Twilight Princess – Poe Hunting

Twilight Princess Poe

Poes are creepy little ghosts that haunt Hyrule. They have collectively cursed a man named Jovani, who made some sort of deal (with them?) in exchange for wealth. He sits immobilized in a filthy house full of gold coins and spider webs, and if Link brings him enough poe souls then his curse will be lifted (somehow?). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on with Jovani, but wolf Link can sense and kill poes, ripping their souls out of their ghostly bodies like a complete and utter savage. There are a total of sixty poe souls that Link can collect, and they’re scattered around Hyrule. Now that Link has access to all of Hyrule field, hunting poes is as good an excuse as any for exploration and adventure.

The poes seem to be concentrated around Lake Hylia and the Gerudo Desert. Lake Hylia Cavern, a series of passageways twisting into the mountain chain separating the lake from the desert, is full of them. The cave is also full of treasure and standing torches. If the Gerudo used to be thieves, I wonder if this could have been a secret hideout for them? Are the poe ghosts murdered or executed Gerudo?

Although the poes that hang out in caves are ready to party at all hours of the day, the overworld poes only come out at night. The day-night cycle in this game progresses fairly slowly, so Link has a lot of time on his hands as he waits for the sun to set.

I decide to occupy him with the Malo Mart sidequest. The general store in Castle Town is ridiculously expensive, so Malo, being the precocious toddler he is, decides to buy it out and open another branch of his store on the property. Link is asked (by one of the Goron elders, of all people) to contribute 2,000 rupees in startup funds, which he happily does, as the Lake Hylia Cave hides more money than he can possibly carry around with him.

Once Link has made the initial investment to help Malo Mart and its Goron shareholders repair the western bridge into Castle Town, he is presented with a miniquest in which he must deliver a barrel of hot spring water to one of the Goron workers who is too exhausted to move from the bridge. Since West Hyrule Field is crawling with monsters who will break the barrel if Link touches them, and since the water will cool if Link takes too long to deliver it, this sidequest is surprisingly difficult and a huge pain in the ass. There’s actually a trick to it – none of the monsters chasing Link will actually attack him if he just runs in a straight line to the bridge – but it took me at least a dozen tries to figure this out.

Once he’s collected a bunch of poe souls, rupees, heart pieces, and equipment upgrades, Link finally heads over to Telma’s Bar, where he meets the members of the resistance. One of them is actually Link’s mentor Rusl, who apparently isn’t particularly concerned that his son Colin is still missing or that his wife is super-pregnant and could birth at any time. Okay dude, you just sit at a bar and feel important, don’t worry about me standing over here and judging you.

One of their members, Auru, is over at Lake Hylia watching the desert. The desert is where all the evil is (because of reasons?), so Link is told to go find him. He does, and Auru gives him a piece of paper to show to Fyer, the sad middle-aged clown who operates a giant cannon in the middle of the lake. Once he sees the memo from Auru, Fyer shoots Link over the mountain range and into the desert.

Yes, canon travel makes zero sense, but it’s a cool reference to Secret of Mana, so I decide not to worry about it too much. Cannons are awesome.

secret-of-mana-cannon-travel

( The above image is from RPGFan Reviews )

( Header image from the Watch Us Play Games “Poes You Missed” guide )

Twilight Princess – Drawing the Master Sword

Runes on the Hilt of the Master Sword

After Zant does… something… to Midna, the light spirit Lanayru emerges from the Lake Hylia spring and transports her and wolf Link to North Hyrule Field. Midna is draped over Link’s back, panting heavily. She is not doing well, and she begs him to hurry to Zelda. A song titled Midna’s Lament plays in the background while rain falls.

Link loops around and enters Castle Town from the east, and people immediately start screaming and cowering. I guess they can see wolf Link now? Since there’s no countdown until Midna dies, I run around scaring people just for the fun of it. When Link is in wolf form, he can talk to animals, so I also take this opportunity to talk to all the cats around town. Technically I could do this later, but I enjoy hearing them complain about the rain.

Telma had mentioned that there’s a secret passage into the castle that can be accessed from her bar, so when I’m done futzing around I have Link make his way over to her alleyway. She doesn’t recognize him (he is a giant wolf, after all), so she throws his ass out in the street like the BAMF she is and slams the door after him. Thankfully, her cat Louise knows the score and helps Link sneak back inside, over the rafters, and into the adjoining building, where a cursed man named Jovani opens a passage into the castle waterway after Link uses his wolf senses to defeat one of the ghosts that have been haunting him.

Link goes through the sewers, climbs a crumbling tower, crosses the castle roof, and enters the tower were Zelda is being held – except she’s not there. Midna loses her grip on Link and collapses from exhaustion, and that’s when Zelda appears. Using the Triforce of Wisdom, Zelda says that the magic keeping Link in his twilight form is not twilight magic but something much older and darker. But there is hope for him, she says:

Our world is one of balance… Just as there is light to drive away darkness, so, too, is there benevolence to banish evil.

