Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Goron City)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I would also like to state before continuing that this post will not cover the Divine Beast or the things pertaining to its conditions for entrance. I will dedicate an article to the Divine Beasts in general at some point in the future.

At this point, I had enough experience with the game to have some confidence in my ability to overcome any challenge. I knew how to cook stuff, effectively decimate any enemy, had full control of Link’s mannerisms and weapon abilities, and while it’s hard to explain to non-gamers, I just had that feeling of “This is my domain” while playing it. That sort of unsaid and often times unnoticed quality when a game simply becomes second nature, where one doesn’t have to remember how to do something or what that something does. After Zora’s Domain, I was deep enough in the adventure to have myself be comfortable with the road ahead, with little hesitance lurking within me.

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Funny that I happen to pick the volcano right after the luminous lake. Almost like going from Kyogre to Groudon. Yin and Yang. Of course, I knew that was where the Goron lied, and the Goron have always been one of my favorite LoZ species. The path to Goron City, or Death Mountain, was one I found to be even more perilous than the path to Zora’s Domain. Two major reasons for this: one being the heat, which requires a few bottles of heat-resistant potion to travel across safely (Pro tip: speaking to an inhabitant of a stable before the path’s start will net you three of these potions for a low cost). The other being that there is a Guardian walking around the path. Not the ones planted to the ground, but a fully functional, spider-like Guardian that will wreck your shit if you’re unprepared. I, like the unprepared player I was, avoided it at all costs, which I managed to do by exploiting the fact that Link can damn-near climb anything.

Otherwise, the road to Goron City is laced with lava pits, red Lizalfos, fire Keese bats, fire Chuchus, and fireballs that rain from the sky (easily avoidable and incredibly situational). Basically, fire, fire, and more fire. Wooden weapons are going to be one’s downfall and ice arrows will be your safe bet. Unlike with Zora’s Domain, one doesn’t even see a Goron (aside from a traveling merchant) until one is about a five-minute jog from their major capitol. It creates a sort of isolated distinction among the species that, while I found curious at the time, realized it’s kind of the same for every major species aside from Zora, so it’s not that interesting anymore. Speaking of not very interesting, here is where the bad starts to flow.

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The “Sidon” of Goron City is a weak, sniveling coward who is a direct descendant of Darunia (Remember him, Zelda fans???). His character is a by-the-numbers caricature of the “Weak coward eventually becomes stronger by overcoming adversity and showing courage in the appropriate manner” trope that has become so overdone by this point that I couldn’t help but despise him. It doesn’t help that his voice is horrendously annoying. It also doesn’t help that on top of the trope of “Weak coward becomes hero,” he also has the trope of “Weak coward is the direct descendant of a natural leader and species icon—ISN’T IT IRONIC???” At the very least, the conversations with Goron around the city don’t kick him while he’s down with gratuitous lines of “He should be more like his great grandpappy and stop bein’ such a puss!” That would’ve completed the cliché cannoli and ruined the experience almost altogether for me. Needless to say at this point, the narrative surrounding this particular area did not excite me all that much.

Here’s an embarrassing fun fact: this was the only part of the game (aside from near-end Shrine hunting) where I looked up a guide on how to progress through the game. It involves the process of boarding the Divine Beast, so I won’t go into much detail, but we’ll just say that my perception can be hilariously lacking in various moments. I’ve found in my lifetime that I can become so taken by the objective at hand that my peripheral vision becomes essentially moot, never piecing together the importance of various circumstances surrounding the objective unless I actively think about it from that perspective. I’ve found myself trying to think more outside the box from this instance alone, but it can still hamper me in puzzle games. But this has little to do with the topic at hand. The point was to show that this part of the game may be hard for those who can’t figure out context.

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Aesthetically, there’s a little less variety here than with Zora’s Domain. There’s Death Mountain—an active(-ish) volcano—and mountains that accompany it, lava streams, rocks… mines… Yeah. It’s just a big mountainous region with the glow of lava and a heated, semi-dusty atmosphere. I think it more than justified the feeling of heat, but didn’t do much for the immersiveness of the Goron like in prior games. The Goron themselves are definitely varied in appearance and personality, more so than the Zora, but the world around them becomes all the more dull. Aside from the mining area, there wasn’t much of a sense of the Goron interacting with their environment, with all of them being placed there for convenience. The world didn’t come alive, and became one of the least enjoyable places to revisit for me (until a certain other area I’ll get into later on).

