Love Story for Huey

No Ghost

One night, as I lay very still in bed, my arm reached upward. There, in the air, my open hand touched a ghost. I knew it was a ghost for its presence was warm and electrified my skin.

I told it, “Ghost, I want you to do something for me. Take all the love I have for Huey out from my heart—I know you can do such things, ghost. Gather my love and make tiny parcels of it. Bundle those parcels and bring them to Huey and place them in her heart. The parcels must be very small and remain hidden to her. She must not know of them—is that clear, ghost? Is that clear? Watch over the parcels and protect them. Guard them closely for you are waiting on a moment. If ever Huey does not love herself, pull on the parcel strings. If ever Huey finds herself dejected, open the parcels so that love may flow through her heart. Open them, ghost, one by one, so that she may always have love in her, so that she may always follow her dreams and live happily. Ghost, that is your task.”

The ghost waited some time then nodded.
“I can do that, but you will never see me again.”
“That is alright, ghost. I do not mind.”
“Very well.”

And so the ghost took all the love from my heart, as ghosts can do. It made the bundles, and I watched over it to ensure the work was good. When the ghost had left, I lowered my hand, which clasped my body—I could tell when it had left because the coldness came back and my skin was no longer electrified. It grew so cold around me that I saw the breath escape from my mouth like vapour from an exhausted steam engine. I saw it there, in the cold, beneath my bedcovers. Yet breath is no ghost. No, breath is no ghost.


ReView RePost- Ape Escape 2 Review (The Rest Won’t Rhyme)

ReView RePost is a reoccurring series while I publish articles previously hosted on my user page.

To this day, I think of as the best gaming website by an “enthusiast press” outlet. Its talented staff and active userbase promoted engaging commentary from all sides. My time on 1UP inspired me to write about games, and for that I cannot thank its contributors enough.

Tragically, 1UP’s magic was snuffed out when business decisions got in the way. Soon after its parent company sold ownership, 1UP suffered lay-offs and changes in direction. I abandoned the site once it became a shadow of its former glory. My departure from 1UP, and a newfound need to host my writing elsewhere, prompted me to start this fangblog venture. [So, not only did 1UP’s existence help birth your writing hobby, 1UP’s slow death then helped launch your website? Splendid!]

In 2013, closed its digital doors and stopped updating. The archived URL is still accessible, but it’s closer to a ghost town than a website. The main page rests frozen in time with outdated news articles, missing content, and a final message on the state of the archive. The user blogs are so broken now I can’t access all the posts I wrote, which is why I need to preserve them here.

For most of these articles, it will be the first time I revisit them since frequenting 1UP. The silver lining to this transition is that I’m free to improve the formatting and style of my earliest works while maintaining their original intent. [More like rewrite the worst parts and mock anything left. Hah hah.] After the piece, an addendum section addresses changes between my former opinions and my current views on both the game and article itself.

Ape Escape 2 Review (The Rest Won’t Rhyme)
originally posted July 31, 2007

Warning: this review contains feelings of monkey-catching nostalgia. [Thanks for the tip-off. I’d leave if I could.] When my brother showed me his newly-bought, used copy of Ape Escape 2, oh, how the memories of my gaming past came flooding back. In my early days of ignorance, when I knew little about major and widespread videogame series, the original Ape Escape was among my favourite games. I can still remember the first time popping it into my PS1…and how I took minutes just to move the character.
monkey controllerThe original Ape Escape came out a year after Sony’s DualShock controller featuring analog stick input. As the first game to require DualShock functionality, its controls were designed around those new analog sticks, a scheme then unknown to me. [Funny, the instruction manual and opening screens blatantly mention needing to use the sticks. Maybe you were a little slow as a kid? Dropped on your head or something? Nevermind that, keep on with the story.]

Frustrated, after giving myself a sore thumb from pushing on the d-pad to no effect but rotating the camera, I tossed the controller aside. The throw must have nudged the left analog stick, which moved the character accordingly on-screen. At that moment, console gaming changed for me. New degrees of controller accuracy and freedom of movement were made clear to me that day. [I’ll be sure to note it in the history books.] I came to the sequel with high expectations, so how does it fare?
Ape_Escape_2_USAreApe Escape 2 ‘s control scheme can no longer be considered revolutionary by any means, however, it still functions when applied to the PS2 controller. The analog sticks retain the bulk of control, with the left stick moving your character and the right stick utilizing your gadgets. Camera control is very loose, only being able to reposition behind your character by pressing L1. [This is totally false. Were you oblivious to the d-pad being used for camera rotation just like in the original? Here we have a reversal of your little story about Ape Escape 1. Instead of not knowing the function of the analog sticks, you forgo the utility of the d-pad. How foolishly appropriate.] Jump is set to both R1 and R2, while your gadgets are mappable to the four face buttons for on-the-fly switching.

