Author Archives: elgarta

Game Review: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

So who hasn’t reviewed The Legend of Zelda in a fair manner before? I mean, we get a game that is widely regarded as a classic that changed how games should be made, on the gaming system that seems to be credited as breathing life back into the North American gaming industry and showed the world that the U.S were not the only ones who could make good (I think people liked the Atari games…) games.

Ok so putting it up on a pedestal like that makes it sound like it is on god-status and can’t possibly be given a bad review, which is how people seem to see it. It is either a perfect 10/10 game due to the legacy it carries, or a horrible game because it has dated graphics. But is it possible that the game could sit anywhere else on the scale? Let’s find out.

History/Origin: The year is 1983, the North American video game industry was about to be hit hard due to the sub-par quality and overabundance of games being released towards the end of the Atari 2600’s life cycle, and the sheer amount of gaming consoles that were available. Nintendo, based in Japan, has released a console for the Japanese market called the Family Computer (ファミリーコンピュータ Famirī Konpyūta) which is commonly called the Famicom. Nintendo were not strangers to the gaming industry, they were known for classics such as the Game and Watch line of handheld games and the arcade hit Donkey Kong, and were planning to enter the North American market by signing a deal with Atari, who would release the Famicom under the Atari brand. Those negotiations, although far along, were never cemented and in the end it was up to Nintendo to bring the console over itself.

In 1985 Nintendo was finally planning to bring over the Famicom , but re-branded it as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and changed it’s design a little bit too. Alot of journalists called this a bad move on Nintendo’s part as by this time, the North American video game industry had almost disappeared entirely due to the market crash. One of the launch titles was a cult hit, Super Mario Bros which was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto. One of Shigeru’s titles that followed was The Legend of Zelda.

Now The Legend of Zelda was originally released on the Famicom Disk System, a disc based addon for the Famicom and it featured some slightly different track compositions from the version the west saw, but for the most part it was the same game.

Plot: The Triforce, a symbol of power in Hyrule, has been stolen by Ganon and hidden in the games 9 dungeons. Link, the hero of the game, must set out to rescue the Princess Zelda by gathering all the pieces to the Triforce, and defeat the Evil Ganon.

That is plot boiled down into 2 sentences, but with a game that offers the full ‘story so far’ after the title screen and almost no real in-game dialogue, I feel it is sufficient.

Graphics: Now what is a game review without talking about graphics. One thing that the Famicom/NES were known for were the amazing graphics. After the swarm of computer based systems from North America which featured basic-at-best displays, Nintendo was able to produce something amazing here. The Legend of Zelda however seems pretty basic, even by the standards of the time.

You have link who is clearly a humanoid of some form, you can see his shield quite visibly and you can make out a sword when he attacks. The monsters you face along the way are mostly sprite-swaps of enemies you faced in the first few screens of the game, but once you realise that red = easier, blue = harder then you are golden. One good thing about this however is that as Link gets new sword upgrades on his journey, you see the sword change colour to match (Your wooden sword is brown, so it makes sense). So they are easy to understand, but if anyone tells you that these graphics were amazing in the mid-to-late 80s, make sure there nostalgia goggles are off.

Sound/Music: Now the music for this game on the other hand is done very well. You think Mario’s theme is iconic to the red-dressed plumber? Well the Hyrule field theme is the same with the Zelda series. The melodies are usually short and repetitive, but they fit the mood. The only real tracks you hear in-game are the Hyrule field and dungeon themes, and a fan-fare track when you buy an item. You might get sick of them if you die alot and need to restart over again, but it still beats playing in silence.

The sound effects work too. The bombs blow up and sound like chip-tune explosions, you hear a little cha-chink type noise when you pick up a rupee and so forth. Simple yet effective.

Gameplay: Zelda in the recent years has been more focused on 3D exploration, but here we are greeted with a basic overhead view of the world, and the world is explored screen-by-screen. The environments we visit feel quite varied, we have the Lost Woods which features alot of trees, Death Mountain which is full of narrow paths and lots of rocks, and the coastline & lake which feature water. Combat is simple affair which involves swinging your sword at a monster until it dies, and lots of puzzles. The puzzles mind you really only swap between pushing the correct block to move on, or kill all the enemies in the room, but seeing as almost every dungeon room has monsters and blocks, it’ll keep you guessing.

You pick up items to help you progress, like a Magic Torch, Sword & Shield upgrades, Bow & Arrows etc. You can also fund health upgrades to increase your health meter, which are usually found after defeating a boss or in the world itself. You will need these to get through some of the end-game dungeons.

My biggest complaint however lies with the fact that there is no over-world map. Instead you are left to draw your own map, refer to the internet or memorize where you are going (The original game did come with a folded up map so you could see where you were going. This isn’t exactly emulated when you play the original cart of even play on the Wii). Also, when you die you always start off with 3 health, which means if you died in a dungeon and the enemies hit hard, you need to find a potion or kill enemies for more health.

My thoughts: The game was great back then and it still plays well now. The game certainly carries the fabled “Nintendo Difficulty” with it and is not for the undisciplined, but it will make you better as you progress. Now even when I was younger and played this game I still didn’t think it was the best thing around, but I might have been jaded by playing lots of various games like Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy on my Sega Master System. I do like to revisit this game when I can, especially as it is the most challenging of the top-down style Zelda games around, and seeing as it is available on the 3DS, Wii, Wii-U Virtual Consoles, there really isn’t an excuse for saying you haven’t at least tried it. (There are even roms out there for those who can’t justify spending money on an NES game, but I don’t want to condone piracy or anything)

Score: 7/10 – It’s a fun game – You should at least play it once

Anime Review: Touch (1985 – 1987)

Well I figured as I’d finally finished off my DVD of the series that it would be a good place to start. It’s a series that I found it hard to get reviews of prior to purchasing, but maybe I was searching for the wrong key-words (Touch + Anime = Weird stuff). But enough of that.

