Sunday, January 26, 2020

Game 353: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Yes, I'm as surprised as you to see this screen on my blog.
           
The Legend of Zelda
Japan
Nintendo (developer and publisher)
Released 1986 for NES in Japan; western release in 1987.
Date Started: 14 January 2020
Date Ended: 25 January 2020
Total Hours: 15
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)

A number of years ago, I participated in a Reddit thread. The original entry was just a funny comic, but at some point the discussion evolved into "generation gap" complaints--about things that people didn't understand about the younger generation. One commenter opined that he didn't understand Pokémon. I replied to agree:
          
Glad I'm not the only one. They look . . . cute. Since when is "cute" "cool"? Aren't things like dragons and ninjas cool? When I was a kid, I played with robots that changed into trucks. These kids play with . . . little yellow mice or something.
              
Well, that sparked a furor. More than one respondent wrote to tell me that Pokémon does feature dragons and ninjas. One of them slammed down three image links with the comment "looks pretty cool to me," then left the forum as if he'd dropped the mic. These were the images:
           
        
I was so flabbergasted that I couldn't begin to think of a response. Fortunately, another commenter came along to say what was in my head: "They look like toys . . . baby toys." The idea that someone thought these three pictures countered my "cute" argument says as much about the gap as anything could.

I'm not convinced that the gap is strictly about age. After all, I was 14 when The Legend of Zelda was released in the west--not exactly out of the target age range for the title. But I didn't own a Nintendo console and never did, and I guess for that reason never learned to value heroic archetypes different from the traditional western conception. As I put in my "10 most controversial opinions" entry:
            
If I'm going to play a racing game, I want to race race cars, not goofy little go-karts piloted by mustachioed plumbers. If I'm going to pit monsters against each other in gladiatorial matches, I want them to look like monsters, not characters from the Island of Misfit Toys. And if I'm going to play an action-adventure, I want to play a classic hero, not an effete little elf with bare legs and a pointy hat.
              
I'm sucking up these prejudices to give The Legend of Zelda a try. Yes, we agreed several times that it's not an RPG. But it's RPG-ish, and its own sequel is an RPG, and had an influence on RPGs. I've always seen that influence as an infantilization--infantilization in character, in complexity, and in controls. But if I'm going to hold such an opinion, it ought to at least be an opinion informed by actual gameplay. At the worst, perhaps it will habituate me a bit, so if I ever deign to play your precious Chrono Trigger--which from videos looks to me like a bunch of children scurrying around--perhaps I'll be inoculated to some of its conventions.
          
Neither the complexity of controls nor the depiction of the "hero" fill me with interest to play this game.
         
While I didn't own a Nintendo, I had friends that did, and I remember at least watching them play a little Zelda even if I didn't handle the controls myself. I remember being astonished that the console was capable of saving the game--something that until then I thought was confined to computers--and I wondered without satisfaction how that was accomplished. I now know that there was a battery within the cartridge itself that kept the save files, which is admittedly one thing that would have impressed me in 1987.
          
I'm beginning to worry that it's not really eight.
             
As everyone but me knows until now, the Zelda games are set in a kingdom called Hyrule, ruled by Princess Zelda (reportedly named after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife). Magic in this realm concentrates in golden triangles known as "triforces." As the first game opens, a Prince of Darkness named Gannon has sacked Hyrule and pilfered the Triforce of Power. [Ed. Apparently, this was later changed by the series to "Ganon," but I promise it's spelled "Gannon" every time it appears in this game.] Zelda also had the Triforce of Wisdom, but she broke it into eight pieces and hid them around the realm to prevent its theft. Meanwhile, Zelda's "nursemaid," Impa, fled the castle to find someone to help. (The fact that the heroine of the title is young enough to still have a nursemaid is another strike against it.) She was rescued from Gannon's soldiers by a "young lad" named Link, who vowed to assemble the Triforce of Wisdom and destroy Gannon.

(I gather that the name "Link" is meant to be taken somewhat literally, as in the character is the "link" between the player and the game world. As such, it's not much different than "avatar," although that was a title rather than a name.)
           
The manual provides a map of most of the overworld, which helps greatly.
          
Hyrule takes up 16 x 8 screens, with the character starting along the south edge in the center. On 9 of those screens are entrances to dungeons, numbered 1 to 9 in rough order of difficulty. The first eight have pieces of the Triforce, and the ninth has the confrontation with Gannon. There are also numerous entrances to caves where old men and women give hints, offer gems, and sell items. Many of these entrances (including the final dungeon entrance) are hidden and require bombs or other mechanisms to reveal.
          
An old man in a dungeon gives me a hint.
           
On just about every screen is a collection of various enemies. The creators did an admirable job giving each enemy its own strengths, weaknesses, and movement and attack patterns. We saw something of this in Deadly Towers, but Zelda carries it to an apex. So you have "ropes" (I had to look up the official names in the manual since they appear nowhere in the game), which are snakes who move around randomly until they get to your column or row, at which they make a sudden and swift attack directly at your character. There are "darknuts," knight-like characters whose shields make them immune from forward attacks. "Peahats" look like chickens, and they can't be damaged while flying; you have to wait for them to land. "Dodongos" are immune to just about everything except that they'll eat any bombs that you leave in their path. There are at least a few dozen enemy types, and you have to learn each one.

Helping you out are a variety of inventory items that Link can find and buy, starting with a wooden sword, found in the cave on the starting screen. Failure swiftly followed any player who didn't go into that cave first. Later, you find a "white sword" and then a magical sword. Once you equip a sword, it is always activated by the "A" button, but the "B" button can cycle through a variety of other things that you can acquire, including boomerangs (regular and magic), bombs, candles, and bows and arrows. There are also artifact items used to solve particular puzzles. For instance, you need a whistle to defeat a particular enemy, a ladder to cross one-square water, and keys to open doors. Shields and rings reduce damage done to the character and potions heal it.
           
Link gets a magic sword. Note that he has three keys, eight bombs, and eight gems.
             
Life force is represented by "hearts," of which you have a maximum of three at the beginning. As you explore, you find more "max health" hearts. I suspect there are 13 in the game (plus the original three), but I only ever found 12. Regular hearts, which heal, are dropped randomly by slain enemies, which puts Zelda in that odd genre of games in which when your health gets low, you need to head out and find something to fight.

The game does an interesting thing where when your health is at its maximum, you can fling your sword across the screen like a missile weapon--a weird idea that we seem to find in a lot of Japanese titles--but if you take any damage, you can only swing at the square in front of you. Thus, you have a lot of incentive to keep Link at his maximum. This is pretty hard.
        
Link's inventory screen about halfway through.
          
In fact, I was surprised at how hard the game was in general. I had originally thought to explore the world in some kind of systematic order, but that went out the window within the first few minutes, as I got my ass handed to me by enemies only two screens from the starting screen. (I particularly hate "zolas," which live in the water and pop up every few seconds from a random location to spit a missile at you with unerring accuracy. There is no time in the game in which these things aren't a menace.) I tend not to be good at games that require a lot of fast reaction anyway, and Zelda really put me through my paces. Earlier, I had a line that said something like, "If it's a child's game in content, it certainly isn't in difficulty," but on reflection, I suspect children are better equipped to handle the swift reactions that the game requires. It made me feel old.

Balancing the difficulty is a somewhat charitable approach to reloading. When Link "dies," the player need only "Continue" from the starting square of the wilderness or dungeon that he's in, with no loss of items. (In fact, saving requires you to die, then choose the "Save" option.) I "continued" to more dungeon entrances than I cared to count. I deliberately died a lot in the outdoors just to make navigation easier, as most of the shops are more convenient to the starting area than the far-flung dungeon locations.
        
Confronting the first dungeon boss.
         
Some commenters have questioned what RPG credentials Zelda lacks, but only a few hours with the game illustrates it perfectly. The character never really gets any better, excepting increases in maximum health. But even that only prolongs death. No matter how many hearts you possess, you have to try to avoid damage as much as possible. Upgrades in weapons and armor make killing enemies faster but don't fundamentally change the tactics that the player has to employ. Winning the game becomes possible when the player improves, not the character. [Edit: I didn't mean to necessarily attach any value to that final statement. Clearly, games in which the player gets better and wins via his own dexterity are fun, too. I was simply distinguishing Zelda from an RPG, in case anyone still wonders what makes it different.]
            
One of the game's "stores."
          
No amount of time killing low-level mooks puts Link in a better position to take on the dungeon bosses. Even "grinding" for money to buy things like potions is mostly a hopeless undertaking, since enemies drop money so slowly and rarely. I probably only bought and used five potions in the entire game. Oh, and some action games would allow the player to advance ever-so-slowly by focusing on one enemy at a time, a worthless tactic here since screens respawn.
         
A bow is the artifact in the first dungeon.
          
Another aspect of difficulty is found in simple navigation. Each dungeon is a fairly large labyrinth. Eventually, you find a compass, which shows the location of the piece of the Triforce on a little mini-map. Then you find the dungeon map, which fills in the mini-map with rooms. At some point, you find that dungeon's artifact item--I think each one has one--and the whole thing is capped with the dungeon boss and then the piece of the Triforce. Picking up the Triforce piece restores all your health and warps you out of the dungeon.

But getting through all of the dungeon rooms is a huge pain. If you don't find keys in the right order, you could end up facing a locked door with no way through it. Some navigation requires planting bombs against the walls and blowing open secret holes. (You can only carry a maximum of eight bombs at a time, and these go fast, so I was constantly running around, in and out of the dungeons, looking for enemies that dropped bombs.) Other times, you have to push blocks on the floor to reveal secret stairways. Sometimes, you have to kill every enemy in a room before a door will open or a key will drop.
          
Typical dungeon room swarming with various enemies. Once I kill them all, I'll have to push the west block out of the way to reach the stairway.
            
In the outdoors, it's almost as bad. You also need bombs there to explore caves, but they're much more sensitive to specific locations, and you can easily miss the secret entrance if you're a pixel off. Basically, you have to bomb every inch of cliff face to make sure you're not missing anything. Trees disguise other entrances, but they can't be bombed. You have to toss a candle on them--a process that works only once per screen until you find the "red candle" late in the game. So to make sure you haven't missed anything, you have to run on and off the screen multiple times, testing the candle on each tree. Some screens have dozens of trees.
       
Blowing up a wall to find a secret cave.
          
To be fair, there are hints in the manual and throughout the game that help with this process, but I never found any hint that would have led me to the secret entrance to Death Mountain, the final dungeon, nor to many of the in-dungeon secret areas, and especially not to the dungeon entrance where I had to blow a whistle to drain a lake. [Ed. Apparently, such hints exist. I just never found them.] Then again, I don't think Zelda was meant to be a 12-hour game. I think it was meant to be a 120-hour game in which the player was meant to explore every inch of every screen, to become so familiar with the landscape that he could have thrown away the map that came with the game, and to trade findings with friends. There are RPGs that require such investments of time, too, but at least you're earning levels and experience points in those.

If you sort it all out, you make it through the final dungeon and confront Gannon in a room where unkillable things in the corner shoot fireballs at you. He turns invisible after the first hit, but you can kind of figure out where he is from where his missiles are coming from. You keep running around, attacking, throwing bombs, whatever, until he turns brown, at which point you have to shoot him with a silver arrow (there's a hint to this somewhere), at which point he explodes and drops the Triforce of Power. The final screens show Link presenting the Triforce to Princess Zelda, and the two kids present their respective Triforces while a text screen talks about peace returning to Hyrule.
               
Gannon is apparently some kind of ape with a Mercedes hood ornament for a belt buckle.
             
And then something terrifying happens. The screen says: "Another quest will start from here." You're dumped back onto the game map with three hearts, no equipment, and apparently a second mandate to find the pieces of the Triforce and to defeat Gannon, only with the maps changed and items in different locations. I trust a player doesn't have to complete both quests to have "won" the game.
            
No! What kind of reward is this?!
          
In any event, I was less interested in "winning" Zelda than experiencing and documenting it. I have to confess to some cheating. Nestopia is about the easiest emulator in the world for save states, requiring you to only hit SHIFT and a number to save, and then just the number to reload. I used these gingerly at first, much more liberally towards the end. I particularly remember one room with three dodongos in which I had six bombs--exactly enough to kill them if none was wasted. I saved after every successful bomb. I also looked up locations of secret areas when I got stuck. The final battle with Gannon took me so many tries that I was motivated to look up an invincibility cheat code, and found one, but I couldn't get it to work, so I defeated him with just regular save-state cheating.

Nonetheless, I got the experience I was looking for, which was mostly negative. I admit there is a natural addictive property with just about every action game. If RPGs pull you along for "just one more screen" with the promise of the next upgrade, action games have a way of propelling you from screen to screen with sheer momentum.

I also like the idea of the occasional "boss enemy" who fights by his own rules and requires the player to discern patterns and test tactics to defeat him. These are common even in RPGs today, but in the 1980s and early 1990s, developers were too concerned with consistency and following an established monster manual. You never meet a formidable warrior with 200 hit points in a Gold Box game who shoots lighting from his swords because there are rules about "hit dice" and there are no Swords of Lightning.
          
A dragon with multiple heads serves as a dungeon boss.
            
But overall, Zelda still represents to me a malevolent influence on RPGs: reduction of tactics to a couple of buttons, the kawaii character style, character development via found items rather than earned ones, limited inventories and economies, and ridiculous swarms of floating, flying, spitting, belching enemies on every screen. I'd be more upset about it, but it's not like people stopped making more traditional RPGs. Heck, even if I limited my list to games that I actively wanted to play, I doubt I'd be much further than 1996 by now. The point is, there are plenty of games for everyone's tastes.
              
