Running Play Time: 19 Hours 31 Minutes
I’m disappointed in not being able to move the lily pads with the Gust Bellows. That’s such a straightforward design option, that it is a bit of a shock. Stylistically though, I dig the East Asian influences in this temple. In fact, I like the progression of Zelda games away from a blandly Medieval Fantasy setting. I see both the styles of the Twilight Realm and Ghirahim as an example of this diversity. They’ve been incorporating more influences and the designs have improved for it.
A ways into the dungeon, the Dual-Wielding Stalmaster proves to be a nice fight. The sword mechanics are good in this game, even after 20 hrs. I’m better; I know the game’s tricks, but it’s still enough of a challenge. By far, this is the best executed part of the game. At the risk of exposing myself as a nostalgia hound, I’d love to see the old games running on this Engine. There’s so many sequences that would be that much greater with the Motion Plus sword controls. Now whip it! The whip is ostentatious but pragmatic. Dungeon continues as normal with me seeking out the master key.
Camera pans to a large imposing treasure chest. Then Fi talks, “I have some important information…There is a large treasure chest in the area.” No Duh. The only thing more repetitive than her are my complaints.
Cursed Bokoblin – The Undead
Awesome. “Reanimates purely through its hatred of this world…and its attachment to outlandish underpants,” Fi wins me back with that description. They fear sacred shields and yield evil crystals. I know zombies have overrun just about all popular media, but I love to see them here. As I write this, I realize that I’ve blocked out traumatic memories of ReDeads freeze-humping you in the razed Castle Town. I feel gross.
The evil down here is tremendous. The basement is a perfect balance to the upper floors. I’d actually like nothing more than to stay down here. Climbing into the light on a spider’s silk, whoever thought up this part knew what they were doing. I want more, but I’m satisfied in overcoming it..
I work my way back down there, snatch the blessed Idol, and somehow trigger thriller night. I don’t realize the other element of the trap until it’s too late. I get crushed, but by the magic power of the Game Over, I try again. Getting out is fun, but I’d like an animation for the undead getting crushed as you escape. The Boss room awaits.
Ghirahim welcomes me. That’s another character I’d like to see in the over-world. No, I won’t let that pipedream die. He’s aiming to revive a demon king? I thought he was one. Which only means…I’ll marinate on that. He’s disagreeable, a bit more than usual. He disappears, but I’m wary. I know you’re coming back. Wait, no fight? I want a rematch; instead, a six-armed deva gets sicced on me.
Ancient Automaton Koloktos.
Between six swords and eight limbs, he’s devastating and well designed. As a throwback to Wind Waker, you even get to pick up his massive swords. There’s a feature that shouldn’t have been dropped. I lose enough health to make things interesting, but ultimately prevail.
The first sacred flame is acquired and I like what I hear. Twice the damage, longer, sharper: Bamboo island here we come. I may not find much to gush about in the background tracks, but I enjoy all the little fanfares. This one has classic hints and gives me a nostalgia rush. Link performs a needlessly cool sword holstering. The Triforce appears on hand. Is the blade, ultimately the Master Sword? Why does that actually surprise me? I’m pathetic.
Running Playtime: 21 Hours 09 Minutes
Item Check girl has her own music in the Bazaar or did I not notice it earlier? She’s warming up, a bit too much. More than a bit actually, I’m not sure how I feel anymore. I use my acquired trinkets and nonsense to upgrade the Slingshot to Scattershot. Items have been downplayed in this game. Without auto-targeting when locked on to an enemy, using the slingshot feels much less dynamic in battle. This is good as it lets you back off the stun-and-slash-three-times routine which ruined every boss in Twilight Princess. The game takes more skill and the swordplay feels powerful; however, I wonder if too much was done at the expense of other items. I get the feeling that the Scattershot won’t even matter.
Bamboo Island has a great ambiance. A speaking statue tells me that Peater had 43 slices for the record, I don’t even get close. I do get a Goddess Plume for 28 slices. A part of me wishes I could tell him to get his daughter too cool off, but then again I did lead her on.
