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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Levels: A Tribute to Winter

Winter. The last season of the year, and also the first. Among the things you may attribute to wintertime, be it the barren trees, the chill in the air, or a winter holiday like Christmas, snow is most likely on everyone's list. Most games have at least one snow level. It's become somewhat of a staple, from first person shooters, to RPGs and even racing games. Let's take a look at some of gaming's many memorable snow levels, and look back on our fond memories of them.
Super Mario 64 - Snowman's Land

Snowman's Land is the 4th course available in Super Mario 64. It's main feature? A large snowman guarding a mountain! Mario's only line of defense is a very big penguin! This bulky bird blocks the snowman's icy breath from blowing Mario off the mountain!

Banjo Kazooie - Freezeezy Peak

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Ice Palace

The Ice Palace was the very first ice themed dungeon in the Zelda series. It is the 5th dungeon in ALttP. I can't remember much about the dungeon itself, but it leads to a boss battle Kholdstare, a mysterious one eyes creature that is at first suspended in ice.

The Legend of Zelda - Zora's Domain and Ice Cavern

When Link first arrives at the Zora's Domain, it has been frozen over by Ganon's magic, sealing off doors and trapping many inhabitants. Even after Link succeeds in rescuing the Zora's, there remains a cavern just outside their domain that is still frozen - The Ice Cavern. While technically a dungeon, albeit a small one, some do not count it as such. It only has one floor, which Link must explore in order to attain the heavy boots.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Northern Mountains

The Northern mountains consist of three areas - The Mountain village, a small area in the middle of the mountains; Snowhead, a gorge where the Goron race resides; and North Termina Field, the snowy entrance to he mountain. The blacksmith in the village can provide Link with the gilded sword, the most powerful sword in the game next to the fairy sword. In Snowhead, Link conquers Snowhead Temple for the second mask, and lulls the ghost of a giant Goron to sleep. This is also where Link attains his Goron mask.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Snowpeak Ruins

Snowpeak Ruins is quite simply beautiful. At first glance, it doesn't even look like a dungeon. That's because it is indeed a mansion, and the inhabitants are there the entire time Link is exploring. They're just chilling on the couch when Link asks about the mirror he is after. They just tell him it's upstairs, and he can have if he get's the key. they even offer you soup! The boss of this temple is a real surprise...

Paper Mario - Shiver City and Crystal Palace

Mario and his partners arrive in Shiver City through the sewers, and go looking for a penguin named Heringway. When they enter the mayor's home, they find him murdered! and Heringway is a suspect! After solving this mystery, they move on the Crystal Palace - a frozen castle. After solving the many riddles of the palace, it's time to show the Crystal King who's boss!

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door - Fahr Outpost

Fahr Outpost is the isolated home of many bob-ombs. It's quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Mario travels here in search of a canon that will shoot him to the moon! General White is missing, however, and his permission is needed. This sends Mario out on a wild goose chase searching for the general.

Mario Kart Series: Sherbet Land

This map has appeared in multiple Mario Kart Titles. It made its debut in Mario Kart 64, and has reincarnation in Double Dash, as well as Mario Kart Wii. Penguins, shyguys and Freezies are out to freeze your kart in its tracks on this snow map!

Mario Kart Series - Frappe Snowland

This is another famous snow track that also debuted in Mario Kart 64. it also has an incarnation in Mario Kart DS. This mountain trails has many snowmen that will freeze you if you hit them, as well as many beautiful snowy replicas of many Mario characters!

Ice Climber - Icicle Mountain

In the NES game Ice Climber, Nana and Popo scale Icicle Mountain, trying to reach it's many peaks. Once they reach a peak, avoiding toppies and polar bears, that leap from the cliff and grab hold of a condor's talons to be whisked away! This mountain i also a stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, serving as the home stage of the ice climbers, Nana and Popo, as well as being an area in the Subspace Emissary. Oddly, the stage has Balloon Fight crossovers. This mountain was also an upward scrolling stage in super Smash Bros. Melee called Infinite Glacier.

Pikmin 2 - Valley of Repose

The Valley of Repose is the first area explored in Pikmin 2. Olimar and Louie became seperated after a crash landing, and utilizing their 2 teams of Pikmin, they must reunite before continuing. it has been argued that this is actually the first area from the original Pikmin, The Forest of Hope, in the winter season. There are a couple of snowman within this area, which is actually very strange what with the game taking place after human extinction. Who built them, I wonder? Perhaps this area has no seasons, and is always snowy. If the fan theory is correct however, the snowmen really leave some questions to ponder...

Animal Crossing - Winter Season

Animal Crossing is the game that's always playing, even when you're not! In the game, your town, which you name, mirrors reality via the Gamecube's internal clock. If it is four o'clock p.m. on a Friday afternoon in August, it is the same for your town in Animal Crossing. This of course means that seasons are mirrored as well, from the rotting of foliage in the fall, to the frequent April showers of Spring, to the snowfall of winter. In winter, your town becomes blanketed with snow on a random date a couple weeks into December. winter perhaps brings more changes than any other season. Snow replaces rain, and has the same effect as rain on fish, so Animal Crossing fishermen like myself can still catch their coelecanths! On Christmas, a reindeer named Jingle in a Santa suit leaves gifts in mailboxes! Starting in January, snowmen can be built if you can find snowballs to roll around, and your townsfolk may occasionally build an igloo, in which you can get some very rare items. Winter is without a doubt the most magical season in this already magical game.

Halo 2 - Lockout

Lockout is a medium sized map set in a UNSC base in an arctic area. The outside area's are coated with a thin layer of frost, and a small amount of snowfall is visible. This map was extremely popular, and was re-released in Halo 3 under the name Blackout, though Blackout seems to be missing the frost texture.

Halo 3 - Avalanche

 Avalanche was a download map for Halo 3, and one of two snow levels in the game. Set in a UNSC valley outpost, this map is large and in charge. It consists of 2 bases, 2 open fields connected by a small cave system and a frozen lake. This map is big enough for huge online grudge matches while remaining small and open enough for split screen mayhem.

Metroid Prime - Phendrana Drifts

Phendrana Drifts is quite breathtaking, especially for its time. As soon as Samus enters the area, her visor begins to fog. The long you are in the Drifts, the colder Samus becomes, and the more her visor begins to frost. It was a very nice effect, and immersed you even further in the game. Phendrana drifts is also the first area of the game in which Samus encounters the Metroids on Talon IV.

Metal Gear Solid series - Shadow Moses Island

Shadow Moses Island is where the first Metal Gear Solid takes place. Shadow Moses is in Alaska, and thus it is always very cold. This is where Solid Snake shut down Liquids plan to use Metal Gear Rex as a nuclear weapon. It of course first appeared in Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation, but was remade in the Gamecube remake, The Twin Snakes. Snake also returns here in a very nostalgic chapter of Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Playstation 3. was it any surprise when it was included as snake's home stage when he was announced for Super Smash Bros. Brawl?

There are many, many, many more snow levels. In fact, there will continue to be new snow levels as long as gaming lives on, and it seems to have plenty of life left. There is absolutely no way I could ever pay homage to every snow level, or to every game with a snow level in it. Please, feel free to comment about your own personal favorites or memories of these levels or any I may have left out. I hope you enjoyed this article, and have a great winter, or at least what is left of it.

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