John Smith's Amateur (i.e., better than IGN) Game Reviews

I’ve recently begun an impromptu marathon of sorts of the Legend of Zelda series. Since this is my first time playing these games (except for Zelda 2, which I’ve had for over ten years at this point and still haven’t completely beaten…yeah…), I thought it might be fun to make a rambling chronicle of some of my thoughts on each game I play. So, without further ado…

##A Brief Summary: Zelda 2

This game is basically Medieval Death Simulator 1987. It’s not so much that the enemies are difficult (though some of them are), but more that once you die, the game resets and you go all the way back to the very beginning (though you retain progress you’ve made towards leveling, completed bosses/levels/palaces stay defeated, and items stay in your inventory). Fighting your way back to wherever you were can get very frustrating after the tenth time. Also, good luck finishing this game without a walkthrough. There are numerous essential items, spells, and even location that the game really doesn’t clue you in on how to find. Also also, there’s next to no story in the game itself (though the instruction manual gives a bit of context if you have it). Taking all that into account, however, the game’s challenges are not impossible to overcome, and it’s highly rewarding every time you manage to snag a new item or defeat another boss. It also has a pretty big “open world” for its time that’s fun to explore. Furthermore, it has a surprisingly well-developed theme for a game with such a sparse story: that theme being one of maturing, accepting responsibility, and learning to survive in the “real” world. For instance, one small section of the map is identical to the map from the original game—implying that it was “kid stuff,” if you will, compared to the more expansive and challenging Zelda 2. In addition, many of the NPC’s have repetitive and utterly useless dialogue such as “good day” or “nice to meet you.” While this was no doubt done to preserve cartridge space, it gives the impression of being in a world where everything is routine and no imagination is necessary, and instills a sense of loneliness (since mot of your interactions aren’t meaningful)…which is what reality is like for many adults stuck in boring jobs. And of course, the greater difficulty of the game makes it seem to have much higher stakes than the original. All in all, this is not a bad game, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

##A Link to the Past


A prequel to the original two games, LttP established the formula for most of the subsequent games in much the same way as Goldfinger established the formula for the later Bond movies. (Kind of an odd comparison, but just go with it. :stuck_out_tongue: ) It’s also a huge step up from the prior games—the graphics look better, there’s an actual (albeit simple) plot and characters, it’s gameplay is more intuitive, and you can complete it without a walkthrough (though it can be a bit obtuse at times, so you may still want to consult a walkthrough if you really can’t figure out what to do).

The plot does a wonderful job of creating a fairy tale-esque atmosphere. You have to collect three items to gain a magical sword (three is a very common number in fairy tales), after which you must rescue seven maidens (the number seven and rescuing maidens are also classic components of fairy tales) who’ve been imprisoned by Ganon in an alternate dimension (fairy tales often involve a quest to defeat evil that involves travelling to a land with no clear physical connection to the real world). A number of smaller details along the way add to this, such as the witch who sells you healing potions, the pond fairy who gives you better items if you throw certain things into her pond (much like the fable of the Honest Woodman), and the dwarven smiths who will temper your sword if you rescue one of them. It also has the lack of emotional realism common to traditional fairy tales—the characters’ motivations are simple, they don’t change, and there’s no ambiguity about good and evil. Lastly, the ending is unambiguously triumphant—by obtaining the Triforce, you completely restore Hyrule, even bringing the King back from the dead. All these things together make the game very charming in much the same manner as Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

The simple graphics compliment that sense of charm very well. Much as the characters are simple, and the physics and biology are fantastical, the graphics are stylized and abstract. (Some time later, The Wind Waker took a similarly took a stylized approach to add a sense of innocence and charm to the game, from what I’ve been told.) As far as I’m concerned, LttP’s graphics compliment its story perfectly.

The gameplay, by and large, is great. You start with three hearts and no items. As you gain more health and items, you really start to feel your character progressing and improving, a point which is really brought out in the final dungeon, where you have to fight some bosses from previous dungeons—only to find that, at such a late stage in the game, they’re pieces of cake (despite having been quite challenging earlier). Unlike Zelda 2, you’re rarely faced with enemies who will simply cut you to shreds—to add challenge, you sometimes have to fight enemies whose abilities combine and play off each other in deadly ways, but you rarely, if ever, have to fight anything that’s insanely difficult to beat in and of itself. That makes the combat seem more “fair” and makes you strategize more. As for the bosses, they are all very outlandish and creative, and though I thought a few were too easy, and a few others were unfairly hard, by and large they were very satisfying to fight. On another note, the items are very well-utilized—typically, the item you collect in a given dungeon is essential to completing that dungeon. However, the items don’t become useless after you finish said dungeon—there are always other dungeons and locations that require the use of a given item. This also adds to the “exploration factor” of the game, since more areas will be unlocked the more items you have. That brings me to my last point—this game has an incredible open world for 1992. It’s big enough to get a bit lost without the map, there are things to find or marvel at in every nook and cranny, and you end up really wanting to explore the whole thing. Once you get to the Dark World, it gets even better because it becomes more challenging to navigate.

