In Case You Missed it…

Jay Barnson, who has stories with us in issues 4 and 5, was interviewed at Castalia House by Scott Cole on Monday. You can read it here.

The interview largely focuses on Barnson’s work as a game developer, so if you dig vidya, you should definitely check it out!

At some point, I’ll be posting a review of Frayed Knights, an indie FPRPG that Jay made with his Rampant Games collaborators, so be looking forward to that, too.

Power Dolls

I think the wargamer in me has been subconsciously prepping for WWIII for the last couple of months. Not only did I start playing Fallout 3, I was, until last week, embroiled with a double header of NATO: the Next War in Europe, and over the weekend, I devoted several hours to one of my favorite childhood video games, Red Storm Rising. I’ll tell you what: RSR is the best Tom Clancy based game there is, was or ever will be.

But today, I want to spotlight Power Dolls, a game that I’ve been playing the past couple days and did some live tweeting of last night.

There are two things I love that I am always in the look-out for in combination – hexbased wargames and the real-robot genre. There are a handful of examples out there, but many have a very steep language barrier, such as the Gihren’s Greed series or the line of Mobile Suit Gundam hex & chit board games, and for whatever reason, many Japanese tactical wargames go for squares, rather than hexes, which are nigh intolerable (especially in cases where there’s no unit stacking).

First thing I’d note about Power Dolls, it has a lot more stuff going for it than you would expect of a game whose primary hook is “everything is piloted by women”.

There’s something about a war between earth(maybe) and colonists on this planet, and you’re playing as the colonists’ defense force in a bid for maintaining independence. Or something. I should really probably go back and go over the settings stuff again. But for whatever reason, the entirety of the defense force is composed of women who pilot mechs and air-planes or drive self-propelled rocket artillery.

army_mlrs_1982_02

Pew, Pew!

There are apparently only 10 missions, but given how long one of them takes to play through, that’s probably plenty.

Each mission starts with a large operational view of a theater, showing the situation, the mission, and the disposition of both your troops and the enemy’s. You have the option of selecting different pre-defined plans for the operations, which determine things like when forces get dropped, when air support is available, etc.

You have up to three drop-teams of mechs (depending on the operation; the first missions so far have only used two), a drop-team of off-board rocket artillery and a couple squadrons of air support.

Before each mission, you assign mechs, planes and artillery to your pilots, hopefully giving them some sort of configuration of gear and weaponry that compliments their skills. You then have to assign pilots to each landing group; the number of mechs in each group will determine how much air-lift it takes to bring them in; I’m sure that will matter more in later missions, since there are both heavy carriers and light carriers with some air-to-air capability. Any pilots not tied up in air-lift can be assigned fighter-bombers to offer ground support in one of the fighter wings.

So, what goes down, and gets depicted in the operational map, is your long-range artillery gets airlifted into position, then your first drop-team flies in and gets deployed on the tactical map, and as the mission progresses in 5 minute 1-turn increments, your troops are flown in according to the selected plan for the operation.

While the gameplay isn’t as crunchy as Battletech (there aren’t individual components that are tracked), it has a pretty robust selection of actions you can take during a turn. Each mech has three different rates of movement to choose from, which vary in per-hex movement cost, passive spotting radius, and defense against opportunity fire. Attacks are based on the equipment a mech has, but include everything from sub-machine guns and rifles to grenades and smoke screens. Units can drop weapons that are out of ammo to increase the number of realized action points. They can also call in air-strikes and indirect fire anywhere on the map.

I screwed up in a lot of places in the assignment of gear and deployment of forces in the second mission, partly because I didn’t pay enough attention to the mission briefing. I’d landed my troops around the bridge-head I thought I needed to defend, when really I should’ve air-dropped a handful of recon mechs to act as spotters and call in air strikes and off-board indirect artillery strikes while the enemy armored column moved south along the road. Instead, I had a massive tank division more or less punch through my scattered lines. By the time I’d started calling in indirect fire, most of my units who could spot were dead, cut-off or just trying to run away.

I may have to restart this mission so that I can go back at it with both better equipped units (fat lot of good my air-to-air missiles have done in this mission with no enemy aircraft) and better unit placement.

So, the good:

-Fairly nuanced tactical game; you have a lot of customization available to you in terms of how you can outfit your pilots. There are also a lot of different things each pilot can spend their action points on during your turn.

