Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Awakening - Part III

Welcome to Mabe
Link walks about in the morning sun. The village looks quaint and friendly, if not a bit secluded. The atmosphere is upbeat. He finds a field of grass, a store, a crane game store, an odd shaped weather vane statue, a few houses, all lined by forest edge. To the east the path out of the town is blocked by dense trees and a weighty boulder. To the north he finds the entrance to a forest blocked by tall grass. It looks shadowy and ominous even during the day.
As he walks about the village, he finds the sun moving over head. He makes his way past the town library to the path that leads to the beach he washed ashore on. He finds a small group of children playing ball.  Past them, Marin stands near the gate.
Marin informs him that the monsters of the island have a keen nose and that if he’s been wounded, they’ll zero in on him and continuously attack [bleeding tutorial]. To protect him, she gives him a wooden shield, telling he that he can use it to block enemies and turn aside their attacks. Unfortunately, it’s only a flimsy wooden shield [lvl. 1 shield get!] that she bought at the town store some time ago, so it will break after enough abuse. Marin warns Link to be careful, asking again if he really must leave the safety of the village. She closes the gate behind him, telling him that he’ll be able to pass through if he knocks with his shield nearby.
Link makes his way through the octoroks and pushes his way through to find a battered sword lying amidst what’s left of the ruins of his ship. As soon as he goes to claim his sword, an owl flaps down and starts talking.
The monsters of the islands are acting up and Link is to blame. The owl claims that link has come to wake the Wind Fish, for that is the only way Link can escape the island. It then directs link north, to the mysterious woods. After exploring the beach, link notices the sun dropping and heads back to Mabe village, through which he’ll find the entrance to the next step in his journey.
   So much happens in so little time! The bleeding tutorial requires few lines of dialogue and then the player is left to figure it out on their own once they get in a tangle with some enemies. At this point Link can engage enemies and get a feel for the inventory system. The player can swap both items between the buttons, setting up their control scheme for the problems they have to face. The shield Link is given breaks after about twenty hits, which gives the player a vulnerable defence. The sword Link finds, chipped and battered but functional, deals a quarter damage of what a new sword would.

   This presents a chance that some players won’t notice. The store in Mabe village sells shields, a new sword, a shovel, and three hearts to heal what ails Link. One of the easter eggs of Link’s Awakening was the ability to steal from the store, dashing out the door while the clerk is facing away. Once outside, the game says “Guess what? You got it for free. Are you proud of yourself?” This does save time on some of the high ticket items (bow and arrows especially) but upon entering next time, the clerk electrocutes Link to death, and from then on all the NPCs call Link , not by his name, but Thief. The Awakening keeps the same thing, only adds a bit more injury. Players who steal the level 2 sword (does regular damage, four times what the lvl.1 does) are no longer allowed to buy shields. The clerks recognize Link and tell him to put them back. This gives thieving players the opportunity to increase their attack at the cost of never being able to buy a shield again, as well as the name change and the death once Link walks back into the store.

   One departure from the original that might rely on higher tech would be a day/night system. This wouldn’t be a real time system (like the Game Boy Colour Pokemon games used) but would alter depending on screen navigation. Every dozen or so screen shifts advances the time.Morning shifts into Day, which shifts into Evening, which shifts into Night, which shifts into Dawn, which shifts back into Morning.
Once back in Mabe, Link notices that the sun has set. The kids playing ball are gone, as are the chickens that roamed about the village. Putting it out of his mind, he goes north, towards the entrance to the Mysterious Wood.
   A full day cycle would take between 70 and 80 screen shifts, the average change being between twelve and fifteen screen changes. The cycle is also skewed towards darkness, with three of the five parts presenting worse visibility. The difference and point is to change the types of enemies, give the game a bit more depth and to limit visibility, making light an essential point.

   On the NPCs, it’s good to note that those that Link does encounter already have a bit of the uncanny floating about them. This is lost on the player game logic breeds players who exept the eccentricities of the game world. People who stand in a single spot, quest givers that require specific items with no practical alternative, NPCs who trade meaningless items which work in a linear fashion towards an end prize. Games are littered with these tropes, and Zelda games are no different, creating its fair share. The trading game (which was first featured in this game) is another example of bizarre behaviour we now take for granted.

   The day/night cycle and the dreamscape motif provide for creativity which the game misses, as well as plenty of opportunity to provide dread. New among the wandering monsters of Koholint are:
  • Veils – these appear during the three night cycles. They spawn as small shadows from the scenery, stretching out and pulling Link in (eye pulse pull mechanic), damaging Link upon contact. They often aren’t clearly visible, only drawing Link in when he’s within a certain range, as opposed to an event triggered by entry into its screen. They can’t be killed. If Link equips a light source, he isn’t affected.
  • Morphs – morphing shadows, blobs of inky blackness that cycle through enemies depending on proximity, bleeding effect. Morphs aren’t a cycle of enemies, but a black cloud that shifts between enemies attacks and vague forms. And octorok bullet requires an octorock head, which may sprout if Link passes by within given conditions. These resemble the final nightmare, to a far lesser degree. They run from light, can only be damaged by fire (powder, fire rod, best sword beam, fire/light source).
  • Lesser Nightmares – these are periphery monsters, creatures who act intelligently, provide dread and speak in the same style as the bosses. They’re akin to dungeon-less bosses who lurk behind the scenes, slipping off screen whenever Link gets close by. The first one Link encounters is responsible for stealing Bow-Wow, who Link has to go retrieve in order to gain access to Bottle Grotto, the second dungeon.

   This makes me think that I need to spend some time talking about the Zelda dungeon formula and the new complement of weapons and items Link finds through his journey. Also, the many tiered objectives I haven’t gotten too yet, as well as Link’s journey through the Mysterious Wood to find the Tail Key and make his way to the first dungeon. Part IV coming up.

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