Wolf Link’s Tears of the Kingdom Minimalist Playthrough

I’ve been waiting a while to post this one. Right now SGDQ 2024 is acclimating everyone to games being played very quickly, but this post is about a game being played over a long, long period, so by comparison, it should feel even looooonger. Longer than you’d expect maybe from the run being called minimalist.

Wolf Link has, for ten months, been trying to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in a minimalist fashion. By their definition, minimalist means getting a 100% map completion. That doesn’t seem too obvious, does it? But 100% map, which is the closest the game has to declaring you’ve finished 100% of the game. There is no 100% game completion counter. Filling out all of the map is as close as it gets.

That’s still a whole lot of things. It means unlocking all the towers, getting all the Korok seeds, and doing absolute everything need to get everything to appear on the map. What Wolf Link means by minimalist is going as little as possible beyond that, regarding to changes in world and game state.

For example. There’s a sword on the ground. You pick up the sword, and it makes the little item-discovered jingle for finding a type of item the first time, and putting its name up in a little description box. That’s not okay, because now Link knows about that kind of item, so go back to your last save.

Discovering a few types of items like this is unavoidable. Anything that has to be discovered in order to fill out all of the map, well, that can’t be helped, right? But what actually has to be done to get to that point? Are there sneaky ways around collecting essential items? And there are a lot of items that, the first time they’re collected, mark themselves on the run in an indelible way. Most items, in fact. Getting items out of chests that don’t respawn is also outlawed if there’s any way to get to 100% without it. Completing shines is also forbidden after the first four, so the whole game is played with four hearts and one stamina wheel, or later, possibly, three hearts and a little over one stamina wheel.

In Tears of the Kingdom, however, there’s still lots of things you can do. All of the powers you pick up in the first shrines, as it turns out, are essential to getting 100%, so all of those abilities are open. Meaning, especially, you get Ultrahand and the ability to glue things together. Getting Zonai items in capsules isn’t allowed, but using those that are found around Hyrule in the field is. The precise rules are laid out on the Rules tab of the document here.

Another interesting thing, it turns out, that you can do, that turns out to be essential in this challenge, is [spoilers]: unlocking Mineru, the Sage of the Spirit Temple that players aren’t even told about until finishing the other four temples, can be done first. She can be the first sage you get! And the useful thing about that is that Zonai devices can be attached to her, then she can be ridden to use those devices at will. Unlocking her early though by the rules of the Minimalist Run requires doing the Thunderhead Isles in the Sky without clearing the thunderstorm, which is no mean trick.

Over ten months the series has gotten up to 34 videos, and there’s quite a ways to go. The journey already is a long one, but here it is as it stands:

Sundry Sunday: Zelda and Link are Gremlins Actually

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

I thought the colloquialism was goblins? Gremlins fits pretty well for these videos though. Take a look. They’re all from Youtube animator RibbitSpell.

The first (1 1/2 minutes) is where the post title comes from, positing a time after all the adventure stuff is over and Link and Zelda are just hanging out and doing whatever. What did they get up to after Tears of the Kingdom? Why don’t we ever see them just hanging out? The games rarely tell us, so a lot of room is left for fans to fill in the gaps:

The title of the second (1 minute), “Zelda but you play as Zelda,” leaves out that you play as gremlin Zelda.

And one more, Ganon’s Rude Re-Awakening (30 seconds).

We get versions where Link is a cartoon character, where there’s four Links and where Link dies over and over and where he’s a train conductor, and now (at last) where we play as Zelda. Why don’t we get an official take where Link and Zelda canonically team up to cause random silly trouble all across Hyrule? Probably leaving Old Man Ganon to shake his fist at them as they run away, having left flaming sacks of dog crap on the doorstep of his big evil castle.