-The operational overview map is really cool. Even though you don’t do much on it, and so far only one mission has allowed for employing different “plans”, it’s a cool part that gives the game a wider feeling of scope than otherwise; for instance, you can SEE where your off-board artillery are located in relation to your front-line troops.

-The character art is pretty good; it finds a decent spot between ‘cute girls in mechs’ and the rougher look of more serious mil-sf animes. There is a character, though, who’s clearly an homage to Emma Sheen from Zeta Gundam.

-Hexes. They use hexes, man, HEXES!

The bad:

-The music is incredibly repetitive. For how long you’ll be playing this, you’re not going to be thrilled hearing the same bad midi-theme playing constantly.

-Speed of play. Not only are the turns incredibly long, this is exacerbated by the fact that the AI turn processes fairly slowly. Enemy turns take too long by most wargame standards. One mission of Power Dolls could easily eat up an entire evening, which is a double whammy when you realize you’re in a losing position after having sunk several hours in. I am probably going to have to go back to a save from nearly 4 hours of gameplay back to take another stab at the second mission (and hopefully this time silver haired yellow cat-eyes, cocky green-eyed brunette, and blue-bandana blonde won’t get blown up).

-The Fog of War doesn’t make sense when you’ve got air superiority and one or more fighter wings overhead. I get why spotting works the way it does, but it would be nice if there was a multi-step fog of war so that planes could spot units out in the open if they’ve bombed a target – even if they’re actually “gone”, you’d have an idea of the troop disposition from the previous turn as your pilots saw it on the way to and from their attack run.

There are also some complaints about the game’s AI; I can’t really judge yet, because if it’s bad, my strategy is probably worse than it is, at least until I figure out what I’m doing. We’ll have to see.

They’ve apparently made several sequels, but I’m not sure if any of them were ever translated into English. There’s also, apparently, a mediocre OVA based on it.

I’ll say that, for now, despite its flaws, I’m really digging Power Dolls. It’s definitely niche-within-a-niche, and the only other game that springs to mind along the lines of this is Cyberstorm (and that game was a very special kind of ugly). I’d love to find something that is mid-way between this and SSI’s Panzer General game, or even in a completely different direction, mid-way between this and Atomic Games/Avalon Hill’s V for Victory series. But as it is, if you’re desperately thirsty for hex-wars and giant robots, Power Dolls will definitely tide you over for a bit. You can find it at most abandonware sites.

power-dolls_6power-dolls_1power-dolls_2

“Prepare to Face my Final Form! RAY OF FROST!”

Fighting the big evil lich midboss in Chapter 2 of Neverwinter Nights got me thinking about some of the differences in magic/super/whatever-powered heroes and villain in eastern and western media.

In many eastern fiction and game properties, a villainous big bad is going to start with his cheap tricks and low energy attacks to deal with whatever threat is facing him. I’m reminded of one of the minor good-guys from Fist of the North Star’s shocked exclamation after facing Raoh for the first time: “He’s killed me with a single punch!” It’s only when those initial one-hit kills don’t do the job that the bad-guy will bring out the heavier guns. Whether it’s calling forth the powers of darkness, going bankai, releasing control art restrictions, or undergoing some other lengthy transformation, these guys incrementally step their game up to whatever level it needs to be to meet the immediate threat.

In D&D derived games, however, most fights are going to start with the biggest guns blazing first – you typically can’t afford the slow build-up of testing this or that weakness and saying “ho-ho, you’ve resisted my cantrips? Well, see how you like this incrementally more powerful attack!” Once the buffs have gone up, you typically start at the top of the spell list, knowing the other guy is gonna do the same, in hopes that you kill him with your big damage effects, working your from your high-level instant kills, to your beefed up AOEs, to spamming mid-level direct damage. If someone is able to survive that? Well, there’s always Magic Missile, but what next?

The fight with Brother Toras, even at level 15, was incredibly tough, but, unlike what one might expect from a boss fight in a JRPG, it got progressively easier as it went along. I didn’t have to beat him quickly, I just had to outlast him. It took a few teleports out, and I lost my henchman a couple of times, but I beat him without having to respawn. Though he did waste a bit of time on debuffs, Tomas went all out from the very start with some really nasty stuff, a lot of it big-damage and AOE (and I’ll admit, I did have to reload a few times once I figured out it was Evards Black Tentacles that kept one-hit killing me), but after the initial big explosions and masses of writhing tentacles coming up from the floor of the tombs, he just started spamming fireballs. When these hit, they hit freaking hard, but I spent a lot of time running in circles around the tomb and with my stupid high dex bonus, was able to soak most of the hit. Then something funny happened: the lich started using things like Flame and Acid Arrow, most of which just sort of bounced off me. His last true hurrahs were a couple of magic missiles which, as a level 19 wizard, did come dangerously close to putting me in real peril.

