Review

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

 

 

 Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch(reviewed), Wii U

Release Date: March 3rd, 2017

Price: $59.99

In 2017, it is fair to say that The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that Nintendo has kept pretty close to the chest.  While they’ve never turned out something truly horrible, the past ten or so years have seemed somewhat stagnant. Windwaker is a fantastic game with some slow points, Twilight Princess has some amazing Dungeons, but it’s bleak and dark art design left me wanting. While other titles like Phantom Hourglass tried too hard with gimmicks like touch based controls.  Most of these games are fantastic on their own merits, yet still, stick to concepts and gameplay elements Nintendo had been using since the era of the SNES and A Link to the Past.

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I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

 

After multiple delays on Breath of the Wild, which many had begun to speak of as Zelda Skyrim, I was starting to doubt how open or impressive the title could be. Well, Nintendo didn’t just tweak the formula of one of it’s oldest series. It threw the whole recipe out, and the result is a beautiful, breathtaking game, that feels like a new experience littered with charm and familiarity in the form of a few base concepts that still make it feel like a classic Zelda adventure.

The most obvious and arguably most welcome change to Breath of the Wild is how little it holds your hand at the start. Skyward Sword, the last big release in the franchise has a solid two or three hours of heavily scripted tutorial based gameplay. In Breath of the Wild Link wakes up from his one hundred year slumber briefly gets some direction from a cloaked old man( it’s dangerous to go alone, take this) and you’re thrown out to explore Hyrule at your leisure.17349714_1476346705711018_9193550976783032304_o

The first hour or so of the game does take place in a slightly more contained area. On the Great Plateau, the aforementioned old man will ask you to gather treasure from four shrines. Each shrine is essentially a mini dungeon that provides you with a rune that grants you a new ability. These abilities, include bombs,  the power to stop time, create columns of ice from water, and a magnet based ability for moving metal objects. A puzzle in each shrine will force you to prove you can use each rune competently. Once this is done, you’ll be granted a paraglider and turned out to Hyrule with a simple task, defeat Ganon.

These four core abilities will replace the old Zelda system of finding new tools and weapons in dungeons. It’s easy to be skeptical of this change, at first I was worried that with all of these powers front loaded that sense of discovery would be lost. The feeling of realizing you can hit a distant switch with the boomerang you just acquired would be gone. Instead, I found over time that the sense of discovery comes from other places. With these four runes, you can solve the puzzles in all of the Shrines, there are over 100 in total.

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Keep an eye on that stamina wheel

 

With these runes in hand and the paraglider at Link’s disposal, the game essentially tells you “here are the tools, go explore this world.” You’ll find that the only thing stopping you from going where you want is Link’s stamina meter. The little green circle is something you’ll constantly have an eye on as it is important for almost everything you do. Stamina is drained when running, climbing, swimming, and paragliding. It’ll recharge after a brief rest, but you don’t alway have that option. Mountains that seem insurmountable can be tackled early on if you’re smart about looking for outcroppings to rest at on your way up.

What you will be climbing most is the Sheikah Towers. These towers glow bright orange and fill in portions of your map and turn blue when activated with your Sheikah Slate. These towers don’t fill in your map in the traditional open world game sense, and that may be one of my favorite things about Breath of the Wild. Sheikah Towers will only fill in large map features like mountains and bigger bodies of water. You’ll have to spot things like Shrines and villages from these and other vantage points. This task is easily accomplished using multiple pins and stamps available through the map screen. I used these tools a whole lot to mark shrines, as well as, mineral deposits, enemy camps, and places that just looked interesting. Unlike other open world games Breath of the Wild doesn’t populate your map with a million things to do. This feature of spotting and manually marking encourages more exploration and is a ton of fun.

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The Zora Prince is confirmed best character

 

More changes come in the form of Heart Containers. While you’ll still receive Heart Container(the item that increases Link’s overall heart count) for defeating dungeon bosses, Heart Pieces are gone altogether. For those who have played past Zelda titles, you’ll know that finding four pieces of a heart( five in Twilight Princess) out in the world would add another heart as well. In Breath of the Wild, you will receive Spirit Orbs every time you complete a shrine. For every four you acquire you can visit a Goddess statue to upgrade either your hearts or stamina pool. These Statutes can be found in most towns, as well as the Temple of Time.

