Top Ten: Zelda Boss Battles

Top Ten Zelda Boss Battles masthead

[Originally published on Nintendojo on November 16th 2011]

Boss battles are always an iconic part of any Zelda experience. The jewel in every dungeon’s crown, they put everything you have learned to the ultimate test. They are the only thing that stands in your way, the one obstacle separating you from victory and defeat, and there’s nothing quite so gratifying as dealing the final blow to a monster often ten times your size.

But there are just some boss battles which stand head and shoulders above the rest, the ones which we always look forward to no matter how many times we’ve played through them before. We all have our particular favourites, but the following entries are the boss battles which have particularly stood out for me over Link’s 25 years of adventuring. I hope you agree.

Nintendojo Interview: Broken Rules on Chasing Aurora

[Originally published on Nintendojo on November 9th 2012]

If you’ve been keeping your ear to the ground over the past year, there’s every chance you might have caught a glimpse of a strange, fleeting shadow hovering somewhere over Wii U’s eShop line up. You probably thought nothing of it at the time, but if you’re one of the few people that dared to cast their eyes skyward, you would have found the beautifully enigmatic Chasing Aurora, the sophomore game from the team behind WiiWare classic And Yet It Moves. We were instantly captivated by its soothing teaser trailer back in April, so we decided to sit down with co-founder Felix Bohatsch to talk more about this mysterious eShop title.

Chasing Aurora is a game about the dream of flight,” Bohatsch told us over email. “Have you ever watched swallows playing with each other high up in the sky? This is what it’s about! In more general gaming lingo, though, Chasing Aurora is a physics-based 2D aerial action game. Interestingly, I think everyone in the team remembers the evolution of Chasing Aurora a bit differently. Here’s how I remember it: we started out with doing a motion-controlled game, [and] from this desire came the idea of flying with the wind. This is the core idea that stayed with us all through development and that made us settle for the world: birds flying through the Alps. We always wanted to stay 2D, and our biggest challenge was to invoke a beautiful, dreamlike feeling of flight in a two dimensional world.”

The power of flight is certainly an evocative idea– just take one look at Chasing Aurora’s official Facebook page and you’ll soon see it’s packed to the brim with facts about birds and flying, including the age of the oldest American crow (30 years, in case you were wondering) to little tidbits about the goddess Aurora herself. “I think the dream of flight is buried deep somewhere in our genes,” says Bohatsch. “During the development we researched birds and all things flying. We found references to it in myths and stories of all cultures and religions and on all parts of the world. It inspired us, so we wanted to share this knowledge with our community. Interestingly, crows are the birds that popped up the most during our research. They’re very mysterious and intelligent creatures, people just seem to be drawn to them.”

Of course, one of the most defining features of Chasing Aurora is its unique, pop-up book art style, and much like And Yet It Moves, it follows in Broken Rules’ tradition of creating visually distinctive games. “The starting point for the final art style was when [our lead artist] moved to a new apartment. He had to get rid of an old closet and broke it apart. During a break he started drawing animals and mountains on the pieces of wood of the broken closet. The style of the drawings is a mix of alpine wood carvings, origami and Japanese ink drawing. They’re the most amazing concept drawings I’ve ever seen and form the foundation for the art style of Chasing Aurora.”

But that’s not the only thing that’s different about Chasing Aurora, as it will also be split up into multiple different games. The first will focus on bringing out the best of Wii U’s asymmetric multiplayer capabilities and will feature three different asymmetric local multiplayer modes for up to five players, along with a single player time trial mode where you can try and break your own records. It’s an approach not too dissimilar from the BIT.Trip series, Bohatsch tells us, where each game will be unique on its own, but something more than just the sum of its parts when viewed altogether.

“I don’t specifically like sequels– otherwise we would have made And Yet It Moves 2— so I don’t see the future games as sequels. They will share the world and characters, but they will be different games. We believe that the one thing that games can do best is create worlds to explore and interact with. That’s why we put a lot of effort and thought into the world and characters of Chasing Aurora. We want players to be able to experience this world in different phases and through different roles they play. We couldn’t have done this in one single game, so we decided to make a series. Each game in the series will have a different gameplay and it will tell players something different about the world.”

The Rotten Core of Bastion’s Survivors

If Bastion ever had a real villain, it definitely wasn’t Zulf.

When the fate of the world is out of your hands, the only thing left to do, it seems, is tell a story. But as the strange voice warns us at the very beginning of the game, the story of Bastion “ain’t so simple”. It might not be a “proper” story by Rucks’s reckoning – a “proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning”, after all – but if the plight of Bastion was anything less, then I wouldn’t be here about to begin another one.

