Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: completed!

It has been a long time since I have written on this blog, and that is largely down to one game - Breath of the Wild.

I completed this last November, after around 160 hours of playing.  I would frequently turn the game on with every intention of heading for the next waypoint, but then get distracted by a side quest as I passed some stables.  I'd notice something odd from the top of a mountain; I'd see an opportunity to fight a few enemies to collect some loot; I'd notice a shooting star in the sky and chase it.


The freedom that game gives you - even allowing you to jump straight to the end boss once you're out of the initial area - is a great strength but also a possible weakness.  I didn't want the game to end, knowing there was so much left to see (I had found 112 of the 120 shrines by the end), and it was only with a significant mental push that I finally went to meet with Ganon.

And even that went wrong.  I hadn't appreciated that journeying to Ganon would involve a long trek through the grounds of Hyrule Castle, and my route took me into a library where I found some recipes that someone in Riverside Stable had asked me for.  So, of course, I had to return there before going back in to the castle.

The interior was a masterpiece of artistic design.  What would a castle look like after being neglected for a hundred years, used as a home for monsters? 


Dark, dingy and claustrophobic.  Even getting outside didn't help, since the drifting ashes in the air and hiding guardians meant the atmosphere remained tense.  I used my gale powers to drift ever higher, and entered the tower from a top window, leading to a nervous descent inside.  I needn't have worried; Ganon had become complacent.


So, if I completed this back in November, why have I not written about it until now?  Partially because I have been playing other things on my commute, but partially because I couldn't find the words to do this game justice.  It has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and I cannot argue with that.  Many people have written far more eloquently than I would be able to, and yet no article has fully captured just how amazing it is.

It's daft to give up a blog like this because of a perception of language inadequacy, though.  So instead I'll sum Breath of the Wild up in a single word, before moving on.

Breathless.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: completed!

It has been a long time since I have written on this blog, and that is largely down to one game - Breath of the Wild.

I completed this last November, after around 160 hours of playing.  I would frequently turn the game on with every intention of heading for the next waypoint, but then get distracted by a side quest as I passed some stables.  I'd notice something odd from the top of a mountain; I'd see an opportunity to fight a few enemies to collect some loot; I'd notice a shooting star in the sky and chase it.


The freedom that game gives you - even allowing you to jump straight to the end boss once you're out of the initial area - is a great strength but also a possible weakness.  I didn't want the game to end, knowing there was so much left to see (I had found 112 of the 120 shrines by the end), and it was only with a significant mental push that I finally went to meet with Ganon.

And even that went wrong.  I hadn't appreciated that journeying to Ganon would involve a long trek through the grounds of Hyrule Castle, and my route took me into a library where I found some recipes that someone in Riverside Stable had asked me for.  So, of course, I had to return there before going back in to the castle.

The interior was a masterpiece of artistic design.  What would a castle look like after being neglected for a hundred years, used as a home for monsters? 


Dark, dingy and claustrophobic.  Even getting outside didn't help, since the drifting ashes in the air and hiding guardians meant the atmosphere remained tense.  I used my gale powers to drift ever higher, and entered the tower from a top window, leading to a nervous descent inside.  I needn't have worried; Ganon had become complacent.


So, if I completed this back in November, why have I not written about it until now?  Partially because I have been playing other things on my commute, but partially because I couldn't find the words to do this game justice.  It has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and I cannot argue with that.  Many people have written far more eloquently than I would be able to, and yet no article has fully captured just how amazing it is.

It's daft to give up a blog like this because of a perception of language inadequacy, though.  So instead I'll sum Breath of the Wild up in a single word, before moving on.

Breathless.

Sonic Mania: pause for another game

At the end of the second zone, you are expecting a boss battle.

You get, instead, this.


This is a marvellous game.

Road Rash III: pixels

I played Road Rash a lot when I was younger, and Road Rash II about ten times more than that.  I have played both recently, and can quickly get back into the rhythm of the first few races - snaking through the back markers, taking the chain from Viper, avoiding Natasha, and rolling out to the front before the finish line.  The low framerate is slightly jarring, but the games still look clean and fresh.

Despite my love for the second game, I never bought Road Rash III, largely due to middling reviews.  Having now played it, I can see why.  It's still a good game, but the differences from Road Rash II are minimal, with slightly more varied locales and more weapons (which you don't really get to experience, since you carry a weapon from race to race and so effectively get stuck with the first one you grab forever).  The biggest change is in visuals, with the artists moving away from clean pixel art to more photorealistic sprites.



And it just makes the game look messy.  The main character - the one you're looking at half the time - looks washed out and indistinct ... and even more so when you upgrade your bike and find that you no longer have the coloured band on your clothes.


(Pictured on the snow stage just to doubly emphasise the point).

It's still a good game, don't get me wrong.  The problem is that the second game was pretty much perfect, so all the changes they implemented - and of course they had to implement changes to be able to sell a sequel - make things worse.  Muddier graphics.  More complicated bike upgrade screens.  Less catchy music.  More boring dashboard.  Garish or pixellated backgrounds.



 There is one great addition, though.  An opponent called Scab Boy.


Road Rash III: pixels

I played Road Rash a lot when I was younger, and Road Rash II about ten times more than that.  I have played both recently, and can quickly get back into the rhythm of the first few races - snaking through the back markers, taking the chain from Viper, avoiding Natasha, and rolling out to the front before the finish line.  The low framerate is slightly jarring, but the games still look clean and fresh.

Despite my love for the second game, I never bought Road Rash III, largely due to middling reviews.  Having now played it, I can see why.  It's still a good game, but the differences from Road Rash II are minimal, with slightly more varied locales and more weapons (which you don't really get to experience, since you carry a weapon from race to race and so effectively get stuck with the first one you grab forever).  The biggest change is in visuals, with the artists moving away from clean pixel art to more photorealistic sprites.



And it just makes the game look messy.  The main character - the one you're looking at half the time - looks washed out and indistinct ... and even more so when you upgrade your bike and find that you no longer have the coloured band on your clothes.


(Pictured on the snow stage just to doubly emphasise the point).

It's still a good game, don't get me wrong.  The problem is that the second game was pretty much perfect, so all the changes they implemented - and of course they had to implement changes to be able to sell a sequel - make things worse.  Muddier graphics.  More complicated bike upgrade screens.  Less catchy music.  More boring dashboard.  Garish or pixellated backgrounds.



 There is one great addition, though.  An opponent called Scab Boy.


Retropie: how to access screenshots

I have been playing games on my RetroPie recently, and taking screenshots while doing so.  When trying to access these to put them on the blog, I ran into some difficulties.  I worked it out in the end and thought it worth documenting.

Screenshots are saved by default in ~/.config/retroarch/screenshots/.  Unfortunately if you use samba in Windows or OSX to connect to //RETROPIE, you don't get shown this directory - instead you are shown ~/RetroPie/ which is the folder in which the configuation and ROMs is stored.

You can adjust this, but it makes uploading ROMs more difficult in the future.  Instead, you might as well just copy the screenshots folder into one of the available folders temporarily.


So, SSH into the Pi, and navigate to the retroarch folder:
cd ~/.config/retroarch
Then copy the screenshots folder into the splashscreens folder within the RetroPie structure:
cp -R screenshots/ ~/RetroPie/splashscreens/
Then look at the splashscreens folder through samba in Windows explorer, and the screenshots are all there.  You can then delete them after copying them elsewhere.
 

Gravity Rush: completed!

(First drafted 27 February 2017)

It was pretty straightforward from the underground section back to the top; the greatest difficulty I had was interpreting the map of the underground system, with one mission causing real problems until I realised the flower at the North of the map was actually an actual island.


I'd completed many sidequests before this point, and as a result when I got back up there was little to do except progress to the end of the game.  There was an odd bit where I was transported to some sort of virtual world, and then tying up a story where I found out that an old couple had died ...


... but my biggest concern was where all the children from underground had disappeared to.  I was expecting them all to suddenly appear at the end boss and help out, but I won't spoil what actually happened other than to remark how frustrating yet beautiful the last sections of the game were.


Maybe the extended break in the middle of the game did it some good in that I never felt the story was outstaying its welcome - there are a large number of time challenges and so on that I've not completed, but I have no desire to do so.

It does pose me with a conundrum, though.  I would (now) happily pay for this game given the amount of enjoyment I got out of it, but I doubt I would have bought it before playing it - the only reason I did get to play it was that it was given away free.  It seems I will have to work out a better way to discover games that I will like.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: speechless

It's been a long time since I have posted on here, and that's largely down to one game.  I have completed Gravity Rush and Assassin's Creed III, I have tried once again to play Chaotix (and actually progressed a little, for a change), I have started Super Mario World on a new emulator, I have worked my way half the way through Puyo Puyo Tetris.  Each time I have come to the blog to write something about those games, I have left without publishing anything.

The problem is Zelda.  Since I got the Switch on 3 March, I have played it for over 90 hours.  It is a magnificent game and an amazing achievement, and I feel that I should be prioritising it over any other game.  But it is so expansive, and there is so much to do and write about, that it became too daunting to do so.

Daunting to write about, but daunting to play as well.  Due to life, I don't have too much time to play long story-led games at home these days; I get an hour or so in the evening from time to time, and much of that is still taken by Rocket League.  The portable nature of the Switch means that I have been able to devote much more time to Breath of the Wild, and I estimate at least 80 hours of the total have been on the train.  I don't feel rushed playing it, I don't feel constrained in needing to get any part of the game finished.  I get near my stop, press the power button, and the game sleeps until the next journey when I can continue instantly.  It's marvellous.

But yes, the game is daunting.  You start with nothing, learning the basics of combat with tree branches and a pot lid.  After the first, tutorial, section (which probably took a few hours for me because of my desire to explore), you are given few hints on where to go, and as you progress the directions become fewer and fewer.  I visited villages and then found a zora who asked me to find their kingdom.  About ten hours later I did.

It's so easy to get distracted.  Every time you come to a mountain, you feel you need to climb it so you can look around for shrines.  And then you find something interesting in the distance, so you paraglide towards it, and then see a shrine that was previously hidden so you divert to that.  Once you have completed that shrine, you intend to go and find the interesting landmark, but then you find a pile of metal stones which you're sure are a puzzle to give a korok seed.


And it's so beautiful.  There have been a number of times where I've stopped just to watch the sun go down, or see the moon's reflection on a lake.  I will stand at the top of a hill and roll bombs don into an enemy encampment for twenty minutes not just because it's safer than running in with sword drawn, but also because the fog swirls around in a very pleasing way.




I have taken hundreds of screenshots, and posted some to Twitter, but I'm aware that there are others who read this blog who wouldn't want the game spoilt for them.  And everyone should play this game; it is one of the best of all time.

I'm quite a way through it now.  I have found around 70 shines and completed 66 of them - the ones I have left have been the major tests of strength, which I don't feel ready for yet. I have completed three divine beasts (the elephant, bird and camel, in that order), have found a giant horse and a white horse, have retrieved the legendary sword, and have found three giant skeletons.  I have teleported off Eventide Island twice.  I am planning to now head to Death Mountain, but when I tried to approach it from the North East I burst into flames so I'm not sure how to get resistance to that.  I'll try approaching from the South instead.


Oh, but hang on, what's that?

Assassin’s Creed III: completed!

To be honest, the feeling of being overwhelmed by choice never really left me, and I spent many hours wandering around the American countryside chasing nothing in particular.  After the initial twist in the story, and the urgency created by the village being burnt to the ground, there was no real impetus to hurry through the game - not helped by the fact that your main enemy keeps on cropping up and you keep on having to watch cutscenes where you aren't allowed to kill them.

And then you have to team up with your dad, who's a bad guy, and you know that at some point he's going to die.  You just know it.

So I once again found myself distracted by parts of the game which weren't actually necessary in terms of storyline, but in many cases were more fun.  The sailing being a prime example.


Controlling a ship to chase down pirates or the British was great fun in the main, and even though half the screen was blocked from view by your ship which has a turning circle radius of several hundred miles, it still felt like you were in control.  Yes, it feels like you're battling your ship as well as the enemy, but I imagine it is far more responsive than a real boat.


I also spent some time looking for trinkets, exploring the wilderness, and sneaking around forts.  Not trying to complete any of these in particular, mind, given the lack of achievements and trophies, but rather seeing where they took me.  And after playing for a while they took me to some very strange places indeed.



I started to be followed around by a large spherical mess of polygons.  It blocked my view, shifted itself around the screen from time to time, and was a pain in the arse.  So I quit and restarted from the previous save.



Which then made me into a large spherical mess of polygons.


Restarting again seemed to work fine, until characters and items started to clip through each other - like this horse mounting a second hay wagon.  This was the most amusing bug of all, watching people floating along the top of crowds.

Anyway, we can't mess around for ever.  Returning back to the main story, I followed the path to track down Charles Lee, which led to long battles with the patriot army (helped by my assassin colleagues), and then a chase through a burning ship.  In the end, finally, he got what was coming to him.


It's not as bad a game as some have said.  Connor is certainly less likable than Ezio, but the story had some good turns in the first half the game.  It just feels like it goes on too long, and you miss many opportunities to finish the story because you are taken out of control during the cutscenes - the Connor in the cutscenes was a very different character to the Connor in the rest of the game.

A side story next.

Assassin’s Creed III: completed!

To be honest, the feeling of being overwhelmed by choice never really left me, and I spent many hours wandering around the American countryside chasing nothing in particular.  After the initial twist in the story, and the urgency created by the village being burnt to the ground, there was no real impetus to hurry through the game - not helped by the fact that your main enemy keeps on cropping up and you keep on having to watch cutscenes where you aren't allowed to kill them.

And then you have to team up with your dad, who's a bad guy, and you know that at some point he's going to die.  You just know it.

So I once again found myself distracted by parts of the game which weren't actually necessary in terms of storyline, but in many cases were more fun.  The sailing being a prime example.


Controlling a ship to chase down pirates or the British was great fun in the main, and even though half the screen was blocked from view by your ship which has a turning circle radius of several hundred miles, it still felt like you were in control.  Yes, it feels like you're battling your ship as well as the enemy, but I imagine it is far more responsive than a real boat.


I also spent some time looking for trinkets, exploring the wilderness, and sneaking around forts.  Not trying to complete any of these in particular, mind, given the lack of achievements and trophies, but rather seeing where they took me.  And after playing for a while they took me to some very strange places indeed.



I started to be followed around by a large spherical mess of polygons.  It blocked my view, shifted itself around the screen from time to time, and was a pain in the arse.  So I quit and restarted from the previous save.



Which then made me into a large spherical mess of polygons.


Restarting again seemed to work fine, until characters and items started to clip through each other - like this horse mounting a second hay wagon.  This was the most amusing bug of all, watching people floating along the top of crowds.

Anyway, we can't mess around for ever.  Returning back to the main story, I followed the path to track down Charles Lee, which led to long battles with the patriot army (helped by my assassin colleagues), and then a chase through a burning ship.  In the end, finally, he got what was coming to him.


It's not as bad a game as some have said.  Connor is certainly less likable than Ezio, but the story had some good turns in the first half the game.  It just feels like it goes on too long, and you miss many opportunities to finish the story because you are taken out of control during the cutscenes - the Connor in the cutscenes was a very different character to the Connor in the rest of the game.

A side story next.