The archaic controls might seem daunting or ineffective at first, but the game plays at its own leisurely pace. Enemies give you enough time to safely switch gadgets before attacking, and platforms provide generous downtime for you to carefully position your next leap. These are not the only saving graces you will find. [I wish you had found some for this review.]
pip2The main character is often accompanied by a winged, diaper-clad, monkey-catching familiar named Pipotchi, who will, from time to time, completely save your ass from death [finally, a sentence I can endorse]. Pipotchi will occasionally take you by the collar and guide you back to a platform if you missed a jump, or feed you cookies if you run out of health. I took it as a small blessing allowed by the game, as embarrassing as it is accepting the help of a magically-inclined, infantile monkey. [I think you need all the help you can get.]

Evidently, this game was developed with a younger [ahem] age group in mind. I figured this upon hearing the cast of the Pokémon animated TV show doing the game’s voice acting– Ash, Misty[,] and Professor Oak can all be heard in-game. [Wrong again. Oak’s VA doesn’t contribute a single line to the game. Also, you didn’t include a serial comma in your list. Don’t worry, I took care of it.] If that’s your thing, if that’s not your thing: it doesn’t really matter. All the toned down/kiddied-up presentation doesn’t compromise the gameplay in any serious way. [Yet you previously spent a paragraph and a half explaining how the game is made easier for the intended audience. Nevermind coherence, where is your memory? I’m not sure you were old enough to be reviewing this game on your own.]
astro-catchSo, yeah. May I reiterate? [I’d prefer not.] Ape Escape 2 is about catching monkeys. That’s what the gadgets at your disposal are designed for; it’s how you clear levels. The entire game revolves around putting monkeys in your net, but that’s what makes it so good! The Ape Escape series fuses great action-platformer gameplay with a wacky concept. Does it matter that the story is threadbare and forced? No, not so long as I get to catch monkeys. [You sound obsessive.]
spectreThis game is rife with throwbacks to the original, being practically identical to its successor. [You meant to use “predecessor” here. I can’t believe you made that mistake.] The uninspired and duplicate story can be summed up by the opening cinematic: an evil, super-intelligent simian named Specter has rallied together 300 monkey brethren to wreak havoc on the world. Your mission as Jimmy the plucky, red-haired main character is to find them and restore order. This gives us a perfectly justifiable reason to do what we do in this game: catch a whole lotta monkeys! [We know already.]
sneak-upAttached to each monkey’s noggin is one of the “Monkey Helmets” Jimmy accidentally sent en masse to Specter’s monkey island refuge (thank you, storyline). Each Monkey Helmet has a light bulb on top, which flashes blue, orange, or red [an existing serial comma? I’m impressed.] depending on the monkey’s agitation. With careful monitoring of your target’s awareness level, you can creep up on the distracted primate for a stealthy catch.

Of course, sometimes that’s the harder route. This is, after all, a zany children’s platformer. Most catches are done by sprinting up to the beast, batting it with the stun club, then swinging the net about madly. Some of the monkeys wield guns, some don skis, and some cast magic spells on you. But have no fear: you’re a monkey-catching machine, and you take…well, lots of prisoners. [This ain’t a comedy routine. Moving on.]
bomb-catchIntrepid Jimmy gets about 12 gadgets throughout his journey. [About 12? Couldn’t trust yourself to verify?] Most of them solve simplistic, derivative puzzles like “squirt water-pump at fire” or “hold onto metal with magnet,” lame shit like that [calm down, tough guy], though some are pure gaming fun. The dash hoop gives a powerful burst of running speed; the sky-flyer propels one upwards and lets one hover in mid-air; the RC car and slingshot are obvious shoe-ins.
egypt-levelThe stages run the gamut of cliché game design: ice and winter levels, a haunted house, some futuristic place, prehistoric land, etc. [I’ll etc. you, mongrel.] Then come the bosses: misshapen mutant monkeys who deliver cheesy voice acting and semi-interesting stages. One boss throws a T-Rex at you. I’m not kidding. It’s rough. Poor T-Rex…