What she means is that the Master Sword, which evil cannot touch, can expurgate the twilight, so Link should go find it.

To be honest, though, the world she’s describing doesn’t sound very “balanced.” When I think of “balance,” I would think that there would be both dark and light, and both good and evil. If everything is “light” and “benevolence,” then that’s all of one thing and none of the other. What it sounds like is that she’s equating “light” and “benevolence” with “order.” If entropy prevails, she seems to be saying, then there are means to restore some semblance of order. Because Midna is from the twilight, and the twilight is associated with “darkness,” it doesn’t stand to reason that darkness itself is inherently bad, just as Midna herself is not inherently bad.

Midna reaches the end of her endurance and asks Zelda to help Link. Zelda finally figures out who Midna is and what she’s trying to do – I thought they already knew each other, but I guess not? – and she takes pity on her, saying:

These dark times are the result of our deeds, yet it is you who have reaped the penalty.

THIS IS FORESHADOWING Y’ALL.

Midna is on the verge of death; and, to save her, Zelda transfers something to her, which may or may not be the Triforce of Wisdom. Zelda then fades away and disappears, but Midna is revived, saying:

Zelda… I’ve taken all you have to give…though I did not want it.

It’s not entirely clear what’s going on here. I dearly wish Link would to start asking more questions instead of simply doing what he’s told.

According to Zelda-who-is-possibly-already-dead, the “sacred power” is in Faron Province, so Midna warps us out of the castle, and then I have her warp us to Faron Woods, where Link rescues a hapless monkey from some creepy wooden puppets. She tells him that he resembles the “green-clad prince” (swoon) who had saved her earlier during the episode with the Forest Temple, and then she tells him that there’s a pretty forest clearing that can be accessed from a bit farther down the cliff. I don’t know how she expects him to get there, but thankfully he’s got Midna to help him make a series of seemingly impossible jumps.

When Link enters the Sacred Grove, he is confronted by the Skull Kid, who summons more creepy puppets while Link chases him around. Were it not for the puppets regenerating and knocking Link off ledges, this would be a fun sequence in a cool area, but the Skull Kid is an annoying little twerp and doesn’t make things easy.

After trouncing the Skull Kid and playing a weird fourth-wall breaking puzzle game with two stone statues that look like something straight out of Castle in the Sky (this game is all about the Ghibli references), Link is finally allowed to approach the Master Sword.

He draws it and it’s totally epic.

Link transforms back into a handsome young man, and Midna decides to keep the shadow crystal that was transplanted into him by Zant, affirming that it’s an embodiment of some other magic than that used by the Twili.

Midna also says something about finding the Mirror of Twilight, but I’m more concerned with being able to use the shadow crystal to switch back and forth into Link’s wolf form, which can only mean one thing…

POE HUNTING!

( Header image from Zelda Wiki’s discussion page on the Master Sword )

Twilight Princess – Lakebed Temple

Zant Whispering to Midna

During my last playthrough of Twilight Princess, I got horribly stuck in Lakebed Temple. I put the game down halfway through the temple, went away for a week, and couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do when I came back. Zelda dungeons always have a sense of flow, and it’s never a good idea to interrupt it. I therefore made sure I had a good stretch of uninterrupted time to get through this monster.

It was still confusing as fuck.

Like the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, the guiding mechanic of the Lakebed Temple involves changing the water level in the dungeon’s central chamber, which has multiple exits that can only be accessed if certain environmental conditions are triggered. Unlike the Water Temple, the Lakebed Temple is more teleological, meaning that Link only has to fill the central chamber, not repeatedly raise and lower the water level. It took me about three hours, but I finally managed to figure things out.

What’s interesting about the design of the Lakebed Temple is what ties it to the other temples in Lake Hylia, the Water Temple and the Ancient Cistern. Namely, in the high fantasy setting of the Zelda games, replete with swords and castles, you’ve got these super technologically advanced structures with waterwheels and sluice gates at the bottom of a lake. If I were onboard with the “Hyrule is a postapocalyptic society” theory (and I totally am), this is one of the pieces of evidence I would use to support it. Is it possible that Lake Hylia was once some sort of reservoir? Were the “water temples” control facilities to help monitor the purity of the lake water, or perhaps regulate the energy generated by some sort of dam?

Whatever the case, the boss battle with Morpheel is a lot of fun. The creature resembles a prehistoric armored fish, and it has bonus grabby tentacles! The game designers must have had a lot of fun with this one.

When Link recovers the final Fused Shadow, Midna transports him to the Lanayru Spring, where the evil usurper Zant is waiting for them.

