Backlog Battle Report (13th Nov 2017)

Was hoping to have my first Switch Indie Review article up by this point, as the draft is online and ready to go, just needs editor approval. As such, I can’t link it here, so I’ll be omitting the game in question (Sparkle 2 EVO for Switch) from the list. Most of my thoughts on the game were in last week’s post anyway. So here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — Notable only by its absence

After having been my go-to game for just winding down and exploring or questing, this week saw practically no playing of ESO at all. I did maybe a quest or two and logged in to do crafting daily quests as well as keep researching rolling, but that’s about it. Haven’t completely lost interest, but with no sign of friends coming to rejoin me anytime soon, I’m starting to feel the loneliness. That and I’ve been busy with other games (as this report will show), so it’s largely just on the backburner for the time being.

I do want to go through and finish off the Morrowind quests again soon though, so perhaps in the coming days.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PC)

In an effort to keep from falling too behind on the variety of games that I put down for something new and never return to, I resumed playing Battle Chasers for a little bit. Progressed through about half of the second dungeon before I had to stop, and didn’t get back to it just yet. Still, it’s on my mind and I’m going to resume in between the cavalcade of Switch and PS4 games on the horizon.

As well as being as gorgeous as it was the last time I commented on it, I do still quite enjoy the battle system and the amount of options it presents. The overdrive system is an excellent touch, providing temporary disposable mana so that you can keep using your abilities throughout a whole dungeon. Biggest issue with that is that things die far too quickly to get much use or strategy from it, even bosses… and if they don’t die fast enough, odds are that I will, since the damage count goes both ways.

Hopefully the story will start picking up soon, too. There’s a few interesting snippets but at the moment, that aspect isn’t particularly grabbing me.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (13th Nov 2017)”

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Right Click to Zoom — Fans vs. Funds; A Comparison of Project AM2R and Metroid: Samus Returns

Welcome to this week’s iteration of Right Click to Zoom, the more in-depth article side of this blog. Today, I’ll be looking into both Project AM2R and the newly released Metroid: Samus Returns, and comparing their different game design choices.

As far as I can tell, this is quite possibly a unique situation to have occurred in video game history. The original Metroid 2 was released on the Game Boy in 1991, and now decades later it has received two full remakes within a year of each other. It’s a rare opportunity to study how different developers and game design decisions can impact the delivery of what is effectively the same game, not to mention what elements of the original source material they keep or discard. Let’s give a brief synopsis of the two first for those not familiar.

Project AM2R (short for Another Metroid 2 Remake) was first begun in 2007 and released in August 2016, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Metroid franchise. The game was largely the work of Milton “DoctorM64” Guasti, who maintained the AM2R site with a blog of his development updates and design choices. Over the years, he was very thorough in explaining his decisions, ambition, and scope of the game, showing a remarkable amount of professionalism. The process was understandably ongoing, but the end result was an incredibly high quality fan-game incorporating features and updates from the entire Metroid series to that point.

You can still read this development blog on the AM2R website. Sadly, a DMCA claim by Nintendo means the game is no longer officially supported or available for download on the site, but is nonetheless on the internet and easy to find. In fact, just this month an update was released by a dedicated team of fans using the game’s source code, implementing both a New Game+ and Randomizer modes that I will likely try out in the near future.

Metroid: Samus Returns, on the other hand, is the first official “true” Metroid game in the series since Other M in 2010 (the exception being Federation Force, which takes place in the same universe but is a Metroid game in name only). Back in 2015, developers MercurySteam pitched a remake of 2002’s Metroid Fusion to Nintendo for the Wii U/3DS. While the pitch failed, the prototype impressed series creator Yoshio Sakamoto enough to see the team hired to develop their own official Metroid 2 remake instead, and Samus Returns for the 3DS is the result.

Having just played through Samus Returns and completing it the weekend it came out, I believe that MercurySteam did a fantastic job in delivering their vision of the series. At the same time, so did AM2R, so now it’s time to look at what they both did.

Continue reading “Right Click to Zoom — Fans vs. Funds; A Comparison of Project AM2R and Metroid: Samus Returns”

Over the Horizon

Contrary to the tone of the post title, I’m actually only over Horizon: Zero Dawn because it’s finished. It was more than strong and compelling enough to drag me away from Torment and ultimately kept me there throughout, being the only game I’ve really worked on for the past two weeks.

