Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A rant about Zelda

The problem with Zelda is the puzzles. I'm not saying remove the puzzles entirely, because that would ruin Zelda as well. The thing is, in earlier games, the puzzles weren't obvious, they were a lot more simple and subtle. There was a time when entering a dungeon didn't feel like there should be a screen pop up saying "puzzle time!" In fact, maybe that's my new name for Spirit Tracks. The Legend of Zelda: Puzzle Time.

Nah, I think I'll save that for Zelda Wii (pending more info)

Many people complain that the dungeons themselves are the problems. Aonuma has responded to this by removing the 'dungeon-overworld-dungeon' setup. That's not what people mean. The reason why people like me hate and dread the dungeons is that they're BORING. They feel like a chore. They've become little mazes with puzzle-solving in the mix, not storming the dungeon and taking out the monsters ala Elder Scrolls, the older Zeldas, and every other dungeon crawler ever made. I don't hate the dungeon/overwold set-up, in fact, I love it! I hate the fact that the overworld is diminishing, and the dungeons are regressing to puzzles.

Take Twilight Princess, for example. When I got to that last dungeon of Hyrule Castle, I was expecting to storm the castle and be taking down enemies left and right to rescue Princess Zelda like the opening to Link to the Past. What I got was a puzzle in the castle courtyard involving using the boomerang to spin the pinwheels in a particular order in order to open the gate so I can open the chest to get the key. But this isn't the key to the main doors, oh no, this key opens a door to the other side of the courtyard where I fight a bunch of monsters including their leader who finally gives me the key to the main doors.(no, seriously. Halfway through the fight he talks to you and gives you the key.) That's right, all that just to get into the castle.

That was not fun. It was only compounded by the fact that all of the enemies, even the leader, were CAKE for being the final dungeon, (or, rather, being outside of it.) And then there was forced 'arena' matches on the way where you got fenced in with terrible AI. That didn't help. At one point you're facing upwards of six enemies, in an enclosed area, with no threat of death, or even of the enemies even harming you. When I'm up against six enemies at once in the final dungeon of a game, I should be peeing myself, not being annoyed.

Alright, so I finally get into the castle, I get to really start storming it now, right? Of course not. Immediately inside, in a nice open area, I get to...hookshot onto chandeliers which activates switches that will raise platforms! In the next room I get to light torches in a particular order (because they burn out at different rates) to open the door! I get to transform into a wolf so I can see dead knights which show me the way across a pitfall-riddled floor!

Yeah, that last one sounds awesome...but describing it shows what was wrong with the whole thing. I transform into a wolf so I can talk to ghostly undead knights who show me the way across a pitfall-ridden floor...and it's nowhere near being as awesome as it sounds. It sounds awesome, but it just comes across as another puzzle. I think that the same sort of thing, set up right, dropped in between pants-wetting battles would add to a defecation-inducing level of scary-awesome that that whole dungeon should be, and is even telling me with the music and atmosphere that it should be, rather than the yawn-inducing level of boring that it is.

The game even goes so far as to taunt you with the music, which consists of the 'storming the castle' song in Link to the Past, slowly evolving into Ganon's theme. The music tells me I should be fighting off twisted guards, hordes of monsters, and whatever else a final level can throw at me. What do I get instead? PUZZLES! And a few token enemies.

There's even one point where I go outside to a terrace and am confronted by a bunch of enemies at once. All different kinds, with different strategies(which skirt dangerously close to 'puzzle' territory in and of themselves) to defeat them. I get hyped because I see a fight that might actually be a challenge. Then there's a big explosion and the super-happy-go team of the Hyrule Resistance show up. And guess what they do? Nothing! They show up, spoil the fun, and leave to let you do your thing. Thanks, guys. I thought you were annoying and unnecessary before, but now you've just taken the cake and ruined what had the potential to be, I'm not kidding, the best fight in the game
for absolutely no reason. The fact that I consider that potential fight the only real challenge should be telling you something.

Now before anyone says "Dur, hur, Cave of Ordeals?" That's not the same. I want a hard fight, not a cheap one. What's the difference? An endurance round where you aren't given any hearts and the only way to beat it without killing your controller/system/TV/neighbor is to use a ridiculously expensive suit of armor which, in a cruel twist of developer irony, drains rupees. And it's otherwise completely useless. That is not fun. That is cheap. Want another example? Megaman 9 (and what I've seen of 10) is cheap. They look like they were made by (or for) the Super Mario World modders, and look like they could give nightmares to the inventors of the Kaizo Trap. That's why I have no intention of playing either.

Above: if Keiji Inafune created New Super Mario Brothers Wii

Moving on to the final battle, do you get something like Ocarina? Lets see, in Ocarina, you fight Ganondorf with the now-obligatory magic ping-pong, while with every hit you land on him more of the floor drops down. When you drop down, it is a pain to climb the central pillar again and again, but to some extent you're grateful for the brief respite to psych yourself back into the fight (and collect some hearts.) When he's dead you flee his collapsing tower only to fight his 'final boss' form.

Let me describe this final battle. You're fighting a monstrous pig-beast in the ruins of it's own castle, which is itself floating atop a pit of lava, which is then surrounded by a ring of destruction and ruined Castle Town beyond that. You're trapped with the boss inside a ring of fire while your magic sword is outside of the ring of fire. This is all set to crazy-awesome-epic music, Complete with (Nintendo 64-era) choirs. I still get chills when I play that. (assuming, of course, I pay the game past the Water Dungeon.)

Now let's take a look at Twilight Princess's final battle(s). First, you fight Zant, The big scary guy you remember from the cutscenes who took over Hyrule, bathed it in shadow, and stabbed you with a curse that trapped you as a wolf. You storm into the throne room and...he's randomly crazy now. Not intimidating anymore. His 'boss fight' consists of an amalgamation of every boss fight so far (in what seems a pathetic attempt to try and 'use the items more') And he goes down like a pansy.

But that's not the real boss fight, you have to go to Hyrule Castle! (for no other reason than your companion tells you to. I personally had no desire to go at all. I did what I set out to do.) So after the previously ranted about puzzle-dungeon of Hyrule Castle, you get to Ganondorf. Then you get not two, not three, but FOUR stages of final battle. The first fight is pretty cool; despite being another round of magic ping-pong, because you're fighting a possessed Princess Zelda.

After that, Ganondorf transforms into Ganon! What do you get? A dual-wielding awesome-fest like previous installments? No. 'Ganon' this time around resembles a giant boar(pun?), and the fight consists of more freaking goat-stopping from the beginning of the game (I guess all that herding actually paid off!) mixed with the Phantom Ganon fight from Ocarina.

So, you fought Ganon, game's over, right? You see a cinematic as your shadow-friend Midna turns into a giant monster with a huge Trident, Goes after Ganondorf, get teleported out of the Castle and into Hyrule Field, where you see the castle explode in the distance. yay.

Then Ganondorf appears somehow bringing a horse with him. (maybe he transformed Midna?) And of course, A horse chase ensues (which is exactly what I think of when I think 'final battle': epic horse chase)

But wait, there's more! The final final battle consists of a duel. One that can be beaten really fast with good timing. We can't have the game too hard, no, that would make it so newcomers (or, y'know, anyone) won't face any challenge during the FINAL BATTLE.

Of course, all these final battles have music screaming 'this is epic,' (complete with gamecube-era choirs) but without any real threat of death, (you might die once, but only because there's four stages of final battle)I'm not buying it.

I really am curious, with all their efforts, how many 'newcomers' they actually got with Twilight Princess.

No comments:

Post a Comment