Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer feat. The Legend of Zelda (Switch) Review

Zelda Rhythm Adventure REMIX!

Music has always been an integral part of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series. Sometimes it ties directly into the plot, like in Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker. Often, catchy songs like Koji Kondo’s iconic original theme and Breath of the Wild’s majestic melody become instilled into gamers’ hearts. Cadence of Hyrule presents an experience that not only celebrates generations of the franchise’s music, but also offers an adventure comparable to classic 2D Zelda games.

Here’s my Video Review so you can see and hear the game in action!

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Master Trials DLC (Switch) Review

Challenge Accepted

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has garnered praise from players all over the world since its launch with the Nintendo Switch. The game ventured into new territory as the first 3D open-world Zelda title and did away with the traditional linear structure. Now, it’s the first mainline Zelda title (not counting Hyrule Warriors or amiibo) to have DLC, starting with Pack 1: “The Master Trials.” It’s a surprising move given how massive BotW already is. The big questions are: what did Nintendo substantially add and is it worth it?

 

Here is the Video Version for your viewing pleasure!

Continue reading “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Master Trials DLC (Switch) Review”

Nintendo E3 2017 Predictions – Pandas Predict

Boarding the Hype Train!

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), one of the biggest video game conferences and annual hype holiday for gamers, is just around the corner. With a new hotly selling console under its belt, Nintendo has a huge opportunity to show off what the Switch can deliver this year. Of course, we can expect more details on Super Mario Odyssey, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. We might even get more information on the upcoming ARMS and Splatoon 2. Following the Pokemon Direct, Nintendo might also have something brief on the newly announced Pokken Tournament DX and Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon.

 

 

Here is the Video Version, in which we go into more detail!

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Nintendo’s Switch Presentation: My Roller Coaster of Highlights

Merry Switchmas

Nintendo finally held its long awaited press conference for its upcoming console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. The company revealed the system’s $299.99 price tag and its March 3 release date. Nintendo also announced quite a few games. Here are my strongest positive and negative reactions to the Switch Presentation.

Super Mario Odyssey

Imagine a modern urban setting with your typical skyscraper, a theater, a store called “Crazy Cap,” and a street sign for Dixie St. The only indication of which game world you’re in are the words, “New Donk City.” Pan down to the streets where a taxi passes by. Suddenly, a manhole cover begins to shake and out pops… Mario? This is how the new Super Mario Odyssey trailer started, and I love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game will feature an large open sandbox world akin to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. I adore Super Mario Galaxy and its inventive worlds and mechanics. However, most levels were distinctly more linear than the rich, explorative areas of the former two. Super Mario Odyssey is a return to form, and it looks more amazing than I could have imagined based on the initial Switch video. The theme is “jumping to an unknown world,” and the world looks spectacular. I wanted to roll around in that Mexican-themed town, run across magical leaves that form in midair, ride a lion through an inverse-pyramid desert expanse, and dance with robots in a lush jungle. I’d even cook myself in that giant crystallized vegetable soup area. The world looks somewhat parallel to our own, yet it oozes with such creativity.

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I hope I’m invited!

New Donk City, an area with realistic humans walking about, will be a fitting playground for our Brooklyn-born plumber. In the trailer, Mario triple-jumps on a cab, spins on a traffic pole, and wall-jumps up skyscrapers. Sure, it’s odd to see Mario in a city setting with regularly-proportioned people, but Sonic did it in his first 3D adventure… Actually, that’s probably not the best example. Sorry, Sonic! Regardless, it’s endearing to see Mario jump rope with two ladies in a park. Even Bowser is dressed for the occasion, looking more debonair than ever before in his white top hat and suave suit. Seriously, Peach, give him a chance!

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That hair though.

The last major point changes up the gameplay significantly. Mario can throw his signature red cap as a boomerang. While the hat is in midair, Mario can then bounce on it, leading to what will likely be a huge platforming game-changer. Nintendo even borrowed a page from Rare’s old-school collectathons like Banjo-Kazooie and put googly eyes on the hat. Super Mario 64 is one of my favorite games of all time, and if SMO can replicate and improve upon that style, then I will have a fantastic time next holiday season. There are other great games to come to the Switch, but Super Mario Odyssey was quite easily my game of the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda: Breath of the Wild at Launch

The latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. Watch it if you haven’t already. I fell in love with the new open-air gameplay that Nintendo showed off during their 2016 E3 presentation, and the newest trailer cements it as my most anticipated game this year. Zelda herself looks like she jumped out of a Ghibli movie, and I adore the personality she displays this time around. It’s especially powerful when she cries into Link’s arms. To that point, Nintendo is really making an effort to finally use voice acting to its finest. With what appears to be a fascinating cast of characters and an intriguing plot with 100 years of history, Breath of the Wild will hopefully be one of the finest titles to grace the Switch. And the best part? It’s a launch game, coming out on the same day as the Switch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Emblem Warriors

I spent over a hundred hours playing the content-rich Hyrule Warriors Legends, and Fire Emblem Fates was one of my favorite games of 2016. Enter Fire Emblem Warriors, a fusion of the Fire Emblem franchise and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Excuse me while I salivate. The very prospect of running around the field slicing and dicing enemies as Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Corrin has me giddy inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much and can’t tell exactly who will be in the game. But if it’s anything like the fanservice celebrations of Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes (which is now coming to Switch!), we will have a star-studded cast of the series’ lords.

