Just Like Geppetto


At this point I was trying to write a new post on Ocarina of Time after every dungeon, but as always tends to happen, life gets in the way. Which is unfortunate, as the Gorons and Death Mountain are very interesting and go a long way towards expanding this sort of pseudo-culturalism within the Zelda universe. Dodongo’s Cavern, while a very well designed dungeon, is a pretty staid grotto and the bombs a fairly basic tool, so I’ll just keep on truckin’ and try to keep up a little better from here on out.

As with the Gorons, the Zoras have stepped up from obnoxious sea-dwelling nuisance to being an additional race that adds quite a bit to the world development and in turn the scope of the game. They’re interesting in that they went from being these fish-faced creeps who spit projectiles at you from out of reach to this almost narcissistic yet noble mer-people who almost border on being aloof. I never paid it any mind until this most recent play through, and while on general principle people who act like that kind of rub me the wrong way, it does give the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time a nice, rounded presence.

While still fairly linear in progression, your path to the Zora’s Sapphire isn’t always so clearly laid out for you. When you go to visit the king, he’s too distraught about his daughter having gone missing that helping you save the land from Ganondorf is the least of his worries. That’s par for the course in videogames though; tracking down trinkets and doing mundane tasks in lieu of important information are a non-playable characters’ specialty. Upon further inspection, you are lead to Lake Hylia to retrieve a bottle with a message in it.

Before I move on, I would like to point out a couple of things that irked me and didn’t really make themselves known until I hit this point in the game. And, in all honesty, it has less to do with general game design and more to do with some legacy issues that could have been addressed in this 3DS remake.

The first being that when you save the game, you’ll always start off back at your house in the Kokiri Forest. If you find yourself in a dungeon, the game will graciously allow you to start off from there. But if you’re on an errant side quest or just investigating the land, you’ll always start off rather far away. Being that this is a portable iteration, it eats up a lot of time to do that kind of backtracking. A quick save option would have been nice, or at the very least additional starting points. This made me wish that fast travel, or the option to jump about quickly, comes a little too late in the game for my liking.

Anyways, enough digression – let’s talk about Jabu-Jabu.

At this point, the game starts to take off the training wheels even further. Much like finding the hidden message in the bottle earlier, realizing you need to catch a fish in said bottle and present it to Jabu-Jabu isn’t explicitly spelled out for you. Which if fine; there are still sly allusions to doing so, you just need to put one and one together. I like this approach; it’s not super hand-holdy but also not archaically obtuse as to be frustrating.

Much like inside the Deku Tree, the interior of Lord Jabu-Jabu is creative. Just like Pinnochio, I had to enter the belly of the beast to rescue…well, somebody not nearly as endearing as Geppetto. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The dungeon is interesting because it is so un-Zelda-like. Many doors open by striking what looks like a uvula; hell, doors are in all actually sphincters. Enemies all stem from the end boss, an electrically-based parasite. Unlike the previous dungeons, Jabu-Jabu requires a little more exploration and experimentation on your part. Your path isn’t immediately laid out before you, which is much more akin to the NES original.

After eventually falling into what could best be described as an open ulcer, you meet Princess Ruto. Much like her Zora brethren, she too is a bit aloof. But whereas you can see it as a cultural thing in the grand scheme of things, Ruto just comes across as snooty, demanding and — to be honest — annoying. In fact, her personality is so grating that it has kind of colored my viewpoint of the Zora in every subsequent game thereafter. The cherry on the top of the cake is the fact that rather than being a bothersome escort mission to get her out, you have to carry her happy ass around while doing everything else you’ve set out to do.

As kind of a compliment to the proceedings, the boomerang likewise is about equal parts tricky as it is useful. The boomerang is a staple — you know what you’re getting into every time you earn one in a Zelda game. While it does all the things you expect: crossing barriers Link can’t pass to hit switches, being a versatile ranged attack and bringing back goods; it is also an exercise in frustration.

It’s one of the few points in this otherwise stellar game that you realize that Nintendo didn’t quite have it down pat. It lolls in its path very slowly; unless you’re locked onto an enemy, the wait for it to come back can be excruciating. Even when you are locked on, the propensity for you taking damage is high because you’re stuck in a behind-the-back camera angle and tend to run into things or have no way of defending yourself. Thankfully its main use is in this dungeon and is only necessary a few more times after that, so it doesn’t become a game-wide problem.