I head back to the Isle of Songs, get the plot-relevant updates and head down to the desert.
Desert Silent Realm.
Nothing more to say. These segments are executed extremely well. The reward is better this time too, Double Clawshots. Finally. It did take 22 hours, but at least they give you both upfront. However, stubborn nostalgia makes me pine for the word “Hookshot,” but you can’t have everything you want.
I head back to the obvious zone of plot progression and I’m surprised to find that tubby Goron again. Which begs me to ask, how does he get everywhere? The Overworld isn’t even linked! He doesn’t even have any fighting skills!
Oh it’s a new one. Golo.
Another seated conversation ensues. It’s a long con though as it turns out that he wants money. I’m rich enough to let it slide. Fi tells me that I can whip away Monster Horns from Bokoblins. Thanks for restoring my faith in your usefulness. Speaking stone reveals that I’ll get a new Shield, now that’s something I can look forward to. Also, the sand sea was once an ocean? Things are looking up.
Running Playtime: 23 Hours 18 Minutes
The game performs a tight approximation of Minecart Madness in the Shipyard. A bit tough to control, but still satisfying. I do as I’m told and I’m forced to face Moldarach again. I get the feeling FI knew about it and was secretly trying to kill me. The whole sequence ultimately proves worthless and Fi wants me to leave. I know what your up to. Back on Follow the pre-dungeon slog and I wind up on the invisible Sandship.
Robot Pirates. My frustration with bland crosses of “cool” things rages until I take full stock. LD-002S Scervo is a dual-wielding, amputee robot pirate from ancient times temporarily revived by a magic stone? Mix that revival with his blind rage and that technically makes him a zombie. Suddenly my ideas feel a little less out-there. The fight goes back and forth as I slowly dismember what’s left of him. I destroy both swords, both arms, and finally the hook. Satisfied with the inherent cruelty in my victory I head to the treasure chest.
Bow and Arrows – I’ve been waiting a long time and now I finally feel a bit more complete. Still, getting such a key item this late in the game makes me wonder how much it will get used. Towards the end of Twilight Princess I had the same issue with items that appeared to be one-off and overly dungeon-specific.
As I run back inside, I wonder why Scervo didn’t ambush me from the opposite side of the plank. Actually…as an ancient robot zombie pirate, he was probably around when the game engine was being designed. So I take it he knew that this Link never dies when falling into the abyss. Yeah, that sounds about right.
Running Playtime: 25 Hours 07 Minutes
The Boss better be good. Everything after Scervo has amplified my Dungeon Fatigue to stupidly absurd levels. I don’t even want to write about it. I’ve found myself churning out variations of that phrase way too often.
Unleash the Kraken! Abyssal Leviathan Tentalus.
He’s tearing the ship down, but I notice that he’s rather patient when I don’t advance cutscenes. Maybe there should an item that triggers cutscene mode and makes all characters idle in a dialogue animation? Ok that’s just being stupid. He’s a cycloptic sea monster with dreadlocks, but gameplay trumps ridiculousness any day. It’s a fun fight and I do get some usage out of the bow. After he goes down, I collect the next flame and accept its power-up.
Yay. Definitely not what I wanted, I’d appreciate some normal power-up. Increased cutting power is absolutely generic, but at least it doesn’t disappoint outright. It’s more-or-less a petulant complaint, but I need more than that to make this game work for me. I need to be shocked, surprised, even taunted by the game’s developments. Instead, they politely say, “here, make further use of this overused ability. We couldn’t think of anything else either.” I didn’t come here to dowse; I didn’t come here to play fetch-quest 4000. I came here to hack things to death and feel good in the process. Link’s Triforce goes crazy again, so I obediently continue my trudge.
Let’s skip all the way to the next interesting thing.
