[ For what it’s worth, I originally called these “Pleasant Surprises” instead. ]

###

1) The combat uses Z-Targeting, in a way that is very faithful to Ocarina of Time, a game released 19 years earlier. Gone are the waggle strikes and motion control. For someone like me, who grew up playing Ocarina and loved Majora’s Mask, being able to backflip away from an attack and circle around an enemy immediately felt natural – and enjoyable.

2) There is a twisted irony in how Breath of the Wild makes the player appreciate the simple pleasure of outdoor sights, like a sunset over water or a shadow rolling across wide grassy plains. “There’s no greater adventure than simply climbing a cliffside!” says the video game. Seriously though, if I had to describe Breath of the Wild to skeptical non-gamers, I’d tell them it’s like going on a great hiking trail, and there just happens to be treasure chests and monsters along the way.

3) There are enough little canon references and callbacks to prior games that I have to wonder if Nintendo literally had a checklist to make sure they included as much as possible. There are Zelda games that take place in an entirely alternate universe from Hyrule, yet still get hat-tips in Breath of the Wild.

4) Sure, it’s extraordinarily “open world.” But along with the openness of exploration is an openness in play style that came as a pleasant surprise for me. Breath of the Wild is a great walking simulator, if you want it to be. It’s a great stealth-action game, if you want to play it that way. It’s probably a solid third-person shooter, if that’s your thing. Personally, I feel like I’m often playing Breath of the Wild like it’s a Bomberman game. “Hide behind a rock and chuck bombs at a confused foe until they die” is my often my go-to strategy, heh.

5) I’ve said this before, and it’s probably a little insane, but I’m already really looking forward to the next Zelda game, if only purely because I wonder how the hell Nintendo will try to top this. Yet, I remember how amazing Ocarina of Time was for me at the time – yet, in my mind, Majora’s Mask managed to eclipse it. The possibilities are crazy.

6) Third-person action, nuanced inventory management (with expandable slots and ammo conservation), the rising of the undead, locales that span from a quaint village to a foreboding castle… somehow, Breath of the Wild is managing to scratch many of the same itches that Resident Evil 4 does.

7) My wife, a 100% non-gamer, watched me play for a couple minutes the other night while we had a quick conversation. She ended up helping me solve a shrine puzzle. She’s always been an excellent gaming co-pilot when the occasion calls.

8) Breath of the Wild does this really cool thing that, I’m not sure what the game-design terminology is for the phenomenon so, you’ll just have to forgive me for describing clumsily: By having key sites like towers and shrine identified visually, rather than on a given map, this changes the dynamic of the player’s motivation and feelings towards the discovery. First of all, there’s the pleasing “ah ha!” moment of spotting a shrine. But then the process to get there becomes a matter of personal pride. After all, I’m the one who found it! All by myself! And, darn it, I’m gonna get there. Obviously, there’s intentionality behind the towers that usually include a last obstacle before you can climb them, whether environmentally or in the form of enemies. Thinking back, I can say that many of my most memorable, most satisfying moments have been conquering the journey to reach those destinations. The ones I found for myself. It’s a subtle-yet-potent difference in sensation, one that I find myself welcoming with open arms.

###

I am becoming convinced that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great video game.

 

[ Quick reminder: I am still in broadcast-only mode while I play through Breath of the Wild, meaning that while I am posting this publicly, I will not be reading any potential comments yet – nor any tweets, emails, etc. ]

[ Also: SPOILERS AHEAD. This is NOT a spoiler-free sort of thing. The latter part of this post will be detailing specific Zelda stuff, although I am not very far in the game by any means. ]

 

###

 

So. Uh.

This new Zelda game is great.

I am not sure exactly how many hours I’ve put into it so far (nor even how to check, if there’s a way), but I’d estimate that I’ve gotten about 15 hours in since getting the game Friday afternoon. Any other games, creative projects are on the backburner right now – playing Zelda is my go-to activity once the rest of the family is asleep, or I can otherwise sneak some time in.

Writing about the game feels like it would follow a similar route to playing it – I could probably go 2,000 words in any particular direction, and still feel like I have 80,000 more in any number of other directions.

I am going to try to split this post into three parts: Some general spoiler-free impressions of this new Zelda entry, one specific experience I’ve had with the game as I shared it with kids, and then some particular moments from within Breath of the Wild that I’ve really enjoyed.

 

First Impressions (Spoiler-Free)

 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of those games that I would totally respect someone for disliking, because different people enjoy different things and it’s not for everyone. If you enjoy a more linear Zelda, I get that.

But on an objective, stand-from-a-distance basis, it’s just such a well-made game. On a macro level, you can see the effort and intent that went into the big-picture design of it all – then on a micro level, you can appreciate all the tiny details, how every space has been crafted wonderfully.

