Link Play

People love to claim that the Legend of Zelda series is basically the same game over and over again. While this is failing to take into account all of the handheld titles, even the main console entries have enough differences to differentiate themselves.

Still, Nintendo must have really taken that criticism to heart as the Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes is completely different from the classic Zelda mold. The game is more akin to Four Swords and not it’s Gamecube sequel.

While I enjoyed the game, I think it was mostly due to me being a die-hard Zelda fan. The singleplayer mode is hot trash and the weird requirement of three players kind of ruins local multiplayer with just a single buddy. Download Play is very generous, so at least you don’t have to have friends with copies of the game.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I may consider this the weakest Zelda game in the series. That isn’t to say anything is particularly bad about it, save for it’s netcode; I’m mostly just saying that nothing is quite original about it.

Since the game bears a huge resemblance to Four Swords, it’s easy to compare the two games. For starters, you progress through areas that are basically small rooms. There isn’t an overworld or any kind of dungeon exploration; you are placed in an area with some items and small puzzles.

“Puzzles”

Successfully completing the puzzle gets you to the next room and so on until a boss fight. It is fun, but it becomes pretty routine in a very short time. There are stylish touches like some graphical effects, 3D and great music, but without the costume changing mechanic, the game would be a bit dull.

Costumes are what define this Zelda experience. Changing to and fro makes for some great times. Having Link cross dress or putting on a replica of Marth’s outfit is well and good, but unlocking some of the more badass costumes (like Sword Master or Fierce Deity) can make replays and challenges trivial.

Four Swords was incredibly rudimentary in design. While having three friends help you through puzzles was a blast, all of it’s dungeons are randomly generated. At some point, you begin to see repeat room designs and immediately know the solution. I guess that takes awhile, but it also leads to a game that has no distinct or memorable moments.

That game got it’s fun out of being novel. The DSi re-release added some much needed content to spruce up the endgame, but it’s original state is a bit of a throwaway gimmick. Can Zelda multiplayer work? Four Swords said yes.

The sequel, Four Swords Adventures really went to town with the whole concept. You were required to have Gameboy Advance link cables for multiplayer, but each person could be exploring a small room on their own. Main puzzles had players taking divergent paths to find items and culminate in some grand solution.

Or a daring escape!

Everyone emerged from their GBAs and provided the steps necessary; Triforce Heroes doesn’t really have that. I can accept the lack of 4 players, but often times you can beat an entire room by yourself. It makes the concept of multiplayer feel like it was forced upon a different execution of the Zelda formula.

While online play should make up for lacking friends or having differing schedules, Triforce Heroes has some really unstable netcode. Seemingly perfect games can end suddenly for no reason and most people have no idea how to setup a WiFi connection; I’ve had lag so bad that my sword wouldn’t swing for 5 seconds after pressing the attack button.

At least with Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures, you had to be in the same room. It might have limited the chances most people had to play the game (not to mention the outlandish price required for such a feat), but the game worked at all times. Triforce Heroes sometimes fails at multiplayer while simultaneously failing at singleplayer.

The original Four Swords never even had a singleplayer component, but Four Swords Adventures allowed players to summon the extra Link’s in different formations. That kind of gameplay feels akin to some classic Bioware RPGs like Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate. Why the same type of mechanic wasn’t utilized in Triforce Heroes is beyond my comprehension.

Singleplayer has you tapping the bottom screen to switch between dopples of yourself. It makes for tedious progression; every time you get somewhere with one Link, you need to completely stop and redo it for another. The totem mechanic almost seems to come from frustration in solo play rather than any genuine multiplayer advantage.

There is also a rather limited method of communication for online play. You get emoticons that you can press which are supposed to tell other players what to do. They rarely work. There are no icons for “Do not use item” or “Stop”. You just have a generic “NO!!!” to warn players of anything wrong.

Where is the “Stop Dying” button?!

Trying to specify what needs to be done in a given situation to a totally clueless player is an exercise in frustration. You wouldn’t even believe how many times I ended up yelling at my 3DS when a solution came to me in seconds. To watch others shrug and bumble around like a doofus is maddening.

When everything does click into place, Triforce Heroes is fast and fun. I like that there is actual puzzle solving instead of just murdering enemies like in Four Swords. This feels like a compromise between the two previous multiplayer Zelda titles. It also has a vibe similar to Skyward Sword’s upgrades.

I also can’t stay mad at a Zelda game that calls back to the 2D gameplay from yesteryear. People love to worry about how Nintendo has basically forgotten “classic” Zelda, but they still make these games for us to enjoy. They never buried that tried and true game system.

If anything, I think Triforce Heroes has shown me that I just prefer to take my Zelda alone. To me (and a lot of people), Zelda has been about exploring a new world and conquering it’s many dungeons. It’s been about guiding Link through treacherous paths and perilous situations.

