Friday, 18 November 2011

The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword - 24-Hour Liveblog, Part 3

So here's where it gets a little strange. If you're just joining the party now, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this 24-Hour Liveblog. Part 3 will begin with us having just beaten the first temple - we need to venture back to Skyloft before heading down to the surface again. Zelda is still missing. The key villain (or is he?) has been introduced. This third and final section will run up until 07:00am, Saturday 19th November. See you on the other side, maybe.

23:05pm - The above poster, of Link and Fi, was the first promotional image that Nintendo released for Skyward Sword back at E3 2009. The game didn't even have a title at the time.

23:26pm - Popular UK TV charity fundraiser Children In Need has apparently reached the grand total of £19,555,068 so far tonight - that's roughly 391,180 copies of the Limited Edition Skyward Sword!

23:58pm - Another significant aspect of the Zelda games is the way the environment is constantly being recontextualised around you as new items are gained; in a similar way to, say, the Metroid games, previously unreachable areas become accessible and little secrets are revealed everywhere as your character progresses. Back on Skyloft, having inserted the second tablet inside the Statue of the Goddess, another beacon of light has opened up. But before I head there I'm going to see what I can unearth with my new slingshot and the beetle (a mechanical fly you can send into the air and operate manually, so as to survey otherwise inaccessible places). For those who just want to read about the action, I hope this will be okay.

00:04am, Saturday 19th November 2011 - I made a joke at the expense of Madeleine McCann at 13:08pm in Part 1, but what's this?! It's Kukiel's mum, and she's worried that her daughter may have been kidnapped!

00:43am - Just paid a visit to Beedle's Airshop, which you have to call by striking the bell hanging below it (I used my slingshot), and bought a Bug Net. The Airshop made its first appearance in the DS game Spirit Tracks, which we hope to be running a retrospective on next week.

00:53am - "How long do you want to sleep?" - these are the questions I don't want the game to be asking me right now. Nevertheless I need to put Link to bed and have him wake up at night, when all the monsters come out, as I have a feeling this is when we'll find Kukiel.

01:30am - Skyloft at night is beautiful. The only lights at sea are the coloured beacons leading to the surface level, whilst on the island itself the only lights are those from inside houses. We're currently standing atop the Light Tower, which has one of the best views.

02:02am - Still looking for Kukiel, and just as I was about to give up was given a lead that'll take me back to The Lumpy Pumpkin. Have spent the last half an hour catching bugs and fighting off bats.

02:10am - For an old drunk sitting alone in a pub, that is a very good tip.

02:45am - SPOILER!
I may have been complaining earlier, but following the breadcrumbs and finding Kukiel was definitely worth taking an hour or so away from the main plotline. The "Skyloft monster" who she's eventually found with, goes by the name Batreaux, and is hilarious. All he wants is to mingle with the ordinary Skyloft folk, but because of the way he looks nobody will be friendly to him. This is a little bit like the Elephant Man wandering onto the set of High School Musical. He sets Link a quest, asking him to find Gratitude Crystals (which are dropped when humans are nice to each other). These crystals will apparently turn him back into a 'normal' approachable human. Now I'm no scriptwriter but I can see the following development: poor Peatrice is lonely and bored (last time we met her she said: "Isn't there anyone special out there for me?...I wish I could find someone to share a beautiful love with..."), so naturally Batreaux in human form will likely turn out the dream guy she's always longed for. Forget Zelda, we want to make Peatrice happy! We need Gratitude Crystals!

02:48am - Actually there's no forgetting Zelda - we're now off to Eldin Province!

03:56am - There's a very tricky bit at the Eldin Volcano which we think involves throwing a bomb onto a sinking bridge, and then collecting the same bomb and throwing it again before it explodes, all while making sure that we don't touch the lava. There may well be an easier way to do this. The music in this stage is ace by the way.

04:58am - I'm not proud, but I had to look up the solution for the section described above. I'll blame my lack of sleep for not working it out sooner because the answer, as this video shows (spoiler alert, obviously), is simple. Anyway, good progress now being made in the Eldin Volcano. I now have Digging Mitts!

04:59am - I think I also dozed off for about twenty minutes, complaints to the usual email address.

05:27am - A mysterious figure in black robes has just appeared to tell us that "Zelda is ahead", before quickly disappearing himself. You would think that perhaps the Princess could just slow down for a bit to let us catch up? Anyway, had a lot of fun exploring the volcano, especially using Link's new-found digging ability. If it wasn't already clear, this is a marvellous game.

06:09am - Into the last hour!

06:10am - If you get the chance, go visit Tubert, the friendly owner of Thrill Digger - Skyward Sword's own top-down interpretation of Minesweeper. Very addictive. There are also Rupee Ore fragments in the wall, and shooting these with your slingshot instantly drops money.

