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The Very Best Wii Games (Top 10)

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Kirby’s Epic Yarn

10. Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Certainly not what we expected out of the first Wii Kirby title but Kirby’s Epic Yarn is just that: a charming, fun, tale exploding with glee. The game is just so damn nice to look at, with flowing rivers made by waves of string of yarn, buildings that are tightly knitted bundles, and enemies composed of – you guessed it – YARN. All of this gives Kirby’s Epic Yarn a unique sense of flare. Anyone can see it and recognize it as “that yarn game.”

The gameplay, while easy, is insanely fun. Goring enemies with Kirby’s yarn whip is satisfying, and flinging their unraveled carcasses at their friends is equally so (and a little darker than I remember). Exploring the yarny worlds is enjoyable, as every nook and cranny have cute, little details to swoon over. Kirby himself is also head-throbbingly adorable. Instead of the dash found in the earlier games, he turns into a little car that bumps his head into stuff and melts your heart. He can also turn into a parachute to softly glide down with a big smile, or a submarine to go underwater to discover little treasures, and even a penguin to surf his way down a mountain, having fun the entire way.

This game is cute, which might be a little obvious at this point. It’s easy to grab a friend, sit down, and beat the entire journey in one sitting – a sitting filled with lots of “awww”s, “sooo cute”s, and a startling loss of man points. (Ricardo Rodriguez)

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9. Wii Sports

The game that time forgot, Wii Sports was a paragon of motion control gaming disregarded by virtue of its obviousness. What more could possibly capitalize upon the Wii’s motion control and couch-competitive-friendly atmosphere than “Tennis”, a game in which players thrashed their Wiimotes around as quickly as possible while their bumbling bobble-head avatars hurled across the pitch until one of them collapsed? Brawl might have been the public’s competitive Wii game of choice, but the game still had you play as if you were using just another controller. Wii Sports made you play with motion control better than anyone – and it was free. (Liam Hevey)

mario-kart-wii

8. Mario Kart Wii

As with every Nintendo console, the Wii ushered in a new era of Mario Kart. It’s been happening since the release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1991, and there has been a continuous stream of great karting games ever since.

Mario Kart Wii was a highly anticipated title, as it was set to carry on the legacy of Mario Kart onto a brand new platform, one that was revolutionary in its own right, as it brought forth an innovative new motion control mechanic that had never been experienced in a home console before. People all over the world were anxious to see how this new motion control would affect the nature of Mario Kart, with longtime fans of the Mario Kart series in turmoil, tainted by uncertain feelings about the role motion controls would play in this brand new installation.

Luckily, Nintendo handled Mario Kart Wii just right. The motion controls are present, but not a decisive factor in playing the game, and Nintendo fans still have the opportunity to go about their Mario Kart business as always, despite still being faced with the sense of innovation that Nintendo made their name from. No matter what new gimmick the console came with, the components that make up Mario Kart are still very much intact. The maps are fun to play, and some of them, like Maple Treeway and Coconut Mall, are in fact some of my favorite maps to date. The characters we know from the previous games are still present and playable, alongside a large variety of new additions to the roster. In conclusion, Mario Kart Wii manages to stay true to the previous installations of the series, whilst overcoming the controversy that followed the console and its features. (Johnny Pedersen)

new-super-mario-bros-wii

7. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Through New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Nintendo managed to bring a beloved reinvention of a beloved game back to the big screen. The original Super Mario Bros. released for the NES has achieved legendary status because of how it managed to redefine the 2D side-scrolling platformer, eventually spawning a few direct sequels and a plethora of games that chose to make use of the formula the game had brought to the scene. Then, in 2006, Nintendo completely revamped the game and released it for the DS, having it brandish new 3D-graphics, improved design, and new levels and entities. The game instantly became a classic, managing to reach a huge number of players due to its immersive gameplay and availability.

