Category: games

Legend of Zelda HD Remaster

The original Legend of Zelda has received a HD remaster treatment by the romhack community.

The hack is playable through an emulator called Mesen. Mesen is free, and you’ll need a copy of a specific version of the original of the Legend of Zelda ROM as well as the HD remake files in order to play it.

Applying the HD remake files to the game is not difficult, but requires following a series of instructions that are demonstrated in the video below.

I gave it a try. The graphical updates give it a look on part with the SNES, and have a look reminiscent of Zelda III: A Link to the Past, although the sprites appear to be original artwork, not rips from the SNES ROM. Likewise, the audio sounds much like a SNES update of the original LOZ soundtrack.

The terrain sprites are fantastic, and make old Hyrule look spectacular. The repetitive tiled look of the original is completely made over, and now overworld features like bombable rocks and burnable bushes are a bit less of a pain than they were before — rather than having to try to burn every single bush on the screen, there’ll be one bush (or a small handful) of bushes that will stand out and look suspicious from the rest of the background terrain.)

I’m not as impressed by the character sprites. Moblins, Goriya, and Stalfos all look less charming than they did in the original. Creatures like Octorocks, Tektites, Leevers, and Kees look like they are done better, to me.

One thing I notice right away is that Link’s HD sprite looks visually smaller than the original, but his hitbox doesn’t seem to have changed. This makes him feel somewhat clumsy, and I kept colliding with enemies when it looked like I should have a bit of space between us. While I’m sure this can be gotten used to, to me it’s an unfortunate, huge, and immediate negative. Ultimately, enjoying a videogame comes down to gameplay, not graphics, and gameplay is impacted by an improper hitbox like this. I believe the developers of the HD Remaster could fix this pretty easily by making adjustments to Link’s sprite.

Another thing I noticed is that when climbing up/down stairs, there is no animation showing Link descending and disappearing into the dark hole, as there is in the original.

The HD Remaster enhances the game in a few other notable ways: increased bomb capacity, pressing Select toggles your B-inventory item so you no longer have to pause to the subscreen to select it, text draws faster, and the dialogs are somewhat altered from the original, offering better translations and more useful clues than were present in the original.

I’ve played through the first dungeon. I notice that in the dungeons, the map doesn’t seem to give you any visual indication to differentiate between rooms you have visited vs. rooms that you have not yet reached. This is another gameplay issue that I feel should be rectified by the maintainers of the mod.

Overall, this seems like a fantastic mod, very well done, but not without minor flaws. It is nevertheless enjoyable and should not be missed if you’re a fan of the original game. Nintendo legal often clamps down on fan projects like this, so if you want to play this yourself, it’s best to grab it while you can. Although, the maintainers do appear to have taken pains to separate the mod pack from anything that directly infringes on Nintendo copyright, such as the original ROM that is needed in order to make the mod pack work.

Tangle: A simple Snake clone

After about a year of not feeling like doing anything related to game development, last night I felt like making something. 

So I stayed up all night and made a simple Snake clone that I call Tangle. 

There’s nothing special about this project, it’s just a bare bones, no frills clone of the classic snake game, but I think for a few hours work it’s decently well done, and it plays well. 

I think it took about 2-4 hours to build, and would have taken about a quarter that if it wasn’t for the fact that I haven’t done anything with GameMaker in a long time, and have never felt comfortable using GMS2’s revamped IDE.  It’s minimalist, so don’t expect a whole lot, is what I’m trying to say.  But enjoy it for what it is.

itch.io

play in browser

Zelda: BOTW Diary (92)

Three more shrines today.  I looked them up on the internet rather than discovered them in-game through my own effort.

The first is one in Tabantha.  I go there and there’s a mountain with a great stone door in the base, similar to the one in Hebra that I found weeks ago.  Like that one, I have to bowl a snowball into it in order to open the door.  But I have to carry a small snowball up a hill, then roll it down and have it hit the door.  I do this, but the ball just sort of nudges the door, and it doesn’t open.  So I hit it with time-stop, and put energy into it, and it knocks the door down.

I don’t really remember the inside of the shrine.  I think maybe it just says you already passed the challenge by finding it, and gives me a spirit orb.

The second shrine was in the Gerudo highlands, near the area where I had to rescue some Hylian travellers who got kidnapped by monsters in the canyon ahead of the Gerudo stable.  I explored one side of this canyon thoroughly, but the other side, I missed completely.  Here, there are three Gorons who are challenging themselves to endure heat.  I talk to them and they invite me to partake in the challenge.  I put on the flame resistant armor and pass the first challenge, but then they tell me to take it off and prove myself for the second one.  I take an elixir and endure the heat with no problem, and a shrine appears.

Inside the shrine, I have to use motion controls to re-orient a cube to electrify all 6 faces of it, to open a door.  Then I get into another room, where there’s a more difficult puzzle, involving motion controls and a cube that has wind blowers on it that I need to aim to hit four turbines.  Two turbines are on a lower level, but can be raised by activating a switch.  There’s a metal box that I can put on one switch, but the other is harder to figure out.  I eventually use inventory items to weight down the switch, and it triggers, and then I can blow all four turbines.  This opens a third room.

Inside this room, there’s another cube, with six unlit torches on it, and two water fountains.  I have to light the torches using a fire in the ceiling, and get all six sides lit without putting them out with the water.  It’s tricky, and after failing once I decide to just cheat it and use fire arrows to hit the torches without moving the cube with the motion controls.  This makes it easy, and I get a diamond and a spirit orb.

Outside the shrine, I spot another korok seed block puzzle that I hadn’t gotten before.  I have enough seeds to buy another shield inventory slot from Hestu, so I go do that.

The third shrine is found by a shrine quest triggered at Tabantha Bridge Stables.  I transport there, and there’s a man named Geggle, who I’m supposed to talk to during the day.  It’s night, and he’s inside the stables, but talking to him doesn’t trigger the shrine quest.  I go sit by a fire until noon, but then he’s nowhere to be found.  So I talk to random people at the stable, and I find another korok race puzzle under Tabantha bridge. I can’t find Geggle anywhere, so I go back to the fire and sit by it until morning.  At 5am I get up and go back to the stable inn, and Geggle’s sitting where he sits at night, and doesn’t do anything.  I have to wait for four hours before he finally gets up and does something, which is to run out from the stable.  I follow him, and try talking to him several times, but he just asks me if I need something.  I continue to follow him to where he’s running to, and he stops and looks out across the valley. At the far end of it, he is looking at something.  I talk to him, and he says he sees something out there, that looks man made, and asks if I can see it too.  I use the sheikah scope to get a better view, and see a large design painted on the side of the cliff.

I mark it, and then look on the map to see how far it is, and it’s rather far.

I make the journey, climbing and gliding as much as I can, and get to the end of my trek.  There’s s series of scaffolds and catwalks built into the cliff face, with monsters patrolling.  They’re not tough, I take care of them easily, and continue toward the point I marked on the map, until I get to where I’m going.  This involves riding up two updrafts with the glider, and then I’m there, looking at the giant design painted on the wall.  It looks like in the center there’s a shrine pedestal.  The painted design looks like lightning and birds, so taking a guess I shoot at the pedestal with a lightning arrow.  I barely miss with the first one, as it falls slightly short, but correct my aim and connect with it on the second shot, which reveals the shrine.

This one is another no-puzzle blessing shrine, and I get a diamond and a spirit orb.

I have enough orbs to upgrade my stamina wheel, so I go to Kakariko village and do that.

So that’s 6 shrines in 2 days, and I think there’s now only 2 more left in all of Hyrule for me to find.

Zelda: BOTW Diary (91)

I haven’t played in a few weeks.

Just wrapping up the remaining loose ends on the BOTW ToDo list.

The last active sidequest I have running is to show the boy in Hateno village an Ancient Short Sword.  I transport to Akkala Tech Lab and have them make one for me, and then transport to Hateno and show him.  The kid gives me a diamond.  This kid’s flippin rich.

While in Hateno, I visit with Bolson for a minute, and he tells me I should try to popularlize a dance that he shows me how to do.  I never had him tell me this before. Is it the start of a new sidequest?  How do I do these dance moves?  He also has an amulet around his neck, and the dialog tree gives me the option to ask about it, and he talks more about Hudson’s wedding.  I guess he used the amulet to create a stream of falling confetti or something.  I do not understand why in fantasy literature amulets always have powers.  Real amulets don’t do anything. They just hang from your neck, and do nothing.  What gives authors such ideas?

I notice that all the Akkala Tech Lab weapons costs the same, 1000Rs, + some ancient tech parts.  Specifically, it’s the exact same recipe to make a short sword, which does like 30 damage, or a bladesaw, which does 55 damage.  Why would you ever buy a short sword then, other than to show it to the kid in Hateno and get a diamond?  I haven’t bought a bladesaw yet, but I guess it probably must be a two-hander.  I think about picking up an Ancient Bow.  I have enough coin for it, but not enough weapon slots.  Maybe later, then.

I’ve completed 71/77 sidequests according to the pause screen, but I don’t know what the remaining 6 are, or where I’d need to go to find them.  I wonder if there’s a list of BOTW sidequests online that I can look up and see what I have yet to discover.

The controller feels rusty in my hands. I forget that you can’t transport to stables, and momentarily wonder why I can’t.  I figure it out eventually.

I have found 112 of 120 shrines in Hyrule, so there’s still 8 more out there somewhere for me to discover.  

I don’t have time to aimlessly wander around the world hoping to stumble into them, so at this point I am OK with cheating a little bit and looking them up.

The first one I couldn’t find on my own is right off the road after Fort Hateno.  There’s a shrine quest involving the man who lives in the little cabin just inside the ruined wall.  I’ve been to this house a few times, but never at night.  I arrive there during the daytime and read the book that’s sitting out on the desk, and it gives me a clue about some statues that glow at night.  I don’t remember reading this before, but it’s possible I just never noticed the book, or that I read the book but couldn’t figure out what it means, and forgot about it long before I learned enough about the game to figure it out. I notice there’s a bed in the cabin, and when I stand near it, it gives me the option to sleep for free.  I never knew that before!  How did I not know that?

