Romhack Thursday: Zelda in Low Res

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

When people think about NES games, they often think of pixel art. Big chunky pixels! It’s one of the defining aesthetics of our era. The NES occupies a niche between the truly blocky graphics of the Atari VCS era and the 16-bit consoles, which don’t have a much greater resolution than the NES (since the limitations of CRT displays were a big factor), but had a much greater color depth that could help smooth things out.

But it can be interesting, visually, to try to find a middle ground between the Atari and the NES. That is where the subject of this post comes in: The Legend of Zelda Chunky Edition, a graphics hack by Zero Meaning.

There are no words for how much I love this look!

Only the graphics have changed, and just to make them more blocky, instead of the prevailing trend for remakes, which is to make them less so. (Oh also, the bright cyan of Link’s Blue Ring tunic has been darkened a bit.)

For some reason, this look suits The Legend of Zelda a lot! The greatest challenge to making it, I think is figuring out how to represent letters and numbers. You can see from the title screen above that the S, R and numeral 8 posed particular challenges, as did the copyright symbol.

There’s not a lot more to say about this one! So here are a few screenshots of Zelda, chunky style.

News 11/9/22: Lego Zelda, AI Art, EA Software Patent

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Lego is banning new Ideas projects based on The Legend of Zelda, according to Chris Wharfe at Brick Fanatics. The reasoning given is a bit vague. It could either be because Lego is working on their own Zelda sets (and they already have a working relationship with Nintendo, making the popular Super Mario sets), or it could be that the rights to Zelda models were sold to someone else. Either way, it may mean we get Zelda models through some company eventually.

A pretty good Link model from Lego Ideas! From its project page.

PC Gamer, Andy Chalk: Final Fantasy XVI’s using excuses to not have Black characters. Specifically, by claiming the game’s world is based on medieval Europe, despite Black people existing there. Grumble, grumble!

Old school blogger Mark Frauenfelder of good ol’ Boing Boing mentions illustrator Hollie Mengert discovered her work was used without her permission to make AI-generated work, and the model that utilized her work released as open source by MysteryInc152. It links to an original article by Andy Baio at Waxy. Someone explain to me how AI-generated work isn’t legally a derivative work based on every work it’s trained on? That seems like it’s just obvious.

From Andy Baio’s article-the left is Hollie Mengert’s work, the right, the output of the AI model trained from it.

Rich Stanton at PC Gamer writes that EA’s been granted a patent on game controls that change based on how well the player does. Software patents are bad on principle, that is a horse that I will always flog despite this awful situation having existed for literally decades now, but getting past that, for now. This seems at first like just another version of adaptive difficulty, which is also something that seems like it’s kind of a problem when it happens without notifying the player or giving them a say in it. I know I know, “Kent Drebnar, get with the 21st Century.” Maybe I’ve been hanging out with the Gripe Monster too much lately. The article goes back into the history of these kinds of effort, going all the way back to Compile’s Zanac, although I would argue that’s not so much adaptive difficulty as a system that the player can strategize to manipulate. Zanac is terrific, by the way.

Bryan at Nintendo Everything mentions that Sega is hiring a Sonic “loremaster,” presumably someone who knows the history of the many forms of the character. Said role will assist in creating new content and characters in the Sonic universe. Sounds like a tall order given the many varied and contradictory versions of the property there’s been, but I’m sure there are people out there who are up to it. Good luck, whoever they pick!

Romhack Thursday: Amida’s Curse (Zelda II)

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

For a game notorious for its difficulty, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has a lot of romhacks, most of which up the challenge level still more. Amida’s Curse is more of a difficulty level in keeping with the original, which is nice, and has some interesting ideas in it.

The Zelda II bosses are used mostly without change, although their new environments throw in some wrinkles.

Due to controller issues (PowerA’s cheaper wired version of the Switch Pro Controller has decided to mess up in frustrating ways) I have yet to play through the whole thing, but what I’ve seen has some interesting decisions. Amida’s Curse throws out the wandering monster encounters completely; there is no reason I can see to not wander around the landscape wherever you want. In fact you definitely should try to wander around a fair bit, for the game has bunches of secret areas waiting to be found throughout the landscape, hiding heart and magic containers, experience gems (which are a reskinned version of the original game’s P-bags) and sometimes required things.

