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Legend of Zelda Master Quest Legend of Zelda Master Quest


The Legend of Zelda Needs More Master Quest

Renamed Master Quest worldwide, Ura Zelda did not quite live up to its own legend, but it nonetheless offered something quite valuable for veterans of the series: challenge.



Originally developed as an expansion for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ura Zelda was slated to be the Nintendo 64DD’s killer app. Naturally, following the commercial failure of the 64DD in Japan, the expansion was cancelled with the core staff moving on to develop Majora’s Mask. For years, Ura Zelda lived in a limbo of sorts until it finally found a home for release on the Nintendo GameCube. Renamed Master Quest worldwide, Ura Zelda did not quite live up to its own legend, but it nonetheless offered something quite valuable for veterans of the series: challenge.

Granted, the series had not yet plummeted its difficulty curve into the ground by 2002, but Master Quest offered a level of challenge that far surpassed what the previous 3D installments provided. Interestingly, this was not done by increasing the damage Link took or making enemies stronger, but by simply remodeling dungeon layouts. As Ura Zelda was initially designed with prospective players having beaten Ocarina of Time in mind, there was no reason from a design perspective to go easy on the audience. Although the name would only be adopted in its Western releases, Ura Zelda was a “master quest” even in its infancy.

At its core, Master Quest is more or less a 3D manifestation of the original Legend of Zelda’s Second Quest

It perhaps goes without saying, but the call for a Master Quest version of each Zelda is unrealistic. When it comes down to it, Ocarina of Time Master Quest exists only because Ura Zelda does not. They are fundamentally the same game, remixing Ocarina of Time’s dungeons to offer veterans of the game a deeper challenge. At the same time, the call for more Master Quest is less a call for remixed dungeons and more a desire to see The Legend of Zelda takes audiences out of their comfort zone.

At its core, Master Quest is more or less a 3D manifestation of the original Legend of Zelda’s Second Quest. Both quests edit familiar dungeons in a desire to provide players a deeper challenge upon a revisit to Hyrule. Dungeons in both the Second Quest and Master Quest build off an already established foundation rather than presenting a set of rules to the player and slowly raising the difficulty curve. From as early as the first dungeon, players are offered a late-game challenge, thrown into the proverbial deep end.

master quest ura zelda
From a design perspective, 
Master Quest exists in an incredibly specific context. Had Master Quest released as is in a world where Ocarina of Time does not exist, it would rightfully have been considered too obtuse for its own good. What makes Master Quest such a compelling experience is how it plays with familiarity inside of dungeons. The Great Deku Tree, Dodongo’s Cavern, and Jabu-Jabu all maintain their rather unique aesthetics, but with radically different means of progression.

While all three dungeons do share more than enough similarities with their base game counterparts, their inherent design is less revolved around easing players into puzzle solving in a three-dimensional space and more keen on presenting a consistent, and at times subversive, challenge. The Great Deku Tree is now a fairly dangerous gauntlet that pits the younger bodied Link against obstacles the base game wouldn’t present until after Jabu-Jabu; Dodongo’s Cavern completely changes the way in which Link tackles the dungeon, starting at the top of the cavern and making one’s way down; and Jabu-Jabu reorders the dungeon entirely, sporting new enemies, room layouts, and cows as switches to boot.

Master Quest is almost alienating in concept. It cannot stand alone, but it was not designed to stand alone.

In many respects, the cows inside Jabu-Jabu represent what Master Quest does best. As a game so intimately modeled after another game that it could not exist otherwise, it can afford to experiment with little oddities. There is no justifiable reason as to why living cows would be inside of Jabu-Jabu, let alone function as switches, but it doesn’t matter because Master Quest is not the “main” game; it isn’t Ocarina of Time. Where Ocarina of Time has to be cohesive in how it both presents its world and game progression, Master Quest fundamentally exists on the shoulders of Ocarina of Time. It can be played with no prior familiarity, but it cannot be properly appreciated.

Master Quest is almost alienating in concept. It cannot stand alone, but it was not designed to stand alone. This is actually why its iteration in Ocarina of Time 3D works as well as it does. Master Quest is not a companion piece for Ocarina of Time in a true sense. Rather, it’s just an extra bonus- an extra quest- for fans who have completed Ocarina of Time. In Ocarina of Time 3D, Master Quest is only unlocked after completing the base game once, turning the title from an entirely new game in its own right to just an extra mode. This is not a fault, though, and actually represents a best of both worlds scenario for The Legend of Zelda.

ocarina of time 3d
The Wind Waker, the series has more or less embraced familiarity and comfortability above all else. Breath of the Wild strays the furthest from what is to be expected from a Zelda game, but even it suffers from a weak difficulty curve and forgiving dungeon design. Even though Master Quest only gets away with as much as it does because it was developed specifically for those familiar with Ocarina of Time in mind, its design philosophies thrive all the better when paired with the series’ more prevalent optional mode: Hero Mode.

