Archives for category: The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo Switch
Nintendo have finally unveiled their next platform, and it’s called Nintendo Switch.

Coming next March, Nintendo debuted the machine in a three-minute lifestyle video this afternoon, and it seems the rumours were right. The Switch sees Nintendo merging their handheld and home console strategies into one flexible platform, with a tablet that you can either attach tiny controllers to and take on the go, or dock at home to connect to your television. The console uses 3DS-like cartridges for its games because, obviously, you aren’t going to want to take a wallet of optical discs with you when you’re out and about, and while handy, this would seem to be the death knell for physical backward compatibility.

We’re yet to see official specs for the system, but NVIDIA this afternoon revealed that the Switch is powered by a custom Tegra system-on-chip – an ARM part, and another detail that has long been rumoured. Given that we don’t know what this custom SoC actually is (both X1 and the upcoming X2 have been rumoured), it’s difficult to guess at how the Switch will perform – at least relative to the Wii U, as it’s unlikely to trouble either Xbox One or PS4 in performance. But more important than that, surely, are the games that the machine will run.

If the leaks and rumours have taken a bit of the surprise out of the console reveal, there was at least the unexpected appearance of the upcoming Skyrim remaster in the reveal trailer, as someone was shown playing Bethesda’s fantasy RPG on a plane, before returning home to dock the tablet and continue their adventure. Also present were Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, two titles which have been rumoured to be getting ports to the new platform, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, NBA 2k17 and a 3D Mario game. Nintendo have also announced a selection of the third party support the Switch will, hopefully, enjoy, which includes names like Telltale, Take Two, From Software and more. You can see a larger list on this handy slide.

So let’s talk a little more about the hardware. As above, we don’t have specs yet, but we can talk in a bit more detail about the ways in which you’ll play the Switch. The tablet comes with two small detachable controllers, each containing an analogue stick and a collection of face buttons. These ‘Joy-Cons’ can be used separately, with one in each hand, or attached to a controller-shaped unit called the Joy-Con Grip to create a more traditional, albeit odd-looking, controller option. The Joy Cons can also be used for multiplayer games, with each player using one, and then there’s the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller as a separate option.

Swicth Options

It’s an interesting strategy for sure, and I think it makes sense given Nintendo’s relative strengths; their handhelds have pretty much always outpaced their home consoles in sales, and it’s hard not to argue that the 3DS has enjoyed better third party support than the Wii U. Indeed, even in an apparently shrinking handheld market, the 3DS has managed almost 60 million sales, so it’s not a bad idea for Nintendo to make an attempt at unifying both of those markets. With the Switch being fully capable of handheld play, it’ll be interesting to see how long the company continue to support their current portable system, but if the Switch comes in at a reasonable price and gets the next mainline Pok√©mon game, it could do very well for itself indeed.

The Switch concept is unlikely to do much for those that have been clamouring for Nintendo to just release a simple, traditional home console free of gimmickry or new ideas, but as someone who plays handhelds quite a lot, I’m pretty optimistic about it. I love my Vita, but one of the reasons I was excited for it in the first place was the promise of console quality games on the go. While there’s still a ton of interesting games coming to that platform, the bigger budget titles have long since dried up. With Switch, the possibility has returned, and even if third party content does slow to a Wii U-style trickle, there’s still the promise of playing Nintendo’s own games, like Breath of the Wild, while you’re on the go.

For now, we’ll have to wait for hardware specs and launch pricing, but you can check out the unveil trailer below.

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Hyrule Warriors treasure chest
Tomorrow, Nintendo’s first big title since Mario Kart 8 hits the Wii U, and this one’s a little different. For the first time in four years, Nintendo has given an outside studio the keys to one of its biggest franchises, and the result is a curious mash-up of two separate worlds.

When Hyrule Warriors was first revealed, I thought it looked pretty bad. I had no interest in it at all, despite (or perhaps because of) my deep love for the Zelda series. However, as more of the game has been shown in the months since its unveiling, the more interested I’ve become. I’ve noted this before, but Hyrule Warriors strikes me as a massive Zelda fanservice project in the guise of a Musou game, and it’s certainly a great way to draw those unfamiliar with the Dynasty Warriors series, like me, into the franchise.

Taking characters and settings from the much-revered The Legend of Zelda series and matching it to the tactical action of the Dynasty Warriors franchise might seem like an odd fit, but it works quite well in practice. As a total Musou noob, I’m enjoying Hyrule Warriors a great deal – it’s huge fun to storm through the massed ranks of bokoblins and stalchilds (stalchildren?), sending dozens of them flying into the air with a single sweep of Link’s spin attack or Impa’s enormous Giant’s Knife.