Traveling “literally” anywhere.

Sure, sharing that fun is great, but the real joy comes from figuring out a solution and putting it into action. Without the ability to verbalize that to a friend (or get them to read your mind), the game becomes an exercise in patience and insanity.

Having like minded players makes all the difference. With friends who actually understand Zelda (or being in the same room), you can accomplish what is being thrown at you. Local multiplayer saves the day yet again.

All in all, Triforce Heroes isn’t bad. I rather enjoy it. I just don’t know if I’d ever see myself playing through it again.Four Swords exists mostly as a way to kill time on long flights and Four Swords Adventures is an epic journey with friends.

Triforce Heroes kind of feels like a short trip to an amusement park. It’s fun while it lasts, but you really want to get home after you’ve had your fun. It also sucks to have to deal with people who lack common sense.

Forever Alone?

After playing the Rainbow Six: Siege beta for a few hours, I’m not quite convinced that Ubisoft’s decision to axe a single-player campaign was the best choice. This has nothing to do with my own preference for campaigns, mind you, just that the netcode is pure garbage.

My memories of the Rainbow Six series are almost entirely dedicated to the online portions. I loved Rainbow Six: Raven Shield for it’s open-ended structure. It fit perfectly into co-op play and gave great competition to Counter-Strike for competitive play.

I played the hell out of terrorist hunt in Rainbow Six 3 on Xbox with my friend, Corey. He and I eagerly anticipated the expansion, Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, and continued to bounce between the two games in co-op campaign and terrorist hunt for a few years. We just loved experiencing that game style together.

As for the plotlines, I don’t really even recall what any of them were about. A tactical shooter is more about replicating a tense, life and death situation then it is about presenting any thought provoking questions to the player. Just take a look at how muddled the plot is in Rainbow Six: Vegas.

The sequel to that game was almost entirely a prequel. Apparently the first game didn’t make enough sense to enough people, so Ubisoft had to detail where the villain came from (I guess being Russian/Chinese wasn’t enough for Tom Clancy fans).

The Tom Clancy universe of games aren’t really tailored around being solo excursions. Splinter Cell was the first time that going alone made sense. Sam Fisher was a better ghost then the Ghost Squad and his mission was to leave as little a trail as possible. Bringing another player, while fun, wasn’t a requirement.

Even that series got expanded into a multiplayer affair. In the latest game of the series, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the game is markedly improved when in co-op (since the AI is brain dead). It feels excellent to coordinate your attack with a friend.

Even with pointless BS like this.

Enough with Ubisoft games, though. How about the fact that the last gen versions of the upcoming Black Ops III don’t feature a campaign? Well, if not for the price tag, I wouldn’t see this as an issue. From my times working at GameStop, most people didn’t even know Call of Duty had a campaign.

People used to tell me that they would tinker a little with it or plow through the thing on Easy and then forget it existed. Why Activision keeps trying to bolster the campaign is beyond me. Instead of wasting money on putting Kevin Spacey in the game, I think Activision should be boosting the MP up with a larger map count and more modes.

I’m also thinking of one of my favorite shooter franchises, Unreal Tournament. It’s new pre-alpha just released and it’s extremely fun. What doesn’t it have? Any kind of extensive single-player mode. There are bot matches, sure, but nothing in the way of story or character development; the game is focused on delivering the most fast paced and finely tuned multiplayer experience possible.

Having a game forgo a single-player campaign isn’t that big of an issue. To use Hollywood as an example, two of the biggest film releases this year were Max Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2. Both movies didn’t try to appeal to anyone outside of their target demographic.

Men wanted a more action focused film and got just that with Fury Road. Women were dying to have an all female cast be represented in a way that wasn’t sexist or objectified and got that with Pitch Perfect 2. Funny how disregarding a huge portion of the general population worked in those films favors.

There is nothing men can relate to, so let’s just cancel the whole thing. – Stupid Movie Executive, 2015

With Rainbow Six: Siege excluding a single-player campaign, I think Ubisoft is realizing that the main attraction and lasting appeal of the series is online. Now, I’d agree with them under normal circumstances, but this is Ubisoft we’re talking about. They tend to abandon support for their games a few years after release, leaving online a wasteland.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the netcode is currently horseshit in the beta. I’d join matches and the entire game would be littered with pings of 380. I have a 50 MBPS download, so my ping shouldn’t be higher then 40.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with a lot of newer releases; developers rush the game out to meet some arbitrary release date and the lasting appeal suffers. All conversations focuses on the horrible launch and how disappointing the online experience ends up being.