This sequence goes by quickly and doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but basically Zant attacks Link and Midna, steals the Fused Shadows, turns Link back into a wolf, and sexually harasses Midna before seriously injuring her. Along the way, he reveals that he’s getting his power from some source other than the “obsolete magic” contained within the Fused Shadows. He then says that his ultimate goal is to bring together the mundane and the twilight worlds…

…which makes no sense, because no one except Link even notices the twilight. Moreover, the shadow beasts and wolf Link, not to mention Zant and Midna, can already exist outside the twilight. What’s even the point?

Zant’s spit-filled mouth is super gross, though, and what he does to Midna is super inappropriate, so it doesn’t really matter. We don’t need a clear justification to kick his ass.

In my mind, Zant is basically a fanboy for Midna who just wants senpai to notice him. This is totally understandable, but he should have just stuck to figurines and fan-made dating sims like the rest of us.

( Header image from the Monster Wiki’s Midna Gallery )

Twilight Princess – Saving Prince Ralis

Telma by theblindheir

The star of this segment in the game is Telma, the owner and bartender of the appropriately named “Telma’s Bar” in Castle Town.

OH MY GOD TELMA.

I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

Oh, um. Sorry.

Once Link gets done fishing and riding the river rapids, he returns to Castle Town, where instead of heading over to Telma’s bar to check on the Zora prince he goes straight to Agitha’s Castle to sell some bugs.

Agitha is a strange young woman who wears Sweet Lolita clothing and purple butterfly wings. She also lives in a two-story house full of books and insect cages, and she’s loaded. Link has been collecting golden glowing insects throughout his adventure, and if he gives them to Agitha she will compensate him with cash. Link can then run deliver the money to some sort of sidewalk solicitor – a priest, maybe? – who will reward him with a heart piece once he gets 1,000 rupees. Since Link can only carry 300 rupees at a time, I end up going through the alley a few times, and every time I play with the stray dog futzing about in the street. I wish there were a minigame that involved playing with the dog. The dog is super cute.

Eventually Link makes his way to Telma’s bar, where he finds Ilia. She and Link make big starry eyes at each other, but it turns out she’s lost her memory. I’m not sure why this is necessary. First she doesn’t get a pony, and then she has to suffer debilitating mystery trauma. What a bum deal. I can’t help but wonder if the game’s writers are making her beautiful and broken in order to create some sort of artificial affect in which the player-protagonist is encouraged to equate a desire to protect her with romantic feelings. That’s kind of gross, but whatever.

The Hylian doctor can do nothing for Prince Ralis (that’s the Zora kid), and the Hylian soldiers are too chicken to transport him to someone who can help (this would be Renado), so Link is recruited to act as a bodyguard for a carriage Telma drives from Castle Town to Kakariko Village. This sequence, in which Link rides around shooting things, is a redux of his initial fight against King Bulblin, and it’s a lot of fun.

Once everyone makes it safely to Kakariko Village, there’s a lovely scene in which Telma explains that her bar is a safehouse for a small resistance movement. She tells Link that she wants to see him again soon. She gives him a cute little wink, which is adorable even though she’s a full head taller than him and could probably snap him like a twig.

I think it might be possible that Telma is a descendant of the Gerudo (the desert dwelling tribe from Ocarina of Time), even though her eyes are green instead of gold. Still, she’s got the same tall stature, red hair, and tan skin coloration. Despite the outsider status of the Gerudo, it’s cool that Telma is not some kind of outcast but fully integrated into Hylian society. She even feels so strongly about Hyrule that she’s become a key member of an underground group set on keeping it safe.

After she talks to Link, she goes off after Renado, because this game will allow a mature female character to be a total badass and still have a girlish crush on a hunky widower with a young daughter. You go girl, do your thing.

When she’s out of sight, Link is approached by the ghost of the Zora Queen Rutela, who thanks him for saving her son and leads him to the graveyard, telling him that Kakariko is sacred to the Zora. Apparently, all Zora nobility are buried there.

What? Kakariko on the complete other side of Hyrule from Zora’s Domain, though…

Perhaps because the water in the Zora’s Domain is so cold, the warm spring water of Kakariko might be seen as a natural resting place. Also, lava flows just as water flows, and the two together might be understood as twin generative forces that together create a type of natural balance as they shape and bestow life to the land. Or something?

Regardless, behind a stone carved with the crest of the Zora royal family is a small passage leading to an isolated spring. A tunnel under the water will take Link to the Zora’s Domain once he’s ready to proceed to the next temple, but his immediate objective is a set of bright blue Zora Armor that has been kept safe for him in the tomb of the deceased Zora king, who had spent his entire life developing the technology so that it might be of use to a future hero.

After Link recovers the Zora Armor from the king’s grave (gross), Midna tells him that they still need to find the last Fused Shadow. Even though they’ve lifted the twilight and rescued the kids from Ordon Village, she says, the same thing will keep happening unless they cut off the evil at its source.

( Header image from theblindheir on Tumblr )

Twilight Princess – Fishing Hole and Rapid Ride

Iza from Twilight Princess

Instead of pondering the deep mysteries of this game or progressing its story, I decided to fool around with minigames for a bit.

