The Wind Waker – Forsaken Fortress

Forsaken Voyage by Luke Joseph Gonet

The first movie that gave me nightmares was Hook. That’s right, the one with Robin Williams as Peter Pan, where Julia Roberts plays Tinkerbell and Dustin Hoffman plays Captain Hook. I don’t actually remember much, save that Dustin Hoffman ended up being a better dad to Peter Pan’s kids than Robin Williams; but what upset me was how dystopian the whole thing was. I was all of eight years old, and I had somehow managed to get my hands on a copy of Lord of the Flies a week or two earlier. The character Rufio (played by a young Dante Basco, bless his heart) reminded me of nothing so much as Jack Merridew.

If you’ve never been exposed to Lord of the Flies, it’s about how two groups of British middle school boys get marooned on an island in the Pacific during some sort of nuclear war. Ralph, the protagonist, becomes the leader of the survivors because of his foresight and tactical acumen, but he gradually cedes this position to Jack Merridew, who just wants to eat and have fun. The only way the boys can create fire is by using the lenses of Ralph’s (sort-of) friend Piggy, who has become an outcast. Piggy doesn’t want to give his glasses to Jack, so Jack kills him and ends up setting fire to the whole island.

The story is supposed to be about how the upper crust of Great Britain in the 1950s was not as civilized as it made itself out to be, but what I took away from it was a healthy fear of Jack Merridew and, by extension, Rufio. In Neverland, you had to choose – either you were a Lost Boy with the sociopathic Rufio or a pirate with the urbane yet murderous Captain Hook. Every location on the island was potentially a battleground.

The Forsaken Fortress reminds me not of any specific scene or place in Hook, but rather the overall atmosphere. This is the sort of place where Captain Hook would lurk, waiting to ambush the Lost Boys, or where the Lost Boys might decide to build their own stronghold, setting up cannons to waylay Captain Hook’s ship.

Of course, in Wind Waker, Tetra and her pirates are the good guys, and they have brought Link to the Forsaken Fortress to save Link’s sister Aryll. Before she puts Link into a barrel and launches him into the fortress walls (no really), Tetra tells him that the island used to be the hangout of a group of pirates that she used to compete with. Where have those pirates gone? If she knows, she’s not saying. It’s all very ominous.

As he was hurtles through the air, Link loses his grip on his sword; so, after he peels himself off the wall, he finds himself floating in the water at the base of the fortress with nothing more than his wits to assist him. Well, that, and a blue stone that Tetra has tucked into his clothing at some point. Communicating through the stone, she tells him that he needs to put out the searchlights scanning the complex if he wants to sneak up to the floor where his sister is being held.

Although Link can ninja his way around the searchlights, it’s actually much easier for the player if he gets caught and put in prison. Link’s cell is at one end of the arc of the dungeon map, a convenient starting position that allows the player to avoid backtracking through several tricky areas. The gimmick for this dungeon is that the player must employ stealth to avoid the attention of the guards, which is much easier said than done, surprisingly so for this early in the game. It’s difficult for Link to die here, but I got caught and put back in jail a good dozen times.

The “guards” patrolling the fortress are of two species.

Moblins are large pig-like creatures that carry lanterns and spears. If Link gets caught by one of them, he doesn’t even try to fight, and they don’t seem interested in hurting him. Moblins are surprisingly observant, with wide vision cones augmented by their sense of smell. Link can wear a barrel over his head to try to move past them, but they’ll still sniff him out if he’s not careful.

Bokoblins are smaller imp-like creatures who are unarmed but who operate the searchlights that scan the fortress. If Link attacks one of them, it will rush over to a pot full of staffs and grab one to defend itself. They’re fairly skilled at fighting but will leave Link alone if he doesn’t bother them, seemingly concerned more with staying at their posts. If they catch him in the beam of a spotlight, though, they’ll yell out to the Moblins.

What we’ve got are two species – or races – of creatures that walk upright, wear clothing, use tools, operate machinery, communicate verbally, and would rather delegate responsibility and put Link in a prison cell than fight him. Several rooms in the fortress serve as their living spaces, which contain objects like bunk beds and ceramic tableware. It’s therefore somewhat difficult to think of Moblins and Bokoblins as “monsters.”

Link manages to work his way to the upper interior of the fortress, where Aryll is being held in an enclosed area with two other girls. Before he can rescue them, the Helmaroc King from Outset Island swoops down. Link acts like he’s going to fight it with his newly recovered sword, but it’s not interested, instead grabbing him up into one of its talons. It flies him even higher, where a man in a dark robe stands looking out over the island. We don’t see the man’s face, but we see the twist of his chin as he indicates that he has no use for Link.

Link is flung into the ocean, and the screen fades to black.

