The Wind Waker – Tower of the Gods

Tower of the Gods by Matt Rockefeller

When Link places the three Goddess Pearls in the hands of the statues on the Triangle Islands, they shoot beams of light to one another, forming – you guessed it! – a triangle. In the middle of this triangle, an enormous structure resembling a lighthouse slowly rises from the ocean. This is the Tower of the Gods.

Link enters the tower at ocean level on the King of Red Lions, who carries him from platform to platform while the water periodically rises and falls. The high tide allows Link to float above obstacles, although he must wait for the water to recede before he can access the lower doors.

Oddly enough, the rooms surrounding the central chamber are characterized by deep waterless abysses. One of these rooms holds a a stone tablet engraved with the Command Melody, which allows Link to control certain small statues. Although these statues seem to be made of stone, they erupt into glowing neon lines when they are musically activated, suggesting an almost alien level of technology. Link can use his Wind Waker baton to direct these statues to stand on switches for him, thus forming bridges made out of shimmering light over the dark trenches.

The treasure of this dungeon is the Hero’s Bow, a fantastic weapon that can kill almost anything. Link was previously defenseless against many of the monsters on the Great Sea, but now he can dispatch from the comfort of his boat. The Hero’s Bow also allows Link to pick off enemies from a distance without having to wait for them to attack him. Although the game has an auto-targeting feature, the gyroscope in the Wii U gamepad makes manual targeting a joy to use. I love the mechanics of the Hero’s Bow, which is so powerful and so accurate that I only rarely use the sword after I acquire it.

Link’s new weapon is the key to defeating Gohdan, a bodiless floating mask and set of huge hands that calls itself the guardian of the tower. The trick to fighting it is to shoot the palms of its hands with arrows, causing its mask to drop to the ground so that Link can toss a bomb into its mouth. This is an easy fight, and I suppose it’s ironic that such a technologically advanced entity can be brought down by such primitive weapons.

Gohdan seems to be some sort of artificial intelligence, and it’s interesting to speculate on where it came from. Was it indeed created with advanced technology? Or with magic? Or perhaps with a combination of the two? There seem to be a few parallels between the Tower of the Gods in The Wind Waker and the Sheikah Shrine Towers in the upcoming game Breath of the Wild. I suppose we can’t say anything definite about a possible relationship yet, but that certainly hasn’t stopped people from speculating that Breath of the Wild is set in the Wind Waker timeline. Personally, I think that’s unlikely, but who can say?

When Gohdan is defeated, he acknowledges Link’s heroism and agrees to grant him access to the secret path that the Tower of the Gods has been protecting. Link climbs to the top of the structure, where there is an enormous bell suspended on a crumbling platform under the open sky. Link uses his grappling hook to ring it, his tiny body acting as a pendulum. As the bell peals out over the ocean, a circle of light appears on the water in front of the tower.

When Link and the King of Red Lions enter the portal, they sink into the water until Link sees an oddly colorless landscape spread out underneath them. They finally land in a small pond in a garden on a balcony within Hyrule Castle, where time has stopped. The two waterfalls feeding the garden pond have frozen in place, and the monsters patrolling the corridors inside stand as still as statues.

Long before the details of the science fiction inspirations of Breath of the Wild were announced, the Zelda series has been set in postapocalyptic environments. The world of the original 1986 The Legend of Zelda was empty of everything except monsters, the landscape of Twilight Princess was filled with colossal ruins, and the people of Skyward Sword escaped a cataclysm on the surface of the earth by fleeing to the skies. In The Wind Waker, the impact of the apocalypse is much more palpable, as the player can actually walk through a preserved remnant of the proud civilization that flourished before the flood.

This is the big reveal of The Wind Waker – that the Great Sea covers the lost land of Hyrule. To the players who fell in love with the lively and vibrant Hyrule that they thought they saved in A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time, this came as an enormous shock. What could possibly have happened here?

After solving a silly Triforce-shaped spatial puzzle (which the King of Red Lions refers to as “a mighty threshold” – was that really all that was keeping Ganondorf away?), Link descends a secret staircase to find the Master Sword illuminated within a narrow pillar of light. Even though the sword is almost as tall as Link, the child draws it, and sunlight spills into the chamber. The camera then pans out to reveal color and life flooding back into the castle.

All of the Moblins and Darknuts begin moving along the hallways above, and the jagged lines of a magical barrier shoot across the exit. In order to release the barrier, Link needs to kill every last creature in the castle. Presumably this sequence is meant to demonstrate the power of the Master Sword to the player while proving Link’s prowess as a warrior, but it feels brutal. Moblins, which were previously a dangerous challenge, can now be easily slaughtered, so much so that actually fighting them feels superfluous. Meanwhile, the Darknuts that gradually lose their armor as Link attacks them are revealed to be doglike creatures wearing cute little aprons, and their faces are noble instead of frightening. Of course they will kill Link if he doesn’t defend himself, but hitting a dog in the face with a metal stick doesn’t come off as a particularly nice thing to do, even in a heavily stylized video game.

Once Link has tracked down and gotten rid of every single Moblin and Darknut, he can finally go back outside, where the King of Red Lions tells him that “The time has come to save your sister from her prison in the Forsaken Fortress.” In other words, Link has to fight Ganondorf.

The murderfest in Hyrule Castle has got me dispirited, so first I’m going to go rescue some trees. Next up is the Withered Tree sidequest!

( Header imagine from Matt Rockefeller on Tumblr )

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