The first thing I do is to go fishing. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass to get to the Fishing Hole, but it’s worth it. Hena, the young woman who runs the business, is a cutie pie, but the real draw are the cherry trees lining the pond, which are gorgeously in full bloom. As Link fishes, pink cherry blossom petals occasionally drift across the surface of the water. As if this weren’t beautiful enough, time passes in this area, meaning that Link gets to view the scenery in a range of dramatic daytime and nighttime lighting.

If Link rents a fishing rod from Hena, she’ll paddle out with him in a small canoe, the rowing animations for which are stunning. The fishing mechanics are a lot of fun too.

Between one thing and another, I spent an entire evening of my life at the Fishing Hole. I had a beer and listened to the summer rain fall outside my apartment window as I waited for the fish to bite. I’ve gone fishing a few times in the real world, and I have to say, this was much more enjoyable.

As a nice bonus I leave with a new empty bottle and a complete heart container.

Link then heads over to the Rapid Ride game, which is closed because of fallen debris along the waterway. As he turns to trek back up to Zora’s Domain, a twilight portal opens in the sky and shadow beasts drop down. Link smacks them all down, easy peasy living breezy. Iza, the owner of the River Rapids game, watches him and is impressed enough to cajole him into clearing the blockage. Which he does, because why not.

I want to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation of Hena and Iza.

Despite wearing an open-collar shirt, Hena is dressed in a relatively masculine fashion, hip waders and all. She is skilled and knowledgeable about fishing, which in Japan is considered to be a relatively masculine hobby. And yet she entertains girlish romantic fantasies, saying that she will only share her personal canoe with her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Iza is wearing some sort of halter top with a boob window, which bares her midriff, and her low-waisted pants seem to be unzipped all the way, exposing her turquoise underwear. It’s fair to say that her design is sexualized, yet she has a personality that can be easily coded as masculine – she is pushy and abrasive, and she bullies both Link and her Zora part-timer into doing what she wants. The Zora girl later tells Link that Iza is stubborn and tends to fly into a rage if things don’t go her way.

Hena and Iza are sisters, but they seem to be mirror images of each other when it comes to femininity. One might also same the same thing about Zelda and Impa, or about Ilia and Luda, or about Telma and Ashei. What I love about Twilight Princess is that it has so many wonderful and interesting and diverse female characters. (I love this about Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker as well!)

Sure, Zelda ends up damseled in these games, but for every Zelda there is a Midna, or an Impa, or a Sheik, or a Tetra, with plenty of other models of female roles and femininities to provide contrast. While damseling does happen in the Zelda games, I think there’s a lot more going on with gender than immediately meets the eye, and one day I’d like to write a much longer essay about how gender is constructed in these games.

Skyward Sword messed everything up, though. That game is regressive in a number of ways. Ghirahim is supposed to be creepy because he blurs binary gender boundaries? Not cool, guys. I’ve already discussed my frustration with the way Zelda is treated in Skyward Sword, and I’m not super-happy about Fi or Impa either. Unfortunately, Zelda and Fi and Impa are about it as far as female characters in that game go. I really want someone to defend Skyward Sword, because I’m willing to change my mind, but…

…but I truly believe Twilight Princess is a superior game in just about every way.

( Header image by BakaArts on DeviantArt )

Twilight Princess – Lanayru Province

Zora Concept Art from Twilight Princess

I’ve been futzing around with sidequests and minigames in Lanayru Province, but I want to try to record what’s been going on in the meantime. Four things jump to mind.

First of all, I really appreciate how well this game conveys size and distance. The Eldin Bridge (where the player fights the Bulblin King) is enormous, Hyrule Castle is enormous, and Hyrule Castle Town is enormous. Hyrule Field is huge, and most of it is empty space that doesn’t concern Link at all. The player really gets a sense of Hyrule as being an actual country, not just a pocket universe contained within a video game.

Second, Hyrule seems to be literally falling apart. In Eldin Province, there are huge fissures in the earth, and the pillars marking the bridge have seen better days. The Great Bridge of Hylia in Lanayru Province is crumbling as well, so much so that I’m surprised it’s still standing. Are we supposed to understand that all this wreckage happened when Zant took over, or did it happen in some sort of war before then? In this timeline, Link and Zelda had Ganondorf sealed away before he could do anything to Hyrule, so the damage must have occurred either before Ocarina of Time (perhaps during the conflict in which Link’s parents were killed) or after Ocarina of Time. In other words, unless Zant managed to do some major damage during the week or two (if it’s even been that long) after he invaded – which is highly unlikely – then the sorry state of Hyrule has nothing to do with Ganondorf.