I ended up a little disappointed after leaving the Goron zone. There wasn’t as much personality present as I would’ve expected from a fun-loving species. That, and the overabundance of clichés made me groan every time they attempted humor in conversations (Ha ha, the old guy’s back always hurts!). I wouldn’t say the majority was an overall negative experience, but being so ravished by Zora’s Domain, Goron City paled in comparison on almost every front. And with this environment conquered, I hoped I would be able to rekindle some of that potential for immersiveness as I felt with both Zora’s Domain and Kakariko Village. I also hoped I would escape the heat. That didn’t happen.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

I’ve Kinda-Sorta Become an Official Video Game Reviewer (And Another Update)

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Longer than anime, longer than football, the longest-tenured pastime activity in my life has always been video games. I started playing before I could even fathom a thought as to what video games even were. A time when I saw a screen with bright lights, a character sitting idly, and a controller in my hand, when fondled with, made the character onscreen move. It started with Donkey Kong Country, and has no end in sight. Despite the hiatuses and breaks I’ve taken to pursue other interests, video games are something I will always love and eventually come back to no matter what.

Completely on a whim, settled within a mindset of “What am I doing with my life anymore,” I decided to Google “video game site jobs.” Lo and behold, the Gods of fate smiled upon me; a listing of available jobs became available in an “Indeed.com” style of structure. Sifting through the debris with a heightened sense of urgency, I came across an opportunity that seemed almost too good to be true. An up-and-coming gaming journalism website that pays and provides various new-release games free of charge? I applied immediately (after checking out the site). Better yet, I used this blog as part of my resume. And it ended up being in my benefit! This rotten blog, which for years has brought me nothing but intrinsic self-indulgence and the camaraderie of the ani-community, actually ended up being useful in future endeavors.

I applied and I was accepted, though I started on a trial period, so I delayed the announcement until now, when everything became prime and proper. I am officially a video game reviewer for KeenGamer. I’ve had two reviews published as of today, should one be interested in how I’ve fared.

With this now established, there are a few things I’d like to provide via update. The first being that on Twitter, I will now be addressing myself by my real, full name. I contemplated giving myself a real picture, as well, but I couldn’t say goodbye to the bunny persona I had created for myself, so that will stay. Plus, it’d be rather drastic for my (INCREDIBLY LARGE AMOUNT OF) followers to suddenly see a bunny called “Kopo” turn into a real boy named “Dakota Gordon.” The entire basis behind this change is a manner of consistency, seeing as I will now be very vocal about my new job via Twitter, and any potential followers could make the connection that the “Dakota Gordon” on Keengamer is the same “Dakota Gordon” on Twitter.

The second is that this blog will likely not be as active (or lengthy in its content) as it once was. I’ve already been debating as to whether or not I should scrap my second blog, seeing as I hardly write there anymore even without this new development. Anime output will still continue, as well as various pieces from other visual media, but it won’t be as, how should I say, weighty? Or even as consistent. My focus now is on what’s more beneficial, and this reviewing job is nothing short of my dream job—I AM LIVING MY DREAM—and it takes priority. I also said this before with going back to school and all, but now it’s held twice over. I am more busy with life now than I have ever been.

Let this not be a farewell, but a greeting to a new beginning. Old things come and go, steadied by a consistent desire to hold it afloat, and I assure any follower that despite the workload, this blog will continually be updated until I say it’s done with. I thank everyone who has read any one of my hundred pages of musings on whatever topic, and have continued to support me in my years on WordPress. I’m unsure if I could’ve gotten this far, or taken this many opportunities without the aid of those who continue to interact with me here, on Twitter, or elsewhere. The times are a changin’, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier with it.

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Zora’s Domain)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I would also like to state before continuing that this post will not cover the Divine Beast or the things pertaining to its conditions for entrance. I will dedicate an article to the Divine Beasts in general at some point in the future.