Fall off the elevator before descending to the ground and you might have to reset the room to go back up.

Amida’s Curse has a bit more terrain to cover than stock Zelda II. It’s got more towns (which are much smaller, a good change) and dungeons, and is split up more by item gating than before. In the first town you have to find a key, this lets you get the candle out of a cave, this lets you see in a cave leading to the next area, which has a dungeon with a Power Bracelet that lets you break blocks, that allows you to go through the next cave, and so on. It feels a bit like you’re being led by the nose, but that is often the style with these kinds of games, and it’s not like Zelda II itself didn’t have a fair amount of it.

If you find interesting spots in the overworld, it’s worth it to check them out!

The overworld map takes a cue from the Famicom Disk System version of the game and has animated tiles, but instead of just animating the water, most of the tiles in the overworld are animated now. Towns have smoke coming up from them, and grass blows around. The combat scene graphics have been upgraded a little bit too.

The difficulty balancing is pretty good. Romhacks that resist the urge to make you fight through gauntlets of enemies every step of the way should be lauded. It’s not perfect, I would say, there are places like where you have to jump over a skeleton on a collapsing passage, or make a big jump while being harassed by birds. And there are places where the design could use a little more work: it’s easy to get stranded in some rooms by falling off an elevator, requiring you to reset it, or in one notable case purposely die, to get yourself unstuck. And if you’re jumping water or lava that comes right up to the landing platform, make sure you clear it by a fair margin, as the game loves to kill you if your foot even grazes the perilous liquid.

Usefully, extra lives found don’t give you a one-time extra try, but increase the number you start each session with, which is a handy little improvement. I think a non-obsessive player can make it through, or at least from what I’ve managed to see. I look forward to trying to get further into this, when my controller isn’t fighting me every step of the way.

Zelda II: Amida’s Curse HomepageRomhacking.net

News 10/13/2022: Flee Before The Sight of Black Box Zelda!

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, on using AI to smooth out the features of Virtua Fighter’s characters. Not in real time, and the results are cherry-picked, and look generic as opposed to the distinctive look of the original game. Still, there you go, people tell me this means art is dead somehow.

Just imagine if this were the box that launched the Zelda ship.
(Image from MrTalida’s twitter feed.)

Noted on Twitter by Frank Cifaldi, then cropped and zoomed by MrTalida on Twitter, then called attention to by threads on ResetEra and Reddit (inhale!) then reported on by a plethora of gaming sites, Cifaldi found a picture of an early version of the box-art of The Legend of Zelda in Nintendo press materials form the time, using the original “black box” trade dress, and it is funky.

Rich Stanton at PC Gamer, on when the mods of Ultima Online (remember them? they’re still around!) destroyed the (in-game) possessions of item duplicators. Ultimately, as my link is a link to theirs, so too is PC Gamer’s link one to the original post, so have a link to that too. And if you want to check in with a bona-fide living piece of gaming history, and the last surviving real Ultima game, here is Ultima Online’s website. They just celebrated 25 years of operation!

A dragon-infested day in Brittania.
Screenshot from Mobygames.

Finally, it’s not directly related to games, but you should read this article from TechSpot about the Internet Archive’s efforts to preserve websites in this age of paywalls and walled gardens. While content creators deserve to be paid for their efforts, the fact that so much is locked up means a lot of things are just going to vanish when their hosting sites, sometimes when an account at a hosting site, closes up. Please consider that when you publish. Preservation matters.

Stuff About Last Year’s Zelda Game & Watch Device

Forever late to the party, I splurged a bit and got the Zelda Game & Watch Nintendo made last year, and you can still find on sale in some places. It doesn’t seem to have been as popular as the Super Mario Bros. version, despite being a somewhat better value for the money. It’s hackable, but it requires opening it up and doing some soldering, and has so little storage that to really make use of it you have to replace its Flash memory chip too.