Third, when wolf Link finds Ilia in Telma’s Bar, Midna flat out tells him that no one can see him while they are in the twilight. Moreover, daily life in the rest of Castle Town seems to be progressing as usual, with all businesses open and all manner of people out on the streets. In other words, it’s as if Link is the only one affected by the twilight. This is of course majorly different from the situation in Kakariko Village, where property was damaged and people were either killed or driven away. Why is Castle Town unaffected? Is it out of respect for Zelda’s surrender, or out of respect for Zelda herself? Or was Kakariko attacked as a warning? Why would Ganondorf have ordered Zant to leave Castle Town alone?

Fourth, when Link returns the Tears of Light to the light spirit of Lanayru (some sort of alligator eel creature), he is told to beware of the power held within the Fused Shadows. Lanayru forces Link to experience a bizarre dream in which both he and Ilia become white-eyed evil versions of themselves. Link is challenged by three Shadow Links before becoming one himself, and dozens of Ilias fall from the sky. I’m not sure what any of this is supposed to represent. Is the darkness of this dream meant to represent a hidden darkness in Link’s heart, or is Lanayru deliberately trying to upset him, or does the light spirit simply suck at communicating with humans?

What Link learns from Lanayru is that some sort of dark power is contained within the Fused Shadows, and that the four light spirits sealed away this power because it was too dangerous. Dangerous to whom, exactly? Dangerous because it could rival the power of the Triforce?

I have a lot of questions about this game. What happened in the distant past? What happened in the immediate past? What’s happening in the present? What are the stakes? No one ever tells poor Link anything.

As a side note, the designs of the Zora people in this game are really cool. I especially like the ones that wear steampunk diving masks.

( Header image from GlitterBerri’s Game Translations )

Twilight Princess – Death Mountain and Goron Mines

Link and Mayor Bo Sumo Training

Link returns to Ordon Village, where everyone is strangely relieved to learn that their missing kids are safe. I say “strangely” because I would be freaking out, personally. I would be like, Okay my child is safe that’s great TAKE ME TO HIM RIGHT NOW I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN DAYS. But then again, I’m not a parent, so I’m not an expert on how these things are supposed to work.

Rusl’s wife Uli makes a comment about Link’s sword as he’s leaving her house. She says she’s happy for him to have it. This is convenient, because there’s no way he’s giving it back. Technically the sword was supposed to be presented to Princess Zelda as a gift, and technically Princess Zelda asked Link to save Hyrule, so technically the gift is being used as it was intended, which technically means that appropriating the product of a year of this family’s labors is okay. Cool!

The Ordon Village mayor, Bo, expresses dismay that his kidnapped daughter Ilia hasn’t been found yet. He manages to push away his regret at not having bought her a pony while he still had the chance and agrees to show Link how to prove his manliness to the Gorons. This is achieved by sumo wrestling, because of course it is. The key to winning at sumo wrestling seems to be waving both parts of the Wii remote wildly at the same time, and after I push Bo out of the ring twice he tells me that his secret to winning a sumo match against a Goron is to wear heavy iron boots. This is makes no sense – how would his opponent not notice? – but I let it go. Let’s be honest, probably the Gorons noticed and let it go too.

Before Link leaves, Bo asks not to tell Renado his secret. This is adorable in the way it implies a longstanding friendship between the two men. I would love to read a slice-of-life manga about Bo and Renado hanging out with the Gorons. Stories about the daily lives of cute high school girls are wonderful, of course, but I can’t help but think that there’s a market for stories about the daily lives of cute middle-aged men too. (Or maybe it’s just me. I am that market.)

Link returns to Kakariko Village just as it’s being attacked by King Bulblin, a giant green orc riding a black boar. He kidnaps Rusl’s son Colin and rides off, so Link chases him down on Epona. An epic mounted battle follows. This battle involves me, the player, almost getting killed multiple times because I think it’s adorable how the goblins are riding around on war boars.

King Bilblin and his minions are adorable. The macho mayor of Ordon Village is adorable too. For the record, I also think the Gorons are adorable. That is just the sort of person I am. But seriously, though. Goblins riding around on pigs. How is that not just the cutest thing?

And then they kill me and I have to restart the battle from the beginning. Moving on.

Using his iron boots, Link climbs Death Mountain despite the attempts of roughly two dozen Gorons to stop him. If one of the aggressive Gorons successfully knocks Link down from a cliff, he will fall into a hot spring at the bottom of the area, where the bathing Gorons don’t seem to care that he’s invaded their home, instead inviting him to hang out and relax with them.

I’m going to need to take a minute to say that, after the Gerudo, the Gorons are my favorite race in the Zelda series. Some of them are brave and stalwart warriors, but most of them are easy-going and primarily concerned with eating and enjoying themselves. I appreciate how they’re not defined by their size and how they all seem to have different interests and hobbies. For example, the Gorons in The Wind Waker are traders, and the Goron Link crosses paths with in Skyward Sword is an explorer and researcher. The Gorons in Majora’s Mask enjoy racing, and the Gorons in Oracle of Ages Enjoy dancing. They all have different tattoos and different styles of facial hair, and they seem to only increase in individuality as they grow older. I love how friendly they are, and how they call each other – and Link – “Brother.”