By the time Tomas was down to casting Negative Energy Ray and Ray of Frost, I was actually feeling kind of bad for him. At that point, I was able to more or less stand my ground, shooting him with acid arrows, slowly burning my way through his hundreds of points of damage reduction. Eventually he was reduced to trying to poke me with a stick to very little effect (29 Dex, yo).

This is something I’ve seen happen in tabletop to a degree, as well. It was probably worst in Exalted, in which everyone is constantly operating at 11 and it’s a contest to see who runs out of need stuff first (hint: it’s always the person who’s not a Solar). In my own most recent game, the boss-fight involving a magic user was beyond a disappointment, since his one spell got interrupted and he was promptly hacked to pieces. The boss fights that were tough and the players seemed to enjoy the most were ones in the royal tombs and the Rug-Bear(Polymar)-the wight had potential long-term negative effects (level drain), the Banshee was a puzzle that did damage, and the Rug-Bear was a huge damage-dealing machine firing on all cylinders until the very end.

Probably my best-paced boss-fight involving a magic user was awhile back with the 4th level elf; then again, he didn’t use any attack spells – he just mage-armored then mirror imaged before proceding to go to work with his long-sword.

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to run a game again, but with the players expressing a desire for some mid-to-upper-level play, I might get the opportunity to experiment with some set-piece battles with magic users in an attempt to avert the diminishing battle intensity typical to wizards.

Pokemon Go!: A Death Sentence for Black Men or a Bad Idea in General?

Over at Medium, Omari Akil expresses his fears upon the realization that wandering around looking for Pokemon through a cell phone is conspicuous as hell and probably really weird looking to anyone who doesn’t know what that person is doing.

His conclusion is that, with the current climate, black men will face disproportionate threat of being shot while playing Pokemon Go because white folks and cops will be weirded the hell out by black men wandering through residential neighborhoods and loitering about as they look for Pikachu.

So, what is Pokemon Go?  It is apparently the new hotness that combines geocaching with Pokemon.  What does this mean?  It means that weirdos will be wandering around your town with their cell phones out trying to find wild pokemon that have appeared on their google map or something.

There has been a lot of speculation on how and where these pokemon show up and why, but depending on where they’re showing up, the threat it poses is manifold and goes beyond race.

Regardless of your skin color, folks are gonna be creeped the hell out by folks who show up looking for Pokemon at playgrounds and parks (Why the hell is that guy pointing his phone at kids!?) and wandering around residential areas looking like you’re casing housing.

Pokemon are gonna show up in well-to-do white neighborhoods to the terror of black nerds; Pokemon are gonna show up in poor and dangerous black neighborhoods to the terror of white nerds; Pokemon are gonna show up on playgrounds to the terror of parents that are going to assume that they are mysteriously being swarmed by pedo-hipsters.

It’s one of those aspects of augmented reality that someone probably should’ve spent more time thinking about.  While I think Akil is being hyperbolic, and I can totally see now the crying mother saying “he was just tryin’ to find his pokemans!” after some kid gets shot having broken into somebody’s house, far more likely scenarios are kids and young women getting attacked and/or abducted after having headed down to skid row in search of rare candy.

Frankly, I don’t care what your skin color is, and I don’t  care what Professor Oak thinks may be on my lawn – kindly stay the hell off it.  I’m not going to shoot you, but if I see you with your phone out walking around my house at any time of the day, I’m calling the cops.

If you’re one of the millions of people who downloaded this app, think before you go off looking for Pokemon in places where normal folks don’t expect you to be poking around with cell phones and will think you’re up to something if you are.  Parents, if you’re letting your kids play this game, don’t be dumb and don’t let them do dumb things like look for Pokemon alone, look for them in strange neighborhoods, or look for them in places where they might get hurt (“There’s geodude down in old gravel pit!”).

