Hold on a second. If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it right.
You got the Wii U!
This magical little console can play nifty games with its special GamePad. Drain that battery all day, every day with the most colorful adventures the eighth generation of consoles has offered to date! Set it to X, Y, or Z to use.
So yeah. That happened. And frankly, I’m pretty happy about it…even if it’s a move that’s more or less pure spite in the face of the PS4’s recent release, but whatever. I'm not going to say that the PS3 is going to be a waste forever, but for now it is. For now it's better to wait in case there's some neo-Red Ring of Death hiding in the wings. So sign me up as a Nintendo fanboy if you must, but if there was going to be a step into the next generation I’m actually confident in, then screw it. Screw day-one Killzone releases, screw incoming gray cover shooters, and screw waiting for a black box to become useful later when there’s another black box that’s useful now.
I got…I got the Zelda bundle. It’s black, by the way.
It’s going to be a bit before I can fully dive into the console and see what’s up, but the mere ownership and the potential therein excite me. Say what you will about Nintendo, but the company understands games in a way that most don’t, won’t, or even can’t. I view it as something of an underdog, and for all the right reasons; in the same sense that the DS got off to a rough start but eventually built up an AMAZING library of games, and the original Wii -- in spite of its waggle stigma -- also has dozens of worthwhile games, I’m guessing that the Wii U is going to satisfy others in the long run. Or if not others, then at least me. I’m betting that Super Mario 3D World will see to that. There’s a princess there that’s calling my name.
But enough of that. Let’s talk about the new Guilty Gear game.
My eyes pretty much rocketed out of my head at the mere sight of the article headlines -- and when I watched the actual trailer, said eyes reached escape velocity in a quarter of a picosecond. And as hyped as I am for the new game (gotta represent my boys Axl, Venom, and Ky), my brother’s even more hyped. Just yesterday he said “Well, I’m gonna go watch the Guilty Gear trailer for a couple of hours.” And I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did.
Honestly, though? I’m surprised I’m as excited I am. Ignoring the fact that I’m average (at best) at even the simplest fighting games, and the fact that I just threw my hat in the Nintendo ring, to date I have only played ONE game in the franchise -- two if you count the hour I spent trying out one of the Xbox releases, and three if you count the black sheep Overture. To be fair I’ve played the hell out of Accent Core, including one monstrous five-hour session with my bro, but compared to a lot of other people I’m arguably “not a true fan”. I’m true enough, I guess, but in the face of true die-hards I’m not much in the way of loyalty.
The reason I bring this up is because I acknowledge that, while I know plenty of games intimately, there are still a lot of titles and a lot of franchises that are lost on me. That’s fine. I’m all right with that; I don’t know every game, but I know some games. And even if I don’t know every last beat of Guilty Gear, the fact that I had so much fun with one of its games makes me as much of a fan that I am today.
The problem, however, is that being lost on the beats of a franchise means that I’m missing the full understanding of the essence. The design philosophy, of sorts. I may have loved Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, but without a strong understanding of the canon there’s going to be a missing level of enjoyment. Something that only a true die-hard can have.
With that in mind, let me make a statement: I’ve never beaten Ocarina of Time.
Now put your halberds down, people. I’ve never beaten Ocarina of Time, but that doesn’t mean I never will; I’ve got the cartridge right next to the TV in my room, and a working Nintendo 64 not far from it. And it’s not like I’ve never seen the ending or the stuff leading up to it; once upon a time my brother finished it, and I was right there to see it happen. But in terms of playing through and finishing the game? Nope.
I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through the Water Temple, knowing how much trouble it’s caused for gamers all over (not to mention I’m not a fan of water levels thanks to my own blinding rage against/fear of the ocean). Worse yet, it’s been ages since the game has been released, and ages since the last time I even looked at the game. I’m convinced that I only started getting critical about things in the past year or two; anything beyond that, and I’m worried I can’t report on anything with any accuracy or credibility beyond waxing nostalgic.
