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.)

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.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Kakariko 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.

It’s been some time since my last post on this subject, but don’t let that imply that I’ve run out of motivation to write about it. I just forget it even exists! …Is that worse?

After acquiring the paraglider, the player is allowed to explore wherever they want. This is where the game finally becomes so engrossing to play, as the feeling of exploration finally kicks in. As stated in the last post, the Isolated Plateau didn’t really feel all that adventurous because it was so limited and restrictive, coming off as an obligatory “Trial Sequence.” I didn’t have a lot of fun with it and began to wonder if the game would even be worth it. After some poor voice acting from the Old Man-turned-King of Hyrule, I was given instructions to find Impa, who conveniently rests within a small, mountainous region called Kakariko Village. My map popped up and showed a shiny yellow dot about 100,000 miles away from me (which made me udder a “Ho-ly…”) as to where I was supposed to go. Naturally, I ignored this for a good while and explored the now completely open world.

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I remember quite vividly exploring a body of water with some small islands scattered within right next to a giant bridge. It was here I found myself face-to-face with Lizalfos for the first time, and to my horror, they were capable of one-shotting me. Now being careful, and exploiting the use of BOMB SPAMMING, I killed all of the Lizalfos around the island, collected their loot, and found a hidden Shrine within the biggest island. I even discovered a wandering Zora as I found myself examining the look of the species in this game. Nothing really came of this, but I remember it for being the first thing I really did outside the main objective.

After some more meaningless exploration, I set out for Kakariko, hitting all the open Shrines and Towers along the way. Something humorous to look back on, I didn’t approach the village by conventional means. I’d assume most would take the straight path that curves around and leads upward, meeting the Korok that expands your inventory along the way. For me, I took a back route and CLIMBED A TON OF MOUNTAINS to get there. Essentially, I arrived backwards, taking the most difficult path possible for absolutely no reason at all, completely out of ignorance. I wasted a lot of time fighting off hordes of Bokoblins, exploring forests, and cooking foodstuff to even notice that there should’ve been a much easier way to reach the village. By the time I got there, I left the village the way I probably should’ve arrived there.

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As for the village itself, Kakariko is something of a special segment for me per my enjoyment of the game. It was the first time I was surrounded by a stable amount of civilization. There were people to talk to, buy from, and do sidequests for. It was also the first time I really paid attention to the soundtrack of the game, as for the most part, it was just calm and atmospheric. Kakariko Village’s themes, both day and night, bring me to a distinctively different place, something that really rubbed off on me and gave me an impression of the culture of the village. One could see it from the villagers and their actions throughout the day, but the music drives it home. It’s nothing short of beautiful, really. This was the place in Breath of the Wild where I felt that sense of wonder others likely felt upon coming out of the Chamber in the beginning. Kakariko Village was where I realized that this game was really something else.

This placement of priority says a lot about what I find important in games and the like. Seeing the vast landscape and scope of what’s to be uncovered? Meh. Battling against a number of different dangers with sticks and rocks and clubs? Meh. Being a part of a small society where characters can express themselves and shape the culture they’re a part of with perfect accompanying music and imagery? I’m oozing. I enjoy characters, character interaction, character quirkiness (to an extent), and the impact they can have on an otherwise bland and typical story and premise (see: Undertale, Custom Robo, Katawa Shoujo). Breath of the Wild, in my mind, is at its best when I can interact with the people within those small pockets of civilization. Exploring and discovering secrets and various environments is nice, but it’s nicer when I have a reason to care about any of it.

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Still, Kakariko Village is somewhat hampered by its commitment to the major plot, which comes off as boring and overexplanatory. Impa herself is rather chatty, though integral within the world as one of few people to live through the calamity that occurred 100 years prior. Her connection to Link is a figment of his uncalled past, causing a disconnect for her character as nothing but… just somebody that you used to know. Aside from that, she has no personality. Her role is to provide information and give Link stuff, and point him in the direction of other people. Her granddaughter is a lot more charming than she is (I may have become infatuated with her). This is more noticeable when I began to fall in love with most of all of the other characters within the village, including her granddaughter, a little girl named Koko, and a recently divorced male villager who is obsessed with his cuckoos. For a long while, I never left the village because I wanted to find out more and more about these characters’ lives and behavior.

The first village is noteworthy for being the first in a long line of places Link must explore throughout his journey. It was also the first time playing the game where I had three hours pass and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to play this again!” I was excited to see what other places had in store for me, and if they would all feel as open and alive as Kakariko did. Spoilers: They don’t. I was more determined than ever to get to the next village and explore even more of the vast world that awaited me. All because one little pocket of civilization made me care about the world I was preparing to save from the ultimate evil.

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

An Ode to Yoshi

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This is a somewhat odd subject to write about, as as strange as it sounds, Yoshi was kind of my identity for a while in my early video game experiences.