The clue in the book speaks of a statue that has eyes that glow at night, so I use the bed to sleep until night. When I wake up, the inhabitant of the cabin is there!  He is a doctor who is studying the mystery of the glowing statue.  We talk for a bit.  It reminds me a bit of the other shrine quest on the top of the snowy hill near the Gerudo desert, where I discovered the ruins of an old cabin and a diary there that gave a clue about the shrine there.  I feel like in so many of the shrine quests in this game, you meet someone who has been looking for the shrine their entire life, and then you go and discover the solution to the puzzle in usually a short time, like five minutes.  Sometimes I’ve taken longer to figure them out, but that was really only the first couple; once I learned what shrine quests were about, most of the rest of them were simple to figure out.

In this case, though, I do not know where the statues that glow are.  I have to look this up, too.  It turns out, a little ways down the road toward Hateno village, there’s a canyon off to the left, where there are numerous statues. One of them glows at night, and if you shoot it with an arrow, it reveals the shrine. I mostly don’t travel the roads — when I walk on foot, I’m usuually foraging and exploring off-road, and often climbing and gliding, and if I’m not exploring, I usually transport with the teleportation power to save time.  So I have probably only used this road maybe a couple of times, and apparently went right past this canyon and never noticed it was there before.

Although, when I walk into the canyon, I do find a Korok buddy who I had already discovered, so apparently I have been in this place before, at least one time.  I don’t remember it, really.  But there are a bunch of little statues, and one of them sure enough has glowing purple eyes.  I shoot an arrow at it, and the shrine appears.  This one has a complex mechanical platform puzzle, involving a rotating drum with a couple of spikey metal balls, and platforms that line up, and treasure chests that are difficult to reach.  I do not bother with the chests, since I am not in need of any more equipment, and proceed directly to the shrine master’s chamber, to collect my spirit orb.  The trick to getting up to him is to time-stop the rotation of the room briefly, to enable you to cross over the center of the room when the platforms are properly aligned.

I look up another two shrines that I haven’t discovered, and both are in the northwest area of the map, near Rito village and Hebra.  One is well hidden in a overhanging rock cave with a swift river of icy water that damages you quickly if you try to swim in it.  I just tank the damage and get across, and enter.  The shrine offers no challenge, and rewards me just for finding it.

Exiting the shrine, there are two logs laying about on the little island with the shrine entrance.  I push one of them into the water and climb onto it, and ride it out of the cave.  The rushing water runs out of the cave and comes to a waterfall.  When the log goes over the falls, I glide to a landing on a little island in the river at the base of the falls, where at the top of a tree I find a korok seed.  I find another korok seed at the top of another tree nearby somewhere, too.

Nearby, there’s another shrine, at the bottom of the Tanagar canyon.  I drop down and find it, and go in.  This one has puzzles that involve using the time-stop power to move heavy objects to activate switches.  I get a Great Thunderblade from one chest, ignore another chest, and get the spirit orb.

 

Zelda: BOTW Diary (90)

It’s been nearly two weeks since my last play session.  Having beaten the game, the missions nearly 100% completed, there seems to be less draw for me to return to play more.

I had not found the Hylian Shield, and wanted to do that. My last save point is right at the doorstep to Ganon’s sanctum, in the center of Hyrule Castle. I know the Shield is supposed to be somewhere on the castle grounds, and I’ve been through most of it and not turned it up yet. Also, there’s supposed to be a shrine in the castle complex somewhere, and I’ve yet to find that either.

I glide down from Ganon’s doorstep to the northeast quadrant of the castle, as I have a general idea that the shrine is in that general area.  I start exploring, and enter the castle at the dungeon.  I’ve been through here before a time or two, but this time I’m not in a hurry, and I explore thoroughly, and clean it out completely rather than avoid unnecessary combat.

At the far end of the cell block, I find a large, round chamber, and as I draw near to the entrance, I see a huge pile of bones in the middle of the floor, and recognize it immediately as a dormant Stalnox.  As I enter the chamber it springs to unlife, and we fight. 

I am hoping it will be an extra special boss-level Stalnox, but it seems that it is just a garden variety specimen and it’s not any more difficult to fight than the others I’ve faced much earlier in the game.  After vanquishing it, a treasure chest appears and I open it to find the Hylian Shield.

That’s one thing off my checklist.

I proceed to explore as much of the Hyrule Castle complex as I can, following every corridor to its end, and I definitely covered a lot more of it than I had on previous expeditions, but I don’t know that I found everything there is to find.  I did manage to find three more koroks.  Two hiding under rocks, and one at a pinwheel archery challenge — I couldn’t manage to hit the balloon for this one, as it was a great distance away, and I didn’t have the range with my bows, but I tried shooting a sword beam at it, and nailed it on the first attempt with that, after wasting several arrows.

I eventually fought my way down to the lower levels of the castle, and re-entered it at the banquet hall.  I cleared it out again, and followed the hallway down to the library, and cleared it out again.  This time, using magnesis, I note that some of the bookshelves on the lower level are movable.  I had never noticed this before.  I discover the King’s Study, and a hidden room where I find a number of nice arms and shields, and some rupees.  And the third bookshelf leads down a staircase to an underground cavern, filled with water, where there are some lit torches and a large, unlit torch.  

Using my great flame blade, I light the torch, which triggers the emergence of a shrine.  I enter it, and find a combat trial.  It’s a Major Test of Strength, and again I’m hoping for something really extra special.  But this shrine guardian seems almost docile, hardly aggressive at all, and I have an easy time fighting it.  I use electric arrows and the Master Sword, and together they seem to be rather effective.  It doesn’t seem to get off its spinning charge attacks, and when I get its health down it doesn’t start shooting its super laser at me, either.  

The guardian drops an Ancient Axe++ and a Spear++ and a Sword++, but all I have space for in my inventory is the axe and sword.  At the end of the shrine, I’m awarded a flame sword, but I don’t need it.

After emerging from the shrine, I continue exploring the cavern and find some docks down by the water, patrolled by some red lizalfos.  I find a lot of loot in the crates on the docks.  I explore the cavern a bit and find that the cave opens out to the outside, and then I realize that I’m just about back where I started, at the entrance to where the dungeon cell block is.

I make my way off the Hyrule Castle compound, and once back on the overworld map, transport to Kakariko village to visit the goddess statue so I can exchange four spirit orbs for my final Heart Container upgrade. Thus my life meter is maxed out.

Checking my progress, I now have 112 shrines completed, meaning that there must be 8 more shrines yet to be discovered somewhere in the world.  I have no idea where to look.  I’ve been everywhere, or so it would seem.

Zelda: BOTW Diary (89)

To max out my sheikah slate photos, I cash in a bunch of gems at Hateno’s shop, and then go to the Ancient Tech Lab and drop about 18k and buy everything left to buy.

As a “reward” for buying all the photos, Purah’s assistant, Symin, gives me a special photo in an envelope.  The game doesn’t let me actually see a photo, but it is supposed to be a beautiful young woman.  It’s implied that the image is of a “young” Purah, who reversed her age as part of her research.  

I want to see if I can find the Hylian Shield, and I have heard nothing about this shield in all my adventures in the game so far; the only reason I know about it at all is that I’ve read about it in articles about the game. I have no idea where it might be found, but I suspect it is in Hyrule Castle somewhere.

I return to the castle, and explore. This time, I take another route through the castle grounds, and I find more treasure chests, containing bomb arrows, ice arrows, swords, bows, rupees, but no Hylian Shields.  

I continue to continue exploring, and eventually find my way to the inner sanctum. I’m here, I might as well do a Ganon battle.

This time, the fight takes less time, because I know what I’m doing this time, and defeat his first form in a fraction of the time that it took the first time. 

Dark Beast Ganon takes even less time.  

The final battle is so easy.

This time after the credits roll, there’s a bonus cutscene where Zelda and Link are preparing to travel by horse to Zora’s domain to check out Vah Ruto, which has stopped functioning. I guess the implication is that the adventure continues. 

I’ve enjoyed playing the game, but it is finally running out of things for me to do.  I have a few sidequests and shrines left to find and do, if I want to. It might be better to spend time on the DLC packs.

I’m planning on writing up some wrap-up thoughts — I don’t know whether they’ll be final thoughts, as a capstone to this series, but I’ll save that for another time.

Zelda: BOTW Diary (88)

I spend a bit of time staring at the painting in Impa’s house of the image of Link’s last remaining un-recovered memory, and conclude that I must have been close when I looked for it before.  

Before heading out to find it again, I walk down the wrong road, and end up at the end of Kakariko village where the garden of stones is, and I see the little girl, Koko, who likes to cook and is too hard on herself, standing there, which is unusual.  As I draw nearer, I see that she is crying.  I talk to her, and learn that her mother has died. This fills me with a deep sadness, for I have had a soft spot in my heart for little Koko.  She cries a little, and I feel overwhelmed. There is nothing at all that I can do.  

This isn’t a side quest, it’s just a tear jerker moment that you can’t do anything about. So much death and loss for this world.  Of all the characters in this world to do this to, why Koko?

I spend longer there than I need to, before moving on.  Before leaving, I take one of each of the different types of flowers that you can pick, and drop them there.  It does nothing, but feels appropriate.

I turn back to head down the road out of Kakariko, and pass by the clothing shop, and decide to stop in one last time.  I never bought the Hylian tunic, since around the time I  first came here, I received the Champion’s tunic.  But it’s only 120 Rupees, and I have the trousers and the hood, so I might as well complete the set.  I’ll see about upgrading it later.

Winding my way down the road from Kakariko village, I hop in the air and glide, following the path, but moving a bit faster than running, to make time.  I land at the bottom of the trail near the north end of Kakariko Bridge. There’s a traveler by the side of the road, and when I talk to him, he reveals himself to be a Yiga Clan ninja, and attacks me.  I cut him down quickly with the Master Sword, and then cross the bridge.

