Which Button Am I Pressing? (Blindfolded!)

You’re really pressing my buttons.


Are you so familiar with Nintendo controllers that you could recognize individual buttons without looking?! That’s exactly what Simeon and Scott are attempting today, while blindfoldedly shoving fingers into gaming input devices. Who will win?

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Why I Love Nintendo

Contrary to popular opinion from the outside, being a Nintendo fan is not always mushrooms and sunshine. It can be unforgiving, inviting ridicule from fellow gamers, the gaming community, message board commenters, and even friends and family. But being a Nintendo fan is always worth it for me, which leads to the question I get a lot: Why Do You Like Nintendo?

From Sega to Nintendo

My gaming history stretches back to the glorious 16-bit Console Wars between the Nintendo and Sega. I owned both, but I got more use out of my Sega Genesis because kids at school would make fun of me if they knew I liked Nintendo. Sega was cool. Sega was hip. Sonic was fast with attitude and Mario was slow and boring. Secretly, I liked Nintendo as well, but my heart was with Sega. I also owned a Nintendo 64, but I had a Sega Saturn as well and that was my priority. This lasted all the way until the Dreamcast was discontinued, and my gaming tastes defaulted back to Big N.

The current console at that time was the GameCube, which ended up being Nintendo’s second lowest selling home console in history. Sony’s PlayStation brand and Microsoft’s Xbox were the new hip kids on the block, and Nintendo was accused of being a kiddie machine. Outside of a few games that were geared towards a mature gamer – like the then-GCN exclusive Resident Evil 4, Geist and a few others… the GameCube got most of its milage out of family friendly games. If you didn’t like twenty Mario Party games, the GameCube was not for you.

But it was during this era something was rekindled inside me. While Sony and Microsoft began to push online gaming, Nintendo doubled down and continued to focus on the fun of couch multiplayer – games you can play with friends in person and have a blast.

During the very successful Wii era, Nintendo’s dedication to multiplayer games was at its peak. Wii Sports, perhaps the best pack-in game ever, was a prime example of the kind of fun video games could represent. Despite how much it can be ridiculed now, I defy anyone to say that their first few times playing Wii Sports was not fun. It was a lot of fun. That’s what propelled the Wii to sales of over 100 million worldwide.

The Wii U somewhat faltered in this aspect, but the new Switch console has put a heavy emphasis on it again, with games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS and Splatoon 2 all out within the first few months of the system’s debut. Gaming is fun again.

Soooo, Why Do I Love Nintendo?

All that being said, I love Nintendo because, to me, it just represents a good time. When I think of the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, I think of shooters like Call of Duty or games like Grand Theft Auto. I’m not saying those games have no worth, or that they aren’t entertaining or even visually astounding… but when I want to just have a fun time with friends, or a game I can just pick up and play at any given moment without an investment of 40 hours a week I choose Nintendo. Gaming shouldn’t always feel like a chore where I am punching a time clock to advance.

Certainly, Nintendo does have games that fall into that category. The recent and highly-reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does for sure as it is an adventure game much in the style of Skyrim, but where I feel Nintendo separates itself from its competitors is how that genre of games isn’t all they have. There are more than just adventure and sports games on the Switch this year. There is also fun.

Take a very simple game like Snipperclips, a co-op puzzle game in which you play as pieces of paper and you have to snip each other in order to match certain shapes or get objects from one side of the screen to the other. It sounds simple enough, but its magic is in the gameplay. I haven’t had so much fun in a co-op game in a long time… it was fun, funny, and charming – and challenging as well, as the game progressed. It’s a game that you and your significant other can play, or your younger sibling or cousin. It is the epitome of what beloved Nintendo President Satoru Iwata always believed video games should be – It’s fun for everyone.

Nintendo’s roster of happy characters and cute enemies just bring a smile to my face. I’ve used this word before, but looking at the E3 trailer for the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey is just pure magic. It is what I call “Nintendo Magic.” Playing their games can make anyone forget their troubles for an amount of time and make everyone feel like a kid again. Personally speaking, I struggle with depression and anxiety, so my choice to play games of this nature is not only a preference but a very meaningful choice as well. Nintendo makes me smile.

Their first-party games are consistently of very high quality. Sometimes their franchises don’t progress enough, but then they hit you with a Breath of the Wild or a Super Mario Odyssey, which completely changes your expectations and takes you by surprise. And I will never get tired of them.

Standing Strong

It isn’t easy being a Nintendo fan. When the two other major consoles are blowing the doors off the building with the latest Call of Duty, Metro or Assassin’s Creed games, Nintendo creates buzz with Mario or cartoonish characters like in ARMS. This comes with a price, because Nintendo and their fans are easy targets. Buying some Nintendo content can result in a mocking comment from a cashier – a friend recently told of a McDonald’s cashier laughing when he went to order a Mario Happy Meal toy to complete his collection. Playing Nintendo games can mean ridicule from people who like to point out that Nintendo’s consoles dating back to the Wii have not been in the same league as competing systems as far as power and graphics.

