Tag Archives: Zelda

YouTube Spotlight: Egoraptor and Sequelitis

I originally discovered Arin Hanson, AKA Egoraptor, because I was (and still am) a fan of Jon Jafari, AKA JonTron.  I was a day one subscriber of their channel GameGrumps, and it was my first introduction to Arin and his work.  For those unfamiliar with him, Arin is something of a jack-of-all-trades.  He’s mostly known for his hilarious animations, and more recently, his channel’s uploaded music videos from his comedy band Starbomb.  But another major part of his legacy is his mini web series Sequelitis.

Arin Hanson
Arin Hanson, AKA Egoraptor! (Image: Wikipedia)

Sequelitis was possibly Hanson’s biggest passion project.  It’s a series of videos examining changes in game design that happen when certain video games are followed up by sequels.  Granted, these videos are somewhat more comedic than informative.  However, they broke ground by being some of the first videos on YouTube to make game design fun and accessible.

When I first watched through Sequelitis, it’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  Honestly, it permanently changed the way I look at video games.  Before Sequelitis, I thought about games purely in terms of whether or not they were enjoyable.  After watching it, I started thinking about why games were fun or why they were frustrating, and most importantly, I thought about how they could consistently improve.

The first of the three major installments of Sequelitis compares the first Castlevania with its direct sequel Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest.  This video talks about how a sequel can actually make a formula for a game worse by becoming too deep and too ambitious.  Even if it has good intentions, sometimes a game that sacrifices simplicity for complexity just becomes sloppy.

This is probably the most famous episode of Sequelitis, and my personal favorite.  The focus of this one is Mega Man and Mega Man X, a prime example of a company taking a great series and expanding it beautifully into something all its own.  This video showed me the importance of how games teach their players.  The Mega Man games taught players naturally, and you don’t see this in a lot of modern games.

The third and most recent Sequelitis is on The Legend of Zelda, and the series’ transition from 2D games into 3D.  This is a fascinating video because Arin heavily criticizes The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which is considered a poster child of the series and one of the best games of all time.  Still, he does it in an exceedingly fair way.  He’s drawn a lot of criticism for this video, and I think that’s kind of a shame.  I personally find his points very valid, and the comedy in this video is very much on point.

There are no new episodes of Sequelitis in the works, so it may be that Arin has permanently moved away from it.  This is understandable, especially because his other content has become much more popular.  But the way Sequelitis tackled video game design is unlike anything on YouTube before or since, and I hope it makes a return eventually.  In the meantime, so many other creators have made similar content, using Sequelitis as inspiration.  I myself am part of that crowd, and I owe Sequelitis for the part I play in this community.

I highly recommend watching Sequelitis if you’re interested in game design and somehow haven’t heard of it yet.  Even if you aren’t, it’s still a great time if you’re a fan of video games.  Beyond that, I’d say go support Arin in all his other projects.  I think he’s a generally great guy who creates fun and unique content.  I watch Game Grumps every day, and I re-watch his content all the time, so if you’re looking for my word, he’s worth a look.

RIDIN’ ON CARS!!! (sorry, just had to do it)

My Top 10 Favorite Super Smash Bros. Characters

I watched a lot of great top 10 videos during my early days on YouTube.  Since I love ranking things, it wasn’t long before I started making them myself.  I thought it might be fun to start putting some on ScreenLooker.  Why not list my my top 10 favorite characters in my favorite crossover/fighting game ever?  That’s right, it’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

So without further ado, here it is, my top 10 Smash…brothers…I guess?

10 – Mewtwo

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One of Nintendo’s greatest decisions in developing this game was bringing Mewtwo back into Smash Bros., ready for round two.  I remember being super-excited because I’ve always thought Mewtwo was cool, but I never really felt like I got to experience the true extent of his power in the actual Pokemon games.