Introduced in Skyward Sword, Hero Mode marked The Legend of Zelda’s first foray into traditional difficulty modes. Brought back for A Link Between Worlds, The Wind Waker HD, and Twilight Princess HD, enemies in Hero Mode dealt double damage and any healing had to be done via potions as hearts were removed from their respective games except in the most specific of scenarios. Where Hero Mode does increase the level of difficulty in regards to combat, it does little to make the dungeons themselves any harder. This is best felt in The Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds, two entries that would have benefited immensely from harder puzzles.

Entirely by circumstance and not some stroke of genius on Nintendo’s part, Ocarina of Time 3D’s interpretation of Master Quest blends its remixed dungeon design with Hero Mode’s features. Master Quest 3D offers a harder challenge all around, making combat all the more dangerous and puzzles more demanding. It is by no means the hardest challenge the series has to offer, both the NES titles and Breath of the Wild’s Master Mode have the other games beat, but Master Quest 3D offers a well-rounded challenge that manages to be difficult where it counts. For the most part, at least.

From a design perspective, Master Quest is by no means perfect. Just about every remixed dungeon in worse than their base game counterpart. The Water Temple fares best, but really only in the non-3DS versions considering how Ocarina of Time 3D managed to salvage the dungeon’s shakier qualities in the transition from the Nintendo 64 to the 3DS. Other than that, Master Quest’s overall design feels incohesive and at times clash. At the same time, Master Quest is not aiming to be better than Ocarina of Time, just harder, which is respectable in its own right.

master quest
Simply put, a 
Master Quest for each Zelda is unrealistic. The amount of time and effort that would be put into remixing dungeons for an alternate hard mode is time that could be spent elsewhere. For remakes and remasters, however, there’s really no harm in dedicating time to crafting a “Master Quest” modeled after Ocarina of Time 3D’s take. The lack of a Master Quest in Majora’s Mask 3D was disappointing, to say the least and while both The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD featured Hero Modes, the best Hero Mode will never scratch the same itch as Master Quest.

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Perhaps that’s what make makes Master Quest so special, though. After all these years, Nintendo has never revisited the concept, and why would they? Master Quest only exists because of Ura Zelda, a once in a lifetime idea to build off of Ocarina of Time’s foundation. It’s highly unlikely The Legend of Zelda will see another Master Quest considering the specific bubble in which the Ocarina of Time reimagining exists. Majora’s Mask 3D more or less proved that Master Quest was a one time deal, which is a shame.

Nineteen entries into the series and Zelda has only tackled the “Second Quest” concept twice. Moving forward, Hero Modes in the style of Ocarina of Time 3D’s Master Quest would be a great way of encouraging replayability and offering veterans a challenge without alienating newcomers. If Breath of the Wild’s Master Mode is anything to go by, a Hero Mode locked behind a price tag, Nintendo won’t be going back to the Master Quest model anytime soon, even under the guise of DLC.

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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Junked: Coming Back to Life in ‘Detroit: Become Human’

Quantic Dream’s games have always leaned into horror, even if the chief genre might not be. Detroit: Become Human is no exception.



Detroit Become Human

Quantic Dream‘s games have always leaned into horror, even if the chief genre might be something else entirely. Detroit: Become Human is no exception, with much of the game revolving around our android protagonists finding themselves in one horrendous situation after another. The most terrifying of all, though, is Markus’ trip to a junkyard afterlife.

After being shot in the head during an altercation, Markus looks to be dead. Since player characters could indeed die in previous Quantic Dream games, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for him to have been killed off either. What awaits Markus on the other side of consciousness, however, is one of the most horrific struggles for survival ever waged.

As Markus awakens in a junkyard for discarded androids, he finds himself immobilized and terrified. Played by Jesse Williams (the sort of chiseled hollywood hunk that only seems to exist on network TV), Markus’ destroyed facade is all the more horrendous for the juxtaposition to his previous appearance.

Detroit Become Human

As the player embodies Markus, they are thrust into a nightmare realm of discarded android dreams. Like a metallic graveyard, filled with the shambling dead, the junkyard is a place so nightmarish it nearly defies explanation. Add to this the stress of Markus’ shattered form, and you begin to get a knack for just how unsettling this chapter of Detroit: Become Human truly is.