The Volcano’s silent realm yields the Fireshield Earrings. Knew I’d survive the fire somehow, but didn’t figure that earrings would be part of the equation. A Link to the Past was the first console Zelda I ever played and I wish more games would follow suit and give Link different Tunics. Even beyond that, ALttP had the best item selection/utility in the series. I’ll harp on this some more in the wrapup.
Escorting the Lanaryu robot to the mountain summit reeks of filler. We came from the sky why not just land where we need to? Until now, I was under the impression that the game would go much longer, but I’m completely uncertain now. With this much filler, I have to be getting close to the end.
I met a super-old Mogma at the first keyed door. Gul, The Big Mogma Boss. He says a few standard things and I remember why I despise the Mogma. Part of it comes from the overall weak status of NPCs in this game. But on a fundamental level, they look a bit idiotic with their toupe-style haircuts. Functionally, they haven’t done anything better than give me some digging items.
A Mogma hangs over a torture pit. I wouldn’t mind seeing him fall in, but this isn’t Mass Effect so I don’t anticipate any Renegade option. After a bit of fighting, I rescue the creature with an Anthony Kleidis haircut and he gives me new mitts. That sequence only reinforces my views.
I double back to check on a few dead ends and discover an Empty Bottle!!! It gets warped away to Item Check. Also, I can’t believe it took this long for the exploding-wall trick to appear. I really miss tapping the walls to find weak points, now that was a great mechanic.
I find little else to inspire me so I ask, “Has anything been accomplished?” This whole sacred flame business hasn’t changed the dynamic of the game or moved the story forward. It’s practically another introduction and that’s not good at all. Slow introductions have been the bane of almost every Zelda since A Link to the Past. I just want to get this over with to continue the story. Let’s go to the boss room.
Ghirahim. Fight me! Another sword fight is just what this game needs. Of course, he prefaces everything with a rather fluffily-phrased plot dump. “Bound by a thread of fate.” Upon learning about the second gate of time, he states “This news has just filled my heart with rainbows!” He warps around as he continues. He wants to use that Gate of Time. Why? “It was frowns all around.” “The thought of never getting my hands on that darling young girl again…” He’s “positively giggly” and Link is almost as creeped out as I am. It turns hilarious if you don’t advance text and leave Link shocked. Ghirahim wants his master’s revival. Okay, sounds sensible enough. His personality cuts back to his more sadistic side as he informs me, “[He wants to] make [my] ears bleed rom the sound of [my] own screams.” I wonder how much more sadistic he’d be if this game were rated M.
His black outfit comes across a bit more queer, but he’s too dangerous to be underestimated.
Demon Lord Ghirahim
I make it through the first phase without too much difficulty. The great point in this fight is that you can see how much your skills have improved. This same routine crushed me the first time, but I’m keeping up now. You’re not just keeping up because of some generic Level Up, you have to be better with the battle system.
Here come the swords to test my theory. It’s a massacre; I lose all of my health and burn through my only two fairies. After making a series of stupid mistakes, I wind up with 3.5 hearts left. Then, I get in the zone and string together a few decent exchanges. Finally, I catch him on a shield bash and follow up with the winning blow. I’m a bit terrified at the possibility of him amplifying his inhumanity for yet another phase. But luckily, he leaves. If he learned anything from Ganondorf’s playbook, then all he has to do is stalk me. I know it; he knows it. It’s that simple, but sadly I doubt Link knows it.
I take a brief pause to look at the pictures. Two worlds of Triforce connected at the heart? It’s crazy enough or am I seeing it wrong. Upgrade Time! The blade of evil’s bane? Demons hate it so why can’t it be? Link does a cool pose for no one in particular; Ghirahim’s flair is contagious. The Triforce goes wild yet again. Now it’s confirmed as the Master Sword! Not a surprise, but still a delight. Onward! Ho! The plot must flow!
Actually, to Mr. Skyloft’s Island. I do like the music, it’s perfect here. Now why can’t this character be important in some way. I would’ve rather learned sword-fighting from him than that other random guy in Skyloft. I prove a bit too impatient to measure my efforts and leave after a few terrible rounds.
