From Zelda Wiki, the Zelda encyclopedia
I'm currently using the space below to air thoughts I've had about this series. The sections are in order of increasing likelihood to be flame bait, so you can start reading at the top and go as far into the controversial stuff as you wish.
Cool things about each game
My goal is to have something interesting and distinctive about every single game in this section. Specifically, something interesting and distinctive other than the obvious (e.g. central gameplay mechanics like the mask system in Majora's Mask or shrinking in The Minish Cap).
The Legend of Zelda
- The Second Quest. It has some design problems (e.g. the warp points are still at their First Quest locations even though all the dungeons have been moved, and they didn't change the hints from their First Quest text so a lot of them are useless) but it's still amazing that they managed to fit an entire second game in, with new dungeon layouts, new mechanics (e.g. false walls), and new enemies (curse you, red Bubbles!).
- Because of the way this game remembers the enemy data for a screen of overworld or dungeon, there are a few exploits you can do:
- If a screen has more than one type of enemy, in many cases the game will not remember how many enemies of which type you've killed. This means that it will load the correct number of enemies when you return to that screen, but not necessarily the correct type. You can enter a screen with a mixture of weak and strong enemies, kill off some (but not all!) of the weak ones, leave the screen, and return, and there will be a good chance that some of the strong enemies will have changed into something weaker.
- The game will not respawn any enemies on a screen until a certain amount of time after all of them have been killed. Because of this, if you kill all but one of the enemies on a screen, none of them will ever respawn as long as that one stays alive. This can be very useful on screens with a mixture of strong and weak enemies as well, as if you kill off all the strong ones and spare one weak one, you'll never have to deal with the strong ones on that screen for the rest of the game as long as you don't kill it. (This is useful on overworld screens with a mixture of Lynels and Peahats, for instance.)
- Not everyone will consider this a good point, but: Bombable walls look the same as non-bombable walls. You have to use logic (and some amount of trial and error) to figure out which ones you can bomb. It makes them a way of actually hiding something rather than just an equipment check.
- Again, not a good point to everyone, but: This is the only game where it's possible to permanently lose Heart Containers.
- It is possible to get all the way to Ganon without using a sword. You still need one to beat him, though.
The Adventure of Link
- If you kill any enemy in a dungeon in this game, it stays dead. It will never respawn unless you get a game over.
- Most of the enemies in this game are unique to it. They don't show up anywhere else in the series.
- This game's overworld is made up of two landmasses. The two of them have completely different tilesets for each non-dungeon environment as well as completely different sets of overworld enemies. There isn't even an overworld enemy that has different palette swaps on the two continents. That's right; the two continents have distinctive and different flora and fauna.
A Link to the Past
- This is the only game where humans are common enemies.
- Although it doesn't have quite as many as The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past also has quite a few enemies that don't show up in any other game.
- This game has far and away the most dungeons of any game in the series, with twelve full-sized dungeons. So if you like a lot of dungeons (and don't particularly care for sidequests; this game is short on them), this is the game for you.
- In many respects this is the archetypal Zelda game. It is the standard on which all future games are based.
- This game introduced Bomb Arrows, and it was completely unintended. The most fearsome weapon in the series began life as a glitch.
- In this game, all but one of the bosses talk to you. The only one that doesn't is ridden by a mount that does.
- This includes the only time the series where you fight the entrance to a dungeon. That's right; the dungeon itself comes to life and fights you, and can't enter it until you've killed it.
Ocarina of Time
Honestly, so much has been said and done concerning this game that I can't really contribute anything new, but still:
- More than any other, this game has a long and fascinating development history, with loads of scrapped content and tantalizing hints of other feature that were planned to be in the game but didn't make it in. Visit the beta content page for more details.
- This is the only game in the series where literally any boss or miniboss can be fought again after you beat it for the first time. Any enemy in the game can be fought again by resetting time, and all of the main bosses have warps leading you straight to their lairs after you beat them for the first time.
- In these games and only these games, every single major dungeon has a unique miniboss. (The one sort-of exception is Facade in the Snake's Remains, who appears in a somewhat upgraded form in Onox's Castle. The latter is a mini-dungeon a few screens in length, though.)
- There are three possible steeds for Link. None of them are horses. Aside from a brief segment in Four Swords Adventures, this is the only time Link rides a steed in a 2-D game. Ironically, Link does appear riding a horse in the intros to both games.
- The ring system, the game linking system, the choice of animal companion, and various other little things like raising Bipin and Blossom's son create a massive combinatorial tree of possible play styles and experiences, giving this duo of games extensive replay value.
- Due to it being necessary for gameplay to continue after the first game's plot ends for a Linked Game to be possible, these are the only games in the series to have a postgame.
- Both games use a major boss from Link's Awakening as a miniboss: Facade in Oracle of Seasons and Angler Fish in Oracle of Ages.
- Mystical Seeds add a huge amount of functionality to Link's projectile weapon de jour. Depending on what kind of seeds his Slingshot or Seed Shooter is loaded with, he has standard bullets, incendiaries, tranquilizers, packaged teleport spells that effectively destroy nearly all regular enemies instantly, and randomized projectiles that may do any of these four things but also do special things to certain targets. And then the Hyper Slingshot in Oracle of Seasons gives him a three-way spread gun that still uses only one seed per shot. If you're tired of dealing with mooks and you've got Gale Seeds to burn, you can fire a spreading teleport shot that clears rooms in seconds.
- These are the only games where Link can engage in unaided unarmed combat. (He's not human for it in Majora's Mask, and he's wearing the Iron Boots the one time he does it as a human in Twilight Princess.)
Oracle of Seasons
- While some references appear in Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons is the one that really shows signs of its original concept, a remake of The Legend of Zelda. Not only are the enemies heavily based on those from The Legend of Zelda, but multiple dungeons are based in some way on dungeons from that game, including their bosses, and even the overworld layout retains some similarities to NES-era Hyrule.
- At one point in this game, skeleton pirates sail a ship through the planet's crust. Somehow.
- This game contains the only time in the series that Link has to use a currency other than the Rupee. Subrosia uses Ore Chunks instead of Rupees.
Oracle of Ages
- This has the only final dungeon in the series that you can observe being constructed over the course of the game.
- This is the only 2-D Zelda game with extensive ocean areas you can swim around in the overworld. (The Adventure of Link has open sea, but because the overworld in that game works more like a traditional RPG overworld it's not interactable.) Really, given how limited swimming is in The Wind Waker, this gives you more swimming space than any other Zelda game.
- Relatedly, this is the only game in the series to have top-down perspective underwater and the only 2-D Zelda game with extensive underwater areas.
- This is the only time Sea Zoras appear in 2-D or alongside River Zoras. It's also the only time they're called that.
- This is the only game in the series to feature randomly generated environments.
The Wind Waker
- Nearly every weapon you see an enemy wielding in this game is a weapon you can steal from them and use.
- Enemies in this game have a wider variety of actions (and reactions) in this game than in any game prior to Skyward Sword.
- Every single dungeon boss in this game has a unique musical theme, which is true of no other Zelda game. Twilight Princess comes close, but it does recycle some of its boss themes.
Four Swords Adventures
- Several games mix traditional top-down and side-scrolling perspectives, but only this one has an area where the majority of it is side-scrolling and side areas are top-down.
The Minish Cap
- This game includes one of the very few cases in the series of a unique major item that can be permanently missed (the Light Arrows) and an item that can only be acquired after you've beaten the final boss at least once (the Mirror Shield).
- This is the only game where you can fish anywhere, including inside dungeons.
- This is the only game to feature boss battles on horseback.
- This game features a set piece where you shoot up a Bulblin-held village with mock Ennio Morricone music. Later on the same music is used for a minigame where you find cats.
- Rather than having just one or two mini-boss themes the way Zelda games generally do, Twilight Princess has several mini-boss themes, some of which are only used once.