06:46am - And so this is where the journey ends (for now), on the cusp of entering the second Temple of the game, having collected all five pieces for the key that opens the main entrance. Suffice to say, Skyward Sword is a meticulously designed, engrossing game; perhaps most importantly, it feels fresh. Perhaps this is because it's been so long since the last console Zelda, but you can clearly see why Skyward Sword has been the most intensive and expensive undertaking in Nintendo's history. Everything from the visuals, to the score, to the implementation of MotionPlus has been thought through with the greatest care, and the attention to the world's detail is superb. Because we were playing at a leisurely pace I get the impression that the game has plenty more surprises in store; I've barely scratched the surface of the story, and there are already numerous sub-quests waiting to be completed. This is clearly a game to savour. I need sleep, but I wish I didn't... Thank you for reading!

The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword - 24-Hour Liveblog, Part 2

Hello and welcome back to the Skyward Sword 24-hour liveblog! If you missed it, Part 1 which covered hours 07:00am-3:00pm, can be read again here. Part 2, which should take us from now until 11:00pm, starts at the Sealed Temple, the first one you encounter in the game. A number of people have suggested that I'm aiming to finish the game within the space of a day, which I don't think will happen, and was never the intention of this liveblog - after waiting five years for this it would be a shame to race through it!. Plus, it takes time to write and play in conjunction with each other, and I'm having way too much fun savouring the world and exploring every little avenue I find. But it will be interesting to see how far I manage to get...

15:07pm - Remember you can get involved, by sending any questions/thoughts/rants to, or via Twitter @mwcartridge, or even by leaving a comment below!

15:38pm - SPOILER!
It turns out that the Sealed Temple was in fact a red herring. When you enter it's ghostly quiet, the sole activity a bearded man sitting atop a small staircase. He explains that Zelda - the spirit maiden - did indeed fall into the Temple, but then took the path through to Faron Woods, which the wise sage handily marks on our map. We also gain the ability to place beacons on the map, their thin shafts of light acting as a neat homing marker in the real world should you get lost. Link keeps being referred to as a "child of fate".

15:50pm - In all our clamour over Skyward Sword it's strange to think that we almost missed the fact that a brand new Mario game, something that we would normally be eager to get our hands on straight away, was also released today. To make up for this, and to neatly tie in with Zelda November, here's a video that show Super Mario 3D Land's own unique celebration of Zelda's 25th anniversary.

16:04pm - First appearance of a Goron! Who also has the best line so far: "Amazing, right? WRONG! IT IS BEYOND AMAZING!"

16:06pm - SPOILER!
As expected, the bird statues on the surface level not only allow for the usual save functions but also give Link the option of returning to the sky, meaning travel between the two worlds is not only possible but almost certainly mandatory. The location of each bird statue on the surface level is memorised so you can return to the correct area almost immediately.

16:45pm - To get further information on Zelda's location I need to find three lost Kikwis for the Kikwi Elder Bucha. If all that doesn't make sense then here is a picture of what this new race of forest-dwelling animals look like, thanks to the Zelda Wiki. They're very cute, and often use the expression "koo-kwee" in speech.

17:30pm - One of the great joys of the Zelda series has of course been it's childlike encouragement of exploration, and Skyward Sword is no different. In fact the Faron Woods location is almost a perfect example of this playground approach to design. Ropes are there to climb, tunnels exist to crawl into, and there are numerous grassy slopes you find yourself constantly running up and down as if you were six-years old again and back in your local park. The mission, to find the three missing Kikwis, in this context feels like just a neat excuse in which to allow Link a bit of a clamber around the environment. Anyway, we've now found the three missing Kikwis using Fi's dowsing technique, so we're off to see what treats Bucha has in store for us.

17:33pm - We have an email! Hannah writes: "What feels like 24 hours continuous data-entry has finally come to an end! Phew…Your blog got me through." The life of an office administrator eh?

17:58pm - And the treat was a slingshot! We're now in Deep Woods, where the bees are fierce. We've taken to knocking their hives from their spot with a well placed Deku Seed which, along with our rampant sword slashing of flowers, doesn't make for such an environmentally-friendly portrayal of Link.

18:33pm - Back in Skyloft at the moment, having taken a detour via one of the surface bird statues. Popped into The Lumpy Pumpkin, destroyed their chandelier, and now I have to deliver some Hot Pumpkin Soup to one of the Knights on Skyloft within five minutes, otherwise it'll get cold. These are the sort of things that happen in the world of Zelda.

19:07pm - And just as we reach the halfway(!) point of this Skyward Sword liveblog we step into our first proper temple, the Skyview Temple. Before we venture further, a quick word on the lovely visuals. Taking a step back from the harder-edged Twilight Princess, everything in Skyward Sword has a softened, painterly tone to it - the world and characters are colourful without being gaudy, and have strong personalities despite their softened features. I'd go so far as saying that it's the best looking Zelda game yet - Wind Waker had a more defined aesthetic, but this feels more natural and organic. Some people have claimed that the art design was heavily inspired by the Impressionism movement (Monet, Cezanne, Degas) but I wouldn't know about that.

19:23pm - Quick break time. We don't have a cat, but if we did it would look like this.

