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‘The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’- the Quintessential Zelda Game

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Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Despite its original monochrome form, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening contains one of the most colorful, vividly realized worlds and ultimately is one of the best experiences in all of Zelda history. Left with the daunting task of following up A Link to the Past, the SNES’s golden game, Link’s Awakening remained the “quintessential isometric Zelda game” according to series producer Eiji Aonuma, while also steadily evolving the series- all of this on Nintendo’s first portable console, the Game Boy. Not only does Link’s Awakening perfectly match the tone and structure of all Zelda games, but it remains one of the most unique and creative entries to date.

From the opening cinematic, it’s clear that the tides have turned with the fourth Zelda entry. Link is seen at sea caught in a storm, when suddenly the mast of his ship is struck by lightning. Shipwrecked, an unconscious Link washes ashore Koholint Island to be found by one of the many islanders, whose zany personalities match the fittingly dreamlike and outlandish nature of Koholint. Link’s rescuer, Marin, is far from abnormal, but instead is a charming young girl who wishes for nothing more than to escape the island. Link soon discovers that to escape the island himself, he must wake the guardian of Koholint, the Wind Fish, who rests in an enormous egg at the pinnacle of the island and can only be roused by the eight Instruments of the Sirens. Link’s quest pits him against countless monsters, many familiar, and sees him vanquishing eight shadowy nightmares to acquire each instrument. Notably absent from the plot are Hyrule Kingdom, its princess, Zelda, and its rival, Ganon. Instead, Link’s Awakening is one of few Zelda titles to operate outside of Hyrule, further establishing it as a unique entry.

Amidst the many monsters Link comes across throughout Link’s Awakening are a couple of familiar faces. Anti-Kirby’s look an awful lot like everybody’s favorite pink, round vacuum, Kirby, but when he’s in Link’s dream world and not his own, he’s quite mean. Goombas, the bipedal mushrooms from the Mario series also make an appearance. There’s even a Chomp that snaps at Link in the center of Koholint. While a couple of other cameos are made, one of the friendlier appearances is that of Yoshi in a claw arm game. Between the cameos and some of Koholint’s quirky characters breaking the fourth wall, such as the little kids who teach the player how to play, before stating that they don’t really know what they’re talking about, the game carries a hint of parody, but remains a true Zelda title at its core.

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Similar to most of its predecessors, Link’s Awakening plays primarily as a top-down action-adventure, featuring similar combat and progression as the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past, complete with items that grant new abilities, heart pieces to increase life count, and primary combat surrounding a sword. By collecting twenty hidden seashells, the player can forge a sword that fires beams when the player’s health is full, similar to the one from the original game. For the first time, however, different items can be equipped to both the A and B button, resulting in more diverse puzzles and combat. Link’s Awakening also introduced trading sequence puzzles to the franchise, now a mainstay featured in almost every game. It was also the first overhead game to feature an item that allows Link to jump, and even includes minor side-scrolling, platforming segments that call back to Zelda II or even the Mario franchise, including jumping on Goombas to kill them. While these side-scrolling sequences aren’t exclusive to Link’s Awakening, it was another unique quality to the game that simultaneously celebrated the franchise’s history.

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Perhaps the reason the game has so many distinct characteristics is its unusual development. It all began with programmer Kazuaki Morita testing the capabilities of the Game Boy development kit through developing an unsanctioned game in the same vein as Zelda. Other programmers took notice and interest in the project, and began working on it after hours. It quickly evolved into a planned port of the enormously successful A Link to the Past for Game Boy before it fully evolved into the unplanned Link’s Awakening. The result was a far less restrained Zelda game, complete with unauthorized cameos, moments of side-scrolling, and the omission of familiar elements such as Hyrule and Zelda. Director Takashi Tezuka perceived the game as a spin-off, and very intentionally avoided recognizable Zelda trademarks, such as the Triforce, and filled the void with the dreamscape of Koholint, a fantastically fitting fantasy setting for the franchise and the game in particular, and a narrative that sought to make Link a hero internally as opposed to externally. In consequence, producer Aonuma once described Link’s Awakening as the first game in the franchise with a proper plot.

