Monthly Archives: October, 2013

The Five Creepiest Moments in The Legend of Zelda

It’s that time of year again. The leaves turn brown and fall from the trees, the days grow shorter and parents believe that it’s somehow acceptable to allow their offspring to roam the streets begging while they set off explosions in the sky at night. It’s the most wonderful time.

But it got me thinking about what actually used to scare me as a kid. I was never exposed to 18 rated horror films because my parents actually gave a shit. As a kid I was scared by the kind of stuff that was meant to send a chill down a kids’ spine. Not graphic images of a knife wielding madman stabbing some horny teenagers by a lake, but stuff that sent my imagination into overdrive and allowed my brain to do most of the scaring.

Nothing did this job better than The Legend of Zelda series. While usually charming and swashbuckling, every Zelda game is peppered with darker, chilling moments that can still to this day freak me out. Here are five moments that made me want to put my controller down and sit in a corner, and no, Tingle will not be in this list. Because that’s such an obvious choice.

Dead Hand (Ocarina of Time)

You only need to look at this ungodly bastard to see why it might terrify a ten year old encountering it for the first time. It’s not as if exploring under the well in Kakariko village was a traumatizing enough experience, with INVISIBLE SPIDERS, random patches of floor you could fall through into a pit of zombies and INVISIBLE SPIDERS.

No, they had to top the whole experience off with a boss fight with fucking satan himself, scabby hands shoot from the ground, holding you still while a hell beast with a giant, rictus grin that would make The Joker shudder edges over to you to eat your brains. Ten years on and I still dread meeting Dead Hand. The Lens of Truth wasn’t even that good.

Wall Masters (Zelda I, Oracle Series)

You might find it strange that I find these scarier than Ocarina’s ceiling dropping breed or the Wind Waker variety that basically pull you into hell, but Oracle of Seasons Wall Masters are the first I encountered and where I expected to simply take damage from them, they took me back to the start of the bloody dungeon.

I was scared, confused, and it took me more tries than I can remember to get past them. For that reason, and the fact they came out of the shitting walls made me terrified of them.

ReDeads (Various)

It’s at its worst when you aren’t aware of their presence. You’re edging your way through a dungeon. You hear that hellish shrill scream and your heart leaps into your throat as the camera swings around to reveal a zombie plodding towards you. You mash the controller, screaming, doing anything you can to just move but it’s all to no avail. The ReDead is upon your paralyzed form. It closes on you and… dry humps you.

The ex Hyrulean sex offenders are a scary bunch, if only because they literally stop you in your tracks and sexually assault you. Of course, as with all things scary, they’re at their worst when you don’t expect them. For example, in Ocarina when you’re in a hurry to get out of Ganon’s crumbling castle and you’re accosted by one right next to the bloody exit. Dick move, Nintendo.

Ikana Tower (Majora’s Mask)

It’s not that the final dungeon in Majora’s mask is even trying to be overtly scary, it’s just that everything about it is deeply, deeply unsettling.

The subtly creepy music, the strange statues of demons holding upside down triforces, that fucking freaky statue that’s meant to look like Link when you play that song… The entire place feels wrong, and more than a little off. I suppose that sums up Majora’s Mask as a whole really.

Dodongo (Ocarina of Time)

This one is based purely on personal experience as Dodongo is not in the least bit scary as the second boss of the game. These days I off the guy with barely a second thought. Muscle memory kicks in and it’s bomb, sword, boom. But it wasn’t always like that.

I must have been about eight when I first played Ocarina (it came with the Wind Waker special edition if you must know). All was well as I breezed through the second dungeon and I plunged down the hole and into Dodongo’s pit. There I was faced with this giant, fire breathing lizard and I just froze up.

It’s not that I was ever even scared of dinosaurs or anything (I loved them) it was the combination of the fact there was literally no way out, and I can only run in a small circle because of the lava pit at the center. I just freaked out and could never do it. Of course, the day I finally did, I felt like I could overcome anything…

Then I got to the shadow temple. Thank you Zelda, for absolutely destroying my childhood. Good job.