Weapon degradation also presents a new take for Zelda. Swords, shields, and bows all degrade and break over time. For this reason, you’ll wanna be grabbing anything you can get your hands on early on. From Travelers swords to Bokoblin clubs, grab whatever you can. Armor, however, is forever. Some armor is acquired through story quests, and other sets can be bought in towns.  Link’s clothing factors big time into the weather system of the game. Wearing metal in a lightning storm can result in an electric shock, having wooden equipment out in the heat of Death Mountain can cause it to go up in smoke. You’ll also have to dress accordingly in super hot or cold environments, or Link will take damage over time. You can also buy or craft potions to resist the heat or cold temporarily.

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Sneaking up on foes deals extra damage

 

Cooking adds an interesting but not overly complex layer to surviving in Hyrule. You’ll no longer discover hearts out in the open to refill Links health. In place of this Link will have to eat like the rest of us. Raw materials will work just fine, but to really fill up those hearts and maybe add a little bonus effect, up to five ingredients can be cooked in a pot over a fire. Cooking isn’t exactly complicated, raw meat plus rock salt equals salted meat. While combining a Moblin horn with and Octorock tentacle will result in something barely edible.

Breath of the Wild, for the first time, features, cutscenes with full voice over, with the exception of Link himself. These bits of story are shelled out from flashbacks that Link can experience via twelve memories locations that will cause Link to remember events from 100 years ago. These sequences are great and lend themselves to the incredible writing of the game. Even in basic conversation NPC’s are loaded with smart, funny things to say instead of one generic comment. They’ll react to Link based on what he is wearing or doing making them feel more alive. Link doesn’t speak aloud ever, but his dialogue options are often quippy dry humor that I enjoy quite a bit.

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Am I a chef now?

 

Dungeons have been altered in a large way. In addition to exploring the fields of Hyrule taming horse and finding Shrines, there are four main dungeons you can conquer before fighting Ganon. Staples of the series like the Big Key and compass are gone completely. Your first task upon entering is to obtain a map. Getting the map gives you special control over each dungeon that I won’t spoil for you. It is also worth noting that each dungeon is 100% optional. You can take on Ganon without doing these but don’t expect that to be easy. Beating each of these weakens him significantly.

It can’t all be sunshine, Breath of the Wild does have its problems. For one, inventory management feels like a mess. Moving ingredients around and moving in and out of the menu to drop weapons when your inventory is full is a hassle. In addition, you’ll occasionally see some frame rate issues when playing in TV mode. Thankfully a frame drop here or there is far from game breaking, and the great moments I’ve had with Zelda far out way any of these minor gripes.

I explored Hyrule’s sprawling fields and mountains for close to 100 hours before I finally put Ganon down. I felt a slight disappointment in ending my adventure so I find myself going back to look for secrets and shrines I may have missed. I didn’t think that I’d be able to recapture the magic that games like A Link to the Past held for me as a child, but Nintendo made me a bright-eyed child again in my mid-twenties. Breath of the Wild is a game changer for Zelda as a series, and hopefully just the first steps in a renaissance for one of my favorite series of all time. Whether it’s on the Switch or Wii U, everyone should check out this fantastic game.

Score: 10 out of 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on my first few hours with the Nintendo Switch

I’ve had a full weekend with my new Nintendo Switch now and even between working and gearing up for PAX East I’ve found plenty of time to get aquatinted with the hardware. I’ve also become thoroughly familiar with a particular piece of software *cough* Zelda. The success of the Switch seems vital to Nintendo after the Wii U being generally regarded as a failure and I feel confident in saying that at the very least the Nintendo Switch is a competent piece of hardware with a small software line up.

The hardware looks nice; it’s sleek, and doesn’t look like a cheap toy, my biggest complaint about the Wii U tablet. It feels good in your hands when in tablet mode, and removing the Joy Cons are simple. It is worth noting that the Joy Con strap locks which attach when you’re using the controllers independently can sometimes be a real pain to remove, be sure to take it slow to avoid breaking them. The Switch also includes a grip to slide your Joy Cons into while playing in TV mode. While this is certainly serviceable, it is far from ideal. The Switch Pro Controller is pricey coming in at about $70.00. It’s expensive, I know, but if you can afford it, I would highly recommend it. I can’t imagine playing Zelda in TV mode without it.

