Zelda: Outlands +Q (part 3)

Blobby eyeball creature in Level U doesn’t unlock anything but rupees….X_X…

But now we can buy moblin meat and potions with Bagu’s letter, and the Goron shop with the Kokiri Sword and Goron Shield is unlocked with the ocarina. So at least rupees are worth more than they were.

Meanwhile, back in Level T, remember that you just received two expansions to your bomb bag. Take the hint. Both the raft and the dungeon’s Tetrarch Fairy are not far off.

With another fairy comes another ocarina warp location: directly across the stream from Level O. There’s some obvious goodies and a warp cave that returns you to the other side of the stream…but not much more than that so far.

With more progress comes more ocarina warp locations…which you can’t really control. Playing the ocarina can take you to any of them. Now and then I suspect that your location on the map has some sort of correlating, mirroring relationship with where you warp to, but I’m not sure.

What this means is that, with the expanded range, you can no longer count on the ocarina to take you across the central water body. At least, not with any predictability. So, while getting the raft from Level T might feel a bit redundant, it’s really just in time. From now on, it’s the only way you can cross the central water body until you find the Gerudo warp caves.

(Actually, I remember some water in the upper left corner of the map, near a waterfall. I think the raft had some sort of use there, during the first quest?)

Along with the Outlands signature crisscrossing between dungeons comes another reversal of traditional Zelda mechanics. Each dungeon will not necessarily give you something that you need to unlock the next, sequential path forward. A treasure from one dungeon, the ocarina, has unlocked two dungeon entrances so far. Two others were accessible from the very beginning, even without the sword.

Like acquiring the sword, the expectation that the next treasure should unlock the next dungeon is so ubiquitous across Zelda games that, without it, you can easily feel lost. With Level T behind us, the ocarina has gained more warp spots and, ironically, appears a little less useful for it. And receiving the raft feels almost disappointing, since we’ve been coming and going across the water for awhile now without it.

This made me assume, several times now, that there is no clear path forward ever and each time you have to do a ground-up systematic investigation of everything.

So I spun my wheels for awhile before remembering that there are suggestions of where to go next, even if the treasures are not always involved. Back. in Level T, Zelda said there was a dungeon with twelve guards. Typically, numbered guards could only mean one thing. And they usually come in pairs of four or five so the uncommon pairs of six adding up to twelve are easy to track down and rule out.

Level T sets an interesting precedent for the next three dungeons: continuing the theme of the Subrosian warp caves, the secret staircases are often one-way passages. Level L particularly is arranged so these paths loop back on each other. The next two dungeons, N and A, also have tricky underground staircases, but at this point T and L still hold the record.

Ooh look another sprite from The Adventure of Link!

Level L also has the next item, after the ocarina, to unlock multiple dungeons: the Handy Glove. Level N is hard to miss if you do just a little bit of experimenting outside of L.

Next, it’s time to hit up the puzzle next to the cemetery in the lower left corner of the map, now that we can actually push rocks outside of dungeons. The hint-for-rupees Subrosian said it could be solved the same way it was in quest one, after all.

I knew, from the moment I saw this mushroom tree, that it would lead to a dungeon. In the second quest, if not the first

Interesting touch, saving this location for later in the game. The puzzle that lets you access this area felt significant in the first quest to- last time around, there was a heart container hidden in the area. It put me over the quota necessary for one of the Gerudos to hand over the Staff of Byrna. Speaking of, between L, A and a few other random holes in the ground, we’re at more than enough to get the staff in quest two.

If you remember Zelda’s hint about the “red tree path” from Level N you’ll probably find your way to Level C, right next to where the Thunderbird’s fortress was in the first quest. Just a few screens in, though, we naturally learn that we need all eight of the Tetrarch Fairies before venturing further.

So. Where to go from here. This actually got me pretty frustrated for awhile. The only other hint from Zelda was about searching “the dark maze of ice,” from Level A. But you need the Handy Glove to reach Level A in the first place and the Handy Glove dungeon is in the frozen area itself. So it kinda looks like you have to go back and look for a third level in the frozen maze. Which sounds a little obtuse for a Zelda game, what with the emphasis on exploration, but it was the most recent lead I had at the time.