It occurs to me that I really haven’t been here but perhaps a handful of times — once I gained the ability to transport, there was little practical reason for traveling along the road. I decide to take a little bit of time and look around the vicinity to see whether there might be anything of note hidden nearby.  Looking down into the water toward the west side of the bridge, I see a ring of rocks that signifies a korok seed spot.  I need to toss a boulder into the ring, but this is one of the most difficult things for me to do, as the aiming is difficult.  I carry a boulder down to the bank of the river and use the Cryonis power to create an ice bridge to carry me to the ring, one block at a time, and then just jump into the ring carrying the stone.  It works, and I get my korok.

When I extract myself from the water, I notice a little campfire beneath the bridge, on a sandbar, and swim over to investigate it.  There’s a couple of steel boxes and some roasted fish and I find some arrows and an old, weak shield, but little else worthy of mention.  It’s late afternoon by this point, so I decide to sit by the fire and wait for morning.

At dawn, I resume walking out along the road, taking the fork that leads to Hateno village, and am quickly beset upon by some little chuchus, and I blast them with a bomb, and move on. My eyes are locked on the skyline, trying to spot the familiar contour of the mountains from the last memory photo. I feel like I must be very close, as there are some features which do look like they match with the photo.  I move off the road, watching the horizon and watch as the shifting parallax creates the image from the memory, more and more faithfully, until I’m sure I’m in the right area.  I look around and keep moving about, and then finally I spot the shimmering energy field that signifies the spot. 

I recall the memory.  Link and Zelda are in the field 100 years ago, there has been a great battle, and the Guardians are marching towards them.  Link is badly injured and exhausted, besotted with dirt, and looks like he is near his limit. Zelda implores him to leave her and save himself, but he doesn’t leave her side. Then, a Guardian approaches, looming over them, and is about to blast them, and Link is too weak to defend them, when Zelda steps in front of him and something happens.  Her power finally awakens within her, and she emits some kind of energy field that does something to the Guardians that renders them inert.  Link collapses. A moment later, two Sheikah soldiers run up, a bit late, to rush to the Princess’s aid.  She commands them to take Link to the Shrine of Resurrection at once.

So this is the spot where the Hero of Hyrule fell.

I now have all of the memories, and so the main quest to recapture the lost memories of Link is finally completed.   After returning to the present moment, Link hear’s Zelda’s voice telling him that now is the time to face Ganon, and to head to Hyrule Castle for the final battle.

I just need to do a few more things before I’m ready to do that again.

First, I want to farm that last bit of Star Fragment that I need in order to upgrade my Ancient Helm to full power.  I also want to find the Hylian Shield, which I believe is somewhere on the castle grounds that I haven’t yet found.  

I decide to look for falling stars by standing on the top of the Dueling Peaks, and wait for night, and watch the sky for as long as it takes.  From this point, I’m pretty close to the center of the map, and can see a long way in any direction, which should make it likely that I’ll see any falling stars that happen to come at night.  Only, I do not know how long I might have to wait for this.  I hope it will not be very many nights, but it might take quite a while. I just don’t know.

I’m also running way low on normal arrows, so I go to all the places I can think of to buy arrows, and buy every arrow they have:  Gerudo Town, Kakariko Village, Hateno Village, Korok Village, Tarrey Town, Beedle’s stable shops.  I end up with 160 by the time I’m done scouring Hyrule for all the arrows I can muster.  

While at the Dueling Peaks stables, I find a couple of guys who look like they want to talk to me, and discover a new sidequest that I hadn’t known about previously.  These guys are looking for the treasure rumored to have been hidden by a master thief.  They give me a clue for 100 Rupees, and it’s easy enough to interpret.  There’s a pair of bridges nearby, which the riddle references, and then says to find a cave at the source of the river.  I hike out that way and find it, and it’s a decent hike, but the treasure is pretty good, although this would have been a lot better to find in the early game.  I bomb open a cave at the top of a waterfall, and find about 5 or 6 treasure chests, containing a sapphire and some weapons. There’s a hidden bonus chest behind a bombable wall, which I get as well.

While at Hateno village, I go into the clothing shop by mistake, and see an armor set that I’d never purchased before, the soldier’s armor.  I vaguely recall when I first came through Hateno that I had visited here, and was pretty low on Rupees then, and the suit just seemed way too expensive for me to think about buying right then, and so I eventually forgot about it.  I think also that when you’re looking for better equipment, there’s not really an advantage to buying the suits, because anything you buy starts out low power, and doesn’t give you an immediate boost.  So unless the outfit has a special bonus, like the climbing gear or the rubber suit or the fireproof suit, or the Gerudo Vai clothes, until much later in the game when you realize that you can upgrade clothing at Fairy Ponds, you look at these things and think they are way overpriced and don’t really do anything for you, and it seems like a waste of resources to buy them.

Now, however, I have a surplus of rupees, so I buy the Soldier’s Armor suit, and then go back to the Kakariko fairy and get it upgraded.  To fully max it out, I need more Hinox guts and Lynel guts, so I go kill a Hinox, the one near Zora’s domain, and it doesn’t drop any guts, so then I go to the one in Giant’s Woods, in central Hyrule, and get guts from that one.

I also stop at Hateno Ancient Tech Lab, and drop the rest of my cash on Sheikah Slate photos.  I still need close to 18,000 Rs in order to get every last photo for the album, and you can bet your bippy if I spend it all I’m going to spend a good 6 hours looking through the whole damn thing so I can say I got my money’s worth. 

Then I go to raid the Lynel near Eldin’s Leviathan, and I have a decent fight with it, it drops a Savage Lynel Sword and Bow in addition to Lynel Guts, a gem, and 10 shock arrows.  Pretty good loot drop.  I still need more Lynel Guts, so I transport out to the plains that separate Gerudo from Faran, and fight the two Lynels there.  I drop in from above on my glider, and get a slow-motion mid-air headshot on the first one to start off the fight with a stun and mount, then as I dismount I nail it with 3 perfect headshots before I run out of stamina and fall to the ground.  It comes back and hits me a couple of times, and I have to heal myself, but I have a pretty good fight with it, and this one drops a Savage Lynel Crusher with a high attack bonus, this one has an Attack rating of 104, which is sick.

The other Lynel has a Savage Lynel Spear, which also has a pretty good attack bonus, and is the best spear I’ve ever seen in this game, with an attack rating of 41 or 42.  Against this Lynel, I manage to get my first perfect dodge and flurry rush since the training shrine where they teach you those moves.  I jump left just as it’s coming at me with its spear, trigger bullet time, and rush in to do a flurry of extra strikes with the sword.  It recovers and does a flame burst attack, which generates updrafts, which I take advantage of to ride up and get another slow motion headshot with the bow, stunning it again, land, mount it, and hit it a bunch, then fire more arrow headshots as I’m dismounting again, and this takes it down pretty quickly.  With the multi-shot Lynel bows, those dismount headshots hits are super effective at running their hitpoints down.

Having acquired all the monster parts that I need, the only thing left for me is to get the final star fragment so I can finish upgrading my Ancient Helmet.

Because this is such a rare item, and I don’t have a lot of other things to do while I watch the sky for falling stars as a background task while I attend to other business, I decide it’s time to go to the internet and read up on star farming.  I learn from this that shooting stars occur on Full Moons, and there’s a guy at Dueling Peaks Stables who I remember way back when who first told me about the moon cycle and the Blood Moon.  So I go there, and talk to him, and pass days sitting at the fire until it’s the day of a Full Moon.  Then I transport to the shrine atop Dueling Peaks, and wait until night and watch the sky to the East, until finally, just past 2am, game time, a shooting star appears at the right of my peripheral vision. 

I watch it fall, and mark the site with the Sheikah Scope, then glide down as close to the crash site as I can get, and run the rest of the way, and retrieve the fragment.

I return to the fairy fountain one last time and upgrade the Soldier Armor and Ancient Helmet, maxing out both sets.

Looking at the Adventure Log, I notice that it says that I’ve completed 71 of 77 side quests, and 38/42 shrine quests. I’ve found 330 of 900 korok seeds, and 111 of 120 shrines.

So there are 4 more shrine quests, and 9 more shrines.  I wonder how I could have missed the shrine quests, and where I might find them.  And for that matter where the other 5 shrines that are not associated with shrine quests might be found.

I’m so close to 100% completion for the game now, not including korok seeds, I consider whether I should continue looking for the remaining 9 shrines.  One more will give me a fourth Spirit Orb, which will max out my life meter, and then that leaves 2 final upgrades for the stamina meter.  These final upgrades will only give me a marginal power boost over where I’m at already, so I’m pretty much at full power right now.

Zelda: BOTW Diary (87)

Although I’ve defeated Ganon, saved Hyrule, won the game, there’s still a number of things I’ve left undone. Like in those dreams where I’m back at elementary school as an adult because of some homework assignment I never turned in, I restore from my last save point, the auto-save generated right at the steps of the door to the inner chamber of Hyrule Castle where I had my final boss fight with Calamity Ganon.

I turn around and run back down the trail, and when it turns to the left I leap off into the open air and glide straight down to the outer gate of the castle.

I’ve used up all but 7 of my normal arrows, and broken more than a few hard to replace, high-end weapons. If I’d kept to my original plan, I wouldn’t have advanced past this point to begin with, and now I’m reversing course. If I could, I’d just restore all the way back to the point that I found the recipe inside of Hyrule Castle, or maybe to the point where I had reached the outer main gate, and discard all of that progress.

I return to Riverside Stable, where I find the man who is searching for a recipe for a meal made for the Hylian royal family, and tell it to him.  I also make him a fruit cake using the recipe, and give it to him.  He gives me 100 rupees in return.

Next, I transport to Tarrey Town, and visit the sick little girl, Hunnie, and her family.  I’ve prepared a second cake, for her, since I know she has said that she likes cake.  But she won’t take it, and the conversation dialog hasn’t changed. I’m not sure what the deal is. I haven’t actually officially triggered the side quest, either, as it’s not in my Adventure Log.  I know that I need to do something, and it feels like I’ve already started, but I can’t understand why it hasn’t created a sidequest for me in the Log.

Puzzled, I google the answer, and find out that in order to trigger the sidequest, I was supposed to wait until night, and then when the father is home and is talking to his wife, and she asks me to leave because they are having a personal conversation, I’m supposed to go around to the back of the house and eavesdrop from the open window near where they are speaking.