Link’s going to be okay, though. Link is always okay.

( Header image by Luke Joseph Gonet on DeviantArt )

The Wind Waker – Outset Island

Simple Days on Outset Island by DaYo

The Wind Waker begins in Outset Island, the home of Link and his little sister Aryll. Link is sleeping late, and Aryll has come to wake him up. Today is his birthday!

It’s a tradition on the island for young men who have come of age to wear the clothes of the hero, which include the green tunic, green sock hat, and white tights worn by Link in Ocarina of Time. Other than this occluded reference to an otherwise forgotten war, the island is idyllic. Although it has a dock and a wooden watchtower along the beach, Outset Island seems like a place that not many ships visit, and there are only a few families living there. Young children run around playing, and if he wants Link can capture three wild pigs that are tame enough to allow themselves to be carried.

Link is an orphan, the circumstances of which are never explained. He and Aryll live with their grandmother, a tiny old woman. She helps Link change into the hero’s clothes, which is too bad, because his khaki cargo pants and oversized blue lobster shirt are adorable.

Now that he’s dressed appropriately, Link goes back to the viewing platform to find Aryll, who had promised to give him a birthday present. This turns out to be her telescope, which she allows him to carry around for the day. When he uses it to look out over the island, he watches a winged postman delivering the mail before Aryll directs his attention upward.

A giant bird is carrying a blond girl through the sky. The girl struggles in the bird’s claws, and it drops her into the forest on top of the hill rising up from the island. Aryll insists that Link act as the hero he’s dressed as and go save her.

Before Link can climb the hill, however, he needs a sword. He gets one from the island weapons master, who lives in a house underneath his scholar brother, who has all sorts of texts on game basics tacked to his wall. They’re actually fairly interesting and useful, but honestly, the best way to learn how to play a Zelda game is to play it. I therefore take Link straight up the mountain, where he crosses a decrepit rope bridge before entering a small grove of trees.

Sure enough, Link rescues the fallen girl, or at least he stands at the base of the tree she’s landed in when she wakes up and frees herself. She tells him that her name is Tetra, and that she’s the leader of a dashing gang of pirates. She leads him to a cliff in order to point out her ship; but, as they’re looking down, they see the huge bird from before swoop down and scoop up Aryll. Like the cinnamon roll that he is, Link plunges forward to reach out to her, but Tetra grabs him before he can fall to his death.

Once Link and Tetra return to the shore, the winged postman, who has witnessed the whole thing, tells Tetra that she bears some responsibility for Aryll’s plight, and that she and her pirate buddies should take Link to the Forsaken Fortress, where someone has been collecting girls with pointy ears. Tetra agrees to allow Link to board her ship, but only if he can find something to defend himself.

Link heads back to his house, but the shield that had been hanging on the upstairs wall has disappeared. When he climbs back downstairs, he finds his grandmother waiting for him, shield in hand. She gives it to him but tells him to be careful. A sword can be dangerous and used for evil just as it can be used for good, she says. Then she lets him go.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty sure Granny has done some adventuring in her day. Did I mention that she’s got a chest full of rupees stashed in a hidden cellar underneath her front porch? Where did that come from?

If I were to come up with a crazy headcanon – not like I’m coming up with crazy headcanons all the time or anything – then I might say that Granny probably picked up Link and Aryll somewhere on the Great Sea and brought them back to the island. Where else would their parents have gone? Why else would she keep the hero’s clothes and shield in her house? Just saying.

Outset Island is a sort of Garden of Eden, a self-contained paradise where everyone’s needs and wants are immediately provided for. Judging from their ability to pass down the legends of the past, the people on the island have lived there peacefully for generations. Instead of a snake, a bird has brought sin to garden. It is not Link’s disobedience that has gotten him cast out, but his unthinking courage and bravery. In other words, his temptation is adventure. Although he never completely loses his innocence, the knowledge he will acquire in the world beyond the island is terrible.

But it’s not yet time for this game to get heavy. First Link needs to rescue his sister!

( Header image by DaYo on DeviantArt )

The Wind Waker – Introduction

The Wind Waker HD Wallpaper

I should probably begin by saying that I love this game. It means a lot to me.

The Wind Waker was released for the GameCube in North America in March 2003. I had just failed my first semester of college and was crying my way through my second. I was a freshman at Emory University, and I was renting a dingy room in some guy’s basement. Even though I was working more than thirty hours a week between three jobs, I never had enough money, and I never got enough sleep.

Fast forward to October 2013, when The Wind Waker HD was released for the Wii U. I had just started my first full-time teaching position as a recently minted PhD in Japanese literature, and I had moved from vibrant and urban Philadelphia to Mishawaka, Indiana. If you’ve never heard of Mishawaka, all you need to know is that it’s among the whitest places on earth, both in terms of its culture and population and in terms of it being under a minimum three-foot blanket of snow for eight months of the year. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was completely alone.

