Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: The Oracle of Seasons

It’s Zelda Day! That’s right kiddos, it’s now been 26 years since Shigeru Miyamoto first unleashed The Legend of Zelda into our collective consciousness and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate then filling you all in about my latest conquest, The Legend of Zelda: The Oracle of Seasons. I managed to catch a nasty head cold (speaking of changing seasons) but still fought through for another Zelda victory that unfortunately will be my last official one of The Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary, but since Nintendo is going to keep celebrating so will I with future victories to come. But before we move on to that, let’s talk about Oracle of Seasons.

Before I can talk about The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons first I have to back up and give you a little background of how I first found myself playing it. Come on now it’s only fair, I’ve discussed my history with all the other games in my other blogs, so you should’ve guessed I was going to do it here. The Gameboy Color was released two weeks after my eighteenth birthday on November 18, 1998.  At the time I was working for Costco Wholesale and making a pretty good paycheck for a High School senior. I mention Costco only because they used to (and probably still do) get really cool package deals on videogame systems and they just so happened to get one of these package deals around the release of Gameboy Color. Bundled with the Gameboy Color (much to my younger brothers joy) was a game that had just started to take hold in the United States, the juggernaut that is Pokémon. Each Gameboy Color came with the system as well as a copy of Pokémon (Red or Blue) and an official Nintendo Power Pokémon Strategy Guide.  Now I’ve always prided myself on my big brother coolness and if my brother wanted to play Pokémon, than Pokémon he shall play. So I picked up two of the Gameboy Color bundles and I’m sure, as you know, there was nothing a freshly minted eighteen-year-old wanted more than to try and catch all 151 Pokémon on his brand new Kiwi Gameboy Color, but try I did. I actually spent a good number of my dinner breaks at Costco playing Pokémon and carried my Gameboy Color with my copy of Pokémon Blue. That’s right, I chose Squirtle, but come on, Blastoise looked B.A. on the cover (besides my brother wanted to have the Charizard). I have to say I did manage to score some brownie points with the ladies. With Pokémon, you ask? How? Simple: I could speak their younger siblings language and also selflessly trade away my hard earned Pokémon much to their chagrin. In turn they left their older sisters alone and they were grateful for the moments of peace, and I digress…

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons wasn’t released until very late into the Gameboy Colors lifecycle (May 14, 2001). In fact, just a month after Oracle of Seasons came out a brand new handheld Nintendo system was also released: the Gameboy Advance. Unfortunately this wasn’t the reason I wasn’t immediately exposed to The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. You see when it first came out I was smack in the middle of my military training and with months to go I didn’t get an opportunity to play it until I returned home and my brother lent me his copy to play (the very copy that I just beat I might add). Honestly I didn’t make it that far my first time around (I still have the save file to prove it - I was on the third dungeon, Poison Moth’s Lair). I can’t remember my first impressions of the game, only that I wanted to be a fan because I was such a big fan of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (a game that I own and have beaten both the original and DX version) but I just don’t think the timing was right.  I had too much going on at the time with, well, let’s be honest about the time frame, late 2001 was a rough year to be an American and I was a brand new Airmen First Class and had defending our nation on my mind. The Legend of Zelda took a backseat until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastFour Swords was released a year later but that’s a whole other blog (I promise I really will get to it).
Fast Forward eleven years later and it was time to give The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons the chance it truly deserved. I blew the dust off of my trusty Kiwi Gameboy Color and popped in the game but time wasn’t kind to the old Gameboy Color. Without a backlit screen it made playing the game a nightmare, I mean just a month ago I was playing the delight that is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS Nintendo’s newest handheld system and the Gameboy Color just couldn’t hold a candle to it. The problem was I had lent my brother my Gameboy Advance SP and he didn’t live right down the street anymore; it looked like I was stuck playing on my Gameboy Color… Or was I? Determined to get the most bang for my buck I decided to do something semi-irrational and purchase a GameCube as well as a Gameboy Advance Player. Why go this extreme? I mean, I already had a Wii capable of playing both The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Adventures, but so what? I wanted to get the most out of my Zelda experience and the only way to do that is to play it on the big screen baby. I know, I know, it may have been a little overkill but I look forward to blowing the dust off of some other older titles after I finish hacking and slashing my way through the Zelda titles…
Now where was I? Oh yes, I had just entered the world of Holodrum (does any adventure actually take place in Hyrule anymore?) and befriended a dancer named Din when out of nowhere Onox the General of Darkness descends and kidnaps Din (who turns out to be the Oracle of Seasons for which the game is named) and causes the temple of seasons to sink into Subrosia and the seasons to go haywire. Impa, Princess Zelda’s nurse, tells you she was sent to Holodrum to bring Din to Hyrule and you must help her. You talk to the Maku Tree in Horon Village (reminiscent of the Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time) and he tells you in order to stop Onox you first need to recover the eight Essences of Nature, which he will later use to create Maku seed that will allow you to enter Onox castle for the final confrontation and now your adventure begins.
I found The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons to be challenging but not in a Zelda II: The Adventure of Link kinda way, although along the way there were certainly areas that had me ready to pull my hair out; mini bosses that were at least to me fair to challenging for their own good. But with that being said, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons was a fun game and a nice addition to the series. I liked how they brought characters in from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Malon, Talon, Ingo, Biggoron and Guru-Guru all make cameos and add to the overall gameplay experience by helping it feel like a continuation of a larger story. There were also some interesting additions with The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, like the ability to ride on animals like Ricky, Moosh and Dimitri. This somehow reminded of an earlier Capcom title Little Nemo: The Dream Master for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) where you would ride on the backs of different animals like a Gorilla, Frog or Mole. There was also another way it reminded me of that game, but before I go there…