20:02pm - SPOILER!
There's a puzzle early on in the Skyview Temple in which you need to open a door guarded by a large roving eye. You're told that the eye follows the tip of sharp objects, and sure enough as you slowly move your sword around the eye also follows. The solution is to move the sword around in quick circles until the eye gets dazed and falls off, thereby unlocking the door. It's brilliant.

20:33pm - I just cut a large spider loose from it's web and because I couldn't see where it had gone I had to run straight from the room (this is in the game, I wouldn't be brave enough to tackle a spider in real life). Still, there are few things as satisfying in videogames as the rhythms of a Zelda dungeon, all the pieces slowly fitting into place. We've found the map, and our slingshot is coming in very handy. Zelda's Aura is marked tantalisingly at the top of the map...

21:05pm - Just fought a skeleton in a scene that Nintendo have previously used to showcase the motion controls (this is the battle I remember the first time I got my hands on the game, back in August). Having learnt to read the posture of enemies and waiting for opportunities to strike, coupled with the great use of MotionPlus, combat is extremely satisfying - it rewards patient swordplay, so may seem unwieldy to those used to blindly hacking away. It's a very intelligent use of the Wii's hardware.

21:48pm - There's a neat twist (literally) on the conventional dungeon Boss Key.

21:52pm - SPOILER!
The first appearance of this guy, and the first boss fight. The preceding cut-scene is suitably unsettling (especially the tongue), the score adding a sense of off-kilter macabre to proceedings.

22:27pm - Maybe it's the tiredness kicking in, but this guy's a little tricky.

22:40pm - No he's not! In your face, evil man!

22:41pm - But guess what? Our princess is in another castle (in the world of Eldin, apparently). Which is where we're off to next. But first, to celebrate the conquest of the first temple: the most beautiful girl I ever did see.

22:56pm - Okay, pizza and beer time! Part 3 is up next.

Part 2 has now closed! Part 3 continues here.

The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword - 24-Hour Liveblog, Part 1

I don't think I've ever looked forward to a game more than Skyward Sword. In fact, I don't think I've ever needed a game more than Skyward Sword. Review scores and a few trailers aside, I know refreshingly little of what awaits in Link's latest adventure, the first console Zelda since 2006's Twilight Princess. In a first for Moon Witch Cartridge, I'll be live-blogging my experiences in playing Skyward Sword for the first time; this isn't so much about describing everything that happens in the game (whenever I post something that could be a spoiler I'll make it clear by, er, writing the word spoiler in big letters); instead it's an attempt to capture the awe of playing a new Zelda for the first time, as well as being a slightly sadistic exercise in staying awake for a full 24 hours. Will I still be here at 7:00am on Saturday 19th? Hmm.
Feel free to get involved via email ( and Twitter (@mwcartridge) as well as leaving comments right here on this blog!
Ok, here we go...

07:00am, Friday 18th November 2011 - About to turn the Wii on...

07:11am - Exciting huh? I'm staring at the disc start screen, listening to the the swishing sounds of the sky. I'm still writing the intro to this blog. Finished now.

07:12am - Using the gold Wii MotionPlus that came with the limited edition, it even has Triforce insignia on the front! And now I'm pressing start. What a fascinating post, eh readers?

07:22am - "A legend that will be forged by your own hands" is the last line of the dramatic pre-title intro. The characters are depicted by nightmarish ink stains that appear to soak into the screen. It sets up the game superbly.

07:29am - Zelda has just called Link "sleepyhead", but she might as well be talking to me. I should maybe make some coffee.

07:43am - SPOILER!
So I've just spent the last fifteen minutes exploring the Knight Academy, where the game begins. A few ceremonial Zelda moments have already been ticked off: found a blue rupee in Link's wardrobe, and rolled into some vases and promptly smashed them. I also helped Fledge, a fellow classmate, carry a barrel into the nearby kitchen. The old lady was very grateful, until I started to pick up and smash her china, at which point she called me "a little brat". I suppose it was a bit unnecessary. The controls so far are excellent. Z centres the camera behind Link instantly, while pressing 2 at anytime will show you the various interactions available to Link at that particular time.

07:54am - Still exploring the Knight Academy. Found Zelda's bedroom on the floor above Link's, but unfortunately it's locked. Still, that's a delightful twist on the traditional series convention.

08:02am - One of Link's fellow students is called Groose. Right, going to leave the school and step out into Skyloft...

08:52am - SPOILER!
First meeting between Link and Zelda. I'm not the best reader of body language, but I think they fancy each other. Link is about to enter the Wing Ceremony, but his Loftwing bird has gone missing. In a dramatic moment Zelda throws Link from the edge of Skyloft, only to dive down and rescue him when it's clear that Link's rare Crimson Loftwing won't be coming to save him. Now Link has to try and get the race delayed so he can find his missing bird, win the race and get the girl. Or something.

08:58am - Just received a delivery of Triforce bread from a very special Zelda fan, thanks!

09:11am - "You really shouldn't open other people's cupboards without permission..." Good advice, that.