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The Pro Controller

 

 

The Switch Dock serves a multitude of purposes. It’ll charge your Switch, connects your Switch to the TV via HDMI and also houses three USB ports, two on the side and one in the pack along with the power adapter plug and HDMI port. The Switch slides in and out of the dock super easily; but you run the risk of the dock itself scratching up the screen over time, so a screen protector is a must. The Switch kickstand is also flimsy at best, I just don’t trust that damn thing.

The Tablet screen is sharp as hell, and although I haven’t had much use of the touchscreen as of yet it, it’s been responsive. As far as general performance goes games look incredible both on the TV and tablet. Zelda did seem to occasionally drop a few frames in TV mode but nothing game breaking. Battery life appears to be somewhere around the three-hour mark when playing a demanding game like Zelda, so smaller games have nowhere to go but up.

The user interface or UI is the cleanest I’ve seen from Nintendo to date. A simple taskbar similar to the PS4’s UI is present over a plain white background from which you can easily access accounts’ installed games and the Eshop. The Eshop has no catchy music track R.I.P.

On the software end of the spectrum, it’s more quality over quantity at this point. Zelda is the flagship title and in the course of one weekend has drained about thirty hours of my life, and I’ve only completed one dungeon, the game is massive and beautiful. Super Bomberman R may seem a bit pricey but is a fun and challenging competitive game both locally and online. I’ve also played around with Snipperclips, an awesome co-op puzzle game exclusive to the Switch and Fast RMX a pretty damn fun stand in for that new F-Zero game we’ll probably never get.533265-nintendo-switch

Should you rush out to by a Switch? If you’re a Zelda fanatic, it might be worth it for that alone especially if you don’t have a Wii U. I always rush out for day one hardware, but it might be worth waiting to the average gamer. Holiday 2017 will surely see some bundles including one with Super Mario Odyssey. The Switch is a solid piece of hardware, and I love it but unless you’re clamoring to play Breath of the Wild on the preferred platform then waiting may be your best option.

 

 

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News

Twas the night before Switchmas

As I am writing this, I just got back from an excursion to my local Gamestop to check out their midnight launch for the Nintendo Switch. I pre-ordered the Switch on Amazon, so I can look forward to it in the morning. I did, however, neglect to pre-order a pro controller and thought I’d take my chances with the crowd.

Much to my surprise not only was I able to get my hands on a controller but they had plenty of Switches available for walk-in customers. A friend who was with me for the same reason was even offered a Switch mistakenly as he was being rung up.

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That’s about a fifth of the line outside my local Best Buy

 

Maybe my little local Gamestop was overstocked, or maybe we really won’t see another console shortage from Nintendo. It looked like another story when I drove by my local Best Buy to see the line, good luck to those folks.

At any rate, I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the Switch and good luck to those attempting to get their hands on one.

 

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Review

Review: Night in the Woods

Game: Night in the Woods

Developer: Infinite Fall

Publisher: Finji

Platform(s): Windows(reviewed), MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4

Release Date: February 21st, 2017

$19.99

Night in the Woods is an adventure game with an all too familiar Kick Starter story back in October of 2013 the game from Alec Holowka, and Scott Benson quickly met its goal, and after two smaller supplemental games many people, myself included have been eagerly awaiting its release. That day finally came early this week, and I have to say I’m pleased with the end result.  maxresdefault

Night in the Woods is a narrative-heavy adventure game that follows Mae Borowski, a twenty-year-old anthropomorphic cat and recent college dropout returning to her hometown of Possum Springs. The base focus of gameplay revolves around exploring the town and interacting with its residents. You’ll have a lot of text to go through and not a whole lot of action to speak of. However, I think Night in the Woods beautiful art and the slight presence of 2D platforming elements help keep it from being lumped in with all of those “walking simulators” that I tend to shy away from.

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Story of my life

 

In addition to Mae, the main cast is mostly composed of Mae’s parents, her aunt a local policewoman charmingly referred to as “Aunt Mallcop” and Mae’s three close friends. Bea, convince an emotionally distant alligator, Gregg, a fox and convenience store clerk with a tendency for less than legal activities and Gregg’s boyfriend Angus, a tech savvy Bear with a pretty neat hat.

As I’ve said above the gameplay of Night in the Woods isn’t terribly deep. Walk around and explore Possum Springs make discoveries and talk to folks, all of which Mae will chronicle in her notebook. The real beauty of Night in the Woods comes in both its art and storytelling. The beautiful character designs od Scott Benson pop on colorful backgrounds that bring a cute charm and frame a surprisingly dark narrative. In addition, the soundtrack handled by Alec Holowka himself is some phenomenal work.

