Tag Archives: puzzle

Changing up Combat: More Zelda Talk

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One of my favorite Legend of Zelda games is Skyward Sword, something that quite a few players don’t necessarily share with me. There are a lot of reasons for this division, from the story structure to the graphics to the over-world system it uses, but I’ll be focusing on what I think is one of the biggest talking points: The motion control based combat.

What does this have to do with difficulty? The way Skyward Sword handled a mast majority of its difficulty is with motion “puzzles” formed around swordplay. Link’s sword is controlled by the wiimote and his shield by the nunchuck, and parries, lashes, and spin attacks were all mapped to actions. This allowed for a new kind of combat curve where players needed to learn how to angle and properly time their sword swings and blocks to get past an opponent’s guard, deflect projectiles, and cut objects. This buttonless attacking system threw people for a loop as they adjusted to how fast or slow they needed to move (along with a few technical difficulties for others), but after learning the basics, the way you can design fights truly opens up.

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Standard enemies each became their own challenge, requiring fake outs, dodging, and guarding to defeat them, and bosses also evolved to match the flexibility of your sword.

The first main boss even acts as a gatekeeper of sorts, forcing you to master each direction you can swing in, and how to quickly change directions on the fly. And from there, you jump from standard duels between blades, to countering a giant scorpion’s claws, to even cutting a sea monster’s tentacles apart to hit it’s eye.

Some players found this sword system tedious or unreliable, but on a personal level, I really did feel immersed with what I was doing when I swung the wiimote. Like I had really earned that victory beyond just pressing A to hack at some monster. It was one step closer to actually holding the Master Sword, and I think that’s the kind of emotion that Zelda as a series really shines at, no matter what direction they take the controls afterwards.

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-Alyssa

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Difficulty Scaling: The Legend of Zelda

When it comes to difficulty settings in games, the majority have options clearly labelled as some form of Easy, Normal, Hard, and other settings on a scale like that. The differences between them were usually just easier or harder versions of the regular content, vial altering the enemies or the puzzles faced by the player.

There are a few games that take difficulty settings in a slightly different direction than this linear path, and one series that has been implementing this is The Legend of Zelda.

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An example of the methods they use to create extra difficulty in Zelda games is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Originally for the Nintendo 64 system, it was rerealeased multiple times over the years, and during it’s GameCube release, added a second version called the Master Quest. Ocarina of time-Master Quest was the equivalent of its Hard mode, something that hadn’t existed at all in the original game.

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It flipped the entire in-game world’s map to a mirrored version, and then redesigned all the dungeons to have harder sets of puzzles and tougher enemies. But the most noticeable change was introduced in the final re-release for the Nintendo 3DS. in this version of the Master Quest, all damage taken from enemies is doubled. And when poor Link stars out with only 3 hearts, double damage can kill him in about two hits in the very first dungeon.

This sudden vulnerability really makes the player think during puzzles and combat. There aren’t nearly as many times one can use trial and error when it’s so easy to die. You’re placed on the defensive, using your shield and trying to do damage as efficiently as possible without risking yourself.

Later Zelda games like Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker (HD version) also implement this double damage system in what they call Hero Mode, where naturally occurring healing items are removed at the same time. This form of difficulty feels different to me because it doesn’t quite mess with the AI of enemies, but forces the player to take what was once a simple enemy more seriously by decreasing the mistakes they are allowed to make.

I don’t necessarily think this method is the best form of difficulty I’ve seen, but I do think it’s a slightly fresher application of what Hard Mode should be.

-Alyssa

Board Changer: Keeping You On Your Toes

So you’re playing a match-3 game like Puzzle & Dragons, and you get to the boss. The fight is going smoothly then- wait, what this? They’ve changed some of the orbs on the board!

Combat in PAD is based around the puzzle aspect of the game, where matching orbs is equivalent of attacking with your team. When a board change comes along, it can throw you off, for example the picture below.

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Left: What you see after matching. Right: What you see after the enemy’s turn.

This particular boss not only changes your board, but also blinds you. Changing the board is a relatively cheap trick on the computer’s part (but not the cheapest, especially for PAD), but also keeps your players attentive, since you just messed up their plans. Lots of times, it’s not necessarily a big deal, but there are also orbs that hurt the player if matched. Example: Poison orbs. You’ll either need lots of health to take the hit or match up some heart orbs to counteract the effect.

A really easy way to throw a wrench into a player’s plan, board changing can catch you off guard if you’re not prepared and can even cause you to lose if you’re not prepared.