But even if you don’t hack it, it’s a nice thing just to have? It’s got a great screen for one thing. And as reports were on release, there is a light-up LED Triforce that shows up through the back case when it’s on that’s just a nice touch. The games are largely as they were on their original release, although with flashing effects toned down to avoid triggering seizures in photo-sensitive sufferers of epilepsy.

This is such an unnecessary addition, but I love it. Nintendo is really calling out to Zelda fans here.

Of new features though, the standout is the clock mode, which I’ve not seen a lot of people talking about! It self-plays a kind of weird version of The Legend of Zelda via AI. Monsters are generated, the AI destroys them, then more monsters are generated. They drop items, but rupees don’t seem to matter. Every two minutes, Link moves to a new screen. Every 30 minutes or so he changes location between the overworld or a dungeon. He finds items, he beats bosses, he gets heart containers, he slowly collects Triforce pieces, and at noon and midnight he defeats Gannon and starts all over again. There are even secret staircases to find, although the AI seems to know where they are.

The rupees serving as the colon in the time can be collected!

At any time during this show, you can press A and B at the same time to take control of Link yourself. He controls exactly like he does in the NES version, with enough nuance (like, the edges of the screen are a safe zone like in the console version) that I wonder if this isn’t a hugely hacked-up version of the game’s rom that’s providing the show. The sound is just ticking by default, but if you hold the A button down for five seconds it enables the sound from the game too.

If you choose to control Link, you can’t access the subscreen, but you can switch items using the Select button. If you run out of hearts Link respawns almost immediately. Also you can’t move to a new screen yourself, instead the game advances to a new area after two minutes regardless of how well either you or the AI player does. If you leave the controls alone for a couple of seconds the AI will take back over for you.

I don’t know if the world map that Link travels through is mappable. I’d be very interested to know if it’s a hack, and if it is, if someone could break it out of the software. If it isn’t, maybe the game world could be recreated in a hack of the original Zelda rom?

The Zelda II timer game is rather fun in small doses

There is also a special version of Zelda II. When you activate the Timer function, the version of Link from that game will automatically fight enemies, and you can take over from its AI too. This version is more explicitly game-like: it tracks high scores earned (by either human or AI) in each of its ten time limits and on each of three enemy sets, plus one more, a special mode where it records the time a human player can defeat a number of enemies. (Hold A for five seconds from the timer set screen to activate it.) And there’s a version of the old Game & Watch title Vermin included, with Link instead of its generic character that was later christened Mr. Game & Watch.

A note about the combat implementation of Zelda II in the timer game. Ironknuckles show up here, but the trick familiar to people who have played a lot of the NES game, of jumping before an Ironknuckle and stabbing as you’re coming down, as of slashing through the top of the enemy’s head, which always gets past the shield, does not work in it. Instead, to get past an Ironknuckle’s defenses, you must rely on the fact (in this game) that they can’t movie their shield while they’re attacking with their own sword.

Oh, it’s got three emulated Zelda games too, although I’ve played them so much before that the new stuff is much more interesting to me

So, it’s time to make an embarrassing admission. This is at least the seventh time I have legally owned the original Legend of Zelda. I had its NES cartridge, the Virtual Console rereleases for Wii, Wii-U and 3DS, the GBA rerelease, and the one on the Gamecube bonus disk for pre-ordering Wind Waker. I’ve probably forgotten at least one other version along the way-I had Gamecube Animal Crossing, which has the rom of The Legend of Zelda on its disk too, although it was never made available without hacking, and I subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, meaning I can also play it there if I were to be of that mind. Now, I own a yet another device that can play The Legend of Zelda. Most of that time I could have played it for free via emulation, yet I keep buying it.

Yes, on the day I got it, I did a deathless run of Legend of Zelda on it. It was mandatory.

My response to people who are somehow in favor of Nintendo’s draconian legal response to pirates is, why do I keep doing that, continually giving them money for a game I’ve bought many times, when if I had the mind I could probably have gotten a hundred copies off the internet? Am I just stupid, or is there some other motive at work here? I am open to either possibility.