The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD Review (8.5/10)

The original Wind Waker for the Gamecube, released in 2003 was undoubtedly one of the finest games on the system and arguably one of the greatest games of the past twenty years. Its unrivalled sense of exploration, excellent combat and charming cartoon visuals have ensured that even a decade later, it’s a brilliant looking game that is still fun to play. How has Nintendo managed to improve this gem with their new HD update for the Wii U?

For a start, it’s absolutely gorgeous. This remake isn’t merely the same graphics translated to HD, but a complete overhaul of new textures, character models and lighting. Sailing across the deep blue sea, as the sky blurs into the horizon and the sun sets, bathing your boat in a deep orange is a joy.

The juxtaposition of the wide blue expanses of the open sea, and the dark, moody lighting of the many dungeons and caves scattered through the land constantly serves to keep things fresh and interesting. When you finally emerge victorious from a dank dungeon, the bright skies of the open world are a genuinely welcome reward.

Occasionally, stepping into the glow of a torch can cast your cel shaded character into an ugly light, making them look almost clay like. It’s fairly off-putting, but for the most part, the updated lighting serves the varied locales and colourful characters well.

Of course, a pretty looking game means nothing if it’s no fun to play. Thankfully, Wind Waker HD builds on everything that made the original so great and adds a selection of subtle tweaks and improvements.

Playing with the gamepad is a revelation. As your inventory and maps are all ready for instant viewing on the touch screen controller, you never actually have to pause the game to stop the action. You can simply drag up the items you require on the gamepad while the action rages on, on your television.

The gamepad also serves to make sailing less of a chore. One of the biggest complaints many people had with the original Wind Waker was the sailing. It was too slow, too laborious and you spent too much time doing it.

No more do you have to pause to check where exactly you are, simply glance at the gamepad to reaffirm your location. No more do you have the spend so much time sailing, as a new item in the game reduces your sailing time by half and doesn’t require you stop to change the direction of the wind every few minutes.

Nintendo also realises it’s just as important to leave what worked alone. The excellent combat, engaging story and massive open world all remain intact. Fighting enemies has never been more satisfying, as Link’s varied arsenal offers a variety of ways to dispatch a foe, ensuring combat never gets stagnant.

The wide open sea offers more freedom than any other Zelda game. While many have complained that Wind Waker’s large world had nothing to it, I would point them in the direction of the various enemy watchtowers, pirate bases, giant sea monsters and dozens upon dozens of islands littered with secrets. Wind Waker’s fantastic sense of exploration is one of it’s stronger aspects, almost making up for the length and difficulty.

And it’s in terms of length and difficulty that made up my mind when reviewing this game. Hero mode, available from the start, offers more of a challenge for this notoriously easy of Zeldas. However, once you get a certain number of hearts and bottles for fairies and potions, it becomes nearly indistinguishable from normal mode.

Length has been the major sore point. I was always annoyed with the length of Wind Waker, mostly because I love it so much and hate that it has to end. The game has been made even shorter with the streamlining of the Triforce fetch quest, a quest I personally enjoyed as it encouraged you to delve into the exploration and treasure hunting aspect of the game.

Of course, I can understand why that has had to be streamlined. What I cannot understand is why there is no extra content. Two dungeons were cut from the original due to time constraints and this was the perfect opportunity to include these lost dungeons. Nintendo didn’t want to alter the flow of the game, fine. But the fact that they didn’t put them in as optional post game challenges is an unforgivable missed opportunity

While Nintendo may have missed a chance to include some much needed extra content, this is still the definite way to experience the most underrated of Zeldas.

Why A Link Between Worlds Could Be the Best Zelda Yet

 

After seeing the awesome new trailer for Link Between Worlds, I was moved to download A Link to the Past from the Wii Shop and relive the 16 bit glory of one of my favorite Zelda titles.

This got me thinking about how the upcoming 3DS Zelda title has the potential to be something truly special. For a start, I realized what a powerful (perhaps even somewhat manipulative) tool nostalgia is.

