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‘Twilight Princess’ and Embracing the Past

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It is important to recognize that embracing the past is not the same as living in the past. Although Twilight PrincessOcarina of Time influences are in large part due to Nintendo’s desire to give fans as traditional a Legend of Zelda experience as possible, to say that’s all Twilight Princess is would be reductive. In many ways, Twilight Princess is The Wind Waker’s antithesis. Where the latter’s narrative ultimately focused on washing away Hyrule’s influence on the world, the former sees Link spending much of his adventure restoring Hyrule not to its former glory, but rather new glory. Twilight Princess embraces the past in order to strengthen the foundation Ocarina of Time left behind.

As a result, it isn’t difficult to interpret Twilight Princess as Nintendo’s attempt at Ocarina of Time II. Both games begin with Link living in a forest village where he’s informed that he is a prophesied hero of legend; transition into him collecting three artifacts from forest, fire, and water themed dungeons so that he may wield the Master Sword; see Link collecting new artifacts in the second act after his initial plan conceived by the co-protagonist fails; and ultimately end in Link storming a Ganondorf occupied Hyrule Castle in order to save Hyrule. On a structural level, Twilight Princess is blatantly trying to invoke Ocarina of Time.

While it would certainly be easy, to stop here and point at Twilight Princess’ structure as a sign of unoriginality in its design would be a disingenuous reading. There is a clear deliberation to Twilight PrincessOcarina of Time parallels, both narratively and in regards to game design. While it may not result in a stronger game than its predecessor, Twilight Princess is able to excel all the more in certain areas when compared to previous entries in the series in large part due to its use of Ocarina of Time as a jumping off point.

Twilight Princess

Even though Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker arguably have superior core stories than Ocarina of Time, Ocarina’s narrative structure is far stronger than either game owing to how it approaches a three act structure. The first act sees Link gathering the three spiritual stones as a child; the second has him collecting medallions in the future as an adult, and the last act concludes with Link scaling Ganon’s Tower to save Hyrule. The third act is noticeably shorter than the first two, but it works for the pacing of the overall story and each act naturally transitions into one another in a clear, cohesive manner.

In Majora’s Mask, the first act is dedicated to the game’s first three day cycle; the second sees Link visiting the four regions of Termina, and the last act centers itself around the Moon. Majora’s structure works for the type of story Majora’s Mask is trying to tell, but a massive second act sandwiched between two rather short first and third acts makes for a plot that, while novel and poignant, comes off narratively disjointed with no meaningful flow of progression. Where Majora’s Mask’s structure ultimately does work for its plot, however, The Wind Waker finds itself suffering in places thanks to its structure.

The Wind Waker’s first act takes a similar approach to Ocarina of Time’s with Link needing to collect three Goddess Pearls before being welcomed into the Tower of Gods. On a conceptual level, this is perfectly sound and exactly what a first act in a Zelda game should be. The issue is that The Wind Waker is missing content so the first act, rather than ending on a climactic third dungeon, sees Link rather anticlimactically being given the third Pearl.  

Twilight Princess

Act two of The Wind Waker is easily the strongest of the title, both narratively and gameplay wise, as it sees Link getting the Master Sword from the Tower of Gods and then restoring its power in both the Temple of Earth and Wind respectively, but the plot comes to a screeching halt with the start of the third act: the Triforce hunt. While the story does pull itself around for the final dungeon, resulting in the most powerful finale the series has ever seen, the third act lacks the appropriate buildup it needs on a narrative level due to how the comparatively leisure Triforce hunt clashes with the immediacy of the plot.

In emulating Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess finds itself with the strongest of the 3D Zelda act structures allowing it to craft what may not be the best story in the series but is certainly the most cohesive with arcs and themes progressing naturally from act to act. Rather than following Ocarina beat by beat, Twilight Princess uses this opportunity to expand on The Legend of Zelda’s three act structure. Although the second act remains the longest, both the first and third acts have been given added weight.

Twilight Princess’ first act is often criticized for its slow pacing, but a slow pace is not inherently bad. It flies in the idea of instant satisfaction that seems to temper most video game discourse, but TP’s slow pace is exactly what allows for its story to fully realize itself by the end of Link’s journey. The first act, as expected, sees Link hunting for three mystical artifacts, this time pieces of Midna’s Fused Shadow, but each segment is far more fleshed out than in previous entry.