I finally completed the game a few hours ago, with just under 70 hours of playtime logged. All major sidequests and plots are completed, all collectibles save world datapoints found, and the only two things I can think of that need doing are retrieving one last Power Cell to get the ultimate armour (I missed it first time through the plot area) and tightening up some of the Hunting Ground times for all the rewards. There’s also knocking over a few target dummies for an achievement. I might go back and do all that in an afternoon, but for now it’s done.

It’s a really good game and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been well received by most establishments and is quite deserving of those, I feel… even if it’s being a little overshadowed by the insanely high praise that the new Zelda is receiving. From what little I’ve experienced of Zelda, I can say that it’s a great game, but I can’t say yet if it’s deserving of quite all that.

I’ll get to it soon, but having just thrown myself into a huge open world action adventure game regardless of tone and style differences, I need something to break it up so I don’t burn out. As such, I’ll probably divvy up my time between resuming Torment and playing NieR: Automata now that that’s out. There’ll still be a chunk of time dedicated to FF14, I’m sure, though I did finally reach 60 so that grind is slowing somewhat.

Anyway, Horizon. I liked the combat with the machines, having to learn all their parts and weak points to better plan my attack (or else at least strip their armour in order to hit them hard). I liked that the vast majority of options were available to me from the outset, and the skill tree didn’t unlock whole new playstyles so much as slightly improved or gave me alternative approaches in styles of play that I enjoyed. Towards the end, this might have made combat feel a touch same-y, but generally that’s hard to avoid in as long a playtime as I gave it.

The world is absolutely gorgeous, with some great designs and features as well as standout landmarks to keep me interested in exploring and being a part of it. Coupled with the machine designs, and it was a very easy game to get engaged with… and then the plot and characters kept me engaged. It was a very interesting mystery to unravel, digging into the ruins and memories of what is effectively near future for me, but a thousand years in the past for the main characters. They don’t understand the technology and terms that are being presented fully, but I do, so it’s an interesting layer of subtext there for the first half of it. In the second half, the characters have grown to learn enough to be on board with it, but it’s still no less compelling to find out the truth of what happened.

The characters were also very well acted, with the most serious but well-delivered voice work I’ve heard Ashly Burch give. She’s done a bunch of roles, with some quite hit or miss, but this is probably the most subdued and serious character performance she’s given with Aloy, and I think it suited quite well.

Aloy was a very interesting character – curious, quick-witted and intelligent in a world that absolutely doesn’t recognise those traits anymore, yet still possessed of the strength and willpower to stand up in it. There’ll be plenty of character discussions regarding Aloy as a Strong Female Lead Character by a host of publications eventually, I’m sure, so I’ll let them handle it. I’ll just say that I liked her and most of the supporting cast.

What really struck me about the plot and characters was the memories of the past, however – the titular Zero Dawn project that is crucial to the story. I won’t spoil things, but the post-apocalyptic nature of the current world is delved into quite heavily, bringing up the records and memories of the time right before and leading up to the apocalypse. And what an apocalypse – we’re talking complete biosphere destruction and mass extinction of all life on Earth, in remarkable detail and with lots of feeling behind it. It was those little details that made it that much more compelling and drove me to finish and find out what I could of it.

Any complaints I have with the game are mostly minor nitpicks regarding things like animation glitches or poor lip syncing.There’s occasionally repetitive combat towards the late game once you’ve figured out your style of dealing with everything, mostly because you have the means to eschew things like traps and careful setup in favour of rapid firing elemental arrows and exploiting weak points while tearing off all visible components. Still, you have to work to get to that point, and it’s still satisfying to pick apart machines.

Plot wise, the ending was kind of lackluster and not entirely clear on all details. The lead up to the end was still quite enjoyable, however, and prepping for the final battle actually saw you meeting up with just about every character you’d met even in side quests to have them assist you, which was nice. There was also a sequel hook, however, which I’m actively curious to see realised. If this world is to be revisited, I will quite likely be there.

Give Horizon a shot if you have the means, I highly recommend it. Yes, even if you’ve been playing Zelda. It’s good enough and different enough to be worth it.

Now it’s time for me to go hunt entirely different robots… and this time I’m playing the robot! What a twist! NieR: Automata feedback once I get around to it.

Torment vs. the March Gauntlet

It’s already been a pretty busy year for video games, but today was the kickoff of the real gauntlet of key titles that I’ll be acquiring and (hopefully) playing a satisfactory amount of.

