It was really hard to narrow this countdown to just ten entries. It could have easily been a Top 25, but seriously who amongst you would have actually read that? Some of my choices may surprise some of you, but I think that’s partly the fun of it, and I had a lot of fun writing this list! My choices were based on a few key factors – how memorable the dungeon is, level design, and overall fun factor.

Honourable mentions go out to Desert Palace (Link Between Worlds), Lanayru Mining Facility (Skyward Sword), Dark Palace (Link to the Past), and Goron Mines (Twilight Princess). Right then, let’s crack on with 10!


10) Ice Palace (A Link to the Past)



All the dungeons in A Link to the Past are pretty cool really, but this one has stuck in my mind ever since the first time I played it. I recall that first play was pretty tough, dying multiple times and taking ages to stroll back through to the dungeon to where I was before. But that just meant when I finally finished it I was left with a sense of accomplishment I don’t always gets with dungeons. The Ice Palace is huge, looks really pretty, and is one I often look forward to playing again.

9) Eagle’s Tower (Link’s Awakening)



Eagle’s Tower sets itself apart from a lot of other 2D Zelda dungeons by setting you a specific objective. There are four pillars in different places of the dungeon that you need to knock down using a huge heavy ball, which you carry around the dungeon with you. Once the pillars are destroyed a higher level of the dungeon falls down, changing the layout of the tower and allowing you to be able to reach the boss room.

It’s a wonderful little dungeon with a great idea behind it that makes the experience a lot of fun. The fact that is quite challenging as well is much appreciated. I couldn’t have forgiven myself if I left the Eagle’s Tower off of this Top 10.

8) City in the Sky (Twilight Princess



So many elements of this dungeon make it stand out from the crowd. The outside sequence at the beginning make you feel like you’re entering an alien-like world – something rare for a Zelda game. The music helps build that atmosphere tremendously.

The puzzles in the City in the Sky offer lots of new kinds of obstacles as well thanks to the amazing Double Clawshot – an item so amazingly cool that we all had to take a moment to wonder how it hadn’t been thought of before. To top it off, this dungeon treats you for your efforts with an unforgettable boss in Argorok, thanks in part to the Double Clawshots, which see you flinging yourself through the air during a thunderstorm so you can take down this bad-ass dragon.

7) Ancient Cistern (Skyward Sword)



The prettiest dungeon in an already stunning game, my first impressive of this dungeon was thusly; “Wow! It’s like the Spirit Temple and Water Temple combined!”, and effectively it’s what you end up with. Not just that though, towards the end there is a wonderful section that sends you beneath the dungeon into something that would have easily been at home in the Shadow Temple.

There are a good variety of different puzzles here coupled with the gorgeous scenery, and possibly the most difficult mini-boss of all time. The Stalmaster really pushes your MotionPlus sword-wieldy to its limits and it took a great deal of time for me to best him. The true boss of the dungeon despite not being as challenging was a long fight against a memorable enemy. The Koloktos, a huge multi-armed robotic guardian was a tough cookie, and just as I thought I’d bested him he grew legs and came back for round 2! Full of surprises, Ancient Cistern is definitely my favourite Skyward Sword dungeon.

6) Forest Temple (Ocarina of Time)



The reason I love the Forest Temple, like so many others do, is for its atmosphere. This dungeon is seriously creepy, more so than the Shadow Temple in fact. There is beautifully eerie music, twisting hallways, and those freakin’ Wallmasters! The quest to defeat the Poes by taking them by surprise in their own paintings was a lot of fun – we all remember quietly sneaking up those staircases to snipe them with the Bow and Arrow. To conclude things, the dungeon throws at you a fantastic boss in the shape of Phantom Ganon. The Forest Temple is not only the first dungeon to test the skills of newer older Link, but also feels like it is challenging us as players in new ways too. Arguably better dungeons will always come along, but the Forest Temple is perhaps one that no player will ever truly forget.

5) Great Bay Temple (Majora’s Mask)



It’s a tough call, but I believe Great Bay Temple is definitely deserving of a spot in my Top 5. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I play through Majora’s Mask, I always end up getting confused by this dungeon or end up going the wrong way at some stage. You raise the water level in much the same way as Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple, but here you also alter the directionally flow of water, and complete puzzles using the Ice Arrows.

Speaking of which, I absolutely loved that this dungeon built a load of puzzles around the Ice Arrows, which were completely irrelevant in the previous game. Some of these puzzles could prove rather head-scratching too, but there was no frustration involved which the Water Temple was famous for. The difficulty level is just right. Oh, the boss of these dungeon still gives me the creeps every time I have to face him...