09:45am - Having a pleasant wander around Skyloft, meeting the town's residents. I think I've found my Loftwing, trapped in a cave by the aforementioned Groose who, it turns out, is a comic bully figure in the mould of Biff. The classic high school dynamics are fleshing out nicely. Most of the people living in Skyloft are either bemoaning their children's lack of discipline or, in the case of Peatrice (the Bazaar's Item Check Girl) their life in general. This is what she tells Link: "Most days at work all I can think about is how bored I am, but now that I'm not at work, I'm...even more bored! My life is pretty sad...". Poor girl. In other news, I just ate a yummy mince pie.

09:56am - SPOILER!
First treasure chest and that sound effect! And inside is a practice sword. Time for some sparring...

10:25am - SPOILER!
Zelda has just mentioned that she wonders what is below the clouds of Skyloft, and how she is convinced that there is a world even bigger than the one they live in at the moment. She may well be right. Apparently the Loftwings won't travel under the clouds though. Oh and we've rescued Link's Crimson Loftwing after venturing into a dank cave. The sword controls are great, but I'm looking forward to putting them to use against a combative enemy. But they're intuitive and responsive; thanks to MotionPlus there's a grace to movement that was perhaps lacking in Twilight Princess.

10:40am - Groose is fantasising about Zelda: "Nobody is stopping me and Zelda from having our moment. Oh, it's so real I can... I can see it". This is basically what I was like all throughout high school.

11:05am - Shit just got real.

11:30am - SPOILER!
I think I'm about to get the Master Sword.

11:50am - Turns out it's the Goddess Sword. Lots of dramatic scene-setting and plot development, ending up with Link dressed in fetching green outfit - it suits him. Before heading out (or should we say down...) we've been instructed to visit the Bazaar, which will also hopefully give us the opportunity to meet Peatrice again. The Goddess Sword has a special Skyward Strike attack, in which you need to raise the remote straight up in the air to charge the sword; this is not only powerful but has the added bonus of making you look a little silly.

12:06pm - Headline on the Knight Academy noticeboard: "Link claims winner's perch in the wing ceremony! Sadly, tragedy also strikes"

12:16pm - There's a punchbag in Groose's bedroom adorned with a badly drawn picture of Link. Groose is fast becoming my favourite character in Skyward Sword. Also Fi, who is this Link's version of Navi, can now be called upon with a quick press of the down d-pad. She tells us that our total play time so far is 4:49, a large part of which has probably been spent with the game on standby as I think of witty things to write here.

12:33pm - I was just about to come on here to complain about the cluttered interface when out pops Fi again to tell me that, now I've got used to the controls, I can clear some of the unnecessary information on-screen. There are three stages of interface design: Pro, Light and Standard. You start the game with the silhouette of the remote and nunchuk at either corners of the screen (Standard), but thankfully I'm now playing on Pro, with just the classic hearts and rupee counter in the top left. I am clearly a Pro.

12:47pm - There's a wonderful moment in the Bazaar where you approach a table lined with bombs, arrows and some pellets, with each enquiry met with the response "I can't sell you these until you have..." followed by either a reminder of the requirement for a bomb bag, bow or a slingshot. It's the developer's little joke at our awareness of the familiarity of Zelda's structure, and it's an amusing touch. Also in the Bazaar, Peatrice says: "Not like my time is worth anything..." Sigh.

13:08pm - I should be heading down to the 'surface' to start the adventure proper, but there are still a few nooks to explore in Skyloft. Also I'm looking for a young girl called Kukiel. Her Mum is wondering where she's gone - "I swear that child can disappear in the blink of an eye! She's quite a magician." Skyloft doesn't want another Madeleine McCann on it's hands, after all.

13:17pm - Gear Peddler Rupin lives near the Skyloft cemetery. The first thing the old woman told us is that she's very proud of her antiques, so naturally we smashed every last one. She charged us 20 rupees, and then we left.

14:12pm - SPOILER!
So, less than an hour before the first part of our 24-hour liveblog comes to an end. After wandering around Skyloft for a while longer, pushing around gravestones that reminded us of this moment at 01:12 from A Link To The Past, and having a useful lesson in the handling of our wooden shield, we finally made the Loftwing-assisted flight to the beacon of green light that had broken the divide between the Skyloft clouds and the surface. The descent is awe-inspiring, and there's a suggestion that a dual world mechanic will come into play later in the game... We're now scaling a deep winding chasm at the heart of the Sealed Grounds, a ghostly forest location in which the only sound is a faint wind. We've also battled our first enemies, a row of Deku Baba plants. It looks as though the first temple is only a few minutes ahead, which seems as good a time as any to take a little break for lunch (spicy chorizo soup, mmm). And more coffee. And Triforce bread.

14:17pm - POLL: What do you most want from your ocarina?