Let me explain, Yoshi is a character I related to a lot when I was young. As someone who’s fond of reptiles and the like, his design immediately stuck out. His character is almost never in the limelight, always sitting in the second chair to other more prominent characters such as Mario. I’m the type of person who enjoys being second-in-command; not having to take on all the responsibilities alone, but being confident enough and power hungry to be able to lead on a sparse basis. Yoshi, as Mario’s sidekick, had this similar, strangely psychological connection with me. I can’t help but love the character, despite typically being the world’s best sacrificial character.

What’s most notable within my experience with this green dinosaur is how often I would play as him in Mario spin-off games. If I’m playing Mario Party (particularly the older versions), Mario Golf, or Mario Kart, Yoshi was my character. Always. I played through the game as Yoshi and Yoshi alone. He was my guy.

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I recall playing Mario Party 4, going through the “Story Mode” of the game, getting gifts for Yoshi’s house after defeating each party host in specific, unique mini-games. That meant so much to me, thinking I was getting a more in-depth look at Yoshi’s personality and priorities. I don’t remember anything he got now, but back then, it was my duty as Yoshi’s human counterpart to give him the best little house possible. It remains my favorite Story Mode-esque feature in a Mario Party game to this day.

When Yoshi does get a main series game, it’s always packed with colorful, almost serene artistic exaggeration. There’s a good atmosphere whenever he’s involved, though the easy choice for the best example of this is in Yoshi’s Island. That game is a fantastic example of what Yoshi can do in center stage. Much like the rare occasion where I take charge, Yoshi splendidly holds his own compared to greats such as Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3. I really need to replay Yoshi’s Island. Real soon.

Not too long of a post this time, as there’s not much one can say about a single side-character that doesn’t receive a lot of attention towards his development. He, like most others from the Mario series, serves his role to the best of his abilities. That’s all one can really ask for with Mario characters, until the day comes when Mario becomes an RPG. Hehehe… Oh, wait…

An Ode to Super Mario World

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It’s intriguing to me that it’s taken me this long to look at one of the games that made up my very early childhood. Comprised of this, each Donkey Kong CountryMega Man 7, and Super Ghouls & Ghosts (with various others), my first experience with the world of video games came in the form of the Super Nintendo, with Super Mario World heading the charge.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when looking back at this game is how it’s held up, if the game has become dated with time, seeing as it was released over twenty-five years ago. The most dated thing that can be applied to the game is its presentation, which all things considered, is excusable due to limited hardware. I don’t mean its spritework, by the way, which is fantastic to this day. I’m referring to narrative presentation, the sort of linear perspective of level-to-level, world-to-world process that would be somewhat dull to new age players. Looking at gameplay alone, the game is polished, innovative, and a shining example of Nintendo in their prime.

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Nostalgic gauges pumping their pistons within my inner mind go into a systematic overload whenever the colorful images or catchy tunes of Super Mario World invade my imagination. A wave of happiness overtakes my usual resolve and reminds me of a time when video games were my reason to get up everyday, looking forward to getting further and further into the colorful crusade. It was my first taste of the Italian plumber and his Goomba-stomping adventures through the worlds that embody or surround the Mushroom Kingdom. Better this than Mario Is Missing!, I’d say.

As a kid, I would never get past the third area in the game, the Vanilla Dome, as I would lose the motivation to trudge through the rising difficulty with the game. Something about the levels involving flying Cheep-Cheeps always got to me. I’ve beaten this game before as a small child, I know I have. The brazen image of Bowser flying off and Princess Peach floating gently to the roof below her is a moment I will never forget. Remembering the joy I felt as I screamed to whoever would listen that I finally beat the game. Thinking about it logically, I likely hopped onto my father’s file and just went through the final castle until I could figure out how to beat Bowser. That, or I used the Star World to my advantage and warped all the way to the final world. Nice of the game to let the player exploit it like that.

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Something that wasn’t as noticeable to me as a kid when playing it now is how slippery Mario handles as a character. Controls are tight to some extent, but Mario is human, and he needs time to steady himself. The biggest difference between this and the original Super Mario Bros. is that Mario looks like a normal human being. The butter underneath his signature brown shoes is just as prevalent here as in games prior. While annoying, it’s nice that a player has to take his somewhat wobbly movement into consideration when timing jumps, running, and platforming. The emphasis of making the game a tad more challenging makes the platforming all the more rewarding for elite players, who dedicate themselves to things such as speedrunning. Extra stipulations to various levels also give a nice spin to the variety of possibilities within.