- This game has more types of Bomb than any other, including the first appearance of Bomb Arrows since their debut in Link's Awakening. And unlike in Link's Awakening, where Bomb Arrows were not required to do anything and may have been a glitch, Bomb Arrows are required to progress.
- This game introduces some unusual items that have no real parallel in other games, such as the Spinner and the Ball and Chain.
- Although there are occasional appearances of this in other games, this game really likes messing with the "you got an item" message. Several times in the game, something will happen so that Link looks different from the way he normally does, the music sounds different, or both.
- Relatedly, at one point in this game you can find and open a treasure chest that contains absolutely nothing. Complete with a "you got nothing" message.
- The Servant Spirit system in this game allows you to make Link into a heavy hitter, an invincible tank, or a beam spammer, and you can change up which one he is at any time.
- This is the only game where you can directly control Princess Zelda.
- Even though the game never spells it out to you or even hints at it, bombs are an optional item. You need them to access certain optional areas and they make the main quest easier, but they're never required to progress in the main quest.
- The enemy AI has been considerably buffed in this game compared to previous games. Even the most basic of enemies will react to your movements, defend themselves, and attempt to anticipate your actions.
- Thanks to the existence of Timeshift Stones, this game manages to have even more bizarre time shenanigans than Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.
- And in a rather NintendoCapriSun-esque vein:
- In this game, you can watch Link use a toilet. (In a rather surreal way thanks to how it's censored.)
- There is an enemy that very unambiguously poops on you. And it actually has a gameplay-relevant effect.
Trivia that's a bit too trivial for any of the main articles
The Adventure of Link's contributions to Ocarina of Time
I'm not sure how much of this was deliberate, but although it is a prequel to A Link to the Past and much of its design reflects that, Ocarina of Time also reuses a hell of a lot of elements from The Adventure of Link, especially in the adult section of the plot:
- First and most obviously, it brings back an "adult" (meaning, as it usually does in this series, an older teenager) Link for the first time since that game.
- By the same token, it brings back a visibly "adult" Zelda. (The Zeldas in The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past have ambiguous sprites and as far as I can tell don't have a canon age.)
- As many fans know, all but one of the towns in The Adventure of Link have names that are reused for characters in Ocarina of Time, and all but one of these names are used for Sages in Ocarina of Time. Of course, in the internal chronology the towns are named for these people.
- The adult phase of the game has six Sage Medallions, like the six crystals in The Adventure of Link.
- The game reuses a number of enemies and bosses that hadn't been seen since The Adventure of Link, such as Dark Link, Volvagia, and the Iron Knuckle. (To be fair, the Iron Knuckles seen in The Adventure of Link look and act more like Darknuts, and the Japanese names of the Iron Knuckle and the Darknut imply that they are subtypes of the same enemy rather than entirely different enemies, but hey, they're hardly the only enemy to get a major redesign over the course of the series.) Also, although it has a different name (in Japanese as well as in English), the Lizalfos is very similar to the Geru.
- On the subject of enemies generally, both games have a significant number of "swordsman" enemies that can execute weapon techniques beyond just holding a weapon out and can actively block or parry Link's attacks, as opposed to their closest counterparts in A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening which behave somewhat more like their counterparts from The Legend of Zelda. Link himself is also able to fence to a much greater extent than he can in A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. Of course, 3D and a side-scrolling perspective both lend themselves to this more than a top-down perspective does.
- The spells in Ocarina of Time have more in common with the spells in The Adventure of Link (a fire spell, a defense spell, and a mobility spell) than with the spells in A Link to the Past (similar number, and one of them is a fire spell, but they're all elemental offensive spells, although one of Quake's effects is similar to an effect of the Spell spell).
- This was the first time that specific parts of the Triforce were mentioned since The Adventure of Link, and therefore the second time in the series that the Triforce of Courage appeared as a distinct entity and was associated with Link.
- Ocarina of Time is the first game to have the Triforce appearing as a mark on a character's hand since The Adventure of Link.
- All of the main dungeons in the second phase of the game are called "temples", as were the dungeons in The Adventure of Link in Japanese.
- Ocarina of Time featured the largest overworld that had been seen since The Adventure of Link, a game that itself has a large overworld by this series's standards.
- The Hover Boots and the Iron Boots both have a similar function to the Boots in different ways. The former allows one to walk over obstacles (pits in the case of the Hover Boots, water in the case of the Boots), while the latter grants access to areas blocked off by water (underwater in the case of the Iron Boots, across water in the case of the Boots).
- Horses appear in Ocarina of Time for the first time since The Adventure of Link, although in the latter they only appeared as mounted or horselike enemies (Rebonakku and Horsehead).
- The Carpenters introduced in Ocarina of Time look a lot like one of the generic male NPC sprites (the type used for Error) in The Adventure of Link.
Sister games on the Gamecube
I see The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess as counterparts in many respects aside from their timeline placement. The latter reuses many elements from the former:
- Obviously, both are the first time since OoT in their timelines that a Link has met Ganondorf.
- The Ganondorf battles are similar in the two games, with Ganon fighting Link in beast form at first and then shifting to his Gerudo form for a final sword fight. Both battles have Zelda actively participating by shooting Light Arrows at some point. Both of the sword fights require Link to use a specific sword technique to win.
- Both have colossal overworlds, the two biggest in any of the 3D games.
- Both have a race of birdlike people (the Rito in TWW, the Oocca in TP), albeit with very different story roles.
- Both use the exact same Rupee system, a relative rarity in this series even though the values of the green, blue, and red Rupees are generally consistent between games.
- Both include a process for making ChuChus into Chu Jelly, which has not appeared in any other game.
- Many design elements and puzzles in the dungeons are reused:
- TP's Forest Temple is extremely similar to TWW's Forbidden Woods. Both have similar, half-open-cave-made-of-trees aesthetics (more so than many other forest dungeons, e.g. OoT's Inside the Great Deku Tree and Forest Temple) and background music, have the Boomerang as their unique treasure and make use of it to cut vines, have wind-based puzzles including the use of wind to move gondolas and spin weathervanes (TP merging the wind-generating function of the Deku Leaf into the Boomerang), and have a variant of the Deku Baba as a boss.
- The Temple of Time has many similarities to the Tower of the Gods. Both are holy locations that make extensive use of the glowing-lines aesthetic, introduce Armos and Darknuts, introduce a means of remotely controlling objects and statues that can be controlled thus, feature a scale puzzle, and have electric hazards.
- Both have dungeons that use a strange-colored fog as an obstacle that disables Link (by jinxing him in TWW and by turning him into a wolf in TP) and can be cleared by light (reflected sunlight in TWW and the light of the Sols and the light-infused Master Sword in TP).
- Both have a wind-themed dungeon whose treasure is a Hookshot-like item (the Wind Temple with the Hookshot in TWW, and the City in the Sky with the Double Clawshots in TP) as the final "regular" dungeon before confronting the antagonist (although, due to Zant's relation to Ganondorf, TP has a true final dungeon after the false one that is the Palace of Twilight).
- Both feature Hyrule Castle itself overrun with Ganon's minions, as a small area that furthers the plot in TWW and as a full dungeon in TP.
- Both have a linear, vertical mini-dungeon based around fighting most of the non-boss enemies in the game in succession (the Savage Labyrinth in TWW, and the Cave of Ordeals in TP). Both have "breather" floors, and both have a group of Darknuts on the final floor.
- Many enemies are similar between the two, keeping the different art styles in mind:
- Both games use Bokoblins as common enemies, and up until Skyward Sword were the only games to do so.
- Although the method of killing them is different, the Armos in both games resemble the statues that can be animated in the Tower of the Gods and the Temple of Time (see dungeon comparison above).
- Both feature Kargaroks and have them used as mounts or transports for other enemies. These have never appeared in any other games.