Nintendo must have figured this game was worth betting on because only a short while later they released another version of the game, this time for the Nintendo Wii. The graphics were further improved, new levels were designed, and new game mechanics were included, having the players make use of the motion controller that came with the console. The main factor that helped catapult the game into a spot within the Wii Hall of Fame, however, was the multiplayer function. NSMBW can be played cooperatively with great ease, players dropping in and out without any hardship, the entirety able to be played to completion regardless of how many players partaking in the action. This makes New Super Mario Bros. Wii a classic reinvention of a classic reinvention of a classic game. (Johnny Pedersen)

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6. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

After Super Smash Bros. Melee proved itself a massive success following its release on the Nintendo GameCube, fans worldwide were curious as to how Nintendo was going to follow it up. The Super Smash Bros. series itself had grown to become a favorite amongst both casual Nintendo gamers and avid followers of the company, and tensions were high when it became clear that Nintendo was making an installation for the Nintendo Wii.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl builds upon the foundations of its predecessors in many ways. It improves upon the game mechanics in general, making sure the formula of the gameplay remains perpetually relevant and playable, while also expanding the roster of characters, adding a lot of new opportunities to the game, and providing a more immersive experience overall.

All of this aside, the most prominent feature of Super Smash Bros. Brawl is how it builds upon the universe of the game itself. There had been a vague sort of storyline present in the two previous installations of the series, but Brawl manages to expand this feature massively. The game features a story unlike anything the Super Smash Bros. franchise had ever seen in the past, making use of the coalition of franchises included in the series and expanding upon it, creating a plethora of lore, boss battles, and character development – all of it playable in the new game mode, titled “The Subspace Emissary”.

Say what you want about The Subspace Emissary, but Nintendo once again took initiative and displayed their incredible sense of innovation by creating new aspects and improving upon aspects already in place in one of their most famous game series to date. Because of this, Brawl turned out to be one of the most memorable Wii titles to date. (Johnny Pedersen)

xenoblade-chronicles

5. Xenoblade Chronicles 

By 2012 the JRPG genre was in steep decline. Intensely rebuking Final Fantasy XIII, fans of the genre looked for a new series to become the standard by which other JRPGs were judged. After an intense localization battle that saw Nintendo recognize consumer demand for Xenoblade Chronicles in North America, the JRPG fanbase was given that chance.

Despite launching while the Wii was being not-so-quietly put out to pasture, Xenoblade Chronicles was a critical hit (pun intended) that shattered expectations and put unknown second party developer Monolith Soft on the map. Headed by famed Japanese game developer Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenoblade Chronicles manages to take Takahashi’s famed talent with exposition and control it, producing one of gaming’s most finely crafted stories in the process.

Whereas Takahashi’s previous titles such as Xenogears and Xenosaga completely embrace the traditional nature of previous JRPGs, Xenoblade took emphasis from Western MMOs, added a finely tuned story, and integrated what ranks as one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks into a hundred hour long epic, refocusing the entire JRPG industry in the process.

From its impressive setting upon the bodies of two deceased titans to its impressive art direction and its expressive characters, Xenoblade Chronicles is a masterpiece that needs to be savored from beginning to end and is well worth the time it takes to uncover its mysteries. (Izsak Barnette)

Best Wii Games

4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Fans had to know that Nintendo was up to something truly special when they announced that Skyward Sword would officially become the first game in the Legend of Zelda timeline. Fortunately, Nintendo delivered on all of those expectations and more with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

A game that took the revolutionary/gimmicky motion controls of the Wii to their fullest extent, Skyward Sword is almost worth playing as much as a proof of concept as it is for its breathtaking adventure and wholly original take on the Zelda mythos.

Set among a series of floating islands that eventually give way to a shattered world below, Skyward Sword both echoes the world design of one of the best Zelda titles in history in the form of The Wind Waker and calls to mind the scale of the Final Fantasy series in equal measure.

Throw in some gorgeous art design and one of the most concise plots in the franchise and you’re left with a truly underrated classic, easily one of the best games in the series. (Mike Worby)

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3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess is great, which is unsurprising considering its heritage, but much like any other Zelda, it’s great because of what makes it different from the rest of the series. Majora’s Mask is dark. Really dark. Twilight Princess is also dark but in a different way. It’s one of the most adult games in the franchise due to its in-your-face ambiance and surprisingly spooky locations. The dreary settings really help immerse the player into this startlingly depressing world. A poisoned forest, frozen lake, and haunted prison are just a few of these absolutely haunting locations. The game’s soundtrack also adds to its atmosphere. There are a few beautiful songs, but most are just as unsettling as the places they surround.

