Wow. I just spent an hour with Seedling, an incredibly overt love letter to SNES-era Zelda games that just sprouted up on Newgrounds, and it’s a pint-sized wonder. To call it a Zelda clone would be unfair, because “clone” immediately brings to mind notions of soulless piggybacking, and that couldn’t be further from the truth here. This brilliant little freebie has its own meticulously crafted world, mythology, soundtrack, sense of humor, and – at least from what I’ve played – emphasis on hands-off exploration that captures the spirit of Nintendo classics just so. And that’s something even Nintendo arguably has trouble doing these days. Go play it, or – if you must – read a few more thoughts of mine after the break.
By and large, Seedling feels a lot like a missing link in Link To The Past’s family. In short, that means a basic storyline, simplistic sword fighting, collecting items to solve dungeons, and tons of block-pushing puzzles. Granted, there are other sorts of puzzles too, and though I haven’t even come close to being stumped, this definitely isn’t an unintelligent game. It’s proven to be very good at feeding me little “aha” moments – like when I encountered a row of enemies that’d instantly charge me if I entered their line of sight, only to notice a block nearby that I could push and trap each of them against. It was simple, sure, but pretty clever nonetheless.
Seedling also puts a couple twists on the Zelda formula that actually improve on the originals. (Admittedly, it’s been, you know, more than 20 years, so I suppose that’s to be expected.) For one, once I color-coded collected a key, it was dangling around in my pocket for good – always able to open corresponding doors. No impossibly brittle keys taking one-and-done trips to the magical (and probably very overcrowded) key graveyard in the sky.
Also, health automatically refilled every time I entered a new room. This allows Seedling to make each individual area a lot harder, because once it’s solved, I’m right as rain. On top of that, it drives a gloriously gleaming sword right through the heart of any frustration, because failure’s rewarded with the opportunity to instantly try again.
Lastly – and this is the tiniest thing – but, once I got the sword, movement became a total joy. Holding an arrow key in any direction and attacking results in a repeatable dash that feels all at once natural and empowering. Basically, I don’t even walk normally anymore. I just dash everywhere. But it’s one of those little places where you can tell this game was crafted with obsessive amounts of care.
So, in short, I really dig Seedling, and I’ll definitely be spending more time with it in the coming days. Granted, if you’re not into block-pushing and other such hallmarks of days gone by, this probably won’t change your mind. Thus far, though, it’s caressed my nostalgia gland just enough while also making everything feel fresh again. I’m glad gaming as a whole has evolved far beyond this point, but there’s nothing wrong an incredibly fond look back every once in a while.