- While not actually the same enemy, Zant's Hands resemble TWW Floormasters, especially when emerging from the glowing seals on doors.
- Both games have an enemy that cannot damage Link but slows him down by sticking to him (Morths in TWW and Poison Mites in TP).
- Both have a mail carrier as a prominent character that reappears many times in the story and have Link receive mail regularly.
- Both have a bottled item that fully heals Link and temporarily doubles his attacking power (Elixir Soup in TWW, Great Fairy's Tears in TP).
- Both have a telescope item, although TP's (the Hawkeye) resembles a mask rather than a traditional telescope.
- Both games gives bosses unique battle themes. TP isn't absolutely consistent about it, reusing a couple of them, but on the other hand it has several different miniboss themes, a number of which are for one specific miniboss, which is practically unheard of elsewhere in this series.
- There are numerous instances of reused music between the two games, beyond what were already series standards:
- The musical sting for receiving Rupees from a treasure chest is the same.
- The shop music is the same basic tune in both.
- Both games begin with an attack on Link's hometown leading to someone from there being captured and Link going off to rescue them.
Stupid little lists
Items that have no use whatsoever outside the dungeon where you get them:
- L-2 Power Bracelet in Link's Awakening
- Giant's Mask in Majora's Mask. I admit I'm curious where else it was originally intended to be used, since there's evidence it was intended to be usable in more places than just Twinmold's boss room.
- The Master Sword's light infusion in Twilight Princess
Items that come close:
- Golden Gauntlets in Ocarina of Time (only used in one location outside Ganon's Castle)
- Mirror Shield in Ocarina of Time (there's like one light puzzle outside of the Spirit Temple, although it is at least Like Like-proof)
Games with significant non-linearity in the main quest dungeon sequence (assuming you aren't using glitches):
- The Legend of Zelda
- A Link to the Past
- Ocarina of Time
- Majora's Mask (Just barely; you can get to Ikana proper without the Ice Arrows with precise use of the Hookshot, and I'm pretty sure you don't need the Ice Arrows at any point in the Stone Tower Temple.)
- Oracle of Seasons (In one case; the Dancing Dragon Dungeon and the Unicorn's Cave can be completed in either order.)
- Four Swords (Granted, this one doesn't have the usual overworld-and-dungeon system, but compare it to Four Swords Adventures, where the order of the stages is fixed.)
- The Wind Waker? (I've heard people say you can do the Wind Temple before the Earth Temple, but the necessary event flags didn't trigger in my playthrough. I've heard others insist that it can't be done. The evidence online seems to suggest it's only possible in some versions of the game, e.g. it's impossible in the North American release but possible in the PAL version or something.)
- Phantom Hourglass (As usual since Ocarina of Time, in one case only: it doesn't matter whether you do the Goron Temple or the Temple of Ice first.)
- Skyward Sword sort of: It has a linear dungeon sequence, but in the Song of the Hero portion of the game Faron's and Eldin's parts of the song can be acquired in either order, provided Lanayru's is acquired last. (Stupid glitch.)
As you can see, the only particularly strong examples of non-linearity are The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Ocarina of Time. It's something I kind of wish would come back in the newer games.
Things that appear in every game except one, aside from basic gameplay mechanics:
- Boomerangs, including enemy boomerangs and Zora Link's fins
- Keese (I feel trolled by the existence of Aches.)
- Stalfos (Provided Igos du Ikana and his thugs don't count.)
- Blade Trap
- Princess Zelda (Granted, she only shows up in a flashback in Majora's Mask, but in Link's Awakening she doesn't even get that.)
Non-boss enemies that only appear once in their respective games:
- Octoballoon in A Link to the Past
- Monkey in Link's Awakening
- Club Moblin in Ocarina of Time
- Peahat in Majora's Mask
- Takkuri in Majora's Mask
- Blue ChuChu in Majora's Mask
- Deku Scrub in Majora's Mask (Hmm...)
- Blue Tektite in The Minish Cap (It might appear in Simon's Simulations; I don't know every possible set of enemies.)
- That one medium-sized Skulltula in Twilight Princess
Enemies with multiple "elemental" versions:
Enemies with a red and a blue palette in The Legend of Zelda:
- Bubble (Second Quest only; distinct from the flashing palette in First Quest)
- Rope (actually red and flashing palettes)
Ways to die instantly regardless of your heart total, not including water/lava deaths in The Adventure of Link, drowning, or other deaths where you're given an explicit countdown:
- In Oracle of Seasons:
- Being crushed by the walls moving inward in the Ancient Ruins.
- In Twilight Princess:
- In Skyward Sword:
Very common recurring enemies that aren't in Skyward Sword (seriously, it's like a theme in this game):
- Like Like
I'm excluding common enemies that don't appear in Skyward Sword because they don't appear in the 3-D main console games in general, e.g. Ropes. And granted, some of them seem to have something else doing their job, like the Cursed Bokoblins filling in for Gibdos and ReDeads. This is still an awful lot of series standards to have not show up. I'm not complaining, really; it's just weird.
Link as an outsider
There is a running theme in this series of Link being an outsider or a stranger in some sense in the games' settings. This may be to help make him a better avatar for the player, in that he will at least in some respects be unfamiliar with his surroundings just as the player is. Anyway, here is a list of the ways in which is he is foreign throughout the series:
- In The Legend of Zelda, according to the English manual (I don't know whether this is true in the Japanese manual as well) Link is traveling through Hyrule at the time his quest begins and does not actually live there.
- In Link's Awakening, Link is obviously not from Koholint Island.
- In Ocarina of Time, Link was raised among the Kokiri (to the point of being raised to believe he was one of them) and is therefore an outsider to human society altogether.
- In Majora's Mask, Link is a visitor from a parallel universe to the game's setting.
- In the Oracle Series, Link is once again a foreigner, this time to the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna.
- In Twilight Princess, Link is from Ordona Province, a region outside Hyrule proper.
- In Phantom Hourglass, Link is a stranger in the World of the Ocean King. It's not clear whether the World of the Ocean King is a region in the same world as Hyrule or another world altogether, but either way it's very much not Link's native territory.
- In Skyward Sword, Link is a native of Skyloft and is implied to be one of the first humans to set foot on The Surface in a millennium.
- In a sense, Ropes appear always and only in games with a top-down perspective. The enemy in The Adventure of Link called a Rope looks and acts almost nothing like the Ropes in other games and has a different name in Japanese, and the Whip in Spirit Tracks is based on a (standard) Rope.
- All three of the Spiritual Stone dungeons in Ocarina of Time involve the interior of a giant organism. This is obviously true of Inside the Deku Tree and Inside Jabu-Jabu's Belly, but it is also true in a more subtle way for Dodongo's Cavern. The final segment of the dungeon is entered via a giant Dodongo skull and the structure of the rooms beyond implies that other parts of the skeleton are incorporated into their walls.
My headcanon and speculative gap-filling, not that anyone cares
This is, of course, all in fun. I recognize that I'm probably thinking about a lot of this stuff to an even greater extent than the creators did and that these things were not actually what they intended. But I figure that as long as they aren't actually contradicted by canon, I may as well fill in the empty spaces in canon with ideas of my own.
As a cursory glance through Hyrule/Appearances by Game will tell you, the geography of Hyrule is not consistent between installments of this series. The relative positions of Death Mountain, Lake Hylia, and other landmarks appear to change between games. Nevertheless, there are some observations I think are worth making:
- The overworld map in The Adventure of Link is a schematic representation of the terrain Link must traverse and is not to scale, or at least does not represent all areas at the same scale. I say this because if it is intended to be to scale everywhere there are some rather obvious problems. The most obvious problem is the apparent size of "South Hyrule", the area seen in The Legend of Zelda. This takes up a very small area of the map, and there are many features in The Adventure of Link's overworld map that are larger than it, and interpreting them as actually intended to be canonically larger than the entirety of South Hyrule ranges from implausible to ridiculous. The features that dwarf South Hyrule include Maze Island, the Valley of Death, the tunnels of Death Mountain, and strangest of all, a single graveyard. This graveyard is also apparently many times the size of any of the game's towns (all of which occupy a single map tile). I think it's more reasonable to assume that the map was designed around gameplay without taking scale into account (thus areas like the graveyard and Maze Island are large because of their gameplay role, while South Hyrule is tiny because its only feature that's relevant to The Adventure of Link is Spectacle Rock) than that it was intended that there canonically be a graveyard and a labyrinth that are larger than an entire country to the south.