This doesn't come anywhere close to ending the story.
           
And Zelda was clearly to a lot of players' tastes. As with Final Fantasy, I'm not sure it's possible to pin an actual number on the titles in the series, what with all the sequels, spinoffs, expansions, and remakes. The series doesn't show any signs of ending, even in 35 years later. There have been cartoons, comics, albums, a television series . . . a freaking cereal. Why doesn't The Witcher have a cereal?

I remain mystified. In their best depictions, Princess Zelda and Link look like pre-teens, and their best games (I based this on reading descriptions of the major sequels), they approach the level of complexity that you find a good RPG. I don't quite understand what motivates people, let alone full-grown adults, to want to play these titles.

Addendum: Well, clearly I touched a lot of nerves with this entry. But I just reread it, and honestly I don't see what all the fuss is about. I admitted to some prejudices against the main characters in my opening paragraphs, but I believe the rest of the entry after that accurately describes the game's mechanics, offers praise where praise is due, and offers some analysis that distinguishes the game from RPGs. I even went out of my way to note that while I don't particularly care for its influence on some later RPGs, its influence wasn't so pervasive that we need to get worked up about it.

The closing paragraph was a mistake. I was in a hurry to post the entry before I spent the rest of the day on other things, and I offered a tie back to the beginning of the entry that made it sound like I was insulting people who like the game rather than just re-emphasizing my own personal distaste for playing games with particularly young or silly characters--a point that I've previously made much less controversially with games like Keef the Thief. I would ask all those people feeling wounded and angry whether if you re-read the entry without the final sentences, is it really all that bad?


I would also note that for all the text I spent on that particular issue, it doesn't affect the game's rating except to the extent that any defined PC will score low on the "character creation and development" category.

For those who keep commenting, "Why did you even play it? It's not an RPG," I think I answered that early in the entry. Some people think it IS an RPG. It has some RPG characteristics. It influenced RPGs. And its own sequel is usually given as an RPG. But I perhaps just should have played it and wrote about the experience without giving it a number and including it in the count of RPGs.

The quality of comments has ranged from constructively critical to senselessly insulting. My attempts to clarify or argue further in the comments have simply caused more grief, so I won't be participating in further discussion on this thread. I apologize again if, in explaining my own perspective, I made it seem like I was insulting anyone else's.


308 comments:

  1. The thing you have to keep in mind about Pokemon is that it is, first and foremost, aimed at children. The adult fans are an anomaly, an unpredicted side product, rather than the point. Saying that Pokemon isn't "cool" is like saying that My Little Pony isn't "mature."

    That said, I still can't understand why you dislike cartoon-styled graphics so much to the point of dismissing games solely on that premise. Mario Kart is meant for a totally different experience than games about "real cars," yet you suggest that one is a replacement for the other. One is a goofy light-hearted party game (that, like Pokemon, many adults take way too seriously) and the other is meant for people interested in real-world racing. It's like saying "I don't want action figures, I want *real* hulking men with swords."

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    1. Furthermore:

      "I don't quite understand what motivates people, let alone full-grown adults, to want to play these titles."

      I don't know, some people find action-based gameplay fun? And don't have an irrational, instinctive dislike to art style other than realism?

      That's really god damn dismissive and frankly disappointing from somebody that can sit through a dull, punishing snoozefest like Wizardry with a smile.

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    2. IMHO the Pokémon games, have interesting gameplay. My first contact with Pokémon was the anime my little sister watched and I dismissed it as childish nonsense. But after trying the Gameboy games I changed my mind, at least about the games.

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    3. I think Pokemon is very interesting, because its inner dichotomy: the campaign itself is absolutely childish, but the underlying mechanics with the breeding and developing are so extremely complex, that it rivals almost anything, even on PC. The ways to create the perfect warmachine out of a cute critter are endless, and it's still presented in an enjoyable form. It's a triumph of game design - and I say this as someone who doesn't play the series. To me the story beats and the characters are too childish - but I love some of the creatures. Wooloo is too cute to hate on them.

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    4. If Zelda honestly is "aimed at children," then of course my review is a bit harsh. But it seems that a lot of non-children are major fans of the series, and that such fandom persists into adulthood even if people are first exposed as children. I liked Sesame Street as a child. Even now and then, I look up a particular skit on YouTube for a nostalgic rush. I still don't think I'd play a 20-hour RPG that featured Grover as the protagonist. You're supposed to eventually grow out of childish things.

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    5. I didn't play all Zelda games but does I played focused heavy at exploring every nook and cranny of the world and also rewards you with optional items or power ups. As with the Pokémon games which have a good addictive gameplay under it's rainbow graffiti hood I can see past both of their presentation and can admire them for the gameplay.

      Honestly, with both you can reskin and rewrite the story more adult or grim and the gameplay is still fitting (Zelda gets darker story lines later) or even more fitting. I mean pokemon battles are cock fights, only with (cute) monsters

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    6. My first comment was about Pokemon, not Zelda. I'd say Zelda was more for the teen to young adult age group, generally speaking.

      Besides that, I'd say Zelda is a far cry from Sesame Street. It's got a soft art style and doesn't feature any blood or swearing, but it's not on the same level as fuzzy puppets teaching you about numbers. There are things for all ages to enjoy. A child might enjoy the cartoon style at first, sure, but later entries start to dive into more difficult puzzles and combat, the challenge of collecting all the optional items, or even deeper themes of the game's story such as Ocarina of Time's various depictions of the sadness of growing up--coincidentally, this includes leaving behind childish things, mostly in the form of your friends leaving the mortal world to take on new, supernatural responsibilities. There's also Majora's Mask, with its fixation on the inevitability of death and the various doomed endeavors of Termina's residents.

      Sure it's not Breaking Bad, but to say there's absolutely nothing there for older audiences is patently incorrect.

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    7. "You're supposed to eventually grow out of childish things."

      Ugh, that line always pushes my buttons. I know you not intended it as an insult and I'm not really taking offense, but that argument feels like saying that there's something wrong with adults who enjoy things deemed "childish".

      Why? Why should my age be a factor in what I find enjoyable and fun? If growing means that I'm no longer supposed to enjoy what I had as a child, then I don't want to "grow."

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    8. It's just a matter of depth, really. We grow out of nursery rhymes, teletubbies, etc... Because when you're older you generally need more stimulation, and/or you want to feel like you are investing your time wisely. Doesn't really apply for Zelda/Pokemon, though.

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    9. I guess that's the core of our disagreement. I see Link and Zelda as a lot closer to teletubbies than, I don't know, Disney films, I guess. There's lots of entertainment out there that has multiple layers and you can enjoy them at all stages of life, discovering new layers as you go. I don't see that in Zelda but I'll allow I might be missing something.

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    10. It's not like the big muscle men with swords and wizards with pointy hats from traditional western RPGs aren't an adolescent power fantasy. Both Japanese and American RPGs are heavily based on the media consumed by teenage boys in those cultures. In the US it was Tolkien and Howard (and their many knockoffs), in Japan it was shōnen manga and anime, where heroes closer to the ages of the readers are more popular.

      Western culture isn't lacking for young heroes, anyway. King Arthur takes the throne (and to the battlefield) at 15. Achilles is generally depicted as a beardless youth at the outset of the Trojan War. Siegfried kills Fafner as a teenager. Link is usually 16-17 in the games -- a young adult by fantasy standards, not a child.

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    11. The comparison you continually make is akin to saying "I have watched Steamboat Willie once, not really paying attention, and I really don't see why somebody could enjoy Toy Story 3."

      Imagine for a second, a Chet from a parallel universe that writes a ZeldaAddict blog, sitting down to play Ultima 1 for the first time. Then, at the end of the post, this alternate Chet concludes "I don't see how anybody could like CRPGs."

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    12. All of pyramid's examples of young heroes in Western culture predate our modern society by hundreds of years when adulthood was mostly viewed as being delineated by puberty.

      In today's world, I'd argue that "adulthood" doesn't really start until after the average age of college graduation (around 23-24 years in the US these days).
      Further evidence is that children (again in the US) are allowed to be on their parents health insurance until age 26.

      Of course, Chet is not exactly breaking new ground here. Social scientists have been talking about the infantilization of Western society for about 30 years. And yes, it's been a touchy subject mostly because it gets wrapped up the idea of 'badwrongfun' that Zardas alludes to.

      I didn't grow up with an NES and my first games were on a C64. Like Chet, I didn't experience Zelda first hand (nor any of its many sequels) and I also don't really see the appeal of it. The underlying issue here is not whether its wrong to have fun playing a simpler game like Zelda. If you do, that's great!

      Instead, the appeal of things aimed at children to adults seems to be symptomatic of broader trends where "adults" are no longer able to have constructive discourse (see modern politics and/or discussions with 5 year olds), spend money reasonably (who is buying all of these Funko Pops and why?!?), etc.

      I should be clear that this is not a personal attack on people who like Zelda or Pokemon, bronies, cosplayers or anybody else. Just things I think about more as I get older. Now get off my lawn so I can yell at more clouds, goshdammit!

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    14. Come on, Alex. In your froth, you're really jumping the rails. No one is claiming that we're doing calculus-level work, but when you play a game like Wizardry or Pool of Radiance or Sword of Aragon or Disciples of Steel, you're considering character attributes, offensive and defensive statistics, and the possible effects of dozens of spells. Sure, there are RPGs that don't go so far, and they get lower ratings in the "combat" category.

      With your talk of elitism and "high-powered intellectuals," you're imputing attitudes that I do not hold and have not expressed. I have simply expressed a preference for one style of gameplay over another. But don't pretend that there aren't fundamental differences in those styles of gameplay.

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    15. I did get pretty heated, and reading it back that was a pretty crappy way of expressing myself. And I do use the word "elitist" a lot for talking about games, of all things.

      I could argue all day about this--it's kind of a perfect storm of things that bother me about gaming at large, not just on this blog but practically anywhere games are discussed. Things I have in my head boiled over into an unrelated discussion, with way more vitriol than is ever appropriate.

      If it's all the same to everybody present, I'd like to delete my above comment. It was pretty shameful, and Chet's reply says all you need to know.

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    16. @Vonotar
      That's sounds too much doom and gloom, as somebody who works with teenager often (we have an apprenticeship system which starts with 15/16) I can assure you those are not that different to my old ass when it was a teenager.

      And I don't think worsening of the political discourse is also not due infertalisation because as it affects people of all ages.

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    17. I haven't played many recent Zelda games, but a lot of these franchises tried to grow with their original audience while staying accessible to new players.

      The themes and problems they went on to tackle became more mature, for example.

      Even in literature it's a common technique to use a child's viewpoint or a naive narrator or setting to evoke a complex theme.

      Also, the value of childlike play has been repeatedly demonstrated by science to be good for everyone, so growing out of things as a requirement for adulthood seems open to debate.

      I do think it's obviously fine if this isn't to one's taste.

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    18. I have never been exposed to Zelda series until my early adulthood and frankly, what I have seen so far (mostly from the AVGN and having started some PC port years ago) didn't really persuade me that it's worth my time. The same goes with Final Fantasy VII (allegedly the best from the series).

      Pokémon, on the other hand... is with me, on and off, some twenty odd years - and even back then I was barely out of the intended age group. Frankly, I will be the first to admit that most of the twenty-something movies are rather terrible (the recent Detective Pikachu was, in my opinion, one of the best and I believe that the franchise does have a potential for more live action films).

      But, this is a blog about RPGs and Pokémon is, for the most part (and again, speaking as someone who has seen about 15 films and maybe 100 episodes of the show in four different languages) a game series. A RPG series. A fascinating one, where your character doesn't have any stats and isn't leveling up, but whose creatures are.

      And again, as a predominantly PC player, I understand why you have set the rules of your blog (Master game list) the way you did, yet it would be awesome if you would make an exception and try to play any of the Pokémon RPG games (at least the main series). Plus, the first two genarations for GameBoy and GBA have so simple graphics that there isn't much oportunity for kawai :-P

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  2. This is a game that I never expected to see here and I am excited to see it. The most important thing is that I feel that I finally am understanding some of the ways that we are different and why.

    You play games because you want to imagine yourself in that role, or a cast of characters that you create. You want to see adults going on adult missions, not infantilized monster hunters who leave home at 10 for a life of "shonen"-style adventure or any of the other games that participate in that trope. I get that and I think I understand you better for your views on this game.

    That said, I'm not like that at all. I LOVE the Zelda games. This one is an early and frustrating example, but this is a game ultimately about exploration and solving puzzles. The game mechanics are the important thing, the different ways that you need to interact with each types of enemy, and the ways in which you gradually get stronger through upgrades and items-- as your arsenal gives you new ways to approach problems. I find this style of game tremendously satisfying. Zelda I is not the perfect example, but it was a step down a path for an entire genre.

    I did go through a Pokemon phase by the way, but it was more about the game mechanics and collector/completist instinct than it was because I could ever see myself in the shoes of a 10-year old boy. It was a fun game despite that.

    I mentioned Shonen a bit ago and I should try to define that a bit better. "Shonen" is a Japanese genre of childrens' action adventures. They ARE specifically designed for kids, but as an adult I still enjoy shows like "Dragon Ball Z" and "One Piece". I don't know why. The motto of Shonen Jump, one of the supporters and curators of this fad in Japan is "Friendship, Effort, and Victory". This defines many of the games and stories in this genre very well: What matters is the cast of (usually young) characters, that those characters grow and mature through their efforts, and that their efforts are (almost) always rewarded in the end. You watch them episode by episode strive to be better, to face the next biggest foe, and to always come out on top somehow with a minimum of angst. It's childish, but it's fun. The Legends of Zelda doesn't (yet) have that colorful cast of characters, but it does fit into the Shonen mold otherwise fairly well.