This was my first taste of Mewtwo in Smash, and it did not disappoint.  Although he’s fairly easy to KO, Mewtwo has some great aerial attacks, amazing mobility, and great mix-up options.  You have to remain firmly in control of the battle to play as Mewtwo, and his play style is unique.  He’s joy to play, and a joy to have back in the game.

9 – Mega Man

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I never grew up with the games, but I still love the Mega Man series – it revolutionized the action platformer and is a massive influence on gaming as a whole, not to mention a super-cool universe in its own right.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when Mega Man was brought into Smash, and was one of my early favorite newcomers.  His projectile game is extremely complex but rewarding, and very faithful to the series.  I’m insanely glad that Mega Man has returned to the spotlight for once, and I hope that he stays there for a while.

8 – Ness

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My attachment to Ness started when I got a Ness amiibo as a gift.  Before that, I mostly ignored Ness.  When I actually started committing to learning the character, though, I discovered that the little guy has a lot of strengths and fun complexities.  His moves are incredibly varied, but come together in a beautifully chaotic harmony.  He may take the title for quirkiest character in Smash for me, keeping his fantastic series, Mother, relevant for years, and I don’t think the game would be the same without him.

7 – Zelda

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I have a tendency to root for underdogs a lot of the time.  I’m well-aware that Zelda is considered the least competitively viable character in this game.  That doesn’t stop me from thinking she’s a good character.  She’s fun to play if you like trapping opponents in complex maneuvers.  Mixing up gameplay between her ranged and close-quarters combat is also a lot of fun.  Zelda is better than ever before, and I prefer her to a lot of high tier characters.

6 – Fox

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Straight-up intense speed in a fighting game really appeals to me. When I was first getting into Super Smash Bros., I liked Fox, but recently, I started getting into the competitive Smash scene.  Like many, I started by watching competitive Melee, in which Fox is considered the best character.

I developed a fascination with the character that I carried into my own experience with the game.  It also helps that, in my opinion, Fox in this most recent version of Smash is the best he’s ever been.  Overall, Fox is one of my favorite characters.  His speed and technicality in high-level play embody what I think the series is all about.

Plus, who wouldn’t love playing as a talking space fox?

5 – Cloud

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I never grew up with Final Fantasy games.  I’ve mostly observed the series from afar, but I always thought Cloud Strife from FF7 was a really cool character, the best representative of the series.  He was also one of my most desired Smash newcomers, but because of the complex licensing deals that would be involved, I never expected him to join the roster.

Needless to say, I was just as jaw-droppingly stunned as the rest of the Smash fanbase when Cloud joined Smash.  I remember seeing his reveal trailer late at night before going to bed.  When I woke up the next day, I wasn’t sure if it was actually real.  But as excited as I was about Cloud, he exceeded expectations.

His unique limit break mechanic not only adds a new layer of strategy to his gameplay, but it adds value to the little pauses in-between attacks during each fight to charge the limit meter.  This unique limit mechanic means that Cloud plays like no other character.  I’m incredibly happy about his inclusion and what it means both for Smash and for gaming as a whole.

4 – Lucina

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Lucina has frequently been written off as a pointless character because she has the same moves as Marth, a three-time Smash Bros. veteran.  Personally, though, I feel like Lucina is actually a better version of Marth.  In fact, despite their identical movesets, I think Lucina is a more accessible character.  She’s less floaty, she’s quicker, and she can do damage more consistently due to her lack of a tipper.  ZeRo (AKA Gonzalo Barrios) has expressed this same opinion.

All of her moves do a consistent amount of damage regardless of where her sword hits the opponent.  This is opposed to Marth, whose attacks do more damage when they make contact near the tip of his blade and less damage when they make contact near the hilt.  On the whole, Lucina is better for players like myself, who like diving into the fray more than being precise.

