Saturday, March 31, 2012

Game A2 : Resident Evil 2 - I See Undead People

Claire Redfield journal entry 2 : The RPD building is a huge place. I've explored it for a while and I'm only starting to know my way around. The fact that the place is overrun by all kind of monstrosities doesn't help. Aside from the zombies, I've seen dogs and crows infected too! And the worst of all is these "Lickers" thing who can change me into minced meat in a matter of seconds if I'm not careful. Thankfully, being in a Police Building has a few good sides too considering getting my hands on weapons has been quite easy. I think I've secured all the keys and explored the place thoroughly. I've met Marvin the captain again, only to see him become a zombie before my eyes! I had to put an end to his misery. What's going on in this place? I haven't found Chris anywhere but I ran a few times into this little girl again. She's called Sherry and she's looking for her dad. If only she would let me go with her instead of running away by herself! I've met chief Irons, who is a really creepy fellow, and a journal I found shows he's more than a bit involved in all this zombie outbreak. Behind his desk is some kind of lock that, I'm sure, will give me access to the clock tower of the building. I'm not sure of what I'll find up there but I have to get this door opened...

Hunting zombies with a Bow Gun has got to be the best idea for a TV show ever.
Time played : 1h15 (2h30 total) - "You Died" screens : 0 (0 total : I'm on a roll!)

Well, my time in the RPD building seems to be about to come to an end. I've opened almost every door and explored almost every room so far. I must say this part of the game goes by the book. I already mentioned the four keys to get in order to progress, but I have to say too that a lot of other things are reminiscent of my Resident Evil 1 experience. A lot of the scares and riddles are kinda copied from the first game, and at times you feel like Capcom was a bit lazy on a few things.

For example, you have a room where two statues are clearly awaiting for two rubies, a bit like the tiger head in Spencer Manor. There is a variant of the "let's push some crates to make a path" riddle that was in the basement laboratory of the first game, and you have a long corridor where crows burst out of the windows with the music suddenly speeding up (just like... yeah, the first game).

This time, I was able to shoot one! Had to run away from the rest of them, though...
However, for each of these lazy segments, there is another really standing out. There is a corridor with boarded windows. In your previous experiences, boarded mean safe, which is the opposite of the broad open windows where you know something will eventually jump out of. Well, not this time. On the second crossing of the corridor (they let you go once, just to reassure you), zombie arms burst out of the planks and try to grab you! I know it can count as a cheap scare, but I can assure you it still works.

They also have the good taste of playing with the Resident Evil veteran reflexes now and then. A lot of people having played those games remember the loading screens between the rooms are represented by opening doors. Well one of these doors just open on a bunch of zombies. For people used to wait for the doors to open in order to continue playing, this can be quite a shock.

Not even the loading screens are safe anymore.
The ammunition seems to be even scarcer than in the first game, or maybe there are just much more zombies to shoot at. I finished up running with an empty gun a few times, and avoiding zombies is highly encouraged if you don't want to be out of ammo for the really tough battles coming up (or so I guess). The dogs and crows are still a pain, but the rest of the bunch goes down easily with the Rocket Launcher or the Bow Gun. It's still intelligent to choose your battles, though, and the "risk/reward" factor is still an issue. Should I enter this room to grab the bullets and avoid the zombies, with the risk of being hit in the process, or should I just leave it for now?

Considering the NPC interaction, there are more numerous in this game than in the first one (well it's not really a surprise). The little girl Sherry is as annoying as she can be. How stupid can be a nine-year old when she just thinks wandering around alone in a building full of zombies is a good idea? It goes with a nice little idea there, though. At one time, Sherry escapes Claire (again) and you gain control of the little girl for a few minutes. She is totally weaponless and has to dodge a few dogs on her way to get the item she was looking for. In my memory, the same trick was used in Alone in the Dark 2, but it's a nice feature nonetheless. 

The chief of police seems to be as crazy as they come, keeping the body of the mayor's daughter on his desk to witness her changing into a zombie. As usual, the notes found here and then seem to point at him for knowing more than he wants to show. There is also the good captain Marvin, who was bound to die pretty quick, and it doesn't miss. His transformation into a zombie is quite cinematic, though, and it's (a little) sad when you have to blow his head off with your Rocket Launcher.

You should really get a doctor to check your skin problem, dude!

You can find there a few notes concerning the G-Virus (an evolution of the T-Virus from the first game) and you hear about the existence of an Umbrella Research Facility on the outskirts of town. I guess it's probably where we're gonna be headed next. All in all, the RPD Building is a really nice place, with a few interesting places (the morgue, the cell blocks, the kennel all make sense when you're in a Police Station), even if it's strangely lacking a bathroom (but so are a lot of buildings in Survival-horror games). However, the light feeling of liberty I had in the first game is not really here in this one. It feels more like you're being brought in one place or another instead of choosing your own path (which you never really did in the first game anyway, but it wasn't so obvious).

On the other hand, the whole experience is much more cinematic, so I guess it comes with this price. The lack of inventory space is still an issue, even if you can find some kind of bag in the armory giving you two spaces more (getting to a whopping eight). It's always nice to have your character telling you she can't take this Submachine Gun because her lighter is taking all the room in her pockets...

About this bag, there is an interesting feature of the game. In the armory, you can find a Machine gun and the said bag. You can choose between the two. The item you leave here will then be retrieved by Leon on the second scenario. Get both and he's got nothing, leaving you in a position where the second scenario is harder to complete. It's a nice feature exploiting the pompously-named "zapping system", but I think it's one of the too rare examples.

Don't worry, I'm the chief of Police! You're safe now!
So now, I'm about to face one of the problems with the streamlining of any game. From the beginning of the game, I've always found an item (be it a key, a keycard, a handle...) that I knew would allow me to open another area, leading to another item, and so forth. Now, all of my troubles went to finish on me obtaining a little cogwheel. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to do something with it, but I really can't remember seeing a mechanism needing that in the whole building... I've never had any problem finding where I was supposed to go since the beginning, so I think I didn't pay enough attention to my surroundings... Won't happen again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

COWARD changes and Kain's MAMA

Hey guys,

here is a quick post, just to tell you I'm currently scratching my head regarding how to upgrade the COWARD system. I'm not really a big fan of the O for Originality, actually. It's tough to grade, especially considering I'm playing totally different series of games, and I feel it's a bit off. My examples would be for Day of the Tentacle, Final Fantasy VI or Baldur's Gate II. They are not pinnacles of originality, they each play by the rules of the genre, and they're just absolutely fabulous games...

So I was thinking about O for Observation, which would grade how sniffing around and searching around every nook and cranny of the places you explore are rewarding. I thought about this playing Legacy of Kain, where backtracking is fun once you've obtained new abilities, and it applies to a lot of games I intend to play. Everybody loves a good sub quest, or having an item which is not mandatory to complete the game...

