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Friday 14 October 2011

Fan-Made 25th Anniversary Cartoons

In Zelda news

For Zelda’s 25th anniversary, Nintendo asked DSi and DSiXL owners to create their own Zelda cartoons using the in-built Flipnote Studio software. For cartoons designed on a DS touch screen, you may expect them to be quite static or not so detailed. You would be wrong! The fans have made some quite impressive shorts, and you can view the best of them at Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5849773/zelda-fans-made-these-incredible-cartoons-on-a-ds/gallery/1

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Sunday 02 October 2011

Quick Thoughts on Four Swords Anniversary Edition

In Opinions

I spent my Saturday playing Nintendo’s free anniversary gift for Zela fans, Four Swords Anniversary Edition. It was a strange announcement to make - that Nintendo were upgrading and re-releasing a game that was originally a short multiplayer extra included with Link to the Past on GBA, but it makes sense if you think about it. Very few people got the chance to play the original, as you needed a copy of the game for each player and a link cable. I almost managed to play it with my friend until it became apparent that for some reason I owned an Australian copy of the game, and my copy and his copy wouldn’t communicate. But this seems like the right time to retry things, as we’re now in the age of wireless handheld communication, there’s now a single player mode and, well, it’s free, so anyone with a DSi or 3DS can get ahold of it. But how does it hold up, and is it worth your time?

I played the game on single player mode, and really enjoyed it. The original game is intact, which takes around two and a half hours for a single playthrough. It’s good fun, encourages replay, and is the perfect Zelda game for a train journey. Where things really get interesting, though, is the “Realm of Memories”, which is unlocked when you complete the game for the first time. Here there are three dungeons, in the visual style of Link to The Past, Link’s Awakening and the original Zelda. These are essentially replicas of various sections of the games (e.g. Hyrule Castle in LttP), with layout changes to convert them into Four Swords dungeons (think Master Quest-style). These are a joy to play for any long-term Zelda fan, and seeing the Four Sword Links retrofitted as Game Boy sprites was one of the highlights for me. These dungeons alone will take you about two and a half to three hours to play through, so already the length of the original game is doubled.

But this is where the fun ends. Collect 30,000 rupees and you unlock the Hero’s Trials - three extra dungeons - and these are TOUGH. You may be able to get through the first one on single player, but I found the second one to be a brick wall. It’s not that the puzzles are hard, but these dungeons throw particularly menacing waves of enemies in quick succession, and these can easily lead to a quick death. And throw in the fact that these can take over an hour to get through, with no checkpoints, and they become incredibly frustrating on single player (especially considering the hardest fights are right at the end). It’s clear these were designed for multi-player, where I imagine they’d be considerably easier. Also, unlocking the second and third endings is more difficult in single player, as they involve collecting 3000 and 5000 rupees in each of the original game’s dungeons. In single player, this is a very monotonous task, involving waiting for enemies to respawn to fight them for their rupees. At the end of the day, despite Nintendo adding a single player mode, it’s clear there are sections of the game that just aren’t meant for single player, and that’s a shame.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out if you don’t have any Zelda-loving friends. The original game is still a lot of fun, the Realm of Memories is a nostaglia-filled thrill, and, hey, it’s free! It’s short in length, but perfect for a rainy day, and providing you know when to stop playing due to the difficulty spike, you can have a great time with it. Props to Nintendo for giving this away.

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Wednesday 28 September 2011

Four Swords Anniversary Edition Now Available

In Zelda news

If you are the owner of a DSi or 3DS, you might want to check DSi Shop or eShop, as Nintendo’s free gift to Zelda fans, Four Swords Anniversary Edition, is now available for download. The game, an enhanced version of the GBA game bundled with A Link To The Past, features a new single player mode (the absence of which in the original version is probably the reason you’ve never played it). It also has exclusive levels done in the visual style of the original Zelda and Link’s Awakening. And it’s free!

If you’ve read this far, what is wrong with you? FREE ZELDA! GO!

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Tuesday 13 September 2011

Zelda News from Nintendo’s TGS Conference

In Zelda news

It’s that time of year again, where “Japan’s E3”, the Tokyo Game Show, kicks into gear, and we get the usual slew of press conferences and game demos on the show floor. And kicking the thing off this year was Nintendo’s press conference.

First off, some news about Skyward Sword. Miyamoto took to the stage and claimed that the game would take 50-100 hours to complete. That’s huge! I’m inclined to believe he may be slightly exaggerating here, but we can rest assured that Skyward Sword will certainly be a meaty adventure. The game will also feature a helper mode, as seen in recent Mario and Donkey Kong games, and the recent Ocarina of Time 3D, which will give you hints in beating a puzzle if you get stuck. Saves the trips to GameFAQs, I suppose!

Miyamoto also showed off a demo of the game, but not much has been reported about that. Let us know if you find some sources that explain what was shown. In the meantime, there has been some new gameplay footage released to tide you over. Check out the footage towards the end of this new Zelda history video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulaSHjVxfuU) and this exclusive skydiving clip revealed by GameInformer (http://www.gameinformer.com/games/the_legend_of_zelda_skyward_sword/b/wii/archive/2011/09/12/exclusive-video-flying-to-eldin-volcano.aspx). *UPDATE* Here is video footage of the whole Zelda segment of the conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StXfwq4GU3g The Skyward Sword stuff starts at around six minutes. We see countless new environments, bosses, and… the return of Beedle.