For me, Super Mario World was an excellent platform into the world of Nintendo’s flagship franchise. I would absolutely recommend anyone (roughly six people on Earth) who hasn’t played any Mario games to start with this title, as its the perfect creation of accessibility and challenge that Nintendo used to master effortlessly with their games. It still looks great, it still plays great, and if one can overlook the incredibly limited fashion of linearity, it can provide a lasting impression, one that’s touched millions of people worldwide. Regarded as a timeless classic by many gaming veterans, Super Mario World is one of many games from Nintendo’s heyday that made them the gaming empire they are today.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of SaikyoMog.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (The Isolated Plateau)

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When it came time to start a new Traveling Thoughts subject, I was stuck on what to do. What is something that I could play through that could take up a large portion of my time, interests me, and can be split up into various parts for further exploration?

Then, I looked down at the controller in my hands, looked up, and saw the remains of a Lizalfos camp up in Gerudo Highlands. Duh.

So we have the first edition of Traveling Thoughts with our current subject: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (for Wii U. Felt that should be pointed out). This first post will include the ins-and-outs of the first area of the game: The Isolated Plateau. What it contains, my own experience with it, and my criticism and thoughts regarding its entirety. As always, by the end of this chain of posts, I will write a review for the game, hopefully giving me more clarity by that point. Two quick notes of clarification; as of my writing this, I am not yet complete with the game. I still have one more Divine Beast to conquer, and I’ve found myself exploring and Shrine-seeking more than anything. The other thing is that, as always with these posts, there will be spoilers.

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The story begins with you waking up in an illuminated cave. A female voice is calling out to you. It gives you directions as to how to proceed and that you’re the hero the world needs and all of that “Been there, done that” jargon of Zelda lore. Immediately after leaving the cave, Breath of the Wild reminds you that it is big, with a full view of exactly how much the player is free to explore (and more to come). This sense of freedom is one that has been welcome to fans of Zelda in most games, however this entry gives them the liberty to search anywhere they want at any time, regardless of how difficult the zone… after going through the trials of the Isolated Plateau.

Something I wasn’t expecting with this game (though I really should have) is that it doesn’t just throw you into the wild for you to explore and learn at your leisure. Its first area serves as a trial basis for what to expect from the rest of the game—teaching the player about the base necessities of survival and the ultimate goal of the adventure. With every new weapon, item, or maneuver received, the game will instruct you on what buttons to press and useful tips as to what they can be used for. In addition, the entirety of the Isolated Plateau is essentially cut off from the rest of the world, hence the name Isolated Plateau. One cannot get off of it without death, so the player is trapped there until they can manage to do all that they’re required to do.

While I acknowledge that this is simply a stepping stone for players to get accustomed to the game, it also defeats a lot of the purpose of the game’s selling point: freedom. Once again, the game bogs you down with (subtle) tutorials and constant messages and pop-ups about various things. It gives you the freedom to explore the Plateau, but there isn’t much there to behold, mostly the remains of a ruined civilization and some foreshadowing of what’s to come. Not to mention, the Old Man who accompanies you throughout this first step process is basically a teleporting tutor, jabbering on about things to know and the importance of your survival. It makes the opening shot to the rest of the world feel like a cocktease, knowing full well you’ll need to spend an hour or two tumbling around the Plateau before you can get to that. And due to this, I was kind of bored with the opening sequence. It didn’t really grip me as much as it could have. My pleasure with playing this game didn’t come until after I flew the coop, but more on that for future entries.

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Of course, many would see this as nitpicking, as its simply the start of the game and the creators didn’t want the players becoming so lost that they die continually until they get somewhat decent. For me, the beginning of a game is important—it serves as the hook, the gateway into what the player will be looking forward to doing. And though I openly state that the game becomes far more fun afterwards, does that mean I can disregard how “Meh” I felt while on the Plateau? Some would say so, though I can’t quite overlook it. A lot of that “Meh” feeling for me came in the form of the Old Man.

He serves as a handholder. Fine. He supplies you with the items you need to make the game more accessible. Fine. He tells you about how Calamity Ganon destroyed the world and that you’re struck with amnesia (Initial reaction: Ughhhhhhhh). Fine. What caught me off-guard was how long he would go on for, how trivial the story was, and how terrible the voice-acting is. If the Old Man were cut from the Plateau altogether, I’d likely have a better time with it. I didn’t mind him so much guiding me around and giving me tasks, but once push came to shove and he revealed he was actually the long-passed King of Hyrule and Zelda’s father, accompanied by a horrendous vocal performance, I zoned out. It’s one thing to have a boring story told to you, but to have a boring story told to you by a boring (and borderline cringey) voice is next to torture.