14:33pm - SPOILER!
One Skyward Strike on a plinth at the bottom of the chasm has unlocked powerful gusts of wind - stepping into one of these carries us nearly to the top of the path, avoiding the lengthy trek up. Fi has just unlocked the dowsing ability, which allows us to search for the aura of a specific target by pointing our sword in different directions until it glows brighter, indicating we're on the right path. It's a great mechanic, and has led us right to the front door of what is indeed the first temple: the Sealed Temple. So that's what the beginning of Part 2 will bring...

14:38pm - Huge thanks to the folk at the wonderful Zelda Universe for featuring this liveblog on their homepage! A red rupee for you all.

Part 1 has now closed! Part 2 continues here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cooking With Zelda - Yeto's Soup from Twilight Princess

Eating - it's that thing you do with food when you're not gaming. Daniella Zelli however, the culinary magician behind Gourmet Gaming, had a simple idea - why not combine the two? As her introduction to the site so neatly puts it: "I love to play video games and I love to eat. Preferably at the same time. What's even better is eating the food from the game I'm playing while I'm playing it". Gourmet Gaming then is a delightful tribute to some of the most recognisable videogame foods, each one presented as an actual recipe. The site was born from an obsession with the mental Twin Peaks-referencing classic Deadly Premonition, but has since extended to take in the likes of GTA IV, Costume Quest and even, brilliantly, the meat from Golden Axe. It's her recipe for Yeto's Soup from Twilight Princess we are of course highlighting, given that it's Zelda November. Daniella has very kindly allowed us to reproduce the recipe here - it'll be a perfect accompaniment to this forthcoming chilly weekend that will largely be spent with Skyward Sword.

Before the food however comes the gaming; here Daniella discusses her favourite Zelda game with Moon Witch Cartridge. Time to get all misty-eyed:

Do you remember your first time? My first time I awoke washed up on a beach, so confused I couldn't even remember my name. I was ten years old.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (DX) is my favourite of all the Zelda games even though it's quite a departure from the traditional story-line. It doesn't feature Princess Zelda, Hyrule or even the Triforce, so for once it's about the player helping Link rather than Link helping Zelda. I'll admit it's so far removed I had no idea at the time that it was part of such an expansive series. With its dreamy and nightmarish narrative, Link's Awakening (or “Dreaming Island”) has an incredibly surreal, Lynch-ian atmosphere that features unique puzzles, numerous quests and side-scrolling elements.

It was in Link's Awakening that Link jumped for the very first time and that I played an Ocarina, explored a perilous dungeon, opened a chest only to hear that now famous melody and discovered secrets unlike any I had before. I distinctly remember the blue tones of the Mysterious Forest, the ominous purples that saturated each dungeon and the vibrant green of Link's tunic. It was certainly Link's Awakening that ushered in the new era of Zelda that we know and love today.

I've played Link's Awakening several times only to be bested, even now some 13 years later, by the final dungeon. And to be honest right now all I want to do is rummage in boxes to find my yellow Game Boy and attempt once more to wake up, pick up my shield and rediscover Koholint Island.

The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Yeto's Soup recipe

What you will need:
A large pot, grater, baking tray, frying pan, baking tray, blender or hand blender.

For the Soup:
50g / ¼ Cup Butter
300g / 0.7lbs Pumpkin (Skinned and Choppped)
200g / 0.5lbs Sweet Potato (Skinned and Chopped)
2 Shallots (Chopped)
1 Small Clove Garlic
½ Teaspoon Grated Ginger
500ml / 2 Cups Vegetable/Chicken Stock
1-2 Tablespoons Goats Cheese
70 ml / ½ Cup Cream
75g / ½ Cup Smoked Haddock
75g / ½ Cup Pollock
Salt & Pepper

For the Pumpkin Garnish:
3 Pumpkin Wedges
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt & Pepper
½ Teaspoon Dried Chilli Flakes

For the Potato Croutons:
Olive Oil
1 Medium Potato
Salt & Pepper

For the Carrot Tops:
5 Small carrots (Stalks On)
1 Tablespoon Butter

Preparing the Soup:
1.In a large pot on a medium heat melt the butter. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until soft. Add the pumpkin and sweet potato chunks and stir well, allowing to cook for another 10 minutes.
2.Pour in the vegetable/chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the pumpkin and sweet potato has cooked through. Once cooked transfer to a clean bowl and blend (or use a blender). Return the soup to a clean pot, if it’s too thick then slowly add more vegetable stock until the desired texture is achieved. Set the soup aside while you prepare the garnishes.

Making the Pumpkin Slices:
1.Preheat the oven to 200C/392F. Chop the pumpkin wedges into chunks and lay them onto a baking tray, cover with the butter, season and add the chilli flakes. Cook until soft and golden.

Making the Potato Croutons:
1.Dice the potato into small cubes and heat some olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the potatoes and season to taste, fry until crisp and golden brown.

Making the Carrot Tops:
1.Heat the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the carrots and allow to cook until slightly soft.