Above and beyond all this, I have a prior attachment to Lucina.  Her original game, Fire Emblem Awakening, was the first Fire Emblem game I ever owned, and it has since become one of my favorite games.  After playing it, I found Lucina to be an interesting character.  I like that she’s fiercely loyal and kind, but awkward and unsociable because of her lonely upbringing.  A lot of people would have preferred other characters over Lucina,  but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

3 – Sonic

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I’m no longer sure of whether I can still call myself a fan of Sonic games due to its lengthy series of ups and downs, I’m definitely a huge fan of the character himself.  I originally got into Sonic with the release of Sonic Generations in 2011, and since then, I’ve gotten pretty good with Sonic in Smash despite the fact that I used to hate him in the game.

His speedy movements and great recovery make him a serious threat, especially because his moves have gotten stronger since the last game.  Although Sonic as a franchise has gotten a bad reputation recently, I sincerely hope this character doesn’t go anywhere — after all, if anyone deserves to be in Smash Bros., it’s Mario’s greatest rival!

2 – Link

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I have a soft spot for Link because I’ve always been a fan of The Legend of Zelda.  When I first got Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the third game in the series, Link quickly became my favorite character.

Although he’s never been particularly viable in advanced, competitive play, Link has always been one of my go-to characters for his nicely weighted movement, decent capacity to do damage, and variety of powerful projectiles.  He has a lot of potential for technical play, particularly on unusually constructed stages. Watching a skilled Link player in action is an amazing experience.  The amount of planning that goes into an effective Link is staggering.  He’s a character who you can play with easily, but takes extreme skill to truly master, and that makes him one of my favorites.

1 – Shulk

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Before the full roster had been revealed, Shulk was my first choice for a Smash Bros. newcomer.  This was mainly because I owned his original game, Xenoblade Chronicles, and to this day it remains my favorite Japanese RPG, a truly underrated gem.

After I played Xenoblade, I knew Shulk would transition beautifully into Smash Bros.  I was even more right than I thought.  The ingenious designers on Masahiro Sakurai’s team turned him into one of the most complex and interesting characters in the series.

I think Shulk’s greatest strengths are his unique Monado Arts and his incredible range.  His Arts, called Jump, Speed, Shield, Buster, and Smash, are based on his unique abilities from Xenoblade Chronicles.  They allow him to greatly enhance particular attributes for a short time at the expense of giving him temporary weaknesses.  For instance, Buster causes Shulk’s attacks to deal more damage, but while using it, he takes more damage himself.  Arts can be switched out at the drop of a hat as the situation requires, making Shulk a force of nature in the proper hands.

These compliment Shulk’s extreme close quarter range — although most of his moves leave him open when they miss, a clever and patient player can do wonders with him.  To this day, he remains my favorite character to play as in Smash Bros. for Wii U.   It was a tough decision, but Shulk’s great design as a character combined with my love of the Xenoblade series make him my absolute favorite character in Smash to date.

And there we have it!  I hope you all enjoyed my long-considered Smash ramble.  To close, I suppose all I can say is, get the game if you haven’t already.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best games out there.

Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the Perfect Remake

Remaking a beloved video game is dangerous work.  A studio remaking a game has to capture the spirit of a game but still make it feel fresh.  It’s not easy to achieve this, but I trust no company more than Nintendo.  Why?  Because their 2015 game The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an immaculate remake.

A Link Between Worlds is a remake of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the NES classic from 1991.  It uses the same top-down world as the original, but with new mechanics.  It was also the first Zelda game that I actually finished.  I’ve talked about games like Majora’s Mask and Skyward Sword already, so I figured I’d keep the spirit train rolling. (Zelda jokes LOL)

The irony is that I never really liked A Link to the Past.  It’s one of my least favorite Zelda games.  I’m going straight against popular opinion when I say this, so I want to explain.  This is about a remake after all, so I want to talk about the original.  I’ll start by describing my problems with the SNES game, then talk about the fixes.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past‘s problems

A Link to the Past logo
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past logo. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I’m no doubt going to come off as nitpicky with this first complaint, but I don’t like the sound design or art style of A Link to the Past.  Musically, I actually prefer the first game on the NES.  It’s because the game makes liberal use of the SNES horn sample.

