The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

Introduction

In the early eighties, a programmer named Yoshiki Okamoto began his career working for Konami. His most notable works during his tenure with the company were Time Pilot and Gyruss – both of which provided ahead-of-their-time takes on the shoot ‘em up genre. Despite the success he brought to the company, Mr. Okamoto’s employer was not satisfied, as he had allegedly been asked to create a driving game instead. The disagreements that resulted from this eventually resulted in his termination. Mr. Okamoto proceeded to join Capcom in 1984 where he proceeded to direct the creation of more classic arcade games such as 1942, Gun.Smoke, and Hyper Dyne Side Arms. At the end of the decade, he began overseeing development of Capcom’s games as a producer. During this stint, his greatest accomplishment was when he recruited character designer Akira Yasuda. Together, they ended up developing two of Capcom’s biggest hits: the 1989 beat ‘em up, Final Fight, and the 1991 revolutionary fighting game, Street Fighter II.

In 1997, Mr. Okamoto founded an independent company known as Flagship. Two years later, he proposed an idea to Shigeru Miyamoto, one of Nintendo’s most prominent figures. Partially owing to the success of Nintendo’s new Game Boy Color console, which included a port of the original Super Mario Bros., Mr. Okamoto wished to remake The Legend of Zelda for the platform. He was eventually asked to create six games: two based on earlier installments with the remaining four being original entries. However, problems arose when the team led by Hidemaro Fujibayashi wanted to skip developing the remakes and start developing a new Zelda title straight away. Furthermore, The Legend of Zelda was deemed too difficult for a new generation of enthusiasts, and the Game Boy Color’s screen couldn’t scale its resolution; they would need to have rooms scroll in order to display them properly. To accommodate these limitations, they ended up making more and more changes until they inadvertently created an entirely new world map. This led to a fruitless cycle wherein the scenario had to be reworked constantly to match the modifications.

Dismayed by the fact that they had been spending money for a year with no meaningful results, Mr. Okamoto asked Mr. Miyamoto for help. The latter came up with the idea for Flagship and Capcom to develop a trilogy of Zelda games. This hypothetical trilogy would be dubbed the “Triforce series” – named after a relic that fulfills an integral role in the series’ setting and backstory. The artifact is composed of three triangles, representing essences of power, wisdom, and courage, and each installment was to be associated with a component. The first of the three games was unveiled at Nintendo’s SpaceWorld trade show in 1999 under the tentative title of The Legend of Zelda: Fruit of the Mysterious Tree – Chapter of Power (Mystical Seed of Power for the Western release). In this installment, the reoccurring antagonist, Ganon, kidnapped Princess Zelda and stole the Rod of Seasons, throwing Hyrule into disarray. The second of the games, Chapter of Wisdom, was intended by the developers to focus on color-based puzzles. Finally, Chapter of Courage would make players use the times of day to solve puzzles.

This project too hit a stumbling block, and as per Mr. Miyamoto’s suggestion, the team scaled back with the goal of creating a duology instead. The two remaining games were released in February of 2001 – shortly before the launch of the Game Boy Advance. Its Western releases followed later in the year. The first of the two games was released under the name The Legend of Zelda: Fruit of the Mysterious Tree: Chapter of the Earth. Overseas, it was retitled The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. Did Capcom live up to Nintendo’s high standards and create something worthy of bearing the Zelda banner?

Continue reading

Advertisements

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All

Introduction

Upon its release in 2001, Turnabout Trial became a success in Japan, quickly amassing a strong following. Once Capcom finished development, Shu Takumi was told by his boss, Shinji Mikami, that they should make a trilogy with the third game ending in a grand finale to provide closure for all of the lingering plot threads. When Mr. Takumi returned to work from his vacation, the game’s producer, Atsushi Inaba, called him to a meeting. He told Mr. Takumi that he wanted a script for five episodes, allotting him three and a half months to finish it. As Mr. Takumi took a little more than a month to write each of the four episodes of the original Turnabout Trial, he was well within his rights to declare such a notion “completely insane”. To make matters worse, he felt he did not have any more gimmicks with which to formulate any mysteries, nor did he believe there to be any story threads he could expand upon.