All of this, though, can make fans even more dedicated. There is a reason that small groups popped up around the world in major cities for 3DS gamers to swap streetpasses and puzzle pieces and play Mario Kart 7 with each other. There is a reason why holding a meet-up for the newest Animal Crossing game attracted more than dozens of people at every stop during a Nintendo Mall Tour. There is a reason why VANS made a very successful line of Nintendo themed shoes last summer. There is a reason why people love their franchises so much that just a simple title card for Metroid Prime 4 at E3 made the internet meltdown in a frenzy of wild, screaming excitement. There is a reason why people love the company so much that even PR reps (like Bill Trinen or Kit and Krysta from Nintendo Minute) are elevated to near-celebrity status. There is a reason that Nintendo can get away with having one single retail store in New York City and fans will travel from all over to visit it as if they were going to Disney World. The ridicule and snubbing we tend to get from other gamers and game publishers who skip developing games for Nintendo systems just makes me feel like connecting with other Nintendo fans is a major event. We are a community of fans who feel slighted in one way or another, and it makes us feel like we are all in this together. It is so much fun to get in a group of fellow fans and just talk about anything and everything. Attending a Nintendo Switch Preview Event in Chicago this past February was fun in part because of trying out the then-yet-to-be-released system, but largely because of being surrounded by fans, talking about games, seeing people dressed up in Nintendo cosplay, and just being one with the excited community. It was not unlike the feeling you get going to a Comic-Con – it just felt right.

Nintendon’t Sometimes, and That’s Okay

This is not to say that competing systems don’t have dedicated communities or “fun” games, nor does it mean that Nintendo is perfect and doesn’t have any faults. But Nintendo doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but their own. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, but I feel it is mostly a positive. They focus on fun, they focus on being together, and they focus on gaming together. There is a level of fun that online playing just can’t compete in comparison to couch multiplayer. Hitting someone with a red shell in Mario Kart, or stealing all of their stars in Mario Party may be the source of “ruined friendship” memes, but the competition of playing right next to a friend is just a level of satisfaction that can’t be matched. Even though I enjoy a fair share of “mature” games, I will almost always choose the fun of Super Mario Odyssey over the carnage of a Grand Theft Auto. And I will definitely choose a company that will always continue to offer those games to me even when they offer the M-rated stuff.

The Nintendo Magic is why I fell in love with Nintendo. It’s why I put up with some of their occasionally questionable decisions. Their games, characters, and universe just never cease to make me smile and it makes me happy… and isn’t that what gaming is supposed to be about?


Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life! While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder. Flapjack is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing. When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @flapjackashley.

Linkle & The Question of Female Link

Linkle? Female LINK?! FEMALE ZELDA?!?! Wait…


#550 – Out of nowhere, Linkle appeared and paved the way for a female Link. Simeon and Scott sit down today to discuss the issue of Link and gender. Will Linkle ever star in her own game? Should the Hero of Hyrule reincarnate as a woman in a future game? WHY NOT?

Footage credit: Direct-Feed Games

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Why Smash Bros. Is Stupid

If you ever have the chance to talk to Scott, ask him how I feel about Smash Bros. If he happens to recall all of the many times I’ve almost thrown my controller while playing it, he will remember to tell you that I hate those stinking piles of trash, and then probably begin laughing hysterically with memories of my salty tears.

Today, I am going to list reasons I despise the Smash Bros. series. I will not be focusing on one entry, but rather looking at the series as a whole. The list is also not exhaustive. The internet does not contain enough space to list all of this garbage. You may have found some of these same things frustrating, or you may not have. Let me enlighten you to the truth of these monstrosities:

  • The Crotch. I hate the crotch. For those of you who do not know what this means, it is a term I coined some years back referring to the point on the side of a stage (especially noticeable on Brawl’s Final Destination) at which one gets stuck while trying to recover. This was a major problem for Marth before they fixed things in Smash 4, as he would get stuck due to his forward momentum bringing his upward momentum into the crotch. FYI, you can also use crotch as a verb (“Oh, man, I just got crotched!“).
  • The invisible Ceiling, or Y-Cancelling. I’ve seen videos that say that Melee’s invisible ceiling is only noticeable when Luigi is being hit. That is so false. It is also extremely noticeable on Roy’s (and Marth’s) counter moves. That crap was extremely annoying.
  • Teching the sides of walls when you are going straight downward. What is this garbage?
  • Brawl had online. Hahaha! That was a thing! Hahaha! Oh, boy. Remember that funny joke? It was funny.
  • Nerfed Ike in Sm4sh. My favorite character to play in Brawl was Ike. It took a few patches, but Ike is finally at least semi-playable in Sm4sh. They did, however take out the best thing about him, which was that he had no landing lag on N-air, which allowed him to go straight into jab. That moment of landing lag is a killer.
  • Jank. No other competitive fighting game has this much jank, people, especially nowadays. That crap gets patched out. Why Samus’s standing up-B can kill at 0% I will never be able to explain to you.
  • Samus’ Matchups in Sm4sh. Speaking of Samus, she has some ridiculous matchups in the fourth Smash game. Samus may not be the best in the game, but Samus vs. Dorf or Samus vs. Ike is super dumb for the person who is not playing Samus.
  • Sm4sh’s “Voice Acting”. One of the first things I noticed about Sm4sh on release night was that a lot of the characters’ voice clips for the game were the same as Brawl. Now, that in itself is kind of lazy, but I get it. What I do not get is when ONE character has, like, THREE different voices! It’s especially noticeable in Dorf and Fox. You might be trying to recover and hear the sound of a chipmunk squeaking “Fire!”, Then the next moment, after your opponent has two-framed you, you hear the deep guttural bellows of 1,000 manly warriors entering the gates of Hades. What?
  • Playing Brawl on Wii U. It just drops inputs? WHY!? I have never had this problem with ANY other Wii game! Is there a reason? No. It’s just stupid.
  • B-Reversing. The reason I hate B-reversing is probably just a personal thing. I almost never try to do it intentionally, but it always seems to happen at the worst times when I use a grounded up-B. Why?
  • Melee Cultists. The rest of these are more “community” complaints, and for the sake of my own precious time, we all know what this one means. Oh, and if you miss meteor cancelling, just don’t get meteored. Git gud, scrub.
  • EVO making custom moves legal. *Sigh* Why did they have to complicate things so? If you’re not familiar with this fiasco, it goes like this: EVO is the biggest fighting game tournament of the year. All of the important games are there, all of the best fighters are in attendance, so when the EVO people make a rule set, everyone pays attention. In 2015, EVO set the Sm4sh rules to allow for custom moves. We even did one of our first episodes on it. This meant that, until EVO, all of the local tournaments used the new rule set, which meant that each player that was going to bring a set up had to play the stupid extra modes for hours on end trying to unlock all of the custom moves (which, by the way, you could collect multiple of, meaning each time you worked hard for one did not guarantee you would find one you didn’t have) AND set each character’s ten EVO-approved set-ups, which translates to days of work! After all of this local scenes stopped using custom moves after EVO 2015 passed, and the EVO people themselves discontinued this practice.
  • Project M Scene. I understand, if you enjoy a game, have fun with it. But if you want to play a Smash Bros. game that’s more like Melee… play Melee. I see Project M as an abomination. It’s not Melee, and it’s definitely not Brawl any more. Oh, and the fact that the scene pretty much died after it stopped getting updates? I laughed. #sorrynotsorry
  • Project M caught on instead of Balanced Brawl. Balanced Brawl was an attempt to fix the MANY problems that Brawl had, and, do you know what? It was pretty stinking good! It embraced what was good about the game instead of mutating it into an unrecognizable mess.
  • Because, um… uh… Fine. I do not hate Smash Bros. But it does have a bunch of stupid things that make me want to rip my hair out sometimes. Some of those are the same things that make me laugh at how ridiculously zany these games are. So, as much fun as it is to whine about smash Bros., I have to admit, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to rage about.