I wasn’t suicidal at either point in my life, because suicide is messy and inconvenient and probably painful; but, if I had been able to walk through a door and never have existed on the other side, I totally would have done it.

It got better, because things always do, but “it gets better” never magically happens overnight. In the meantime, there was The Wind Waker.

The Wind Waker is a beautiful game, and it has brought joy to my life every time I’ve played it. What makes it so powerful, however, is that it’s also filled with tragedy and loss. It’s about getting older and learning to let things go, even if those things once seemed to mean everything.

But the player doesn’t know that at the beginning of the game, which opens in the tropical paradise of Outset Island. Let’s get started!

( Header image from the official Nintendo website )

Twilight Princess – Wrap-Up Post

Link+Midna by bigmac996

I’m not sure I can explain why this game hurt me so much, but I’ll do my best.

The most obvious element of melancholy during the game’s ending is Midna’s decision to shatter the Mirror of Twilight, thus preventing future passage and exchange between Hyrule and the Twilight world.

At the end of the game, Midna says, “Light and shadow can’t mix, as we all know,” and Zelda responds with, “Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin… One cannot exist without the other.” As Link and Midna’s friendship demonstrates, light and shadow can indeed coexist. Why would Midna feel the need to separate the two worlds?

The conflict in Twilight Princess isn’t the result of the contact between the light world and the twilight world, but rather the product of Zant’s psychosis and Ganondorf’s rage. Neither Ganondorf nor Zant would have been able to do anything without the power of the Triforce, however, so it could be that Midna was trying to protect her people from Hyrule, especially since she knew from firsthand experience how powerful even the Triforce of Wisdom can be. It could also be that she’s trying to protect herself from temptation.

I also have Feelings about Ganondorf’s death.

In most games, there is a narrative process through which the villain is demonized. In Final Fantasy games, for example, the main antagonist will start off as someone pursuing a reasonable goal and gradually become less human and more symbolic of a greater evil.

The opposite is true in Twilight Princess, in which Ganondorf is introduced as a monster and then becomes an actual person. When Link finds him in the Hyrule Castle throne room, he is sitting alone. Everyone and everything he once knew is long gone, and all he has left is his former goal of domination. He has finally achieved it, but it no longer has meaning. As he talks to Link and Midna, he gestures toward the symbols of power he has acquired, Zelda and the stone Triforce above her throne. The camera uses forced perspective to make it seem as if he is holding them in his hand, even though they are far away. This is an ironic juxtaposition against his words. He calls the Twili people pathetic and speaks of their anguish, but it’s clear he’s projecting his own suffering as someone who was similarly “cast aside by the gods.”

Ganondorf also becomes more human over the stages of the final battle. He begins as Ganon’s Puppet Zelda, transforms into Beast Ganon, then fights on horseback using the ghosts of dead riders, and finally faces off against Link alone. In other words, he progressively sheds his layers of dark magic, bestial rage, and his past as a warlord to finally stand as himself, armed with nothing more than the sword once used to execute him without trial.

When Link bests him by driving the Master Sword into an ancient wound that never healed, Ganondorf speaks one of his most famous lines, “The history of light and shadow will be written in blood.” Based on everything Link has learned during his interactions with Midna and the four Light Spirits, this statement is not wrong.

Before Zelda passed the Triforce of Wisdom to Midna, she had explained, “These dark times are the result of our deeds, yet it is you who have reaped the penalty.” This would indicate that Zelda is aware of the blame that falls on her people, as well as her own responsibility to make amends. Couldn’t she and Ganondorf have worked something out?

Twilight Princess begins with Link’s mentor Rusl asking, “Tell me… Do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls?” As melancholy and lament are two of the major themes of the game, I get the feeling that the Hylians are entering the twilight of their civilization. Ganondorf, who was chosen to receive a portion of the Triforce, might have become an external force that could have shocked Hyrule out of the sort of cultural stagnation that beset the Twili and the Oocca. Before he fights Link and Midna, Ganondorf accuses the them as being “faithless,” which is unpleasantly apt. If they had not insisted on continuing to fight the increasingly humanized Ganondorf out of nothing more than their desire for revenge, then Hyrule would not have been denied the opportunity for energetic growth and powerful dynamism that he represented.

Here are my tears. Witness them.

Ganondorf, Zelda, Zant, and Midna were all doing the best they could in a shitty situation, and I feel for all of them. Each one of them was trapped, and none of them could have been the hero.

Link could have only been the hero because he was innocent, and he could have only been innocent because he was ignorant of what the stakes of his quest actually were.

