When it was announced Japan would be getting a game starring the Zelda series' strangest character, Tingle, everybody pretty much agreed on one thing - it would never leave Japan. But, in a very surprising move, Nintendo decided to take the gamble and localise the game.
Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland takes place before every Zelda game he's in. Just a regular, middle-aged guy, his life does not consist of much more than lying around his house and living the bachelor life. One day, however, he hears a strange voice coming from a spring nearby. Investigating, he discovers Uncle Rupee, a deity who offers him a life filled with delicious food and beautiful women in the magical "Rupeeland." But of course he has to do something to get there - collect millions of rupees from around the world and throw them into the pool. Each rupee thrown in causes a tower to rise a bit higher into the sky, its eventual destination being Rupeeland.
The downside is that he is transformed into Tingle, the green-suited guy we all know and love (to hate?). In addition, rupees become his life force, explaining his desire for them in every other game he's in - should he ever go completely broke, he will die.
As you can probably expect, Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland plays quite a bit differently from other Zelda games. Although there still plenty of locations and dungeons to explore, and bosses to fight, Tingle's primary goal is not to defeat enemies, but simply get rupees. Although dungeon crawling is one of the methods to do this (and it must be done to see the game through to the end), he can also earn money in plenty of other ways, such as creating maps, or collecting ingredients for various recipes in order to create valuable food and drinks to sell.
Tingle's not much of a fighter, so it's hard for him to escape combat unharmed. Should he ever come into contact with an enemy, a cartoony dust cloud will immediately form and you must try to tap it as rapidly as possible to get Tingle to attack. During this, he will slowly lose rupees, which will only speed up if the enemy is much stronger or if he happens to get other enemies involved in the fight as well. Constantly picking fights alone isn't very smart, but luckily having money brings advantages, as Tingle can head to one of a number of "bodyguard salons" spread across the land to hire a bodyguard, who can then be sent off into battle to do Tingle's dirty work.
Bodyguards aren't as magical as Tingle, though, and each has a life bar that will eventually be depleted. Therefore, it could be a smart idea to send Tingle into each battle along with his bodyguard, no matter what, to end the battle faster and preserve your bodyguard's life a little longer. There are thirty different bodyguards spread throughout the game, including three special ones that don't appear in salons, with each having their own strengths and weaknesses.
Tingle's business-like self also comes into play all the time; any time you want to buy or sell something, it is possible to negotiate your way into earning more or paying less by simply guessing an amount of rupees which is hopefully favorable. But there is a limit to how low or high you can go, and if you mess up too many times you won't get a reward at all, or you'll be forced to pay the maximum price for something. There's no real way to be good at this, as there's nothing to it other than guessing. Sadly, that means the only easy way to get the best out of these situations is to save whenever you're about to negotiate, and reload if you mess up.
With 11 areas and 5 dungeons to explore, Tingle's quest can take quite a while. You'll visit plenty of staple areas from the Zelda franchise: a farm, a mountain, swamps, a snow field and more, each with their own secrets and quests to find. The dungeons are fairly linear and don't have too many puzzles, but in true Zelda fashion each of them ends with an epic boss fight against a giant creature. These battles are surprisingly fun, because, as Tingle is weak, he has to harm them in unconventional ways, which can make for some rather exciting moments. One boss battle is an homage to the Punch-Out!! series, complete with a scoreboard and stamina bars on the top screen mimicking the arcade games. But the greatest of all is the final boss battle, which is so unexpected it could easily be the best fight in the entire Zelda series.
There's plenty of nods to the other Zelda games spread throughout the game. Although Tingle never visits any locations Link has also visited, he'll have encounters with the Deku Tree, the Subrosians, Stalfos and others, and some of the items and objects you can discover are named after certain enemies. Tingle's map-making skills, his balloons and even his ability to create fireworks, all previously seen in Majora's Mask, all come into play and will prove invaluable during your quest.
Although the game is plenty fun, it can start to wear after a while. Eventually, you'll just be hunting for ingredient after ingredient in order to earn just a little bit of cash to access the game's next area. The dungeons and the whole aspect of carefully managing your money are pretty fun, but negotiating, constantly getting into fights and rapidly tapping your stylus on the touch screen to minimise your rupee loss are not.
The game's graphics have a very cartoony feel, which is perfect for Tingle. However, although it doesn't happen much, there are some occurrences of 3D throughout the adventure, which, in most cases, look a bit poorly done. The sound is a bit on and off - generally it will be completely quiet unless you're in a dungeon, with the only sound being birds chirping or the wind blowing. Combat sound effects tend to get a bit annoying the umpteenth time you hear them, as well. But when there actually is music, it's pretty good, with a few arrangements of past Zelda themes in there for good measure.
Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland is a bit of a weird one. Most of it is definitely fun, but some aspects tend to get very repetitive and/or annoying, which might lower your enjoyment of the game the longer it goes on. Still, it's definitely worth playing through the game in its entirety, and we have nothing but praise for Nintendo of Europe for having the courage to localise the game - we need more unusual stuff like this in the West. Now let's hope they localise the sequel as well!