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Episode 281: Y'all Come Back Now!

by James Jones, Greg Leahy, Jon Lindemann, and Jonathan Metts - February 26, 2012, 4:16 pm PST
Total comments: 13

This episode is much more grounded than the last one, as an email sends us into a lengthy debate about Zelda.

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We enter this episode riding high on last week's quasi-intellectual "gameplay" talk and having earned numerous new fans thanks to Shaymin's excellent RFN thread at NeoGAF, the most famous English gaming forum. (By the way, ours ain't bad either!)

Nintendo gave us an easy way to kick off the show with a few interesting announcements from the latest Nintendo Direct event. Foremost is the surprising decision to let XSEED publish The Last Story in North America, bringing further validation to Operation Rainfall and pleasing hundreds, nay, thousands of Wii JRPG fans in the West. After a bit of this and other announcements, Jon continues New Business with his long-awaited trek through Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Greg finished up Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and found a copy of a cult favorite, Slitherlink for DS. Jonny completed a trio of notable games and also betrays his skier loyalty by testing the new SSX demo. Finally, James continues his ambivalent, confusing journey through the world of L.A. Noire.

In the second half, it's time for Listener Mail! A question about balancing academics and gaming causes Jonny to reveal an uncomfortable memory from his college days. We examine the causes and possible remedies for poor GBA emulation on the 3DS. A listener wonders which system is best for downloading DSiWare (cue James: "none"). Then for the big finale, we read a very long email about "fixing" the Zelda franchise, which leads to an even longer discussion over whether that is necessary and just how it could be done. It's a classic RFN roundtable, so please to have a enjoy. Please help incite more of this chatter by sending your own email to the show!

We politely remind you that RFN's third annual live panel event shall take place at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East in Boston, April 7 at 11:30am Eastern. Join us!

This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy.

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their newest album, Done with the Devil, directly from the record label, Amazon (CD) (MP3), or iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

Additional music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is copyrighted to Nintendo, and is included under fair use protection. 

Talkback

I'm honestly shocked the intro to New Business didn't just feature James cheering on a loop for five minutes. That would've been my reaction.

NeoStar9XFebruary 26, 2012

Still haven't finished Skyward Sword. Does the Zelda discussion have any spoilers regarding that game?

I don't think there are any spoilers.

PlugabugzFebruary 27, 2012

Doctor Bitch is the most hilariously exaggerated caricature i've ever heard of Jonny.

KDR_11kFebruary 27, 2012

I guess Zelda's problem is that it doesn't know what it wants to be so it does everything but no matter which aspect of it is your favorite you can find a game that does it better. Puzzles are better done in Layton, world exploration in Skyrim or Minecraft, combat is better in combat-focused games (which I don't play because I don't like melee combat in 3D games), etc. Zelda's advantage over RPGs was that it's more user friendly and could afford higher production values so it had more mass appeal but modern RPGs are very user friendly and better produced while offering more fun in their core parts of combat, story and world. Zelda's niche has become irrelevant and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Xenoblade shows how you can get a huge, interesting world in a Wii game. It's not about the system, it's about what you do with it.

ejamerFebruary 27, 2012

Quote from: KDR_11k

I guess Zelda's problem is that it doesn't know what it wants to be so it does everything but no matter which aspect of it is your favorite you can find a game that does it better. Puzzles are better done in Layton, world exploration in Skyrim or Minecraft, combat is better in combat-focused games (which I don't play because I don't like melee combat in 3D games), etc. Zelda's advantage over RPGs was that it's more user friendly and could afford higher production values so it had more mass appeal but modern RPGs are very user friendly and better produced while offering more fun in their core parts of combat, story and world. Zelda's niche has become irrelevant and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Xenoblade shows how you can get a huge, interesting world in a Wii game. It's not about the system, it's about what you do with it.

Disagree.


Comparisons to games that focus on a specific genre (puzzle/RPG/combat) aren't useful because Zelda is an adventure game - it doesn't belong to those genres.  It's no surprise that you can find examples that improve on pieces of Zelda when you pick out individual details... the trick is you will be hard-pressed to find a game that offers the whole experience.


Offering a combination of gameplay mechanisms that isn't available in other games is interesting and enjoyable for many people.  Platforming, combat, puzzles, exploration, and more can all be enjoyed at the same time instead of playing many separate games that offer a more focused (or "narrow", if you want to be less kind) experience. This is especially true for casual gamers who don't have time or money to enjoy a full library of video games.