P.S.: Notice that I was able to write this article without even mentioning tripping. … Darn.

The Master Trials (Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC)

Should have raised the stakes from a sharpie drawing to a tattoo…


#544 – Breath of the Wild’s first big DLC drop just happened over the weekend, and Simeon and Scott are wasting no time in getting their competition on. Who can make it further in the Trial of the Sword within 5 minutes? TIME will tell!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Flat Peaks (Zelda: Breath of the Wild)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is huge. Not just in terms of the scale and scope of the world it presents to players, but also in terms of its reception in the gaming industry. It’s received numerous perfect scores from critics and the Switch version of the game has reportedly sold more copies than the Switch itself. It’s a big flipping deal, and yet…I couldn’t throw myself into it. In the first episode of The TBCast, I stated that—while I thoroughly enjoyed this game—it didn’t even rank in my top three Zelda games. While I aired several of my grievances with the game’s design in that discussion (some of which will be making an encore appearance here), I never got around to going into detail on my biggest complaint about how the game was structured. But before I can explain what that hang-up is, we need to discuss a concept important to game design and narrative media in general.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the interest curve! An interest curve is a graphical representation of the excitement and engagement the audience of a work experiences throughout the duration of said work. The peaks of the curve represent moments of high excitement and intrigue, while the lows represent the story’s slower, quieter moments. While lows sound like they should be avoided, an optimal curve actually alternates between highs and lows, never staying in one or the other too long. The reason for this is that human beings (who are most game developers’ primary demographic) tend to get acclimated to things pretty quickly. Even action can get boring or even tiresome if there’s too much of it.

I got nothing...Seriously, I can't be expected to come up with a joke no one's even going to read for everything!
A depiction of an idealized interest curve. Note how it starts with a bang, alternates/rises in the middle, and includes falling action at the end to provide closure.

That’s not to say that interest shouldn’t slowly increase over time. The base level of interest—that is to say, how far down the graph dips—should increase as a game progresses. If the graph dips down further at the end than it did at the beginning, then the game feels like it screeches to a halt, thus killing the player’s sense of progression (*cough* Triforce pieces *cough*). Finally, the story shouldn’t end on the climax, but instead include a gentle falling action to give the player a sense of closure—commonly known as the denouement (pronounced day-noo-Maw…it’s French). Without a denouement, a story’s ending feels abrupt and rushed.

If you’ve ever heard a reviewer talk about a game having a good “gameplay cycle”, he or she is referring to this concept—most likely without even realizing it!

So what’s all this have to do with Breath of the Wild? Well, my primary issue is its interest curve looks something like this:

It's amazing how useful graphs are for describing fun!
NOTE: The time between dungeons has been greatly compressed for the sake of legibility. Just increase them by a factor of five or six and you should be good.

Oh gosh, this is a mess…After a great introduction, everything just sort of flatlines. Now to be fair, this is based on my personal experience with the game, but even when the order of events are swapped around, I think this pattern basically holds true. The game’s overall arc seems to just maintain a complacent constant; there’s very little escalation, evolution, or extrapolation of the ideas the game presents. This ultimately leads to the game feeling repetitive.

The game’s overall arc seems to just maintain a complacent constant…

So what happened? What are some ways that Breath of the Wild hamstrings its overarching interest curve? What could they have done better? Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Main Quests

The easiest way to create a good cycle of engagement is to carefully craft a brilliant narrative and guide the player through it in a thoughtfully paced linear sequence…the whole point of Breath of the Wild is to not do that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. My favorite Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: a Link Between Worlds, was at the time of its release notable for being very open-ended. And that game had me hooked the whole time! So clearly, a carefully guided plot isn’t necessary.

That said, there are some notable differences between the the overarching structure of BotW and ALBW. For starters, A Link Between Worlds keeps the series’s usual two-part structure: in this particular instance the first half taking place in the light world, then after a plot twist the second half takes place in the dark world. This means that while the story doesn’t advance much throughout the halves of A Link Between Worlds individually, the events that link both halves of the game still give it the opportunity to raise the stakes of the game’s narrative thus raising the interest curve’s baseline mid-game. This compromise allows the player to pick how he wants to complete his adventure, while simultaneously ensuring the narrative escalates in a natural fashion.

Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, doesn’t follow this two-act structure. Instead, it features a main quest primarily consisting of two parts: awakening the Divine Beasts and the search for Link’s lost memories. Let’s start with the Divine Beasts. The Divine Beast quest is fairly modular, what with each part technically being optional. This means each segment aims to have a similar level of challenge and importance to the overall plot, consequently flattening the interest curve. While A Link Between Worlds dungeons faced a similar issue, as stated before, having a discernible half-way point lets the game escalate the challenge and perceived stakes between the first half and the second making for a more engaging narrative, something Breath of the Wild‘s structure doesn’t.

Another trick A Link Between Worlds used to keep players from noticing the fairly steady baseline engagement throughout each act was the number of dungeons to complete. The concept of an interest curve is scalable, meaning it can apply to a level or chapter as well as a complete work. To this end, dungeons act as climaxes for the (for lack of a better term) chapters of the game they appear in. With several dungeons, the player is constantly experiencing the rising and falling action of finding a dungeon, completing the requirements to gain entry, and then clearing the dungeon and slaying its boss. So long as this cycle isn’t repeated too many times, this cycle sustains the player’s interest until he completes all of the dungeons and moves on to the next plot arc of the game. The problem is that the dungeons in Breath of the Wild are both short and very few and far between. This means that this part of the game is either over too quickly, or these local engagement highs are very spread out (as they were when I played the game).

The concept of an interest curve is scalable. To this end, dungeons act as climaxes for the chapters of the game they appear in.

Compounding with these issues are how the memory quest is presented. If the player follows the early quests in the manner the game suggests, he’ll quickly wind up with both the Divine Beast quest and the lost memory quest at the same time. They’re both very lengthy and the benefit of the latter is never really made clear (Spoiler: it changes the game’s ending and little else). This makes it hard for the player to prioritize which one to attempt first. I think the developers wanted players to search for memories intermittently (which is how I completed it), but this makes both quests feel very disjointed, unfocused, and the memory quest far less consequential to the overall experience. Honestly, I think the memory quest should’ve been saved until after the player completed all of the Divine Beast quests: by that point, the player would already be very familiar with Hyrule’s landmarks, making for a shorter quest that required the player to apply their knowledge, instead of one where they wander around looking for the N.P.C. that tells them where to look. It also would provide a makeshift second act, which would the player a better sense of progression, pace, and momentum.

Anticlimax

Okay, on a macro scale, the game only manages to provide a complacent sense of pace, but the interest curve is a scalable model, right? So, how does it fair on a more granular level. Well…it is admittedly better moment to moment, but even then there are times where it outright shoots itself in the foot. Some of the moments of the game that should be exciting, epic, or climatic were memorable precisely because of how underwhelming they were when they play out.

Case in point, the Master Sword: in all prior Zelda games in which the “blade of evil’s bane” appears, getting the darn thing was a major plot point and consequently required some effort on the player’s part. As a result, it’s a big moment. In Breath of the Wild, the only real challenge is figuring out how to get to it. The game does provide some cutscenes upon discovering it and after obtaining it to try to hype it up, which is a good start, but the method in which the player does obtain it feels tacked on, like the quest was an afterthought.

For the record, I wasn't able to pull it when I first found it.
Cutscenes are no substitute for a good quest. If I didn’t have to work for it, I don’t feel like I’ve earned it.

Previously, the player had to collect some items that represented the three virtues of the Triforce—power, wisdom, and courage—to prove their worth, but in this game all they have to do get enough hearts to pull the sword out of its pedestal without dying (it drains hearts to attempt). For any player that is actively looking for shrines, that’s something that’s going to happen in normal gameplay regardless. This means the quest for the Master Sword could be over as soon as the player finds where it’s hidden. This makes the quest’s pacing lopsided and its conclusion anticlimactic, especially for players used to the way previous games devote large portions of their respective stories to acquiring the Master Sword. Instead of an epic moment of triumph that’s built up to, it’s something on the player’s laundry list to be checked back on periodically. “Am I strong enough? No? ‘Kay, see ya after another four shrines!”

To make matters worse, there are three shrines dedicated to said virtues hidden throughout Hyrule. Why didn’t the game include those in the quest to get the Master Sword? I’d guess it probably had something to do with time constraints, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to provide a memorable and unique quest to the player. How much cooler would it be to have to scour the land to find the shrines and overcome a unique trial for each shrine related to the its respective attribute? Now I know some of you are probably saying, “but it’s a callback to the first Zelda,” to which I say, “so?” If the callback is really that important, they simply could’ve just done both methods.

Speaking of weapons, weapon durability also brings with it problems. While I admit finding new types of weapons is exciting, finding weapons themselves gets boring, especially in the game’s second half. One of the exciting aspects of finding a new weapon or item in previous Zelda titles was the understanding that Link was now innately more powerful. He had a new ability that made him more capable in combat or exploration that opened up new possibilities for the rest of the game. Not so in Breath of the Wild. That excitement quickly fades as the player realizes that the shiny new weapon he found will eventually break. In essence, weapons are just temporary power-ups like mushrooms or fire-flowers in Mario. Consequentially, players ultimately have less attachment to—and thereby less investment in—weapons than they would if weapons didn’t degrade.

In essence, weapons are just temporary power-ups like mushrooms or fire-flowers in Mario.

As a point of comparison, let’s examine clothing. Unlike weapons, clothing doesn’t break. This immediately makes clothing a more interesting item as it stays with the player as long a he wishes to keep it in his inventory. More over, it can be upgraded. This adds an element of mystery and intrigue to clothing as certain items gain additional bonuses when upgraded to a certain point. As a result, receiving clothing is exciting and immediately gets the player invested.