Rampaging monkeys are not the sole collectables. There’s mini-games, extra RC cars, cool facts, pictures, comics, music, movies…even 20 short stories featuring monkey-styled parodies like Monkerella and Little Red Monkey Helmet. Sure, the stories are poorly adapted with sappy joke endings, but they keep the game’s trend– weird, unique, fun[,] and easy enough for all to enjoy. [You forgot the serial comma that time. Shame!]
apeslap2I’m going to take a moment to discuss the score I’m giving. [Ugh, if you must.] It gets a 7.5 from me, and that is a present scoring as of 7:15 p.m., September 15, 2008. [How accurate. I’ll be sure to note it in the history books.] That’s taking into account all games and all consoles since the game’s release in 2003 [this statement is so ridiculously wrong and terrible]. I’d say that’s pretty good. [I’d say you’re an idiot.] For the sequel to a game so revolutionary in my mind, it’s great for reminiscing. I suggest picking it up used or renting it for a weekend. [Wow, people still rented games when you wrote this?] It’s quick, it’s fun, it has 300 monkeys, and they’re slapping their asses at you right now. [I’d still prefer to see that over reading this garbage again.]

For the review-

What an ordeal. I dragged this piece kicking and screaming through its revisions. Despite all the complaining and bad-mouthing I spent in my first ReView RePost, this one started out [and finished] far, far worse.

As is often the case with sequential attempts at something, my second review was harder to write than my first. Granted, I spent much less time composing this one. [I’d say we’re both paying for it now.] Possibly, I didn’t bother to read the damned thing once over before posting it online. [Simply atrocious.] I was too preoccupied with writing as expeditiously as possible. Already by my second review, I had developed a guideline to invigorate my productivity [like a whip to a donkey’s arse]. I vowed to review each and every game I played, moving on to the next only once I had posted the previous review.

Sounds like a decent plan, but overzealous alacrity can supercede and hinder quality. During this workflow, if I was itching to play my next game, I was likely to post anything and call it a review. I followed this rush-job writing “style” for months.

Upon reflection, this might have been beneficial to my writing development since it got me pumping out material on a steady basis. Generating a large volume of work is important for someone learning the ropes to creating a writing style and editing it down. Forcing myself through the paces of writing “full pieces,” no matter how shoddy and hastened, got me to eventually refine the writing system I had built up through repetition.

More detestable to my current sensibilities than the rushed writing is how I reviewed Ape Escape 2 before the first one. At the time, my demeanour was to review any game I played. Despite my enjoyment in childhood, I certainly didn’t want to replay Ape Escape just to review it as a formality before the sequel. As a result, I included that story in my introduction to outline my familiarity with the series. Unfortunate, since the anecdote would have worked all the better in a review of its own game.

Among all this project’s reworking, the most egregious cut content was a suite of awful references. Perhaps I figured that making allusions to other videogames would present me as knowledgeable, but of course the opposite happened. The references were faulty and amateurish, so they all had to go. I axed mentions of Twilight Princess, Super Mario 64, Metal Gear Solid, the Wii, and even an anime of which I still haven’t seen one episode. [Too embarrassed to name-drop the show? Allow me. He had included a minor catchphrase from Naruto. Why? I have no idea.]

My current standards simply cannot accept mentioning media I haven’t yet written about. Call it conceited, but I don’t want to build up extraneous prerequisites for readers who have followed my work. [Dear God, that is conceited.] Eventually, I did review Metal Gear Solid. After doing so, I would have no trouble sticking a comparison to it in later writings. Technically, Twilight Princess already met that criteria, but I removed the tie-in anyway because the connection was inaccurate.

In many ways, this review will go down as the runt, the abominable child of my writing progeny, who wasn’t born right and couldn’t find redemption. My amateurish past self [ahem] didn’t put nearly enough time into the piece, and it shows: generic construction, blatantly erroneous statements that I didn’t bother fact-checking, overall showing a lack of skill and discipline. On a few occasions when working it over, I considered ditching the original and totally rewriting the review, but that was more a temporary feeling of exasperation than a real consideration.

Remember, with this ReView RePost series, my intention is to adapt previously existing work while keeping its shell intact. I wasn’t about to completely retcon my second review just because I didn’t like it anymore. Instead, I had to return to square one and work from the original post, only bringing it to its most readable form [using that term fast and loose].

