The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) Review

Shining through the Twilight

The long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess first launched with the Nintendo Wii. It was a great game to sell Nintendo’s new console, bringing a darker story and refined visuals to the Zelda series. In preparation of the franchise’s 30th anniversary and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess was remastered for the Nintendo Wii U. There are only a few new gameplay features, but the HD remaster looks crisper than ever and is just as fun to play as it was back in 2006.

Story

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD’s story is unchanged from the original. Its story should be familiar to anyone who has played other mainline games in the series. Link is a farm boy living in Ordon Village. Following an attack by shadowy beasts, he is suddenly transformed into a wolf and sent to the Twilight Realm where he meets Midna, an implike creature, who asks for his help in defeating the King of Twilight.

TwilightPrincessHD_Midna.jpg
Midna, the Twilight imp girl, steals the spotlight.

While the story is edgy, with some introspective cutscenes and graphic action sequences, it’s not that special. Although there are some important story sequences that adorn the first half, the second half is mostly rushed with very few important events between dungeons up until the end. It’s as if they had an idea, but decided to forgo it halfway through in favor of a focus on dungeon design. While this is actually effective from a gameplay perspective, the game is left with a half-told story and underdeveloped characters. The huge exception and saving grace is Midna, a Twilight imp brimming with personality. She is spunky and snarky, while displaying a lot of heart and dynamic character growth. The villain is also interesting and plays off of her very well. While the overall plot is decent, Midna’s tale is well-told and is worth experiencing.

Gameplay

Much like the story, gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has played a previous Zelda game, especially Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past. The opening tutorial is still a little slow, but the game grants you freedom as soon as you get through it. Exploring the world and traversing through dungeons are the two main aspects of this game. On the exploration side, Hyrule Field is a vast area filled with secrets to discover and collectibles to find. Getting around is a breeze thanks to your horse, although she has a tendency to bump into trees and cliffs if you’re not careful. The ability to brandish your sword while on horseback is exciting though not used much. Unfortunately, the field is sparse, with a small number of enemies covering its large surface area. With several towns and calmer locales making up the rest of the map, overworld exploration could easily eat up hours of playtime.

TwilightPrincessHD_Epona.jpg
Travel across the field on your faithful steed.

Dungeons are the meat of most Zelda games, and the ones in TP comprise some of the most entertaining in the series. The dungeon designs are very cohesive, with two or three central mechanics featured in each, such as controlling water flow or bringing a statue down a tall tower. These creative concepts encourage mastery of a dungeon item, which is a key weapon that helps you solve the puzzles within. Some items help you throughout the game, such as the grappling Clawshot. Many of these items are mainstays of Zelda games, but have additional clever functionality here. For instance, the Iron Boots not only let you sink in water, but also take advantage of its magnetic properties for some creative wall-climbing gameplay. However, others are less versatile and are generally mostly used in its dungeon like the wall-grinding Spinner, which is a fun item but has limited utility.

TP’s combat uses the effective L-targeting mechanic that Zelda games are known for. By using the ZL button to target your enemies, you can attack and dodge freely. Special learned moves let you vanquish foes in style. Each dungeon also ends in a boss fight, and TP has some of the most epic bosses in series history. Dungeon items are again used cleverly against these huge monsters, and nothing is more satisfying than slashing your sword continuously to finish off a boss.

TwilightPrincessHD_Combat.png
Combat is intuitive, thanks to L-targeting.

This game’s dual world mechanic is between the normal world and the Twilight Realm. You don’t actually spend much time in areas covered in Twilight, but you are forced to become a wolf form of Link during those sections. Wolf Link can’t use items and instead attacks with pounces and bites. He is clunky to fight with, but you luckily don’t have to use him much outside of the Twilight Realm sections. The realm also features a slightly time-consuming subquest in which you must collect Tears of Light hidden in a province to dispel the Twilight. While this is a little annoying, TP HD actually removes some of the Tears that were in the original games, making this subquest go by more quickly.

TwilightPrincessHD_Tears.png
Being a wolf is certainly different, but not better than regular Link.

There are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy throughout your time in Hyrule. Pieces of Heart increase your max health, although it now takes five pieces to fill a new Heart Container as opposed to the standard four, a small but noticeable change to the grind. Hidden Poe ghosts and Golden Bugs return from the original. Hidden Poes used to be a hassle to find in the original, especially since there were so many, but a new Ghost Lantern now assists you by illuminating when a Poe is nearby. New to this version are Stamps, which can be used on Miiverse posts and feature the Hylian alphabet and other fun images. Although they aren’t that useful, they are placed in new hard-to-reach locations or replace other items in select chests to give veterans something new search for.

TwilightPrincessHD_Dungeon.jpg
There are some new collectible secrets to discover in these intricate dungeons.

There aren’t many new additional features in TP HD. The world map is no longer reversed as it was in the Wii version. In fact, the non-mirrored map combined with button inputs replacing waggle motion controls makes this entry more similar to the original GameCube version. The Wii U GamePad is used effectively, allowing you to manage items on the fly. You can also look at a map, your status, or play completely on the GamePad if you desire. Additionally, the GamePad’s gyroscope assists your aim when using items like the Bow or Clawshots. Finally, there is amiibo support, though only for Zelda-themed amiibo. For the most part, you can either refill arrows, restore health, or double damage inflicted on yourself with compatible amiibo. Wolf Link’s amiibo, which comes with some copies of the game, offers an additional enemy rush dungeon – the Cave of Shadows – which you must complete as Wolf Link. This is a true challenge, testing players’ skills with the hard-to-use wolf form, though this bonus feature doesn’t add that much for those only interested in the main game.

Graphics and Sound

Twilight Princess looks beautiful in HD. Character models are more refined, cutscenes show off better detail, and the world is impressive to gaze at. Additionally, the game looks a little cleaner, lacking a yellow filter that was present in the original. The artstyle is still a little on the ugly side, with character designs that are only memorable for looking bad. The main cast looks better and smoother than ever though.

TwilightPrincessHD_WolfLink.png
The world looks better and less yellow than the original version.

The music is well-composed and resembles an orchestral sound. There are many great tracks from the calm Lake Hylia to the spaghetti western stylings of the Hidden Village. The overworld theme has also become iconic with the music changing depending on the time of day and current location. The music effectively sets the mood with a good mix of melancholic tunes and triumphant tracks. The music that plays when you are wailing at a boss is still one of the most fist-pumping songs in any Zelda game. Unfortunately, there isn’t voice acting, unless you count Midna’s garbled Twilight language. It’s easier to forgive since there was no voice acting in the original game, nor has the series had it up to this point. However, the cinematic sequences and characters’ lips syncing to the dialogue make this lack of voices more apparent and even a little awkward.