Now, I understand why the developers made weapons break. As several critics and apologists have already pointed out, having weapons be fragile forces the player to experiment with different weapon types and thus learn to be versatile in his fighting style. Again, I think a compromise would be fairly easy. Simply let the player find (after much effort) weapons that don’t break. Unlike other weapons, however, they would start off weak and need to be upgraded to be viable against the game’s stronger opponents. Even then these unbreakable weapons would only be upgradable to the point of straddling medium and upper tier, meaning if the player wanted to deal serious damage or utilize special effects (like elemental damage) he would have to stick to breakable weapons. See, that would at least make some of the weapons worth a darn!

I’d like to end this section with the ending. Don’t worry, I’m not going into specifics…because I don’t have to! If you’ve ever beaten a Zelda game before, I don’t think I can spoil this ending. It hits all of the beats, except—unlike other Zelda titles—it adds almost nothing of its own to the mix, making it feel more like the skeletal framework of a standard Zelda ending. It’s lackluster, boring, and predictable. It’s a real shame too, because pacing issues aside, this is otherwise one of the best written Zelda titles to date.

If you’ve ever beaten a Zelda game before, I don’t think I can spoil this ending.

Variety

Yet another way to keep the player engaged is to provide variety. As stated before, humans get acclimated to stimulus very quickly, so anything monotonous quickly loses people’s interest. To this end, Breath of the Wild features a huge world full of varied environments and unique landmarks…but then completely gives up when it comes enemies and shrines.

Three of the game’s main enemy types—bokoblins, moblins, and lizalfos—are basically all just variations of the same template. Moreover, each region just reuses variations from the same small pool of enemy types. While combat isn’t the main draw of the game, the fact that a hoard of monsters on one corner of the map looks and acts almost identical to a hoard of monsters on the complete opposite side of the world-space makes engagements incredibly boring and repetitive. Heck, even all of the dungeon bosses are basically palette swaps of each other! What makes this especially strange is that there is a lot of variety from region to region when it comes to flora and fauna. What gives, Nintendo? You clearly were able to populate each region with unique creatures. Why not extend that creativity to the enemy design?

Then there’s the shrines: they all look and SOUND THE SAME! *Ahem* Excuse me. If you’re an O.C.P.D. completion-nut like yours truly, you will get sick of the foggy blue corridors and slow, ponderous music of the shrines. If you complete all the shrines, you will have heard that stupid shrine theme at least 120 times! That not to say there isn’t variety in the puzzles; oh no, the shrine puzzles are great. But would it kill them to come up with more than one shrine aesthetic? Maybe have puzzle shrines and combat shrines differentiated by their visual and audio design. Or perhaps have the shrines’ interiors vary from region to region, showing that even though they were all built by the Sheikah, each regions’ sense of aesthetics subtly influenced the shrines’ construction (that’s just good world building).

Okay, you caught me. I just reused this screenshot from my last Breath of the Wild article.
Despite an excellent variety of puzzles, every shrine looks exactly the same.

The Consequences of Heroism

Now that I’ve ticked off all of the Zelda fanboys, undoubtedly invoking the wrath of their Yiga assassins, let me talk about something Breath of the Wild did right—at least part of the time. Something that I love seeing, especially in open-world games, is the game’s world responding to my actions. A while back, I praised the first Battalion Wars for making me feel like my actions had a direct impact on the game’s progression. This is a concept I like to call “letting the player happen to the world.”

In most games, the player is an entity that reacts to the game’s environments (i.e. “the world happening to the player”). This is fine for level-based action games but in narrative-heavy adventures or open-world games, this tends to make the player’s actions feel inconsequential—like everything is basically just meaningless busy-work. While I still think Breath of the Wild has room for improvement in this regard, it does at least actively contextualize many of the player’s actions.

I want to happen to the world, not let the world happen to me.

First, there’s the Divine Beasts themselves. After clearing an area’s dungeon, not only does the disaster afflicting the area cease in typical Zelda fashion, but the Divine Beast become visible for miles around. Next is the fact that the items and enemies scale in proportion to how far the player is in the game. These both give the game a much needed sense of progression. That said, I wouldn’t say either is anything mind blowing. Because the effects of the Divine Beasts are almost entirely localized, finishing a dungeon only really effects the region it’s found in. It would be far more interesting to see characters start to wander around more and more as Link made Hyrule safer to travel. For instance, wouldn’t it be cool if a Rito merchant showed up in Hateno Village after finishing the Rito dungeon? If they threw in a line about him feeling more at ease traveling now that the Divine Beast was no longer rampaging, it would go a long way toward giving the player a sense that his actions actually matter.

A great example of what I’m talking about would be the Yiga Assassins. At one point in the Divine Beast quests, the player has to infiltrate the Yiga H.Q. Not only is this section a great set-piece on its own merits, but it triggers a change in the Yiga’s behavior. After defeating their master, Kohga (one of the best characters and certainly the best boss in the game), the Yiga assassins go from passively waiting for Link to stumble into ambushes to actively hunting him down in an attempt to get revenge. While I’m sure many players found the constant random ninja attacks annoying, the fact that a specific action I took had a logical effect on the way a certain class of foe behaved absolutely delighted me!

I miss him too... :'(
No wonder the Yiga want to avenge him: this guy was awesome.

A Game of Little Moments

To Breath of the Wild‘s credit, it does a much better job of creating and maintaining a healthy interest curve on a more granular level. Individual quests, shrines, and subplots are well structured when viewed on their own, leading me to my conclusion that Breath of the Wild is a game of little moments. Despite the grandeur advertised, the game’s best moments come in small packages: the little references, the ways it rewards out of the box thinking, the clever quest design, surprisingly mature writing, etc.

