What’cha Been Playin’? March 2017

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Now for something a little different this month. Since Breath of the Wild dominated my gaming time, I only grazed other titles. It wouldn’t make sense to write about Blaster Master Zero and Voez, two eShop games that, according to my Switch, I’ve only spent minutes playing. Or Fire Emblem Heroes and Pokémon Go, which would be mostly complaints anyway.

So those lesser played games will get a brief update, no more than two or three sentences, while Breath of the Wild will see a few paragraphs as I gush about this amazing game. Seeing that my copy of Persona 5 is hitting my mailbox today (two days after release. Thanks, Amazon), expect a similar format for next month’s WBP. There won’t be much else being played.

Blaster Master

Switch claims that I only played mere minute of Blaster Master Zero, but it was closer to 30 or 45 minutes. It’s a neat game that I hope to dig into more after Zelda and Persona since I never played any Blaster Master before and therefore haven’t played anything quite like this.

revelation

Grinding levels and unlocking support conversations remains my primary goal for the time being, as I’m not quite ready to propel myself forward with the story. Little chanced since the last time that I wrote about Revelation, but I still enjoy it. I doubt I’ll have it finished before the upcoming Fire Emblem Echoes, though.

fe-heroes

Intelligent Systems added roughly 20 new characters since the F2P game launched earlier this year, and I unlocked . . . none of them. The cruelty of chance, unfortunately. I continue to play, and I’m happy to report that I have spent a grand total of zero on anything.

Picross 3D Round 2

No additional packs of puzzles are appearing, so I must’ve unlocked them all, but that light at the end of the tunnel is just an illusion. Even after I complete every puzzle, I intend on replaying the ones that I made mistakes on. Picross 3D is just that good, and everyone should play it.

pkmn-go

The app that I used to scan for nearby Pokémon recently died, so I’ve returned to stumbling around in the metaphorical dark. Online maps do reveal Pokémon locations, but they’re dependent on other people and therefore unreliable, yet it’s the best we got. If only PoGo featured an ability to alert players to Pokémon, an improvement over hoping to randomly encounter your desired ‘mon.

Shovel of Hope

This makes my third Shovel Knight purchase, all for Nintendo hardware. Progress through Shovel Knight’s campaign is slow, mostly because I forgot how challenging the game gets during the second half. Fortunately, the Switch’s non-D-Pad buttons aren’t causing a fuss.

Voez

I love music/rhythm games, so Voez caught my attention. Although it’s a port of a mobile game, the free-to-play trappings were removed and every 100+ song is available. The gameplay isn’t terribly original — tap, hold, or swipe the screen when icons reach the bottom — but it’s colorful and the songs are pleasant from the limited time I spent with Voez.

Breath of the

I expected good things from Breath of the Wild based on the trailers and comments from Nintendo, but a piece of me was wary. Skyward Sword was too restricting, rarely allowing players to discover on their own. Fi, Link’s chatty companion, was always at the ready to nudge. I ultimately enjoyed most of Skyward Sword, but wasn’t enthusiastic for more of that. How can Nintendo do a complete 90 degree turn from everything Skyward Sword was? And without hindering the story, one of my favorite aspects of the game?

Sadly, they couldn’t. Not with the story, at least.

Breath of the Wild establishes the central conflict early, but little happens with the plot afterwards. (Full disclosure: I haven’t fought Ganon yet, so I can’t say what transpired during that sequence.) The lack of an active, ongoing story isn’t surprising because it’s something that almost every open-world game struggles with. You can’t keep up the dramatic weight of searching for your infant son in Fallout 4 after spending the next 40 hours doing everything but.

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Instead of finding a way to include more story, Breath of the Wild features “Memories” that reveal the game’s backstory. They’re cute, but hardly compelling. And each of the Divine Beasts features bits of story, but they don’t add to the overarching narrative.

Finding Memories, which involves looking at images and using environmental details to identify specific locations, is among my favorite activities because Nintendo did an excellent job at crafting Hyrule. Landmarks like Hyrule Castle and Duelling Peaks mountains are instantly recognizable, and they’re viewable in many locations across the map, that viewing them in Memory images offers an immediate idea of where I’m searching. Additional details nail down the location further.

One image features the flying Divine Beast to the right of Hyrule Castle. Just by tracking those two objects and their relation to each other, I got a general location. Then I used a river running at the castle’s northeastern side and what appeared to be ruins in a crater of water to figure out the location. And that was so damn fun.

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Naturally, Breath of the Wild isn’t the first game to offer players clues relating to a specific location for them to find. Red Dead Redemption is one example, but that game’s treasure maps can be a little more vague than I enjoy. There’s treasure nearby these two strange rock formations, which in a world as large as RDR’s is about as useful as handing me an image of a restaurant in New York City and saying that it contains treasure.

I’m horrible with recognizing landmarks in Skyrim or Fallout 4. The worlds are too large and the draw distance is too short. Remove the maps and I’d be useless, circling the same forest repeatedly. Is that burned-out car the same burned-out car I walked by already? What about Far Cry 3? Miles of tropical forests, little of it distinct. But thanks to landmarks and a variety of environmental locations, I could play Breath of the Wild without every looking at the map. I’d struggle at times to narrow down my destination, but it’s very possible.

That’s more than I can say about many open-world games.

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A few other thoughts —

Fighting is largely unnecessary. There are moments (in shrines, for instance) where you’re forced into combat, but most enemies hanging around Hyrule aren’t worth the effort. Dropped items aren’t hugely important, and you’re just damaging weapons and shields. So I avoid combat, especially if on horseback.

Speaking of which, I initially hated horses. Then I spent a few hours and a handful of continues taming a white horse related to a quest, endearing me to the beast. I named her Yuki, and she’s become a constant companion whenever I travel a dirt road. That she automatically follows roads makes her quite useful.

I love shrines. Traditional Zelda dungeons are well and good, but I appreciate being able to solve a handful of puzzles and return to the overworld minutes later instead of devoting an hour or more towards massive labyrinths. Nintendo shouldn’t ditch dungeons entirely, but if they intend to make the next Zelda similar to Breath of the Wild (and by recent remarks, they will), I’d be happy with more shrines.

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