To be honest, Twilight Princess is a fantastic game, but I – like Link – still don’t understand large portions of its plot. That’s okay; the game is very pretty. I hope Nintendo will put out a remake at some point in the future.

Because I apparently haven’t spent enough time crying over Zelda games, I’m going to play The Wind Waker next. Be strong, my heart.

( Header image by bigmac996 on DeviantArt )

Twilight Princess – Hyrule Castle

Ganon's Puppet Zelda by Alderion Al

Hyrule Castle is the final dungeon of the game, but it doesn’t really feel like a dungeon. Instead of emphasizing exploration and puzzle solving, Hyrule Castle is a stronghold to be breached.

Midna fires the first salvo by using the magic of the Fused Shadows to transform into a flying tentacle monster. The dark magic of the Twili, when combined with the power of the Triforce of Wisdom, allows her to break through the golden barrier surrounding Hyrule Castle.

Link must then fight his way through hordes of monsters. Rusl, Shad, Ashei, and Auru show up at a certain point, but they don’t do much and seem like an afterthought. Mostly it’s just Link and his sword against an army of Bulblins and armored knights called Darknuts. Link’s goal is to make it to the throne room on the upper level of the castle.

When he gets there, Ganondorf is waiting for him. “Welcome to my castle,” he says. Then he delivers his villain monologue:

Your people have long amused me, Midna. To defy the gods with such petty magic, only to be cast aside… How very pathetic. Pathetic as they were, though, they served me well. Their anguish was my nourishment. Their hatred bled across the void and awakened me. I drew deep of it and grew strong again. Your people had some skill, to be sure…but they lacked true power. The kind of absolute power that those chosen by the gods wield. He who wields such power would make a suitable king for this world, don’t you think?

Midna snarls at him and unleashes her Fused Shadow tentacles. After it becomes clear that Link intends to fight him, Ganondorf says:

Both of you, faithless fools who would dare to take up arms against the king of light and shadow… So you choose. And so you shall feel my wrath!

There are three interesting things going on here.

The first is that, after her opening lines (“So you’re Ganondorf. I’ve been dying to meet you”), Midna does not speak throughout this exchange. She is apparently too enraged to form words. Meanwhile, Ganondorf is in perfect control over himself. This is a direct contradiction against the Sages’ earlier description of him as being “blinded by rage and his own might.” It might be that he’s mellowed with age, but he seems neither stupid nor reckless.

The second is that Ganondorf refers to the deities of Hyrule as “the gods.” This is in contrast to the light spirits and Zelda herself, who talk about “the goddesses,” as in Zelda’s farewell to Midna after the endgame credits, “I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world.” Are Ganondorf and Zelda talking about different entities? Or does Ganondorf, who comes from a matriarchy, understand the three Hylian deities carved on the castle throne as “male” because they are “other” to his own culture?

The third is that Ganondorf calls himself “the king of light and shadow,” which is a curious turn of phrase. The most obvious explanation is that he has conquered both Hyrule and the Twilight realm, but he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in the Twili, having left Zant to his own devices in the Palace of Twilight. According to what the King of Red Lions tells Link at the beginning of The Wind Waker, Ganondorf is “the emperor of the dark realm the ancient legends speak of,” but Ganondorf contradicts this description at the end of that game when he tells Link that “my country lay within a vast desert.” Since the Ganondorf in Twilight Princess also comes from the desert, I don’t think he’s saying that he rules over a light realm and a dark realm. Rather, it’s more likely that his reference to “light and shadow” indicates two separate sides of Hyrule. In the light, there is the legend of a hero, a princess, and a villain. In the shadow, there is the actual history, which Ganondorf later says is “written in blood.”

Although she is kind to Midna, Zelda doesn’t have much to say to Link after Ganondorf is defeated, and she hardly looks him during the final scene in the Arbiter’s Grounds. I wonder what Zelda knew, and what she was thinking?

I’m not trying to suggest that Ganondorf was blameless, or that Zelda made the wrong decision in helping Link fight him, but I think there was probably more going on here than either Link or Midna realizes.

As the endgame credits roll, the kids from Ordon go home. The Gorons wrestle each other, Prince Ralis mopes around Zora’s Domain, King Bulblin rides home across Hyrule Field, the three sisters hang out at the fishing hole, people in Castle Town do the Malo Mart dance in the central plaza, yeti love hearts rise about the Snowpeak Ruins, Shad investigates the Temple of Time in the Ordon Woods, and the sun sets over the Arbiter’s Grounds, where Midna prepares to return to the Twilight realm. The full dialog between Zelda and Midna, which I quoted from earlier, goes like this:

Midna: Well… I guess this is farewell, huh? Light and shadow can’t mix, as we all know. But… Never forget that there’s another world bound to this one.