What are your thoughts?

On a side note, I forgot to give the MAMA (More Annoying Monster Award) for Legacy of Kain. Considering I haven't seen the whole game, I'm not too sure about this one, and it's especially difficult to discern in a game where mainly every enemy can be a cakewalk or a nightmare, because of the random battle system and controls. But I have one serious guy for the post : The liches in the sewers. The liches in themselves are not bad. They throw at you homing magic missiles that you can repel using the spell.... err... "Repel", and they go down easily. They are a pain before you acquire the spell, but are quite easy afterwards. Considering the vampire is highly allergic to water (in Kain's universe at least), the sewers are dangerous in themselves. However, you can switch to Mist form and cross water without any problem. But here comes the MAMA : you can't have both spells on at the same time. And when you have to cross long sewer tunnels ridden with these liches, it becomes an absolute chore. You get hit by every spell (they don't miss, these liches. ever.), making your character step back and getting hit again by another spell before being able to thrust your sword in one of the liches. Or you choose to cast Repel, and can't get close enough to the Liches to hit them without crossing the deadly water.

So here goes : The MAMA Award goes to the Liches in the Sewers. I know, this MAMA is dependent on a place to work, but hey, I never said anything about this being forbidden, did I? ;)

Please let me know what you think about the COWARD system evolution in the comments!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Game A2 : Resident Evil 2 - Harder, Faster, Stronger... Better?

Claire Redfield journal entry 1 : It's been too long since I had news from my brother Chris. I was really worried, considering how dangerous his job is. I had to go check on him in Raccoon City, with no idea of what was waiting for me there... The city is overrun by zombies! These horrible creatures are everywhere! Upon my arrival, I've met a guy, a young rookie cop named Leon S. Kennedy (why he emphasizes on his middle name initial is still a mystery to me) who saved my life by blowing the head of one these things. We got in a police car and were on our way to Raccoon Police Department when a huge truck ran into us and blowed up everything! We were then separated with Leon. I made a run for the RPD building, finding my way in the zombie-littered streets, just to discover the building itself was full of these creatures too! Inside the S.T.A.R.S Office, I found a note from my brother telling he left for Europe to get more information on the Umbrella Company (a phone call was too expensive?), just before seeing a little girl running away. I've got to find her before these things do!

Being Chris Redfield's sister does not allow you to walk around with a 9-inches blade strapped on your shoulder.

Time played : 1h15 - "You died" screens : 0 (yet)

Wow, Resident Evil 2 starts FAST! I understand the concerns of creator Shinji Mikami when he scrapped all the previous work on this sequel because he felt it was boring and too similar to the first game. It's like witnessing the difference between Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's Aliens. The first movie was all about the entire crew of ship getting killed by one creature and the sequel is about knowing how many of these you can cram in the screen at one time. More is not always necessarily better, though (this example shows : the first Alien is by far considered the better movie), and it doesn't mean RE2 will be superior than the first one.

It's a great change of pace, though. I think I've seen more zombies in the five first screens than in RE1's entire mansion. The beginning of the adventure is simple. You've been separated from Leon, you're in the streets of Raccoon City, and you just have to run to RPD. If you start shooting at the zombies, you just run out of bullets real fast, so you have to learn how to avoid them. The zombies themselves are more varied too, there are zombie policemen, zombie white collars, zombie chicks... it makes for a nice setting, except when you look at them from too close, and you can see they all still look alike (of course, it's not a big issue, we're still on PSone, after all).

Before the zombie outbreak, Raccoon City already had a serious cloning problem.
Once you've attained the RPD building, though, the pace changes considerably and comes back to more familiar levels, with a huge three-stories building to explore. The rooms are locked with different keys (now being heart, diamond, club and spades, instead of sword, armor, helm and whatnot), you've got statues and ladders to push to other places, a lot of doors are "locked from the other side", showing you'll later unlock a shortcut there, and you can find ammo in little desks that are unlocked by Claire's lockpick. The whole thing is very similar to RE1's mansion, and surprisingly enough, this is where the game shines : alternating action sequences with exploration moments makes for an excellent middle ground. It's more dynamic than the first episode and is still far away from the more and more stupidly action-packed sequels.

Yup, looks like a safe place!
There is another big surprise quickly awaiting the player. In Resident Evil 1, the only enemies you encountered during the beginning of the game were zombies (and the occasional dog, or crow). When you weren't scared by the zombies anymore (if you ever were), the game introduced the Hunters, who were meaner, faster, bigger and really harder to kill. Now we are in the sequel, so what to do? The answer is simple. Once you've seen that the zombies now were coming in six or twelve-packs instead of loners, you're introduced to the Licker, a frog-like thing with a 6-feet long tongue in the first ten minutes of the game! To compensate that, you also gain access to the Rocket Launcher really quick too. Once  you've seen all this, you know you're going for a bumpy ride, which was, I think, everything the fans were waiting for at the time.

Ooooh the ugly son of a bitch.
So what I've done so far : I gained access to RPD Building, encountered Marvin the (soon-to-be-dead) captain of the place who gave me an electronic card that unlocked two doors in the hall. I unlocked said doors, met my first Licker, ran the hell away, shot a whole lot of zombies and secured the Spades Key. I've pushed two statues in a room, in pure RE tradition, and I've got a big ruby for it, which I still don't know how to use. I've found the S.T.A.R.S office, which is a fun place to explore, because you can see the desks of the guys you met in the first game (Chris' desk is a mess, while Barry's one is full of gun parts, for example). I've found the Rocket Launcher, went back and toasted the Licker, then explored a bit more. In another area, I've seen a little girl running away from the zombies. I know from my previous experience with the game I'm gonna run after her for a while, and I hate her already. I've met Leon again, who somehow gained access to the same areas of the building (while I had the Spades Key, but whatever...) and found a few notes about the chief of Police, called Irons, who seems to be a fishy fellow. We'll see what comes next!

Did I mentioned I pushed statues too?
To close this post, I've got a new issue with the Resident Evil series that comes toward a lot of games based on a similar approach. You don't go where you WANT to go, you go where you CAN go. I know it's basic video game logic and a really enjoyable one at that (the entire "Metroidvania" subgenre is based upon this idea), but when you put that in a "realism" point of view, it really doesn't make any sense. You don't really have a goal. It's just "hey, I found this Heart Key, so I'm gonna unlock every Heart Door to gain access to new areas where I'll find the Club Key!" You don't aim to go somewhere, you just go where you can. It's not that big of a deal, and when you think about it, a huge pan of early "open-world games" (as opposed to "level-based" ones) are based upon this idea... Well, it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of the game at all, so I think it's really engraved in our gamer's reflexes.

