Practice Makes Perfect


Two consecutive Sunday nights at home for the first time since March. And, wouldn’t you know it, I wind up falling annoyingly sick last Thursday. “Annoyingly” in the debilitating sense: unable to concentrate for long periods due to a fogginess in my skull, I found myself stuck in the shitty position where I couldn’t work, couldn’t read, and – more importantly for this blog – couldn’t game. Most such afflictions last three days with me, and this instance was no different; I awoke this Sunday morning with a clearing head, and the drizzly weather outside made me think of only one thing: fishing.

But let’s take a step back.

Prior to falling ill, the week was all about Zelda, and my parallel playthroughs of Ocarina of Time and its close cousin, Master Quest. Progress had been steady on both; most side-quests wrapped up, dungeons falling relatively quickly, referring to a walkthrough for only the most troubling of Gold Skulltalas in Master Quest. I intended to step through the pair dungeon-by-dungeon, but I’d often skip ahead on one, then overshoot on the other, eventually wrapping up the bulk of the reworked rendition a good three dungeons before the original. A bit of catchup, and suddenly all I had left were the problem points, the bits I knew were always going to be a problem: the Hylian Loach. The Gerudo Archery.

And here, if you hadn’t already guessed, is where the title of this post comes in.

I had really suffered over the Gerudo archery challenge when I’d 100%-ed my Collector’s Edition copy of Ocarina; many thousands of Rupees were spent before finally hitting 1560 points, just enough to acquire the Biggest Quiver. This week, though, my first attempt yielded 1430 points. Another four attempts netted a round 1500, a new Quiver, and a raised eyebrow of incredulous disbelief. Sensing a mental zone, I swapped to the other version; this one took thirty-six attempts, but most of those were aborted very soon after acknowledging that I’d buggered up by missing too many pots at the start of the run.

Somehow, my fingers had remembered all that training late last year, twitchy controls be damned. Needless to say, I was pretty bloody happy.

And that brings me to today. Dopey, drizzle… fishing.

I’d blown a huge chunk of time netting my only Hylian Loach. So imagine my surprise when the first one was landed within an hour, with the second taking a tiny bite less.

And there I sat, somewhat hungover with sickness, amazed that everything just seemed to be coming together. Another hour of filling my pockets with Rupees, bombchus, and Deku Seeds, and it was time to tackle Ganondorf… who, along with his über-incarnation, fell in the most emphatic, one-sided battles I’ve ever had against them. One of the Ganon battles didn’t even yield a scratch.

And so, surprisingly, I deem Master Quest to be complete. Sure, there’s a troublesome chest (not containing anything important, probably just a recovery heart) on 3F of the Fire Temple – eastern-most room, southern-most chest – that I can’t figure out, but… Off The List.

Compared to the original, it didn’t feel as complete, as rounded; dungeons didn’t feel as holistic, with enemies sparse in favour of puzzles that verged on the annoyingly obscure. Luckily, my side-by-side playthroughs allowed me the opportunity to experience the original again; and, let’s face it, it’s bloody amazing. And it continues to surprise with all its little details; today, for the first time, I noticed the tinge of sadness in the closing movies, with King Zora and Mido sitting together lamenting the (perceived) losses of their loved ones. And, again, I marveled at the size and completeness of Ocarina‘s world.

And, at the end of the day, this is the third time I’ve 100%-ed Ocarina of Time this year… which makes me a bit sad really. Emotionally sad, sure, because it will likely be my last visit to Hyrule this year; but completing the same game three times in one year? Bit of a worry, that.

Je Retourne! (Part 3)

Four weeks since my last post. Four weeks, three of those spent at a construction camp an hour out of Karratha, tethered to the Interwebs – and hence, my sanity – by a satellite connection that was lucky to hold 5KB/s for a solid minute. And so, with the exception of this weekend (grinningly punctuated by my annual dose of Eurovision kitsch and bloc favouritism), my gaming has been sporadic – and mostly handheld based.

And by “handheld,” of course, I mean “DS.” The PSP has only tempted me with Patapon, Loco Roco, and (more importantly) the potential for a powerful emulation platform. Prior to the DS, my only other handhelds were also Nintendo in nature: old style Game & Watches (Helmet & Donkey Kong). But I digress, distracted by history and Sweden’s off-key Eurovision entry.

Just before my last painful journey to site, I picked up my first-ever entry into the Grand Theft Auto franchise: GTA: Chinatown Wars. And early impressions were fantastic – I loved the open world, the presentation, the scope. After 13 hours (56% complete), however, the lustre has most certainly been lost: where I initially thought the writing was mature, it now feels hopelessly juvenile; where I once savoured the morsel-sized missions, it now feels like an annoying grind. If this is the franchise that defines modern gaming, then I’m not really sure I want in; an especially ironic comment, given my undying love of Crackdown, which owes so much to GTA‘s heritage. But where Crackdown is wonderfully refined and constrained in its maturity, GTA: CW feels like it’s trying too hard to be Adult. Technically impressive and fun in small doses, sure – and it most definitely deserves to sell more than its reported numbers. But it’s hardly the most compelling thing on the DS.