Even if you dismiss the fact that many people enjoy the melting pot of game mechanisms, the adventure genre is still relevant because: (a) it provides an interesting framework for telling stories, and (b) it's fun. My concern with Zelda is that it glosses over point (a) in favor of focusing on (b).  Unfortunately, having an interesting story has become more important for me and the last couple of Zelda games haven't really caught my interest.  Nintendo spent so much time refining the "how" gamers can play Zelda that they (possibly?) forgot to give us a good for "why" we should bother...


Another concern that I have is that the genre simply isn't very popular right now, so devoting the time and budget to making large and fairly complicated adventure games is becoming increasingly rare.  Games like Ico and Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus are great... but are perhaps doomed to be either relics or a labour of love when it's obvious that Call of Duty and Mario Kart are much better money makers.

KDR_11kFebruary 27, 2012

The problem I see is: How many people want the whole experience? I don't. I find Zelda puzzles stupid and would rather play a game without them (and get my puzzle fix from a dedicated puzzle game that actually challenges me). But except for the puzzles Skyrim has pretty much everything a Zelda game offers except better (there are also a few puzzles in dungeons but they aren't a key point of the game though some other aspects like assassination require planning and thought). Oh and it gives me the option to choose combat styles other than sword fighting.

Talking about the adventure genre is dangerous here. That's not clearly defined. Straight up saying adventure means point & click type games with no death. Action adventures are that super-loose genre that often melts into RPGs or whatnot. Gets even harder as RPGs are getting less stat focused and more player skill based (Mass Effect, anyone?) and then there's a Zelda game with stats. I'm not even sure Ico, SotC and Zelda belong to the same genre.

Ax23000February 27, 2012

Quote from: KDR_11k

The problem I see is: How many people want the whole experience?

I do and I don't think I'm alone.

Glad0sFebruary 27, 2012

Bravo, gents! That was, in my opinion, the best of RFN in months. No features, nothing too special, just good ol' fashioned RFN goodness. Well done!

LithiumFebruary 28, 2012

can anyone post a link to that zelda article that was talked about at the end of the podcast? I cant seem to find it

martyFebruary 28, 2012

Quote from: Lithium

can anyone post a link to that zelda article that was talked about at the end of the podcast? I cant seem to find it

http://kotaku.com/5885595/zelda-just-keeps-getting-worse-but-it-isnt-beyond-saving

i'm guessing that's the one.

noname2200February 28, 2012

This is why I love this podcast; this may have been the tenth in-depth Zelda discussion in the past year, but it still felt fresh and interesting (to me, anyways). Major props to Greg in particular, especially when he cut off Jonny and pointed out that the DS Zelda games are not what people want from a "2D" Zelda.

In fact, you guys got close to outright saying it, but I personally think the 2D vs. 3D Zelda discussion is a false premise. In my mind it's more like old-school Zelda versus Ocarina-Zelda, with Majora's Mask in particular being something of an outlier.* Personally, I favor returning to more of the old-school Zelda, with its greater emphasis on combat and exploration, but as you guys pointed out, neither I nor any individual can really speak for the entirety of a very divided fanbase.

*While Majora's is my favorite of the Zeldas, I have to admit that it doesn't always "feel" like a Zelda game. In fact, I hated the game the first time around, and in hindsight I've come to think it's because it's just so much different than what I expect from a Zelda title.

leahsdadFebruary 29, 2012

Quote from: KDR_11k

The problem I see is: How many people want the whole experience? I don't. I find Zelda puzzles stupid and would rather play a game without them (and get my puzzle fix from a dedicated puzzle game that actually challenges me).

I do.

And I love the Zelda puzzles.  Just from recent memory, some of my favorites include the whip stuff in Phantom Hourglass, the top from Twilight, the beetle stuff and the localized time travel stuff from Skyward Sword.  I can go on and on.  Which is why I think my opinion is different from the RFN crew's in terms of overworld.  I for one don't care about the overworld that much, because it's the dungeons, where combat and puzzle solving come together in a beautifully sublime way that, really, no other game I can think of does.  And it all climaxes in the boss fights, which you definitely do not see in the "click till they're dead" methodology of boss combat design that really pervades western RPG's. 

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