Nintendo Direct Recap, June 2024

Well, it looks like another Nintendo Direct has come and gone. Coverage of current-day Nintendo things lies at the very edge of our tripartite purview, that of Retro, Indie and Niche, but in a way they are part of all three. Retro and Niche should be obvious; Indie, not nearly so much, but Nintendo is the least beholden of the three great console makers to the winds of trend, and even with their billions and billions of dollars they still at times manage to surface their long-held toymaker mindset. (At least, if you’re talking about game design. When it comes to throwing around their legal weight they’re the most corporate, the Disney of gaming.)

Well I’m not going to fight it. Here is my impression of every ever-lovin’ game presented in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct. Tomorrow I’ll get back to writing about random itch.io things, or Youtube videos about obscure arcade game. Those sound like something I’d do.

Here is the whole Nintendamn video, at 43 minutes loooong:

Overall: I really miss the days when Reggie Fils-Amie, Shigeru Miyamoto and, especially, Satoru Iwata would present these. Remember the time they had puppets represent everyone? Those three had chemistry. I still can’t say I approve of the reading of the narrator, who, nothing against him personally, is set at Smarm Level S.

So, the games. Titles link to the upload of just that part of the presentation on Nintendo’s Youtube account.

Mario & Luigi: Brothership. The series that bankrupted Alphadream, brought back to life. We don’t yet know if it’s a Nintendo in-house production or if another company’s making it, nor do we know if any Alphadream employees are working on it. Destructoid wonders about that too. I hope they get some credit for it, in some way.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition. News of this was leaked a bit early. It looks to be of similar lineage to the NES Remix games on 3DS and WiiU. It’s weird to see Nintendo embrace speedrunning, considering that that entire community was enabled and greatly furthered by emulation, but I guess if there’s money involved corporate qualms shall be set aside.

Fairy Tale 2. I barely know what this is, and I hate to tell you this, but I don’t care about you enough to go find out. It’s okay, we can still be friends.

I know it’s based off of an anime. I find it hilarious that the first words said in the trailer are “Let’s go, Happy!” Speaking of, the slogan of Koei-Tecmo now appears to be “Level up your happiness.” I have never lost my disdain for the engrish phrase “level up.” I dislike it nearly as much as “getting a Game Over.” That how I feel, it’s because I’m right, and the Great Trash Heap has spoken. Nyaaah!

FANTASIAN Neo Dimension. “From Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and composer Nobuo Uematsu.” And from Square-Enix, natch. Maybe I’m just old (51 now) but sometimes I see a trailer for a JRPG and I just start to get a migrane. The plot has to do with restoring memories, which is like the plot of more than half of all JRPGs for the last thirty years. Someday there’ll be a JRPG plot where everyone knows who they are and is in complete control of their faculties for the entire story and it’ll be a frogdamn sensation. I haven’t even started on how it seems to be about a bunch of teenagers trying to kill God again. But I’ll say this for it: it makes unironic use of the word DIMENGEON, so I can’t hate it all that much.

Nintendo Sports SWITCH. The Switch successor to the incredibly popular Wii Sports tends to get forgotten about, but it’s still kicking… and swinging, and bowling, and now is getting a new sport in Basketball. So, now Miis can dunk. Setting all of that aside: what the hell is Spocco Square? Is it their version of (ugh) Wuhu Island?

MIO: Memories in Orbit. Nothing much to say. It seems to be an exploratory platformer where you play the part of a humanoid variation of a GLaDOS core. They don’t say anything about it in the trailer either, so I am absolved.

Disney Illusion Island update. The update is free, and it launched the day of the Direct. I also don’t know much about Illusion Island, but Mickey looks like a goofus, and I love it for that.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure. More often than you’d think, a Hello Kitty game comes out and it’s unexpectedly good, and this may be one more for that notable pile. It looks like it might be worth it for the customizable Sanrio character creator all by itself. Hello Kitty has long been the butt for a certain irascible breed of internet funnyperson. The Brunching Shuttlecocks once suggested the creation of a Sanrio fighting game called Hello Kitty, Goodbye Teeth. “She has no mouth, and she must pummel!” I’m still trying to round up enough figures to field a Hello Kitty 40K army.

