[Research] Zelda Oracle games improvement patches ideas for Redux treatment

Started by ShadowOne333, August 04, 2021, 10:52:40 AM

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ShadowOne333

Good day, RH community.

As some of you might know, I've worked on some Zelda improvement patches in the past, the latest one being Zelda 1 Redux, and while those still have things left to iron out, I wanted to think on ideas for a pair of games from the franchise that I rarely see myself going back to.

Both of the Oracle games (Ages & Seasons) are games that I have, at most, completed only twice in my lifetime.
I do remember being fairly decent Zelda games, but for some reason I don't find the motivation to go back to them often. What I remember clearly, is that they were a PAIN to complete 100%, mostly due to the awful Game Link stuff and the Rings being locked behind that (and some to RNG), and a previously finished save from the other paired game to unlock the final rings.

With that said, I wanted to ask the RH.net community what ideas do they have or what possible suggestions you guys can think of to make both Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages way better games, to reduce the amount of annoyance these two bring, and how can one make the whole way throughout the game better through romhacking.



Current repository of the improvement hacks for both Oracles can be found here:
https://github.com/ShadowOne333/oracles-redux

Current features added:
  • Force Enhanced GBA mode
  • Force GBC palettes in GBA mode



Right from the get go, I can think of these possible improvements:
  • Make the New Game+ option available right from the start, so the player begins with the added perks of a Linked game and can collect all the rings in a newly started save file.
  • Improve the RNG for the rings that depends on it to make them more accessible in a clean playthrough.
  • Make all of the 64 games obtainable in a clean save, without having to link the games between each other.
  • Oracle of Seasons Variable-Width Font?



Aside from that, I know there are already some hacks for each game that could be implemented as basis for these possible improvement/Redux patches for OoA & OoS:

Oracle of Ages:
Oracle of Seasons:


Let me know what kind of suggestions or ideas you can come up with for these two games!
And if you have the expertise, or know of a way to hack said suggested features into the games, by all means your help will be appreciated!

PS: I will also add some cheat code websites for reference that could probably help for some of these features:
https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/gbc/472313-the-legend-of-zelda-oracle-of-ages/faqs/67302
https://www.neoseeker.com/zelda-oracle-seasons/cheats/gbc/
https://www.kidzworld.com/article/952-the-legend-of-zelda-the-oracles-game-cheats-codes-to-unlock-game-secrets

MysticLord

RNG and multiplayer gated stuff is very painful for completionists like me; I'd rather not play it than deal with the frustration. Removing the gates and maybe making them tougher to get as a result improves my experience.

ShadowOne333

Quote from: MysticLord on August 05, 2021, 02:58:40 AM
RNG and multiplayer gated stuff is very painful for completionists like me; I'd rather not play it than deal with the frustration. Removing the gates and maybe making them tougher to get as a result improves my experience.

Yeah that was my sentiment too.
I really hate how much is kept behind a completed save file, and worse behind the Linked stuff.
It's really a pain to attempt a 100% run of both Oracle games due to this, so any way in which this could be improved is already a huge deal for the Oracle games.

PowerPanda

I mean, aside from the awful ring system, which should just be replaced by static drops, the thing that stands out to me is being able to obtain all 3 flutes for your animal companions, switching between them like you switch between the seed types. I don't know if that's too tall of order.

ShadowOne333

Quote from: PowerPanda on August 05, 2021, 03:26:47 PM
I mean, aside from the awful ring system, which should just be replaced by static drops, the thing that stands out to me is being able to obtain all 3 flutes for your animal companions, switching between them like you switch between the seed types. I don't know if that's too tall of order.
I completely forgot about the companions tbh.
Some of those are locked to linked games too?

PowerPanda

Quote from: ShadowOne333 on August 05, 2021, 03:32:28 PM
I completely forgot about the companions tbh.
Some of those are locked to linked games too?

All 3 companions are in both games, and if my memory serves, you get all 3 as a temporary companion, but you are only allowed to get 1 flute in your inventory, meaning that towards the end of the game, you have to choose 1 of the 3 as a permanent companion. It's been over a decade since I've played though. :-\

Greyfield

Hi ShadowOne333,

Big fan of your many redux patches.  Just a note, but Drenn has disassembly of the games out there.  See this thread where he helped me edit Oracles/Seasons text for my own personal use:

https://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php?topic=32419

He references the existing patches that you mention as well, and how those fit in to the disassembly.

