Archives for category: Nintendo Wii

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess often gets passed off as something of a reimagined Ocarina of Time, and it’s not too difficult to see why; like most of the Zelda games we’ve seen since that much-loved 1998 instalment, Twilight Princess builds on the foundations laid down by Link’s first foray into 3D. Moreover, with a return to a more muted, ‘realistic’ presentation it’s not a difficult conclusion to jump to.

But for my money, Twilight Princess is the ultimate evolution of that strain of the Zelda franchise, taking everything Ocarina did and making it grander, darker, and more mysterious, while focusing more on story and scene composition than any Zelda that came before. It takes what made Ocarina great, strengthens those building blocks, and adds in new experiences (like the ability to become a wolf and sniff out objectives), ultimately managing to earn its own distinct identity.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the game’s Hyrule Field theme. For those of us that played Ocarina of Time back in 1998, it’s unlikely that anything will beat that first moment of stepping onto the expansive Hyrule Field – seeing a game world open up like that just wasn’t something we were used to back in the late nineties. As a spectacle, it’s not something Twilight Princess could hope to replicate, and to my mind, it relies on its theme to distinguish itself from its legendary precursor.

Where Ocarina‘s Hyrule Field theme is playful and sunny, reflecting the theme of a young boy setting off into the world to meet his destiny, Twilight Princess‘ theme is altogether more rousing, suggestive of the themes of a brave young man thrust out into the wider world in an effort to rescue those he holds dear. It sounds determined.

There are of course moments that call back to Ocarina of Time, and one piece that plays on that familiarity comes during a moment where we adventure through the Sacred Grove, in an effort to hunt down the legendary Master Sword, the Blade of Evil’s Bane. Link needs the sword to undo a curse placed upon him, and so we find ourselves in a lost part of the world that seems strangely familiar – it’s as if the long-forgotten ruins of Ocarina‘s Temple of Time have been overrun by the Lost Woods, and this impression is built upon by the music, a mysterious take on Saria’s Song.

It creates a strange mood, taking a well-known melody from a past game and stretching it into something different. Its backing melody feels more like something we would have heard in Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack than something you’d hear in a Zelda game – immediately mysterious, tempering the known, the familiar, with the unknown, the enigmatic. As a whole, it seems to say, “this place may feel familiar, but it’s not the same.”

My favourite couple of pieces of Twilight Princess music though, are also the most idiosyncratic. They’re pure Twilight Princess, laden with mystery, the weight of ancient wisdom long forgotten, and a healthy dose of the melancholy. The first of these is ‘Light Spirits’.

Early in the game, Link must journey to three sacred springs and bring light back to the spirits that dwell there, undoing the dark curse placed upon them by Zant, the King of the Twilight. This theme is heard whenever Link converses with one of the spirits, and it imparts a feeling of their timelessness, suggesting that they have long watched over Hyrule, while also creating a mood that speaks to the unknown nature of these beings that show themselves only to a chosen few. The orchestral arrangement, used for the Zelda symphony concerts, is even better, sounding like something Danny Elfman might have conjured up for an early-nineties Tim Burton film.

My favourite piece by far though comes during an incredibly emotional scene with Midna. After being confronted by Zant at the Lanayru Spirit Spring, Midna is forcibly exposed to the spirit’s light, leaving her near death. Link, transformed back into a wolf by Zant’s magic, desperately rushes toward Castle Town, a dying Midna sprawled on his back, to look for help.

It’s the music that makes this scene so special, a beautifully emotive piano-led piece that plays as you tear across a moonlit Hyrule Field at night, in search of aid for the friend that has been with you since the start of your journey. And it’s not over-complicated – that the music is so understated as you desperately rush to save Midna makes it all the more effective.

The quality of the compositions is such that it’s a shame Nintendo decided to use sequenced music rather than record with a full orchestra, something they did with great success in their next title in the series, Skyward Sword. Happily, with the advent of video-game focused symphonic concerts, we’re able to experience the music as its creators no doubt intended it to be heard, and it’s all the more stirring for it.