While not everyone is a fan of Quantic Dream’s trademark QTE-filled gameplay, it is used to maximum effect here, as the player is truly transposed into Markus’ desperate situation by the control scheme. You begin by alternating L1 and R1 to slowly drag Markus’ shattered body across the tumultuous landscape. The long presses and holds of each button help to relay the pain and effort of Markus’ struggle for survival.

It only gets more horrific from there, as Markus must tear off body parts from other fallen androids in order to rebuild himself. The legs must come first, as mobility is key in a place like this, but with the added moral complications of the other androids begging you not to harvest them for parts, the struggle takes on a nasty new dimension.

Detroit Become Human

A particularly stirring, and disturbing, moment sees Markus moving between two closely stacked piles of android remains. Like sidling between two close-together buildings, Markus shuffles his way through, sidelong, as dozens of hands reach out for his help, and the cries of the dying paralyze his senses.

As mentioned above, the control scheme really embodies the horror of what you’re being forced to do in order to survive here. Whether tilting the analog stick to pop out an eye or tapping the X button consecutively to wrench a limb free, the act of becoming a self-made Frankenstein’s monster is not a pleasant process to endure.

The rain-drenched landscape and lonely darkness of the junkyard only add to the chilling horror of this world. Science fiction is often at its best when it shows us a pristine utopia, before turning it over to show us the horrific consequences that come as a result. Here Detroit: Become Human soars, showing us a world where machines can save us from destroying our bodies with manual labor and android doctors never make a mistake.

It’s a world where androids do the dirty work of the US military and undertake the home care of the elderly, freeing us from the sights we’d rather not see. The trade-off, though, is grisly, and the discarded robot graveyard is just one of the first inklings of how ugly this future can be when one looks too closely.

The quasi-messianic character of Markus is only one facet of this troubled world, and while some of Detroit: Become Human may lack in subtlety, it manages to create an effective, evocative look at what could be our own future one day. This sequence is just one striking example.

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Game Reviews

‘Shovel Knight: King of Cards’ and ‘Showdown’ Review: Really Spoiling Us

It’s a Yacht Club Games overdose this holiday, as the Kings of Kickstarter are back with two new entries in the Shovel Knight franchise.



It’s a Yacht Club Games overdose this holiday season, as the Kings of Kickstarter are back with, not just one, but two new entries in the Shovel Knight franchise. Not content with just releasing another new character’s twist on the original formula, Yacht Club have also developed their own fighting game in the Shovel Knight universe. It’s to the developer’s credit that two simultaneous releases can be of this quality, but valid questions can also be asked as to whether the original formula has gotten stale, and whether Showdown’s new concept does the series justice. Fear not, for both questions will be answered in this bumper, two-for-one review!

Shovel Knight: King of Cards

King of Cards is the latest re-tread of Shovel Knight, and this time the emperor’s new clothes are the regal duds of King Knight, who is on a quest to become the greatest player in the kingdom of the card game Joustus… without really having to beat that many people at it. After the stoically heroic Shovel Knight, the dastardly cunning Plague Knight, and the broodingly enigmatic Spectre Knight, King of Cards’ protagonist embodies an enjoyable dose of pompous entitlement. His quest isn’t all that noble, and he really can’t be bothered to do a lot of hard graft to reach his goal. Thanks to the typically witty script, King Knight shines as a loathsome oik who doesn’t pay attention to any advice he’s given, and would rather have a fight, or cheat, than actually get better at Joustus.

Shovel Knight
This a late-game bout of Joustus, which shows how complex it can get.

Joustus might not really be all that important to King Knight, but it adds an entirely new element to the traditional Shovel Kinght gameplay. Those players who are a sucker for a built-in card games (myself included) will find a lot to enjoy when stepping away from all the platforming and fighting to engage in a round of Joustus. The game is played by placing cards, one at a time, onto a grid with the goal of having more of your cards placed on top of gems than your opponent.

All cards contain abilities and can be used to shove opposing cards out of the way (and off the gems), with advanced cards used to blow up, slam or recruit those of the other player. It all starts off simple enough, but can get really brain-taxing as the story progresses, and grows to be a real highlight of the game – and one of the better card-games-within-a-game I’ve played. Cheat cards can be bought to give you a leg up for trickier opponents, especially as the winner of each game gets to take one (or three if you control all gems at the end of the round) card from the loser.  

Shovel Knight
Platforming at its satisfying best. Y’know, without actually touching the platforms.

