Dodongo dislikes wasted blocks
October 28, 2009 2:04 PM   Subscribe

In a revelation that, to some, is on the order of realizing there is (or isn't) a god, it turns out that all the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda were part of the same enormous map. This seems to have some sort of transcendental importance that I can't quite put my finger on.

Actually, they are part of two non-overlapping maps, each measuring 16x8 rooms, as described in this breakdown of the storage method. No map has been made of the second quest, but you can see how they fit together from the maps on this page (i.e. the yin and yang of levels 7 and 8).

Interestingly, Half-Life fits together remarkably well in this manner. It is whispered that A Link To The Past does this with its dungeons as well but as they are divided into floors it is more difficult to check.

Smaller backup image in case MIT goes down. Content and extra links via Reddit.
posted by BlackLeotardFront (91 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
"ONES WHO DOES NOT HAVE TRIFORCE CAN'T GO IN"
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:06 PM on October 28, 2009


I never understood the attraction of Zelda or any other role playing game. Looks boring as hell.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some peppers to harvest in Farmville.
posted by Tacodog at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


Oh Zelda. I wish I hadn't given up on you after beating Ocarina Of Time. I've gotten too old.
posted by Bageena at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2009


Zelda is only barely a role playing game, Tacodog. At least by the current definition. [/gamingpedant]
posted by griphus at 2:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, the twisty passages in Zork really do go on forever, yet they're stored in a finite amount of memory. P = NP ???
posted by GuyZero at 2:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Video Game Atlas is pretty enjoyable to browse through on its own. Good memories of some very cool artwork and maps from great SNES games.
posted by Zephyrial at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I loved playing Zelda back in the early 90s. The graphics and music were strangely compelling, and it was satisfying solving all of the little puzzles.

However, after playing Super Mario Galaxy on Wii and completing all of the levels, only to be confronted with the Purple Comet and the task of collecting every purple coin by redoing every level, I have concluded that these games really are for kids. The magic has been lost.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2009


I thought this was common knowledge and fairly discernible from gameplay.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


/coddles Perky Pat doll.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:17 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Chariots of the Triforce
posted by humannaire at 2:18 PM on October 28, 2009


Hi, I'd like to sign up for abuse by suggesting that Twilight Princess is better than Ocarina of Time.

I also have controversial opinions related to Mario Sunshine.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


No map has been made of the second quest, but you can see how they fit together from the maps on this page (i.e. the yin and yang of levels 7 and 8).

The best part of the second quest, though, is the dungeon maps that spell out Z-E-L-D-A. Realizing that for the first time on a playthrough was a real 7th grade mindfuck.
posted by Spatch at 2:22 PM on October 28, 2009


I thought this was common knowledge and fairly discernible from gameplay.

If you're thinking about meta-layouts for dungeons while playing Zelda, I think you're playing on a higher level than most people. Unless one actually compared the complete maps from each dungeon (sketching them down as one went or something), they seem more likely to appear discrete to the average player.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:25 PM on October 28, 2009


Oh Zelda. I still wonder if I've missed hidden caves and gravestones.
posted by yeloson at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2009


this. is. so. fucking. cool.
posted by shmegegge at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2009


*pushes against the walls of the thread*
posted by The Whelk at 2:27 PM on October 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


I've been on this site for a long time, but I still can't triforce.
posted by mullingitover at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2009


*pushes against the walls of the thread*

!
posted by otolith at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]



▲ ▲

lulz.

I have really fond memories of playing Zelda with my dad, passing the controller back and forth trying to beat the dungeons. Good times.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2009


The best Zelda game (plotwise, anyway) was Link's Awakening.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love and grew up with Zelda, but I don't get the significance of this at all.
posted by tybeet at 2:37 PM on October 28, 2009


The best Zelda game was Majora's Mask and I am incredibly willing to fight about it.
posted by flatluigi at 2:42 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Zelda is blah to me but I really dig the Half Life map. It seems so much smaller that way...
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on October 28, 2009


I remember reading that the Metroid ROM has inaccessible areas (apparently they had been cut but were still sitting in the ROM.)
posted by blenderfish at 2:43 PM on October 28, 2009


I never knew it, but now that I've been told its one of those smack yourself on the forehead "duh" sort of moments. Of course they'd lay it out that way, storage on those cartridges was tiny and expensive.

I'll also bet that the "blank" gray blocks are really where they hid the various sideways parts of the dungeons.

shakespeherian Actually, I agree. Ocarina was a very good Zelda, no denying it, but as the first 3D Zelda it had a few hiccups that got cleaned up as the Nintendo crew got better at working with 3D.