History/Origins: Touch (タッチ Tatchi) is a classic Anime series that aired in 1985 and ran until 1987, it spanned 101 episodes + 5 movies (the last movie aired in 2001). It was adapted from the Manga of the same name, written by Mitsuru Adachi and was serialised in Weekly Shōnen Sunday.  It is a ‘slice of life’ anime that revolves around the lives of the main characters, and baseball.

You might possibly be thinking “I’ve never heard of this one. It can’t be very popular”, and I shared those thoughts with you when I first saw the DVDs on sale at a once-reputable Anime store a few years ago. The series didn’t get much attention in the English speaking west, but did get aired in parts of Europe such as Italy, Spain and France. The original manga has been released on 5 different occasions, and the anime was ranked 9th in a 2005 poll of the Top 100 Animated Television Series by TV Asahi. That might not mean alot, but it goes to show that it was (and still is) considered a big deal in it’s native Japan which is very competitive with it’s Manga/Anime rankings.

What I had to work with: Now having never heard of this originally, and being one who has come out on top of a few purchases on random games/anime in the past, I decided to go for it. The DVDs I received did have English subtitles and Japanese audio, but they were hong-kong bootlegs. D’oh. So some important plot points were very badly written in ‘engrish’, but luckily I could understand enough of the voice track to stop myself being lead astray.

The Review: From the very start of the series you are introduced to the 3 main stars of the series. Tatsuya Uesugi, Kazuya Uesugi & Minami Asakura. Tatsuya and Kazuya are identical twins, but they couldn’t be any more different.

Tatsuya, the older of the two, is a natural at what he does but doesn’t like to let that side of himself be seen by anyone. He prefers to appear as lazy and untalented so that he doesn’t feel the pressures of society by needing to be Mr. Perfect, and for the benefit of his brother.

Kazuya meanwhile is the hard-working, talented brother who is always doing his best to meet the expectations of all who are around him. He is the ace pitcher for the schools baseball team, and he admires his brother and wants to be just like him (as his brother doesn’t ever try, but can get results when he does)

Minami, the girl next door, has lived next to the Uesugi’s since birth and treats the twins just like her own brothers. She sees the talents that Tatsuya is trying to hide from everyone.

The series basically goes from the end of middle school through to the end of high-school, and could effectively be broken into 3 seasons/arcs. Over the duration of their high-school years, we get to see the characters develop naturally and grow right until the very last scene.

So being about baseball, we do get shown quite a bit of training and alot of baseball games, but they are charming affairs that sometimes had me feeling anxious to know how the game would end, something that doesn’t happen often to me with sport. But don’t be mistaken, although baseball is seemingly the foundation holds most of the series together, the characters and their lives are what really gave this anime life.

The story telling is quite slow, but part of that makes it appear realistic. You can’t rush 3 1/2 years of character development when you have 101 episodes to work with. And although it isn’t as action packed as say Dragon Ball Z, it was very engaging and after I’d finish an episode, I’d find myself weighing up if I should just watch the next or retire for the night. That is part of the charm though.

The animation style used in the series certainly looks dated and odd at times (Something about their pet dog creeped me out at first) but it turns out for the best at the end of the day. Anime is known for it’s distinctive art style these days, but alot of the older series’ (SDF Macross, Tekkaman Blade, Space Captain Harlock just to name a few) have their own styles that don’t conform to the rules that anime must follow now. Also the music of the show is very fitting and it fits the era, at times it is like listening to the soundtrack of an 80s sitcom or TV-drama and I just loved it.

At the end of the first season there is a major plot-twist that I didn’t see coming which acted as a major driving force for the rest of the series, but it was something that made you stop and think about, especially as you watched the cast trying to come to grips with it themselves and keep on moving with their lives.

So if you do have the opportunity to watch this series I say you won’t regret it. The series pulls the viewer back to a more innocent time in their lives and shows that anime can have a great story without resorting to overly flashy battles, oddly proportioned women, mechs or even Moe at every turn. It is a heartwarming journey through the characters lives that makes you feel as though you could actually imagine these as being real people. *101 episodes is quite alot and may be to much of a time investment for some, but for those that can’t see themselves sitting through the whole series, I’d recommend the first 3 movies. They were a theatrical re-telling of the story that do a good job in showing the series in a much more condensed form. The development of characters isn’t quite as good as each of the movies run at under 2 hours each, but there are still touching scenes that show the characters in a way that the series couldn’t.

My Rating:  9/10 – A must Watch for true Anime fans.

*Before signing off, I should make a quick note in relation to the movies. As they were theatrical movies, the entire series had to be condensed to be told in 3 parts that are just under 2 hours, so there are some minor differences with some events that were shown in the series, but nothing that will make you think you missed out on anything by not watching them. They are a testament as to how popular the series was in Japan, and the first movie aired in 1986 which was before the TV series had stopped airing.

Time to do some dusting off…

So I was recently digging through my emails and found an email from WordPress, apparently I had signed up for this account and never did much with it. I decided it’s time to change that.

My goal here is to just post some opinions/thoughts (personal reviews if you will) on some things I personally find interesting. Some of the ones I have wanted to do in the past were games, movies, anime and the like. Hardly an original concept, but hey. If everyone did completely original things that never got copies, how many websites do you think would exist?

I recently finished off an anime series that I have had on DVD for years now and thought that would be a place to start. Keep posted, it’ll be up in the next few days. We will see how things go from there.

Hope that someone out there enjoys reading my thoughts as much as I enjoy writing them.