Morally Gray Cliché

I realize this is a bit late today, but in fairness I was recovering from the Metroid Dread announcement. So before we begin today, I would like to start off by saying that this post is somewhat based on ideas from the previous two posts, partially to highlight this cliché in games dealing with the zombie apocalypse and partially because I things it may clear a few things up about what I find to be annoying about it. I avoided really delving into games for the last two posts, but this time I will spend a bit more time specifically focusing on games where this cliché is prevalent. The two series of games that I have chosen to focus on is The Last of Us and its sequel as well as the games in Telltales The Walking Dead series. The reason as to why I picked them is because both games start out in roughly the same format and end up dealing with the same kinds of questions later on, especially in the sequels. So without further ado, let get rolling.

Now the zombie apocalypse is prevalent in many different games, but not every game gives you a glimpse as to what life was like before the zombies ran rampant. These two are no exception, but they do try and build up to it at least and give us some reason to care for the characters that they are presenting us with in the game. They even give us another character that we want to look out for as a way of redeeming the main character. I could go on about the similarities they have but in the end they both do their job well enough. The problem is that the threat in each game and especially their sequels transitions the villains to not be the apocalypse, but other humans who are fighting to survive. Which in my opinion is far less interesting because once the apocalypse happens, there are no standards for how people should live since society has crumbled. Due to this, every action taken exists in a moral gray area where no decision can be labeled clearly as right or wrong. Sure we can make a judgment based on our own society’s rules, but the characters aren’t playing the same game we are so the judgment is baseless. In The Walking Dead videogame series you are constantly making choices on how to survive, but they usually don’t make much of a difference on the story. Usually the choices themselves are two extremes on choosing who you should save but in the end the decisions you make mean nothing because there is no wrong answer. The ending never meaningfully changes so all of your choices are based on what you think is best in a strict time limit. However, you can never be wrong so none of your choices ever enhance the story. Zombie attacks and the like are just events that force you to navigate morally grey situations that don’t mean anything. there is no tension when you no there is no worth to your actions other than moving the story forward. After a while, you realize that you are just along for the ride and no matter what track you take, you still end at the same place.

In The Last of Us there was a big morally gray decision where Joel chose to save Ellie at the cost of potentially finding a cure for the infection that caused the zombie apocalypse. Man has really got his priorities on straight. Now that leads into the next game where Ellie ends up trying to get revenge on the person who killed Joel at the beginning of the game, Abby. Her reason was to get revenge on Joel for killing her father and saving Ellie. Of course you don’t really learn all of this until you play as Abby so you can understand her motivations. In the ends nothing is ever resolved since Ellie doesn’t get her revenge and they both end up alone on their respective paths. Now the problem is that the apocalypse has essentially become background noise at this point. This has become more about the struggle to survive each other rather than the apocalypse itself. Honestly, are zombies even needed in this game because world building has been tossed aside completely for this revenge drama where both sides have legitimate reasons to want to fight the other and yet both are unlikeable in their own ways. Why? Because since we understand both of their points of view, we know that there will be no winner. The people they lost will not be brought back and everything they do is pointless. I know that sounds cynical and that is because it is. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that this morally gray showdown can never reach a satisfying conclusion. It that is what they were going for then all the props to them. It will still feel like a miserable experience though.

Now I just wanted to bring this up because zombies have no moral compass and there is never any reason to feel guilty about killing them. There are very few things more satisfying than getting headshots on zombies as they line up to take your bullets. So then tell me why do we keep pushing the narrative to humans? Why can’t we enjoy trying to survive in a fiendish environment without having to deal with unnecessary drama? Can’t we have zombie games that we can actually enjoy that also have decent stories? I feel as though maybe that is trying to have my cake and eat it too at this point. I just wish there could be more of a balance between story and gameplay experiences where we can keep things simple and have some fun, but still have some direction in terms of who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going. Maybe I am just speaking crazy things over here. After all, I am still reeling from the announcement of Metroid Dread. Wow, what a time to be alive. Anyway, see you next week where I’ll try to be a little more relaxed. Oh and I have decided that I might have to take a free day for October 8th. You should probably know why.

Now Hear Me Out: The Zombie Apocalypse

Now as people are no doubt aware, zombie games have been done in many different forms over the years and have since become a go-to of the gaming industry. In fact they are so popular that it almost feels like we secretly wish that the zombie apocalypse is going to happen. Personally, I don’t since I wouldn’t last very long at all in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. However, sometimes I am curious about how long I would last. This is an idea that I don’t think is explored enough in zombie games because the main focus of the zombie apocalypse is always the aftermath of the outbreak and how every is awful now because zombies roam everywhere now. Very rarely do games not jump forward in time to show what life is like in the aftermath of the outbreak. Personally I have always kind of found this to be a bit strange. I understand that not everyone is prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but I feel that it would really increase the all important fear factor by not having to skip the all important first stage of a zombie outbreak. That is where the chaos is at its peak! Chaos and confusion will no doubt make things more exciting no? So, I want you to hear me out for a bit on this while I talk a bit about the zombie apocalypse as a setting.

Now what usually happens in these apocalypse scenarios is that everyone is out for themselves and can’t trust anyone since they never know what moment will be their last. That is the way the world is built and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes more sense to start a story with the zombie apocalypse as the backdrop so there can be more emphasis on human relationships. However, this has been done quite a number of ways before so I think we can mix it up a bit. What if instead of focusing on the aftermath, we focus on the beginning of the tragedy? Let’s have someone who is at the center of a zombie apocalypse and see how long they last. I’m thinking something like Minecraft hardcore mode except that every mob is a zombie. So as the game goes on you have to deal with more and more as your resources begin to run dry and you make do with whatever you can find which will influence your chances of survival. I just feel like many zombies games follow a certain script once they get to a certain point. It becomes hunt for resources, don’t get hunted, kill anything that moves and repeat until you survive till the next day. I just feel like it would refreshing to at least try and go off script for a bit if we are going to continue using the zombie apocalypse as a setting for videogames.