- For similar reasons, the distances between the three regions of The Surface accessible in Skyward Sword should not be interpreted as to scale, nor should distances in The Sky in gameplay be interpreted as an accurate representation of the distances between the regions. Otherwise, the three regions are at most separated by a tiny area that could comfortably fit inside one of them many times over, and in fact given the positioning of the initial drop points in each region they would likely overlap.
- On a related note, the image of Hyrule shown on the stage select screen in Four Swords is neither to scale nor does it depict the entirety of Hyrule as it existed at that time. With the exception of Death Mountain, recurring areas are absent and there is no good reason why they should temporarily vanish during the period in which Four Swords is set. Also, I may be pointing out the obvious here, but it's just a stage select screen. It only contains what it needs to contain. Also, although it depicts a larger region with more familiar features, the screen showing the stages of Hyrule in Four Swords Adventures is probably also best treated as having a layout convenient for showing the different stages rather than as a literal map, as the areas corresponding to the different stages have unnaturally sharp divisions between them (many of which include improbably placed rivers) and it depicts Hyrule as an island with nothing but water outside its borders, which despite smaller changes to Hyrule's geography has never held true in any other game.
- More generally, it is reasonable to treat overworld areas in this series (towns, mountains, fields, deserts, rivers, etc.) as being appropriately sized in-game for gameplay purposes but representing a much larger area as far as the narrative is concerned, and to do the same with the populations of these areas. If they are supposed to be canonically that scale down to the last detail, this means that most incarnations of Hyrule would fit inside a smallish town in our world, bustling metropoles have populations of at most a few dozen people, and entire civilizations can have a few dozen members. (Also, in the latter two cases many of the professions that are logically necessitated by the structures and goods present have no representatives.) Now, obviously this is the case as far as gameplay is concerned, but to the extent that a story is being told, I don't think the intent is to tell the story of a "kingdom", and in some installments a world, that is actually a small village. I don't think this is any more of a stretch than assuming that the day length of Hyrule's world is not supposed to be a few minutes (according to the games that use Ocarina of Time's time system), infinite (according to the other games), or alternating between the two depending on where one person is (taking into account the effects of being in towns and dungeons in the Ocarina of Time-style time system).
- Although the geography is just plain inconsistent between games in many respects, I also think it can be assumed that the explorable area in Twilight Princess includes areas that are outside the map in Ocarina of Time and possibly in most other games as well.
- First, obviously Snowpeak has no equivalent in OoT Hyrule, and for that matter it has no clear equivalent in any other version of Hyrule we've seen. No other incarnation of Hyrule (not counting the Hyrule of Spirit Tracks, which is canonically a different place) has a large snowy mountainous area. (Four Swords Adventures has a snowy area in Frozen Hyrule, but the snow is an artifact of Vaati's magic and is not the normal state of the landscape.) In contrast, for the most part regions either are seen consistently under the same name in different incarnations of Hyrule or have similar features in other incarnations that have a reasonable chance of being the same feature under a different name.
- Second, Ordona Province not only has no obvious equivalent in OoT Hyrule but is stated at multiple points in Twilight Princess to be outside Hyrule, or at least Hyrule proper. It's not much of a stretch, then, to surmise that it's somewhere past the southern edge of the map in other games.
- Note that the features without an equivalent in OoT are at the periphery of the map in Twilight Princess. Therefore, the area of Twilight Princess's map corresponding to the map in OoT is a region in the middle of the former that leaves out some of the peripheral areas.
- Many of the deserts in this series with different names are the same place, specifically every desert that appears in western Hyrule. The Haunted Wasteland of Ocarina of Time and the Gerudo Desert of Twilight Princess are almost certainly the same place, of course. Due to its western location and the proximity of the Gerudo Desert to Lanayru Province in Twilight Princess, Lanayru Desert from Skyward Sword is likely the same desert as these two as well; the absence of the ruins seen in Skyward Sword can be explained by additional millennia having eroded them away altogether or by them being in a more distant part of the desert than that seen in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. The Desert of Mystery in A Link to the Past and the Desert of Doubt in Four Swords Adventures are very clearly intended to be the same place as each other (they even have the same name in Japanese), and while they both contain a structure (called the Desert Palace in A Link to the Past and the Desert Temple in Four Swords Adventures) not seen in the other deserts mentioned thus far, they are both found in the western part of the map like the other deserts and the Desert of Doubt is treated as the homeland of the Gerudo in Four Swords Adventures. (The Desert Palace/Temple may have been built later, it may be a location simply not visited in other titles, or it may be a different stylistic take on a location like the Spirit Temple or Arbiter's Grounds.) This covers every desert that appears in (the original) Hyrule except those found in the NES-era games. The unnamed desert found in The Legend of Zelda is the only desert in its incarnation of Hyrule, and so it is possible to interpret it as the same desert, but it has a very different location (east-central) from the others mentioned. The Parapa and Tantari deserts in The Adventure of Link are clearly found in a location north of The Legend of Zelda's Hyrule and there is no reason to treat them as the same as any of the other deserts in the series.
- Similarly, Eldin Volcano is most likely the same place as Death Mountain, presumably during an era of greater activity. Mount Crenel may also be the same mountain, although it is a somewhat less certain case due to the layout of the map of Hyrule in The Minish Cap and its low correspondence with those found in other games. However, it's worth noting that this map is the only one to lack a desert, and given the placement of various features on this map it may be that the map simply does not extend as far to the west as most. Thus, the desert is somewhere off the map to the west and Death Mountain's usual northeastern location in most maps of Hyrule translates to a northwestern one here. There are some interesting correspondences with the map found in A Link to the Past if one assumes this; the placement of Castor Wilds and the Wind Ruins corresponds roughly to the Great Swamp, which contains ruins, and Veil Falls corresponds to the easternmost part of Death Mountain and to Zora's Waterfall.
The Hyrulean Civil War: Speculation Galore
- First, it was a war between Hylians, Gerudo, Zoras, and Gorons that the Hylians won after a very protracted and bloody struggle. Because why the hell not? It would be the most epic conflict in the entire series. Also, it makes sense, since the Gorons and Zoras both have kings of their own, are allied with the King of Hyrule, are treated as part of Hyrule and seem to treat him as supreme, and at the same time seem a bit suspicious of Hylians. The Gerudo, on the other hand, kept fighting the Hylians for longer and sustained the heaviest casualties of all, and as a result got stripped to a sliver of their former numbers, remained cut off from trade with other lands, and were possibly limited to a smaller, less hospitable area than what they once had (think Indian reservations in the USA). At the time of OoT, they are (as far as anyone outside of Ganondorf's inner circle can tell) trying to make an uneasy peace treaty with Hyrule out of desperation due to lacking the resources (and male Hylians to breed with) to survive, thanks to their heightened isolation and the embargo.
- The Gerudo's inability to peacefully seek mates among the Hylians due to the long civil war, which due to their peculiar biology they need to do, led to their abducting male Hylians and their developing a reputation as a race of brigands. (Note that they have a completely different reputation in FSA, after relations with the Hylians have had centuries to improve.)
- The Kokiri were a neutral faction in the war because they're fairly isolated and they have no way to fight an army. Their area is also largely worthless to any of the factions involved thanks to its harmful magical phenomena. This is also why Link's mother is driven there to avoid the fighting and abandons her child to the Deku Tree.