This crappy videogame review–which few people (if any) had read in its first rendition and few will read now–is a part of my writing history. As much as I try to cover it up, I can’t deny it. So it stays here as it is. Besides, I wasn’t prepared to fully re-conceptualize an Ape Escape 2 review since even now I haven’t reviewed the original. In the end, doing them chronologically would have made discussion of the two games so much easier, given that they are so similar.

[You did what you could this time; no shame in that. The way I see it: you can’t polish a turd, but you can drag it through a ditch in hopes it gets covered with enough dirt and dried-out so as to be less sticky. That’s how the saying goes, right?]

For the game-

Replaying Ape Escape 2 in my late twenties showed me just how bad my tastes were almost ten years ago. The gameplay remains fun, but I have outgrown the immature content intended to amuse the target demographic that I so keenly identified in my 2007-era review. I get the awkward feeling that I enjoyed the “toned down/kiddied-up” crap back then. I really hope the wrestler boss’s fart attack didn’t evoke genuine laughs, but I wouldn’t put it past my old self [that makes two of us].

Not all the game’s comedy is now lost on me. I still enjoy the character animations and most of the art style, which capture the uniquely visual humour that only a game filled with cartoonish monkeys can deliver. And how can someone not find that dinosaur-suplex-move funny?

On the other hand, the (non-monkey) enemy designs range from stupidly absurd to just plain bad. Birds with candle bodies, birds with fruit bodies, pigs with swirly turds on their heads, jelly blobs wearing toupees, eggplant bees– the list goes on, and none of it makes sense.

My only guess for such terrible enemy design: the original, Japanese descriptions were wordplay, and those seemingly random pairings were actually clever jokes. But the English localization of Ape Escape 2 severely lacks any such cleverness. The repeated use of the phrase “cheeky monkey” is enough to surpass quota for the whole series.

“Lacking cleverness” is an apt summary for the game’s presentation. At times, the music sounds no better than the backing to some dinky cartoon or the calibre found in malls and elevators. The game tries too hard to deliver with its new characters and story additions, as evidenced by the bosses, a.k.a. The Freaky Monkey Five. I cringed through the cutscenes showing off their ridiculously caricatured personas and exaggerated voice acting.

Browsing through the unlockables again, I find them not as worthwhile or meaningful as I first thought, but the unlocking aspect itself satisfies a niche feeling. To unlock the collectable items, you spend the coins found in levels at a giant, toy-dispensing machine, like what you might find at an arcade or amusement park. I couldn’t resist how delightful it was to use that machine, like revisiting childhood days of taking a chance with the claw crane except this time without having to spend any scrounged-up quarters.

I view my old Ape Escape 2 review as overly forgiving due to lack of experience. Ape Escape 2 was the second game placed on my grading scale, so there was next to nothing for comparison. I think it started all the way at 7.8 then dropped to 7.5 a year later (why the review mentions September 2008 in the last paragraph despite the original post date in 2007). With more games populating my grading scale, the worse ones marked too generously thus lower in rank, sometimes drastically. Funny how in my original review I brazenly gave a score considering “all games and all consoles since the game’s release in 2003.” Even today, after playing many more games since 2007, my knowledge of videogames is far from extensive and all-knowing, and yet I still rate this game lower. I never thought I would find such a shining example of youthful arrogance in my written work, but there you have it.

  • Play-time: ~10 Hours (first playthrough), ~20 Hours (main game 100%), ~5 Hours (second playthrough)
  • Rating: 7.0

Auto Delta Time Interview

Fans like myself love Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number in equal parts for their on-screen mayhem and pounding musical accompaniment. The soundtracks curate electronic music that not only suits the subject matter but also drives a well-defined aesthetic.

Joseph Clark of Auto Delta Time is a Kentucky-based producer whose track “Ms. Minnie” from the Inception EP finds itself at home within Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.


Inception EP (2011)

You can visit Auto Delta Time’s music online at bandcamp and soundcloud. (Recommended listening while you read the interview!)

The following interview occurred by email between January and March 2016.

Please describe your musical act and your general experience with music.

Auto Delta Time is a production name that seemed to fit with the music I was making around 2010. It still seems viable as a project even though I have not done any new work apart from remixes under that name in quite awhile. My general experience is as listener, writer, programmer, enthusiast, hobbyist, etc. I wouldn’t say I’m a musician- I dont know scales, for instance- but I am deeply involved with its production, specifically electronic music production and all that entails. I run a record label called Acoustic Division that puts out music that my friends and I think are important to commit to vinyl.