I love how among this field of brainplush animals there’s the Evil Sanrio Character Kuromi, and of course, eternal malcontent BADTZ MARU, always too hip for the room. No sign of Aggretsuko tho.

Looney Tunes: Wacky World of Sports. On the other hand, I have absolutely no faith that this will even live on the same continent as good. Kids these days barely know what they missed, and probably think of Bugs Bunny as Michael Jordan’s sidekick (or even LeBron James’, because we live in hell). When me and my decrepit ilk roamed the wastes, Bugs Bunny and friends, still the best cartoons ever made and I will fight you on that, were on the air constantly. Now you have to go to MeTV Toons to find them, and you definitely should find them.

You probably should not find this game. I’m almost prepared to lay money on Bugs Bunny’s face on the box, if it gets a physical release at all, having American Kirby-Style Angry Eyes. Like Mickey and Donald got when they played Soccer, Basketball, Football, went Skateboarding and rode Motocross. (But not, strangely, when they played Golf.)

American game box art starring cartoon characters has had a long and angry history, except when golfing. Unless you’re Donald Duck, but he gets a pass as his fury, and his lack of pants, are his defining characteristics.

Anyway, so the trailer’s lead character is Lola Bunny, the one who was created for Space Jam, and that tells you nearly everything. I am prepared to admit, though, that it was good thinking to tape the tennis racket to the Road Runner’s wing. Attention to detail right there.

Among Us update. I refuse to comment.

Farmagia. Urp, another anime JRPG, every Nintendo Direct’s like half this stuff by weight. There’s so many of these games to get through and not enough to say about them. In the game’s lore the word Farmagia is the name of a profession, but it seems to be a synonym for Pokemon Trainer.

Donkey Kong Country Returns HD. Or, Donkey Kong Country Returns Returns. It’s been so long that the reboots of the reboots are being remade.

Dragon Quest III HD-2D. Ah! This looks interesting, Dragon Quest III was always the best of the early DQ titles, allowing you to actually create the characters for your party and run with a team of three Goof-Offs if you want, who cares if it makes your group insufferable and you doom the world, you do you. Instead of making it in the more recent style pioneered with Dragon Quest VIII, they’re using the Octopath Traveler engine, which looks like a great fit for it. Also announced are remakes of the first two games, in that same style, next year. It’s only a matter of time before the Famicom/NES Final Fantasy games get the same treatment, I’m sure.

The clip ends with Yuji Horii himself greeting the viewer, dopey haircut and all, and I say that with immense love. I’m happy that the same guy who designed the original Dragon Quest (and also the Portopia Serial Murder Mystery), who went to California to that early Apple II demo and saw Wizardry and Ultima there, is still helming the series after so long. I really think it shines through and makes Dragon Quest a special thing.

Richard Gariott doesn’t make Ultima games any more, since Electronic Arts keeps it and a great swath of other classic computer IP locked up. Andrew Woodhead and Robert Greenberg haven’t worked on Wizardry for decades, and Sir-Tech is long long gone. All of those missing creators is a huge shame, but Yuji Horii’s still at it, and we should all be grateful. Of course, it’s all possible because of Dragon Quest’s gigantic cultural influence in Japan. That influence is also why there’s so many anime series that adopt video game conventions without questioning them, and I can’t say I much approve of that, but I never said it was a bad thing I’m not in charge of the world.

I notice they’re still calling Loto “Erdrick” in Western territories. Dost thine other characters continue to speakest Elizabethan English also? Dost thou carest?

Funko Fusion. You know the thing about Funko Pops… they’s got dead eyes. At least these plastic monstrosities, being visual only, won’t be cluttering up the planet in a century. The whole gimmick of this game is that it’s a huge crossover of a long list of properties. Didn’t we already see that with Lego Dimensions? Are they still making movie-based Lego games?

The trailer puts a lot of focus on Freddy Fazbear’s Pop.

I’m not even halfway through the video yet! Let’s shift this recap into high gear.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD. Had been announced before. Multiple mansions, no Gooigi.

