Just read your “Nintendo’s Edge” post, Master Malstrom. Couldn’t agree more. Nowadays it feels games are just a theme park ride ’till the (unfulfilling) end. And, granted, finishing a game is more a matter of time than it is a matter of skill.
Just to add to your impressions on Zelda, I distinctly remember dreading playing Ocarina of Time when I was younger. You played through the child Link part and all was fine and dandy, then you get the Master Sword… BAM. Immediately you’re in a Market full of zombies.
Running away, you figure “I’m gonna go back home, everything should be fine there”. Oh, how foolish. GIANT plants and enemies await you in Kokiri Forest. And the whole world is like that. There’s no escape, you either fight or you die — or turn off the console, that is.
The Forest Temple music is quite memorable to me. You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmsZyC0UXUU
This background sound is so goddamn eerie. It seems ghosts are waiting in the next corner, just ready to get you. And then there’s that hand that comes off the ceiling and OUT OF NOWHERE takes you to the beginning of the temple. It’s too scary, even moreso for a kid. And also, there’s Phantom Ganon (great boss).
The Fire Temple is also pretty good. Check out this music; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5blHw6C4Ax4
This is the one that got removed from version 1.0 and 1.1, if I recall correctly. There’s some Islamic chanting in the background, apparently. Regardless, it’s also very “edgy”. You also rescue Gorons from PRISON cells. Cause they’re getting EATEN by a giant dragon. Well, that’s just effed up.
The Water Temple, as you very well know, is the weakest part of the game. To me, it has no edge. Its nothing but a very big puzzle with those water elevators. You don’t really feel in danger during the temple, only annoyed. The Shadow Link fight is brilliant, though. To compensate, the slimey ball boss (Morpha, I think) is the lamest boss ever — a gooey ball, really?
Next up is the Shadow Temple, the best part of the game in my opinion. You get back to being a child and fight invisible enemies in the Well. That part was scary as hell, especially when you fall down the tubes and end up in a basement filled with enemies. And then there’s the temple itself, with GIANT blades out to cut your head, skulls everywhere, zombies, those hands from the ceiling, the whole deal. The boss is a bit lame (some guy playing bongos), but aside from that it’s pretty memorable.
Spirit Temple is no big deal, in my opinion. The Mirror Shield is cool, though.
And the final castle is the culmination of everything. It feels evil, appropriate. Going up the stairs towards Ganondorf and hearing organ playing is a very tense moment, in my opinion. The fight being a tennis match, not so much, but I can let that go.
So, all in all, the game is pretty “edgy”, as you said. Majora’s Mask (the sequel) has got nothing on it. You go around getting masks, there’s no sense of urgency; only an artificial one due to the Moon threat (which you can reset anyway, so who cares). I think your analysis is spot-on: evil is needed in games… we gotta be the hero sometime.
We’ve been measuring the health of Nintendo’s IPs by the heroes (Mario, Link, and Samus) when, perhaps, we should have been measuring the health of Nintendo’s IPs by the villains (Bowser, Ganon, and Metroids).
When younger people play the classics, they say, “How could you develop the patience to finish this game?” Certainly, gameplay has aged. Today’s games will have their gameplay age as well. We think that maybe it is because there weren’t that many games (untrue) or that the games were short (???). I think a better explanation is that the so-called classics had an ‘edge’ to them. Contra wasn’t a military exercise of learning bullet patterns but actually overcoming the evil. We invested the time because the game had a vibe. Difficult games like Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and Ghosts and Goblins certainly had that eerie edge to them. There is a reason why some concerned mothers thought video games were the spawn of the devil with all the evil it seemed to have on them!
I’m thinking of how Mega Man 1, 2, and 3 keep appealing to me while 4, 5, and 6 do not. They all share the same gameplay and similar skill in design and artwork. Yet, 4, 5, and 6 seem a little ridiculous. It always felt like 4, 5, and 6 were just ‘going through the motions’. The boss battles of Mega Man were pretty intense. They were evil robot masters! In Mega Man 1, it makes sense how the Robot Masters were industry robots turned toward evil. Mega Man 2 has Wily really be evil. That alien battle at the end was really cool. I love the final level where there is no music but just the drips of lava coming from the ceiling. Mega Man 3 always had an ‘edge’ to it especially with the revisited stages. 4, 5, and 6 had unconvincing villains. Wily was unconvincing in his role in those games which took away from the heroism.
Even with a game like Pac-Man, the villains were very well defined. Each ‘ghost’ had a name and a ‘personality’. Pac-Man was pretty generic in comparison.
Nintendo needs to bring back its villains.