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The plot is far from the only memorable aspect of Link’s Awakening, however. The game includes some truly exciting items, including Roc’s Feather, which allows Link to jump, and the Magic Rod, with which Link can incinerate enemies, cuccoos, and even a neighbor’s dog! It’s the only game, to my knowledge, in which players can steal items from the shop, which results in the player’s name being turned to THIEF and the shop keeper killing them the next time they enter. It also features one of the best soundtracks in franchise history, including my favorite Zelda melody, “The Ballad of the Wind Fish”, heard when the player attempts to wake the Wind Fish after collecting all eight Instruments of the Sirens. Not surprisingly, in 1998, five years after the game’s initial release, Link’s Awakening was re-released on the Game Boy Color as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. The remake boasted full color and a new dungeon, complete with new enemies and color-based puzzles, which grants the player access to an additional tunic in blue or red once it’s completed.

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Link’s Awakening will always remain an essential piece of my history as a gamer. It is the first game that I remember playing, and its deeply imaginative world, unforgettable cast of characters, brilliantly designed gameplay, humor, and immense sense of adventure put me on a quest of my own, a quest to find the next best video game, ensuring my future as a gamer for the next two decades and onwards. To this day, Link’s Awakening remains a powerful experience apart from nostalgia, and an essential piece of Zelda‘s history that made way for Ocarina of Time and countless other timeless sequels. It opened the door for portable consoles, demonstrating how great a portable game can be. It’s a game that has to be experienced by all Legend of Zelda fans, the quintessential action/adventure escapade, and a worthy undertaking for anyone who considers themselves a gamer. In short, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a must-play.  There’s been an awakening.  Have you felt it?

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

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This Heart’s on Fire: ‘Death Stranding’ and Heartman

‘Death Stranding’ has no shortage of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is the eccentric Heartman.

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Death Stranding Heartman

*This article contains spoilers up to and including Chapter 8 of Death Stranding*

Over the course of Hideo Kojima’s wildly ambitious Death Stranding there are a whole cavalcade of intriguing and intoxicating characters for players to meet and acquaint themselves with. From the guy with the weird goalie mask to the lady with the magical umbrella, there is no shortage here of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is Heartman.

Portrayed by writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for Drive, Heartman brings the game to a dead halt when you finally meet him face to face in chapter 8 but the reprieve comes as a welcome comfort to the player. Having just crossed a treacherous mountain range and survived a second trip to Clifford Unger’s war-torn beach, most players will welcome a little down time, and Heartman is there to provide it.

Death Stranding
It’s immediately clear that Heartman’s home is something special from the moment Sam walks through the door. Lit with a ring of holographic fire, the foyer of the mansion is immediately welcoming in the hostile environment of the snowy mountains. However, it also has a sort of clinical detachment to it. This is by design, as reality for Heartman is merely a distraction — downtime to be filled.

Yes, Heartman comes with the tragic backstory players will no doubt be expecting but, like most of them in Death Stranding, his is a real treat. Delivered partly through voiceover and partly through flashback, Heartman reveals how he lost his family to a terrorist attack while in the hospital for a heart operation. When he flatlined during the operation, though, he was able to find them on the beach before being whisked away back to reality.

Obsessed with finding them again and joining them, Heartman now spends his life in 24 minute intervals: 21 minutes of life, 3 minutes of death. Every 21 minutes Heartman journeys to the beach by flatlining himself with a personal AED, only to be resurrected 3 minutes later. During those 3 minutes though, where time is altered by the elastic effect of the Death Stranding, he seeks out his family and makes observations on how the beaches and the after life work.

Death Stranding
Bizarre as all of this is, it makes Heartman a truly fascinating character. Since his life is mainly confined to 21 minutes at a time, he has collected hundreds of books, movies, and albums which can be experienced during that tiny window of time. His study is brimming with them, stacked on the ceiling high bookshelves that surround his work area. Also in the study are eerie recreations of frozen corpses, old family photos, and a host of other curiosities, each of which will earn the player likes from Heartman for noticing them.