Finishing the Soup:
1.In a warm frying pan add a little olive oil and heat. Add the smoked haddock and pollock and fry for 1 minute. Pour in the cream and season with salt and pepper, allow the fish to cook for about 5 minutes in the cream.
2.Once the fish has cooked pour the cream mixture into the pumpkin soup, add the goats cheese and stir gently. Warm the soup through on a low heat so the goats cheese can melt.
3.Serve and garnish with the potato croutons, roast pumpkin slices and glazed carrot tops.

...and enjoy!

- Be sure to visit for more delicious gaming nourishment. It's updated every Wednesday!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Links To The Past - A Zelda Debate

Simeon Paskell is the editor of D+PAD Magazine, and you can read his musings on videogames at gametaroo! Here he attempts to puncture the bubble of this month’s Zelda excitement, as we debate the continued relevance of the Zelda series, those bloody Gorons and the reasons why he’s not excited about Skyward Sword...

As a long time gamer and Nintendo fan I should by now be whipped into a state of rabid anticipation, counting down the hours and minutes until the next Legend Of Zelda instalment is released. But I’m not. The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword is out this Friday and yet I find myself in a state of near indifference. There could be a number of explanations as to why this might be. It could be that I’m getting a little old or that I’ve been so spoilt by a glut of quality releases that there simply isn’t a lot of room left in my gaming time for yet another epic adventure. Having mulled it over however, I think the truth is more straightforward than that – I’m just a little tired of the Zelda template.

For me, the magic of the Zelda series has always been in the act of discovery – discovering new worlds, new characters, new gadgets and new abilities. For this reason, playing A Link To The Past, Ocarina Of Time and The Wind Waker are among some of my most cherished gaming memories – they were filled with so many memorable moments that I couldn’t dream of capturing them here. Escaping with Epona, emerging from an underground dungeon into a rain swept Hyrule, navigating beautifully cel-shaded oceans, lifting rocks that were five-times the size of Link...

The heritage of the series cannot – and should not – be called into doubt. However, at some point, my sense of wonder began to fade, and it was with Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS that I first found myself uttering the following: "Oh god. Not another bloody Goron”. The first time I met these rocky denizens of Hyrule was magical... but familiarity can breed discontent, and this is exactly what’s happened with me. Of course, Zelda has always thrived on the familiar – the bow, the boomerang, the hookshot, Ganondorf – and it has always managed to throw new mechanics and ideas your way to keep it interesting; but I don’t feel that same burning desire that there was once around this time, days away from the launch of a brand new Zelda. After exploring the wonderfully unpredictable worlds of, for example, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls the thought of going back to the comfort food that is Zelda simply doesn’t inspire me as it used to.

I am probably being massively unfair, and early indications are that Skyward Sword sees Nintendo mixing things up and ploughing new furrows. I’m sure this latest Zelda will be filled with magical moments, but I can’t help how I feel. The thought of meeting another bloody Goron gives me chills.

Simeon, quite frankly I feel sorry for you. Okay I’m kidding, but I find it difficult to see how somebody who calls themselves a “Nintendo fan” cannot help but be rolling around the floor in fevered excitement at the imminent launch of Skyward Sword! It’s interesting you mention Phantom Hourglass, because I actually thought that that was full of interesting little ideas and delightful new ways to interact with the Zelda structure, and made excellent use of the DS hardware. Isn’t that one of the wonderful things about the series? That it adapts so well to new Nintendo formats whilst retaining its – for me - magical essence? From all accounts Skyward Sword is the game that finally encapsulates the potential of Wii’s motion control, thereby giving gamers another new way to experience what you suggest is a tired template. And isn’t it slightly churlish to bemoan such genius design as that seen in the Zelda games, even if that design is very familiar to grizzled, cynical old-timers such as us?

Oh, you’re absolutely right about Phantom Hourglass being full of ideas (but hey, best not to mention the Temple Of The Ocean King...not one of Nintendo’s best ideas that), but personally it stands out as the point my interest began to wane; this wasn’t necessarily a result of a lack of ideas, but due to an over familiarity of context. Would it not be more interesting – especially for old hands such as us – if the smorgasbord of ideas that Nintendo stuffs into a Zelda game were to be used in ways that are a little less predictable, a little less comfortable? I guess what I’m driving at is: isn’t it about time Nintendo served up some new IP (Intellectual Property) and took a few more risks?

For what it’s worth I loved the Temple Of The Ocean King and its undermining of the standard careful dungeon exploration with that frantic race against time! But I digress. The issue of new IP feels a little besides the point – we’re discussing Zelda’s continued relevance (or lack of) not the general state of Nintendo’s creativity, but while we’re on the issue it has seemed – particularly with the launch of the 3DS –that the big N can’t really win on this front. They’re chastised for relying on the same key franchises, but then the lack of these big games, the Zeldas and Marios, are also cited for the initial failure of the console. Is that Nintendo’s fault? Are gamers’ to blame? Surely we should be embracing these wonderful games. The issue of IP is largely irrelevant – what Nintendo do within the confines of a new Mario or Zelda game is far beyond what the average developer will do within the confines of a “new IP”. With Zelda it’s not even so much the little throwaway ideas, but that the games themselves are so marvellously, beautifully constructed. Perhaps we’re in danger of taking that for granted?