There is room for criticism, sure. The music is a bit minimalist; if you want a grand adventuring theme to accompany you while you valiantly traverse Hyrule Field, it is not there (but when it does show up contextually, it’s real nice). The graphics… are fine, but as plenty have said, you’re not dealing with super detailed textures or ultra-HD fine-tuned details.

However, this is a gorgeous game. Trying to describe the visuals in text is a disservice. This is a game where I am frequently taking time just to slowly move the camera around and take in the sweeping vistas. It’s a remarkable feat, getting a grand sense of landscape from within an artificial environment. It feels really good.

Also, while Breath of the Wild in many ways surpasses prior Zelda titles in authoritative fashion, you can still prefer differences in things like storyline, or maybe you’re way into the motion controls for the Skyward Sword combat.

Beyond those things, though… it’s just a really solid video game. It’s tough to find any glaring faults, and any further criticisms would feel like quibbling.

I have one gamer friend. He loves the Mass Effect series, greatly enjoyed Witcher III, has gone through phases of Skyrim and World of Warcraft, etc. He’s my go-to for modern-gaming discussion. It was really fun to talk to him about Breath of the Wild, and how it compares to the current gaming landscape.

Basically, I get the sense that Nintendo has put out a AAA-quality product that can hold its own against any other release – with their own particular brand polish (lighthearted writing) and, importantly, decades of built-up associations with the franchise.

Trying to imagine Breath of the Wild as a new, separate IP is an interesting exercise. It’d still be a decent game, sure, but there really is something to be said for Nintendo’s bold choice to say “hey, we can do an open-world action RPG; in fact, let’s do it with the Zelda series.”

About the Switch itself, my friend asked me, “So, you can take it into the bathroom?” That’s funny. I told him it hadn’t occurred to me, but yeah, actually, it would be perfect for that.

Breath of the Wild is also one of those games that I definitely really like, on a deep level, but it’s tough to explain why in a tidy summary. For instance, there are two things that come to mind strongly when I consider why I’m digging it so much:

 

  • Breath of the Wild encourages exploration in a way I have never seen before to an extent that is truly impressive.

The whole game is just a series of standing at Point A, picking a point B to get to, and having a whole adventure just getting there, usually sidetracked by four or five little mini-adventures along the way as you keep seeing little interesting things to check out. Over and over, again and again, the player is rewarded for simply being attentive to the world and checkin’ stuff out.

 

  • Personally, I love how Breath of the Wild poses a challenge on a level both cerebral and visceral.

Prior games in the Zelda canon have gone for this balance before (puzzles are a tradition), but Breath of the Wild achieves a striking harmony that is difficult to describe without putting you through it yourself.

You have opportunities to plan how you approach clusters of enemies, and the more you think of these spaces the more tactical options come to mind. Yet, in the specific conflicts with particularly tough foes, the actual fighting is very satisfying. The Shrine puzzles can be really tricky (there’s one I actually gave up on and stamped on my map to return to later), but whether you’re using your brain or your reflexes, there seems to be a consistent theme of Rewarding in the playthrough.

There is a persistent (constant, consistent) feedback loop of explore, discover, reward – it’s lovely and delightful. It sounds so simple, but is a stark contract to the more overarching “get item, to get to next town, to get to next dungeon” theme in prior Zelda quests.

 

I realize that I am likely echoing the sentiments of plenty of other reviewers out there, but I only read a couple spoiler-free reviews. I doubt I have any real insight, from a critical vantage point. Consider this a confirmation, I guess. Seeing all those perfect scores roll in was like “no way,” but now it’s just like, “Yeah, I get it.”

It’s just a great video game. I like it.

 

Sharing the Switch (One Minor Spoiler?)

 

Sunday afternoon brought me a really cool moment with my Switch and Zelda.

My wife and I were preparing to leave from our house to visit her family to celebrate our nephew’s 3rd birthday, just a lowkey gathering sort of thing. My wife got a phone call from my 12-year-old nephew, requesting I bring the Switch.

Now, I have barely had the thing for 48 hours, it is still shiny and new to me, and this is a setting where there will be 10+ kids (the 12-year-old is the oldest) and food and… basically, my wife made no promises to my nephew, and told me she’d totally understand if I chose not to bring it.

But, here’s the thing: If someone wanted you to show them your SNES, how would you go about sharing it? Lugging it over along with controllers and cartridges and cords to plug in?

I think of the Switch as a home console (almost exclusively, I played it docked on the TV), but at this point, it was nice to be able to just bring it over to the house like it was a 3DS.

After dinner, I found a spot to kickstand the Switch and loaded Zelda. Myself and my nephew were soon joined by one other nephew (his brother) and three nieces.

Six of us, huddled around the Switch, taking turns passing the controller. It was like something out of a Nintendo commercial, and although I still mostly just think of the Switch as my Zelda machine, I have to give Nintendo props for making a system that is so uniquely shareable in this way.

Watching kids play Zelda was waaaay more fun that I expected, I admit, and kinda unfolded even more of Breath of the Wild’s brilliance.

