Unless you've been living in lead-lined shelter, you'll have heard about the Nintendo Switch. You'll have heard about it being sold out pretty much everywhere. Now, you'll even have heard that Nintendo are overjoyed with the Switch's sales. It's been such a success that some outlets are reporting the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has somehow outsold the number of Switches sold.
However, what if you are one of the many, many people who find themselves without a Nintendo Switch? What are you supposed to do to satisfy your Legend of Zelda craving? What if you can't play Breath of the Wild? Well, there may not be a Breath of the Wild replacement out at the moment, but you can certainly re-experience the highlights of the series so far with these three contemporary homages.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
- In the style of: A Link To The Past
- Platform: PC
- Price: $14.99
Blossom Tales borrows heavily from A Link To The Past's visual style, and gameplay mechanics, but otherwise treads it's own path in terms of narrative and tone. Blossom Tales adds a The Princess Bride framework to the story, giving it a sense of humor that flows throughout the entire game.
The dungeons are a real test of the mechanics, constantly forcing you to reconsider how you use the multitude of tools you pick up along the way. Furthermore, the NPCs and supporting characters are entertaining and engaging enough to drive you along.
Most importantly, it avoids tripping into a pure nostalgia fest (something that can't be said for many Zelda-likes on the market). This has clearly been designed to pay fealty to the classic Zelda game, but doesn’t want to just mirror it. Ultimately, Blossom Tales is fun, while triggering that memory-lane joy we all want. It lacks the bells and whistles of more modern games in the Zelda series, but is absolutely worth your time.
You can read my full review here.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
- In the style of: Wind Waker
- Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
- Price: $14.99
Oceanhorn is that great game that you've probably not played. It has passed one million sales, and is available on pretty much every platform available (it's even coming to Switch). It is a wonderfully colorful game that evokes that cartoonish design of Wind Waker. The narrative is clear, interesting, and has enough of an emotional edge to keep you rooting for your character. Plus, it looks a lot like Wind Waker as it is.
Exploration and backtracking feature heavily in the game's design, but not in a painfully interrupting way. The dungeons and combat are distinct enough to stand out, with some fantastic boss battles.
Oceanhorn sets itself apart from other similar games, and Wind Waker, through its locked perspective camera. While this sounds like a simple design choice, it actually has a resounding effect on the way you play. Puzzles not only require you to determine their proper solution (normally moving boxes onto switches, pulling levers, or using a new tool or weapon) but also to complete these puzzles without the benefit of being able to spin the camera.
You have to stop and think about the problem ahead, rather than using the camera to flag up an obvious solution. There truly is a surprising amount of polish to Oceanhorn. If you want a more contemporary Zelda-like, this is for you.
You can see my footage of the opening to Oceanhorn here.
Darksiders: Warmastered Edition
- In the style of: Ocarina of Time
- Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3
- Price: $19.99
Darksiders originally came out in 2010 and eventually received a sequel despite coming in below expected sales and THQ facing bankruptcy. Both games have since received remasters (with some hints that sales are being monitored with hopes of them leading to a third entry), but the first entry in this series really deserves more love than it gets. It has an incredible art direction and narrative, set on a literally post-Apocalyptic Earth with the player as one of the actual horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The gameplay diverts from Ocarina of Time's sword and shield play, and provides a more varied range of third-person combat similar to God Of War. Like all the entries on this list, the dungeons and puzzles are fun and challenging enough to feel rewarding upon completion.
Darksiders has two key elements which should sell the game to any in doubt. Firstly, the open-world, backtracking nature of the game feels beautifully reminiscent of Ocarina of Time. There is a clear distinction in the areas, with clear love and attention going into making sure that Darksiders doesn't feel like the drab-a-thons which surround it in the genre. Each area offers a new aesthetic for you to gawk at and explore. And there are Zelda-esq tools and items to help you get through each.
Secondly, the narrative and characters are outstanding even today. The plot is different, and has some genuinely surprising shifts. The side characters and NPCs develop as the plot goes on, including one voiced by Mark Hamill. Hamill absolutely has a riot throughout Darksiders and is worth the entrance fee alone. He steals every single moment he's in (rightfully so), contrasts starkly with the player character, and plays a dual antagonist/assistant role with aplomb.
The Legend of Zelda series has survived and thrived because of it's ability to innovate gameplay. In turn, this has lead to a catalogue of games which have tried to replicate that special formula. Many simply fall into the pit of mediocrity, or walk too near (or too far) to their source inspiration. Whatever style of Zelda game you prefer, there is a game you can play to scratch that Hyrulian itch without a Switch.