Train tracks at the Sealed Grounds. Why do I get the feeling Groose built it? Or inspired it? Urbanization knows no bounds. As I run towards the temple, every last bird is missing and Groose isn’t at his sulk spot anymore. How should I take that? Is the imprisoned coming back? Inside the temple, all my hunches are quickly proven true.
The Imprisoned – Round 2
Yep, it’s Groose time. Introducing The Groosenator and he built it too! I go for the toes this time around. It’s not as dramatic, but I want to get what experiences I can. The Groosenator lobs gigantic bombs. You actually have to control it, which tarnishes the moment a bit. If you watch closely afterwards, you can see Groose reloading at his giant bomb stash. Groose whines, mopes, and vainly speaks in 3rd person, but I’d trade Fi for Groose in a second. Imagine facing a boss with Groose cowering in the corner or getting in the way. You could even keep Fi then give her a side dynamic with Groose.
Alright, that pipedream is over and it’s time for the reward. The Old Woman starts, “It seems,” I was successful. No, it most definitely was and you didn’t help lady. Ok, she inspired Groose, but she could’ve done more. On further inspection, the two seem related. His pompadour closely matches her shawl; you can even see him as a protector of sorts. The woman even says he has potential. Maybe he’s a successor or something.
Time for an PLOT DUMP! What is The Imprisoned? It’s the root of evil. Well what else could it have been? I was expecting more, but this phase of the game isn’t over until I’ll pass through the gate. Off-topic, I could see Groose and Grannie as some sort of cheesy, in-world sitcom. The Zelda Universe has had cameras a few times before so maybe they’ll figure out motion pictures next.
After all these wasted hours, the second Gate of Time is finally active. What power. All the broken pieces of all the boss keys? Groose falls at the sight. Tetris, it’s a 3D Tetris installation. Everything swirls about. How will it combine? A compression of sorts. The complete assembly looks more high tech than majestic. If they can build that, they can build a video camera. There’s a Triforce logo at the heart. Given how the gears churn, is it a clock of sorts? It feels like it’s part of something much bigger. By the way, where’s Ghirahim?
Either way, it’s time to deal with this link to the past. But first, humor my supposed cleverness for a moment longer. In my opinion, A Link to the Past is essentially the best title in the series (Link’s Awakening is my #2), but there’s one problem I have: no time-travel! That’s just about the perfect title for something time-travel related. I know, I know, it’s just a reference to the Imprisoning War (Ocarina of Time), but this is another pipedream. Actually, since it’s impossible, it’s a step beyond, I won’t even categorize it. If Titles either had to be swapped, or changed to remove the item-based ones, what would I call this game? Or all the others?
Back to the action. Zelda is on the other side of the portal. Groose is strangely cool and wants me to tell Zelda something. Between a great subtext of animations he says, “Naw forget about it.” I have a feeling he’d say something about Zelda. Or even, “What’s up?” and stuff. It’s almost tragic. Sure Link/Zelda are essentially a confirmed pair, but once Groose cleaned up his act he stopped putting up a fight. He probably just realized he wasn’t the main character. The hole of blackness opens on the gate. Gears churn upon gears to infinity. Link runs in. How does he find his footing?
Where does it go? The same place? Hylia Temple? Temple of Hylia. It’s Impa. She’s tall, lanky, and there’s little blue on her wardrobe. I feel less bad about failing to recognize her. Time travel! I really am slow. The Gate of Time does time travel. Duh. Demise? The sealed beast outside, has a name. That’s not going to end well. Zelda is waiting behind the light; I almost don’t want to go, but I realize I’m playing this too much in character. I notice the Triforce insignia is also missing on this door. Zelda stands obscured by the light.
She looks sad. Or glad? Or something. Demise the Demon King? No Ganon? That throws a wrench in just about everything I thought to this point. Zelda’s Lullaby! Plot DUMP!