ADLogoRepeatDo you include “Auto” in the name for a specific reason? I ask because the Inception EP sounds like perfect music for rolling around in a car or chilling at a meet-up. Do you have any connections to car culture? I know next to nothing about cars myself, yet I got that imagery from your tracks.

Yes. Definitely car-culture, but also a pun on “auto” as self. Cars in motion and the individual changing through time. Driving to the next destination, etc.

By your own description, you’re an avid consumer of existing music. How has your musical taste shaped your production style? Can you name some influential artists whose music inspires you?

18-year-old me would tell you Carl Craig, Drexciya, Jeff Mills, Basic Channel, D Wynn, Moodymann. 22-year-old me would tell you Tortoise, Drexciya, Jeff Mills, Wolf Eyes, Hair Police. 28-year-old me would say nothing. 32-year-old me now would say Cocteau Twins, and a lot of classical records and some Alice Coltrane, given that’s what I’ve listened to today.

Not sure whether those have shaped a style or more of an inspiration to keep going.

Please describe your history with videogames. What are some of your favourite games?

All my friends had Nintendos growing up- Duck Hunt was the real jam from early life. My first system I had myself was a Gameboy I got when I was 7 and still have somewhere- Operation C was the shit, which was just Contra but I didn’t know that really until actually playing Contra a ton in college some 12 years later with my roommate. I can still beat the NES version without dying. Not so hot on the arcade, however.

The most formidable object of my youth though was Sega Genesis, especially when coupled with Ecco the Dolphin, which I somehow bought at the same time and was one of the better decisions I ever made. It is an impossibly beautiful and mystic game. You are a dolphin whose family gets lost by a great storm, and you swim around talking to old master whales and crystals who eventually reveal to you the secrets of time travel. You go to the past and fuck with dinosaurs and then you make it to the future to fuck with aliens and then the last board is called WELCOME TO THE MACHINE. I still have never beaten the final boss, despite playing it from start to finish every couple years. I’m sure it’s not that hard and the answer is on the internet, but I am stubborn and want to do it myself still.

Way of the Dolphin (2010)

It also has the best soundtrack ever made, and somewhere there is a cover I did of one of the songs from circa 1998 which was probably just a MIDI file playing through a synth patch on my Ensoniq ESQ-1. The first record on Acoustic Division I did was “Way of the Dolphin,” whose title is pretty much a direct reference to Ecco.

I played a ton of Goldeneye for N64 with a core group of friends in high school. Since then I still have not been beat by anyone outside that friend circle, despite people talking shit and thinking they were once good at the game. I still feel like this might be true though I haven’t really kept up.

Currently my girlfriend and I keep an original XBOX by our bed and play Halo 1 or 2 when the mood strikes. That’s the only system currently active, though we are probably gonna hook up the Sega soon, as this interview has spawned the desire to play it again. Sonic the Hedgehog II was also a very stellar game and looking forward to spending some time with it again. That is another soundtrack I keep on my phone with NoiseES app (“Oil Ocean” and “Hill Top Zone” are personal favorites), alongside Ecco, F-Zero, and the first two Ninja Gaidens.

Screenshot5I needed to look up that Ensoniq ESQ-1, had no idea about it. So you’ve been experimenting with music production for close to 20 years! Did you collect more equipment over time? What was your set-up like when producing the Inception EP?

Not 20 years really- 15 though. I am not as old as the ensoniq heyday I just like older equipment. Inception was classic roland stuff- 808 and 909 drum machines, coupled with ESQ-1, and then some Elektron Monomachine filling in bits here and there. Yamaha TX81z is the weird glissando lead on Ms. Minnie. That is still the core of what I use to write music. Everything sequenced on an Akai MPC.

Were you familiar with Hotline Miami prior to your collaboration on the sequel?

I was not.

How did you become involved with Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number? Did Dennaton Games seek you out? If so, was it a surprise?

They hit me up on soundcloud. It was very much a surprise after I googled “Hotline Miami” and saw the game!

With “Ms. Minnie” uploaded to your soundcloud, Dennaton must have heard the track and known exactly what they wanted. Did they provide much detail concerning their intentions or planned usage?

Nope- just as soundtrack to the sequel of Hotline Miami!

Screenshot4Before working with the Hotline Miami series, had you any desire to contribute to a videogame project?

I was mainly interested in making club music- the opportunity to be part of a totally different world was great. 

Have you played through Hotline Miami 2? What are your thoughts on the game?