The enemies are equally as disturbing. They look surprisingly realistic, despite their obviously fantastical designs. There are gross, warty goblins, humongous frogs, fish hybrids, and even Ganon joins the in on the unnerving fun. His pig form is actually pretty horrifying in Twilight Princess, in contrast to his more cartoony looks in the previous Zeldas.

The story in Twilight Princess is quite a hallmark for the rest of the series. Out of all the previous games, including The Wind Waker, its characters feel the most human. They’re acutely aware of the horrible circumstances around them and react accordingly. Terror, sadness, and just plain depression are emotions expressed exceedingly well by all of the characters. For all of these reasons, Twilight Princess is a game that’s hard to forget. (Ricardo Rodriguez)

super-mario-galaxy

2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 

Few sequels can quite capture the brilliance of their predecessors. Many thought that Nintendo had caught lightning in a bottle when they released the original Super Mario Galaxy in 2007, but 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 set a new bar of excellence for the plumber’s adventures.

By incorporating classic elements such as Yoshi and by creatively imagining new elements, such as the Cloud Flower, Nintendo breathed life into the Galaxy series while also maintaining the quality present in the original.

In many ways, Super Mario Galaxy 2 surpasses the original Galaxy. The levels are more creative, the power-ups are more interesting, and the introduction of Yoshi adds creative flair to the level design. The music is equally stunning, matched only by the original Galaxy in its brilliance. Mahito Yokota, Ryo Nagamatsu, and Koji Kondo’s soundtrack embodies the wonder and thrill of space while incorporating classic Super Mario themes excellently.

While some may call it nothing more than DLC for the original, Super Mario Galaxy 2 improves on the first game dramatically while also adding enough inventive, fresh content to make this game the definitive Galaxy experience. (Izsak  Barnette)

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1. Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy is not only the best title on the Nintendo Wii, it is the single greatest example of what the entertainment medium of gaming has to offer. It is the definition of a masterpiece: unprecedented level design, an endless stream of imaginative and creative ideas, and (most importantly) a rock-solid gameplay system that stands head and shoulders above every other 3D title, period. Galaxy is the culmination of everything Nintendo EAD Tokyo has learned from years of game development. The awe-inspiring orchestral soundtrack and second-to-none visuals create an experience that simply does not age. All of this is backed by a staggering amount of content in the form of collectible stars that are represented as completely unique challenges. Nintendo has once again succeeded in highlighting the best of what games have to offer. There is no over-reliance on narrative, no over-complicated gimmick that tries too hard to be unique; it is the quintessential gameplay experience, perfected. (Zack Rezak)

Top 25   /   Top 20   /   Top 10 

 

Be sure to also check out:

The Top 50 SNES Games

The 40 Best Nintendo 64 Games

The Best Game Boy Games that Stand the Test of Time

The Best Game Boy Advance Games

35 Best Gamecube Games

The Very Best Wii Games

The 25 Best Wii U Games

The Best Nintendo Switch Games

200 Best Nintendo Games

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Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

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Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

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Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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‘Oracle of Seasons’: A Game Boy Color Classic

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Oracle of Seasons

“It is an endless cycle of life… the changing seasons!”

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons are very much two halves of the same grand adventure, but they’re both worth examining on their own merits. Seasons in particular brings with it quite an interesting history. The game that would eventually become Oracle of Seasons began life as a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. This remake would be accompanied by five other games– a remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and four original titles– all developed for the Game Boy Color. These games would not be developed by Nintendo themselves, but by Flagship– a subsidiary of Capcom that was also funded in part by Nintendo and Sega.

These six games would eventually be trimmed into a trilogy slated to release in the summer, autumn, & winter of 2000, before settling as a duology that would launch simultaneously in 2001. Where Oracle of Ages was the sole survivor of the four original games, Oracle of Seasons was a brand new game morphed out of the Zelda 1 remake. Considering director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s own reflection on Flagship’s Zelda proposal, much of what would define Seasons was always present;

 “The core of the game was pretty much decided. That is to say, the fact that it would be on the Game Boy Color, the use of the four seasons, and the decision to retain the feel of the 2D Zelda games. It was also decided that it would be a series.”

