Saturday, June 30, 2007

Link to the Past, Part 3

With our hero finally back home after being stuck in the Atlanta airport for...Oh wait, that was me. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of flying through Atlanta, well, don't. My flight on Thursday night was supposed to leave at 9:15pm, we didn't board until 10:45pm, and it didn't actually leave the ground until 12:30am. I know it's not the most horrible wait ever experienced, but as anyone knows when travelling, delays are really a nuisance, especially on the return flights, as you just want to get home. My coworker and I were lucky enough to gain admittance to the Delta Crown Club Room, which is far more desirable to spend 5 hours in than waiting at a gate. Free drinks, munchies, comfortable seating, air conditioning, a place to plug in (a surprising luxury at an airport)...You can't beat it. That was where I was able to respond to as many of your comments as I did, as well as actually get some real work done, to keep my bosses happy. :)

Anyway, as someone commented, enough of my whining, you came here to read about Link to the Past, and so you shall. Before I start on part 3, I did want you to know that (if anyone's interested) I did go back to the part 2 post and insert screenshots, so that post is now complete. And now, without further ado, back to the action!

The adventure started up once more as I stood at the top of the castle in the Dark World. The map indicated that I should start my quest by recovering the first of seven crystals, in the Dark World equivalent of the East Palace (the location of the first pendant). On my way to that dungeon, I entered a cave that had a tree, which turned out to be a person, warped by the power of the Dark World, who talked about the Golden Power, and referred to it by the name we gamers know it by: the Triforce. Finding that I couldn't do anything to help this poor chap, I continued on my way to the first dungeon.

This dungeon was surrounded by a maze of hedges. I wandered around aimlessly for a bit, and eventually found my way through a part of the maze that was completely covered over. Upon emerging on the other side of this part of the maze, I found that I was being followed by a monkey, who introduced himself as Kiki. He professed his love for rupees, and asked for 10 of them to follow me. Since I was very near my holding limit of 999 rupees, I acquiesced to his request and he followed along. Not long after that, the little creep bailed out, and I arrived at the entrance to the first dungeon, where my memory (hazy as it is) reminded me that I needed the greedy little ape to help me gain entry. Back I went, and for the low. low price of 10 rupees he agreed to follow me again. This time I went straight to the dungeon entrance, where the shrewd business-monkey asked for 100 rupees to open the door. Why that little...seeing that I had no choice, I paid him and I was soon in the starting room of the first dungeon.

The first dungeon provided some interesting moments, including a long bridge that drops away every time you enter the room, as well as the use of teleport plates. A thorough sweep of the dungeon netted me all of the important items (map, compass, big key) and I quickly worked my way to the big treasure chest, accessible through a maze lit only by the lantern and containing fire-breathing little dinosaurs. The major treasure for this dungeon turned out to be the Hammer, which allows the banging of pegs and other items to grant access to areas previously unreachable otherwise. Of course, the hammer can be used as a melee weapon as well, and turned out to be very effective against the turtles who were prevalent throughout this dungeon and impervious to regular sword attacks. One swing of the hammer knocked the turtle on its back and exposed its soft underbelly, which then made it vulnerable to your sword or a second hammer swing.

After grabbing the hammer, it was time to go and challenge the boss of the dungeon. This boss was a lot of fun. A large creature reminiscent of a turtle wearing a metal mask and having a tail like a scorpion, the challenge of this boss was to get rid of the metal mask. I used the hammer to accomplish this goal, though it took a lot of hits to finally dislodge the mask from the beast's head. After the mask fell off, it revealed a gem of sorts which proved weak to arrows. A couple of solid arrow volleys later, and I was the victor. I grabbed the requisite heart container, and the first crystal fell from the ceiling. When I picked it up, a maiden appeared inside, who told me the entire story of how the Dark World came to be, and how I needed to save the other 6 maidens to stand a chance of returning the world to its former beautiful state. She was also kind enough to mark the remaining dungeon locations (complete with numbers to guide my decision on which order to attempt each one) on my overworld map. With that, I was warped back to the entrance of the dungeon.

After vanquishing the dungeon, I thought it would be useful to do a bit of exploring and wrap up a few loose ends before taking on the second dungeon. If you remember from my second entry in LttP, I had found a mushroom in the Great Forest. The old woman in front of the magic shop had asked for a mushroom, so I made my way back to her (by going there in the Dark World and using the mirror). She took the mushroom happily and told me to return later.

After that, I went to the forest grove where, in the Light World, there was a boy there playing a flute and surrounded by little woodland creatures. This boy, in the Light World, would disappear when I approached him. In the Dark World, however, there was a sad creature sitting there, saying that he had come to the Dark World searching for the Golden Power, but was now trapped in this form. I offered to help him, and he gave me a shovel to try to find his flute, which he had buried in the Light World. I warped back to the Light World and quickly found the flute. I traveled back to the Dark World and continued on my merry way. [NOTE: One thing I forgot to try before leaving the area was to go and play the flute for the poor creature in the Dark World. I don't quite remember if this did anything, but during my next play session, I'll go back and check, just in case.]

After this little excursion, it dawned on me that there would be a piece of heart ripe for the taking, if I were to travel to Lake Hylia, which is exactly what I did. During my first exploration of that area, in the Light World, there was a piece of heart sitting on an island that was inaccessible. Using the 'travel to the location in the Dark World and then utilize the mirror to warp to the Light World' trick to great effect, finding myself on the previously inaccessible island, taking the piece of heart as my own.

Taking a bit of time to look around the lake while in the area, I went to the cave where (in the Light World) I claimed the Ice Rod before, but this time I found...a hand? Seriously, this thing looked like the claymation hand in the all of the Hamburger Helper ads. However, this 'hand' turned out to be a former thief who traveled to the Dark World and found himself in that form. He was able to provide me with some useful info, even in that form, about a master locksmith who was pretending to be a strange middle-aged man. Clearly this information will be useful in the future, since I've already come across this strange middle-aged man (at the entrance to the desert in the Light World). On my way back from this encounter, I made a quick pitstop in the Light World at the Pond of Happiness and increased my bomb capacity to 25 (from 15) and my arrow capacity to 40 (from 30).