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Negatives aside, my experiences within the Plateau were generally positive (and frustrating). I found myself awakening Stone Talus within the woods, only to die against it about six times because I don’t know how to quit. After finally taking it down and realizing it only provides me with various ores, I became incredibly disappointed, because I saw no use in ores at that time. “A lot of effort for some rocks. Thanks, game,” I thought to myself. If only I knew. As sad as it may sound, I literally had to be told how to cook things. I didn’t think “Hold” was something that would eventually lead me into cooking. It took me a while to get the hang of the Option menu, too. One of the other major changes from the Zelda formula is how frequent the player has to go in and out of the Pause menus. Checking the map, organizing items, recovering hearts and adding stat boosts; cooking, changing weapons, clothing, and shields. It was something of a disruptive change, but I found the comfort of perusing items and doohickeys to be rather accessible and non-intrusive. I never even received the Warm Doublet, or cooked the recipe the Old Man wanted. I just cooked up some Spicy Peppers and blazed my way through the icy mountains naked (Okay, not naked, but may as well have been).

Something else of note is the change in combat procedure. There are only two variations of weapons: one-handed and two-handed. There are also elemental rods, but I’ll get into those later. One-handed weapons are quick and allow Link to use his shield in combat, but are generally weaker. Two-handed weapons are stronger, but are slower and don’t let Link use his shield in combat. One’s best means of attack is spamming the attack button, because there’s little else to really do with it, aside from holding down the attack button or throwing it. This little variation in combat is disheartening, though it’s never really bothered me. I find the variation between primary weapon, bow and arrow, and SPAMMING THE SHIT OUT OF BOMBS to be enough to hold me over. Combat also isn’t something that comes across too often—not like in past Zelda titles. Enemies (up to a certain point) don’t feel like nuisances, but rather something one has to strategize for in order to defeat them as effectively as possible, which is a huge plus. What Breath of the Wild lacks in intricacy it makes up for with effective simplicity and making the enemies genuine threats to your safety. The Isolated Plateau serves as a great starting point for taking down red Bokoblins with basically sticks and clubs as weapons.

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One annoying thing is weapon durability, which I’ll get a little more into in later posts. Many of the weapons will break upon defeating three or four enemies in combat, assuming one only uses their primary weapon. I understand the logic of wooden weapons and rocks not being too durable, but to some extent it gets irritating to always have to switch out other weapons in the middle of a fight. And the constant fear of running out of ammo, which is better suited for early segments of the game, only becomes a drag in harder zones.

Looking back, this post is a little unorganized, and I started criticizing things that don’t necessarily correlate to the Isolated Plateau. Nevertheless, I hope I managed to clarify that the Plateau is the “Obligatory Training Section” of the game, and that the best things are yet to come. Overall, if not for the Old Man, I would have no major issue with it, despite feeling like a rat in a cage. It wasn’t until after flying from the Plateau that I eventually stumbled upon… well, in due time.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of MKIceAndFire.)

Top 10 Most Impactful Games of My Childhood [REDUX]

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A little over three years ago, I made a list of the top ten most impactful games of my childhood. Looking back on it now, some of the game I originally chose are outdated, and upon further consideration aren’t as impactful to me as some others. This re-proposal aims to more accurately cement the games that made my childhood amazing, with an updated touch (because let’s face it, the old list looks bland). To save some time (and avoid reaffirming what’s already been established by the old list), a lot of recurring games will have the same notes attached as before, aside from perhaps some minor edits. That being said, I shall begin with the opening to the first list:

When I came out of my mother’s womb, it wasn’t exactly a clear cut choice for what I would do for the first thirteen years of my life. Growing up in a small trailer for the first five years, and then moving to my current location, I had a whole lot of options. I could have played sports. I could have been an artist. I loved to draw and my imagination served me well all throughout my childhood. I could have wasted my entire life away playing with action figures and toy cars. Despite all of these alternative possibilities, the one thing I did ever since my childhood, all the way up into my life as of now, was play video games.

I started young; very young. At one point, I was told that I picked up my first controller at the age of three. Of course, my mind isn’t strong enough to remember the exact age of my first time playing the Super Nintendo, but old video tapes show evidence that it was before the age of five. Thinking back to it, I remember always watching my father play games such as Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Megaman 7; waiting until I got the chance to take on the classics for myself. I recall Donkey Kong Country 3 being the first game I ever played (though my father claims it was the first). I also recall defeating Bowser in Super Mario World, a shining moment from my childhood. All of these memories, all of these games, everything played a part in what made my childhood so enamoring. With that said, I would like to share my memories with the public, with my own personal list of games that made my childhood full of wonder.

A quick disclaimer beforehand, this list is not exactly a display of the greatest games of all-time. Keep in mind that I did not play every video game ever. There are a lot of games that you would expect to be on this list, but aren’t, simply because I either didn’t find them very influential or I just never played them as a child. Here’s a quick run-down of such games:

All Legend of Zelda titles, Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo & Kazooie, Resident Evil 4, Super Metroid, F-Zero, etc.

I would also like to clarify a couple of requirements each game had to meet in order to make the list.

  • I had to have played the game before August 20th, 2006 (My 13th birthday).
  • The game had to have had an impact on me as a child, and continues to have an impact on me as an adult.
  • I have to remember playing the game, even though this may directly tie into the second requirement.