That said, it still fails to feel like it grows or evolves. From my experience, this is actually a pretty common issue with open-world games. While the individual components work well, they don’t come together in a cohesive fashion. That said, compared to the other (admittedly few) open-world games I’ve played, Breath of the Wild really is a cut above the rest. I don’t mean to convince anyone that this game isn’t good. Heck, I’ll say it just to be clear: go play it if you haven’t already. It’s worth your time. But I fear all of the critical praise and 10/10’s may gloss over the obvious (to me, at least) issues that need to be addressed in future games. As I see it, the series is standing on a precipice: from here it can either take off soaring or tumble into another rut.

TBC 001: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Play

Two Button Crew’s debut podcast release is all about the Switch sensation, the Wii U wonder, the one, the only… Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! Join Scott, Simeon, Ryan, and Glen as they go in-depth on the game’s systems, storyline, gameplay, and DLC. Gear up for The Master Trials with our tips and unconventional methods! Receiving perfect 10s from around the industry, this is a game to remember! So take a deep breath, enjoy the moment, and come along for the ride as we embark on our podcasting journey.

Ready for more TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show, and you can support us on Patreon: http://patreon.com/twobuttoncrew

Get Your Daily Nintendose of Fandom on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

How amiibo Technology Works

#iiqualrights, toys-to-lifes-matter


When our parents were our age, they would never have imagine being able to scan their toys into their video games. Well, now we’re living in the future, thanks to amiibo! But how exactly do these figurines, cards, and plushies interact with Nintendo’s systems? Do they really learn and level up? All those answers and more in this episode of NF + TBC. amiibo Footage credit: Gamecite, Game Wire

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Video Game Pricing Through the Ages

No wonder Nintendo has so much money!


#537 – Video games… kind of an expensive hobby, no? Ever wondered if gaming used to cost more back in the day, or if the prices have only gone up? When you take inflation of the US dollar into account, the information is quite interesting!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

DLC Wish List: Zelda Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is gearing up to take even more of our money! Ooh boy!


DLC is just a fact of life now! The gaming industry has fully adopted the post-launch expansion practice, and Nintendo is finally on board. We’re not too far off from our first dose of expanded Zelda content, so let’s start dreaming of what it could be like!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Let’s Play Affordable Space Adventures! (3/3)

If you don’t like spoilers for this game, then… BUY IT ALREADY!


Part 3/3: Simeon and Scott take on their new favorite indie game, and it’s on Wii U! The game is Affordable Space Adventures, an asynchronous delight that will surprise you and challenge you. It’s a must own title, and this three part series is going to demonstrate just how hard the game can get toward the later levels!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Let’s Play Affordable Space Adventures! (2/3)

Enjoy a more uncut (less cut?) experience with this episode.


Part 2/3: Simeon and Scott take on their new favorite indie game, and it’s on Wii U! The game is Affordable Space Adventures, an asynchronous delight that will surprise you and challenge you. It’s a must own title, and this three part series is going to demonstrate just how hard the game can get toward the later levels!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Let’s Play Affordable Space Adventures! (1/3)

We warned you that this game was epic.


Part 1/3: Simeon and Scott take on their new favorite indie game, and it’s on Wii U! The game is Affordable Space Adventures, an asynchronous delight that will surprise you and challenge you. It’s a must own title, and this three part series is going to demonstrate just how hard the game can get toward the later levels!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

How Should Nintendo Follow Up Breath of the Wild?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been out for a month and a half now and I still haven’t beaten it. That’s because after 70 hours I’m intentionally not finishing it quite yet as I don’t want this amazing experience to end. Even now, before experiencing the end-game, I have to wonder: how in the world will Nintendo follow up this masterpiece?

Dungeons

The few main dungeons BotW does have are really good and unique, but their lack of themes that we’re used to combined with overall length of dungeons is something that could be improved upon. Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker both had fewer dungeons than your average Zelda, but thy had more character and intricacy. This is a common thing I’ve heard from fans, and I expect Nintendo to step up the dungeon game in Link’s next open-air outing.

Weapons

I love the wide variety of weapons available, but they don’t last quite long enough. I appreciate the fact that it forces you to use different weapons and switch up your playstyle, but if I find a really great weapon it’s always so hard for me to use it as I don’t want it to break. I hope weapons continue to break in future games as well, but once you leave the beginning area of the game the weapons should last much longer.

Items/Abilities

You get all of your key ways of traversing and puzzle solving before you leave the tutorial area this time around. Once again, Nintendo did the right thing for this game by giving all control over to the player. Next time traditional items such as the Grappling Hook, Mole Mits and Ball & Chain make could a return while still giving the player freedom. The way they could do this is color code the key items, and the entrance to certain dungeons and mini-dungeons that require certain items will be color coded (think colored doors in Metroid). The players can still explore how they want, but will have to leave areas for later once they collect the right items.

Nintendo has already said that Link will continue his adventures in an open-air Hyrule, so here’s hoping they can change up a few little things that will make a huge difference in the future. Until then I’ll have to finish Breath of the Wild… someday.

Why We Are Nintendo Fans

Because Nintendo does what everywon’t.


When is the last time you stopped and asked yourself the question: Why AM I a Nintendo fan? That’s exactly what we’re doing on the NF YouTube channel today – join in the comments!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Wii U Masterpiece: Affordable Space Adventures

You DON’T own this game?! Are you even human???


Of course, it’s spring 2017 and the hype is centered in on Nintendo Switch… but there’s an indie Wii U game that we just couldn’t help but tell you guys all about. It’s called Affordable Space Adventure, and it DESERVES you to play it! We can’t speak highly enough of it, so we’ve bestowed upon it the rare designation of “masterpiece” and this video practically begs you to give it a download! Footage Credit to DreamcastGuy!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Reactions: Making of – Breath of the Wild

Maybe Nintendo will make a Nintendo Reacts video to our reaction video reacting to their Making Of video!


