Here we have a highly customized, refined, and true to form (if not a bit less linear) NES-style quest that delivers on the promise of playing the role of the villain. It makes you wonder if all of Ganon's other minions are as self-aware and reflective as Kain. I could expound on that thought with some philosophy about whether or not we should feel bad about wasting so many of Ganon's minions, if some or all of them are like Kain, but instead I will review some pros and cons I found during my playthrough of AoK.
- Interesting custom designed screens throughout, such as buildings and map and screen design.
- Customized enemies with interesting rare drops. Many enemies have customized sound effects as well. As warned in the text file, there is a lot of the Isle-of-Rebirth style death groans and screams, which are kind of amusing as well.
- Between the whistle and the warp system, getting around the overworld(s) is pretty fast and easy.
- Tons of little secrets to find, and some potentially challenge-breaking big secrets to find relatively early before the last level. There are quite a bit of sidequests to do and things to find between levels.
- AoK might have the best balance of rupees:things to buy that I have ever seen in a ZC quest. One of my ZC-peevs is virtually every quest throws more rupees at the player than the player can possibly hold or spend. Contrarily, in AoK, thanks to the "big wallet" right from the start, I found myself actually behind the curve in terms of rupees and short on money for things to buy.
- Difficulty ranges from "about right" to "a bit too easy," but with a bias towards being mild-moderate. There are some uphill difficulty curves, especially if the player wants to go exploring in overworld screens that are not necessarily intended to be visited yet. I found the optional dragon fights to be much more challenging than the level boss fights, but I think I did those dragon fights early than intended and before obtaining helpful sword/armor upgrades.
- The aforementioned plot.
- I don't like how every single dungeon room seems to be flagged to make enemies always respawn. This makes navigating and traversing the later dungeons a pain. The overworld screens appear to have the same "feature," but usually at least on the overworld, there isn't also an abundance of trap doors that only open after defeating all enemies.
- There are far too many key doors in the dungeons that lead to a dead end, or a useless prize, essentially wasting keys. Now, of course the player can buy keys in this quest, which is a good thing because several times, doing so is actually mandatory due to a key lock right at the beginning of a dungeon. This key situation is also not balanced by being able to find a sufficient amount of keys within a given dungeon to open all of the key doors in that dungeon.
- Dungeon design is heavily inspired by the original LoZ, but pretty bland a lot of the time with very simple paths and navigation. Many times, I could bypass getting things like the compass or map, or even the dungeon treasure and go straight to the boss with the boss key. There is a heavy reliance on bombable walls and walk-through walls that can be frustrating if one doesn't find bomb-capacity upgrades, the lens, or get the spin-attack skill in order to tap walls. Be sure to go exploring!
- Like the original LoZ, there are a lot of "pay me for the door repair charge" caves. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, because it helps the player from obtaining too many rupees, but I bet many players will be frustrated.
Overall, I really enjoyed AoK and got a solid 18 hours or so of gameplay out of it. AoK is a solid 4.5/5, which I round up to a 5.