#10: Mega Man X: Command Mission

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Mega Man X: Command Mission is one of those spin-off games that seemed to have more impact on me as a child than the original series did. I’m not sure if this is sad and wasted effort or just sad. Regardless, I can’t rewrite my past. I first got my hands on Command Mission around the time it was released at the end of 2004. I got it from Best Buy as somewhat of an impulse buy. Did I regret it? Not a single bit. I loved the RPG style the game presented and it made me consider the possibilities of more RPG-styled Mega Man X games in the future. Did I ever get it? No. Despite the generally low critic consensus of the game (~68% on GameRankings and Metacritic), I thought the game was an absolute goldmine of possibilities. The attack system, the upgrades, the transformations, the character designs; it was a spectacular game for those willing to immerse themselves within it. The only major complaint I have with the game is the voice acting. Good gracious, the voice acting (in English) is absolutely atrocious. Even as a stupid kid, I made fun of their tired voices. But even that made it more memorable for me.

Playing the game again within the last year, the game definitely hasn’t aged all that well. While the gameplay mechanics work and the exploration is a little more than basic, characters and level design are little more than archetypal. Not to mention, chapters, outside of a few cutscenes and surprise attacks, are amusingly short, and vary in overall creativity. The lackluster critic scores are a lot more understandable upon a clear playthrough, though I feel the game has more worth than others rated higher. I’m likely biased.

I never beat this game as a child, only getting to chapter six of ten. Playing this as an adult, I flew through it like butter. Perhaps I didn’t really understand what I was doing as a child, because this game is fairly simple. Why am I bringing this up? Another aspect of the game that I remember: the hiatus. While this has nothing to do with the game within the disc, it involves the existence of the game itself. After failing to get past the sixth chapter, I went on to not play the game… for a long time. When I finally got around to wanting to play it again, after so many months, it was gone. I had suddenly lost it. I wouldn’t find the game again until I was far past the age of thirteen. That’s part of the impact this game had on me as a child: the mystery of not knowing what comes next. I never looked up how to get past any part of the game or what happens after the part I initially stopped at. I never found out what happened… as a child. For a long while, I had to fill in the blanks myself, but I would never really know until years had gone by. As an already great game within my mind, Command Mission also became “the lost game,” if you will. And that was enough to help it make this list.

#9: Star Wars: Episode I Racer

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This game is an interesting choice, since I’m fairly certain that this game is one of the most repetitive games in my collection. Why does this game get so much love? Simple: it was amazingly fun. How fun was it? I preferred to play this game as a child over Starfox 64, Mario Party, Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, and Lego Racer. That’s quite the line-up. What made it so fun? Now, that question is tricky, because it’s probably full of bias. But this is my own personal list of games that had an impact on me. One thing you must know about me is that I am a gigantic fan of Star Wars. This game came out shortly after Star Wars: Episode I. Guess who had just seen the movie before purchasing the game? So, to put it simply, why did I love this game so much? Because it expanded upon one of my all-time favorite movies as a child (shut up) and my all-time favorite scene from that movie (shut up).

Star Wars Episode I: Racer is a game where you race in machines called pod racers. You can choose from a wide variety of made-up alien races that were made specifically for the game, including Sebulba (most need to be unlocked, however). The game also has a variety of courses to choose from (twenty-eight in all, if I remember correctly) that have a specific character who has an advantage on said course. By winning these courses (or beating the favorite), you unlock a specified amount of money to spend on upgrades to your vehicle and the chance to play as the character whom you had beaten from that course. Simply spending time choosing the right parts to upgrade my vehicles and gazing upon the strange creatures that I could choose from, my childhood mind could hardly contain itself. This game inspired a wide variety of fan-made drawings (that I still never kept) and all sorts of imaginative outside gameplay. Not to mention, anything with the name “Star Wars” pasted on it was sure to get my attention. But in this case, it was both a “Star Wars” game and a genuinely entertaining one at that. A gem of a game with hardly any recognition (except a Player’s Choice sticker).

And much like Mega Man X: Command Mission, this game lost a lot of its luster upon recent playthroughs, as the game is, as mentioned above, fairly repetitive. You race, you win, you upgrade, you repeat. After about three or four hours, the game’s done, and you have nothing left to do.

#8: Donkey Kong Country 3

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Ah, yes. The game that, from my limited memory, introduced me to video games. Thinking back on it, why didn’t this game make the original list? It made the runner-up list, but what kind of drugs was I on to put Starfox 64, a game that I really liked, but was outshined by a number of other games on the same console, make it over the “first”? Regardless, that error has been corrected, as Donkey Kong Country 3 was one of the most magical experiences of my younger life.