Actually, to really invite abuse, I'll suggest that the best Zelda ever is Majora's Mask. I found the way it forced you to, essentially, lose over and over by means of the going back in time mechanism to be both repellent and attractive.

It completely inverted the standard gaming idea of progress, of solving problems. You'd struggle to fight off the aliens abducting Romani's cows, or reunite Anju and Kafei, you'd get a mask, you'd feel good about "winning", then there's the moon about to hit so you warp back in time and nothing has changed.

Its an intensely frustrating experience, being forced to continually undo all that you've done, and I think that made, oddly, for a better game experience overall. By forcing you to, over and over, undo your good works I think it drew you in and made them more meaningful.
posted by sotonohito at 2:44 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


..as long as we can all agree that Wind Waker isn't the best Zelda game of all time, I think we're doing fine.
posted by blenderfish at 2:44 PM on October 28, 2009


Oh Zelda. I wish I hadn't given up on you after beating Ocarina Of Time. I've gotten too old.

Dust off your N64 and get a copy of Majora's Mask. It'll be like a huge Porky's fan discovering decades later there was a Porky's II: The Next Day.
posted by codswallop at 2:46 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dig the Half-Life map, although I'd like to see one of HL2 even more.
posted by brundlefly at 2:49 PM on October 28, 2009


There was a Porky's II?!
posted by shakespeherian at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would it fit together as well? it seems like there'd be a lot of long skinny levels stretching teh whole thing out.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on October 28, 2009


..as long as we can all agree that Wind Waker isn't the best Zelda game of all time, I think we're doing fine.

Au contraire, my good fellow. I don't like to rank Zelda games but I believe that Windwaker, like Majora's Mask, improves greatly upon replaying, and if that's no the mark of a good game, then nothing is. I also think those two games have the most unique and interesting plots of any of the Zelda games.

Of course, I said I wouldn't rank, but it's undeniable that Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the best example of a Zelda game. It comes very close to the platonic ideal.
posted by muddgirl at 2:55 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I believe this revelation dates to at leat 2005, when Ian Albert published his Zelda map. He has lots of large format game maps. My favourite is Ultima VII, since it packed all the towns and dungeons directly into the overworld map. Here's the entire 24576x24576 map of Ultima VII. The Flash viewer works pretty well. Someone should get this up with a Google Maps-like javascript UI.
posted by Nelson at 2:55 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I thought this was common knowledge and fairly discernible from gameplay.

IT'S A SECRET TO EVERYBODY.
posted by albrecht at 3:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [26 favorites]


BlackLeotardFront: Smaller backup image in case MIT goes down.
Bahahahaha
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:08 PM on October 28, 2009


muddgirl: Of course, I said I wouldn't rank, but it's undeniable that Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the best example of a Zelda game. It comes very close to the platonic ideal.

Oh yeah, I agree with that. All I said was that Twilight Princess is better than Ocarina of Time, which for some reason always gets touted as the best of the series. Link to the Past is objectively the best, though.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2009


Of course they fit together. Having one big square bitmap is an efficient way of storing the levels in memory.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2009


I've always had a love for Zelda, even if I wasn't the best at it. I remember when the NES came out, my friend's dad became obsessed with it. He'd leave the game on pause for hours, rather than to save and turn it off. I also took an amazing leap in gaming when on a road trip to Florida, we hooked up the NES via AC power in our van, and connected it to a small, four to five inch black and white battery powered portable television. Nothing felt cooler than playing Zelda going down I-95 in the days before the first Gameboy arrived.
posted by Atreides at 3:20 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Would it fit together as well? it seems like there'd be a lot of long skinny levels stretching teh whole thing out."

the valve guys are usually pretty excellent about keeping their geography consistent. what may seem like one long thing tunnel actually winds about and has large vistas of (often unexplorable) territory linking it to somewhere else you could maybe see from a higher vista on another level. linear the game may be, but that's a damn city you're wandering around in.
posted by shmegegge at 3:20 PM on October 28, 2009


shakespeherian: "All I said was that Twilight Princess is better than Ocarina of Time, which for some reason always gets touted as the best of the series."

which drives me crazy, too. I have never beaten Ocarina of Time. It's just too boring and tedious. I have beaten every other Zelda game I've ever played because I can't put them down, but Ocarina of Time and the windwaker sequel for DS have consistently failed to keep my attention.
posted by shmegegge at 3:22 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Game satellite maps I'd like to see: God of War II, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Okami

newfags can't triforce
 ▲
▲ ▲

posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:34 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless one actually compared the complete maps from each dungeon (sketching them down as one went or something)

Psh...what kind of nerd would do that?

slinks away quietly
posted by inigo2 at 3:37 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is probably just a technical thing. If you lay out your maps so that they fit in a nice clean rectangle, then you can jam all the maps into a single block of RAM in the cartridge. As Link moves around, you just change the X and Y index pointers by a fixed offset into that chunk of RAM, and voila, he's on a new screen.