First and foremost, today saw the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to the classic and massively revered Planescape: Torment. There was quite a bit of buzz generated by this Kickstarter, and after throwing a hell of a lot of money at Pillars of Eternity, I wisely chose to back at a more reasonable figure. It’s finally out, and it’s actually really good! More on this momentarily.

Despite the full length of time a very text heavy western RPG is likely to take, I unfortunately don’t have all that much offered to it before it’ll be contested. Tomorrow sees the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn on PS4, and I’ll be going to bed and retrieving it first thing in the morning once this blog post is done.

In keeping with past trends, I suspect I’ll get this, put it in the console, and then leave it to download the Day 1 patch at a ridiculously slow rate while I put some more time into Torment. Once it’s ready to go, however, I am very much looking forward to roaming around an open world and fighting Zoids- excuse me, robot dinosaurs. Early signs and feedback from gaming sites suggest that it’s quite good, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s… ahem, over the Horizon.

The biggest issue Horizon is going to have isn’t with itself, however – it’s the fact that it’ll have some seriously hard hitting competition in just two days. Big open world adventure game with RPG elements that has a lot of gathering and crafting? Yeah, that’s going to fill the exact same niche The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I do hope for Horizon’s sake that it’s able to stand out and succeed even with that kind of heavyweight competition, because by all accounts it’s worthy of it… but then, so is the new Zelda, apparently.

Zelda drops on March 3rd here, same as the Nintendo Switch – a brand new console that I am most interested in but have no intention of buying it until late this year if not 2018. With only Zelda in its immediate future to really interest me,. I can hold off on purchasing a full price console on launch, and instead plan to scoop up the Wii U version of Zelda as a last hurrah for my underutilised and sadly abandoned console.

So those three games will be fighting with everything else for the bulk of my time in the coming days, but even they’ll be joined by new additions in only a week: NieR Automata released on March 10th in Australia. Now by a number of accounts, this is perhaps the weakest of the games on offer – it had a strong demo but doesn’t quite hold up to it as a full game from what I’ve heard, but my sources aren’t the greatest on this and mileage may vary. I still intend to pick it up and give it a whirl, because it looks like a bunch of fun to be had.

Four games in two weeks, most of which are quite large affairs. Surely I won’t have anything else to lure me in though, right? Well… technically, Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out in late March, but as it stands I have little real interest in that series after the conclusion of ME3, or in dealing with BioWare’s shenanigans again. That’s very much a case of “wait and see” like Dragon Age Inquisition was. But hey, here’s hoping it ends up good, right?

Finally, to crown it all off, Persona 5 is FINALLY out on April 4th. As soon as that comes out, all bets are off and all other priorities shelves in favour of putting a good chunk of time into that. So I really have a month to focus on these other games and hit them as hard as I can.

To that end, I’ve obviously started with Torment, and I have to say that I’m quite enjoying my five hours of game time so far. Numenera as a tabletop RPG setting quite interested me, as it had the potential to be utterly bizarre and alien, and so far that has translated tremendously well to video game format. There are so many little stories and occurrences that are quite weird, strange, or otherwise convoluted and kind of crazy already, but it’s just been a fascinating experience.

It’s a really text heavy game – perhaps even more so than Planescape: Torment – but I’ve been happy to talk to everyone, learn more about the world and the setting, listen to the various stories, talk my way through some puzzles or encounters… really, I’ve just been soaking up as much of the setting as I can. The story has a compelling start, and I’m very curious to see how it pans out.

Perhaps my biggest gripe so far is that I’m not hugely invested in any of the companions I’ve discovered so far. The Last Castoff (the MC) is potentially interesting just because of how s/he ties into the narrative and how many strange events and old memories s/he can trigger, but the other characters so far I haven’t really developed much attachment for. Maybe that will change in time, we’ll see.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to getting back into it and pushing through tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes… and if the other games on my agenda will have any hope of pulling my attention away from it for long.

Last things to mention: I sat down and forced myself to play Gravity Rush 2 until I couldn’t do so anymore, and that sadly didn’t take as long as I was hoping. The game just has too many frustrations for me to stay attached, and I actually got so mad at it that I had to pause and walk away for a while just because of the terrible camera in one particular encounter. Really interesting and cool set pieces have been completely ruined by the unwieldy camera and jarring controls, and the new gravity styles feel way too gimmicky to really do much to change that. A proper article will be forthcoming.