    Thanks for sharing this entry with us. I can appreciate your point of view and I love you in your consistency with it!

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    1. I don't even think most kids particularly identified with Link, any more than they identified with Mario or Pac-Man. Sure, Japanese aesthetics influenced the character design as depicted in the manual, but in the original game, his onscreen representation is basically a cipher, crafted above all to take advantage of one tile's worth of space as efficiently as possible. That's usually going to mean a big head.

      (Also, right now I'm looking at a screenshot of Temple of Apshai Trilogy on DOS, and the hero's body proportions look a lot more like a pre-teen wearing powder-blue pajamas than a fully grown man.)

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    2. "You play games because you want to imagine yourself in that role, or a cast of characters that you create. You want to see adults going on adult missions, not infantilized monster hunters who leave home at 10 for a life of 'shonen'-style adventure or any of the other games that participate in that trope. I get that and I think I understand you better for your views on this game." That's a really good take-away. Thanks for encapsulating it so well.

      PK, as for your final sentence, you're comparing a very early ICON with what is clearly meant to be the depiction of the hero in the game art. Look again at the third image in my entry--that is meant to be the protagonist that you're playing. I simply cannot look at that and think, "Yes, this is okay," even if I found the rest of the gameplay compelling--which, because it isn't really an RPG, of course I don't.

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    3. PK, as for your final sentence, you're comparing a very early ICON with what is clearly meant to be the depiction of the hero in the game art. Look again at the third image in my entry--that is meant to be the protagonist that you're playing.

      Keep in mind that many of us kids who played the game in the 1980s didn't have the manual, so that third image has no particular relevance to our experience, which was confined to the content of the game itself. The Link sprite in the game certainly didn't lead me to infer that his character was meant to look like the one in the manual; the pixel art is too stylized and lacking in detail for that. (And I think it's appropriate to focus on what's in the game itself: arcade marquees for Pac-Man gave him two feet and a smile!)

      Later, in-game depictions of Link became overtly infantile and/or teenage, but that was a ways down the road. (And kind of gross, frankly.)

      And no, I'm specifically comparing apples to apples here -- both of them in-game depictions of the player's avatar. If anything the Apshai one looks more "kiddie" to me, since the greater fidelity to realistic human proportions means I associate it more quickly with a real-life age range.

      For another early game with realistic human proportions, take AD&D: Cloudy Mountain on the Intellivision. The "running man" is clearly adult; on the other hand, he's entirely anonymous. Big heads do have the virtue that they communicate more information, both in real life and in old video games.

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    4. By the way, Addict, have you seen the original Japanese manual art? Images can be found throughout this article, as well as a PDF:

      https://legendsoflocalization.com/the-legend-of-zelda/manuals/

      It still won't be to your taste, but the depiction of Link therein is at least more competent, and less gross, than the frankly shoddy artwork in the US manual (English-language manuals for early NES games often have infamously terrible art). Inasmuch as we talk about what's "meant", i.e. the designer's intentions, the Japanese original should probably be the text of choice.

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    5. Oh my God, what possible good did you think THAT was going to do? I fear I don't see any major difference in the graphics, and now I know that the original game included stickers. You know, for your lunchbox. With the PB&J sandwich that mommy packed for you.

      Interesting topic for a blog, though.

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    6. Lots of early PC games came with little toys and just-for-fun knicknacks, often tied into the copy-protection in a rather predatory manner designed to screw over consumers that happen to lose their Dial-A-Pirate. It's a long tradition that includes the "Don't Panic!" button from the classic "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Infocom, the aforementioned Dial-A-Pirate from "Secret of Monkey Island," the dozens of map posters that have come with RPGs over the years, and of course the hundreds of dollars worth of plastic crap you can get for pre-ordering games nowadays. I seem to remember that a number of early space flight sims came with posters depicting the ships in-game in a faux blueprint style.

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    7. I seem to remember Ultima IV coming with a necklace of some sort.

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    8. Regardless of whether that's correct, I can now only imagine a teenaged Chet wearing their Ultima IV necklace to class. I needed that giggle, thanks.

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    9. Ultima IV was about learning how to be a better person in a violent and chaotic world. It's arguably the most mature game ever made, I don't care if it shipped with ankh-shaped pacifiers.

      And it was a PENDANT--an ankh pendant--not a "necklace." You bet your ass I wore it.

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    10. "Ultima IV was about learning how to be a better person in a violent and chaotic world."

      Au contraire, Ultima IV is about finding purpose in a peaceful world with no apparent problems. Basically this:

      "When I think of the desire to do something, how it continually tickles and goads the millions of young Europeans who cannot endure boredom and themselves, I realize that they must have a yearning to suffer something in order to make their suffering a likely reason for action, for deeds. Neediness is needed! Hence the clamour of the politicians; hence the many false, fictitious, exaggerated 'emergencies' of all kinds and the blind readiness to believe in them.
      This young world demands that not happiness, but unhappiness should approach or become visible from outside; and its imagination is already busy turning this unhappiness into a monster ahead of time so that afterwards it can fight a monster. Were these distress-addicts to feel within themselves the power to do themselves good from within, to do something for themselves, they would know how to create their very own distress. Their inventions could then become more refined and their satisfactions sound like good music, while they now fill the world with their clamour about distress, and consequently, all too often with the feeling of distress! They do not know what to do with themselves - and so they paint the unhappiness of others on the wall; they always need others! And continually other others! - Pardon me, my friends, I have ventured to paint my happiness on the wall."

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  3. Funny, I just played this for the first time and had a blast.

    https://jhipst3r.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-legend-of-zelda.html

    I played quite a few games from 1986, and the tech just blows the mind in terms of running on the Famicom Disk System as a launch title.

    It's clear something about Japanese games just don't sit well with you. I wonder if you somehow just can't get past the presentation like if a western top down action game would be fun for you or the problem is actually the gameplay.

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    1. I thought it would be clear from my entry that my problem is with both.

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    2. Right, so I assume a game like Diablo wouldn't really be enjoyable for you. As for visuals, it seems odd to let such a superficial thing be so bothersome. I mean sure some kids would never touch anything under 4k or whatever but not for someone who plays Ultima.

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    3. My problem isn't the quality of the graphics but what they are intending to depict. I was more turned off by the manual graphics than by the actual gameplay graphics. I otherwise don't normally care much about graphic quality.

      Diablo-style action RPGs aren't my favorite genre, but I like them more than Zelda because you gain experience and skills for each one of those kills, and your effectiveness is based in part on underlying attributes. Moreover, Zelda draws from an arcade tradition in which getting hit at all is very bad. In most action RPGs (and indeed most modern action games), you're expect to get hit a bit. You don't spend them constantly scurrying around trying to avoid any damage.

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    4. "I played quite a few games from 1986, and the tech just blows the mind in terms of running on the Famicom Disk System as a launch title."

      I don't get how a title released 3 years after the console can be considered 'launch title'

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    5. The Famicom launched in 1983, but the Famicom Disk System came out in 1986. An add-on, yes, but it really extended the Famicom's capabilities (at the time) enough that its launch was a significant milestone.

      Later on, with the advent of cheaper ROM chips, it became outmoded and ultimately irrelevant, but it was a big deal at first.

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    6. The games on the disk system was definitely a cut above the base system for the first few years. Metroid, Castlevania, Kid Icarus. Yes, it became irrelevant in about 3 years but if you look at all the games released in 1986, Zelda is hard to top as a fun action game.

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  4. While I do love console RPGs, I know that your personal taste is such that you'll immediately dislike most of them (ie. economy is not a factor, you don't create your characters etc.). I know that you'll dislike most of these games, and I'm okay with that and I still want to know your opinion. But I feel like that last sentence was still a bit harsh, as the exact same thing could be said by any of your non-gaming acquaintances about PC RPGs as well.

    As someone from eastern Europe, I never had a NES, so I don't have nostalgia (which is a legit answer to your question) for the era. I played through Zelda a few years back, and it was okay. I didn't like Zelda 2, but Link to the Past, the third game on the SNES is a classic. (Not a classic RPG, but a gem of a game.)

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    1. The last sentence was admittedly ill-advised. Irene was trying to hustle me out of the house and I couldn't think of a great way to close the entry. I had already made that point, and I suppose it didn't need to be said again as if it was the most important part of my coverage.

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    2. It does act as a very succinct summary of why you will likely bounce off of any future JRPG you try. You seem to have this very visceral reaction to the general aesthetic of the genre and it amplifies the other complaints you might have based on decisions made to better suit a console. And in fairness, a lot of early CRPGs aren't complex because they have a keyboard vs. a controller, but rather because the devs designed terrible user interfaces. Ultima has been repeatedly ported to consoles with no reduction in what you can do; instead they make use of context sensitive buttons (do I need a separate key for boarding a ship and riding a horse?) and menus.

      I'd like to show you a game:

      http://monkeypawgames.com/portfolio-item/class-of-heroes-2/

      Click to the videos tab to get a quick look at the art style. Now keep in mind that this is as direct a Wizardry clone as can exist. The only thing that really makes it more JRPG is the obvious art style and the narrative trapping of you belonging to an adventurer school. But the dungeons are still nasty, with spinners, teleports, no magic zones, etc, and the monsters will trash you if you don't approach them like a Wizardry monster. I think it would be fascinating to see the eventual review of the game from you (obviously that would be a very long time off).

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    3. I focused too much on the manual depiction of the characters in my review. While that plays a role in how I feel about the game, the far bigger contributor to my negativity is the MECHANICS of the game--arcade style action/reaction, no character development, limited inventory, monsters that bounce around the screen instead of behaving realistically--that kind of thing. I don't like it and I don't like the RPGs that it influenced. When I get to a JRPG that has quality RPG content, my angst over the anime graphics will barely cause a blip in the GIMLET.

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  5. I'm a long-time reader, one who went back and read every single one of your posts, and one who genuinely appreciates your explorations of the obscure corners of computerized role-playing.

    That said, I do find your outright refusal to find essentially anything of merit in a game like The Legend of Zelda baffling. (To be clear, this game is obtuse in ways that I wouldn't put up with now, but it came out in the '80s, when "talk to your friends at the schoolyard" was a valid way to progress in any game, be it the latest Sierra game, or Ultima III, or whatever.) You admit that the gameplay is challenging, and that it's about the player getting better over the course of the game; how can you not see that such an experience can itself be satisfying?

    You also clearly have major hangups on character designs, which I find a fundamentally silly viewpoint, but whatever. I never played Zelda for the graphics.

    There are entire genres of games that are all about the player getting better: first-person shooters, platformers, action-adventure games much like Zelda. To act "mystified" at why someone would ever deign to play them it to fundamentally misunderstand a deeply human trait: the desire to get better at a thing, to receive tangible feedback that you *have* gotten better, and to be able to parlay that skill into ever-harder challenges. I guess I'm mystified as to what you find so mystifying.

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    1. "refusal to find anything of merit" makes it sound like he went into this with a predetermined outcome, and he probably didn't. It's just his opinion of the game. Like he said, there's different styles out there for everyone.

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    2. "Your outright refusal to find essentially anything of merit in a game like The Legend of Zelda baffling." Your outright refusal to read anything except the first and last paragraphs is equally baffling.

      "There are entire genres of games that are all about the player getting better." Sure. Is my blog about any of those other genres?

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    3. Oh, I read the whole review. I guess I was just feeling similarly dismissive as you were when you wrote that you don't understand why adults would play these games.

      Titles in the various "get better" genres sell very well to adults. Painting them all as children's games is infantilizing in both the literal and figurative senses, and you can't be terribly surprised that people are not happy about being told that they're kids for the particular ways they have fun. I'm not saying *you* have to like them. But you sure don't have to effectively call people who like them foolish children.

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    4. Didn't the Nintendo Power magazine have tons of hints and guides for Zelda? I feel that was a big part of kid discussions around Zelda.

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    5. Indeed, Nintendo Power was where you got solutions to many of the mazes and illogical puzzles used to pad out game time. It was very Sierra-esque.

      In a fun example, Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the NES asked you to call a phone number in real life, on a real phone, to get a clue needed to progress. Nowadays it's a phone sex line.

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  6. Zelda definitely isn't an RPG by the definition of videogames. But the first one is an amazing distillation of the tabletop roleplaying experience. The vast overworld full of secrets, hidden doors, tricks and traps, etc. remind me of the best classic D&D modules.

    Meanwhile JRPGs (and many CRPGs) took the story and stats and assumed that was enough. I wish more games had the variety and inventiveness of mechanics the Zelda games do, whether they're action, RPG, card-battler or whatever!

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    1. Well, it's nice to hear from the enthusiastic opposite side. As I said in the entry, "There are plenty of games for everybody's tastes."

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    2. "Meanwhile JRPGs (and many CRPGs) took the story and stats and assumed that was enough. I wish more games had the variety and inventiveness of mechanics the Zelda games do"

      YES, 100% agree. Role-playing is so much more immersive when your choices actually feel and look different, instead of just being different numbers with a different name. Swinging a sword and throwing a boomerang *feel* different in Zelda.