My first time playing Breath of the Wild, I stumbled upon the trigger to Zora’s Domain by accident. Playing around in the wilderness, killing Bokoblins and hunting for goodies, I saw a shrine in the distance. Naturally, I darted for it, and after completing it, I wandered the area when I came across a bridge, glowing with a pristine silver blue. Stepping on a certain spot, a cutscene occurred, introducing me to the first of four major characters that act as the catalyst to Link appearing before the Divine Beasts. Sidon, prince of the Zoras, flashed that overconfident grin and I immediately became hesitant of his character. As it continued, though, I became smitten with the prince, slowly melting the assumptions made about up-and-coming royalty with his sense of bravado and cheesy sense of justice.

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The path traveled just getting to Zora’s Domain was a journey in and of itself, as I had little experience with what was to come; most notably, the future was to become shocking. A pleasure it was to cruise through a winding path that gave a variety of different platforms. Rivers, Lizalfos camps, bridges, mountains, and ruins. Every five minutes, the layout seems to change just enough to provide a sense of variety for the player to acclimate themselves to. Not to mention, aside from Lizalfos, the enemy variety is also fairly astute. Basically everything is present at some point or another, including a lone Wizzrobe. This sense of building was, once again, a nice transition from simply playing the game to being immersed in its environment. Like being in the tranquility of Kakariko Village, the path leading to Zora’s Domain gave a world-building experience worthy of its challenge.

Being perfectly biased, Zora’s Domain is essentially my dream world’s perfect aesthetic. Glamorously shiny, structures adorned with the same glowing silver blue that various parts of the preceding path had, and almost Atlantic-like in appearance. Water seeps in from all directions from rivers, streams, and large waterfalls. And, flashing some light on my preferences, the sky is fairly dark and gloomy, allowing the ebbing translucence of the domain to stand out even further. Sweeping corridors without roofs meet in the middle to a main living space which houses the King of the Zora. When first arriving, I was bewitched by the visual spectacle. Even coming back to it, after seeing everything else the game has to offer, I still feel a little in awe.

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What’s interesting about the Zora is that they have incredibly long life spans. So long, in fact, that despite the fact that Link has been asleep for over a hundred years, many of the Zora present upon his arrival recognize him almost immediately. Whether old or semi-old, many will greet Link with statements such as “Link! It’s been so long! Do you remember me?!” This allows the player, despite not knowing any of these characters, to see Link as a different entity, as a character of his own with his own perspective. These Zora have a history with him, and the familiarity immediately makes the place inviting to explore, if only to see who else recognizes him and how they’d react. Even without calming the Divine Beast, there is a reason to be invested with the world present in front of the player. Creating a legacy from scratch is fine and dandy, but interacting with those who knew the character from before the amnesia provides a lot of intriguing possibilities to the character’s growth and behavior. If only Link actually had a personality…

Even the King of the Zora recognizes Link, who laments that he does not recall anything of his past, including his late daughter, Mipha. Mipha, in all respect to her character, is one of four token “spiritual guides” that appear once Link has ventured inside a Divine Beast, but more on that later. It is revealed that the Divine Beast’s wrath has caused an overflow of rain to plague Zora’s Domain, causing massive bouts of floods that, in all honesty, don’t look too alarming. It is up to Link to appease the Beast and stop the rainfall that it seems to be causing. But first, he needs to talk some sense into some old asshole who holds a grudge against him because he believes Link let Mipha die. Mipha, you see, was apparently the belle of the ball in the Zora’s land, and every boy had the hots for her. Seeing as she was one of defenders of Hyrule against Ganon, she went off to try and fight him alongside the other defenders, Link, and Zelda, only to fail, and die. Clearly, it’s Link’s fault.

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On the very edge of breaking my own word, to appease the Divine Beast in this region, it is recommended that the player collects a load of shock arrows, most prevalently found at the top of one of the mountains surrounding Zora’s Domain. It is here where the player, assuming they haven’t explored much of the world, faces off against their first Lynel. And boy, was it a huge bitch for me the first time around. Their behavior patterns are a little tricky to pinpoint, and they have a massive amount of HP. You can’t even cheese it and shoot them from a distance, as they’ll pull out a bow and arrows and shoot you right back! It ended up becoming one of the more memorable situations while within Zora’s Domain, with the promise of fighting more had me uttering grievances under my breath.