With a single-player mode attached to Rainbow Six: Siege, I think gamers would be more forgiving of any online deficiencies. The game truly marks an arrival of next-generation style gameplay. Destructible environments and particle effects not only make the game looks expensive, but have a tangible impact on the gameplay.

With a strong internet infrastructure, I feel that Rainbow Six: Siege could be a game changer. Without that (which is more then likely going to be the case), I don’t think gamers will stick around. That lack of single-player is going to feel like a wasted opportunity.

For the most part, I feel that a lot of developers should focus more on the strengths of their game’s concepts then on ticking off some checklist for marketability. Just like Unreal Tournament doesn’t need a campaign mode, Rainbow Six: Siege shouldn’t require one.

Remeber how this game had a campaign? Yeah, I don’t either.

Games don’t exist to cater to everyone at all times. If you don’t fit into the mold of what Rainbow Six: Siege aims to do, then just skip the game. Don’t complain that Ubisoft made a bad decision to eliminate single-player. Don’t nag EA to provide an offline option to Star Wars Battlefront when the entire concept was designed with multiple players.

It’s pointless to want every game to be the same. Not all shooters need a campaign mode, just as how not every fucking game needs tacked on multiplayer. We need to stop having developers split their teams into single and multi-player offsets and combine their powers to make the best possible experience they can. If that happens to be multi-player only, so be it.

Splash Damage – Splatoon Demo Impressions

As a self proclaimed Nintendo fanboy, I was optimistic about Splatoon. I saw people playing it at PAX East, but didn’t get a chance to wait in line. While everyone looked elated, I wasn’t sold on the idea quite yet.

When I heard about a demo coming to the eShop, I figured that it would be a great way to experience the game in my own home. Why settle for a calculated and specified demo when I can just have at the game myself?

Nintendo, in their own esoteric way, decided to make the demo active for a few short hours. Instead of a typical weeks long “beta” that would give people a taste of the final build, Nintendo went ahead and included a server stress test in their demo.

Other than that being a clever idea, the limited window of opportunity made me excited beyond reason. Not only did I want to play this, I felt as if I needed to. I was itching all morning to give it a shot (had I realized there was a 7 am time, I would have tried it sooner!).

So I went about my usual Saturday routine of cleaning and volunteering; when I came home, I patiently waited downstairs fiddling around on my 3DS. The 10 minutes before the servers launched were an excruciating wait.

It’s amazing how I’ve written so much without even talking about the game. Nintendo somehow made the prospect of a demo special. I remember a time when having a sample of a game meant you either had to subscribe to a magazine or keep the preview disc that came with your console.

Ah the good ol’ days…

With the advent of the internet becoming integrated into a console, those special times were over. Microsoft allowed you to try out practically every game on the Xbox Live Marketplace via a demo. Sometimes the demos ended up being far better than the final product.

Splatoon‘s Global Testfire made me feel that way. I wasn’t going out and picking up a magazine, but I had to discover the existence of the demo and do some research into the timeframes the servers would be active.

Maybe this is just how Nintendo rolls, but I feel this was a great way to build even more hype over this brand new IP. Nintendo hasn’t really created an original idea in a long time (excluding Codename STEAM), so many people were playing the waiting game.

Without any kind of hands-on, I probably would have dismissed Splatoon entirely. It looked neat, but I’ve fallen out of online shooters as I’ve grown older. I occasionally play Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2, but I don’t frequent them.

Nintendo’s approach to an online shooter is pretty novel. It may not be exactly original, but by removing the emphasis on fragging opponents and giving players a concrete goal in each map, Splatoon feels far more engaging than the usual shooter fare.

Color? IN A SHOOTER?!

The demo (which only ran for an hour) included two levels. They were a bit small, possibly to compensate for the 4 on 4 action, but they felt dense. I haven’t really taken the time to analyze the details of a game’s level design in quite some time, but Splatoon makes it almost essential to success.

With the objective being to cover the whole map in paint, you suddenly become obsessed with figuring out which areas can be covered and how fast you can get to the next point. The best way for success is not only cooperating with your team mates, but in finding areas that are less traveled.

You also can stake out vantage points and camp away. Thankfully spawn camping isn’t a possibility, but players are encouraged to discover safe spots and stick to them. With the central mechanic being squid mode and swimming through paint, even a relatively safe area isn’t 100% guaranteed.

The short time limit on each match made every second count. It was a chaotic scramble to cover your half of the map before the opposing team could even react. It made for exhilarating openers to each battle, even if I played the same map 4 times in a row.

There is also a mini-game during the load screens. While you’re waiting for players to join and the game to cache every file, you get treated to a retro style, Ice Climber-esque game about jumping to the top of a map. It may not be very deep, but it certainly beats staring at a blank screen and wishing for death.

Feels like 1983.