Having stalled long enough, I then made the short jaunt to the entrance of the second dungeon, located in the swampy area between the desert and Lake Hylia. Upon entering the dungeon, it was clear that I couldn't get very far, because of a large empty channel in the middle of the dungeon and a 'half-ladder' that restricted my access to the area beyond. There was a communication panel to the elder, who reminded me that things that occur in one world affect the other. Clearly a clue! I exited the dungeon, used the Mirror, and entered the structure in the Light World. Inside this structure were switches and a closed water gate. Pulling the right switch opened the water gate, which filled the channel. Pulling the wrong switch caused a cascade of bombs to rain from the ceiling. After leaving the structure, it was clear that opening that water gate drained some of the swamp area, as I noticed a piece of heart that revealed itself when the water drained away. Picking this up completed yet another heart, a nice boost for taking on the second dungeon. I jumped back to the Dark World, ready to face the challenge ahead.

This dungeon was fun, as it made use of the water level to great effect. There were certain areas that weren't accessible until I found the correct switch to release water (or in one case, drain it). The enemies were relatively annoying in this dungeon, especially the water-drop monsters that flew around and eventually splashed against the wall. I was able to grab all of the necessary items quite quickly, including the major treasure of the dungeon, the Hookshot, one of my all-time favorite items in a video game. Then I got stuck. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get to the boss room, and after wasting all of my potions running around trying to find it, I decided to leave the dungeon, take a breather to restock my potions and come back refreshed and with a new outlook.

To refill my potions, I went back to the Magic Shop in the Light World. The old woman had completed her brew, and inside the woman presented me with the Magic Powder. I look forward to using this in the future, as some of you have already hinted at its uses. I also took the time to fill my 2 bottles with blue potions. This reminded me that I need to track down the other 3 bottles (I believe) that are still out there somewhere. They're very useful, and I should take the time to go and track them down.

Anyway, also decided to take the time, since I was in that portion of the map, to make a visit to the Pond of Happiness and upgrade my shield that many of you were kind enough to point out was a good thing to do. On my way there, I traveled via the Dark World, and came upon a sign that informed me that I would be cursed if I threw anything into a circle of stones. This circle of stones referred to a ring of stones located just off the shore in the river. Of course I threw something in. A creature surfaced and offered me the Quake Medallion as long as I would stop bothering him. Sounded like a good deal to me, so I took it. I then used the Mirror to get to the Light World, visited the Pond and upgraded my shield to the red variety, which blocks fireballs.

Now, feeling reinvigorated, I traveled back to the second dungeon and continued to keep looking for what I was missing. It turns out I was just stupid and couldn't find the secret door behind a waterfall, but after looking at the map, it became pretty evident what was going on, and I was on my way again, to face the boss. The boss was a fun battle, consisting of a jellyfish covered in blobs. I used the Hookshot to pull the blobs to me, where 2 sword strikes put an end to them, and once they were all gone, the jellyfish started swimming around the room, which caused me to strike him in the eye as he ricocheted all over the place. A few well-placed hits later, and I had my new heart container and the second crystal. The maiden trapped in this crystal explained about Ganon, and pushed me to continue my quest to save all seven maidens and end the evil reign in this once-beautiful land.

This seemed to be a good place to stop for now. Hopefully it comes through in my writing how much fun I'm having going through this game all over again. The graphics continue to amuse me, the sheer amount of areas to search and things to discover (in relation to the first two games), as well as the open-world feel keeps me coming back time and again. Next time I'll tackle the third and fourth dungeons as well as do some more in depth exploration of the overworlds, now that I have a few more implements at my disposal.

As always, thanks for reading and I'll talk to you all next time!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Please Bear with Me!

Hi again! I think the title of this post says it all, as I beg you all to be patient. I'm sitting in an airport, trying frantically to catch up with all of the comments that you've left (as of this moment I'm about 60 comments behind, encompassing the latest 2 posts before this one). I'll continue to respond as I have time (and Internet connection), and tomorrow is the day that I'll make more ingame progress for your reading pleasure. This Atlanta trip really threw off my schedule, but I do appreciate everything that you all have said in the comments. Tomorrow will also mark the return of pictures to the posts (I'll update the part 2 post as well as the new one), so it should be BAU (business as usual) after that.

Again, it's a great feeling to check in on the blog as I have connectivity to find new comments (I really do read them all!), so please keep it up. Barring something terrible happening, you'll see a new Lttp post tomorrow evening. Until then, take care and be safe!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Link to the Past, Part 2

Well, here I am at the airport, waiting for my flight to Atlanta. That’s going to be my excuse if this post seems a bit disjointed or out of place with all of the others. I’m sitting at a TGI Friday’s table, typing this on Word, as hundreds of people file by. Not exactly the place I normally do these updates, sitting in peace at my kitchen table, with only my wife or our cats to interrupt the writing process. Hopefully this will fit in (more importantly, I hope this imports into Blogger seamlessly) with the rest of the entries and you won’t notice a thing. :)

It’s been a busy couple of days, which is consequently why I haven’t posted or responded to everyone’s comments. It’s great to see that so many of you are sticking around for the next installment in the series, and I know I’ve said it before, but the turnout has been absolutely jaw-dropping, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for the great comments and compliments on the blog, they’re most definitely appreciated. Between Sunday night, when I posted part 1 of Link to the Past, and this afternoon, you had contributed 37 comments to that post, as well as several others on past entries. If anyone had told me that I would have 37 comments on my blog when I started this, I would have a) assumed they meant for the entire blog, and b) been absolutely ecstatic. There have been so many comments that, as much as I don’t want to, I don’t believe I’ll be able to respond to them all individually, as been my practice. With that being said, please be assured that I read every single comment, and do my best to incorporate what you say into how I do things or how I write (when applicable). Combine that with the fact that I’m going away on business for the next couple of days, which completely throws off any normal schedule, and it doesn’t bode well for time to write. However, I do have both the emulator loaded up on this laptop, as well as my trusty Super Nintendo controller and USB adapter with me, so I at least hope to squeeze some gaming time in while at the hotel. The post may have to wait until I get back, but you can be sure I’m continuing on my mission, and you won’t have to wait too long between updates.