Without going any further, Zora’s Domain ended up becoming the first of four areas where Divine Beasts raged wild that I inadvertently chose to pacify, and during my second playthrough, ended up being the last. Fun fact: if you arrive at Zora’s Domain without triggering the cutscene where one meets Sidon at the bridge, the cutscene won’t ever play, and the game will carry on with Sidon having no idea who you are. Which, in hindsight, is kind of a letdown, as Sidon’s charm is a better improvement of the experience of Zora’s Domain. With aesthetic details to die for, a reason for Link to care about those present (if not for his current mindset), and a likable cast of characters, Zora’s Domain is a high point in the game in both gameplay and narrative gusto. I really do think it would be a great starting point for any beginning player.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

An Ode to Vinesauce

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For those unaware: no, that is not the 1-Up Mushroom.

This is the Vinesauce mushroom, the icon for a team of video game streamers since somewhere back in 2012. Founded by a lone jabroni by the name of Vinny, it eventually took off with the rise of Twitch as a collective online pastime. Of course, Vinesauce isn’t just a team of video game streamers. The group is most notable for their variety of game-breaking shenanigans, corruptions, and highlighting of fan-made games which, inadvertent or not, capitalized on the meme-y nature of online interactions. Vinesauce, as a whole, is more of a collection of normal people trying to make ends meet, surrounded by fans wanting to see shit hit the ceiling.

While some members have come and gone, the current team consists of its founder, Vinny; Joel, Mentaljen, Rev, KY, Limes, Imakuni, Direboar, Potato (or Darren), Hootey, and Fred. Some are more popular with viewers than others (some garner three to six-thousand viewers a night while most others barely top a thousand), but all play a part in making the Vinesauce community what it is—a friendly, albeit obnoxiously chaotic collection of dedicated fans. This becomes more prominent once a year, during the annual Vinesauce Charity Stream.

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Depending on the individual streamer, the selection of games vary dramatically, as every streamer is interested in different things and have their own schedules to adhere to. Vinny, Fred, Direboar, and Limes tend to stream most days in the week, while the rest are prone to sporadic absences. Aside from Vinny, who tries to keep a balance of serious and non-serious games, the rest of the aforementioned named are pretty apt to sticking with one game, usually serious, from beginning to end. Debatably, this type of streaming is likely why they aren’t as prominently known, but their dedication to their schedules and their personalities are the tools which help them succeed. Those who have yet to be mentioned in this paragraph are those who stream only semi-often (or rarely), with Joel being the one singled out for his tendency to create new memes with every stream (some of which are featured on channels such as SiIvaGunner).

Description overload out of the way, my personal experience with Vinesauce dates back to early 2014(?) when my brother introduced me to a certain video. Marathoning a number of related videos later, I was officially “onboard” the Vinesauce hype train. At that time, I was only aware of Vinny and Joel, completely unaware of the collection of other streamers which stream under the Vinesauce name. When I finally found out that it was more than just two people, and that they had their own functioning website dedicated to them, I was quick to peruse the merchandise.

I have experience with every single streamer on the site, but to absurdly different degrees. Vinny is far and away the streamer I watch most often, even now when my schedule is much tighter than before, while I’ve only spent a single stream with MentalJen, Rev, and KY; none of those lasted more than ten minutes or so. This isn’t to say I don’t like the streamers themselves, but their selection of games and infrequent streaming isn’t of huge interest to invest my time into. Some streamers can carry through an uninteresting game through character alone (Joel, Hootey, Imakuni), although the perfect blend of interesting games and enthusiasm is what makes for an effective and immersive streaming experience. Vinny is normally very good at this, as well as Joel and Limes. Frequency is the issue at hand for every streamer, too, as like any aspect of life, people can have off days.