I don’t know how I would have ever figured that out on my own, so I guess cheating and looking up the answer is the only solution for me on this one.  It’s not the first time Link has eavesdropped on the conversation of regular folk who don’t want him around, and I can’t understand why doing that is considered heroic.  Like, spying on enemies, I can understand.  But not respecting the wishes of townsfolk who wish to be left alone and conduct their private affairs, even when I’m the key to helping them, I dunno, it just seems wrong. 

There are a few actions that Link takes in the game that I have moral qualms with, and this is pretty minor compared to sneak-striking sleeping enemies to kill them in cold blood, and generally fighting the monster races for no other reason than the fact that they are defined by the rules of the game as enemies, even when they are just minding their own business and not hurting anyone. But it’s also a much more likely thing for a person to do in real life. I hope that no one playing the game decides that this is the right thing to do, but I guess everyone gets to think and decide for themselves, in the end.

It turns out that Hunnie doesn’t want just any old cake, she wants a recipe called Monster Cake.  I don’t know how to make Monster Cake, but there’s that old woman who is a retired royal baker who lives in Tarrey Town, and now when I talk to her, she has heard of Monster Cake and knows how to make it.  She tells me:  monster elixir, goat butter, tabantha wheat, and cane sugar.

I have all of these ingredients, and make a Monster Cake, and go talk to Hunnie’s mom, offer her the cake, and then she gives it to Hunnie, who recovers and becomes healthy and active again.  In gratitude, Hunnie’s mom gives me 300 Rupees.  Not bad.

I have the Lynel parts that I need to power up my Barbarian leggings, so I transport to the Fairy Fountain and get that done.  In looking at my inventory, I see that I did pick up 2 ancient cores somewhere along the way as I ransacked Hyrule Castle, so now I’m just two short of maxing out the Ancient Armor suit.  And if I get some more beyond that, I can talk about building myself an Ancient Bow, which is one of the best bows you can obtain in the game, or buying an Ancient Short Sword, which I can show to the kid from Hateno village who wants to see one in person, and complete that side quest.

Looking at my recovered memories, there are two yet to be found.  One, I know, is from a sheikah slate photo taken at Hyrule Castle, somewhere, and I’m not sure exactly where to find it, but I have no doubt that I can find it somewhere on the outside perimeter wall. 

The second one, I don’t know what it could be, but it’s not a memory photo.  It might be that it’s triggered by finding the Hylian Shield, which I’ve read about, and is supposed to be Link’s personal shield, and the companion piece to the Master Sword.  It, too, is found somewhere in Hyrule Castle, but I haven’t found it yet.

There’s also a bunch of places in the central Hyrule region just south of Hyrule Castle that I really have not begun to adequately explore, and since I’ve already cleared out a bunch of the Guardians that lurk around that area, I might as well return back there soon, before the next blood moon happens, so I can find whatever I might find, be it memory, Hylian shield, or korok seed.

I figure that the memory photo was taken from a location along the outer wall around Hyrule Castle, but probably not inside the castle proper. It seems unreasonable that they would put a memory photo so close to the final boss. I transport back out to Central Tower, so I can take a long route and poke around the western side of central Hyrule and explore, and hopefully find some more korok seeds, or do battle with Guardians and obtain the last ancient core that I need to upgrade my helmet.

I do fight more Guardians and I do get enough ancient cores to upgrade my helmet.  I also find a few more korok seeds, and a bunch more hidden chests, which have some pretty good weapons and shields.  Since I have barely spent any time in this area, it rewards me on my second and third passes through, and I keep finding things that I had missed previously.  Eventually, I make it up to Mount Daphnes, and find a lake with a massive ancient tree stump in the center of it, which has a bridge leading to it, guarded by a couple of moblins and a bokoblin.  I kill the first moblin, then bomb the bokoblin off of the bridge, and take out the final moblin, and there’s a great flameblade there for me to take as a reward.

Proceeding to the north, I come to the Sage Temple Ruins area, and there are some Lizalfos armed with lightning arrows.  The ruins are flooded and the wet ground makes the lightning arrows more effective, as their shock discharges over a wider area, making it easier for them to hit me, and I have a hard time of it.  It’s raining at the time, as well, making it all the worse.  I get out of the water by climbing a tree, but the rain makes it too difficult to get up the tree high enough to allow me to glide down and attack from above.  So I give up on that idea and just rush them, absorb the damage, and take them out hand-to-hand.  There’s not much in the ruins, a couple of chests, but nothing spectacular.

I head up and east out of the ruins and pick my way through the Giant’s Forest, where I find a blue Hinox sleeping.  I don’t need to disturb it, so I leave it alone, finish exploring the woods, and press on.

I cut eastward over open meadow, and run all the way to Mabe Village Ruins and the nearby Ranch Ruins.  In this area, I keep encountering Yiga archers, who harass me nearly constantly, as well as the occasional bokoblin and chuchus, not to mention a Guardian or two.  But I’m all about fighting the Guardians, and I get a bunch more ancient technology parts, including the last core I needed to upgrade my helmet in one of these fights.

Next, I proceed further to the north, and explore the east side of the town directly south of the castle.  This area is festering with Ganon goo, and most of the builds are completely leveled, just piles of rubble with a bit of wall standing here and there, a collapsed tower or a couple of beams leaning against each other.  Everything looks like it’s been burned up pretty good, too.  The outer walls of the castle town fortification have multiple breaches where some massive blasts have completely obliterated whole sections of wall.  There are active Guardians about, and I no longer need to fight them, so I try to avoid their notice for the most part, but if one is in my way and preventing me from exploring, I’ll take it out.  I make my way up to the north end of the east side, and there’s some walls with towers here, which I think may be the area where I’ll find that memory photo, but I do not find it here.

I explore around, and then it starts to rain again, this time with lightning, which forces me to change my equipment for non-conductive stuff.

I spend some time studying the map, and studying the photo, trying to figure out where it might have been taken.  The photo looks to have been taken from atop a wall, and shows a battlement tower directly in front of the camera, with some part of the castle in the background, but it’s hard to tell for sure where it could have been taken.

Guessing, from the fact that the castle seems to be at the left of the wall, I’m thinking it’s more likely the photo was taken on the west side of the castle, somewhere.  So I continue to make my way through the ruins and rubble that was once Hyrule castle town, and get all the way back to Castle Town Prison.

From studying the map, I notice a spiral formation of rocks that I’m sure is a korok seed spot, and I’m heading in that general direction anyway, so I try to find the korok.  There’s also the korok puzzle with the three statues and the rusty shields nearby, as well, and I go back to see if the shields have respawned, but they haven’t.  

But while I’m here, I notice something that I had seen previously when I was here, but did not pay much attention to at the time:  there’s a wide moat or river between the island where Castle Town Prison is and the Castle proper.  And from a certain vantage point along the wall, I am able to see that near the water line there appears to be train tracks, like the tracks that the Goron mine carts rolled on.  I didn’t come across this area when I did my frontal assault on Hyrule Castle and defeated Ganon last night, so this must be some other section of the Castle that I didn’t even find on my first run.

I decide to check it out. Maybe I’ll find the Hylian shield, or some other good stuff.  I glide across the moat as far as I am able, and use the Zora armor to swim the rest of the way, and climb out, and get to the tracks, where I find a mine car. I get in and set it in motion with a bomb, and it takes me a short distance, and then reaches the end of the line.  I get out, and there’s a small entrance into the side of the rock wall that serves as the castle’s foundations, and I enter.  I proceed through a tunnel, and come to a hot spring, where I rest a while, the waters healing me.  I’d lost about 2/3 of my hearts by this point, so it was a good thing to find.

There’s also a korok seed puzzle here, where there are 3 statues with eggs in front of them.  There’s a nest where I find two more eggs.  When I get close enough to check the eggs in front of the statue out, I find they are hard boiled, not raw eggs.  So I have a bunch of bird eggs, I put them in the hot spring and they turn into hard boiled eggs, and I put them in front of the statues, and get a korok seed.

I continue on, and encounter a moblin or a lizalfos here and there, and these ones are tougher variety, and better armed than the ones I ran into at the library and in the banquet hall on my first run.  They’re white and striped and take a lot of hits to kill, even using the Master Sword.

Eventually, I reach a gate that I can’t open.  I try magnesis, and it’s not affected.  I can’t time-stop it.  And there’s no water beneath it, so I can’t use cryonis to raise an ice block to lift the gate.  On the other side, there’s a goo pile and an eyeball, and also a moblin and a lizalfos.  I am noticed and the moblin starts hurling rocks at me through the gate, and hits me.  I use an arrow to shoot the Ganon Goo eye, and it blows up and the gate opens.  The lizal rushes in and I start kicking its ass, but it has a lot of hit points, and the moblin gets in before I can finish it off, and gangs up on me.  Two on one, in tight quarters, it’s not easy to avoid taking damage, but as I’m freshly healed from the hot spring, I can take the damage, and I just duke it out toe to toe with my sword until they drop.  

I move forward and there’s a long hallway with a lot of prison cells, inside each cell is a moblin or a lizal.  The lizals use their tongue and spit attacks to hit me from range, and the moblins pick up rocks and throw them at me.  They are well armed, which provides me the incentive to open their cells and kill them, and I do kill a couple.  But my inventory is still pretty well maxed out for weapons, so I don’t bother killing all of them.  Some of the cells have chests in them, and I obtain a royal guard bow, which is a stupendous weapon that has an attack rating of 70, which is amazing, but low durability.

I continue on and eventually emerge from the dungeon cell block, and find myself back outside.  I’m not sure if I should continue this way, or go back into the castle and explore the dungeon area more fully and make sure I’ve covered it from end to end.  But I see a korok puzzle across the moat, and decide to glide across to collect it first.  After doing so, I come back over, and I find that there’s a path or road going up the hill, leading inward to the inner part of the castle complex.  I decide to follow this path, and see where it leads.