And speaking of articles, I just had a new one promoted on GameSkinny, this one about why I think that Square Enix’s JRPG offerings are lackluster and other companies are getting much less credit for doing much more work for the genre. Give it a read if you’re interested.

Mid-February Activity Dump

I usually do my best to consolidate the number of games I’m focusing on playing at any given time, hence the Current Projects list on the sidebar. That said, my attention span is the exact opposite of my backlog, and tends to falter quite a bit. The last couple of weeks have seen me jumping between a number of games in relatively quick succession, so rather than write a number of articles focusing on them individually, this article is going to be a rapid fire synopsis of my feelings and experiences on them.

There will be more focused articles, of course, but that’s for another day. Let’s begin.

Gravity Rush 2 (PS4)

I really enjoyed the first game as my post on that indicates, and hearing good things about the sequel saw me anticipating playing it quite a bit. Sadly, I don’t like it nearly as much. The primary reason for this is that, well… there are large stretches of the game where I’m not playing Gravity Rush. Instead, the new features and attempts to expand the game feel like a mix of things like Assassin’s Creed or Beyond Good and Evil, just… not nearly as good.

Stealth missions where you can’t use your gravity powers, or missions where you have to comb through crowds and ask people about X or Y… it’s an attempt to expand on the core of the game, but it’s so far removed that it ends up pulling me out of it. When Gravity Rush lets me play Gravity Rush, it’s great! But that is actually rarer than it should be. Lots of points I could make on this one that deserves its own post or GameSkinny article; I’ll just move on for now.

Digimon World: Next Order (PS4)

I haven’t played a Digimon game in a while, but there were immediately enough elements that this felt very much like revisiting a childhood memory. Sadly, that feeling didn’t last long. This game isn’t bad at all, but it’s not really what I expected. I planned on it being more like a JRPG, but it’s true to its roots as a monster raising game through and through.

Now while that’s not a bad thing, it immediately sets itself up for one BIG problem. See, training your Digimon back at the base city gives considerable stats and improvements as you’d expect. But going out and actually fighting? The rewards and stat gains are so negligible as to actively discourage fighting to keep from wasting time. So you’re effectively choosing between power or progression, and it feels like a very strange dichotomy that could’ve been woven together better.

And when you’re not really interested in fighting in a monster raising game, well… I’m sure you can see why this sapped my interest. I owe this game more time and attention, I really do, but it’s on the backburner for now.

Nioh (PS4)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, letting myself get hyped by videos and trailers despite my normal caution. That said, it’s met my expectations nicely. The game is a lot of fun to play, and I’m greatly enjoying my time with it. I’m dying LOTS, mind you, but that’s to be expected when I don’t have much experience with the SoulsBorne games to prep me for it.

At one point, I spectated my friend and brother playing the game, and they were much better at it than I was due to their familiarity with Dark Souls – they died considerably less and made progress much faster than I did. I have much to learn in my quest to git gud. Despite this, I must reiterate that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting my ass kicked by this one and look forward to playing more in the coming days.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star (PS4)

Purchasing this on a whim after a friend’s recommendation, I’ve been playing this over the last day or two. It’s a Musou/Warriors game ala Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors style games, set in the Type Moon universe made famous by Fate/Stay Night.

Now those who know anything about Dynasty Warriors or any relevant spinoff will know what the gameplay of this boils down to, and little really changes here. But I’ve long been a fan of that style of play, and mowing down thousands of enemies while clashing with the tougher figures is quite therapeutic even if it gets repetitive quickly. There’s a lot of context and nuance to the plot that I don’t fully understand, since it’s a sequel to a PSP game I never played… but I’m filling in the blanks as I go and it’s reasonably enjoyable.

Will see how it lasts in the long run, but again, it’s therapeutic and a good game to wind down with since (at least in regular difficulties) I can mow things down without a thought.

Final Fantasy 14 (PC)

As my interest in WoW wavered, my interest in revisiting the world of Eorzea grew. It was kind of a whim at first, since I hadn’t played the game for around a year after unsubbing before any Heavensward patch content was released. That said, after dragging a good friend in for the ride, I got back into it. And, well, this has absolutely been where all my time has gone since.

I’m back in the game with a passion and vigor that I sincerely didn’t expect, even replaying old content that I’ve done while leveling up a fresh character instead of returning to my main. In between playing with my friend and leveling solo, I’ve almost reached Heavensward content a second time and I’ve been having a blast doing so. I really do love the world they’ve made here, and it’s remarkably refreshing to be pulled back into a fictional universe that I feel like I can relate and invest myself in without fear of harsh disappointment. There’s even been fanfiction! What can I say, I love developing on my characters even in video games.