When we last left our hero, he had acquired the first pendant from the East Palace, and was ready to tackle the second palace. I decided to attempt the desert palace, and made my way there. Once at the entrance, I was confronted with a blocked path and a monolith covered in strange symbols. Whipping out my trusty Book of Mudora (everyone should have a copy, as far as I’m concerned), the mysterious glyphs suddenly made sense, and lo and behold, the obstruction that previously prevented me from entering the palace shifted, granting me access.

This palace had a distinctly sandy theme (go figure), and featured both the plant creatures that rose out of the ground (seen in the two previous games), as well as earwigs that appeared out of a sand whirlpool and sometimes threw fireballs at me. You know, you usual vacation getaway. The palace itself was broken into two separate sections, each with their own entrance. Of course I didn’t know that, and I spent a decent amount of time wandering around the first portion of the palace (after retrieving all of the items of interest, including the gloves, the palace’s major treasure), trying to figure out what I’d missed. You can imagine how much of an idiot I felt like when I finally decided to look outside and quickly found the other entrance. (The gloves I found, by the way, allowed me to lift some of the stones found on the overworld map, thus opening up a few more options for exploration, which I’ll definitely have to follow up on).

With that big mystery out of the way, I quickly made my way through the rest of the dungeon, and found myself face to face with the boss, or bosses in this case. Three worms jumped in and out of the sand, so I had to be on my toes, dancing around and trying not to get landed on while stabbing at their heads as they floated by. It was a fun battle, and after the last worm succumbed under the force of my onslaught, I claimed the second pendant and a heart container as my rightful rewards.

After being generously transported back to the start of the palace, I spent some time exploring the desert area. While doing so, I was lucky enough to come across another piece of heart, my third. Only one more and I would have yet another heart to help keep me alive. (As an aside, I really liked the addition of the pieces of heart to the Zelda series. It added yet another collection aspect to the game, which only encourages exploration of the entire world, and allows game designers yet another outlet for subtle little puzzles and obstacles for players to think their way through.)

After a bit more exploration, it was time to leave the dry, arid desert, and what better place to go after being in the desert? You got it, the water! Since I’d already wandered around Lake Hylia, it was off to the northeastern corner of the map for me, up where the Zora people were rumored to live. Sure enough, I found a lake area teeming with the aquatic people, and at a dead-end in the path, what I believed to be the king of the Zoras popped up out of the water. After a quick conversation, he offered to sell me a set of flippers for 500 rupees. It just so happened that I had 500 rupees (plus a fair bit more) burning a hole in my green tunic pocket, so it wasn’t long before I was the proud owner of those crazy flippers. Before leaving that area, I used the flippers to gain access to a bank that held a piece of heart. That piece completed one heart so I was now even more prepared for what waited ahead.

Using the flippers on the way back, I came upon a hidden room under one of the waterfalls. The only thing in the room was a pool, and the game asked me if I wanted to throw anything in. Yet again, I vaguely remembered being here before, so I tossed in my trusty blue boomerang. A very nice (and pretty, at least to a pre-pubescent elf) fairy appeared and asked me if I’d lost a boomerang. Neglecting to inform her that I had, in fact, tossed the boomerang in willingly, but had actually lost a boomerang (I wasn’t actually lying, just omitting a bit about the story, something that soon to be heroes of the world are allowed to do from time to time), she returned it to me more powerful, faster, and a nice red color. Hmmm, that’s interesting. Unfortunately, I didn’t hang around too long after that to see if she’d repeat the process with anything else. On that note, if any of you feel that it wouldn’t be too game breaking, I’m all ears to hear what else benefits from a dunk in the Waterfall of Wishing. If you feel that it’s cheating, I’ll go back and throw everything in at some point, but I do remember that at least one more thing benefits, but for the life of me I can’t remember what.

From here I started walking west toward the base of the mountains, where I assumed I’d have to go to start the trip toward the third palace and the third pendant. On the way, I stopped by the graveyard and tried pushing some of the gravestones. One of them, protected by stones that I could lift, revealed a pit that I promptly jumped into. At the bottom, I found myself in familiar surroundings: a section of the path used to escape the castle to Sanctuary. Nearby there were several bombable walls, which I quickly cleared away. This revealed a room with some arrow, hearts, bombs and a chest containing 300 rupees. Very nice.

After this minor detour, I finally made my way to the base of the mountain, and entered the cave I found there. It was completely dark (the lantern I swiped from the house at the beginning was coming in handy again, who says crime doesn’t pay?), but after taking my time I found my way to the exit of that particular cavern. At this point I found an old man who had lost his lantern, and I agreed to help him through the rest of the cave. He proved to be very helpful (and chatty), and once we made it out of that cave, he took his leave of me, but did give me the Mirror. The Mirror is one of the most useful items in the game, as we’ll find out later.

During my journey to the top, slowed by the boulders bouncing down the mountainside and the annoying Goomba-looking creatures that turned to stone after striking them, I managed to find a piece of heart in one of the subsequent caves. At one point on the trip up the mountain, I found myself at a dead end, except for the option of using a mysterious portal. Being the ever adventurous elf that I am (at least in this game, and I’m pretty sure no-one would mistake me for an elf in real life), I jumped into the portal and found myself in the Dark World, although it wasn’t the fact of revelations, considering the fact that I was a rabbit! Near the portal were a couple of creatures that indicated that they were once something else (as I was) but after traveling through the portal, they were now stuck in those forms and in the Dark World itself. Feeling badly for them, but not being really able to do anything for them, I continued on. Noticing that I seemed to be in an area that was inaccessible back in the Light World, I decided to use the Mirror, which opened a portal back to the Light World. Sure enough, I was now able to move forward in my ascent to the third palace, but not before grabbing the piece of heart that conveniently was now within my reach.