- The Stalchildren in Hyrule Field are the restless spirits of innocents killed in the war, which at the beginning of OoT wasn't very long ago. They don't show up seven years later because time has eased their grudge, or alternatively because the Poes, the spirits of hatred generated by Ganondorf's rule, have frightened them into not manifesting anymore.
- Relatedly, the Shadow Temple is associated with some seriously vile atrocities that happened during the war, and possibly not just then. (Seriously. It's filled with torture and execution devices, there are rooms literally lined with human skeletons from floor to ceiling, and the talking skull-walls say things like "Here is gathered Hyrule's bloody history of greed and hatred".) The Poes in the graveyard near the temple, the various undead in the well, the Royal Family's Tomb, and the Shadow Temple itself, and that thing that comes out of the well and presumably becomes Bongo Bongo are all derived from the concentrated evil (and vast body count) of said atrocities, since this place was apparently where the all the results of Hyrule's dirty work were hidden.
Ganon: Despite their best efforts, he actually has a character arc
- Why Ganondorf is the way he is in OoT:
- As per Gerudo tradition, Ganondorf was told from birth that he was a chosen one destined to be a god-king. He was raised by 400-year-old witches (probably because he was to be the king) who had long memories of all that the Gerudo had suffered at Hylian hands. During his childhood and adolescence, he saw his people slaughtered and driven back into the hellish desert, and forced to become a nation of thieves, stealing resources and abducting men in order to prevent themselves from dying out. The brutal desert winds he refers to in TWW are both the tip of the iceberg and a symbol of the death, horror, and injustice the Gerudo endured when Ganondorf was growing up. So by the time he's a young man, he is convinced that he is a chosen hero destined to bring justice to the kingdom that brutalized his people. And as a chosen hero, clearly he should use the ultimate power granted by the gods to right history's wrongs.
- And to be fair, he IS a chosen hero: Demise's. Although he doesn't know it, he is a pawn whose life plays out the way it does in order to enact Demise's curse. History, his upbringing, and his nature conspired to make him into a weapon of Demise's vengeance.
- What happened during Ganondorf's seven-year rule:
- Once Ganondorf had the powers granted to him by the Triforce of Power, the royal family were all assassinated or driven into hiding, Link was sealed away in the Sacred Realm, and Ganondorf could legitimately show that he held a piece of the will of the gods, there wasn't much hope of stopping the coup. Ganondorf seized power in the capital without too much struggle. Honestly, given all those who probably hated the King and Ganondorf's visible possession of a holy artifact, there were probably a lot of people who initially welcomed the coup even though he was a Gerudo.
- Ganondorf had had no experience in actually ruling anything of any complexity, though, least of all a huge country made of factions that didn't like each other much and had only recently stopped trying to kill each other. Relations between the factions broke down in fairly short order, and the Gerudo were still seen as invaders on top of that. Small rebellions kept popping up all over the place, especially among peoples (the Kokiri, the Gorons, and the Zoras) who remembered his attempts to intimidate them into giving him their Spiritual Stones, and getting increasingly desperate to preserve his rule and finish what he started, Ganondorf got increasingly paranoid and trigger-happy. (This is probably where that lava moat came from.) This eventually escalated to outright Sudan-esque genocide against the species most suspected of harboring traitors. He first cursed Zora's Domain with unnatural cold to kill off the Zoras (which reduced Zora's River to a trickle and caused ecological disaster and famine) and later on, when the Gorons and the Kokiri rebelled shortly before Link exits the Sacred Realm, he began to systematically kill them off (i.e. the huge monsters all over Kokiri Forest and feeding the Gorons to a revived Volvagia), saying that this was the reward traitors should expect. The Hylians most likely to remain loyal to him during this period were those who hated the non-humans the most to begin with, while others lost faith in him more and more. At some point before the Goron and Kokiri purges, he went overboard during an attempt to quell an uprising in Castle Town and left the town in ruins, with much of the population dead and the survivors having fled to Kakariko. Rather than trying to rebuild, he decided to just raise the dead and use them as guards to keep any other rebels out. At this point not much of the population saw him as the rightful ruler anymore, but there had been so much death that no one was willing to oppose him.
- It's interesting to note that when Link appears in the future, no Gerudo seem to have moved into Hyrule proper, remaining in the desert just as they were seven years ago. Given the sentiments expressed by Nabooru, it's possible that at this point most of them have rejected him, and Hyrule looks even worse than the desert.
- By the time Link appears, Ganondorf's kingly aspirations and resolve had turned to bitter hatred for the land he wanted to give to his people and the grim knowledge that if things continued as they were he was doomed to die the most despised tyrant in history. But he thought that if he were able to recover the full power of the gods, he could just make a wish and fix everything. He could become the god he was raised to believe he was, poof away all the dissidents or make them love him, and end up the king of a paradise rather than a blood-stained, ruined kingdom. Above all others he hated Zelda for disappearing and denying him this power.
- When Ganondorf breaks out of the Sacred Realm in between OoT and TWW, he "rules" as an unstoppable ancient horror that everyone is too scared to fight, especially since the gods have apparently decided not to bring back the legendary hero that stopped him centuries ago. As much as he might want to be a good king, he is now an unholy monster from the history books, and as he discovers, the people of Hyrule would literally rather have Hyrule destroyed than surrender it to this devil.
- This is the key difference between Ganondorf in the Adult Timeline and Ganondorf in the Child Timeline: In the Adult Timeline he has had to run a kingdom, failed, and gone from being a chosen hero worshipped by his people to an apocalyptic demon despised by all except Demise's spawn. By the time of TWW, he has also experienced considerably more subjective time in the Light World than he has in TP. He is visibly much older in TWW, having risen again by some means years ago and having searched in vain for that era's Zelda for most of that time. The Ganondorf of TWW is a world-weary, hardened, bitter man obsessed with the past and consumed by the idea of finally reuniting the Triforce and righting ancient mistakes, and he is losing hope that this can ever be done. The "I suppose" in his conversation with Link and Zelda implies that he is starting to forget who he even was all those subjective decades and objective centuries ago. When King Daphnes denies him the Triforce again after he finally completes it, and thus extinguishes his last flicker of hope to be something other than the monster he has become, Ganondorf snaps. His insane laugh and the drawing of his swords herald the final crushing realization that Hyrule and all his dreams tied to it are lost forever and that he is doomed to die a demon, the enemy of the world. His rage and spite fuel his final attempt to ensure that at least the ones who have caused him this final indignity will die with him.
- On the other hand, in the Child Timeline, the Ganondorf we see in TP is still largely the same cocky, arrogant man we see early in OoT, because since his plan in OoT was undermined and he was forcibly sent to the Twilight, he never saw his grand design for Hyrule be carried out and then fail catastrophically. He's quite vengeful after spending a long period as a spirit in the Twilight, and after all that time he may have lost sight of his original goal to some extent, but he still thinks quite highly of himself and his plans, and the weariness and cynicism of TWW Ganondorf would be quite foreign to him. Ganondorf in TP has never had to run a country or watch his dreams turn to ruin, and he sits on the throne of Hyrule as if he's acquired a new toy. There's a cruel pleasure in the way he greets Link with "Welcome to my castle."
- As for FSA Ganon, we can't really tell much about him, since if I'm understanding the translated information from the Hyrule Historia correctly, the original Ganon is truly killed at the end of TP and the one in FSA is a reincarnation, like the various Links and Zeldas. And what we see of FSA Ganon in-game doesn't give us much information to go on.
