Sunday, June 27, 2010

Zelda Timeline - Part 2

After the events of Four Swords Adventures, a fierce civil war breaks out. The end result was a unified Hyrule, but the Gerudo were no longer on good terms with outsiders. Their new leader, Ganondorf, pledged allegiance to the new king of Hyrule, but ultimately wanted the power of the Triforce. This Ganondorf, unlike the Ganondorf in Four Swords Adventures, doesn’t break Gerudo law, and is trusted by the members of his tribe. This marks the beginning of the events of Ocarina of Time.

During the events of Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf kills six of the seven ancient sages, leaving Rauru as the only ancient sage left. Ganondorf takes the Triforce of Power, and Link and Zelda get the Triforce pieces of Courage and Wisdom respectively. Link then awakens six new sages to replace the six that Ganondorf killed. In the end, the seven sages and Link defeat Ganondorf and seal him away in the Sacred Realm. Princess Zelda feels sorry for dragging Link into the events of Ocarina of Time, so she sends him back seven years to relive his childhood. Sending Link back in time causes his piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Courage, to shatter into multiple pieces and become scattered across the land.

This action causes a split in the timeline, and leaves the future with seven new sages, Ganondorf sealed in the Sacred Realm, and no Hero of Time. Right now I’m going to focus on the events in the future.

After years of being sealed in the Sacred Realm, Ganondorf breaks his seal and terrorizes Hyrule. Since Princess Zelda sent Link back in time to relive his childhood, there isn’t a hero to save Hyrule from Ganondorf. Due to this, the Goddesses freeze Hyrule in time, put a bubble over it, and flood the land, hoping to seal Ganondorf away under an ocean. Because of the flood, Hylians start to become an extremely rare race to find. Also, due to the Goddesses not wanting anyone to find Hyrule, they force the Zoras to evolve into the Rito. Many years after the flood occurs, the events of The Wind Waker take place.

Ganondorf manages to reach the surface of the ocean, and searches for Princess Zelda in order to get the full Triforce. The Helmaroc King mistakes a new Link’s sister, Aryll, for Princess Zelda and kidnaps her. This new Link sets out with a girl named Tetra to the Forsaken Fortress to rescue Aryll. When he fails to rescue her, he meets the King of Red Lions, a talking boat who guides Link on his journey. The King of Red Lions tells Link that he needs the Master Sword in order to rescue Aryll, and to get the Master Sword, he has to retrieve three pearls.

Link gets the three pearls and goes underwater to the old ruins of Hyrule in order to retrieve the Master Sword. When he gets it, the King of Red Lions is shocked to discover that the sword has lost its ability to repel evil. He calls a meeting with the Rito, and decides to take Link and Tetra down to the old ruins of Hyrule. There, he reveals Tetra is actually Princess Zelda, and that she should remain in the ruins to be kept safe. He also reveals that he’s an old king of Hyrule from an age before the flood. Link then must go to temples to make the Master Sword regain its abilities.

Once at the temples, it’s revealed that Ganondorf killed Laruto and Fado, two sages who kept the Master Sword’s ability intact, and that Link must replace them. When replaced, the Master Sword regains its ability to repel evil, and Link collects the shattered pieces of the Triforce of Courage. In the end, Link and Zelda kill Ganondorf, and the King wishes on the Triforce that old Hyrule is erased. He then tells Link and Tetra to form their kingdom, and not to recreate Hyrule.

Link and Tetra then set off to find a new land to form a new kingdom. A couple months after The Wind Waker, Link and Tetra run into the Ghost Ship, which teleports them to another location in the ocean. Phantom Hourglass then occurs, and Bellum kidnaps Tetra in order to take her Life Force. In the end, Link rescues Tetra with the help of Ciela, Linebeck, and Oshus. Oshus then sends Link and Tetra back to their shipmates, and the two continue on their search for a new land.

The two eventually find a new land, and they create New Hyrule. It’s revealed that this land used to be ruled by an ancient demon named Malladus, and after years of ruling, the Spirits of Good waged war against him. After a long and tiring battle, the Spirits of Good eventually sealed Malladus away under the Earth, and put down chains across the land to prevent him from escaping. They also placed the Tower of Spirits in the center of all the chains, now called Spirit Tracks, and used it as a lock. One hundred or so years pass after Link and Tetra discover this new land, and Spirit Tracks starts.