Outside of Joustus, King of Cards will feel pleasingly familiar to fans of the series. As in previous entries, the levels all share the same look and gimmicks as the original Shovel Knight, but are reshaped to adapt to the new abilities of King Knight. He has a shoulder barge attack that launches him forward, across gaps if need be, and will send him into a spin on contact with enemies or certain types of walls and blocks. This spin move acts very much in the same way as Shovel Knight’s shovel pogo attack, and allows King Knight to bounce around levels with impressive finesse. Anyone who’s played Shovel Knight before knows the drill now – try and clear every screen by chaining together as many bounce attacks as you can. It’s the law.

Shovel Knight
Familiar foes return, but the way you deal with them is the same!

It also wouldn’t be a Shovel Knight game if there weren’t a ton of unlockable moves and buffs. Amongst the best unlocks for King Knight are a Tazmanian Devil-esque tornado spin that allows him to climb walls and smash up enemies, a hammer that produce hearts with each wallop for precious HP, throwable suicide bomber mice, and the ability to stand still and have a big ol’ cry to regain HP. Something we can all relate to.

The world map returns, and is in its best guise in King of Cards. Levels are now a lot shorter than you’d expect – there’s typically only one checkpoint in the non-boss levels – but there are a lot more of them, and a large number have secret exits to find. They’re interspersed with the multiple opportunities to play Joustus, and with the seemingly random appearances of traditional Shovel Knight bosses who show up, Hammer Bros. style, on the map to block your progress. It makes for a really tight campaign that’s filled with a ton of variety.

The floor is literally lava!

It seems almost arbitrary to say, but if you like Shovel Knight and you’re not tired of the standard gameplay, there’s so much to enjoy with King of Cards. He’s probably not the most fun character to play as (for me, that’d be Spectre Knight), but his game is easily the most diverse. He’s just such an enjoyably unlikeable idiot that you’ll constantly be playing with a smile on your face, bopping along to the classic Shovel Knight chiptunes, pogoing around levels and pausing for the occasional game of cards. Who could ask for more?

Shovel Knight Showdown

Who likes Shovel Knight boss fights? Everyone does, right? How about fighting three of them at once in an amalgamation of Smash Bros. and Towerfall? It’s as chaotic as you’re imagining, and seems like a total no-brainer as a second genre for Yacht Club to transpose their blue, spade-loving hero into.

What seemed like an obviously smart move doesn’t necessarily play out in an ideal way. The one-on-one fights in Showdown are as tightly-contested and entertaining as ever, but the multi-man rumbles are absolute mayhem. There are a few different stipulations applied to fights, and these typically involve simply whittling down your opponents’ lives, or depleting their health bar to briefly kill them off and steal any gems they’ve collected from around the level, with the winner being the first to an assigned number.

Shovel Knight
I found it best to just try to escape in every multi-man level.

Standard fights are more enjoyable, as the simplicity of smacking seven shades of snot out of the competitors keeps things manageable amongst the cacophony of onscreen visual noise. The gem-collecting levels, especially with multiple opponents, are frankly a bit of a mess that I rarely found enjoyable.

Perhaps I’m just not very good at Shovel Knight boss fights, but the game felt overly difficult even on the normal setting. Playing story mode often sees your chosen character up against three opponents on the same team, and when it comes to collecting gems from around the level, they’ve got way more of the space covered and you barely get a chance to breathe with them swarming you from the word go. It’s basically an exercise in getting wailed on while you try to run away and scramble for gems, and it’s just not that fun.

If the whole game were 1v1 I’d have more fun, but it’d be a bit pointless and unsubstantial.

What does add a layer of fun to the game is the chance to play as the complete ‘Knight’ roster of Shovel Knight characters, and the best part of Showdown is learning new moves and trying to find your ‘main’. Perhaps, with more time to sit down and learn the move sets in the practice mode, the game would feel more rewarding than if you just jump in and try to slog through the chaotic story mode like I did.

With a four-player battle mode as the only other gameplay option, Showdown was clearly never meant to be anything other than a brief little curio to give fans of the series’ boss fights an overdose of what they love, but as a complete experience I found it lacking in both modes and reasons to keep plugging away at the arcade fighter-style story mode. It turns out that the boss fights in Shovel Knight are more fun at the end of a platforming level rather than in the middle of enclosed space filled with flashing lights, random effects, environmental hazards, and three bastards all chasing you down. If you can handle all that stress, you’ll have a much better time than I did.

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Game Reviews

‘Disco Elysium’: A Thought-Provoking Mystery



Disco Elysium Review

For the most part, the majority of games are easy to classify, but from time to time a game is released that defies conventional rules and resists simple categorization. Disco Elysium is just such a game. On the surface of it, it’s a topdown, isometric RPG of the oldest of old schools. It draws upon long-established systems, structures, and mechanics that make it comfortably familiar. However, beneath that patina of tradition lies something completely unexpected and utterly unique.