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    3. Yeah, I agree that Zelda feels like the classic D&D experience in actual play. One does not beat, say, Keep on the Borderland by leveling up stats. In the starting level range about all you'll get from levels is more HP (the equivalent of more hearts). You beat Keep on the Borderland by playing smarter, using the monsters against each other, getting better at finding secret doors and loot caches, and getting better gear.

      In other words, inventory and player skill are the main determiners of success. Much like Zelda.

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    4. Indeed. I've recently joined a Pathfinder game with a group online, and the most memorable part of three sessions so far was very Zelda-esque: using a pint of oil to ruin a creature's invisibility by coating it with fluid. Very easily accommodated by a human Dungeon Master but practically unheard of in CRPGs, which tend to shy away from player improvisation in favor of a few predefined paths to success--unless you're NetHack, and have a multi-generational development team with a few decades to consider edge cases.

      Zelda encourages this kind of problem-solving via its enemy design. Dodongos are impervious to outside attack, so a leap of logic could lead to using bombs. Gibdos, being wrapped mummies, are especially vulnerable to fire (I don't remember if this was in the original, but it was definitely in later titles.)

      In fact, Zelda starts to lean a but too hard into this in later games, where many enemies can only be defeated by a specific weapon that exists solely to counter them.

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    5. I hate to dig a deeper hole, but I can't see how Zelda would possibly remind anyone of a tabletop D&D module. I'm trying to imagine how that session would go.

      DM: You open the door. Inside the room are a bunch of blobby things bouncing around in patterns from one wall to wall. What do you want to do?

      PLAYER: Run around throwing my sword at the blobby things while trying to avoid their attacks!

      DM: Ah, the usual choice.

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    6. I think it's more about the overall experience and feel of the exploration and acquisition of items as you go along, than it is about the moment to moment gameplay decisions.

      Think of the DM letting you explore several wilderness areas, find secret dungeons if you are inventive at exploring ("I chop down the tree to get across the ravine"), etc.

      When people say it reminds them of the feel of playing D&D, they don't necessarily mean mechanically.

      Personally, the most oldschool D&D dungeon crawling experience in a game is Thief's Bonehoard. It's not even remotely an RPG, but the atmosphere of the place is just sublime and I find it to be one of the best dungeon crawls ever designed. (Then again, the devs did want to go for the feel of playing a D&D rogue, except as a stealth FPS game rather than an RPG with stats and leveling).

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  7. A delight to see Zelda here, even if it didn't agree with you. I don't think it had a profound effect on the evolution of RPGs (beyond its sequel, obviously) that wasn't already in place with Namco's Tower of Druaga or Falcom's Ys I/Xanadu or T&E's Hydlide, but it probably helped proliferate more RPGs in that mold. (I'd hoped you would like Zelda more than any of those, but I suppose having stats and XP goes a long way.)

    Zelda II is very different in some respects, very similar in others. I think you'll still have the same issues with it (high difficulty action gameplay, obtuseness, cartoony look) but maybe the more overt RPG trappings will be more appealing. I only completed Z2 for the first time last November, and there are some really painful moments.

    Personally, I really love Zelda from the third game onward, but there'd be no reason to play any of those for the sake of a CRPG blog. Maybe for the best.

    (FYI: Gannon, later Ganon, is a large pig demon. Hence the name.)

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  8. I'm baffled as to why you can't find anything of value here. The Zelda series is basically an action undertaking of common RPG conventions of the eras its released in. Like this one, its got the cryptic nature of most RPGs from the era, except instead of being in wireframe or with static images, its animated. You can actually move around freely. You really can't understand why someone would want to explore a well-crafted wide-open world? Eh.
    Also, this isn't kawaii. I'm not an expert on the subject, but that kind of influence happened much later, around 2003 with stuff like Lucky Star. Where character eyes actually are a quarter of the size of their head.
    I do find it interesting that Hydlide isn't mentioned at all here. Most people compare the two, and you're like the only person outside of Japan to have played Hydlide first. It'd actually be a bit interesting to see a comparison where the reviewer likes Zelda less.
    What makes this even more baffling, is you like Skyrim so much, literally a game that focuses on action elements to the detriment of its RPG elements. A game that is the way it is because of Zelda's maligned influence.

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    1. "I'm baffled as to why you can't find anything of value here." Look, you can be upset with my review, but don't take it too far. I offered several paragraphs in which I outlined what I DID find of value, including the natural propulsion of action-oriented play and the boss combats.

      If you don't see the difference between combat options and tactics in Skyrim and those in Zelda and just lump them both under "action," I can't help you.

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    2. A few concessions where you say it isn't completely terrible doesn't exactly scream that you find value in it. I'm sure you did, but you didn't put that into text very well.
      I'm not upset, I used the word baffling for a reason. Because its baffling. If you want upset, you can continue to deliberately ignore what I said instead of countering the point I actually made. You know, that it was an influence, not the entire pot. They are not the same, Zelda requires a better use of tactical ability, even if it is using x item against y creature.

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  9. Have you ever had the experience of eating food that you didn't 100% trust (past its expiration date, bought from a food truck in a sketchy city, etc.), and felt nauseated in the act of eating it -- even though, in retrospect, there was nothing wrong with it, it tasted fine, and you didn't get sick? Reading this entry was a little bit like witnessing that.

    For any game to be an enjoyable experience, you have to come to it with a certain amount of goodwill and trust (in the sense of "willingness to trust that the game's designers are able to offer something of value"). Without that, even the best game will become a chore, viewed as an obstacle to be dispensed with rather than as a potentially rewarding experience to be embraced.

    Given the double whammy of disliking the idea of Legend of Zelda (or what it represents), and presumably wanting to dispense with it as quickly as possible (whether in the name of the project or because it grosses you out to find yourself playing such a game), I have a hard time seeing much chance that you were going to enjoy it.

    And that's fine: we all have our prejudices, and I try to do things I don't think I'll enjoy every so often, just to confirm that I'm not operating under assumptions ("I hate Brussels sprouts") that are no longer true.

    But it does make for a weird read, like a film review from someone who absolutely loathes the lead actor and has no chance of suspending disbelief for his performance. With that mindset, it's already foreordained that everything he does will seem stupid, smug, calculated, or whatever, because it's never his character onscreen -- it's always, and can only be, that jerk you wish didn't exist in the first place.

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    1. Fair enough. It just makes it all the more amusing to me that people kept encouraging me to try it.

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    2. I definitely am on the discouraging side. As I said on another post, it's clear Zelda, Ys, Eiyuu densetsu, Persona, Final fantasy, none of these games would be enjoyable for you. One of my first games was Azure bonds and Hilsfar on C64 and I enjoy both types but as you said, somethings are not for everyone so see no need to force yourself.

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    3. I think anyone who reads your blog should have been able to anticipate that you weren't going to like it, sure. What was less obvious, perhaps -- but still foreseeable -- was that you didn't want to like it.

      Do you think you would've given the game more benefit of the doubt if it had the exact same gameplay and level designs, but different "manlier" iconography, PC-exclusive origins, and a keyboard-based interface? In other words, do you think your experience of playing the game was sort of predetermined not just by the gameplay itself, but by the fact that it falls into a category (or multiple categories) of things you wish didn't exist (or at least didn't intersect your life), and so you fundamentally resented the act of playing the game because it was on the wrong "team", aesthetically and culturally speaking?

      (In other words, did you feel like a Red Sox fan eating at a Yankees-themed restaurant? Doesn't matter how good the food is -- or isn't -- if you feel like every bite is a betrayal!)

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    4. I obviously wasn't going into the game with a blank slate. I was aware somewhat of the themes and nature of gameplay. But I still think it's incorrect to say that I didn't want to like it. No one wants to spend 15 hours being miserable.

      I clearly focused too much on the depictions of Link and Zelda in the manual and such in the entry. I still wouldn't have liked the nature of the gameplay, any more than I did with Deadly Towers, even if the hero had been a more conventional one.

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    5. I love RPGs to death but I also enjoy arcades and other types of games. Would a fun arcade game like super smash tv, X-Men, or turtles in time not enjoyable at all even for a few quarters? The arcade was half the reason why I loved going to bowling alleys as a kid.

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    6. Oh, I don't know -- I can think of some things I don't want to like, even though I might like them if I approached them with a open mind, because I don't want to become a person who likes those things.

      Pokemon is a good example: it has a lot of mechanics that aren't too different from the ones I've spent hours playing, and if someone were to force me to play for a few hours, I'd probably be hard-pressed to claim that the game wasn't offering plenty of things I enjoy.

      But if I were to find myself talking about Charizards and Celebis and whatnot, I'd be grossed out by myself, somehow. I don't want that stuff to take up space in my brain; I don't want to be a grown adult who has those words and that iconography at his lips.

      I know it's not a fully rational prejudice, and has more to do with what the game represents in my own head -- a kind of cutesy, infantile quality to the names, the character art, the few episodes I've seen of the anime courtesy of younger relatives -- than anything empirically true (though the fact that the games are an infamous time sinkhole also factors in, admittedly). And I don't begrudge anyone their enjoyment, or think less of them for it. I just...know in some deep, instinctive way that it's not for me.

      Surely you can agree that, if I were to (for example) have a project where I beat and review every Game Boy game, I'd probably go into Pokemon with a mindset pretty well-described by "I didn't want to like it"? And conversely, don't you think that your response to a game like Zelda is at least slightly informed by a feeling that you'd lose some self-respect -- or at least have to change your self-definition a bit -- if you really did like it?

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    7. I do understand where you're coming from. And I agree there are probably things I feel that way about. I probably wouldn't allow myself to ever like soft-serve ice cream, for instance, even if someone invented the Best Flavor Ever. Hamilton might be another example; I've gone so many different directions as to how I feel about it that I've nearly checked myself into psycho-therapy over it, but I admit that I went into the experience wanting to have my initial distaste validated.

      But no, PK, I don't think that I've ever done that with a game. I've certainly been open about my prejudices. I've commented repeatedly on what I like and dislike about different types of games. But I do feel like I've given them all an honest try. When I've found things to like about games like Knights of Xentar, I've been honest about it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that given how well it rates elsewhere, I actually EXPECTED to enjoy Zelda more than I did.

      I take this project seriously, and if I felt that my prejudices were so strong that I couldn't possibly approach a game fairly, I don't think I'd play it at all. Zelda just doesn't push the right buttons for me.

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    8. Fair enough! I appreciate the honest and thoughtful response.

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    9. Hmm, maybe this was a typo, then:

      "Nonetheless, I got the experience I was looking for, which was mostly negative."

      I like your blog, but taking the temperature of the "room" here, you should probably either avoid playing games you are already convinced you won't like or just not blog in depth about them.

      Your writing here seems petulant, almost a bit martyr-ish. "Look at what you made me do... god anyone who likes this is a big baby..." etc.

      Honestly, nobody forced you to play this, so don't expect thanks for being a baby about it.

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    10. "But if I were to find myself talking about Charizards and Celebis and whatnot, I'd be grossed out by myself, somehow."

      I just want to note that your username is a reference to a game series where you play a literal child in shorts and a ballcap who hits enemies with a baseball bat and rides around on a bicycle. A great series, don't get me wrong, but...

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    11. "Nonetheless, I got the experience I was looking for, which was mostly negative." Not a typo, exactly, but poor wording. I went into this session hoping to be educated about the basic approach that Zelda takes, how it differs from RPGs, and yet how it later influenced RPGs. I got my answers. In so getting them, my experience with the game was mostly negative.

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    12. "I like your blog, but taking the temperature of the 'room' here, you should probably either avoid playing games you are already convinced you won't like or just not blog in depth about them." You do realize that this is MY room, right? I'm the host. You don't all have to stay for the party if you're not having fun, but I'm the one throwing it.

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    13. I just want to note that your username is a reference to a game series where you play a literal child in shorts and a ballcap who hits enemies with a baseball bat and rides around on a bicycle. A great series, don't get me wrong, but...

      Heh, touché. But oddly enough I've never played Earthbound on the SNES (or Mother 3 on the GBA) -- only the NES prototype, many years ago. It's really more of an in-joke between me and my wife, but explaining it would be pointless.

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    14. >> "You do realize that this is MY room, right? I'm the host. You don't all have to stay for the party if you're not having fun, but I'm the one throwing it."

      Wow... I hope you are doing alright, man. You've been a dick to your audience a few times tonight, including some regulars - you should probably stop digging deeper and just let this one go.

      Turn off the computer and drink a gimlet, maybe ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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    15. Sorry. I get irked when people think they have the right to tell me what to write about on my own blog.

      Delete
  10. This is an area where the two of us truly disagree, but even so I am glad to hear your impressions of these titles. I guess growing up with Zelda and Pokemon make all the difference as I am a huge fan of both series, and while it might not be an rpg to most people I do consider it one that matches my thoughts of an rpg. The action combat I don't even find that bad compared to most actiony games but again I guess that comes from playing over and over for years. Same time, the second one is more of an rpg and I feel it gets a bad rap, its actually one of my favorite zelda games, and you even get to play this Link again old enough to marry a different Princess Zelda if you win. Anyway just wanted to give my thoughts and though we disagree I am glad to see you give it a chance no matter the result.

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  11. I fail to recall any console game to which I have ever committed more time than this (a possible challenger may have been one of the FIFA titles, perhaps 20 years later) and like many readers I was both shocked and excited to see this entry.

    Admittedly, I've loads of nostalgia for this game, however it and the NES console arrived for me as a godsend when the home computer was far too expensive for my parents to afford, this was a cost effective alternative.

