Perculia: When we last left off, Link was fleeing the warm yet crushing embraces of the Gorons. After seeing their reaction, I went to check the city back out. As expected, they were very happy to see me–apparently I am their brother now. (Hamlet: if you think gaining some brothers is nice, wait until you see what happens after the next dungeon). With a stash of bombs, I was now able to bomb open a secret vendor that had some adult armor pieces and bombs sold at discounted prices. I also learned how to make a vase move with fire and *still* failed at the rolling guy giving me a reward. (H: we talked about this puzzle last time and it’s even less clear than I’d remembered–you have your Bomb Bag now, and he still won’t give you the reward because it only works if you stop him at a certain point). These are two things I want to investigate at a later point still. However, it wasn’t completely a dead-end trip: I was successful at getting a heart about the Cavern through a backflip (H: unintended method, incidentally. The game never expects to you to use sidehops/backflips to solve jumping puzzles–that Heart Piece is also reachable with an item you don’t have yet).
P: Death Mountain: Exploring the mountain began by practiced more advanced bomb throwing on the ledge to lodge a stone, then bombing some easier rocks for fun, which rewarded me with a secret well with a cow, hearts, and rupees. There’s a hint that I’ll return to this area at a later point–Navi tells me that an instance I zone into is ‘too hot’ and I start to lose health. It’s nice that I was still able to have the option to enter, instead of feeling like the world was cut off. However, it was a bit overkill that the owl had to chime in and tell me that I was too young for part of this area in addition to Navi.
The Great Fairy has an…interesting outfit. It’s pretty different from what we’ve seen characters wear so far–traditional tunics, leggings, dresses, hair colors. She’s almost menacing with her laugh though. Again, I like the blend of discovering her through using a tool (bomb) and music (Zelda’s Lullaby).
H: Character designer Yoshiki Haruhana has said in interviews that he wasn’t given any particular direction with the Great Fairies, and simply wanted to do something different from the generic fairy everyone would expect. I think everyone who’s played Ocarina would at least agree that Haruhana-san accomplished that much.
P: I did a few minor diversions here for rewards before heading to Zora’s River. I was pleased that the owl flew me down from Death’s Peak to Kakariko Village, landing close to one of the earliest heart pieces I saw but was unable to reach. I went to check out my accumulating skulltulas and liked how some of the spiders in corners were transformed into humans, instead of using skullutlas as currency to purchase items from a vendor.
I also hadn’t really checked out Hyrule Castle Town at night before–I have more of an appreciation for the city details now. New shops were open like the Treasure Room (most of the fun admittedly was in discovering it was open instead of the RNG rooms), as well as houses. One sidequest yielded a Piece of Heart–the lady who was very proud of her dog during the day. The guards being stern also made me feeling like I was sneaking about and should be in bed–a reminder that even though I’ve accomplished great deeds in other parts of the world, I’m still anonymous among my people.
The main reason for passing through Hyrule Castle Town was to follow up on a potential Great Fairy–which was accurate, and taught me Din’s Fire. Like the masks, I should remember to make an effort to try this out, even though it doesn’t seem essential to the bare bones of the game.
H: The optional spells are cooler than the masks. (P: They are cooler, but it’s mostly an issue of solving a puzzle one way, and then forcing myself to rethink a puzzle with optional items). They’re actually a tool you can use in dungeoneering and combat, and knowing they’re optional is a lot of fun in its own way. You can walk into a dungeon feeling powerful because you know you have something above and beyond what’s needed to solve everything, that it’s simply up to you to use whenever it’s convenient. This is important in a game where progress and acquisition of major items generally happen in fixed order. Pieces of Heart are another example–when you have an extra heart, you know it’s a big advantage that makes anything you do easier than if you’d only done required things.
P: I remembered Zora’s River from my wrong turn earlier when exploring Kakariko Village–now with the help of bombs, I can explore it further. This area is a neat compact puzzle–water hasn’t been seen as a detrimental force before, but now I have to master currents while using slow-fall chicken techniques learned in Kakariko Village. This is densely packed with mini-games: falling in the river and staying in the center yields rupees, there are rocks and rupees in swift areas, two hearts that require slowfall to reach, a guy selling magic beans (reminder: should check this out later), and the most fun game, playing Ocarina songs to frogs arranging themselves as notes. Easy way to get rupees if I ever need them for something.
Zora’s Domain fits a trend I’ve been noticing visually–having each realm in a distinctive hue. Kokiri Forest was green, Dodongo Cavern and Goron City were red, the Deku Tree was brown, and now this area is blue. Trying to get over some residual ‘please don’t be Vash’jir’ underwater panic. Even though the area is just a vendor, ruler, a lake, and some fish, it’s quite evocative because it’s so unnatural. King Zora is an amusing ruler like Darunia, in his own way–both are likable but someone pompous and silly. That was definitely a long minute as he slowly moved to let me pass through his gates (H: King Zora scooches himself over 25 times during that cutscene. I don’t know why I know that). The Diving Game was also clever, if expected–I was curious to see when I’d be able to get an ability or item that would let me dive further, after seeing the deep pool in the Lost Woods (H: I love how it makes no sense whatsoever, a tourist attraction in this secluded area–you had to show a sign of the Royal Family just to get in). It’s neat how you can make some of the contest rupees back, even if you fail, by diving and catching several 5 rupee coins.
