Hello everyone. I started working on a new Zelda II project, and I'd like to have your input for some features that may or may not appear in the game. For now, I don't have a lot to show because I'm at a very early stage where I want to setup the basic skeleton for the new features, which also involves expansion relative to the original game.
Some of the features I want to implement come with implications that may not be desirable or hard to implement. Changing one game mechanics may please some players, but displease others. There's no perfect mix, of course, but I'll do my best to balance these things as much as possible, without sacrificing fun and challenge. Having your opinions will help me orient my efforts.
For those who have not seen it yet, here's a demo of the Ice Tile on the Overworld, that will be part of my hack:www.bwass.org/romhack/zelda2/icetile.zip
Here's some of the things that will (almost certainly) be part of the hack:
- Expanded ROM
, from 8 to 16 PRG banks, and from 14 to 16 CHR banks. Of those PRG banks, 4 will be dedicated to the Overworld, 2 for Towns and 6 for Palaces.
- Expanded world
, obviously. The Overworld will be more than twice the size of the original, with more diverse terrain, at least one new functional tile (Ice Tile), Overworld may change over time and random battles will be more diverse. More palaces and/or larger ones.
- Only one saving slot
. Since most people will play on emulator, I think it's a small sacrifice. The main reasons are to simplify the saved game interface and free up space needed for expansion. The original game has considerable free space in Cartridge RAM, but it can't be expanded.
- New graphics
, for all sections of the game. Intro, saved game info, Overworld, Towns, Palaces, Ending.
- New spells
. Improvements on the original ones and/or replacement of certain spells.
- New enemies
, and enemy behavior. Most original enemies will remain, but they will change behavior, either permanently or become stronger later in the game. Same goes for bosses, either change their current behavior and/or create new ones.
- Pieces of Heart and Magic Containers
Here's some things that may
be part of the hack, all depending if I have enough time and if I can actually code them reliably:
- Map system
. Press Select on the Overworld to display a map of the current region. Map pieces will have to be found. With the expanded Overworld, this could become more than a mere caprice.
- More spells
. From 8 to 12 spells, most likely. If there's a real need for more than 8, there could be a way to have more, but it involves new coding. The original game has a few spells with questionable usefulness.
- Upgradable spells
. For example, Shield protects more, Life heals more, Fairy becomes revertible, etc.
- Upgradable items
. For example, Candle reveals more, Glove breaks more blocks, Raft lets you reach other places, etc.
- New special moves
, other than Downstab and Upstab.
- Extended dialogs
from friendly NPCs. Have more meaningful and longer dialogs that reveal the story in more details.
Now, with the things that I still have to decide on, and that will certainly change the core gameplay even further. I like the idea of making a hack considerably different from the original game, but I also think the essence of what makes Zelda II unique and fun must remain. It breaks down to these things:
- Lives and health system
- Experience and stats system (Attack, Magic, Life)
- Difficulty levels
- Save systemLives and health system
. Zelda II is the only game of the series with a lives system, and many people don't like it. It does seem out of place for a Zelda game. However, without lives, other aspects of the game would become inadequate. Lava pits would become a disproportionate threat to the player. One badly timed jump and it's game over. Having 3 lives (plus extra lives that can be picked up) is basically the equivalent of having as many separate health bars.
The alternative would be to make pits non-lethal. Subsequent Zelda games don't have jumping mechanisms as elaborate as Zelda II, but they do have pits of all kinds. Falling into a pit makes you lose a small portion of health and takes you back to a determined point. Doing that with Zelda II could be an interesting modification to the gameplay, but also a considerable coding challenge. Also, it would have the consequence of making pits a lot less dangerous. Calculated jumps would become less important, especially if the health penalty is small. On the other hand, losing all your health in one shot because an enemy pushes you back in lava can be frustrating.
Another aspect unique to Zelda II is the absence of items that replenish your health. Most of the time, you have to rely on the Life spell. Other ways include towns, leveling up, finding a Heart container or losing a life. Other Zelda games have hearts randomly dropped by enemies after defeating them. Again, adding this item in the game has consequences. Does it mean the Life spell becomes less important, or that it should be reduced in strength? Can having hearts competing with magic jars in random drops lead to a lack of magic available? Will it cause the Red Lady in towns to become obsolete?Experience system
. Again, unique to Zelda II. Instead of having to find swords and protective gear, you must earn experience points that are "traded" for more attack strength, better magic consumption and defense. Since Zelda II is a game centered mostly on combat, it makes sense to expect the player to fight enemies to get better. If we decide to remove the experience system altogether, there must be a way to make our character stronger.
One idea I had is that you would have to find different swords for Attack, and some other items that would increase your Magic and Life stats as well. One severe consequence of such a change is that it removes the incentive to fight enemies, and I think it could encourage players to avoid difficult fights. I don't like that much. However, I do like the idea of having to find stronger swords, which is similar to many other Zelda games. An hybrid could work too, but at the cost of more complex coding.Difficulty system
. I've been thinking for quite a while about integrating levels of difficulty in the game. Several hackers in the past used an alternate solution, by simply making an alternate ROM with more or less difficulty, and the players could choose according to their skills.
One of the main reasons I want to integrate difficulty levels is to provide an incentive to tackle greater challenges. Beating the game at a higher level could lead to secrets of all sorts, like special dungeons, hidden items or an alternate ending. Now the caveat is that players could find it a bit daunting to restart the game entirely, without knowing exactly what lies ahead, just for bragging rights.
Another idea is to make the game end prematurely on lower levels, to encourage players to take the next level of difficulty to progress more in the game and finally see the "real" ending. Again, similar problem, you get to play a shorter game, with a fake ending, just to be told that you need to be more skilled. I'm still trying to find a balanced formula. Find a way to have a relatively satisfying ending at the lower levels, while making it worthwhile to restart the game and increase the difficulty.Save system
. In my opinion, this one is less divisive among most players. Many have complained about the fact that you have to restart at the very beginning of the game after a game over. No mercy, not even at the start of the current palace (like in Zelda 1), except the last one. Now, with a larger Overworld, this could become even more annoying.
Instead of these limitations, there could be a few key points where you can restart from, including when you reload your saved game. Similar to A Link to the Past. You start with one starting point, and then, along the game, you find other points that you activate and these let you restart from there. I think it's fair, assuming the Overworld will be larger and arguably less linear than the original game. That, however, would be at the cost of being able to restart at the beginning of the palace you just died in.
Thank you for reading. Any other idea? Anything that stands out? Do you agree or disagree with anything? Let me know what you think of all that...