Nonetheless…there was a lot going on up there that I just hadn’t covered yet in the second quest. The waterfall in the upper-right region of the frozen area seemed significant, somehow. I remembered that there was a way to reach it with the raft in the first quest.

Since there didn’t seem to be any way to trigger the raft up there, I started bombing walls and pushing rocks. Bupkiss. There’s no dock to launch from…but if I remember correctly, there wasn’t in the first quest either? My next “sure thing” theory was the small forested area with no snow, near Level L. I remember something being there last time around, but I guess there isn’t this time. Not even after bombing and throwing fire at everything and playing the ocarina.

Slowly, the weirdness of this sinks in. No other Zelda game I can think of has three dungeons in the same area. But wasn’t the hint about the “frozen maze” from Level A? You need the Handy Glove to get to A. The Handy Glove is in one of the two dungeons in the frozen maze. If I’m not supposed to go back to the frozen area, then what does that hint mean?

Another way of looking at it: how many hints refer to the frozen area and how many dungeons are there? Two, for sure. What about the hints? “Twelve guards” is one, “frozen maze” is the other. Is it possible that it’s simply two-for-two and that hints might be scattered randomly?

Strictly speaking…all you need to reach Level L is the ocarina and bombs. It’s entirely possible that someone might finish that dungeon (somehow, miraculously, without the sword, or maybe with the Kokiri sword) and then proceed to Level T. In which case, the “twelve guards” hint would have seemed a little pointless, just like the “frozen maze” hint now appears to be.

It’s annoying but at that point I felt forced to consider it. Also…all of the dungeons, so far, are in different locations than the first quest but none of them are far from their original placement. And I think there were only two dungeons located, roughly, within the frozen maze in the first quest.

There are two conspicuous areas that hid dungeons in the first quest which, so far, have yielded nothing. One of them is a rocky enclosure only accessible through to e Gerudo warp caves.

This one, Level D, is just a few screens away from the area you need the Gerudo warp cave to access. Where else do the Gerudo caves lead? Just outside of the Graveyard of Serenity. If two of the warp caves are in the vicinity of Level D and T, maybe the third location is also close to a dungeon?

It’s interesting that sprites from the first LoZ are used for the concept of Dark Link from the second game

As expected, it’s near the Gerudo warp location across the water. This one hardly lasts any longer than N or A. The hardest thing about this dungeon is the search for it. Also interesting: I think Level S has more Dark Links than any other dungeon before it. Story significance, maybe?

With all eight Tetrarch Fairies liberated, we may now proceed to the Thunderbird’s fortress in the red territory of Subrosians.

Remember how I said L and T had the record for misdirection and difficulty? They don’t, anymore. N, A and S were kind of effortless, but C makes up for all that- with rather classic dungeon design. The circular, misleading staircases do make an appearance but they only really take the foreground near the end of the level. It pays to rely on both the HUD map and the map in the pause menu which shows what rooms connect to what others. This level is intimidating but it doesn’t throw anything at you outside of the context from the rest of the game. And there’s some pretty neat treasure scattered throughout, to. Only one of them-the Silver Arrows -is necessary to finish the game.

Just like the first time around, I’m hesitant to go into too much detail. A final dungeon is just…such an important part of a “puzzle box” game. And this one is so much more than a tribute from a fellow Zelda fan (although it’s definitely that as well). Zelda: Outlands actually feels surprisingly genuine- like a Zelda game from some alternate reality.

First quest review

Zelda: Outlands +Q (part 2)

…Lynels…X_X…

Kudos for dungeon design in level T. You instantly land in a sandpit with a patraquad that is far easier to kill with bombs, so no precious candle-wall cheesing. Just watch the thing and try to place a bomb somewhere it will move over and hopefully you’ll only use one or two of them. Up two screens is Zelda with the sword (thankfriggingNayru) and some more rooms that are either puzzles or require an item. Just past this point, we run into Zelda again who tells us that ‘twelve guards watch over the dungeon’s gate.’