Update: Holy crap!  This game literally has pokemon bait you can use to harass entire neighborhoods of people or, as in some cases that have already been reported on in the Daily Mail, lure distracted hipsters to a location where you can mug them!

Mixed Feelings About Bioshock Infinite

“It’s all right, I’m not like the rest – I’m a progressive!”

::headshot::

I got a lot of enjoyment out of the original Bioshock. It was a very flawed game in many ways and felt more like a visual novel that used an FPS engine, but the shooter part was fun and had a lot of physics toys to play with and was a more than competently done survival horror with some really good set pieces and a the delightful twist that we’d see later in games like Arkham Asylum where you realize that YOU are the monster that everyone else is trying to survive.  I skipped Bioshock 2 because when I heard the whole “Play as a Big Daddy!” pitch, I was all “really?  That was the WORST part of the first game! No thanks!”, but I’d heard great things about Bioshock Infinite, it was on clearance, so I decided to give it a go.

I spent much of the first two hours absolutely hating Bioshock Infinite. Being dumped in the sky city with little introduction was a poor repeat of the original Bioshock not because we’d done this before, but because without Atlas to be your guide and without the immediate threat of the crazy splicer holocaust you’ve been dumped into, you find yourself alone in a very picturesque but dead and static world digging through trashcans on your way to the story.  Despite the dozens of citizens of Columbia hanging around, none of them pay you the least bit of mind or seem to notice your presence.  And if you’re like me and like to thoroughly explore your surroundings in games like this, it becomes even more pronounced that you’re in this very wide linear path for nearly an hour looking for a depth that just isn’t there.

Ian Miles Cheong recently shared this meme:

FPS Level Design

Even moreso than its predecessor, Bioshock Infinite is the middle there, in spades.

Once the actual action finally got underway (and I died several times, losing all of the loot I’d spent the previous hour scrounging garbage cans for; but hey, I was playing it on hard), I was even more aggravated because it wasn’t doing the FPS part well either!  Unlike the original Bioshock, where enemies could be seen fairly clearly because they were, y’know, in the room with you, enemies in Bioshock Infinite are difficult to see to the point of being downright hard to find except for when you’ve been shot at by one.  It’s gone the freaking Call of Duty route to crouching and running from unseen shooters and taking shots at enemies either from a great distance or trying to close the gap and getting mowed down by suppressive fire.  Oh, yeah, and you can only carry two guns!  LAAAAAAME!

Also, I don’t think its look at Patriotism and Apotheosis of the founders is as interesting or nuanced as the first game’s look at Objectivism vs. Collectivism. The Randian may have been a self-important asshole and his paradise failed, but the labor thugs absolutely had a hand in Rapture’s failures, and the union boss is the game’s big-bad.  The weird Lost Cause prophet guy and his klansmen aren’t nearly as interesting as villains as Andrew Ryan and his mad scientists and libertine artists.

So far, Elizabeth has been the only redeeming aspect of Bioshock Infinite.  She does a good job at evoking the whole “video game caring potential” trope.  She has a likable personality, she’s actually got some decent mechanical uses (“here is money I stole”, “here is a first aid kit I found”, “take this gun I took”, “let me pick this lock for you”), you don’t have baby-sit her, and a lot of her AI interactions with the environment are charming and fascinating.  The last point, I think, is where Elizabeth really shines – here movement is both responsive to the player’s and predictive – rather than following on some typical AI path-finding trail behind your character, if you’re moving in the direction of some goal in a safe area, she’ll be moving ahead of you; if you’re just wandering around, she’ll wander as well at a safe distance, sometimes looking at things or out windows or getting a snack; if you’re really derping around, she’ll lean up against a wall or sit on a bench and wait for you to get your shit together.  It’s cute, it’s interesting to watch, and it really breathes life into the NPC character.  Elizabeth is a companion character done right.  She’s also the kind of dame who’s usually paired up with the hero in the pulps, but that’s a whole nother can of worms.

Even if everything else about Bioshock Infinite is terrible and tedious and unfun (and it looks like that’s the direction it may be going), Elizabeth is amazing and nothing short of a breakthrough.  I’d like to see her as a model for future AI companions in other games, perhaps those that will be more fun (at least to me) than Bioshock Infinite.

Thief 2x: Shadows of the Metal Age

Over the weekend, I had a chance to dig into Thief 2x: Shadows of the Metal Age.