Playtime/Replayability

The game is lengthy, taking anywhere between 35-50 hours, depending on how much you explore and how many collectibles you are aiming for. A perfect 100% file can take very long just based on the sheer amount of collectible items alone. A new Hero Mode, in which hearts don’t appear and Link takes double damage, is available from the beginning, so challenge-driven veterans can dive right in. Hero Mode is also flipped, which matches the mirrored orientation of the Wii version. The Cave of Shadows, the new Wolf Link exclusive dungeon unlocked by scanning its amiibo, also increases replay value.

TwilightPrincessHD_Epona2.jpg
If you wanted a flashy Zelda game, then you’re in luck!

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an astounding remaster worth replaying. Even if Nintendo didn’t add anything to the game, it would have already been a fun experience thanks to the clever dungeon design and large explorable overworld. The game has some trouble finding a good pace with a slow opening and a more rushed second half, but the game is overall solidly designed with intuitive puzzles and unique items. Characters are mostly missed opportunities, but the playful Midna makes up for it and steals the spotlight. The added Cave of Shadows, amiibo support, Hero Mode, Stamps, and different control schemes go a long way in making this feel like a unique experience, especially if you’ve only played the Wii version. Twilight Princess takes the beloved mechanics of the 3D Zelda entries and refines it superbly. This beautiful HD remaster is worth playing for anyone who loves the Zelda series.

Score: 9/10

What are your thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, both original and remastered? Do you have any fond memories of this game? What are your favorite dungeons and items from Twilight Princess? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below!

Advertisements

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Comprehensive Preview and Analysis

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

Nintendo delivered on their promise to bring a full day of their newest Zelda game at E3 2016. Each stream featured a great amount of footage focusing on different aspects of the gameplay, from exploration to combat. Nintendo kicked off with a gorgeous trailer of the game. Read on to find out more about the new gameplay, enhanced equipment system, exciting combat, expansive map, puzzle-filled Shrines, special Rune powers, unique aesthetics, and amiibo support. I’ll also be examining other things such as the voice in the trailer, where this is in the world, the Sheikah technology, and where this could possibly fit on the timeline. Get ready for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!

BotW_Art.jpg
Promotional art for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Initial Gameplay Demo

The game demo begins with a female voice, speaking with full English voice acting! This is definitely an exciting change from all previous Zelda games, and will hopefully make the world feel richer. While she talks at the beginning and once another time to give Link a hint about where to go, she is generally quiet. There hasn’t been other voice acting so far besides Link’s usual grunts, and all other dialogue is displayed through the usual text boxes. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome change of pace to have real voice acting.

The voice tells Link to wake up, and we see a nearly naked Link submerged in a black tublike pod. It’s not clear where he is or why he was sleeping there, but he is told by the disembodied voice to activate a small obelisk, from which he gains the Sheikah Slate, an item resembling the Wii U GamePad that Link uses to look at maps and activate special powers.

BotW_Link.jpg
Eat your heart out, Shulk.

Following this, some important things happen that teach gamers some crucial mechanics. First of all, there are treasure chests with some clothes for our bare hero. Link can now equip different tops and bottoms that give him more defense, which is a stat that wasn’t present in older Zelda titles. In the official trailer, Link can be seen wearing knight armor and later streams show Link wearing the iconic blue tunic from initial trailers. There appears to be a variety of clothes that affect his defense as well as how warm or cold he is.

A second big mechanic is that Link can finally jump with the press of a button! This mostly comes into play when jumping onto cliffs to climb them or when trying to reach items in trees. Regardless, it’s a huge upgrade for the usually earthbound hero. Scaling cliffs is also a big part, allowing you to go past the boundaries of where you could reach before. There is a stamina meter, represented by a depleting green circle. Similar to Skyward Sword, stamina decreases as you run and climb. Naturally, this means that there is a limit to how high you can go. Hopefully, there is a way to eventually increase stamina.

BotW_Light.jpg
Intriguing, and yes, this part is voiced.

Link finally escapes the cave and runs towards a cliff. Accompanied by a beautiful piano track, Link reaches the edge of the cliff, and players are greeted with a wondrous view of the expansive environment. In the distance, you can see many mountains – a tribute to one of the original illustrations for The Legend of Zelda for the NES, in which Link stands on a cliff overlooking Hyrule. Other locations you can see in the distance include a vast forest, an old monastery, and what appears to be Death Mountain.

BotW_Cliff.JPEG
The view is utterly breathtaking.

The screen shows you an old man walking towards a bonfire, then leaves you to your own desires. You could go to the old man, and the disembodied voice tells you that you might want to use your Sheikah Stone to find out where to go. But you are otherwise free to do whatever you want. Seriously. You can explore anywhere that you can see, and although the game demo is limited to the opening area, you may be able to go further in the full game. Even on the way to the old man, there are so many distractors, from trees and cliffs that you can climb to apples and mushrooms that sparkle, awaiting your attention.

This freedom is one of the best parts about Breath of the Wild. Like in the original NES LoZ, you can do anything. Of course, there is a path that you must ultimately follow to get through the game. Even then, like in the original and A Link Between Worlds, you can go at it in any order you like. Explore until you find a place of interest, then choose to conquer it now or wait until you’re better prepared. Additionally, you can play the game however you like, with a myriad of ways to solve puzzles or get through enemies. What items or abilities will you use to solve the puzzle? How far outside the box can you think using the resources you have? Do you sneak up on enemies, perform an all-out assault, or attack enemies from afar? Everything is your choice, and the wealth of actions you can perform in a single area is remarkable. And we’re only talking about the demo so far!

Finally, it’s amazing that the game does not start out with a proper tutorial as has been the recent trend with Zelda games. Instead, they give you an opening cave (without telling you what to do), and then throw you out into the world with vague hints about where you need to be. There is no partner like Navi or Midna, nor are there objectives constantly reminding you where to go. Just explore and figure it out yourself, because it’s a big world out there. This is just the injection of exploration this series needed, and I’m glad to see that the team is delivering on their promise to bring forth an expansive open-ended world!

BotW_Combat2.jpg
How will you fight?

Weapons and Items

Like in other open-world games, Link can now switch weapons with a few simple button presses. Different weapons have varying attack strengths, as to be expected. The bigger change is that Link can use a myriad of weapon types. Unlike in older Zelda games, these weapons are not subweapons, but rather a complete alternative to the sword. For example, Link can wield spears which have a longer reach and axes that can also chop down trees. He can throw certain weapons too, which can especially help if your weapons are on fire, in the case of flinging burning sticks.