Proceeding down from the patraquad sandpit instead of up, there are some familiar monster rooms with block switches. As per usual, they gotta be cleaned out before the switches can be pushed. One of them is filled with pols voice which die from a single strike but turn into peahats. In the peahat-filled side-scrolling staircases, it’s easy to get complacent. But the directional mechanics aren’t the same in the side-scroll basements which, combined with misplaced sense of sword security, can trick you into taking some hits. So don’t be too eager to stop relying on the boomerang.

So our vigilance is subtly tested during our immediate sense of relief after getting the sword. We also run into a blue lynel for the first time in the game which is a frustrating pain the ass and you had better hope you’re at full health for the sword beam. Compliments to GameMakr24 for creating a test of caution and vigilance reminiscent of Bloodborne.

It soon becomes apparent that, once embarking on the path south of the sandpit, doors lock behind you with no obvious floor switches. This happens as you move down, to the left and slightly upward, like a one-way spiral pattern. With persistence, you will be able to return to an apparently empty room at the beginning of the left turn.

Now…remember the invisible doorways from the first quest? That is the dungeon exit. And this is the first invisible doorway I’ve encountered in the second quest, so it felt like an understated blindside. It really does pay not to loose track of the possible ways of detecting hidden paths, even if one hasn’t worked in a while.

Since Outlands banks on crisscrossing between dungeons, I was tempted to do some back-tracking.

Upon our return to level U- there is a room with a staircase behind a cubic block. It is guarded by peahats, stalfos and yellow tektites, all of which need to be killed before the block switch will move.

A key hallmark of this rom hack is that some of the hit boxes are mixed and matched with other sprites. Peahats have passed their burden of annoyance on to the keese and are now the only monsters that can be killed with the boomerang. The stalfos could be dispatched by cornering them against the wall with a candle or bombs. The tektites, in Outlands, are invulnerable to the candle and the bombs.

Before I finally tracked down the sword, that screen was maddening. Two variety of monsters vulnerable to bombs and the candle and one that isn’t. So guess what I did as soon as I managed to escape from T?

The sword got the tektites out of the way but holy crap does it take some doing. Rather like the first quest…things tend to go smoother if you keep your sword beam as long as possible. As it is also clear that the second quest will play fair as harshly as possible, there is absolutely no reason not to cheese as much as you can. If a room is filled with monsters, hide in a doorway and step out every now and then to throw a sword beam into the fray. Gathered hundreds of rupees? Stop by a Goron shop whenever you can and buy keys whenever you have just over two hundred. As soon as you explore a little bit of level O, it becomes clear that moblin meat is frequently demanded and only occasionally available. So stockpile every resource you possibly can.

No fucks given ^^

Back in U, there are successive rooms with cloaked, firey mages, the ones that turn into disembodied fire sprites when you kill one of their colony members. I know the digital version of the instruction manual has a name for them. They’re basically Subrosian mages that gather together into a colony organism. And there is one after another in a few successive rooms, until you get to one with just a fire sprite and no clear hit box locus. Time to put a feather in that and move on, for now.

Not so far from U is level D, which can be unveiled with the ocarina, which I’ve somehow overlooked this whole time.

This, as implied by the dodongos, is a bomb-centric dungeon. It is also filled with a lot of monsters that have been bosses and mini bosses in the past. Like, in nearly every other room. This dungeon also has more meat which I promptly ran back to O with. Since D has its own hungry moblin…I was a little worried about…going down a path of no return. So far, I don’t think I have…but holy crap does O have a lot of hungry moblins.

Between O and D, Princess Zelda increases the bomb bag capacity by four in each of them. Once you figure out the reciprocal relationship between both dungeons, it’s pretty easy to release both of their Tetrarch Fairies…which seems to effect the ocarina.

Maybe? ‘Cause afterward, the ocarina can warp to different locations. My working hypothesis for now is that each Tetrarch Fairy unlocks a new location, with the lake near the respawn point as a kind of home base. It seems likely: I can’t remember an exact before and after point when the ocarina began warping during the first quest. Only that it was later in the game, which suggests that the number of fairies released has something to do with it. Not to mention, the flute in the original LoZ warped to each completed dungeon.