The other reason I feel like we should focus on the start is because characters are generally not very interesting once things are well into the zombie apocalypse. People are always jaded and trying their hardest to survive so they are all out for themselves. What I am saying is that you never usually see a lot of character growth during the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. The reason is because that becomes the new normal so nothing really changes in people’s behaviors. People only really change through some kind of influence or pressure so why not start with the outbreak and see how it changes a person? I feel like that would make an interesting storyline. I am not saying that this hasn’t been done before, but I would rather see a general shift in the way the apocalypse is handled. After all, where can you build from after the apocalypse? Does anyone think that we would all band together and rebuild society after the end of the world? Probably not. Do choices really matter in a world where every choice is essentially morally gray? Not a chance. Do people really go through many changes after they have reached the point of no return? Well unless you count losing appendages, I don’t think that much will change. So why not have an experience where we see someone going through all of the pain, confusion, suffering, and all the other emotions that come with the apocalypse all at once. At least give me a reason to root for their tragic backstory. Just saying. Anyway, thanks for hearing me out today. See you next week.

Thoughts on Zombies in Videogames

Now I know that you are probably wondering why I wouldn’t save the theme of zombies for the month of October. Well, I don’t really have a reason for it except that I was in that sort of mood to look at games that deal with zombies and take a closer look at them. This will be bit broad in terms of scope for this post because I want to ask a question. What time of videogames are zombies most effectively utilized? I am not saying it is always a bad thing to include zombies in everything, but you have to admit that there has been a saturation of zombies in many different videogames. Some of those games have been good, some have been bad and some are split right down the middle in the gray area of basically alright. However the one that are good are not necessarily good for the same reasons. It is probably a bit difficult to understand what I am getting at without some examples. So, let’s move to some examples.

One of the things that zombies are most known for its that they are everywhere. People wouldn’t be afraid of the zombie apocalypse if only a few people became zombies. So naturally things get more tense in videogames when there are a lot of zombies trying to kill you. The Left 4 Dead series has always had a good core multiplayer focus and has been a good way to experience the horror of a zombie apocalypse. It is one of those series that you can play with friends and yet it enhances the experience rather than takes away from it. Why? Because it anything goes wrong then you can end up wiping pretty easily if you are not quick to react. It is important to have someone watching your back so you can move forward together, something that would hopefully happen in the real zombie apocalypse. Realistically, I would not make it very far in this scenario and I believe most people wouldn’t either. I feel that many people would hunker down in their basements like me and see how long they can last before they have to think about looking outside. Then again, maybe I am just a coward. However, what I want to get at is that there is something that is present whether it is my cowardly scenario or getting wrecked in Left 4 Dead games and that is fear. Especially the fear of being overwhelmed by the zombies and becoming their latest menu item. Heck even the Call of Duty series knows how to make zombies ramp up while still allowing for the catharsis of blowing something’s head off every now and again. As long as there is some tension without making things impossible, that is a great element for a good zombie game.

That is all there is to zombie games though. Sometimes they focus on the world surrounding the apocalypse and focus on the story of lone individuals who are coping with the apocalypse in their own ways. Some good examples are series such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead where there is a lot more time spent on different characters. In these types of games they like to slow down the pace a lot to tell their story and so due to that your options for fighting are usually limited. That basically means you end up in situations where you have to fight one zombie at a time or you will die a painful death. Well, the character will. You won’t feel anything unless VR gets to the next level and we start doing full body diving. Of course why we would choose to experience the apocalypse in that scenario is a different question altogether. The point is that things are usually deliberately paced to make you feel the tension and fear that is necessary in a zombie outbreak. Sure it is a pain when you waste ammo, but if you didn’t cry when you accidentally shot a bullet at a windshield because your aim was off, then you weren’t experience the unique appeal zombie games have to offer.

Now I no there is no right way to use zombies in zombie games. However, I do think that there are wrong ways to handle them. For instance, a game that moves at a slow pace for story reasons and yet enables you to get through most combat situations with little to know difficulty. Another example would be a game that moves at a fast pace, but your options in dealing with the situations are limited. I am not going to name any specific games this time, but consider this a friendly reminder. When making a game that involves zombies, there should be a certain amount of tension involved to justify their existence in the game. Otherwise you can make them regular humans and it would make little difference. So if you want to have tension, try to tailor the experience towards one area or the other. In the end it is a quantity vs. quality issue. Do you want hoards of zombies coming for your sweet, juicy brains or would you prefer one zombie that as soon as it spots you has already lunged at your to rip out your jugular? Either way your probably doomed, but at least you have save points. That’s all for now and see you next time. And yes I know this one was a little late. Spent a bit too long playing Cluedo.

Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

You know, I have been looking forward to this post ever since I heard that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is going to be rereleased on the Nintendo Switch. My first thought when I heard this was “Why?” Then after thinking for a bit I released that it has been nearly ten years since that game was first released. So it is understandable that they would do a rerelease like they did with their previous 3D Zelda games when they brought The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess over to the Wii U. Hopefully those will come over to Switch soon because I really want to play those games again. Man those games are fun. Wait what were we talking about again? Oh right, The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword is coming to Switch soon. You know, after asking myself the question of why they are bringing it back, I started thinking about maybe I should go back and actually try to finish that game. After all, now that it is coming to Switch it may have less of a focus on motion controls. However, even with that I have no desire to play it. Partially because motion controls weren’t really difficult to get used to in that game. Sure, they were super sensitive and had to be recalibrated every time you left to use the bathroom, but I rarely had any trouble controlling Link while I was fighting. The only reason I might slip up is because I was getting an urgent reminder from Fi that enemies can be killed. Thanks Fi. There’s more to it than that though. I want to take a moment to express my thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Now before I get into the major gripes I have with the game I will take a second to mention the things I do like about the game. I think the dungeon designs are creative for the most part and incorporate some interesting ideas into the mix. I also really like the art design and I think the game looks very nice. In fact, it might be one of the nicest looking games the Wii has to offer. I also really love the fact that bombs flowers were just treated as bombs you could carry. The crafting system is while not necessary is a pleasant distraction and in some cases can even be useful. Also they did as god intended and made it so that only four heart pieces are needed for a heart container instead of five. Thank goodness. To be honest this game has so many ingredients to be one of the best Zelda games. Yet why does it end up feeling so lackluster compared to some of the other titles? The biggest reason is while all of these features are nice, they are not necessary to making a good Zelda game, save for maybe the dungeon designs. A Zelda game in my opinion is a game built about a mix of exploration and puzzle solving. Let me ask a serious question here. What is there to explore in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword? Half the game is exploring an open sky with a few floating islands scattered around like bread crumbs for you to follow and not only is there no challenge to getting to these islands because flying is essentially in the game to pad out the runtime, but even when you get to them all you get are chests that you cannot access until you activate them on the surface. Since when did I need to find a key to open chests in the overworld in a Zelda game? Just why? It’s not even like they contain amazing items or anything so what is the point? Just making flying to the islands a challenge by having different flying mechanics or something else instead of this bogus scavenger hunt we are given to play. Crafting is a nice idea, but hunting for items to craft with is somehow even less rewarding than finding chests because now I have to deal with drop rates. Yay. The main problem though is that the game is too linear to allow for decent exploration. In this game you just constantly jump from Skyloft to surface and then back and forth and back and forth and so on and so on until eventually you complete the game. At least that is how I felt playing it. It just kind of feels draining after a while so that not only do I feel like I can’t explore, I also feel like I don’t want to explore. Props to the developers if this was intentional, but I wouldn’t want to give them the credit if that were the case.

So all in all, the gameplay is functional but boring for the most part. Now normally if the gameplay isn’t all that great then the story can potentially save it. Unfortunately there are three main reasons why that is not the case for this game. One reason is it’s a Zelda game and so the story will not surprise you. It might have its moments but unless this is your first Zelda game, you will not be surprised by the outcome. I don’t mean to spoil things but you end up defeating the bad guys. Crazy right? The second reason is related to one of my previous posts. For those of you unaware, this is a prequel game which essentially is a free license to tell whatever story it wants without it having any effect on the overall saga. All it can really do is expand the lore and explain a few details that no one really had questions about in the franchise. The only times prequels have added anything to the franchise were when they made The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, since they finally settled on a decent formula, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time which created two brand new timelines to explore. This game didn’t really add anything in comparison. the third and final reason why the story can’t enhance the game is because the story in some ways actually made things worse because it basically locked the timeline so that the same never ending struggle will always play out in the same way forever. Thanks for cursing your own franchise Nintendo. Look I will say that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn’t a bad game. It just isn’t a very interesting game. I’ll still get around to finishing it though. You know, eventually. In the meantime, now that I’ve gotten my thoughts out, I will probably stop thinking about it until the next time it’s brought up. Knowing my luck that will probably be tomorrow but what can you do? Anyway, see you next month for a new topic.

The Legend of Zelda: Dual Worlds Cliché

This month has caused me to look back at a lot of different Zelda games. I can’t say I have played all of them, but I have definitely played a good portion of them and one thing I have noticed is that a lot of the games have a similar gimmick. This gimmick is one where you have to traverse between two different worlds in order to go further in your quest. The most obvious examples are the light world and the dark world from games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as well as it’s sequel game The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. There are other instances of this such as when you are traveling between the past and the present in games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Then finally there are instances where it isn’t the world that changes, but rather it is the way you interact with the world that changes in games like The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. This series usually has a lot of time spent traversing through different worlds, but it makes sense most of the time. I don’t actually want to knock this cliché too much because when used effectively, it can be a great way to introduce interesting puzzles into your series of games that involve a lot of puzzle-solving elements. However this usually applies best to the 2D games that I have listed as they usually find interesting ways to make the most of these mechanics. I usually have more problems with it in the 3D games where it feels as though the extra world is there to add more meat to the game and doesn’t really come into play in terms of puzzle-solving. That is not to say they are bad games, I just think that adding a dual world in more recent Zelda games is mainly there just to give us more stuff to explore. To talk more about what I mean let’s delve a bit into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Now I know I talked about this game a lot in my previous post, but this time I want to incorporate a bit more gameplay into my thoughts today. Now after reaching the second half of the game you eventually reach a point where you get the ability to travel back and forth between the past and present using the Master Sword. The mysterious Sheik (Zelda) even gives you a song allowing you to warp there at will. There still remains the question however of why there is a need to allow us to have this feature. The game obliges by having you use time travel to access two different dungeons in the past in order to collect items for the dungeons in the second half. There are other things that allow you to collect special items by traveling between times. However, it never really feels as though the time travel itself is an actual puzzle mechanic. I wouldn’t really call it a puzzle if you can’t progress further until you find an obvious spot that only your child self would be able to access. At least getting the Song of Storms has some puzzle elements and makes you work for it a little bit but there are no real puzzles other than getting two items in the dungeons you are working on as an adult in the past before proceeding. Now the lack of more uses with the time mechanic is disheartening since is can be used in more interesting ways. For instance there is one dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that involves using time mechanics to affect the movements of the actual dungeon. Yet in the game based around time travel it is only used in one spot which completely kills any way for it to be used as anything more than a warp point. I get there is a reason for this in the game and locking off the past would make completion of certain aspects impossible, but I think the switching between timelines can be used for more than getting beans to grow faster.