3) Deepwood Shrine (Minish Cap



The only “first dungeon” from a game to feature anywhere near the Top 10, the Deepwood Shrine for me is a huge triumph. This was the first opportunity the developers had to play around with the “shrinkable Link” gameplay elements in the Minish Cap, which result in puzzles involving impenetrable spider webs, barrels you roll around inside of, and riding on lillipads. These kind of ideas are wonderfully imagined, and make the dungeon all the more fun because of it.

And just when you think you’ve seen all the genius moments this dungeon has to offer, you face the boss; a normal-sized ChuChu that Link would usually be able to beat in 2 seconds in his usual form, becomes a gigantic force to be reckoned with once he’s been shrunk down! This forces you to completely look at things in a new way and make this boss fight pretty hard to forget, just because of how clever it is. I seriously love all the ideas and imagination this dungeon had to offer, and that’s why I have no reservations placing it as high as I have done.

3) Spirit Temple (Ocarina of Time)



The Spirit Temple, guys. Admit it – you must have reading down this list wondering where it was gonna show up. This beautiful temple in many ways sums up everything that makes a great dungeon truly magnificent. First off there is the fact that you must conquer different sections as either the younger or older Link, which was wonderfully realised. The appeal of the puzzles really make their mark as well once you get access to the Mirror Shield, and the Master Quest version of the dungeon is extremely challenging. I highly recommend folks check that out if they haven’t already.

The Spirit Temple is a really fun experience from start to finish, from the music, to the colossal statue in the main room, to the incredibly bad-ass Iron Knuckles, to THAT boss fight. The Spirit Temple has it all really.

2) Palace of Winds (Minish Cap)



It’s possible I may be somewhat biased towards this dungeon because it centres around my favourite Zelda item, the Roc’s Cape. Past that though there is so much to love about the Palace of Winds. First of it looks terrific thanks to Minish Cap’s beautiful sprite graphics, and the sky setting gives the dungeon an even more grand feel. There are many different types of challenges and puzzles around every corner, and there are a lot of them. Just when you think you are reaching the end of the dungeon it turns out to just be the half-way point, as you can access to a huge tower.

Even the music makes you feel you are playing a dungeon that is pretty special, and although the boss may not be the most difficult in Zelda history, it certainly isn’t a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. If you’ve never played Minish Cap, then go download it from the Wii U Virtual Console immediately. You’ll thank me once you get to the glorious Palace of Winds.

1) Stone Tower Temple (Majora’s Mask)



And so we finally reach my favourite Zelda dungeon ever. It had some very tough competition from the last couple of entries, but in the end I had to give it to the Stone Tower Tempe. I’m always blown away by the level design of this dungeon. You play through it, receive the Light Arrows which activate a switch which turns it upside-down, and then you play through it again on the ceiling. Its pretty mindboggling when you think about how much work must have gone into pulling off something like that in a way that didn’t just seem contrived.

In actual fact, the Stone Tower Temple offers a wonderful level of intricacy and imagination that I hold it in incredibly high regard. There are even a couple of different elemental parts of the dungeon test your different mask forms. Past there we end up being pitted against not one but three mini-bosses (I guess Wizrobe counts) – one of which being an incredibly sinister looking grim reaper. And that’s before we even get to the true boss. Twinmold are two gigantic flying snakes so huge that they force Link to turn himself into a giant just to put himself on the same playing field. It’s an enormously epic final battle.

Then I also have to mention collecting all the thirty Fairies in this dungeon – a massive challenge in itself that rewards the player wonderfully with the awesome looking Great Fairy Sword. Overall then, the Stone Tower Temple is a superb achievement for the Zelda series and that’s why it is my favourite dungeon of all time.

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Controversial title, right? I can imagine there are a fair few people only reading this entry now out of disbelief and yelling "are you insane!?" at their screens, but allow me to explain my thoughts. Much observation over the past number of years has brought me to the conclusion that the Metroid fanbase is split into two main camps of views (with alternative opinions being in a small minority). There are those who think Metroid Prime is one of the best games of all time, that Prime3 is pretty good, and Prime2 is average/poor. And there are those (like myself) who see Prime2 are the best installment, followed by Prime and Prime3 coming last. You'll still find people who like Prime3 the most, but not that many when you look at the big picture.