This game may have influenced my affinity for cartoon graphics, quite honestly. I remember being (and still am to a degree) amazed by the way the game looks. Its design still looks great today! The technique of converting 3D models into a 2D space worked wonderfully and helped craft the Country series’s distinction from other Nintendo classics. Outside of flashy visuals, the game has a wonderfully spastic atmosphere that accurately presents the weight of each level. Design is on-point, with levels being fun (and somewhat challenging later on) from beginning to end, despite some levels’ degree of one-dimensional gimmicks.

As a child, this game blew my mind. If not for perhaps Super Mario World, I’d probably dub this the greatest game I had ever played by the time I was eight. One question that may come to mind is, “If this game was so astounding to you, why is it not higher on the list?” Back then, I kind of naturally associated every Country game with one another, making them all blend together in a disjointed collection of one giant game. So while the third entry stuck out the most, the memory of the first and second games also filter the impact it had on me. I can’t help but think of every Donkey Kong Country game whenever Donkey Kong Country comes to mind. Except the new ones. Those may as well not exist.

#7: Glover

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“HEP-WEE!”

When you’re published by Hasbro, you’d think you’d get a little more attention. From the company that brought you My Little Pony comes a 1998 one-off game franchise called Glover. Obviously inspired by Super Mario 64, the game is an open world platformer/puzzle hybrid, complete with hub world, distinct areas with stages leading up to a boss encounter, and collectible items scattered throughout. Everything about this game screams “Bargain bin rip-off,” yet somehow it managed to become one of the most quotable and charming games of my life, whether childhood or adulthood.

To some extent, the “bargain bin” moniker is appropriate, as nothing about this game really stands out to make it an amazing experience. At best, the game is passable entertainment with a penchant for shoehorning in one distinct shtick: ball-handling. Within Glover, the goal is to make it from one end of the stage to the other, and you cannot do that without carrying around a shiny ball capable of weak magical abilities. As is appropriate when playing a game whose main character is the (implied) disembodied hand of a wizard, the player’s maneuvers are predicated on the physical capabilities of a hand. You bounce the ball, slap the ball, point at the ball, shoot spells at the ball to change its shape, and jump on the ball. This game is pretty odd.

Its oddity might be what makes the game so memorably impactful. What it lacks in quality controls and graphics it makes up for with silly creativity. Just look at the game itself! You play as a glove carrying a ball around carnivals and flying pirate ships and different planets in pursuit of crystals used to power a wizard’s castle, which have all been turned into bouncy balls that wandered into alternate dimensions. Not to mention, the wizard’s other hand was dropped into a magical concoction and turned it evil, serving as the main antagonist of the game. What the fuck?! This is the kind of thing I miss about the olden days of video games. Things didn’t have to be serious, and the more colorful and bizarre a game was, the more appealing it became to me. Glover is not a game with objectively fantastic hardware or design. It is a game meant to embody the spirit of having fun, something I feel it does better than most. That’s what makes the game so wonderfully memorable to me, both now and when I first played it some seventeen years ago.

#6: Super Mario Sunshine

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Super Mario 64 didn’t make the list. Super Mario World didn’t make the list. Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t make the list. Super Mario Sunshine makes the list. My opinion must be invalid.

Let me explain, I never played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3. I played Super Mario World as a young boy, and perhaps it should’ve made the list. However, I have more memories of the first world and the final fight with Bowser than anything else, which leaves a big chunk of the game void in my mind. Super Mario Sunshine came at the exact right time, at the time I was nine. A lot of complaints about the game seem to be based on direct comparisons to Super Mario 64, but I don’t think that’s ultimately fair. Sure, with another game in a long line of legendary games, comparisons should be expected, but to compare every aspect of one game to another and base your opinion solely on that seems illogical to me. As a child, I never compared anything. I simply played the game as it was and had no thoughts as to what came before. It was a beautiful time for gaming.

Super Mario Sunshine had one of the most engaging and bizarre plots I had ever seen in a game up to that point. Cleaning up graffiti? Super Mario! It seems more like a plot for a game starring Mr. Clean. Regardless, the game had a certain quality of color and pizzazz that made it work for me. The bonus stages were difficult, but fun. F.L.U.D.D. was one of the most helpful tools in any game ever, and I very much appreciated that it didn’t talk as much as it could have. Despite what is essentially a burden to children everywhere, cleaning up the mess of monstrous goop within the game was one of the most exhilarating times I’ve ever had playing a Mario game, or any game, in my entire lifetime.

#5: Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense

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This is a statement I will defend to the death if I must: Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense is the most underrated game for the Nintendo 64.

What’s Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense? That’s a question I hear all the time whenever I discuss the game with fellow gamers. And why would they have heard of it? They were too busy playing Twisted Metal. However, I, as a good ol’ christian boy, played the much more appropriate Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense. This game is still regarded as one of my all-time favorite games and is a regular play. While the game certainly has its flaws (sound effects, realistic motion control), the effort and care put into the game has been apparent to me ever since I was a child. The plot is interesting, the characters are creative to the point of parody, and their vehicles are reminiscent of decades past. The features included in this game are enough to make people want to play this game forever, and the fun only quadruples with the multiplayer mode.