Near the tower palace, I found another monolith that was only decipherable with the Book of Mudora (see how handy those things are?), which talked about the Master Sword and the power of ether, when held aloft. After enjoying the view up there, I decided to enter the palace, known as the Tower of Hera. This palace introduced the crystal balls that controlled blocks strategically placed to either help or hinder your progress throughout the palace. When the crystal was blue, blue blocks were raised and tan blocks were lowered, and this was reversed when the crystal was struck and the color changed to red (I may have the exact order reversed, I didn’t note it while playing). All of the crystal balls were linked throughout the castle, so if one was red, they all were red and vice versa. The treasure for this palace was the Moon Pearl, which allows the owner to retain his original form when in the Dark World. This sounds like a pretty handy little item to have, considering I have the feeling that I’ll be in the Dark World a lot (just a hunch).

After battling my way up the tower, I was met at the top by the boss, a segmented worm type of beast, similar to that which were found scattered throughout the palace, only this monster had only one weak spot: his tail. To make matters even more interesting, the battle takes place on a platform where it’s easy to fall off, and when you do, the battle starts again. Also, the boss (either when struck in the wrong spot or makes contact with you) throws you a fair distance, so if you’re near the edge, watch out. I was knocked off several times before finally landing the requisite number of blows to the beast’s tail (I believe the magic number was six), and it was with great relief that I was able to leave this palace with a new heart container and the third pendant.

After that ordeal (well, it really wasn’t too much of an ordeal, but I’ll use some artistic license anyway), I decided to do a bit of exploring. Not too much, mind you, just a bit to break up the quests a little bit. The target of this exploration was Lake Hylia, as I now had the flippers, which made the entire lake available, not just the shorelines. In the middle of the lake there were two islands, one with no access (at least from the Light World) that contained a piece of heart, and the other had a cave on it. In that cave was the ‘Well of Happiness’ (at least that’s what I think it was called), where you threw in rupees to eventually increase the carrying capacity of bombs or arrows. Since I had a few rupees with nothing to do, I tossed in 100 of them and increased my bomb capacity by 5 (to a whopping 15). Satisfied with that for the time being, and knowing that I could come back at any time, I decided to stop stalling and make my way to the forest, and claim the Master Sword.

In the forest, I quickly stumbled onto what looked like the Master Sword…but it turned out to be a fake. The very next path I chose led me to a clearing filled with cute furry little animals and an elaborate shrine. Clearly this had to be the place. I walked up to the sword, pressed the button, and voila, I was the proud owner of a shiny new Master Sword, with no money down, no less. :) On my way out of the forest, I was contacted by the elder, who encouraged me to go to the castle and defeat Agahnim, and then I was contacted by the old man at Sanctuary, who informed me that they were under attack! While rushing to the aid of Zelda and the old man, I managed to trip over (and pick up) a Mushroom. That will be important later on, methinks…

I made it to Sanctuary, and as expected was too late to save poor Zelda or the old man, who passed away before my eyes. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to pick up the Mushroom after all. Regardless, I soldiered on to the castle, and quickly made my way up to the top floor, where a door stood sealed by some arcane magic. That magic proved to be no match for the Master Sword, and I gained admittance without an issue. I eventually found myself at the top of the castle, and entered a room where Agahnim stood over Zelda, who was lying on some sort of altar, apparently unconscious. Agahnim laughed at me, made poor Zelda disappear before my eyes, and announced that he had opened the seal created by the seven wise men. After that he blurred and vanished.

A quick search of the room revealed a secret passage behind the curtains, where Agahnim awaited me again. This time he was not in such a charitable mood, and a battle ensued. He would fire solid magical globes at me, alternating those with what looked like a cluster of snowballs, and also chain lightning. The trick to defeating him was to dodge the ‘snowballs’ and lightning and use the Master Sword to knock the magical globes back at him. After several minutes of tense combat, Agahnim fled, and I was then transported to the Dark World. The elder spoke to me telepathically once more, revealing that my mission was to travel to 7 dungeons located throughout the Dark World, and recover the 7 crystals of the wise men, and use those to seal the portal Agahnim had just reopened. As I stood there, overlooking the dark and dangerous world before me, my mission was clear…

It was time for bed! At least, it was at that point time for the real me to get some sleep, because even though I’m on a personal mission to vanquish Ganon (or whoever else the developers can throw my way) as many times as I can, I still have a wife and a house to support, so I had to be ready for work the next morning. It also seemed like a good time to stop, as I now have a clear goal, as well as a lot of new exploring to do.

Thanks again for reading. Hopefully you’re looking forward to the next installment as I am to playing it. Until that time, however, please take care and be safe!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Link to the Past, Part 1

Moving on from the successful completion of Adventure of Link, this weekend I began a Link to the Past. This is a game that (judging from the general feeling and responses in the comments) many people consider their favorite game in the Zelda series, myself included. After the switch to side-scrolling action sequences in Zelda II, a switch that was received with mixed reaction at best, the series returned to its top-down roots with Link to the Past. The graphics, even today, bring a smile to my face, and while they're by no means cutting edge, I still think that they hold up. The dungeons provided a new challenge with multiple levels and an almost-3D feel (stairs,balconies and pathways above passages within the levels themselves), and the sheer variety of puzzles and enemies reinvigorated the 'feel' of the franchise, and provided a solid launching point for its many later iterations.

Blogging this game is proving to be a bit more of a challenge than the previous 8-bit incarnations, due to the added complexity that the Super NES allowed the developers to incorporate. I'm going to attempt to not write a novel for each play session, but because there are so many NPCs to interface with (many of them providing clues to present and future puzzles), areas to explore, and dungeons to conquer, I think that this is going to be far more wordy than the other games I've played so far. Hopefully I won't scare you all away, and you'll keep coming back for more. Anyway, let's get into Link to the Past!

Immediately upon firing up the emulator, I was greeted with the shiny 16-bit starting screen, and immediately became excited. I really, really enjoy this game and (not to be looking past the first two games) this is what I've been waiting for since I started this blog. Getting over my initial excitement, I named my character (Link, of course) and started my journey.