The upper left screen would be at offset 0,0; the middle square might be 63,63, and the lower right square might be 127,127. It's probably using about 1 byte per square, so you could probably fit all those maps into either 2 or 4k... I'm too lazy to count squares to be sure. And then you have entry points from the surface world that just link to a given map offset and location. Default exits on the left and right just add or subtract X offset bytes to the pointer; top and bottom exits increment or decrement by the Y offset. Special exits would probably trigger code that would set a new offset and location, and perhaps trigger some kind of arrival code. (falling in from a floor hole, say.)

It's just organization for the very tight memory constraints in these early computers. They really didn't have a lot to work with. Those 'blank' areas probably store things like the fairy wells and the stores.
posted by Malor at 3:59 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember reading that the Metroid ROM has inaccessible areas (apparently they had been cut but were still sitting in the ROM.)

I recall reading (but can't now find) a writeup of some of the pretty remarkable things they did to cram metroid onto the cartridge back when it was released, in terms of compressing things logically and dual-purposing memory and so forth.

I did just find this breakdown of the Metroid mapping process, which isn't what I'm remembering but touches on a lot of nice details.

Of course they fit together. Having one big square bitmap is an efficient way of storing the levels in memory.

It's an "of course" these days, looking back, with a programmer's perspective. As a ten-year-old who didn't fully appreciate at the time either how the sausage was made or just how constrained the sausage-making toolset was at the time, it's hardly intuitive.
posted by cortex at 4:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is me slowly backing out of this thread.

And running.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This blew your mind?

The clouds in Super Mario are the same sprite as the hedges; only the color changes.

Even better, in my book? The entirety of Super Mario Brothers 3 was a play. It opens with a lifting curtain, all of the scenery and backgrounds are riveted on, and Mario even exits the stage at the end of every level.
posted by graventy at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [36 favorites]


It doesn't save any data storage memory to fit the maps together this way. What it does do is let you use a single pair of x, y pointers without a third pointer to the current room to track all the action. That saves you a significant amount of code, execution time, and debugging hassle.
posted by localroger at 4:25 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even better, in my book? The entirety of Super Mario Brothers 3 was a play. It opens with a lifting curtain, all of the scenery and backgrounds are riveted on, and Mario even exits the stage at the end of every level.

Gah! You mean they were pretending? That makes me feel a lot better about using the flutes to skip through the worlds. What a con.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:33 PM on October 28, 2009


Time to break out the handy romhacking tools and make the Legend of Zelda: OMNIDUNGEON patch by inserting doors where there should not be doors. I will also make it so the old wise man says "LOL BUTTS".
posted by jake at 4:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


localroger: "It doesn't save any data storage memory to fit the maps together this way."

Really? If the dungeons are irregular in shape (as they appear to be in the linked image) and each dungeon is in its own rectangular image file, wouldn't the empty space take up extra memory? To be clear, I am asking. I have no idea.
posted by brundlefly at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2009


Actually, to be more accurate, each corner would be at a given byte offset from the base of the array. (bytes are organized like a number line, from 0 to however many you have.)

If each screen is X bytes wide and Y bytes tall, and your 'map' is N screens wide, to find the corner of the map at 3 right, 2 down, one simple algorithm would:

1. Hardcode the starting location for the map array.
2. Hardcode a bytes-per-screen constant of X * Y, which I'll call Z;
3. Hardcode a bytes-per-map-width constant of X * Y * N, which I'll call W. (for width)
4. Multiply 2 * W ( to skip two full rows of maps)
5. Multiply 3 * Z ( to skip three columns)
6. Add these two numbers to the map base address from step 1.
7. Starting at this offset, render Z bytes to the screen through your translation layer, drawing your map.

Of course, you wouldn't actually do that live; you'd store offsets in exits that led to that screen, likely with another pair of bytes with the X,Y position of the character when he arrives, and one byte describing an animation sequence. You could probably pack the animation number into the upper bits of X and Y if you're short on space and don't have too many animations.