- And then there's the Decline Timeline. I don't have much to say about Decline Ganon, but I notice that he never takes a humanoid shape after OoT in that timeline. (Agahnim doesn't count. If he did, Ganon wouldn't need to escape into the Light World in the first place, since he'd already be there. Agahnim is an empty shell Ganon uses as a tool.) I'm not sure why that is, but it's food for thought. (Obviously, in the external chronology it's because most of the games in that timeline are from before Ganon's Gerudo form was designed, although the idea was there at least as early as ALttP.) The Decline Timeline has two cases of Ganon being resurrected (once in the Linked Game of the Oracle Series and once in the Game Over sequence of The Adventure of Link), and so the Ganon in the Oracle games is the one from A Link to the Past and, ultimately, from Ocarina of Time (in a timeline where Link fails), while the dead Ganon in The Adventure of Link is the one from The Legend of Zelda. What isn't clear, as far as I've seen, is whether the Ganon in The Legend of Zelda is a reincarnation or a resurrection of the Ganon from the Oracle games. Since Ganon's resurrection in the Oracle games is botched and leaves him mindless and raving, it seems more likely that the antagonist of The Legend of Zelda, who is presumably in possession of his traditional cunning, is a reincarnation and not the first Ganon resurrected once again.
- Twinrova may just be yet another case of people being echoes of other people from the distant past in this series, but since in OoT they say they're around 400 years old and imply they expected to live a great deal longer than that, it's quite possible that in the Decline Timeline the original Twinrova were never killed and these are the same ones.
- Since Ganon is a statue at the bottom of the sea with the Master Sword stuck in his head, and even were he to be brought back somehow, the land he wanted to rule is gone, the Triforce has been forgotten, and that age's Link and Zelda are on an entire other continent from where he is, maybe Demise's curse transferred over to a replacement. Malladus does look awfully old-school-Ganon-like when he possesses Cole. Maybe those who carry out the curse tend to develop a similar appearance.
The Links through the ages
There are interesting differences between the different incarnations of Link.
This Link appears to be the best prepared for his role at the start of his journey. He is a knight of Skyloft and is visibly better-equipped than most other Links. (Note, for instance, the chain mail under his tunic. Come to think of it, this also works as an in-story justification for this Link starting the game with six hearts rather than the traditional three.) He begins as a member of the warrior class who has received combat and flight training, and descends to the Surface equipped with appropriate attire (armor, boots), a shield, a holy weapon, and an intelligence-gathering servant spirit. He is perhaps the least thrown into things of any of the Links.
I'm probably stating the obvious here, but Link of Skyloft is also the most likely of all the Links to end up together with his era's Zelda. The game makes even Spirit Tracks's hints of attraction between its Link and Zelda look invisible, and this Zelda is not royalty and is explicitly treated as a possible love interest by other commoners. It's a possibility with the Hero of Winds and Tetra as well, since there is no entrenched power structure in their era (although we do know that she goes on to found the new Hyrule) and she must essentially create the royal line anew, but the story doesn't make it as clear that they are interested in each other.
The possibility of Link and Zelda marrying after the events of Skyward Sword has interesting implications. This is quite speculative, but as it's stated that later Zeldas (and thus the royal lineage of Hyrule) are descended from this one, and that Hyrule is likely founded not terribly long after the Skyloftians' descent, if he becomes Zelda's husband, this era's Link may also be the first King of Hyrule.
The Hero of Time
- Link's mother abandoned him to the Great Deku Tree during the Hyrulean Civil War while he was still an infant. Given the circumstances, it is likely that a) his father was killed in the war or b) his father was a soldier who raped his mother. Regardless of who his father was, we know his mother died soon after.
- Link was raised among the Kokiri, a group of (probably) immortal spirits that live as eternal children with a fairy symbiote or familiar. He was raised to believe he was one of them, although for some reason he lives for a long period without a fairy companion, and the implication is that to the rest of the Kokiri, this makes him highly abnormal.
- The Great Deku Tree is the closest thing to a parent this Link has. He is also a god, and the only one Link has ever known. In the opening events of Ocarina of Time, this father figure dies, and does so apparently as a result of Link’s actions. At the very least Mido believes him to be the murderer of their father and deity.
- Link leaves the forest in accordance with the Great Deku Tree's final request. He knows absolutely nothing about the rest of the world, and has been informed by the other Kokiri that doing so will kill him.
- One of Link's first impressions of the outside world is of the dead rising from the earth.
- Most of the first few people Link meets in the outside world want to use him in some way. Princess Zelda involves him in a political intrigue in a kingdom he didn't know existed just days ago.
- As a result of something he is required to do on Zelda's orders, a fishlike creature of a species whose existence he didn’t know about until recently says she is betrothed to him.
- This Link finds out after pulling the Master Sword from the Pedestal of Time that he is partly responsible for Ganondorf's triumph.
- He is brought seven years into his own future without having experienced any of the intervening time, meaning that he is physiologically sixteen but has the life experiences of a nine-year-old, and a very sheltered one at that. Everything he does as an "adult" he does as a mental child trying to do an adult’s job, one he was unambiguously told he was too young to do.
- The first glimpse of the outside world he gets when he exits the Temple of Time is Hyrule Castle Town in ruins and haunted by the undead.
- Pretty much all of the other changes observable in the world seven years in the future.
- When Zelda returns him to the past, Link must convince Zelda that he is from the future, that the Door of Time must not be opened, etc. We can tell from what games follow that he succeeds, but as noted elsewhere on this page, this is presumably a state secret that he can never tell anyone.
- Navi leaves Link when he returns to the past. Leaving him a child with no family, friends, or connections whatsoever. In the long term, not even his connection with the Kokiri can hold, as he is a mortal human who will age and die while they remain children forever. Is it any wonder that he goes off to search for her afterward?
- In Majora's Mask, Link experiences transformations that are heavily implied to be both psychologically and physically painful, watches several good people die, must absorb their identities and impersonate them and deceive their friends into thinking they're still alive (an illusion from which they will be cruelly awakened in a few days), and experiences the suffering of a doomed world several times over, with ample time to see the sheer hopelessness of the situation play out in a new way each time.
- After Majora's Mask, Link has saved two worlds and he can never tell a soul. And he still hasn't found Navi.
Is it any surprise that when Twilight Princess rolls around this Link is lingering in the mortal world as a ghost filled with regrets who wants to pass on some trace of his heroism?
This Link is a relatively well-adjusted young man with nothing like the Hero of Time's bizarre and tragic circumstances. He's a goatherd living in a small farming community in a land bordering a large, prosperous kingdom. We don't see any family, but he does clearly have friends and a role in society. He has a mentor (and perhaps a father or elder brother figure) in Rusl, and a possible love interest in Ilia. If the Ordonians we see are any guide, he's well-liked. After the initial attack on his hometown, much of his quest, even as late in the game as the lead-up to the City in the Sky, is about saving his friends from Ordon, and from his first step into Telma's Bar to nearly the end of the game, it's also about working with his new friends from the city. He also appears to have made lasting ties among the Gorons and the Zora. He even gains the respect of his enemy, King Bulblin. In general, this Link has more and deeper personal relationships than any other.
His relationship with his ancestor is perhaps more important to the ancestor than it is to him. Link of Ordon may never fully understand what the training sessions with the spirit mean, but to the Hero of Time they are both a way to finally pass on the warrior's virtues that he had to keep a secret in life and assurance that, with his help, his descendant will save Hyrule from Ganondorf once again.
And then there's his relationship with Midna. Honestly, there isn't much I can say about it that hasn't already been said. She goes from being a detestable alien he's stuck with to perhaps the closest companion any of the Links has had during his adventure. It's not going out on a limb to say that he misses her greatly after the Mirror of Twilight is shattered, whether or not he had a romantic interest in her.
The hero of four lands
The Link of A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, and Link's Awakening, unsurprisingly, has accomplished more than any other, so far as we know. The degree to which this is true is remarkable:
- By the end of Link's Awakening he has saved three kingdoms and one deity (whose mind apparently contained a land).
- He is one of only two Links to personally make use of the Triforce to make a wish.