I’m on the west side of the castle, and as I follow the path, it’s ascending the hill.   I start to encounter Guardian turrets and there’s a few flying Guardians patrolling about, so I have to be careful.  I duck inside of the castle wall where I can, and occasionally there’s a tower where there will be a chest or some boxes where I can collect some weapons or fruits.  I guess the fruit stays magically fresh for 100 years, or else was brought there by the monsters who now inhabit the castle very recently.

After making a bit more progress, I see a tall tower, and am immediately all about climbing it to see what’s at the top.  I leap out to glide to it, and start climbing from mid-way up.  I reach a window, and enter, and find myself in Princess Zelda’s Study, a small office-like room where she has left behind a notebook, which I read.  It talks about Sheikah technology and fills in some backstory about the shrines, the sheikah slate, the guardians, and the divine beasts.  These were all ancient technologies that they were uncovering and re-discovering, trying to figure out how they work and how to use them.  They did not create the technology or understand it as the ancient Sheikah did. Interesting.

Exting the study, I am on the top of a wall, walking toward a tower, and I see it: the memory photo location!  I walk forward and recollect the memory.  

The cutscene depicts a scene at the castle where Princess Zelda is more interested in developments of the Hylian scientists studying the ancient Sheikah tech.  Zelda has lost faith in  her ability to unlock her birthright power to seal the dark power of Ganon, and is more interested in using the ancient tech to combat the even of the Calamity.  The king comes out and scolds Zelda, and commands her to focus on her study and prayer to unleash her own power, which is her duty and is critical to the defense of Hyrule.  Zelda is upset and it’s clear she has lost faith in her own ability and is looking for this as an alternative way to save Hyrule.  But the King is stern and demands that she waste no more time with the technology or the scientists, and forces her to focus on her study.

I proceed to enter the tower that was in front of me and in the memory photo.  The tower is blown apart, there’s a section of wall and ceiling missing, and a hole leading down into the next floor below, where I can see a powerful looking moblin sitting, waiting for someone to come by.  He is armed with a powerful looking two handed sword.  I don’t want to mess with him, but I want the sword.  So I hit him in the head with an ice arrow, freezing him, then jump down and hit him with the Master Sword, doing a ton of damage to him before he recovers enough to try to counter attack.  His attacks mostly miss, swinging over me, and I take him down without too much trouble. The word he has is an Edge of Duality, with an attack bonus, which makes it one of the more powerful swords I’ve encountered in the game, but only comparable to the Savage Lynel and Royal Claymores that I already have.  So, worth picking up, but not next-level.

I explore the area more fully, and find a second diary that Zelda kept, which talks more about her feelings about Link. It is revealed that she initially was hard on him, but came to regret her abuses toward him, and admired his stoic calm.  The diary entries seem to hint that she has stronger feelings for him as well, but doesn’t explicitly say it in so many words.

This part of the castle is cut off form the rest by collapsed ceilings and so the way I came is the only way in or out.  

I decide to depart the castle, still haven’t found the Hylian Shield, but not sure where I will find it.  But I have a feeling it will be somewhere in the castle.

Right now, though, I want to return to Kakariko village and see Impa, because the Adventure Log says I should do that after finding the 12th memory photo.

I climb to the top of the tower that hosuses Zelda’s study, and launch off of it to glide out from the castle, so that I’ll return to the normal overworld map and can transport to Kakariko village.

I go there and talk to Impa, and she tells me that there is one more photo for me, one more memory to find, and I’m now ready for it.  She shows me a painting on the wall of her house, and says that when I find that location, that will be where I’ll regain the last of my memories.

The area is not easy to figure out, but Impa says it’s about half a day’s travel from here, and I think it’s probably a good bet that I’ll find the memory spot on the road between Kakariko village and Fort Hateno.  The mountains, fields, and Guardians littering the ground in the photo look reminiscent of that area.

I head out from Kakariko and grab a horse, and take it up the road.  I get to the ruined wall of Fort Hateno, and look around, but the contours of the landscape do not look quite right, and I have a hard time orienting myself with the photo, and can’t tell if I’m in the right spot or not.

I decide to continue along the road all the way to Hateno, and then ride back, and try to see if the mountains line up for me like they do in the photo.

I get all the way to Hateno village, and I haven’t felt like I got any closer.  If anything it’s probably nearby the outside of the fort wall, but I just missed it.  

While in Hateno, there’s been this ongoing mystery of these two women who never want to talk to me, and rudely tell me to buzz off when I try to talk to them.  Recalling the eavesdropping that I had to do in Tarrey Town, I sneak behind them and find I’m able to listen in — they talk about the Hateno Tech lab, and a young girl that has been spotted around there by one of their children.  It’s clearly a reference to Purah, who has reversed her aging. No new sidequest or anything like that.

One of the Hateno children talks to me and asks me if I want to see something, so I say yes, and he says “follow me”, and leads me to the sinister statue that I found way early in the game, which allows me to reconfigure my heart containers and stamina meter, for a price.  I’ve never used it, having never regretted my power up choices.

I ride the horse all the way back down the road from Hateno to Dueling Peaks Stables, and board it.  Along the way, I found a few more korok seeds.  There were a couple of korok archery pinwheels, and I expend about 20 arrows claiming two seeds.  And I find an additional seed on the roof of Dueling Peaks Stables, which surprises me because I know I had been up on that roof before, and didn’t notice it earlier.

At any rate, I’ve gotten back over 10 seeds, which means I can take another trip out to Korok Village to see Hestu, and expand my shield inventory one more slot. I do so, and then I transport back to the shrine near Hyrule Castle Prison island, and now the shields have repawned at the offering statues, so I drop my rusty shield there and get another seed.  And then I remember the spiral formation of boulders nearby, which I’d gotten distracted and forgotten about earlier, so I go there, and get another seed.

I also transport back to Kakariko and upgrade my Ancient Helmet.  The Fairy takes me up to Level 3, which means that I’m not quite done upgrading this helmet just yet.  To get to Level 4, I have everything I need but a star fragment, so now I am back to looking for shooting stars at night to hopefully find one more.

Once I do that, I can probably buy an ancient short sword to show the kid at Hateno village, and then the only things left in the game for me to do that I care about will be finding the Hylian Shield and the final memory.

Then I can beat Ganon again and see if I get a better ending this time than Zelda asking Link if he really remembers her.

Zelda: BOTW Diary (86)

I need to fight a Lynel or two in order to get enough Lynel Guts to upgrade the Barbarian Armor set to its maximum potential, and I need Ancient Cores so I can complete the max-level upgrade for the Ancient Helmet, which will max out my Ancient Armor suit.

The Lynels will be easier to finish up quickly, because they’re more reliable in their loot drops, so I start with them.  

First, though, there’s a few korok seeds that I discovered, that I learned about through watching a youtube video where someone happened to collect it.  There’s these fallen tree logs here and there all over Hyrule, and I’ve noticed an immense acorn inside of them.  Not knowing what they were, I figured at first that it was a forage item or perhaps a korok seed, but I couldn’t figure out how to collect it.  I’d walk up and press A to examine/pick up the acorn, but nothing would happen.  In one of my earliest encounters with one of these logs, I remember trying to blow it up with a bomb, and nothing happening.  I also tried swinging a weapon at it, and nothing happened.

In the video I watched, the player shoots an arrow at the acorn, and it reveals a korok.  

I’ve been all over the continent and have probably seen a dozen or more of these logs, in just about every region that has trees.  I can’t remember all the locations, but they’re quite common.  If I’d known, I could have collected a lot of additional korok seeds.

I’m at a stage in the game where I have little need for them any longer, as I’ve maxed out my bow and melee weapon inventory slots, and I don’t really need all the shield slots.  But I still will collect any korok seed that I come across, and I enjoy finding them. As dumb as it is, this is one of the things in the game that I actually enjoy the most.

I don’t know what it is; they’re not too hard to find, and the puzzles are mostly very easy.  I just like spotting them, recognizing that they are a korok puzzle, and solving it. It’s a thing to do, a little reward for fully exploring the world, for visiting a hard to reach spot, and probably about 80% of what I actually do during my BOTW sessions.  The game is literally a near-endless scavenger hunt for forage materials and korok seeds, where you are periodically harassed by weak, minor enemies, and occasionally you find a nice weapon.

Based on the volume of the game that they take up, korok seeds are it, man.  All the shrines, the divine beasts, the memory photos, combat, and defeating Ganon are like a little sliver of the pie chart.

I can remember for certain at least two locations where I had seen these logs: up on Tabantha Snow field, in a grove of trees, and on top of the hill by the ruins of the old Colosseum.   There’s nearby Lynels in both places, so it works out perfectly.

I transport out to Tabantha first, hike out to the log, and collect the seed.  Then I find the Lynel and run up to it and do battle.  I have an alright fight with it, but it only drops one Lynel Guts, and I still need one more.

There’s a second Lynel in Tabantha Snow field, up along the northern edge of Hyrule, patrolling the road leading to the North Lomei Labyrinth. Well, normally there’s a second one, but I can’t seem to find him.  So, I guess the Colosseum it is, then.

I transport to the nearest shrine, the northernmost one on the Great Plateau — in fact, I think the very first shrine I ever visited in the entire game — and glide down from the Plateau to the road leading to the Colosseum.  Walking up along the east side of the Colosseum, I spot a couple of Hylians fighting some Bokoblins, and, because it’s the right thing to do, I run to their aid, slaying the monsters and make sure they’re alright, before I go on to do what I came to do. I’ve saved this couple several times before, and they are grateful once again.

I also happen to spot a circle of rocks that is a telltale sign of a korok puzzle, and see no korok there, meaning I haven’t found this one yet.  So I take a brief detour to take care of that, and then move on.

I head up the road to the ruined Colosseum, and as I reach the bridge, I’m attacked by a Yiga bowman, who I dispatch quickly and efficiently.  Then I cross the bridge.  Rather than go into the Colosseum directly, I veer to the right of the main entrance, to check out the grove of trees and see if there’s anything good that I may have missed on my previous visit here.  I find some forage stuff, and maybe a korok seed under a rock, I forget, and then I climb up the hill, until I’m above the Colosseum, and I find the korok acorn log, shoot it, and get my other korok.