For example, I think one of the reasons so many people cite Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal as their favorite gen is because of the nostalgia fueled return trip Kanto from the first game. Everything was very much the same but… different. There was a joy in traversing the familiar locales and spotting what had changed over time.

And so as I play through LTTP again (for probably the hundredth time) I breeze through because I know it like the back of my hand. I know every secret, every nook and every cranny in such detail that the chance to revisit that same over world, but slightly altered over the years excites me beyond measure. I suspect that I am not alone in this.

On top of this, we can no doubt expect dozens of references to LTTP, be it characters, items, dungeons or music. Anyone who played the SNES classic will doubtless be smitten just on the fact that LBW is a sequel.

Of course, trying to make a good gaming experience through nostalgia and references alone would not make for a satisfactory game. Fortunately, Link Between Worlds looks set to shake up the Zelda formula in the biggest way since, well, since A Link to the Past.

Not only does it have a completely new Dark World in Lorule (no one strained any brain cells at Nintendo there) to complement the familiar Hyrule, we have new items (always a standard but welcome addition to a new Zelda), intriguing new characters (hopefully, one of them won’t turn out to be Ganon).

But above all, what has me so excited about this new game is shake up of the age old Zelda formula; That you have to complete dungeons in a certain order. While I have never had a problem with the series’ formulaic approach, I will welcome this change with open arms, for the level of freedom and challenge this shake up will bring.

It’s for these reasons that I think A Link Between Worlds absolutely has the potential to be the best Zelda ever. While it promises to completely reinvent decades old aspects of the franchise, it also looks to have an unrivaled air of familiarity,ensuring that no matter how different things get, it will be unmistakably, The Legend of Zelda.

Fall Out Boy – PAX.AM Days Review (8/10)

A quick review for a quick album.

 

For anyone seeking the antidote to the bloated pop ballads of Fall Out Boy’s most recent album, Save Rock and Roll, look no further than the pop punk four piece’s latest effort; PAX.AM Days.

With a mere eight tracks, none exceeding the three minute mark, Fall Out Boy have delivered an album which is the complete reverse of their last.

The tight, punky, riff fuelled songs are thrown out thick and fast, each track like a shot of adrenaline to the ears. While Save Rock And Roll harnessed Dubstep, duets and other mainstays of modern pop, PAX.AM Days owes more to The Sex Pistols and the underground indie grunge of The Hives.

While it’s usually the norm for a band to grow and experiment, Fall Out Boy have followed up their most ambitious and wide ranging sounding record with something that takes them right back to their early punk roots.

It’s fast, it’s fun and above all it is absolutely unapologetic to anyone who was just getting used to the idea  of them being a band who duets with Elton John. Fall Out Boy may not have saved Rock and Roll, but they sure as hell just gave punk a shot in the arm.

Five Stages That Should Be In Smash Bros. 4

I know, another list post. I’m a lazy, sloppy excuse for a writer but I needed to post something so I don’t fall further into the depths of obscurity.  Just go with it, ‘kay?

Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS are getting ever closer and we’re slowly being drip fed tantalizing nuggets of information that only serve to make the game more exciting with each morsel of news. So I’m jumping on the bandwagon and giving my own list of stages that should be included in the new games. Because it’s Sunday and I don’t have any original thoughts.

Comet Observatory (Mario Galaxy Series)

It’s inevitable that in the new Smash installments, the Galaxy series is gonna be represented somehow. After all, it’s only some of Nintendo’s finest work to date.

In my mind, the stage would work similar to Isle Delfino from Brawl. You fight in the Comet Observatory, but it regularly whooshes (yes, that’s a word) off to various galaxies from the two games and you fight to cling on as the stage flies through space. Maybe one section has rolling chain chomps to dodge, and another has balls of fire flying in from all directions.

This way, we get one stage that manages to represent  loads of different aspects from Galaxy. Why yes Nintendo, you can have your cake and eat it.

Forsaken Fortress (Zelda: Wind Waker)

With the brilliant news that Toon Link is coming back to the brawl, we all know a Wind Waker stage is a certainty, especially if the 3DS is reppin’ Toon Link with a Spirit Tracks stage. Why not the Forsaken Fortress?