A few weeks ago for the first time, though I had meant to for the last year or so since finding out about the project. 

It’s fucking insane. 

In your opinion, what does your music contribute to Hotline Miami 2?

No idea! Once it’s left the building things have a life of their own. What I thought was a good bass line for the dance floor someone else saw as a theme to some disturbed 8-bit world. It is a beautiful disconnect.

Your track “Ms. Minnie” gets used at multiple instances, including the separate Digital Comic app. Where do you think it’s applied best?

Again, no idea! Did not know the comic existed until this question : ) I am very interested to see it in action though.

screen1What are your favourite tracks from the game? Have you discovered new musical interests or opportunities through this collaboration?

I actually don’t have the soundtrack but was generally blown away by playing the game on a nice large television hooked to a nice large stereo. I felt like my music was definitely in good company. 

What’s your opinion on original composition versus licensed soundtracks in multimedia projects such as film and videogames?

I think each has their own merits. In film there are a number of scores I love, but I was first introduced to Peaches and My Bloody Valentine through “Lost in Translation”. In video games you have Ecco, you have Sonic 2, Ninja Gaiden, and countless others that prove the original composition is something to be reckoned with. The director’s or developers’ wishes probably have a lot to say in this regard. I would love to see Sega Genesis music make its way into a movie at some point though without reference to the game itself. Maybe something from Chakan: The Forever Man in a random scene of a romantic comedy.

Screenshot4Would you ever work on scoring a project?


Have you any desire to collaborate with more videogame developers?

Yes. Being involved with the project proved to be very successful on an artistic and financial level, which these days is fairly rare.

What’s next for your aspirations, musical or otherwise?

Recently been working on a project named TIME COP, which while derivative and related to Auto Delta Time, is something much heavier and for lack of a better word, functional. Less vintage BMW more steam roller.

Acoustic Division, after being on paid vacation for a year now, has a few records all ready to roll out, which brings me great joy. 

Thank you for taking the time to answers these questions!

My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to ask them!


ReView RePost- Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

ReView RePost will be a reoccurring series while I publish articles previously hosted on my user page.

To this day, I think of as the best gaming website by an “enthusiast press” outlet. Its talented staff and active userbase promoted engaging commentary from all sides. My time on 1UP inspired me to write about games, and for that I cannot thank its contributors enough.

Tragically, 1UP’s magic was snuffed out when business decisions got in the way. Soon after its parent company sold ownership, 1UP suffered lay-offs and changes in direction. I abandoned the site once it became a shadow of its former glory. My departure from 1UP, and a newfound need to host my writing elsewhere, prompted me to start this fangblog venture. [So, not only did 1UP’s existence help birth your writing hobby, 1UP’s slow death then helped launch your website? Splendid!]

In 2013, closed its digital doors and stopped updating. The archived URL is still accessible, but it’s closer to a ghost town than a website. The main page rests frozen in time with outdated news articles, missing content, and a final message on the state of the archive. The user blogs are so broken now I can’t access all the posts I wrote, which is why I need to preserve them here.

For most of these articles, it will be the first time I revisit them since frequenting 1UP. The silver lining to this transition is that I’m free to improve the formatting and style of my earliest works while maintaining their original intent. [More like rewrite the worst parts and mock anything left. Hah hah.] After the piece, an addendum section addresses changes between my former opinions and my current views on both the game and article itself.

Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
originally posted June 3, 2007

1-3Twilight Princess, the most recent [sic] Zelda game, released on the same day as  Nintendo’s Wii platform, making it the standout launch title for the system. This game came out months [now years] ago, and everyone has said their hellos [hello!], so why am I reviewing it?

I had never owned or played through a game from “The Legend of Zelda” prior to this one. Ever. This was my first time playing, loving, and finishing one such legend. A fresh bias on the newest [sic] iteration of an age-old franchise makes my thoughts worthwhile, right? [Sure.] The professional verdict has been given, now here is a virgin critique. [Heh heh.]

2-2Though Hyrule’s landmarks weren’t etched into my brain before starting Twilight Princess, I quickly discovered the rhythm this adventure would take during my 50+ hour quest. [50 hours? Jeez, what a slowpoke.] For those of you, much like my previous self [ahem], who never played a Zelda game before, the series follows a well-established archetype:

1. Start with the clothes on your back
2. Enter dungeon after dungeon collecting tools and gadgets
3. Use said tools and gadgets to complete puzzles, find secrets, and defeat bosses
4. Save Zelda

Without delay, I experienced for myself the challenges faced by noble Link. Combat is quick and fun, doled out by fighting the baddies in dungeons and around the Hyrulian landscape. With seven special moves and a variety of weapons and tactics, Link’s fighting methods can scale to the threat at hand.