    Until a title like this, a save state I don't recall being an option, so a true RPG probably would have melted my cartridge sat on pause overnight so I never lost any progress (I'm not convinced I ever saw the Ultima VI port ever made it to Australia)!

    As for the infantile graphics, sure they're not much to write home about, but look at the system they were on and you can only do so much with 8 bit (is that what it was?).

    I'm sure someone can confirm/correct me on this, but I could have sworn there was a clue, vague or otherwise to the location of the final dungeon, and I didn't read anything about the whole 'Underworld' twist which gave this game added longevity/value for money!

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  12. The "young kid sucked into adventure" is a hallmark of the Joseph Campbell's theory of hero. The motif of a kid trying to save the world has a few entries in Western fantasy: the Prydain Chronicles, the Xanth series, the Eragon series, the Willow movie, and a host of other lesser-known titles.

    The "Dungeons and Dragons" TV series of the 1980s was also a bunch of children. (Gygax spent several years pitching a similar series of kids-save-the-world). But you're right, the western RPG tends to draw more from Western fantasy that's full of world-weary, aged veterans, especially characters who have odd longevity, such as Elminster, the Baggins, Drizzit, Gerralt, etc.

    Some of the appeal of these JRPGs or JRPG-alikes is that since they are geared towards younger audiences, they might concentrate more on the epic story and less on fan-service. RPGs like Wizardry 5 or Keef the Thief could be said to be offering a more 'sophisticated' experience, but they're hardly more mature or serious.

    My own personal experience has often been an opposing one. I don't enjoy games like the Witcher or Dragon Age which really, really want to be serious and mature, but are often undone by their strange or incomplete story-lines. (So Gerralt is cursed, but all women really want to sleep with him, and he collects playing cards with their images? Dragon Age's blood magic is said to be corrupting but that never ever actually happens in the story? etc.)

    On your blog, you've documented quite a few RPGs that had aspirations of being very serious, mature, and grim — we're all adults, and this is an adult world, etc. — only for those RPGs to fall apart mid- or late-game because their stories didn't make sense, plot-lines were dropped, or writing was simply bad. The simplicity of Zelda and its imitators holds up because they are exactly what they're supposed to be: action-adventure, puzzles to solve, a sense of progress as more of the map opens up. No one's going to fault you for enjoying Challenge of the Five Realms ... but a lot of people would ask what's supposed to be fun about staring at a character sheet with fifty numbers which never seem to increase or to affect anything.

    That said, Nintendo is often very good at experimenting for middle ground. Zelda 2 obviously experimented with greater RPG trappings.

    One game that might interest you — if you can get over the indelible cuteness of it — is MARIO vs. RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE. It's an orthogonal grid with turn-based movement and attacks of opportunity, a design that's quite similar to the Gold Box. The designers put some effort into encouraging more movement and aggressive play, instead of the "bunching up" static nature of Gold Box, so I'd be keen to hear your observations upon it.

    Thanks again for doing what you do. Your critical perspective is always valuable.

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    1. "but a lot of people would ask what's supposed to be fun about staring at a character sheet with fifty numbers which never seem to increase or to affect anything." *I* asked what was fun about that. I complained constantly during that game about a lack of character development. Half the commenters here are acting like I've never given a bad review to any RPG.

      Anyway, thanks for your opening analysis. That puts things in context better than I did.

      "all women really want to sleep with him, and he collects playing cards with their images?" That's really a thing?

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    2. That was in the first Witcher game yeah.

      I mean it makes a little bit sense lore wise, as a Witcher is infertil and can't get sick, so you can get anything lasting from a little liason.

      But the first Witcher was still a bit overly cringy in that regard

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    3. It is a thing in the first Witcher game.

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    4. 'Tis indeed, in the first game at least: https://witcher.fandom.com/wiki/Romance_card

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    5. Just to be pedantic, I don't think Geralt was the one collecting the cards. Those were intended more as "trophies" for the player.

      Perhaps I'm cutting CD Projekt Red too much slack here, but this was there first game and as others pointed out this feature was dropped from all later sequels. Whether this was because they thought it was cringy or because they were targeting console releases and didn't think it would pass Microsoft or Sony's review we may never know.

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    6. I figured it was a cultural thing, and as they became more international, they realised that that stuff was regarded as a bit crass in the markets that dominated their sales.

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    7. Crass? Hell no, gamers love having their sexual interests pandered to. Just look at the comment section under Wizardry 6, or Rance, or Xentar, or even the last post or two of Fate. We'll probably get into it again with Daggerfall, which features a dozen or so generic nude female NPCs but, of course, no equivalent male nudity. Sex mods for Skyrim aren't only popular, they're practically a cottage industry.

      If anything, it wouldn't surprise me if somewhere on Reddit RIGHT NOW, there is somebody commenting that the romance cards were one of their favorite parts of Witcher 1 and how 2 and 3 are inherently worse by their absence.

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    8. I didn't mean to imply that that sort of titillation has zero appeal, just less broad appeal, especially considering that publishers are starting to recognise that women buy RPGs!

      Plenty of guys never move beyond their teenage power fantasy preferences.

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    9. About The Witcher:

      Does it seems strange to you that women want to get laid with a incredibly fit guy who is infertile and immune to diseases?

      The romance cards were probably a better alternative than having sex scenes with the game's Aurora Engine. It would have looked even more cringy. TW2 amazing graphics for the time allowed the game to have proper sex scenes, and the world was better place afterwards.

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    10. About Daggerfall, Alex, at least the player character's paper doll can be stripped completely naked regardless of sex. So if you wanna play a naked barbarian, you can do so! Of course, the genitalia are rather pixelated, but they're definitely there.

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  13. Logged many an hour on the original NES cart (which I still have)--a Game Genie is a godsend!

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  14. The self-righteousness is strong with this one...

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    1. Or, like me, he prefers a different style of game. I've played and enjoyed to some extent a couple of the Zelda games, but I far prefer the less action-oriented CRPGs that are the primary focus of this blog. Maybe I'm misreading it, but I don't get the impression that Mr. Bolingbroke thinks people who enjoy the Zelda games are immature per se; he just doesn't see the appeal of the art style. Some people like that style and others, including me, are capable of getting past it where the gameplay is good.

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    2. "I still don't think I'd play a 20-hour RPG that featured Grover as the protagonist. You're supposed to eventually grow out of childish things."

      I can't think of any reason to put it that way if he didn't find adults who still honestly enjoy the Zelda games childish.

      I didn't expect him to like Zelda. I was eager to read what he wouldn't like. I didn't realize it meant he also didn't like *me*.

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    3. Oh, come on. That's not fair. Of course I don't dislike you. We just don't understand each other about this topic. I'm sure we have lots of other things in common.

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    4. I didn't take it as an insult, but I'd definitely say it's a bit tone-deaf. The number of Zelda games is somewhere close to twenty, all of them containing dozens of hours of gameplay depicted in a variety of art styles. I'd be willing to forgive a snap judgment on a series like Pokemon, which has evolved very little over the decades both in gameplay and art style. But to dismiss the entirety of the Zelda series, any one of which could have been somebody's "starting point," based on a fairly cheaty begrudging playthrough of the very first game, is pretty unfair.

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    5. I didn't take it as insult, until the "You're supposed to eventually grow out of childish things." That's when it crossed from a critique of the game to a critique of the people who enjoy it.

      I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt (I have an Apple IIe in my basement that I was inspired to purchase specifically because of this blog so I could play Ultima and Wizardry as they were originally presented) but tone deaf remains a fantastic way to put it.

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    6. Wish I still had my Apple IIe. I might still play some of those games. I inherited my brother's console in, I think, '91? And I believe I played some version of Zelda on it as well as a sort of bastardized gold box game.

      But I don't think I could play the Zelda-style games today, in part because I never did like the style/themes and in part because there are so many other games that hit my sweet spot - most of which are CRPGs, but then again there was also Myth: The Fallen Lords.

      I doubt Mr. Bolingbroke would review that game positively either, as it was not a CRPG. But I'd still love that game (and its sequel, Myth: Soulblighter) regardless; his review wouldn't change my experience.

      Nor does it change yours.

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  15. I was really hoping that comments would center more around what you'd call a Witcher cereal.

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    1. Geralted Wheat Flakes. And it would be a Ciri-al.

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    2. 'Chock Full of Nuts' would be my amusing suggestion, but alas, it's already taken by a coffee containing precisely zero nut-based content.

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    3. It'd be like KrustyO's, except everything would be a jagged metal O. Or a flesh-eating bacteria.

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  16. Would it have been cool enough for you if it was made with ASCII graphics instead? :)

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  17. Been waiting for this one for a while, interesting read. Do you really think that computer RPGs are inherently more strategic than arcade-y, action, console games? I feel like the entire competitive fighting game industry challenges that assumption...
    Do you not have any thoughts on the potential advantages of gaining-experience-in-real-life as opposed to levelling-your-character? For gamers like me, the continued recurrence of experience points and skill trees in games instead of actual tactile gameplay is an endless source of frustration.

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    1. It sounds like gamers like you prefer action games, which is fine. No prejudice there. It's just not what my blog is about.

      Eventually, some very good games with detailed strategies and tactics got released for consoles. We're just not there yet.

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    2. Likewise, no prejudice here, definitely grew up with action games. I see it as a big part of the role-playing experience though - if my character gets stronger without me actually improving something myself, there's a break in immersion. How badass of a western hero can one be if they can sit in the battle menu and regain their composure between every breath? That type of gameplay seems more like an imitation of adventuring, like a power fantasy.

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  18. I have been reading you for eight years, and this is, without question, the worst entry you have ever written.

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  19. No GIMLET score?

    I enjoy both classic CRPG's and Zelda, for different reasons. I don't mind you having your own preferences, but I think you could have expressed them better. I've learned this the hard way myself; don't be in a hurry. You should have probably just saved the entry until you got back.

    Years ago, I read a very good book on writing as part of a class. I loved the author's work but I noted a very definite bias against fiction. He essentially inferred that fiction is for children, and that REAL adults want non-fiction. He's completely wrong. And I think you inadvertently sounded a bit like this guy without meaning to.

    I'm surprised honestly you played this one at all. If you were going to go for a console game, Final Fantasy would have at least been a CRPG.

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  20. I think this boils down to "I don't enjoy this genre", which is fine. The process of going on to judge the genre in objective language based on a subjective preference is the bit that boils the blood. :-)

    I don't quite understand your comment about "found" items rather than "earned" items. I mean, I understand it literally, the items are in a particular place and you have to get there, rather than being awarded automatically after grinding X amount of levels, but to my mind that makes the more "earned" - you have to overcome the challenges to reach them, not just spend time re-doing a challenge you've already mastered.

    I'm surprised you didn't more directly compare the title to the Ys games you've played, which it clearly shares DNA with.

    I'm also surprised you didn't talk more about how this is Japan taking Western RPG tropes - a princess, an artefact hunt, swords and dungeons - and re-interpreting them without any reference to dice or statistics or a ruleset, but rather by reference to the arcade tradition, and what that means for RPG design going forward.

    The other takeaways you should have had from Zelda for ongoing history of RPGs are:
    * This game sold like hotcakes, and of course everyone's going to emulate it.
    * It headlines a tradition of "action RPGs", even if it doesn't necessary found them, that continues on both sides of the Pacific but is particularly strong in Japan, and influences even traditionalist JPRGs such as the Tales series.
    * You correctly noted the boss design.
    * You're going to see more of that approach to "large open world, with areas starting from very early on that you can't access without a key item that fundamentally transforms the player's relationship with the environment, creating a lot of incentive to re-explore".
    * The trope of a great many missable "secrets" that can really only be discovered by players through either (a) discussion with friends or (b) consulting a guide will continue to plague RPGs (and particularly JPRGs) into the future.

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    1. Yeah, you're right. I should have talked about all that. Plus, as Adamantyr points out, I forgot to mention the GIMLET, which I DID apply. I was writing the entry too late and was clearly too concerned about meeting my self-imposed deadline than getting everything I wanted in there. Maybe I'll do an addendum later.

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    2. I expect the GIMLET will get posted with an addendum titled "Well, that escalated quickly."

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  21. As somewho who's played Zelda games all my life, I would say that Zelda 1 is one of the worst ways to be introduced to the series. While I enjoyed it, it's also significantly harder and obtuse than later games in the series. I would honestly not recommend playing it or Zelda 2 for much more than their historical status, as pretty much every other game in the series is a massive improvement over those two

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  22. I didn't expect this to pop up here. Fun read. The comment section is even more fun :p

    Your outright dismissal of the game for its childishness is hilarious. You're going to encounter this kind of thing a lot in Japanese games to come. Even in the few Japanese RPGs I enjoy (SRPGs like Tactics Ogre) you tend to play a teenage character. I guess it's so common because consoles in Japan were always marketed to a young audience of 5 to 18, roughly speaking. Meanwhile Americans and Europeans tended to make games for an audience of 14 to 30 year olds. I'm generalizing here and pulling random numbers out my ass, but the difference in tone is clearly noticeable.

    I never played Zelda myself, but your review sounds fair. Looks like a game I might enjoy, as I do like action adventures and platformers. But an RPG it is not. The only thing that levels up is your health, and if we take that as a sufficient criterium for a game being an RPG, Prince of Persia would also qualify. And if finding better equipment counts, then Tomb Raider is an RPG because you find new weapons throughout the game.

    If Zelda is an RPG, a lot of games that are clearly not RPGs would also qualify. So yeah. Not an RPG.