Though he wanted to protest, the minute he returned to his desk, he drafted a work schedule. He gave himself two and a half months to write the dialogue for the entire game, with the remaining time being used to create the prototype and conceive gimmicks for each episode. Though a lot of doubt understandably weighed on his mind during the development cycle, he was miraculously able to meet the deadline. The only issue is that because he had run into memory issues, one of the episodes had to be cut from the final product. Despite a few minor setbacks, the game, entitled Turnabout Trial 2, was released in October of 2002 for the Game Boy Advance – roughly one year after the debut of the original.

A few years later in October of 2005, Turnabout Trial, under the localized title of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, became a sleeper hit through positive word of mouth. Such was the degree of its success that demand greatly exceeded supply. Cards became difficult to find, selling for double the average retail price on online auction websites. With the knowledge that the series had an overseas audience, Capcom allowed their localization team to work on an English version. As was the case with the original, the sequel had received a port on Nintendo’s then-newest console: the DS. Renamed Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All, the port saw separate releases in North America, Europe, and Australia in 2007. Justice for All was generally as well-received as its predecessor, and continued the franchise’s surprise success. Does it measure up to the strong series debut?

Continue reading

100th Review Special, Part 10: The Best of the Best

If it’s one thing I’ve observed over the years, it’s that every critic or outlet seems to have a different attitude concerning the highest grade on their scale. Some hand them out like penny candy while others outright refuse to ever assign a 10/10 on the basis that there is no perfect work. Personally, I feel the former approach devalues the grading scale to the point of inanity. After all, if you hand out too many top grades, it doesn’t leave much in the way of middle ground; you either award a perfect score or you don’t. Though I can see where the people bearing the opposite mentality come from, I feel refusing to assign the highest grade on your scale denotes a lack of respect for the medium, and perfection is such nebulous concept to begin with. Naturally, my own approach is between the two extremes. I can and will award a 10/10, but I don’t award it to just any game. Indeed, one of my rules is that I can only award the grade once per franchise – this includes spinoffs. Therefore, I tend to think very carefully whenever I’m confronted with a masterful game whether or not it deserves such an accolade. Going the extra mile isn’t enough; I have to be convinced that these are once-in-a-lifetime achievements that will hold up in the coming years. So without further ado, let’s bring the list to a close with five games I feel managed to truly earn that top honor.

Continue reading

100th Review Special, Part 9: Top of the Ninth

It is the dawn of new year, and our countdown is nearing its conclusion.

One of the worst trends of gaming criticism in the 2010s was the lack of middle ground regarding their rating systems. A lot of this was brought on by their tendency to overhype everything released by major companies to the extent that good grades seemed to be awarded to releases with the most press coverage rather than on the merits of actually being a good game. When reading their reviews, it gave off the impression that anything below a 90% or 9.0 wasn’t worth checking out. This is one of the trends I sought to defy when conceiving my own rating scale. I wanted to make it so that in order for any team to achieve a 9/10 from me, they would need to go the extra mile to earn it. For the following games, the pros outweigh the cons to the extent where you likely won’t be thinking of it for most of the experience. You can be sure that no matter how I decide to rank any of these games, every single one of them is a keeper.

Continue reading

100th Review Special, Part 8: The Elite Eights

I have to admit that between the three colors I use, the green tiers are the ones for which my process of assigning grades is the least scientific. When I was developing my rating system, I wanted to make it clear to readers that a game really has to go the extra mile to earn an 8/10 or higher so as not to devalue the highest grades. Admittedly, it does come down to gut feelings to a greater extent than when I’m entertaining the idea of assigning a red or yellow score. For games I’ve awarded an 8/10, there might be a few minor issues present, but they’re easy to overlook in favor of appreciating what they do well. These are games you should give high priority should they end up on your backlog.

Continue reading

100th Review Special, Part 7: Let the Good Times Roll

We are now finished with the red and yellow tiers; the only ones left are the green tiers. In this post, I’ll be looking back over the games I’ve awarded a 7/10. The key difference between this tier and the one directly preceding it concerns my stance when asked whether or not I’d recommend a game. A 6/10 is a game I would have some reservations about recommending even if I think it’s technically good overall. There are no such reservations from this point onward; these are all games that were able to earn my seal of approval.

Continue reading