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How Old Zelda Items Might Work Within the New Zelda Formula

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As a series, The Legend of Zelda has always maintained a high standard, but Breath of the Wild is a reminder that Zelda is at its best when it breaks its own mold. Just as the games have seen several changes, the numerous items introduced throughout the series have also been altered, updated, or jettisoned entirely to best suit each entry. While Breath of the Wild sees the return of several key items, such as the Master Sword, Hylian Shield, Bow, and Boomerang, dozens of items have been left by the wayside. While some may no longer be relevant, such as the fast-travel bell from A Link Between Worlds, or Ocarina of Time’s area-of-effect attack, Din’s Fire (which is more or less made obsolete by Urbosa’s Fury), below are some items from past entries that could make an interesting return in the next open world Zelda.

Bunny Hood/Pegasus Boots

Although this long-eared headgear is technically also in Ocarina of Time (where it protects against stalchildren) and The Wind Waker (where it tantalizingly hangs on a wall behind a counter), the Majora’s Mask incarnation would best suit the wide-open spaces of a Breath of the Wild sequel. In any massive world, many players might opt for fast travel over on-foot when going from place to place. Though fast travel is a time-saver, it also disincentivizes players from exploring their dense, vast, beautiful surroundings. However, an item like the bunny hood, which enables Link to run about 70% faster, would be a good middle ground between Link’s relatively slow running speed and riding horseback. Either that, or the 2D-Zelda-staple Pegasus boots would also certainly give players a helpful boost.

The Wind Waker

The titular instrument of The Wind Waker grants Link several useful skills, but changing the direction of the wind might be the most helpful trick in the bag. Although the wind might not play as central a role in Breath of the Wild as it does in the Zelda with “Wind” in its title, being able to shift the breeze when gliding off a tower would be a useful boon to aerial travel. If the Wind Waker could affect the weather in other ways as well, it could be bright skies ahead for those troubled by Breath of the Wild’s seemingly perpetual monsoon season.

Zora’s Flippers/Zora’s Mask

Sprinting across the new Hyrule is incredible, but the rich architecture and gorgeous natural surroundings of Zora’s domain beg the question: what lurks deeper in Hyrule’s lakes, rivers, and ocean? While fans might not necessarily be hankering for the next water temple, consider how stunning an HD Lanayru Sand Sea would look from underwater with the speed boost of Zora’s Flippers or the underwater agility provided by Zora’s Mask. While manipulating water with Cryonis can be a useful way to cross larger bodies, it can also be occasionally frustrating in its tedium. In those instances, I would have preferred to be in control of a Link who is more Michael Phelps, and less a grown man in need of floaties.

Mole Mitts/Digging Mitts/Mogma Mitts

Though these three items – the first from Minish Cap and the following two from Skyward Sword – are slightly different from each other, they all enable Link to dig, and as the last section mentioned, most of the exploration in Breath of the Wild takes place at a surface level. Under-earth navigation could be a welcome change of pace if implemented correctly, as a means of traversal, item discovery, and perhaps a viable combat strategy. Given the massive size of the latest Zelda, I would be willing to sacrifice some breadth for some earthly depth in the future.

Sand Wand/Sand Rod

While cutting down trees or starting a brushfire can be a useful diversion in the wooded areas of Breath of the Wild, the desert features little environmental manipulation in comparison. The Sand Wand from Spirit Tracks or the Sand Rod from A Link Between Worlds could be used like a super-powered Cryonis on a sand ocean, allowing players to dig up burrowing enemies or travel quicker across the sand by creating raised platforms. The desert in Breath of the Wild is wonderful as it is, but more ways to manipulate the environment (Quake Medallion, anyone?) in a future title could allow for an even greater diversity of interaction and puzzle-solving.

Mage’s Cap/Gnat Hat/Giant’s Mask

While the first two items from The Minish Cap shrink Link down to a peewee, the Giant’s Mask balloons him up to roughly ten times his normal size. In both cases, a size-changing ability could be useful for puzzle solving and interacting with the world from a wide variety of perspectives. Imagine pulling a tree out of the ground and dueling a hinox eye-to-eye; old concept art for Breath of the Wild shows Link in a Gulliver’s Travels scenario surrounded by people of pint-size proportions – might this be on the table for the next Zelda? Along similar lines, an item like the Mask of Truth, which allowed players to read an animal’s thoughts in Majora’s Mask, would be a welcome addition to the next Zelda, bringing it further into the weirdness of the franchise that was missing a bit from Breath of the Wild.

Power Bracelet/Power Gloves/Titan’s Mitt/Silver/Gold Gauntlets/Grip Ring

This slew of hand adornments all give Link the ability to pick up exceptionally hefty objects. Although a Giant’s Mask might render these moot, being able to pick up and throw boulders could be an empowering ability. Who wouldn’t want to finish off a Stone Talus by tossing a Stone Pebblit at its weak spot?