So I kick their asses and then cheat against one of their leaders in a sumo match.

This allows Link access into the Goron Mines, the second dungeon in the game. The iron boots get to shine here (look, I made a pun!), as Link uses them sink in pools of water and walk across magnetized patches of glowing blue ore on the walls and ceilings of the mine. One of the coolest puzzles in the dungeon has Link standing upside-down on the magnetized pad of a moving crane and shooting down the ropes holding up a bridge so that he can land on it.

The mines are sacred to the Gorons, and it is here that the tribe has sealed away their leader Darbus, who has been turned into a monster by the power of one of the Fused Shadows that Midna is trying to find. Within the mines are three separate Shinto-style shrines, where three Goron elders are praying to either break the curse on Darbus or to keep him sealed. When I finally encounter Darbus, he is not pretty. I assume this is foreshadowing pointing to the fact that things are going to get similarly ugly when Midna uses the Fused Shadows on herself.

It’s entirely possible that I may have missed something, but I don’t think it’s clear how Darbus ended up with the Fused Shadow. Was it forced on him? Did he take it willingly? Did he just happen to find it? Hmmm…

After Link recovers the Fused Shadow from Darbus, he regains his sanity and returns to his people, and Gorons start hanging around Kakariko Village. It seems that the four kids from Ordon Village have also decided to stay here. The youngest, Malo, has even taken over the village’s general store.

The inn is still in shambles, however, and many of the houses are still boarded up. This makes it seem less likely that the villagers have fled and more likely that they were killed by the shadow beasts in the twilight or became shadows beasts themselves.

So it’s basically Renado, Luda, Barnes, and a small group of kidnapped children hanging out in a ghost town. Thank goodness the Gorons are there in the village to cheer things up a bit.

( Header image from the Palisagrus “let’s play” team on Tumblr )

Twilight Princess – Kakariko Village

Kakariko Village Elder Renado

After destroying the evil lurking deep within the Forest Temple…

Which was a giant plant, by the way. How is a plant evil? It was totally just hanging out and minding its own business. It’s not like anyone in Ordon Village actually went anywhere near the Forest Temple. Not even the monkeys entered the temple. That plant wasn’t hurting anyone. I guess it had the thing Midna was looking for, but did Link really have to kill it? Jeez, man.

…Faron the glowing goat tells Link that he needs to travel to Eldin Province to help the light spirit there. Midna adds that the missing children still haven’t been found. So off we go.

And now we get to go to Hyrule Field! Yay!!! Hyrule Field!

I don’t actually spend much time there. Instead, I proceed right to the next objective. There will be plenty of time for sidequests later, but I would prefer to do them on a horse.

What’s interesting about the map of Hyrule in Twilight Princess is that it’s very similar to the map in Ocarina of Time. The major difference is that east and west are switched, as if the Hyrule of Twilight Princess were a mirror image of the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time.

According to Hyrule Historia, the Zelda timeline splits after Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess occurs in the “child timeline,” which is the most direct offshoot of the original timeline. After Link successfully defeats Ganondorf as an adult, Zelda sends him back to the past. Working together, he and Zelda see to it that Ganondorf is executed before he ever enters the Sacred Realm and claims the Triforce, and then Link sets off alone on a journey that is interrupted by the events in Majora’s Mask.

It’s been theorized that the Hero’s Shade in Twilight Princess is the Link from Ocarina of Time. Why would that Link, who by all rights had saved Hyrule from Ganondorf twice, become a decaying skeleton who willingly lives within the twilight? If everything that happened in Majora’s Mask was nothing more than a dream experienced by Link after he hit his head when he fell off his horse, then the nature of these dreams would suggest that Link was severely traumatized by the journey he undertook as the Hero of Time.

It may also be that, by travelling back and forth between timelines, Link also caused major ruptures in the space-time continuum of Hyrule itself; so that, when he came back, everything had flipped.

Or? It could just be that the Gamecube version of Twilight Princess is the “true” Hyrule, while the Wii version is just a port in which everything was flipped to correspond with Link being right handed, since nine out of ten players using the Wiimote-based sword controls would be right handed.

IN ANY CASE Link encounters Hyrule’s iconic red-capped postman on his way to Eldin Province. The postman, who is as charmingly neurotic as ever, tells him that there is a black wall cutting off the mountain pass into Kakariko Village. So normal people can see the twilight, then. Good to know.

After a light jog through Kakariko Gorge, which is briefly interrupted by Midna grabbing a wooden bridge from somewhere in Ordona and transporting it through the twilight in order to render a gaping crevasse passable, Link arrives in Kakariko Village, where the kids from Ordon Village are cowering in a house with the village elder Renado, his no-nonsense daughter Luda, and the cowardly bomb shop owner Barnes.