As you use weapons, they eventually degrade, which is a bit unfortunate. However, weapons are quite plentiful in the world apparently, at least according to the demo. There are different weapons lying about in the many chests throughout the land, as well as swords just sitting on pedestals, awaiting your control.

Stealing enemies’ weapons is a mechanic that returns from The Wind Waker. Here, it’s as important as ever since you get to keep the dropped weapons. You can only keep a limited amount of weapons in your inventory. If your stock is full, you must drop or use up a weapon in order to pick up another. This constant item management may sound cumbersome, but it will likely become strategic and exciting as more new and exciting weapons open up.

BotW_Cooking.jpg
Hopefully Link’s cooking something that won’t give him the breath of the wild…

Hunting and foraging will also be important, as they may be one of the few ways to regain health. Cutting grass and defeating enemies appear to no longer drop hearts. Instead, you must eat the items you collect, such as acorns, mushrooms, peppers, and meat. Each item gives you a certain amount of health, which is indicated in the item description. Ingredients can eventually be mixed and cooked to create new dishes. Raw ingredients net you less hearts, while well-cooked items can give you more health back. Specific foods provide other bonuses such as cold resistance. Other foods may even temporarily increase your max health, indicated by yellow hearts extending past your current maximum health gauge. Although no Heart Containers or Pieces of Heart were obtained during the demos, the amount of hearts that can be regained on some foods exceed the initial 3. This implies that there will still be ways to increase your maximum health. On a final note regarding items, Rupees were not seen once during any of the gameplay streams, indicating that they might not be necessary in this game. It would be interesting if this were the first Zelda game to not include Rupees.

Two other pieces of equipment are your sailcloth paraglider (similar to Skyward Sword’s) and shields. Using your paraglider, you can float away to far distances. Shields also function similarly to weapons, and you can find stronger shields as you progress. The real treat of shields this time around is using them as snowboards! Sliding down ramps with an item intended for defense is a fun touch.

Combat and Enemies

Combat is similar to other titles, with the classic L-Targeting system returning. Arrows appear above enemies that you can target. Once your sights are set on an enemy, you can perform the typical L-Targeting attacks such as jump attacks and backflips (as seen in the trailer). Although this iteration takes away the motion control combat of Skyward Sword, Link still attacks enemies with different angles of sword slices. He can also perform the iconic Spin Attack.

BotW_Combat.jpeg
Combat will be as fun as ever.

If Link attacks an enemy with perfect timing, he will activate a Flurry Rush, in which the enemy slows down for a moment, allowing Link to counter with a barrage of attacks. It’s not clear exactly what perfect timing means, but it’ll probably become easier to do with experience.

Enemies seen throughout the demos include Bokoblins (very common), Chuchus of different colors, and one-eyed Keese. There are many ways to take them down besides regular attacks. You can use a bow and arrow to take them out from afar, or even target explosive barrels to annihilate a group of foes. You can even roll boulders down cliffs to smash enemies as seen in the trailer. Enemies have interesting AI this time around, and will readily respond accordingly to your actions. If you are quiet, they may not notice you at all, but if you slip and make a tiny sound, they will have a question mark appear above their heads and search for the noise. Exclamation marks notify players that enemies have found you and are ready to respond. They don’t just stand around either. Some enemies will immediately head towards you, while some will try to surround you, hoping that its partners will do likewise. There will be plenty of enemy groups in the forms of camps and tree forts, and it will be interesting to see how the battles will differ based on the groups. You can use the Shiekah Slate to see an enemy’s current and maximum hit points, which helps to gauge whether you should engage it or not.

BotW_Guardian.jpg
Guardians pose bigger threats to our hero.

There are also bigger enemies, which are much stronger and have more hit points than the typical enemy. Two big enemies shown were the Steppe Talus, the golem seen in the trailer (who also gave the Treehouse their first Game Over), and the Guardian. The latter is an interesting creature featured prominently in the trailer as a technological being that shoots lasers. When you initially encounter them, they appear to be turned off and in ruin. However, they eventually awaken and cause havoc with their lasers and long tentacles. One of the first Guardians that appear in the demo sports an impressive 500 HP. For comparison, a scanned Bokoblin only had 13 HP.

Maps and HUDs

The map alone reveals that this is a huge game and the biggest Zelda overworld yet! Getting around will require strategic use of the new Sheikah Slate, the GamePad-like item that Link finds at the beginning of the demo. Using the Sheikah Slate’s Scope, you can look in first-person and examine landmarks that you see in the distance. You can place a pin on anything that you find interesting, and it will be marked with a red symbol on your map. The world is so massive that just because you pin something that you can see, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to you. At one point, Treehouse pinned a tower that ended up being way past the opening area. Important areas receive special blue pins that allow you to fast-travel to those locations.

You can also place different stamps wherever you want on the map to remind you of important things. For instance, you may want to put a skull stamp on a big enemy that you can’t defeat yet and a treasure stamp on an area where there are chests that you can’t quite reach yet.

BotW_Map.png
This is just a small part of a big world.

The demo only includes the Great Plateau (although Treehouse streamers did eventually start up games in areas outside of it). The Great Plateau alone looks bigger than Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule Field, and there are many more huge areas that can just barely be seen on what little of the world map they’ve shown us. This extraordinarily massive world should please any fan of exploration.

The Great Plateau includes a wide array of locations and terrains, for what is considered a “smaller” area. From the map and gameplay, you can see Mt. Hylia in the southwest corner (an icy area that includes the highest peak in the plateau), the Forest of Spirits in the north, the Hylia River that goes past the left side of the plateau, and the Temple of Time. In particular, the Temple of Time appears to be a ruinous area with overgrown vines and seemingly dead Guardians. The end of the trailer shows the iconic Master Sword, somewhat rusted and sitting on an old pedestal. At the moment, it is unknown if it is in the Temple of Time, but it can be assumed that you’ll be able to get it at some point.

BotW_Battle.jpg
The Great Plateau is filled with different environments and terrains.

The heads-up display, or HUD, reveals some gameplay elements. On the lower right, there is a circular mini-map that shows where you’re going. An interesting change is that on the bottom of the map is the current in-game time. The game is heavily impacted by what time it is, such as a day/night cycle, temperature changes depending on what time it is, and enemies being asleep at certain times. The game follows a 24 hour day cycle, but 5 seconds of real time equate to 5 minutes of in-game time.

BotW_Guardian2
The game will be epic. Also, notice the lower right corner.