MysticLord

Actually I have a request, can you remove the "press all 4 buttons to soft reset" feature, and maybe make a menu option to soft reset? That's how you save in LA, and I've nuked progress a few times doing so in the Oracle games.

To be fair LA also needs an explicit menu option to save too, as well as a IIRC "save and continue" option.

niuus

Quote from: ShadowOne333 on August 04, 2021, 10:52:40 AM
What I remember clearly, is that they were a PAIN to complete 100%, mostly due to the awful Game Link stuff and the Rings being locked behind that (and some to RNG), and a previously finished save from the other paired game to unlock the final rings.
Very weird. That's exactly what i like about the Oracle series, the fact that you can continue the games after finishing the other story, a la Resident Evil 2, with unique story elements and items. That's even the whole basis for the Pokémon series, which does in fact mandate cable linking between 2 consoles, where at least here it's completely optional, whether you use the password or the link cable. I own both physical games and still enjoy them to these days. Along with Link's Awakening i play and finish them in succession once a year.

Anyway, i will surely use your improvements whenever they are out, as you have done memorable QoL improvements in the past for the Zelda games which i totally enjoy.  :beer:

ShadowOne333

Quote from: Greyfield on August 06, 2021, 12:51:41 PM
Hi ShadowOne333,

Big fan of your many redux patches.  Just a note, but Drenn has disassembly of the games out there.  See this thread where he helped me edit Oracles/Seasons text for my own personal use:

https://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php?topic=32419

He references the existing patches that you mention as well, and how those fit in to the disassembly.

That will be of invaluable help for this.
I'll try setting the disassemblies up later this week, and try to get a working build for them working, hopefully.
Then things can start picking up from there.

Quote from: MysticLord on August 07, 2021, 05:45:38 AM
Actually I have a request, can you remove the "press all 4 buttons to soft reset" feature, and maybe make a menu option to soft reset? That's how you save in LA, and I've nuked progress a few times doing so in the Oracle games.

To be fair LA also needs an explicit menu option to save too, as well as a IIRC "save and continue" option.

That's something I've wondered myself too, but I'm unsure what button combo or option could be a good replacement.

Quote from: niuus on August 07, 2021, 03:37:00 PM
Very weird. That's exactly what i like about the Oracle series, the fact that you can continue the games after finishing the other story, a la Resident Evil 2, with unique story elements and items. That's even the whole basis for the Pokémon series, which does in fact mandate cable linking between 2 consoles, where at least here it's completely optional, whether you use the password or the link cable. I own both physical games and still enjoy them to these days. Along with Link's Awakening i play and finish them in succession once a year.

Anyway, i will surely use your improvements whenever they are out, as you have done memorable QoL improvements in the past for the Zelda games which i totally enjoy.  :beer:

Thank you!
I dare say the Oracle games did way more interesting things with the Cable Link than any of the Pokemon games.
Pokemon basically just boils down to battling with others and trading to complete the dex, it has never dpne anything worthwhile for the story, even to date.

What stuff from the linking did modify the story in the Oracles?

MysticLord

Quote from: ShadowOne333 on August 07, 2021, 11:45:53 PM
That's something I've wondered myself too, but I'm unsure what button combo or option could be a good replacement.
IIRC there are already menus you can switch between by pressing left and right (or some other button), just add another one farther right or left with an option you can select to call the save data routine.

Then disable the existing means of saving with button combination presses.

ShadowOne333

#11
I did a bit of setup work during the week to get the Oracles Disassembly by Drenn working on my end, and I managed to get a proper compilation of the disassembly working.

You can find my repo of it here:
https://github.com/ShadowOne333/oracles-redux

With that, hopefully anyone willing to take a peek or give a hand on any features can do so with the disassembly available.
I already went ahead and implemented both the "Force GBA mode" and the "Force GBC palettes in GBA mode" hacks into the repository, so those two are already in.

Next, I'll try to port over the VWF hack into the main master branch of the Oracles, hopefully that can be done soon.
Aside from that, I think next thing to do would be to pinpoint where in the code the game checks for the New Game+ stuff, to hopefully remove that check and make the game start with the perks from NG+ right from the get go. I think searching FINISHED or something like that in the source code brings up the proper flag.

XModxGodX

A while back I got Jangler from the oracle randomizer discord channel to port the ring shop menu anywhere patch to the vanilla games though they don't seem to work with the VWF hack for ages here they are if you're interested.
Ages: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/474298258357747723/658195714513305613/ooa_rings.ips

Seasons: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/474298258357747723/658195717436866590/oos_rings.ips

It's also worth noting they also include the punching rings to work even with one item slot used up.