Note : As you've probably guessed considering the quality of the screenshots, I've temporarily dropped the "taking pictures with my camera" idea considering how hard it is to do this with an action game, so I'm finding my screenshots on the internet again. I promise I'll upgrade my PC with the necessary components soon enough!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Game A2 : Resident Evil 2 - Introduction

To say that Resident Evil for Playstation was a success would be a gross understatement. The game was one heck of a hit and was exactly the next thing Capcom needed to sit its huge popularity on the new born game console. As soon as the first game was released, Shinji Mikami immediately started to produce the sequel. The first draft of this RE2 was to be released less than a year afterwards and took protagonists Leon Kennedy, rookie cop, and Elza Walker, young student, into the mayhem of Raccoon City during the zombie outbreak that followed the events of RE1. It would mainly take part into Raccoon City Police Station, in the same manner as the first game was situated into the mansion.

And the girl wore some kind of orange jumpsuit.
However, Shinji Mikami, seeing the advancement of the game (supposedly 80-90%) basically said "fuck it" (yeah, game producers could do that these days) and decided to start everything from scratch. He said the game was boring as hell, and way too similar to the first one. So, they went on to work for another year, extending the play area to a few other places in Raccoon City, going for a much more cinematic approach, and changing protagonist Elza Walker to the now known Claire Redfield, sister of the first game hero (probably to create another bond with RE1, or just because she wore really short pants). This would lead to the creation of the game we know today.

1998 fashion collection for Raccoon City.
Meanwhile, Capcom went completely nuts over the idea they were not making more money with the Resident Evil franchise, so they went on to release Resident Evil : Director's Cut, Resident Evil : Dual Shock Edition and Resident Evil Blue and Red versions with a new kind of zombie pikachu in them. They pressed every last drop of money they could on the first game waiting to see if Mikami's gamble would pay off.

And paid off it did : Resident Evil 2 was finally released in 1998, becoming one of the biggest successes ever for the company (and when we're talking about Capcom, it means something), the fastest-selling game in the history of the console so far (beating the shit out of Final Fantasy VII record, for example), and one of the most successful games in the franchise so far. It was later rereleased as another Dual Shock version, then ported for Windows 9x, N64, Dreamcast and Gamecube.

It was even "ported" on Tiger Electronics ill-fated handheld, leading to a really weird piece of gaming history that you can witness here. Just look at that! I'd love to try this one someday, I'm really amazed this thing exists...

With all this development time, one would figure they'd think about the art box. They didn't.
One of the major promotion elements of the game was the "zapping system", consisting of two different story lines for our two characters that you could play in any order, and where some actions you could take in your first playthrough would have consequences when you played the other one (such as leaving a useful item for the other guy to get it later). In my memory, it was a nicely done feature. The original game shipped on two CD, one for Leon and one for Claire, and the ending changed depending on who you'd play first.

For the sake of this blog, I'll experiment the two story lines as well, starting with Claire's (ladies first) then switching to Leon, to see if playing it twice in a row still has an interest. I'll be playing on my Gamecube disc inserted in my Wii. I know it's a long shot from the original version, but considering it's supposed to be a perfect emulation of the Playstation version, it won't make a real difference.

Plus, I've already bought the game for my Playstation, then for my Gamecube, so it's absolutely out of the question that I'd buy it a third time on the PSN, even for a mere 6 bucks (yeah, I'm still mad at you, Sony).

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Final Rating

So after a night of screaming and weeping about the fact that I couldn't complete this game because of what will now be known as "The Door Glitch", I've come to my senses, listened the advices of my fellow bloggers, and went on to watch a long series of "Let's Play" to see how everything unfolds at the end of the game.

I have to admit it was a bit boring, and it didn't do much to lighten my frustration, but I am now able to put on a COWARD rating on this, and finally move on to more zombie-killing.

Before the rating in itself, I wanted you to know that I'll forget about the dreaded game-breaking glitch while giving the grades. It's a simple choice : If I don't, the COWARD rating goes down to 0, because the game is simply not winnable in this state. So here we go :

C for Cleverness
It's simply amazing how much gameplay content the creators of this game managed to cram into it. You gain new powers on a regular basis, and with them, new ways of dispatching your foes. This is clearly the highlight of the game, and definitely what kept me going after so many problems, glitches, doubts and issues. You can take control of your foes, make them kill each other, turn to mist to avoid contacts, disguise as a human to trick guards, slow time, turn into a werewolf to run around and avoid battles, make enemies explode, shrink, rot or drained from their blood. There is a weapon that can stun them, making them easier to drink their blood, another that burn them to ashes to avoid respawning undeads, barriers that return magic projectiles to senders... You have access to a few armors as well, which are much more varied than the "more and more solid" template : one makes you invisible to low-intelligence foes, one deals back damage, one dispatch damage taken between health and mana, there is even an armor that drinks the blood of your enemies by itself. The amount of variety here is simply staggering, to the level of "real" CRPGS, and way above your average action-adventure game. On the down side, the puzzles are not that varied, and it's more than often a simple way of pushing a rock or finding a switch to gain access to other areas. However, Boss battles are interesting, there are 100 secrets to find, so a lot of backtracking is in order, and the constant upgrades of your abilities really makes the game fascinating. And there is time travel involved too! In order to kill a really powerful foe, Kain travels 50 years in the past to slay him when he is still feeble... I'll be generous here and put my first 8 in this area.
Rating : 8

Twin axes : a butcher's dream.
O for Originality
The setting of the game is quite original. You play as a real anti-hero at a time where it was far from the norm in video games. There is a real sense of desperation going on everywhere, and the hope won't certainly come from this hero. More than saving the world, Kain's story revolves around his rise to power. His quest is effectively to restore balance to the world of Nosgoth, but his motivations are purely selfish. The "real" ending is dark enough, and contradicts everything we had learned about video game morale so far... As for the game itself, it simply doesn't resemble any other (for better or for worse) : what points will be lost in appeal or reactivity categories are gained for originality. There are a lot of risks taken here. Some of them were worth it, some really weren't. The rest of the franchise will take a safer road, but this game is definitely an unique one.
Rating : 7

"A waste of good blood" is something that saddens our hero.
W for Writing
Definitely a mixed bag here. On one hand, the writing is sometimes nothing short of stellar. The evolution of Kain is fascinating. At first, he considers vampirism as a curse, and ends his adventure calling himself a dark god. His humanity disappears during the course of the game, and a few lines are really memorable. There is few games where the main character rejoices himself when he discovers a new particularly gruesome way to dispose of his foes... On the other hand, two main problems arise. First of all, there is nothing much to see aside from the main quest. Disguising yourself as a human gives you the ability to speak with men instead of simply killing them, but it's never of any use. There is no dialogue whatsoever, and the majority of townspeople ramble on the same things (with nearly all the women having whore-like endeavors, once again showing that developers in 1996 were probably all frustrated virgins). The other major problem lies in the development of the story itself. The beginning is fascinating, with the tragic love story of Nupraptor and Ariel, the descent into madness or the Circle, the vow of the now cursed paladin Malek, and so forth. You spend the majority of the game with only one pillar cleansed, but at one point, you just feel like the developers simply stopped to care, or just rushed to the end. The 8 others members of the circle fall really fast (with one example of a battle where three of them fight at once), and even with the Time Traveling twist at the end (a really good one, though), the last half of the adventure just feels rushed. I can't imagine how fabulous the story would have been should the developers have more time to develop it...
Rating : 6