News 10/6/2022: Deku Stick, Stadia’s Demise, Chaos;Head Noah

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Ollie Reynolds at Nintendo Life reports on why the Deku Stick item in Link’s hands looks different between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. It has to do with a subtle texture reference error.

Oli Welsh, demonstrating that there’s nothing good that can last, tells us that three Disco Elysium developers have left the company. Details are scarce, but it seems it was not by choice. Is it possible that there’s an NDA involved, or else, a non-disparagment clause?

At TechCrunch, Devin Coldewey claims that Stadia, Google’s streaming gaming service that they just finally killed, died because no one trusts them to keep anything alive. I still remember (and tend to repeatedly mention) how frustrated I was when they killed Google Reader back in 2013, in order to make way for a social networking service that no one remembers, and that feeling never really went away.

Chaos;Head Noah, screenshot from Mobygames

Kyle Orland at Ars Technica mentions a visual novel Spike Chunsoft is releasing for Switch that they’ve cancelled for Steam, due to mandated content changes by Valve. The game is called Chaos;Head Noah (their punctuation, not mine), and was originally released for the Xbox 360, with a Vita re-release, that both received very restrictive ratings. Later releases had an edited script which allowed it to be released with a lighter rating, which an anonymous source says is the version to be released on Switch (and not on Steam). Chaos;Head Noah is a sequel to the previous Chaos;Head, and both are part of the same series as Steins;Gate.

The mainstream gaming press suffered another blow. John Walker writing for Kotaku mentions that the ubiquitous Fandom wiki empire, formerly known as Wikia, has purchased a variety of other websites, including Gamespot, GameFAQs, and Giant Bomb, in addition to TV Guide, Metacritic, Cord Cutters News and Comic Vine. The NetHack Wiki changed over from Wikia many years ago, yet Fandom’s out-of-date version of it still confuses Google search results today. And it doesn’t feel great that so many properties have their primary source of knowledge about them owned by one business, which now engulfing a much larger percentage of the fan media landscape. I point you again to the line in our sidebar that says, “Just say no to Fandom.com!” And yet, if you want to find information on some things, Fandom sites are largely inescapable.

Final Fantasy V, image from Mobygames

Marshall Honorof at Tom’s Hardware goes through the six English releases of Final Fantasy V and tells you which is the best to play-although, pointedly, it is challenging to buy these days. It contains a screed about game preservation that I am entirely on board with.

Video Games Chronicle’s Jordan Middler discusses a Bloomberg report that controversial Activision chief compliance officer Francis Townsend has stepped down, a former Bush administration officer who was unpopular with both fans and employees for not addressing reports of harassment.

News 9/29/2022: Dire Tidings From Texas

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

It’s been a slow day at the news desk, blobs and blobbies. Just three items-

Mollie Taylor at PC Gamer tells us that Atlus is suing fans for reviving an old MMORPG of theirs, Shin Megami Tenshin Imagine Online. A particularly galling part of the article: “The suit claims the fan server has ’caused and will continue to cause irreparable damage to Atlus unless restrained by this Court,’ despite the servers being dead for over six years.” Not cool, Atlus! Of course, the law is complex, and very often on the internet the law being violated is not the one you think it is at first, be this seems particularly egregious.

Nintendo Life has an article by Gavin Lane on which Zelda title players should try first, and of course you just know I’d have to link it as an excuse to get in my two gelatinous cents! I really think people should try the original Legend of Zelda first! It’s hard, oooooh yes it is drebnar, and you’ll die a lot, but that’s what makes it fun! It’s not like you lose much when you die either. The article’s own argument (which you’ll have to read to get Gavin’s reasoning) is: Ocarina of Time, Link to the Past, Breath of the Wild, and Wind Waker.

And a group of writers headed by Rachel Watts at Rock Paper Shotgun report on their favorite indie titles from out of EGX 2022.