Three of them were complete pacifists – they wanted me to get them to an area they could just walk around in, and enjoy the view, as we all laughed when they would inevitably have to run away from baddies (except for one, who specifically requested a village to poke around in). One niece wanted combat against “easy enemies,” and was satisfied to slay a couple small groups of “goblins.”

Then there was my 12-year-old nephew, who put on quite a show. He paraglided off a tower, only to freefall and scare us all as he pulled the chute just feet from the ground. Clearly, he was comfortable in a 3D gaming environment thanks to his Minecraft experience.

As he explored, he suddenly began triggering a couple story sequences I hadn’t even found yet (I had to go back and do it myself when I got home!), then came across a miniboss that provided us with our crowning spectator thrill.

On a little island in the midst of lakes and other waterways, with its own grove of trees, my nephew found a sleeping Hirox – this giant, forty-feet-tall cyclops guy. He walked over to him, slashed him with the sword, then ran away as we all laughed.

The giant pursued, to the edge of the island, and stopped. My nephew brought Link around to look at him from the nearby bridge, as we all sighed with relief.

But then the Hirox grabbed a friggin’ tree right out of the ground (!), and suddenly began wading straight through the water… waist-deep for the giant.

We all started screaming.

My nephew forced him to fight on dry land, and – actually killed him! We all cheered!

Video games are fun.

Especially when you let your nephew use a really powerful sword that you found in a shrine well outside the usual safer boundaries of your exploration.

Seriously, though – I think there’s something to be said for a game so versatile that it can be enjoyed as both a walking simulator and as the source of memorable, dynamic boss confrontations. It was fun to see my younger family members point excitedly at the screen as they spotted something cool in the distance, and to see how much even a five-year-old can enjoy a tough Zelda game in a supervised spurt.

 

Gameplay Highlights (Spoilers! Or, At Least, Specific Stuff About The Gameplay, If Not Much About The Actual Plot)

 

As a fan of the Zelda series, Breath of the Wild has a rich layer of enjoyment for all the fan servicing, canon references, and callouts to prior games. I think my favorite touch so far was during an early cutscene; when Ganon is mentioned, the game plays the same opening organ notes that you hear in Ocarina of Time as you ascend the staircase to confront Ganondorf. That was a really cool flourish.

Even just speaking in a general narrative sense, I really dig the story idea of waking up 100 years after you were already the hero once before – and having conversations with people who end up talking about you. Granted, half the time that happens it ends up being a Yiga fight… but that, too, is a cool, fun element.

Then again, there’s just so many tons of “cool, fun” moments. There’s a bridge in Hyrule that, at night, I’ve seen an enormous, glowing green dragon just sorta lazily fly around. He’s huge. I tried shooting him with an arrow, he didn’t even notice. I took a picture of him, so I have a name, but I literally don’t know anything else about him/her/it yet.

Definitely had a smile on my face when I walked into Kakariko Village.

My playstyle: Speaking of Kakariko, I’ve been using the stealth outfit, upgraded at the Great Fairy Fountain. I have options for more defense, sure, but being able to have more control over when enemies notice Link is definitely helpful for me. Happy with my choice so far. Died the outfit green.

I enjoy cooking more than I thought I would, and trying to discern the math behind the combinations. I laughed out loud when I made a weird stealth-enhancing elixir – it provides only a low-level boost to stealth, but for over ten minutes.

Through my first few hours, I was honestly struggling a bit with the bow-and-arrow controls. I didn’t want to use motion controls, but the controller aiming felt WAY sensitive, all over the place. When I adjusted the Camera Sensitivity down a notch… boom. Everything clicked into place, and firing arrows felt familiar, like an old friend. I was nailing slow-motion midair kills and it felt glorious.

Weapon degradation: I was always leery of this design aspect, ever since it became public knowledge. I mean, I realize Nintendo wouldn’t just blindly throw it in – I trusted that some thought went into it, and it was be handled as well as could be reasonably expected.

So my impression of that has been intriguing; the actual degradation of the weapons hasn’t bothered me. If anything, it forces you to think about your arsenal much more than typical Zelda fare, and opens up lots of varied possibilities for the melee combat. Having a weapon available has never, never been an issue.

In fact, if anything, I have the opposite qualm! I wish I had more inventory slots… to such an extent that I feel like I might be missing something, in terms of opportunities to expand weapon slots (?!). I don’t want anyone to tell me, I want to discover it for myself if it’s there, but so far, man, I just feel really limited in what I can carry. Maybe that’s just me. It’s not a huge deal (and for some wide swaths of play not an issue one bit), but occasionally leads to some tough decisions.

The one exception: I bought a house? Which is fun and nice? And it came with one weapon display on the wall, so I am using that. Hopefully the blank slate of surrounding walls marks the promise of future upgrades.