Not only was this remake never intended to be a standalone entry, it would kick start its own sub-series while featuring seasons at the forefront of the gameplay. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto likewise asked Fujibayashi to pen a new story for the original Legend of Zelda, suggesting a fairly comprehensive remake as the end goal. With so many inherent changes, however, The Hyrule Fantasy ended up leaving the region altogether. 

“I believe the Zelda series really only started to have scenarios after the hardware specifications improved. The original Zelda was a pure action-RPG and didn’t have much of a story to begin with. I wanted to combine both those aspects (action-RPG and an actual scenario) this time around. At first, we’d only planned on creating a game one-tenth the size of the final version. But it just kept growing as development progressed and gradually turned into an original game.” 
– Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Director/Planner/Scenario Writer

Oracle of Seasons takes after Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask by setting itself away from Hyrule– the kingdom only ever shown during the opening cinematic. Holodrum has one of the densest worlds in a 2D Zelda game, if not the densest after A Link to the Past & A Link Between Worlds. A kingdom geographically similar to Hyrule as seen in the original Legend of Zelda, Holodrum has its own northern mountainside, a final dungeon in the northwest corner, and dozens of old men hidden amongst the land. This all makes sense since Seasons is rooted in a remake of the first game, but it isn’t as if Holodrum is without its novelties. 

Holodrum is distinct from Hyrule where it counts. The kingdom itself is quite large, sprawling when compared directly to Koholint Island. Progression often feels like a puzzle, especially when working around roadblocks early on. Holodrum’s four seasons are out of order, with the weather changing on the fly between regions. Link has to work around snow banks, overgrown trees, flooded fields, and petrified flora to overcome Holodrum’s chaos. As easy as it is to get side tracked in the vast kingdom, it’s only because there always tends to be something around the corner. Getting lost isn’t a problem when the overworld is so secret heavy. 

Old men are frequently found hiding under trees, actually giving players a reason to burn them on sight now, but new systems are in place to make exploration even more rewarding. Link will come across patches of soft soil throughout Holodrum where he can plant Gasha Seeds. Owing their name to gashapon– Japanese capsule toys not too dissimilar to blind bag toys– Gasha Seeds grow into Gasha Trees which bear Gasha Nuts after Link has defeated 40 enemies. Gasha Nut contents are randomized, but they incentivize players to return to previously explored areas. 

Not everything a Gasha Nut drops is worth the effort of chopping down 40 enemies– the worst being five regular hearts and a sole fairy– but the best rewards make it all worthwhile. While the Heart Piece tied to the Nut is probably the best overall get, Gasha Seeds naturally feed into the Ring system. Rings add an inherent RPG layer to the Oracle duology’s gameplay, offering the earliest instance of genuine player customization in the Zelda franchise. Rings, like Gasha Nuts, are completely random. Link will find many in his travels, but he needs to appraise them at Vasu’s ring shop in Horon Village before they can be used. Except in a few rare instances, Vasu’s appraisals are randomized.

There are 64 rings altogether between Seasons and Ages, all with varying effects. Which rings Link obtains can influence how players go about their game. RNG also ensures that each new playthrough is unique from the last. While this poses an obvious frustration for any completionists, it’s a fantastic way of adding another layer of replay value to an already fairly replayable experience. The Expert’s Ring allows Link to punch enemies if he unequips his weapons, the Charge Ring speeds up the Spin Attack, and the Protection Ring makes it so Link always takes one Heart of damage when attacked.

With so many rings to choose from, the gameplay is kept in balance by Link’s Ring Box. Once appraised, Link can equip his rings into his box. While he can only equip one initially, players can find a Box upgrade on Goron Mountain. With RNG already influencing which rings Link has access to, it’s unlikely two players will have the exact same experience in Oracle of Seasons– rings offering more personalization than is still usual for Zelda. Besides Gasha Nuts, Rings can be found in the overworld and dropped by Maple, a young witch who makes further use of RNG. 

Maple is Syrup’s apprentice, the recurring witch who runs the potion shop in A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. Riding in on her broomstick, Maple will appear after Link has killed 30 enemies. Should players bump into her, both Link & Maple will drop their treasures, prompting Maple to race the player for them. It’s almost always worthwhile to focus on what Maple’s dropped rather than what Link lost. Not only does Maple drop her own unique set of rings, she’s a convenient way of getting potions early on and will eventually drop a Heart Piece. Maple also gets progressively faster, upgrading her flying broomstick to a vacuum after enough altercations.