Finally, if I might talk about a non-gaming issue that affects all of us on the web… the U.S. Fifth Appeals Court has made a horrendous, head-scratching decision that could easily turn social media into a hailstorm of spam and misinformation, at best. The Atlantic has an article up called Is This The Beginning of the End of the Internet, and from what I’ve seen so far it’s possible? It all has to do with a Texas law that forbids social media from “censoring” people’s feeds, saying if they have 50 million users they no longer have First Amendment rights. Of course the law is complex (as I mentioned above), and the effects of this decision, if it isn’t overturned or outright nullified by an eventual law, will spill out in several directions. But those of us remembering the era leading up to the election of the Terrible Orange Man will remember the kinds of things that floated around Facebook at that time. This looks like it might open the already-leaky floodgates, and, at the very least, turn social media sites into unusable hellholes. For more, you probably should read the article-provided The Atlantic doesn’t ward it from your sight with a paywall. It’s nearly the end of the month, if you’re out of free articles they should reset soon. That’s the way it works, right?

(EDIT: Fixed link. The Windows clipboard continues to cause me problems, argh.)

Nintendo Direct, September 2022

Nintendo released a new Nintendo Direct yesterday, and everyone in the gamesphere is posting about it as they always do. I suppose we should say something too. While it’s not directly related to our subject matter, Nintendo is as niche as a major game publisher gets, so I believe I can find room for it.

First, here’s the video if you care to watch it yourself (the relevent part is about 45 minutes long, I’ve cued it up to the content):

In summary:

Not to bury the lede like Nintendo usually does, the last trailer was about the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, subtitled Tears of the Kingdom. I think they should just call every game Magical Thingumy, but no one ever listens to good sense. The given release date is May 20, 2023, so, not much longer to wait. Despite the closeness of its release, even less was presented about the game than the last time it showed up in a Nintendo Direct!

Fire Emblem Engage seems to offer crossovers between characters from prior games, including Marth himself, Mr. Fire Emblem, the hero of the first game. I mean all the big game companies seem to be falling over themselves to cross their games and even series together into a thick homogeneous paste, why should Nintendo be any different? Arguably they started the whole trend with Smash Bros. anyway. Fire Emblem has been to this well once before with the mobile app Fire Emblem Heroes. Release date: January 20.

A crossover between Fitness Boxing and Fist of the North Star, the anime property no one’s been clamoring for. “Box with familiar characters.” Sure, like, um, that guy. Hatatatatatatata! I’d explain more, but you’re already dead.

OddBallers, a party game for up to six players. Tunic makes it to Switch, where it should probably have debuted. Remakes of Front Missions 1 and 2 (first time out of Japan for the second), with 3 coming in the future.

New release Splatoon 3 (what, it’s out already?) is getting its first Splatfest. Mario Strikers Battle League is getting new characters Pauline and Diddy Kong.

Octopath Traveler 2 is coming and it looks the same, and a new Final Fantasy Theatrhythm (with a ton of DLC of course).

The original Mario + Rabbids took a lot of people by surprised with its deep gameplay, and it even somehow made the Rabbids more fun than annoying. Other than a couple of minor gameplay features (exploring, Sparks), and maybe playable Bowser, the only really new information was its release date of October 20. I mean, there’s pre-order bonuses and a season pass, but it’d almost be more news if those weren’t going to be offered.

Let’s keep rolling with that farming theme. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is getting remade as Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Why change the brand? Are there rights issues around the original? Turns out, yes. Jessica Thomas lays it all out for us at thegamer.com.

More farming! New games called Fae Farm and Harvestella. I guess if you’ve completely exhausted all of Stardew Valley’s many many features and updates and are still not farmed out, there you go. You could also go out and get some seeds and plant your own garden, unless you live in the city, you poor soul. Still, this way has far less back-breaking labor, and you don’t have to smell manure.

Even more farming! Your feed trough runneth over! Rune Factory 3 is being remade, and another Rune Factory series is coming.

Playing these things since the Atari VCS days has inoculated me against a lot of hype, but the me that played Goldeneye back in college would have been thrilled by this.

