Friday, January 5, 2018

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest release in the Legend of Zelda series, which was simultaneously the final Wii U game from Nintendo and one of the launch titles on the Nintendo Switch, and hit store shelves on March 3rd, 2017 worldwide. The game was produced by mainline Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and developed by Nintendo EPD.

Breath of the Wild is a break from the usual Zelda formula and features a massive open-world environment and a bevy of new equipment for Link to procure and use throughout his adventure. Taking a page from the original NES game, Link is simply dropped into the world and given very little direction. The player can tackle the game in any fashion they want, trying to figure out the correct path to victory as they go.

The game was first announced to be in development as far back as 2013 and was meant to be the mainline Zelda title released on the Wii U. It had a slotted release date of 2015. This was initially bumped out to 2016, but was ultimately pushed out again to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch to give the new console a heavy-hitter on release.

This decision, of course, ruffled a lot of feathers in the gaming community. There were many people who claimed they purchased a Wii U simply to get the next Legend of Zelda title that had been promised and felt burned that it would release two years later and on Nintendo's next system.

Any issues with the release of Breath of the Wild seemed to quiet instantly on March 3rd. The game has been universally touted as a wild success (pun intended), selling approximately 5 million copies as of September of this year across both platforms and taking home full marks from many of the biggest reviewing publications. As of writing this, the game has taken Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards.

Now with that out of the way, it's time for me to gush about how much I loved Breath of the Wild.

For years the debate of whether Zelda was an RPG or an action adventure title has raged across message boards on the Internet. Whichever side of the fence you're on in that fight, I find these games to be adventure titles and no game has allowed me to experience true adventure like Breath of the Wild.

The open world is both massive and breath-taking (again with the puns). I can remember in the opening moments of the game I actually felt daunted by the sheer breadth of it. The game opens in an area called the Great Plateau and - to put things into context - this area alone is larger than the entirety of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time! Then when I finally broke free of the Great Plateau and had the fullness of Hyrule to my disposal to explore, I felt completely overawed.

The beauty of Hyrule

The only thing I can suggest is that you just shed the old mentality of "do x, get y, beat bad guy, move to next area". This game has been made completely non-linear. You're given a loose idea of where to go next, but there's no reason you should follow that. Let the open road take you. See that strange object in the distance? Go there! What's up there on top of that mountain? Climb and find out! Just let the land lead you and you'll get so much more out of the experience than just trying to get to the end.

By the time I decided to finally finish Breath of the Wild I had clocked 115+ hours. For me, that is absolute madness. I haven't cracked 80 hours in a game in years, let alone over 100. I would just turn this game on and travel around from place to place for hours aimlessly. You're often rewarded for doing this, either by new items or Shrines, which act as the games puzzles. There are 120 Shrines hidden all over Hyrule and the only way you're going to find them all is to check every nook and cranny the map has to offer. That's what took me so long to finish the game, honestly. I had to have them all! Finally, I found all 120 and that's when I decided it was time to face the final boss.

My 120th shrine

If you find I'm being vague and explaining very little about how the game plays, you're right. I'm being intentionally nebulous, because I don't want to ruin anything for someone that may not have played the title.

In fact, I think I'm going to leave it there. This is my third full draft of this article. I've tried explaining every facet of the gameplay. I've tried gushing about my personal experiences. I've tried being over-analytical and pointed.

The hero of  Hyrule

The fact is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game changer. Or at least it was for me. I haven't done so yet, but I think I need to re-order my Top 10 favourite games of all time, that's how much this game meant to me. I can say this, without a doubt: Breath of the Wild is my favourite Legend of Zelda title of all time, ousting Ocarina of Time. And I've played a lot of them (except A Link to the Past - maybe we'll talk about that some other time).

Looks like it's time to face the final boss

So for me, this is a must-play. Whether you snag it on the Wii U or pick up a shiny new Nintendo Switch, I think you owe it to yourself to try this game. There's a lot of content here, so book out your calendar. And remember, let the adventure take you and enjoy.


P.S. I still have not played any of the DLC, but I plan to pick it up later this year, once I've played something else for a bit. I'll update on that when the time comes!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Theatrical Cut - Blade Runner 2049

My good friend Cole and I finally managed to catch Blade Runner 2049, the newly minted sequel to the original Blade Runner, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Here are our thoughts after we left the theatre!

Check it out on your video platform of choice!


Hope you enjoy,

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

VHyesterdayS - Communion (1989)

Here is the inaugural edition of my latest video series VHyesterdayS, where I'll talk about some of my favourite VHS tapes I have lying around my movie collection.

This episode will be about the controversial and oddball science fiction film, Communion, based on the novel of the same name.

Check out the video on YouTube or and don't forget to check out the Coming Attractions!

I hope you enjoy,

Friday, September 22, 2017

100 Shrines Later...

I've been trying to keep mums the word on my thoughts of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the past few months, because I'd like to write a proper review for the game once I've completed it, but I hit a milestone last night and I wanted to share.

I've been playing this game pretty much since launch day. Technically my copy of the game came in three days after the launch or so, but whatever. Here we are almost seven months later and I'm still playing this game! I'm over 100 hours in, which for me is significant. I don't think I've ever put 100 hours into a game like this before. Sure, I've racked those kinds of hours in games like Goldeneye 007, which my friends and I played on multiplayer for countless hours over several years, but a single-player action adventure game? Nah, I don't think so. I doubt I've put that much time into a Final Fantasy game, honestly.

