracks, their interesting characters, their unique and surprise-laden story.

It’s really upsetting because the only way you’ll ever play these games is if you drop that kind of money, know a person who owns them, or do something illegal to obtain them. It’s sad because although flawed, they are terrific games that should not sit on only a few shelves.

More than anything on this list, I’d love to see all seven games in the series put onto a singular disc, soundtracks included. The goodies could be anything from Chim-Chim plushies to a Statue of Haseo. Regardless of what, this would be an amazing collection for the fans that want it and the people who missed out.

Isn’t that what Remasters are about at their core?

2D-3D, Gaming’s Greatest Challenge

Gaming

We live in an age of gaming where we have near photo realistic graphics, gigantic open worlds modeled off of real, and fictional places, and for the most part we have conquered the third dimension. 3D gaming continues to improve, and we as gamers have evolved to the point where we can navigate a virtual 3D space relatively unhindered. The real challenge games developers face, and have always faced, is transitioning old 2D games, into new 3D ones.

This might seem like a cheap shot at an easy target, but look at Sonic. The moment Sonic stepped into the realms of 3D the quality of his games have dropped, heck some are unplayable. Needless to say, the transition has not been smooth for the hedgehog, but he is not the only one to have suffered. Megaman, Bomberman, Castlevania, they all tried to Tardis over, and they all failed. Megaman X7/8 were so bad, even the 2D sections suffered. Castlevania N64 titles were mind blowing in their shoddiness and continued to fester into the PS2 era. Bomberman failed so badly I am not even sure he exists anymore. The list of failed attempts to “innovate” is nearly endless.

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But then you have to insert the exception to the rule, or something I like to call: The Nintendo Factor. Where others failed, Nintendo somehow managed to make hit, after hit. Some of these newly 3D games are still considered masterpieces to this day. Mario, Link and Donkey Kong all made it through the rift during the N64 days. The gamecube brought Metroid through and pretty much created its own subgenre of FPS. Pit got his makeover into 3D on the 3DS after his last title was on the NES! Simply put, Nintendo know what they are doing. I don’t want to fan the fan-fires, but would it really be so bad if Nintendo took over the reigns for someone like Sonic? A few generations ago having Sonic on a Nintendo console would have been blasphemy, we now have  dozen games where both Mario and Sonic star. Would it be such a stretch nowadays? Lets face it, Sonic games are not going to get any better without some intervention.

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Of course Nintendo are not the only company able to bridge the gap. I mentioned Castlevania earlier, with the Lords of Shadow series we finally got a good 3D Castlevania. We even got a sequel, and a 2.5D prequel to said sequel! Metal Gear is another biggy. I might be pushing the boat a little far on this one, but even Bioware managed the transition. Baldurs Gate into Dragon Age was a technological leap I did not think possible. 2D-3D is achievable, proof is literally everywhere. It has just taken a fair amount of casualties to get to this point.

Majora’s Mask 3D Empty Bottle Locations

Bottle

There are a total of 7 Empty Bottles Link can collect in Majora’s Mask 3D. The bottles can be used to store potions, faeries, and other useful items for later use, and with the addition of a seventh bottle to the remake, certain parts of the game become much easier. Between the locations kept from the original game and the ones that have changed for the remake, they can be tricky to find. Here’s a complete list of where to find them all:

Empty Bottle 1:

The first bottle comes as part of the story, so you’ll get it no matter what. However, the way you get the bottle changes depending on the day. If it’s Day 1, you’ll need to find Koume in the Woods of Mystery in the southern swamp. You’ll find an injured Koume and will need to go to the Magic Hag Shop to get a bottle of red potion. Let Koume drink the potion and you’ll keep the bottle. If it’s Day 2 or 3, you’ll need to get the potion from Koutake, who will be flying around in the Woods Of Mystery, instead of the shop.

Empty Bottle 2:

You should go for this one after beating Woodfall Temple – otherwise there’s a lot you’ll have to redo. Go to the Swamp Tour Centre, which is the first hut on stilts you’ll see as you enter. Speak to Koume and you’ll get to play a minigame where you shoot the targets within the time limit. If you hit 20 (don’t worry, it’s not too difficult), you’ll get a bottle.

Empty Bottle 3:

This is on Day 1. Go to Romani Ranch and agree to help them defend the ranch from aliens. Then come back before 2am on the first night, and within the next three hours (2.30am – 5.15am) the side-quest will start and you’ll have to fight off some aliens. Once that’s done, you get your third bottle (full of delicious Romani milk).