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Vinesauce is also to thank for a variety of different purchases—and to some extent, revival of interest—of video games in my lifetime. I first learned of Axiom Verge during a Vinny stream. I bought Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 on a whim after seeing Joel fuck it up on-stream. Similarly with Fred and Megaman & Bass (except he was just losing a lot). These are but a few examples after years of watching the Vinesauce team. Who would have thought that all one needed to regain their interest in video games was to see one having fun with video games? And the creativity (and memeness) that goes into a variety of fan-made projects is so tempting to do for myself (except I have no motivation or time). It would make sense that my favorite streams of all time were both from Vinny, playing Sonic Dreams Collection and the Super Mario Bros. X Contest.

Yet the memeness of the team isn’t necessarily the only enjoyable aspect. The manner at which streamers continue through a game one at a time can be gratifying in and of itself, to be able to experience the journey with them. I recall being bored one night sometime in 2015, when I saw Darren streaming Dragon Quest VIII(?). I popped in there and spent the next few hours talking with members of the chat, with the occasional comment to Darren, and watching as he ground for experience and struggled with some casino game. To this day, it was one of the most enjoyable streams I’ve ever been a part of, simply because the chat was quiet (which is a rare feat, let me tell you!), the content was interesting, Darren was charming, and I felt I was part of the collective experience. That sort of ultimate immersiveness is what I live for when watching someone stream. It’s always fun to watch someone react wildly to crazy things onscreen, but it’s the little things, like a streamer acknowledging your question/comment, the passive lethargy of video game intake, and being able to be a part of the streaming process without being lost in the sea of “LOL’s” after a funny incident that lead to truly memorable pastimes. I really enjoyed Vinny’s recent playthrough of Final Fantasy VII and Darren’s playthrough of Final Fantasy IX because of this.

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Due to my former job requiring me to turn in early, I didn’t end up watching many streams during the latter part of 2016 and early parts of 2017. For a time, I thought my interest in watching the members stream live had passed, that was until just a couple weeks ago, when Vinny and Imakuni joined forces to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which was such a wonderful stream that I’m kicking myself for not being able to watch the entire thing. Their chemistry was fantastic, and Imakuni’s knowledge of the franchise compared to Vinny’s complete ignorance was such a treat to watch play out as the stages continued. Once again, my interest in the Vinesauce brand was reignited with the aid of a single stream; how mystifying that it can happen that way. As a side note, I would absolutely recommend one watch the highlight video of their collaboration.

I don’t watch many people stream, at least not anymore, but Vinesauce has been a constant in the last three to four years of my life. Should I be privileged with riches beyond my imagination, I would gladly support every member without a second thought. The team has brought such a wide array of fond memories that I feel almost indebted to them, yet I do not have the means to compensate them. All I can do is continue to watch, share, and write giant “Ode” posts such as this one, singing praise and sharing personal stories. Vinesauce means a lot to me, not just because it pertains to a major interest of mine, but because the people who inhabit it seem like good people capable of good things. For that alone, I would recommend it to any fan of video games in general.

Thoughts on Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal)

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From the creator of the ultra-depressing Narcissu comes Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal), a story that’s nearly as depressing but now with fantasy elements. Life-shortening diseases aren’t good enough? How about alternate dimensions where people never age? Ame no Marginal is an “ambitious” step in the right direction for someone passionate in the art of “feelsy” visual novel creation.

Notice the quotes around key words in the last paragraph. “Feelsy” is a term some may not be familiar with, but one that can be understood without much effort. Essentially, writing with the intention of making you cry. Feel pity. Think Clannad or AnoHana. Such is the niche in mind. “Ambitious” is a somewhat sarcastic choice of term, yet with the context of knowing the production values of Narcissu, it’s understandable. In Narcissu, there was barely anything; some pictures here and there, a few music tracks, and lots of textAme no Marginal takes the necessary steps for a (non)sequel game and provides more for the reader to absorb.

Such comes in the form of more pictures, more music, and (minimal) voice acting. Characters are actually given proper appearances and designs, as well as distinct voices, while background music is noticeably more varied. There still remains lots of text with unmoving images, yet the execution is a lot easier to digest with occasional spurts of variety to go with the walls of words. In a technical sense, Ame no Marginal is by no means marginally better than Narcissu; it’s head and shoulders above it.

