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by Ethos

Winterscapes Countdown #1 – Frozen Zora’s Domain (Ocarina of Time)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

And we’ve reached the end! How fitting that my number one Winterscape is from my number one game. That game, of course, being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

If you think this one is a bit of an odd choice, you’re quite correct. It’s not even a “winterscape,” per se – regardless, it’s one of my favorite environments of all time, and it’s definitely cold enough.

After the unforgettable turning point at the Temple of Time, Link wakes up to a decidedly different Hyrule. His home in Kokiri Forest lies in the shadow of a evil spirit, the Gorons are being held captive in their own mountain, but the worst fate, it seems, was reserved for the water-dwelling Zoras.  As you draw closer and closer to their watery cave-home, it becomes fairly obvious that something’s wrong. Snow is falling, and Navi warns of a cold wind. Regardless, it does nothing to dampen the initial shock when you step through the waterfall and back into the Zora’s Domain, seven years after Link’s initial visit.

Just... imagine this, except frozen.

Just... imagine this, except frozen.

And of course, after serving my needs for the first four picks, Google Image fails at finding a proper image. This entire countdown is now ruined, and I hate my life.

Kidding, just kidding. To sum up, Link’s second visit to Zora’s Domain is one of the more memorable moments that Ocarina of Time creates. The ice is hauntingly beautiful in spite of its malicious nature, and in a strangely dark twist, it remains even after the evil spirit in the Water Temple is defeated. I recognize what an oddball this pick may be, but I stand by it.

That concludes my silly Winterscapes Countdown, gents and ladies. Let the comments fly below, and if you can find a decent image of the frozen Zora’s Domain, be a good chap and send it my way.

Or a good lass. We don’t discriminate.

Winterscapes Countdown #2 – Narshe (Final Fantasy VI)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Make way for a 2-D classic, everyone. My personal favorite 2-D game of all time, actually: Final Fantasy VI, originally released as Final Fantasy III on the SNES.

Narshe, as we all (hopefully) know is the opening area of the game. Biggs, Wedge, and the mysterious Terra, armed with Magitek exoskeletons, march into the snowy mining town of Narshe. Their mission is to retrieve something called an Esper.

Almost christmas-y in an odd quasi-steampunk way.

Almost christmas-y in an odd quasi-steampunk way.

While I’m not exactly a veteran of 2-D games, Final Fantasy VI is one of the few titles that lives up to the nostalgic hype surrounding it. The characters are unforgettable, the story is extremely well-told, and man is it one epic ride for a 2-D RPG. Just writing about it is making me want to seek out my copy of the GBA port, which is weird since I’m not much of a handheld gamer these days.

But what’s so great about Narshe? Well, it was the perfect setting for the game’s moody opening sequence. A humble coal mining city, blanketed in snow, with Nobuo Uematsu’s fantastically somber music playing in the background. The game begins here, and in fact returns here at a few key points – the most memorable being when Terra, the main female protagonist, finally transforms into an Esper.

(Yes, the statute of limitations on Final Fantasy VI spoilers is officially up).

But I’ll avoid gushing any longer. If you’ve played the game, I’m sure you agree with me. If you haven’t, I’d suggest you go snag a copy of the GBA port.  And be here tomorrow for the sure-to-be-disappointing #1 Winterscape of the week.

‘Till then!

Winterscapes Countdown #3 – Great Glacier/Gaea’s Cliff (Final Fantasy VII)

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

A day late perhaps, but as they say, it’s better than never. The last two entries in my Winterscape Countdown have been from the Nintendo team, but what Riddlethosian list would be complete without at least one rep from the illustrious Final Fantasy series?

I’ll begin with the obligatory statement that I love Final Fantasy VII. Stereotypical as this may sound, it is and will likely remain my favorite Final Fantasy game, and one of my all-time favorite RPGs.

However, at this point you may be thinking to yourself, “why the hell is he including an environment from a decidedly shit-looking PSX RPG?” A just question, because Final Fantasy VII does, indeed, look like shit. Even by today’s standards, the Phendrana Drifts and Snowhead are pleasant to look at. The Great Glacier and Gaea’s cliff? Notsomuch. But like the first two on the list, GG and GC made the list on account of the atmosphere they set. And, additionally, for the significance of what takes place there.

Barret occasionally has something semi-profound to say.

Barret occasionally has something semi-profound to say.

A few short hours after the murder of Aeris, the broken party finds themselves in the snowy wastelands of the Great Glacier, doggedly on the trail of the elusive Sephiroth. Needless to say, a depressing tone takes over the game at this point. A friend is dead, the weather is shit, and Sephiroth is literally just ahead of them – you can feel a showdown approaching.

After scaling the treacherous Gaea’s Cliff, Cloud and friends finally meet Sephiroth face-to-face… and the rest, as they say, is history. Cloud’s true “identity” is revealed in one of the most shocking plot twists in gaming, and… all hell breaks loose, essentially. It’s moments like this that made Final Fantasy VII such an impacting experience for me all those years ago, and it’s yet another example of snow-laden gaming locales that will forever remain in my memory.

Oh, the power of snow.

Winterscapes Countdown #5 – Phendrana Drifts (Metroid Prime)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Ethan has already begun his stupid countdown, so it’s time to begin mine.

Which, for the record, is even MORE stupid.

Regardless, we’re gonna do this. I’m a sucker for snow scenes, as I’ve mentioned previously. That being the case, I’m a sucker for snowy videogame locales. And because I own a website, I’m going to take the liberty of counting down my five favorite “snowscapes.” Be excited. Or better yet, be disgusted. As the title suggests, the first shout-out goes to the immortal Metroid Prime.

I haven’t talked much about Metroid Prime on Riddlethos, despite how much I adore the game. It is, quite simply, one of the most atmospherically masterful games ever created, and will probably remain so until the end of time. But given the nature of the list, I must restrain myself and skip to the point  - The Phendrana Drifts. This picture should help with some of the explaining:


Pretty as the screen might be, it doesn’t do the Phendrana Drifts justice. Metroid Prime’s Phendrana Drifts is a cold, hostile place, composed of heavy snowdrifts and frozen lakes. The natural inhabitants are nasty enough, and that’s to say nothing of the “visitors” who have taken residence. Veterans of the original Metroid Prime will recall that Samus’s first contact with the Space Pirates – as well as the titular Metroids – is made here, in this snowy wasteland. Beautifully rendered on Nintendo’s GameCube, and dripping with atmosphere, the Phendrana Drifts is not a place to be forgotten.

For many people, Metroid Prime is a difficult game to get into – and that holds true for myself as well. When I first stuck the disc into my GameCube at the tender age of… er… 12 or so, I gave up less than three hours in. The punishing difficulty, slow pace, and unremitting bleakness was enough to turn me off.

A year or so later, I gave the game a second try. I picked up where my last save was, and soon found myself in the snowy plains of Phendrana. And I didn’t touch another game until I had beaten the final boss.

Winter is a nostalgic time of year by nature, and I hope to reflect this in my silly countdown. Be here tomorrow for more. And if you haven’t played Metroid Prime, then for the love of Christ, give it a go.