Vanya

The only thing that comes to mind for me is to make the games fully independent of each other.
I'd rather play all of each game with all the game link features made into new game + content without having to play the other games.


Plus, I think that setting them up so that they are both self contained would be great ground work for making a full blown Oracle of Secrets hack. Hell, I'd probably try to strip the "true final battle" from both games and use them as content for Oracle of Secrets.

ShadowOne333

Quote from: XModxGodX on August 09, 2021, 06:17:34 PM
A while back I got Jangler from the oracle randomizer discord channel to port the ring shop menu anywhere patch to the vanilla games though they don't seem to work with the VWF hack for ages here they are if you're interested.
Ages: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/474298258357747723/658195714513305613/ooa_rings.ips

Seasons: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/474298258357747723/658195717436866590/oos_rings.ips

It's also worth noting they also include the punching rings to work even with one item slot used up.

Oh I never heard of that before.
What's the Ring Shop?
I took a peek into the Oracles Randomizer, and they seem to have revamped the ring system a bit, making the box accessible from the menu, being able to equip rings on the fly and also getting the rings as soon as you obtain them without appraising. The whole rings stuff seems to be here:
https://github.com/jangler/oracles-randomizer/blob/master/asm/rings.yaml

Did Jangler mention if he used the Oracles-Disasm repository for those patches, or did he use the Randomizer itself for applying them over vanilla Ages/Seasons? It'd be better to have those patches in Disassembly for, for the repository I made, to have everything accessible and the whole source available for anyone.

Quote from: Vanya on August 10, 2021, 05:10:30 AM
The only thing that comes to mind for me is to make the games fully independent of each other.
I'd rather play all of each game with all the game link features made into new game + content without having to play the other games.


Plus, I think that setting them up so that they are both self contained would be great ground work for making a full blown Oracle of Secrets hack. Hell, I'd probably try to strip the "true final battle" from both games and use them as content for Oracle of Secrets.

I agree.
That was pretty much my thought process on it.
Kind of like the Pokemon hacks with all Pokemon available in a single version (Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, etc.)
I really dislike how they gatekeep features or other things behind the Link cable, and to me being able to play both Ages and Seasons from a new game with everything accessible from the get-go and without linking would be the best way to experience the games.

Heaven Piercing Man

Quote from: ShadowOne333 on August 07, 2021, 11:45:53 PM
That will be of invaluable help for this.
I'll try setting the disassemblies up later this week, and try to get a working build for them working, hopefully.
Then things can start picking up from there.

That's something I've wondered myself too, but I'm unsure what button combo or option could be a good replacement.

Thank you!
I dare say the Oracle games did way more interesting things with the Cable Link than any of the Pokemon games.
Pokemon basically just boils down to battling with others and trading to complete the dex, it has never dpne anything worthwhile for the story, even to date.

What stuff from the linking did modify the story in the Oracles?

The linked game acts as a sequel to the first one you played and you carry over some plot decisions and things like the animal companion and the name and progress of the family's son, also transfer rings from game to game. Let's say you play Seasons and the code you get at the end is entered in Ages. Now characters in Ages act like they know you already if they were in Seasons, or have heard of you if they're Ages-only, and some characters have cross-game sidequests where they give you a password you're supposed to give to someone in Seasons, where you complete the sidequest usually with a minigame, and you get a new item or weapon and a password to get it in Ages. Some subplots involving NPCs are further advanced so that everyone gets proper closure, by means of the cross-game sidequests or because they themselves cross over to the linked game.

Finally, Zelda arrives in person to help, and the instigators of the plot of the games, who are only teased in the first playthrough, make their final move and you have to actually face them in a "true final boss" scenario after you defeat the game's respective villain.

d0k3

#16
I see there hasn't been activity here for a while, actually there's more happening on the Github repo right now. As I'm currently on my second playthrough of Ages (the last one happened in ancient times), I still want to chime in and add two ideas of mine. Both may be totally out of question, but, anyways, here goes.

(1) rebase the Redux hack on the (E) version of both games. Why? The (E) version has 5 languages, including English, instead of just English. Seeing how the source code disasm is for the (U) version, this may not be a possibility. Maybe it's possible to backport those 5 languages instead?