It could work like Shadow Moses Island did, if a spotlight catches you, you’re bombarded by a barrage of bombs. Every now and then, Ganon’s giant pet bird could fly down into the stage and start pecking at everything in sight, or flap items and characters off the stage.

Tourian (Metroid)

This stage would be absolutely mental. Metroids flying in at random times to suck on your brain, fireballs flying from every possible angle and every now and then, Mother Brain rises from the ground to take pop shots at you just to cause further chaos.

Maybe it could be a scrolling stage, taking you right through a faithful recreation of the final Metroid level from the first Metroid to Mother Brain at the end?

Smash Bros is all about frantic gameplay and a stage packed with traps like this would be perfect.

Pokemon Center (Pokemon)

This would be awesome. Death and destruction in a place of healing? Lovely. Just imagine a full scale brawl over the the peaceful music we all know and love.

Maybe random Pokemon could appear from behind the counter to cause trouble, similar to Goldenrod City in the original Smash Bros.? Or perhaps Team Rocket could storm in with various contraptions for stealing items and the like.

Wii Fit Park (Wii Fit)

What better way to scare off joggers than by having a great big throw down in the park? Since Wii Fit lady has been confirmed and we all juts have to deal with that, we might as well get a good stage out of the deal.

It could be a scrolling stage in which you have to keep along at a good pace or your unfit ways will kill you dead. DEAD. Perhaps every so often a parade of jogging Miis could come in from the opposite direction and trample you if you don’t get out of the way.

So then, that’s your lot. If you don’t agree or think you can come up with better, I don’t care. (I’m joking, please, I need the validation and approval of strangers). Thanks for reading.

Five Things To Do With Your Life Now Breaking Bad’s Over

The greatest TV show of the last few years (maybe ever) is over. For many people, myself included, waiting for a new episode of Breaking Bad was like waiting for Christmas day (only better, because you didn’t have to pretend to be happy or spend time with distant family).

So much time and effort was put into waiting and speculating over the finale that now it’s passed us by, we feel dazed. Confused, even. Many of us have stepped outside for the first time in months, blinking in the bright, harsh sunlight and wondering if Breaking Bad was even real to begin with, or if we collectively willed the perfect TV show from the ether and beamed it right into our subconscious.

So as we question our very perceptions of reality and the world around us, here are five things we can do to help ease the pain of  PBBD (Post Breaking Bad Depression).

Watch The Sopranos

If you like Breaking Bad, you will like The Sopranos. Fact. Vince Gilligan has cited the hit mobster drama as a major influence on more than one occasion. The story of a mafia boss who suffers from deep set emotional anxiety issues and depression is a little slower and a lot more talky than Breaking Bad, but by God it’s got a fucking cool theme tune, stellar actors and unparalleled writing. Six seasons is more than enough to stave off the PBBD.

Cook Meth

If Breaking Bad taught us anything, it’s how to build a successful drugs empire. All you need to do is shave your head, kill a lot of people, posion a kid, blow up a nursing home, emotionally maim your partner till he’s a shell of man, machine gun down a load of nazis and finally die on the floor of your grubby meth lab from a bullet wound. Should keep you busy.

Start a Jigsaw

Make it a big one. A thousand pieces at least, that should help keep your mind of things. Just make sure it isn’t anything that could associated with Breaking Bad, like a blue crystal, a fedora or Hule.

And remember kids, only a prick doesn’t start with the corners.

Rewatch Breaking Bad

It’ll never have quite the same impact as it did the first time around but come on; Breaking Bad is still and incredible, entertaining show that definitely deserves a number of repeat viewings.

By watching again, we might pick up on foreshadowing or details we never would have got the first time and If nothing else, we can point at Gus every time he comes onscreen and laugh knowingly.

Listen to Baby Blue, alone, in the dark and cry

Every day for the rest of your sad miserable life. Because Breaking Bad is gone and it is never, ever coming back. Let’s all just lie down and give up, eh?