What I'm Playing - No. 63
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Rune Factory 4 Special (Switch)
My Rune Factory playtime was filled with more farming bliss, and I also made some headway in the main story’s second arc.
I won’t go into spoiler territory for the main story. It’s involved more dungeon exploration, and several more boss fights. I’ve begun bringing some of the townsfolk with me on my adventures, to form a little party. I’m partial to Dolce as a companion, and doubly so after realizing that your followers sometimes have unique dialogue during certain story events. At one point, Dolce made a Pokémon reference, and it was then I knew she and Worm must marry. Her English voice is performed by Laura Bailey, who also voices Serana in Skyrim’s Dawnguard expansion, so that’s pretty cool.
Another festival involving a mini-game was held: the eating contest. The goal was, naturally, to eat the most food. You accomplish this by picking up food items that fall from the sky and mashing a button to eat them. Each food item you eat earns you points, and prepared dishes such as grilled fish are worth more points. I made up for my failures in previous festival mini-games by taking first place in this one! I’d like to thank the Mario Party series for giving me the button mashing experience I needed to pull off this win.
Metal Slug 3 (PC)
I’d played some Metal Slug 3 on an emulator before, and really enjoyed it. This week I saw the Metal Slug Anthology for a good price, and decided to get it to add them to my Steam library. These releases on Steam are presumably using emulation as well, but are official releases. The Anthology I bought contains Metal Slug 1, 2, 3, and X, which I don’t think is a roman numeral 10 but is just a capital letter “x.”
Anyway, not much to say on Metal Slug 3, just that I’m enjoying it! It’s a run and gun game developed by SNK that originally released in 2000. Where in the original arcade release you’d have to insert real world cash to earn more lives when you died, in the Steam version you can play with unlimited credits, which is definitely something I need because you die in one hit here! There’s a Mission Select option that lets you start from any level you want, which is cool. It also has achievements and Steam trading card support. The action is non-stop, frantic fun, and I haven’t had any issues with this port myself. I’ve heard the online multiplayer is broken, but I don’t I’ll ever use that since Steam Remote Play Together exists.
The sprite work is superb, and I love the soundtrack too! I don’t really mind if I never play through the entire thing, which is why I don’t consider the Metal Slug Anthology part of my backlog. It’s just nice to have this in my library to play casually from time to time.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
Breath of the Wild had me feeling several strong emotions this week. I was enraptured by its beauty, amused by its charm, and frustrated by its gameplay - or rather, at how my usual Zelda playstyle was failing me here.
Last time, I had reached the gates of Gerudo Town, but Link was not allowed in because he is a man. Following some rumors about a man who had made it in and out of the town successfully brought me to Vilia. Vilia suggests Link simply wear traditional Gerudo clothes, and they’ll mistake him for a woman and let him pass, and offers to sell these clothes to you for 600 rupees. It’s a pretty steep price, but luckily I had plenty of rupees on me and was able to pay it right away. Link changes into the clothes automatically, and his reaction is just too cute. Afterward, I returned to Gerudo Town and was allowed entry, just as Vilia promised.
My first order of business was meeting with the Gerudo chief, to come up with a plan to take back control of the nearby Divine Beast. Though she is still a child, Riji is chief of the Gerudo. Her and her retainer partially recognize Link as the Hylian champion of legend, but remark that he might not be the champion since he’s missing the Master Sword. The game drops a hint about where I should go to find the Master Sword, just as the Zora king did after I defeated the first Divine Beast. I guess I should really go find it at some point. Before Riji will offer her aid in defeating Divine Beast Vah Naboris, she tasks Link with retrieving the Thunder Helm, a Gerudo heirloom that has been stolen by the Yiga Clan.
Thus, I was on my way to the Yiga Clan Hideout. I rented a sand seal, and surfed blindly through a thick sandstorm that blocked my radar and map while I was within it. Before long, I made my way through the sandstorm, and reached Yiga Clan Hideout. This was the first point of frustration for me.
Stealth segments are nothing new to the Zelda series. Ocarina of Time has you sneak around guards, Wind Waker has the Forsaken Fortress, and there may be others I’m forgetting. So this Yiga Clan Hideout segment is nothing strictly new, and having to watch the Yiga guards’ patrol patterns to figure out how to get past them even reminded me of Ocarina of Time a little bit. What’s different here is that getting caught doesn’t just reset you to the beginning of the dungeon, it simply blocks the path forward and summons a ton of Yiga. Now, you can fight the Yiga and you may win if you’re sufficiently prepared or far in the game. I was neither of these things. The strong Yiga guards could basically kill me in a single attack. So getting caught was really not fun, because all I could do is wait for them to kill me…and unfortunately it happened to me several times. Despite this, I do really like the design of the Hideout. It also has that unique Nintendo/Zelda charm, in that you can distract the Yiga with bananas, because they really like bananas. When I finally made it past the stealth points, I hit what I thought was a dead end, and got a bit frustrated there too. I had to look up how to proceed, and it turns out I just had to use the Magnesis rune to rotate a trick wall and reveal the way forward. That made me feel really stupid, but I guess I just need to try using the runes more. I’m just not used to having all of Link’s abilities available basically from the beginning of the game. That would come back to haunt me later in the week too.