Compare and contrast with another recent DS acquisition – Soul Bubbles. Seemingly victim to an unsupportive import policy (it was available in Australia for all of two weeks, I reckon), I had to get a UK mate to snaffle this for me (Amazon UK had it for a paltry 6 quid). And it’s a cracking game – utterly unique control mechanism, fun without frustration, a perfect little package. It’s shameful that this has gone so unnoticed.

Other site-based gaming has been limited to more Sight Training (which has proven to be quite enjoyable in a minigame-ish way) and Rub Rabbits (which leads me to believe that practice may, indeed, may – eventually – make perfect). The last couple of days has presented opportunities to get back into my Zelda Master Questing, with a couple of today’s dungeons surprising with their re-jigged ease; both Dodongo’s Cavern and the much-feared Jabu-Jabu’s Belly felt much easier in their Master Quest renditions.

To be honest, though, my mind has been more focussed on a game that’s still some months off: Bayonetta. Ever since I first laid eyes on the initial teaser trailer, I’ve been gagging for more goodies from Platinum – and they’ve delivered some delicious tidbits on the complexities of modelling Bayonetta’s arse. Now, I’m a bit of a fan of a bit of female protagonist posterior, and Bayonetta backs that up with some nutball looking action – I can’t wait.

The near future, however, is (annoyingly) still dictated by work – do I have more lovely Zelda in my future, or am I going to be grinding more GTA: CW in airplanes? It’s pretty much a day-by-day proposition at the moment, but hopefully there’s only another four-to-six weeks of this flux left. I want a chance to feel at home again, bed myself back into my old gaming habits; I haven’t turned on my 360 since March!

Je Retourne! (Part 2)

And so, after 6 weeks away from this blog, I returned – only to be shipped off to site for work. And site, in this case, was north-of-nowhere in Karratha, living in a project camp – the likes of which I’ve never encountered before. With nothing on the cards except working 12-hour days, eat at the mess (not as bad as I’d feared), and drink at the cheap wet-mess, the few hours up my sleeve every night were available to catch up on all the video podcasts I’d been downloading in the last five years… and to get a spot of gaming in.

The thing is, I wasn’t about to drag a console up to a mining site – which left me with the DS and the PC to choose from. I started off with my much-belated attack on Tim Schafer’s Full Throttle. Created prior to the glorious Grim Fandango, I was expecting clever writing, silly puzzles, and an all-round solid package – after all, Fandango gave me four full solid days of delight. But, whilst the writing lived up to its end of the deal (creating caricatures which managed to feel solid, with a splendidly quippy script), I found the SCUMM-based puzzles to be of the “click everywhere and hope” variety. In particular, the final section of the game unfortunately lingers in my memory, because its key was to click (essentially) offscreen – and that type of trick shits me right off. Couple annoying puzzles with a short game (something like ten hours, I reckon), and you can colour me – sadly – disappointed. It may have been just worth the ten bucks it cost me, if only to see Schafer’s progression… but Grim Fandango also only cost ten bucks, and is oodles better in every respect.

A day of airplanes and airports had me home for three days over Easter and, desperate for some retail therapy, I picked up a new Nintendo DSi. The new matte finish feels lovely in the hand, but is tempered by the fact that the serial number sticker breaks up the finish under my fingers; despite some reservations with the new interface, it’s proven itself to be a great acquisition… although I recently found the receipt for my original DS – AU$188, whereas three years later the DSi was AU$299. And, as I’ve previously mentioned, the very idea of a freebie game horrifies me – despite trying to barter for some Points Cards instead, I had to plump for Sight Training; another blight on The List, though hopefully not a long-lasting one. The DSi has also got me looking at Electroplankton and Rub Rabbits again, too…

Finally, one of the videos I consumed whilst on-site was a “History of Zelda” documentary (acquired, possibly dodgily, through Zentendo). Seemingly released around the same time as Wind Waker, it features interviews with a bunch of Nintendo fans and luminaries (including Shigsy himself, and Eiji Aonuma – who, I was somewhat disappointed to discover, directed both Majora’s and Wind Waker). And it’s a great doco, but it had the effect of stoking the flames of passion for Zelda again… and so, on Easter Saturday, I broke out my Limited Edition of Wind Waker, popped the bonus disc in the Wii, and started playing through both Ocarina (again) and Master Quest, side-by-side… and I admit to being surprised just how much harder Master Quest is compared to the original: even the very first dungeon offers a significant challenge. So, with essentially two Ocarina playthroughs being attempted at the same time, and further opportunities for work-related travel in the near future, it’s pretty safe to say that the rest of April is taken care of, game-wise. And May. And probably June, too. Bloody Gerudo archery.