Zelda Moments I Felt in my Soul

POSTED ON:  April 16, 2023 

by: subpurrs (aleks)

Turning on a console and starting up any 'Legend of Zelda' game is like coming home after a long day. They're comfortable, each their own special world that I can step into whenever I need a break from messy, complicated, real life. My goals there are simple: Grow stronger, help people, defeat evil. 

Play enough of the series’ titles, and you become familiar with the ebb and flow of Zelda gameplay that has remained, under all the new features and items, consistent since its first incarnation. To proceed, you know that you must defeat enemies, collect artefacts, and solve puzzles. You discover mysteries at every corner and hope that the storyline will shed light on the answers you seek.

What I've always found remarkable is how much depth there is to the games if you take a moment to reflect on the situation Link has fallen into. Sometimes you don't feel the impact of something until you've taken a second to breathe and look around.

In 'Breath of the Wild', the clearest example is when you leap off the edge of the Great Plateau for the first time. Your hard-earned glider snaps open above you, the fabric rustles in the buffeting wind as you descend. The mist around the plateau dissolves and you clearly see the area below you for the first time. It's quiet. There's no fanfare, no achievement or victory noise, nothing but Link's feet touching down and your gear jangling lightly into place. Now, go.

In every playthrough I've done of Breath, that sweet feeling of freedom has never changed. The first time is probably the closest we'll ever get to truly feeling as Link does; unknowing of what lies ahead and terribly eager to find out. 

If you've played 'Ocarina of Time', you know that sometimes being released into Hyrule can potentially be devastating. I was quite a bit younger when I played Ocarina for the first time, but I was as eager as Link was to collect the spiritual stones and bring them to Zelda at the Temple of Time. We were thwarting Ganondorf and defeating the Big Bad! I went on an adventure and was going to be a hero! 

I, like Link and Zelda, was played for a fool. I had gone through so much work to remove the sacred stones from their places of safety, I brought them all to the door they unlocked, and then I played the secret song to put the unlocking into motion. All Ganondorf had to do was patiently watch, and wait while I did the work for him. I was the one who let the Demon King into the Sacred Realm with the goddess' golden treasure.

In my first playthrough, I thought that I had somehow failed Ocarina, or that I had gotten 'the bad ending'. I barely had a few moments of a blank screen, all the while reflecting on what I had done wrong, before the game continued. I was stunned. I couldn't reload and fix things, I now had to deal with the aftermath of what would've been a 'game over' in other games.

Link woke up in a body not his own and didn't recognize himself. Similarly, I too was changed beyond my control - how could I trust anything in Ocarina now that I was dealing with the consequences of simply following the plot? Leaving the Temple of Time gives no reprieve as it throws you immediately into a desolate Castle Town, overrun by the screaming, clinging dead. You can't run away from what you've done, the world has changed because of it.

Nowadays, it's the small things in Zelda that make me stop and pause. It’s the heartbreaking beat of hesitation in 'Age of Calamity' when Sidon agrees with Mipha that he'll see her again, the way Anju is so calm in 'Majora's Mask' as she waits for Kafei in the Stock Pot Inn. It's finding out that Link still knows the password to the Big Bad Bazz Brigade in ‘Breath of the Wild’, seeing the way that Link smiles at Zelda in 'Skyward Sword', or hugging every cat in 'Twilight Princess's Castle Town.

I don't think I'll ever have a repeat experience of something like the pure terror of the initial last six minutes atop Termina Clock Tower, or the stunned anger at Ganondorf's backstory in Twilight, but I've come to learn that that's okay.

The beautiful thing about The Legends of Zelda is that no matter how well you know the gameplay or how many times you've started a new file, the games will find a way to touch your heart. The events that stick in my head have changed since I was eleven, betrayed by the Demon King, and I expect will continue to change when I am an older millennial rebuilding (hopefully!) Hyrule in 'Tears of the Kingdom'.

Whatever the next adventure brings, I look forward to it.