You can always try to shout "have mercy", but I'm pretty sure it won't work with this guy...
A for Appeal
Aaaaand that's where everything starts to fall apart. The graphics themselves are pretty decent, animation is nice, and so forth, but nothing exceptional for a 1996 2D game. The art style is nothing special, with 3D cutscenes typical of first generation PSX games, with character models a bit on the ugly side. The problem is how dark the whole thing is. I understand that's a game about a vampire and that bright daylight would be stupid. However, you just can't play the game with a window open in your living-room, and even at night you pretty much have to squint your eyes to see anything. Moreover, the walls and textures are so complex at times that you can barely see doors, switches, enemies or sometimes even your character! With a few notable exceptions (Vorador's Mansion, or the Heaven Cathedral) you mainly travel through dark caves, shrines, forests, marshes and desecrated towns, and it tends to repeat itself pretty fast. In a few hours, you have a strong feeling of déjà vu every new screen. The music works nice and the voice acting is mainly good, but Kain has an urge to scream "Vae Victis" or laugh hysterically when he battles an enemy, which can be really tiresome fast.
Rating : 3

And the "repel" spell looks like a snow globe, which is pretty dumb.
R for Reaction
I think that, if you've read my previous posts about this game, you know what's coming here. This game is basically a lesson on how to turn excellent ideas into a huge pile of crap. The emphasis on battle is stained by the impossibility to properly touch your enemies because of bad hit recognition. You have really different weapons, and everyone of them is useful? Great idea, but you have fifteen seconds of loading time every time you want to change. A lot of spells are at your disposal? Great idea, but you only have room for five of them, and if you want to change, it's back to the menu with another fifteen seconds of loading! When an enemy hits you, you take a few steps backwards, and if you have spikes behind you, you can bounce toward the enemy, that hits you again, and so forth. Every stupid foe is a deadly danger or a cakewalk, depending on the moments. It works both ways too, so it's not rare to see a fearsome enemy stuck behind the scenery or stupidly waving its sword at thin air, incapable of hitting you (Malek, supposedly one of the most dangerous bosses of the game, can easily be dispatched this way). The examples are limitless! And you can as easily exploit a few of the game weaknesses as well, with a "repel" spell or a mist form way too powerful by the end of the game, changing a few dungeons into long and boring chores. And did I mention the loading times?
Rating : 1

Wow, this boss looks tough? Just cast "repel" and he's history...
D for Delicacy
It all sums up to one simple question : is this game pleasant? In short, no. Everything is here to hinder your pleasure. When you start to enjoy the story or a new way of killing people, there is always something that brings you to the harsh reality that this game is a mess. It's heart-breaking to see what this game is and what it could have been. I've always been one to overlook game design flaws in order to enjoy the story, but rarely has a game proven this hard to enjoy. It's an unique game all right, but even if you forget about the glitch that killed my game, I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Really saddening, but Kain deserves better. Well, we'll see about that in the sequels...
Rating : 3


Well, okay, I'll leave it at that. I understand why this game gained a cult following, and I hope the fascinating story of Kain, now Dark God of the Vampires, will find a proper continuation in the upcoming sequels. I really am frustrated to have been forbidden to complete this game, though. Who knows? Maybe one day, I'll find a PC version and have the will to go back to it. When this happens, I'll let you know if my COWARD rating changes...

Now for more zombies! After that experience, Resident Evil 2 will be a breeze!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Lord knows I've tried...

Ok, that's it. I'm done with that game. I started everything again from the beginning, pumping 5 more hours into it. I really enjoyed my second playthrough. I've searched every nook and cranny, taking notes on whatever seemed suspicious, and I realized I had missed a few nice things on my first try, including a whole new power! (and a great one at that, which could make the enemies go fight against each other).

I had secured a few other power-ups, and considering I was much more at ease with the battle system, I arrived at the same spot where I was stuck in half the time, and with a lot more items in my inventory.

And then, the same glitch happened.

It happens when you enter a dungeon called "Dark Eden". When you enter you have three doors, one on the front, one on your right and one on the left. The front and right doors are already opened. What I did in my first playthrough is that I went for the right door, found a switch there, which closed the front door... basically doing the reverse of every other switch since the beginning of the game who usually OPEN doors... Then I saved my game, thinking it was normal for the course of the game. After a few hours wandering around, I realized there was no other way around it, and considering two of the targets of my main quest were in this dungeon, I was basically fucked... (pardon my french, but I'm really pissed right now)

So I went for my second playthrough, really enjoying the game, really looking forward for the following of the adventure, understanding more and more of the fascinating story and lore that makes The Legacy of Kain. Then it's "Dark Eden" again. I won't go for the same mistake (I have a few backup saves too, this time). I go through the front door, battle a few foes, find a few items... then end up in another room, completely stuck.

Then I did what I swore I wouldn't do : I went for a walkthrough.

I've looked a few walkthroughs on the internet. They all say that the front door is locked at first. You're supposed to go through the right door, pull the switch, that's supposed to open the LEFT door (and not close the front one), then find another switch that finally opens the front door. I can only assume that, when you do that in this order, the rest of the dungeon works fine and you can proceed...

But I've tried and tried again, there is no way for me to open the left door.

Considering I seem to be the only one with this problem, I'm wondering why it happens. I can only think of one explanation : someone at Sony messed up big time when emulating the game for the PSN. It happened to me once with another product of the PSN : Silent Hill Origins. I bought the game, for 40 bucks, played it on my PSP, and the cutscenes simply didn't work... I contacted Sony, they told me thanks for the information, that nobody had told them about this problem, and that they were looking into it... and no, they wouldn't give me a refund, because it was against PSN policy... great.

I had to wait for three months for the correcting patch to appear. If I had been to my local used games stores, I could have fetched Silent Hill Origins on UMD for half the price, and it would have been in perfect working order.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong, maybe my Legacy of Kain glitch has another explanation, but anyway, I can't complete this game, and what's worse is that I had really really started enjoying it.

So thanks Sony, once again, you make a great advertisement for piracy!

I'm sorry about the bitter post, I'm sorry I didn't have any screenshot to put in it, and I'm sorry about the fact that I'm not sure I'll be able to put a COWARD rating on this game, considering I don't feel like I've had the chance to see how everything unfolds at the end.

Maybe I'll go through it again one day (on PC for sure), because even with all the glitches and poor combat controls, it was really a fascinating game.

