The lead-up to the fourth and final dungeon is one of my favorite areas in any Zelda game. On the far side of Ikana Valley is a vast bottomless pit surrounded by endlessly tall towers made out of a colorless material that my expert-level deductive reasoning tells me is probably stone. These towers are featureless save for rows of tiny black windows that extend as far up and as far down as the buildings themselves. Or perhaps it’s only one building (the Japanese name of the structure, Ishi no tō, doesn’t differentiate between singular and plural) and Link is making his way up a hollow center. Certainly he doesn’t interact with the towers themselves, but rather rock ledges that appear more natural than artificial.
The switches Link manipulates with the creepy statues he summons with the “Elegy of Emptiness” trigger magically floating stone blocks, which seem unnatural but may operate according to scientific principles. He also moves up and down by way of hookshot pillars, which are more in keeping with the samurai and ninja style technology of the Ikana warriors than that of whoever built the towers. It could be that the Garo ghosts Link fights rose to prominence due to the ancient technology they pillaged, but who’s to say.
The Zelda wiki has outlined some cool theories concerning the tower/s, including the theory that the people who built the structure are the same people who created Majora’s mask.
I have my own convoluted headcanon concerning what the whole Ikana area is supposed to represent to Link based on what he experienced in Ocarina of Time. To make a long story short, I think Ikana Valley is where the more negative implications of the three human races in Ocarina of Time – Hylian, Sheikah, and Gerudo – all meld together into a giant monument to the horrors and ultimate futility of armed conflict.
Regardless, I think this is one of the first instances in the series of there being a hint of a much earlier and much more technologically advanced civilization having left its traces on the land.
Hyrule is so postapocalyptic, it really is.
( Header image by Yamoshi on deviantART )