When leaving the screen:

If you exit top:

1. Subtract W from the current offset, and render. Character X unchanged, Y set to max.

If you exit bottom:

1. Add W to the current offset, render. X unchanged, Y set to minimum.

If you exit left:

1. Subtract Z from the current offset, start rendering. X set to max, Y unchanged.

If you exit right:

1. Add Z to the current offset, render. X set to minimum, Y unchanged.

If you go through a special exit:

1. Read the exit's offset, render. Set char X and Y to what the exit wants. Play the animation the exit wants.

I'm not a programmer, and there are probably all kinds of ways to make that more efficient, but that would fundamentally work, at least assuming I didn't make mistakes in my pseudocode. And it's that simplicity and speed that explains the rectangular layout, not some coherent Master Plan that you're supposed to see for yourself. Ideally, you'd never want players to realize you were doing this.

Note also that this doesn't cover special features like permanent bomb holes and unlocked doors; that would be part of the rendering code.
posted by Malor at 4:42 PM on October 28, 2009


It doesn't save any data storage memory to fit the maps together this way.

Yes it does. If you didn't use a grid to store each area, each area would need to include its location on a virtual grid, plus links to the neighboring areas; maybe about another 2 bytes per area. From what I've heard, in the early days of the NES, even a couple hundred bytes of savings was significant.
posted by zixyer at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2009


Gah! You mean they were pretending? That makes me feel a lot better about using the flutes to skip through the worlds.

Running with the metaphor, the flutes were actually just code for going outback to get high during the dull bits.
posted by cortex at 5:03 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


I learned the word "nybble" in my first computer class in 1991, and I never thought I'd see it again, yet here it is.

Playing the Legend of Zelda (along with another few games I got to know very well) was like wandering around my own backyard, poking at things with sticks and thinking thoughts. I was at home in a place that did not exist.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


The clouds in Super Mario are the same sprite as the hedges; only the color changes.

Even better, in my book? The entirety of Super Mario Brothers 3 was a play.


I only just found out about Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. That itself is blowing my mind.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


up left down left
posted by The Whelk at 5:40 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh Zelda. I wish I hadn't given up on you after beating Ocarina Of Time. I've gotten too old.

Check out Majora's Mask, as suggested, but I'd also highly recommend The Minish Cap, which I'd completely missed until a couple of years ago. It's a fantastic game, and I think one of the most graphically beautiful and well-designed of the Zelda series. I really enjoyed playing through it.
posted by oulipian at 6:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The lambda from Half-Life represents an arm holding a crowbar.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:59 PM on October 28, 2009


Even better, in my book? The entirety of Super Mario Brothers 3 was a play. It opens with a lifting curtain, all of the scenery and backgrounds are riveted on, and Mario even exits the stage at the end of every level.

I think you mean Super Mario Bros. 2, right?
video of the opening sequence via IGN.
posted by pkingdesign at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2009


The trick with this really isn't memory savings. It does save a little, which is always great on a classic system, but the big win was removing a level of indirection in all the coding. That has to be applied every single time you refer to an on-screen object, and on a 1 MHz processor it can seriously mess with the speed of your graphics.

The alternative, which I'm sure everyone thought was the case before teh grate relevation, is that you're in room 101, it needs a bitmap, you have a list of bitmaps, and you're at x,y in that bitmap, so to draw your character's sprite you start by roomsize*101 (you'd actually make roomsize a power of two so you can shift to multiply) plus x + y*roomwidth. That roomsize*roomnumber has to be applied EVERY SINGLE TIME you draw ANYTHING. It gets tired real fast.

So by mapping the rooms on a massive x,y grid, all positions anywhere are just x + y*mapwidth. If mapwidth is a power of two you can do that reallyreally fast, and if the roomwidths are powers of two you can also clip to the room you're in very easily. If doors just happen to lead to the actual adjacent room, then it's just schweeeet.
posted by localroger at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2009


I think you mean Super Mario Bros. 2, right?

No, Super Mario Bros. 2 was a dream.

And now I'm seriously starting to question the credibility of Super Mario Bros. 1.
posted by Nedroid at 7:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


in case MIT goes down

I feel a great disturbance in the Net, as if millions of EECS nerds cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
posted by jock@law at 7:50 PM on October 28, 2009


"I... I think I need to pray."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2009


Even better, in my book? The entirety of Super Mario Brothers 3 was a play.