The New Denpa Men. The what now? Ah, was a 3DS game where you collect funky little guys with heads like the Prince of All Cosmos and have them fight in dungeons. I’m interested.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded. Don’t get your hopes up, it’s a remake of a mobile game that only uses the aesthetics of the arcade classics. It’s got the animation of the games but tower defense gameplay. Tower defense games are not anywhere near as popular as they used to be, but I still scoff at them, scoff scoff, and I bristle when I hear someone describe my beloved Rampart as a tower defense game.

Darkest Dungeon II. I’ll be honest, I’ve never played either of the Darkest Dungeon games. You’d think I’d be all over them, like pretty on something that isn’t an ape, but no. There’s so many games that get made and nowhere enough time to play them all. I feel bad about it too. The trailer narrator tells us, with the most ominous tones they can muster through all the smarm, that your group must avert an apocalypse, but looking at the world they’re traveling through I think it might have already happened.

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack new games. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Four Swords: Colon Confusion. (It’s good.) Metroid Zero Mission. (It’s GREAT.) Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. (Who owns the rights to Acclaim’s output now?) And Perfect Dark. (probably a result of the deal that brought Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye 007 to Switch). Perfect Dark even gets online multiplayer. It’s time for a new generation of players to learn to curse the Farsight.

Phantom Brave: The Lost Hero. Nippon Ichi, so probably a lot of fun. I’m just now halfway through the video.

Marvel vs Capcom Fighting Collection: Arcade Classics. I am not a fan of fighting games generally. I think the fighting game boom, while it resulted in a burst of popularity for arcades, by greatly diminishing the styles of games that could be popular, ultimately resulted in their downfall. And I’ve never even played a MvC game. But I’m still kind of interested in this. Capcom’s crossover fighters are the ultimate inspiration for the Smash Bros games, after all. A lot of people will be pleased to see this. Among all those fighting games, sticking out like a sore gun, is The Punisher, a lone belt brawler.

Super Mario Party Jamboree. I guess they’ve abandoned the numbering system for good. It was getting silly after 10 numbered games. I wonder who makes these now that Konami owns Hudson Soft. It features online play for up to 20 players at once! With 110 minigames, it looks like ZoomZike‘s gonna have his luck cut out for him on this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom. THIS is the one the internet’s been abuzz about, even making it over to my other internet home at Metafilter. Why? Because ZELDA’S FINALLY PLAYABLE BABY! Not as an animate statue or in a romhack or in a weird CD-i game but as the genuine bonafide protagonist in a Nintendo-made title! What is more, it’s not a game in the Breath of the Wild style, a gigantic non-linear exploratory monsterpiece. It seems to signify that Nintendo thinks there’s room for both styles in new games. And it’s also made with the HD Link’s Awakening engine, which looked great! Even the gameplay looks really interesting. Zelda isn’t a traditional sword-wielder, but instead has a magic wand that can duplicate lots of different things, including enemies that will fight for her. I think people were hoping for a warrior Zelda, but I appreciate that they didn’t want to just make her Link but with breasts. (Isn’t that Linkle is supposed to be, anyway?)

There was also announced a new Switch system design to celebrate the game. As DoctorFedora on MeFi said, it seems odd to announce a new design when the Switch’s successor is supposed to come out only next year, but Zelda merch tends to be evergreen anyway.

Just Dance 2025. While I’m still sad that they aren’t still making Wii versions of Just Dance. The last Wii version was made in 2020; the line for WiiU didn’t even make it past 2019. The first Just Dance was a Wii game made in 2009, meaning there’s eleven Wii versions of Just Dance, released over that many years. They stopped making the Wii in 2013! But besides that, I don’t have a whole lot else to say about Just Dance.

LEGO Horizon Adventures. Before, they’d make Lego games that crossed over with movies; now, they make them crossing over with other games. You could always count on Lego to provide a cheeky irreverent take on whatever property they crossed with. While the gameplay is usually simple and kid-friendly, there were a lot of jokes for the adults playing along with them to get. I don’t know if that continues with the newer games, but I really hope it does.

