Ocarina of Time Title Screen — Smooth McGroove

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This month’s featured music video is from a talented man who goes by the name Smooth McGroove. We actually never miss an upload from this guy, but I don’t think we’ve ever showcased him on our blog before, which is being rectified today.

Smoothie has been created acappella music videos of video game tunes since the end of 2012. While he did go on a hiatus for a little while, he has been making more music lately. He did remake one of his very first videos recently, which is the title theme to Ocarina of Time.

Rachel and I really enjoy his works (as well as his cat’s cameo in nearly every video!), and we hope you do as well!

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Friday Favorites: Nintendo 64 Games

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

While we have yet to hear Nintendo say anything about creating a mini N64 Classic console — indeed, I believe the company has fairly recently stated that they have no plans for it — I’m still hoping for one some day. Here are some of my favorite N64 games from back in the day.

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Fun fact: I never actually finished a playthrough of this game on the N64 cartridge. Instead, my first full playthrough was on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Nevertheless, this was my first foray into Hyrule as a kid, aside from watching my uncle play a bit of Link to the Past on the SNES. I remember using my uncle’s save file on Ocarina of Time back at my grandparents house, mainly due to him having Epona so I could ride her around Hyrule Field.

Pokemon Puzzle League

A casual puzzle game starring the mascots of one of my favorite franchises was brilliant. Aside from the actual puzzle challenges, I just adored the background music that played during the levels. Medleys taken from the anime and movie soundtracks just made my day.

Super Smash Bros.

We never owned this game, but our cousins on our father’s side of the family did. The only downside was that we didn’t see these cousins too often during the year, just for some birthdays and Christmas. For a while, though, I’d always try to finagle my way into playing some of their video games during family gatherings, and this was one of the top contenders. Super Mario Kart 64 was another favorite.

Paper Mario

Being a simple RPG with a unique aesthetic and considered the spiritual successor to my favorite SNES game, Paper Mario had to be included on this list. While I hear that many believe the sequel — The Thousand Year Door — to be the best in the Paper Mario series, the N64 installment is my favorite. The characters, colorful locations, the music, and the charming story all make this a great game.

What are some of your favorite Nintendo 64 games? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Stories We Need [Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask]

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

This post goes along with our Zelda Month theme for November along with NaNoWriMo that Rachel and I also participate in every year. This is more of a personal, introspective piece, so I hope you enjoy it. 

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The story line of video games is important to me. Like a good book, I need to be invested in what is going on in the game, the “why is this nonsense happening,” the plot. Don’t get me wrong, games without stories — like beat-em-ups or racing games — can be just as fun, but I definitely prefer games with a strong story.

It may just be the writer in me or it could be due to the gaming influences I’ve grown up with. My first clear memory of Mario was from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars rather than Super Mario World. Mario RPG had a story and an interesting world and characters who all had their own agendas and personalities, even if they were a little cliche. Mario World had a bare-bones story, making you go from level to level to chase down Bowser and the princess, and did its primary job of being a platformer.

(Of course, the other reason why Mario World’s story is so-so to me could be because, when I was first introduced to it, I wondered why the princess would need saving. Sure, at the beginning of Mario RPG, I learned that Bowser tended to kidnap her a lot, but after we busted her out, she refused to be left behind and joined the party to fight. Why couldn’t she just escape herself in Mario World with her frying pan and psych bombs? But, I digress.)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was another game that gave me a story line to adore. And, yes, most of the games in the rest of the franchise may have used the same general plot line — with the help of a woman with wisdom, a guy with courage goes to defeat a man with power — but they all have fantastic new adventures, and I’ve enjoyed most of them.

One that I did not particularly care for was Ocarina of Time’s sequel, Majora’s Mask. Despite the game’s following and all the praise it has gotten, I have never been able to bring myself to finish it. I have absolutely no desire to dive into that story myself.

Don’t get me wrong, Majora’s Mask was a game that I believe was done brilliantly. The themes of the plot — particularly loss, grief, and death — were heavy stuff that was pulled off masterfully. I appreciate what the game has brought to the table and how thought-provoking the game continues to be today.

But, unlike Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask was never a story I needed.

As a writer, one of the most overheard pieces of writing advice you hear is, “Write what you know.” Use your personal experiences, your feelings, your thoughts in your writing to evoke the same from your readers.

But that’s not why we write. We write to explore new worlds, to escape our current reality, to figure out our feelings, to maybe start following a different train of thought. Those are also the same reasons as to why I play video games.

Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 and Majora’s Mask in 2000. I’ll be honest, Ocarina of Time was a fun quest, one where I could play with the hero, but in 1998, I had no idea what I was doing. I just enjoyed meeting the characters, getting through a few dungeons and, on my uncle’s copy of the game, riding Epona around Hyrule Field on his (completed) save file. Majora’s Mask was darker, gloomier, and I didn’t care at all for the timed day mechanic as a kid.