Then I glide down to the Colosseum, and do a mid-air headshot on the Lynel as a surprise attack.  I try to run up to mount him, but accidentally hit him while still on the ground one too many times, and lose my window of opportunity to get a successful mount.  

Somehow, this time, my timing and reflexes are spot on, and I manage to headshot this Lynel repeatedly, and reliably.  He still manages to get in a hit or two on me, but I have one of my best Lynel fights ever, and don’t need to take a heal meal break in the middle of combat this time.  I think that’s a good accomplishment.

Of course, it helps a great deal that I’m wearing a nearly maxed-out Ancient Armor suit, which has some of the highest overall protection rating in the game.  Still, there’s no mistaking that I’ve improved my skill with practice as I’ve fought more of these things, and am starting to get decent at it.

This Lynel drops enough guts and hoofs and horns that I am now all set to finish upgrading the Barbarian suit, and now the only thing remaining for me to do in terms of armor upgrades is collect 4 Ancient Cores so I can max out the Ancient Helm.

I know Guardians are plentiful in central Hyrule near the castle, and I’m directly south of there, so I start hiking out, hunting Guardians.  

Somewhere around Hyrule Garrison Ruins I encounter my first two Guardians of the night, and defeat them handily with the Master Sword.  With the Ancient Armor suit bonus, Guardians don’t do a lot of damage to me if they do manage to hit me, but as long as I see them coming and get in the first strike, I’m pretty good at killing them without taking a hit.

It’s easy:  Get in close, using cover so they can’t see you if you can.  Then pop out and blast them in the eye with your bow, run up and start chopping.  Go from leg to leg, 1-2 hits will cut a leg off and it’ll drop a spring or a screw.  Each leg you cut off disrupts it further, and makes it less mobile and if you’re real lucky you’ll knock it over onto its side and expose the underbelly, where you can hit it in complete safety, unless it manages to right itself.  If it recovers enough to start targeting you again with its super-laser, just back up a couple steps and nail it with another arrow to stun it again, and continue bashing it until it blows.

As long as you can take them on one at a time, this is a pretty safe tactic and works very well.  If there’s more than one in an area, attacking them while they’re at the farthest point from each other is best, and if you can, doing it so that you can situate yourself on the other side of cover so that the second Guardian can’t target you, and ideally so that it won’t even know you’re there until you’re done with the first Guardian is ideal.  If there’s no cover, stun the first one and use its body for cover, standing on the opposite side, keeping it between you and the second Guardian, and destroy it, then turn your attention to stunning, disabling and destroying the second Guardian.

I fight my way north, getting up around the Quarry Ruins, and have taken down 5 or 6 Guardians, and none of them has dropped a single Ancient Core.

In the Quarry Ruins area, my shrine sensor picks up a nearby shrine, and I head in its direction, finding it in a low depression, nestled in the hollow between a couple of hills.  I enter it, and it’s a Minor Test of Strength combat trial. This one is easy.  I equip one of my ancient weapons and test out how it works, and when you pair the Ancient arms with the bonus you get from the Ancient Armor suit, it amplifies their damage.  I think it only takes 7 hits to take out this shrine Guardian.

Still no Ancient Cores, but now I have a 3rd Spirit Orb, which means just one more and I can max out my heart meter.

I haven’t really been up in this part of Central Hyrule much before, and the only other time I was in this area, I had my first encounter with the flying helicopter drone Guardians, learned how dangerous they were, and that they were to be avoided at all costs, and never returned to the area.  Now, though, I’ve dealt with them a few times and know that as long as they don’t see me, I’m completely safe from them.

I explore the area a bit further, find a few more korok seeds, a bunch of forage materials, and an interesting korok puzzle.  There’s a small island near the castle, on the west side of it, called Castle Town Prison, where there are some ruins, and among the ruins are three statues with offering bowls, which I’ve seen a few other times in different regions. Usually you put apples in the bowls, and it summons a korok.  This one, two of the bowls have a rusty shield covering them; the third is empty.  I guess that I need to put a third rusty shield in the bowl for the third statue to get my korok seed, but I don’t have one in my inventory.  Perhaps there’s one lying around here nearby somewhere.  I try dropping one of my shields from my inventory, but it doesn’t work.  So maybe it has to be a rusty one.

Just to be sure, I try moving the two rusty shields, and put apples in all three bowls, and nothing happens.

I mark it on the map with a stamp in order to return to it later.  At the moment, I have over 10 korok seeds, so I can go to Hestu and have him expand my shield inventory slots so I can carry one more shield, so I can pick up a rusty shield if I find one and bring it back here.

I transport to the Korok village to do the shield inventory upgrade, and then transport back to the nearby shrine that I had just cleared earlier, and hike it back to Castle Town Prison.  This time, I find a rusty shield some distance away from the three statues, along with a few other rusty weapons.  But when I go back to the statues, the original two rusty shields are missing.  By picking them up to move them, I think I triggered the item management routine in the game that deletes discarded items that you drop when you leave an area, rather than store the location data for everything you’ve ever dropped in the game.  This will reset eventually, if I travel far enough away from the region and wait a day.  So I’ll have to wait for that, I guess.

On to hunt more Guardians and hopefully pick up a few Ancient Cores.  I’m so close to Hyrule Castle, I decide to investigate the outer castle walls and it’s a good choice, because there are beaucoup Guardians all over the place, both fully functional ones and disabled ones, and a few dead hulks.  There’s also the occasional Lizalfos or other monster, not to mention the odd Keese or Chuchus.  I also have to keep an eye out for the flying Guardians, so I keep out of their field of vision.

There’s a lot of stuff strewn about in the ruins, as well as treasure chests to find, and I spend a good hour or more exploring the outer ruins just south of Hyrule Castle, fighting Guardians at every opportunity, but none of them are dropping any Ancient Cores.  I’ve probably fought a dozen of them, and am getting skunked.  It makes me wonder if Ancient Cores are a special drop that only happens for certain specific Guardians, or if I’m just having a run of terrible luck.

As I make my way through the Castle Town Ruins area, I start seeing patches of Calamity Ganon Goop, with eyeballs that I have to shoot with an arrow in order to clear the path so I can proceed.  I’ve been fighting Guardians and using a lot of regular arrows for this, plus the Lynel fights, which consume a lot of arrows in their own right, and I’ve fired off somewhere around half of the 150 arrows that I had when I started this session.

To my surprise, I find a couple more korok seeds among the ruins of Castle Town.  I wouldn’t have thought that they would occupy this area, so close to Ganon, and so ruined and unnatural, but there are a good five or six that I’ve found here and there.

Before I know it, without really meaning to, I’m at the castle gates, and when I get a little too close, it triggers a cutscene to signify that I’m starting the final part of the game where I am to destroy Ganon.

I didn’t really plan on doing this tonight, but I figure, OK, let’s see what this is like, and rather than teleport out, I proceed further in.

The map changes from the overworld map to a map of the castle itself, similar to the maps that they have for the Divine Beasts.  But this map has nothing that I can manipulate, no switches to activate, just a path to the center where I’ll face Calamity Ganon.

I wonder if I can do it. I’m nearly fully maxed out in power, so it’s really more a question of do I have the skill and can I figure out what I need to do to overcome the obstacles, and how difficult the boss fight is, and if there’s any tricks to it.

So far the boss fights in this game have all been very similar to one another, and all have been only moderately difficult at best.  I had a harder time with fighting Guardians and Lynels than I did with any of the four Divine Beast boss fights, or the Yiga clan boss fight.  And mostly that was because I had a short life meter, next to no armor, weak weapons, and no understanding of how to exploit their attack patterns.  Once I figured out those things, and boosted my power through finding better equipment and powering it up, it’s been much easier to deal with any enemy in the game through direct combat.

The castle is actually a pretty well defensible fortification.  There’s a long, winding path from the main gate that I have to fight my way through, frequently exposed to fire from Guardians and Guardian-like turrets along the way.  In a lot of cases, the only way forward is through a direct frontal assault, and simply tanking through the damage the Guardian lasers dish out as I run up to them with no cover to shield me, and heading on a direct vector straight at them, so unable to dodge their blasts effectively.

Fortunately, the nearly maxed-out Ancient armor protects me very well against the blasts, although their knockdown effect and recovery from them does make it very difficult to proceed in one or two spots.  The worst of it is when I’m in a crossfire zone, taking incoming fire from two directions, and can’t deal with both of them.  There, I have to find cover somewhere, situate myself and figure out the least dangerous way to get close enough to one of the Guardians to take it out of commission with a flurry of up close attacks, and then usually I can just run past the other Guardian, and get out of its field of fire.

There’s a few waterfalls along the path, and these are shortcuts if I want to use the Zora armor suit to swim up the falls.  This helps me to bypass a few Guardians and avoid some tough spots.

Along the way, there are two Gate Houses, both of which contain a fierce looking dark grey Lynel.  These gate tower rooms have less space, which I think gives the Lynel a bit of a disadvantage, since they’re less able to do their running charge attacks on me, which means I have an easier time targeting with arrows to get a headshot stun in on them, setting up the mount attack and finishing it with mid-air bow headshots.

The first Gate Tower Lynel fight goes really well, I keep it off me and stun it repeatedly, en route to a very capable victory, and I hardly take any damage from it. 

 

After the first Gate Tower, the way branches, and I decide to take the left fork.  This actually is a longer route, but by the time I realize that I’m too far down it, and decide to just continue on and see it through.  I’m on a narrower path that wraps around the back of Hyrule Castle, and eventually will come back around to the front, where I’ll end up pretty close to where I would have been had I taken the more direct path to the right. 

But since I’m taking the scenic route through the whole game as it is, I don’t mind.  I’m not exactly trying to 100% this game, but I don’t want to skip stuff that’s optional and miss out on anything cool.

I get around to the rear of the castle, and reach a point where I get pinned down by a crossfire situation.  I duck behind a corner and get cover, and I figure if I want to continue on this path, I can either run around the corner and do a frontal assault on the Guardian turret, or I can maybe try climbing up the wall and see if maybe there’s any kind of shortcut, or if not, it’ll afford me a way to get a bit closer when I take down the turret that’s blocking the way.