Secondly, more information about this new Four Swords was revealed, which will be given away for free download for the DSi/3DS, starting September 28 to February 20. The game, titled “Four Swords: Anniversary Edition”, appears to be an upgraded version of the GBA game (NOT the completely separate Gamecube game, as many are reporting), and has new features such as a new single player mode (the original was multiplayer only), and stages in the visual styles of the original NES Zelda, and the Gameboy game, Link’s Awakening. For a free gift, this is pretty cool! Now all I need to do is find three DSi/3DS owning friends, pronto! View the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iX7B6WnS4w

One final piece of information, between October 3 and February 20, select retailers will be seling prepaid 3DS cards with an image Link fighting Ganon. No news if these are Japan-only or will have a wider release.

Nintendo are certainly going all-out for Zelda’s birthday. The first main new game in five years, a free game for all DSi/3DS owners, a symphony tour, and even small things like Zelda-themed 3DS cards. It’s a busy year for Zelda!

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Tuesday 07 June 2011

Zelda at E3 - TONNES of News

In Zelda news

Well, Nintendo’s press conference has just finished, and while there has been lots of excitement about the announcement of the new Wii U console, and the 3DS games coming our way, there was another big player at the show: Zelda. The whole first segment of the event was dedicated to the franchise’s 25th anniversary, with the show opening with a montage of earlier Zelda games, leading up to some new Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword footage (the latter of which hints that Link will be able to ride a bird, and has some kind of lady-friend who gets swallowed by a giant fish), backed by a live orchestra!

Shigeru Miyamoto took to the stage, and fooled around with the orchestra as they played familiar jingles and melodies from the series. He then went on to make many, many announcements about Link’s anniversary year, all of which are bound to excite Zelda fans. Here they are:

Firstly, Skyward Sword will be released this holiday season. This will surprise very few, though some may have been hoping for an earlier release. Shigeru promised that the game is packed with content, and thinks it will be the most satisfying Zelda title yet. As Skyward Sword requires a Wii Remote Plus, and many players will be buying one just for Zelda, a special edition golden Zelda remote will be released alongside the game. Whether this is a pre-order bonus, or will be sold packaged with the game, or separately, we don’t know. I’m guessing it will probably be packaged with the game.

You may have noticed that Game Boy Color classic Link’s Awakening DX was missing from today’s Nintendo eShop launch, despite previous info hinting it would launch with the service. Well, you only have a matter of hours to wait before getting your hands on everyone’s favourite handheld Zelda, as it will be available by the end of the day. Nintendo obviously wanted to incite warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia to all who watched the conference before making many people’s first experience with Zelda available once more. Marketing!

Nintendo also announced that, as a free download, multiplayer Zelda title Four Swords will be available on the DSi (and assumably 3DS, too). They didn’t specify whether this was a port of the original GBA game, or an entirely new adventure. Whatever it is, it will be available for free download in September. Pretty generous!

Now this is where things get really interesting. Nintendo have announced that there will be actual Zelda 25th Anniversary events, that you can actually physically go to! To start things off, there will be a series of Zelda symphony concerts throughout the world this year. Assuming they stick to the standard format for these events, you can expect a live orchestra playing classic Zelda melodies, with footage from the games on a big screen above the orchestra. No specific dates or locations were announced, but they were confirmed to take place in Japan, America and Europe during the fall (that’s “Autumn” for people like me in the UK). I’d guess that the concerts will take place in select big cities (i.e. Tokyo, London, L.A. etc.) rather than a full world tour, but I could be wrong. Nintendo will also release two Zelda CDs this year, something which is rarely done outside of Japan. The Ocarina of Time 3D Official Soundtrack will be available for those who are first to register their copy of the game with Club Nintendo, and there will also be a CD based on the anniversary concerts (assumably a recording of the show) which will be released in conjunction with Skyward Sword.

Finally, Shigeru announced there will be “other activities”, but didn’t specify further. There’s more? After all that? Us Zelda fans sure are in for a busy year!

Shigeru ended the Zelda segment by bringing some key figures from Zelda’s history, purely so they could be applauded. Takashi Tezuka, Yoshiaki Koizumi and Zelda director Eiji Aonuma were called up front for a round of applause. But then Shigsy pulled the “it’s all about the fans”, and thanked us for their support throughout the 25 years, giving us all a wee round of applause. Charming!

But wait! There was even more Zelda! In the announcement trailer for Nintendo’s new home console, the Wii U (featuring the much-rumoured touch-screen controller), a very short clip of a gorgeous looking HD Zelda game was shown. It featured Link fighting a huge spider in a huge temple. The user could swap their equipped weapons using the touch screen on the controller. As the footage wasn’t given a name, it may just be a concept and not a game in itself, but it shows quite nicely what the system is capable of, and what future Zelda games on the title could look like.

And that’s all the Zelda we got at this year’s Nintendo presser! LOADS. I actually had to watch the thing through again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It will certainly be a big year for Zelda, and a big year for the fans. Thank you Nintendo for making my job hard. And thank you for giving us plenty to look forward to.

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