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The name of the game of visual novels, however, is storytelling. Faring against thousands of different titles, even with the leniency of its limited capabilities, Ame no Marginal falls between “interestingly dull” and “painfully standard.” Perhaps it is the lack of a distinct focus, as the game has the player weave between two different stories in a single playthrough. Perhaps it is the fantasy aspect which, while its rules are well regarded, seeps into fulfilling the “feelsy” nature of the game just a tad too strongly. Whatever it may be, its narrative felt fairly unimpactful, and left less of an emotional “oomph” with me than its spiritual predecessor. Let me explain it this way: it feels more like reading a harrowing story out of a newspaper than feeding into a tragic novel… with a tragic novel’s level of detail.

Pleasant in-game, the soundtrack isn’t anything special outside of it. Explained dramatically, the pieces of Ame no Marginal’s armor are well-suited for the battle at hand, improving its chances at lasting. Outside of that specific battle, it is useless, only capable of fending off attacks from a specific source. Call it “Fire-resistant armor,” or in this case, “Negative-emotion-stimulating armor.” Harboring the necessities of (hopefully) influencing the tear duct, its choice in music can range from naive peppiness to lamenting life’s cruelty. Some parts catchy, some parts gloomy; while never truly invigorating. This is made up for somewhat by the art direction, which is pleasant for its production value. Cute little girls actually look cute this time around. Even more than that, the alternative dimension has such a wondrous isolation vibe that it makes it intriguing almost by default.

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Yes, the characters. Not only accentuated by text this time around. By its end, most characters were at least likable, though lacking in total development. The POV character, whose name escapes me (if he even had one), began as a very edgy depressed young man with little will to live (it literally starts with him contemplating jumping off a tall building). Afterwards, he’s teleported to a dimension where time stands still and meets a little girl, who explains his current situation. After that… he’s just kind of normal. He starts to care for the girl and feels sorry for her, but that’s pretty much it. I would think someone who starts the game contemplating suicide would be a little more somber throughout. As the player progresses, the little girl ends up becoming the star of the game, as she receives far more backstory into her character than the POV character. This, in turn, makes her the most developed character in the game, and the fact that another story is told along the way feels a little too unfocused to provide that proper “oomph.”

All in all, certainly worth the “Free” tag on Steam. A nice read for anyone who enjoys the “feelsy” nature of certain visual novels, and isn’t scared by a lot of text without any choices.

The ending is bullshit, though.

The rating for this title and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.

Adhering to the Value of Narratives in Video Games

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Do not let the “Plan to Play” section of MyVideoGameList fool you; I have played a number of games throughout my life. Video games were, without a shred of exaggeration, my first love in life—the thing that I would most look forward to waking up to in the morning. It would make sense that throughout my time experiencing a wide variety of different games that I’ve come to develop a certain “fetish” for specific game types that appeal to me more than anything else. Pondering this for years, I always had an affinity for Nintendo games, games with colorful and cartoon-ish art direction, and games involving a lot of puzzle-solving. However, there is a specific aspect to games that has not only become more popular in recent years, but has evolved the state of video games into something that’s been debated on ever since. I am speaking of narratives, games with grandiose stories and moral messaging within its compact code.

For some time, I never realized how prevalent the impact of narratives in video games had on me as a gamer. In recent years, it’s become almost necessary for a game to have some sort of contextual motivation in order for me to care to try a game at all. Games such as Splatoon, Overwatch, and Sonic Mania are all titles that have fun features to their credit that make them enjoyable experiences, but none give me a lasting impression because there simply isn’t enough there for me to really care. And this isn’t to say the mentioned games don’t have narratives to them, they’re just not explored to the point where they become interesting on their own—whether because all further information is found through other sources or the game focuses more prominently on gameplay than story. This doesn’t bode so well for my standards, however, as my preferences have become more tailor-made to the manner in which a video game can immerse me within its world, something that is done best through world-building via characters and story. This leads me to uphold a likely unpopular opinion:

Narratives in video games usually make them better.