Thanks again Sony. I want a refund for the last fifteen hours of my life.

Hardcore Gaming and Masochism

I am a masochist. I know that. I've played Ninja Gaiden, repeatedly. I've passed the infamous biker level of Battletoads on NES. I've almost finished Demon's Souls, at the price of a few controllers smashed on the ground. It doesn't mean I'm a great video games player. I think I'm doing okay (especially when I play with friends who can't pass the fifth level of Bubble Bobble), but I'm not the kind of guy who takes a controller and finish a game in a few sessions just because of their leetz skillz.

Masochism example n°1
But I just can't quit. I hate when a game bests me. I usually quit a game because I'm bored, because, like a lot of other gamers, I have a short attention span. I used to be able to play hundreds of hours in one universe. I've basically spent months in Morrowind, or play through Megaman 2 a thousand times. But I didn't go very far in Skyrim or in Dark Souls, even they are superior to their prequels in almost every way.

The reasons are multiple. First of all, I'm not a no-life. I have a girlfriend (well, until recently, but our separation didn't have anything to do with video games). I have friends which I enjoy hanging out with, I watch a few movies per week and I'm quite successful at my job, which I love. The main reason, however, in my opinion, is that I now have money.

Masochism example n°2
Let's make things clear : I'm not Rockfeller. I still can't go to fancy restaurants every day or buy a new iphone just because I'm tired of mine. But I make a pretty decent living with my job, and I spend a LOT of money in video games. When I was a kid, getting a new game for christmas was something I was looking forward to, and when I had it, I searched every nook and cranny of said game, just because I knew I won't have another one for a long time. But now, I can buy games whenever I want. Of course, I still think about it, I can't buy anything that's released, just because it would be too expensive, but I can get myself a threat once in a while and buy something more easily than a few years back.

Hence, my short attention span : When Skyrim, however great it is, starts feeling redundant (and it does), I can turn myself to Dark Souls or Arkham City or Banjo & Kazooie, or the new Layton game, and so forth...

Masochism example n°3
My point is : this is one of the major reasons I've started this blog. And I think I'm not the only one in this case. What forces Chet to go through monochromes repetitive dungeon crawling when he could play Skyrim? What forces Trick to cope with the horrible voice synthesis and fleeting logic of Mortville Manor when he could play Gray Matter or L.A. Noire? Same thing for Zenic : I'm pretty sure he had a few moments during Ultima 3 wondering what he was doing here instead of playing one of the more recent games I mentioned earlier.

But no : the blogs keep us going. For our audience, first of all, because we are flattered by the fact that people may be interested by what we have to say. For ourselves too, because blogging gives us the incentive we used to have to see a game through its end, and don't quit because it's too hard or because the new GTA has been released two days ago.

Masochism example n°4
The reason why I'm telling you all that is just to confirm that I've started Blood Omen again from the beginning. I want to apologize to my readers who were anticipating the rest of my game lists, and rest assured I'll go much faster in the game now that I've made a first unsuccessful playthrough. (I've played two hours and I've roughly covered half of the ground I did in ten hours on my last attempt).

Of course, should I encounter the same game-breaking glitch a second time, I'll regret my choice and probably go plant a bomb in the Silicon Knights office (if they still exist), but it's a testament to all the other qualities of this game that, even if it's bug-ridden and really painful at times, I still wanna play through it again. I'm not kidding : without these glitches, it would definitely be one of the major action-adventure games of this era.

Masochism example n°5

What do you think? Do you sometimes feel like masochists too? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments about all this...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Crushing my Soul

First of all, sorry about the slow posting. I've been away from my keyboard for a few days for health matters which are solved right now. So I'm back in the game!

Being in the hospital didn't delay my Blood Omen playthrough, though. I switched the game on my PSP, and kept on playing. However, I'm really starting to doubt of my ability to finish this game...

I'm utterly stuck right now. I've been to a lot of places, gaining new powers, securing access to the Soul Reaver, which I can only imagine is the best sword of the game, considering it's the name of the direct sequel (and considering it's a badass sword). I have really gained in experience, life and magic bars and so forth (and finally changing my status from "Whelp" to "Gimp"... way to make me feel better, thanks)

My major problem is that I think I experienced some kind of a bug that prevents me from going any further. I've seen a huge graphical glitch after visiting a village, basically turning the whole game into some kind of pixel vomit. I went to save anyway, but curiously all the areas I crossed while the glitch was going on had its doors closed, with (apparently) no way of getting them opened again...

Then again, I'm not sure about it, but the doubt is lurking in the shadow right now : have I made the game unwinnable? It's definitely a possibility when I see the lack of polish the overall experience had shown so far...

So, right now, I'm roughly 10 hours in, and I'm wondering if I should start the whole thing again. My first playthrough is now a total waste, though, considering I'm more familiar with the whole game mechanics, I know where things are, and so forth, but I'm really doubting I want to slog through a few areas another time...

On one side, I'd really like to just put a (harsh) COWARD rating on this game and skip to Resident Evil 2, on the other side, experiencing failure to complete a game so soon in the course of this blog is a bit humiliating... I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Rise to Power

Kain journal entry 3 : Following once more the advice from Ariel the ghost, I gained access to Malek's bastion. The Serafan proved himself to be a dreadful enemy. Rendered invincible by the powers of the Nine, the fiend finally had the upper hand, having me flee for the first time since the beginning of my quest. I knew the only way I had to get to the end of my quest, which was the destruction of the Nine, went through the obliteration of this sorry excuse for a Paladin. I then sought once again the advice from Ariel, which in her turn, oriented me to ask my questions to the Oracle. I kept on eastward after Malek's Bastion, and explored the labyrinth of caves where the Oracle was hiding. After more fierce battles, I gained the information I was looking for. The only vampire ever to have vanquished the Serafan in battle, Vorador, was resting in a mansion hidden in the middle of the Termagent Forest. Strange place for a vampire, the Termagent Forest and its swamp-like ground was a deadly trap for our kind. I had no choice however, and I left the Oracle in order to continue my quest...

If the entries are becoming more and more confusing, I'm sorry but I'm trying my best. I found a Game Script online because I really felt I was missing a lot of things from my difficulties to understand all the informations told to me. And right I was! There is definitely much more story to discover : The love story between Ariel the ghost and Nupraptor, Ariel's passing and Nupraptor descend into madness, which would lead to the corruption of the Nine, and so forth...

Ok now, you have it. I'm still having a lot of troubles with the gameplay, but I definitely want to see this story unfold to the end... It's frustrating to see what this game is and what it could have been... I think the Legacy of Kain series would be much more in the light nowadays if the games had been just a bit more thoroughly tested and tried before release, but then again, it's the case of a lot of IPs...