But then, I notice an open doorway to the side, at appears to be a way into the castle itself.  Or maybe it’s just a minor outbuilding, but in any case, I should check it out and explore it.  No doubt there will be some good weapons, and even if not, it’s not like they’ll have Guardians inside, so if there’s anything in there to fight, it’ll likely be easier to take down.

I notice as well that the Master Sword has been holding up very strongly throughout this; I’ve fought a ton of enemies with it and it hasn’t run out of power yet.  It’s glowing, and its damage rating is doubled, from 30 to 60.  This is what it was meant for, obviously. 

I dash across the path, exposing myself to Guardian fire briefly, but make it to the entrance and get inside before the Guardians are able to get off second shots, and I manage to dodge their first blasts by sprinting and jumping to change my speed and direction just as they’re about to fight, like I learned to at the Forgotten Temple.  

Entering the building, I walk down some steps and find myself in what looks like a library that has seen better days.  There’s bookshelves, books, tables, and chairs, but everything is in disarray.  I encounter about 6 or 7 lizalfos in this area, but they are no match for me with my full-power Master Sword cutting them down in 3-4 hits, and they barely do more than register that I’m there before they go down.

I’m honestly a little disappointed that their power level isn’t greater, or that their aggression level/AI isn’t tougher.  But at the same time, if I think about it like it’s a real life or death battle, not a game, then I’m glad that I’m at a power level that dominates these enemies and makes defeating them an easy matter.

I feel truly powerful.

On one of the book tables, I find a book that is readable; I read it, and it’s the recipe book for the Hylian royal cooks to make a cake.  I wonder whether this is the cake that the sick girl in Tarrey Town wants, or whether it’s the recipe that the man at the stable wants to try.  

If I wasn’t busy saving the world from the ultimate evil, I’d just transport out of here right now and check on both of those leads.  But I’m so close to the final boss, I think realistically this should not be a priority right this minute.

I take screen caps so I can go back and read the recipe later, and move on.

Out of the library hall, I enter a corridor, where I fight some more lizalfos and a few moblins.  There’s a long hallway with some bombable walls, which I bomb, and they open up into chambers where I find some hidden weapons.  Most of these are rusty, a few are decent stuff, if I needed it, which I don’t, and one or two are new items that I’ve never encountered previously:  a new class above the Royal-level weapons, for Royal Guards.  They look similar to the Royal weapons, but have a dark grey color scheme, and do higher damage, but have less durability.  I pick them up but they do not last very long, only a moster or two.  Honestly, the Master Sword is more than enough here, and if it ran out of energy, I’d be fine with my other 15 weapon slots filled with Royal Claymores, Savage Lynel Swords, and elemental greatswords and spears.

At one point, I enter through a large double door and enter a banquet hall, where there are four moblins. They seem to be extremely dim-witted moblins, for they do not respond to my entrance, and barely put up any fight at all when I start hitting one of them.  The others do nothing, and just seem to wait their turn for me to slaughter them.  I have to give the game designers poor marks for this encounter, this is far less challenge than I should be facing in the final battle, and it’s a letdown to just bash a dumb opponent who doesn’t do anything but stand there being a target.  To be fair, they’re not completely inert, but they’re so sluggish and lethargic.  I can run up to them and they don’t seem to take any action at all until I hit them, which seems to wake them up.  Unfortunately, after the 2-3 hit combo that I dish out with the master sword, they’re a sliver of life bar away from death, and knocked over.  Maybe it starts to make a move like it’s going to try to stick me with their spears, but my follow up attack interrupts and they drop.  It’s pathetic.

Nintendo, I know I’m nearly maxed out in power, but I still want a challenge.  I want it to feel like I needed to spend all this time accumulating all this power.  I should have a somewhat easier time than someone who comes to fight Ganon early, without getting all the power that I’ve accumulated, but if I come in late with a lot of extras that I didn’t need to get, scale up the difficulty a bit so that it’s a decent challenge.  It’s fair; players who rush to the final battle catch Ganon’s minions before they’re able to prepare; someone like me who plays though the whole game and takes his sweet time getting to this point, well they’ve had plenty of warning that Link is back, and they should have had time to make preparations, work out, sharpen their weapons, send for reinforcements, whatever.

I discover an exit in the middle of the banquet hall which leads me back to the outside, and I find myself back at the front of Hyrule Castle, nearby the second Gate Tower.  I enter, expecting to be shut in with another dark Lynel, and am not disappointed.

The second Gate Tower fight goes rather poorly for me, as I can just not connect with the bow for a headshot for some reason.  Both Gate Towers also happen to be covered in Calamity Ganon Goo, with a mouth that issues forth flying skulls that become a problem as they close in and take priority when I try to target my enemy, making it all the more difficult to attack or defend against the Lynel, who is by far the primary threat.  I’d like to just ignore the skulls, but the targeting priority keeps focusing on them for me, and for some reason I have a hard time hitting them as well, so I end up wasting a lot of attack opportunities hitting nothing, while the Lynel continually bashes me and knocks me down.

I have to eat 3-4 fruit meals to recover my health, and start getting frustrated.  I’m also running way low on normal arrows.  Eventually, I just kindof give up on trying to fight properly, and instead decide to just tank my way through the fight, taking the damage and stand toe to toe with the Lynel and deal as much pain as I can between knockdowns, and heal myself with snacks as needed.  It’s not at all a skill based way to win, but it works through sheer brute force.  By the time it drops, I’m down to my last 7 normal arrows.  Fortunately, I happen to have huge stockpiles of fire, ice, electric, and bomb arrows, well in excess of 100 of each variety, and in some cases closer to 200, plus four ancient arrows.  I haven’t really been using the elemental arrows for the last month, plus, other than when they are called for (such as in the Divine Beast entrance missions) and have been mostly stocking up on them.  So I’m pretty well prepared to deliver some heat.

After this fight, it’s not much further to get to the inner keep where Calamity Ganon waits for me.

I reach the threshold of the keep, and take a moment to pause and reflect on where I’m at in the game. Am I sure I want to go in there?  Do I really want to leave the last few things on my to-do list unfinished?  But I’ve come this far, and this is after all what the entire game leads up to.  Surely, I should press on and take on the final boss.  But will I win?

I step forward, and this triggers another cutscene, with a big, dramatic reveal of Calamity Ganon. He’s a spider-like demon with a face that resembles Ganondorf from other Zelda games, but more monstrous and demonic than humanlike.  He has a huge sword in his right arm, and his left arm is a laser cannon not unlike those used by the Guardians.  And, it’s tough to recall the details, but it seems like he has maybe 4 or 6 arms, probably 4 or 6 legs as well, and maybe some kind of abdomen weapon, like a stinger or a tail mounted gun, or something.  He’s all spewing fire and glowing with energy and calamity goo, and most of the time I’m looking in his direction, he’s shrouded by explosions from my bomb arrows and smoke.

I’m not really clear on how to fight this battle, and to the game’s credit, it doesn’t offer me any real obvious clues, or put on-screen instructions telling me what to do.  I have to figure it out.

Before the fight even begins, the four Hyrule Champions let forth a blast from the Divine Beasts, which weaken Calamity Ganon, dropping his health down by half.  Well, that’s awfully nice.  Thanks, guys!

It’s not like it’s a terribly difficult thing to figure out, but fighting Calamity Ganon is basically a lot of the same “shoot in the face with an arrow, then run up and wail on them with the sword” that I’ve had to so with pretty much every other boss-like fight:  the Hinox, the Lynel, the Divine Beast bosses, they all have this familiar pattern. 

I think a little more variety would have been nice, to keep the player guessing and keep them challenged. 

So, basically, I equip my Savage Lynel Bow x5 with Bomb arrows, and launch volleys to the face, and they do decent damage in their own right, and occasionally I’ll get an opportunity to run in and hit him with the Master Sword, if he falls to the floor stunned or something. 

When he gets down to around 1/8th of his lifebar, I notice that my attacks no longer seem to be doing damage, and so I realize after a while that I must need to do something else.  I’m starting to panic a little bit now, because his attacks are pretty hard to dodge, and I keep getting lit on fire.  They’re not hurting me too much, and I have plenty of food, but if I get stuck on figuring out how to damage him beyond this point, none of that is going to help me.  So I need to figure this out. 

I look around to see what I can figure out about his attack routine, to see if he’s opening himself up at a critical point in his windup, when I’m supposed to dash in and hit him. Or maybe I’m supposed to reflect his attack back at him.  Or maybe there’s something in the room that I can use against him.  Or if all else fails, look for the glowing weak point, and try to hit that.  These are common boss fight tropes.

Zelda is giving me advice and encouragement as well, but it’s not quite handholding instructions telling me exactly what to do.  But she’s using her powers to contain Ganon, or weaken him, or whatever, and she can’t do it forever, so she needs me to hurry up and finish him. I’d like to do this as well.

I continue to try to dodge and buy time, hoping to observe some clue that I can use to figure out what I must do to continue dealing damage. I’m getting sick of being set on fire, so I down a meal and a fire resistance elixir, the one time in the entire game I’ve bothered to use an elixir to buff my power up.

I notice that when Ganon unleashes his firey laser blast, a lot of the ground around Link burns for a few seconds, resulting in updrafts.  So I reason that I’m probably supposed to take to the air for this part of the fight and hit him from the air with arrows, maybe from a high angle I’ll see some part of him that is an obvious target.  

I try this, and I do manage to get airborne, but I don’t know that it really helps.  I shoot at him and there’s a lot of explosions from the bombs, so it’s hard to see what actually happens, and what part of him I actually hit.  But it doesn’t seem to be getting him past the quarter mark, and I need to come up with something else.

So the next thing I do, I try running in close, and then unleash an Urbosa’s Fury on him.  This does definitely do damage, and knocks him down to the ground, so I can stab him in the face as much as possible and hopefully get the rest of his life bar to turn black.

One or two Urbosa’s Furies, followed up with as many sword strikes as I can manage, seems to do the trick.

There’s another cutscene, an elaborate death sequence, and then Ganon’s final form is unleashed:  Dark Beast Ganon.