    There's only one sentence in your review I have to object to. You said you prefer to earn equipment upgrades over finding them, and that's an inherent quality of RPGs. Finding them is earning them, though - they're a reward for exploration, and during that exploration you need to overcome enemies and traps. And plenty of RPGs have items that are found rather than earned as enemy drops or quest rewards (just look at Morrowind with its many cool artifacts that can be found lying around).

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  23. "You're supposed to eventually grow out of childish things."

    Your review and dislike of the game and art is fine. However, your attitude as displayed in the quoted reply is disappointing. You do realize you are an adult that spends a large amount of his time playing video games, yes? Games that were aimed primarily at teenagers at that.

    I know plenty of people who would have the same opinion of you playing games, as well. There's a lot of adults who would call you childish for something you enjoy doing. Games are ephemeral, they produce nothing useful and are therefore a waste of time. I've heard this argument too many times and it is always summed up by the exact line you have used.

    Your "I'm more mature than you" attitude is not necessary or appreciated. If it was not intended as such, it still comes across that way.

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    1. You're taking me entirely too seriously. That wasn't supposed to be an insult to people who like the game but rather a description of my mental rationale for not liking it myself. I"m sure I could have worded it better.

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  24. I think I kinda understand your irrational unease about "childrens stuff".

    Many people have stuff that they are uncomfortable _being identified with_, and since many people believe themselves to be the paragon of "the normal", they believe that "all normal people" are _also_ uncomfortable being identified with the "bad stuff".

    I am irrational this way, too, but not about "childish content" - I have no problem enjoying things that someone finds "childish", and am not mystified by others enjoying it, - but I greatly dis-enjoy games about EVIL murderer people, like Hitman or GTA series, and I am mystified that someone, without being a legitimately evil/criminal/sociopathic person, sincerely enjoys them.

    And then there are some people who dislike anything that contains LGBT references and are mystified by those who are okay with it...

    What is sad, though, is that when we fanatically profess "no, we are not like this", we tend to unwittingly bash other people because of our own self-critizism that we WOULD feel, be we in those other people's place.
    But the thing is - they are them, not as, they are ashamed of other things, and may feel kinda barfed on when they're _expected_ to be ashamed of something that is actually quite okay for them.

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    1. Not every post may have its own soundtrack, but at least this has a custom-made one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI

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    2. You lost me in your last paragraph, but I guess I agree that my distaste for playing games with pre-adolescent protagonists is comparable to some of the other things that you mention.

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  25. This post is abit awkward as you recognize from the beginning that this is not a RPG and then a lot of the rest comes off as complaining about exactly that. It should not be understated how much this game, in it's very genealogy, fundamentally is not an RPG. Perhaps it is even an anti-RPG.

    A quick glance at it's development history reveals that it was actually developed concurrently with Super Mario Bros by precisely the same development team, who basically came up with a ton of action game concepts and seperated them into two themes: A linear side-scrolling desing and non-linear top down on. So it was literally created as a counter-point and offshoot to Mario, with no RPG influence whatsoever. The inspiration to the games theme and feel was drawn from the designers memories of exploring nature and cave as a child, very similar to what the original Adventure was attempting to depict, and indeed one could easy see Adventure executed as an action game in Zelda, hence the term action-adventure is perfectly on spot in describing Zelda.

    Zelda and Mario are fundamentally VIDEO games. Their designer Miyamoto comes from an arcade background. These games are completely about visual objects moving on the screen. RPGs with their pen & paper + dungeon master origins come from a background of DESCRIPTIVE and ABSTRACT gameplay. In a D&D session the events of the game world are mediated through narration an conceptual representations through stats and abstract rules, in some cases representing more metaphysical concepts such as skill and experience. In Zelda what you see is what you get. The most RPG thing in Zelda is arguably the health bar. Compared to D&D it works more like physical toy or a sport. Compare a game of amarican football to tabletop fantasy football. The RPG and the action game have, in their original form, two completely different, maybe even opposing, forms of mediating the world, like books and movies. The action RPG is actually the marriage of two completly unrelated ludo-narrative concepts. In a game like Dark Souls or Skyrim you have, with differing weightings, a layer of physical and visual simualtion, where sword hit means a sword hit when through your controls a physical sword touches an oponent, and a metaphysical layer of stats an skills, where for example the swords quality is also described through a damage value and or a bad roll on your skills might overide your physical hit.

    As bonus, Miyamoto actually doesn't like RPGs very much. Quote: " I personally have a fundamental dislike of the RPG system. But there are so many people who do like it and there are certain types of games for which that system is perfectly suited. I think that with an RPG you are completely bound hand and foot, and can't move. But gradually you become able to move your hands and legs.... you become slightly untied. And in the end, you feel powerful. So what you get out of an RPG is a feeling of happiness. But I don't think they're something that's fundamentally fun to play. With a game like that, anyone can become really good at it. With Mario though, if you're not good at it, you may never get good."

    So maybe that might clear things up.

    On another note: It seems like you have forgotten to add Darklands to your highest rated list.

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    1. This is a good analysis. I did go into the game understanding that it wasn't an RPG. I don't feel like I so much as punished it for not being an RPG as I did contrast the experience playing it with the experience of playing RPGs, trying to explain why I like one and not the other. Your historical evidence bolsters the distinction.

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    2. Fun fact: Miyamoto mentioned in an interview that Zelda was inspired by the first Ultima and The Black Onyx.

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  26. I'm mostly a CRPG gamer who is right now playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch. I think I lot about this review applies to Breath of the Wild (and maybe to all the Zelda games). While Breath of the Wild is fantastic for so many reasons, it would definitely be improved with experience points (a la a typical RPG) and NPC dialogue that wasn't written for a 10 year old.

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    1. How would experience points improve Breath of the Wild? I'd be all for better dialogue too, so long as it doesn't bog down gameplay - short, sharp and snappy.

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    2. I have to agree with Unknown; experience points wouldn't add anything to the game that isn't already there. Lots of games that don't need RPG mechanics have them crowbarred in anyway, and they always feel sloppier as a result--BOTW has so many ways to progress your character that an XP meter on top of it would be utterly meaningless.

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    3. I had similar thoughts as TJ. I doubt I will ever progress further in BotW. But if I could just grind my way through problems, I probably wouldn't have given up on the game so early. And if I could play with mouse and keyboard.

      But I do get that that is not what the game is about. I do admire the game for what it is. The systemic approach is delightful, and liberating. Yet, sadly, a bit out of my reach.

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    4. My reason for wanting experience points in BotW is to have a greater sense of reward for dispatching enemies. Sometimes they guard an important location, or have valuable treasure. But other times they are just there, and it would be nice to get something out of it.

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    5. Isn't "Experience points" in BotW largely covered by the Spirit Orbs from shrines, which you can use to upgrade either your health stat or status stat? To say nothing of the supplies you get from beating enemies or finding rare items, which can be used to level up your armor?

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  27. At one point I wanted you to do a few console RPGs, and I may have even posted encouraging that.

    After reading the console RPG entries you've posted so far, including this one, I now encourage you to stick with CRPGs. It's pretty clear you're not going to like most of them, and with each post you make about a console RPG, you have a growing contempt not only for the games themselves but for the people who enjoy them. I know it's your blog and you can post whatever you want, but it just doesn't seem worth it to continue down this road. There are plenty of other bloggers doing console RPGs.

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    1. He's not playing console RPGs to document them, but to observe the lineage of certain CRPG tropes.

      There have only been a handful, and there will never be more than a handful.

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    2. Holy hornets nest. Well Chet if you are ever questioning your readership engagement and looking to get a bump on views or break the record on number of comments, you know where to go fishing.

      But this wasn't totally unexpected. In Chet's defense, he had indicated before that some of these games would not come out favorably if he played them. So take heed people, this is what happens when you poke the bear and ask him to dance when he doesn't really want to dance.

      I don't think he really wanted to play these console games, but I think he felt somewhat obligated to do so after all the pleading. Therefore his commentary comes off more pointed than it would normally.

      If I were to make any suggestion to Chet, it would be to stick to one of his original tenets and only play games that have a computer (non-console) release. (not like he is running short of CRPGs) Historical significance or not, a decent share of the console-only games are probably going to be a lose-lose situation on this blog. More than likely one of his fellow bloggers has already covered the title and can be referenced if there is a need to do so for the sake of comparison to CRPGs.

      He said himself somewhat recently that he was hoping to get to more current games that HE would ENJOY playing. Now if he really WANTS to play one of the console RPGs and not because he was chided into doing so, then go right ahead.

      In the future when there are more requests to play console game XXXX for YYYY reason, and there will be more, you can point them to the magma chamber lying in wait on this page. :P

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    3. I think there is value in him dipping in now and again, as later on some of that JRPG influence is going to make its way back into the CRPG realm. Septerra Core is blatantly a western-made JRPG that's PC only, while Anachronox is heavily influenced by JRPGs and is again, PC-only. Having the context of what JRPGs are doing at the time (by playing the major ones, like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger) will allow him to have more context on the western JRPGs, and to better be able to see how they are the same and how the western developers put their own spin on things, just like how JRPGs are Japanese devs putting their own spin on Wizardry and Ultima.

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    4. LanHawk, I think that is an excellent suggestion for Chet going forward. I believe this blog is better served staying focused on CRPG's with references to console RPG/action RPG on other blogs. It's better that the commenters who have the experience with the latter to chime in and talk about the merits of the influence of console RPG's on CRPGs.

      Of course, this is Chet's blog to do as he will, but I just wanted to chime in on the suggestion.

      Delete
  28. Way back when you first played Xanadu on here, the fascinating thing to me was that the dungeon rooms there looked exactly like the midpoint of the historical line that starts with Ultima IV/V and ends with the first Zelda. It's not an influence I think many people would think of, without your blog highlighting the historical midpoints of these series. So thank you for that.

    There's an old man in one of the dungeons who says that "Spectacle Rock is the entrance to death" or something. That's meant to be the hint to the location of Level 9. The two large rocks on that screen are supposed to look like a pair of eyeglasses or spectacles. It comes out a bit confusing in translation, since "spectacle" meaning "eyeglasses" isn't exactly the first meaning that comes to mind in English.

    You can manipulate rupee grinding a bit. Different enemies have slightly different drop tables, and some drop the blue rupees more frequently than others. (Skeletons and snakes are examples of the best rupee drop rate, I think?)

    And I think this is the first time I've ever seen peahats described as "chickens." (They're clearly giant flowers!)

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    1. The blue tektites just to the east of the starting area are one of the best places to grind rupees; they frequently drop blue rupees and have a pretty good drop rate. The length of that rock tunnel is also long enough to easily be able to trigger the respawn logic without having to wander too far.

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  29. Oh man, this entry plus this comment section has been a grand read.

    My first thought was "no way, he actually played it", my second was "Total hours:15 my ass".

    I played this when I was 13 and didn't get very far, though I appreciated how much character (mechanically) different enemies had, and the way the map and compass changed the experience of navigating dungeons.

    I'm not surprised by your reaction, though I hope you're glad to have played it - I think it's an important box the check in this endeavour. Besides, now you can appreciate why Hydlide was so derided when North Americans finally got their hands on a copy.

    When it comes to the tone of games, I can understand why you have distaste for Zelda - maybe the reason I don't is because I grew up with a NES. Kids with Playstations would often make fun of N64 games for being 'childish', whereas I just saw the characters I'd grown up with represented in increasingly higher detail.

    I'm bothered by tone on occasion. I generally can't deal with comic fantasy - Penny Arcade's RPGs or the latest effort from The Coles, for instance, even though QFG's silliness didnt turn me away. I also struggle with the 'male teenage power fantasy' tone, I cringe so often when I played Gears of War and the first Witcher game - that opening intro makes my eyballs roll 360.

    The only other Zelda game I've played is Ocarina of Time, whose tone certainly starts off a bit cute but then takes an emotionally resonating dark turn. I liked it a lot, but it's no more an RPG than the first game.

    So funny how half the comments have been really well articulated and the other half have been: "I'm so disappinted in you, Chet".






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  31. (Corrected typos, sorry!)
    "I think it was meant to be a 120-hour game in which the player was meant to explore every inch of every screen... and to trade findings with friends."

    This is definitely how I played this with my friends when I was a kid. It took us months of solid playing to figure it out, and it was exciting to find out something new and call up your friends to explain.

    I enjoyed the first three Zelda games growing up, but I definitely lost interest with the series once I got to around high school age. I think what appealed to me was that they were action games but with a large world to explore and plenty of secrets. Between Zelda 3 and Zelda 64 I had been exposed to PC RPGs, and the light RPG aspects of Zelda 64 were too shallow to hold my interest, while the action/combat paled in comparison to pure action games.

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  32. An interesting read and also a perhaps overly spirited comment section. Although I shouldn't speak, as I think I also wrote a similarly spirited comment in one of the first Dungeon Master posts. Unless I passed the wisdom check and read what I wrote first and then decided not post the comment. Anyways, I do want to say I enjoyed reading your take on Zelda. I've only played some of the Breath of the Wild, and thought Zelda was the name of some teenaged green elf well into this millenium. So it was also very informative in descriptive sense as well.

    Something did occur to me for the first time. To give some background, I consider arcade and action as two rather different categories, and I am kind of allergic to arcade elements. I like some action games, but arcade elements (e.g. avoiding damage, emphasis on rapid directional changes, building muscle memory, etc) always seem to detract from my gaming experiences. Even if an arcade game has tons of strategic or tactical depth, that tends to be meaningless because the arcade mechanics are the necessary barrier to gameplay. If not mastered to sufficient degree, the game is inaccessible.