Stray. Ah, the kittycat game. Everyone knows about this one, even me, although my tastes run more towards Little Kitty Big City. (A Q&A with its makers that I did should be up on Game Developer before long! Another fun cat game I did a Q&A about is Gato Roboto!) Even after the end of humankind, cats will still be knocking things off of shelves, and I’m certain that cats will outlive us. I’m not sure about dogs though.

Tales of the Shire: A The Lord of the Rings™ Game. This The Lord of the Rings™ game promise to be the enjoyable! Let us the all obtain the game when the it come out! Shall provide many time of the joy! Switch fun to have the entertainment when the play on TV occur! What the happy shall be!

How did that title even happen? And of course Nintendo’s promotional materials will all faithfully copy that extraneous The, because The Title of the Property is The Lord of The Rings™, and it MUST BE OBEYED, or else face the wrath of Melkor who is Morgoth.

I’d be done with this recap by now if I didn’t keep embarking on these cockamamie digressions, but they’re too fun to pass up. Trailer observations the now!

Everyone remembers the perfectly round doors that Hobbit dwellings have. But how many renditions of Middle Earth remember the doorknob in the center of the door? And how many remember that Bilbo’s ancestor Bullroarer invented golf, the sport with the power to quell even Mickey Mouse’s rage?

The promise of the trailer is that the game will let people experience life as a Hobbit. Was there ever a great demand for that? Most Hobbits, like Bilbo’s cousins the Sackville-Bagginses, were pretty insular and conservative. They’d probably have voted Tory. Bilbo and Frodo were exceptions, because of the fairy blood in their lineage from Bullroarer’s wife. Yes it’s true, I know Middle Earth lore, but, ah-ha, I never pretended to be cool! Bright blue my jacket is, and my boots are yellow!

Continuing the trailer, wow they’re really into this Hobbit home life thing. It’s essentially Halfling Crossing. No adventures at all. Nasty things, they make you late for dinner! The last shot of the game has Gandalf in it, so I guess the Wider World does factor in slightly, but it still doesn’t look like you get to do any burgling.

Ace Attorney Investigations Collection. The trailer itself notes that one of the two games in this package was never localized. I wonder if anyone’s gotten a distorted view of the legal profession from the Ace Attorney games? Phoenix Wright and his cohort spend a lot of time tracking down clues themselves, instead of brainstorming ways to restrict what young people do, which the media tells me is the common objective of all lawyers.

The Ace Attorney series is beloved by a lot of people. Like me, I am part of that lot. I still remember fondly the time when Phoenix called a parrot to the witness stand. Even sidekick Maya Fey, the girl who claimed to have two stomachs, was a bit worried about that one. That moment isn’t one from these games, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other instances. And these games star Miles Edgeworth, fan favorite yet also the most stuck-up person theoretically possible to exist. I want to see him call a parrot to the witness stand. Make it happen Capcom!

Uh-oh, he’s got that look in his eye.
…he is.

The Hundred Line: Last Defense Academy. The trailer opens with two anime highschoolers walking together. The boy has weird colored eyes, like many anime protagonists. The girl has an incredibly short skirt, like many anime girls. It’s gotta be a JRPG.

Then the screen flips to a flaming hellscape! Caused by oddly cute and colorful monsters! I knew it, it was only a matter of time: the Pokemon are fed up and taking over.

The narrator then tells us how Takumi Sumino’s life got turned upside-down. He’d like us to take a minute, to just sit right there, and listen to how he became the prince of a place called Bel-Air.

“A mysterious school mascot suddenly appears.”

I am having to fight the strong urge to just close the browser window now. I have to note that this trailer is being played straight. It sounds like the silliest thing on Planet Earth, but the cutscene doesn’t realize it.

As the trailer continues with its story about cute blob monsters attacking a school that the protag must enroll in, it becomes clear this game is

  • a high school-based time management sim like Persona, and probably also a dating sim,
  • that has grid-based tactical combat, and
  • has permadeath. Choice quote, spoken by a student in the game: “That was the first time I ever saw a person die….”

