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The next Legend of Zelda game for the Game Boy Color has certainly had its share of changes. First the name has never been decided, and the translation of the name has also changed a few times, adding to the confusion. Even now, the materials still say the name is tentative. Maybe they are hoping for the perfect name to pop up; I'm not sure. Then they decided recently to go from a trio of releases seperated by a few weeks, to a duo released at the same time. While this left many fans some what dissapointed, including myself, one can look to the fact that they have expanded the games from Link's Awakening by quite a bit, so there is still much to explore.
Finally, at SpaceWorld 2000, I was able to get my hands on a playable version. While already 90% complete, it's still set for a Japanese release in December. There is no mention of North American releases at the show, but I assume the date for that release will stay about the same as before.
The animated introduction was very nice. I wanted to just sit and watch the intro, but the girl helping me was eager to show me the game play, so I had to cut it short. I wondered if there are cut scenes in the game as well, but there was no mention of it during the show. All the scenes shown around the show were in the intro I saw. However, the guide book for SpaceWorld has a picture I did not see anywhere else, so this springs hope that they will be a few at least.
Gameplay is very similar to Link's Awakening. For those that have not had the chance to play that game, I will explain briefly. Set in an overhead view, Link can use two items at a time, each assigned to either the A or B buttons. These items can be selected from the Start menu; it does not matter which button you assign which item -- very handy if you are used to attacking with one or the other. Link uses all the items in his arsenal to solve puzzles and defeat monsters, same as before. There are more levels of items, and more items to be had. There are now three screens for the start menu, though no one explained what was on the two new screens, which were empty when I started playing.
What's different is the Four Seasons Rod. When Link finds a tree stump, he will jump on top of it (no need for the feather for this). By using the rod, Link will change the current weather. This will also change the terrain. What did surprise me was that the seasons changed opposite of the the natural order. Spring became Winter, Winter to Autumn, etc. Also, when Link enters a cave or a dungeon, the season returned to Spring. This changes how the seasonal control will be used. Instead of Link needing to explore four seperate seasons around every corner, he instead will only need to explore smaller sections of the world under certain seasons. The rod becomes simply another exploratory tool, lessening its effect on the game as a whole, while still making the item essential.
On my second play through, I decided to try out a dungeon. Many old traps still await our hero, as well as new ones. Old enemies learn new tricks, like WallMasters no longer stick to just walls, but instead float around rooms. Even I was caught when one popped up in front of me in the middle of the room. Sliding traps had new versions of a different color that would trace along blocks of a maze as well, making them more deadly, and harder to get around. Another version was sigificantly faster than the typical ones, catching me by surprise. There was also in this dungoen a mining car that ran along tracks, busting through sealed doors that closed after the car passed through. By finding a switch, you could change the car's path on your next ride. Those were only the changes for one dungeon, but it does show that Nintendo has come up with many different puzzles once again.
However, the game was still relatively easy. Without knowing where I was, or what the new items were, I was able to solve most of the puzzles with very little exploration. I was told that this was the fifth dungeon of the game, though she would not tell me how many dungeons were in the game. Judging from my heart count, and previous Zelda games, nine would be an educated guess. I was never really stumped by a puzzle. Simply looking around usually gave me the answer I needed. I expect this from the early dungoens, but by the the fourth or fifth, I expected more of a challenge. Of course, most of what I tried I had done countless times in other Zelda games, so maybe my experience in those games was simply shining through.
Unfortunately, the "Link System" between the two games was not displayed. Only one of the games was shown, leaving the other in secrecy. What changes the other game will bring, and just how the link system will even work was still not explained. With Nintendo skipping the Tokyo Game Show this fall, it seems no one will know more about this until the games' releases in December.
The game's title was officially translated, but marked pending, as The Legend of Zelda: Mysterious Tree Nut. Isn't that a mouthful? An expansive set of items and puzzles from Link's Awakening, I found it just as fun to play. If this holds true after release, the game set is sure to be a big hit for Nintendo. But then, since every Zelda game has been that, did you expect anything less?
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