The opening scene started with me asleep in the small house shared with my father, and then night was interrupted by Zelda, communicating with both of us. She was in the dungeon of the castle and needed help. I awoke immediately, but was told to stay put by my father, who rushed out into the rainy night to help this mysterious girl. Having nothing better to do, I hopped out of bed, looked in the treasure chest in the room (and found a Lantern), and followed my father out the door. Hey, what self-respecting short elf in green who fancies himself a hero would wait inside on a night like this? So, out I went...

EDIT: As many of you quickly and correctly pointed out, the man who left the house and was found just inside the entrance of the secret passage to the palace garden was in fact Link's uncle, and not his father, as I tried to make him. So, either a) I know something you don't know, and am trying to get Link's uncle in trouble with Link's real father :P, or b) I just made a mistake and the astute readers of this blog were quick to point out the truth. Personally, my money's on option b, but you can make that call for yourself! :) In all seriousness, I checked this morning on the internet and found a scan of the original manual, and it does make a very brief mention in the prologue that Link's uncle is the man who leaves. So thank you for pointing out the mistake. Congratulations, you all passed my test! Someone really is paying attention (apparently not me though)...

Venturing out into the night, I followed the paths that were not blocked by soldiers, and following a further communication by Zelda, I made my way to a secret passage on the eastern side of the castle, that would presumably would lead me into the palace garden. After jumping down into the hole, the first thing I saw was my father slumped against the wall. He lamented the fact that I had been pulled into all of this mess, gave me his sword and shield, and sadly was no more. What better way to eliminate the possibility of a wet-blanket parent putting a damper on the adventure by getting rid of them in the first 5 minutes of the game? I can't think of one either. I took up the sword and shield and made my way to the palace garden, and from there into the palace proper, taking out any guards that were foolish enough to resist.

In the castle, I started looking for (and promptly found) the stairs that led down into the dungeon. On the way down, I found a room with a chest that contained the blue boomerang. Ah, the trusty boomerang, a constant companion in my previous adventures, and a welcome addition to my small but growing arsenal. Not long after retrieving the boomerang, I found myself in the room where hapless victims were held, and there was the princess. Before releasing her, there was the minor inconvenience of killing the guard wielding the mace, but he didn't stand much of a chance (they never do, do they?). Zelda was appropriately happy for her release, and asked me to get her to the first floor of the dungeon, where she would have further instructions. With the princess in tow, I quickly traveled back from whence I came.

At the appointed floor, the princess informed me that there was a secret passage in the throne room that would lead us to safety. I was all for that, so we double-timed it to the throne room. With her help, we pushed away a display and entered the secret passage. This passage required the use of a lantern (good thing I was nosy before leaving the house!), and contained many rats, bats and snakes. Traveling downward, we made to the sewers below the palace, where the princess said that we weren't far from the passage that would take us to the Sanctuary, where there was apparently an old man who would help us. Her information turned out to be correct once more, and (aside from a room where I chose the wrong switch to open the door, and instead triggered a shower of snakes) it wasn't long before we were talking to the old man, who instructed me to visit the town elder (he was even kind enough to mark the location on my fancy overworld map with a flashing 'X'), and said that he'd keep the princess safe while I figured out how to break the hold the evil wizard Agahnim had on the guards and the palace. Opening a chest in the Sanctuary rewarded me with a heart container (hopefully the first of many).

After leaving the Sanctuary, I traveled to town. When I arrived, I quickly revisited a pastime that I'm sure all of you have engaged in at one time or another: chicken throwing! :) No matter how many times I do it, it never ceases to amuse me. After tossing some barn fowl around, and then feeling bad for single-handedly being the scourge of Hyrule's chicken population, I continued on to the more important matter of saving the land. A wanna-be hero's got to have his priorities! I walked through the quaint little town to the house marked with the 'X' on my map, where I was met with an old lady who didn't know where the elder was, and indicated that he'd been missing since the soldiers had started to round up people and take them to the castle, never to be seen again. That made sense (I wouldn't have stuck around, either), and the old lady said that I should ask around town, because she was sure that someone would know where the elder was.

After leaving that house, I made my tour of the town, speaking to all of the people I saw, and investigating the houses that were there. Some of the town's residents believed the lies that the wizard was spreading about me, and immediately called a soldier when I spoke to them (cranky, cranky!), but most citizens were more than happy to talk to me. One man sold me a bottle, a very handy multi-use item in Hyrule, and the more you have, the better off you are. In a tavern, a man mentioned that his son, who happened to play the flute, had gone off in search of the Golden Power, and was never seen again. In that same tavern, a man mentioned that there was a woman at the Waterfall of Wishing that I should visit. Behind the counter in that same tavern (accessed by leaving the front door and entering through the back) I found a chest containing another bottle. What a great find! There was a well on the left side of town, accessible by dropping into it from above, which held a bunch of rupees and a few bombs. After leaving the well, I entered the old thieve's hideout (right beside the elder's house, how interesting), and was able to find a piece of heart behind a doorway opened with a bomb. There also was a puzzle requiring the movement of blocks to allow access to several treasure chests containing rupees which I completed after a bit of thought. Near the south end of town, I found a boy on the street who said that he thought the elder was in the palace east of the castle, and marked his location on my map. Very nearby, I entered a home of a sick boy, who granted me use of his bug-catching net, another useful tool in Hyrule, great for catching bugs and fairies, and all manner of creatures. Near this house, I hacked my way through the overgrown front yard of a man who (after apologizing for the state of his yard) told me that there was a lake of Zoras that I should go visit. Making a mental note of that, I continued on my way.

