Video Game: ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal
is an Ordinary High-School Student
from London with a penchant for Fantasy Literature
. One day, while left at home alone, she is surprised by a sound coming from the attic
, where she finds a casket with a stone tablet
inside that suddenly transports her to a colorful magical landscape
populated by faeries
, and the rest of the fantastic creatures
. She is greeted by a goblin named Rafi
, an adventurer extraordinaire, who managed to cross the barrier between his native ZanZarah
(where Amy has just landed
) and Amy's own Earth
. He wasn't driven by scientific interest, though. ZanZarah is in grave peril: Dark Elves
roam the landscape, wild fairies attack travellers, contact between settlements is lost due to unnatural obstructions, while the White Druid
, who is supposed to protect the lands from evil, is helpless. But the legends also speak of a saviour
who will be summoned from Earth
to become the greatest Fairy Duelist of all times and to Save Both Worlds
... for whatever is afflicting one world will inevitably echo in the other.ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal
is an Action Adventure
game with Pokémon
-style fairy training/duelling
, RPG Elements
, and a cookie cutter plot probably ripped off from The Longest Journey
. Despite all that, it features beautiful visuals
, funny pseudo-languages, original fairy designs, solid and entertaining gameplay
(once you figure out how
). In short, it Needs More Love
The game was developed by the German studio Funatics Development and released by THQ in 2002. They also tried to release an Expansion Pack
, ZanZarah: The Lost Village
, but it was Cut Short
The game provides examples of following tropes:
- Action Adventure: The Fairy Duels are definitely action. Amy's quest apart from that is a simple adventure. Guess that makes it...
- AFGNCAAP: Amy, despite being given a distinctive appearance and a nominal voice, expresses zero personality, thus being the classical stand-in for the player.
- Another Dimension: ZanZarah to Earth. Earth to ZanZarah. They were the same thing in the past.
- Bottomless Pits: Falling off a Fairy Duel arena results in the involved fairy's instant death. Also, falling off a cliff is one of the few ways to kill Amy herself (apart from sinking into the swamp and roasting her alive). However, as long as there is a bottom, Amy doesn't take any visible damage from falling down ridiculous heights.
- Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: There is a way to abuse the game's Check Point system with this: if you don't want to jump all the way back after completing a jumping puzzle, you can just save your game and leap down into the abyss, only to respawn at the entrance to the location. The only penalty you get for that is that all switches you may have activated there will be reset.
- The Call Knows Where You Live
- CamelCase: The title of the game is properly spelled with capital Zs.
- The Chosen One: Amy, according to ancient prophecies.
- Dark Is Evil: The Dark Elves. No justification is given, they just are.
- Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: There are 12 elements in the game that the fairies can belong to, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Expansion Pack: The unreleased add-on The Lost Village. Most fans never even learn it was in development.
- Fairy Companion: The whole game revolves around training them. Additionally, one constantly accompanies Amy during her travels.
- Many of the female (humanoid looking) fairies are particularly Fairy Sexy, especially the Nature Fairies.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink
- Gotta Catch Them All: There are 77 fairy species in the game, all with unique appearance, attributes, and spell preferences. Capturing or otherwise obtaining all of them without cheating is quite a feat, but not necessary to win the game.
- Guardian of the Multiverse: The White Druid and also, the Guardian, though the latter's function is more like guarding ZanZarah from Earth's humans.
- Heroic Mime: Amy talks very little (mainly in the opening video plus a few triumphant exclamations upon victory), even in dialogue.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Gameplay example: if you let a spell charge up for too long (indicated by the screen starting to flash) without unloading it into the enemy, it hits you instead. While at low levels, your main concern is losing half of your hit points that way, at high levels, spells with nasty side effects are introduced, which also apply to you...
- Jumped at the Call: Amy.
- Levels Take Flight: The Cloud Realm is situated on giant platforms hovering a few kilometers over the north-eastern lands.
- Light Is Not Good: The White Druid
- A Light in the Distance: The fairy lights in the swamp level.
- Magical Underpinnings of Reality
- The Man Behind the Man: The true perpetrator of most woes that befell ZanZarah is the White Druid himself.
- Mook Bouncer: The wild Psi fairies. Luckily, they only live in a single cave up in the mountains.
- Mr. Exposition: Rafi at first, but the Owls are actually a much better example, as the sole purpose of them being scattered all across ZanZarah is to provide advice to Amy.
- Only One Name: Amy is just... Amy.
- Ordinary High-School Student: Amy.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Enough said. They are based in the underground city of Monagham, and their language slightly resembles German.
- Our Elves Are Better: The Elves in ZanZarah are a peaceful, nature-loving homebirds who rarely venture outside Endeva and Tiralin. Their language sounds a bit like French.
- Our Goblins Are Different: The Goblins in ZanZarah are restless travellers, de jure based in the swamp town of Dunmore. They are not evil but the closest Amy has to The Rival is a goblin. Their language is especially funny.
- Phantom Zone: The Fairy Duel Arenas are pocket dimensions with increasingly bizarre architectures. While the low-level arenas look like rather reasonable Ruins for Ruins' Sake, high-level arenas may look like a giant stone corkscrew or a number of random stone slabs just floating in the sea of nothing.
- Real Life: By contrast to the colorful world of ZanZarah, Amy's apartment in London is Deliberately Monochrome, although the fairies (all captured fairies that are not on her primary strike team hang out in London) color it up a little. Given that London is completely irrelevant to the game's plot, you probably won't be using the Rune of Return a lot (except to change the faries in your party).
- RPG Elements: All fairies gain XP and level up through combat, can be equipped with increasingly powerful offensive/defensive spells, lose and gain mana/HP. There is also something like the Player Party, namely, Amy's five chosen fairies that follow her into battles (although only one can be fielded and directly controlled by the player at a time). For a cherry tapping, you can give your favorite fairies unique names.
- Rule of Fun: The gameplay is very simple and incredibly complex at the same time. You won't believe how fun the Fairy Duels are until you win a few.
- Save Both Worlds: By completing the main quest Amy not only rids ZanZarah of evil taint but also brings magic back into the real world, which is implied to save it from dullness.
- Scenery Porn: The screenshots of the game, especially the Cloud Ream, look like they've been taken from a landscape art exhibition.
- Summon Everyman Hero: Amy is not exactly summoned to, but rather lured into ZanZarah by Rafi.
- Swamps Are Evil: The Great Swamp around Dunmore is a rather grim and difficult area for one of the early stages of the game. Still, the native goblins are pretty nice people.
- Taking You with Me: One of the best ways to deal with multiple attacking Nature fairies is to field your Psi Stone Wall with lots of hit points and full damage reflection spell. The Psi are weak against Nature, so he gets killed pretty quickly... but since he has massive health and Nature fairies usually don't, he takes from two to four with him via damage reflection. He doesn't get XP (unless you are agile enough to withdraw him just in the nick of time) but hey, it's a cruel world.
- Third-Person Seductress: Averted with Amy, who, despite being a female controlled from third-person view, wears a conservative (or rather, practical for long travel) clothing and leaves all the ass-kicking to her fairies (who are controlled from first-person perspective, anyway).
- Trapped in Another World: Subverted, as the teleportation rune to London is found in the first house in Endeva.
- Warp Whistle: The teleportation runes enable instant travel to certain fixed locations (which not necessarily the same as places where you find them) from anywhere else.
- Wide Open Sandbox: The game world is basically this, though you have to advance the main plot to access more areas. However, there is not time limit and you can wholeheartedly devote yourself to exploration, fairy gathering, and training the moment you leave Endeva for the first time.