So much RNG can be off-putting, but Holodrum is such an extensive overworld that randomness isn’t much of an issue. Gasha Seeds drive exploration and Maple’s appearances reward it. These systems also encourage players to fight enemies head-on rather than avoid them when it’s convenient. If gameplay ever feels more involved in Oracle of Seasons than the average Zelda game, that’s because it is. This goes double when taking the very seasons into account. 

The four seasons influence overworld progression significantly and most non-dungeon puzzles center on Link using the Rod of Seasons to restore seasonal order to whatever region he’s in. Most of these puzzles solve themselves since seasons can only be changed on stumps, but concessions need to be made when an overworld features four unique versions of every region. Incredible use of the Game Boy Color’s hardware helps in this regard as well. The handheld was designed with making in-game colors pop and Oracle of Seasons– as an extremely late-life GBC game– stands out as one of the most vibrant titles in the system’s library. 

Each season has its own defining color palette– blue for winter, red for summer, green for spring, yellow for autumn– but there is always a wide range of colors on-screen. Winter matches its light blue with shades of white & gray; spring features an almost pastel color tone where gold & pink flowers bloom against soft shades of green; summer deepens most colors for a bolder effect; and autumn offsets its yellow with orange, red, and in some instances purple. Oracle of Seasons might very well have the best atmosphere on the Game Boy Color, each season stylized & recognizable with their own distinct tones. It’s a phenomenal presentation that outdoes OoS’ contemporaries. Seasons outright has better art direction than most early GBA games. 

The fact Oracle of Seasons commits to its premise in such a large overworld as strictly as it does is praiseworthy, but it’s even more impressive that there’s another world lurking underneath Holodrum. Subrosia is a bizarre underworld, easily the most eclectic setting in the franchise other than Termina (and in many respects more so.) Subrosians are culturally impolite, bathe in lava, and deal in Ore instead of Rupees. The Subrosian Market undersells a Heart Piece, volcanic eruptions are a welcome norm, and Link will be moving between Holodrum & Subrosia multiple times over the course of his journey. Players can even go on a date with a Subrosian girl, Rosa, that’s a clear play on his date with Marin from Link’s Awakening. Subrosia is so alien that it’s hard not to love every moment beneath Holodrum.

Beyond the four seasons and the dichotomy between Holodrum & Subrosia, what differentiates Oracle of Seasons most from Oracle of Ages is its focus on action. Seasons is a puzzle heavy game, but it lets combat drive the gameplay more often than not with a very action-centric tool kit. The Slingshot makes its 2D debut, replacing the Bow in the process, but its 250 seed capacity outdoes any of Link’s quivers. Its upgraded version, the Hyper Slingshot, even fires in three directions at once. The Roc’s Feather returns from Link’s Awakening to once again make jumping an important part of Link’s mobility. Not only is platforming far more frequent this time around– with the Ancient Ruins featuring quite a bit of jumping for a 2D dungeon– it upgrades into the Roc’s Cape which allows Link to glide.

The Boomerang now upgrades into a guided Magical Boomerang which players can control themselves; the Magnetic Gloves are ostensibly a better version of the Hookshot which can pull Link to & from magnetic sources, along with magnetizing certain baddies; and most enemies are designed with a combination of the sword & shield in mind. Oracle of Ages has its fair share of action as well, but not with quite the same focus as Oracle of Seasons.

In general, Seasons is a focused video game in the best ways possible. OoS always gives players a general direction to go in, but otherwise leaves Link to his own devices. There are little to no interruptions, and the gameplay loop emphasizes freedom in spite of the game’s linearity. There’s always something to do and you’re always making progress, whether that be narratively or checking in on some Gasha Nuts. The pace is perfectly suited for handheld gaming and quick burst play sessions. Only have a few minutes to play? Kill some enemies to trigger Maple. Got some time? Scope out the next dungeon and work towards saving Holodrum. 

