The Legend of Zelda is More Than Just a Video Game

If you’re familiar with Jumanji, I’d like to warn you now that playing The Legend of Zelda is cunningly similar in an impressive way. In 1986 Japan, The Legend of Zelda released for play on the NES. Looking back on it now, the game looks extremely simple, but was truly advantageous for its time with a diverse map, dozens of items, and an intriguing storyline. That same feeling of being “ahead of its time” seems to ring true for just about every Zelda game following this origin. Nintendo manages to shock players with more beautiful, deep, and mesmerizing elements each time.

In 1998, the Nintendo 64 was blessed with Ocarina of Time, which people still argue today to be the best video game ever made. Why? Good Blood on YouTube explores Ocarina as a “masterclass in subtext,” simply because it plants three separate threads of what he terms the “Zelda sorrow language.” Beyond the 3D gameplay that was incredibly impressive for 1998, the storyline for Ocarina explores good versus evil, nature versus man, and childhood versus adulthood. By planting deep, personal storylines that everyone can relate to and recognize, Nintendo creates a game that captivates the player’s psyche and allows them to become emotionally involved. The sorrow language is subtly woven throughout the game with gracefully composed subtexts that creep into your gut and concoct a gravitational pull from inside the game, so that many people won’t even notice unless they look - they simply feel.

Wind Waker came out for Gamecube in 2003, at which time I was six years old and one of my favorite things to do was watch my older brothers play video games. The songs that soothed me to sleep were “Epona’s Song,” “Zelda’s Lullaby,” and “Saria’s Song,” all reminiscent of what you might dub a Nintendo childhood. But as I grew up, so did Link. In Ocarina of Time, Link’s main character is depicted as only a small child, and much of the gameplay in the first half of the game is quite playful. Although Link is forced to grow up when he passes through the door of time halfway through the game, Ocarina centers around the importance of childhood: the final battle of the game requires Link to destroy Ganondorf, the series’ main villain, with nothing other than the Master Sword, whose blade is alive with the essence of childhood.

In Wind Waker, Link is probably around nine years old throughout the game and makes noises that sound quite childlike (struggling to climb up a series of steep steps, for example). The storyline not only surrounds a journey of self-discovery (with Link realizing he is the hero Hyrule was waiting for and possesses the courage of the Triforce), but also of the importance of family and the beginnings of growing up. Link’s little sister is kidnapped at the start of the game, setting off his journey to find and rescue her. I was obsessed with Wind Waker because of how relatable it felt; seeing characters my age deal with family crises and come to terms with their purposes and goals in life. My friend wanted to play, but got stuck early on not understanding how limitless the activities you could perform in the game were. Once I showed her how to cut down the trees on outset island leading to the forest above, she was lost. One week later, she reported back to me on her defeat of the game. She’d done it. She’d defeated the terrible Ganondorf and, it was epic.

Yeah, that was eighth grade. Since then, Link has grown up along with many of The Legend of Zelda’s fandom, and so have the game’s possibilities. A while ago I wrote a piece for Her Campus on Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, the mobile adaptation of Nintendo’s friendly Animal Crossing video game series. In it, I spoke about the relaxing nature of the game in that you can control a character who explores a world of your own creation. Similarly, the Zelda series gifts the player with worlds ripe for adventure, with Breath of the Wild being exemplary of the impressive extent of Nintendo’s graphics work and in-game dynamics. Available on the Wii U and the Nintendo Switch, the game is nothing short of a work of art. It’s complete with built-in physics that make the game feel all the more realistic, allowing the player to experience wind that throws objects near or far, slipping on wet rock during or after it has rained, or determine what angle to push off of a cliff in order to hang-glide to a desired destination. The graphics are unbelievably stunning, with sunrises and sunsets penetrating the eyes with individual rays of sun, weather that works with wide diversity and a forecast, and every possible climate to explore that one could imagine. The map is regarded as one of the most impressive and extensive in any video game, with deserts, volcanoes, canyons, swamps, lakes, oceans, seas, forests, jungles, mountains, plains, arctic spreads and many other types of locations.

Yet, one of the most powerful elements of the Zelda series is its music. I mentioned before three of the most well-known songs in the series, but the way the game weaves these tunes throughout each game is strategic in order to convey character’s emotions and, subsequently, tie the player into the storyline even more deeply. Zelda fans will remember themes from Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker, the Song of Healing from Majora’s Mask, or the Fairy Fountain from Ocarina of Time.

Even if you can’t relate to the nostalgia that comes with the Zelda series, it’s never too late to start playing. You can jump into a battlefield for a dose of adrenaline, or you can relax exploring Hyrule fields. No matter which game is your favorite, or if you’re unfamiliar, Zelda is always worth some of your time if you want to work your critical thinking, feel the thrills of adventure, or return to your childhood imagination.

 

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