Drinking blood from a distance is still funny-looking though...
Now my major concern is the difficulty curve. You can cross a long cakewalk where every enemy falls easily and where there is a lot of blood to drink (your main health source), then explore a cavern or a dungeon where you get your ass kicked a lot of times before being able to progress. The graphics complexity is still an issue too, with a few times where I turned around a lot before being able to find where to go next.

I've gained access to a lot of new funny items, including one that make my enemies rot in a few seconds, or another one that stops time, allowing me to feast on them while they're powerless. Every new item is introduced in a sadistic way by the voice over, and a few of the descriptions are really fun to hear (always in a dark way of course). I have gained the Mist form too, which is great because it makes you impossible to hit with physical attacks, while consuming a great deal of magic.

I have secured a new weapon too, which is a pair of axes. It's a great weapon as it allows you to slash your way through the enemies ranks. However, it forbids you to use magic while using them. With the choices of weapons comes another problem. You have to switch from the axes to the mace really often (the mace is useless in battles, except against humans, but it allows you to break walls and pillars where you can find useful items). And when you switch, you have to go to the inventory menu (4 seconds loading), switch weapons (1 second when you know where it is) and go back to the game (another 4 seconds). 9 seconds don't seem like a lot, but when you have to switch weapons 12 times on the same screen to be efficient in battle (and if you're not efficient, your health meter drops fast), it can be REALLY bothersome...

I've learned to hate this word with my whole soul.
On the plus side, I have to correct one of the fears I had when starting the game. It is not a corridor. You have sufficient opportunities to get back on your tracks in order to find new areas as soon as you have access to a new power. The game opens up quite fast and it's fun to backtrack and see what I've missed. I can find more life and more magic this way, which makes the continuation of the main quests easier. It's really a good thing and makes the whole experience feel more like a RPG than in the beginning of the game where it felt more like a (poorly executed) action game. Some places are really dark and pleasant to explore, too.

Malek, I simply loooove what you did with your interior, you should come to redecorate my place!
So I'll keep going. My rise to power is more and more exhilarating, and the (soon-to-be) great vampire Kain is getting more powerful by the minute. With more than 700 kills and 200 mutilations, the game still calls me a "Whelp", though, so it's beginning to be a little insulting. Masses will fear me I tell you! If I can get pass the loading screens, that is...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Vampiric gameplay

Kain journal entry 2 : The first of my enemies has fallen. The Mentalist Nupraptor, former lover of the ghost Ariel, was well hidden in his skull-shaped retreat far above the city of Vasserbunde. I bested his traps and took his head after a fierce battle. Seeing the severed head of her beloved, Ariel acknowledged that my first mission was a success. In order to proceed, however, I had to take down Malek, ghost paladin and defender of the Nine. Probably a more fearsome foe than the crippled old man I had faced to restore the first pillar...

This game is weird. I'm still not sure if it's a great game or if the recurring glitches just ruin the experience. My major fear about it being a 40-hours long corridors has proven to be unfounded. There is still room for exploration and you have a bit of backtracking to do when you gain access to a weapon or a power in order to find hidden places and secrets.

The human disguise has proven itself useful and I'm now able to cross villages unharmed and talk to people instead of murdering them. Granted, they seldom have something interesting to say, but it's a relief not to have to fight my way through every screen numerous times (a lot of slain enemies just respawn when you leave the screen, which is always a great thing for immersion...)

The huge game world is slowly revealing itself.
The writing is nice, there is a few cult lines (e.g : "In life, I would not have graced this place with my presence. In death, I was merely adding to the stench") and the voice acting, even if it's a bit on the over-acted side, is pleasant enough. The setting is great too, especially when you come back to Coorhagen, Kain's hometown, to see it ruined by plague.

I consider the "Bring out your dead!" dude a serious Monty Python reference.
The powers are interesting and you gain access to them in a timely manner. I now have some kind of force-field that can send magic back to their casters, which is great because most of the time it's really hard to avoid the seeking projectiles, and is mandatory to cross a lot of screens filled with spell-casting enemies. I have finally found another weapon, which is a mace, and a blessing when dealing with human enemies : I can now stun them and quietly drink their blood, renewing my own health bar. I have items that slow time, burst enemies or cure poison, it's an overall much more solid gameplay now than at the beginning of the game, and every reward makes your character more powerful.

So what's the problem then? Well the game is crippled with little glitches that stain the whole experience. First of all, the graphics are not really clear and more than once I just ended up running in circles because I hadn't seen a door or switch hidden is the complex wall textures. The voice acting is great but there is no subtitles and it happens to sometimes be a challenge, considering I'm not a natural-english speaker. The writing is verbose enough and I sometimes simply don't get what it's told, even if my english understanding is usually pretty good. Another example of these times where game developers were so proud of their full-voiced games they didn't thought of putting subtitles (Trick, I understand what you felt through Mortville Manor even if Blood Omen voice synthesis is far better...) The loading screens can be overwhelming, making you wait a few seconds for every screen change, or when you want to access the menu, or when you change shape, or when you switch weapon, or when you pick your nose.

Ow come on!!! I had this screen half a second ago!
And I wanted to insist on the fact that I'm playing the game on my PS3, which the game nicely stored on my hard drive, so I guess the loading times are a bit reduced compared to the original CD version. I think this game destroyed a few CD lenses with constant data access every time you do something...

But the worse glitch concerns the battles and overall action sequences. The hit-recognition has proven itself a real pain. You can easily be trapped between two enemies and a spiked floor and just bouncing stupidly between their hits, incapable of doing anything and going from a full health bar to near-death in a matter of seconds. Granted, it works both ways and you often can easily kill a stupid enemy who just stands there and wave his sword at the air, incapable of hitting you... The first boss battle was a good example of that : the pattern is interesting, you have to make your way through a lot of magical bullets before being able to get close enough to the dude to hit him, and you're supposed to be able to hit the bullets. It's a good idea and nice change of the hack and slash pattern, but it's ruined by hit-recognition making the bullets near impossible to hit and making it harder than it should be...

As I've mentioned before, you can switch shape to a wolf and be faster and more powerful for a period of time. However, the wolf sprite is much larger than your usual form and some narrow paths are just impossible to negotiate without getting hit a few times by traps or spiked floors... I'll stop rambling about it but you got the point that this game is kind of ruined by little things that could have been avoided with a bit more testing before releasing it...

The bar on the left shows the number of pillars I have to repair : I think I'm not done with this game yet.