That small little change kept me actively engaged during the downtime between matches. I never had to worry about whether the game would continue or not. I was constantly trying to break a high-score that no one would ever see.

Really, I think Nintendo are on to something with Splatoon. The recent announcement that a lot of the upcoming DLC will be free is just icing on the cake. I may end up picking this game up on day one, a practice I haven’t done in some time.

This demo played out well for Nintendo, in my eyes. It’s also quite unique in it’s execution; a style so decidedly Nintendo that I wouldn’t want it any other way. Hopefully others got a chance to play, but know that Splatoon is shaping up to be quite the game changer.

Split Screen Woes

Multiplayer is definitely not the newest idea in the gaming world and it’s online application isn’t even in its infancy, but I’m really starting to feel angry over the lack of proper split-screen or developers bright ideas to tack them on to single-player games.

Last night, my friend/brother Jim and I sat down with Killzone 3 to try out the Move support. We were skeptical that it would work well, but we figured that, since GameStop has a fairly lenient policy on used games, what the hell? We synced our two wands, booted up the game and were greeted with a lovely message.

“Move is not support in split-screen multi-player. Please connect a dual shock 3.”

Alright, so Guerilla Games lied about that; whatever, no big deal. Move isn’t the end all, be all of first person gaming (and believe me, Killzone 3 bot matches with Move are stupid), so Jim and I just decided to say the hell with it and continue on into the campaign.

Now, I know I complained a tiny bit about Resident Evil 5’s split-screen application, but at least that game kept an aspect ratio of 16:9. Killzone does one better and formats the game to 4:5 or some kind of stupid mash-up of full screen with black bars. It’s one of the ugliest uses of split-screen I’ve ever seen in my gaming career and that covers nearly 20 years!


Best picture I could find. Definitely really awful, though.

It turns out, co-op was a completely tacked on idea at the last second. Sony needed another bullet point to sell their latest shooter and they figured co-op was it. Why there’s no online use or customization of the screen is beyond my feeble brain, but it definitely brought my piss to a boil. Jim was so frustrated at his inability to see anything that he gave up after 3 levels.

While we were lamenting our lack of any kind of current co-op game to play (we can’t keep going back to Borderlands for the umpteenth time), I kept making the joke of, “Well, we can play Dead Space 2 online!” That brings me to a totally separate discussion.

We all know Call of Duty rules the online, first-person gaming scene along with Halo and Battlefield. So why do developers feel the need to tack on a multi-player mode into their single-player game? Granted Dead Space 2 is still a wholly awesome game and worth the price of admission, but think of how much more polished the mid-section could have been if half of Visceral wasn’t being wasted on trying to copy Left 4 Dead.


Who needs skill when I can just statis away?

Bioshock 2 made this same kind of offense. Not only was the single-player game lacking in almost all of the charm and mystery of the first, but its competitive multi-player component was utterly worthless. Laggy battles, poor collision detection, insanely worthless perks and game ending crashes (at least in my experience with the PC version).

On the flip side, we have Bulletstorm. It features a fairly neat co-op mode where you can team up with 3 friends and fend off against waves of enemies. Oh wait; you can’t do that split-screen! This is truly baffling as Epic provides a fairly well done split-screen mode in Gears of War, offering both Horde and Campaign without any sacrifices.

Taking a look at an open world game, why does Saints Row 2 not feature any kind of split-screen support? Maybe it’s due to the underwhelming amount of RAM in current generation consoles, but it’s completely stupid that open world games with co-op modes cannot be experienced on the same console.

Why can’t more developers do something like what Gearbox did with Borderlands; provide the entire game in split-screen and actually make it function? While Borderlands has a vertical split, at least it fills your screen.


Everything is in plain view.

How about Infinity Ward and their co-op mode in Modern Warfare 2? Every mission is playable and fully functional and the screen is perfect. It doesn’t feel like a tacked on idea to sell more copies and, even if it were, it at least doesn’t hinder your ability to see anyone.

While Scott Pilgrim lacked an online feature, at least it’s same couch experience was well made. All characters worked well together and even had some extra functions over their single-player prototypes. Hell, lacking online probably made the offline mode that much better.

As for single-player experiences, what is the need of including a multi-player component? Did we really need to have multiple Isaac’s running around? Was there any want for Bioshock’s powers to be explored with other players? Why not take all those creative ideas and apply those to even better scripted events?


Makes me wonder how well the split-screen will fare in Uncharted 3.

I know this isn’t a call to arms or a very insightful blog, but I’m just sick of seeing multi-player being offered in games and then developer’s half-assing their way through it. Yeah, obviously not every game has awful split-screen or lacks it, but I just want to see a revision like the old days. Give me more Perfect Darks and less Killzones.