Saturday, November 23, 2013

Level Up: The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: a series I have reviewed twice in the past. The Legend of Zelda: a series that I have said may not be as good as its popularity suggests. The Legend of Zelda: a series that I have never been interested in and often passed over announcements of new games. The Legend of Zelda: a series that I was completely wrong about. Yes Level Up listeners, today’s review is made just to say that I’ve been wrong when discussing this great Nintendo series. So what happened since my last review to change my mind? I’ve played the first game in the series, The Legend of Zelda originally for the NES, on my 3DS.
I never really had the chance to play the original Legend of Zelda until I got it as part of the ambassador program. However, even before playing  it I had respect for what this game had accomplished. A game like The Legend of Zelda might not seem that impressive now, but in 1986, it was a milestone for several reasons. First off, the game was so expansive and it took so much time that the game makers had to pioneer the save feature. An internal battery would allow this and within 10 years games without a save feature would have that as a mark against them.
The other thing I really respected about The Legend of Zelda was that it showcased what Nintendo was capable of. According to sources, the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. were made simultaneously with opposite elements in mind: Mario would be side scrolling, Zelda would be top down, Mario would have a linear path, Zelda would have an open world. In retrospect it’s easy to say that both are great on their own, but at the time I doubt there was a better way for Nintendo to really show off their skills.
Most of the Zelda games that came out since I’ve been gaming have always been quite linear: Link needs to go somewhere, finds trouble waiting, needs to go into a dungeon to fix that trouble, finds item in dungeon, item helps him defeat the boss, going through dungeon fixes that trouble and the new item allows him to continue adventuring. It’s often either this pattern or one that omits the “trouble” for Link just being required to find objects kept in the dungeons (Nintendo has even made note of this pattern, stating that a Link Between Worlds will break it).
The Legend of Zelda doesn’t really have any of these patterns. You’re simply dropped into the world and you’re left to find where the dungeons are and how to access them on your own. I once entered the 5th Dungeon while looking for the second one, and what was the last Zelda game that would allow that? Though it can be difficult to figure it all out, there are enough hints to make it fair if you explore enough of the area.  To enter some levels you do need items, but they are rarely necessary to beat the dungeon they are found in, so you can miss them. And some (still necessary) items like bombs or arrows are not found in dungeons at all; they are bought whenever you want them. But I’ve gotten a little off topic at this point: what I’m trying to say is that this game has a much more open world feel than what I have experienced in most other Legend of Zelda adventures, and that made all the difference to me.
The Legend of Zelda really showed me what people like about the Zelda series: it’s the adventure of discovery. Yes, I’ve been told this before, but I don’t believe I’ve truly experienced it with Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time like others have, as I saw someone play through Link to the Past before doing it myself, and Ocarina of Time… well I’ll get to that one someday. But The Legend of Zelda, with its main focus clearly on making the player explore and discover everything, really made me feel like I was an adventurer (and having to make my own map in Excel helped too). I actually now put this game right behind Majora’s Mask for my favorite Zelda titles, and though I’m still not a “fan”, I am looking at Zelda games that I may have passed over and the new ones coming out (A Link Between Worlds does look really cool). So, if you’re like me and aren’t a fan of the Zelda games, I really suggest you play this as it might turn you into one. And if you are a fan but haven’t played through this, it might even give you a better appreciation of where the series came from. I give the Legend of Zelda originally for the NES 10 levels out of 10.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Level Up: Pokemon Rumble Blast

Pokemon X and Y came out last month and I’m apparently the only one with a 3DS that DOESN’T have it. I have nothing against it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But to scratch the itch that comes with everyone talking about a 3DS Pokemon game, I’ve been playing the first Pokemon game for that system. No, not the 3D Pokedex, I’m talking about Pokemon Rumble Blast for the Nintendo 3DS.
Pokemon Rumble Blast is a sequel to the Wii Ware game Pokemon Rumble. From my research the game play in Rumble Blast is quite similar and it has more features. For example, while the original game only included about half of the Pokemon that were known at the time, Pokemon Rumble Blast includes all of them in the 5 generations (so, maybe it was a test run, like the Pokemon Snap and Stadium thing).
Regardless, the game play of the Pokemon Rumble series could actually be described as a really simple beat ‘em up. And a Pokemon beat ‘em up is something that I have been wanting since I was 10. Granted it’s nothing like Final Fight, as they had to compensate to play as each Pokemon; they only have up to two attacks and you can even skip most of the fighting. The game play is at a sort of aerial view as you adventure around, and Pokemon will jump out to attack you regularly. You can choose to fight and beat them all, or you can just try to get past them. However, you will always have to fight a boss at the end of each level, and fighting Pokemon allows you to get newer and stronger ones, since your Pokemon’s power is predetermined.
And yes, you do capture Pokemon, but it’s VERY different. First off, you can carry all your Pokemon at the same time; however you can only get three KOs before per level. You might have trouble capturing the one Pokemon you want though, because unlike the main series, Pokemon can only be “befriended” certain times after you KO them. When Pokemon are wobbling, they are guaranteed to join when KO’d, and there is a Pokemon trait that makes them likely to wobble, but even then you’re not guaranteed anything. This is one of the more annoying aspects of the game, but with the simple and quick game play, I found myself playing some levels multiple times just to get one more Pokemon.
I guess since this is the first 3DS game I talk about, I should discuss the graphics and how the 3D looks. Now, the thing I’ve been tip-toeing around is that you don’t play as real Pokemon, you play as toys. The game play and story narrative are only really impacted when they need to shake things up, so you’ll mostly only notice it for the graphics. The toy designs are done to have them with big heads and small bodies (I guess developer Ambrella were fans of My Littlest Pet Shop?) and I feel like if they were real figures, they’d easily sell. It works to make every Pokemon roughly the same size so the game play isn’t affected when changing from a tiny Tynamo to a sizable Snorlax. Though I do admit, I can see people being turned off from the game when you get this instead of real Pokemon.
As for the 3D, it’s alright. As I said earlier, the game is seen from a mostly overhead perspective, and from that angle 3D has very little to offer. When switching out Pokemon, they do make it seem like it’s coming from the 4th wall, but other than that, there’s no real moment when something seems to come at you, nor does it help with perspective. It’s well done, but mostly unnecessary.
While Pokemon Rumble Blast was the first Pokemon game on the 3DS, I seriously doubt it would have held over the more hard-core Pokemon fans. I personally enjoyed it, and I’m sure some of the younger or more casual Pokemon fans did too, but it’s so very different from the main series. But this is still a pretty unique experience that I enjoyed for hours. And it might be selfish to say that I like this because it’s the game I wanted for a long time, but if I wanted a Pokemon Beat ‘em up, I’m sure there were others. Bottom line, if this sounds like a game you’ve ever wanted, than why not try it? But, if you just want a new Pokemon game, then maybe you should just pick up X or Y. I give Pokemon Rumble Blast for the Nintendo 3DS 6.5 levels out of 10.