Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Zelda Chronology

[mild spoiler alert]

A while ago my brother and I came up with what we considered to be a very plausible timeline of the Zelda games to date, which went up through the Oracle games (before Wind Waker). Since then, Nintendo has stated that there are three timelines, each spawning from a different outcome of the events in Ocarina of Time, which, for better or worse, involves changing the course of history through time travel – always an iffy plot device even in the coolest story. That’s fine except for one thing: They got it completely wrong.

The Wikipedia article has a diagram of the chronology. It starts with Skyward Sword and goes down through Ocarina of Time without anything objectionable, other than the fact that it includes Four Swords Adventures, which I don’t think should be considered canon due to its lack of Zelda-y-ness (and the fact that I haven’t really played it). After Ocarina of Time, it splits into three branches:

  • Link fails in his mission. This, according to Nintendo leads to the classic series. In other words, they’re claiming that Ocarina of Time doesn’t exist in the same continuum as what I consider to be the best games in the series.
  • Young Link timeline. When Ocarina of Time ends, Link goes back to the past, where Gannondorf is still out there and Zelda is still in hiding. You’d think this would mean that he eventually conquers the world, since there is no Hero of Time to stop him, but Nintendo is saying that young Link warns the King of Ganondorf’s treachery, and this sets up the events of Twilight Princess. That’s fine, I guess, but not ideal from a story perspective. (Obviously, Majora’s Mask is also in this timeline.)
  • Adult Link timeline. You know, the one that’s the whole point of Ocarina of Time – where Link successfully defeats Ganonndorf and the Sages imprison him. According to Nintendo, Gannondorf later breaks out, and Hyrule’s deities flood Hyrule, leading up to The Wind Waker. Now to be clear, Wind Waker definitely happens in a post-apocalyptic setting in which the expected Hero did not appear. In fact, this game pretty much ends whatever “timeline” it’s on as far as Hyrule is concerned, and since I’m not interested in the DS games that follow it, I see it as a stand-alone game (cool though it is). But what Nintendo is saying is that all that trouble you went to to save Hyrule in Ocarina of Time results in the total destruction of Hyrule – in other words, Link would have been better off not beating any levels after encountering Gannondorf and just warning the King instead, then letting other people handle things! This is absolutely ridiculous! You can’t just nullify the value of one of the core Zelda titles just to cram all the others into a neat chronology!

So how should it go? Well first of all, I don’t really see the need to put all the titles together into one continuous story. But if you want to try, then I think the proper ending for Ocarina of Time is for the Sages to keep their memories of the Adult Link timeline when he goes back at the end, and for the seal on Gannondorf to take effect immediately when he returns. Incidentally, I think A Link to the Past needs to go after Zelda 1 & 2, not before.

For details on our interpretation of Ocarina of Time, see our original explanation: [here]

Oh, and one other thing: In Link’s Awakening, I believe that Marin is a real person who was shipwrecked and taken into the Wind Fish’s dream just like Link was. Mabe Village was created out of her memories, just like other areas are reminiscent of places Link had been in the past. I believe that when Link defeats the Nightmares and the Wind Fish wakes up, Marin is also released from the dream, and she and Link return to Hyrule together. This might seem like a lot of artistic license to take, but consider the following facts:

  1. Marin is the only person on the island who dreams of leaving.
  2. If you beat the game without any game-overs, you see Marin flying above the “The End” screen. This could be taken as canonical proof that she exists outside of the dream.
  3. Marin is a lot like Malon in Ocarina of Time. Although just about every girl Link meets in that game flirts with him, Malon is the only one who seems compatible and sensible enough to be a match for Link. (Zelda seems to be his sister, although that’s not explicitly stated.) Since major characters keep popping up in each critical generation (Zelda/Link/Impa), supposing that Link and Malon hook up would also point at Link and Marin being a couple in their own era.
  4. The story is just too depressing if Marin vanishes when Link wins.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shirt Pins

I had to get some new dress shirts this week, which meant that I was subjected to the ordeal of navigating the gauntlet of packaging the use for those things. It’s not enough to wrap them; it’s not even enough to stuff them with plastic and cardboard to preserve the collar shape. No. They have to put little pins all over the place so that wrinkles don’t appear, because evidently that would create an abomination out of what once was an innocent shirt. So first of all, you need to be sure you find all the pins, because if you don’t, you’re going to get poked by them later. And even if you do get them out, what are you going to do with them? You could throw them away, at the risk of someone else getting poked before they reach the landfill. But I have a hard time throwing away something that’s made of metal and technically is still capable of the functionality it was designed for. After all, people use pins, right? Well, seeing these new pins join the existing ones on my wife’s hand-made pin cushion, I had to admit that there are probably more pins there than anyone in my family will ever use. So I guess we’ll just be stuck with these dangerous artifacts of the process. Someday, in the distant future, I hope that someone will find a better way to package shirts. It would mean so much to the world.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I just finished playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. (The bigger news is where I found the 60-ish hours to play it – mostly it was while I was holding our new baby so my wife could sleep. But that’s outside the scope of this blog, so you get to read about the game instead.)