Magnetic Gloves/Gust Jar

Similarly, Link’s magnetic gloves from Oracle of Seasons could return in the form of a souped-up Magnesis that enables Link to forcefully attract and repel items, like a Hylian gravity gun. Combine that with the Minish Cap’s Gust Jar’s potential ability to catch bugs, pick up light items like tough-to-see arrows, or direct the spread of a wild fire, and Link could have a major pull over his environment.

Bug Catching Net

With the addition of a bug net, certain creatures like insects, lizards, and small birds could be less irksome to photograph, and slightly easier to obtain without having to switch into your sneaky clothes. As far as bug-catching goes, an item like the Magic Cape from A Link to the Past would also be a welcome addition. Although I frequently donned the full Sheikah armor set to receive the stealth boost, it would have been nice to have some extra invisibility for snapping pictures of skittish critters and that kind-of-annoying Lost Forest side quest.

Hookshot/Clawshot

The definitive Zelda item not in Breath of the Wild, the erasure of the handy hookshot from Link’s tool belt was a personal blow to countless series devotees. Since A Link To the Past, the hookshot has been one of the most satisfying items to use, both offensively and as a form of movement. Its translation into 3D in Ocarina of Time was so brilliantly implemented in dungeons and the overworld that the layout and architecture of several arenas seemed designed around it. The hookshot-on-steroids clawshot from Twilight Princess also provided one of the most satisfying means of getting place to place in any video game. In an open-world Zelda, either of these items could be an interesting option in combat, especially with the metallic enemies of Breath of the Wild, but it would reach its full potential in traversal as a means of scaling the environment efficiently and purposefully. Imagine grappling from cliffside to cliffside like Batman scaling buildings in the Arkham games. In a sequel potentially even larger than Breath of the Wild, a quick, fun, empowering mode of transport could be central to player experience, and the trusty hookshot is right there waiting to get the job done.

***

With nearly one hundred items from Zelda’s past absent from Breath of the Wild, there are plenty more that could make a return, but sometimes the best items are those made from scratch for a specific title, such as the masks in Majora’s Mask or the ocarina in Ocarina of Time. With that in mind, it’s exciting to consider how forgotten items might return, but even more exciting to anticipate the new ideas Nintendo will inevitably cook up for the their second rendition of open-world Zelda. If past experience is any indicator, expect the unexpected.

 

Kyle is an avid gamer who wrote about video games in academia for ten years before deciding it would be more fun to have an audience. When he's not playing video games, he's probably trying to think of what else to write in his bio so it seems like he isn't always playing video games.

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

“[Earthnight is] an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Death Stranding’

What makes Death Stranding the most important game of the year is how it has managed to divide gamers and critics alike.

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Death Stranding

2019 has been a banner year for gaming. With some excellent original properties making their debuts and a ton of great sequels, there’s been something for everyone and a lot of it. Still, with all of these amazing games to play, only one of them stands out as the most important game of 2019, and that’s Death Stranding.

Now, please note, I said “most important” and not “best”. Death Stranding is far from a perfect game. As my own review pointed out, Death Stranding has a lot of problems, and some of them are so egregious that they could be described as anti-fun. However, what makes the game stand out from its peers is the sheer scale and awe-inspiring hubris of its creation.

For the first (and possibly last) time, Hideo Kojima has been given a total carte blanche of creative freedom and financial resources to make whatever game he wanted. With Sony footing the bill, Death Stranding is maybe the most Kojima game ever made. Unfortunately, like some prog rockers and experimental filmmakers, Kojima could have well done with some reigning in this time around.

Death Stranding

Still, what makes Death Stranding stand out so much from the competition is that it really is almost nothing like anything you’ve ever played. The game is basically a delivery sim where you must cross an apocalyptic wasteland of America and battle a bunch of ghosts along the way. What caused America to fall, and where these ghosts came from, is still relatively unclear even after all of the overwrought explanations that punctuate the end of the game.

Of course, Death Stranding isn’t so much concerned with why and how these events came to be as it is with the experience of living in, and dealing with, them. This is the one game you’ll play this year that will balance out self-serious moral and religious philosophy with chucking literal piss bombs at ghosts and chugging Monster energy drinks.

Yes, Death Stranding has all of the classic Kojima staples. From egregious product placement to a never-ending stream of increasingly tragic backstories, all the hits are here.

Death Stranding

However, what makes Death Stranding the most important game of the year isn’t so much its utter weirdness as a AAA title but how it has divided gamers and critics alike. While some have slathered it with never-ending praise and perfect scores, others have labeled it “a very lumpy game” or “damaged goods“.

Few games, especially in the AAA space, are able to elicit such divergent responses from their audience. Fewer still are peppered with major actors like Norman Reedus and Lea Seydoux in painstakingly rendered motion capture. For these reasons and more, Death Stranding will be debated in critical circles for years to come, and if that’s not the mark of a game that stands out, then nothing is.

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