Just left of that are two smaller circles. The top one is a temperature gauge that can inform players if it may be too cold or hot for Link. If it’s too cold, Link can put on clothes (which one Treehouse streamer refused to do because she preferred shirtless Link!), or eat certain foods like Spicy Peppers that increase his cold resistance. Below that is a purple sonograph that records how much sound you’re currently making. This is important for measuring how stealthy you are when approaching enemies. This will likely also come into play if BotW follows the trend of having an obligatory stealth area.

Shrines and Runes

Breath of the Wild features both dungeons and shrines. The former was never shown on a stream, but was mentioned as being more or less a typical Zelda dungeon experience. Shrines, on the other hand, are new mini-dungeons that test your mettle with a certain type of puzzle or ability. The first 4 Shrines are not too long and only took Treehouse streamers about 10-15 minutes each, but later shrines will be longer. There are over 100 of these mini-dungeons, ensuring no end to those seeking puzzle-room gameplay.

BotW_Shrine.png
These shrines are scattered throughout the world.

The first 4 Shrines are required to obtain the sailcloth from the old man, but they can be attempted in any order. Within these beginner shrines, Link is able to update the Sheikah Slate with a Rune, or special ability that can be activated at will. Think of Runes like apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone. The runes we saw were remote bombs, magnetic powers, ice pillar creation, and stopping time. These Runes are more versatile than they seem. For instance, Magnesis can be used to pick up metal slabs on the floor, open doors, and pull treasure chests towards you. Remote Bombs come in both round and cube forms, forcing you to choose whichever one works for a given situation. Creating ice pillars is a fun throwback to the Cane of Somaria, which allowed players to create blocks out of nothing in A Link to the Past. Through the Cryonis Rune, you can make a climbable pillar of ice emerge from water without the need for Ice Arrows. Finally, you can stop time for a single item using the Stasis Rune. An obvious use is stopping moving platforms and gears. However, Treehouse showed an interesting use as well. By wailing on the item in stasis, you can build up force applied to it. Once stasis expires on the item, it will go flying. It’ll definitely be exciting to see how these Runes impact gameplay and promote further exploration and shenanigans!

BotW_Magnesis.png
Behold the power of Magnesis!

Graphics and Sound

The graphics look incredibly gorgeous so far, showing off a gouache painting style, signified by its opaque watercolors. It resembles an even more realized version of Skyward Sword’s graphics. The game comes alive with each item fitting into the world, and yet standing out so beautifully. The Treehouse team likened it to an artform called open-air painting, as if the artists sat down in front of an object and painted it in a real-world setting. There is a lot of attention to detail as well, with particles of soot falling down from the mountaintop and Link’s clothes dripping wet when emerging from water.

BotW_Sailcloth.png
Beautiful.

On the music side, BotW distinctly lacks it. Most of the time, you will only hear sound effects. Occasionally, pieces of music will play like the beautiful piano piece heard when Link first stands on the cliff’s edge and a sweet piece while Link is floating with his sailcloth. Music will also play during enemy battles, but it’s not as loud as in previous titles. In fact, the music is sometimes not that noticeable when immersed in gameplay. It’s as if the music just flows naturally, coming and going. This choice was made to account for everyone’s unique experience with the game. Everyone will play in a different style, and the musical pieces that play will represent that. Music will play during key moments, likely evoking emotions in players. The Treehouse promises an aural experience with music that will resonate and stand out when juxtaposed with the overall lack of music. As a fan of Zelda music, I firmly hope this is true.

There will be voice acting, and it will be for more than the woman from the beginning. Not every character will be voiced, as seen through the old men who only communicates via text boxes. However, there will be more voices, most likely main characters. Link will remain silent as usual, only making grunting noises and shouts.

amiibo Support

Four amiibo were announced to be compatible with BotW. Three of them are brand new figurines created for the game and include “Archer Link,” “Rider Link,” and a “Guardian.” The Guardian will be the first amiibo to include posable parts (its tentacles). The functionality has not been revealed yet.

The 4th compatible amiibo is an already existing amiibo, Wolf Link. This amiibo originally came with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U. When scanned with BotW, Wolf Link will suddenly appear next to regular Link. In what is the cutest functionality of any amiibo, Wolf Link will fight alongside you, hunting for food while you run around. Your faithful wolf companion comes with 3 hearts, but you can increase that number based on how many hearts you have saved onto the amiibo when scanning it in Twilight Princess HD. Once Wolf Link dies, you must wait a full day in real life before scanning it again.

BotW_WolfLink.png
Wolf Link will be by your side.

Theories & Analysis

Here, I will present some quick thoughts on questions and speculations based on my analysis of the gameplay and trailers. The following represents possibilities based on what already exists, but does not necessarily indicate the truth of what’s going on, as we lack pretty much all story information and a full game. This makes talking about it even more exciting, though!

Mysterious Female Voice

Starting off, who is that mysterious female voice who tells Link to wake up? The most obvious speculation is that it’s Zelda. In A Link to the Past, the game begins with Zelda crying to Link for help through some telekinetic power. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the same is happening here. The disembodied voice also seems to know that Link is the special light in the world who will shine throughout Hyrule. It could still be any other female sage or maiden, as in other Zelda games, but Zelda herself would be the most likely and probably best choice. Also, it’s interesting that she calls him Link. That would imply that you can’t change the name, since it’s already been voiced so clearly.

Link’s Awakening

In fact, the bigger question is where is Link when he starts off the demo? Assuming this is also the start of the game, Link begins by opening his eyes. Lying nearly submerged in a black tub filled with water, it seems like he was sleeping for quite some time. Either that, or Link has some odd sleep habits. Link usually begins his games by waking up, but this is a unique case where he was sleeping inside of a cave. So why was he sleeping and how did he lock himself in that cave? Maybe he was put there, left in stasis until a certain time when he’d be needed. Perhaps this slumber was longer than a typical sleep. He may even be a Link from long ago (not necessarily from an older game, but a Link that was put to sleep until evil arose).  Either way, he was woken up by a voice telling him to open his eyes, so that might have been the magic trigger to summon the Hero of Time.

BotW_Wings.jpg
Hmm, where is Link?

Where in the World is Link?

We know that the game begins in the Great Plateau. We also know that this place is indeed known as Hyrule, according to the first old man Link encounters. However, where is the Great Plateau exactly? Brief glimpses of the map indicate that this is part of an area known as Central Hyrule and that the Temple of Time is an area within it. In Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and The Wind Waker, the Temple of Time is indeed somewhere around the middle (not perfectly so). Depending on where this is in the timeline, this is likely that same area, based on the Temple of Time’s location alone. There are other interesting areas on the Great Plateau like Mt. Hylia that are not accounted for on a regular map, and we don’t know exactly what lies outside. The exception is a mysterious black castle surrounded by pink mist. This is probably Ganon’s Castle, though it’s very unclear. Interestingly enough, there is a shadow monster with pink mist in the trailer, so perhaps that’s related to this mysterious castle’s surroundings.

