As some of you may have noticed, I have been away, though it was anything but a vacation.
I would in fact describe the absence as overwhelming, though words alone would fail to do my time away justice.
I’m being a bit dodgy about the subject, but it’s due to the rather raw nature of the actual departure. I’m not yet equipped to to anything but quip about it, and that’s through a strong effort to mention it at all. I’m sure I will summon the courage to write about the time I spent in my own personal hell, but that time is not now.
That’s because right now…it’s Zelda Time.
I immediately apologize to anyone who thinks a Majora’s Mask post is incoming, as it is not the Zelda game up for discussion this day. I chose that screenshot due to it’s fun symbolism; even when trapped in the shittiest situations, Link still manages to save the day. Not to say most video games don’t give me a reason to get up in the morning, but Zelda is the closest to a sunrise I’ve encountered in the gaming verse. Putting aside flowery prose for a second, I was in dire need of something really interesting to write about. Part of my time away, entailed accumulating rust around my writey bits, causing a strain to put any thoughts onto a screen meaningfully. I had been lucky enough to score A Link Between Worlds for Christmas, and had been trapped in mad enough turmoil to not have started the game yet.
True horror unmatched.
I’m assuming my love for Zelda is common knowledge to many regulars, but I always try to play it safe and declare my bias before hand. I think the context to the situation is just as relevant as what is happening within it, background making the foreground a far more immersive experience. Despite my bias, I’m very aware Zelda doesn’t always get it right, the series having been exposed as vincible in concept before. Even with some of the games missteps, they almost always provide a strong relief, giving me a formula I’m intimate with, letting me skip right past the awkward first dates and just spending a night without worry.
Zelda can be sexy in that way.
I had portable Zelda’s on watch for awhile, Phantom Hourglass having shoved me right off the cliffs of tolerance. The game’s low quality represented a certain kind of inspiration, a dark one albeit, but one that inspired worry within me for the future of bite sized Zelda. Ocarina 3D helped to put some positive shine on portable Zelda titles, and the more I heard and read about A Link Between Worlds, the more I craved the adventure. Link to the Past is one of the highest plateaus the series ever reached, so the failure to do a direct follow up, left fans scratching their heads. Not setting another Z game in the same universe stood out as odd, with many scrambling to rationalize the failure to act. The whole thing was absurd, almost like Nintendo was too busy fucking multiple things up at the same time to even acknowledge their ongoing fuck up, like the big N had written a note to itself a decade ago about doing a follow up and misplaced the note shortly after.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Immediately, A Link Bewteen Worlds nostalgically thrills with a remix of ALttP title screen. The new music track represents the subtle blending of old and new, something that figures more predominantly in ALBW than other Zelda games. I’ll take this moment to point out that’s a forecast of things to come, as I have not finished the game. This is more of a better late than never preview, of a game that’s already come out. Cut me some slack, people.
The game doesn’t start out quite as darkly as ALttP (literally or figuratively), but I feel as if Nintendo’s aim is a proper follow up, and not just a total rehashing of the events of the first title. The top down of 2D Zelda’s gone by is still intact, but the lack of sprite based visuals creates an odd dilemma for the new graphics engine. When briefly pondered, you can imagine the flaw this brings into the presentation; you the player are given an isometric view of the action, one that looks down upon the action, but from more of an angle than past Zelda titles. This created visual issues (like Link being hard to identify), and the way the devs got around this is only slightly ridiculous, when thought about for more than a second.
Perhaps I just giggle when I think about Link and the entirety of Hyrule pimp walking to and fro their entire lives, effectively making the land of Hyrule Pimp Central. Absurd antics aside, the visual trick does work for the best of both worlds, but it begs the question why Nintendo didn’t stick to the sprite based stuff for ALttP sequel in the first place. The new visuals are quaint, but perhaps not “classic”. The original art style of ALttP is fully intact, so the characters and locale are familiar and lively, but lacks a certain nostalgic punch a sprite based system would have packed. At least for me, it’s really bizarre to see the spirte based Zora’s (of Zelda’s past) look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon in, instead of their appropriately effeminate presentation used in Ocarina of Time.
Or do pigs just really like sushi?
Look, I’m not saying Ganon was the cause of how fucking ugly the Zora’s became, but it’s clear that he hated the living hell out of them, and we can look at Zelda cannon to affirm who could have had the most influence on how Hyrule developed. The Imprisoning War does occur in the timeline where Link is defeated by Ganon, and who effectively cast the world into disfigured darkness. Hell, Ganon was such a dick, in seven short years in OoT, he froze over the entirety of Zora’s domain, killed their flesh incarnate Water God, and left only the King of a now demolished race of people to suffer the fate of solitude in an empty kingdom.
I think it’s safe to say the man from the desert hates the people from the ocean, and if he had wanted to conjure the ugly tree, just so he could break off all of the branches to beat the ugly into every last undeserving Zora, the mother fucker would not have been stopped.
Guy’s got control issues.
Almost positive this stress fest is an equal opportunity genocider though, so I’m not wrongly accusing him of xenophobia here.
Just mass death.
Regressing slightly, without the sprites, the visuals of the game feel as if the only way ALBW isn’t entirely faithful to the original, but still manages continuity, which counts for something. If we look at Phantom Hourglass, I feel as if Nintendo tried too hard in emulating the graphics from Wind Waker, which left Link looking like a diseased mess. Cel-shading may not be as graphically taxing as other visual styles, but you still need some capability of hardware to bring out the charm, or fail miserably in the process.
I don’t know, this is one of those moments I’m schizophrenically playing against myself, as if two sides of me (Dr. Game and Mr.Hype) are arguing against each other for what the right approach was. If ALBW was truly sprite based, would the decision have provoked more detractors to accuse Nintendo of lazy rehashing, or would Nintendo have failed to capture the visual fervor of ALttP, much like they did with Phantom Hourglass’ pursuit of Wind Waker lovely looks? Maybe the best looking reality exists between the two, where a more magically stylized art approach would have fit the bill. A kind of hand drawn inspired 2D amalgamation to really make the fantasy world pop and glisten.
Just a couple of examples from the top of my head. I know they’re all side scrollers, but I don’t believe much in the way of substance would have been lost in the perceptual transition, had Nintendo gone with something more vivid. Hell, even direct Zelda clones, like 3D Dot Heroes and Okami, tried and succeeded in pulling off some very daring visuals, and they’re all unabashed clones adhering to the sincerest form of flattery. Even from just casual debates with myself, what is the “right” art style is is a hard call, which is why maybe Nintendo decided on what they did, in picking that “Between Worlds” look. Sometimes, when you’re between a rock and a hard place, the only thing you can reasonably do is to bear down and struggle against the overwhelming powers that be.
As per my usual operating procedure, I have developed more ideas than I have time, and will effectively save the rest of my thoughts for tomorrow. Needless to say, I had a good feeling something as quality as Zelda would coax me into an imaginative fervor, and A Link Between Worlds has sparked some very needed creativity.