For any gripes I may have about Thief 2x, they are small in comparison to the fact that this is an entirely new freaking game in the Thief universe. It took me a bit to get used to, because of some minor technical and graphic issues. For whatever reason going to map, objective or menu with briefly drop to the desktop before opening the correct page (like at most 1 second with half a second lag time, during which the screen is black and the game still running; you CAN be seen, attacked and killed during this lag between exiting menus). Also, the textures and lighting seemed really wonky on the first mission, so despite some really neat atmospheric tricks and well done visual story-telling, it just didn’t look or feel right.

Another part of the disconnected feeling comes from using new health icons, a new shadow crystal and a few other cosmetic and semi-cosmetic changes. For instance, water arrows look different and cost more, but this is no big deal, because unless you’re fighting steam beasts or fire elementals, you always end up with way more water arrows than you needed generally. I liked the idea early on of combining the lock picks into a single item (hair pin), but this meant that it couldn’t be hotkeyed, so the return of the classic lock picks a few missions in was a welcome event. Zaya’s new sword is cool, but the knock-out hammer seems like a silly replacement for the blackjack, though it does kinda lampshade the whole dead vs. unconscious distinction which is even less meaningful in this game.

The first REAL mission (the Prologue has no weapons or sneak-mechanics, though there were some obnoxious instant-kill traps), while impressively built felt kind of off. A few of the subsequent early missions felt the same way, but gave me enough of a Thief fix to keep going. Thief 2x really hits its stride after you reach Sunnyport. The train-ride mission was a cool bit of world-building and atmosphere, but felt rather unrewarding as a mission; the following mission where you have to sneak into the smuggler’s hide-out, raid the place and get out without even knocking anyone out, however, was pure Thief bliss. The Hammer temple was great, but the Masoleum!

Down Among Dead Men is probably one of the best Thief levels I’ve ever played and is by far one of my favorites; it’s creepier and more colorful than Down in the Bonehoard or either of the Haunted Cathedral levels, and has supplanted Trail of Blood as my favorite mission. It has some of the coolest set pieces, wild puzzles and traps, and creepiest undead filling a webbed catacomb of crypts which includes the final resting place of an evil necromancer whose ghost has caused the dead to rise at his beck and call. I can’t think of a level from either Thief or Thief 2 that comes close to how awesome this is in terms of storytelling, play or level design with the possible exception of The Sword (and this was more fun and had less accidental fall deaths). This would absolutely be the sort of level where, if you could get a decent floorplan of it, would be an AMAZING dungeon crawl for low-to-mid-level characters. Plus, it introduces new zombie mechanics which I’ll probably write up for tomorrow.

zaya

Meet Zaya, the alluring sociopathic murder-hobo protagonist of Thief 2x: Shadows of the Metal Age.  As a woman of color with a crippling lack of empathy, she hits at least three diversity checkboxes!  Just kidding; I’ve never heard ANYONE bring her up when talking about diversity in video games.

As far as the character Zaya goes, I’m still warming up to her.  I haven’t found her particularly likable or interesting, and she’s got a bit of a one-track mind.  Her arc of losing her cousin to murderous thieves so that she herself becomes a murderous thief (because revenge) is a bit silly.  There are a lot of ways that they could’ve addressed this within the game’s mechanics to make it less ridiculous.  One of my biggest gripes – and one which feeds into this – is that the difficulty does not affect the objectives in any meaningful way.  If one plays Thief and assumes Expert is the ‘canonical’ way in which the missions are done, Garrett is a consummate professional and wholly above murder, even against the despicable child-killing Mechanists; indeed, one of the biggest challenges is making it through a mission without getting into lethal altercations.  Zaya has no such compunctions against killing and is free to do so wantonly on the highest difficulties, so one may assume that she doesn’t have Garrett’s moral code and is pretty much a murder hobo.  Which explains why she knocks people out with a hammer rather than a leather truncheon.  In large part, this is why the missions in the smugglers’ hideout and the Hammer temple felt so Thief-like – you weren’t allowed to just kill people (or even knock them out in the case of the former).

I’m entirely expecting that the guy who took Zaya in and taught her thieving ways is going to end up being a bad guy. I just hope that I’m invested enough in Zaya by that point to have some sort of emotional response. For all of the amazing effort that went into fleshing out this new world and integrating it into the existing Thief lore, I wish that Zaya herself were better done. Even if the rest of the game ends up being garbage and there is nothing else good about it, it will have totally been worth it for missions 5-7, where I really felt like I was playing a brand new Looking Glass Studios Thief game.

