In the Arbiter’s Grounds Link finds the spinner, a rotating gear that allows him to float for short distances. It’s more or less useless unless it happens to come into contact with a special track that allows it to gather momentum and whisk Link around at rapid speed. Riding the spinner along its tracks is the most fun thing ever, especially when Link is able to jump between tracks. There’s a room in the Arbiter’s Grounds that is like one giant spinner amusement park, and the temple boss fight with Stallord is super exciting as well. Movement in the Zelda series is generally slow paced, with even Epona’s gallop being fairly sedate, so the sudden necessity of quick reflexes and fast decision is exhilarating.
Outside of the Arbiter’s Grounds, there aren’t many spinner tracks in Hyrule, but there’s a cool ruined structure along the mountain ledges of East Hyrule Field that requires Link to make a sequence of perfectly timed jumps in order to arrive at a ledge with a heart piece. It’s probably the second most enjoyable heart piece to collect in Twilight Princess, even though it took me many, many attempts to win.
Aside from a small cave north of the Eldin Bridge, there’s not much else to do with the spinner, so Link heads back to Telma’s Bar, where he is told that the swordswoman Ashei has been investigating the appearance of a strange creature on the snowy mountain north of Zora’s Domain.
After a fetch quest in which Link uses the Zora prince’s earring to catch a red fish called the Reekfish, from which wolf Link can trace the smell of the Reekfish-eating monster, he is granted access to the Snowpeak area, which is bleak and snowy and not terribly interesting…
…until he reaches the top of the mountain, where he encounters a yeti named, appropriately enough, Yeto. Yeto invites Link to join him for soup at his home in a mountain valley. The best way to get there, Yeto tells him, is by snowboarding. Snowboarding down the mountain isn’t quite as much fun as riding the spinner, but it’s pretty damn fun. Kudos to the game developers, seriously.
What’s even more fun is the dungeon that follows this sequence, the Snowpeak Ruins. In terms of gameplay, the Snowpeak Ruins don’t have quite the same level of flow and cleverness as the Arbiter’s Grounds (which is actually one of my favorite Zelda dungeons to play through), but the visual design is amazing. The Snowpeak Ruins are a giant mansion in the style of an early nineteenth century British country manor, with ornately carved wood paneling and chandeliers and huge portraits and everything. You can imagine a Jane Austen novel set here. There’s no indication of what the Snowpeak Ruins were supposed to be before they were ruins, but the building is currently occupied by Yeto and his wife, Yeta.
I love dungeons that have a story built into the player’s exploration, and in this regard the Snowpeak Ruins are wonderful.
Yeta, who is beyond adorable, is sick and huddled by the fire. Sure, she says, Link can have the broken mirror that Yeto has found and brought to her, but she is too sick to move. Meanwhile, Yeto is fully engaged in cooking soup for his ailing wife, so it’s up to Link to find the mirror himself. Yeta helpfully marks its location on the map she gives Link.
Or not so helpfully, actually. She leads him on a wild goose chase in which the treasure chests she indicates hold soup ingredients. After the soup is sufficiently delicious, she finally reveals the true location of the mirror shard, which is in the master bedroom at the top of a tower overlooking the mansion. When Link gets there, Yeta is waiting for him. He walks in on her admiring herself in the mirror, whose power transforms her into the temple’s final boss, Blizzeta.
When Link defeats her, Yeto rushes in and tells her that she doesn’t need a mirror; because she is beautiful to him, and the only mirror she needs is the love in his eyes. And then they hug and I cry and cry and cry become of the cuteness overload.
The treasure Link finds (by stripping it from the body of the dungeon’s miniboss) is the ball and chain, which is exactly what it sounds like. This tool is an instrument of destruction, and it is a pure joy to use. When thrown, the ball has the power of a bomb. It can not only explode boulders and chunks of ice (which normally freeze bombs) but wreck everything that isn’t nailed down, from enemies to furniture to decorative suits of armor.
I kind of go wild with it.
The secret piece of heart that Link can earn with the ball and chain is in a cave in North Hyrule Field, and this is perhaps the most tedious treasure in the game to earn, as it requires Link to solve three sliding block puzzles. I’m kind of spatially challenged, so it took me about two hours to complete.
BUT THEN, if Link returns to the top of Snowpeak, he gets to play a snowboarding racing game with Yeto, which is the second best thing to what he gets to do if he wins, which is to race Yeta. Yeta, bless her heart, is an absolute maniac, and it’s extremely difficult to win against her and her adorable face, oh my god she is so cute. Once Link (eventually, after many failures) squeaks in a win, he gets a piece of heart. This is the most enjoyable heart piece in the game, no contest.
Twilight Princess is so much fun, and I am having so much fun playing it.
( Header image by hylianhick on Tumblr )