See, as opposed to the NES, the SNES had a music chip that could create dozens of different tones.  This came through strong in Super Mario World, one of my favorite games.  Its music was chipper, eclectic, and it never got old.

A Link to the Past, meantime, makes use of a faux brass section in virtually every track in the game.  This includes the overworld theme, and it’s hard listening to the same repetitive brass tune for 40 minutes straight.

The sprite and world design is a bit better, but Link himself, the player character, looks awful in my opinion.  He has pink hair, red shoes, and gigantic, crossed eyes.  It echoes my feeling about the entire art style — it just feels…sloppy.

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Link’s sprite in A Link to the Past on SNES.

The world design is alright, but it’s much more restrictive than the game it’s trying to imitate.  Exploring the world is now tied to quests and items, which is usually fine.  The problem is that items are often locked behind other items, which are usually obtained from dungeons.  Unless you explore the world in extreme detail, the best option is to simply try to complete the dungeons.  Of course, reaching them often involves completing tasks that aren’t terribly clear.  What I found was a more linear and frustrating experience than I expected.

As dungeon design goes, A Link to the Past is clever in places, but they often blend together aesthetically.  The later dungeons have interesting puzzles that range across different rooms, and hide some decent boss fights.  Still, I couldn’t tell them apart if you asked me to.

So I have a fair few problems with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  But fear not, because A Link Between Worlds solved just about all of them.

The Solutions of A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds logo
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds logo. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

My very favorite fix from this game is its item rental mechanic.  Very early in the game, a guy named Ravio moves into your house.  He offers to sell you a range of items for rent or purchase.  If you’re renting an item, you hold onto it until you die, at which point you have to rent it back to use it again.  This effectively allows you to explore the world however you like, at whatever pace you like.  You just need to have rupees to spend and be good at surviving.

Furthermore, the item upgrade system is back, but this time it works by collection.  If you collect enough Maiamai shells around the overworld, you can upgrade every item you own.  These shells are often well-hidden, and I actually had a lot of fun finding them.  They give a good incentive to explore.

The new system makes exploration much easier and gives more freedom to the player.  This felt lacking in A Link to the Past, and it makes the world a playground where the player is the one dictating their own pace of exploration.  Speaking of which, A Link Between Worlds introduces a mechanic unique to the world of Zelda.  You’re given the ability to merge into the wall.  (Insert mind blow here.)

Regular Link and Merged Link
A Link Between Worlds art showing how Link looks merged into the wall. (Photo: BagoGames via Flickr)

Wall-merging changes the gameplay style completely.  It allows you to walk along vertical surfaces for a limited time, which shifts the structure of dungeon design completely.  The game incorporates floating platforms, temporary sand walls, and more.  Mastering the mechanic and knowing when to use makes it extremely satisfying to use.  Spotting an item on a distant platform and knowing how to reach it never gets old.

Wall-merging is also the new way to reach the Dark World, the more challenging parallel world of Lorule.  Lorule also has a series of unique dungeons, all with their own looks and neat gimmicks.  Aesthetically, all the worlds and enemies are wonderful to look at, a picture of what I think A Link to the Past was always meant to be.

Remastering and Refining

A Link Between Worlds is a paragon of the remake because it not only remasters a formula, but refines that formula as well.   It took everything that feels dated about A Link to the Past and made it more current, while maintaining the same old top-down adventure standby that made the original a classic.

Wall-merging, item rental, and clever dungeons not only change the Link to the Past layout to be more player-friendly in general, but they also optimize the handheld experience.  The player has so many things they can do at any given time, and the game is fun to just pick up and play because of it.

Even better, the game manages to be just different enough to stand out on its own, without feeling like a way to capitalize on the SNES game.  It even won best handheld at GDC in 2014.  I’d like to see more companies remaster their games with this goal in mind.