Zelda: Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin… One cannot exist without the other. I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world… They left it because it was their design that we should meet. Yes… That is what I believe.

Midna: Zelda… Your words are kind, and your heart is true. If all in Hyrule were like you… Then maybe you’d do all right. Thank you… Well, the princess spoke truly: as long as the mirror’s around, we could meet again… Link… I… See you later…

But then Midna shatters the Mirror of Twilight, along with my heart. I totally cried.

Link places the Master Sword back into its pedestal, and Ilia is waiting for him when he gets home. Everything is peaceful, almost as if nothing ever happened.

Meanwhile, I was just sitting there, tears rolling down my face, totally traumatized.

( Header image by Alderion-Al on Tumblr )

Twilight Princess – Palace of Twilight

A Tale of Midna by Ley

With the three shards of the Mirror of Twilight gathered, Link and Midna return to the Arbiter’s Grounds. The mirror is once again whole and intact, allowing Midna to open a gate to the Twilight realm. The gate takes the form of a black portal projected onto a large stone slab suspended by chains in the middle of the arena. If I recall correctly, this is the stone slab that Ganondorf was chained to when he was to be executed.

Before they enter the gate, Midna explains that it was Zant who cursed her, causing her to take on her current form. If Zant is defeated, Midna says, then she will be restored to her former power, and the Twilight realm will be saved. At that point, there may be a way to revive Zelda.

Okay. Sounds great. Let’s go!

The Twilight realm on the other side of the gate occupies a surprisingly small area, which is dominated by the Palace of Twilight. In front of the palace is a tiny bit of gray land, which vanishes abruptly into a cloudy purple and gold void. There is nothing in the distance save for a few scattered islands. It seems as though the Twilight realm is falling to ruin just as steadily as Hyrule.

There are a few Twili people standing around outside the palace, but they have been transformed into grotesque creatures crowned by bulky stone masks. Midna tells Link that she’s going to remain hidden in his shadow, as she’s ashamed to show herself to her people. They don’t seem to be in any state to recognize her, however. When Link passes in front of one of them, it will howl senselessly and make no move to interact with him.

The Palace of Twilight functions as a short dungeon, and its guiding mechanic involves Link transporting two large glowing orbs called “sol” from the wings of the building outside into its front plaza. When both sol are correctly positioned, the Master Sword is imbued with golden glowing light, which allows Link to cut through the waterfall of darkness falling over the road to the central section of the palace. Link can now kill most of the twilight creatures with one hit, and his sword slashes look really cool.

After he climbs to the top of the structure, Link enters the throne room to find Zant, who is just as creepy as he was the last time the player encountered him in the cavern housing the spring of the Lanayru light spirit. Moving with weird, jerky movements, Zant says he was next in line for the throne but was passed over for Midna. Although Zant is clearly unhinged, what he says to Link makes sense. The Twili people live in the Twilight realm “like insects in a cage,” where they “regressed” as a society into a state of complacence, knowing “neither anger nor hatred… nor the faintest bloom of desire.”

Before she brought Link into the Twilight realm, Midna had said, “The twilight there holds a serene beauty… You have seen it yourself as the sun sets on this world.” Based on her demonic facial expressions in various flashback scenes, Midna is motivated just as much by her desire for violent revenge as she is by any larger duty to her kingdom. In other words, she doesn’t seem to be serene or emotionless. Also, she was able to find her own way into Hyrule, so it doesn’t seem as if she was trapped in the Twilight realm.

Nevertheless, when the Twili are restored to their former selves after Link defeats Zant, they don’t speak to him. It’s unclear whether this is because they are unwilling or because they are unable. Either option indicates the sort of apathy and stagnation that Zant had hoped to challenge and dispel. The Twilight realm is falling apart, and its people don’t care. Although Midna demonstrates emotion and initiative, even she seems to have accepted the fate of her kingdom.

Zant reveals that he gained power through the intervention of Ganondorf, who came to him as an enormous ball of burning light. Ganondorf is the bearer of the Triforce of Power, which might be understood to represent endless energy and potential like the sun whose appearance he took. Although Ganondorf was drawn to Zant’s rage, which resonated with his own, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently if he had revealed himself to Midna instead.

( Header image by ever-so-excited on DeviantArt )

Twilight Princess – City in the Sky

M. C. Escher Another World

I took a long break from Twilight Princess because I dislike the City in the Sky dungeon, which does two things I hate. First, it requires the use of precision motion controls. Second, it forces the player to maintain contact with the game for more than two hours.

I have expounded on my annoyance with motion controls in my posts on Skyward Sword, so let it suffice to say that I have trouble getting them to work properly.