But I want to keep playing it. The setting and writing more than makes up for these problems and I want to know how the story goes. I want to know what powers I'll gain afterwards and what's hidden is the depths of the world map. Kain is a great character and I want to know the next steps in his rise to power. I just wished the gameplay itself would be less of a mess.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Our darkest hours

Kain journal entry 1 : My journey started where most end : by death. I was brutally slain by robbers in the darkness of the night. My soul couldn't find peace, though, and when the Necromancer Mortanius came to me to offer me my revenge, I didn't think it through and grabbed my chance. Now I'm cursed. Cursed with the gift of a sub-life, constantly relying on drinking blood to survive. The robbers didn't stand a chance against me and it was pretty quick till I killed them all, however it didn't end here. I've met a ghost, Ariel, keeper of the balance at the Nine Pillars of Nosgoth. She told me the Circle of the Nine, guardians of the Pillars, had become corrupted and that their lives must be ended. It will be a long road until the sun rises and I finally find peace.

After my first two hours through the world of Nosgoth, I confess I'm a bit at loss at what to think of the game for now. It obviously has a lot going for it. The setting is interesting, the voice acting is quite good (especially Kain's voice, that comment on a lot of things. I especially like how happy he looks when he discover another way to dismember or make exploding his enemies), and I'm pretty sure the quest's gonna be a long one. However, there is a few little things that really pull me out of the game sometimes.

First of all, the camera-handling is quite weird. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective, similar to A Link to the Past (in the way it shows different levels of elevation, opposite to The Legend of Zelda, which is all on one level), and you can choose between two zoom levels. The first one is really close, and the camera readjust itself each time you turn around, to show a bit more in the direction your character is facing. It makes sense because you couldn't see anything is Kain was centered all the time, but it's not handled well and takes a while to get used to. The other one is just too far away to see anything correctly, even on a large TV set...

Next thing : the game is DARK. And I mean it. Playing the game with your curtains opened while it's only mildly grey outside is really difficult, and while there exists a spell to procure some more light, it can be too much at times. I juggled with the Gamma controls of my TV to see if I could make it clearer (especially when trying to catch screenshots) but it jumps immediately from too dark to too bright. Well, it adds to the overall ambiance so I'll go with it.

Broad daylight. Yes. Makes sense for a vampire game, though...
The biggest of my concerns, though, is that gameplay for now doesn't seem that interesting. Nosgoth seems to be a really huge place, considering the size of the world map, but my experience so far resumed to walking a long path, with very little room for exploration. Sometimes, I stumble on a cave where I can get a new power, or on a village where I can slaughter everybody, and... that's about it, I'm back on my path to the next point of interest. There is very little interaction with the world except pushing switches to open door and killing people.

However, I've just stumbled on a power to disguise me as a human in the last town I went through, and I can now finally talk to people (before sucking their blood). I'm not sure if it's gonna change a lot of things (there is no dialogue options and people just ramble on the same random subjects) but it's a nice touch, especially considering you couldn't do it for the first two hours of playing.

Nothing spells "Dark Gothic" like ominous german-sounding town names...
I think the game is only bound to get more interesting, though. I find new powers often, which give me nice options to move (I can now change into a wolf and jump on places I couldn't reach before) or to kill people (which is great because a lot of basic enemies can take a while to kill with your weapon). I'm just a bit disappointed there is no real interaction with the world, quests per say (except the main "kill the nine bad guys" quest) or puzzles other than finding the right switch.

Well, I'm only two hours in, though, so I'll definitely keep playing to see if it becomes more fulfilling. I think it's a long game, so I just hope I'm not in for a forty-hour ride on the same path (Final Fantasy XIII already made me do that, and it was nicer-looking).

Granted, there is not a lot of games that have a "Mutilations" counter and call you a whelp at the same time.
Finally, before moving on, a word on the setting. I think the developers were trying too hard to get an adult world. It works well with Kain himself, which is a properly tortured anti-hero, and it's always nice to simply slaughter an entire village just because you can. On the other side, including brothels just for the sake of it might have been shocking in 1996, but doesn't really hold well today, especially when there are not so many places you can enter (and considering you can't do a lot of things in these places, slaughtering people in a brothel is not that different than doing it in a tavern or a house, except for the red carpets...)

I'll just settle in this nice-looking inn and... wait... what?
On the same note, having 90% of the female villagers telling you "Nights can be pretty cold around here, stranger, maybe I can do something to help you through it" lacks a bit of finesse... Well, it's not that video games have always been oriented toward female gamers anyway. And 1996 was the year we were all exposed to Lara's polygonal boobs, so maybe this game is not the worst example of video games finesse either...

About my progress in the game, I've found a few powers, including the one to shapeshift into a wolf or a human (the most interesting feature so far), I can throw fireballs, which is great because long-range enemies are becoming more and more common, and I've stocked on a few special weapons for difficult battles. I hope I haven't missed anything to upgrade my weapon because I'm not doing too much damage right now and the more basic enemy can take as much as 10 hits to kill (which is sometimes cumbersome because the hit recognition is not top-notch either). I'm making my way towards the lair of the first Guardian, which is a giant skull on the top of a mountain (discreet castle for a bad guy if I dare say so). I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Introduction

The development for Blood Omen : The Legacy of Kain was kind of hellish (which suits well the setting for the game). Game developer Silicon Knights (who would later create the cult survival-horror Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube) went through nearly 6 years of work to completion, even working without a destination console before settling for the Playstation and release it in 1996 (and ported to Windows a year later).

The goal was to create "a cerebral role-playing game where you had to use your head as well as your reflexes" (sic) with an adult gothic vampire setting. They talked a lot about the character of Kain, who was supposed to be "the first true anti-hero" of video-games (I haven't verified the claim, but I'm pretty sure it's not true). Maybe not the first, but certainly one of the biggest bad guys you ever had to control in a game. He dreams only of vengeance, sucks the blood of innocents (from three feet away, which is a bit weird) and is overall a pretty big bastard.

I'm not sure about the three pole-dancing skeletons behind him, though.
The game fetched good reviews and made a big success, getting a cult following over the years. It would go on to create a series of four sequels (interestingly enough, the IP went to a following of lawsuits between Silicon Knights and publisher Crystal Dynamics who went on to produce the series), organized in two "trilogies".

The games Blood Omen and Blood Omen 2 would follow Kain in his course of becoming the meaniest baddass around, while Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2 would follow antagonist Raziel in his quest to defeat the said Kain. The two trilogies culminate in PS2 title Legacy of Kain : Defiance where I'm pretty sure they end up being pals and walking to the setting sun while eating donuts.

And it's pretty obvious Raziel is the nicer guy.
The intertwining stories and evolved storytelling (as well as the action-RPG gameplay) is what drove me to the series, which I've never really played before, and that's strange. It's got vampires, quest for redemption and as far as I know, pretty solid games overall, even if the Blood Omen subseries is considered a bit of lower quality than the Soul Reaver one. I'm pretty excited by the idea I might stumble on a great series I've missed.

To be honest, though, what I remember most of the first game was jerky camera (which is a first for a top-down perspective), killing loading times and roaming peasants that weren't worried by the vicinity of a blood-sucking vampire. We'll see if it's worth digging through these little things and if the story is really as appealing as it sounds.

