Debate: Best Nintendo Role Model?


If you had to pick one Nintendo character to model your life after, who would it be? Mario, for his faithful heroics? Link, for his courage and might? Simeon and Scott have each selected a role model, and it’s up to the viewer to decide who wins the debate!

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

Ranking the Top 10 NES Games (Comicon Panel)


Simeon and Scott were graciously invited to rep Two Button Crew, and all Nintendo fans, at Lilac City Comicon 2018. It’s been a lifelong dream to run a convention panel, and if we say so ourselves… it went over flawlessly.
…Except for maybe the list itself! That was whack! With audience participation, we formed the “definitive” top 10 NES games of all time. Watch the chaos unfold and tell us if you agree in the comments.
“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Should Zelda Go Futuristic?


The Legend of Zelda series has a storied past of—well—doing the same thing over and over again for years. It’s time to shake things up and take Link into the Future, and not keep him in the Past!

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

The Happiest Place on Earth

For many Nintendo fans, it is something of a rite of passage to visit the company’s only retail store in New York City. And when I mean “only”, I really mean it. The New York City store is the only retail storefront open to the public for Nintendo fans in the entire world. Every year, thousands of fans make the trek to the Big Apple to visit it. Why?

Because It’s Special

Nintendo New York (formerly known as the Nintendo World Store) is located in Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of the city. Before it transformed into a general Nintendo store, it was a Pokémon Center. For years, fans have made the drive or flight to visit the store. Sure, many come to New York for many other reasons, but stopping here is always a highlight. Some people, like myself, made the trip from Indiana specifically to go to the store, with other activities planned around it.

The store’s footprint is small… but it’s two stories, so the square footage is pretty sizable in the end. But the moment you walk in, you are in instant awe. Besides the eye-popping merchandise that smacks you in the face, the atmosphere and decorations just make you feel good.

Being the only Nintendo store in existence makes it special. It would still be special if others were to open up – which is what some fans are hoping for with the aforementioned renaming from Nintendo “World” Store to Nintendo “New York”. As it stands now, with only one store, it literally is akin to going to an amusement park, and you will look back on your visit there as fondly as if you had been to one.

Because It’s Fun

The Nintendo New York store is like nothing else. It is the hub of Nintendo goodness – one that you don’t even get when visiting the employees-only headquarters in Redmond, Washington, which I did when living in Seattle. If you are a longtime fan like myself, you will spend about a full minute just standing in the doorway with your mouth agape like I did. It is an amazing sight. The store just has a happy vibe to it – a Nintendo vibe, if you will. You are surrounded by beloved Nintendo characters, demo units, games, clothing and more. Much of the merchandise sold here is exclusive to the store. My traveling companion went wild in here when we went – she spent $471 before tax on plushies, T-Shirts, bags and more.

The store regularly holds fun launch events for major games. I was there in May of 2015, the day before the launch of the Wii U game Splatoon, and there was already a long line that stretched down the block in what would be almost 24 hours before the store opened on release day. They make game launches a huge deal with lots of fun, special guests, real life games and contests: they even held a mock fashion show for Style Savvy: Fashion Forward for instance. The pictures that accompany this post are from that time, and the interior has changed since the 2016 remodel.

On the second level you will find a small “museum” section. I believe they change them out every so often, but when I was there they had a section dedicated to the history of The Legend of Zelda with every imaginable game, manual, special edition console and accessories in a three section display case. In front of it was a “History of Nintendo Handhelds” exhibit with every portable console on display – even the obscure ones like the Game Boy Light (previously for sale only in Japan) and the Game Boy Micro. There were also a small aisle with individual cases for each of Nintendo’s home consoles from the NES to the Wii U.

The store is just flat out fun. It is fun to be in. I was in there for three full hours from 9am to just after noon, and it felt like I wasn’t there long enough. It’s a store that invites you to play and have fun, and celebrate Nintendo’s rich history without ever feeling too self-congratulatory. There is no Tom Nook stalking you around to pressure you to spend your bells on anything – you are free to be there as long as you want.

Because You Belong

Going to the store is not unlike going to a convention – everyone in there is a huge Nintendo fanatic, and it feels good to be around them. Your mileage may vary, but sometimes for me, it is tough to admit I am a Nintendo fan among my other gaming friends who specialize in Halo and Call of Duty. Nintendo is looked at as a console for kiddies, despite it being the original home to some of the best M-rated games ever like Eternal Darkness, the Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 4. Admittedly, Nintendo has lagged behind in sheer hardware power for three console generations now, beginning with the Wii, then Wii U and now the Switch. But the draw of the Switch is its hybrid format of being a portable and a home console. I won’t talk about how awesome that is because if you like Nintendo, you are probably already aware.