Having dallied enough with the good citizens of the town, I moved east across the land, in search of the elder. Now that I had rescued the princess, I was a wanted me, and any soldier that saw me promptly attacked. Not that they were difficult to defeat, just annoying at times, especially when one was on a mission, as I was. Even with the inconvenience of the soldiers, I soon found myself at the hiding place of the elder, who introduced himself as Sahasrahla. He told me the story of the three pendants and how they were necessary to wield the power of the Master Sword, hidden in the forest. He directed me to recover the three pendants, scattered around the land, and after that wield the sword to eliminate the evil wizard dragging down the kingdom. Boy, maybe I should have just stayed in bed! :)

Nevertheless, I wandered over to the first location of the three pendants (called the East Palace), conveniently just a stone's throw from the elder's hideout. Doesn't it always happen that way? The palace provided minimal challenge, as it quickly gave up the map and compass. Acquiring the big key was a bit more of a problem, however. In a particular room, there was a pot surrounded by this game's incarnation of the Bubbles (in this game they look like flaming skulls surrounded by 4 rotating fireballs), four of them rotating around this single pot. Sacrificing a bit of my life, I was able to grab the pot and discover that there was a switch underneath. After spending a lot of time testing failed strategies, the only way I found to press that switch (and cause the chest containing the big key for this dungeon to appear) was to lure the large armored cyclops in the room (only vulnerable to arrows, of which I didn't have a bow to fire them yet) over the switch, thus activating it. There was quite a close call doing this (I only just was able to get a fairy out of a bottle and capture it before dying), but I finally was able to grab the big key, and thus pave the way to the major treasure of the dungeon (the bow, surprise surprise) as well as the path to the boss. The boss of this dungeon, and the keeper of the pendant, was a group of six large bouncing and circling knights, who were vulnerable to both arrows and the sword. After using a combination of the two, I was able to defeat them and claim the first pendant as my own.

After retrieving the pendant, I made my triumphant return to the elder, who congratulated me, reiterated my mission, but also gave me a present: the Pegasus boots, which granted me the power of the dash. This proves to be a very useful tool in many locations of the game, some of which I'll detail later on. The elder also pointed me to the eastern shore of Lake Hylia, where he said I would find a useful item. Not being one to question an elder (that's just basic respect), I decided to follow his advice and travel immediately to that very location, exploring all the way.

On the eastern shore, I found a cave that (after using a couple of bombs on breakaway walls) yielded the Ice Rod. As of yet, I haven't found it extremely useful, but I'm sure it will have its uses later on as the game continues. While trekking back to town (to follow up on something I'd seen earlier, more on that soon), I found a breakaway wall near the shore of the lake. Blowing it up revealed a 300 rupee chest. Bingo, I was rich!

Back in town, in the southern area, I found a building that contained a man who told me that he had, after an argument, closed off his brother's room. Sure enough, the left wall was a breakaway wall, which crumbled under the force of one of my bombs. After trying to patch things up with the brothers, I exited out the second brother's door, and found a woman who promised me a prize if I could make it through her maze in under 15 seconds. I failed on my first attempt (I used the wrong strategy and took way too much time), but my second attempt was much more successful. I arrived at the man at the end of the maze in a pretty speedy 13 seconds, and he promptly rewarded me with a piece oh heart (woohoo).

Getting back on track, I then focused my attention on the real reason I went back to town. Near the buildings I had just left was what I assumed to be a library (empty except for shelves of books, seems to make sense). On the top of one of those shelves, there was a conspicuous looking green book. My memory perked up when I came across it originally, and reminded me that I could knock that book off the shelf with the dash power (which I couldn't remember how to do, since the Pegasus boots completely slipped my mind). Now that the elder had endowed me with that ability, I thought it high time to go back and take care of something I was 100% sure I could do. Sure enough, one dash knocked the book to the floor, which revealed itself to be the Book of Mudora, which allowed the reader to translate the Hylian language. Something tells me that this will be useful in the very near future.
Wow, what a long post! I actually completed more of the game, but I'm going to wrap it up for this post, and save the rest of my progress for a post tomorrow. I'd prefer to mark my progress within the games in digestible pieces, so they're not too long that they get boring, but not too short either. Hopefully I've done the beginning of this great game justice. Let me know your thoughts, and if there's anything I've missed up to this point. Thanks for reading and I'll be back tomorrow with another installment!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Zelda Background Info and Reader Comments

This has been a good weekend for gaming! I spent a decent amount of time yesterday starting my adventures in Link to the Past, and (time permitting), I'll be posting those adventures this evening. Yet again, real life gets in the way, as I have a family function throughout the day today. Also to note, I'm traveling for work this week (flying to Atlanta Tuesday-Thursday), so updates may be a bit erratic, but I'll try to make some progress in the hotel room in the evenings.

I do have a couple of question that I'd like to pose to you, because I'm sure there are more computer- and blogging-savvy people than I who read this...

1. There was the question about how to subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog in the comments. Is there anything I can do, within Blogger, to make this easier for everyone (i.e. put a link on the side)? I'd like to make this as easy as possible for folks, but I'm new at this whole thing, so any input is greatly welcomed.

2. Also, is there the ability, also within Blogger or in conjunction with YouTube, to imbed video into the blog posts? I see that done very often on other blog sites (admittedly I haven't done a lot of looking into this as of yet, so if it's really simple, don't make fun of me too much), and would love the ability to put videos of interest in this blog. Specifically, I noticed that the SNES emulator I'm using has video capture ability, and it's tempting to put up a couple of gameplay videos (although then, you'd all be able to see how bad a gameplayer I really am...hmmm, maybe not such a good idea). Again, your input and suggestions are appreciated.

Aside from that, I wanted to give you some links for Zelda-related information, just to whet your appetite for the journey ahead.

- The Zelda Wikipedia entry
- Thanks to a combination of hec1979 and toad64, the six part Zelda Retrospective
Zelda Retrospective, Part 1
Zelda Retrospective, Part 2
Zelda Retrospective, Part 3
Zelda Retrospective, Part 4
Zelda Retrospective, Part 5
Zelda Retrospective, Part 6

Also, contained in the same comment, toad64 made the following mention: "I'm an assistant manager at a local Gamestop, and was feeling inspired by your blog the other day, so I popped in the Zelda Collector's disc in the Gamecube kiosk, so customers could play the first Legend of Zelda!" Way to go, spreading the retro Zelda love around! :)

Alexmoreno left some great information about the Oracles games, great stuff that I had no idea existed: "About the connectivity of the Oracle games. I have played both by myself (you're gonna love them) and you can do just fine with passwords. Each Oracle game takes place in a different country (for lack of a better word), and the first one you play (whichever you choose) will have no apparent connection with the other one. Once you finish it, you'll be given a password that will let you "continue" your quest on the other game. In the second Oracle game you'll find lots of characters that tell you to visit some character in the other country and tell them a password for a prize. Those prizes are technically not needed to complete the game, but as usual, some of them are helpful. Another thing: I can't explain it better, but one of the Oracle games is battle-oriented and the other is puzzle-oriented. They're both lots of fun, though." Great info, and when I get to the Oracles games, I'll be sure to keep those points in mind when choosing which game to play first, and whether or not to use passwords.