Twilight Princess

Each dungeon is accompanied with a mini-arc of sorts that serves to contextualize Link’s adventure both in a narrative and gameplay sense. The lead up to the Forest Temple introduces all the key players save for Ganondorf, solidifies Link as a prophesied hero, and establishes the game’s core mechanics; the lead up to the Goron Mines introduces horseback swordplay, and establishes a firm link between the events of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess by referencing the Hero of Time both textually and visually; and the lead up to the Lakebed Temple ups the stakes of Link’s journey by revealing Ilia’s amnesia and foreshadows Ganondorf’s inclusion in the plot via the similarities in the Zora tribe’s predicament between OoT and TP while further connecting the Hero of Time to Twilight Princess’ Link.

Although the build-up to each dungeon is in itself a story, that isn’t exactly where Twilight Princess thrives most from using Ocarina of Time’s structure. Instead, it’s the end of act one where TP solidifies the good in using OoT as a base. Following the Lakebed Temple, Link and Midna suffer a massive loss at the behest of the game’s antagonist, Zant. In his first appearance, Zant nearly kills Midna, locks Link into his wolf form, and steals the Fused Shadow. The player then has to control Link all the way to Hyrule Castle where Zelda seemingly sacrifices her life to save Midna.

Both A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time see Link suffering a loss at the end of the first act, but only Twilight Princess gives its first act loss the adequate weight it needs. In giving players complete control over the hero’s loss, Twilight Princess elevates Ocarina of Time’s structure to its next natural level. The weight of the loss is explicitly seen in the overworld’s musical change, Midna’s lifeless body on Link’s back, and Link’s inability to change back into a man. It’s ultimately this philosophy that embodies Twilight Princess: embracing Ocarina of Time’s past in order to elevate its concepts.

Twilight Princess

Of course, not every attempt at “bettering” Ocarina of Time works in Twilight Princess’ favor, with the second act allowing the story to take a back seat more than Ocarina of Time ever did, but the pros do ultimately outweigh the cons. For instance, while act two is Twilight Princess’ narrative weak point, the gameplay found in this act ends up being the peak of the game, if not the series when considering dungeon design. By following Ocarina’s second act structure so rigidly, along with escalating the progression of dungeons, Arbiter’s Grounds, Snowpeak Ruins, the Temple of Time, and the City in the Sky all stand out as genuine contenders for The Legend of Zelda’s best dungeon.

Arbiter’s Grounds has Link needing to switch between his human and wolf form as he enters a sacred, haunted tomb; Snowpeak Ruins sees Link exploring a live-in manor while helping a Yeti make stew; the Temple of Time is a linear gauntlet filled with constant puzzles and enemies; and the City in the Sky revolves around the concept of Link scaling a stories high floating city that also ends up testing most of the players’ abilities up to this point.

It’s worth noting that act two is the moment when Twilight Princess begins to further differentiate itself from Ocarina of Time in terms of gameplay. The dungeons featured in the second act feature no parallels to Ocarina’s like they did in act one, Link’s swordplay will have been expanded via training with the Hero’s Shade, and the only major allusions to Ocarina of Time are visual as is the case with the Temple of Time. It’s in this act where Twilight Princess begins to solidify an identity for itself independent of Ocarina of Time; at least gameplay wise.

Twilight Princess

It’s in the third act, starting with the Palace of Twilight and ending with Hyrule Castle, where it becomes most clear why Twilight Princess emulating Ocarina of Time was fundamentally for the best. With the exclusion of The Wind Waker which kicked off its finale with the Triforce hunt, last acts in Zelda games traditionally only involve Link tackling the final dungeon before capping off the plot. Recognizing this formula, Twilight Princess adds in one more dungeon before the finale without compromising a feeling of finality.