    On to the point, which is probably obvious to everyone else, but I've never really groked it. The theming of Super Mario Bros is almost completely orthogonal to the gameplay experience. No one feels they are playing as a stocky plumber. Instead the avatar tends to disappear. When the player avatar dies, you don't think a blue hedgehog died, but rather that you "died". The enemies are not creatures: they are movements and behaviour patterns you react to. Bullet hell games borderline on pure abstract mechanical gameplay.

    Conversely, the further away the gameplay mechanics move from the focus of the game, the bigger the role theming has in the gameplay. The elements of the game have a lot more time to sink in, and instruct what you are doing. In a strategy game, you don't click on a couple if icons and then click to close a window. You attack with an army and read the combat report afterwards. In this sense stuff like character and world design is both more immediate and less central in games like Zelda, compared to traditional RPGs. Also I don't mean to say the theming doesn't matter in arcade games, it certainly can matter a lot, but that it is removed from the gameplay. (And yes, there are other elements besides the focus on the mechanical gameplay that affects how the theming and the gameplay interact, but it is a big one, I think.)

    With regards to the whole childish -thing, I both agree and disagree. Given the above, I'm not sure it matters if the theming is childish. That's not what people really engage with.

    Looking at all the entertainment around these days, a lot of it is quite childish. All the movies and tv series are set in worlds of superheroes, fantasy, supernatural or scifi. And the stories told in those are not very grown up. Young Adult books have tons of adult readers. There is definitely a large demand for childish stuff. And I am one of the people who watches those stupid movies and tv series. In the past year I've read at least two YA books. Of course if all you engage with is childish entertainment, that might be an issue. I'm sure practically no one does that. People have very demanding jobs and lives, so people crave for simple, appealing entertainment. Even if it is to a degree junk food.

    Also, I dare to suspect Irene may have some views on the maturity of the CRPGs we all love :-)

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  33. I'm mostly in agreement with the Addict here. I tried playing one of the Zelda games once (not this one...maybe 2?) and bounced off it hard. I don't have a problem with console RPGs (I've played plenty of games like Chrono Trigger, the Final Fantasies, etc), but I've never been good at action, and I've never liked pure action games. All I remember about Zelda was getting to the first mini-boss and being able to push it away repeatedly by throwing barrels at it, but not finding any way to actually defeat it with my weapon. I suppose there was some auxiliary item I was intended to use on it or something, but my conclusion at the time was that it was not a fun game.

    Maybe part of the difference is that I am a numbers-oriented person. I like being able to measure and see my character(s) getting better. I can't measure improvement in ability to dodge sprites on the screen, except in terms of making progress through more of the game, I suppose. I am the kind of person who has made spreadsheets to keep track of data and figure out strategies in games. This sort of cerebral approach is very much at odds with the real-time action approach of games like Zelda.

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  34. Why doesn't The Witcher have a cereal? ->

    Toss some oats to your witcher
    Oh breakfast of plenty
    Oh breakfast of plenty

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  35. "I guess that's the core of our disagreement. I see Link and Zelda as a lot closer to teletubbies than, I don't know, Disney films, I guess."

    I don't know, Chet, the first two Zelda games were actually inspired by the Hobbit animated film. Would you say that's also closer to Teletubbies than Disney flicks?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJDBpZ0Itvw

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    1. Regardless of what someone SAID they were inspired by, I don't really see the influence in the game.

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  36. So Chet, would you consider "Dark Souls" a RPG? Like most western RPGs, there are copious amounts of stats and attributes you can increase through the course of the game, and you gain "experience" through collecting souls, which lets you level up and add to whatever attributes you wish.

    "Dark Souls" was also considered a spiritual successor to "Zelda" that does Zelda better than any modern Zelda could.

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    1. Of course I would. I don’t understand why that’s even a question.

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    2. Addendum: Zelda and their ilk, such as Zeliard which you played in an earlier blog, along with Dark Souls, are often considered part of the "action RPG" genre. But of them, I think Dark Souls comes the closest to a RPG purely from the in-depth stat manipulation. Well, far moreso than say Diablo-likes.

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    3. Chet: Well, only because Dark Souls heavily depends on player input and dodging, etc., and less so on calculated inputs in a more turn-based fashion.

      There's definitely distinctions between class builds, though.

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    4. Dark Souls is an Action RPG through and through. Don't know why people even question it. It is way more stat heavy than most mainstream western RPGs, like Dragon Age or Mass Effect.

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    5. The impact of the stats in something like Dragon Age is surely more important than in Dark Souls? In DS the player actions, reaction times, and personal skill is often much more important than the stats you have. Whereas Dragon Age relies on the stats to calculate your characters ability to dodge an attack, or the accuracy of your hits.

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    6. Stats have a tangible impact on your character in Dark Souls, Andy. In Dark Souls 2, for instance, there are a few attributes that influence how long your i-frames are when rolling. I-frames are short for "invincible" frames, so determine how easy it is to roll to dodge an attack. The stats matter.

      Also, depending on your weapons or spells or enchantments, your damage scales more with certain stats than others, and weapons have scaling grades to determine just how much, too. Stats are very tangible and have a meaningful impact on things, and can make the difference between a character being so so and powerful.

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    7. I wasn't suggesting it shouldn't be called an RPG, but suggesting that something like Dragon Age is far more stats-based.

      After all, people play through Dark Souls on level one and can complete it with the starting equipment (for me, I have to level up a lot and have often relied on summons through my playthroughs of DS1-3 and Bloodborne, but Sekiro was too much for me).

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    8. I don't know what the confusion is here. Zelda is an action adventure. Dragon Age is an RPG. Dark Souls, blending characteristics of both, is an action RPG. Of course I consider action RPGs RPGs; I've played plenty of them. There are some I like more than others. I tend to judge an RPG's combat by the number and variety of tactics that it gives you and your ability to use the physical environment in combat, and there are action RPGs that I think do this very well.

      Bill, you seem to be just joining us--weird entry to do so--so please look at my definitions of an RPG in the side-bar or glossary. This is ground we've covered many times before.

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    9. Well I've never considered Zelda an RPG per-say, and even "Action RPG" for Zelda might be a stretch, but it does have the gaining of life through hearts.

      I'm not sure this is enough, though, so I think I agree with you Chet on "action adventure." If the hearts were gained as a result of experience gained in combat, then "action RPG might be apropos a la "Zeliard" but they are not.

      As for enjoyment? I've always enjoyed Zelda and Metroid type games--played most of them, but I'm also a huge RPG fan. The puzzle-solving thinking element is what appeals to me most in these action games, similar to how the dungeon crawler sub-genre of RPGs such as "Dungeon Master" or "Eye of the Beholder" or the Grimrock games are full of mental challenges you must solve to advance further. That's the appeal of Zelda--the puzzles and non-inherent linearity. Linearity that is not obvious, per-say, that they give you a world to explore and develop and solve these challenges, similar to a large majority of western RPGs. I guess that's why there's appeal? I'm older in my 40s and these games can still be fun now and then.

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    1. To be fair, the name is spelled "Gannon" in the game. "Ganon" didn't become the canonical spelling until later.

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  38. In a kind of strange taste, I do like Zelda-like console action RPGs, but don't like Zelda itself. I just feel the action RPGs by themselves are a fine sub-genre, but Zelda's exact gameplay formula for them do not attract me in any way.

    Also, I don't like the story and the world in Zeldas, as I find them excessively childish/juvenile and generally uninspired. Sure, games like Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma has young protagonists, but the stories there are much more well done, in my opinion.

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  39. I've always seen this first LoZ as a sort of "rpg simulator" in that it does have levels (sort of) and character development (sort of) and so on, but it's all presented in a different way, a way that became a genre in itself.

    I am reminded of a recentish tabletop rpg, Torchbearer, which tries to emulate the feel and gameplay of D&D through a ruleset that is almost nothing like D&D.

    "Why don't you just play D&D?" is an argument often thrown at Torchbearer and I don't know the answer to that. I suspect it's because TB players just prefer it. The same is probably true of LoZ.

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  40. As someone with golden memories of Zelda 1 and 2 I'm glad you gave this one a shot. I played it when it was first released to my local rental place, but I was seven years old.

    Zelda was a mysterous, wonderful place to visit back then, just as Dragon Warrior was an epic quest full of danger and adventure.

    Nowadays, eh, neither stand up as well, but the world looks different when you're a kid and I think the simple NES graphics allowed the imagination to kindle.

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  41. Zelda was super fun, incredibly addictive...but it´s not an rpg. It doesn´t cut it. You don´t have party members, the npc´s are stupid, and you can´t do character development. To my memory everybody described Zelda as an ADVENTURE GAME. A hack n´slash that´s not much more than Wonderboy in Monsterland for Sega master system.

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    1. Yeah it was the codifier for the Action Adventure genre. But there is a lot of overlap between AA and ARPG games.

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    2. I have never played LoZ seriously for long, but for whatever weird reason I *have* played Wonderboy in Monsterland a lot, and that was *exactly* the sort of analogy I drew too. And parallel in a way to Super Mario 3 or the like with the "try a power up here, it might help" type action.

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  42. Sometimes games for very young people appeal to very old people
    *dives for cover*

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  43. The Legend of Zelda was a game I didn't get until fairly late in the NES lifecycle... actually, that describes a few games I own, now that I think about it. I got into it enough to manage to beat it at least once back in the 90's. A number of years back, I was in a series of Skype calls watching a friend stream the third Zelda game, A Link to the Past. That inspired me to do similar a few weeks later with this Zelda game. It took me just a little more than 90 minutes to finish, though I skipped getting things that I really didn't feel like I needed, such as the Wand, Book, and Magic Key. I think I ended the game with a surplus of about 16 keys. I've got the recording up on my YouTube... it's no speedrun, but it's likely suitably impressive having come from a casual like myself.

    I wouldn't call it an RPG so much as an adventure game. It's more about exploration and ferreting out secrets than advancement. Still, though, I appreciate your take on the game, and can understand just a little where you are coming from; I imagine had I not played it back then I might not have been all that interested in it and others like it as much now.

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  44. "I guess that's the core of our disagreement. I see Link and Zelda as a lot closer to teletubbies than, I don't know, Disney films, I guess. There's lots of entertainment out there that has multiple layers and you can enjoy them at all stages of life, discovering new layers as you go. I don't see that in Zelda but I'll allow I might be missing something."

    Being an action game, it's more like sports. Most consider sports to be for all ages (and it is good for you to keep doing some sort of physical activity for your whole life, though that can't quite be applied to action or sports games).
    If you want more depth from Zelda 1 then you could look into speedrunning or self-imposed challenge runs, it's a pretty open ended game.

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  45. While it can be a fun novelty to see GIMLET applied to various related genres, I hope you don't start doing a bunch of these just because they're popular.

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    1. Really? “popular” is the word you’d go for?

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    2. Probably meaning 'popular games' rather than 'popular critical response'.

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  46. What does "anyone can be a hero" mean?

    For addict, anyone can become a hero: a powerful knight, a wise old mage, a muscled amazonian, a crafty thief, etc.

    But heroes are a fixed archetype. You can identify with the archetypes and wish to be or emulate them. But non-archetypal heroes are not heroes. It doesn't matter what the "effeminate" Link accomplishes, the effiminate nature of the character rules it out as aspirational. Link starts with a sword, masters magic, archery, the boomerang, seamanship, conquers dragons and dungeons and demons, etc. But in the end, he's just a twee, queer excuse for a hero. Deeds and journey are irrelevant.

    So anyone can evolve into a proper heroic archetype, but not everyone can be heroic as themselves.

    Seems more like Rob E Howard than JRR Tolkein.

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    1. Well, now I don’t know if this anonymous is making a serious argument or a parody of what he imagines my thought process to be.

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    2. Doesn't sound like a serious argument to me. "Deeds and journey are irrelevant"? This post seems more like trolling.

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    3. Well,

      "And if I'm going to play an action-adventure, I want to play a classic hero, not an effete little elf with bare legs and a pointy hat."

      I'd say this is fine, though. I like Rob Howard and Lovecraft without endorsing everything about it, and tolerating or condoning some values that you might not share are part of every artistic experience. You can't read a Conan story without suspending your disbelief about the premise of barbarism and masculinity and the feminizing aspects of civilization: that's the entire narrative of every story.

      But the core of the response here is that addict does not identify with the hero because of the childishness or queerness. "Effete", "bare legs" --- there's a lot to unpack in those word choices it would be surprising at least to me if someone called a child 'effete', but Conan would agree with the sentiment. If the hero is a literal child it suggests it is a childish hobby, which activates a negative response from addict. Otherwise, addict has to "headcanon" the story a bit to self-insert himself into it (the graphics are iconographic, not literal, the hero is older than the icons suggest and the monsters more threatening, etc.), but adopting this persona triggers a negative response for other reasons: he does not want to be "effete" or "bare-legged" or cute in the way that the icon seems to suggest. This isn't really a character that the player connects with at all.

      I don't think it's bad, just interesting. I would not be super enthusiastic to spend a lot of time playing God of War. The burly savage brute is outside my preferred range, the same way the effete, bare-legged queer is outside addict's. Monster Hunter games put me off because it seems like meaningless slaughter of majestic, beautiful creatures; I know that's insane, but the premise to me just sounds like being some trophy-hunting asshole who wants to put animal heads on his wall. I bet our "canonical" play-styles and builds and narratives in Baldur's Gate or Skyrim or Fallout are totally different.