Another thing this game does well is the presentation of its story. After the intro, you learn an important piece of the plot or the backstory every time you beat a dungeon. Thus, by completing gameplay objectives, you are rewarded with more of the story. This is a very simple (in keeping with the fairy tale aesthetic) but elegant way to use the story to motivate you to play the game.

Lastly, the soundtrack is awesome. As evidence, I cite the orchestral versions of the themes used in A Link Between Worlds—they sound simply majestic.

In conclusion, A Link to the Past is an outstanding game with great design and a well-presented story. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys exploration/adventure, fantasy, or a good challenge.


obvious rip off of my reviews is obvious


no good job man, too bad I don’t have a DS


What? You have game reviews too? Really? What a coincidence!!1!


Admittedly I did kinda get the idea from you. XD


Oh man, you should get one. I’ll fite you in Smash. :stuck_out_tongue:


tl:dr, Skimmed, but I do want to read it all l8r because what I did see, I liked. :slight_smile:

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This review was pretty good

I am upset because I can’t read the latter half of this because I haven’t played Link to the Past


(also, you should totally review OoC once you get it)


Ocarina of Context? :wink:

That will probably be my next review (I ordered the game, but it’s not here yet, so it’ll be a couple of weeks before I write about it.)

Go play it u skrub
(Or just go ahead and read it. XD There’s not really much to spoil, and I avoided mentioning the two or three things that could be considered plot twists. :stuck_out_tongue: )

wat consoles is it on

Virtual console for Wii/Wii U



okay i can get it


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Reviving this thread to request a review of famous visual novel, Bible Black.

You lost me at “visual novel.” :stuck_out_tongue:

Though on a serious note, Ocarina of Time will be my next review, though it’ll still be a week or two until I finish it.

Update 12/24: I finished Ocarina of Time a few weeks ago, but I haven’t really come up with much to say in a review. It was an awesome game, the mechanics were fun (I especially loved the Hookshot), and the story was simple but a bit more poignant than LttP’s. That’s all I’ve got.


Now that that’s out of the way

I can continue this project! Expect a review of Morrowind in the next few days!


well, been a while, assuming the morrowind review is coming

totally not doing this because John asked me to


Welp, it’s late and I’m not sleepy. Here goes!

#Morrowind Review
(Revised 12/8/2019)

Morrowind is my favorite game. It doesn’t have perfect gameplay, most of its NPCs are extremely one-dimensional, and there’s almost no voice acting. People who like it are often accused of being blinded by nostalgia. Well, I didn’t play it until 2013, after playing Skyrim, and I’d never even heard of The Elder Scrolls until shortly before the release of Skyrim. So why do I like this game so much?

The best thing about Morrowind is twofold: it creates an extremely detailed world, and the main quest forces you to learn about it in an engaging way. Instead of teaching you about the world purely through infodumps, you learn by doing quests. As you go, each quest teaches you something about the history of Morrowind: who the Dwemer were, why the Ashlanders worship Daedra instead of the Tribunal, the relationship between Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal, etc.

A sample quest: you’ve just contracted a deadly disease. To cure it, you’re told to seek help from a certain Telvanni mage. Who are the Telvanni? Ask just about any NPC and they’ll inform you that House Telvanni is one of the three Great Houses of Morrowind, and is comprised of anarchic, xenophobic mages. Go to the mage, and he will agree to try to cure your disease if you get him an item from someone in the equivalent of a leper colony. Go there, and you’ll discover that the person you’re supposed to meet with is the last of a long-extinct race that is very significant to the game’s backstory. He will give you some insight into the events leading to their extinction, which are of particular significance. Then, you return to the mage, who cures you—but the cure has a side-effect that, depending on how you interpret things, may be an indication that you are a prophesied Messianic figure. As you can see, each step of the quest ties in with a broader concept in the lore that you need to know to understand the game; the quest objectives themselves are simply “bait” to entice you to learn. Many quests in the game are designed in this fashion, and it’s absolutely brilliant.

Adding to this, you will often find multiple, sometimes conflicting, versions of the truth. For instance, to some, the Tribunal are gods worthy of worship; to others, they are usurpers of the Daedra; to others still, they are powerful but unworthy of worship compared to the Aedra. It’s left for you to decide who, if anyone, is right. In fact, there are some players who think the main villain of the game is more worthy of support than the Tribunal, the self-proclaimed good guys, because he makes a very compelling case for his cause.