The Quest Mode paints a picture for what the series is all about. Each character has their own individual style of play that ties into the giant story of Vigilante 8. They have their own motives and their own travels, depending on their alignment in the game. In each stage, there are little side quests that one must do in order to fully complete the quest at hand, which includes unlocking new characters. The amount of weapons and abilities and characters and vehicles and features and stages and plot twists prevalent within this game are simply perfect, if not minimalistic. Could there be more characters? More vehicles? More side quests? Absolutely. But it still makes itself a very solid game with a lot to offer, despite what little it has. Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense isn’t just the fifth most impactful game of my childhood, it’s one of my all-time favorite games on the Nintendo 64, and a top ten favorite game of all-time.

#4: Metroid Prime

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Fun fact: Once upon a time, I witnessed a game being played in front of me called Super Smash Bros. It was at my cousin’s house. While playing that game, I would always be one character, who would continue to be my all-time favorite video game character up until Metroid: Other M (but that game never happened). Her name was Samus Aran. So, what do you think my mindset was like when I came over to my cousin’s house one day only to find that Samus Aran had a new independent game called Metroid Prime? If your answer consisted of anything similar to “orgasmic,” you would be correct. Another fun fact: I initially was hesitant to play the game after witnessing my cousin die multiple times during the game. Why? I was scared of death at one point. I would never want to play a game that involved the main character dying in first person, as it would give me the impression that I was the one who would face their ultimate demise.

It didn’t stop there, however, as even when I owned the game myself, I was still scared of certain aspects of the game. Two prime (heh) examples: the Armored Beetle and Chozo Ghosts. I don’t know what is was with Armored Beetles, but it was one of the things that killed my cousin in battle. I guess that had affected my sub-conscious. But Chozo Ghosts? Those are genuinely frightening. You can’t see them, they can appear wherever they want, they exude these sounds that could very well have originated from a horror flick, and the light in the area dims whenever they appear (I was once afraid of the dark). Those things were nightmare fuel for me as a child. While not as traumatizing to me as a child, the Metroid Research Center in Phendrana Drifts has one of the most genuinely creepy atmospheres in all of Nintendo’s classics. It’s one of the best parts of the game.

But all of this, along with a genuinely engaging plot, and gameplay, plays into the impact this game had on me as a child. This game solidified Samus as my all-time favorite video game character and gave me a game to base it off of. This game made me genuinely fear what Nintendo was capable of in storytelling. All of the features present in the game, all of the creatures, and the fact that you can scan and gain information on them is astounding! Your scan visor is one of the most ingenious decisions I’ve ever seen in gaming history. In Metroid Prime, there is no dialogue. None. So what can you make of the story? Based on the events that happen and whatever your scan visor can pick up from ancient relics. This gives the player all the more reason to get immersed into the story of the game, because it’s never explained. They have to put the pieces together themselves. Why is this game so influential to me? Because it improved my subtlety as a creative writer. It taught me that foreshadowing and symbolism is one of the most engaging types of writing in all of storytelling, whether it be in a novel or a video game. Metroid Prime isn’t just a fun game to play, it’s an innovative work of art in storytelling.

#3: Soul Calibur II

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Soul Calibur II is a game that I’ve been playing ever since I first got it. The characters. The story. The Weapon Master mode. Everything about this game is so unbelievably memorable and interesting. This is one of the only games that has influenced me to actually go into the options setting just to see what else I could find. Even the special features are interesting. The artist renditions of these characters are interesting. Everything about this game is so interesting it just makes my head explode just thinking about it! The opening, the music, the characters’ movesets, the characters’ variety of weapons, everything. It’s all interesting, and vastly entertaining.

What made this game better? I had it for the Nintendo Gamecube. So, the guest character with the game is the only guest character from a Soul Calibur series game I’ve ever approved of: Link. I had first encountered this game at Family Video, a hot-spot for video games during my childhood. I saw Link on the cover case and immediately wanted it, so we rented it for a couple days. I fell in love. Link is perfect for this game! The sword and shield, and the already wide variety of items he collects inside each Legend of Zelda game, this was a genius choice. It added a magical Nintendo touch to the game that has lasted up until this point, and probably will forever.

The fighting aspect of the game takes a lot of strategizing and manipulation of the opponent’s mindset to completely master, and each character has their own weaknesses and strengths. All of the vivid little details put into this game make it a creative plethora of ideas and innovation. Even Necrid is a personal favorite of mine, and he doesn’t even make it past this game. The only real issue I have with this game is that once you complete Weapon Master mode, it just becomes like an arcade game, and arcade games are only fun in short, sporadic spans of time. Regardless, this game is a personal favorite and has continued to be a topic of interest whenever the issue of good fighting games arise.