Of course, these are just the foot soldiers of the enemy forces, and there are hardier foes to tackle on the battlefield. The tactical side of the game comes in the form of a number of keeps on the map, which can be both captured for and lost by you and your allies. To take a fort, you’ll have to lay the smackdown on a large number of foot soldiers before the keep boss, a larger, sturdier variant, comes out to see what’s going on. Defeating these foes wins the keep. And then there are special enemies out there to grapple with, foes like the nimble, fire-breathing Lizalfos or the shrieking Gibdo.

Hyrule Warriors Dodongo

But it wouldn’t be a Zelda title without some memorable bosses, and so there are of course some huge screen-filling monsters to contend with. When King Dodongo gets dropped into the middle of Hyrule Field surrounded by hundreds of Bokoblins, it seems like utter chaos. By this point though, you’ve unlocked bombs, and we all know what happens when you combine bombs with King Dodongo’s gaping maw. Later on, you’ll fend off Gohma as it launches a massive assault on the Great Deku Tree, and by then you’ve found a bow and arrows (in a chest, of course). And again, you know how you need to take the boss down.

This might sound like a negative, but it’s really not. Here you are battling through familiar places, against familiar foes in familiar ways, and it’s this huge dose of nostalgia that makes the game feel that it’s as much a Zelda game as it is a Warriors one. These battles are freshened up by a heightened sense of urgency that’s never really seen in the Zelda series; during that battle with Gohma, the armoured arachnid was occupying my home base, and if I hadn’t taken him down in time, it would have been an instant game over. It was a close run thing, and defeating it in time to save the Great Deku Tree was an early highpoint.

If it’s not clear yet, the game is utterly drenched in a deep love for the Zelda series. It’s not just seen in the locations, characters, bosses and iconic items like Link’s bombs and bow. It’s seen in the mix of musical themes from across the series that plays over the title screen. It’s seen in the mix of art-styles throughout, with storyboard sequences taking on a Wind Waker aesthetic, while the in-game graphics are reminiscent of both Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. It’s even seen in the loading screens, with an 8-bit Link running around avoiding NES octoroks. The development team’s love for the source material is visible everywhere throughout the production, and it makes it a real treat for fans of the venerable series.

Hyrule Warrios Impa special attack

There’s plenty of stuff I haven’t had a chance to look too deeply into just yet, like the crafting mechanics that allow you to create buff-conferring badges, or the Smithy, who can transfer skills from one weapon to another. Then there are multiple characters and weapons to unlock, and other modes to play through, like the bite-sized missions of Adventure Mode – this genuinely feels like a game that could last me for a good few months. I have, however, had a chance to play as Impa, and I think she’s set to become a fan favourite here. Her play style is massively satisfying, with every swing of her massive Giant’s Knife conveying the weapon’s full heft. She starts off with a great, heavy-hitting combo that ends with her summoning a massive ball of water to take out foes at a distance, and not only is it useful against enemies in the lava-drenched Eldin Caves, but it looks absolutely spectacular.

And the game does occasionally look a bit special. It’s not a graphical showcase by any means, but when there’s a sea of enemies on-screen and various graphical effects going off as your character spins, pirouettes and poses, it often manages to look rather beautiful. If I have one complaint though, it’s the map. It can often be rather difficult to read in the heat of the moment, making it quite easy to lose your way as you rush off on another time-sensitive errand, but I’m hopeful that it’s something I’ll adjust to after a while of play. Surprisingly, you can’t use the GamePad screen to display a larger, more detailed map – as it stands, it just lists your objectives and there seems to be no way to change that. Given that the map is an essential part of your strategy, this is quite the oversight. At least in the opening stages, you’ll likely find yourself pausing the game to properly scrutinise the map and see where you need to go.

It remains to be seen whether the constant combat of Hyrule Warriors will prove wearying in the long run, though it’s certainly far less one-note than I had expected. There also seems to be plenty to unlock, including a large number of Zelda universe characters to get to grips with, each of which seems to handle very differently. At the very least, I’ll be playing through the entirety of the story before jumping into Adventure Mode to see how that helps to extend the experience.

In a new Hyrule Warriors-focussed Direct broadcast, Nintendo today announced that Ganondorf, the main antagonist of the Legend of Zelda series, will be a playable character in the upcoming Warriors/Zelda mash-up.

His appearance in Hyrule Warriors seems to give a nod to Skyward Sword‘s Demise; both are hulking, top-heavy characters, have the same long red hair, and they each carry a huge, black serrated blade. Players will also be able to get new costumes for Ganondorf, changing his appearance to match that of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Costumes from those same games will also be available for both Link and Zelda, and all of them can be obtained by registering the game on Club Nintendo. You can see all the costumes in the video below.