So. Because of the liberated Tetrarch Fairies or whatever the reason might be…we now have access to the landmass that was uncovered by the raft in the first quest. It’s only at this point that the second quest feels fully shod of the helplessness it begins with. While everything except the overworld is different, it now feels like the mobility of the first quest is largely regained.

With a little bit of digging, the Goron shop with the bow and arrow can be found, along with the Gerudo with Bagu’s letter. You’ll probably get robbed multiple times in other grottos you expose while looking for it…but it’s there. Now, then: I seem to remember a boss monster with one eye back in the U dungeon…

Part 3

This is my review of the first quest

Zelda: Outlands +Q (part 1)

Meat outside of the floor compartment. What would Dracula say D:

Since I’m playing through the second quest, I’m gonna exercise zero restraint on spoilers.

The first moments of quest one can be a little intimidating. But a modest amount of exploration will reveal that your sword is sitting there for the taking in the first dungeon. After that, a little lateral thinking will set you straight on how this rom hack differs from the original Legend of Zelda: run back and forth between dungeons, the “One way!” teleportation caves, etc.

Second time around, though…after the “New Adventure Awaits!” notice when you bump off the Thunderbird…it’s, uh…pretty tough.

Before now I never really stopped to consider what a security blanket the sword actually is, in a Zelda game. Being without it is pretty damn inconvenient, but on top of having to rely on bombs, the candle and the boomerang to kill and stun monsters…you just feel naked without it.

So you find ways to compensate. I stumbled across a cave with a moblin giving away rupees, early on. From there, the question is what to buy with the most possible utility, since no sword means you won’t be milking enemies for item drops as frequently as the first time around. Like an idiot, I went with bombs instead of the candle. Both the candle and the bombs can harm enemies and unlock hidden paths, but they also have different strengths and weaknesses. The bombs do more damage and the candle is easily replenished between screens. Coming and going from the screen next door to renew the candle is less of a test of patience than spending twenty rupees every time you run out of bombs.

Get ready for lots of THIS shit

Luckily, one of the early dungeons offers a solution: like-likes, who probably have the best item drops out of any monster you’ll have access to in the very beginning. Lots of money and bombs. With persistence and luck, you’ll be able to farm enough rupees for both the first boomerang and whichever of the two initial purchases you didn’t go with the first time around.

After that point…you’ll probably notice that the dungeons have letters instead of numbers. Meaning that the progression route will be even less linear than last time, perhaps? Less linear than the first play through that was distinguished largely by it’s non-linearity?

Like linearity itself, this has it’s own set of possibilities and limitations. We know, from our first quest, that an item obtained in one dungeon may unlock an obstacle in another, or elsewhere in the Outlands. Therefore, finding yourself with bombs, the candle, one boomerang or another and some occasional meat with no path forward in the “first” two dungeons is not a death sentence. It just means you have to keep looking.

As per the original Legend of Zelda and our first quest in the Outlands, the typical methods of revealing hidden paths include: pushing rocks, bombing walls, burning bushes, crawling with the ladder, sailing on the raft and playing the ocarina. That last part is an addition from GameMakr24 that I’m really happy with. It contributes to the exploration of what the lore of Ocarina of Time would be like if it were present in the first game.

So we dart all over burning things, blowing stuff up, pushing rocks and playing the ocarina. This process is narrowed by my lack of a power bracelet: only the plain, cubic blocks and the headstones can be pushed right now. After several failed bombings (hehe…sorry, I couldn’t resist) I remembered a pattern from the first quest: lots of breakable walls and very few flammable bushes. Maybe the distribution is reversed in the second quest?

Maybe a little less of a reversal, as it turns out. While breakable walls are in hiding so far, flammable bushes are only slightly more numerous…and they usually only have moblins who pay you to keep the secrets of their woodsy little holes.