They kept this motif in the Paper Mario games and really ran with it. You could even engage with the audience.
posted by painquale at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2009


I thought this was common knowledge and fairly discernible from gameplay.

If you're thinking about meta-layouts for dungeons while playing Zelda, I think you're playing on a higher level than most people. Unless one actually compared the complete maps from each dungeon (sketching them down as one went or something)...


My husband did that (sketched the whole thing in pencil as he played). We still have the taped-together pieces of notebook paper in a box of games in the attic. My son got it out a few years ago when he and his friends went through a phase of playing old gaming systems. He had one of those "wow, my dad's cool!" moments.
posted by amyms at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2009


I have never beaten Ocarina of Time. It's just too boring and tedious.

I can't be friends with you anymore.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:06 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


..as long as we can all agree that Wind Waker isn't the best Zelda game of all time, I think we're doing fine.

I have to disagree with you. Having lost interest in zelda after my childhood, wind waker brought me back. It had so much innocence of the early games that I loved. Its probably the game that's held my interest the longest since adulthood.

Twilight Princess is good for other reasons. But I haven't gotten very far. I put it down for a few months, then forget everything that happened, start over, play a little bit, put it down again, and well, I still enjoy it and want to see the end. But I'll have to start over again.

Also.

Hoy, small fry!
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:37 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Game satellite maps I'd like to see: God of War II, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Okami

Oh hell yes. I just beat Bioshock, and was entranced the whole time with the (generally, I think) self-consistent views out the windows. Like seeing the outside of Fleet Hall from the Proving Grounds (ps if anyone knows where the fuck Sander Cohen's private quarters are, I want that fucking trophy). PoP:TSoT seems like it would actually end up being a relatively small (from a birds eye view) map.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:37 PM on October 28, 2009


pkingdesign: I think you mean Super Mario Bros. 2, right?

Nope, it's much more prevalent in SMB3.
Here's the title screen, with the curtain at the top.

Here's an example of the riveted boxes. Also, and I forgot to mention this earlier, all of the blocks cast shadows on the background.

End of level, all black and white. Worth noting, every level in world 8 is entirely in black and white. I don't have a great explanation for that...play's over?
posted by graventy at 9:42 PM on October 28, 2009


I have to disagree with you. Having lost interest in zelda after my childhood, wind waker brought me back. It had so much innocence of the early games that I loved. Its probably the game that's held my interest the longest since adulthood.

Wind Waker is directly responsible for me getting back into gaming. Well, that and a boyfriend who was a serious game nerd. But Wind Waker was my gateway drug back in.

Twilight Princess, while it's lovely, suffers from the two main problems of every Zelda game, writ large:

1) It's the same old fucking story. Come up with something new, ok? Link and Zelda get married, everything's fine, the kids are kidnapped. Whatever. SOMETHING PLEASE.

2) "Oh, hi. Before I can talk to you, I need a special rock that can only be found in a wall of identical rocks on the other side of the world. Please go get it."

~ Time passes ~

~ Time passes ~

~ Time passes ~

~ Time passes ~

~ Time passes ~

~ Time begins seriously to pass ~

"Thank you. Now your quest is to go to the other other side of the world and bring back a troll's lucky earring. Which is at the bottom of a dungeon. At the bottom of a lake. At the bottom of a valley. Oh yeah, monsters everywhere that take a single sword hit to dispatch."

~ Time passes ~

(etc)

"What a pretty earring. I'll give it to my daughter. Oh yeah, go somewhere else and do somet--"

Story interrupted by incomprehensible wailings and gnashings of teeth and hurling of wiimotes about the room.

I mean, I loved the game. I love all Zelda games (particularly Minish, nice shout out). Well maybe except Majora. But the constant back and forth across the entire universe gets dull.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:44 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


But the constant back and forth across the entire universe gets dull.

That's just an RPG problem in general, though. I'm even noticing it now at the end of Fallout 3. Go to these three places to destroy three things? You are just wasting my fucking time, game.

I don't think Twilight Princess was close to perfect, but it did a lot of things very right. I really liked the wolf/Midna thing. Added some pepper to the old semi-stale recipe. Some of the things they tried to do with the horseback sequences were very cinematic and interesting. The final fight(s) was suitably epic, and felt like an accomplishment afterwards.

That said, Wind Waker had better dungeons, it just abandoned them for a lame long hunt at the end. It will age lots better than any other 3D Zelda. That Cel shading really hides age well.
posted by graventy at 10:09 PM on October 28, 2009


..as long as we can all agree that Wind Waker isn't the best Zelda game of all time, I think we're doing fine.