H: it’s really funny how you dreaded the water area due to WoW. I think for us in 1998 it was totally amazing visually the first time we stepped in.
P: However, as pretty as this realm was, there were some parts that initially stumped me. Lake Hylia was overwhelming at first, since I had just begun to explore Zora’s Domain, gotten used to diving, and now was in a completely different zone. The world suddenly felt a bit too big, like I had unfinished business and now another lake to explore with additional islands, houses, and fishing. In exploring land masses, the owl showed up and somewhat snarkily asked what I was doing on land, there was a hostage Princess underwater. I got the message that I was straying afield, but was still curious and thinking about things I had only briefly explored like the Mad Scientist’s diving house, the fishing area, and the friendly scarecrows.
I did see that Lake Hylia was needed to further the story by following the trail of rupees to the bottle with a note inside, but presenting Zora’s River, Zora’s Domain, and Lake Hylia in such quick sucession was a bit much.
H: Not a clean way to keep you on the right track. The game dumps you into Lake Hylia, near the message in a bottle at the bottom of the lake, expecting you to find it, see the message, and realize you should turn back to Zora’s Domain. (P: Exploration is generally rewarded so that seems odd that they’d expect us to zone into an area with different buildings/puzzles in sight and then ignore it for now.) But knowing that some players wouldn’t get that all right away and start wandering around the lake, the owl is there to yell at you. It’s an inelegant way of herding the player on the intended path.
P: Since the vendor in Zora’s Domain sold items only adult Link could equip, I didn’t pay too much attention at first to the nearby vendor complaining that she was too poor to buy fish and needed to catch them herself. Exploring around Jabu-Jabu’s Belly did net some clock rocks and a Great Fairy, but the puzzle to bottle the fish was unclear at first.
H: I think figuring out how to open Jabu-Jabu’s mouth so you can get in is a common sticking point for people in this game.
Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly
P: Two new things that stood out overall: I was forced to plan route that involved always carrying the Princess (meaning no high water or climbing walls) and to avoid melee when engaged in combat. This second restriction taught me to rely upon range abilities–making the boomerang perfect when I obtained it. There was a high penalty for failing at either of those things: zoning back to the start to retrieve the Princess or losing heath due to electric shocks. Visually, everything looks irridescent and ethereal…until I panic because a cool-looking jellyfish attacked me, and that’s disconcerting. The blocks that need to be zapped with a boomerang look really awesome, like electrified jello. As for Princess Ruto, she is both an engaging opinionated character with her constant admonishments when you drop her, and also a useful ‘item’ as she serve as a projectile weight.
H: You hit on two good points here. First, this dungeon is starting to expect some meaningful navigation ability from you. The Deku Tree was small and linear, and Dodongo’s Cavern involved a little more retracing of your path, but you could generally progress through it by more or less always continuing in the obvious direction. (P: The Map, Compass, and Boomerang were acquired in more elaborate ways as well, not simply three chests as in the older instances. You got them different ways–killing a tentacle, killing bubbles quickly, etc.)
H: But the main puzzle in the first half of this dungeon–getting Princess Ruto to a certain room, is unlikely to be successfully completed via random walk. The solution, getting her to a certain room and dropping through a certain hole to land on a certain ledge, is ultimately not difficult but requires you to be cognizant of the dungeon layout and to make use of that information. The game is preparing to handle dungeons with more maze-like qualities where you have to keep some semblance of a map in your head. (P: Thinking back to your comment on optional spells: Farore’s Wind was acquired outside the entrance to Jabu-Jabu’s Belly, and while I was too focused on Princess Ruto to think about using it, the warp point would have come in very handy for instantly getting back to her spawn point if I dropped her.)
H: Second, moving around various rooms becomes much easier and quicker once you have the Boomerang, due to all the electric monsters that are hard to fight with a sword. We’ve talking about the standard Zelda trope of using the item found in each dungeon to fight the boss, but this is a little more elaborate and serves some added purposes.
P: A good example of this is the series of introductory rooms, which have both mobs immune to slingshot and skulltulas in unlootable places. The boomerang will later solve both of these issues.
H: When you first entered it was hard to get through rooms without taking damage and progress was slow, and the place feels scary. (P: Plus, my gut reaction was to fight, but I knew if I stopped to fight, I’d drop the princess.) But when you leave, your last memory of the place will be running around killing things handily. You feel awesome, because something that was hard is now easy and something scary is now familiar–a mark of good dungeon design.
The first part of the dungeon focuses on a somewhat linear progression to get Ruto and the Boomerang–combat and survival while you progress is the focus. Once you get those things, the navigation puzzle mentioned above becomes the focus, but now that you have the Boomerang it’s not tedious to move around many different rooms while you deduce the correct path.