Of course, The Legend of Zelda has always had strong, memorable music, and it makes me wish for a Zelda-themed music game akin to Square-Enix’s excellent Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Like that other much-loved franchise, Zelda has over a quarter of a century of series history to draw from, and it’d be great to celebrate that in the form of a rhythm-action game. For now, I’ll have to content myself with the upcoming fanservice extravaganza that Hyrule Warriors looks like being.

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Last week, I wrote about the announcement of a special collectors edition for upcoming PS3 exclusive Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles. The announcement, made at New York Comic Con, was specifically for the U.S. release of the box set, and I hoped at the time that we would shortly hear that Europe would also see the collection; considering the U.S. release was announced at NYCC, I wondered if we’d get confirmation at this weekend’s MCM Comic Con in London – Tales of series producer Hideo Baba will be in attendance, after all.

Today, the official Tales of Twitter account has proven me wrong, confirming that we will indeed be seeing the collectors edition in Europe, as well as announcing that the game will be out in just a few short months: Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles will hit shop shelves on February the 28th 2014!

symphchronCEEUThe collectors edition, shown above, will include all the same goodies as the U.S. version (which was almost identical to the Japanese LaLaBit Market edition before it). In a large box decorated with gorgeous ufotable art, we’ll get five mini figures (Lloyd, Collette, Emil, Marta and Tenebrae), a novel describing the events between the two games (previously unreleased in English) and a multi-disc soundtrack. It seems “multi” means two in this instance.

So far, the collectors edition doesn’t seem to be available to pre-order anywhere, though I suspect that, like the Tales of Xillia collectors edition before it, it will be exclusively available through Namco-Bandai’s online store. It will also be limited to ten thousand copies Europe-wide (a third less than the U.S.’s 15,000 copies), so as soon as it becomes available, I’ll be throwing down a pre-order. Well, so long as it doesn’t cost as much as that Titanfall special edition

I’ve been thinking about Mistwalker’s The Last Story recently. Mostly because I’ve yet to play it and it’s been gnawing at me that I really should get around to it, but also because a couple of friends have also been asking me about it recently.

With the pedigree that the game has (directed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, scored by longtime companion Nobuo Uematsu), I was always going to be ordering the limited edition as soon as it was available. Which is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, a ridiculous backlog has so far foiled my intentions to immerse myself in its world. So consider today’s MM piece both an attempt to highlight some fantastic music, as well as give myself a kick up the rear!

My beautiful, beautiful limited edition… that I haven’t played.

Both Uematsu and Sakaguchi have described the creation of their Wii exclusive as something of a challenge to create a fresh experience; in gameplay terms for Sakaguchi (such as injecting third person elements in battle), and for Uematsu, in creating something that stands apart from his work on the Final Fantasy series.

Indeed, the composer’s original drafts for The Last Story were so typical of his work that Sakaguchi rejected them out of hand, calling them “completely useless”. The pair did not speak for a month, until Uematsu sent a file to the director, adding, “If this is not okay, I’ll quit.” It’s safe to say that Sakaguchi liked what he heard.

The music that makes up the soundtrack still bears Uematsu’s ear for a beautiful melody, of course, and one track in particular, ‘Toberu Mono’, reminds me, in broad strokes at least, of Final Fantasy IV‘s ‘Theme of Love’. But it’s so much more powerful than that, almost heartbreaking in its delicacy, before erupting into a triumphant crescendo.

The main theme lies on the other side of the musical coin. It’s epic, foreboding and its melodies conjure something closer to The Lord of the Rings in the mind’s eye. It’s noticeably different from much of the composer’s previous work, throwing in unexpected tempo changes to break up the otherwise-relentless forward momentum. That signature Uematsu melody style is in there, tying it all together, but it’s set in a darker style – it almost gives me a sense of a Western musical style with Japanese melodic sensibilities.

My favourite piece might just be ‘Chitsujo to Konton to’. I’m guessing it’s a battle theme, as it’s a very high-energy piece, mixing orchestrated elements, electronic beats and grinding guitar chugging away in the background. Halfway through, a soaring, brass and string-led tempo change drops back into a synth-heavy gallop that leads into a chanting crescendo. I can fully imagine the blood pumping in the heat of battle, keeping me on my toes as I try to outwit my foes (ooh, that rhymes).