- He is the only Link to fight Ganon on more than one occasion. (And then there was that one of the Wind Fish's Nightmares who took Ganon's form at one point...)
- He saved Hyrule while being hunted down as a fugitive charged with treason and the abduction of Princess Zelda.
The Hero of Winds
Link of Outset Island, the Hero of Winds and the protagonist of The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, has a number of features in common with different other Links:
- Like the Links of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, his original motive at the start of his journey is rescuing someone from his hometown. The quest proper is revealed to him somewhat later on.
- Like many of the Links, he is tasked with saving something he didn't know existed at the start of the story: the Triforce and Zelda in The Wind Waker and the World of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass. (Compare Termina, and in some respects Hyrule itself, for the Hero of Time, the Wind Fish's mind for the Link of Link's Awakening, or the Surface for Link of Skyloft.)
- In keeping with a trend started in Ocarina of Time, he is one of several Links who gets an in-universe explanation for the standard Link outfit: It's the outfit boys in his culture wear at their coming-of-age ceremony, in honor of the Hero of Time. Compare the Hero of Time himself wearing Kokiri attire, the Link in The Minish Cap wearing Ezlo as a hat, Link of Ordon apparently just getting the outfit when he's turned back from a wolf because "lol destiny", the Link in Spirit Tracks wearing a Hyrule Castle Guard uniform, and Link of Skyloft wearing his year's uniform from the Knights' Academy. (It's fairly clear that the outfits in eras after Ocarina of Time were inspired in-universe by the Hero of Time's outfit, but I haven't the foggiest idea how an ancient hero's trainee knight uniform became the basis for the Kokiri's national costume.)
However, there are certain ways in which he is unique or nearly so:
- In opposition to Link of Skyloft, he begins his journey in The Wind Waker perhaps the worst-prepared and most challenged of any of the Links, with the possible exception of the Hero of Time at the beginning of Ocarina of Time. Not only does he begin his adventure with minimal equipment and training, but he lacks a means of transportation across the sea that surrounds his island. He apparently only comes by the King of Red Lions by a stroke of luck at Windfall Island, and even then he starts out without a sail. (It could, of course, be fate, which has been implied to exist in this setting.) He has to rely on a band of outlaws for help for much of the early parts of his quest (even if they are good old barely-piratical pirates). Additionally, as I've noted elsewhere, much of the dialogue (especially the dialogue translated in the second quest) implies that unlike other Links he doesn't start his journey as the chosen hero; he must earn the status. I've speculated as to why this is elsewhere.
- Like no other Link except Link of Skyloft, he has a realistic chance of marrying his era's Zelda. She is a princess in a sense, but there is no surviving government of Hyrule in their era and Spirit Tracks implies that she founded the new Hyrule. There are no other members of the nobility for her to marry and her status as princess is a purely nominal one based on her being a reincarnation of a princess and (for a time) possessing the Triforce of Wisdom; she must construct a new ruling class from scratch. She also seems to actually like Link more than most other Zeldas do. The pairing isn't quite as obvious or definite as it is in Skyward Sword, though.
- This is more about how his games present him than about the character himself, but this is far and away the most expressive Link. Additionally, and partly because of this, even though most of the Links go on their quests as children, this Link gets to be a child to a greater extent than any of the others. We see his fear, his playfulness, and to some extent his conversational style (even though we don't hear his speech, his tone is very apparent thanks to his expressiveness). We also see him as part of a family to a greater extent than we do any of the other Links. (Granted, that's not hard.)
Fi, Ghirahim, and the Master Sword
Fi speaks and behaves much more robotically than Ghirahim, despite both of them being adaptive artificial intelligences based in swords, because the two of them have different usage histories. During the events of Skyward Sword, Fi meets her first user, Link. He sees her with more or less her "factory settings", i.e. the characteristics programmed into her by Hylia. Therefore, she behaves in very much the manner that would be expected from a machine, and one that has not yet had much time to adapt to its surroundings. It is apparent from her dialogue that over the course of the story she begins to acquire more of a personality, but she is still very machine-like by the time she returns to dormancy. Ghirahim, on the other hand, has been acting independently of his original user for centuries, and has had to direct the actions of a large number of other intelligent creatures. While he still knows that he is a construct created to serve his master, he has has a long time to adapt to his environment and acquire an independent personality. Had Link encountered Ghirahim as he was in the distant past, he may well have seemed less like a flamboyant, dramatic, egotistical ruler and more like a near-emotionless custodian of Demise's empire.
- In the Child Timeline, the only timeline where Link continues to exist after the events of OoT (he leaves the Adult Timeline to change history, and he dies young in the timeline leading to ALttP), Link marries Malon. Saria probably is attracted to him, but since he's an aging mortal human and she's a non-aging and probably immortal forest spirit, it just wouldn't work. The events leading to Link's engagement to Ruto never happen since he changed history. Zelda is royalty and therefore not free to marry whomever she chooses, and besides that Link's having saved Hyrule and being the holder of the Ocarina of Time is presumably a state secret, so his importance as a protector of the kingdom can't be recognized in any way by, say, making him a member of the nobility. Link probably never even meets Nabooru, age issue aside. Meanwhile, Malon is obviously into Link, and her father likes him enough to (jokingly, but apparently only because he's still too young) offer Link Malon's hand in marriage. Malon is the logical future spouse for Link.
- Zelda removes the original "spirit of the hero" (i.e. the element of Link that keeps reincarnating into new Links) from the Adult Timeline when she sends Link back to change history. Rather than dying and thus making reincarnation possible, Link simply vanishes without a trace. This is why no Link appears when Ganon breaks free from the Sacred Realm between OoT and TWW. This is also why multiple local deities and other savvy characters say that the Link in TWW is not the chosen hero; he is not part of the original chain of Link reincarnations. Instead, he earns his chosen hero status anew over the course of TWW.
- The reason why various monsters with human or near-human intelligence (e.g. almost all the 'blins) follow Ghirahim and Ganon no matter how badly it seems to go for them is that, as the primordial source of monsters, Demise is their creator deity.
- Unlike Hylia or the various local deities (e.g. the Great Deku Tree), the goddesses Din, Nayru, and Farore don't actually care who's running the world or what its residents do to each other, so long as it continues to exist. This is why the Triforce works the way it does.
These are a few of my faaavorite things
- Favorite Link: Link of Outset, a.k.a. the Hero of Winds, from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. He is easily the most expressive Link of all and has the most personality of any of them.
- Favorite Zelda: Princess Zelda of New Hyrule from Spirit Tracks. The most fleshed-out Zelda we've ever had and one of the better traveling companions in the series. And I loved being able to play Zelda, to say nothing of having awesome ghost abilities at my disposal and being able to control a hulking animate suit of armor.
- Favorite Ganon: Ganon, lord of Forsaken Fortress, from The Wind Waker. See my Ganon-related rantings further up the page. This is a Ganon that has seen things no other has ever seen, and has been changed by them. You really feel the weight of his strange "life" on him.
- Favorite non-Ganon antagonist: Majora's Mask. Its motives don't make sense from a human standpoint, but it's not human. It's a creation of humans, and one that's faithfully doing its job, if not in the way its creators would have intended. It was created as a semi-aware weapon to bring ruin on the enemies of its owner. It fell into the hands of a miserable, hateful creature with little idea of what he wanted to do beyond get back at his former friends, and, in some way, the entire world. It carried out his desires, and in so doing absorbed them into itself and magnified them, until finally it was the tail wagging the dog, with the simple, childish malice it absorbed and the program of destruction it contained as its only motivation. It's a rogue AI that has acquired the mentality of a child.
- Favorite traveling companion: This is a tough one, because I like several of these characters quite a bit. Midna, the King of Red Lions, and Zelda in Spirit Tracks all have a lot going for them, and are my clear top three regardless of which one is ranked first. All three go beyond the role of being a sidekick or advisor to Link to directly play a significant part in the plot and even in gameplay. All three are fully fleshed-out autonomous characters that are more like co-protagonists than simple helpers. So I can't confidently pick one as the very best. For now they'll share the title.