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There is no denying that a video game’s mechanics are what come first in a successful game. If gameplay is boring, then why bother? Gameplay, despite the message of this post, is the most important factor of a video game. With that in mind, the typical ratio for the critical player is usually 80/10/10 in accordance to gameplay/story and characters/art and sound. My own ratio is closer to 50/40/10, leaving games with stories/characters that utterly bore me and gameplay/art/sound direction that astounds me at best a 6/10.

Picking on Sonic Mania yet again (due to it being the inspiration behind this post), it follows this train of personal analysis. Gameplay is solid, smooth, and inspired. Art is perfect for what it’s trying to convey and adds even more pizzazz to the spirit of the Sonic series. Sound follows the same path as art style. Despite all of this, the story is bare-boned, and the characters’ personalities are only shown through very meager actions. I bought the game when it released ten days ago and I have yet to finish it, despite the game’s short-ish length. Why? Because I’m bored with it. Its gameplay and design aren’t enough to compensate for the lack of empathy I have to continue forth with the game, which is directly attributed to its simplistic story, and to some extent, its fan service. If I had to give it a rating at this moment, it would be a 6/10, verging on a 5.5/10. And I know that would make a lot of people upset.

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Alternatively, a video game like Undertale is capable of being rewarded a 7/10 from me, despite having gameplay that barely passes off for a typical bullet-hell/Earthbound type of gamestyle. From a gameplay standpoint, Undertale is a pretty dull game that doesn’t have much to offer. The most challenge one faces is trying to identify how to pacify a particular enemy while dodging their attacks in the meantime. Very typical RPG mechanics. Where it lacks in gameplay, it more than makes up for in story and (especially) characters. While the narrative plays a little too much into THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!, its characters are a wonderful variety of fun that makes the game far more entertaining than its gameplay would imply. This succeeds in pulling the player in with assisting (or playing along with) the trials that face the people around them, giving them more motivation to explore the world and find information about said characters or about the major goal.

Of course, there are times when a game gets too ahead of itself and focuses far too much on one aspect, most notably narrative, to compensate for the lack of anything else. Games such as Gone Home or Depression Quest are examples of the narrative > gameplay argument that people rattle over to this day. With the technology present to humanity today, in which we can create games that allow these narrative-driven wholes, are games that focus more on story than gameplay really video games? Such is a debate that rages on among the levels of “The Console Wars,” but in the end, more games are more games, and I’m all the happier for the people who dedicate their time to doing what they love.

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As I continued pondering, I began to understand that narratives in video games have always been the most prevalent and notably nostalgic games of my childhood. Hell, thinking about all the games on my Top 10 List of Nostalgic Games has more than half the list contain titles with heavy doses of dialogue/text or detailed story progression. It took me twenty-something years to realize that the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Sunshine was the fact that Sunshine had more charm through its ridiculously idiotic story and character roster. Such is why I hold the latter to be a better experience, and a better game altogether.

So, with this in mind, the next time you come across a video game review from me, know that there are types of games I enjoy and those I don’t, but I try to critique a game to the nature of its parts and what I feel it tries to exude most notably from them. Still, I’m not perfect, and games like Sonic Mania will end up getting somewhat low ratings because my mind is accustomed to games with a lot more narrative-focus. It’s something I’ve had to learn to get over, though these internal stipulations do have their share of exceptions, hence why I said games are “usually” better with narratives. My fondness of storytelling is something that happened to cross over into my gaming preferences, leaving me to feel encouraged by the future of video games and what they can offer. Such a path will not always be straight and narrow, unfortunately.

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Hateno Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I could have added this bit to the disclaimer, but I felt it too much for one bullet point. Since my last post on this subject, I have switched to the Switch version of this game and have gotten farther in the game than with the Wii U version. Needless to say, that means I have played over these oncoming events twice over, so the stories and situations I share will become muddled with oversaturation. While there’s no real need to distinguish the two playthroughs, know that I’m a lot more experienced with the game than I was since starting this collection of Traveling Thoughts.

Though I still haven’t beaten the game. Trying to find all those shrines. I’ll likely have them all by the time I write the next entry.

