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Mark E

“Hey! Listen!” - A 16 game tour of Link’s adventures from Agahnim to Zelda.

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

 

Well, that was a great blast from the past. There’s no denying that the Zelda we know and love really firmed up with the SNES entry that’s a beloved classic for a reason.

 

This game knocks it out of the park from minute one, as you get called out to the castle in the midst of a literal dark and stormy night, the rain pouring down in the background as you try to sneak in and rescue Princess Zelda.

 

And it would only get better. The SNES’ full bag of tricks gets used every way possible, with multi-level floors in the dungeons, fog, mist, shaded forest, echoing sound, a brilliant soundtrack. It all works really well, and it was a blast getting to remember how fun this game is for the first time in years.

 

Is it perfect? No, it’s not. Some of the enemies border on miserable and are nigh unavoidable, which sucks, and the boss of the desert palace (the one who can knock you clear off the platform and out of the stage) is potentially rage inducing in how unfair that fight is to the player. There’s a hard boss and then there’s a hard boss because you may be forced to restart it half a dozen times and then die and have to fight back to it again.

 

In the end though, it’s a classic for a reason. Great story, real characters, SO much to discover, tons of dungeons. The dungeons are amazing and most are fun to work through - this is the first entry where the best dungeon category has actual competition. The fight through Hyrule Castle to save Zelda is particularly fun, but I have to give the nod to the Ice Palace because it’s a bugger hard puzzle that’s satisfying to figure out (the town dungeon with Blind the Thief is a close third).

 

Top it off with a great ending and a cracking final boss battle and you have one for the ages. Next stop is Link’s Awakening - I’m playing the DX version on the 2DS - and despite saying I was going to take a break, I’m almost halfway through it (it came on vacation with me).

 

Current ranking:

1) Link to the Past

2) Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

3) The Legend of Zelda

 

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This thread is making me reminisce hardcore and remember the HOURS I spent on the first two on the original NES. Thanks for taking me down memory lane!

 

It's also making me want to get a Switch. I've had a on/off relationship with Nintendo over the years and skipped a lot of their systems, so missed quite a few of the Zelda games. Might be a good time to get caught up :)

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I’m glad! I mean, it’s half filling holes in my gaming lexicon and half a chance to reminisce and share our experiences anyway :).

 

Not to mention the chance to shine a light on some really good games. If it wasn’t for some really annoying issues, I’d put Link’s Awakening neck and neck with Link to the Past right now. It’s ridiculously strong as a Zelda game and off the charts as a Gameboy/GBC entry.

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Link’s Awakening

 

That was fast! My first time playing this with any sort of intention to complete it and what a mostly fun little game. I’ve heard this called the best GB game and I could believe that.

 

I really like Zelda games with melacholy stories and this one is better than most. Spoiler for a 20+ year old game but the whole land is the dream of the wind fish; who is held captive by nightmares. So to escape after he is caught in the dream, Link destroys everybody he meets on the way. Regrettably, most of the best emotional beats are hidden behind prerequisites that most would never even know about.

 

My biggest issue with this one is traversal - the game is dying to get you out exploring but the way it gates things and makes you have the right items precludes it from offering shortcuts. As a result, you have a few warp points that are barely useful and no rapid transit that makes hunting for things a chore rather than a pleasure.

 

Enemies are not terribly annoying for once. The GB’s lower power means you only get a couple on screen at a time so that helps. I will shout out these ridiculous horse heads that you have to toss around until both land standing up to open doors - they are bloody random and take forever.

 

Dungeons are pretty same-y, but the Eagle Tower is quite complex and has a mid-dungeon cut-scene that’s a lot of fun (the whole thing would have set my brain on fire if I hadn’t been on a walk through by that point).

 

You can’t take away what an accomplishment this was, but the nicks and dents present (the control scheme is as good as they could get it on the system but it is still cumbersome as hell) enough of an annoyance to knock it down a few pegs. But it is still the second best of the four games thus far.

 

Current Ranking:

 

1) Link to the Past

2) Link’s Awakening

3) Zelda 2: Adventure of Link

4) The Legend of Zelda

 

Next stop... Ocarina of Time! I’m looking forward to revisiting it as it’s another one of my favorite Zeldas.

 

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I’m ashamed to say I’ve only ever played Link’s Awakening once—back in 1997, right before I started college. I played the original version and not the DX one with the extra dungeon. I remember being really impressed with it at the time, thinking it was a more impressive game technically than the NES original. This is one that I would like to replay at some point. I may have to download it on my 3DS at some point and give it another play through.

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For the price it costs on the VC it is worth a play, definitely. It has some rough patches but it is definitely a worthwhile Zelda game and, yes, it’s way better than either of the NES games tech-wise.

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Ocarina of Time

 

So this game’s pretty amazing but it pretty much isn’t my favorite Zelda game. There’s enough here that bugged me - it’s a landmark game and so important it beggars belief... but.

 

Anyway, you have to give it up for what it did, in terms of salvaging 3D games that were largely a misery to play up to that point. Camera locking, targeting, the jump from the edge, etc etc etc. The historical impact of Ocarina is never in question. If only it had a free stick camera and NO BLOODY STEALTH SECTIONS.

 

It’s got a ton of stuff to do, which is also really great and you don’t have to do even half of the side stuff. I got all the Great Fairy fountains and at least two of them are useless. The skulltula hunting is a lot of fun - they smartly put a lot of them in areas you’re visiting anyway so why not grab a couple? I do think the effort for reward goes a bit screwy - here’s a bottle for diving in the lake and here’s another one for spending hours hunting ghosts across the vast Hyrule field.

 

The story is fine. I think the Sheikh reveal would have meant a lot more had it not been spoiled for me, but the way you collect sages from among the people you’ve encountered is really well done. Ganon’s a real presence here, which is also a nice change from his end boss status.

 

Dungeon-wise, the forest area at the start deserves a huge shout out - that first dungeon is a masterful tutorial for your first 3D Zelda and has none of the oppressive hand holding you’d see later. Otherwise, I have to give it up for the infamous water temple, which is actually a delightfully intricate piece of work (I did have to re-check a walk through and it was something I overlooked, whoops). The second forest dungeon is also a lot of fun, with the paintings and a faux-Ganon encounter.

 

Dungeon design is overall really tight in this one - the last one where you have to do half of it as young Link shows how much more they could have done with the time mechanics if they wanted it; definite missed opportunity.

 

Most annoying enemy award goes to anything that can destroy your wooden shield, especially the flaming bat things (Krees, I believe). They just suck.

 

It’s a damn fine game and worth every second you give it, but it does have some old school sense that I just don’t have time for. Notable for the introduction of Epona, the wonder horse, and the ascendancy of the hook shot as a critical item.

 

Current ranking:

 

1) Link to the Past

2) Ocarina of Time

3) Link’s Awakening

4) Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

5) The Legend of Zelda

 

I’ve already started Majora’s Mask on the 3DS (sorry Romier ;)) and having never played this for more than 20 minutes before I have to say it’s absolutely delightful. It feels like a wonderfully intricate puzzle you have to slowly unravel bit by bit and I’m hoping my impressions stay of that level.

 

 

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I am so fond of my experience as a NES owner playing Zelda 1 and Zelda 2.  Those are by default my favorite experiences.  OoT and BoTW are my favorite modern ones.

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Majora’s Mask

 

Man did I ever love the first part of this game. All the effusive praise I could muster for this concept, the cool creepy vibe of a world living the same three days over and over before ending completely...

 

Then the game kept going. And going. And repeating. I can’t even imagine playing this on the N64 without the QoL changes in the 3DS version and not going insane. And it’s not to say Majora’s Mask is a bad game - I can see a certain type of player loving this. For me, however, it was an absolute nightmare.

 

Start a long quest chain, days in the making, screw it up, have to repeat. Miss a jump, time runs out, have to repeat. It’s maddening and the design was great at the start when it was super tight but I just could not stand it as I went on.

 

That looming time limit is part of the game but it just prevents you from actually enjoying the damn thing. And yes you keep your good gear at the end of it, but it also constantly undoes your work - hey you saved the swamp and cleaned up the poison, now beat the boss again on another run if you need to do any more shit in there.