8-11Link’s gadgets are applied in-game with much aplomb [desperate word usage detected]. The tool found within each dungeon becomes crucial to reaching the end and defeating the boss. Such progression grants a smooth learning curve when familiarizing with Link’s abilities, for the user discovers how to handle the gadgets with every new obstacle.

Despite a well-paced learning curve, puzzles toward the end become increasingly ambiguous. Some areas lack any indication of what must be accomplished to complete the puzzle — but it’s all there, so figure it out. [Don’t tell me what to do.] Not counting the times I got stuck solving puzzles, the pace slowed down during a few more stretches like the late-game fetch quests. Otherwise, the adventure always had something fun in store. [What an empty sentence.]

Seeing as this franchise is over two decades old, there had to be new things thrown in to keep it fresh for Zelda veterans [not like you could compare at the time]. These are the Land of Twilight — an alternate reality to Hyrule [striking originality] — and the ability to transform Link into a wolf. How do they fare?

4-9Link’s romp [romp?] around Hyrule is split almost half-half between light and shadow with enough variety between them to keep the latter from feeling tacked-on. Through its corruption of Hyrule, the Land of Twilight offers its own spin on enemies and puzzles without straying from the core gameplay. Its design space expands the usage of pre-existing areas within the environment. Locations that would otherwise lack meaningful gameplay, such as town centers, become legitimate levels full of action when draped in vanquishable Twilight and populated by shadowy foes.

The wolf mechanic, however, seems poorly implemented. Except for particular uses, Link’s powers as a wolf are far inferior to when he’s human. Entering wolf form to complete a task when there was no benefit to remaining so afterwards quickly grew tiresome. I had fun going through the Twilight parts and completing their quests, but I wish I had more playtime as the “real” Link in my first Zelda game [too bad for you].

Nintendo was sure to include a fair share of waggle control for Zelda’s first game on the Wii. Most of the combat moves are mapped to waggle, and shaking the controller for attacks easily becomes second nature. What surprised me most was my accuracy with the motion sensor. I could aim my bow and arrow at a distant enemy and still hit the target as I rode on horseback.

5-21The fishing element, another prominent waggle portion, was a real let-down. They made it too much like real fishing, where one must wait for the fish to come to lure. Maybe in real life, drinking beer in a boat while completely oblivious to the fish is fun, but I don’t like waiting when I have no beer in my games. [Funny, I’m a teetotaller.]

My biggest grumble [grumble?] during the game was struggling with the camera. The Z-targeting is a workable feature when focusing on a single enemy, but it seriously hinders survival when large numbers attack together. Twilight Princess lacks a way to accurately select which threat to target. When a mob rushes in, the player can only hope to block the right attack.

6-20After playing Twilight Princess, the classic Zelda melodies familiar to many have passed through my ears, and they sound so sweet. Alongside the usual fare, the Twilight World features some stylish tracks with electronic elements that fit the eery landscape and contrast nicely with the standard orchestral music.

Naturally, this instalment offers the well-known sound effects integral to the Zelda legacy. I soon developed a Pavlovian response to the tunes that play for solving a puzzle or receiving an item. That celebratory jingle sounds so satisfying after taking hours [hours!?] to beat a puzzle. [Damn, you must suck. Hah hah.]

9-5Quality sound design notwithstanding, I was disappointed by the practically nonexistent voice acting. [Oh boy…] We get at most a dozen monosyllabic words from the whole cast. Twilight Princess earns high marks for gameplay, but the experience doesn’t add up cinematically [please no, not that word] when the most articulate things said by the hero are grunts and screams.

I’m not very judgmental when it comes to graphics [good for you]. If I can properly navigate the environment and the art style is unique, I’m happy. Twilight Princess pulls off its thing rather well. Hyrule, as a world, feels expansive. The different settings, although typical, provide a variety of themes and colour palettes.

7-13I am, however, a stickler on graphical bugs. [Really?] The character models are faultless [except for the NPCs who look deformed], but issues abound within the world. I couldn’t explore an area without running into another flickering environment texture. It doesn’t break the game, but it can get on the nerves of someone who is sensitive to such things [triggered].