It’s like they found a second solution to the anti-life equations that led to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.

I am somewhat joking here. Why? Because it’s easy. I could probably rewrite this whole recap and the jokes would be completely different. But all of these crazy ideas kind of make me want to see how they all fit together. We need more crazy ideas in gamedev, and these developers are clearly smoking the good shit. But, I still don’t think this one is for me.

“The creators of Danganronpa present…” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah now it all makes sense. Or as I should say, it doesn’t make sense, but in a really familiar way. It’s from Spike-Chunsoft. Listen, anything that helps this deeply weird company survive long enough to make more Shiren games is okay by me. So I approve of this… provisionally.

Romancing SaGa 2: Revenge of the Seven. Another JRPG, as I told you every Nintendo Direct has several of them. I think of how the Dreamcast had only like three.

The SaGa games are all bonkers, but they’re my kind of bonkers. This is a full remake of the Super Famicom Romancing SaGa 2, and not the Octopath Traveler kind of reimagining, this one’s been turned into a very different-looking game without pixel-art trappings. I may have to look into this one.

…and finally, after 41 minutes of video and four hours of writing…

Metroid Prime 4: Beyond.

We find out very little about the game from the trailer, it’s really just a teaser, but it’s glorious. It does leave me wondering though: after all this time and so many games, why are Samus’ main antagonists throughout still called just “space pirates?” They don’t even get a proper noun! None of them except Ridley has even a name. (He counts as one of them, right?)

Done! See you next the time!

Ocarina of Time-r Bug

Here is a very short video from Seedy, only a minute long, explaining an interesting bug in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

OoT handles fiery environments without the Red Tunic, and being held underwater by wearing Iron Boots without the Blue Tunic, in an unusual away. You might expect them to return Link to the last safe place he had been, like when falling into a void, or else maybe kill him instantly, or at least cause periodic damage. Instead, for whatever reason, the designers chose a unique way to implement the danger Link is in.

While in hot places or stuck underwater without the proper tunic, the game starts a timer, with time relative to the amount of health that Link has. If Link leaves the area or puts on the right tunic before time runs out, the timer goes away and Link takes no damage regardless of how much time was left on it. However, if the timer expires before Link reaches safety, he just dies instantly, “getting a game over” in the clumsy parlance of video games. You’d think it’d be better just to inflict some damage on Link every few seconds, but that’s not how they chose to do it.

Link gets eight seconds on the clock for every full heart he has. Fractions of a heart grant proportional time. While the game only displays health in quarter-hearts, Ocarina of Time actually tracks hearts in 16ths (each full heart is effectively 16 hit points), and each 8th of a heart grants Link one second on the timer.

So, what happens if Link has exactly 1/16th of a heart? The display rounds up, so it looks like Link has a quarter of a heart left, but he’s considerably closer to kicking the bucket than that. He has less health than what’s needed to get a one-second timer. How does the game cope with that?

It does it by just not starting a timer at all! If Link is almost dead, paradoxically, he becomes immune to fire and drowning timers. He’s still in great danger, for any attack on him in this state will kill him immediately, but it makes tunic-less challenge runs a bit more interesting.

Break Timers With Low Health (Youtube, 1 minute)

Super Mario Sunshine’s Substitution Cipher

Are you surprised by that title? It isn’t obvious that there even is one, but Youtuber 2CPhoenix makes a strong case that there is, that’s (mostly) consistent across the game’s signage! Here’s their video on it (9 1/2 minutes):

These kinds of ciphers aren’t to common in games, but they’re not unheard-of either. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker uses one for the Hylian language, which it even translates for you if you play through the game a second time, and there’s at least one other such language that’s used in Breath of the Wild for Shiekah artifacts. And of course, working out a cipher that’s used in many locations is a major late-game puzzle in Fez.

The “language” of what are possibly the Noki in Sunshine Mario Sunshine is one of those things where, like Bubble Bobble’s Bubble Alphabet, the letters are actually heavily stylized versions of our familiar Latin alphabet, meaning, if you kind of take your brain off the hook slightly and just try to read the glyphs like they were words, you can get a bit of a sense of what they’re saying. Or at least I can. A little.

