Last summer I read the entire Harry Potter series from book one to book seven after learning that Christopher Lee does the same with the Lord of the Rings trilogy every year.
I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone some time in late July last year. Upon finishing the series just before September, I decided to make it an annual tradition.
This year I decided to start my tradition on July 31, Harry’s and author J.K. Rowling’s birthday.
It’s strange to read through the first novel in the series, which carries a decidedly more juvenile tone than, say Deathly Hallows or even Prisoner of Azkaban. One thing remains consistent, though: Ms. Rowling really knows how to get inside her characters’ heads. I remember the conversational tone of the first few sentences in the book sucking me in when I first read Sorcerer’s Stone in seventh grade—very Roald Dahl-esque.
I also love the way Rowling does dialogue. I can never help but read Hagrid’s lines out loud. Stan Shunpike in Prisoner of Azkaban is another favorite.
There’s nothing better than plotting yourself under a tree in the park and reading through an old favorite.
This Harry Potter-a-thon comes a couple of weeks after I did my annual The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time playthrough. There’s something about running around Hyrule Field that just screams summer.
What about your summer traditions?
Buzzfeed.com has a Super Mario Crossover game that probably won’t be around for very long if I know my copyright laws—and I think I do. This isn’t just a simple palette swap game, either; each of these characters has his or her own special skill set and special moves and the music changes depending on who you’re playing as.
Certain things adhere to what some of us refer to as “The Pizza Rule”: even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. The Legend of Zelda series definitely follows that rule.
Spirit Tracks picks up exactly 100 years after the events of Phantom Hourglass. The Link and Zelda of that game established the country now known as Hyrule, and their descendants (who look strikingly similar to their grandparents) are now a princess and an aspiring engineer. Link is summoned to the castle by Zelda so he can partake in a ceremony to earn his engineers’ certificate when the Hylian shit hits the fan. The princess is convinced that one of her advisers has sinister plans for the kingdom and, sure enough, when she and Link travel to the Tower of Spirits to investigate, it looks like somebody is trying to resurrect a demon king who had been sealed beneath the country for a few centuries. The two are suddenly thrust into the thick of things and are charged with awakening the sages in four temples scattered across Hyrule to seal the Malladus, the demon king, once more. Link is given a legendary vehicle known as the Spirit Train to travel across the land of Hyrule to conquer each temple and, once again, act as the country’s messenger/courier/ backbone of the Hylian economy.
Link is controlled by guiding him on the bottom screen with the DS stylus. The top screen features a map, and if you press down on the D-Pad, the map and action screens switch places so you can make notes, a function introduced in Phantom Hourglass that is an asset to figuring out some of the game’s puzzles. Items are equipped either by tapping the on-screen icon or holding either the L or R button.
When controlling the train, the player slides an icon on the right side of the screen to four different positions: fast, slow, stop and reverse. When you acquire bombs, simply tapping an area of the screen will send a projectile in that direction. Other than that, whenever a junction in the tracks appears, a sliding scale appears at the bottom of the screen, and the player must either choose left or right.
Original Score: Just as IGN and Kotaku say, this game is best played with headphones. The original music is right up there with some of the console tunes.
Level Design: The dungeons in the game are so much fun to play through, and the items you acquire liven up exploration so much that you’ll want to revisit nearly every town you’ve been to after each temple just to see what kind of trouble you can get yourself into.
Hyrule the Melting Pot: In the Zelda universe, races don’t really mingle too often: the Gorons live in the mountains, Hylians live on the plains and so on. This is the first time you get to ferry members of different races around the countryside, many of whom find permanent new homes. It’s nice to see some of these guys broaden their horizons.
Working with the Train: I thought the traveling segments might get a bit stale, what with you riding on a set track everywhere. The truth of it is that there’s so much to do when you’re riding the train that travel never gets stale. There’s also a great variety of upgrades and augments to the train that you’ll spend hours hunting down the necessary tools to build them.
Great Replay Value: Even when you’re done with the main quest, there’s still tons to do. There’s sections of the map you’ll still need to uncover, side quests with decent rewards to complete, and, of course, train augments to hunt down.
No Tingle: Enough said.
Train Equipment Screen: While there’s a great variety of augments and upgrades to your train, there is no way to know what those augments will do once you’ve got them equipped. Some engines will make your train accelerate faster, others reach a higher top speed, but there’s no way of knowing until you leave the station and travel halfway across the plains.
Difficulty: Yes, the level design is ingenious, but the vast majority of the puzzles can be solved by surveying the environment for a moment and making the proper adjustments. Eiji Aonuma said the game would make you really scratch your head when you’re figuring out some of the puzzles, but that simply isn’t the case. There are some headscratchers, but for the most part, it’s a cake walk, especially if you’ve played a Zelda game before.
No Bomb Arrows: Enough said.
If you’re a Zelda fan, this is a no-brainer. If you just love video games, you’ll want to check this out. I’d recommend this to anyone that hasn’t picked up a handheld Zelda game in the last few years; it certainly ranks up there with some of the best software in recent memory. If you’ve played Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, the nostalgia factor alone is enough to make you wet yourself. This is easily worth a $35 investment.