Of course, this is the most interesting part of the meeting. As Heartman continues to explain his theories, a counter occasionally appears in the bottom corner of the screen, showing how long Heartman has before he will flatline again. When the moment of truth finally comes, he lays himself down on a chaise lounge, turns over a golden hourglass and dies before your eyes. As the Funeral March begins playing from an old record player, Sam must keep himself busy for 3 minutes while he waits for Heartman to return to the land of the living. It’s a truly brilliant moment, as a counter appears in the bottom corner again, and the player must simply take in Heartman’s eccentric home from a first person perspective for 3 minutes uninterrupted.

What would be boring as sin under the wrong direction becomes a welcome moment for the player to just sit and absorb this strange, yet comforting, place. Then, after three minutes have elapsed, Heartman reawakens and picks up from where he left off as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. He even breaks the 4th wall as he continues to talk, swatting away the timer when it appears on screen again and adding likes to your counter in real time.


There’s really nothing like the meeting with Heartman in all of Death Stranding — but then, there’s nothing like Death Stranding really in the realm of gaming either. With its long periods of walking between haunted destinations and its deliberately cryptic mythology, the game is like a series of tone poems and intellectual treatises mashed together into a post-apocalyptic courier sim.

Heartman then, with his heart-shaped lake and pink-lit study, is just one more piece of Kojima’s mad puzzle here but what a piece he is. Who would have thought the most normal looking member of Death Stranding‘s bewildering cast would end up also being one of its most interesting? Certainly not this writer. Still, Heartman and his eerie, purgatorial existence make for one of the nicest surprises in the game.

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Five Best New Pokémon Designs from ‘Pokémon Sword and Shield’

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Much like Pokémon Sun and Moon before, Pokémon Sword and Shield is an adventure full of fascinating surprises. Some of those many surprises across the Galar region are the new pokémon you will come up against. While many of the designs in the eighth generation were a sorry sight to behold, here are five that should stand the test of time as welcome additions to the ever-growing franchise.

Flapple

When I first encountered an Applin, there was a stark realization across my mind that Pokémon had ran out of ideas. Here I was, with my then Sobble, about to fight an apple with eyes. It was about as baffling as the ice cream cone back in Black and White, which looked as if it was designed by a child. But for not the first time, I was wrong, and instead of becoming three apples or a pear, Applin actually has a fantastic evolutionary journey.

Throw a sweet apple at Applin, and it’ll evolve into a Appletun, which is an interesting evolution in its own right. But when you throw a tart apple in its direction, it evolves into something so much better, with the result becoming the Flapple we see above. A tiny dragon using the broken apple it burst out of to flap around in the air is a creative concept to say the least, and certainly helped to change my early judgement on the apple core pokémon.

Sirfetch’d

Farfetch’d has been an unfortunate pokémon ever since its illustrious debut on Pokémon Red and Blue. A weak pokémon that was rare by virtue of being delicious, Farfetch’d has been a pokédex filler ever since. Luckily, in the Galar region, the Farfetch’d are a little more feisty, with a new typing to match.

With a little patience and a shovel of goof fortune, you can evolve your Galarian form Farfetch’d into Sirfetch’d if you manage to deal three critical hits in one battle. The odds are increased if you catch a Farfetch’d holding a leek, and then further increased at level 55 when your Farfetch’d learns leaf blade. For what it’s worth, the hard work does pay off. Sirfetch’d is a fantastic design and suits the theme of Pokémon Sword and Shield honorably. The evolution that Farfetch’d always needed has been worth the two decade wait.

Galarian Corsola

For all the demonic ghost pokédex entries and back stories, the Galarian form Corsola hits most close to home. While the change is largely a new colour and a sad face, the reasoning can be a little more tragic.

There are no secrets about the destruction of the coral reefs across the world due to climate change. It only takes a change of a degree in temperature for the coral to expel the algae that gives them their unique colouring and become the bleached white. While the coral isn’t dead immediately, if left in that state, it does eventually starve to death. Hence Galarian form Corsola represents more than the sum of its parts, and its a clever message Game Freak has left in Pokémon Sword and Shield about the destruction of our ocean ecosystems.