In both the Palace of Twilight and Hyrule Castle, it’s clear that Link’s journey is coming to a close. The former dungeon sees him saving the Twilight Realm while the latter has him explicitly saving Hyrule from Ganondorf’s grasp. Both dungeons play off one another thematically with each one serving to conclude the two leads’ character arc. The former sees Midna’s effectively reaching its natural conclusion whereas the latter has Link finally coming face to face with his destiny, allowing him to establish himself as a true hero.

The idea of a character arc for Link can seem almost silly given that he’s a silent protagonist, but Twilight Princess actively challenges this notion by featuring a more expressive Link ala The Wind Waker. The notion of an arc is pushed even further through Link’s interactions with the Hero’s Shade. Over the course of Twilight Princess, players will be able to interact with Golden Wolves who then transition Link to an astral plane where a ghostly knight only know as the Hero’s Shade teaches Link new techniques for his sword.

Twilight Princess

Both The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap played with the idea of giving Link a master who could teach him new abilities, but Twilight Princess gives added context to Link’s training by making his master a character who gradually develops over the course of the game, effectively turning the swordplay upgrading process into an adventure long training arc. While seemingly unrelated to Ocarina of Time, given it was The Wind Waker that introduced the non-static progression of swordplay, Link’s interactions with the Hero’s Shade nonetheless stand out as one of the biggest pieces of content influenced by Ocarina of Time.

Not only is it hinted at rather heavily that the Hero’s Shade is the Hero of Time, dialogue both pertaining and attributed to the Hero’s Shade can be used to connect the Hero of Time and Link as blood relatives. Early on in the game, it’s explicitly mentioned that Link is descended from the legendary hero. A recurring theme of Twilight Princess is how the Hero of Time’s adventure was all but forgotten with only the Goron and Zora showing some passive semblance of remembrance towards Ocarina’s Link.

The Hero’s Shade’s arc is primarily about passing on his techniques to Link so that his soul may rest without regret. Specifically, he laments his inability to pass on his teachings and how the world forgot. In their final training session on the steps of Hyrule Castle, he likewise refers to himself not as “a hero,” but “the hero” along with referring to Link as “my child.” Of course, it’s worth noting the Hyrule Historia did eventually confirm the Hero’s Shade as the Hero of Time’s lingering spirit, but there is enough in-game evidence to connect the two characters

Twilight Princess

Although every game in the franchise has expanded the lore in their own way, forming such an extreme connection between two games in the franchise that don’t directly play off each other by featuring the same Link in the lead role is an enormous shift for The Legend of Zelda, one that solidifies a deeper connection between games in the series. Twilight Princess isn’t just working on Ocarina of Time’s influence, it’s actively expanding its world and cast, even offering a conclusion to the Hero of Time’s character arc.

Twilight Princess is a game that’s blatantly proud about the fact that it’s in the same series as Ocarina of Time. In a franchise where just about every single entry experiments with what it means to be The Legend of Zelda, a game that plays the formula so straight can be off-putting. Yet that in itself is an experiment. Twilight Princess is the closest the franchise has ever come to a direct sequel with little to no frills to distinguish it from its predecessor. On paper, the desire to dismiss it for a lack of originality is easy, but its execution makes it clear that embracing the past is exactly what makes Twilight Princess feel so grand in a franchise full of exemplary video games.

It isn’t as if Nintendo was thoughtless in adhering so closely to Ocarina of Time, either. It’s clear in how cutscenes are presented in Twilight Princess that the developers understood what made Ocarina such a great experience for audiences. Scenes are framed like they once were in OoT with dynamic angles rather than Majora’s Mask’s and The Wind Waker’s more static approaches. Twilight Princess, as a video game, is Nintendo taking an opportunity to go back to a completed concept in order to evaluate, expand, and embrace it.

Twilight Princess

When it comes down to it, Twilight Princess may not necessarily be a better game than Ocarina of Time, but it is a better game because of Ocarina of Time. It fleshes out the world of Hyrule, explicitly connecting events between games; it uses a tried and true structure to tell a story that feels definitively complete, and everything it inherits from Ocarina of Time on a gameplay level is used to craft one of the best campaigns in the franchise. Twilight Princess is a video game that is beyond proud to be a part of The Legend of Zelda, and while that may not make for the most meaningful entry in the franchise, it does make for one of the most memorable.

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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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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