I tend to play a little of this every day and am pushing on ahead to endgame where I can visit all the patch content I missed and hopefully be ready to tackle the Stormblood expansion when it’s fresh. I really did miss this, though.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

Anyone who knows me knows that this game is a constant, and nothing has changed. I’m still picking this game up and playing a couple of games every so often, usually in QMs with friends but occasionally attempting to climb the ranks back up into Diamond. My frequent run ins with angry and abusive assholes as well as people intentionally ruining ranked games is stifling any attempt to get seriously back into that one, though.

Lucio is due out soon, though, and he looks fun to play. That should be interesting.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS)

Strangely, while enjoying this game a reasonable amount, I quickly put it down once I reached almost the same point as I put down the PS2 version and have yet to really pick it back up. It’s not bad – it’s quite good, honestly, and I’m having more fun than I remember from the first attempt at beating this years ago. I just… can’t seem to stick to it? I don’t know. I’ll give it another shot in the coming days.

Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile)

The first of many impending Fire Emblem games, and the one I was looking at with the most skepticism, as mobile games are rarely anything but quick cash-ins. Nintendo’s offering has more quality and gameplay than the vast majority, and it was a pleasant surprise to find myself quite enjoying it.

That didn’t last long, though. Eventually, I reached the end of the current content save for repeated arenas or grinding ceaselessly to beat the highest difficulties, and then the veneer starts to wear off and… surprise! It’s your standard mobile Gacha game designed to draw in whales! For all the negativity in this statement, though, I did enjoy myself. But I’m already at the point where I don’t even bother to log in and play it now. Feel like I’m done with it already, especially when I could be playing

Dandy Dungeon (Mobile)

The last game on today’s list is also the biggest surprise, because up until I saw it reviewed on GameSkinny, I’d never heard a damn thing about it. That said, it’s easily the best game I recall playing on mobile since You Must Build A Boat, and I’ve sunk a considerable amount of time over the past few days into it.

The general plot and style of the game is completely wacky, zany Japanese humour that is amusing and delightful to behold. The gameplay sees you plot the path of the main character through a dungeon and then use items at the right time to make sure you get through it, as well as equipping and upgrading the right gear before tackling those dungeons. There’s a lot of farming and grinding involved to get the item drops you need to make progress, but honestly? The game’s so entertaining that I don’t even mind just playing a dungeon or two when I get a spare minute and my energy’s full.

Yes, it has the standard free to play mobile game energy system. In this case, however, a small purchase will completely negate that akin to just purchasing the game outright, and I’m starting to think it might be worth it to do so. Nonetheless, even with the free to play elements, the game is well executed and entirely too endearing. Highly recommended!

 

Barring a few minor dabblings, that largely covers my gaming over the past few days. With any luck I’ll settle in on knocking over set projects and making headway in the backlog… though with the impending release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and NieR: Automata in a matter of weeks, I can only foresee the list growing rather than shrinking. Oh well!

Dawn of Another Day – A Second Opinion

While I have many games to talk about in the coming days, I’ve been neglecting to post one important thing. Following up on my write-up regarding Majora’s Mask and how I felt about it, the friend that I played the game with chose to write his own thoughts on the matter as well. This turned into a rather lengthy but interesting discourse about the key differences between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, including what each does best.

Since it’s such an interesting read and in keeping with the general spirit of this blog, he’s requested that it be posted here and I am only too happy to do so. He’s chosen to remain anonymous, but nonetheless, the rest of the post beneath the cut is all his writing.

Continue reading “Dawn of Another Day – A Second Opinion”

Dawn of A New Day

It took three separate purchases, multiple years, and countless attempts before I finally stuck with it and completed it, but it’s done at last: I have beaten Majora’s Mask. Strike one off the backlog, and particularly off the Bucket List.

It’s hard to say much about this game that hasn’t been said in the decade and a half since the game first debuted. There are two particularly vocal stances on how the game was received: either that it was good, but Ocarina of Time was better; or that it’s the pinnacle of the Zelda series because it eschews much of the formula in order to tell a very different and darker kind of narrative. I can see where both schools of thought would rise from, but my opinion is much more moderate than them.