There are also a number of side quests to round off gameplay. The main trading sequence ends with Link finding the Noble Sword in Holodrum’s Lost Woods; players can forge an Iron Shield in Subrosia by smelting red and blue ore together & bringing the refined ore to the Subrosian smithy; and Golden Beasts roam Holodrum, each appearing during a different season & in a set region. Once all four are defeated, Link can find an old man north of Horon Village who will give him the Red Ring– a ring which doubles the Sword’s attack at no expense to the player. 

All these side quests are worthwhile, especially since Oracle of Seasons is a bit on the tougher side when it comes to difficulty. Dungeons are very fast-paced, full of puzzles that are often deceptively simple. Dungeon items are used in increasingly clever ways, from traversing over bottomless pits with strategic use of the Magnetic Gloves to using the Hyper Slingshot to activate three statues at once. Notably, most bosses in Seasons are actually remixes of boss fights from the first Legend of Zelda

Aquamentus, Dodongo, Gohma, Digdogger, Manhandla, and Gleeok all return with a vengeance. Gleeok in particular puts up a serious fight, forcing Link on the offensive. Not only do players need to be quick enough to slice off Gleeok’s two heads before they can attack themselves back on, the dragon will persist as a skeleton for round 2. Explorer’s Crypt is a difficult enough dungeon where getting to the boss room with full health isn’t a guarantee, so Gleeok offers a surprising but welcome challenge as a result. 

Oracle of Seasons deserves a bit of credit for having one of the harder final bosses in the series, as well. Onox doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but he’s a tough boss to put down. His second form requires Link to use the Spin Attack to deal damage while making sure he doesn’t hit Din in the process, and Onox’s dragon form is a gauntlet of dodging, jumping, & surviving long enough to finally kill the General of Darkness. Players are bound to die once or twice, but the final dungeon is short enough where getting back to Onox takes no time at all. 

If Oracle of Seasons has one glaring flaw, however, it’s the story. The script reads like a massive step back coming off the heels of Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and especially Majora’s Mask. Link is summoned to aid the Oracle Din, already a seasoned hero and implied to be the same Link from A Link to the Past, but very little time is spent fleshing out Din as a character & giving players a reason to care about her. Her role is more akin to Zelda in A Link to the Past than Marin in Link’s Awakening. Similarly, Onox is an undercooked villain who shows up to kidnap Din and does nothing for the rest of the story. Of course, this light story stems from Seasons’ origin as a remake of The Legend of Zelda

Early press of the game– when it was still going by the name Acorn of the Tree of Mystery– indicates that the story was originally set in Hyrule and the seasons went out of order when Ganon kidnapped Princess Zelda, the guardian of both the Triforce of Power & the four seasons. Hyrule was changed to Holodrum, Ganon became Onox, Zelda turned to Din, and the eight fragments of the Triforce presumably became the eight Essences of Nature. While underwhelming, the plot’s structure if nothing else makes sense. 

It’s worth pointing out that Oracle of Seasons seems to recognize that story is its weakness and lets the gameplay drive the experience. Unlike Oracle of Ages which takes its plot seriously and has a clear thematic arc, Seasons really is just a remix of Zelda 1’s plot. Which is perfect for the kind of game OoS ultimately is: a fast-paced, action-packed adventure through an ever-changing world. When played as a precursor to Ages instead of its ending, Seasons’ story comes off comparatively better. The stakes aren’t that high or defined, but that’s more than okay for the first half of an adventure that spans two full-length games. 

In a departure for the franchise, Oracle of Seasons actually features a proper post-game, marking the first time any Zelda acknowledges that the main threat is over. NPCs will comment on how they haven’t seen Link in a while, the weather has stabilized as spring has set in Holodrum, and you’re free to wrap up any side quests left unfinished. This is especially noteworthy because players can link their progress from Seasons over into Ages and transfer any rings they have on hand. 

An epilogue makes for a charming send-off to one of the most charming games on the Game Boy Color. Oracle of Seasons underwent a strange development, intended to be little more than a suped-up remake of the original Legend of Zelda. Instead, Flagship ended up developing one of the finest games on the GBC– a vibrant adventure filled with personality and some of the best action on the handheld. Oracle of Seasons isn’t just one half of a greater game; it’s a classic Zelda in its own right.

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