A bevy of new N64 games is coming to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, including, Pilotwings 64, Mario Parties 1-3, Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2, 1080 Snowboarding, Excitebike 64, and, amazingly, Goldeneye 007 with online multiplayer. I am practically certain that rights issues will have required that it be modified in some way, but that it has managed to come out at all is amazing considering the James Bond property’s owners, and that Nintendo and game creator Rare are nowhere near as close as they were back then. I’d like to know the story behind its rerelease. Honestly, the original came out twenty-five years ago. If this had made it out on Gamecube or even Wii it would have been a sensation, but FPSes have advanced so much since then. Well, nostalgia is a powerful drug. (Yeah, I said it.)

Along those lines. In addition to Octopath Traveler 2, the fandom dairy farm department of Square Enix is rereleasing Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core on Switch. I am apparently the only person in the gaming world without an abiding affection for Final Fantasy VII (the load times put me entirely the hell off the original game when it was new), so I can only watch from the sidelines. S-E also released (yesterday) the oddly-titled Various Daylife. I’m Somewhat Minuteinterested!

Speaking of fandom milking, prepare to low mournfully at the news that Mario Kart 8 is getting still more DLC tracks! And Capcom is releasing cloud versions of various Resident Evil games. Moooooo.

Wii Switch Sports is finally getting its Golf mode, released in a free update, before the end of the year, with 21 holes. I don’t know why they just didn’t wait to release it when it was finished, especially since Golf was the standout mode in Wii Sports, but I guess it’s common practice to delay a major feature or two on release now so a game can get a sales boost by announcing that feature later. There’s a spreadsheet deep in Nintendo’s marketing department that lays out the financial advantages of doing so. They keep it in a folder next to all their demonic contracts.

Shigeru Miyamoto appeared for a moment to hype the animated Mario movie releasing in the Spring, and the Nintendo World amusement park in Japan, and a new one opening soon in Hollywood, California. It’s kind of amazing to think that this is the very same Miyamoto who designed Donkey Kong in the early 80s, at a very different Nintendo. He devoted a lot of time to explaining the smartphone ARG Pikmin Bloom, even though it’s not particularly new. He mentioned that Pikmin 4 is coming out, but very very little about it.

Radiant Silvergun is being remade. Actually, has been remade, and should be out by the time you read this. It’s being released by “Live Wire Inc.” The word Treasure wasn’t mentioned at any time during the game’s brief appearance in the video.

Finishing up. Intrinisically co-op 3D platformer It Takes Two comes to Switch two, er, too. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. Another Xenoblade Chronicles 3 DLC update. A new Spongebob Squarepants game, sure why not. Factorio is coming to Switch. Ib. (Ib? Yeah, Ib) Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key (what the hell is an atelier anyway and why do so many JRPGs have them?), Just Dance 2023 (sadly not for the Wii), Bayonetta 3, Master Detective Archives: RAIN COODE, Sifu, Endless Dungeon, a remake of Tales of Symphonia, Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection, Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song Remastered, Lego Bricktales, Disney Speedstorm, and Fall Guys: Season 2. Kirby Return to Dreamland Deluxe returns to the classic 2D-style Kirby gameplay.

This Direct’s hype score: 3/10. The only substantive announcements were Fire Emblem Engage and N64 Goldeneye 007! We knew Zelda was coming already, and all the other Nintendo things were either brief teasers or we already knew they were coming.

Wake me when it’s May.

Zelda Classic & ZQuest

It’s hard to believe that Legend of Zelda fangame construction system Zelda Classic and ZQuest is 23 years old. Many such systems have fallen by the wayside during that time, but Zelda Classic continues on. Its first versions were made for DOS, but it continues to see improvements to this day.

ZQuest has this weird interface where they rolled their own controls for everything. The dev system seems to be rendered in Allegro.

Zelda Classic and ZQuest are made specifically to make overhead view action-adventures in the Legend of Zelda style, to the extent that it has graphic sets taken directly from the games and many items that work like their console counterparts.

It even simulates many of the quirks from the various Zelda series titles. And yet, it doesn’t require you to abide by them. Pretty much every technical or creative limitation of the 2D Zelda series has an option to disable it if you like, but if for some reason you consider it intrinsic to the experience you can keep it too.