 

I do think the de-emphasis on the dungeons is not terrible - you get some fun mini-dungeons and lots of other side quests. And the world and characters become familiar with repetition. AND the side stuff gives meaningful rewards because the lack of dungeons means they’re hurling heart pieces at you left, right, and center. The dungeon rewards are all arrow types, which really takes the fun out of opening the big chest to see what’s inside once you realize what’s going on.

 

The masks are fun but most are very one note. The game hardly gives you enough direction, which is a product of the time, but it’s annoying. I just... it’s not for me.

 

Best dungeon is probably the Zora based one, which is intricate but mercifully colour-coded. None of the enemies are particularly annoying this time around, so the annoying enemy award can go to the rigid scheduling of events :P. 

 

It’s tough to rank - yeah it is better than the 8-bit Zeldas but I’d play Adventures of Link again before this one any day of the frigging week.

 

Current Ranking:

 

1) Link to the Past

2) Ocarina of Time

3) Link’s Awakening

4) Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

5) Majora’s Mask

6) The Legend of Zelda

 

Next up, the dual package of Oracle of Ages/Seasons, which I will probably rank in a lump rather than split, unless I (unlikely) have woefully differing opinions on them. Then it’s on to the game that got 3D Zelda right and may still be my favorite in the series - Wind Waker.

 

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23 hours ago, Mark E said:

Start a long quest chain, days in the making, screw it up, have to repeat. Miss a jump, time runs out, have to repeat. It’s maddening and the design was great at the start when it was super tight but I just could not stand it as I went on.

 

It's funny-even playing this back on the N64, I don't remember ever finding the timing too tight.  It took some planning, sure, but if you start a run with the intent of hitting a dungeon, and then use the half speed time song (you did figure that one out...right?  If not that would make the timeline a whole lot harder to deal with), it seemed to be plenty of time to finish.  The only place where the remake really helped out was in getting a couple of the events that are dependent on a specific hour, so rather than just waiting around, you can advance to exactly 2am.  There are also a couple of things that have pretty tight timelines that are tricky to complete (the wedding mask is a really long chain if I recall), but I suppose it depends on whether part of this challenge is to 100% every game or not. You can get burned with having to repeat something (like a boss fight), but the ability to warp straight to the boss made it pretty reasonable to do a run where you could re-explore a whole area post-boss without too much trouble. 

 

Curious though-where do you think things fell apart?  Something specific about the design, or just getting sick of the repetition?

 

I actually just started playing Hitman (the one from a couple years back), and it's very similar to Majora in a lot of ways because of the clockwork repetition of the whole world (and, I suppose, disguises).

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I still think it’s probably just my own irritation with it. I can see what people like in Majora, I really can, but as it went on it just started grating on me.

 

Part of the problem is that it’s still mired in the design sensibilities of that era - the 3D still isn’t great; the designer who thinks making you walk (or worse, run/roll) along a thin strip of platform to achieve something is fun needs a solid thrashing. Ocarina did this too, but I’m also not wrangling with the time limits and potentially replaying chunks of it to get back to where I screwed up.

 

And then you have little nitpicks like how goddamn long it takes for the transformation masks to kick in. Yes, it is mere seconds but when you have to swap all three out several times over it begins to drive me insane.

 

I think the time limit doesn’t mesh well with an open world design. Hitman is super fun and The Sexy Brutale has a similar over and over replay that’s not as frustrating because the design locks you into a relatively small space.

 

With Majora’s Mask, you might have to blast across the map a bunch of times and it wasn’t working for me. I think the concept is fantastic - the first part where you’re exploring Clock Town and trying to get the Deku Mask off before the moon hits is SO good - you have a few puzzles, a time limit, a clear goal.

 

Compared to when I’m going back over the same ground for the 20th time to reach a temple so I can try and find a stray fairy or have to kill a boss for the third time, it’s practically not even the same game.

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Oh, and Majora’s Mask was the introduction of Tingle, who is far and away the worst character that Nintendo ever created.

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On 1/19/2019 at 9:24 AM, Mark E said:

The Sexy Brutale has a similar over and over replay that’s not as frustrating because the design locks you into a relatively small space.