Korey echoed some information about Zelda II that had been touched on by a previous commenter: "Hi. I live in Japan and just started Zelda II on the Wii Virtual Console. One annoying difference I've found from the American version involves experience and levels. In the American version (from what I've read, since I never played it), if you die and save or continue your game, you keep all your levels but lose any experience towards the next level. However, in the Japanese version, if you lose all your lives, and save or continue, your levels all revert to the lowest one. For example, I beat the first temple, and had 3 attack, 2 magic, and 3 life. However, I then accidentally lost my last life. When I saved and restarted, I had 2 attack, 2 magic, and 2 life. I lost both of those levels, and the temple stayed completed, so I couldn't even gain that experience again!!! Super annoying. I can't even imagine what kind of person could come up with such a terrible idea. It definitely does not contribute to the fun factor of the game." It makes me glad that I was playing the US version, but in all seriousness, I wonder what kind of logic went into making the decision to include a mechanic like that into any game, let alone this one?

These are just a few of the great comments that you've all left here. It would be nearly impossible to credit everyone with all of the info, suggestions, ideas and kind words, so if you don't see your name or comment, please know that I've read them all and am doing my best to respond to each one personally. It may not be much, but I really do value the fact that you're actually reading this (and maybe even enjoying it), because the response I've received is far beyond anything I could have ever imagined or expected.

Also (this really is becoming a catch-all post, isn't it?), I wanted to convey some of the thoughts I've had regarding how to handle the series of games, what I'm planning on doing, etc. Based on several comments regarding the CD-i, the expense of the system and especially the Zelda games, I'm going to forego playing them for the time being. However, I'm not ruling out playing them once I'm through the 'real' games in the series, if I can find a system inexpensively on eBay or a reliable emulator. I'm going to play that by ear.

Next, on how I intend to 'complete' the games in the series. William asked in a comment if I were going for 100% completion of every game (i.e. find every hidden item, get all of the masks, collect all of the gold skulltulas, etc.), and to be truthful, I'm probably not going to do that. Not because I don't want to, but I'm going for an 'organic' gaming experience, and to really go through and find every single tiny little item feels less organic and more 'completist'. However, I am open to debate on this, and maybe it could be turned into a community experience, soliciting help from you to find the things that I miss. What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference on how this goes?

Anyway, I've blathered on enough. Thanks again for reading and contributing your comments, they're all appreciated. As I mentioned earlier, I'll be back this evening with the first installment of Link to the Past!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Adventure of Link, Finale

I didn't think I'd be so happy to see the word 'Finale' in the title of any post on this blog, but frankly it couldn't come fast enough for this game. However, before I get to the reason why, I have to catch you up with what happened leading up to my frustration and eventual happiness to start this post. :)

Upon returning to Hyrule, I took the advice of Sam, one of the commenters, who indicated that I should make a return trip to the labyrinth that surrounded one of the palaces. Apparently I hadn't fully explored that area, and of course he was correct. Not long after starting to traipse up and down the corridors of the labyrinth, I fell into a pit and discovered a magic container. Thank you Sam, because as another commenter (JohnH) mentioned, this game is geared around needing magic more and more as you progress, and without it, things might have been a bit more difficult.

After my little backtracking excursion, I made the long journey back to the area of the 6th palace and started exploring around. North of the desert area and above a small body of water, there was a cave through the mountain. On the other side of the mountain, there was a small desert area and a curious grove of trees, but nothing else. Following JohnH's advice yet again, who hinted that I should 'perhaps use a tool that I'd found a few times before', I tried the Flute, but nothing happened. Logically, the next thing I did was swing the hammer, and...Oooh! A square of trees disappeared. Hmm...I swung the hammer a few more times, all the while being harassed by pesky monsters. Finally, I swung the hammer in the right place, and Poof! A town appeared from under the forest. Being the stalwart adventurer I am (at least as stalwart as a 16-year old elf boy wearing all green can be), I entered the town.

It turned out to be the hidden town of Kasuto. Apparently monsters had attacked the original town of Kasuto (where I died in another play session, attacked by invisible monsters), and the inhabitants had fled to this location. All but one, it seems. A nice lady on the street indicated that one person remained in the old town, and this person had magic for me. I made a note in my day planner (every self-respecting world savior has a day planner!) and continued exploring the town. One kind lady said that I deserved her help, and said to follow her. Wait a minute, didn't I see something like this on the news once? Nevertheless, I followed her into her home. To my pleasant surprise I found a magic container, the last one available, in the basement of the house.

After leaving this home, I continued on my merry way, checking the houses as I went. In another house, there was no entrance to the basement, but a conspicuous hole in the chimney. I pressed up in front of the chimney and found the basement where the resident wise man waited patiently for me. He taught me the spell Spell. Wait, what? That's the best name they could come up with? I'd really like to talk to the localization team that came up with that brilliant stroke of originality. All kidding aside, it wasn't long before I had the opportunity to use the spell, as the woman who let me into her house to get the magic container had said there was a secret at the edge of town. Using instincts honed sharp on the field of battle (OK, maybe it was years of playing video games, but it's all the same), I traveled to the end of the town, where an empty screen and a large wall blocked my path. Casting the spell Spell, a large doorway rose out of the ground, which led me to the Magic Key. A nice find at this point, meaning I'd never have to backtrack in palaces again looking for keys.

