**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS**
In case you hadn’t noticed, I like The Legend of Zelda series quite a bit…a lot actually. While I love the canonical games, it’s the non-canon ones that intrigue me the most.
The most curious non-canon game to me belonged to everyone’s favorite fairy-hunting, leotard-wearing, perv, Tingle. This character has such a mixed reception around the world but for Japan, this guy is so popular that Nintendo felt justified giving him not one game, but two.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland and its sequel, Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love released on the Nintendo DS in 2006 and 2009 respectively. Due to Tingle’s unpopularity in the west, these games were initially given a Japanese only release, but Rupeeland was eventually granted a translated PAL release in 2007…which is when I purchased it. Just for the record, Balloon Trip of Love was never given an international release although a fan translation project is in the works.
So I bought Rupeeland strictly because it was Zelda related, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. But what I found was one of the more interesting, yet stupidly frustrating games I’ve ever played, it’s one of those games that without a strategy guide you’ll be throwing your DS out the window.
The game starts off with you giving your character a name, yes Tingle has a real name which is heard infrequently throughout. Minutes later you’re whisked to the pool near your house where an old man named Uncle Rupee, offers you a deal which becomes the main focus of the game.
The deal involves collecting as many rupees as possible and throwing them into the pool, collect enough and you’ll eventually be granted access to Rupeeland, a heavenly paradise where you can be a gluttonous fatass, a lazy, uneducated good-for-nothing, and a feminist’s worse nightmare. Uncle Rupee than turns you into a Tingle, a being whose life-force is literally defined by rupees, and this leads to one of the biggest deviations from canon Zelda games. Instead of your health being represented by hearts, your life is dependent on the number of rupees you have, run out of rupees and you die.
Collected rupees are thrown in the pool, once a certain amount is thrown in, the pool grows into a tower, the more you throw in the higher the tower grows until it reaches Rupeeland. The tower’s growth is also important for reaching new lands to explore, Tingle climbs to the top and launches himself off using his balloon, allowing you access to new continents and new areas to explore.
Rupees are collected from almost anywhere; by fighting enemies, selling items, from dungeons, or from the many NPC’s scattered throughout the world. It’s an interesting mechanic but it’s also the games biggest problem.
Before I get into everything I hate about this game, it’s only fair that I talk about what I like. First of all the art style feels very similar to the Wind Waker which for me, is very appealing, everything is bright and colorful, even in gloomy locations. There’s also plenty of humor which compliments the style, the game has a lot of that Japanese playfulness which combines brilliant fun with the flat-out bizarre.
The world itself is also surprisingly large which extended the length of playtime considerably more than what I anticipated; the game is split into eleven areas divided over three continents, most areas have their own theme, all inspired by the mainstream Zelda titles. Expect to find yourself exploring beaches, forests, farms, mountains, and swamps on your quest for monetary gain, each with uniques NPC’s, secrets, and the occasional dungeon.
Speaking of which, there are 5 main dungeons and a mini-dungeon. The dungeons are nothing to get too excited over, compared to the canon games they are a huge disappointment; expect a bare-bones layout with uninspired enemy placement, or an overly complicated layout with unfair enemy placement. The bosses however are the highlight of this game where clearly most of the creative juices was poured into, whether you’re battling a giant Stalfo or escalating an active volcano, it’s probably the only time in the dungeons where you feel like you’re having any fun.
The biggest problem with the game though relates to the game’s core mechanic of collecting rupees, haggling.
Haggling (or bargaining) is by far the worse part of this game…and it’s everywhere. Tingle isn’t the only money-grubbing shitlord in this game, everyone wants money, in fact most people won’t even talk until you pay them. The big problem with this is that usually they’ll never tell you how much they want, you have to guess.
There’s usually no clue to how much they want, but what’s worse is that if you guess too little, not only will they not give you what you want, but they’ll take your money anyway! The same is also true if you guess more than what they’ll need, you’ll get what you asked for but you spent more money than what you needed too. This game is a literal interpretation of the “pay-to-win” scenario and is the definition of artificial difficulty. You’ll find yourself constantly needing to farm for rupees as you constantly under or over-guess your way through your journey, and farming is difficult.
You can make rupees by selling things, such as food which you can cook up at your home, but to cook you need ingredients, to get ingredients you need to fight enemies and explore the landscape. Fighting enemies is a challenge though because Tingle can’t fight well, when you enter a fight Tingle enters a “battle cloud” which you tap on repeatedly to make Tingle win, which sucks because it’s almost impossible to not lose rupees in these fights. You can compensate for this by hiring bodyguards.
Bodyguards are found on all continents in salons and vary in strength and abilities. Bodyguards are hired to engage in fights for you or alongside you, they can also gain you access to secrets. Small bodyguards can grab chests out of small holes, medium bodyguards can pick locked doors, and large bodyguards can shift large boulders blocking your path. There are 27 salon bodyguards in total, there are also 3 drifter bodyguards that are exceptionally strong (and expensive to hire) and usually have their own side-quests to make them available for use.
Do you notice a theme of spending money to make money? It’s a tediously slow process because you find yourself needing to spend a lot of money just to make money to give you another shot at guessing whichever NPC needs money so you can progress in the game. This is why you need a strategy guide, knowing the exact prices of what NPC’s need will make the game not only more straightforward, but extensively more fun to play. I really can’t overemphasize this enough, USE A STRATEGY GUIDE! You won’t regret it.
With the haggling issue out-of-the-way, you can begin to appreciate the NPC’s a lot more. There’s a lot of variety of characters you’ll meet, each with their own unique traits, whether it’s a female variant of Tingle or a transgender bridge builder, it’s hard to deny the distinct Japanese flair. One of the most important side characters is Pinkle, who acts as your guide throughout your adventure.
Personally the game feels a little too long for what it is, even with a strategy guide the game sometimes feels like it goes on forever, but at least you feel like you get your money’s worth. There’s plenty of side-quests too, you can collect maps and draw landmarks to complete them which can then be sold for a high price. The largest side-quest involves collecting treasures called Rupee Goods, 30 of them are scattered across the continents and are stored in your attic. Their purpose doesn’t become obvious until the end of the game.
It turns out that Pinkle has been imprisoned and the only things that can break her out are the Rupee Goods. Collecting them all will net you a helpful reward, but not before Pinkle gives you a “special” reward….
Unsurprisingly, it turns outs that Uncle Rupee isn’t a very nice man. He enslaves people as “Tingle” slaves which he uses to farm never-ending supplies of rupees to satisfy his greed, so naturally you need to take him down, once you’ve thrown enough rupees into the pool to get the tower to its tallest height, you’ll find yourself on the moon (yes, really).
On the moon you’ll fight Uncle Rupee, if you collected all the Rupee Goods and rescued Pinkle, you’ll receive more help during the battle. The fight isn’t too difficult, you have to take him down by firing all the rupees you collected in the game at him, if you collected a lot than this will be a breeze. He has 3 forms, neither or which are too challenging, just keep firing and eventually he’ll go down for good.
The game ends with Tingle not changing a bit, just how we like him, right?
Overall, this game is decent enough, if you can get past the flaws there’s plenty of charm and humor that will make you keep coming back for more. But there are a lot of flaws, and those flaws lie with a very key mechanic of the game that makes it difficult to recommend for anyone.
That’s why my final rating for this game is a strategy guide out of 10.