Now then, on the journey from Kakariko to Hateno, the range of area to explore rivals that of when one leaves the Isolated Plateau. Link is tasked with finding a Sheikah researcher named Purah, who is capable of repairing the Sheikah Slate to its full potential. (A device I never mentioned once until now, despite it being the first item the player receives in the game. Oops.) Essentially, the Sheikah Slate is the tool to end all tools, capable of allowing Link to use runes (another thing I neglected to mention once; supernatural abilities spanning from bombs to a time-freezer), look at a map of Hyrule, collect info from shrines and towers, take pictures (no selfies included), warp to established shrines and towers, and pinpoint specific locations for future perusing. Really, the more area that’s explored, the more of a Godsend the Slate becomes. At its state upon leaving Kakariko, however, there are still functions missing (such as the camera). Purah is the only person for the job.

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One little note to make is that while this becomes the main objective, it doesn’t technically have to be. After visiting Impa, Link is told of the Divine Beasts originally created to combat Ganon—and their current rampage upon Hyrule—whom then become objects targeted for the main quest. If the player chooses to go calm them, they’re free to do so without going to Hateno. In hindsight, going to Hateno isn’t drastically important, as the upgrades provided are more for extra security than anything else. For the purpose of consistency, as both times I went (relatively) straight there, I’ll continue the path that way.

Along the way, I recall in my first playthrough finding the first of many Stable areas placed throughout Hyrule. One can register their horse there (if they choose to tame one), collect side quests and info on the land, and collect essential goodies from the area. As stated previously, I felt a certain sense of joy discovering even more humanity present within the land, though this was far less impactful. A few quips here and there, and characters that will eventually become standard when visiting more stables, it was a cozy, albeit short break from the wild. I also discovered that every Stable has a shrine next to it, presumably to ease players into having a horse at all times.

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Contrasting from Kakariko Village’s serene and traditional atmosphere, Hateno Village is more cozy and homeland-feeling. Kids run around, people work on their farms, architecture looks more Western, and the musical score is cheery and almost child-like. The people are more outspoken and varied, almost as though they come from a number of different places. Some of them are even mean. And socially awkward. And fedora-tippers. I-Is this a statement of some sort? Certainly more pleasant in tone, but something was missing. Perhaps the emotions felt by Kakariko made my expectations too high for other places, as Hateno felt a little more “sideshow” than “main event.” Despite this, Hateno Village ends up becoming one of the more frequented areas in the game, even now. Whether it be praying to the Goddess Statue for extra hearts or stamina, dyeing my attire different colors, or showing a kid weapons I spend hours trying to find so he can give me the American equivalent of ten bucks, it’s a nice home base.

To make up for the lack of personality with Impa, Purah is a delightful little ball of energy that I can’t help but wonder was affected by her latest experiment. The situation goes that Purah is over a hundred years old, yet looks like a big-headed child. Some nasty side effects from an experiment caused her to reverse her aging to the point where she looks (and acts?) like a kid. Better than nothing, I suppose, as her voice (no talking, just grunts) is cute and her dialogue is all the more. While getting somewhat tedious after a bit, her background information is present in a diary at the top level of her research laboratory, which highlights a lot of the details left out by conversation, something I’d recommend reading.

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What’s a little disappointing is that, adding to the “sideshow” feel of the whole village, Purah is only important for this one time, as all future visits are the same old dialogue with nothing new. Link can ask her assistant for an optional side quest, but that’s the bulk of the priority for them. Once the Sheikah Slate is repaired, she has no use. Not as a person or a partner. She’s just there. I suppose with Impa, there’s a little more to her place in the game thanks to the multiple amounts of times Link can speak with her that provides new dialogue. Purah, in compensation for her enthusiasm, is almost like a one-track record. I really wish she were implemented more into the story.

As a little cubbyhole in the gargantuan mass of Breath of the Wild’s scope, Hateno Village is little more than an escape from nature. Its usefulness and simplicity provides a place to come back to when all’s said and done—the player can even buy a house there! There’s just not much more to it than that. Lots of side quests, along with shrine quests for areas yonder, but nothing that really makes it feel as though it’s a people-driven environment. Most won’t have a problem with this, but after experiencing the loveliness of Kakariko Village, I’m left emotionally unperturbed. I can be glad the town isn’t full of annoying main quest dribble, thankfully.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)