Imitation is the sincerest way… to land yourself in hot water thanks to the highly litigious nature of our modern society. But despite what Disney’s pitbulls have to say nearly all forms of media and entertainment live by recycling, reusing, and rehashing whatever proved to be profitable. This is dreadfully apparent in our beloved video game world if you look at the mountains of shovelware out there. But stealing someone elses idea isn’t necessarily a sign that something will suck, in fact many great games have been made just reinterpreting someone else. The Legend of Zelda games seem to stand alone in their action/adventure/rpg whatever you classify them as but lets not forget that there have been 3 imitators who in my opinion gave Zelda a run for its money. So here they are!
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon – Konami, Nintendo 64
Hilariously predating beloved Zelda game Ocarina of Time by several months, Konami offered up another entry in their bizarre Mystical Ninja series that is well worth mention. While the world in the game isn’t quite as alive and fleshed out as Ocarina, the set up and world exploring is pretty similar. Whats different is that instead of just one guy to control who has a range of tools, you can switch between 4 heroes instantly at any time each with their own skills and powers to help you along. One has a hook-shot like weapon and, not joking, Super Saiyan capability, another can shrink and reveal ghosts, another can super jump and bomb, and the last can homing missile and become a mermaid. The game also likes to mix in a few unique “Punch-Out” like giant robot battles that are an absolute blast to play. It’s not the masterpiece that Ocarina is, but its an unforgettable experience to say the least.
Darksiders 1 and 2 – Vigil Games, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU
The welcoming, whimsical appearance of Zelda is easily improved by dialing up the beef factor all the way to “Rob Liefeld.” Darksiders 1 was kind of a surprise! Set after the world was destroyed by someone activating the Apocalypse too early you play as War, one of the Four Horsemen trying to unravel the mystery. War is about the size of a UPS truck and wields a bad ass arsenal of tricked out weapons as he chops up equally ostentatious enemies. While the Zelda style set up of over-world and dungeon are slightly warped once you realize what you are doing it will feel just like a more combat heavy Zelda game. The “parallel sequel” starring War’s brother Death improves on the first in nearly all ways except for the excessive DLC that THQ piled on it. 2 takes on a more mystical look and moves the combat much closer to God of War. Darksiders 1 and 2 were really special games made more-so by the sad realization that we may never get a proper conclusion to the story. When THQ crashed so did Vigil games and the team disbanded but the rights were picked up by Nordic Games, known for…. not much. Darksiders is good for those of you out there who like Zelda games but also like heavy metal.
Okami – Platinum Games, PS2, Wii, PS3
You may remember that a short time before Twilight Princess came out Platinum (then Clover studios under the control of Capcom) released Japanese ink art style Zelda game “Okami” prompting a legion of zingers from people saying that they already played Twilight Princess when it was called Okami. As Amaterasu, the sun goddess in wolf form, you travel across ancient painted Japan trying to stop the wave of darkness that’s ruining everyone’s good time. Like Darksiders, Okami took the Zelda format and improved on the combat first and foremost. After melee-ing enemies you would then freeze everything onto paper and then draw on what kind of attack you wanted to do like drawing bombs or cuts. Like always with Platinum is was pretty damn clever, and while unusual it was eventually something you got used to while playing. I think what I remember most about it is how the story alone took longer than most Zelda games but then came hunting all the extra stuff which easily added about 50 hours. Truly the most complete dog simulator game made to date, as you can run around barking endlessly at nothing, and get massive combat bonuses and fabulous prizes by working dog pee and coily dog poop into your attack combos.
Let this be a lesson to all of you. If a franchise or game style that you love isn’t getting the love you feel it deserves and you want something more, just make your own damn Zelda game! Don’t expect Nintendo to improve the genre on its own, nothing will do the Zelda series more good than some competition trying something new and tasty.
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Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.