BotW_Rock.jpg
Of course, Link could be in the world of Xenbolade Chronicles X.

Where does this fit on the timeline?

The Legend of Zelda timeline is extremely complicated, so this is written with the assumption that you know what the timeline looks like. Here are our big clues to figuring this out.

  1. There are old men that look very similar to the ones in the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.
  2. According to the old man, they are in Hyrule.
  3. Ganon, both the creature and the name, exist in this time.
  4. The Temple of Time is present, but in ruins.
  5. Guardians seem to represent old technology, similarly to the robots from Skyward Sword.
  6. The Sheikah Slate and symbol exist, representing technology again as well as the presence of the Sheikah.
  7. The Master Sword is in the trailer, and is rusted.
  8. A location that resembles Eldin Bridge appears in the trailer.
  9. Koroks, the cute leaf creatures from The Wind Waker,
BotW_Bridge.jpg
Is that Eldin Bridge?

The final clue alone is huge enough to narrow it down, but let’s look at the other clues as well. The old men in this game (and the fact that there is a reference to an original NES Zelda illustration within the first few minutes of the game) appear to be throwbacks to the original Legend of Zelda. It makes sense given the open-world gameplay of BotW and its insistence on making players feel like they’re playing a fully realized 3D version of the classic game. So although it feels like it could just be along the timeline of the original games, it’s hard to say judging just based on that.

Ganon exists in this timeline, so it is most likely after Ocarina of Time, since Ganon in his recognizable pig form (or thief form) has never been in a game before OoT in the timeline. This makes it complicated, since there are three alternate branches following OoT, but it helps to know that our favorite pigman is already well-known.

The Temple of Time’s presence helps confirm this, since it has also not been in a game preceding OoT. It has only been in the child and adult timeline branches so far, in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess (in ruins and in past form) respectively. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be in the timeline in which the hero dies. However, there are already so many games in that timeline without the Temple that it’s likely that Ganon destroyed it upon winning during Ocarina of Time. The Master Sword is rusted in the trailer. Although the Temple of Time is also in ruins and filled with overgrown vines in Twilight Princess, the Master Sword seemed pretty nice and pristine when Link picked it up in that game. In contrast, The Wind Waker had a world of ruin already, and there was no chance any regular Joe was going to get the Master Sword. This is due to the hero being forgotten, which I’ll come back to in a second.

The Sheikah race exists, based on the fact that there is a key item known as the Sheikah Slate. The Sheikah race has always protected Princess Zelda, starting with Impa in Skyward Sword. However, we don’t regularly see Sheikah in games following Ocarina of Time. We do see Impa sometimes, but she is never confirmed to be a Sheikah in games following OoT. Based on the Sheikah Slate’s importance and the fact that everyone at Nintendo is wearing a shirt with the Sheikah symbol on it, they are probably important in the game, and we will likely learn more about it. Thus, it doesn’t help us at the moment to know about the Sheikah.

BotW_SheikahSlate.jpg
There is some interesting technology in BotW.

What is more useful is the fact that both the Sheikah Slate and Guardians seem to represent old technology. We saw technology in Skyward Sword through the Ancient Robots, which could only be activated in the past. Even in the first confirmed game in the timeline, robots were considered ancient technology. What’s most mysterious is the fact that the Sheikah Slate and Guardians appear to be working in this point in time with seemingly no explanation. As established before, the game could not take place before Skyward Sword, so an explanation for this technology is unclear.

Our final two clues reflect two completely different timelines. The place resembling Eldin Bridge, from Twilight Princess is seen briefly in the trailer. Koroks, leaf creatures from The Wind Waker are seen throughout the livestream gameplay. It’s unclear whether it is the Eldin Bridge, and it wouldn’t be unheard of if something like the Eldin Bridge also existed in the Wind Waker timeline. Plus, Koroks are living forest spirits that were only in The Wind Waker, making somewhere in that timeline the probable answer.

BotW_Korok.jpeg
Koroks are back!

As to when exactly it takes place, there are two possibilities. It could be sometime following The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass saga, in a world where land has finally come back, ripe for exploring. There are 100 years that take place in-between PH and its sequel, Spirit Tracks, so it’s entirely possible we’re looking at the rebirth of Hyrule (you know, before they added trains). The name Breath of the Wild implies wild exploration and what’s wilder than venturing through an unknown land. My initial thought while watching the streams was that this could be directly following Skyward Sword in which a new Link is exploring the unknown land of Hyrule. However, that contradicts every paragraph before this, so this is the other land to pioneer.

BotW could also theoretically take place before The Wind Waker, highlighting the downfall of Hyrule before the water appears. This makes a little less sense to me since the reason Ganon took over the world in that timeline was because adult Link wasn’t there to stop him anymore. So unless BotW has a tragic end, this seems less likely. Plus Koroks already exist, and I assume that they and the Rito tribe (also from TWW) came to be after Hyrule was flooded.

One thing to note is that they have confirmed that there will be towns and people in the game, but that it would spoil the story. Perhaps it would be spoiled because these would all be upstart towns. It might reveal that people are just looking for places to inhabit. This is all theory, but this is why I believe the proper place in the timeline for Breath of the Wild is between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks when the land of Hyrule returned to the world.

BotW_MasterSword.jpg
Will we be able to get the fabled Master Sword? Find out in March 2017.

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is slated for March 2017 and will release for both the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo NX consoles. There are no indications that they will be different. By next year, many players will be able to experience this absolutely massive game, filled with the open-world that producer Eiji Aonuma has always promised. It is yet unknown how expansive the world will be, but given the map and the incredible length of the demo for a singular area, this game will be packed to the brim with content. And that content will be amazing, with lots of unique weapons, puzzle-filled shrines and dungeons, fun Runes that change the game, and a story that unfolds itself as you learn about the lore. Backed by gorgeous graphics and beautiful piano pieces, this game is already primed to be amazing.

Most importantly, the game looks fun! Everyone at Treehouse Live was just enjoying the game, whether using runes to make mischief or just doing wacky things on screen. The sky’s the limit for this game, and you can play it however you want. That’s the best part about it. I look forward to diving into this open world, speculating about this iteration of Hyrule, and experiencing the largest game in The Legend of Zelda franchise with you when the game finally releases!

Source: Nintendo YouTubeNintendo Twitch

What are your thoughts so far on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Are you looking forward to playing it? What is the best thing you’ve seen so far for it? If you’re at E3, have you played it and what do you think? What are your own theories and speculations regarding the game and what are your thoughts on my own theories? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge (Wii U/3DS) Review

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Buy More amiibo!