Link goes to Hyrule Castle in order to become a royal engineer, but during the ceremony, Princess Zelda slips him a note telling him to meet her after the ceremony ends. She tells Link she’s worried about the Spirit Tracks, and wants to go to the Tower of Spirits in order to make sure they’re safe. On the way to the Tower of Spirits, they’re attacked by Zelda’s chancellor, a man named Cole. He kills Zelda and steals her body in order to release Malladus from his seal. Zelda’s spirit, however, sticks around and travels with Link. In the end, Zelda and Link kill Cole and Malladus, and retrieve her body back.

Part 3 coming soon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zelda Timeline - Part 1

I'm currently in a very Zelda mood, thanks the announcement of Skyward Sword, so I thought I’d write my theory of how the timeline in Zelda works. It's going to be a long one, so I've broken it into four posts. I know my theory has its flaws, but every theory regarding the Zelda Timeline does. I’ve thought about where the games fall for awhile, and this is what I think happens. I’m going to mention everything that happens between the games too, so I can refer to them while talking about the games. I’ll explain why I put games in the places I do in the final part of my Zelda Timeline series, so look forward to it.

The very first major event to happen after the Goddesses created Hyrule was the war with the interlopers. An evil tribe of sorcerers named the Dark Interlopers tried to take over the Sacred Realm and attempted to steal the Triforce, but failed when then Goddesses ordered the Light Spirits to seal them away. The Interlopers were sealed away in the Mirror of Twilight, hopefully to never be seen again.

A while after that, a new enemy appeared. Demons almost took over the world, but the Picori came down and granted the Light Force and the Picori Blade to a courageous man, now known as the Hero of Men. That man slew the monsters and locked them in a box, with the Picori Blade acting as the lock to the box. The citizens of Hyrule were so grateful to the Hero of Men and the Picori, that they set up an annual festival to celebrate the events, and they called it the Picori Festival.

Thus starts the events of The Minish Cap. Vaati, a former Picori, breaks the Picori Blade into two pieces, and releases all the monsters that were in the box, thinking that the box was where the Hero of Men put the Light Force. He then turns Princess Zelda into stone kidnaps her,and Link goes out and searches for the Picori to mend the broken Picori Blade. He learns that he needs the Four Elements to fully restore the blade to its full power, and goes off in search of them. When he finds them all, the Picori Blade turns into the Four Sword. During these events, both Link and Vaati learn that the Light Force that Vaati’s searching for is actually in Princess Zelda, and Link rushes to her rescue before Vaati can extract it. In the end, Link seals Vaati in the Four Sword, and the day is saved.

Many years after Vaati is first sealed in the Four Sword, the seal on him weakens, and he breaks out and kidnaps Princess Zelda for the second time, although this Zelda is different from the Zelda in The Minish Cap. This causes the events of Four Swords to occur. Link pulls the Four Sword out of its pedestal, and goes to rescue Princess Zelda. He eventually saves her and reseals Vaati in the Four Sword.

Sometime after the events of Four Swords, monsters start to appear again, which starts the events of Four Swords Adventures. Zelda and the six Maidens call Link to the Four Sword Sanctuary to make sure the seal on Vaati is still strong. When Shadow Link attacks, the Maidens and Princess Zelda are kidnapped, forcing Link to pull the Four Sword out of its pedestal, thus releasing Vaati yet again. Through his journey to save the Maidens and Princess Zelda, Link learns of a man named Ganondorf who broke Gerudo law by breaking into the Pyramid that holds the Trident of Power. It’s also revealed that Ganondorf stole the Dark Mirror from the Temple of Darkness in order to summon Shadow Link.

After rescuing the Maidens and Princess Zelda, you finally retrieve the Dark Mirror, and Zelda takes it to a safe place. You go on to kill Vaati once and for all, but learn that monsters are still roaming about, therefore revealing Ganondorf was behind the events of Four Swords Adventures. You eventually battle Ganon, and seal him away in the Four Sword.

Part 2 coming soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are Pokemon designs getting worse?