 

 

 

 

 

RPGs

Next to platfomers, one of my favorite genres is the role-playing game, particularly Japanese ones (JRPGs). The Wii U unfortunately lacked RPGs, only having a few (great ones!) near the end of its life cycle. During the presentation, Nintendo announced a handful of RPGs. If they all came out within the next year, I’d be set until their next system. I’m most hyped for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which appears to be a truer sequel to the Wii original than Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was. The game looks great so far, with stunning visuals, a vast world, and cute anime characters. That game on its own would be meaty enough, but there were more surprises during the show. Atlus teased a new Shin Megami Tensei, a classic RPG series that has since spun off into Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Square Enix also revealed a new “Project Octopath Traveler,” made by the same team who worked on (and named) the Bravely Default games. Though we didn’t see much, the game had a distinct Super Nintendo or early PlayStation sprite artstyle, which speaks to the 16-bit lover in me. Finally, we got announcements of Dragon Quest X and XI, though it’s up in the air whether those will make it to the West.

 

 

 

The Return of Bomberman and Puyo Puyo Tetris

There was a sizzle reel at the end that showed nearly every other game publicly scheduled for the Switch. I saw some good-looking games in the reel such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Ultra Street Fighter II, and Sonic Mania. But honestly, no other games caught my eye more than Super Bomberman R and Puyo Puyo Tetris. For Konami to actually release a new Hudson game, and for it to be Bomberman, is nothing short of amazing. I was actually moved by the Bomberman 33rd anniversary logo in the corner of the game box. Bomberman hasn’t had a proper console game in years, and yet here he is, gracing the Switch with his adorable presence. Playing eight-player local and online battles will probably be a launch highlight. I’m happy this beloved gaming mascot is back. Similarly, I’m excited for the return of Puyo Puyo Tetris and the chance to play two different puzzle games with cute anime characters. I wish these games had a bigger presence during the actual presentation rather than being relegated to bits in a sizzle reel and post-presentation YouTube uploads.

 

LOWS

Presentation

This brings me to my lowlights: The presentation itself wasn’t that great. Make no mistake. The games look fabulous, but perhaps the presenters could have spent more time showing them off, particularly the ones that actually had trailers. For instance, they could have easily talked about their new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe update which has a revamped Battle Mode and new characters and tracks from Splatoon. They could have also shown us why we should be interested in a game called Snipperclips, which I knew nothing about until Treehouse Live did a hilarious playthrough the following day. Instead, we had a long explanation about the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. I understand that the mini Wiimote-like devices that snap onto a bigger controller deserve explanation. However, it was unnecessary to talk about them for a fourth of the conference, especially when they began showing off the Joy-Con’s ability to read hand signals.

It didn’t help that the first game they showed off was this eccentric party game called 1-2 Switch. I was fine with Wii Sports, stuck with Wii Play, and even enjoyed Nintendo Land. I’m not sure what the appeal of 1-2 Switch is. The game revolves around a series of minigames where two players face each other and perform random motion-controlled actions, completely ignoring the screen. The first example was “Quick Draw,” a wild-west style gun duel where the first one to pull their Joy-Con out on the mark wins. Other examples include mock-eating contests, air guitar, wizard duels, swordplay, and milking a cow. I suppose it allows you to reach into your imagination, but then why would you need a $300 machine to do it? Perhaps it’s for children, but it’s primarily an older crowd playing in the trailer. I’d understand if it were a launch game, in which case, I would certainly play it and would love to be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’m not sure whom this game is for. I don’t generally hate on things either. I’m genuinely confused what’s fun about 1-2 Switch.

launch-lineup
Launch Lineup 2017

Launch Day Lineup

On launch day, we will at least have Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and 1-2 Switch. We also have Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance at launch, with more games to come in the year. While Breath of the Wild will hopefully be enough as a launch game, it’s also coming out on Wii U the same day. As alluring as Bomberman is, Nintendo has an uphill battle to climb if they want to attract people to their system. To be fair, most consoles have had poor launch days. Even some of my favorite systems only had a single remarkable game. Although it’s still a low point that the launch is weak, the launch year looks like it will be strong overall, with hits like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 coming soon.

nintendo-switch
March 3, 2017

Conclusion

There were other assorted highs and lows during the presentation. I’m very excited about the system being region free, the HD rumble technology (as weird as that sounds), and the Switch’s capacitive touch screen – making it closer to a smartphone than a 3DS. I’m also glad that EA and Bethesda are supporting the Switch at this stage and hope that they stick with it. I’m not fond of the new paid online, though I hope this leads to a better online infrastructure. I’m fine with the system’s price, but don’t like the expensive costs of each additional controller and accessory. Overall, I’m still as excited as ever for the system. The excitement isn’t as mind-blowing yet, but there’s enough great games in the pipeline to have convinced me to preorder. This will be an interesting year for Nintendo, and I hope to cover my own journey with the Switch when it ships on March 3!

What did you think about the Nintendo Switch Presentation? What are your highlights and lowlights regarding the new system? What do you want to see for the system? Are you getting a Switch? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below! Thank you for reading!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!