P: It was neat how more pathways opened up as I cleaned out rooms–felt less overwhelming seeing 2 passageways instead of 5 potential ones. Seeing pathways open up was also interesting from a structural perspective–the instance felt like a real place. I observed the boomerangs killing the tentacles, which then broke down electrical walls. This in turn destroyed an electrical current blocking a hole, which then eventually led to the boss’s room with severed tentacles in the ceiling. Describing how it all works is fantastical, but little details make the dungeon puzzle seem clever. The mood of the instance is stronger thematically–more meaningful than simply a door opening with a cool animation.
H: The dungeon serves as a sort of tutorial to use your new item, training you on more elaborate uses of it before you leave, for example the curved Boomerang throw in the final room before the boss, mentioned below. This is particularly true here because as you’ve now seen, Jabu-Jabu’s Belly is the final Child Link dungeon, so there won’t be much exploration coming after it before the end of the game’s first act. They have to get a lot of value out of the Boomerang within the dungeon itself.
P: Like you referenced, unlocking the room to the final boss was a neat way to learn about its full capabilities. We’ve already seen how it’s supplanted the slingshot for combat, was required to retrieve skulltulas, and now in this room, we learn to aim correctly at ‘ceiling eyes’ behind a gauzy web. Slingshots could shoot straight, but they couldn’t launch a projectile in a circle. This gradual reveal of a weapon’s abilities is similar to how we learn half-way through Dodongo’s Cavern that bombs can also stun certain things.
Amused when the Princess comes across ‘her’ stone–of course it wouldn’t be so simple as her retriving the item without facing a final boss. I didn’t expect the events to play out in quite this way though–I expected she’d be happy and obliviously skip off, being held captured when you reach the final room.
Really not a fan of this mini-boss at all. The narrow passageways coupled with the camera and range made it irritating at first to see clearly, and then I was harshly punished for mistiming the boomerang. It did force me to learn about saving/stocking up on fairies for annoying fights, because running back in with 3 hearts didn’t give me much of a window for learning the fight properly on later tries. Navi also suggested mid-fight that I take a break, which was amazingly absurd.
H: I never liked that fight (Big Octo). The first time I played the game I had trouble with it, and even though on every later playthrough I could handle him easily, the first impression never changes. I’m always happy to be done with it.
Navi interrupting you to ask about a break is some new-fangled 3DS version silliness, but even I’m surprised they were sloppy enough to have her pop up during a boss fight.
P: However annoying I found Big Octo, the experience did make using boomerangs against the final boss much easier with all the practice I had just had. It’s also nice how this boss has hearts in pots around the room, replenishing a resource like the bombs in Dodongo’s room did in the previous instance. Also, this boss looks really nice visually, both in the intro presentation and in the multiple stages–the baby jellyfish spinning around were very flashy. (H: yeah, he looks awesome). From a combat PoV, this boss emphasized movement a bit more–I had to remember to strafe while shooting the boomerang and dodge jellyfish and lightning.
H: Continuing a note from the last post, this is really the first combat-based boss. Queen Gohma and King Dodongo were both sort of procedural puzzles. Dodongo was intimidating but as long as you’re calm enough to look him in his face and throw the bomb, you didn’t have to execute anything complicated. Against Barinade though, you have to dodge attacks and look for attack windows–the basic Zelda combat skills mentioned in the earlier discussions of Stalfos-type enemies.
P: Also, er, I’m engaged to the Princess now? I see…I hope this isn’t a problem later.
H: Definitely the first time Link got engaged to fish on his quest to recover the Master Sword.
P: The grown-up Ocarina that Impa flings as she escapes with Zelda is a sign of bigger changes in store. And it introduces a really powerful awesome song in D minor.
H: I’m glad you picked up on my hint that a central theme of this game would use the natural key of Link’s Ocarina. And to be totally precise it’s in the Dorian mode, using the Ocarina’s B natural instead of the B flat usually present in D minor. Song of Time emphasizes this B natural a great deal–the odd modality gives it that cool medieval feel.
Also, it’s pretty great how Link got the Fairy Ocarina from Saria in that emotional scene, and then instantly forgets about it (drops in right there in the moat, I guess) when Zelda gives him a cool blue one.
Definite ‘aw’ moment when child Link pulls out his child sword to fight Ganondorf and gets shocked. (H: Yeah, it’s a great bit of nonverbal storytelling. Link is still kind of an adorable kid but also has the characteristics of a hero during the occasional times you have glimpses of his character). Finally, there’s the climactic moment of pulling the sword and unleashing chaos inadvertently–Link’s actions seem heroic in the narrative through his POV, but then the game pulls back to reveal that it was all part of Ganondorf’s master plan to have Link access the sword. We’ve been viewing the narrative mainly through Link’s eyes, thinking that he can rectify returning to Zelda too late by touching the sword–but instead he naively fell nicely into a trap. It emphasizes that he’s a child at heart, in spite of his recent heroic deeds.