After one last quick look around the town, I decided it was high time to tackle the palace in the desert, the one that only shows itself when I play the flute. This palace wasn't too difficult, although I did have to deal with 2 blue Ironknuckles mounted on horseback, and they weren't even the main boss. One of the Ironknuckles relinquished access to a room that held a Cross. It was mentioned in a comment that the Cross made invisible things visible, so this would be extremely helpful when I got out of this palace and visited the town of Old Kasuto. A bit more exploration brought me to the real boss room, which turned out to be some sort of lava worm or dragon. The eel-like beast kept popping out of one of three lava pits in the room, fired a mouthful of fireballs at me, and then disappeared back into the lava. The tough part about this boss was not him particularly, but more finding a way to strike him without bouncing off the platforms into the lava. I'm sad to report that I made the walk of shame back to the dungeon once, because I wasn't careful and jumped off the platforms too many times, but I finally learned my lesson and stayed on solid ground long enough to kill the worm. The standard key dropped from the ceiling, and I triumphantly passed to the next room to put the final gem into the statue. The trip through this palace netted me the final two levels I needed to max out my advancement (attack and magic).

Armed with the cross, I made a return visit to Old Kasuto, where I discovered that it's much easier to fight creatures when you can see them. Amazing revelation, huh? I searched all through the town, but the only thing I found of note was an old wise man who taught me the Thunder spell. Something tells me that it's going to come in handy later on...

Now it was time to make the trek to the Grand Palace. Information from a commenter indicated that this wasn't the easiest of journeys, and boy they weren't kidding. No road to keep enemies from attacking, multiple fixed-point battle locations, and very tough enemies made this a perilous walk. The only thing that gave me hope was the knowledge that once I made it to the Grand Palace, I wouldn't have to leave if I didn't want to, because the game restarted from there instead of the beginning. Believe you me, I was going to put that little feature to good use coming up. After a long and aggravating trip, I finally made it to the Grand Palace, and happily stepped onto its grounds. Maybe if I had known what was ahead, I wouldn't have been so happy.

Well, no matter what, I was here. The focal point of my adventure since the beginning. All I had to do was make it to the boss and I will have succeeded in my quest. Of course, all of that is easier said than done in most cases, and this was no exception. As I hinted at in my post from earlier today, the creatures here were (for the most part) different from any of those than I had seen in the rest of the game. There were bird-men, who jumped around wildly and threw swords. There were blue slimes that were superpowered enough to knock almost an entire block of health out of me when I was dumb enough to run into them. There were scores of the annoying dragon head things that swoop across the screen and suck out experience when they hit you. There were these bird things that jumped around and threw little fireballs, and touching either the bird or the fire cost you a full block of health. This was not a dungeon for the faint of heart.

Plus, adding to the aggravation factor was the fact that you could easily make a wrong turn and have to walk all the way back around, not to mention that the actual direction you had to go was cleverly hidden (or at least I thought it was pretty clever, maybe everyone else found it right off the bat). All told, I made probably 3 or 4 round trips around this godforsaken place before I finally wised up and drew a makeshift map (what a beauty that was, done with one hand while holding a controller and scribbling), which revealed to me exactly what I knew: I was going in freakin' circles!

At least the level designer in this palace gave you a carrot every once in a while. There were screens were the elevator shaft would travel straight down through what looked like two blank walls, but if I pushed against the left well about 3/4 of the way down, I would find a secret passage that led to a room. Most of the time this room contained only a birdman statue that could only be reached with the Jump spell. Just like the Ironknuckle statues outside the other palaces, if I struck these statues in the face, I would get either a red birdman or a red bottle. Take a wild guess which one I was hoping for...One of these rooms also contained a fairy, and yet another one had a very large Bubble that stole magic when it touched me. (By the way, I'm sorry for not having more screenshots of the Grand Palace. I got so wrapped up in figuring out where the heck I had to go and dealing with the new enemies and such, it completely slipped my mind to act like a tourist and snap some pictures for posterity.)

All in all, I probably spent the better part of two hours figuring out that I didn't have a clue where to go, or even what I was looking for. It took quite a while for it to dawn on me, but I finally realized that there was a room that had a floor with breakable blocks over what appeared to be a solid floor. After passing through this room for the 3rd or 4th time, my mind finally registered, "Hey, what are those doing there?" Look, I never professed to being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I usually get the point eventually. Shockingly enough, after breaking the blocks, I found a hidden pit that led me to the final showdown with...well, I'll let you decide what it is. Regardless of what it is, it needed the Thunder spell to change from red to the blue you see in the screenshot. To defeat this thing, I cast Shield, Fire and Jump (along with Thunder), which allowed me enough time and firepower to finally take it down. Fortunately for me, I was able to beat it eventually, which allowed me to pass into the final chamber.

In this final chamber, there was a ledge where the evil wizard stood with the Triforce. He gestured a few times, then disappeared. The screen went dark, and my shadow jumped out from behind me, and started beating me from one side of the screen to the other. This battle was, by far, the most frustrating thing I've done in video gaming in some time. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to hitting shadow Link, other than I just kept swinging at him, trying to block his blows, and making sure to reposition when he jumped over me. I must have had to walk back to this place two or three times, thanks to this turkey. Finally, everything seemed to fall into place: I got lucky enough to hit him a couple of times before he really took a toll on me, I was able to use the Life spell twice, and then, lo and behold, I beat him! I literally threw my hands up over my head and shouted a little bit, because I was happy A) that I had completed this game, and B) I didn't have to make the long walk back to that stupid room again! I took a whole bunch of screenshots of the final scenes, and I'll put them in now.

I can truly say that I'm happy to be finished with Zelda II. I don't think I have the dislike that I started the game with, but I still don't think it had the Zelda 'feel'. My judgment could also be clouded by the fact that the last boss really, and I mean really, aggravated the heck out of me, and it's those leftover feelings which are causing my less-than-favorable impression of the game at this moment.
My plan tomorrow is to address your comments that I received today from my morning post, wrap up some loose ends, and start right into A Link to the Past. As always, thank you for visiting and reading this blog. Your comments continue to be great, and I hope to see you all again as I start the game that many of you (myself included) have been waiting for. Until tomorrow, take care and be safe!