Grapploct

Ever since Hawlucha, I have a bias towards Mexican wrestling pokémon. They’re fantastic. Clobbopus and Grapploct are no exception, and the only reason I’ve chosen Grapploct over Clobbopus is because of way Grapploct swam like a hungry Olympic swimmer to announce my destruction.

While its base stats are actually average, the confidence it showed to pursue me on my journey across the sea certainly left a stain. The design of Grapploct itself is so consistent with fighting type pokémon that it’s one of the least lazy designs in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and for all the prayers to Arceus, there are some hopelessly lazy designs in this generation.

Corviknight

This is going to be huge statement that might rile up a number of pokémon fans, but for me, Corviknight is the best designed bird pokémon. The whole concept fits the brief, from the armour on its head, to its seamless fit into the inspiration behind the region.

It’s no secret that the Galar region was inspired by England, from the train system to the architecture, there are pieces of Ol’ Blighty everywhere in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Some of those influences are seen in the pokémon themselves, and none express that more than Corviknight. The raven has a lot of folklore behind it, particularly its presence in the Tower of London. It is said that if the ravens were to leave the tower, then the destruction of England is imminent. As such, not only does Corviknight look like a formidable bird pokémon, it actually has a clever reason behind its design.

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‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day

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Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country: 25 Years Later

Back in 1994, Nintendo was struggling with their 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which wasn’t selling as well as they’d hoped it would. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive and original title to reinforce its market dominance. After three years of intense competition and heated rivalries, Nintendo desperately needed a hit that could prove the Super NES could output graphics on the same level as the forthcoming 32-bit consoles. They teamed up with Rare to produce Donkey Kong Country, a Mario-style platformer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone would imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of dept. The characters are fluidly animated and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’s armory. Each stage has its own theme, forcing players to swim underwater, navigate through a misty swamp, swing from vines, or transport DK using a set of barrels (cannons) to advance. And let’s not forget the mine cart stages where you ride on rails and use your quick reflexes to successfully reach the end. Every level has little nooks and crannies too, hiding secret areas and passageways that lead to bonus games where you can earn bananas and balloons, which you can trade in for additional lives. And in Donkey Kong Country, you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths. Donkey Kong can dispatch larger enemies with his giant fists, while Diddy can jump a little higher than his bulky cousin. It isn’t the most original platforming feature, but it works. The two heroes can also rely on various animal friends to help guide them through their adventure. Predating Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island, Diddy and DK can also ride on the backs of Rambi the Rhino, Winky the Frog, Enguarde the Swordfish and more!

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country’s visuals were spectacular with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, detailed backgrounds, and a lush jungle setting, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listener’s over. Practically every piece on the soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a staple of Rare’s games – from its upbeat tropical introduction to the unforgettable climax which secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo’s most memorable boss fights. The result is an apt accompaniment to the colorful characters, tropical landscape, and tomfoolery that proceeds.

What really stands out the most about Donkey Kong Country after all of these years is just how challenging this game is.

But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and with a lot of patience. Right from the start, you’re in for one hell of a ride. In fact, some of the hardest levels come early on. There are constant pitfalls and Donkey Kong can only take a single hit before he loses a life. If your companion Diddy is following you he will take over but then if he takes a single hit you lose a life and it’s back to the start of a level. Needless to say, the game is unforgiving and requires quick reflexes and precise pattern memorization to continue. This game requires so much fine precision that it will definitely appeal to hardcore platforming veterans looking for a challenge and those that do are in for one hundred eighty minutes of mesmerization, astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The only real downfall of Donkey Kong Country is the boss battles. Yes, Donkey Kong Country gave us some memorable villains such as Dumb Drum (a giant Oil Drum that spawns enemies after it hits the floor), and The Kremling King (who is responsible for stealing Donkey Kong’s Banana Hoard), but these enemies have very basic attack patterns and far too easy to defeat.

It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

Donkey Kong Country

Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the defining platformers for the SNES. The game looks great and sounds great and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero and it paid off in spades. It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

The beauty of the original is that there’s more to it than the oversized gorilla. Donkey Kong Country is truly amazing!

– Ricky D

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