The 12 memories to regain from Zelda’s photos, with utterly no information as to where they were taken (yet finding people who gives hints) is a brilliant stroke. It seemed like an eye-wideningly difficult task, like, I wanted to groan at the thought – but without really yet trying very intentionally to hunt them down, I’ve already found two. Nice.

I don’t really get the Blood Moon thing? Sometimes it brings me right back to the game where I was, but sometimes the loading time seems extra long and then it’s 7:30am. In either case, I’ve yet to see the Blood Moon actually have any sort of effect, but I haven’t exactly been hanging around right after I recently killed a bunch of dudes either. If anything, it’s nice to see the theme of A Menacing Moon Overhead make an appearance in a Zelda game again.

Just realized: I haven’t even tried any “shieldboarding” yet. When I’m at a high point of elevation, my instinct is always to paraglide from the peak, rather than shieldboard down into the valleys. A whole different kind of play/exploration style, untapped.

I’ve had a couple really enjoyable moments of returning to the Great Plateau and managing to keep finding stuff I never stumbled across before. I get the feeling you can spend 500 hours exploring this game and not find everything. Some may be intimidated by that – but I love it. Certainly not trying to be a completist or anything (I was never the type to relentlessly hunt down every Skulltulla), but just knowing the game has such rich stores of discoverable STUFF is neat. I dunno. Maybe I’m an easily amused sucker, but it works.

The first time I genuinely laughed during the game was when I had a Skeltal following me, and I dropped a bomb on the ground as I ran… and he picked it up, over his head, just before I detonated it.

I guess I’m glad the Every Region Has A Horse Ranch stuff is in the game, but you can chalk that up as One Of Those Things I’m Just Not Into. I walk everywhere. I don’t understand the appeal of having a horse (or being a wolf, per Twilight Princess). I don’t want animals, I want adventure. I have enough pets in real life – they’re an expense to clean up after, not something to embrace or be excited for. Meh.

I’m at the point where I can kill a Guardian if I really need to, but it’s not a sure thing and not something I seek out. Would still rather run for my life. Or just bomb it from behind a wall if it’s stationary.

The simple possession of 1) infinite bombs that you can 2) detonate at your own control is so @#$%ing refreshing. I am a huge fan. Just call me Bomberman. They’re my go-to for basically everything. Killing enemies, chopping down trees, creating a distracting, hunting wildlife, whatever. “Do it with bombs” is my motto.

I can’t be the only one who finds it amusing, the way Link’s limp dead body slides down slopes after he dies…

I thought it was great to run into so many people just traveling the world like you are, but now I’m thinking it’s kinda weird to keep bumping into the same people repeatedly, but it also makes sense. Anyway, the world feels populated even out in the open.

I’ve definitely had a little bit of a rebellious streak, trying to reach areas well before I probably should be. If anything, my biggest problem is finding Shrines to activate there! Well, that, and dying at the hands of harsher enemies and environments alike. Gosh, this game is fun.

Oh, boomerangs? Having to manually catch them when they return? Ha! A nifty touch.

I found a spiked club made of dinosaur bone, which makes me wonder if I am going to run into any dinosaurs, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever wondered in a Zelda game before.

Speaking of which: The first time I fought a Lizalfos, and it did that head-down sprint where it runs unnaturally fast? Wow! Terrifying, and instantly brought to mind a raptor from Jurassic Park.

The whole opening sequence in The Great Plateau was just so well-done. Feels like a distinctly different chapter than the rest of the game so far, the way the whole world just opens up and unveils before you. It’s weird, feeling a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality, within the game, just for the Plateau and good times with the mysterious Old Man. If I had to be an obnoxious fanboy and applaud Nintendo for one particular thing so far, it might be how the opening chapter of the game is handled, those first few hours. Pitch perfect.

I really like the look of the Spirit Orbs? Like, just, how they look, floating through the air as a liquidy sphere. It’s a little thing, but resonate with me somehow. I even showed my wife. I am very silly.

… yikes, this is becoming quite the insane wall of text. Welp. My bad.

Let me end with trying to describe, by some approximation, where I am in the game.

  • I have upgraded my hearts and stamina meter twice each, have around 23 Korok seeds, and I think around 90 items cataloged in the Compendium.
  • My strongest sword has a 50 rating and I have a shield with a rating somewhere in the 30s. I am saving them for… when the need arises, or until I start finding stronger stuff more consistently, obviously.
  • I just spoke to the Zora prince, who wants me to travel down the ominous road with electric enemies he warned me about. Electric enemies do actually kinda frighten me, so I am trying to gear up appropriately – no metal armor/weapons, use stealth as much as possible, and I’m probably going to stock up on arrows and attack from a distance as much as possible. We’ll see.
  • But first! I kinda wanna see if I can make it to Akkala (sp?!). From what I’ve heard from the research lab, and knowing the homebuilders were transferred there, it seems like a really promising destination. But the last time I tried to find it, I… just… yeah, I’m not sure where exactly it is, I’ll just say that, lol. “North” from one spot, someone said, and I think there was a sign on a road, and… yeah, I just gotta figure it out. Which is fun! It’s a great game, Bront.
  • Also on the to-do list: Try shieldboarding, show that kid the Fire Rod I got, replenish a few decent stamina-healing recipes, invest in the Knight’s set of armor just to have on hand at least, and retry that Shrine I couldn’t conquer the first time.