I too can't really rank Zelda games, but if I did, I might have to put Wind Waker as my personal favorite. Aside from the fantastic dungeons and alien puzzles which truly left you completely on your own to figure them out, there was the sailing. Good god, the sailing, giving you a few minutes of beautiful respite crossing the waters and just thinking over what you might have to do next. Plus cel-shading. Just awesome.

That's just an RPG problem in general, though. I'm even noticing it now at the end of Fallout 3. Go to these three places to destroy three things? You are just wasting my fucking time, game.

Hah! I'd like to see how Oblivion's caves and forts would map out. Presumably they wouldn't at all, but there was just SO. FUCKING. MUCH. packed onto that disc (of which apparently half the space was taken up by dialog) that there must have been some creative tricks to limit storage issues. Also, since Oblivion doesn't ever officially "end," the jumps all around the map via fast-travel late in the game just make you (or maybe just me) start to feel like a jet-setter in this whole GTA: Middle Earth environment.

That Cel shading really hides age well.

For realz, y'all. Go play the Sly Cooper games right now, if you haven't already. The best platforming, and some of the most beautifully understated art-direction, of the PS2 generation.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the constant back and forth across the entire universe gets dull
posted by jock@law at 10:57 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aren't the Zelda games in the adventure genre and not RPGs?
posted by flatluigi at 12:40 AM on October 29, 2009


Why is it I always get to these threads late? Here we go....

Tacodog: "I never understood the attraction of Zelda or any other role playing game. Looks boring as hell."


The original Zelda is absolutely not boring. Not only is it sometimes diabolical in its tricks (especially in the second quest, which has lose-money-or-heart-container rooms), but the action game play is pretty sharp too. Even after all this time, it is still probably my favorite Zelda game, because you can be really good at it and still be challenged. Meanwhile, I can and have beaten Ocarina of Time with only the three heart containers I started with.

KokuRyu: "I loved playing Zelda back in the early 90s. The graphics and music were strangely compelling, and it was satisfying solving all of the little puzzles.

However, after playing Super Mario Galaxy on Wii and completing all of the levels, only to be confronted with the Purple Comet and the task of collecting every purple coin by redoing every level, I have concluded that these games really are for kids. The magic has been lost.
"

Some of the purple coin challenges are among my favorite parts of Mario Galaxy. At least there are some decent challenges among them.

shakespeherian: "Hi, I'd like to sign up for abuse by suggesting that Twilight Princess is better than Ocarina of Time.

I am afraid some of that abuse is justified. Although Midna was a great character, the game itself is a good example of how making a game bigger doesn't necessarily make it better.

I also have controversial opinions related to Mario Sunshine."

I do like Mario Sunshine now, especially the void levels.

yeloson: "Oh Zelda. I still wonder if I've missed hidden caves and gravestones."

I've said this multiple times in the past, but that plethora of hidden passages is still the thing Zelda does better than any other game. So many games reuse the same mechanics so often that I sometimes fall into a kind of despair. That Zelda's huge number of secrets has been copied so rarely gives me a little hope... but it also means that it hasn't been copied, even by Nintendo, because a lot of people must think it is something wrong with Zelda, when it certainly isn't.

infinitewindow: "The best Zelda game (plotwise, anyway) was Link's Awakening."

It is definitely a good one. It may tie Wind Waker for best story.

flatluigi: "The best Zelda game was Majora's Mask and I am incredibly willing to fight about it."

It is certainly an under-appreciated gem.

sotonohito: "I never knew it, but now that I've been told its one of those smack yourself on the forehead "duh" sort of moments. Of course they'd lay it out that way, storage on those cartridges was tiny and expensive.

The original Zelda did a lot more than slot the dungeons together to make the game fit on that cart. The whole game fits in 128K of memory.

This is from memory, information gleaned during my net travels and personal observation:

Overworld screens are not composed of arbitrary tiles, but of vertical stripes of tiles that are reused throughout all the screens. This gives the game a lot of its distinctive look. (Super Mario Bros. uses a similar encoding scheme.) There are 128 overworld screens, and with this technique each can be defined with a rather small number of bytes.