Nintendo created amiibo, figurines of Nintendo characters that can be scanned into games to unlock features, to compete with other “toys-to-life” games such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity.  While amiibo are nice collectibles, they are rarely used in an engrossing way.  Nintendo’s first game requiring amiibo, amiibo tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits, was nothing more than glorified game demos.  Its second foray was Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, which merely used the figures as board game pawns.  Neither of these titles even came close to matching the thrill of competitors’ games in which scanning a toy allowed you to play as that character throughout the game.  Finally, Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge arrived onto the Wii U and 3DS as a third attempt at being an amiibo-required game as well as a sequel to the long-running Mario vs. Donkey Kong series.

Gameplay

Although Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge plays similarly to previous entries in the MvDK series, the catch is that this game requires amiibo to play as certain characters.  In fact, until you scan an amiibo, you can’t even get past the title screen.  Upon starting the game, you are greeted with the character whom you’ve unlocked through your amiibo.  If you use a compatible character, which includes 10 Mario and Donkey Kong series characters (sorry Wario fans!), then a robotic Mini version of him or her comes to life.  If you scan any other amiibo aside from these choices, you instead activate Mini Spek, a plain robot who doesn’t unlock any exclusive content.  Note that any version of a character’s amiibo should work.  For instance, Yarn Yoshi, Skylanders Hammer Slam Bowser, and 25th Anniversary Mario unlock their corresponding Minis.

MiniMario Wall Jump.jpg
Use amiibo to unlock your favorite characters. Mini Mario can wall-jump!

Regardless of which character you’ve chosen, core gameplay is similar: Guide Minis to their destination using the touch screen.  The Minis move on their own, and you can’t actually control them aside from tapping them to give them a speed boost.  Instead, you control elements within the stage by touching them with your stylus.  For example, you can make platforms and walls by connecting two ends of a girder.  You can also tap objects to activate or deactivate them, which may look like rearranging springs to help bounce Minis upwards or configuring where pipes lead Minis.  Resources are limited, so you will have to deactivate some objects before you can activate others, or collect more girders/springs along the way.  Minis are always on the move, so the challenge is in solving the stage’s puzzles while ensuring that your Minis are always on a safe and correct path.  Each of the dozen base game stages introduces a new element that you must learn how to effectively use.  However, none of these core elements are novel for anyone who has played any previous game in the franchise.  The uninspired gameplay will do little to impress series veterans.

MiniMario Regular Stage.jpg
The core game’s stages include elements familiar to series veterans, from girders to pink blocks.

Amiibo Exclusives

The real fun comes in using the special amiibo characters.  Each character (except Mini Spek) has a unique ability.  For example, Yoshi can eat enemies, Mario performs wall-jumps, Bowser can do a butt-stomp, and Bowser Jr. can travel on spikes using his Clown Car.  During normal stages, these abilities will only really help you get collectible amiibo cards.  Each card can only be collected by the character who’s pictured on it, so it’s usually obvious where you can use your special moves.  It makes these unique attributes feel like afterthoughts as opposed to true game changers, at least during the base game.  This decision is a result of requiring that any character can beat every level.  I would have liked it if they had instead implemented multiple routes, making characters stand out while still allowing completion with any character.  However, this game instead opts to present a simpler stage layout with one equally accessible path.  Besides gathering cards, amiibo characters can also go through doors with their picture displayed.  These doors take you to the most exciting part of the game, the exclusive character worlds.

MiniMario World Map.jpg
A view of the world map – Notice the themed character worlds.

Each door takes a character to a set of four levels that only he or she can enter.  Although these levels are gated off unless you have certain amiibo, they lead to the most entertaining moments in the game.  These exclusive stages incorporate characters’ abilities more seamlessly than in regular levels.  Not only that, but each exclusive world introduces brand new stage elements that are only found within its 4 levels.  These new features are fresh and exciting, changing up gameplay drastically.  They also fit within the world’s theme, usually referencing the character and the games they hail from.  For instance, Yoshi’s (Island) World has eggs that can be fired and ricocheted off walls, Luigi’s (Mansion) World includes Boos and blocks that can be made transparent by lighting or blowing out candles, and Rosalina’s (Galaxy) World features Pull Stars that bring her into their gravitational pulls when activated.  Even Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong borrow mechanics from the Donkey Kong Country series such as Blast Barrels and Mine Carts.  Each stage builds upon its own mechanics as well as the elements established in the base game for some of the most clever gameplay seen in the series yet.  Although I’m not the biggest fan of Minis games, I had genuine fun learning these new mechanics and integrating them with characters’ abilities.

MiniMario Luigi.jpg
Mini Luigi’s stages have a Luigi’s Mansion theme, featuring Boos and candles.

All of this fun comes at a price, however.  Although the game is technically free-to-download, you must have the appropriate amiibo to play with particular characters.  One Mario series character will unlock a dozen levels in the base game as well as his or her exclusive world.  After beating everything, you technically don’t need to enter any level you’ve previously completed aside from collecting amiibo cards and going through character-specific doorways.  This means that each amiibo from here on out will only unlock 4 levels.  Although they’re fun levels, the low amount of content you unlock with each figure hardly justifies their purchase.  Additionally, you have to manually scan in an amiibo every time you want to switch characters.  This tedious action prevents you from just borrowing an amiibo to unlock stages once.  You essentially have to own the amiibo or persuade an extremely nice collector to lend you their precious figurines.   This makes the price to value ratio utterly ridiculous considering how expensive they can get.

MiniMario DK.jpg
Even Blast Barrels from the Donkey Kong Country series make an appearance here!

It would have been preferable if this game had a standard eShop price that included all levels.  At the very least, it would have been nice if the base game was included as a free-to-play demo with amiibo unlocking the more interesting features.  As it stands, this game is simply not accessible for many people who don’t have the required amiibo, which is a shame considering how entertaining it can be.

MiniMario Toad.png
Mini Toad’s levels feature mushroom springs. Time for adventure!

Graphics and Sound

The game has a simple 2D artstyle that looks very similar to previous MvDK games.  In fact, this game doesn’t look that much nicer than its DS entries.  Both Wii U and 3DS versions have similar graphics with Wii U producing only slightly better graphics.  In both versions, you can see the whole screen on the top screen (or TV in Wii U’s case), but it can end up looking very tiny depending on how big the stage is.

MiniMario Rosalina.jpg
A view of the TV screen on the Wii U version – The aesthetics of each level resemble the source material, in this case, Super Mario Galaxy.