The main quest also has several built-in “breaks” where you’ll be told to go do other stuff until you’ve leveled up some more. This is diametrically opposed to the design of the later Elder Scrolls games’ main quests, which constantly encourage you to rush through them by acting like everything is a dire emergency, even though there is never a penalty for waiting. Morrowind wants you to smell the roses, learn about the world, and do things for yourself without hand-holding. There are tons of factions you can join, as well as stand-alone quests. Many of these help flesh out other aspects of the world: the relationship between the Empire and the native Dunmer, the feuds between the three Great Houses, different feuds and alliances between Great Houses and other factions such as guilds, and so on. That leads me to my next point:

The world in Morrowind has a believably complex political and religious situation. There are three or four religions, five or six political factions, and several non-political groups. All of them have their own views on each other and the world in general, creating a complex web of relationships in which almost every group is allied with at least two groups that oppose each other. This means that there are no clearly-defined “sides” across factions. You can be a Dumner mage who worships the Tribunal and is loyal to the empire, or a Dunmer mage who worships the Tribunal but thinks the Empire are scum who must be driven out, or a Dunmer mage who hates the Empire and worships the Daedra. (And whatever set of allegiances you choose, you can join factions the reflect your beliefs, unlike the later games which don’t encourage you to create such a complex nexus of beliefs, and if you create one on your own, it will mostly be mere background information.) But despite all that, the main quest involves uniting all of the primary factions in a singular cause—which, as you may imagine, is no simple feat.

A related great aspect of Morrowind is that there is a good deal of variety in its quests. While most of them are ultimately fetch-quests, many of them have a unique twist that keeps them from feeling repetitive as such quests are wont to do. One quest has you visit shrines as part of a pilgrimage; another has you act as a go-between for unlikely lovers; yet another has you wander through a maze to get to an ancient tomb. This level of variety sets Morrowind apart from most other open-world games, in which too many of the quests involve retrieving items from mook-filled dungeons. (Skyrim is particularly guilty on that account.)

A consequence of having all these factions and creative quests is that you can easily spend more time talking to people and hanging out in civilized areas, and less time engaged in violence, than you do in the later games. Of course, if you want to spend most of your time hacking and slashing, you can, but Morrowind has lots to offer apart from that. While not everyone will feel this way, I find it very refreshing to have lots of nonviolent things to do in between my rampages of bloodlust. This also, in my opinion, does much to mitigate criticisms of the combat. It doesn’t matter that much if it’s clunky if you don’t spend most of your time doing it.

As far as gameplay goes, Morrowind is one of the most poorly balanced games you will ever find—and that makes it awesome. At high levels, and with careful application of enchantment and alchemy, you can kill every enemy in a single blow, leap across the entire island in a single bound, and create massive town-annihilating fireballs. But the key is that you have to be at a high level and know what you’re doing—the game doesn’t just hand you the keys to infinite power and say “have fun!” It makes you earn that power by making you start as a pathetic weakling and gradually working your way up from there. Thus, when you’re powerful enough to unbalance the game, it feels like a reward you’ve earned, instead of bad design.

Before I conclude, some responses to the common criticisms I mentioned at the beginning. The boring NPCs are a necessary consequence of making a game this huge—there’s not time to flesh out every character. What counts is that there are notable characters, such as Vivec (about whom essays can be and have been written), Divayth Fyr, Dagoth Ur, and Yagrum Bagarn. As for the lack of voice acting—the fact that almost all dialogue is delivered via the written word means that there are no limitations on how much dialogue can be recorded, and that the developers could revise it as they went. This is a big part of the reason the game’s lore and factions have so much depth, and why you can spend so much time outside of combat. The depth, time spent in conversation, and text together make the game feel almost like a huge interactive novel, which is quite exciting if you’re into that kind of thing. The looser constraints on dialogue writing also mean that, when it comes to quest-relevant NPCs, they have have much more interesting and better-crafted dialogue than NPCs in the later games. Furthermore, because the dialogue is text-based, the modding potential is unlimited. New characters can be added, or existing ones can be given larger roles, by anyone who can write decently; there’s no need to hire a voice actor.

In conclusion, Morrowind creates a fantastical but seemingly credible world like no other game, and like few other works of fiction. It’s not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, I highly recommend checking it out. There’s nothing else quite like it out there.


you know, the title of this topic is kinda obvious, i mean any reviewer other than IGN is good :stuck_out_tongue:

but anyways, i’ve been meaning to play morrowind and skyrim, it certainly sound pretty good though


That’s kinda the joke. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Huzzah! I also recommend Oblivion, though it’s different from the others. The focus is less on worldbuilding and more on relatively isolated quests/questlines.


I want to play Morrowind now.


You have a weird Linux distro that won’t run Steam, right?

This is a replacement engine for Morrowind that has a few Linux versions. If you can find a way to download the game, you might actually be able to play it!


I’ll see if I can, thanks!


I think you’ll enjoy Witcher 1, if you ever get to it…

Yeah, I really still need to play Morrowind. It’s on my list of games to play, I am just yet to get to it…

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