The old Gods made the Triforce! Demise wanted the Triforce for evil purposes. Ok, so isn’t he just Ganondorf? Just say the name already, this isn’t Voldemort we’re talking about. The Triforce is hidden in Skyloft. Zelda turns out to be Hylia the Goddess. Link is dumbfounded. Go to her, you fool. Or she’ll come to him. The Goddess made Fi. What a dunce. The Goddess became corporal, or Zelda. Triforce rules are explained again. The Goddess gave up her immortality so that she could make use of it. There’s a cool shot from Impa’s view with her tattoo tear and the turning gears.
Demise has to be Ganon. Screw him if they say elsewise. I want the Gannon Jack! It’s a bit pathetic, but that’s what nostalgia can do to you. With Ghirahim taking lead, there really isn’t enough time to develop another proper villain. Zelda wants to stay behind forever; I hardly understand why. Link won’t allow it. It’s heavy for her to split up with him. Link is still dumbfounded. Zelda does power up my sword, giving it power to top the abominations. The Fanfare plays to make it official. The Master Sword is back in full effect!
Essentially everything that’s happened to this point of the story is merely a subset of Hylia’s long-term gambit to get her hands on The Triforce. She feels guilty at forcing link into something he was fated to experience anyway. I’d hope he can smack some sense into her, but this has to be. For the umpteenth time, she’s disappearing again. She considers it a deep sleep, but I see it as a coma. She’ll probably turn into a vegetable once she’s out. She wants Link to wake her up when it’s over. He promises before leaving, but not without a stiff hint of dejection. I knew they wouldn’t be happy.
The gears incessantly prattle along as Link silently stares at Impa.
Running Playtime: 30 Hours 06 Minutes
You might notice that this entry comes across as rambling wall of text. Because I hated it! I hate hate hated it. Not that it was abysmal, but because the game had the perfect chance to be amazing. Instead, they throw another trio of dungeons at me complete with a tripartite fetch quest. You can do that once, but you can’t do that twice. The reason being that it unapologetically exposes the series’ stagnation.
I’m done with the dungeon as a gameplay device. It’s too exacting, too well-understood. We’ve been fooling around for decades now and it just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s a chore, find item, find key, fight boss, get heart container and receive minor plot advancement. What’s particularly bad about this structure is that it produces massive stretches between tangible rewards to the player. Instead of accelerating the pace of plot development or letting me have meaningful character interactions, they stretch things out with an interminable dungeon trudge. Dungeons were once novel, but they’ve fallen into bland drivel. Sure there are highlights here and there, but they’re subpar as an organizational unit.
The other revelation is that the only thing keeping me playing is nostalgia. There’s not enough new here to hold me for 30 hrs. This is the problem of a long-winded series. Sure, by other standards, you could say the design is particularly strong and improves upon the predecessors, but the fault here is that hardly any of it is fresh anymore. The high points get muted out by hours of bland, unimaginative repetitions. In a blindly confirming urge, I want to forget about the slow parts and focus only on the high points, but I can’t. As we get older, time becomes rarer and I cannot excuse the majority of this game.
You could rearrange it, trim the fat and give me every good point in 1-2 dungeons and under 8 hours of gameplay. The characters would feel richer, the plot would be denser, and I’d be raving about this game right now. Instead, I’m 30 hours in and just now getting the main thrust of the plot. That’d be fine if this were some sort of intricate, convoluted mystery thriller, but this is Quest Against Generic Evil 6. They technically don’t even have to set this up. The game could start with a message, “Go save Zelda,” and we’d all be on board anyway.
The construction of this game doesn’t take into account the fact that the core elements of Zelda are already broadly understood. We know Link, we know Zelda, we know Ganon (knockoffs included). We want Link, we want Zelda, we want Ganon. That’s essentially it. Toss in The Master Sword, The Triforce, and an instrument and we’re all set. The Legend of Zelda needs no introduction, so why have one for 30 hours?