###

 

Those are some of my thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild video game for the Nintendo Switch.

I was around 6 years old.

There were four of us in the neighborhood who had our own NES. We would sometimes borrow games from each other. One of the other boys, a few years older than myself, was always kind to me — as evidenced by letting me borrow his golden Legend of Zelda cartridge.

I remember him trying to explain to me the importance of the save file. “That’s my man,” he said, pointing at the screen after we had powered the game on in my living room. “You don’t mess with my man.”

You have to realize, he did not say “my man” the way you would if it was a romantic sense, no. This was a serious matter of personal property, and I was to understand this by way of thrusting his index finger toward the small image of Link in a light-blue tunic.

Of course, I had no idea what he meant or what he was talking about. I managed to delete his file. Worse, I barely played the game at all. I did not quite ‘get’ it.

He was merciful upon my life, but certainly not happy with me.

Game-borrowing diminished significantly after that incident.

###

“Ho, brave lad, on your quest to wake the dreamer!”

Growing up, we had some fun Christmas traditions in my household. One of them was that every year my grandmother got myself and my sister an ornament. We got to open it well before Christmas, of course, so that it could be put on the tree.

Fun fact: The particular packaging for the Christmas ornament I received one year was just about exactly the same size as a new Game Boy game in the box. I know this because of what happened when I received, in the mail, two wrapped presents from my grandmother. One of them, we knew, was the ornament. The other, I did not yet know.

Thus, a dilemma: Nearly identical (seriously) in size, weight, even how they felt in the hand — how could I tell which one was the ornament, that I was allowed to open and put on the tree?

Well, I couldn’t: I just picked one, opened it… and discovered that my grandmother had gifted me The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Christmas.

My mother did not let me play it. It was rewrapped, and placed back under the tree, taunting me for all the days to come.

Once I was able to explore Koholint Island, Awakening became the first Zelda game I completed. Multiple times. On Super Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket, it became one of my all-time favorites, and remains so to this day.

###

To understand what Ocarina of Time means to me, you have to understand a couple of other things about my gaming history.

Although it was probably fairly typical for millions of American adolescents, I played… so much video games. I mean, hours and hours and hours for weeks and weeks on end of video games. In hindsight, I am so ashamed of all the lost time, all the lost potential, the sheer monumental mass of days bled away in front of the television.

The NES was my primary machine of choice. Even after we got the SNES, its predecessor got plenty of play. Those two consoles and their 2D experiences had years, and years, and years to cultivate a deep, obnoxious fondness for Nintendo gaming within me. Playing Nintendo games was a source of happiness, relaxation, and simple fun. I grew to enjoy the characters, the lore, the little details that were lovingly crafted into these experiences for me.

But where my history with Nintendo begins to differ from some others is with the advent of the Nintendo 64. For millions of gamers, their introduction to 3D Nintendo gaming was in the form of Super Mario 64. I have read some of these memories, these players whose eyes widened and jaws dropped at the possibilities they could only begin to realize in the third dimension, the overwhelming magic of what those sorts of settings and challenges could do to enrich games from that point forward.

Not me. I did not have this epiphany. Well, not with Super Mario 64.

It was a while before I had a 64 of my own. And when I did, I did not have Super Mario 64. Sure, I loved the Mario games and their lineage, and titles like Yoshi’s Island and Super Mario RPG got a lot of love from me.

But my first 3D adventure was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

My goodness. What a revelation.

Has it aged perfectly? Nah. But it is a great video game, and had a compelling impact on me, a teenage boy who was at the exact point of readiness for a bigger, richer quest like that one.

By the time Majora’s Mask began appearing in the pages of Nintendo Power, I was able to understand what hype really was, and how glorious it could feel to have your dreams become reality. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true: Majora’s Mask was, for me personally, the culmination of already believing Ocarina of Time was something special and wanting more, hardly daring to imagine that I could like the sequel even better.

Here I sit, looking back with a smile at the fervent leap I took into Termina.

Majora’s Mask is my favorite Legend of Zelda entry.

###

I am 31 years old, now.

I am married. I have been for over five years, in fact. I have mortgage payments. My wife and I have a two-year-old daughter, and a son that is due in a matter of weeks. I have a steady day job.

My hair is turning gray, especially at the temples. I play basketball one evening a week, but sometimes experience joint pain and aches and soreness that I never did when I played a decade ago. I watch my diet a little; much more than I ever used to, at least.