But when you walk into Nintendo New York, you feel like you belong. No one will laugh at you for preferring Animal Crossing to Battlefield, or you spent over 100 hours playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe instead of organizing your Destiny clan. And just like going to a Comic-Con, you don’t have to be ashamed of your preferences. The store encourages you to have fun and enjoy yourself, and there is no better place to do it than surrounded by Mushroom Kingdom pipe decorations and giant Bowser statues.

Because It’s the Happiest Place on Earth

Forget Disneyland. The Nintendo New York store is the happiest place on Earth. For all of the reasons I mentioned above – but the bottom line is that it is just fun. It’s like an amusement park without the lines (unless, of course, you are there for a game launch event). The employees are friendly. The shoppers are friendly. The music is friendly. The plushies are all smiling at you, and not in a creepy, Five Nights at Freddy’s way. It is an excuse for kids to be kids, and for adults to be kids again too, because it’s impossible not to become awash in memories of your own childhood when in the store and seeing everything they have to offer.


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.

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 give 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’s 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.

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.

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.

How Nintendo Handles DLC

Season pass used to be a bad word – now Nintendo’s saying it all the time!


Breath of the Wild may be receiving perfect scores from around the industry, but its recent DLC expansion pass announcement was not met with as much enthusiasm. Simeon and Scott take a look at Nintendo’s downloadable content track record today before discussing the promise of added content for Link’s newest adventure. How are you feeling about the opportunity to pay to play more of Hyrule’s open world? Sound off in the comments below!

Shot by Alex Campbell

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

6 Ways Nintendo Can Nail the Switch Presentation

In less than a week, Nintendo will be blowing the lid off the Nintendo Switch secrecy container and giving us a complete look at their upcoming console. Nintendo fans are getting an early-E3 gift this year because Nintendo isn’t waiting until the industry’s standard slot for big reveals – they’re launching the console before the summer!

We’re going to see the Switch’s launch games, release date, pricing, and hidden features in just a matter of days.

Like any good Nintendo fan, I’m crossing my fingers for the Big N and hoping that they smash this Presentation out of the park. They’ll be taking the stage and streaming live from Japan (that’s why the broadcast is coming to us at such an odd, late time of night on a Thursday) – and they’re a bit out of practice on the live show front.

I’m relieved to hear that they’re stepping up to the plate and introducing some showmanship to their full Switch unveiling, but I’m equally nervous. Nintendo’s president, Kimishima, has had next to no contact with Nintendo fans since he stepped into the late Iwata’s office. Reggie and Aonuma have been appearing mostly in recorded formats, where multiple takes are allowed to get messaging across right… but not so on a live broadcast. On Reggie’s live appearance with Jimmy Fallon, you could feel a lot of that nervousness in his presentation and hear the stuttering that comes with a lack of practice.

I hope everyone is rehearsing right now – that should be priority #1.

Misgivings aside, what will be the most important part of the presentation is the information, and I’ve arranged a simple list of things Nintendo can do to knock this one out of the park. Their initial reveal trailer was well-crafted and received positively, so here’s what they can do to maintain that momentum and keep the positive buzz around their console-portable hybrid:

Virtual Console Done Right

The launch lineup needs to be strong in quality, but I’ve grown to expect only a handful of games. On a console which almost surely cannot be backwards-compatible via hardware, the VC service is going to need to step in and keep us busy on our shiny new Switches.

Library

The Virtual Console should be the Netflix of gaming.

Something has to be done about the historically abysmal Virtual Console library. The slow drip-feed of mediocre games with email notifications sent weekly just isn’t doing it – and surely Nintendo’s digital sales figures reflect that.
Open this thing up, Nintendo! I would encourage the company to look at a subscription model as opposed to piecemeal sales. The VC should be the Netflix of gaming, where we’re sending them $10 a month to have access to a growing catalog. I guarantee their profits would increase.

Purchase History

If they make me repurchase my digital games one more time, I’ll… well, I won’t. I’ve already boycotted the SNES games on 3DS and I’m sending the message that I won’t double dip for them.

You must reward your loyal customers, not punish them for being early adopters.

Emulation

The NES Classic Edition blows Wii U out of the water as far as emulation goes – the NERD team at Nintendo (Nintendo Europe Research & Development) nailed it, and I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to the dim and muddy appearance of Nintendo’s other methods. Let’s not go halfway with the Switch – go all out and make it a service worth paying for!