Recently, seven new Pokemon were revealed for the latest games in the series, Black and White. I’ve been on Pokemon forums lately, and noticed that some people are claiming that these new designs are less inspired or simply not as good as the old designs. Now, I’ve noticed people have been saying this ever since Ruby and Sapphire were first revealed, implying that the first 251 Pokemon were the best designed Pokemon. It appears to be a popular opinion, shared not by a small group of haters, but by a large group of fans. Are they just wearing nostalgia goggles, as some people would put it, or are the designs truly getting worse as time goes on?

In my opinion, no, they aren’t getting worse. Sure, the first two generations of Pokemon had their great designs. Lapras, for example, is one of my favorite Pokemon. Partially because it’s my favorite type, Ice, but also because its design is extremely appealing to me. However, the original 151 also has its duds. Voltorb, for example, isn’t that creative of a Pokemon. It’s essentially a Pokeball with eyes and a mouth, and then it evolves into an upside down Pokeball with eyes and mouth. The next 100 are the same way for me. Espeon is a great Pokemon through and through in my eyes, but Quagsire isn’t the most exciting Pokemon ever.

The first 151 Pokemon had a large group of unoriginal Pokemon, especially in the evolutions department. Magnemite might be a great design, but Magneton is just three Magnemite stuck together. Doduo is the same way, but it evolves into a three headed Doduo. Diglett evolves into three Diglett. Poliwhirl evolves into an angry Poliwhirl. Grimer evolves into a bigger blob of gunk. Staryu evolves into a Staryu with another Staryu glued onto its back. The list goes on and on. Throw in some other Pokemon, like Ditto, which is just a blob, and Geodude, and you can see the first 151 weren’t the most original group of Pokemon.

While the Pokemon introduced in Gold and Silver didn’t have the “I evolve into an even bigger version of me” syndrome, they just weren’t that memorable to me. At first I thought it was because I hadn’t played Gold or Silver in a while, but after beating SoulSilver, I found myself thinking the same thing. Generation II just didn’t introduce very many memorable Pokemon. I attribute it to their designs, because none of them stand out when put next to Pokemon from other generations. While the Pokemon from Red and Blue evolved into larger versions of themselves, and weren’t that original, they were still pretty memorable. The Pokemon from Gold and Silver just felt bland and generic.

Then came along Ruby and Sapphire, the first game in the series to be viewed as having uninspired Pokemon by the fanbase. It also happens to considered the worst in the series by most fans. It’s true, quite a few Pokemon from Ruby and Sapphire weren’t that strong in battle, and they looked different from the previous 251 Pokemon. But, to me, them looking different from the previous 251 is what makes them stand out more. Most weren’t bland and forgettable like Gold and Silver’s Pokemon were, and majority of them didn’t evolve into bigger versions of themselves like quite a few the first 151 did.

I personally think the reason why these Pokemon were originally bashed was because a lot of them replaced fan favorites from the last two generations. Beautifly, for example, replaced Butterfree, while Walrein replaced Dewgong. And it’s true. Ruby and Sapphire’s Pokemon did replace a lot of the first 251 Pokemon, and on paper, it should sound like they’d fall into obscurity in our minds because they were just new versions of the Pokemon we already knew. However, it didn’t work out that way for me. Their designs were so different that they managed to stick out despite basically being Persian 2.0 or Pikachu 2.0.

Ruby and Sapphire did have its duds though. Every generation has its greats and its not so greats. Pokemon like Luvdisc have been forgotten by majority of players for having bad designs and being worthless in battle.  However, for every Luvdisc Ruby and Sapphire introduced, there were five Tropius, one of the best designed Pokemon in my eyes.

Next came Diamond and Pearl, and while its Pokemon didn’t stick out in my head as much as Ruby and Sapphire’s, they were still unique enough for me to remember them. Part of the reason they didn’t stick out as much was because a lot of new Pokemon’s designs were based off old Pokemon’s designs, mainly because Diamond and Pearl seemed to focus on making the weak Pokemon from previous generations, stronger. While the new Pokemon felt familiar, they also felt new and fresh. An example is Togekiss. It used the same color palette as Togetic, and had similar features, but it was different enough from Togetic to stand out in my mind as a new Pokemon, unlike Azurill, which was completely forgettable and bland.