The treasure of the City in the Sky dungeon is a second Clawshot, which allows Link to hook onto a target while he’s already hanging from another target. This is all well and good when the targets are sedentary, but it’s tricky when one or both targets are moving. Because the motion controls used to operate the Clawshots are not reliable, I was not able to make precision shots with any degree of accuracy. This was particularly annoying because a number of rooms in the dungeon are extensive 3D mazes that must be navigated from the beginning if Link falls at any point…

…and Link fell to his death many, many times over the course of this dungeon.

The boss fight, which wouldn’t have been that difficult if the motion controls worked properly, took me about 45 minutes.

Speaking of which, this is a long dungeon, even if the player uses a walkthrough (as I did) and doesn’t waste time getting lost while trying to figure out where to go next. Although the City in the Sky is filled with Oocca creatures, Link can’t use any of them to exit the dungeon and re-enter it at the point where he exited, which means that the player has to play all the way through without stopping unless she’s up for some serious backtracking.

Although I love video games, I also have a job, and I don’t have many uninterrupted three-hour stretches of time in my life. I suppose I could stay up all night, but I’m cursed with the middle-aged affliction of having to sleep in order to function like a normal human being during the day. I know a lot of “hardcore” gamers think this sort of artificial difficulty – being forced to play for hours and hours without quitting – is fun, but I don’t. I am a shitty casual gamer, what can I say.

ANYWAY.

Shad, the scholar who sent Link on the epic fetch quest to activate the Sky Cannon, had previously told Link that he’s fascinated by the Oocca, who may have created not only the incredible architecture and lost technology scattered around Hyrule, but also the Hylians themselves. In reality, the City in the Sky is literally falling apart, with its crumbling blocks and bridges presenting a number of challenges to Link throughout the dungeon.

Shad’s theory is probably not canonically correct within the larger Zelda universe, as the mythology of both earlier and later games in the series states that the Hylians were created by “the three golden goddesses” in their own image. Regardless, this discrepancy raises an interesting point concerning how “legends” function in Twilight Princess. Namely, no matter what truths they may hide, legends are a highly distorted and oblique method of communicating the reality of what happened in the past. The legends of the Twili are suspect, as are the legends of the Hylians. Even Shad, who studies these legends, has no way of knowing the history that informs them.

The fallibility of legends as artifacts of human memory is an especially bleak message in a game titled “The Legend of Zelda,” but this game is going to get even more upsetting before it’s over. Now that Link has gathered the three shards of the Mirror of Twilight, he can enter the supremely disturbing Twilight Realm.

( Header image from the Zeldapedia entry on Oocca )

Twilight Princess – Hero’s Shade

Hero and Hero's Shade by Aly Sasagawa

I’ve been taking a break from Twilight Princess, but before Hyrule recedes too far from my mind I want to get down my thoughts on the Hero’s Shade, who teaches Link a total of seven special sword skills.

The process of obtaining these skills is somewhat circuitous. Link will occasionally come across small gray monuments called “howling stones.” If he transforms into a wolf and listens closely, the sound of the wind blowing through the circles cut into the stone will resemble a melody. If he memorizes this melody and howls it (in the most horribly tone-deaf manner imaginable), he will be transported to a spirit realm separate from but similar to the twilight, where he will howl a duet with a golden wolf. After a painful bout of cacophony, the golden wolf will tell him to “take sword in hand and find me,” marking his location on Link’s map. Link then has to go to this location, where the golden wolf will be waiting to transport him once more to the spirit realm. When he is not a glowing sparkly dog, the Hero’s Shade is a gross zombie in rotting armor.

This is what the Hero’s Shade says to Link after he has mastered the final skill:

Although I accepted life as the hero, I could not convey the lessons of that life to those who came after. At last, I have eased my regrets.

You who have marched through countless foes, each mightier than the last… You, who now gaze to the future with vision unclouded…

Surely you can restore Hyrule to its stature of yore as the chosen land of the gods.

…Farewell!

Go and do not falter, my child!

It’s been argued that the Hero’s Shade is the Link from Ocarina of Time, whose life was empty of purpose after he was sent back into the child timeline. This is what Hyrule Historia (page 179) has to say:

The ghost of the hero who teaches Link his secrets. Some theorize that the fact that he holds his sword in his left hand indicates he is actually Link from Ocarina of Time.

And that’s it. “Some theorize” is not exactly the most resounding statement of authority. There are three other designs on the page: Twilight Version, Samurai Version, and Swordswoman (who has hilariously impractical armor even though she’s a ghost zombie). So I guess this guy could be Link from Ocarina of Time… or not.

In any case, howling is the only “instrument” that Twilight Princess Link has. If human Link is as tone-deaf as wolf Link, this is probably for the best.