To understand why Prime2 is better than Prime you have to understand how it is feasible for sequels to be better than originals. Taking graphics out of the equation, a lot of folks will claim that a first game in a new series / sub-series will always be superior to its descendants, mainly because if it wasn't for that first effort, the sequels wouldn't even exist. There are plenty of people on the web who hate (and I mean hate) Super Mario Galaxy 2 because it's "too similar" to the original Galaxy, which I can't help but feel is a bit bogus. If a sequel uses the same foundations such as gameplay and control, why should it branded as unoriginal? Sequels don't need to reinvent the wheel; they just need to add to the experience that it's inspiration founded, as well as resolve any glaring flaws. Link to the Past isn't just better than The Legend of Zelda just because it has better graphics for example.

So how can one of the best games ever made have any flaws I hear you cry? Prime was considered a masterpiece when it was originally released for good reason, but gamers do need to keep an open mind that it's possible to take an idea and drive it further, without damaging the ideals of the original material or your fond memories of it. If you still feel Prime is a far better game than Prime2 then that’s fine and you won’t get any disrespect from this blogger – but here is why I honestly believe this sequel has surpassed its original.



All three Metroid Prime games have been criticised for backtracking. Prime probably got the most that criticism when it was first released, although in a lot of cases it was just from people trying to find one reason if any why this game wasn't THE greatest of all time. Years on, and Prime2 gets the most flack for backtracking, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The best example of bad backtracking in Metroid Prime is when you receive the Ice Beam. You are given the ability to open White Doors, which is all well and good, but the White Door that will allow you to progress to the next part of the game is about 30 minutes+ of playtime away through areas you've already explored multiple times. Sure you can pick up a couple of Missile Expansions on the way if you keep an eye out, but the hindrance is pretty devastating.



In Prime2 the most backtracking you need to do through areas you've already fully explored will take 5 or so minutes tops. In the vast majority of cases, when you find a new item it will open a passage right next to you containing an elevator or something that will take you to the room where you need that item to progress to the next section of the game (the Power Bomb for example). The only reason why I think Prime gets away with it is people suffering from bad nostalgia that will cause them to oversee the faults of something that brought them such joy. That's all well and good, and I'm not going to criticise people for things very close to their heart, but the backtracking in Prime is incredibly inconvenient at the worst of times, whilst Prime2's isn't that noticeable in the grand scheme of things. Both games suffer from an annoying fetchquest near the end, but one doesn't require any more pointless scavenging over the other.

Prime2 also managed to reimagine one of the more perplexing elements of the Metroid franchise in point perfect fashion; collecting upgrade items. In Prime, equipment you've lost such as the Morph Ball is just lying around waiting to be re-collected, with an occasional mini boss standing in the way. Why are these creatures even guarding your suit parts at all and how did they even get there in the first place? Prime2 starts off in the same fashion as Prime whereby you lose all your suit parts, and have to spend the game collecting them. But this time the enemies use them against you.



It was a genuinely genius move to have the Ing creatures of Dark Aether use your own weapons against you, and result in a game that contains triple the number of bosses of Prime (if not more) and a lot of which were incredibly challenging. There was something quite exciting about a creature that would normally be killed with a single Morph Ball bomb, suddenly given the Spider Ball ability and resulting in one of the most difficult boss fights in the game. In that case the Spider Ball Guardian boss fight was actually made easier in the Metroid Prime Trilogy set for Wii by allowing you to jump in Morph Ball mode with an instant flick of the WiiMote, rather than press a button and wait 3 seconds for the jump to work. Any upgrade items that weren't used against you by a boss were new ones that weren't included in Prime.



The bosses in Prime were fine as they were, but the bosses in Prime2 were bigger and better, with the Quadraxis boss fight being an absolutely glorious showdown. A lot of Nintendo games get shtick these days but being too easy, so it's good to not be contradictory by knocking just how hard some of the bosses in Prime2 are. Sure, the Boost Guardian is guaranteed to make me throw the controller at the screen during every replay, but I still appreciate the extra challenge I am being given.

Dark Aether's world is a polarizing matter of taste. "Too purple" is a popular opinion. "Too unoriginal and similar to Light Aether" is another. The first statement is fair but the latter certainly shouldn't be. Dark Aether is crawling with very alien nature at every turn, from florescent plant-life to ominous eye-ball like things attached to walls, leaving a very spooky atmosphere as you step out into this land where hidden creatures could jump out of the shadows at any moment, and where your exploration will slowly eat into your health bar like a slow disease. Everyone knows that the best thing about Metroid games is the feeling of solitude - that you're alone in an extremely dangerous land, and Prime2 achieved this ideal perfectly with Dark Aether in my opinion. That's not to say Prime didn't have that atmosphere, because it did mostly thanks to the Chozo Ghosts (a lot more atmosphere than Prime3 anyway, which lost almost all of that crucial factor thanks to being able to pop into your spaceship and leave the planet if you feel like it, or getting assistance from Space Federation troopers if the situation allows it).