Link runs around their house to recover several of the Tears of Light that will help the local light spirit Eldin recover, but no one seems to notice him, despite the fact that he’s setting things on fire and moving the furniture. Can people trapped in the twilight actually see Link in his wolf form, or do they simply sense a vague yet menacing presence? It’s difficult to tell.

After jumping around on people’s roofs, breaking people’s windows, stealing the rupees from people’s treasure chests, and setting more things on fire, Link finds all the Tears of Light and returns to the spring in the foothills of the village, where he is greeted by Eldin, who takes the form of an owl. The twilight is lifted, and the Ordon Village kids emerge from their house convinced that Link has saved them.

Renado asks Link to take the children back home but tells him that he needs to arrange for transportation, since it’s too far for them to walk. It’s too far for Link to walk as well, but thankfully Epona shows up at just the right moment, bless her. Renado assures Link that this particular fetch quest will not be conducted in vain, since the Ordon Village elder can help Link figure out a way of communicating with the Gorons, who have become xenophobic of late and aren’t letting anyone on their mountain.

It’s interesting to note that Renado appears to not be racially/ethnically Hylian, despite wearing clothing embroidered with the Hylian royal emblem. He appears to be some sort of shaman – are they trying to make him seem Native American? Regardless, he seems to be the only adult who has remained in Kakariko, presumably to protect the children who were unable to flee (and Barnes). An alternate explanation is that he stayed behind to protect the Sky Cannon (which the player is not supposed to know about yet) and endangered Luda and the other children’s lives by not fleeing with them. Either way, he and his daughter are adorable, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them as the game progresses.

( Header image from the Twilight Princess Character Profile page on Zelda Source )

Twilight Princess – Faron Woods and Forest Temple

Faron Light Spirit

Link returns to Ordona Province to find that Ordon Village has been plunged into twilight.

The ontological state of the twilight is not entirely clear. Judging from Midna’s comments, she is from the Twilight Realm and thinks the twilight is beautiful, but humans apparently cannot live in twilight without being transformed into spirits or monsters. When Link navigated Hyrule Castle under twilight, he perceived people as a ball of faint flame (a frequent visual representation of a dead or dying soul in Japanese art), and he had to use his special wolf senses to see these souls as people and hear what they were saying. It’s not entirely clear whether the twilight is a distinct state of being for people other than Link, or whether anyone other than Link is even capable of seeing how it affects the world.

What becomes clear in Ordon Village is that human beings can somehow perceive the monsters that inhabit the twilight. They can also perceive Link in his wolf form. Some of them will even attack him if he enters their line of sight.

If the local spirit of light is purified, the Twilight will disperse and Link will return to human form, but Midna tells him that he needs to find a sword a shield first. Since Link is going to attack the shadow monsters terrorizing the light spirit in his wolf form, I don’t know why he can’t just enter Ordon Village and ask for a sword and shield like a normal person after he’s done rescuing everyone, but whatever. It’s more fun to burgle people’s houses anyway.

Once Link has broken everyone’s furniture and stolen their stuff, he returns to the pool of water just outside his house and revives the light spirit Ordona, who is a giant glowing goat. The scene is quite gorgeous and reminds me more than a little of the Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke.

Ordona tells me that I have to purify the light essence of Faron, the light spirit of the woods, so Link heads over to that place to do that thing. After he collects sixteen tears of light, Link returns to the forest spring, where Faron appears as some sort of glowing lemur. Faron turns Link back into a human, telling him that he’s the hero of legend. Link is now wearing the green tunic of the hero, and he is totally okay with this for some reason.

Midna tells me that the Ordon Village children are still missing, and that maybe I can find them if I go to the Forest Temple. I decide to trust her, because I’m not trekking all the way back to the village, where people will more than likely ask me awkward questions about why I’m walking around with their stuff.

On the way to the Forest Temple, Link runs into the Hero’s Shade, a creepy decaying skeleton who teaches him how to jump on an enemy and impale it with his sword after he knocks them down. This ferocious move is not disturbing at all.

Link gets to use this new technique in the Forest Temple, which is infested with giant spiders twice his size. After banging them up a bit, he’ll jump on top of their underbellies and thrust his sword into their carapaces, hopefully before they curl their legs around him. This was nightmare fuel for me the first time I played this game. Like, literally. I had nightmares about spiders. Because of this game.

The other bizarrely creepy thing Link encounters here is a small creature that introduces herself as Ooccoo. Ooccoo is a two-foot tall featherless mammalian chicken with a bald human head and unblinking pink eyes with no pupils. Ooccoo functions as a game mechanic that will help Link warp in and out of the dungeon by detaching her head, which can sprout tiny insect wings and fly around. Moving on.

Link’s main objective here is to rescue a bunch of monkeys, who are all adorable. Thank god they’re adorable. Creepy monkeys would have been too much.