Now another game that I feel doesn’t use it’s dual world as effectively is honestly the one whose whole game was advertised around that very concept. That’s right it is the Zelda game with the time you turn into a wolf: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I introduce it that way because the game is most well for that and having an insanely long tutorial, but I didn’t want anyone to confuse this game with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword so I went with the former option. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually really like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It has one of my favorite Zelda game boss fights as well as one of my favorite dungeons. Feel free to guess which ones, but I will say they are at the later parts of the game. The point is that this game is a lot of fun, but does anyone else feel that the Twilight Realm never really seemed to have a lot of presence in the game. For the most part they were just there to turn you into Wolf Link and collect orbs of light so you could bring the people back from the Twilight Realm. It barely had any presence other than being just mini puzzle sections. And later when you get the ability to transform into Wolf Link at will, the Twilight Realm vanishes until the end of the game. Hello? Darkness? Why did you run away all of a sudden? I get that I am the destined hero and all thanks to this triangle on my hand but could you at least put up a bit more of a fight? I understand there is no reason to travel to the Twilight Realm once I have the item that lets me become Wolf Link whenever I want, but wasn’t the whole plan of the main bad guy to bring the Twilight Realm over to ours. Instead he just kind of disappears after the fact and we don’t see any more Twilight until the end of the game. I feel like there was no reason why we couldn’t have more interaction with the Twilight Realm and instead of just giving us the wolf form, maybe instead give us the human form in the Twilight Realm. Look I still like the game and all, but if you completely remove the Twilight areas from the game, then it seems to me as though the developers couldn’t find anything interesting to do with the Twilight Realm. Just saying.

Now as I move onto The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons I would like to say I enjoy how the mechanics listed in these ones remain consistently useful throughout their respective games. Switching between seasons and shrinking yourself down both allow for different way to explore the world while making things feel like the item has more than just a one off use for some puzzles and is more integrated in the actual design. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons does have an alternate world where you get the different upgrades to your item, but unlike some other games in the series such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, it doesn’t take a year to travel back and forth getting an upgrade. Alright, I understand that I am being incredibly nitpicky here, but I just want it to be understood that these games add dual world mechanics without usually making you feel like you are in another world. And even if things do feel different, half the time it is only an excuse to pad out the playtime. How can a series with so much focus on time have only two games that have decent time mechanics? How can they underutilize this assets so often? I don’t have a problem with these games, but don’t add in mechanics if they are used for just item collection. Item collection is not a puzzle. Changing the environment with things we can alter are puzzles and so while I appreciate being able to turn into a wolf more than Sonic the Hedgehog ever will, I would appreciate if there was more to an entire realm than just a different control scheme. To my mind the most interesting Zelda games are not ones that change the environment, but rather it is the ones that change the way we can look at the land of Hyrule. Don’t just turn out the lights and call it a day. It is fine to have alternate worlds, but could we please have more than just a story justification for them. I am definitely not trying to go for item collection either. I am not about to spend a bunch of time only to get a golden pile of poop for my efforts. Thanks but no thanks.

Now Hear Me Out: The Zelda Timeline

You know, every now and then I have a crazy idea. Now normally, I would just try to ignore it until it eventually goes away. But not this time. For this week’s edition of HTHIHGTIZIHPTW, also known as How The Heck Is He Going To Incorporate Zelda In His Post This Week, I will be trying to make sense of the Zelda timeline. For those of you unaware of the Zelda timeline, it essentially contains the chronological order of each Zelda game. Now you wouldn’t that it would be that crazy until you remember that Zelda is a franchise that deals with time in multiple games. Due to this, one game in particular in fact, the timeline actually splits off into three separate timelines. If that doesn’t complicate things enough, the latest game in the series drastically affects the entire timeline. So I thought I would try to do an analysis on this timeline to see if I can try to make some sense of why the timeline is so strange. Do realize that a lot of this is going to be speculation that I do not have concrete evidence for so bear that in mind. With that being said, just hear me out and see if you have ever thought something similar. That is if anyone else was bored or insane enough to try to put this to writing. Hopefully there is at least someone. Anyone? Okay moving on to the biggest title responsible for this mess, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