It’s enough to make one want to take a second look at the fakey-letters in some other Nintendo games, such as the Splatoon and Pokemon series….

Figuring Out Kakariko Village’s Unemployment Rate

MiyaTRT figured it out. Karariko’s Unemployment Rate. In both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom.

You might disagree with their methodology. Like in BotW he declares that Paya is unemployed even though she is obviously training to become village leader after Impa retires. But it’s still an entertaining video, and probably will tell you some things about Chicken Town’s NPCs that you didn’t know before, like that in BotW one of the townsfolk stamps on one of their neighbors crops at night!

Kakariko Village Has A 6.03% Unemployment Rate (Youtube, 7 minutes)

A Video on Nintendo Manga

I’m working on something big for you all, but it’ll take some time to get ready. So to free up time for working on that, here’s something I’ve been saving, a Youtube video exploring manga based on Nintendo characters, from the account of S Class Anime. Enjoy!

Exploring the World of Nintendo Manga (Youtube, 20 minutes)

Nintendo Files 31 Patents for Tears of the Kingdom Features

Revealed by Amber V at Automaton, Nintendo has gone on a spree of filing patents on features of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Some of the software they’re trying to add the force of law to protecting include adding momentum of an object to a character standing atop it, figuring out what object the character is standing on, and showing a map of a place the player is fast traveling to during its loading sequence. What is it with companies patenting things that can be done during loading? Namco for a long time had a patent on minigames that could be played during loading periods, which is why for a long while (perhaps to this day) you have had to sit and wait for a game to complete loading before doing anything, instead of at least having fun during that time.

If Nintendo has its way, other companies won’t be allow to present screens like this unless they license the “technology” from them.

My stance, long-held and admittedly strident, is that patents should not be applied to software, ever, full stop. I am sure that some people might disagree with that opinion. They are welcome to, but I am unlikely to change their mind without a damn good argument.

Nintendo registers numerous new patents from Tears of the Kingdom, even for loading screens (automation-media.com)

Romhack Thursday: The Legend of Zelda for SNES

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

It’s not easy to find romhacks that measure up to our exacting standards, that strike me in just “that way,” but a conversion of the NES Legend of Zelda, one of the few mainline Zeldas never to have been really remade in any form (unless you count the abandoned Satellaview versions), fits the bill like a duck in well-made dentures.

This screenshot may look nearly exactly like The Legend of Zelda. In fact it is the Legend of Zelda, just converted, nearly exactly, to the SNES.

Link doesn’t wait for the transition to finish to start climbing out of caves.

The question has to be asked: why? I mean, to a degree it is kind of pointless. There’s been nearly exact (although always unofficial) re-implementations of The Original The Legend of Zelda since Zelda Classic (Set Side B). All of Nintendo’s own rereleases, from Virtual Console to Gamecube bonus disks to a stand-alone Game & Watch unit. But recreating it on SNES does have certain uses. First, it fixes a handful of issues with the earlier game, notably it doesn’t have flicker or slowdown. It also uses the L and R buttons to allow for quick inventory cycling without having to go into the subscreen.

The colors are slightly better as well. And the top of the screen display labels the buttons Y and B, instead of B and A.

It speeds up game transitions: it uses the Link to the Past-style iris in and out effects, using the SNES’ display masking feature, instead of the slower curtain closes and opens from the NES version. It allows you to use custom soundtracks via MSU-1 support. Health refills instantly instead of pausing the game for up to 15 seconds while all your hearts load up with red. And the sound is very slightly different: by default the low-health beep is less insistent, there’s an extra sound when you kill an enemy, and the candle sound is a little higher in pitch.

But perhaps the best reason to convert it to the SNES is, SNES emulators are nearly as common as NES emulators. You can play this modestly improves version of LoZ on anything with an SNES emulator, which isn’t something you can say of Zelda Classic.