Developed by the small, independent studio ZA/UM, with a story penned by Estonian novelist, Robert Kurvitz, and a painstakingly detailed world crafted by artist Aleksander Rostov, Disco Elysium stands apart from most RPGs in that it is startlingly realistic whilst simultaneously being grimly fantastical. Set on an isolated archipelago in the wake of a failed communist revolution, the game casts players as a detective sent to solve the murder of a man found hanging in the backyard of a rundown boarding house/cafe. It’s a simple setup made all the more complex by the fact that the player character is suffering from a severe bout of alcohol and drug-induced amnesia. The mystery that needs to be solved concerns piecing together exactly who the player character is, as much as it involves reconstructing the chain of events that resulted in a brutal death.

Arriving at conclusions to both conundrums requires navigating complex webs of social and political intrigue. Along the way, players will encounter union bosses, disgruntled workers, war veterans, and all manner of extraordinary and mundane citizens just trying to go about their daily lives in a place that seems designed to thwart their ambitions at every turn. More than that though, players will be required to engage in continuous internal dialogues that involve the protagonist gradually putting themselves back together. The result is character customization in a quite literal sense of the word. Rather than the standard array of physical options that most games of this type present players with, the options are entirely psychological. Player actions and choices determine the overall structure of the internal workings of their character. Whether they decide to be a high-minded idealist trying to better themselves and the world around them in whatever way they can or opt to descend into anarchic, hedonistic self-obliteration such choices determine exactly who and what their version of the character is.

The foundation of stats and skills that are usually inert background components that all RPGs are based on is firmly in place. However, rather than being a numerical bedrock upon which all gameplay is based, Disco Elysium takes those sets of modifiers and statistics and makes them an active part of character progression and world development. As you progress through the game, skills points can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be used to upgrade core character stats, of which there a total of twenty-four covering a whole range of mental, physical, and social attributes, that govern player’s ability to immediately interact with the game world. However, they can also be used to learn or forget particular thoughts These thoughts develop depending on how players decide to approach situations and solve problems and can unlock semi-permanent bonuses and even penalties.

Disco Elysium Review

Much as in reality, the things the character is capable of are largely dependent on their frame of mind. If players opt to make a character that is brash and uncouth then they will find it difficult to subtly manipulate interactions to their benefit or arrive at unobtrusive solutions to various situations. On the other hand, if they elect to play a character that is more thoughtful and introspective, or cunning rather than crass, then they will find it difficult to emerge unscathed from more physical challenges. It’s an interpretation of character development and player progress that feels much more organic than in any other game of this sort. This is probably where Disco Elysium does the most to stand out from other such titles. Such a flexible approach to progress is hopefully something that other companies will emulate going forward, as it allows the character to develop a true personality that goes a step beyond the mathematically-oriented, incremental statistical increases that are usually the norm.

Disco Elysium Review

The ways in which player action, character interaction, and game reaction combine together is probably the closest it is possible to get to a truly curated dungeon master-guided play experience in an RPG. There is such a wide and unpredictable variety of moment-to-moment options that players can never be certain what exactly is going to happen next. This sense of improvisational unpredictability is a quintessential element of any RPG, but it is often lost in translation from tabletop rules to computer game mechanics. This pitfall is avoided thanks to the fact that the world of Disco Elysium was conceptualized as a tabletop game but doesn’t actually exist as one yet. As such the developers were able to implement systems without the expectation of adhering to pre-existing mechanics. This expectation has often been the downfall of many such games in the past, such as the much-maligned Sword Coast Legends which was lambasted for its apparent butchery of the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. It will be interesting to see if Larian Studios can avoid similar problems with Baldur’s Gate 3.

Disco Elysium Review

As intriguing and unconventional as Disco Elysium is, and no matter how deserving it is of the accolades it won at 2019’s Game Awards, it’s hard to recommend it as something to play if you’re looking for fun. It’s relentlessly grim even when it’s trying to be funny, and its stream of consciousness style makes even the most basic of interactions a minefield of potential disturbing possibilities. With its biting combination of continental existentialist ennui, pseudo-Lovecraftian undercurrents, and socio-political critique it isn’t a game that you play for the sheer joy of it, but rather for the esoteric and unusual experience that it offers. That being said, in a market that’s full to bursting point with crowd-pleasing blockbusters and oftentimes strictly by-the-book sequels or carbon copy titles, it can be incredibly rewarding to delve into a game as intricate and nuanced as Disco Elysium.

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