I am old enough to look at the world and feel like it is foreign to me, like I am no longer in touch with its ways and its trends, much less its morals and its fascinations.

I teach the Westminster Catechism to high schoolers at my church. Some of the most significant stress in my life arises from bookkeeping issues at work. Last week, I wondered how often I would use a belt sander if I bought one. I don’t read as much as I would like, but I am slowly-but-surely getting through Dune. I should call my grandmother. It was only this year that I finally unfriended an ex-girlfriend on Facebook. My wife and I had a conversation about medical bills at the dinner table, just earlier tonight. I recently wrote a note on a tablet of paper we keep on the fridge for needed purchases, since I am almost out of my generic daily vitamin supplement.

My mind is still sharp. My heart still has a tenderness to it.

So it is with clarity that I can still recall, vividly and distinctly, the joy of plunging into a new Legend of Zelda video game, utterly immersing myself into its universe and letting my soul move, if but slightly, with its rhythms.

I am excited about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the new Nintendo Switch system. From what I have read and seen, it seems fantastic, and like something I will greatly enjoy.

I don’t really have time for games like this anymore, though. And I have no business making it a priority, amid everything else that I have going on, and in my household altogether.

Yet…

I am going to enjoy it, and thoroughly. I am going to persist in the belief that fun is a value, and that my life has room for it, and this has worth. I am going to stay up irresponsibly late at night, multiple times a week, just to partake in the wonder of the Wild. I will smile, and laugh, and feel. It’ll be great.

For my inner child, this may be his last stand.

I hope he survives.

 

Just havin’ some fun makin’ fake game boxes for the Nintendo Switch before tonight’s presentation, mostly a reimagining of some NES launch titles, along with other… things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to work at a summer camp. Every once in a while, we would receive a phone call from someone asking if we had any tent or RV sites available that night/weekend. We would politely explain that, no, we are not that kind of camp. Most of the time, the caller would totally understand, and the call would conclude reasonably.

There was one exception, though, that I still think about sometimes, as an example of the absurdity people will reach in their beliefs on social obligations and communication.

This lady, when I explained that we were not that kind of campground, got in a sort of huff, and sounded clearly annoyed in her tone. She then explained to me: “Your website doesn’t say you’re not that kind of campground.”

This struck me as noteworthy, for two thoughts —

1) The fact that she apparently checked our website before calling, and to such an extent that she felt comfortable speaking as though she had browsed its entire contents, yet still arrived at the wrong conclusion as to what sort of place we were, is remarkable.

2) Can you imagine, just imagine, how ludicrous it would be if it were generally expected and thought to be rational that we should have to note every Thing We Are Not in order to clarify What We Are? To put it concretely: Our website did not say we were not a doctor’s office, either. Or a pet shop. Or a restaurant. Or a colony on Mars. Or a figment of the imagination of a four-year-old chimpanzee kept by an eccentric businesswoman in Guatemala. Am I crazy to think we shouldn’t have to say such, in order for a site-browser to assume it? The leap from “their website does not explicitly say that they’re not a comic book store” to “I actually believe that, because of this, they must be a comic book store” seems rather incredible to me. Alas.

###

People tend to have an overinflated sense of self-importance. I am sure I am no exception. I think it is healthy to view stuff like Twitter and blogging and video games as “y’know, this is ultimately meaningless, but if I or others get some harmless enjoyment out of it, that could be okay I guess, but I don’t place any expectations on it.” Hopefully, anyway.

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This morning, I received this DM on Twitter.

Yes, there is some context that I have omitted. No, it would not help this person’s case. Nonetheless, I will summarize: I retweeted something, something that was not even my tweet, and something that ended in a winking-face emoji. This person took my retweet to indicate a serious interest in the subject matter, and tweeted me a few times about it, and sent a few DMs as well, before I could give a response. This is all fine so far, of course. An innocent misunderstanding.

The eyebrow-raising swerve happened when I thought I had politely explained basically, “Hey, thanks for getting in touch, but I do not actually have a serious interest in the matter. Have an excellent day.” A typical exchange could have ended there, or with a trade of “oh my bad” followed by my “oh no problem!” But instead, I got the response I have shown here.

Now, okay, obviously, this is still basically harmless, not a huge deal. But I think it is worth voicing the reminder that, on Twitter, you do not owe anyone anything.

I don’t owe you a follow, a reply, a shout-out, even an acknowledgement as a response to anything you do. As for what I do, I don’t owe you any labor, explanations, content labels, or editorial consideration.

This goes for everyone! Don’t let people think they’re your boss when they’re not. It’s super weird, and indicative of behavior that, in face-to-face interaction, would likely be found not only awkward, but not exactly conducive toward making anyone want to hang out with you ever again. Which, hey, it’s not like it’s illegal to be cringey, but I don’t have to accept your input either. Lord knows I’m way awkward enough on my own.

Here, let me put it this way.