I’ll cover some logistics about my playthrough first, because it’s relevant to how I approached it. Rather than play this solo, the entirety of the game was played in tandem with a good friend of mine, and while he’d finished the game many years ago he didn’t remember all the details so it was still fresh enough for us to experience unhindered. We were both present for the whole game, watched the entire thing, and just swapped controllers every so often. It was helpful to get extra opinions and suggestions for some of the trickier puzzles, and it meant we had somebody attempting new things while the other was looking up answers so we didn’t get completely complacent and reliant on guides.

This was a pretty good setup for playing the game. My friend holds Ocarina of Time in extremely high regard, so he was interested in replaying Majora’s Mask to see how it held up by contrast, and I had never experienced the game, so we both had different viewpoints that we could discuss as we progressed. It also meant that if we got stuck or frustrated, or else were doing tedious filler tasks and grinding, we could pass the controller back and forth in order to keep focused. Quite frankly, had we not been doing so, I imagine it would have taken much, much longer to finish alone – hence why I haven’t finished it before despite multiple attempts.

Nonetheless, with this setup in play, we finished the game in about four extended play sessions. We didn’t 100% the game, but we did get to the point that we considered effectively “complete” – we got all the masks, including the Fierce Deity mask, we completed most of the major sidequests in the Bomber’s Notebook (especially the legendary Anju and Kafei quest), and we made sure to beat the final boss before getting that final mask so it was still actually a challenge. Clearing it afterwards with the mask was absolutely laughable – that thing is utterly disgusting in how overpowered it is but I guess that’s the point.

So, my experience with Zelda games is actually different from many, as I usually find a lot more enjoyment in the 2D games. If I had to pick three personal favourites, they’d be Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages, and Wind Waker, which is different from what many consider the best entries in the series. I did enjoy Ocarina of Time and I cannot deny that it earns much of the praise it gets, but it took me almost as many attempts to finish as Majora’s Mask did, so I can hardly say that it gripped me right to the end. In fact, that’s the case with most of the non-2D Zelda games – it takes me a tremendous amount of time to stick with them long enough to see them through to the end. I don’t know if that’s anything to do with the series or just my personal approach to playing.

Regardless, Majora’s Mask is an interesting experience, but not enough to actually break that habit of not being able to stick with it. I don’t really know what that means for how the game performs as a whole. It definitely stands out in contrast to the other major Zelda games though, in the sense that the overall game experience is much more focused. Rather than the biggest, most sprawling world it can manage at the time, Majora’s Mask covers a smaller (but still sizable) area and has you focus on it and its intricacies in a more… let’s say intimate fashion.

Clock Town felt more personable to me than any part in Ocarina of Time, for example, because I spent so much time interacting with it in different ways and learning its secrets. Most importantly though, I learnt about the secrets, habits, interests and lives of the occupants. With most of the models and features lifted completely from the sister game, any developments in graphics went instead to making these characters more interesting.

Each of them had a story to tell, and the Anju and Kafei sidequest showcases that best: gradually uncovering the relationship of these two characters with their own troubles and problems, helping them out with them, and then finally being there to witness their joyous reunion literally moments before the world is ending. Their insistence on being together and waiting for each other to uphold their promise was quite touching. While it’s the major sidequest of the game, there are a number of other small examples of it throughout the game, and it really made the world of Termina feel much more personal than the average Hyrule visit.

It’s this element of delivering the narrative that allows Majora’s to really keep my attention slightly more than other Zelda games, I feel. Generally, the standard Zelda game will have you know roughly how the game is going to play out, since you’re eventually going to get all the pieces of X in order to solve Y and fight Ganon, whether that’s assembling the Triforce or finding some other means to solve the plot. Even if there’s sometimes padding between this, or the actual item gathering is split in half (like Ocarina seeing the first third of the game opening the Temple of Time, and then the second half unifying the Sages), this is generally how it pans out.

This happens in Majora’s Mask as well – restore the four spirits of the land in order to stop the moon from falling. You know that’s the objective from the end of the first three days, where Skull Kid makes it perfectly clear that the confrontation with him will be the end and everything you do works towards that. But the extra stories of the various characters across the world and how they interact or interplay with one another made it feel just that little bit more personal and appreciable to me, and I think that aids Majora’s narrative as well.