Your mention of taking things for granted is interesting – and I suspect that you’re probably right; in the grand scale of gaming, the Zelda series is one of the cornerstones, something on which you can always rely on for a quality experience. But with the raising of the bar inevitably comes a raising of expectations, and maybe it is also inevitable that there will be gamers like myself for whom (rightly or wrongly) that level of excitement simply cannot be maintained indefinitely?

Which brings me to the larger gaming audience: I’m fully aware that there are huge swathes of gamers – especially on the Wii - who may never have played a Zelda game, and it’s in this that I’m willing to cut Nintendo a little more slack. If Skyward Sword can have the same type of impact on some gamers that A Link To The Past, Ocarina Of Time and The Wind Waker had on myself back in the day, then that alone should be enough to justify the game’s existence. But, nevertheless, as long as Nintendo relies on the heritage of its top-tier franchises, it should also be prepared for a certain degree of diminishing returns – that for every newcomer that has their mind blown by the latest Zelda, there will be many, many others for whom the game will hold little interest and who, let’s be honest, probably sold their Wii a long time ago.

I know Nintendo has recently attempted to reposition itself – stating that the Wii and DS have been misunderstood and that it was actually the companies intention to appeal to everyone, not just casual audiences – but I don’t think even the greatest Zelda of all time will be enough to completely change the general perception of the Wii, or to pull the hardcore audience away from Skyrim, Call of Duty et al. So, I think the issue of IP is relevant; Nintendo has long produced the greatest games in the industry, and I think a new IP could be the injection of freshness that the company and its games need to reignite the passions of those whose interest may be waning or, indeed, whose interest may have sailed off over the horizon in a little red boat with a dragon’s face on the bow a long time ago...

To reach some kind of conclusion: The Zelda series will always have a special place in my heart and despite my cynicism, there’s a part of me that knows that The Skyward Sword will likely live up to expectations. The difference is that this time around I feel less willing – or, more correctly, less able - to wholeheartedly throw myself into the adventure. I’ve opened a thousand treasure chests, I’ve played with the bow, the Master Sword and the boomerang and I’ve met enough bloody Gorons...the magic hasn’t gone, but their once brilliant sheen has definitely dulled over time and use.

But...despite my negativity, there is still hope! Maybe my cynicism could be to the Skyward Sword's advantage? Maybe it will play on my expectations, wrong footing and confounding me at every turn and be a Zelda game that I’d never even dreamed of? I sincerely hope this is the case.

I can understand why there may be gamers such as yourself who don’t feel excited about another Zelda game – in previous features on Moon Witch Cartridge, and in wider discussion of the game in general, part of the appeal of the series has been identified as closely tying in with feelings of nostalgia and childhood, so it’s completely understandable that a game like Skyward Sword may not appeal to all given this context. But what you describe, your feelings of disenchantment with the game on a mechanical level (e.g over-familiarity with the structure etc) is I think very different to another point you make later, that of the issue with supposedly ‘hardcore’ gamers. On the Guardian’s recent review of Skyward Sword, one of the very first comments was some sarcastic remark about the quality of the graphics. Perhaps it was meant to be ironic, but the point it was making – and one you are right to bring up – is that Nintendo’s recent repositioning has perhaps pushed away these ‘hardcore’ gamers, who instead of looking to the Wii as capable of hosting some of the greatest videogames ever made (which it has), instead choose to sneer at the ‘casual’ market and their obsession with Zumba and Just Dance.

I think this might be the most depressing line in your last reply, depressing because I think there’s more truth to it than I perhaps want to acknowledge: "I don’t think even the greatest Zelda of all time will be enough to completely change the general perception of the Wii, or to pull the hardcore audience away from Skyrim, Call of Duty et al". There’s nothing ‘hardcore’ about that attitude – if anything it’s a tad pathetic. If that is the attitude then the problem isn’t so much Zelda’s perceived predictability – it might be that certain gamers are perhaps just too narrow-minded in their idea of what a videogame can be, and unable to comprehend that a Zelda game is just as deep, compelling and intensely rewarding as, say, Skyrim or – eek - Modern Warfare 3. Frankly it’s their loss.

Also, without being too picky, I would object to the insinuation that Nintendo rely on heritage – yes their new Mario Karts and Zeldas are guaranteed unit-shifters, but there’s always unparalleled invention and a bravery in each new title. It’s a mark of their reliability as a developer that, far from diminishing returns, I look to each new flagship entry in the key franchises for moments of virtuosity that I tend not to expect from, with a few notable exceptions, any other company’s games.