(2) if the first one wasn't too far out, maybe this one is: Combine the two games into one, maybe even with some "linking method" between the two that doesn't involve cables, two emulators or passwords. I do have my doubts this could work, though one can dream.

Also, +1 for the animal flute thing. The way Nintendo/Capcom handled this sucks. At one point in the game you're giving the choice of who your permanent (and that means for both games) animal companion will be, but (a) you neither know you got that choice and need to act, (b) nor do you know which decision leads to which results. Not happy with that.

CoolCatBomberMan

I'm not sure if freely switching between animal buddies is actually that feasible, really. In both Seasons and Ages, there's an area where the terrain is drastically different depending on who your animal buddy is. Said terrain is designed in a way that you absolutely need the animal buddy in order to progress. Here, I'll provide links:

Seasons: https://zelda.fandom.com/wiki/Natzu

Ages: https://zelda.fandom.com/wiki/Nuun_Highlands

Worst case scenario, maybe have the games randomly pick one of the three terrains, forcing the player to stick to one buddy. Best case scenario, maybe create a hybrid terrain that incorporates all three versions, thus requiring the player to use all three buddies to get through. (Hey, you guys wanted all three buddies? Use them, then!)

d0k3

#18
Quote from: CoolCatBomberMan on November 21, 2022, 03:46:45 PMI'm not sure if freely switching between animal buddies is actually that feasible, really. In both Seasons and Ages, there's an area where the terrain is drastically different depending on who your animal buddy is. Said terrain is designed in a way that you absolutely need the animal buddy in order to progress. Here, I'll provide links:

Seasons: https://zelda.fandom.com/wiki/Natzu

Ages: https://zelda.fandom.com/wiki/Nuun_Highlands

Worst case scenario, maybe have the games randomly pick one of the three terrains, forcing the player to stick to one buddy. Best case scenario, maybe create a hybrid terrain that incorporates all three versions, thus requiring the player to use all three buddies to get through. (Hey, you guys wanted all three buddies? Use them, then!)

Nice! I didn't know that. I also like the solution of a redesigned Natzu or Nuun Highlands, but I don't know if that would fit in with the Redux philosophy, which always was to keep original game content, art style, etc... intact. Another possibility would be to base the design on the currently selected animal friend.

As for the Redux philosophy, there was one idea to make the Oracle games self-contained, changing them in a way you so you get all content in one run. Imho, that's not a Redux idea, but a good idea for another romhack.

One more thing - being currently on a playthrough of Ages, one thing that would improve the experience a lot is reducing backtracking in dungeons. Having to do the same time-consuming riddles over and over, just to reach the boss and fail again is no fun. It's worst in level 6, where you have to switch between two dungeons. Some easy method to get back to the dungeon entrance (storm seeds, maybe?) and maybe some conveniently placed teleporters (right before the boss rooms) would help a lot here.

ShadowOne333

I was completely unaware of the animal buddies stuff.
Goes to show how little I have played the Oracles games as a whole.

Quote from: d0k3 on November 23, 2022, 05:43:23 AMNice! I didn't know that. I also like the solution of a redesigned Natzu or Nuun Highlands, but I don't know if that would fit in with the Redux philosophy, which always was to keep original game content, art style, etc... intact. Another possibility would be to base the design on the currently selected animal friend.

As for the Redux philosophy, there was one idea to make the Oracle games self-contained, changing them in a way you so you get all content in one run. Imho, that's not a Redux idea, but a good idea for another romhack.

One more thing - being currently on a playthrough of Ages, one thing that would improve the experience a lot is reducing backtracking in dungeons. Having to do the same time-consuming riddles over and over, just to reach the boss and fail again is no fun. It's worst in level 6, where you have to switch between two dungeons. Some easy method to get back to the dungeon entrance (storm seeds, maybe?) and maybe some conveniently placed teleporters (right before the boss rooms) would help a lot here.

Actually that was the first idea that came to mind, being able to played the entirety of Oracle of Ages or Oracle of Seasons with everything obtainable without having to rely on the other version at all. Similar to what romhacks of 3rd versions of Pokemon games do with all Pokemon obtainable in the same version/game without trading and such.

The problem here seems to be that some of the NPC dialogue changes when you have linked the game to the other version which has been completed, with some quests being unlocked. The rings are the first thing that came to mind, make them available without connecting or linking the games. But getting all content in one run is surely something I would consider for a Redux version of each Oracle game.

I think making the terrain change depending on what animal buddy you select is a good idea too, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. Having all the buddies available at any point is a good way to go.