Nintendo put out a short series of videos documenting the development process of their latest and greatest title: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We watched all of them and took down some notes to discuss, like what the biggest takeaways were and what some of the coolest ides were that got cut from the final game. Did you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look from the Big N? Let us know in the comments!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

How Switch Combines Past Systems

No idea why they didn’t mention the Virtual Boy at all…


The Nintendo Switch is the product of over 30 years of hardware manufacturing. Its designers learned a lot along the way, and have kept the best features of each console that proceeded it. The result is a Nintendo system that has a little bit of everything!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Link’s Log: A Narrative Breath of The Wild Let’s Play

So today was…interesting

It all started with a bright light and a girl’s voice calling my name; beckoning me to open my eyes. The voice sounded like that of a noble woman, with that soft, breathy accent that the inbred stratum of Hyrulian society thinks sounds sophisticated for whatever reason. Questions regarding what kind of person the voice belonged to quickly evaporated once I opened my eyes, however. Upon awakening, I found myself alone in a dark, empty room.

…in my underwear.

Yeah, one of those days…

Still quite groggy, I attempted to take in my surroundings. As stated before, the room was dark, lit only by faintly glowing decorations on the walls and furnishings. Speaking of furnishings, the only objects were the trough in which I was laying and a glowing orange pedestal. It didn’t take me long to realize where I was. A dark room with a trough for people to float in? Clearly some sort of sensory deprivation tank, which would mean this is probably some sort of new-age spa. That would also explain the voice and weird visions; I was in the tank for too long and started hallucinating.

Confident in my deductions, I placed my bare feet on rough stone floor. Trying not to think about when the last time the floor was cleaned, I staggered over to the pedestal for a closer look. The top of the object was comprised of two concentric dials adorned with glowing, interconnected patterns. On my arrival, the center dial began to spin and shortly afterward produced some sort of rectangular device. Before I could even question why any sane person would create such a needlessly elaborate charging dock for their Hy-Pad™, the voice from before spoke up, this time explaining that the device was a “Sheikah-Slate” and imploring me to take it.

Sheikah-Slate…now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, I pretty sure it’s that open-source alternative to the Hy-Pad™ everyone was talking about awhile back.

Anyway, after taking the tablet, a nearby door opened up. Peering through the opening, I saw crates, barrels, and two ornate stone chests. I stumbled through the door and up to one of the chests. Inside were a pair of well-worn pants and boots. Glad to finally have some clothes, I put them on only to find they weren’t my size. The other chest contained a shirt, also too small for me. I don’t know which bothered me more, the fact that someone misplaced my clothes or that they thought the shirt needed its own chest despite there clearly being enough space left in the other one.

I debated whether being clothed really out-weighed looking like a hipster, but I eventually rationalized that it was only until I could explain the mix-up to the spa’s receptionist.

At the end of the hall was another pedestal. Again, the feminine voice began dictating instructions. I really don’t like it when the voices in my head start getting bossy. Lacking any other options, however, I did as I was told and held the tablet up to the pedestal, thus opening yet another door. As I shielded my eyes from the light pouring in, the voice in my head told me I was “the light that must shine on Hyrule.”

I briefly contemplated whether the voice was trying to persuade me to start a cult before realizing that despite being out of the sensory deprivation tank for a while now, I was still hearing voices in my head. Yeah…definitely one of those days…

Despite the broken stairs, I managed to clamber my way towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of finding myself in a reception area—like I expected—I was outside overlooking a forest. A quick scan of the area revealed three things: 1) I didn’t know where I was, 2) there was a creepy old hobo staring at me off to my right, and 3) I still had no clue where my clothes where. While I had reservations about approaching the hobo (or any hobo for that matter), there was no one else to ask for directions. I made my way downhill, making sure to pick up a tree branch along the way—just in case.

What has that hobo been eating? He's HUGE!

After a brief trek, I reached the vagrant’s camp. Ignoring the unpleasant aromatic mix of wood smoke and hobo, I politely asked the bum who he was and where we were. He deflected the first question, simply saying he was just “an old fool” (no arguments there). He was much more forthcoming when answering the second, stating that we were on the Great Plateau, that this was the birthplace of Hyrule, and something about an abandoned temple. My eyes rolled so hard I started getting dizzy: if this place was so important, why have I never heard of it? Regardless, I figured that the temple, abandoned or not, must have something that could tell me where I was.

Along the way, I was once again accosted by sound of a girl’s voice, this time goading me to find a place marked on my Sheikah-Slate. Despite my better judgment, I checked the map app to find that the previous user had indeed marked a nearby position. The sensory deprivation theory was starting to lose credibility…

I did my best to ignore the encroaching existential crisis that comes with frequent hallucinations as I made my way over to the temple. The surrounding ruins were littered with strange statues that looked a little like octoroks. Some sort of modern art installation? Whatever they were supposed to represent, it just looked tacky…which—knowing artists these days—may have been the point.

Around then is when I started to notice figures in the distance. They didn’t look like Hylians, or even round-eared folk (I forget the polite term for them). I really didn’t care to find out what it was, deciding it best to not draw too much attention to myself. Despite my best efforts, however, I came face-to-face with one of the creatures at the top of a stairway leading up to the temple. A bokoblin…I couldn’t help but chuckle at my own paranoia as I brought an axe down on it’s head. You know you’re on-edge when even bokoblins spook you. Still, as pathetic as they are, the place being overrun with the little blighters wasn’t very reassuring.