If you feel as though I have somehow shorthanded you in an interaction on social media, this feeling is a result of your overblown sense of its significance — not a result of any failure on my part.

Just like the people who hunt me down to ask why I unfollowed them, who fail to grasp it’s because I realized they were the type of person who ask why people unfollow them, treating me like I owe you something has the *gasp!* opposite result they intend: I am less likely to give you anything, time or effort or attention altogether, when you pull that crap and treat me that way.

Try this exercise: Imagine me, saying to you, “Your interactions with me on social media are not important. I can definitely do without them. They have no real priority in my life. Ignoring you would do me no harm, and paying any attention to you is a frivolous indulgence, not a necessity.”

If any part of that bothers you, you may have some soul-searching to do! Good luck in that, for what it’s worth.

It’s skin-crawlingly bizarre that someone I don’t know would think they are seated in such a place of authority over me that they actually believe they can dictate what my messaging “should” be like. As though I should take this seriously, like, “oh, yes, please forgive me — here, I will label all of my future joke tweets as jokes, just for you, as I would just hate to have to receive another DM reprimand from you.”

Do you want me to do something for you?

Then make the request appropriately, preferably within the context of an existing relationship (friends have reason to do more for each other than strangers would, right? crazy!), and without the assumption that I owe you anything.

 

Or pay me to do it. Paying me to do something could work well. I would totally treat that as an obligation.

This tweet happened.

If you are unfamiliar with @LaurakBuzz, she is no stranger to Switch leaks and rumors — and has been pretty transparent even about the misses, if you’re interested in a deep dive on the topic.

This is not the most unbelievable rumor, as the release has been bandied about for the past couple years. If anything, for fans of the series, it’s nice to see that it might finally become a reality.

As for the Switch, well, Nintendo still has its work cut out for it, in terms of marketing the dang thing and undoing the unfortunate [ mostly ] legacy of the Wii U… but, hey, for the core crowd of Nintendo fandom, this is not the worst thing and might even pique the interest of a few.

 

 

 


2016 was a great year for the Nintendo Legend brand. I began speaking out against gamer culture, wrote some standalone features I can point at and be proud of, experimented with social media stunts like retro gaming image riddles and the whole Gaston thing, enjoyed my first viral tweet, jumped headfirst into community controversies, broke new ground in collaborations, and did some behind-the-scenes stuff as well.

I wrote multiple guests posts for other sites, was able to pay fellow creatives for quality work, and even got my own grandfather to do a colored wood burning of the Wind Fish from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

In general, my mission is to foster positive interaction in the retro gaming community. I did not always succeed in doing so, and I certainly stepped outside that vision into other avenues, but overall I am happy with the results of 2016 from a hobbyist point of view.

So, what’s next?

The fun thing about Nintendo Legend is that it very specifically started out as a blog on which I was trying to review every North American-released NES game. For a few years, that really was my focus. Nowadays, I don’t even do that, and the ‘brand’ or whatever has become its own beast, even if that means I mostly just say weird stuff on Twitter.

I like it. I’m having fun with it. And that’s all it needs to be.

But! I still have wants, in terms of where I want to go next and what I hope to achieve. So, here they are, in summary bullet-point fashion, my brand goals for 2017.

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• Reorganize NintendoLegend.com NES games list navigation, archives, new reviews

• Make $1,000

• Write two posts I am proud of

• Figure out a better audio-recording solution
– post a simple webcam-style rant on YouTube
– start a new podcast series

• Write a new Masterpiece Microscope feature for SkirmishFrogs

• Reach 18,000 followers on Twitter (maybe in 2018 though hm)

• Stream something again at some point

• Continue posting retro gaming discussion questions on Facebook

###

… and, that’s it! I could come up with more, but those are the core items I will be working toward. I probably won’t succeed at all of these (if any), and I’ll likely get distracted with other stuff along the way, but there it is, out in the open.

I have secondary things in the back of my mind. At some point, as I have mentioned, the whole ‘Nintendo Legend’ name will likely be dropped and I will rebrand altogether. But, hey, honestly, as long as Nintendo isn’t sending me a cease-and-desist, I will continue as-is. Besides that, I have a silly little scoop I’ve been sitting on for a while that I’d like to write about someday. And I have ideas for new video series. And I want to ensure the first story arc of my new The Guild of Profits fanfiction series gets finished. And, and…

It never ends, y’know? I always have a lot going on, whether in my hobby life or my personal life (kid #2 due in March!). Which, to be clear… is great.

Here’s hoping 2017 is great, too.


rogue_one

I saw the most recent Star Wars movie at the theater last night. I am not going to be super spoilery, here, but there will be a couple tidbits.

This is not really a review. It’s more of a ramble.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST

My overall impression is that I enjoyed it, it was pretty good (pretty darned good, perhaps), but not perfect, which is fine. The visuals were splendid, with some of the most gorgeous scenery and brilliant images from the whole canon. The action sequences were fantastic; in fact, two in particular stood out in my mind, one of which I will talk more about later.