While it’s certain that aspects of Uematsu’s trademark sound are in effect throughout the soundtrack of The Last Story, it does genuinely sound like a fresh take on what has come before from the now-legendary composer. Considering it made the cut, we can only assume Hironobu Sakaguchi would wholeheartedly agree.

In other HD remaster news, cult favourite Okami is set to release on the PlayStation Network this Autumn.

Originally outed by Famitsu, the PlayStation Blog has since confirmed the HD version will be coming West. Originally released on PS2 to critical acclaim, Okami massively undersold at retail, moving around 600,000 copies worldwide as of March 2009, earning it a Guinness world record for the lowest sales for a Game of the Year-winning title. A subsequent re-release on the Nintendo Wii only garnered Capcom another 280,000 copies. Despite this, a Nintendo DS sequel, Okamiden, arrived last year, and Capcom has previously stated an interest in creating more sequels.

The PlayStation 3 remaster will arrive on PSN as a digital download, and support PlayStation Move controls for sun goddess Amaterasu’s Celestial Brush. It will also include a full suite of trophies.

This is more good news for me, as I’ve never managed to play Okami. I’ve heard a lot about it from friends, with one even describing it as “the best Zelda game not starring Link”. I’ve been planning on picking up the Wii version for well over a year now, but my enormous backlog always brings me crashing back down to Earth. Now, with a beautiful HD remaster (for which you can see the trailer below), I’ll be able to experience Okami at its best, even if I do suspect I’d enjoy it more on the Vita. But still, I’m buying it. Who else is in?

E3 is almost upon us, so today, in lieu of the usual ‘Sunday Soapbox’ piece, I’ve decided to list some of the things I’ll be looking forward to or blindly hoping for. Because everybody loves a good list, don’t they?

The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo starts on Tuesday June 5th at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, though Microsoft will be jumping ahead of the competition by having their press conference the day before. Yup, that means tomorrow!

So what am I looking forward to? I’ll try and group my thoughts by publisher or developer, so read on to find out, and then leave a comment to let me know what you’re looking forward to.

Microsoft
Seeing as they’re first off the blocks, I’ll get straight onto the Xbox 360 manufacturer, and the obvious starting point is Halo 4.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a massive, massive Halo fanboy, so I’m predictably overexcited about the prospect of seeing some single-player footage, learning more about the setting and figuring out just what in the name of Sergeant Johnson is going on. I’ve read a few previews that have all described the beginning of the game (which unfortunately doesn’t answer any of the above questions), and I have a feeling that this is what we’ll be seeing as an on-stage demo. Not that this would disappoint me of course – I really want to see what 343i have achieved with their first entry into the franchise.

It’ll also be interesting to see what the devs have to say about multiplayer; fans have been worrying that Halo 4 seems to be going the Call of Duty route, with perks and other xp-based unlockables. Halo has always been an open playing field – if you win, it’s because you’re better than the opposition, not because you have better equipment. Hopefully 343 will be on-hand to allay fans’ fears.

The new Gears of War game, titled Judgment, will also be a big draw for Microsoft’s conference, and again, I’m looking forward to find out what’s going on. It appears to be a prequel, given the existence of Locust forces and the fact that Cole looks very young, and it’ll also be interesting to see how deep Bulletstorm creator People Can Fly’s involvement goes. Essentially nothing is known about this title yet, so hopefully a full reveal will help to ground it somewhere in the existing Gears canon.

I’m also wondering whether we’ll see more of Crytek’s Kinect action game Ryse this year. It’s been awfully quiet of late regarding the former Codename: Kingdoms, so perhaps E3 is the perfect time to show it off. Sticking with the Kinect theme, I’m hoping to get a good long look at Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon. As a big, big fan of Sega’s Panzer Dragoon (all four games still proudly grace my shelf), the spiritual successor to that series is one of my most highly anticipated games this year. An on-stage demo would be great, as would a release date.

Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon.