For those reading you are not familiar with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it was the first 3D Zelda that forever changed the way we think about Zelda and would influence games that followed after for decades to come. Of course the timeline is included when I say that. As I mentioned earlier this is where the timeline splits into three. I will give a little bit of plot background so you can understand how each timeline came to be. The game’s first half involves you, Link, trying to get to the Sacred Realm before Ganondorf in order to protect the Triforce from him and save Hyrule. Unfortunately due to the fact that this is a poorly thought out plan, you end up allowing Ganondorf access to the Triforce unhindered and he absorbs the Triforce of Power with the other two pieces, the Triforce of Wisdom and the Triforce of Courage, go find those worthy of wielding them. In an unsurprising twist, princess Zelda gets the Triforce of Wisdom while you get the Triforce of Courage. After finally defeating Ganondorf in his beast form, Ganon, he is sealed away and you travel back to make sure that Ganondorf cannot enter the Sacred Realm, thus giving you the moniker of The Hero of Time. That is a pretty short synopsis I know, but it is all that we need to look at the timelines. Now, two of the timelines stemming from the events of this game are the Child era and the Adult era. The Child era is the timeline taking place when you go back in time to prevent Ganondorf from entering the Sacred Realm whereas the Adult era is when after you have sealed Ganon, the hero has disappeared and the world lives on remembering your legacy as The Hero of Time. The third timeline is actually kind of crazy as that timeline only exists if you die and fail in your quest, allowing Ganon to reunite the Triforce and corrupt the Sacred Realm. He eventually gets sealed in that realm by seven sages which leads to the events of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the preceding game in the series. That’s right, every game in the series before this one, was on the worst possible timeline. Yikes. Now that we’ve gotten the background out of the way, time for some theorizing.

Now the question we need to ask here is why does this game split itself into three different timelines? It isn’t as if each time Link dies another alternate reality is created so what is so special about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I believe the answer lies in the Triforce, or more accurately the splitting of the Triforce that takes place in this game. This is the first time we see the Triforce getting split and it remains split in each timeline with the sole exception of the one where Ganon wins and pieces it back together. Although it that timeline it still doesn’t manage to stay together for the whole timeline and becomes split multiple times after Ganon puts it back together. My theory is that splitting the timeline caused time to become unstable and caused rifts allowing for different timelines to form. After all, gathering the Triforce seems to be the most consistent theme in each timeline and no matter which timeline you end up on, the Triforce never stays together. It would also help explain how the pieces of the Triforce can consistently stay with the same individuals across timelines. What is interesting to note is that while the Triforce of Courage does not have a fixed owner in the other two eras with it usually having to be found or earned, in the Child Era timeline the Triforce of Courage awakens on the embodiment of courage of that era. The Triforce always remains whole no matter what timeline we are on. As for why evil always comes back to haunt the same people in each timeline, I could just say because videogames but thankfully The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword gives me a better explanation. The bad guy of that game places a curse on Zelda and Link so that those who inherent Zelda’s bloodline and Link’s courage will be forced to fight the incarnation of his hatred throughout time. No matter what timeline, Zelda and Link will always be locked in a battle of good vs. evil until the end of time.

Now speaking of the end of time, I would like to draw attention to the end of the timeline, or should I say timelines since every timeline end at the same place: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This honestly makes no sense no matter how you try to explain it, unless you believe that at some point the timelines end up converging into one timeline once again. Now if we were to go off of my theory, the only way for this to take place is that in each timeline the Triforce is reunited and the Sacred Realm is restored. Then if would be possible for the other timelines to converge into one singular timeline. From what I can see from the final game in the timeline, so far it looks as though the full Triforce exists within Zelda as seen in one of the flashbacks. It was said that the reason the Triforce split in the first place was due to evil coveting its power so it is possible that good people from all different timelines could potentially keep the Triforce connected long enough to stabilize the timeline that went out of sync due to the events of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. After all, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does seem like a combination of different aspects of many Zelda games from different timelines from the art style to the combat to even the exploration. I obviously don’t have any proof for this since what I describe takes place in a game that does not exist yet. However, it is very likely that the Triforce, the most powerful object in the land of Hyrule would be responsible for both the shift in the timeline and its inevitable correction. It is possible something else could be the cause of everything or Nintendo decided not to bother trying to make sense of things at some point, but at least give me credit for trying to make sense of this mess. Anyway, that’s all I got. Let me know if you think any of this makes sense to you. If not, well thanks for at least hearing me out.

Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda

Okay, I’ll start off by saying that I have been a bit braindead lately. So I really wasn’t sure what topic to go with for this month. I have also been feverishly trying to complete at least three different games and so my mind has been in absolute shambles. So I decided that we are going to play it safe again this month and keep things casual by running back to Nintendo, the poster boy for casual gaming. I figured I would go with one of their other big series that I really enjoy and talk about The Legend of Zelda franchise this time. The thing about this franchise that really sticks out to me is it’s exploration aspect where you can go around finding things to make you stronger. However it feels different from the Metroid way of doing things where you roam around the area in search of things you need to find. For most Zelda games you can find everything you need to beat the game just by exploring each dungeon you find and getting the required item. You can feel yourself grow stronger and get a better arsenal, but you always know what to expect when you enter a dungeon. The process is you go through until you find the item needed to defeat the boss, then you defeat said boss. At least that was how I felt until they made The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and I was reminded about how much exploration helped with progression since with the new ability in that game I could explore every nook and cranny that I wanted to and constantly find something new. Most of the time I just found money which is par for the course, but I find that game to be one of the few Zelda games where accumulating money is actually useful. And then to surprise me even further they came out with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game takes exploration to a whole new level. The reason being that this game leans heavily on exploration as a way of completing the game, something that hasn’t been done in a similar fashion since the first game in the series. However, it feels both different and similar to that game and I will explain why.