When I got the Wii, I knew exactly what it was at first: a Zelda-playing machine. On Christmas Day of 2006, my stars aligned so that I could play my first Zelda game. In a series whose notoriety and appeal have grown since the NES days, a single entry couldn’t possibly live up to its collective predecessors. Despite this, Twilight Princess resides in the upper echelon of action-adventure games. With its experience and seniority comes a refinement of the genre to which little else can compare.

For the review-

I knew reworking my old articles would be difficult, but I wasn’t expecting nearly so much BAD WRITING. I found more sloppiness, wordiness, and terrible structure than I ever wanted to see in my self-published work. [Funny how you only notice the awfulness of your “old” writing, eh?]

To be fair, I wrote this review (and many others) before giving a damn about grammar and proper English. At the time, I was writing for fun without serious care given to how nice it looked [or its readability, apparently]. “Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” was my very first review on 1UP, and I simply wanted to share my opinions with the blogging community [and they were generous to accept].

Actually, I like the direction I took with this review even though I couldn’t keep it going. There are so many Zelda games reviewed so many times; adding another one can seem redundant. I found it important, even in my first review ever, to stress my subjective take rather than an objective view of the game.

At least, that’s what my intro wanted people to believe. I keep that line for most of the article, though partway I drift into “standard game review” territory. Since I was so young [gimme a break — you were 19], I was just starting to shape my understanding of videogame critique. I went with aping the style of reviews I saw in magazines and on websites. Excusable, but I’m glad I started experimenting more in later articles.

On the topic of experimenting, I found some real cringe-worthy phrases in the original version of this piece. I hadn’t yet done enough writing to find any semblance of voice, so my attempts were completely cheesy and cliché. Most of them got rewrites, but I kept a few for posterity [and laughs].

If I were to write a “fresh” review for Twilight Princess at this stage in my life, I wouldn’t be able to run with the same story as I’ve played through several more Zelda games. With that in mind, I would likely focus the review on what Twilight Princess does differently (and better) compared to other (specifically polygonal) Zelda titles. I don’t think I could resist using a cheap Wii-related pun, so the title would invariably pull a modification on the phrase “shaking things up.” Yes, I really am that bad. [It’s like you haven’t changed at all.]

For the game-

My initial review totally overlooked how the Wii’s odd controller affects the game. The controls suffer from shoving too many inputs on too few buttons. The most conflicted buttons are, of course, the most used throughout the game: the A and Z buttons.

Frequently, I found myself rolling forward when I meant to open a door or pick up/use an item (all commands done with the A button), overshooting the object unless I was placed exactly right.

With the Wii controller’s single analog stick, aiming and movement get squashed into a shared space alongside the Z-targeting mechanism. This cramped mess means the player cannot reliably navigate while shooting since the Z button will auto-lock the camera onto nearby targets instead of switching the joystick between character movement and camera panning.

Some things I missed the first time around because they were only appreciable after playing other Zelda games. Midna is finally the companion that Zelda players deserve. She has a biting personality and intriguing design, and she offers more to gameplay than the incessantly annoying intrusions of previous “helpers.” On the other hand, I caught sight of worse aspects such as how the wolf howling sections are little more than cheap imitations of the instrument mechanics from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

In my review, I was extremely pig-headed to complain about no voice acting in a Zelda game. Had I any real experience with the series, I would have known that voice acting is treated as a non-issue and actually having it would be more out of place in the series. No less, I made such complaints without acknowledging the amazing effort in Midna’s spoken gibberish. The sound designers chopped up English lines delivered by the voice actress and scrambled them to create Midna’s speech. The result is mystifyingly personable and a treat to hear.

Contrary to the initial review, my current self likes the wolf gameplay moreso because I’m no longer a Zelda newbie. Link’s unique form is a welcome change for people who have played Zelda games with no such novelty. My point about wanting more time as “real” Link was valid for a first-timer, but the new elements do the game and the whole series more good than harm.

Replaying Twilight Princess brought me to some realizations. Most of all, I can no longer consider it a 9.0 on my scale. The game has too many faults with what it offers for me to still consider it that highly, and I’m okay with the consequence. The 9.0 score I originally gave was a starting point for my review scale, which has expanded beyond that initial marking — a good sign demonstrating my growth as a reviewer. I foresee further score changes while I continue the RePost series, but this is the first step in revising and updating my grading scale.

  • Play-time: ~55 Hours (first playthrough), ~30 Hours (second playthrough)
  • Rating: 8.9