One of the monkeys helps Link fight the final boss. Once the monster is defeated, it leaves behind something that Midna calls a “fused shadow.” She won’t explain what it is, but she tells Link that she’s looking for them and that he might as well help her. Sure, okay, why not.

( Header image from the Zelda Wiki entry on Faron )

Twilight Princess – Ordon Village and Hyrule Castle

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess

Tell me… Do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls?

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was released in 2006, four years after The Wind Waker, which generated a fair amount of controversy in online gaming communities because of its cell-shaded visual design, a departure from the more “realistic” graphics of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Twilight Princess is a return to a more mimetic visual approach. That being said, this game is also intensely stylized, especially in the way it uses light.

Other games in the Zelda series begin with Link waking up and being told to get out of bed. In contrast, Twilight Princess begins at the end of the day. Link is sitting at the edge of a pool of water with his mentor, a blacksmith named Rusl, who opens the game by saying that twilight is a time of loneliness. The color palette in these scenes is that of the setting sun, and everything is saturated with a soft burnished gold. Rusl tells Link that he’d like the boy to travel to Hyrule and present a gift to the royal family in his stead, saying that Link should see the world beyond the backwater Ordona Province. As Link runs around the village, performing a few errands during the last hour of daylight, the player gets the sense that she is witnessing not a beginning, but an ending. The sun is setting on this chapter of Link’s life.

In Twilight Princess, Link is already an older teenager. He apparently works as a goat herder, and he is the only person in the village to own a horse. A young woman named Ilia, the daughter of the Ordon Village mayor, is besotted with Epona, but she does not have a horse of her own, which is somewhat upsetting. If horses are so expensive that not even the mayor’s daughter can own one, why does Link, an orphan who lives in a hollow tree trunk, get to have one? In any case, Link is also capable of whistling on grass to summon a hawk, which he can send off flying to knock down beehives and retrieve far-away objects. He’s not just good with animals, but also with children, and the village kids love him. He’s good with a sword… and a slingshot… and a fishing pole… and he’s handsome, in an anime-style bishōnen androgynous sort of way.

Link is kind of a Mary Sue, to be honest. I want his life.

This all changes the next day, when Link and Ilia are attacked at the spring in the forest that served as the setting for the game’s opening scene. An enormous goblin riding a boar knocks both of them down. A hole opens in the sky, and Link is touched by the blackness that emerges. When he wakes up, he is in a jail cell. He is also a wolf.

An imp about a third the size of an adult human taunts him, grinning and calling him stupid. This is Midna. I love Midna. She is my waifu. I’m not jealous, though. She can be your waifu too. We can split waifu custody and love Midna together.

Wolf Link is an interesting contrast to human Link. While human Link is an adorable moé butterball, wolf Link snarls and snaps and bares his teeth. His attack is to lunge for the throat and shake his enemy until it’s good and dead.

In A Link to the Past, Link turns into a pink bunny in the Dark World, suggesting that his true nature is sweet and innocent. In Shotaro Ishinomori’s manga based on A Link to the Past, the energy of the Dark World transforms Link into a wolf, which implies that hidden within his heart is something ferocious and bestial. Twilight Princess obviously subscribes to the latter notion, implying that Link is something called a banken (guard dog) in Japanese. This is the sort of dog that’s chained in someone’s yard to bark and lunge at anyone who passes by on the street. Such a dog may be loyal to its master, but its job is to attack, not to provide love and cuddles. Wolf Link is therefore the “twilight,” or sad and lonely, element of Link’s existence, which is to be a weapon manipulated forces that he neither can control nor wishes to control.

With Midna’s help Link escapes his cell and navigates a series of sewer tunnels, finally emerging into a stone tower circled by a crumbling staircase. When he reaches the top, he emerges onto the broken blue-tiled roof of Hyrule Castle.

This is quite dramatic, as the scale of the castle is enormous, and it’s crumbling into the Twilight. Apparently, at some point over the past 24 hours (or possibly longer?) in the game, the hooded king of the Twilight Realm sent a bunch of creatures that look like they came straight out of Kingdom Hearts to attack Hyrule. Hyrule’s regent, Zelda, surrendered.

When Link comes face to face with Zelda, she is isolated in a room at the top of a castle tower that looks from the outside like it’s about to fall over at any moment. Zelda is shrouded in a sinister-looking traveling cloak, which hides her iconic princess regalia. Her room is starkly furnished, containing nothing more than a bed, an empty desk, and a fireplace. I wonder if this is meant to be some sort of prison cell, or whether it’s her actual room? It would be interesting if it were the latter, which would suggest that she has very little identity outside of her public role as a princess.

Anyway, according to Zelda, Link is the chosen hero. Link is totally down with this. Midna snarks a little at both of them and then transports Link back to Ordon Forest so he can get down to his hero business.

( Header image from Mana Pop’s review of Twilight Princess )