Now I will be honest and say that I have never beaten the original game. It isn’t as though I don’t like the game, but it is more like while the game has a solid focus on exploration, it is not structured in a way to fully make use of it. For instance, when I first played the game the first dungeon was actually the third dungeon I found in the game. The first two were the fifth and the sixth dungeon respectfully. Unfortunately for me, there were certain items I needed to progress further in those dungeons that I didn’t have access to yet because I had skipped four dungeons. It is the exactly same situation as going through a Pokémon game except you manage to skip four gyms ahead by accident and can’t go any further because your Pokémon will get wrecked. However, in the latest Zelda game, you can run off after finishing the tutorial to do whatever you want because you already have everything you need at that point to defeat the final boss. It will definitely be a difficult fight, but it is not impossible to do it as long as you have a decent amount of determination. You see, I feel as though that whenever I have found myself enjoying Zelda games, it is because of the freedom with which I am allowed to explore. The more I can explore and go at my own pace, the more enjoyable I find the experience to be. After all, I am the type of person whose first thought in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was to dump my points into stamina so that I couldn’t climb any mountain even if it was raining. Of course this includes Zora’s Domain because why not right? I just really enjoy the feeling of conquering obstacles in my way, what can I say? I just appreciate that the game allowed me the freedom to do that rather than trying to railroad me. While I don’t have any ill feelings towards the first Zelda game, since I can find all these secrets and heart containers without getting closer to finding the last dungeons, it can be a bit disheartening knowing the biggest obstacle I have to face is the map (if you can even call that a map). I appreciate that more recent games in the franchise are still laying out a path for us to take while not forcing us to go down that same path each time.

If I am admitting to Zelda games I have yet to finish, another one that I will eventually probably sort of get around to maybe finishing at a later date. In case you couldn’t tell, I don’t have much enthusiasm to return to this title right now. There are many reasons for this. In fact, this game could and probably will be a blog post just by itself. However, the main reason is how repetitive the game feels. Now only does the game hold your hand constantly, but it feels like you are going through the motions even more than usual in this game. Which is a shame because I actually do find some of the dungeons to have interesting designs. I know I have been talking about exploration over puzzle solving which is a key component of any good Zelda game, but I feel as though the best parts of a Zelda game are when both exploration and puzzle solving go hand-in-hand. That being said, I would say that since the game is constantly railroading you and is often quite linear, the game’s puzzles never truly shine for me which is a shame. You go to get an item at a dungeon in one of the same three areas over and over again and the sky world looks so barren that there is barely any reason to want to explore. I am all for having go dungeons in Zelda games, but can we at least have it so that the puzzles don’t just start and end with the dungeons. And for the record a puzzle is not finding the item I need to get to the next area. At least get a little more creative than that. I am glad that Zelda games seem to be breaking away a bit from the old formula. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am fine with it as long as there isn’t someone constantly screaming at me to tell me how I should progress with my fantasy videogame adventure.

As a side note, I realize this post is later than usual. I did not mean for this to happen and since I feel guilty I will shamelessly place the blame on Tainted Lazarus who frustrated me to no end this week and as a videogame character, cannot defend himself in any way. I mostly just wanted to get a little dig at him before the end of the week. Especially tomorrow.

Thoughts on Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky

If I’m being honest I didn’t really have anything planned for this post. I always seem to forget that sometimes the month ends up with five Fridays and so I have to come up with another new post. Now I could write a post about the next generation and keep up the trend I have been going with for the past month. What stops me from doing so is the fact that I may want to return to another month of Pokémon in the future to cover the other four generations and doing one of the generations now would mess things up. So instead let’s consider this Gen 4.5 as I talk about one of the spinoff games that I truly love in Gen IV and that is Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. This should be obvious but I am going to gush a lot so be wary of spoilers. The reason why I love this game so much is mainly because the story is really well thought out and engaging. I can’t even begin to describe how ecstatic I was on my first playthrough of this game. To begin with let’s start with the fact that the game decided to actually do something interesting with Pokémon that are essentially gods. The whole main story revolves around trying to prevent the flow of time from being distorted to the point where it stops entirely. Now it sounds a lot more impressive and high stakes than just bad guys trying to take over the world in a very incompetent manner. As far as time travel stories go, I find this one to be pretty decent and it actually allows for some interesting questions and character moments. It is amazing how I actually feel like I am saving the world more than I ever did in any mainstream Pokémon game. It really feels like an actual RPG.

Well, when I say that I mainly mean in terms of scale since the gameplay feels kind of like a mix between an RPG and an RTS I guess? As you move through mystery dungeons, which is a fun way of saying go through procedurally generated dungeons, you encounter Pokémon that spawn in and they move as you move through the dungeon and encountering them leads to a battle. It is possible to be ganged up on multiple Pokémon at once because of this which I think feels a lot more realistic that walking into some grass and encountering one Pokémon at a time. Then again what is realistic about Pokémon anyway? What can get annoying is when Pokémon with weather effects spawn and constantly do damage to you. This is especially bad when you have run out of food and are going hungry. Yes, there is a hunger meter and yes I usually do run out of food. It’s fine though since most dungeons aren’t long enough for this to be a considerable issue. All the battling feels more complicated and yet familiar and so I find it to be a lot of fun. That is until I end up finding a monster house where twenty Pokémon spawn in around me and I pray to Arceus that I won’t get wiped. I think my favorite thing about the gameplay though is the fact that the areas are procedurally generated which I’ll admit is a bit weird. The reason why I like it so much is because I can play the same levels multiple times to find different Pokémon and it never feels that tedious since the layouts are different each time. If I am going to grind, I would rather have it so it doesn’t feel too repetitive so having the environment changing each time is a nice way to help with that. Of course be able to fight multiple Pokémon in quick succession really helps with that.