As I said before, every generation has its duds. In the case of Diamond and Pearl, Lumineon sticks out the most as a dud. It wasn’t designed well enough to stand out against the infinite amount of Water-types Pokemon already has, and therefore, it’s hard for me to remember it and appreciate it for what it is (I had to look up Diamond and Pearl’s Pokemon to remember Lumineon).

Now, we know of 14 Pokemon from Black and White, and people are saying they aren’t good designs again. So far, I’ve only seen one lackluster design, and that’s Munna. The other 13 we’ve seen look great and stand out amongst the other 493 previous Pokemon. If the 14 Pokemon we know of now are any sign of what we’re going to see in Black and White, I think we’re in for another great group of Pokemon that are going to stand out for all the right reasons.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What is Nintenviews?

For anyone reading right now, which is probably an extremely limited number of people, you may be wondering "What is Nintenviews? Is it a site for reviews for Nintendo games?" That's partially correct. Nintenviews is what I want to be my site to voice my opinions about games on Nintendo consoles and handhelds. It may be in the form a review, or it may be in the form of an editorial article. I don't want to focus on reviews that much, but every now and then, I'll give one out for a game.

Also, I'd like to point out that this isn't a site for just Nintendo's first party games. I'd like to talk about all games that come out on Nintendo's hardware, whether it be third party or first party. Every now and then I may post an article not relating to Nintendo, because I'd really love to voice my opinion about what's going on with the PS3, PSP, and 360. However, I feel like if I made a blog that was about every console and handheld, I'd be overwhelming myself, which is why I stuck to primarily Nintendo.

I know hearing only one person's opinion over and over again my get boring or tiring, so I plan on having special articles written by other people, so you can read a different opinion from mine every so often.

Hope you all enjoy Nintenviews! I plan on keeping this site alive for awhile!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: December 7, 2009 (NA), December 11, 2009 (EU), December 23, 2009 (JP)

Since 1986, the land of Hyrule has mystified us with its varied locales, multiple towns, and many secrets. While some games in the series don’t take place in Hyrule, they still manage to capture that same feeling we’ve grown to love. With the Zelda series’ latest entry, we’re taken to an entirely new Hyrule we’ve never seen before. Does this Hyrule earn a place in our hearts like the previous iterations of Hyrule have, or does this game lack the sense of exploration that the series has become known for?

At first glance, Spirit Tracks may appear to be a carbon copy of Phantom Hourglass, just instead of a boat, you have a train. It does share its graphical style, control method, and the idea of a central dungeon with its DS brother, but that’s where the similarities end. The Tower of Spirits, Spirit Tracks’ central dungeon, fixes all the problems Phantom Hourglass’ central dungeon had. There isn’t a time limit, and you don’t have to go through the same floors over and over again. Instead, you’re able to skip to the next section of the tower if you don’t feel like going through the previous section again. Another difference is that while Phantom Hourglass was basically a walk in the park difficulty-wise, Spirit Tracks offers much more of a challenge, both in puzzles and in combat. Also, while Phantom Hourglass basically had a barebones story, Spirit Tracks’ story is much more robust.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks takes place approximately 100 years after the events of Phantom Hourglass and The Wind Waker. Link and Tetra have discovered a new land, and turned it into the kingdom of Hyrule. However, this new kingdom of Hyrule has a dark secret. Locked away under the ground is an ancient demon named Malladus, and the only thing between him and the world above are the Spirit Tracks, magical chains that span across the entire land, which were set down by the Spirits of Good after a long, tiring battle against Malladus. Overtime, the chains started to be used as a mode of transportation for the citizens of Hyrule, and thus, trains are the common way to get around.

Our hero, Link, is an engineer in training. When he goes to Hyrule Castle to pass his exam and become a full fledged royal engineer, Zelda slips him a note saying she wants to talk to him. She’s suspicious of her chancellor; a man named Cole, and is worried about the safety of the Spirit Tracks. She asks Link to take her to the Tower of Spirits, which is the lock that keeps the Spirit Tracks intact. On their way to the tower, the Spirit Tracks under Link’s train disappear, and the duo, along with Link’s teacher Alfonso, who decided to join them on their trip to the Tower of Spirit, crash. Chancellor Cole shows up with his apprentice, a mysterious man named Byrne, and reveals he’s a demon who wants to break the seal on Malladus. He breaks the Tower of Spirits up into five parts, kills Princess Zelda, and steals her lifeless body. Fret not though, the Princess’ spirit survives the attack, and she must now work with Link to get her body back and prevent Cole from breaking the seal on Malladus.

