celda? more like ZEL-da! lololhulaugal

I don’t get it. When the new visual style for the Legend of Zelda on the GCN was announced, huge hissy fits erupted. I was a little skeptical, but every time I saw more, I liked it. I guess I don’t get what the superior alternative was. There were those videos of Ganondorf and Link fighting from Spaceworld 2000, but did people really want that for Legend of Zelda? Zelda is not a game meant for photorealism. Even the “more realistic” Ocarina of Time was pretty cartoony. Do people want Zelda to look like a fantasy Resident Evil? I just don’t get it.

Since I was undeterred by the new style, I defaulted to the lower-level motive: Must Have Zelda. Ocarina of Time is one of my all-time favorite games, up there with FF7, Manhunter, and Zork. My pre-order was placed in May 2002. Today, I got up at quarter to six, took a bus to the mall, wandered around it like a zombie until eight, and walked out triumphantly with Z:WW. I could hear the chest-opening music in my head. I documented the whole thing for posterity (read: I took a few pictures). I took today and tomorrow off to enjoy the game. My co-workers made it clear to the office that I was Not Available for anything. Everyone should understand what they understood: I take my Zelda seriously.

I got home around nine fifteen. I played until about now (ten thirty) with a two hour break for dinner and exercise. It was Good. It was good because it was Zelda.

I played a crippled demo of Z:WW at EBX a few weeks ago, and I got a hint then of what was confirmed today: the look is different, but the play is almost entirely identical. In fact, it’s almost eerie; the game looks new, vibrant, and very, /very/ cool, but it behaves just like Z:OoT. There are a few pieces of polish here and there – the camera is by far the most important – but it’s Zelda64, in its heart. In case anyone isn’t sure: that’s a really good thing.

characters and continuity

The characters are nice and simple, which is what I want. I get my complexity fix from full-on CRPGs, and Xenosaga is currently filling that niche quite well. Zelda has nice, simple, silly characters. “Hello, I am a fat woman, and I want a pig.” The character design, with the exception of Link himself, is in some ways more like the Zelda64 art than the Zelda64 games, largely because the GCN can produce much better graphics. Already, my memory is quietly rerendering the cast of Z:OoT and Z:MM as GCN characters.

This is the third game that is /clearly/ in a sequence of Zelda games. In this series, Z:WW follows Z:MM, which followed Z:OoT. All the other Zelda games, to the best of my recollection, were connected only by names and nuances. On one hand, I think the quiet disregard for continuity was charming; on the other, I think that the amount of continuity in what I’d call the Hero of Time trilogy is Just Right. In fact, it’s often so subtle that I can feel like a real insider when I catch some small reference. Saria’s Song is mixed into the Forest Haven theme, very subtly, for example.

Eventually, I hope the Zelda series moves on and does something apparently unrelated, to avoid too much required continuity. Until then, I like what they’re doing.

camera and combat

I mentioned above that the camera was much improved. It is. While it can follow you at least as well as (probably much better than) it did in Zelda64, it can also be controlled with the C-stick, a la Mario Sunshine. This makes the game much easier to play than it would’ve been if they’d stuck to the old “either auto or follow” camera. Unfortunatley it isn’t perfect. (What camera is?)

The combat is really good. L-targeting is a bit more awkward than Z-targeting, largely because, as far as I can tell, it requires that I hold L. Using the shield requires Z. When fighting aggressive enemies, I find myself using the stick and buttons while holding L and R. It’s pretty annoying. Combat is also where the camera’s imperfections show up. It behaves differently when you’ve got a lock on an enemy, and too frequently it lets an object obscure your view of the action. L-targetting has (as did Z-targetting) the annoying quality of making it very easy to accidentally plunge off a ledge. Still, all of these problems are no worse, and often better, than they were in Zelda64. It would’ve been neat to see them perfected. The game is still awesome without them.

sailing

The biggest change to the game is the lack of an overworld. Or, more accurately, the substitution of a sea for a big country. In theory, they’re almost interchangeable. In practise, the sea provides for a lot of great stuff and one colossal annoyance.

There are a number of ships that I’ve encountered at sea. The most common and (so far) useful is the vendor. He sells basic provisions, and he’s always tooling around. There are other ships, too, and most of them seem either interesting or helpful. The cool thing is that most of them sail around, and you meet them when you meet them. It isn’t scripted or fixed in place.

The boat itself is cool, as are the ways in which Link’s normal weapons can be adapted for use at sea. I’ve used my hookshot-like grappling hook to haul up several chests of treasure. There are other things, but I’ll refrain from mentioning them.

The immense sea contains islands all over the place. Some are just watchtowers on a stilt. Others only have a tree and a mailbox. Some are entire cities or fortresses. I get the impression that less than half of them really need to be visited. In my first few hours of play, Link was pretty restricted in his navigation. I think that tomorrow may change that, and I can visit all the most interesting-looking islands.

The colossal annoyance really is quite colossal; it takes /minutes/ to get across the map. After completing the second major dungeon, I was told I had to rush from point A to point B. I sat and watched my boat sail through the sea, performing only tiny course corrections to avoid storms. It took me eight minutes. No game should ever force me to sit and wait for eight minutes. If the rest of the game wasn’t so incredibly awesome, this would’ve been a blocker. I’m told that there is some relief later, but not enough. I’ll wait and see for myself.

Written on March 25, 2003
gamecube   games   gamesite   videogame   zelda