Let’s go back to the story for a bit. The main story as I mentioned is quite great on its own and unlike the first games of the Mystery Dungeon series, your role is more significant to the story than just telling Rayquaza to look up. Your presence in the game is mysterious, but you learn more about why you are there as time goes on. You even have a special role to play by being able to see into the past and the future. Now you end up finding out as the game goes on the circumstances that led to you traveling through time and eventually becoming a Pokémon. You don’t even get the full picture until after beating the true final boss of the game. Yes, there is a true final boss. in fact there is a lot more story after the initial ending. By the end I really felt a connection to the different characters and I felt like I was a part of this world. How is it that I can be more involved in this story than I am trying to be a Pokémon trainer. Although to be honest, don’t you think it’s weird. Nowadays why do we go out on a journey again? We go out to complete the Pokédex right? Just think about how the professor of the region entrusts you with a task and somewhere along the way not only does that get pushed to the side and forgotten about entirely, but you also end up stumbling into saving the world and becoming the champion. Then the game ends as if to say that this was everything you set out to achieve. When did that even happen? In the Mystery Dungeon games the plot is simply save the world, but everything is based around that idea. Mainstream Pokémon games have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the story. Saving the world should not be a mild distraction on your way to becoming the champion. At least have a little bit of worldbuilding so that I care about what is happening. To be fair, all of this is mainly directed at Gen IV, a generation that can have such entertaining spinoffs and yet has one of the most basic and safest Pokémon experiences imaginable. I guess at the end of the day the reason why I like the spinoffs in Gen IV is because they choose to actually focus on the Pokémon. Look, I just wanted to get my thoughts across to highlight more about my blogpost last week. I promise next time I will do something more lighthearted such as why most Pokémon trainers are forbidden from having dads.

Unlikely Story Cliché (Gen IV)

You know, if I am being honest I find this generation to be the hardest to write about for this month. It is not due to lack of experience or anything. In fact I can say I really enjoy this generation and it was the generation I spent the most time on in my Pokémon phase when I was in high school. However, I felt when I was going to write about this generation that there wasn’t really anything introduced in this generation that hadn’t made an appearance in previous ones. It isn’t a bad generation, it is just one of those generations that doesn’t have anything about it that is particularly special. All that was done was smoothing out the edges of some things from Gen III to make things more streamlined. At least this was still before they smooth things out so much the cartridges may as well have been circles for how challenging the games ended up being in later generations. And that is considering that these games are already pretty easy to begin with too. So I figured that I should talk about an issue that has plagued Pokémon games for the most part and I feel that this generation is the perfect time to elaborate on this idea. I have mainly been talking about gameplay and game mechanics for the majority of my posts which is a bit unlike me. I usually like to talk about the story or at the very least poke fun at it somewhat and I have mainly strayed away from that this month. The main reason is the story campaigns in the main series Pokémon games are so basic that there is not much really to talk about in that department. However, I will not let it get a free pass any longer. This cliché needs to be addressed once and for all. First, let’s talk about how we got here.

Now the first two generations had villains who were essentially just a group of thugs in the Pokémon universe who tried many different schemes to profit off of Pokémon. That was a pretty standard storyline and while it is unrealistic that a ten-year-old child could easily defeat the leader of a criminal organization like that, at the very least he isn’t dealing with Pokémon that are legendary in order to foil some grand scheme. Then Gen III follows the example of Pokémon Crystal from Gen II and now all of the games after that have the bad guys’ evil plans revolve around trying to control a legendary Pokémon for their schemes. Now I can sort of give the third generation a pass because at least the whole land vs. water thing was something that was reflected in the actual game to a certain extent and the legendary Pokémon weren’t so overpowered in the lore that is didn’t make sense for you to stand up to them. Gen IV has no excuse. Not only did they add in a cult to mess with the Pokémon of time and space, but you even have the Pokémon devil and even the creator itself. Like just think about the fact that you can essentially catch God. Before it was kind of like the legendary Pokémon were gods in their own right but this generation really took it to a whole new level. It sounds so ridiculous that they can even think of trying to stop beings at this level in the Pokémon universe. However, by virtue of being the main character in this story, you can accomplish anything no matter how unlikely it might seem. You know, this particular cliché is one that I come to expect from a Pokémon game and doesn’t really bother me, but it just feels so lazily done in this generation.

The problem here is that the only explanation for why you encounter these troubles or even why you are able to take on these deities is solely because you are the main character in a Pokémon game. The game itself doesn’t give anything to suggest why you, some little nobody from a town so insignificant even I can’t remember it, can manage to talk on legendary Pokémon so easily. In other generations they would either have them not be part of the story or make it so you at least had some connection to the Pokémon beforehand. In Gen III and Gen V they gave you items that allowed you to connect with the Pokémon is battle at least and later games at least tried to give you at least some sort of contact with the legendary Pokémon beforehand. The story is not well told even told it could be done so much better. Now you may be thinking that I am crazy for nitpicking how the story is told in a Pokémon game. While it is true that I am crazy, I think I can expect more from stories in Pokémon games because later generations gave at least an attempt to try and have stories be more engaging. Well, most of them. And not just that, but I really want to point out that the spinoff Mystery Dungeon game for this generation has some of the best story I have seen in a Pokémon storyline to date. If the main games had even half of the creativity of some of the spin-offs, man wouldn’t that just be fantastic. Look, everything I say here is out of love, because I know they can do so much better and with those Gen IV remakes on the horizon now is the perfect time to do just that. I know there has been a lot of criticism for the style of these new remakes, I personally don’t mind it, but this could be a great opportunity to make the Sinnoh region more fleshed out. They sort of did this in Pokémon Platinum but since those aren’t the games we are getting a remake of then I can only hope for the best. Look all I ask is that the remake has a bit more effort put into it. You can have your gods all you like, but at least let them be in an interesting story. Please. I am growing tired of this cliché and I can’t have more basic stories like this whether it be in the remake or future installments. Nintendo only has themselves to blame for giving us such good stories in the spin-off games. This is just reaping what they sow.