Dungeons are even more compressed. There are a surprisingly small number of dungeon screen types that are reused throughout the game. On type, if it has a push-the-block type of hidden passage, it will always be the same block for that type. Not only that, but it will always be the left-most solid block of the middle row of tiles in the room. There is actually one secret passage it is impossible to enter because of this. It can be found in a room composed of two vertical walls of blocks in Level 9 of the second quest; it is impossible to push the block and then get to the secret stairs that appears, because the stairs always appear in the upper-right corner of the room, behind the other wall.

There are actually only a small number of monster movement patterns in the game. There is the type that is locked into the same movement avenues that Link is (Octorok, Lyonel, Stalfos, Moblin, Goriya, Like-Like, Gibdo, Darknut, Dodongo, Lanmola, and more), there is the type that wheels around the room freely, but cannot suddenly reverse direction (Keese, that is to say bats, are the most common, but also Peahats, Manhandla, Digdogger, Patra, and, if you could see him, Ganon), and then there is the type that just moves back and forth slowly (Aquamentus, Gohma). There are a small number of others (Tektite and Gleeok for instance), and some have minor differences to one of the given patterns (Wizrobe, Pol's Voice). Recognizing the difference movement patterns is useful in the graveyard; the single vulnerable ghost on each screen is the one that moves in the movement grid, all the others you make appear move like bats. If you make as many ghosts as you can appear then kill the one that moves at right-angles, all the ghosts die at once. If you need money but can't find any secret money rooms, this is a pretty good way to get it.


I'll also bet that the "blank" gray blocks are really where they hid the various sideways parts of the dungeons.

There are only two sideways room types that are reused again and again.

Actually, to really invite abuse, I'll suggest that the best Zelda ever is Majora's Mask. I found the way it forced you to, essentially, lose over and over by means of the going back in time mechanism to be both repellent and attractive.

Here is a fact that surprised the hell out of me when I learned it. It is possible to beat Majora's Mask in six days. Remember, the first three are kind of a tutorial during which you can't really leave town. It is possible, after finishing that and going back in time the first time, to win without going back in time again! I believe Speed Demos Archive has a video of this feat being performed. Remember, you have to finish four dungeons during that time, and complete a lot of time-dependent subquests, including saving the farm and the lengthy Anju and Kafei quest. Even allowing for the semi-secret time slowing song, very little time can be wasted.

Of course, I said I wouldn't rank, but it's undeniable that Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the best example of a Zelda game. It comes very close to the platonic ideal."

I am unsure. It seems so now in retrospect because later Zeldas took it as their model. That model is showing its age, while the original Zelda still seems fresh. Well, to me at least.
posted by JHarris at 4:20 AM on October 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


That model [Link to the past] is showing its age, while the original Zelda still seems fresh. Well, to me at least.

Having just played Link to the Past from start to finish, I can tell you it aged quite well. The music is great, the dungeons are great; to me, it clearly is the best of the Zelda games I've played.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:18 AM on October 29, 2009


NEOGaf thread of awesome and shocking videogame facts that will blow your mind
posted by lyam at 5:53 AM on October 29, 2009


off to play some zelda...
posted by neoist at 7:27 AM on October 29, 2009


BTW, if you want to reconsider Majora's Mask the Vintage Game Club played it through recently. Lots of discussion in forum posts there. I tried to like it, I really did. The art direction is amazing. What tripped me up was the difficulty; too hard to figure out what to do next and how to solve the puzzles. Games in the last 10 years have gotten a lot easier in telling the player what to do, rather than making them figure it out for themselves, and honestly I like that better.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2009


I see no one is mentioning Phantom Hourglass. I recently played that one through, and found it too easy. Stupid faerie always telling you what to do.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:21 AM on October 29, 2009


I clicked on the Video Game Atlus link, cliked on Act Raiser, and my eyes immediately welled up with tears when I saw the map.

Thank you.
posted by aftermarketradio at 8:25 AM on October 29, 2009


flatluigi: "Aren't the Zelda games in the adventure genre and not RPGs?"

it's worth mentioning that Final Fantasy was intended to be a zelda killer. as a matter of fact, early in Final Fantasy I, you find a grave marker that reads "Here lies Link." Zelda doesn't fit the standard definition of rpg any more, but in modern day nintendo fashion, it's a simplified version of the core design. link has two stats, only one of which is visible: hp and attack damage. he can boost them with items, but not xp.

yes, it's a stretch, but in the 8 bit NES days, it was as close as you got until FF1 came out.
posted by shmegegge at 8:39 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here Lies Link.
Here Lies Link.
posted by shmegegge at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2009


JHarris:
I am afraid some of that abuse is justified. Although Midna was a great character, the game itself is a good example of how making a game bigger doesn't necessarily make it better.