But yes, that positive note: Skyward Sword is out at the end of the week, and I do sincerely hope it surprises you, if you get around to playing it. As the last twenty five years suggest, there are far worse design templates to work with than Zelda’s, seemingly so out of time but one that is, to my mind, pretty timeless. Er, here’s to the next twenty five?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Maré Odomo's Zelda

Maré Odomo, an illustrator/cartoonist from Seattle, is a Moon Witch Cartridge favourite. His work frequently references gaming - he's worked with the likes of Anamanaguchi and videogame art collective Attract Mode - and mixes delicate sentiment with affectionate, perfectly-pitched references. It's with the Pokemon-based Letters To An Absent Father, his heartbreaking depiction of a lonely Ash wandering the world with Pikachu in beautifully spare two and three panel strips, that Maré first came to our attention. The first four tales from Letters To... were originally written for Cory Schmitz's magazine EXP., and it's with Cory that Maré has again collaborated, creating the gorgeous drawing of Link seen below, for Cory's new Zelda Zine project (the first issue of which was distributed as part of last month's Nottingham GameCity festival):

Maré was kind enough to let us reproduce his work for Zelda Zine, as well as answer a few questions via email about all things Zelda.

What is your earliest memory of the Zelda games?
I have this really vivid memory of Catfish's Maw. I can see it in my head.

Do you have a favourite Zelda game, and why is it your favourite of the series?
Wind Waker is definitely my favorite of the games. Everything just pops. The colors and the style. It's all so nice to look at, and it's aged well. Still looks amazing.

From an illustrator's perspective, what is your favourite incarnation of Link? And what do you think of the art design of the Zelda series in general?
Toon Link! Again, the style is so smart and slick. It's its own thing... anime-influenced but toned down for American audiences. I also really love Katsuya Terada's interpretations too, which have so many wonderful details that don't show up in 8- or 16-bit and low-poly...Zelda, as a series, is so iconic and recognizable. There are so many games right now that are just a GUY with a GUN and it's all dark and grey and I really can't keep track of all that stuff. So Zelda obviously gets points for standing out. I appreciate video games for their visuals more than anything else.

Why do you think the Zelda games have still retained such a grip on gamers' even after 25 years?
Because we want to be free.

- Maré Odomo:

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Grandma's Theme - The Wind Waker

"This was the last song I played on my guitar for my dog before he was put to sleep..
He was really old and sick, and my parents said they wanted to end his suffering, and I agreed.
Before I went to school, I took up my guitar, sat next to him and played this song.
As many of you said, it expresses warmth, sort of like things will be ok someday. but it also expresses sadness."

- Comment left by YouTube user AliaZn for the video below.


Our full review of the Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony concert, in which the above piece was an encore, will follow tomorrow as soon as I can settle down to finish it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Legend Of Zelda November

"The spirit, the state of mind of a kid when he enters a cave alone must be realised in the game. Going in, he must feel the cold air around him. He must discover a branch off to one side and decide whether to explore it or not. Sometimes he loses his way. If you go to the cave now, as an adult, it might be silly, trivial, a small cave. But as a child, in spite of being banned to go, you could not resist the temptation. It was not a small moment then."
- Shigeru Miyamoto on The Legend of Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda is a series close to the hearts of millions of gamers, mainly because its themes - the shedding of innocence, self-discovery, the abuse of chickens - are also among the great themes of everyday life. For a series whose games frequently unfold as though filtered through the fog of a hazy memory, it's somewhat appropriate that, perhaps more than any other series, Zelda videogames are frequently discussed with the hushed, idealistic tones of nostalgia.

They are after all games that we, in most cases, encountered at an age not so dissimilar from that of Link himself at the outset of his latest adventure, a role-playing experience of a very literal kind. And yet we get older, but Link never does, and so each subsequent game takes on a powerful, transportive experience, building on memories not just of previous Zelda games but of what our lives were like around their release. As Leigh Alexander recently said in an EDGE column referencing Ocarina of Time: "Much of their (gamers') passion is not about the details of the game, but instead its overall feeling - and playing a primary and much-overlooked role in that sentiment is individual context."

All this November Moon Witch Cartridge will be celebrating this greatest of videogame sagas, which not only celebrates its 25th anniversary this year but which also, on the 18th of the month, sees the latest (and according to some) the greatest chapter released: Skyward Sword. Across the next thirty days we'll be discussing our favourite Zelda games and moments, reporting from the recent anniversary concert in London, liveblogging 24 hours in the company of Skyward Sword on launch day and finding out whether getting a Zelda tattoo makes you more attractive to the opposite sex*, amongst many other features and random Hyrule-related posts.

We've featured Zelda on MWC before of course, way back in January 2010 when we reported on the varying ways in which Ocarina of Time's music was being sampled, and earlier this year in thinking about the 25the anniversary. A good place to start this month of festivities however would be over at The Guardian, which ran an excellent article in October entitled 'Zelda is 25, here's what we've learned'. There are also many delightful comments below the main piece from misty-eyed readers.

In fact, if you'd like to get in touch with your own Zelda memories and/or feedback then feel free to get involved - you can email me at, or follow us on Twitter for the latest Legend of Zelda November updates @mwcartridge.

Thanks for reading - Enjoy!

However, there is one boy who does not have a fairy...

* We're guessing no.