 

True, that game was incredible.  Definitely deserved more attention, and I can see the connection between the two (even the masks). 

 

I suppose Majora is one of those things where "you just had to be there", since I can't think of anything else that had done that type of structure at the time.  It took the 3d Zelda formula, and tried to do something new and weird with it. 

 

Semi-related, I bought Calvin a SNES classic, but I've also been using it to finally get that 000 game playthrough of Link to the Past.  I've used save states to bookmark the game, but haven't used the rewind/save scum for it.  It's actually been long enough that I've forgotten large bits of the game-we'll see if I can get back up to 100%.

 

Oracle of ages/seasons are both great though, and the linking stuff is an incredibly cool idea.  Then Wind Waker, which has the opposite Majora problem I suppose (strong start, weak ending), although the WiiU remake mitigates a lot of that. 

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It’s an experiment that most people love and I am indifferent to - I am glad it exists for the people who like it and for Nintendo to show they’ll try something new now and then.

 

I’m nearly half done with Oracle of Seasons already - I’ve played it a ton in the past just not beyond the halfway mark - and it’s perfectly okay. Dungeon design is quite good but it’s cribbing too much from the Link’s Awakening style. Also, the new stuff - the animal companions and the subterranean realm and trampolines of all things - is a little too goofy for the series.

 

The game’s definitely good and I’m looking forward to Ages because I have never touched that one, but playing them all in close succession you really notice when they’re xeroxing even beyond repeating the tropes and items.

 

I don’t disagree on Wind Waker; I really think it’s a dungeon or two away from being one of the best games of all time period, but it’s definitely a series highlight for me.

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I’m going to play and rank these as a pair, but Oracle of Seasons is done. Once I finish Ages I’ll be halfway done the list!

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That's a good pair of games to be in the middle of :) 

I think you're right to think of them as a single experience through a pair of playthroughs. 

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Oracle of Seasons/Ages

 

Fun. It’s cover band Zelda. Really good cover band, they do the hits well and all, but they can’t match up with the original.

 

Like I said above, it cribs too much from Awakening and even Ocarina of Time and what it does add is often incredibly silly, particularly in Seasons which is definitely the weaker of the two (and was allegedly designed as the more action-oriented one versus the puzzles in Ages).

 

I find these titles are also of the time in that they’re incredibly stingy with clues. There’s a conundrum where you're given the rules and then there’s being left to flail around like you’re assembling IKEA furniture in the dark.

 

The controls are starting to hamper these portable titles as well. Some boss fights you have to use different ammunition and different weapons and it’s a pain in the ass having to swap them constantly. Couple extra buttons are really missed.

 

Before I go positive I will also point out that Ages, which I overall liked, is nearly sunk by what is, to date, the worst Zelda powerup ever - the bloody mermaid suit. It lets you swim underwater, yay. Unfortunately they kneecap you to one button because they have to use B to surface and change the controls so you have to constantly tap in a direction to swim, which is very NOT FUN.

 

Ahem. That said, I mostly enjoyed my time here, especially when it came to Ages and the linked quest that gives you a Ganon fight at the end of both. The linked quests bring a bunch of characters over from the game you play first and they mention your previous exploits and it’s a really nice touch. It makes the plots mean more and has a Mass Effect feel minus any choices.

 

Dungeon-wise, the best dungeons are in Ages and special praise to the dungeon in Ages where you get the Cane. That’s one of my least favorite items in Link to the Past and they use it SO creatively in the dungeon that it’s one of the few cases where Capcom improved on Nintendo’s work. There are a couple more that stand out, so Ages is the clear winner, but Seasons isn’t bad, just really mediocre.

 

Most annoying enemy award goes to the candlesticks that you set on fire and then turn into high speed bombs that are hard to avoid and clobber you for health. And don’t look like candle sticks so I had no idea what the hell to do with them for a long time.

 

And that’s halfway done. Next stop is Wind Waker and oh I am not sad to be heading back to play that one again...

 

Current Ranking:

 

1) Link to the Past

2) Ocarina of Time

3) Link’s Awakening

4) Oracle of Seasons/Ages

5) Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

6) Majora’s Mask

7) The Legend of Zelda

 

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