The games came out on the Wii’s Virtual Console in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and I remember being excited for them. For the first time, I actually beat Ocarina of Time on my own, and the rush of accomplishment and pride was amazing. I was seventeen, in the second half of my junior year of high school, the time when everyone in my grade was panicking about SATs and college applications. While I did well in high school, I was firmly pretending that college was not a thing that existed. I ignored the impending deadlines, ignored the anxiety of trying to figure out a college major let alone a school, ignored the fact that my best friends were looking to go out of state.

I eventually made the decision not to even apply to any schools. Instead, I got a job while going to the local community college for an associates degree in information technology. When the SATs rolled around, my friends spent the night before with SAT prep books and practice tests. Me? I played video games with Rachel.

Ocarina of Time let me be in control during that tumultuous part of my life. I was with the hero, I was helping and saving people. I was allowed to explore the unknown, to figure out what I needed and wanted to do. I was able to get a horse. I was part of a story where I could make a difference.

I tried playing Majora’s Mask when it became available on the Virtual Console, and I beat a couple of the dungeons before being done. At that point in my life, I was nineteen and feeling left behind when comparing myself with my friends’ journeys. I was in the middle of switching my associate’s degree from IT to computer forensics to see if that would help keep me interested in school while still working retail. My passions for writing and gaming were getting more serious, but there was always those niggling questions of, “But what will you do for money? How will you do that for a living?”

Majora’s Mask echoed the chaos that I felt then. I was running out of time. I was missing friends from high school, friends that had promised with me to keep in touch, but then the friendships dissolved. I was part of too many stories that could be erased at any time, ones where my efforts wouldn’t matter and I’d find myself stuck at the beginning. Or, worse, a dead end.

It wasn’t the kind of story, the kind of game, that I needed back then.

Of course, my retail and computer skills have helped me tremendously with my current job. It’s not as creative as I would like it, but it has given me fantastic coworkers, an actual schedule, benefits, and pay that helps support both my bills and my gaming. While I’m not quite where I want to be yet, I can’t complain about where my life path has taken me. Ocarina’s story, to me, was about exploring and finding yourself and that’s what I’m still doing.

People should be told to write (or play) what you need more often. Stories have such a profound effect on readers, gamers, what-have-you, that I don’t believe people realize how much they need a story until they experience it. Ocarina of Time is one of my favorite stories from the Legend of Zelda franchise because it is what I needed at that time in my life. It’s taken me some time to fully realize it’s impact, but better late than never, right?

What video game story line do you feel has made an impact on your life?

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Hero of Our Time – NateWantsToBattle

So, Spotify’s Daily Mix playlists are fairly spot-on. Lately, they’ve been creating two mixes for me based on video game music (apparently I listen to enough to warrant the need for two mixes). Due to listening to the likes of Big Bad Bosses, Spotify eventually threw “Hero of Our Time” at me by NateWantsToBattle, or Nathan Sharp, one of the members of Big Bad Bosses.

I fell in love with the energetic beat and the, “Go, hero, you can do it!” message of the song. The song itself is part of an album of original songs that Nate published dedicated to the Legend of Zelda series. He also has albums of Pokemon songs, as well as covers of hit songs and albums of his original work.

We hope you enjoy this song, as well as Nate’s other work if you choose to go and take a listen!

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For the Love of NPCs

Double Jump Kris MiiBeing the hero of a video game is one of the best parts of playing. Many boot up a console to escape the real world for a while, to fall into a fantasy where you help to save the world.

Along the way, you generally meet many NPCs…

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Non-playable characters, or NPCs, make up the bulk of video game worlds. Generally, they’re there to help point you in the right direction if not to just decorate the scenery. Not many have lives, if you will, outside of being in a convenient place for the hero.

Then there are others who, for all intents and purposes, have a life outside of the hero’s role of the game. For example, there’s Malon of LonLon Ranch from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As Child Link, you meet her in Hyrule Castle Town and she gives you an egg that will hatch into a cucco (or chicken, for those of you who many not play the Legend of Zelda games) to wake up her father who is blocking your entrance to the castle.

Honestly, that’s really the only required interaction with Malon in the game. Any other interactions, either as Child or Adult Link, are optional.

Of course, the majority of players go out of their way to visit the ranch in order to gain Epona the horse later in the game. If you do go through with these interactions, you learn about Malon’s backstory, about her mother, her father, and the ranch’s farmhand Ingo. As an adult, she stays on the ranch despite the hardships of it being under Ingo’s control because she wants to protect the horses. She’s an NPC in the game, but she has a backstory and life just as the main character does.

She’s a hero of her own story, even though she doesn’t directly impact Link’s. I think it’s an awesome development for her part, considering she’s an NPC. To give that kind of depth to an NPC is one of the many reasons why Ocarina of Time holds a special place in my heart.

What do you think of NPCs? Do you have any favorites?

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Friday Favorites: Past Zelda Games

Double Jump Kris Mii BREATH OF THE WILD IS OUT! And the Switch, the Switch too, you may need that if you don’t want to play the Breath of the Wild on the Wii U… Rachel and I don’t have either yet (we’re working on it!), and we are so anxious to get them! Admittedly, we were a little skeptical about the Switch, especially with the price of everything, but as launch day got closer and closer, we became less caring about how fat our wallets are. They can totally go on diets.