Anyway, I retrieved the Thunder Helm by battling Yiga Master Kohga. It was a pretty simple fight, but I was still feeling frustrated from my struggles getting through the Hideout, so I didn’t really enjoy the fight at the time. I did really enjoy Kohga’s character though, his bumbling and incompetence were amusing for a leader of the Yiga Clan. I returned the Helm to Riju, and she was ready to help Link take down the Divine Beast.
When we got closer to the Divine Beast, it was Link’s job to shoot its feet with bomb arrows. We approached the towering Beast using sand seals, and I had to stay close to Riju to remain inside the protective orb of the Thunder Helm. This was the only way to avoid Vah Naboris’s powerful lightning strikes. Unfortunately, I was hit by one of these, and had a few other close calls…I am not very good at driving the sand seal with precision. Luckily, I was able to shoot all 4 feet quickly, and my poor driving didn’t matter. With it’s feet wounded, the Divine Beast was brought temporarily to the ground, giving Link an opportunity to board it.
Like the previous one, this Divine Beast is basically Breath of the Wild’s version of a Zelda dungeon. Once again, I really enjoyed exploring it and solving its puzzles!
What I did not enjoy was the dungeon boss waiting at the end: Thunderblight Ganon. I was not prepared for this battle. My weapons kept breaking, which is perhaps another reason I should retrieve the Master Sword, as I don’t think it will break on me. Also, in its first phase the boss is so fast when it dashes at you that my strategy was to just block its strikes with my shield, and then counterattack when it was feeling from the blocked strike. As I said before though, my weapons kept breaking, and eventually all I had left were spears and 2-handed weapons…and at the time I didn’t know you use your shield with those equipped. So, at the end of the fight I was forced to dodge its lightning-fast strikes, but I failed a number of times. I ended up pausing many times to have Link wolf down the recipes I’d cooked beforehand. After I ran out of those, I had him wolf down mushrooms and other ingredients that healed small fractions of health. That wasn’t the worst part for me though. The worst part was the second phase of the fight, where Thunderblight Ganon drops little pillars into the ground around you, and summons lightning strikes around them. Dodging these was no big deal, and my thought was to just shoot the boss with my bow while it was remained stationary calling down the lightning strikes. Except you can’t shoot it with arrows, because it blocks them with its shield. I wasted a lot of time and different types of arrows trying to find its weakness here, and even stupidly didn’t understand how to utilize the game’s hints when it outright told me “if only there was a way you could harness the lightning strikes.” Another thing I had to look up online. And again, the solution made me feel extremely dumb. I could use Magnesis to move the pillars, and I just had to grab one before a lightning strike hit it and move it by the boss, striking it with its own lightning attack. I wish I hadn’t struggled with that for so long. That was more difficult for me than any of the strategies needed for bosses in previous Zelda games, though maybe I just think that because I’ve played the previous games several times, and this is still my first Breath of the Wild playthrough.
Anyway, despite my struggles and endless complaining, I defeated Thunderblight Ganon and freed Vah Naboris. This allowed the spirit of Urbosa, the Gerudo champion, to take control of the Divine Beast once more. Urbosa directed the Divine Beast to high ground, where it had a clear line of sight to Hyrule Castle, and began shooting what I assume is some sort of Calamity Ganon-weakening beam at the castle.
Two Divine Beasts down, two to go. Gerudo Town is now safe, and its time for me to explore more of Hyrule. There are still enormous sections of my map that I haven’t revealed or been to yet. The size of Hyrule in this game is just amazing. I explored a bit more and activated the towers in two new regions, so I’m looking forward to exploring those more. Hopefully I’ll be more prepared and struggle less when I reach the next Divine Beast. Also, I don’t mean to say Breath of the Wild is a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. I have complaints about it, sure, but I feel like it’s just a case of me still learning the ropes, and stubbornly refusing to prepare more before throwing Link at the next Divine Beast or other trial. Because in past Zelda games, I never had to gather weapons or food items to prepare. The most preparation I ever did was get a fairy in a bottle before a boss, just in case. But Breath of the Wild is different in a lot of ways, so I shouldn’t try and play it exactly like the games that came before it.
I ended the week by visiting the area in one of Link’s memory photos, triggering another Zelda flashback. These cutscenes really highlight how beautiful this game is, so I’ll end this post with a screenshot from this flashback.