Link is teleported outside of the castle, and Ganon transforms into a gargantuan quadropedal monster, something resembling a cross between a bull and Godzilla.  

There’s a horse here, for some reason, and not one of my own horses, just some random horse. I presume it’s supposed to be Epona, Link’s Official Horse since Link started riding.  Zelda drops a special bow for me to use, called the Bow of Light.  I run forward and grab it, and it’s a pretty damn spiffy bow.  It does more damage and has more range than any bow I’ve ever contemplated.  It must be just the trick.

I run back over to the horse and mount it, and we’re apparently well acquainted already.  Just exactly where this horse came from is never explained.  I kick him into high gear and we mostly just watch from a safe distance as Dark Beast Ganon makes angry faces and spews death beams out of his facial orifaces.  Thankfully they do not appear to be aimed at me or the horse, but are kindof just spewing indiscriminant rage and destruction around the world at large.  

It seem like these attacks are probably capable of destroying entire sectors of the map at a time, so maybe I should treat this situation with some sense of urgency anyway.

OK, so the idea is I gotta run around with the horse, Zelda will do her thing, causing some glowing spots of vulnerability to appear on the Dark Beast Ganon, which I then have to shoot with the bow.

This is actually super easy to do.  Ganon never really comes close to hitting me, and my main challenge seems to be to remember to control the horse, to keep it reasonably close to pointed in the general direction of Dark Beast Ganon, so that I don’t have to contort myself at too strange an angle to nail his glow spots with the bow.

He has glow spots on his left and right sides.  And a glow spot underneath.  And then he has one on the top, and to get at that one I do have to ride up a wind updraft created by the heat from Ganon’s attacks.

Then finally, there’s one final spot, an eyeball that appears on his back, and opens and closes, and is only vulnerable when it is open.  So I wait for it to open, and shoot it once, and then that’s that.

Honestly, it’s one of the easiest boss fights I’ve ever had.  I did it on the first try.  It’s not Kid Icarus easy, but it’s not hard.

Ganon is defeated, and Hyrule is saved.  At least what parts of it were not incinerated by the 20-minute barrage from Dark Beast Ganon.  It seems to be implied that Hyrule is going to be just fine now.

The King of Hyrule’s spirit appears, along with the four Champions, for a final goodbye and thanks.  Zelda asks Link if he really remembers her.

The end.  Fade to black.  Roll credits.

I never liked Donkey Kong

There. I said it.

Donkey Kong is the foundation of a modern business empire, a cultural cornerstone, the genesis story of the Marioverse. Not liking Donkey Kong is something akin to blasphemy. I gave it a shot. I wanted to like it. But I just never liked it.

I feel like I am about to regret one quarter just looking at this screen capture.

I first played Donkey Kong when it was new, in the Arcade, on Atari, and ColecoVision, and I never considered it one of my favorites. It was a smash hit when it came out, sold tens of thousands of arcade cabinets, swallowed hundreds of millions of quarters, sold millions of cartridges on home consoles, and been ported to just about every console of its generation and the next few after. It was groundbreaking, both technically and in terms of game mechanics and narrative.

I recognize all of that, and I still don’t care for the game.

This isn’t merely a statement of opinion or taste; I don’t enjoy playing Donkey Kong, and I don’t find it to be a particularly well-designed game.

Let’s talk about that.

For sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the first screen.

How high can you climb?

Donkey Kong is very difficult and unforgiving. Part of its difficulty stems from the tight window for clearing dangerous obstacles, and the narrow clearance for successful jumps. But much of it comes from design choices that tend to make the game feel unfair.

Jumping

Jumping is the key mechanic around which the whole game is based. Yet, the jumping mechanic is rough. When you jump, you can’t change direction or height, so you’re committed to the path of the jump until you land. This makes jumping risky and hard. When you make a mistake, there’s no second chances. You know you’re going to die, and there’s nothing you can do but watch and wait for it.

You can’t jump very high — just the exact height to clear a barrel or fireball, and the exact distance to clear two barrels if they’re right next to each other… barely. Miss a jump by a little bit and you’re dead.

On the first screen, some of the ramps look like they might be close enough together to allow Jumpman to jump up to the next platform from the one below, but that is not permitted. You can only ascend to the next platform by climbing a ladder.

Not that you’d normally ever want to, but you can’t jump down from the edge of a ramp to the one below, either — the height is not great, but it will still kill you.

If you jump off a platform, you die if you fall just a short distance. Jumpman can’t survive falling any farther than the peak height of his jump.

Ladders

You can’t get off a ladder until you get allll the way up to the top of it, or allll the way to the bottom. Very often, you’ll think you’re there, and try to move left or right, only to find that you’re still locked onto the ladder and unable to move. A better design would have been to treat horizontal joystick input as continuing Jumpman’s previous climbing direction, moving him the rest of the way up/down the ladder until he is clear.

There’s no jumping from a ladder, either. Allowing this would make the game play feel less stiff, and give the player greater control and flexibility.

Some of the ladders are broken, turning the ladder into a deadly dead-end. You can climb up them, but only get part-way. At the top, barrels rolling by below you will still hit you and kill you, even though you’re off the ground. It’d be nice if the game gave you a break and decided there was enough clearance that you could be safe here. And a barrel that decides to roll down from the platform above and take the ladder path will also kill you. You’re stuck on the broken ladder until you backtrack down and get off. If you could jump off the ladder, or jump to clear the gap where the ladder broke, you’d have one more option, open up possibilities, and it would make the game feel a little more fair.

Hammer

The Hammer power-up allows Jumpman to fight back against the barrels and fireballs that are his bane, and earn extra points. But this comes at a cost.

Jumpman can’t climb ladders with the hammer, and cannot jump. This means he is stuck on the platform where he grabbed the hammer, for as long as the hammer persists.

The hammer is a temporary item, which runs on a timer that ends after a few seconds, but without warning. You can be right about to smash a barrel when suddenly the hammer disappears, leaving you defenseless and no time to jump out of the way. And you have no choice but to die. This feels unfair. To fix this problem, the game should give the player a cue to let them know that their hammer time is about to expire — blinking or an audio signal would be helpful. And maybe if the game detects that Jumpman is facing a barrel, and it is within a “close enough” distance just as time is about to expire, give the hammer enough extra frames before despawning it to allow the barrel to be busted.

Since the levels are timed, and running out of time will kill you, getting the hammer can screw you if you grab it while the timer is running low. Your remaining time gives you bonus points, so being forced by the hammer to wait before you can finish the level can actually cost you points, unless you can smash enough barrels/fireballs to make it worthwhile. It would be better if you could cancel the hammer early. Perhaps hitting the jump button while holding the hammer could make Jumpman throw the hammer, giving you a useful way to cancel it early, and a ranged attack that could come in handy and give you one more option.

The hammer may make you seem invincible, but you can still be killed if a barrel gets past the hammer to touch Jumpman. Most players don’t realize this until they learn it the hard way. A barrel coming down a ladder can be hit by the hammer, but if it swings out of the way and the timing is just wrong, the barrel may hit Jumpman in the head before the hammer swings back up. Likewise, the rolling barrels may approach Jumpman from behind, or roll under the hammer while it is above Jumpman’s head. The swinging of the hammer is automatic, not controlled by the player, so whether the hammer hits the barrel or the barrel gets through is somewhat random. Usually Jumpman will hit, but once in a while the barrel will get through. I would fix this design issue by making Jumpman invincible from the front, but still let him take hits from above and the rear.

Barrels/fireballs

Barrel pathing is pernicious; whether a barrel will go down a ladder or continue down the ramp can’t be known for absolutely certain, but it seems that barrels are more likely to go down the ladder if you’re on the ladder, making using ladders especially deadly. It makes you paranoid to avoid starting up a ladder until any approaching barrels have cleared the ladder you need to climb. To some extent, you can manipulate the barrel AI by your position and direction, as the enemies will tend to take the path that is least advantageous to you. So by standing to one side or the other of a ladder, and facing the right direction, you can often influence the barrel to take the short path or the long path.

Barrel spacing is too random and can often kill you unfairly. Donkey Kong will sometimes roll two barrels at you too far apart to jump both together, and too close together to jump the first one and then immediately jump the next one.

Sometimes DK will toss a barrel that will go straight diagonally down the screen, ignoring collisions with the ramps. These move extremely fast and are unpredictable, making them all but impossible to dodge. If you happen to be in their path, at the top of the screen, you have almost no warning and no time to get out of the way.

Collisions with barrels will kill you with any overlap — even if you’re standing on the platform below, with your head poking above the next level, a barrel rolling along that level will collide with you and kill you. An if it passes below and clips your feet even a little, while you’re on a ladder, it’ll kill you as well. Collision boxes could have been made smaller, to make slight collisions forgiving, and allow for exciting “close calls”.

Why did Donkey Kong succeed?

In 1981, videogames were still quite new and very popular, with great interest in any new title that came out. It was a time we now look at as a golden age for the video arcade, after several years of ascendancy through the black and white era that gave way to the mega-popular blockbusters of the start of the 80’s, like Berzerk, Defender, Pac Man, and Moon Patrol. But only Pac Man made more money than Donkey Kong. What made it such an attraction?

Donkey Kong had the benefit of being unlike anything that had come before it, in terms of play style and technology, yet it had instant familiarity all at once, in the way it echoed the familiar King Kong story from classic cinema. It had colorful cartoon-like graphics. Its sound effects and music were charming. The game play was novel, yet intuitive, despite the brutal difficulty level. And for an arcade game, being extremely difficult was actually a good thing, since it resulted in shorter games, more credits per hour, and thus higher revenue. The challenged appealed to many gamers of the time. And there were not yet other games similar enough to compare against it, so the rough edges in the mechanics weren’t very obvious.

As one of the earliest platformer games, it broke ground and innovated, and for the time that was enough. Despite the shortcomings, rough edges, and unforgiving difficulty, it captured the minds of the public and gave them entertainment.

For all that, though, it just wasn’t for me, and I’ve come to accept that. For my quarter, though, Ms. Pac Man or Zookeeper is a far better play.