      I guess it's just funny to me that people who have no trouble stepping into the shoes of a werewolf or The Nameless One or an alien or a ghost or whatever, can have trouble with characters who are young or queer. It's a bit like the uncanny valley or something.

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    4. 'Effete' strikes me more as a bad word choice (given its literary history) rather than an intended or unintended commentary on queerness.

      In the context of Chet's use of the word, it's about youth and being unready for adult adventures. In the context of reality, speaking as a hetero man who may have once fit others' definition of 'effete' raised by a 'bear' archetype of a gay father, I can say the word also has little factually to do with queerness.

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  47. I really don't see the point in this Review. This is not an RPG, or even an action RPG. It makes as much sense as me reviewing an hip hop album and arguing that speaking over samples isn't music.

    Are you still thinking about reviewing Chrono Trigger? You could condense all your anime-hate in that one post:) and in the process review an RPGs.

    As for myself, always got bored of Chrono Trigger. Phantasy Star IV is easily my favourite JRPG from the 16bit era.

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    1. I explained why I was reviewing it early in the review. Take issue with those points if you want to, but don’t act like I didn’t address the question.

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  48. Congrats on beating this one!

    I have tried playing a few Zeldas and never got very far. But then I'm not much of an action game person.

    Was a little surprised at the huge number of comments! But Zelda is incredibly popular.

    I always figured the elfin hero saving the princess was surely somewhat inspired by Tom Cruise in Legend (1985), but perhaps I'm wrong.

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  49. If I have forgotten something in your review that covered this, forgive me... It is a long slog through the comments on this one.

    I played Zelda before I played any RPGs, so that is my bias. I remember liking it as a kid, but then being really frustrated by it when I went back when I was older. How far do you think you got before you had to look things up? I seem to recall that while I found the first dungeon easily, I had a lot of trouble finding the second or third, and the part about the whirlwind I never would have got without help.

    While I loved the game as a kid, I too have always hated the way Link looked... Why would an adventurer have bare legs? Impractical.

    That being said, I am glad you took a look at it, and I am looking forward to your next entry.

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  50. I expect the spirited responses are largely due to some of the (perhaps unintentionally) derisive comments in the review which many commenters have already pointed out. Many individuals enjoy both more complex RPGs as well as action-adventure games like Zelda, as those who grew up during the classic era didn't have a wealth of quality titles to choose from, necessitating some form of flexibility in genre to find games with some level of interest in polishing the player's experience. Few are as dedicated to a single genre as Chet...we as readers should remember his single-minded proclivity when suggesting games, just as he might consider when writing reviews that his adult readers likely enjoy more than one genre.

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    1. Oh Chet likes other genres of games, he was talking about a red dead game just a few months ago and I know he's played half life 2. I don't play any other genre of games however and I guess I'm an adult, the government says so anyway.

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  51. So I'm going to warn you; while Zelda II is definitely an RPG, it cranks up the action elements much more than Zelda I. It is, without a doubt, the hardest Zelda game mechanically, and I suspect you will bounce off it HARD given your admitted lack of fondness for games requiring quick reaction time.

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    1. Is it, though? Zelda 2 clearly has character leveling, but doesn't appear to base combat on attribute-derived statistics, nor does it have an inventory of non-puzzle items. I'd call it a platform game; it's even the odd man out in its own series.

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    2. You might use platforming skills to hit your opponent in Zelda 2, but your damage and the # of hits you take are both based on "levels." Not to mention that Magic allows you to cast combat spells more frequently...at some point I thought they got cheaper, too. This would allow you to use Shield, Fire, and other effects. It's a platformer, but a hybrid RPG as well. Agree on the difficulty level - it is tough.

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    3. Combat is heavily influenced by your attribute-derived statistics. There is a reason that experienced players mostly take attack level ups initially; the damage boost makes a huge difference in hits to kill an enemy. The magic system services as your non-puzzle inventory. As a clarification @Calthaer, the Life and Magic stats affect how many points each box is worth, and then the magic and life containers add a box. Spells cost a fixed amount of points, so that might be two boxes worth at the start of the game and half a box with a maxed magic stat.

      To call Zelda II not an RPG because of the dexterity required means every action RPG is not an RPG.

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  52. "Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
    - C. S. Lewis

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    1. I'll bet that the fairy tales that Lewis "read openly" were original Grimm's editions with all the complexity of the original language, and I'll bet he read them with a healthy understanding of the historical context of folklore, and he used the opportunity to analyze the development of various oral traditions. I doubt he read the same editions that were meant for three-year-olds.

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    2. Possibly. On the other hand, it is just as possible that he referred to fairy tales in the broader sense including but not limited to Grimms' body of work. In either case his real point seemed to be that hostile or otherwise negative attitude towards things considered "childish" might itself be a sign of immaturity and insecurity.

      Admittedly, I had once rather snobbish attitude towards gaming. When other teenagers of my age were praising games like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake on PC while I was playing games like Ultima IV, Dungeon Master and original Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory on Amiga, I thought that I was being much more mature and sophisticated as a gamer. I had similarly dismissive opinions about console games.

      Later, with age and experience my attitudes softened and I started to appreciate wider variety of games and aesthetic styles. I can play games like the 2016 version of DOOM, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Pool of Radiance (and other Gold Box games available at GOG.com), Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Super Mario Galaxy, the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2, the Special Edition versions of Monkey Island 1-2, Chuck's Challenge 3D, the Windows remake of Heiankyo Alien, the 2017 remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap and so on. Currently I am playing Steam release of Elminage Original, which is one of the many Japanese successors for original Wizardry and something that might make an interesting addition to this blog in the future along with its sequel, Elminage Gothic:
      https://store.steampowered.com/app/618710/Elminage_ORIGINAL__Priestess_of_Darkness_and_The_Ring_of_the_Gods/
      https://store.steampowered.com/app/291960/Elminage_Gothic/

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  53. The interesting question, to my mind, is whether Chet will someday encounter a Japanese console game (RPG or RPG-adjacent) that he winds up legitimately enjoying - or at the very least, legitimately intrigued by.

    I'm 95% sure it would NOT be Chrono Trigger (1995). I have very fond memories of Chrono Trigger, just like I'm sure everyone suggesting it has. But I expect Chet would bounce off of it hard.

    I think it MAY be Final Fantasy Tactics (1997) or Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis (2001). I know that when I first got to grips with Final Fantasy Tactics, I felt like Gold-Box-Pool-of-Radiance-style gameplay had finally reappeared, almost 10 years later.

    But what I'd be most interested to see Chet's take on? In light of its mechanics, challenge, art style, story, uniqueness/oddness? Vagrant Story (2000).

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    1. As someone who doesn't like JRPGs whatsoever but enjoys SRPGs like Tactics Ogre and FFT, I wager those are the ones Chet would most likely enjoy. That's entirely on the gameplay, though. I'm pretty sure he won't like the artstyle, nor the fact that your character is of such a young age.

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  54. I have started nearly every mainline LoZ title but have finished very few. I generally like their core gameplay loop though and have vicariously lived through them via watching my wife best several of the games. The Link to Past on SNES and A Link Between Worlds on 3DS are the only ones I had beaten. I very much enjoy Breath of the Wild but three years on I still haven't completed it (family life keeps getting in the way). Even though they're not RPGs, and Chet didn't particularly care for this LoZ, I'd still recommend at least Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild as well made enjoyable Open World games.

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  55. In the "old school revival" (OSR) tabletop RPG community there's frequently discussion of "character skill" vs "player skill," and how this dynamic interacts with the "gold-equals-XP" mechanic revived from original D&D. Under this mechanic (which to state again, was part of the ur-RPG), character advancement is tied not to killing monsters, but to successfully recovering treasure. Combat providing incremental progress to unlocking new abilities may be the path most traveled, but it isn't the only path or even the oldest path!

    Playing any computer game requires exercising the meta player skill of learning the game system. RPGs and adjacent genres include within the game system a notion of character skills/abilities. The game design space then consists of what player skills the player needs to learn in order to achieve results within the game system, what kinds of characters abilities within that system players may unlock through play, and what kinds of actions unlock those abilities.

    For more “recent” games (relative to your current play years) which clearly include strong RPG elements, I can point to quite a few examples which explore this space in interesting ways:

    - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997). Really all “Metroidvania” games (more recently: Ori and the Blind Forest, Hollow Knight, etc), but C:SotN is a particularly good example because it is both genre-defining and incorporates a deep character advancement system with a combat-for-advancement mechanic. This system then interweaves with a largely orthogonal system of multi-use abilities which in one fuction act as “keys” for unlocking previously-inaccessible portions of the game’s map-space.
    - Dark Souls (2011). Dark Souls and its sequels incorporate a combat-for-advancement mechanic, but put character skill from advancement on nearly even footing with player skill at the core combat system and various meta-systems. For typical players this involves developing deep player skill in tandem with character advancement, but allows extremely skilled players to e.g. complete the game with a level 1 character.
    - Unexplored (2017). Unexplored is a rogue-like action game which maintains nearly all of the conventions of typical RPGs _except_ a combat-for-advancement mechanic. “Character” advancement is tied to finding equipment, and thus provides incentive to explore, solve puzzles, etc while avoiding combat whenever possible.

    Looking at this broader design space, Zelda and its sequels can be argued to fit within its (admittedly expansive) borders, and by virtue of popularity have wielded significant influence on how subsequent games have explored that space. Hopefully future games you play for this blog which explore a wider portion of the design will be more to you taste, because I think your approach could provide valuable insight into the history of that exploration.

    With that lens in mind, the one criticism I will make about your review of Zelda is that I think your approach – initial negative disposition and “some cheating” culminating in a 12-hour playthrough – caused you to miss out on how the game design abets gradual development of player skill at both the derided micro-level action game but also the macro-level exploration-and-secrets game. I’m not suggesting that I think you should have spent the time to organically become skilled at a game you don’t care for. But I do think the way you approached and played the game may have caused to not fully appreciate the contribution of that element of the design, and hence the influence it has had on subsequent games.

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  56. "I never found any hint that would have led me to the secret entrance to Death Mountain, the final dungeon"
    The old man in level 8 says "SPECTACLE ROCK IS AN ENTRANCE TO DEATH". They probably should have put a nose bridge between the two rocks that comprise that area...
    "especially not to the dungeon entrance where I had to blow a whistle to drain a lake"
    An old man in level 6 says "THERE ARE SECRETS WHERE FAIRIES DON'T LIVE". Indeed the Level 7 entrance is modelled after the fairy ponds, but doesn't have a fairy.

    This isn't really criticism of your review, I'm just pointing out the game does try to hint at this stuff.

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    1. That's good to know. I don't think I found either of those old men, but I tended to explore the dungeons only long enough to meet my objective. I still think I would have had trouble translating the second clue to "blow the whistle."

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  57. I will readily admit that when I saw the new post (inwardly gloating over what has been a literal flurry of activity from you, Chet- much appreciated), my first thought was that your blog had been hijacked; "THE LEGEND OF ZELDA"??? Color me astounded...

    And I won't fully inject myself into what has been a, shall we say, lively discussion on the merits of the game. Suffice it to say I can see and appreciate elements of both sides. The game still holds a great deal of nostalgic appeal for me but I honestly couldn't see myself sluffing back through it today. So given the fact that you have no such nostalgic attachments, I can see how it didn't endear itself to you to much effect.

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  58. I honestly didn't think you would like it given what kind of game it is. I think out of all these Japanese games, you might enjoy Final Fantasy 1 the best out of all of them. It's the least cartoony looking, got fearsome looking creatures, you get to make your party and it has stat building.

    BTW, have you played Dark Souls? IT's an action RPG, but I think you might enjoy some aspects of that game if the difficulty doesn't scare you off. I mean, you played Wizardry 4, there are fewer games more disciple than that.

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    1. The difficulty of Dark Souls has been, overall, quite exaggerated. You even get used to the janky mouse and keyboard controls (I don't own a controller), and character skill plays as much of a role as player skill. The perceived difficulty is only so high because contemporary games are a lot easier, and Dark Souls also has no handholding. No quest compass to blindly follow, no indicator that tells you which level this area is appropriate for. You can accidentally step into a high level area and get stomped. And you can't savescum.

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  60. I have the same feeling towards JRPG in general. I'm really not into those games. I tried very hard but the best I could get from them is a couple of hours of experience. The reason is that it's so...childish. I as an adult really can't understand why anyone above 18 is able to get a lot of fun from some of the games.

    There is one JRPG that I do like, which is Lunatic Dawn. They also made some nice conversions of Western RPGs (I hard Wizardry is particularly popular in Japan) which I would play if given the time.

    I played a few Chinese RPGs and they were much better. But overall I prefer Western RPGs.

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  61. Actually, come to think of it, playing a game about "child hero" going to fight, kill and die, may be very un-childish story, I mean, it's a story that bears resemblance to very unchildish stuff of the gritty dark real world - namely, child soldiers, who are sent into the war to kill and die. This is reasonably f*cked-up and scary scenario for any civilized person with normal civilized concern for children's well-being: I mean, when children go to war, it means that adults have failed as their guardians and protectors, as front-line fighters. That being said, contemporary culture has quite a niche that just LOVES this "child soldier/useless adults" archetype - Harry Potter, Neon Genesis Evangelion, you name it. It all may be legitimately scary in "adult fear" way, not because it's childish but, on the contrary, it has very dark and very grim ramifications. Children should be kept out of wars and other shameful regretful realities of life.

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  62. I really like this take on zelda, I love the games, I see the shortcomings of the story and the gamplay but there is something almost pavlovian of hearing the openchestmusic

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