#2: Custom Robo

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Custom Robo is a game that I had initially heard about after playing a demo at Toys ‘R Us. I was so immersed with that demo… it was one of the only times that a demo had such an adverse effect on my desire to purchase a game. The creative designs, the weapons, the colors, the gameplay, it was perfect. It was all perfect to me. My creative juices were flowing like the Nile after playing that game, and I had to have it when it came out a few weeks later. After picking it up from Family Video, I played it for about five straight hours. It was unlike anything I’ve ever played. The characters’ personalities, their designs, their names, the plot, the robos, the area, the map, the humor, Oh! The humor! Everything about this game was wild and colorful and it just fit. If Custom Robo were a puzzle piece, it would fit right into my brain as if it were its home. This game speaks to all of my individual interests as a human being and it only did so much to appease me.

When I finally finished the game, I craved it. I craved more, so much more. It wasn’t enough. I literally got depressed after beating the game and saying goodbye to all of the characters in front of me. I waited, I waited so long for a viable sequel, but I never got one. Custom Robo is the only thing I got in terms of its world, its universe, its characters. Custom Robo has so much potential to be something more, something amazing, something legendary. If only they would give it a second chance. It’s times like these you learn to live again that I want to be a game designer. To be able to gain the rights to work on the games that made my childhood beautiful, that made it worth living. Custom Robo is one of those games that have such an essential place in my heart that no amount of criticism, insults, or debauchery could ever have my view the game any less than wonderfully imperfect. It’s replayability and creativity are some of the strongest I’ve ever experienced playing any game in my entire life. All of this for a game that no one has ever heard of.

Funny how passionate I was for this game three years ago. It’s a decent game, but I more than acknowledge the flaws that this game has. Most of what I’ve said still holds up, though without all the passion I once had in my “youth.” I would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun experience, and hope it can give the same impact it had (and has) on me.

#1: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

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Fun fact: Running around at Family Video as a child, I encountered a lot of games in my life. But I only chose certain games to take home to play. Some lasted a while, some didn’t. Some would last the rest of my life. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was a game that I spent the absolute most time with after renting from Family Video. I rented it for two days. I spent approximately half of that playing the game. Roughly twelve hours a day, from the moment I woke up to the minute I went to bed, with bathroom and food breaks in between. With all of that time poured into the game, I made it to chapter four, where I could not for the life of me figure out how to acquire Doopliss’s name. It was the first time I ever searched “Gamefaqs” in the search bar. It was the first time I ever used outside sources to find out how to advance farther in a game. By the time I had defeated Doopliss and made my way into chapter five, it was time to return the game. I would not play Thousand-Year Door again for years.

Have I ever mentioned that RPG’s are my favorite type of genre in video games? That might be because of Thousand-Year Door. Remember my statement for Mega Man X: Command Mission about it being the “lost game”? It’s the same here, except multiplied by a thousand. I had every chance to play Command Mission after getting stuck on the sixth chapter, I just chose not to do it. After I returned Thousand-Year Door, I didn’t play it again for years. I never owned it, and for some reason, I would never get it for my birthday or Christmas. I had no income to purchase it, and my mother wasn’t exactly one to frantically spend money. I was stuck with what I got during special occasions, and that lasted well into my teenage years. The mystery of what happened after chapter five in Thousand-Year Door haunted me for a long time afterwards. The fact that such a long time had passed since I played the game made me more and more anxious to play the game, and that lasted even after I played the game. That growing anticipation was prevalent up until the point I finally got my hands on it again.

However, what Command Mission didn’t have in replayability and design, Thousand-Year Door made up for tenfold. Not only did I have to bottle my emotions for years waiting to complete the game, it’s also one of the most beautifully presented games I’ve ever played. The types of things that you have to do in order to advance in the game are things I would have never conceived. They really take advantage of Mario’s paper abilities and craft them into the game like a work of art. The graphics are also so simplistic, yet so creatively vivid. It’s one of those “easy on the eyes” games that enhance the quality of artwork through minimalistic designs. It’s truly breath-taking. Every character is likable. Every chapter is brimmed with creativity and interesting plotlines (with the addition of repetitive fetch quests). These chapters range from outstandingly immersive (Chapter 1) to irritatingly memorable (Chapter 2). All emotions are exuded while playing this game. It’s really a complete package. Everything and anything can be achieved while playing this game, it’s all a matter of how you choose to see it. This is truly the epitome of influential games in my opinion, and stands as one of the most memorable games of my childhood, and of all-time.

Honorable Mentions: Pokémon SilverMario Party/Mario Party 4Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2Mega Man 7, Tony Hawk’s UndergroundSuper Mario Bros. Deluxe.