The story was serviceable, in my view. I think the performances were alright, but the characters themselves were not as lovable as in The Force Awakens, in my experience. Then again, perhaps they were doomed from the start — after all, we all went into this one knowing they weren’t exactly going to make it to Episode IV: A New Hope.

Whereas, on the other hand, the principals in The Force Awakens have a whole new saga pinned on them.

Yet Rogue One definitely works, as a one-off, and can give reasonable hope to Wars fans for future projects, such as the Young Han Solo flick. For me, I was already hyped for Episode VIII, but Rogue certainly did not throw me off the train. I am still on track. I have to admit, this was the one I was not excited for, so I am glad it turned out as well as it did.

But, gosh, it made me wonder a couple things. Like: Do you really have to be a Star Wars fan to begin with, and just kinda have to buy into the experience, in order to enjoy the writing from these scripts? I know that Star Wars is supposed to be cheesy to some extent, but if I heard the word “hope” one more time I think I may have rolled my eyes. Yes, we get it, we really get it, and we really got it the first couple times the theme came up. Maybe that was just me.

Also, Jyn Erso. Such an interesting character! The strong opening was a cool stroke of worldbuilding for the audience, and gives Erso some inner conflict. Obviously. Somehow, though, I wish I had more to work with? She sets out from the start as an independent vagabond, a criminal in fact, but within the span of a couple scenes she goes from shrugging about the whole Rebel Alliance idea to literally being the one at the center of their headquarters giving the requisite Rousing Speech.

However, maybe this is my fault, maybe I am very dumb and very dense and there was a lot going on that went unspoken that I was supposed to pick up on. She goes through some trauma, after all, and some complex social navigation. I dunno.

The humor was great! I mean, it’s no comedy, it’s not like there were jokes throughout, but that worked to good effect, as the jokes that did emerge were all real solid. K2-SO, of course, was the primary source, and did well in that role. I laughed pretty hard a couple times. That exchange where one character mentions the possibility of them dying in the vacuum of space, and K2 says something like, “I wouldn’t. … I would survive,” so straightfaced and deadpan, ahahaha, that’s good stuff.

Hearing Red Leader and Gold Leader again was great. In fact, yeah, I have to admit, all the tiny little references (I am sure I missed many!) were wonderful — personally, I almost laughed with delight when the mouse droid made its brief appearance on-screen. The blue milk brought a smile as well.

And the accuracy, too, everything from the way the Death Star plan preview loaded to the style of the Rebel forces’ helmets, that was all immaculate. They clearly took this project seriously, as to be expected, and knocked it out.

It was better than the way Force Awakens went about its fanservicing. Whereas TFA recycled an entire plotline, to a nauseating extent (I still greatly enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, and even can understand why they did it that way, but c’mon), Rogue One went for the more subtle fanservicing, and I liked that style better.

… some of the CG character work was a bit much for me, though. I know, not exactly an uncommon take (I’m seeing “uncanny valley” chatter going around), but, I mean, I guess I can’t blame the artists here. They were given a daunting, nigh-impossible task (hey we want Tarkin in here, then Leia too, no pressure), and did the best they could. It’s not bad, no, but it’s noticeable. I respect their efforts. I just wish it was better, more seamless. Maybe someday we’ll get there.

And, y’know, there’s other stuff I could mention, both good and bad, but… this is already super boring, I’ve written enough. So I have a little confession:

There’s really only one thing I wanted to make sure I wrote about, and got off my chest. I have to acknowledge it.

That finale, the scene with Vader? You know the one: Dark corridor, red lightsaber activates, the Rebel forces show a palpable sense of fear, one yells “Open fire!” … and then we are treated to the greatest on-screen display of villainous badassery in cinematic history?

Yeah, I. Yeah. I was a huge fan of that sequence.

I had an intense, full-body chill the whole time. That was amazing. And it was brilliant, the way they teased Vader, but held him back, but set things in motion, got him going there, got you thinking, oh man, are they going to, they have to write, we’re gonna see, they’ve got to show us one good Vader bit…

And we got it.

There’s this joke about how the “hallway fight” has become the iconic trope for movies over the past decade, but there’s a reason it resonates with people. The close quarters allows a more visceral reaction to what’s going on, since we can more intimately relate to every deadly blow as we see it up-close, and there’s a great sense of skin-scrawling tension in such an inescapable, claustrophobic place. Not to mention the natural progression, like a video game level, from one direction to another, which organically winks to the viewer, telling them ahead of time what to expect, as we know on a subconscious level exactly what has to happ–

Look, all I’m saying is that no matter what I thought of the first 98% of Rogue One, that Vader scene is everything. I want to see it again. And again. And I doubt I will tire of it soon. And it might be my favorite scene from the whole Star Wars filmography. And I don’t feel weird about saying that at all.

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