(I know they’re called Goriyas in the NES games…but it’s hard for me to shake the resemblance they have to moblins. Like how the Wizzrobes look like Subrosians from Oracle of Seasons or potion vendors from A Link to the Past. My mind just seems to…have it’s own preference. And it’s not like we don’t call the armored foes Darknuts even though Nintendo canonically named them Iron Knuckles)

Rupees are perfectly good but they don’t really help, if you already have some of the early equipment. Excluding keys for dungeons, of course. Still haven’t found any amazing Goron shops with bows and stuff yet, though, so rupees aren’t high on my list. Given how open LoZ: Outlands is, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a way to access it even at this point.

I found the step ladder in dungeon O. This opens up the territory beyond streams, which shows promise at first. If you can scrape together the rupees, you can pay a Subrosian for a hint. The cute, robed sorcerer makes it sound like the cemetery puzzle in the lower lefthand corner of the map can be solved in the same way it was in quest one. Until I realize that I need the power bracelet to see that through…

…X_x…

The systematic method can be seriously frustrating if you overthink things. Especially if you haven’t played the original Legend of Zelda in a while like me. See, earlier, when you get the ocarina from Zelda, she tells you to look for a hidden path in the Graveyard of Serenity. And you happen to have the step ladder which lets you access the lower-left cemetery. So…it…it almost starts to feel like the game isn’t playing fair…

Then I took a break and realized two, blatantly obvious things I’ve overlooked: the Graveyard of Serenity refers to a specific graveyard and the first quest had three of them. We’ve ruled out one. The other is on the other side of some water. And in the last paragraph, where and when did I say Zelda gives you the hint?

Oh. Right. When she gives you the enchanted instrument that’s used for revealing paths and warping. Thing is…I sorta wrote that off for the same reason I did the flammable bushes: it only ever seemed to unlock rupee moblins and a heart container. And the cemeteries are flooded with ghostly floor masters that I just can’t kill yet.

Back when I was trying to set all the plant life I see on fire, I usually had to clear the screen of moblins and scrubs before I could start testing the bushes one by one. And I didn’t want to keep spending money on bombs so I would come and go from the screen to keep reusing the candle. That requires waiting for them to get close to a wall so the fire can continue to burn them after it knocks them backward. And, if you want to spare yourself as many screen to screen refreshes as you can, you should probably camp out near a wall with the boomerang so you could stun and burn a whole group.

The lady said it was the Graveyard of Serenity, though, so off we go. And that means the floor master ghosts. Which, presumably, means a whole lot of dodging. And the floor master ghosts spawn every time you touch a tombstone. It’s a risk…but not impossible.

This was almost too much for me. Guess what’s in there? A rupee moblin. Just a moblin with more money. *eye twitches*

But did Zelda say to push aside a tombstone? And as much of a bust as the ocarina had been so far…it has unlocked secret paths in places without water before.

So. Not only is the path to level T unveiled but…

Oh Zelda. My orange-headed savior. I’ve never been happier to see you. At long freaking last, my A button is no longer useless!

I mean, yeah, other stuff happened before I got the sword but I had to get it out of my system

Onward to part 2

Also, in case you wanna see my review of the first quest

Legend of Zelda Challenge: Outlands (spoilers)

The Legend of Zelda: Outlands is a rom hack of the original 1986 The Legend of Zelda by Challenge Games that dates back to May 15, 2001. Chronologically, this game is situated as a hypothetical “Zelda 3” that immediately follows Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It also uses details from the Ninetendo 64 Zelda games, such as multiple ocarina songs, Gorons, the Gerudo and the Kokiri. GameMakr24, the author of this hack, also carefully preserved familiar sights like the black rooms with white dialogue and familiar enemy AI, spawning and spatial design. These familiar touches combined with the late nineties ideas add up to a cool “what if” scenario, as if the world of Ocarina of Time existed a decade earlier.

Immediately after the events of Zelda II, the Thunderbird has apparently survived and has discovered the location of the Triforce of Power in the Outlands beyond Hyrule. The Thunderbird imprisoned the Tetrarch Fairies that stand guard over this third of the Triforce and now must be released by Link in order to get it back.

Upon release, rare physical cartridges of this rom hack were produced, packaged like the original with a printed world map. While I would love to have one of these maps simply for its raw coolness, I instead played it the way so many of us played the original years ago: completely dependent on trial and error.

