The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

by Matthew Thompson

There are few series in gaming that I love as much as The Legend of Zelda. I’m particularly fond of the 3D entries. The fact that we only get one of these every five or so years makes the already anticipated release of a new Zelda into a true gaming event. The latest in the storied franchise came out alongside Nintendo’s newest console the Switch to the ravest of reviews this past March. While I can’t say Breath of the Wild lived up to the overwhelming amounts of hype that surrounded its release, it is a fantastic game – one of my personal favorites in a series not exactly short on superlative outings – and a bold reinvention for the 30-plus year old franchise Continue reading

My Most Anticipated Games of 2016

by Matthew Thompson

I’m taking a slightly different approach to my most anticipated games this year for a couple of reasons. I usually go a bit more in depth on my picks, but I have talked about many of these games over the past couple years already. I was also able to come up with a good twenty games I am looking forward to. So I am going to do a quick rundown of all twenty. I even included links to trailers or demos for each of them if you click on the game’s title. This way if you haven’t heard of one, you can give it a look. Here it goes Continue reading

E3 2015 Conference Impressions: Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo

by Matthew Thompson

I’m back with my second round of Press Conference impressions from this year’s E3, this time for Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo. Let’s get right to it Continue reading

My Most Anticipated Games of 2015: Part 2

by Matthew Thompson

I’m back to finish up my countdown of the games I’m most excited to play in 2015. If you missed Part 1 you can check it out here. Now onto my top five Continue reading

Mario Kart 8 (The Legend of Zelda) DLC Impressions

by Matthew Thompson

Downloadable content is something I’ve wanted to see in Mario Kart for years. As my favorite multiplayer series, Mario Kart titles get played at my house long after release, so getting some new content added along the way is a huge plus. With its first DLC for Mario Kart 8, Nintendo has delivered with both quality content and great value. Here is my breakdown of what is included in The Legend of Zelda pack Continue reading

Gaming Mini-Reviews: Wii U Edition

by Matthew Thompson

My newest pair of mini-reviews looks at two Wii U games related to Nintendo’s biggest franchises: the Zelda/Dynasty Warriors crossover Hyrule Warriors and the famed Italian plumber’s latest mainline entry, Super Mario 3D World Continue reading

My Gaming Jack-O-Lanterns of Years Past: Link and Tetra

by Matthew Thompson

Halloween has always been a big deal in my family. When I was young, we even used to do a Haunted House at our home that the whole neighborhood would come to. These days I don’t do anything nearly as cool as that. I watch some scary movies and eat some candy. My favorite Halloween tradition and the one I still make time for is carving pumpkins. Some years back I started to do some video game-themed carvings. I know a lot of you have seen these on one of my various blogs over the years, but with a new site and some new readers, I figured it was worth posting some of my recent creations. So I will be posting them in several blogs over the next week Continue reading

The Games of E3: The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

by Matthew Thompson (Images-Nintendo, this game’s E3 site can be found here)

(I was trying to work out how to discuss E3 this year (Note: I was not there, just watched it from home) and I’ve settled on rolling out about 10-15 small blogs over the next two weeks. Each will focus on a game shown or announced at E3 that caught my eye and will be presented in alphabetical order. I will include some other impressions when appropriate as well. You can find all of these blogs archived here. Enjoy!)

The Legend of Zelda Wii U 1

The look we got at the next Zelda game at E3 was short, but oh boy was it sweet! If you have talked to me about Zelda over the past few years, you have likely heard me grousing about Nintendo’s handling of the overworld lately. Ever since Twilight Princess, Nintendo has seemed to be avoiding creating a large fully explorable overworld in the series again. The two DS games broke up the world into chunks and had you using a boat or train to get from area to area. Skyward Sword tried something new for the series giving pieces of the overworld more depth. It was a good idea in theory, but lacking a little in the execution department. And the overworld still felt very segmented like the DS games. A Link Between Worlds returned to the classic overworld design, but re-used a bit too much of A Link to the Past‘s map for my liking. So my big wish for the new Zelda was a big, fresh overworld to explore in three dimensions on foot or horse. No broken up world. No weird vehicles required. And lucky for me, that is exactly what Nintendo is doing.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U 2

The Legend of Zelda won’t be releasing for the Wii U until 2015, so this was an early look, but Aonuma was saying all the right things. He’s going to give us a big open world and let us explore it how we want. And the brief glimpse we got of that world was really breathtaking. The new artstyle is better than I could have imagined and the shot of Link sitting on his horse in the middle of a large field, grass swaying, mountains off in the distance… it was just beautiful. It depicted a world that was begging to be explored. I was also impressed with some of the animations and designs shown when Link and his steed were chased off by a monster and he broke out his trusty bow.