Muti-SKU Positioning

Do you forget sometimes, that Wii U was sold in Basic and Deluxe models at launch? This was a new move for Nintendo, but it certainly paid off. What may have seemed like a really high entry price at $350 instead seemed like a worthy upgrade over the Basic console. And what true Nintendo fan (who actually watches these presentations) wants to be “basic”? Sure, the white Wii U sold a handful of consoles but it was primarily there for positioning, and I can’t blame Nintendo for implementing that marketing tactic. In fact, I think it’s smart. It provides a logical choice for casual and hardcore fans alike – and consumers love having choices between product models.

I hope Nintendo continues this trend and offers Basic and Deluxe switch packages.

The basic one would have a console with less storage, Joy-Cons, and a tech-demo game (think Wii Sports/Nintendo Land) packed in, while the deluxe version would have larger storage, a Joy-Con grip, and Breath of the Wild packed in.

Zelda at Launch

Nothing has been more frustrating to me than the messaging around this game’s release. Nintendo announced this game in 2014 and has sent nothing but mixed signals since then, delaying the game, saying trust us this will be out in 2015 just after Star Fox (also delayed) and delaying it again. Fine – I actually believe that delays can actually benefit a game – but they STILL aren’t committing to March for us to see Zelda! Yet. It needs to be confirmed for Switch launch day and release on Wii U at the same time.

I don’t even need a whole lot of coverage on the game during this presentation – we’ve been seeing more and more of it for a few years now. It was the only thing at E3. We’re just ready for the game to be available to purchase! The ambiguous “2017” release date that they’ve been very careful to not expound on has got me worried. In order to nail this Switch Presentation, Nintendo needs to confirm that the development is not in fact as troubled as it seems. Imagine the negative buzz around yet another Breath of the Wild delay.

Leave Handholding to the Parents

Alright Nintendo – in the Switch reveal trailer you marketed this console to adults, so you won’t be restricting our online communication, RIGHT?

If they want this game to be popular with the crowd that it looks like they’re targeting, then let’s see it. Let’s see this console come unrestricted out of the box – voice chat, parties, etc. All the features that have been staples in competing products for the last decades.

If parents want to implement controls – great – let them. It is their job, not Nintendo’s.

Preorders The Day Following

Rather self-explanatory. No one is going to want to run out to their store at midnight on a Thursday evening with work the next day – but Friday, that’s a different story! We’re gonna be all hyped up on the Switch from the Presentation and Nintendo better be ready to receive our money! (Well, the retailers – but  you know what I mean.)

Over-Produce

This is absolutely critical. Most of Nintendo’s missteps in the last few years have been production related.

  • Pokemon Go Plus
  • amiibo
  • NES Classic Edition

That bullet list right there represents literally millions of dollars left on the table (and/or scooped up by scalpers) due to under-production.

Nintendo’s been playing far too conservative with their production runs.

They have the capital, so they need to make more of these consoles. 2 million worldwide (the rumored figure) is not enough at launch – the Switch reveal trailer already has that many views! Sure, not everyone who watches the video will get one at launch but the same can be said in reverse for the people that will buy it who have not yet watched the trailer.

Up that number. Fill those shelves. Not being able to get a Switch on launch-day when you’re a die-hard Nintendo fan would be a huge red-flag, and that’s what has happened with the aforementioned hardware launches!


And those are my thoughts! I think my blog post came across in a negative tone, but I’m actually truly excited for this presentation. I think Nintendo will nail it, and I think they’ll surprise me to boot.

Of course, stay tuned at TBC for full coverage of the event. We’ll be making shows and live streaming this weekend!

Zelda: Skyward Sword Review (Wii)

“Yeah, I think it would be great if we totally forgot about the pointer on the Wii Remote and arbitrarily used motion controls…! Dahur!” – Skyward Sword Developers


After battling the game for around a year, Simeon finally declared defeat over the evil Demise and saved Hyrule. It wasn’t a quick trip through this Wii classic, but Simeon was noting his experience along the way and he has returned from the journey to tell us all about it. With the game being recently released for download on Wii U’s eShop, this is a great opportunity to see if a revisit to this game is worth it for you!

Shot by Alex Campbell

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

What Do You Want? – A Discussion on Gamer Satisfaction

Greetings! I hope you’ve all had a safe holiday season filled with family, friends, and festivities. In celebrating the coming of the new year with resolving to better ourselves, I find it will be helpful to reflect on a holiday we celebrated a few months ago.

While visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving in beautiful Montana, I flipped through a Christmas catalog. I can’t remember the store, but it was one I was unfamiliar with, and was clearly geared toward an elderly crowd. While skimming the pages, I found this:

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Notice the tagline “Can the expensive game systems offer that?” The answer is, of course, “Not for the low, low price of $49.95, they can’t!” But it really got me thinking; is this a legitimate selling point? Just because a “Handheld Arcade Gaming System” has 140 games, is it worth the money? These sorts of deals bring up memories of things like Action 52, an infamous NES game which bundled 52 poor quality games into a single cartridge, and a CD I had as a kid with 1,000 games on it… only a few of which were worth my time. I hate to assume the worst of this handheld, but experience has taught me skepticism. I ended up going deeper; what makes gamers happy?

Will more games make us happy?

The advertising method of this handheld is based on the assumption that more games > less games. It’s the simple principle of more is more. It’s my guess that most gamers would laugh at this style of advertising. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have one well-crafted adventure than to sort through a mound of games that are unpolished. My game collection is not really that impressive in size. I have a handful of experiences that I enjoy playing again and again, and a lot that I rarely, if ever, return to. So, I think it’s safe to say that, “No, more games will not make us happy.”

Will longer games make us happy?

Recently the crew discussed this in an episode entitled What Length Should a Game Be? Many times, in a game review, how many “hours” the game will be is included. This baffled me at first, as many of the games I grew up on could be played through in one sitting (if you were good enough at it), and the joy of the game came from playing it over and over again. One recent example of a great game despite having a very short length is Portal. I beat it in one sitting, but it left such a huge impact on me that, after my first play-through, I put it in my top 20 favorite games. Some games, on the other extreme, are too long and can feel needlessly drawn-out. Will longer games make us happy? No.

Will branding make us happy?

Hahahaha… No. Just because something has a specific title, character, or developer behind it does not mean it will make us happy.

Will quality make us happy?

The short and honest answer is, no.  Let me qualify my answer. Of course, everyone has their own taste in genre, and no one game is guaranteed to please everyone. Also, a triple-A developer is probably going to produce a more enjoyable game than other developers, especially considering all of the app store shovelware out there. But just because a game is well-crafted, even perfect, and should, by all counts, appeal to me, does not mean it will make me happy. Take Ocarina of Time, for instance. I love the Legend of Zelda series. I love Majora’s Mask. Ocarina of Time is widely considered one of the greatest masterpieces of gaming, yet it failed to hold my attention. I’ve tried to get into it on several occasions, yet it always fails to suck me in. Mighty No. 9, on the other hand, isn’t that great of a game, and was extremely disappointing, but I find myself drawn to its unique style, fun level design, and interesting weapons.

To me, I only see one universal guarantee to make a gamer happy: give them a memory. In the end, a gamer will not care if a game is good, or balanced, or polished; he will only care if the game gives him a smile thinking back on it. If you start talking with a gamer long enough, you will hear him start to talk about a game he played in his childhood which, even though the game was probably garbage to everyone else, he remembers fondly because it left an impression. For me, some of those games are Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, Electro Man, and other games from my childhood that I remember fondly. I might return to them now and think they’re completely terrible, but the fond memory is something I’ll never lose.

This year, as you resolve to be a better person, make room for a few more resolutions. Resolve to make memories of your gaming experiences, and resolve to remember those games that made you smile.

The Canceled Zelda Sequel: Wind Waker 2

Sometimes we just need to zip our lips and happily accept what Nintendo thinks is best for us!


Zelda fans, we blew it. After Nintendo released the original Wind Waker game for GameCube, the backlash about the artistic direction was so great that Nintendo not only changed the aesthetics for the next Zelda title, but completely scrapped a concept they were proud of. What we would have gotten instead of Twilight Princess would have been the sequel to Wind Waker. And that sounds pretty nice right about now, doesn’t it? Watch the video for the full scoop on why Nintendo shelved the idea and went in the complete opposite direction.

Shot by Alex Campbell

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

New Zelda: Breath of the Wild Footage

We think Kass will be playing an instrumental part in finding the game’s shrines!


At the Game Awards, Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aimé took the stage and introduced a brand new look at the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Wii U and Nintendo Switch. We couldn’t be more excited about this game, so getting the all-new trailer AND Let’s Play video from the Treehouse was a big treat. We’re here to pick apart the footage and bring you our favorite discoveries!

Shot by Alex Campbell

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

Best & Funniest Nintendo Game Commercials

All that we need now in life is a Metroid Movie. Nintendo, we know you can do it – you’ve proven it!


Nintendo has had some of the craziest marketing campaigns ever seen on TV! These are a collection of the weirdest, wackiest, craziest commercials created by the Big N itself. You just can’t make this stuff up, but someone evidently did! We take you through the truly weird, the truly scary, and the truly disgusting in this episode of Two Button Crew. Sit back and join us for a trip down memory lane on this Throwback Thursday show.

Shot by Alex Campbell

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