Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

Adventure and Wonder plz

Posted by Ad on January 26, 2012

Many games in the Zelda series and Seiken Densetsu 3 (only released in Japan) are among my favorite games ever. Been wondering why that is lately.

My introduction to Zelda was during the snes era, when a friend from school lent me ALttP. I made it all the way to Turtle Rock but couldn’t figure out how to get it. That was then. I found Seiken Densetsu 3 in the days of the internet before console game companies realized their games were just sitting there for random ppl to nab, before Nintendo started with Virtual Console. And it was awesome.

It’s not like I haven’t played other games along these lines, I have vague memories of Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, the Lufias, Romancing SaGa, Bahamut Lagoon, Front Mission, Breath of Fire, EarthBound, Tales of Phantasia, Star Ocean II, Super Mario RPG, and of course I know the FFs and Chrono Trigger. Most of these I encountered during the wild wild net period of the console game scene.

But ALttP (and some of the more recent Zelda games) and sd3 stand out. Why? Link is a blank slate mute whereas the sd3 characters are all well characterized with their own stories in the game plot. sd3 goes all over its world to a plethora of friendly and unfriendly locations, while ALttP has essentially one friendly town in the entire game. ALttP is full of minigames. sd3 has tiered equipment. ALttP is an action-adventure puzzle game. sd3 is an action-jrpg. Zelda has block puzzles. sd3 has grinding and element spells. Zelda is single-player. sd3 could be played two-player, and has a three-member party. Many of the aforementioned games have some of these elements, but they didn’t appeal to me nearly as much.

Both games have nice music. Iconic, even. Angel’s Fear might not quite compare to the popularity of Zelda tracks, but it’s repeated and alluded to all over the sd3 soundtrack, cementing it as the central theme of the game. Most of the music is location-based, some belong to or has ties to characters (the Zelda theme we’ve heard ad nauseam was introduced in ALttP), keeping the flow of the game rather than breaking out a rocking battle track whenever a rabite appears and jumping forth and back between an overworld/dungeon and a battle scene. They don’t separate travel from combat the way using random encounters does. They don’t take control away from the player just because a minor enemy shows up.

Both games have a fairly standard snes jrpg look. It’s an unrealistic, cute-ish look that still allows the characters to appear capable in combat. And on that topic, the combat isn’t menu-driven (aside from inventory/spell screens) – it’s action. Yes, there’s some cooldowns between attacks in sd3 – so is there in fighting games like Street Fighter, don’t tell me there’s not action in SF games.

Both games have unobtrusive characterization. In Link’s case, it’s because he doesn’t get much characterization. He’s not very emotive in this game. The characters in sd3 are quite emotive, tho mostly in cutscenes. They were used well imo, not detractingly, not breaking up the game into grinding to the next scene, not a lot of superfluous sprite films. Once you’re through the character intro section and in the game proper, the characterization is kept out of the way of the action, only brought out when needed (or funny).

Both games have friendly npcs that explain the world and offer some services or hints. Interestingly, both games have fortune tellers. Both games had important npc characters, be they Sahasrahla or the king of Forcena, or whatever. They also have prominent bad guy characters, like Jagan and Agahnim (…ish).

Both games have magic and mythology, be this the Triforce, the descendants of the seven sages, and the ruins all over Hyrule; or the Mana Tree, the mana god-beasts, and the ruins all over whatever that world is called. A lot of the world storytelling is done in the world design rather than long cutscenes and monologues (intros don’t count). They have a Mana Goddess in sd3, and later Zelda games established the games’ three creator goddesses.

Both games exist in a medieval-esque era, with peripheral anachronisms. They both feature convenient transportation over long distances. They both let you backtrack (most of the time), whether to grind against easier enemies or to look for treasures and rupees. Both games have a varied world with fairly easily defined or distinguished locations – be they thematically winter-y, mountain-y, desert-y, swamp-y, ruin-y, or whatever.

Storywise, the world is in peril and ONLY YOU CAN SAVE IT. And there’s a legendary sword. And you’re a teenager. As much as I loathe the idea of teenagers being the saviors of a world, for some reason this doesn’t bother me at all in these games. Why not? probably because they’re not as annoying as more recent teenage heroes, and their characterization doesn’t get in the way of _my_ saving the world.

You know, this is all well and good, but the formula for a good game according to this is just:
– great music, with leitmotifs
– no separation of travel and combat, player retains control
– cute-ish look
– action gameplay
– unobtrusive characterization
– friendly npcs
– fortune tellers
– bad guy characters
– magic and mythology
– ruins
– storytelling in world design
– medieval stasis
– anachronisms
– quick transportation
– lets you backtrack whenever
– patchwork map
– the world is at stake
– legendary sword
– you’re a teenager

I think the big thing about it is the feeling of adventure. These games maintain it better than many others. Chrono Trigger does quite well, as does FF6 – but their gameplay isn’t as action-y. Even if CT has a more active battle system than the FFs, it still amounts to standing around, waiting to get hit. Tales and the FFs take you off the map when fighting (random encounters are stupid).

In other words, the ideal Zelda/sd3-like game would be something that instills and maintains a sense of adventure and wonder (as someone somewhere else phrased it). The title screen from ALttP, the intro missions and opening credits of sd3 – they instill adventure and wonder, and then move on to exploration of the world. Xenoblade didn’t do that for me, despite my brother’s insistence that it gets better later in the game.

So I guess I’m asking for more wonder, less tedium, in future games. Can I have that?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: