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Posted by MajorMitch

I tend to really enjoy lulls in the gaming calendar, so this summer has been a boon for me. Good games simply come out faster than I can play them, and I always have a giant pile of older games I’d like to play but never have time for. I’ve been able to chip away at a precious few of those games this summer, and the trend continued this week. To start things off I beat The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, which is the first leg in my quest to beat all the Zelda games I’ve never played before. Despite the game being about 11 years old, I think it holds up extremely well. There are certainly some aged mechanics floating around, most of which are interface issues that originally spawned from the Game Boy Color’s lack of buttons. The worst is the inability to equip more than two items at a time (including your sword and shield). Annoying, yes, but pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Oracle of Ages has some brilliant dungeons.

Oracle of Ages’ dungeons in particular remain incredible, and I actually think they’re better than many of the franchise’s newer entries in ways. Some of them are downright devious, and really push the game’s mechanics to their limits (and sometimes me as well). They make extremely clever use of your entire arsenal, and some of the bosses can get pretty challenging. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the same about the time spent between dungeons, and to me this has become a real weakness of Zelda games in general over the years. After reaching the heights provided by the game’s sublime dungeons, it’s so disappointing to spend the time in between them performing the most dull, menial tasks possible; the franchise has become flooded with painfully boring fetch quests and other equally drab filler. You would think they could either find more interesting things to do between dungeons, or simply cut all that crap out (perhaps in favor of more dungeons). Still, even that sizable caveat can’t hold these dungeons down. I really enjoyed Oracle of Ages, and think it stands toe to toe with most of the games in this revered franchise.

I originally hadn’t planned to play Oracle of Seasons, as I assumed they were a pair in the same way that Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue are a pair; I figured that I didn’t really need to play both. But further investigation has me believing that’s not the case, and that they’re totally different games. So I ended up ordering Oracle of Seasons, which should get here soon. For now, next in the Zelda queue is Link’s Awakening DX. I’ve already made some progress in that, but I’ll update more next week after I’ve finished it.

What you can't see doesn't exist.

Otherwise I also played through Closure this week, which I missed earlier this year. That game is freaking awesome. In some ways you could write it off as another indie puzzle-platformer, and you wouldn’t be totally unjustified in doing so. But it’s so well done from top to bottom, and the puzzles are so expertly crafted that you’d be doing the game a disservice. Despite the minimalist black and white color palette evoking memories of Limbo, the game’s closest reference to me is Braid. What Braid did with time manipulation, Closure does with light manipulation. It uses light in all sorts of incredibly clever ways, creating some mind-boggling scenarios out of functionally simple mechanics. The levels are all pitch black, and you can only stand on or interact with things that are in the light. This includes floors, walls, items, etc. What makes it even crazier is that what you can’t see doesn’t exist. Say there’s light shining on a wall, but then you direct the light elsewhere. Not only can you not see the wall, but for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist anymore. You can jump right through what your brain tells you should be a wall. It’s incredibly trippy.

Closure gets a ton of mileage out of its clever mechanics.

It also leads to numerous exciting “Wow!” moments, where something crazy happens that you didn’t know could happen. I’m constantly surprised every time I find a new interaction, and I enjoy having to retrain my brain for each new level; it’s super impressive how much variety there is to the game’s seemingly simple mechanics. I love it when a game can get a ton of mileage out of a small set of strong mechanics, and that’s exactly what Closure does. The game also looks and sounds great. The aforementioned Limbo-esque visuals create a ton of atmosphere, and the soundtrack is appropriately moody and catchy at all the right times. There’s a lot of personality to the package that makes it memorable past the puzzles. If there’s one minor gripe I could level against Closure it’s that every now and then the logic jump required by a puzzle can be a tad bit steep. It’s very rare, and not that big of a deal overall, but it was frustrating on a few occassions.

So yeah, Closure is great. I highly recommend it. Anyway, I’ll keep playing Link’s Awakening DX, which will then roll into Oracle of Seasons at some point. In other words, it’s the summer of Zelda. I have a handful of other games I’d like to play soon too, but getting to them this week is looking doubtful. And that’s going to do it for now, until next time!

Currently playing: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I'm kind of enjoying this summer lull too. It's helping me get my console backlog almost down to nothing, and although my PC backlog is staggering thanks to Steam and GOG, at least I've chipped away at it a bit. I haven't ever tried those Zelda games. Is it a little weird of me that I won't try GB or GBA games? I think part of that was my frustration with how hard they used to be for me to see on their respective screens.

Posted by MajorMitch

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: That always was the annoying thing about the GB, GBC and GBA: if you didn't have the proper lighting it could be hard to see (was the GBA SP back-lit though?). I think I just played them enough that I got used to them, but going back now would probably be tougher. Fortunately there's tons of other ways to play those games. I've actually been playing the Oracle games via the GBA Player on my GameCube (I'm glad it plays GBC carts!), and if I still had my original Link's Awakening GB cart I would do the same (or dust off my old Super Game Boy :P). Sadly that was lost long, long ago. It was cheaper to get it on the 3DS' virtual console than to hunt down a new cart, so I did that instead, and I've always felt comfortable playing games on the DS and 3DS for whatever reason. In fact, if you have a DS model with a GBA slot that's arguably the best way to play GBA games. It feels like a natural fit to me. A lot of gems on the GBA too.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@MajorMitch: I have a 3DS, and have been eyeballing a few of them on the Nintendo shop. I think Wario Land and some of the Zelda games will be an inevitable purchase, but we'll see. For now, my gaming budget is really, really tight after that Steam sale, so they'll have to wait.