But the worst problem of all is that, like Guilty Gear, I’m not well-versed in the Zelda franchise. Anything before OoT is completely lost on me. With the exception of Wind Waker, I hadn’t beaten a game in the series until Skyward Sword. And again, I’m not as critical now as I was back then -- which means that I’m only now starting to understand just WHY so many people love the franchise as much as they do. I can derive some understanding and appreciation of the franchise based on my experiences, yes…but how I view Zelda and how others view Zelda could potentially be dozens of light-years apart.
It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while -- a weakness that I’ve perceived, even if it’s not as bad as I think it might be. But it’s something I know I can get over, and not just because of some quick reasoning; obviously, I have one of the greatest resources around.
And that’s where you all come in.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’ve already done a bit of posturing when it comes to the series. I hold Skyward Sword in EXTREMELY high esteem, and I’d say Majora’s Mask is just as good, if not better. But in order to decide how I feel about Wind Waker, the franchise as a whole, and ultimately try to figure out just why Zelda entertains so consistently, I’ll need more than a little conjecture. I need to figure out why people feel the way they do about the games -- a response that’ll differ from one gamer to the next, I’m guessing. These games have been popping up over twenty-five years, right? So how they’ve affected us -- and by extension, how they can continue to be “the same game over and over again” -- is an answer that I’m eager to see from as many people as I can. So the basic question here is in the title: what does Zelda mean to you?
If you had to ask me, I’d say that the reason I like Zelda (and why it continues to succeed in spite of being a relic of the past) is that it’s genuinely an “experience”. I’m pretty sure that word’s been thrown out several times before by overzealous devs and marketers trying to hype up their game, but if there’s any game that deserves to use that word -- and consistently -- it’s this one. On the surface, the games are more or less the same; you play as a guy in a silly green nightcap and traverse themed dungeons, paying mind to a bunch of magic triangles, a pretty princess, and some embodiment of evil, power, and corruption. That much is almost a constant. It’s a formula, but it’s a formula that works; you can use any sort of input (Time! Masks! The sea! Animals! The sky!) and get a high-quality output -- variations that make each game distinct enough to avoid too much eyebrow-raising.
But if there’s one thing that I’m starting to notice about these games, it’s that what’s going on below the surface is infinitely more important than all the dungeon-crawling, moblin-slashing action. SS opened my eyes to the level of depth and complexity being woven into the background; just because Link is silent doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to say. On the contrary, I’d say that the Zelda games -- at least based on recent experiences with SS, MM, and WW -- have more to say than dozens of games of comparable or greater length. There’s a level of intimacy that one can’t help but register and appreciate, as long as you’re willing to look past the surface level and cut a bit deeper.
It certainly helps that whatever game you’re playing, it feels like the world actually matters. You’re rewarded for taking things at a slower pace and observing the areas around you, letting you pick up on tiny details, points of interest about the people you’re trying to save, and just elements that increase the scope and scale of your adventure. I’ll hold off on commenting too much on WW for now, because I started a playthrough, but now I want to clear the HD remake to get a full understanding of the game. Still, I have to say that by design it nails the “scope” of an adventure.
Ignoring the fact that there’s a massive ocean to wander about, you can see incredible distances to spot islands and rock formations on the horizon. Take a brief stop during the night, and you’ll be able to spot constellations. Even in the opening half-hour, if you use the telescope to look at the pirate ship from Outset Island, you’ll be able to spot some of Tetra’s pirates working diligently. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of BioShock Infinite; if you take time out to observe the world around you, you’ll get more out of it than just rushing from one fight to the next. As it should be; no matter the medium, no matter the scale, the setting is a character of its own. To underutilize it is to cripple your work.
But this isn’t about me. This is about all of you. I’m using this post to offer an open forum for discussion, and a repository for opinions. No matter how much or how little experience you’ve had with the franchise, if you’ve got something to say about the adventures of Link and pals (and enemies), then go ahead and sound off. Let me hear your thoughts -- thoughts, predictions, suggestions, memories, criticisms, whatever comes to mind. The sword’s in your hands now, guys.
…Seriously, though. New Guilty Gear? My pants need a new pair of pants.