Empty Bottle 4:

For this one you’ll need to already have the third bottle and all three transformation masks. Go and defend the wagon that travels from Romani Ranch to Clock Town and Cremia will give you Romani’s Mask. Put the mask on and go to the Milk Bar. Talk to Toto, the band leader, play his requested song. This will get you the Circus Troupe’s Mask. Now on the second day go to Stock Pot Inn, but enter through door on the roof. Wearing the Circus Troupe’s Mask, talk to Troupe Leader Gorman, who is in one of the rooms. He’ll ask for some Mystery Milk. To get that, go to Milk Road and talk to a Gorman Brother. Then you have to make it back in two minutes to hand over the Mystery Milk. Your reward will be an Empty Bottle.

Empty Bottle 5:

You obtain this bottle while you’re upgrading your sword to the Razor Sword. The smith will ask for Gold Dust, which can be obtained from the Goron Races. If you come first in the race, you’ll get bottles of Gold Dust. You should already have accessed the Goron Races with a Powder Keg at this point, but in case you haven’t, they can be found between the Mountain Village and Goron Village, where the rope bridges are.

Empty Bottle 6:

Once you’ve got both the Zora Mask and the Hookshot, head to Zora Cape. You’ll find some trees on the higher up platforms which you can access with the Hookshot. Those trees will take you to Waterfall Rapids, where you’ll find a beaver. Speak with him to race him and his brother. If you beat them both, you get a bottle.

Empty Bottle 7:

You’ll get this bottles during the Anju’s Anguish side-quest (also known as the Anju and Kefei side-quest), one of the hardest quests in the game, spanning over all three days and requiring a lot of effort. On the final day, once you’ve got Priority Mail from the owner of the Curiosity Shop, go to the Milk Bar while wearing the Romani Mask. Talk to Madam Aroma, Kefei’s mother, then put the Kafei Mask on and give her to Priority Mail to receive bottles of Chateau Romani. The seventh and final Empty Bottles will be yours to keep.

Is it Really the Best Game Ever? #1: The Legend of Zelda- Ocarina of Time

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Yes, ‘best game ever’ is one of the most controversial titles in gamedom. First and foremost, it’s horribly overused. Your little sister, for instance, may give that accolade to Camp Pink Unicorns Prancing About Simulator 2. It’s a matter of perspective.

Well, rather, it’s a matter of knowing that best and favourite aren’t the same darn thing. My personal favourite video game of all time is Treasure blaster Gunstar Heroes, but I hardly think it warrants the prestigious ‘best ever’ tag. For that, consensus is key. So thank Thor for the Internet.

Of course, reviews aren’t the be all and end all of a game’s worth. Far from it; they’re simply the opinion of the writer playing it. The same title being rated 1/10 by one and 10/10 by another is… less than helpful. But when everybody miraculously agrees? That’s when you’re onto something, right there.

As is the case with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Critical acclaim is an understatement, it’s among the best-recieved titles Gamerankings has ever featured (just pipped to the number one spot by Super Mario Galaxy). You wouldn’t find many gamers –fans or not– denying its place in the nerdly hall of fame either.

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So let’s take a look at just what makes a game worthy of a place among the best ever.

Ocarina of Time was released in 1998, the franchise’s first foray onto the N64. It had a similar objective to the earlier Super Mario 64: bring one of Nintendo’s biggest IPs into 3D, and dazzle the world into a state of bowel-loosening amazement in the process.

Mission accomplished.

It was that very move to 3D which had a profound impact on players from the off. Sixteen years ago, this was a revolutionary game indeed. As incredible as it was to learn that Mario doesn’t have to run from left to right forever, Ocarina was something else. Expansive overworlds weren’t new to the series (A Link to the Past had two of them, in a manner of speaking), but… wow. This Hyrule had a whole new sense of scope, scale and grandeur.

If you try telling me you didn’t crap yourself a little when emerging onto Hyrule Field for the first time, I’ll only conclude that you’re a dirty liar. Stop your dirty lies. That first ride on Epona, hurtling towards the castle or Death Mountain or some other distant landmark? It was a magical moment.

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But spangly new visuals would only take us so far. What we also needed was substance. The story and structure are comfortably familiar (spoiler: Ganondorf and his angry ginger beard are being nefarious again), and they set the stage for some of the finest dungeons in the series. Even if the Water Temple did make many of us cry sad, sad tears of sadness onto our bedroom carpets. Again, the third dimension was at work, making all manner of fancy new puzzles possible.

Away from the main game, it was a joy to catch cuccos, fish, hunt skulltulas and other sidequests in a world that felt so vast, so (to use the word correctly for once) epic. Ocarina of Time enhanced the sense of wonder and adventure that the creators always wanted to convey. It was such an influential release, for introducing Z-targeting and for implanting those memorable moments of Zeldatastic on our hearts.

For all of these reasons, it’s regarded by many as classic of the genre, perhaps the greatest Zelda of all, and certainly a contender for the best game ever.

Source of images: gamefaqs.