All I have to say to that is: Navi.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:20 AM on October 29, 2009


Count me as another Wind Waker fan. I loved that game. The cel shading was awesome, and the atmosphere was first-rate. There are some visual shots (like the frozen monsters on the chessboard) that were stunningly awesome.

I can totally see why people would be bored by the sailing, but it never bothered me, for whatever reason. I had a lot of fun zooming around and picking up secrets. I think that was the first game with the camera mechanic, and I enjoyed that too.

I honestly never really understood why people disliked it, other than the relatively short length. It just never made sense to me. "What the hell, you don't like the graphics. It's beautiful!"

I also agree that it will age better than any of the other 3D Zeldas. Twilight Princess looked dated the day it shipped. Wind Waker will still be fresh and visually fascinating in another decade.
posted by Malor at 9:52 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


yes, it's a stretch, but in the 8 bit NES days, it was as close as you got until FF1 came out.

Ummm, Dragon Warrior? Final Fantasy was great, but it was pretty clearly based on what Dragon Warrior had already done a year earlier. I also remember getting DW free along with my subscription to Nintendo Power, so it definitely had a ton of recognition here in the States before FF came along.

(Of course, this is ignoring all of the great computer RPGs that came before either DW/DQ and FF, like Wizardry, Ultima, etc., but I digress...)
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:09 AM on October 29, 2009


Alright. Lots of Wind Waker fans out there, apparently.
THERE CAN BE NO PEACE!
posted by blenderfish at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2009


The Video Game Atlas is pretty enjoyable to browse through on its own. Good memories of some very cool artwork and maps from great SNES games.

Why does looking at the maps for the overworld and underworld in Final Fantasy II(US) give me such a palpable feeling of nostalgia in my gut?! Why!?
posted by captain cosine at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2009


Strange Interlude: "Ummm, Dragon Warrior? Final Fantasy was great, but it was pretty clearly based on what Dragon Warrior had already done a year earlier."

oh, you can outnerd me all you want, but the point is that from a certain standpoint zelda has an rpg flava to it.
posted by shmegegge at 1:47 PM on October 29, 2009


All I have to say to that is: Navi.

If a game is wrecked for you just because a little voice says "Hey!" every five or six minutes, only while you aren't in dungeons, then I submit you may be a little harsh on it. Although keep in mind, part of it has to do with the scale of the game. In Zelda 1, five minutes is long enough to finish a dungeon, but in Ocarina you can just about cross Hyrule Field in that time. Navi's "Hey!" prompts may be annoying in conjunction with the vast expanse of nothing in Ocarina. I will say this about Twilight Princess, at least its version of Hyrule Field doesn't feel deserted.

Ummm, Dragon Warrior? Final Fantasy was great, but it was pretty clearly based on what Dragon Warrior had already done a year earlier. I also remember getting DW free along with my subscription to Nintendo Power, so it definitely had a ton of recognition here in the States before FF came along.

In retrospect neither DW1 or FF1 holds up. DQ has better design, but only a single party member. FF had multiple party members, but falls victim to RPG Disease, where a story is mostly a lengthy sequence of things to do in strict linear order without much rhyme or reason.
posted by JHarris at 1:58 PM on October 29, 2009


Blenderfish and Cortex - There were both leftover (and glitch) areas in metroid that you weren't supposed to be able to get to but could. -- the trick was to jump and get yourself caught in a door while it closed, and then wiggle your way UP through the blocks. You would wind up in a deserted, lonely column, with side passages some of which would be explorable while others would cause the game to hang. Exploring these areas was a lonely suicide mission for Samus, because (in my experience) there was no way to return down to the normal game maps.... see the metroid hidden worlds faq for more.
posted by warreng at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


To me, the thing that is interesting about this is that generally, like with half-life and metroid, the artistic intent is to lay out the world in a consistent, "fits together" way, and the technology has to be engineered to do this (either by making sure the half-life levels were properly conforming in the level editor, or through the heirarchical 'palletized' scheme Metroid uses,) whereas in the case of Zelda, the maps fit together due to the technology used, with no artistic reason these disparate-seeming dungeons need to be this way.

The neatest piece of tech trivia about Metroid for me is that, while people found the 'JUSTIN BAILEY' code, which is cool but is really just a coincidence, the game contained an actual cheat 'god' code which nobody found for nearly 20 years. (To wit, NARPASSWORD00)
posted by blenderfish at 8:42 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


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