Not much remained of the temple on ground-level. No doubt those filthy bokoblins looted this place until there was nothing of worth left. I quickly formulated a new plan: climb to the roof and look for any towns, settlements, or even familiar landmarks. After a perilous climb, I managed to reach the temple’s steeple. I quickly surveyed the surrounding countryside. That’s when I saw it on the other side of a field: a cabin!

I hastily scrambled down the temple ruins and booked it across the field. A short time later, I arrived at the cabin, peered in, and found it…completely empty. Upon further investigation I realized this must be where Old Fool was squatting (why would I expect anything else?). Running out of ideas, I decided to just pick a direction and hope I found a town or something.

It wasn’t long before I nearly walked off a cliff. Turns out Old Fool wasn’t kidding about this being a “great plateau”. There’s no way I’ll be able to climb my way off this goddess forsaken rock.

As per tradition, I took the opportunity to spit over the edge. Stupid bokoblins at the bottom kept looking for rain clouds. It was pretty funny.

Disheartened, I decided to investigate the point on the map. Hallucination Girl did seem to know how to open those doors, and it’s not like I had anything else to do, plus the Slate’s previous user wouldn’t have marked that spot no for reason, right? I followed the map until I reached an alcove with yet another garish glowing pedestal. I knew the drill.

Apparently not, because instead of opening a door, I somehow got a tower to spring from under my feet. No, you read that right, a whole tower. After I managed to peel myself off the floor and calm myself down by reciting a mantra of disjointed curses, I noticed my Sheikah-Slate had downloaded map data for the plateau. That’s handy, I guess.

That’s when I heard her—I mean it—again. Honestly, I don’t know what it tried to convince me to do this time, as I was a little distracted by the image of the shadowy form of a pig engulfing a distant castle. I think the parts of my brain responsible for auditory hallucinations and visual ones are competing for my attention.

Climbing down was difficult. Who ever the idiot that designed the tower was, he apparently didn’t believe in ladders or stairs. I had to jump between platforms jutting from the sides of the tower. Also, I was distracted by that whole “I’m probably crazy” thing. I really wanted to write-off what I just saw as the result of a head injury, but given the frequency, persistence, and increasing vividness of my delusions—not to mention the fact I woke up in a spa and/or psychiatric ward with no memory of how I got there—I couldn’t rule out the possibility of some sort of long term psychological condition. Either way, I should probably find a doctor when I get out of here.

Once at the bottom, Old Fool arrived via some sort of miniature hang-glider. He asked me if anything happened while I was up there. Still mad about earlier, I refused to speak. He then asked if I heard a voice, which he insisted he could tell happened from the way I acted at the top of the tower. Yeah right, like his blurry, semi-sober hobo eyes could make out anything from where he was sitting. I refused to acknowledge his lucky guess or answer any of his other questions.

After he realized his prodding wasn’t going to get me to open up about my psychosis, he decided to change the subject. “I assume you caught sight of that atrocity enshrouding the castle,” he said turning his gaze to the castle and gesturing with his walking-stick. I felt like I had been kicked in the chest. How did he know about that? Could that thing be real? I quickly came to my senses; surely there was a simpler answer. Maybe he was just another hallucination, perhaps he’s somehow been gaslighting me this whole time, or he could just have gotten a hold of my medical records and decided to mess with me. I tried my best not to let on and humored him.

After some talk about a great calamity—y’know, typical doomsday-cult stuff—he offered me his glider in exchange for whatever treasure I found in a nearby shrine. Eager for an easy way off the plateau, I agreed. The outside of the shrine looked much like the tower and spa, with weird coral-like carvings on its walls. I cautiously used my tablet to unlock the front door and proceeded down the elevator.

Don't really appreciate them hijacking Hylia's name and iconography to sell mobile apps, to be honest.

Once inside, I was greeted by a prerecorded message welcoming me to some sort of trial. Seeing yet another glowing pedestal, I reflexively walked up to it and placed my Slate on it. My Pavlovian conditioning was rewarded with a free app for my Sheikah-Slate. While I don’t care for how they invasively installed software on my device without so much as asking, I have to admit it’s a cool app. It lets me pick up metal objects from a distance. I wonder why they’d just give this away; maybe it’s still in beta? Either way, I shouldn’t overuse it: probably drains the battery like nothing else.

After that, I explored the testing area they provided looking for anything else of value. There isn’t much else worth mentioning except whoever was here last forgot to turn off one of the security robots. Regardless, I effortlessly made my way to the end of the obstacle course and listened as a hologram offered me a congratulatory message and something called a “spirit-orb”. No clue what that was about.

Shortly after I exited the shrine, Old Fool swooped in on his glider to check-in on me. Despite our agreement, and my frequent, tactful reminders, he decided to hold onto the glider. Now he says I need to loot all of the shrines on the Great Plateau. I’m really starting to hate that guy…

So it looks like I’m going to be stuck here for awhile. It’s getting late: I’ll continue in the morning. In the meantime, I’ve decided to keep this journal as a record of my time stranded on the Great Plateau. I can probably adapt it into a best selling book once I get out of here. And if I don’t make it, at least whoever finds this will know:

Don’t trust the old man.

~ Link


About the Author: Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming. He’s currently studying to get his master’s degree in computer science from Oklahoma State University. He’s too busy playing Breath of the Wild to come up with a witty, self-deprecating fact about himself.

Nintendo’s Top-Selling Wii U Titles

Nothing more thrilling than game sale figures, amiright?


You might be very surprised at the sales records that some of the best Wii U games set. While not regarded as a financial success by most, the Wii U platform was home to some of Nintendo’s most polished work. And the sales figures and various attach rates prove that! Come with Simeon and Scott for a walk down monetary lane as they look at some dollars and cents.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/