Considering I allowed myself the right to Virtual Console, I'll play the PSN version of the game, which is the exact same game that was released for Playstation, hoping the fact the game is on hard drive will lower a bit the loading times.

Let's suck some bloooooood!

Problems with screenshotting

Hi guys,

first of all, I know that screenshotting is not a real word.

However, I'd like to ask a question to my fellow bloggers :

How to make a decent screenshot out of console games?

I asked the question to Zenic who told me he put the video feed on his PC, but I've got a major problem with that : My PC is a piece of crap. I've heard there is another solution which consist of using a DVD recorder, put the video feed through it and record it on DVD-RW. Did anyone around here already use this solution? Does it work? Is there another solution I'm yet to discover? And what about portable console gaming?

Thanks a lot in advance. I've managed to go through my first two games using only screenshots from the internet, but it's really hard to find something illustrating correctly what I want to say, and it's gonna be even harder when I'll tackle less known games (for example, let's say... Legacy of Kain?)

I'd love to know how you do this kind of things. If I can't find a simple solution, I might have to postpone a bit on my blog before going through the next games, because it's really hard to come by descent screenshots and a screens-less blog would be just sad.

I'm trying to get good pictures with my camera too, but it's really hard to get something correct. Any idea?

Update : 3 tests below to see how it fares. I can see myself in the first one, and the second is kinda blurry, but the 3rd one kinda works, what do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Game B1 : The Legend of Zelda - Final Rating

Ok, first things first, I wanted you all to know that I've updated Resident Evil's COWARD score. The comment from Zenic made me really think about this rating, notably concerning Cleverness and Originality. The two grades have been lowered by a point, putting them at the medium mark, which leads to a total COWARD rating of 42. That leaves more space for the ratings to evolve. After all, if Resident Evil has a Cleverness score of 6, where does it put Ocarina of Time? 13? We'll see about that after a few ratings, but I may have to be a little harsh on grades to make them evolve nicely.

So, onto The Legend of Zelda rating. It was really hard to rate it and I'd like to emphasize on two things before getting started :
-The comparison between Resident Evil and The Legend of Zelda is unavoidable (after all, the two games are graded on the same scale) but ultimately pointless. The COWARD scale works (well I hope it does) for comparing different games in a same series, not for different ones. I wouldn't dare to say that The Legend of Zelda is better or worse than Resident Evil. They're two really different experiences, both well worth your time.
-The COWARD system only implies what I feel about the game I've just played, and how I rate the experience I had for the last few days/weeks. It's not a "review" of any sort, and it's only my point of view, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to think this as an objective rating.

Hum. Now that it's settled, I hope I'll be avoiding the wrath of the many Zelda fans out there while trying to rate these games...

Yeah, now that I think about it, this acronym works pretty well...

C for Cleverness
No doubt that The Legend of Zelda is a pretty clever game. It lets you loose in a huge gameworld, while simultaneously giving you enough clues to avoid getting you stuck (well, most of the time). The feeling of discovery is overwhelming and makes finding a secret entrance or item really rewarding. The heart containers mechanic (which still holds in Zelda games today, even if it's in the more refined "heart quarters" mechanic) is excellent and makes for a suitable character evolution. Try tackling the last dungeons with three hearts and you'll know what I mean. The otherworld is greatly done, full of little mysteries, and rewards for the more attentive players. However, in the meantime, I have to address my biggest concern with the game : It over-emphasize combat. Progress in the dungeon nearly always mean get in a room, wipe everybody out, than maybe push a block, get in the next room, repeat. Granted, the formula evolves during the game, notably with the dungeons layouts becoming more and more complicated, but the process is often the same : enter, kill, push block/bomb wall, exit. Starting with Zelda III, the series will be known for its excellent dungeons full of traps and puzzles, but it's yet to appear here. So it's a 6 for me.
Rating : 6

O for Originality
If you put back The Legend of Zelda in the context of its release year, the risk taken by the Nintendo teams is huge. The game is, in my opinion, one of the major milestones of the evolution of console gaming. Simple arcade games were the norm back then, and Miyamoto and his team really made things change by showing everybody that great adventures were possible to make on these consoles. Granted, it took inspiration from the Ultima games, but it refined the formula to make it more action-oriented, hence more akin to what console gamers were waiting for. If I don't reward this game in this category, it would be meaningless.
Rating : 8

Save battery was great too, because the alternative was not sexy...
W for Writing
Not much to say here, I'm afraid. The land of Hyrule is a huge desert, with only a bunch of old fellas concealing themselves in caves or the occasional merchant. It was the norm in NES games, but we're far from Zelda II, Final Fantasy or even Dragon Quest, which was released the same year.
Rating : 1

A for Appeal
The graphics are clean, sharp, and, as I've mentioned in a post, pretty stable. The slowdowns and flickering are minimal and it's a bit of a exception for this game console. The different areas of Hyrule are well-defined, and the ambiance is really different between the forests, the mountains or the cemetery. For an early NES game, Zelda is quite a nice feat and a good example of what this console was capable of doing. The music needs no introduction too. If you forget about the introduction and conclusion, that you'll not hear for more than a minute, it holds only on three major themes (otherworld, dungeon, and the creepy music for Ganon's hideout), and you never get tired of it. A lot of contemporary game composers could learn a lot from that.
Rating : 7

R for Reaction
The game is easy to control and almost always fair. I have a little concern about a few enemies (namely the Knights who change direction when you try to take a hit at them, and the Wizzrobes who can be a mess to fight) but, hey, they are supposed to be hard to kill. I was about to give a 5 to this category, then I remembered you could control the boomerang in a natural way that a lot of games were only dreaming to approach. So it's a 6 here too.
Rating : 6

D for Delicacy
I don't deny I had a great time with this game. Like a lot of masterpieces, it's better than the sum of its parts, and even with the repetitive dungeons structure, tedious money-grinding and occasional frustrating death, it's still a pleasure to play through. However, comparing to the later Zelda games, it lacks a bit in a few categories, notably in the fact that the game is, at its core, a huge fetch quest. It was a really tough grade to make. I'll go for a above-average mark, which is the sign I had a lot of pleasure playing through it, but that there's a lot of room for improvement.
Rating : 6


Ok, there, I've done it, I've put my rating on this game, please don't kill me. I was expecting a bit more, but overall I'm satisfied with this grade. It leaves a lot of room for superior games in the series and won't lead to A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time going through the roof of the rating system. On the other side, it shows that, even today, 25 long years, it still holds up as a great game to play.

Now, I'll be moving on to the first game I haven't thoroughly played in my game list. I've only played Legacy of Kain a couple of hours in the past, and I'm quite curious to see a game series that is hold in good esteem and that I've never really experienced. It will be a good thing because I've played Resident Evil 2 and Zelda II maybe a thousand times each, so I'm glad to play something I don't know before that...