( Header image by Aly K. Sasagawa on DeviantArt )

Twilight Princess – Hidden Village

Ilia by GENZOMAN

In this section of the game, Link helps his childhood friend Ilia recover her memory. There’s a lot of fetch questing involved, but I don’t actually mind fetch questing; it’s fun to travel around the digital world collecting things and talking to people.

What I do mind is Ilia’s damseling. There’s really no reason for her to have lost her memory, especially considering the fact that what actually happened to her when she was kidnapped by King Bulblin remains largely unclear.

This is what we have:

King Bulblin shows up at the spring near Link’s house and kidnapped Ilia and four younger children (Talo, Malo, Beth, and Colin). The younger children somehow end up in Kakariko Village, where they are taken in by Renado. Ilia never makes it to Kakariko, but later she turns up in Castle Town, where she and Telma are caring for the Zora prince Ralis. When Ilia sees Link, she doesn’t remember him or what happened to her, but she is adamant that Ralis be taken to Kakariko, where Renado can help him. After Ralis recovers, Ilia moves to Renado’s house, where she stands around moping.

Ilia and Renado are later joined by the Goron elder Gor Coron, who tells Link that Ilia’s memory might return if she sees something from her immediate past that can serve as a milestone. Link recovers a weird wooden totem statue that Ilia had been carrying when she was in Telma’s Bar; and, when he brings it back to her, Ilia tells him that she remembers someone saving her from King Bulblin and giving her the wooden statue. Gor Coron says that the statue must have come from the Hidden Village north of Eldin Bridge. Since rocks have blocked the path, he sends the Goron chief Darbus out the clear the way. Link follows along behind Darbus, enters the village, and meets an old woman named Impaz, who gives him a horseshoe-shaped whistle necklace that belonged to Ilia. Impaz then tells Link that, by royal decree, she can’t leave the otherwise deserted village until a certain person arrives. That “certain person” is of course Link, to whom she bequeaths an ancient book after she learns that Ilia is safe.

So…

Did Impaz save Ilia from King Bulblin? If so, why did she save Ilia and not the other four children? Did the other four escape somehow, or were they judged as unimportant and then set free? Why was Ilia special? How did Impaz save Ilia if she can’t leave Hidden Village? How did Ilia make it to Castle Town? Does Impaz know Telma? Did Telma come to Hidden Village, or did Impaz drop Ilia off with Telma? Why did Impaz give Ilia the totem statue? Why did Impaz keep Ilia’s charm necklace? Why did the Royal Family decree that the ancient book (which is merely one item in an extended fetch quest) is so important that Impaz needs to stay with it in Hidden Village, which had long since fallen to ruin? Is “the Royal Family” Zelda, or one of her ancestors?

I don’t think the player is supposed to think about any of this too deeply, but it’s still troubling that there’s so much we don’t know. What we can read between the lines, however, is that Ilia has had plenty of her own adventures before ever coming to Kakariko. It’s therefore sad that she just sits in Renado’s house waiting for someone to help her. Why doesn’t she take charge of restoring her own memory? Or, if she can’t do that – not everyone can be a hero, after all – why doesn’t she set about creating new memories in Kakariko Village? Why doesn’t she interact with the four children from Ordon or Renado’s daughter Luda?

When Link presents Ilia with the charm necklace he receives from Impaz, she suddenly remembers everything, but she doesn’t regain her personality. At the beginning of the game, she was spirited and strong-willed, but now she does nothing more than make puppy eyes at Link, telling him that she’ll always wait for him. Essentially, she’s out of the story now.

Twilight Princess isn’t misogynistic or sexist, so I think there’s something more than typical video game damseling going on here. More specifically, I think the game is trying to demonstrate the appeal of innocence to the player, with Ilia being positioned as the moral center from which Link can’t deviate too far if he doesn’t want to be corrupted in the same way that Midna and Zelda will become corrupted later in the story. Ilia represents what Link has that neither Midna nor Zelda will ever have – a supportive community that sees him as a person and not as a figurehead. Regardless, there’s no need for her to be so passive. Not only does the player never figure out the finer details of the plot, but this entire set of scenarios is also thematically jarring in that female-gendered innocence is equated with passivity, which is obviously not the case with the male hero.

ANYWAY.

The Hidden Village is a Wild West style ghost town with cool music. It serves as the setting of a fun set piece in which it’s Link’s job to stealthily shoot down twenty bulblins that have concealed themselves around town in order to take sniper shots at him. Once they’re all defeated, Impaz comes out of her house at the edge of town to talk to Link. She is adorable, and she’s got six cats living in her house with her. If Link stands perfectly still, the cats ignore him and start interacting with Impaz and two toy balls on the ground.

