Let's try this again, shall we?
- Pretty good dialogue
- Clever level-design with some truly commendable puzzles
- A nice mix of characters from the official Zelda games and new ones exclusive to this fan-story
- Pretty good music
- Complete misunderstanding of what qualifies as "mature"
- Convoluted lore
- Poor bosses
- Zero atmosphere
- Constant character-swapping
- Messed up overworld
- Plenty of glitches
The Bottom Line
The original review of this game was probably one of my biggest mistakes ever and I apologize to the community for my unprofessional way of handling it. The problem was that I simply didn't go in-depth enough and for a fan-game like this, it really would have helped if I explained more about what it was about and what the creator tried to do. At the time of writing, I was also very addicted to Hyrule: Total War, the latest entry in this fan-story and something I have been begging for since 2004. Because of that, I had the tendency to overlook quite a lot of huge flaws, resulting in a review that was very misleading. Therefore, I present this new review in which I will undo my wrongs. Let's do it!
If you are planning on following the story of this game, it is almost required for you to have read "The Gerudo Wars" manga as this game follows up from it. It also requires you to read the mind of the designer because the comic ended very abruptly and quite a lot has happened since then. The overall goal of this fan-story is to take the kid-friendly Legend of Zelda franchise and rework it into a darker story that has to appeal to an older audience. The series so far includes the comic, two RPG Maker games and two RTS-mods.
Let's get to the very first problem and the reason for why I have a grudge against the man who wrote this lore: The "making it more mature part". This is a very noble thing to attempt, a more mature Zelda title is certain to appeal to quite a lot of people, but not enough for Nintendo to genuinely cater to. However, there is a difference between "mature" and "childish". Mature is when you tackle interesting and controversial problems with a sense of dignity and purpose, I feel like I am experiencing something mature when I am playing around in The Path and I am slowly realizing the subtle commentary on modern-day parenting the game contains. What certainly doesn't qualify as mature is a never-ending flow of depressing events befalling on a cast of suicidal characters.
Having depressive themes in your game is not bad by default, but when you are endlessly throwing in more excuses to make your characters sad, it loses it's mature intentions and it instead becomes sadistic. We are no longer exploring a world with genuine troubles, but rather the author's sadistic fantasies. The crowning moment (SPOILER ALERT) was in the comic where fan-favorite character Saria is, out of nothing, raped by a fellow Kokiri. These are supposed to be kids, how do you even bring up the idea to give one of them the intention to do that?
The only way this story could have saved itself is if it had good lore and frankly this shouldn't be too hard to miss. Puzzling together the entirety of the Zelda mythos is a big task and every player has his own version, this can lead to some very interesting stuff. Throw in a bit of new content and you're freaking golden, however Undyingnephalim (as the creator goes by) went somewhat overboard with his own additions. I wouldn't mind rewriting a few parts of the established story, it might even be downright necessary to fit everything together, but what this guy did was completely change how the world functions. It's like what the Master Quest did with the gameplay, it was the same game we were used to, but it surprised us by changing things we thought we knew, however this trick works well with puzzles, not with story.
To utterly crush whatever hope is left for a decent story: no, it doesn't even make sense within it's own universe. I already mentioned that the manga ended out of nowhere, ending on a battle in the Kokiri Forest in which the (spoiler alert again) Deku Tree kills Sulkaris. That's fine and dandy, but cut to this game and suddenly the Deku Tree died somehow, all the Kokiri are toast, the Huskus are nowhere to be found and Sulkaris is alive. WHAT THE F*CK happened here and why was it not relevant enough to include in the game or manga?
Now that is over, let's get back on top and talk about the gameplay. Combat is what you would expect from RPG Maker, you got a party of characters and run into enemies, nothing spectacular. Boss-fights however follow the same formula and are somewhat boring, it takes a handful of minutes to figure out how to react to their attacks and after that you just fall in a routine for half an hour because of the ridiculous health these bastards have. There are also the bosses who have insane attacks like some Twili Snake-lady that had a massive area-of-effect spell that reduced my entire party to either low health or dead, but it had no cooldown-time or mana cost, so she could just cast it endlessly.
Before you get to these fights though, you have to work your way through some temples and credit has to be given where credit is due: the dungeons and puzzles are nothing short of superb. The level of thought that went into each dungeon can easily rival that of Nintendo's and I found myself cherishing the moments I spend in some of these places. The temple in the desert is by far one of my favorites and I never felt like it was forcing me to remember the entire lay-out of the labyrinths or something like that, all I had to do was pay attention and think.
I could go on for hours on why this game and series as a whole should be avoided like the plague, but there is only one thing left to tell: this game lacks atmosphere. That alone is a perfect indication that this game failed as a Zelda game. Zelda games are almost all about the atmosphere, sailing across the beautiful Great Sea in Wind Waker, the sense of mystery you feel as you progress through the story and the joy you feel in the more comical locations of Hyrule are all fond memories. As I play through this game though, all I feel is blandness. There are not really any characters you can openly interact with whenever you want, most locations are just dull RPG Maker maps that took maybe ten minutes of work and zero thought. There is no personality to any of the towns, I walk through the Ghoma-infested Misery Mire with the same disinterest that I feel when walking around Ordon Village. The world as a whole is rather empty and you have painfully slow movement, combine that with an unreasonably large map and you got a recipe for disaster.
In short: this game is just not fun. The story is insulting, especially to fans of the series. It fails to deliver as both a mature story and a Zelda game, everything feels rushed and sloppy and aside from mildly entertaining dungeon-design, there is nothing to be found here. Perhaps Undyingnephalim should have taken a hint from Majora's Mask, the game he can't stop banging on about in his Youtube comments, and write a more subtle story backed up by a smaller, less-overambitious game.