To celebrate the Zelda franchise, I figured I would give a little shout-out to a few of my favorite Zelda games. This list is in no particular order, as I’m sure it will get disrupted once I get my hands on Breath of the Wild.

Four Swords Adventures

This GameCube game has been a source of fantastic memories for Rachel and me. It was always a fun game to play together, even though we both have different play styles… For instance, I would be on the front-lines against the enemies while Rachel was totally preoccupied with collected the Force Gems. It got a little crazy sometimes when she would accidentally get left behind or I would get swarmed with enemies while she chased after something shiny!

Twilight Princess

Link turns into a wolf! This was pretty much the most exciting development to ever happen in a Zelda game to my sixteen-year-old self. The game itself has grown as a favorite with its graphics and plot line. The final battle with Ganondorf at the end is one of my absolutely favorite boss battles!

Ocarina of Time

This was the Zelda game that started my love of the franchise. Besides Super Mario RPG, Ocarina of Time was the game that I had always bothered my uncle to play as a child whenever I was over my grandparents’ house. This game, with its characters, gorgeous music, and wonderful graphics helped cement my love of gaming.

Skyward Sword

One of my favorite aspects of Skyward Sword was the detail of the setting and the graphics, especially on the character models. Rachel and I swooned when we first saw Link’s crooked smile when Zelda’s Loftwing wakes him up at the beginning of the game! The emotion of the characters were amazing, and we definitely shed some tears during the more intense moments of the game. It was awesome playing the game that, on the timeline, started the journey of the Chosen Hero and Princess of Destiny, and finding the connections between the locations in Skyward and other Zelda games was so much fun!

Aside from Breath of the Wild, what are some of your favorite Legend of Zelda games?

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Loss In Majora’s Mask

Rachel Mii Double JumpHappy Thursday!

I’ve been talking about themes in writing over on my writing blog. I’ve talked about death and I started thinking about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Majora’s Mask is probably one of the darkest Zelda games, in my opinion, and the theme of death has a lot to do with it.

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There are various theories floating around the Internet about Majora’s Mask. One where Link is actually dead and he’s accepting his own fate and the theory that the game is actually the five stages of grieve because either Link himself is dead (hence the first theory) or he’s grieving the death of Navi. (If you don’t know either one of these theories, click on the links and they’ll take you to each respective theory on ZeldaDungeon.net.)

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m thinking more specifically about the Skull Kid.

There’s also a theory floating around that the Skull Kid from Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess are the same Skull Kid. In Ocarina of Time, Link plays Saria’s Song for him. In Majora’s Mask, the Skull Kid mentions that Link has “the same smell as the fairy kid who taught me that song in the woods.” The Skull Kid from Twilight Princess also knows Saria’s Song.

And, according to the official Zelda timeline, these three games line up one right after another. First Ocarina of Time where Link first meets the Skull Kid, then, if the hero is successful, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess is after that.

People also speculate that the Skull Kid wears the Mojora’s Mask because he is ashamed that he has no face. He has no friends and the mask makes him looking more intimidating, making us wonder what his past is really like.

So, with all that said, what is my point with this post?

I don’t think Majora’s Mask is about death in a concrete way. Sure, Link can be grieving, Link and/or Navi can be dead, but I think the main focus is the Skull Kid himself.

While the Skull Kid is the main antagonist, it’s not really him who is the bad guy. It’s the mask, Majora. The Skull Kid has been wearing it for so long that it’s taken over his mind and his body. Sure, he’s mischievous and likes to play tricks, but it wasn’t him who wanted to destroy everything. It was the mask.

In other words, I think Majora’s Mask is more about the death and loss of innocence.

All the Skull Kid wanted was to make friends, but the mask took over his mind and spirit. He wasn’t able to live the life he deserved or wanted because he found that mask and dared to put it on.

This can also pertain to Link as well. In Ocarina of Time he traveled seven years back and forth between being a child and an adult. He was asleep for seven years and when he woke up, he realized that he had suddenly gone through puberty. What a shock, huh?

In Majora’s Mask, he’s a child as it’s on the “hero is successful” part of the timeline. But here’s the thing:

  • Link may be dead. In that case, he lost his childhood.
  • Link may be grieving the death of Navi. If that’s the case, he remembers everything that happened in Ocarina of Time. He’s been in the mind of his adult-self. He knows things a ten-year-old shouldn’t.
  • Link may be normal, everything’s fine and dandy, but what happens in Majora’s Mask? The world is ending and Link transforms himself into various races and people through the many masks he collects. By doing this, he could very well stoop down to the Skull Kid’s level. Those masks could warp Link’s mind just like the Majora’s Mask did to the Skull Kid

And that’s all I’ve got. Sure, Majora’s Mask is about death and turmoil, but I think there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

What are your thoughts? Am I making any sense? Do you have different thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

This theory was expanded on NowLoading.co. Check it out!

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