The music is similar to previous affairs as well, with reused tunes making up the base game’s soundtrack.  The real treat lies in the character exclusive stages, where remixes of popular songs play from Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi’s Mansion, Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country, and other Mario series games.  Sound effects are all appropriate as well, with plenty of mechanic and robotic noises.

MiniMario Peach.jpg
Hear remixes of your favorite tunes, including Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64!

Replayability

The base game, not taking into account amiibo exclusive stages, is only about an hour or two long.  Each character-exclusive world adds another 20-30 minutes or so to the overall time.  Stages are meant to be replayed for high scores and gold trophies, which ask players to collect all the coins and beat the stage in the fastest possible time.  You will have to revisit stages with certain characters to collect amiibo cards to get 100%.  Depending on how many of these cards you collect, you may also find some hidden bonuses that extend the life of this game and utilize the exclusive stage mechanics in even more novel ways.  Overall, this game is fairly short, even with every stage unlocked.

MiniMarioFriends Flagpole
See you at the goal!

Conclusion

Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is an interesting amiibo-requiring installment that ultimately fails to live up to fans’ expectations of what an “amiibo game” should be.  As its most positive aspect, the stages that amiibo characters unlock contain some of the most engaging mechanics seen in any Mario vs. Donkey Kong game.  However, as fun as the exclusive stages are, this experience is hardly in the same domain as games like Skylanders that truly incorporate its toys in a compelling way.  Instead, this game is merely pay-walled by these pricey figures yet offers so little in return.  If you don’t have any amiibo, there’s no need to even download this game.  If you have at least one of the amiibo, you can play the simple base game, more so if you have a compatible character.  However, getting more figurines for this game alone is hardly a justifiable purchase.  Those who already have a complete compatible bundle of amiibo will find a decently fun game that acts as more of a bonus for having such a hefty collection.

Score: 6.5/10

What are your thoughts on Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge?  What do you think about the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series in general?  How do you feel about this game requiring amiibo?  What are your thoughts on amiibo and what should Nintendo do with them?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Note: The copies used for this review were the Wii U and 3DS versions.  Every compatible amiibo was used for this review.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U) Review

An Experience That’s Out of This World

The Star Fox series began on the Super Nintendo as a polygonal on-rails space shooter.  Although primitive by comparison to today’s standards, its graphics and fast-paced behind-the-ship gameplay was revolutionary for its time.  This would set the standard for its 3D reboot, Star Fox 64.  Though it had the same plot, this entry brought its own innovation with rumble capability (via the Rumble Pak) and more realistic graphics.  A couple of decades later, after several games were met with mixed fan reception, the series is flying back for a 2nd franchise reboot, Star Fox Zero.

Like its predecessors, Star Fox Zero aims to innovate with a complete revamping of its controls.  Using the Wii U GamePad’s gyro sensor, players can now use motion controls to aim their shots while simultaneously controlling their ship on the TV.  The end result is an immersive experience like no other.  However, the controls come with faults that could have been addressed by having an alternative control scheme.  Despite its flaws, Star Fox Zero remains an entertaining game that evolves the series.

Star Fox Zero TV View
The classic fast-paced space shooter returns.

Story

Star Fox Zero is a reboot of Star Fox 64 (which in turn was a reboot of the original), so it should come as no surprise that the plot is nearly identical.  Fox and his anthropomorphic team of Arwing pilots – Falco, Peppy, and Slippy – are on a mission to stop the evil scientist Andross from dominating the Lylat System.  Series veterans will undoubtedly recognize this story, and remastered Star Fox 64 cutscenes further illustrate the similarities.  There are some minor differences throughout the story, but they do not change the overall plot.  It would have been nice for the series to have progressed the timeline since it feels like we just received a reboot from the 3D remake of Star Fox 64.  Veterans will instead retread planets from the previous games, albeit with different missions, obstacle placement, and gameplay.  At the very least, it remains a good story, and newcomers will be able to enjoy it for the first time.

Star Fox Slippy.jpg
Fox!  Get this guy off me!

Gameplay

Star Fox Zero employs a mission structure in which you travel to different planets and areas in space to engage in fast-paced space shooter gameplay.  For most missions, you are in in an Arwing spaceship and fly through on-rails segments in which you automatically travel along a fixed path.  While steering, you must dodge enemy fire and obstacles while shooting back with lasers.  Occasionally, you will enter all-range mode, where you can fly anywhere within a radius.  These segments are used most often for dogfights and bosses.  Between the two, on-rails sections are much more enjoyable and are just as fun as they’ve ever been.  However, there aren’t as many completely on-rails missions as I’d like.  End-level bosses are now all-range to accommodate and show off the new dual-screen gameplay, which make them more difficult than and not as fun as the on-rails bosses of the past.  Additional vehicles and transformations also steal the spotlight from traditional Arwing sections, which is a shame because they are not as enjoyable to use.

A third-person view of the Arwing is displayed on the TV, which you steer with the left control stick.  Using the right control stick, you can perform advanced maneuvers like boosting, barrel rolls, and somersaults.  You can aim your fire using the on-screen reticle, with a style of gameplay most resembling older Star Fox games.  However, as you will find, the aim is not always on point.  Additionally, the game will sometimes purposefully change the camera angle, giving you a side view of the ship as opposed to a standard back view.  This leads to the biggest and most divisive change to the gameplay, the new GamePad controls.

Star Fox Zero Cockpit 2.jpg
Star Fox Zero has a unique control scheme.

The GamePad displays a first-person cockpit view.  Your reticle is usually in front of you, but you can use motion controls to manually move the crosshairs.  Your scope is not limited by what is in front of you; you can actually move the GamePad in nearly 360 degree angles, aiming at enemies that would otherwise be off-screen on the normal TV screen.  Shooting effectively becomes more precise, allowing you to smoothly take down enemy after enemy just using the gyro sensor.  This motion control scheme provides an immersive experience that could not otherwise be done with a regular controller.  Flying through a stage, seeing an enemy in the distance, and turning your GamePad to fire at it, all while steering the ship, will make you feel awesome.

Star Fox Zero Cockpit.jpg
View from the cockpit

However, the controls come with its own set of flaws.  The gyro sensor is sometimes off-center, forcing you to recalibrate it.  While this is done with a simple button press, the gyro sensor’s faults take away from the immersion.  Additionally, as engaging as the controls are, they come with a steep learning curve that not all players will be able to master.  For one, since this game uses two screens, you will have to juggle focus between the TV and the GamePad constantly.  You might look away quickly to shoot a foe, but then suddenly crash into a building because you were not paying attention to your ship’s trajectory.  Players may have difficulty performing these two separate actions at once.  In previous Star Fox games, steering and shooting were aligned, and the games still played well.  Coordinating both on different screens in SF0 is possible to get used to, but it may take players a long time to understand it.  The game isn’t long, so that mastery may come too late for players to appreciate the core campaign.  Finally, motion controls have been a mixed bag for a couple of generations now, and its forced use here may alienate players who just want to use a normal controller.