Thoughts on Pokémon Battles (Gen III)

This week let’s talk a bit more in depth about Pokémon battles. There is only so much you can talk about when the games aren’t quite balanced yet so I see this as a good time to really jump right in there. My thoughts will probably be all over the place on this one, but that should not come as a surprise anymore. Before we delve even deeper into the rabbit hole let’s take a look at two mechanics added to the Pokémon themselves. The first is that each Pokémon now has an ability that gives them some type of advantage. Some of them can be used in the overworld but most exist to give a Pokémon an edge in battle. Usually a Pokémon can have two different abilities so now there is a reason to catch a Pokémon more than once to try and find the one with the ability you want for your team. The bigger change to the Pokémon themselves I believe lies in them now having natures. Depending on what natu, to xre a Pokémon has, one stat will receive a boost while another will be reduced. For instance a Pokémon with a calm nature will have increased special defense and have decreased attack. Just something to take to take a note of since in a casual playthrough it won’t affect things too much, but the option is there if you want to optimize your Pokémon, but I will get to more on that later. Next up we have a new mechanic.

Now if I’m being honest, which by the way I always am in these posts seeing as how there is no reason for me to want to lie to you, this next mechanic is probably my favorite new mechanic introduced in this generation. That mechanic is team battling. Every now and then you will get the opportunity to fight two trainers and the same time in a two-on-two Pokémon battle. The fun thing about this mechanic is that you can coordinate with your Pokémon to bully two different Pokémon at the same time. Obviously there is more to it than that, but there is nothing more satisfying to me than tag teaming one Pokémon with both of mine as soon as it steps onto the battlefield. They never stand a chance. There is more that needs to be considered in these battles since there are moves that can affect everyone and you can use moves on your other Pokémon as well, presumably to help them out instead of wiping them out. Sorry did I say wipe them out? I meant causing them to faint gently. Always was funny to me that Pokémon could get hit by literal meteors and then just need to rest at the Pokémon center for a bit with no consequences. Can I get some of that for me please? Well at the end of the day I guess I doesn’t make me feel too bad for ganging up on Pokémon during a battle so that they don’t even have a chance to get their moves off. However, I want to address the change in how battles are carried out. You see, in this generation Pokémon becomes a lot more complex which definitely livens things up, but there are certain things you have to pay attention to such as not using Surf on your other Pokémon in the middle of a team battle. It’s more than just that though as pretty much every mechanic is in some way geared towards competitive battling. By adding new variables to the mix Pokémon can grow even stronger and specialize in different styles depending on whether it’s sent out for single or double battles. if you don’t believe yet you will after I talk about EV training.

For those of you who are unaware EV training is the type of mechanic that I won’t even touch in a game. I am a casual gamer, it is literally included in the name of the website. So I don’t rally focus on this type of thing so I don’t really like to talk about it. However, for the sake of argument, that is what I’ll do. Essentially the bare minimum on how it works is that you can fight certain Pokémon to increase your effort values which in turn make your Pokémon stronger since the higher the effort values of the Pokémon stats, the more likely it is to have an edge over those of the same level. Basically it is something you do to focus your Pokémon to be stronger in different areas of expertise. You can achieve double the effect with the Macho Brace item so you can train more efficiently and then to train even more efficiently there is the Pokémon virus which is commonly referred to as Pokérus. This virus also doubles the amount of effort values gained when fighting so it is probably the only virus you ever hope that something contracts. The only problem is that it is exceedingly rare, even rarer then shiny Pokémon. Come to think of it, did I mention shiny Pokémon in Gen II last week? I can’t remember so I’ll just quickly say for the one person who doesn’t know what we are talking about here. Shiny Pokémon are just Pokémon with alternate colored skins. They usually look pretty cool though. They are also quite rare and yet Pokérus is like eight times rarer and it doesn’t have any visual queue when a Pokémon you are fighting has it. Honestly, I have only had my Pokémon contract the virus once and so unless you are really into this kind of training I don’t think it is worth it.

The reason why I bring all this up is because this generation to me was the start of when competitive battling really became a thing. The Pokémon had so much detail added to them and battling became so much more complex to the point where I won’t even dream about touching the competitive scene. It feel a bit weird that by giving all these different things to help Pokémon grow, they end up being used more like tools. Now that the battling has grown more complicated there need to be different strategies going into the game. As soon as the battle system gets fixed, we start doing everything we can to have more entertaining and suspenseful fights. Where does it stop? Clearly not anytime soon since every single generation after this one feels like it needs to tweak the battle system in some way. I am not saying all of these tweaks are bad, but I will say that there is no reason to keep messing around so much. Ever since this generation it feels as though all the games want to experiment with is the battle system. Everything is about optimizing the Pokémon experience. Here’s a thought. Why not just make a fun game? I am not saying Pokémon isn’t still fun, I am saying that there is no reason why I should have to learn about new mechanics every single time a new game comes out in order to enjoy the game. At least in this game, the new additions are optional. In later games though, not so much. So if there is anything I want you to take away from this, it is that even though I like these games, battling has become just a bit too complicated for my liking. Maybe that’s just me though. Oh right, and my starter is usually Treecko or Mudkip. Especially Mudkip considering how much you need to surf in this game. Not that I have ever personally minded that though.