It was very satisfying. I had been expecting (somewhat apprehensively) a departure from the standard Zelda format, but it turns out that’s not really the case; you still explore an overworld to find dungeon entrances, find items, etc. It is kind of linear in the sense that there is generally one way to go forward toward the next level (or even within the levels), but that is to be expected these days. It also suffers from “central open area with access to isolated regions” disease just like all the other 3D Zelda games – in this case in form of a sky area with portals down through the clouds to the surface. This is actually less annoying than, say, Hyrule Field in Ocarina if Time, because you can fly between portals or the various floating islands pretty quickly. So it’s still not as cool as the older games that let you explore freely or expand to new territory from the borders of what you’ve gotten to so far, but overall I was okay with it.

The coolest thing is probably the way you use your sword. With the Wii Remote’s “motion plus” thing, the sword follows your motion (in general), so you can slash in various directions, jab, spin vertically or horizontally, etc. This made for some very interesting boss battles. You can also use your shield more actively, but because that involves thrusting your left hand forward and because my left arm was generally busy holding my sleeping daughter, I didn’t make much use of it. (Also your shield will break if it takes too many hits without your use of active deflection techniques, which may discourage use. Eventually you can get a shield that regenerates automatically.)

Speaking of stuff I didn’t make much use of, this game had a lot of elements I didn’t really go into. You can collect bugs that can be used to upgrade potions, and while I did catch a lot of bugs, I didn’t use any until before the last few boss battles, and then it was just for health refill potions. You can also collect various “treasures”, which can be used to upgrade items. I only upgraded my bow and (right before the end) my shield. I also didn’t spent much time on the various minigames, which meant I missed out on some heart pieces no doubt, but it also meant I was spared what’s always the most annoying part of a Zelda game.

I wasn’t really a fan of the Pouch, which is a container for certain items: bottles, shields, expansions for limited item weapons (arrows, bombs), and medals (which give you special powers while you wear them, like making money appear more frequently when you defeat enemies). You start with four Pouch slots and can expand that to eight. If you have more eligible items than slots, you have to pick the items you want to carry at the moment and leave the rest behind at the Item Exchange. You can always return and swap items in and out, but that still means that you will spend most of the game not using a lot of the items you have found.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the controller layout. Whereas other games gave you three buttons that you could set to whatever item you wanted, this one has the A button do everything, and you have to use the B and Minus buttons to pick something from the Item or Pouch screen (respectively) for the A button to do. It’s confusing, it takes time to do that during battle, and it’s just a hassle to have to keep switching like that when you want to use more than one item in an area.

[Spoiler alert from here on]

The game’s geography was cool. The surface is divided into three main areas – forest, volcano, and desert – each with two levels. In particular I was a fan of the “sand sea”, which is an area that was a harbor in the past but is now filled with impassible sand. You ride around on a boat with a Timeshift Stone, which creates a circle around you that exists in the past – so as you move, the sand gives way to shallow water with nifty coral and stuff underneath.

There weren’t any catchy or memorable tunes, which is something I miss from the old games. The ending does feature a remix of the original theme song, which was nice.

The other big thing about the game was its plot: evidently it is intended to be a prequel to all other games, even the ones on wacky spin-off timelines. It kind of explains the phenomenon that a hero named Link and a girl named Zelda are repeatedly called upon to defend the Triforce from the forces of evil as the generations of Hyrule come and go. The ending feels like a nice transition to the rest of the series.

And finally, I was happy to not see the character Tingle in this game… until I got into Zelda’s room and found that she has a Tingle doll sitting on her desk. At least it doesn’t talk or move around like the real Tingle.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Proverbial Small World (the idiom, not the ride)

So I got an e-mail notice of a comment posted, but it doesn’t show up, so maybe it was deleted, so I won’t repost it – but evidently there’s someone else with the same name as me and enough in common that his friends keep thinking this is his blog ☺ Pretty cool, huh?

(I guess maybe I should update my photo to be a real one, since this blog links to other stuff that has my photo. But then I’d have to come up with a new description too. So not  yet.)