Star Fox Boss.jpg
Awkward angles during boss fights necessitate the use of the cockpit view.

I appreciate and respect what developers Nintendo and Platinum Games do in creating a unique experience that could only be done on the Wii U.  I also believe that they created a control scheme that works on a certain level and is genuinely fun.  That said, I think it is a disappointment that there is no alternative option to use a regular Wii U Pro Controller or take away motion altogether.  Now, the core game would definitely not be possible without the GamePad.  However, if they had done something akin to Star Fox 64 3D’s 2 modes (original N64 mode and 3DS Gyro mode), in which enemy placements were altered to fit the game’s 2 control schemes, Star Fox Zero could be more accessible to fans.  As it stands, there is an option that allows motion controls to only turn on while shooting, which will work for some people, but may still frustrate some as the sensor may have to recalibrate often.  You can also press the Minus button to switch the TV and GamePad screens, allowing you to see the cockpit view on the big screen.  This helps those who might have trouble physically looking away from the screen, but it still requires split-second switching to prevent flying accidents.  More options could have been implemented like a picture-in-picture screen that shows where you are flying while you are steering.  It would have also worked out better if there weren’t so many fixed angles, as is the case with all-range bosses.  Instead of a backside view, you are constantly locked onto the boss at a fixed angle, which means the camera no longer follows behind the Arwing.  You instead have to use the cockpit view on the GamePad while steering at an awkward angle on the TV screen.  It’s respectable that the developers had a vision and stuck with it.  As such, the controls are certainly worth a try, but don’t be ashamed if you simply cannot get them since they require such a high barrier of entry.

Star Fox Zero Walker
Fox’s Arwing can now transform into a Walker.

Vehicles and Transformations

The other major additions in this game are the new vehicles and vehicle transformations.  The major transformation is the Walker, which you can morph into at any point with the press of a button.  The Walker, resembling a chicken, walks and jumps on the ground.  It allows you to get into tight spaces and activate special switches.  The Walker utilizes tank controls that are difficult to use, but it is still a fun alternative vehicle.  Other vehicles are featured in their own levels.  The Landmaster, returning from previous Star Fox games, is a land version of the Arwing, but it is not as fun.  It now has a built-in glorified hover boost, but it is no substitute for the Arwing.  The final vehicle, the Gyrowing, is the least enjoyable. It’s a slow helicopter that comes with a deployable robot, breaking the otherwise brisk pace of the game.  The robot’s tank controls aren’t particularly easy to use either.  Although the Gyrowing is only used once, it’s a tiring experience.

Star Fox Zero Landmaster
Landmaster!

Multiplayer

Star Fox Zero lacks a traditional multiplayer versus mode, which will be disappointing to fans of Star Fox 64’s 4-player dogfights.  In its stead is a cooperative 2-player mode that actually works very well.  Instead of 1 player having to control both steering and aiming, these duties are delegated between both players with the GamePad user acting as a dedicated shooter.  This presents a viable solution to the problems posed by the control scheme faults, but requires both players to be good at what they’re doing.  If the players are in sync, they may find an ideal experience that feels more natural.  It’s a fun alternative that can make partners feel like they are flying a ship together.

Graphics and Sound

The game looks great, featuring lush environments and beautiful lighting.  The series has never looked this good while still retaining a steady frame rate.  It may not be the best looking Wii U game, but it certainly stands out.  Fox’s fur is accentuated in the cutscenes, the worlds look lustrous, and the backgrounds are gorgeous.  The puppet aesthetics are retained in the characters’ profiles, which look shockingly realistic.  Players will appreciate the special angles during cutscenes, like when you see your Arwing flying towards you while a ship explodes in the background.

Orchestral-like pieces and techno tunes make up most of the soundtrack.  The tunes aren’t memorable or catchy, but they work effectively like cinematic scores.  There are also quite a few Star Fox 64 remixes that fans will enjoy.  The voice acting via in-game transmissions is as enjoyable and cheesy as ever, filled with one-liners and callbacks to SF64.  The only complaint about the voices are that they are segregated from the music and can only be heard on the GamePad.  It’s presented in a cool 3D sound effect where voices coming from the left will only be heard from the left speaker.  Nevertheless, an option to put the voices and music on one track (which can only be done on headphones) would have been nice.

Star Fox Zero Gyrowing.jpeg
The Gyrowing level is a little slow to replay.

Playtime/Replayability

Star Fox Zero is a pretty short game, with the main game clocking in at about five hours.  As an arcade shooter, its short length makes sense since the point is to go back to previous levels and get high scores and hidden collectible medals.  There are also secret routes that can be found within levels that take you to different planets or alternate missions on familiar planets, which usually involve a new boss fight or using a different vehicle to do a stage.  These alternate missions, unfortunately, feel rushed and tacked on as opposed to the full-length regular missions.  Unlike previous games, the main game allows you to replay any stage at any time, which lets you focus on mastering a stage and accomplishing everything within.  Although there is much to do when you go back to old levels, the actual replay value depends on how much you actually care to go through old stages.  It also depends on whether you’ve gotten used to the controls or not, because the game will remain frustrating if you haven’t mastered them.  Training Mode, which functions as a challenge mode testing your mastery of different vehicles, and co-op mode may extend the game’s life as well, again depending on how much you enjoy the gameplay.

Star Fox Team.png
GOOD LUCK!

Conclusion

Star Fox Zero feels like a remix of Star Fox 64, with evolved controls being the major difference.  The control scheme is fun to use but difficult to learn.  Although I experienced a fair share of frustration with the controls throughout the course of the game, I did eventually learn to use and enjoy them.  While I vastly prefer the original games’ controls, the new scheme is like no other, making you feel as if you were a real Arwing pilot.  With a lack of options that radically change the controls, the game isn’t for everyone, nor will every player be able to master the tricky gameplay.  Star Fox fans will likely have mixed feelings and desire old-school controls but may also find the new gameplay intriguing and effective.  All things considered, the game is a fun experience and an entertaining trip back to the Lylat System.  Star Fox Zero is definitely worth a try, and players who go into this game with an open mind and a good attitude will find one of the most engaging on-rails space shooters ever contrived.

Score: 7.5/10

What do you think of Star Fox Zero?  How have your experiences with the controls been?  How are your feelings about the rebooted storyline?  What’s your favorite game in the Star Fox series?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!