Whereas Dodongo’s cavern made up for its mediocrity by having an epic boss battle, the uniqueness of Jabu-Jabu is offset by the plainness of the parasitic core. But I guess is serves the story well, so it was for the best, but it’s definitely not an interesting fight by any means.

Now that we’ve gotten out proverbial sea legs under us, the next step is to bring the Spiritual Stones to Zelda and obviously save the world from Ganondorf’s endless evil…


The Real Deal

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball 2//RUSTY’S REAL DEAL BASEBALL

If anyone should have been cynical about Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, it should have been me.

I’m not a fan of free-to-play games because it undermines the work of developers, devalues games in general and almost never comes across as anything but a greedy money grab. So when you prate that a big selling point to your game is that you’re going to be sold to, I tend to get a little grumpy about it.

I should have by all means ignored Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, but I’ve heard from more than one place that the mini-games included were good. I have a hard time not believing it, because Nintendo makes great compilations: Nintendo Land, Wii Sports Resort and WarioWare spring to mind. But was I willing to haggle with a virtual anthropomorphic pro-ball has-been to give it a shot?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

The biggest problem Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball has isn’t bartering with actual money; it’s that the gaming press slapped the “F2P” label on it and people made assumptions as they are want to do. Would Nintendo have been better served if they had just given the game a base price and had you dicker with an in-game currency? Absolutely. In reality, Rusty is more like an episodic game – you start off by talking with and understanding Rusty and his ordeal, then buying a Nontendo 4DS game to help a puppy out. Each new mini-game you buy pushes the story along and is even separated out into chapters. $4 looks duplicitous at first blush, but squabbling the price down isn’t hard in the least.

I think once it’s all said and done you’re likely to spend $15 for the whole thing, assuming you play along with the haggling mechanic. That’s still far cheaper than if you were to buy into something more traditional like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us.

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball

I guess I’m arguing semantics really; I don’t think anything I have to say will change anyone’s perception of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, which is kind of a shame. The deciding factor for me was actually playing the mini-games on offer, and realizing that I’m willing to spend two bucks on a few hours’ worth of entertainment.

The first game you buy is Bat & Switch, which is as it sounds – you batting at balls. The game does a good job of drilling home the notion of nostalgia. It’s quick to remind you of more carefree days just goofing around during the summer. I’m not much for baseball, but even I got wistful at the wind blowing and birds chirping as I watch the clouds loll by and I knock a few balls out of the park. I wish the sound of a bat cracking was more like it is with a wooden bat, but I guess I’ll go along with using an aluminum one and listing to the ping instead.

The way this game makes me feel isn’t unlike Costume Quest or Attack of the Friday Monsters!: A Tokyo Tale in that it puts you in a certain time and place, and that’s definitely a good thing.

The game sets you along the path of trying to reach a certain goal score, but the parameters in doing so vary wildly. At first you just need to hit the ball; depending on your timing and where you hit the ball you are given one, two or three points based on where the ball lies. It later moves on to forcing you to pay attention as the ball is being tossed by three pitching machine-headed guys versus just one or having the ball go invisible in orbit before quickly reappearing in front of you.

My personal favorites involve knowing where to hit the ball. One set of games has the pitcher throwing bombs at you and if you don’t hit it just right it’ll drop in front of you and blow you up. Another has little flying saucers floating in the outfield and you have to hit them by surreptitiously knocking the ball into them. There are fifty challenges in all, which was enough to keep me playing for roughly three hours.

Like I said earlier, this game is very much an episodic affair. As such, I’ll probably hold off before jumping into the next mini-game. And that’s OK; the game doesn’t ham-fistedly try to goad you into haggling with Rusty or bug you with incessant pop-up boxes trying to get you to buy in. This was definitely an experiment on Nintendo’s part, one that will likely not be replicated due to the negative feedback. I’m not willing to let Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball’s charm go to waste just on principle, so I’ll keep playing it off and on for a while.

Who knew I’d be the one to fall into a bizarre pricing scheme?

Treasures from the Man Cave #1 | NF Magazine #8

NF Magazine 8Highlights of this issue include a very thorough retrospective of the Mario Kart series, an editor list on which DS games they’d like to see on Wii u and an interview with the duo behind Nyamyam. Also included is a very boss fold-out poster reminiscent of the Nintendo Power of yore.

Treasures from the Man Cave is a sporadic update of all the gaming paraphernalia that I’ve accrued and now proudly display on top of my entertainment shelf. That’s right — the title is a lie.