But I’m not here to talk about how unique or revolutionary Bastion’s reactive narration is – plenty of critics have done that already. Instead, I want to talk about a story that comes straight from Rucks’s own mouth, a story which many players will have heard yet may not have listened to fully. He doesn’t spell it out in so many words, but when we examine what we hear alongside what we do within the game, there’s something else that begins to emerge from within the main narrative. It reveals an uneasy tension between creation and destruction, death and rebirth, and it’s a tale where one lone kid stumbles from hero to villain as he strives to save a city from himself, and where one old man becomes the greatest calamity of all.

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Nintendojo: Wii’s Forgotten Gems

A few weeks ago, I put together another week-long feature over on Nintendojo.com looking at the slightly more under-appreciated Wii games that have somehow slipped under the radar over the years. I covered Red Steel, Red Steel 2, Ōkami and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure, but we had everything from Dragon Quest Swords to Rhythm Heaven Fever. Just click the images below!

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Nintendo Direct: Wii U Launch Details

Yesterday it was announced that Wii U will launch in Europe on November 30th 2012. Retailers will set their own prices once again, but there will be two options:

The White Basic Model:

  • White Wii U Console
  • White Wii U GamePad
  • 8GB of storage
  • 2 AC adapters
  • HDMI cable

The Black Premium Model:

  • Black Wii U Console
  • Black Wii U GamePad
  • 32GB of storage
  • 2 AC adapters
  • HDMI cable
  • Stand for GamePad
  • Stand for Wii U Console
  • Charging Cradle for GamePad
  • Sensor Bar
  • Nintendo Land
  • Nintendo Network Premium account until December 2014

The Nintendo Network Premium account will let you receive points on your digital eShop purchases (corresponding to roughly 10% of the full game price), and once you reach 500 points you’ll be able to use those to buy new games.

All your Wii hardware is fully compatible with Wii U, but Nintendo will also be releasing the Wii Remote Plus Additional Set pack for anyone who hasn’t bought a Wii Motion Plus Remote, nunchuk or sensor bar before.

The Wii U Pro Controller will be wireless, charge via USB and up to four can be connected to Wii U at any one time. The Wii U GamePad will also be available separately.

For a full list of launch titles and more info about the hardware itself, visit Nintendojo.com.

Heroes of Ruin Review

Heroes of Ruin

Nintendo 3DS (2012)

Nintendo and online gaming have never really been the best of friends, it has to be said. Marred by years of messy friend codes and a seeming reluctance to embrace the untapped mysteries of the internet, it’s heartening, then, to finally see a game like Heroes of Ruin shake Nintendo out of its doldrums. The question is, is this the online revolution we’ve all been waiting for? In a way, yes it is. Heroes of Ruin does several things right when it comes to the online side of things; it’s just a shame the same can’t be said for the game underneath.

But let’s start by focusing on where Heroes of Ruin succeeds, and that’s getting online. Say goodbye to tedious lobby rooms, because Heroes of Ruin just lets you go out and get on with it, allowing you to start your adventure while other players drop in and out at will. Loading times between each mission can be slightly excessive, but the only time you’ll be stuck waiting for other players is when all of you need to progress through the same door or before big boss encounters. You can just as easily join someone else’s game too, and at the moment there’s a wide spread of games all at varying levels, offering something for new and old hands alike.

You can read the rest of the review here.

Nintendojo: Apocalypse Now

This is an extract from my latest Another Castle column over on Nintendojo. Just click the link at the end to read the rest!

I don’t know what it is about 2012 – something the Mayans said, apparently – but I’ve been playing a lot of post-apocalypse games lately. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Bastion, Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon… you name it and it’s got “end of the world” plastered all over it. Of course, a big part of this is just me playing catch-up – Bastion came out last year while Enslaved and Fragile Dreams were both released in 2010 – but playing these three titles in particular (all in fairly quick succession too) has been quite the education.

Despite all tackling the same basic premise – a mysterious calamity has wiped out 99% of the human population – each game’s interpretation of it couldn’t be more different. From the art style to the finer nuances of the plot and story structure, about the only thing these three have in common are their small casts of characters. So I’m going to do something a little different today and see how each of these games introduce us to their own respective worlds and whether any lessons can be learned along the way. I know Bastion and Enslaved are both on Other Platforms, but hey, it’s not every day that one of Wii’s most underappreciated titles gets to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with such critical heavy-weights, so let’s put aside our format rivalry for a moment and get right on down to the good stuff.