I also think the ammo system in Prime2 changed things in such a way to add enough new challenge to the formula without altering things too drastically. Similar to how Majora's Mask wasn't simply an Ocarina of Time clone thanks to the time system, the ammo for your Dark and Light Beams in Prime2 just make you have to think about how you're going to tackle a problem for that split second longer, rather than just going crazy with the fire button. Keeping the Power Beam with unlimited ammo was a crucial and correct choice as it doesn't force you to rely on the limitations of your new weaponry, creating a gameplay change that stays true to the original while adding this slight tweak to add a new dimension. It took me a long time to adjust to how the Hyper Mode in Prime3 was forced upon you to defeat a huge majority of enemies you encountered despite the fact it decimated your health bar. The Light and Dark Beams in Prime2 don't punish you for using them too much despite having ammo limitations as you end up using the Power Beam far more. Taking that risk for Prime2 was a brave choice, and it was interesting enough to make me think it would have made Prime better if it was included there with its additional beams.

There are a couple of other points to my opinion as well. The worlds of Prime2 didn't have to suffer from "Super Mario syndrome" by having a fire world, ice world etc which Prime had already used. The Sanctuary Fortress is my favourite world of all the Prime games. Then there are the Dark and Light suits that Samus wears; stunning redesigns that put to shame the suit upgrades from the original Prime where Samus simply changed colour.



I admit it is a fact that Prime2 wouldn't have been anywhere near as good, or even exist at all, if it weren't for Prime being such a revelation of awesome first-person adventure gameplay. But it's not fair for that to be the be all and end all. A lot of movie sequels suck compared to their original because they bring nothing new to the franchise, and are simply there are money making opportunities trying to do the same thing the original did and in the same fashion. The same is not true for Metroid Prime 2 which is a game that resolves and improves the unfortunate elements that Metroid Prime couldn't succeed in, while adding enough excitement and intrigue with its new features to add to the original experience without ruining it or taking things too far. Yes, it is possible for sequels to be better than their original, and that is why I am in no doubt that Metroid Prime 2 is better than Metroid Prime.

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As most of you Nintenfags out there will know, the most recent Nintendo Direct presentation was jam packed with surprise announcements, but perhaps none more so than the revelation of the 2003 Gamecube classic The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker getting the HD treatment and being ported to the Wii U this Fall. We were also teased that the game will receive some gameplay tweaks as well, such as interaction with the GamePad controller. But how far will these tweaks take us? Time to speculate!


Graphics:



The handful of screenshots we were provided with were no less than jaw-dropping. It's actually quite admirable of Nintendo to take the decision to completely upgrade all the graphics, rather than just make the original look "HD", as is the case with all the PS3's HD ports of classic PS2 games. Even if Nintendo had used the quicky-HD method, no doubt the game would still look beautiful, as Wind Waker has aged by far the best out of all of the 3D Zelda games, and it still looks lovely today thanks to it's unique cel-shading.

Not everyone is united in the appreciation of the new graphics however. I've seen plenty of people on Neoseeker or IGN etc feeling unimpressed. So let's do a comparison between the Reborn's screenshots and ones from the original. The remake may have lost some of that "living cartoon" look at first glance, but that's not necessarily a terrible direction. It's easy to simply assume Nintendo just chose this style as a tester experiment for the next brand new Zelda Wii U game (but that's a story for another blog entry) but the lighting compliments the character designs really well, which remain at their heart as cartoonish as the original that fans fell in love with.

Something to keep in mind was that Wind Waker received massive criticism for it's non-realistic graphic style up until it's launch. The problem is that no matter how pretty the screenshots were it was a totally different ballgame seeing the game in motion before your very eyes, destroying all the naysayer opinions, and that is exactly what is going to happen here. Sure, there'll still be people who'll prefer the look of the original, and their intitled to that opinion, but I appreciate this evolution. This is the kind of look Nintendo fans have been dying to see for years so it shouldn't just be a step back because it's been applied to the already gorgeous Wind Waker. I for one cannot wait to explore all the nooks and crannys of the remake and I keep imagining just how stunning everything is gonna look - from the Moblins, to the Great Deku Tree, to the glorious final boss battle. Is your body ready?


GamePad:

I don't know about you guys, but I often struggle to imagine how the GamePad will revolutionise some of Nintendo's biggest franchises - while it was easy to see how the WiiMote would evolve Metroid and Zelda. So what can we hope to see from Reborn other than just a boring map and inventory screen?



