Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 9: The Crystal Trap

Suppose it was inevitable that Nintendo Adventure Books would eventually expand to the company’s other most famous franchise, The Legend of Zelda. Unfortunately Wayne  only had two games to work with, and it certainly didn’t help that he seemed to be working mostly from the execrable cartoon and comic book versions.

Link and Zelda are chasing Ganon through Midoro Palace (gee, weren’t all the palaces destroyed after being cleared out?) when the evil wizard confronts the two heroes and casts a spell. It encases each of the three Triforces in a shell of crystal, and because the Triforce of Courage is housed inside Link he’s sealed inside crystal as well. Zelda’s torn between staying to protect Link and leaving to find a way to break the spell.

Before we begin the book I thought I’d bring up the problem of Zelda running around smiting monsters with Link. I have nothing at all wrong with princesses being tough in their own right and not needing some dude with a sword doing all the thinking and heavy lifting for them. But she’s still a princess, next in line for the throne. Shouldn’t making sure she’s around to govern her people be her first concern if she’s so concerned for their welfare? Sure Link’s probably glad she came along, but all it takes is one mistake and Hyrule’s out an heir.

Onto the book itself, and there’s no use delaying the fact that it’s just not that good. The system is the same as the Mario books where the player collects items to get past dangers and points to determine rise through a series of ranks, but the experience is a good deal more generic than most of the Mario books. Some may say this is the nature of fantasy but aside from the monsters and the names of the towns, this could just as well be Middle Earth as Hyrule. Come to that, the book flat out starts making stuff up, like if Zelda stays to keep an eye on link she’s attacked by “flaming boomerang demons.” Remember those from the first two games? No, but I remember Goriyas, who used boomerangs as weapons and could have been the menace of that encounter with a little tweaking. Obviously the writer knew about Goriyas, as they appear elsewhere in the book.

The puzzles aren’t especially well-implemented. The first one is even stupid enough to suggest a slingshot might be the weapon capable of stopping Ganon. Some are included just to increase the reader’s score (which I’m honor-bound to point out the LoZ games don’t have). Some provide clues, but some decide what happens for the player. I get the latter at some points, like when Zelda’s wandering around a trackless desert and it’s kind of up to chance whether she stumbles onto a palace or not, but why something like “stay or run”?

I was surprised by the level of violence in the book. Despite seemingly being based heavily on the cartoon (aside from being a brunette Zelda looks just like her TV incarnation), which explained away the monsters “dying” as being transported into this giant jar until Ganon felt like letting them out again, they apparently just die when Zelda shoots them with her bow. In the victorious ending Link’s magic weapon goes right through Ganon, and he stumbles away clutching his bloody wound.

Overall the writing’s dry and uninteresting, adding up to a pretty dull book. Still, if you’re hankering to play as Zelda you could always check out Wand of Gamelon instead…

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