Ganondorf joins Twilight Princess‘ Zant and Skyward Sword‘s Ghirahim on the side of playable bad guys, while on the heroes’ side we have Link, Zelda, Sheik, Impa, Darunia, Princess Ruto, Midna, Agitha, Skyward Sword‘s sword spirit Fi and all-new character Lana, to bring the total playable character count to 13.

Elsewhere in the Direct, Koei Tecmo’s Yosuke Hayashi gives us an introduction to mission structure and character progression, as well as detailing some of the trademark Zelda elements that will be present in the game, such as using bombs to help take down King Dodongo – bombs that you will, of course, find in a chest. Nintendo’s top Zelda man, Eiji Aonuma, also appears throughout to introduce more small-scale franchise elements that will appear in Hyrule Warriors, such as cuccos, cutting grass and gold skulltulas.

It’s a good watch for fans of the Zelda franchise who may not have dabbled in the Warriors series before, like myself. Not only does it give a good indication of what to expect from the game, but we can also see how some of the characters handle in battle. Surprisingly, I’m quite looking forward to getting to grips with Lana’s combat style – who wouldn’t want to ride into battle on the back of the Deku Tree Sprout, or summon a giant cucco to vanquish your enemies?

The Direct also details Hyrule Warriors‘ Adventure Mode, which presents specific missions on a grid styled after a top-down Zelda map – appropriately rendered in an 8-bit aesthetic. Each block on the grid represents a mission with its own objectives – the challenge shown in the video is to defeat 300 enemies in ten minutes – so it seems like it’s essentially a challenge mode, and completing a challenge unlocks the adjacent blocks, opening up more objectives to tackle. Using exploration items on the map screen, you can also uncover new weapons or heart pieces that may appear as rare drops in the missions themselves. It also sounds like Adventure Mode is the only way to unlock some playable characters, which is unfortunate for those that aren’t drawn to challenge mode-type gameplay.

Hyrule Warriors is shaping up to be quite a celebration of the Zelda series, and this can be felt in the variety of stages featured in the game. The broadcast focuses on three of the areas we’ll be able to battle through; Ocarina of Time‘s Lake Hylia, Twilight Princess‘ Twilight Field, and Skyward Sword‘s Skyloft. I’m genuinely looking forward to paying Skyloft another visit, but that music – I don’t like what they’ve done with ‘Ballad of the Goddess’. I get that the background music needs to be faster-paced to accommodate the action, but it just doesn’t work, for me. Having said that, the up-tempo rendition of Twilight Princess‘ field music works really well, and I doubt I’ll be able to refrain from whistling along with it.

Development of Hyrule Warriors was completed just over a week ago, in time for it’s Japanese release on August 14th. We in Europe will be getting our hands on Nintendo and Koei Tecmo’s collaborative effort on September 19th, and if you’re willing to give Game fifty of your hard-earned pounds, you can get a Limited Edition that comes complete with a replica of Link’s primary-coloured scarf.

hwscarf

Standard edition for me, then.

hwfi_editedA few days ago, a whole host of Hyrule Warriors screens emerged showing off plenty of Skyward Sword content for the upcoming Zelda/Warriors hybrid. In the screens, which you can see here, we were treated to views of stages based on Link and Zelda’s peaceful home of Skyloft, the verdant Faron Woods, and what appears to be a flattened-out recreation of the Sealed Grounds. As far as characters go, we got glimpses of antagonists Ghirahim and The Imprisoned, as well as Link’s helper throughout Skyward Sword, Fi, who appeared to be a playable character.

Now, via a new trailer, we have confirmation that Fi is indeed playable, joining the cast alongside Zelda, Link, Impa, Midna, Twilight Princess‘ bug princess Agitha and new character Lana. In the trailer, we can see Fi’s balletic fighting style as she skips and skates her way through massed ranks of bokoblins, reminiscent of the way she dances in Skyward Sword. As the spirit of the Goddess Sword, Fi can also transform into the sacred blade to attack her enemies.

Hyrule Warriors seems to be shaping up to be the ultimate Zelda fanservice project (you can even hookshot Termina’s moon out of the sky, for goodness’ sake!), and going by the almost entirely female cast of playable characters revealed thus far, one certainly couldn’t accuse Nintendo and Tecmo Koei of not being inclusive.

I’ve never really had an interest in the Warriors games – they’ve just never particularly appealed to me. But taking the Warriors template and turning it into a celebration of one of my favourite franchises is a great way to draw me into the series.

Hyrule Warriors launches for Wii U on September 19th.