Conducting the wind should be the immediate thought. With the Gamecube controller of course you would simply press the analogue stick in the direction you want to conduct, as you play the song. Replacing this method with the WiiMote seems like a genious thought (seriously, imagine conducting the wind with your WiiMote!) but I don't see the developers taking that step. Using the WiiMote would mean using a control method other than the GamePad, which would certainly be a wasted opportunity for this next-gen console. Not only that but it has been confirmed that Reborn will be completely playable on the GamePad's screen without use of the TV, so you wouldn't be able to use the WiiMote in that mode anyway.

I predict that when you activate the Wind Waker, the GamePad screen will change in such a way that you can drag your finger in a wavey line to conduct the song in that fashion. Keeping your finger on the screen for the duration of the song, you would swipe your finger up, then left, and finally to the right to play the Wind's Requiem song.



Then there's the Tingle Tuner (does anyone even remember that?). A rather redundant item in the game, it's purpose was you to connect your GameBoy Advance to the Gamecube using a special cable, and then use the GBA's screen to control Tingle, dropping bombs to reveal secret Ruppee locations. I bought that cable specifically to get the most out of Wind Waker, but the Tingle Tuner was a pretty pointless addition that didn't add anything exciting to the gameplay or offer anything essential.

This could all change with the GamePad. If the Tingle Tuner had been used to reveal secret enemies areas, items, or even mini-dungeons, the original game would have been hit with so much criticism for effectively forcing the player to own a GameBoy Advance and special connecting link cable to see everything in the game. For Reborn however, the GamePad can act as your GBA and connector, making the features of the Tingle Tuner accessable to everybody playing the remake. Therefore, I hope Nintendo decide to include some of those possibilities I mentioned like secret areas etc that require the Tingle Tuner, because on this occasion there will be no player missing out from the experience.



Lastly there's Link telescope, which is used a couple of times at the beginning of the game to give a zoom-in look at things far away to progress the story. It would be really cool to use the GamePad itself as your telescope while the TV screen remained a fully zoomed-out view of whatever you're looking at.


GamePlay:

So what gameplay tweaks in terms of the game itself? What will change? Well it is true that if something isn't broken it shouldn't be fixed, but there are a couple of things that would improve Wind Waker. The most popular element people across the Internet love to complain about in terms of Wind Waker's gameplay is the Great Sea. Setting out to sea and raising your sail, you would sit tight in your boat for about 5 minutes or so (depending on how far you're going) until you would reach your destination.



I am personally a fan of the Great Sea. The theme music was grand, there were occasional exploding barrels or enemy look-out posts to add challenge on the way, and I know for a fact I may not have discovered a lot of the game's secret islands if not being left to explore the Great Sea. For that reason I hope Nintendo don't try to bend to pressure from the loud fraction of the fanbase who hate the Great Sea by including some sort of option to "skip" the journey once it begins. I do however see them perhaps doubling the speed your boat travels at for example, as that should be enough to calm the haters while staying true to the original at the same time.

Finally, were you aware that Wind Waker was originally supposed to contain two extra dungeons? Maybe you did, as it's not a closely guarded secret, but it's not the most wide-known thing either. Due to a combination of time constraints and running out of space to fit everything on the 'lil Gamecube disc, two planned dungeons were scrapped. One of them was replaced with the fetchquest for the Triforce parts, sending you trawling across the sea to find them instead.

The other is a bit more obvious when you think about it. With Wind Waker you play a fire-type dungeon to get one mysterious fire red artifact (in this case Din's Pearl), then a forest-type dungeon to claim the grass green artifact in the form of Farore's Pearl, and then...you're just given the water blue artifact, Naryu's Pearl. Jabun the Water God just hands it over. Whut? Obviously a water-type dungeon was supposed to be included here.

So will Nintendo use this opportunity to include these two dungeons for Reborn? That's the question I most want an answer to, and there is certainly a possibility I may get that wish. Who knows if an addition of that much effort would actually be thrown into the mix, but it's an exciting thought nonetheless.

So do you agree with the points I've raised? I think all these additions/changes are possible, but if there is anything I may have overseen I would love to hear your opinions and comments. Reborn is certainly going to be an instant buy when it releases later this year, and I cannot wait to see the extent of it's evolution.

Finally I want to say thanks for reading! And stay tuned for more blog entries in different categories of speculation, opinion, and news concerning both upcoming and classic Nintendo titles.

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Dan Morrison

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