There wasn’t much else to take away from this new Legend of Zelda‘s initial showing at E3, but it excited me all the same. I like where this thing seems to be headed and I can’t wait to see more.

Another Zelda E3 note:

  • Hyrule Warriors looks like a lot of fun. I love the way they are incorporating all the series items, weapons and characters into Dynasty Warriors-style gameplay. Zelda was confirmed as playable, an expected but extremely welcome piece of news, and so was Midna! Twilight Princess is my favorite game in the series and I love Midna, so this was great news.

The Good and Bad of A Link Between World’s Rental System

by Matthew Thompson

Last year’s new 3DS Zelda title, A Link Between Worlds, was the best entry in the series in years. It had all the hallmarks of a great Zelda game, but it was breaks from recent trends in the series that helped make it stand out to me. Nintendo got away from the handholding that has plagued Link’s latest adventures. This along with the ability to generally play the game’s dungeons in any order you chose meant I was finally given the freedom to explore Hyrule the way I (and many other fans) wanted to. This sense of freedom was no doubt facilitated by the game’s item rental system. But along with some of the positives of this new feature came some pitfalls. It is these drawbacks that make me think that the future of the series is better off ditching the renting of items. And it can do so without losing the positive qualities that it helped usher into, or perhaps bring back to, the franchise.

For those unaware, A Link Between Worlds eschewed its typical item discovery system where you’d find them in dungeons and use them throughout in favor of a new experimental formula. You were given access to a store early in your adventure where you could rent and eventually buy any item you wanted. This made it so you could choose which areas of the overworld and which dungeons to tackle first.  And with a little rupee saving you could easily have all the items early on giving yourself access to anywhere on the map long before you usually would. Admittedly this is a bit of an oversimplification on my part. Some items still had to be found via traditional methods. And some items were available to rent earlier than others, but it made for a game that allowed players to approach things on their own terms which was a big change from recent series’ conventions.

Ravio's item/weapon shop.

Ravio’s item/weapon shop.

It came with some drawbacks though. The joy of discovering items is lost a bit here as are the “Aha!” moments of getting a new item and realizing it will help you get past that one obstacle in the overworld you saw earlier. With a less linear approach came a more flat difficulty level across dungeons. Some items became less useful since you could acquire the superior item beforehand. It also took a step back in terms of varied item usage in dungeons. The rental system seemed to make Nintendo afraid to require any more than one item per dungeon (with the exception of the final one). It didn’t have to. They could have gated each with a couple items instead of one. But I am guessing since dying means you’d lose items, they didn’t want to make people have to buy multiple ones over again (even if this was something series’ vets never had to worry about). As a result the dungeons became more singularly focused on one item than even Twilight Princess which was much maligned for this very reason. For all the things Skyward Sword did wrong, it did a great job of mixing up the way you used items which made puzzles and dungeons less predictable. A Link Between Worlds was definitely a step in the wrong direction in this regard.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t change the way it worked in A Link Between Worlds. But I would ditch the rental system going forward. The good thing is we wouldn’t have to lose the freedom it allowed in the process. I think the first step is making items discoverable in the lead up to dungeons. Temples often have linear sections leading into them. You could put the item here. This would still allow for dungeons to be tackled in a non-linear order, but give back the sense of discovery that was lost in the last game.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds 2

Link’s ability to merge into walls made for such creative dungeon designs that the one-item aspect was less of an issue than it could have been.

That won’t solve the issue of difficulty and one-item dungeons though. So I’d make different tiers of dungeons. ALBW already did this sort of. The first three had to be tackled before you could get to Lorule’s collection of temples. I’d do something similar here. Make a group of three that can be tackled in any order. The items are discovered for keeps in their surroundings. Then these items can be used in the next tier of dungeons which will each have an item of their own discovered in a similar fashion. This could be another group of three or four tackled in any order. Followed by a final group where all the items from previous dungeons could be used. The tiers would also allow for the difficulty to be ratcheted up, while still giving some of the freedom A Link Between Worlds granted.

This is just one idea on how to handle things going forward. I’m not sure if it is the right way to do things, but I think it would sort of give players the best of both worlds, giving them the advantages that came with ALBW’s new system while cutting back on some of its drawbacks. We’ll have to see how they handle things when the inevitable Wii U Zelda title appears.

What were your thoughts on the rental system used in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds? Would you like to see it return? What tweaks would you make? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!