The graphics can be completely changed out. With it, you can make a game that doesn’t look anything like a Zelda title, which I suspect is why it’s been able to survive 23 years in a legal landscape overseen by a Nintendo increasingly draconian in its approach to guarding its intellectual property. Still, it’s pretty heavily aimed at making Zelda fangames, right down to having pages and pages of checkboxes for every known quirk of Zelda engine behavior.

Look at that gloriously pedantic list of quirks! The ZQuest developers are awesome.

While it does offer a scripting facility (which it’s difficult to find documentation for), ZQuest is mostly a construction set type of program. You place tiles and enemies, lay out overworlds and dungeons, decide what items to include, and go. The program itself has little in the way of documentation but the site has a tutorial that should help one get started. I strongly suggest, if you are interested in creating for this system, that you read it.

Fan projects going on for this long suggests a kind of mania, but the ZQuest people are serious. They even forked Allegro to fix bugs and adapt it for their purposes. May they keep it going for another 23 years and beyond.

Zelda Classic & ZQuest

VGDensetsu: The Work of Yōichi Kotabe

VGDensetsu hasn’t appeared in these pages yet and it’s high time we remedied that. This particular link is to a five-part series about an animator who switched careers to doing illustration for Nintendo, and played a major role in determining the look of many of their most popular characters, including Mario and Link.

Mario characters influenced by the work of Yōichi Kotabe
While often at the time illustrators went uncredited, it’s considered likely that Yōichi Kotabe did these illustrations of Link from Zelda II, and the island of Koholint from Link’s Awakening.

VGDesetsu: Yōichi Kotabe — 60 Years of Animation and Video Games
1. The Toei Era2. From One Studio to Another3. From Animation to Nintendo4. Diversification and Transmission5. Towards New Horizons

Hyrule Interviews

It’s a big searchable database of a lot of interviews the people who have made Legend of Zelda games! You can browse by selections of quotes, by game, by publication, by interview topic, or by job rule. It’s a pretty plain site to look at, but there’s a lot of gold to find there if you’re at all curious about this long-running and immensely popular series.

One useful feature the site offers is pre-made images of some quotes (sadly, not all) suitable for including in Twitter posts! Here’s a few:

Hyrule Interviews

News 7/26/22: Tactics Risk of Space Jam

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Kenneth Seward Jr. at Kotaku tells us about things he wished he knew before starting Multiversus, the Space Jam: A New Legacy of fighting games. Besides that Steven and Garnet are best characters? Not due to gameplay properties, just because.

In further X is the Y of Z news, at Polygon, Mike Mahardy makes the claim that Risk of Rain 2 is the Super Mario 64 of (their word) roguelikes. Blogmate rodneylives once did a Q&A with the Risk of Rain folks back at Game Developer, when it was Gamasutra. It’s cool!

Risk of Rain 2, image from developer’s site

Kite Stenbuck of SiliconEra confirms Nintendo’s confirmation that the 3DS and Wii-U eShops will be closing in March 2023. This is further after they stop accepting cash for points at the end of August. Yay for forced obsolescence! Wait, no, not yay! Boo, in fact!

Next, at Eurogamer, Victoria Kennedy tells us that Stray‘s robot language has been deciphered. I mean, this is a surprise? It’s just a substitution cipher. People do those for fun! It’s not exactly the Codex Seraphinianus, is it? No word on whether cat language has been decoded yet, in its infinite complexity. (MEOW = “Gimmie food!”)

IGN: Logan Plant posts about a split-screen mod for Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In fairness, they’re stretching the definition of mod a lot with this one: “of course” it’s not playable on console. It does link to an old 2017 post of fun Breath of the Wild mods that include a playable Waluigi.

Image blatantly scraped from The Verge

And Wes Fenlon at PC Gamer tells us about changes made to the upcoming remake of Tactics Ogre, many of which undo changes made to the previous remake of Tactics Ogre. I wish someone would remake my old Tactics Ogre Disk 2 on PS1, which snapped clean in half when I sat on it. I cried for fifteen minutes.