It’s an interesting twist on the traditional damsel in distress story that we’ve come to expect from Zelda games, and it’s definitely a breath of fresh air. This also causes Zelda, who normally doesn’t have a large role in the series, to finally show why the series is named after her, as you can finally play as her. While in the Tower of Spirits, Zelda is able to possess a Phantom, large armored guards who protect the Tower of Spirits from invaders. This causes you to control two people at once, both Link and Zelda, and it’s a nice way to introduce new gameplay elements, due it opening up new puzzle possibilities. And trust me; some of the puzzles later on in the Tower of Spirits are the hardest puzzles the series has seen in awhile.

Controlling two people at once, especially in the heat of combat, may sound complicated at first, but thanks to Spirit Tracks’ controls, it’s incredibly simple. Just like Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks is controlled almost entirely with the touch screen. The buttons do offer short cuts for quicker access to your map, items, and anything else you’d want to get to quickly, but majority of the action uses the touch screen. The controls are basically Phantom Hourglass’ controls, but more refined. To walk, you touch where you want to go. To attack, you touch the enemy you want to attack. To slash, you swipe the stylus across the touch screen in the direction you want to slash. To do a spin attack, you draw a circle around Link. The controls are extremely simple and easy to pick up, and there’s hardly any learning curve to it.

Along with the ability to control both Link and Zelda, Spirit Tracks adds another new feature, the Spirit Flute. It’s a magical instrument used to help restore the Spirit Tracks and solve puzzles. To play it, you blow into the microphone of your DS while also sliding the flute around on the touch screen to get the note you want. The flute does have a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s incredibly easy to play.

The Spirit Flute isn’t the only new item addition to Zelda you can look forward to, as Spirit Tracks introduces a number of new items. Another new addition, and probably the biggest, is Link’s train. If you want to travel on the overworld in Spirit Tracks, you have to ride on the train and follow the Spirit Tracks. While linear and boring at first, the train starts to pick up later on in the game, when sidequests start to become available. The second half of the game is the part that you’ll really enjoy riding around on the train, as you’ll get to transport goods, people, and just explore newly opened areas of the overworld.

Speaking of sidequests, Spirit Tracks is full of them. While a good majority of them are either a) transport these goods to a certain area or location, or b) transport this person to a certain area, they offer you something to do outside of the main storyline. Another downside to the sidequests is that a good majority of them aren’t available until the second half of the game, so you have to spend the first half of the game doing what it tells you. On the other hand, saving them for the second half of the game ensures that you’ll have something to do once the game is over. Even if you do manage to complete all the sidequests in the game before the final battle, Spirit Tracks has a fun multiplayer mode.

In multiplayer, you and up to three other friends can basically play a Zelda version of capture the flag. The goal is to collect as many Force Gems as possible, while attacking other players, avoiding other players’ attacks, and avoiding Phantoms. There are many traps that you or your friends could fall into and lose Force Gems you’ve collected. At the end of the round, the person with the most Force Gems wins. It can be some stupid fun to have with friends when you’re bored, or just not wanting to continue on with Spirit Tracks’ main quest at the time. However, there is a lack of Wi-fi, so you have to play locally. But then again, Zelda isn’t a series known for its multiplayer, so any multiplayer is a good thing.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, Spirit Tracks is definitely a fun game. It isn’t the usual damsel in distress story that you expect from Zelda, and the new gameplay elements make it a unique addition to the series. While sidequests could be available sooner, and the story does lull in some sections, it’s nothing game breaking that makes you want to stop playing for awhile. Although the train is on tracks, the second half of the game offers you the same exploration feeling that the Zelda series has made you come to expect. Multiplayer is a fun addition, but the fact that it’s local only really hurts it overall, as adding Wi-fi could have made it even more appealing.

Final Score