100 shrines deep

At right around 100 hours I hit 100 shrines. For the last couple of weeks that's pretty much been all I've been doing: shrine hunting. I've finished all the Divine Beasts, got the Master Sword, and accumulated most of the armour sets (still have some work to do there), so pretty much all I have left is to get all 120 shrines and I think it'll be time for me square off with the final boss and finish Breath of the Wild properly.

Hyrule Castle awaits

That's easier said than done, however, as finding these shrines is getting more and more difficult as I progress. I've been sectioning off areas of the map and basically doing a grid search. I started at the bottom, so I've pretty much checked off Gerudo and Faron, but finding these things can be seriously tough. Also, I'm noticing that all those "Oh, there's a shrine!" moments are gone. Now I'm constantly searching for hidden shrines and shrine quests. I'm surprised with how many I've missed!

The sword in the stone

I'm still having a great time, though, which is a testament to the game and the portability of the Nintendo Switch. As much as I love the title, I don't think I'd be nearly as far along as I am if I was playing it on the Wii U, simply because I've played so much of the game on-the-go or on breaks at work.

The beauty of Hyrule

Anyway, I just wanted to share that! Look forward to the final review, whenever that happens! Oh, and today is the first day of Autumn, my favourite season, so Happy Fall! May there be many pumpkin lattes and horror films in your future.

Link's ready for Halloween!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Project Octopath Traveler Impressions

As I watched the Nintendo Direct last evening I had one hope spooling around in my mind: I'd like to see more of Project Octopath Traveler from Square Enix. My wishes were answered when it became one of the four main titles spotlighted during the event. I had simply hoped for a trailer or some new information. I never expected to get a demo!

Directly after the event the demo for Project Octopath Traveler was available on the Nintendo eShop and I downloaded it immediately.

As a fan of classic RPGs and the work of Team Asano at Square Enix, the group that brought us 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default, and Bravely Second, I've been anticipating this project since it was first teased at the reveal of Nintendo Switch back in January.

Bravely Default - Nintendo 3DS

The game presents the player with eight different characters to choose at the outset of their adventure. Each character offers a different play-style, story, and allows the player to go out into an open world and play the game however they see fit. The game is presented in an art-style defined by the developers as 2D-HD, which is an apt name. The sprites all appear to have a 2D pixel look, however the world is in three dimensions.

In the demo you can play as two characters, Primrose or Olberic. Primrose is a dancer who can use an Allure ability, which allows her to charm people in her environment to follow her for various tasks. She can also summon characters she has Allured to battle. Olberic is a former knight serving as a protector to a small village after he lost his king eight years previously. Olberic can challenge anyone in the world to a duel, which sounds strange, but actually plays out alright from what the demo has shown.

The game's aesthetic and music hearken back to RPGs from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation era. Although the mechanics of Bravely Default, for instance, are a little more straight-laced like the Final Fantasy games of old, the aesthetic of Project Octopath Traveler is so akin to a game like Final Fantasy VI that its charm hits you almost immediately as you begin your adventure.

Final Fantasy 3 (aka VI) - Super Nintendo

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people are aligning this game with Final Fantasy VI and I can see why. The look of the character sprites definitely feels like an extension of that game, but the music! I can't account for it - I know that FFVI's soundtrack was presented as bit-tunes and Project Octopath Traveler has a full orchestra behind it, but I can hear and feel the lineage of FFVI in some of the tracks I experienced playing the demo of Project Octopath Traveler. There are also several tracks that I've listened to on the web that feel very much like something from Chrono Cross. The music is absolutely stunning.

Project Octopath Traveler - Nintendo Switch

Here's the thing: I don't think Project Octopath Traveler is supposed to be reminiscent of the Final Fantasy games of old. I believe that Project Octopath Traveler is to the SaGa games as Bravely Default was to Final Fantasy; the branching open-world paths and multiple characters to choose from at the outset just screams SaGa.

The SaGa series was released in North America around the early 90s under the Final Fantasy branding, as the games definitely contain some of the DNA of FF titles, which were selling like hotcakes in the Americas. The first three SaGa games were released here as Final Fantasy Legend on Gameboy, but we missed out on all of the Super Nintendo/Famicom entries in the series known as Romancing SaGa and we didn't see another SaGa game until SaGa Frontier released on the Sony PlayStation in 1997.

Romancing SaGa 3 - Super Famicom

Now, I'm no SaGa expert. I've played a little bit of one of the FF Legend games - I believe it was Final Fantasy Legend II - and I've watched a fair bit of SaGa Frontier. My good friend (and Retro-Def contributor) Cole owns both of those games and I've played a bit of them at his place when we were kids. If I'm wrong on this one, feel free to correct me, but I definitely catch a SaGa vibe off of Project Octopath Traveler and I wouldn't be surprised if this game ended up as a SaGa title when it finally releases in 2018, but I still think it's more likely that it will continue to be its own thing, capturing some of the essence of the SaGa games of the past.

That's all I really have to say at this point. Even though we've had a couple of nice trailers, a feature in Nintendo Direct, and a demo of the game I still feel like a lot of it is shrouded in mystery. For one thing, even though we have a demo, the game is still being presented by it's working title, with the real name of the game to be revealed closer to release. I feel like we've only scratched the surface with Project Octopath Traveler and there's so much more to come from this highly anticipated title!

Feel free to tell me how you feel about the newly released information on Project Octopath Traveler! Have you played the demo? Hit me up in the comments below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages. I'd love to hear from you!

Hope you enjoyed,