I WISH I actually had this

This being a rom hack of the 1986 Zelda, it naturally has the same overhead design and nearly all of the same textures and sprites along with some from Zelda II. Sometimes, basic movements, hit boxes and attacks used by a monster from the prior games will be dressed up in a new sprite. The AI and hit boxes of peahats and keese are swapped with each other. In an early dungeon there is a mini boss that moves back and forth and breathes three fireballs at a time, like the dragon from the first game, but is now a giant skeleton.

A lot about this game feels quite familiar, though, in spite of these differences. Like the first game, you start completely naked: the opening text crawl tells you nothing about where to go and only the vaguest hint of what to do. You don’t even have a sword, but at least the first Zelda put an old man in a cave directly in front of you to meet that need. This time, you won’t have a sword until you get to the first dungeon, and guess who gives it to you:

Princess Zelda herself is a constant companion, helping out in almost every dungeon

A key difference between this rom hack and many official Zelda games is the necessity of going back and forth between dungeons before and after releasing the Tetrarch Fairies. In level 2, there is a moblin that refuses to let you pass to the next room unless you feed him some meat (Kinda like in the first Zelda, remember? “Grumble, grumble…”?). This meat, however, is in an underground side-scrolling area in level 3, perpetuating Dracula’s tradition of storing meat in secret stone compartments.

Requires meat
One meat later

Having given the moblin the meat, you will go on to discover a raft that will carry you to a water-isolated place on the map where, for enough rupees, you can buy a Kokiri sword, a Goron shield, a bow and some arrows. The bow and arrows turn out to be extremely useful in dungeon 3- nothing else can kill the tektites efficiently that early in the game.

The bow is also necessary to kill the one-eyed blobby thing in dungeon 4. After that, the door to the left unlocks and Zelda will give you the ocarina. This is necessary to get the step ladder from dungeon one, which is guarded by a monster that resembles digdogger from the first game and, with the ocarina, can be done away with in a similar way. The door at the bottom of the screen will open up and the step ladder is all yours.

The step ladder, meanwhile, allows you to cross gaps that are roughly the size of a sprite which you need for multiple dungeons and overworld navigation.

Around the time you have secured 4-5 Tetrarch Fairies, you will probably notice that the Gerudos usually do one of two things- steal your money and hoard heart containers. On the continent accessible with the raft, there is a cave with a Gerudo who will give you The Staff Of Byrna once you have twelve heart containers. As she stands guard she says that she can only give the staff to “the hero”.

The staff itself, which deals damage, doesn’t expend rupees like the bow and doesn’t require full health like the sword beam, is an all-purpose reliable range weapon. So long as all you want to do is attack- the boomerang and the bow can collect objects for you and you will definitely want to gather stuff from a distance in this game. The Staff of Byrna also fires the slowest projectiles.

Since the staff doesn’t “cost” anything to fire, you may find yourself using it a lot against enemies that deal range damage and are too unapproachable for melee combat. And the enemies most likely to fit that description usually turn out to be the hostile Subrosians/wizards/whatever.

(after googling I learned that they are called Wizzrobes but I’ve been thinking of them as potion vendors from ALttP or Subrosians for too long already)

Little details like that can get you to speculate on the finer story details. Is there a reason why the Gerudos have the weapon that you are most likely to use against the wizards/Subrosians? You usually find the Subrosians/wizards close to the ninth dungeon that has the Spectacle Rock music from the original LoZ. What exactly is the nature of the relationship between the Gerudos and the Subrosian-thingie-people and how does it connect to what’s going on with the Thunderbird and the Tetrarch Fairies? What about the Gerudos gathering the objects (heart containers) that you need to collect for the staff? I like stuff like that, that’s organized enough to imply story threads.

Classic Zelda weirdness near the end

Rather like the original, the first play-through only gets you half of the content of the game and that’s where I’m at right now. This is basically a custom edit of the first Zelda game but it feels weirdly authentic. The final dungeon and final boss, in particular, really made me feel like I’m playing an actual “lost” Zelda game. In fact, more than once, it made me feel the same way I felt when I played Ocarina of Time as a preteen.

On to the second quest!