It’s also quite a dark and mature game by Zelda standards. Sure, Ocarina of Time sees the world fall to darkness under seven years of Ganondorf’s tyrannical rule, but even then the people in Kakariko Village and elsewhere are living their lives and functioning to a point. By contrast, Clock Town can see their inevitable end and knows that it will arrive in just a matter of days, with each day seeing them more and more panicked and divided on whether to flee, or whether to embrace their end.

The areas themselves are also dark, dreary and somewhat uninviting compared to their counterparts. The frozen mountain of the Gorons is cold, desolate, and lacking their leader. The Zora are depressed because their singer has lost her voice. Ikana Canyon is a desolate wasteland inhabited only by the undead and living in the shadow of their fallen kingdom – coincidentally, this was probably my favourite area in the game, since it really portrayed that sense of darkness and despair best. It was also quite sad that each transformation mask came from the death of a hero or strong representative of the race, and they all acknowledge you as that fallen person despite them actually being gone – Link gets little direct credit for much of what he accomplishes, and at the end who they believe to be their hero will be dead and gone regardless of what you accomplish.

Despite all this dreariness, it still pushed me to want to learn and explore more, and helping the residents with their issues in order to access more of the world felt much more relatable than other Zelda games. It was that extra touch that made the narrative more enjoyable to me, and so I can definitely see why it’s Majora’s Mask that is praised for being the deepest and most interesting Zelda game, if not the best in terms of gameplay.

So in gameplay, did it hold up? I think so. The core elements and items that are basically on the Zelda checklist all make their appearance, what with the bow and various magical arrows, the hookshot, the mirror shield, an instrument… but I liked that the transformation masks were all both familiar yet added new layers of complexity to the game. Goron rolling quickly became our default mode of transportation, the Zora form was useful for its interesting boomerang mechanics and awesome swimming, and fast moving, area damaging and high flying Deku Scrub can’t be understated. Swapping between masks and utilising Ocarina songs in quick succession could be awkward and irritating in places, but nothing I wasn’t able to get over quickly.

In addition, the dungeons were well designed, interesting to explore, offered a number of little exploration challenges in finding the stray fairies, and so on. I also liked that most of the key items actually came from not the primary four Temples, and the treasure of each was either the bow or a new type of arrow that behaved differently. It made it feel that you could go and explore the world more without necessarily having to go clear each dungeon sequentially, even if that’s what you did. It also allowed for a lot of time in between dungeons to be spent finding the new areas or seeing what it allowed us to do in order to better aid an NPC’s requests.

I think I’ve waxed on about the game for a bit now, so I’ll take a moment to bring up a few quick cons. Again, there were times where rapidly swapping between masks and trying to play songs frequently could get somewhat tedious, notably in the Stone Tower and subsequent Temple where you had to play the Elegy of Emptiness multiple times to hit several switches at once. The Zora behaved very awkwardly in combat, even underwater.

There was one or two puzzles that were really obtuse and needed a guide, such as allowing yourself to get grappled by an enemy in order to be thrown up to a key, even though you’d instinctively defeat the enemy each time. And a few of the sidequests relating to people were on such tight schedules and performances that it required multiple resets back to the First Day in order to complete it… though that said, with the Song of Inverted Time, I rarely felt that the time limit was otherwise too imposing or worrisome and cleared the dungeons in time.

One big thing was that many of the boss fights were extremely hit or miss. The first boss in the Woodfall Temple (don’t remember his name) was complicated and interesting. The Goron rolling chase that was Goht was a lot of fun. Fighting the skeleton bosses in the throne room of Ikana Castle was awesome, and the final boss was quite enjoyable and suitably challenging until I properly learned the pattern – I got a suitable thrill and cheer out of beating him with only a heart to spare.

But otherwise, many of the bosses were extremely weak and plain. The worms in the Stone Tower were awe-inspiring to fight even after you became Giant to combat them, but they were otherwise super simple and dull, though I understand that this fight was made more complicated and fun in the 3DS version. The fish boss in the Termina Bay Temple was dull and uninteresting, and did way too much damage for what it was. Quite a few of them just felt like a letdown.

Still, many of these are ultimately little annoyances. At the end of the day, I quite enjoyed my time in Majora’s Mask. It was an interesting narrative experience, had some well designed puzzles and dungeons, had a few good fights, and overall was an enjoyable game to play.

That said… I’m fairly certain everyone has known that since 2000. Oh well!

It’s the end of January and we’re hitting the first influx of newly released high priority games this year, so I’ll be picking up and going through as many of these as I can. Look out for my thoughts on those in the coming days.