Yes, I used this hack as an excuse to play completely through the first quest again. And yes, I did it without dying. I still got it.

I’m kind of an outspoken fan of the original LoZ, I still think it’s well worth playing today, although I think you should seek out its manual should you do so. (The opening demo even tells you to look there for details!) You’ll die a lot, it’s true, but there’s little penalty for it except for going back to start or the beginning of a dungeon, and having to go refill your health before you try again. It takes real skill to weave around its fast-moving enemies and projectiles, but it’s doable, and you don’t need speedrun skillz to do it.

It is rather difficult to find it through search. It’s not on romhacking.net. Creator infidelity’s announcement was on Twitter, where he offered only a direct download.

Here’s Wes Fenlon’s post enthusing over the port. And here’s where it can be obtained, although links to previous versions have been disabled, so this one may be too if it receives another update.

Time Extension: Why Do So Many Japanese RPGs Use European-Style Fantasy Worlds?

Time Extension has come up here a lot lately, hasn’t it? It’s because they so often do interesting articles! This one’s about the propensity of Japanese games to use medieval European game worlds, the kinds with a generally agrarian society, royalty, knights, and their folklore counterparts elves, dwarves, fairies, gnomes and associated concepts.

They often fudge the exact age they’re trying to depict, with genuine medieval institutions sitting beside Renaissance improvements like taverns and shops. Nearly of them also put in magic in a general D&D kind of way, sometimes institutionalizing it into a Harry Potter-style educational system.

Notably, they usually choose the positive aspects of that setting. The king is usually a benevolent ruler. It’s rare that serfdom and plagues come up. The general populace is usually okay with being bound to the land. The Church, when it exists, is sometimes allowed to be evil, in order to give the player a plot road to fighting God at the end.

Hyrule of the Zelda games is likely the most universally-known of these realms, which I once called Generic Fantasylands. The various kingdoms of the Dragon Quest games also nicely fit the bill. Final Fantasy games were among the first to question those tropes, presenting evil empire kingdoms as early at the second game.

Dragon Quest
(All images here from Mobygames)

John Szczepaniak’s article at Time Extension dives into the question by interviewing a number of relevant Japanese and US figures and developers, including former Squaresoft translator Ted Woolsey. I think the most insightful comments are from Hiromasa Iwasaki, programmer of Ys I and II, who notes that this Japanese conception of a fantasy world mostly comes from movies and the early computer RPGs Wizardry and Ultima, that the literature that inspired Gary Gygax to create Dungeons & Dragons (which in turned inspired Wizardry and Ultima), especially Lord of the Rings and Weird Tales, were generally unknown to Japanese popular culture. Developer Rica Matsumura notices, also, that there is a cool factor in Japan to European folklore that doesn’t apply, over there, to Japanese folklore.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

It’s a great read, that says a number of things well that have been bubbling up in the back of my head for a long time, especially that JRPGs recreated both RPG mechanics and fantasy tropes at a remove, that they got their ideas second hand and, in a way similar to how a bunch of gaming tables recreated Dungeons & Dragons in their own image to fill in gaps left in Gary Gygax’s early rulebooks, so too did they make their versions of RPGs to elaborate upon the ideas of Wizardry and Ultima without having seen their bases.

Why Do So Many Japanese RPGs Take Place In European Fantasy Settings? (timeextension.com)

Press The Buttons Finds Two Link’s Awakening Commercials

Matthew Green’s Press The Buttons is a gaming culture blog that predates our efforts by many years. They don’t update as obsessively frequently as we do, but the find good things!

They found a couple of commercials promoting Link’s Awakening, which turns 30 years old this year, one from Japan and one from the United States. The Japanese one is light and fun and a joy to behold. The American one, well, has rap lyrics, and is poorly lit, and is mostly a guy singing to game footage. Nothing against rap, but if there was ever a Zelda game that was less befitting the approach that commercial gives it, other than maybe Wind Waker, this one is it.

Here’s the Japanese one, which at least presents characters actually in the game:

A Tale of Two Link Commercials (Press The Buttons)