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Super pretty art

 

What initially seems like the story of a college dropout coming to terms with a world that moved on without her turns into a story about murder and secret societies. While these grander themes are important, it’s how Night in the Woods handles relationships and heavy themes like mental illness and abuse that really stand out. They also add a certain depth of replayability.

This replay value come through the small choices Night in the Woods presents the player with. These options are on less of a grand scale than say a galaxy-altering decision you make in Mass Effect and boil down to more of who you hang out with more often. If you’re closer with Bea than Gregg, then you’ll see a more developed character arc from that person.

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Also the story of my life

 

Night in the Woods is a cleverly written game that was clearly made by a team with a story to tell. While the gameplay is simple, it’s engaging in a way that is tough to describe, and the story paces itself in a way that keeps you all in through the roughly eight to ten-hour ride. It has room for replayability and cute charm all it’s own at twenty dollars it’s a steal that I gladly would’ve paid a full sixty for.

Score: 10 out of 10

 

 

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News

Target leaked the sequel to Shadow of Mordor

Although Warner Bros. has yet to announce a sequel to Shadow of Mordor we now know it exists thanks to Target. mbtqbe5xaudosr9v4ya2

The game is called Shadow of War, and as of right now you can still gawk at it on Target’s website despite no announcement being made.

For now, we can assume that’s what Warner Bros. big March 8th announcement is about and get excited to take another stab at the nemesis system, also thanks, Target.

 

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Review

Review: Candleman

Game: Candleman

Developer: Spotlight Interactive

Publisher: E-Home Development Entertainment

Platform(s): Xbox One

Release Date: February 1st, 2017

Price: $14.99

It’s dark, you can hardly see the hand in front of your face as you move through the hull of an old ship you hear the sound of metal walkways clank beneath your feet. You have only a small bit of light to guide your way so use it sparingly. You’re playing Candleman, the puzzle platformer from Spotlight Interactive. Candleman will platform his way through environments with a pretty unique change, it’s dark as all hell, and you only have ten seconds of light per level, you’re literally burning yourself down. You’ll also have to light other candles along the way as you progress.candleman-candle-man-main-dropbox

Candleman is the titular character of this adventure, and the little guy looks like he’s straight out of a Pixar film. Candleman is on a journey to visit a lighthouse he saw from the ship where he begins his adventure. With any luck he’ll learn how to shine as bright as the lighthouse in question, then again, maybe not this story seems rather gloomy.

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those forest levels pop with color

 

As Candleman you’ll platform your way across nine chapters each ranging from about three to five levels apiece, lighting candles along the way. You only have ten seconds of pure light to burn yourself, but you’ll want to save this when you can for lighting the candles strewn throughout the levels which serve as sort of collectibles and some merely as checkpoints. You won’t have to rely on Candleman’s wick as your only source of light, most levels have environmental effects to help as well, whether those be lightning strikes, glowing polyps, or luminescent platforms.

The level design is varied enough for the number of levels contained within the game. Candleman will travel through a ship, a forest, and of course the lighthouse. I found the forest section, in particular, the most interesting, luminescent plants made for beautiful environments and the way some spine covered plants reacted to light made for some unique platforming.

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fire bad

 

Candleman is a beautiful looking Xbox One exclusive that is over before its mechanics have a chance to feel stale. The game will more than likely take between four and six hours to complete depending on your skill level. Candle man is a fun but not particularly challenging platformer. If a short experience is worth fifteen dollars to you, Candleman is available now for download on the Xbox One marketplace.

Score: 6 out of 10

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News

$10,000 lot of lost SNES games have been recovered

Last week I wrote an article about Byuu, an amateur game archivist who was attempting to preserve every game on the SNES. His plan to do so involved borrowing games from a collector overseas dumping them and then returning them. Byuu declared his plan dead when a shipment containing nearly $10,000 worth of games was lost by USPS. It’s been nearly a month but thanks to the internet those games have been recovered safe and sound.sness

It seemed to Byuu that any hopes of the carts being recovered were gone, so much so that he had launched a go fund me page to reimburse the collector. He plans to refund the money to all donators. A higher up over at USPS contacted Byuu and was able to locate his package based on description. It would appear machinery ripped off the label.

So the preservation project is back on although Byuu won’t be relying on shipping carts anymore. Instead, he’s launched a Patreon in an attempt to purchase the 300 remaining SNES games he needs.

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