Ocarina of Time is Bad: 2.8 out of 10

How’s that for a nice trolly title?

Not long ago, I managed to finish Ocarina of Time.  I had played it once or twice before, but never really got to spend any time with it until last year when I picked up a Game Cube and the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition (mostly for Zelda 2).

I absolutely hated Ocarina of Time.  It is one of the worst, most obnoxious console games I’ve played and by far my least favorite Zelda game.  I have not played any of the CDi games, but I’d guess that I would find those more favorable than Ocarina.

OoT is one of those games that are beloved and iconic, often pointed to as a favorite or even the pinnacle of the franchise.  Not having ever had an N64 growing up, I can’t look at it through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.  I don’t buy the “Oh, it’s old” excuse, because the four other Zelda games I’ve played and enjoyed were all older than OoT.  When people would hate on Zelda 2, I would joke that “If Zelda 2 were the worst Zelda, why has every console sequel since Link to the Past been a platformer?” but the platforming there was far less painful than the early forays into 3d platforming.

My gripes with OoT are all writing and gameplay.

Despite being an “open world” game, the bigness of Hyrule seems only to underscore how difficult it is to figure out where you’re supposed to go and do what when.

The Day and Night system was a clever idea but they had yet to figure out how to make it anything more than an annoyance that would require you to either screw around outside of towns or play the time passage song to get to whatever store or person you needed to reach.

The worst offenses of OoT are the poor ways that targeting mechanics jibe with the environment.  This can be written off as being the developers being unused to creating fun and interesting set pieces in a 3D environment, but that doesn’t make it any less bothersome.  Difficult jumps, poor visual angles/perspectives, and enemies lurking out of sight plague many of the dungeons.  Ironically, Kees, the weakest enemies in previous installments, become some of the most dangerous and annoying simply because they are so difficult to target.  Additionally, many of the fights and puzzles rely entirely on being frustratingly repetitive rather than being clever or interesting to inject fake difficulty.  Mistakes are often punished by having to repeat some lengthy and tedious task.  White papers could be written on the Water Temple as a case study in poor game design; let’s just say that the constant need to repeatedly open the menu screen, scroll over a couple pages and equip or unequip the iron boots to solve the flooded room puzzles was enough to make me consider snapping the disc.

Link is also just not a very likeable character in OoT.  I was told by someone on the internet that since he’s a self-insertion character, I must not have a very high opinion of myself to dislike Link in OoT.  While I may engage in a good bit of self-loathing, that doesn’t explain why Link is likeable as a mute protagonist in other titles but not OoT.  In OoT, Link kind of has resting-bitch-face, which makes him seem crass and uncaring when people are telling him something personal and important.  Beyond that, though, and it’s hard to put my finger on it, he just doesn’t seem to actually care about his friends or be able to connect with them on any sort of emotional level.  Scenes with Saria, Malon and Zelda are particularly uncomfortable to watch.  For lack of a better description, Link seems almost autistic in this game and is unable to convey that he understands the feelings of those around him; you want him to act like he cares about the characters that you care about, but the best we get is dialing up Saria for tips on what Dungeon to go to next.  This apparent lack of empathy is exacerbated further by the strongly implied sexual attraction that all women in Hyrule seem to feel for Link.

In short, Ocarina of Time was unfun, tedious, poorly paced and plotted and at times very cringe-worthy.  Despite this, the game garnered many perfect reviews when it came out, much of it likely hinging on the novelty of a 3D Zelda game, and is considered by many to be one of the best Zelda games ever made.  If it was ever actually good to begin with, it did not age well at all.  Frankly, I thought it was terrible.

Oddly enough, I was fully prepared to dislike Majora’s Mask, a game that I’d heard from many people was inferior to OoT.  Indeed, its review scores, while very high, are not what OoT’s were.  Despite this, I found that I totally love it.  It will certainly warrant its own post, and I’m not far in yet, but already I’m finding most of my worst gripes about OoT addressed and solved.  Puzzle/fight designs are much improved, the Day/Night system is implemented in an exciting and meaningful way, Tatl is much less vexing than Navi, and Link manages to be much more likeable.  Not that I don’t have some minor gripes with MM, but unlike OoT, I’m having fun!