Sony
What I really want to see from Sony at this year’s E3 is massive support for their new handheld. I absolutely love my Vita (I’m currently making my way through Resistance: Burning Skies), but most wouldn’t argue the point that it’s floundering in the marketplace at the moment. Some big new franchise announcements specifically for the Vita would certainly help alleviate the perception that it has no games. Seeing Ken Levine walk on-stage to demo BioShock Vita would certainly be a good start, and perhaps we’ll hear more about Killzone and Call of Duty. Aside from shooters, I’m hoping we’ll hear about some good RPGs coming to the handheld in the next year.

Besides the Vita, some gameplay footage of The Last of Us would be great to see. The trailers so far have got mouths watering, but we know nothing of how the game will play. Will it be a post-apocalyptic Uncharted, or will Naughty Dog pull out all the stops and head in a completely new direction? I can’t wait to find out.

Joel and Ellie, wondering what they’ll be doing for the next ten hours.

Square-Enix
The Tokyo-based company recently announced their list of games they will be showcasing at E3, and all I can say is I hope they’re planning to hit us with a load of surprises. On the list were Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Heroes of Ruin and Kingdom Hearts 3D for the 3DS. The rest are mostly mobile phone games.

Seriously Square-Enix? It’s Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary! Come on! They have to have something up their sleeves, don’t they? Final Fantasy Versus XIII is apparently not being shown at E3, although recent rumours have claimed it’ll be renamed Final Fantasy XV and will in fact be unveiled at the trade show… I’m taking that one with a barge-full of salt, but I am blindly hoping for some kind of big FF news at the Expo, considering the 25-year milestone. At the very least I want to see the PS3/PSV re-release of Final Fantasy X that we’ve heard absolutely nothing about in God knows how long. If Square-Enix’s conference holds no surprises, I’ll be very disappointed.

Nintendo
The house of Mario are expected to unveil their final Wii U hardware and, more than anything, I’m hoping to see a gorgeous HD Metroid adventure (hopefully from Retro Studios please!). Despite last year’s HD Zelda demonstration, I don’t expect to be seeing anything from Link and friends this year, though I imagine we’ll get a proper glimpse of a new Mario game. I think Nintendo will keep Wii U game reveals to a minimum and focus on the console and tablet and what they can do together, allowing third parties to take up the slack, as they did with their E3 2011 showreel.

Hopefully we’ll see some great new 3DS titles announced (perhaps a new handheld Zelda?) as well as get a good look at New Super Mario Bros 2, and I’d love to see more of Luigi’s Mansion 2.

Namco-Bandai
Having recently watched a Namco-Bandai presentation (at last week’s London Expo), I’m not foaming at the mouth (quite as much) to see Ni No Kuni and Tales of Graces f, though more on both would certainly be welcome. I’d love to get confirmation of a European release date for Tales of Xillia though, and I’d imagine we’ll be seeing more of the recently-announced Xillia 2. Tying into my earlier words about Vita games, I’m also hoping we’ll get a Western release announcement for the handheld’s version of Tales of Innocence R, too.

Others
Electronic Arts will no doubt have a strong presence at the show, and I’m looking forward to a full-on Dead Space 3 reveal, though I am worried about how far co-op will permeate the core experience of the game; let’s hope it’s entirely optional, though I’d prefer it if co-op was a separate side-story entirely. Crysis 3 will most likely also be a focus for EA, and I’ll be hoping it’s more like the first than the second, with large, open environments with flowing objectives and tactical options that allow you to feel like the Predator.

I’m hoping to get a good look at both Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance from Konami, and it seems they’ll also be tearing the veil from two new Castlevania games – a direct sequel to 2010’s Lords of Shadow and a 3DS spin-off.

Ubisoft are expected to show off tropical shooter Far Cry 3 and colonial stab-’em-up Assassin’s Creed 3, and I’ll be looking to THQ to show us how Metro: Last Light is coming along. Last but by absolutely no means least, I’m hoping for a solid release date for Jet Set Radio HD. And while you’re at it Sega, how about some Shenmue news?

Yeah, I’ll keep dreaming…