What this means is that it was someone’s job to program the routines for these digital cats that only appear in this one character’s house towards the end of the game. What Twilight Princess lacks in storytelling finesse and thematic cohesion it makes up in creating a gorgeously immersive world for the player to enjoy.

After a bit more fetch questing, Link activates the Sky Cannon under Renado’s house, which will shoot him up to the next dungeon, the City in the Sky. Before he gets started with that mess, however, he has important business to attend to.

When Link returns to the Hidden Village after he’s concluded his official hero business with Impaz, he’ll find that the town has been invaded by cats. If he turns into Wolf Link and strikes up a conversation with one of them, he’ll be told to talk to their boss, a cucco hanging around in a yard behind a building that looks like it might have once been a saloon. The cucco will assign Link another heroic task similar to defeating twenty bulblins, but with a major difference – he must talk to twenty cats hiding around town. This minigame is both ridiculous and brilliant. Since the cats refuse to behave in a way that makes this easy for the player, it’s also fairly challenging!

I know some people might think it’s sad that Impaz lives alone in an abandoned village with several dozen cats, but honestly, this is the ideal outcome I envision for my own life, and I’m a little jealous of her. You just stay awesome and just keep doing your thing, Impaz.

( Header image by GENZOMAN on DeviantArt )

Twilight Princess – Temple of Time

Defeating an Armos with a Guardian Statue

The Temple of Time section of Twilight Princess is the only instance of enforced backtracking in the game, and it’s kind of annoying, but at least it’s short?

At Telma’s Bar, Link is informed that Rusl has gone down to Faron Woods to investigate the source of an ancient power, so he has Midna warp him over.

Rusl tells Link that various ruins from an ancient civilization dot the land, and that this civilization built a temple nearby to contain a power that will surely prove useful in the resistance against Zant. That sounds like a shitty idea – doesn’t he know that reviving the forbidden power of a decimated civilization is never a good idea? – but Rusl has a sparkly golden Cucco that Link can ride to the sacred grove, and I’m not about to say no to that.

Link eventually arrives back at the pedestal from which he drew the Master Sword. For some reason, jamming the Master Sword back in its slot causes a stone door to appear in the ruins below. In the present, the door is freestanding and doesn’t lead to anything; but, if Link pushes it open, he can walk into the Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time.

If Link then places the Master Sword into the pedestal he finds there, magical blue stairs appear, leading into a stained glass window that vanishes into the entrance of the next dungeon.

Okay, so I have some questions. If this is the same Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time, what is it doing in the woods? The Death Mountain and Lake Hylia of Twilight Princess are still in the same location relative to Hyrule Castle as they were in Ocarina of Time, so… Was the temple rebuilt or otherwise relocated? It would make sense to hide the power it houses – not only the Master Sword, but the gateway to the Sacred Realm – but how would this work? Is the magic not location-specific? Or was this perhaps the original site of the Temple of Time, with the structure in Ocarina of Time being a replica?

And what’s up with the tower-like structure of the dungeon? Is it supposed to be connected to the Tower of the Gods from The Wind Waker?

Or who cares, actually. Onward to adventure!

The chicken lady Ooccoo meets Link at the entrance, saying that the power in the dungeon will help her and her son return home to the sky. I can only assume that the “power” she and Rusl are referring to is the dungeon’s treasure, the Dominion Rod, which sounds impressive but actually doesn’t do much more than control special statures.

Link’s job is to make his way to the top of the tower, recover the Dominion Rod, and use it to bring a statue back down to the entryway, where it will help him open a door. Climbing up is difficult, as there are various barriers and traps, but coming back down is slightly more enjoyable, as the statue can smash its way through just about everything.

The temple is crawling with large tarantulas called gohma and baby gohma larva, which appear in the dozens and swarm all over everything. The dungeon boss is a giant gohma called Armogohma, which is essentially Shelob and will probably give me nightmares in the near future. What is it with the Zelda games and spiders?

After Link has defeated the creature, Midna remarks on how creepy and gross the Armogohma was (I KNOW RIGHT) and says that the Mirror of Twilight doubtlessly contains a great evil. Even if she and Link use it, she continues, they’ll probably have to turn around and destroy it.

This is foreshadowing for Midna becoming a giant tentacle monster when she uses the mirror. Yes, she becomes a giant tentacle monster. It is awesome – or it will be, when we get there.

Ooccoo greets Link when he exits the Temple of Time back into the present. She tells him that the Rod of Dominion’s magic hasn’t survived the time travel, and that she’s going to look for “the statues that respond to the rod.” This makes very little sense. How does magic even work?

The game doesn’t provide Link with any clues concerning what to do at this point, so he warps back to Castle Town, where he’s hailed by the postman, who gives him a letter from Renado, asking him to return to Kakariko Village. Okay, will do.

( Header image from the Prima Games guide to the Temple of Time )