So after you collect all eight of the Essences of Nature and receive the Maku seed, you’re ready to square off against Onox, and he’s not going to make your fight against him easy. First you fight him one on one and he tries to crush you with his giant mace; he also stomps and drops boulders from the ceiling. If this isn’t challenging enough, you can only hurt him with a spinning sword attack so time those hits right and use the Roc’s Cape to avoid his attacks. If you manage to hit him enough times, he then brings a crystalized Din into the fight, not to square off against you but more as a human shield. Now you have to bat her away using your Rod of Seasons and if you hit her by mistake, prepare to take some major damage and Onox now adds a third attack to his arsenal; he sends out little tornados to take you down. If you do manage to navigate past this second level of craziness, then hang-on to your butts because the real battle is only just beginning. After defeating Onox twice, he disappears and you’re left in a room with the crystalized Din. You’d think you’d free her and call it a day, but you’d be wrong. The minute you touch the crystal the floor begins to drop out from under you and you now fight the third and hardest transformation of Onox, the Dark Dragon, and the Dark Dragon doesn’t mess around. He tries to crush you with his hands; if that doesn’t work, he uses blue flame; if that doesn’t work, he spits out fireballs for what feels like hours. Oh, and did I mention the only way to attack him is wait for his hand to try and crush you and then ride it up to his face and try and hit the jewel in the center of his head? No? Well, now I have. So if you had any hearts left after the first two battles, here is the proving ground, here’s where your blood will be shed. I fought him and fought him and just couldn’t bring home the victory. I can’t tell you how discouraged I was being this close to the end of the game and not being able to seal the deal.  I played it over and over again for what felt like two hours, finally walking out of the castle just to score a red potion to try and hang in a little longer, but I was no match for the Dark Dragon. And by the way, was it just me or did he sort of resemble the King of Nightmares from Little Nemo: The Dream Master? 
Anyway, I was right about to give up when I flipped through my Nintendo Power Strategy Guide again and noticed I had skipped over an important little gem right in the beginning of the guide: the Red Ring. The Red Ring doubles the power of your sword and allows you to hand out some real punishment and all you have to do to get it is hunt down four golden creatures, one in each season. Needless to say, I was off on a side quest before I squared off against Onox again, and I’m glad I did because with the Red Ring in my possession I made the Dark Dragon my bitch in a matter of minutes. In fact it was almost not satisfying how easily I beat him with the Red Ring on, almost I said. I do take into account how many times I tried and failed. But now with Red Ring in tow I was victorious and the game was over… Or was it? When you complete Oracle of Seasons you find out Onox was just a pawn of Twinrova’s plan to resurrect the Evil King and your quest isn’t over. No, it continues in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages.

So with this quest complete, I was able to cross another game off my list, sort of. Although the main story in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons was over, the game wasn’t. See, Capcom had created a password linking system that connects Oracle of Seasons with the Oracle of Ages and my real quest was only just beginning. So please stay tuned for part two of the blog when I beat The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and complete the full saga.