- Favorite dungeons (by game): Tie between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. The concepts and designs are just brilliant. (There's no way I could single out a favorite individual dungeon in the entire series.)
- Favorite overworld: Twilight Princess. No, it is not too big. It's like the Great Sea with more varied geography.
- Favorite item: The Beetle, narrowly beating out the Clawshots (specifically when used as a pair; I let loose the most thunderous squee when I was able to use them to Spider-Man around in Twilight Princess). More generally, I've always been fond of the Hookshot and similar items. They're incredibly versatile, which is a big part of what I liked about the Beetle as well.
- Favorite intelligent species: The Gorons. Always and forever. Stay strong, Brothers!
- Favorite enemies (by game): Skyward Sword, indisputably. They combine the loving attention to detail and wide range of actions seen in their counterparts in The Wind Waker with a considerably beefed-up AI. They feel more like you're fighting a real, living opponent than anything else in the series. I especially love the Bokoblins.
- Favorite bosses (by game): Skyward Sword again, for much the same reasons. It doesn't hurt that you can rematch them, which for some reason very few Zelda games allow you to do. This should be a standard feature, dagnabbit!
- Favorite sidequests (by game): Majora's Mask. That game takes traditional Legend of Zelda sidequests and transforms them into an intricate web where every action has consequences that ripple throughout the entire game world. If the world of Twilight Princess feels the most real visually, the world of Majora's Mask feels the most real on a deeper level.
- Favorite recurring character (other than those already mentioned): Tingle. Yes, Tingle. He is hilarious. He's like Zelda's Wario. The various ways in which he's sketchy and weird just add to it.
- Favorite non-recurring character (other than those already mentioned): Groose. He begins as a simple bully archetype and then takes it to strange new places.
- Favorite characters (by game): Majora's Mask again. See the sidequests bullet. The fact that you can see the same characters go through different experiences as you make different choices between iterations of the three-day cycle gives even bit characters a surprising amount of depth. So does the fact that, since the game takes place in continuous real time, you can track the complete events of their lives over the three days. You come to feel like you know them in a way that simply can't be duplicated anywhere else in the series.
- Favorite version of the series's main theme: Link's Awakening. It's quite distinctive while still clearly being the classic theme, and makes it less repetitive and somehow more epic-sounding than the more standard melody.
- Favorite music (by game): Twilight Princess. It's cool that the music in Skyward Sword is fully orchestrated, yes, but somehow the tunes don't please me in quite the same way that the music in Twilight Princess does. I'm not going to claim that the music in Twilight Princess is "better" in some less personal, more technical sense, but I like it more.
Hall of Shame
Consider this the flipside to the favorites list. Please note that I don't consider any of the games mentioned here bad. They're all great games; they just have some notable (if generally minor) flaws.
- Worst antagonist: Onox from Oracle of Seasons. Mainly because all he does after dropping the Temple of Seasons into Subrosia at the beginning of the game is wait in his castle. He has only a few lines in the entire game. He's the most boring antagonist in the entire series. He's sort of like what Ganon would be if he never changed since The Legend of Zelda. By contrast, Veran, his counterpart from Oracle of Ages, is active more or less non-stop. She possesses multiple characters and uses their powers of magic, government, and ties to the good guys, her tower is continually being built over the course of the game, and she specifically attacks various areas in Labrynna. She also has several times as much dialogue as Onox. The only interesting thing about Onox is his true identity, and the fact that unlike, say, Ganon, this is supposed to be his actual original form. But that really isn't enough to save him.
- Worst sidequests (by game): The Minish Cap. I feel bad saying this, because as in The Wind Waker I love the figurine collection and I think they had a cool idea going with Kinstone fusions (those apparently inconsequential NPCs can be used to make nooks and crannies all over the world unfold like a pop-up book), but the way the sidequests in this game are implemented is really tedious and frustrating. First, let's discuss the Figurine Shop. Mysterious Shells get you figurines, and it's randomized which one you get. You have to pay more to increase your chance of getting a figurine you don't already have. This means you either have to grind for a ton of shells or go through a ton of redundant figurine draws. And you can't easily just go after the figurines you want if you aren't interested in a full collection. As for Kinstones, since even the most unimportant, forgettable Minish in far corners of the world can have Kinstones you need to fuse, if you don't use a guide you're reduced to trudging all over the world checking every NPC for Kinstones. This wouldn't be that bad, but a substantial number of fusers will only show that they have a Kinstone to fuse some of the time. So if you check them once and it looks like they don't have Kinstone, that doesn't necessarily mean that they actually don't. You may have to check the same NPC several times before they'll offer you the chance to fuse. I am baffled as to why Capcom decided to do this. It makes attempting to 100% The Minish Cap, otherwise a very enjoyable game, an exercise in mind-numbing repetition.
- Sloppiest quest design: The Second Quest in The Legend of Zelda. In the first quest, some of the dungeons (and other important things, like sword upgrades) are hidden. You aren't completely blind, though; there are hints as to what you need to do next if you're thorough about exploring dungeons and overworld areas earlier on. It's a reasonable task to figure out what you need to do based on information that's present in the game, and you don't need to rely too much on trial and error. Unfortunately, none of the text for these hints changes in the second quest; they all still refer to locations in the first quest. Since everything they refer to has moved to a new hiding place, they are completely useless, and there are a number of important things in the second quest that, if you aren't using a guide, can only be found through extensive trial and error, e.g. trying to burn every tree on a screen one at a time. On top of this, the warp points for the Recorder aren't changed from the first quest either, so instead of putting you right outside dungeon entrances many of them just put you in locations that have no importance in the second quest.
- Most nonsensical time shenanigans: Skyward Sword. There is really no way to make anything involving Timeshift Stones make sense if they're supposed to be genuinely reverting locations to what was there in the past. This doesn't hurt the gameplay, of course. It's just strange to think about the implications. (Technoblins were standing in the same spot until they died, leaving their skeletons? Doors you open in the past are still shut "before" you open them, in the present? A sea dried up and was somehow replaced by sand that comes up to the same "sea level"?)
- Worst money system: Ocarina of Time. With the exception of potions, there's very little reason to buy anything non-mandatory, as everything else you can get in shops you can get fairly easily, quickly, and for free elsewhere. This game also has an especially low wallet size, with the initial wallet only able to hold 99 Rupees and even the largest only able to hold 500. So you can't hold all that much of the money you pick up, but it doesn't matter much because there's no point in spending it. Money is mostly irrelevant. If you play anything like me, most of your spending will be on minigames to get Pieces of Heart.
- Most disappointingly easy final boss: Ganon from Ocarina of Time. Don't get me wrong: Ganon is quite the impressive beast visually and the fight is wonderfully atmospheric. But Ganon is hilariously easy once you know how to beat him. He's slow and cumbersome, and it's not difficult to hit him with a Light Arrow nor to get around to his weak point after you do so. This wouldn't be so bad, but you don't even need Light Arrows. You can just roll under him when he's about to attack and you'll have a good few seconds to pummel him before he can react.
- Most disappointingly easy bosses in general: Twilight Princess. Most of this game's bosses are like Ganon from Ocarina of Time. They're beautiful, and to their credit most of them are quite fun to fight even if they aren't much of a challenge, thanks to clever gameplay concepts (e.g. the various ways you use the Spinner in the Stallord fight), but the majority of the bosses in this game are very easy to defeat once you've figured out how to damage them, even by this series's standards.
- Most pointless dungeon item: The Golden Gauntlets from Ocarina of Time. They can be used a maximum of three times. All you can do with them is move a couple of giant rocks in Ganon's Castle (necessary to proceed) and move a third giant rock just outside to unlock the game's final fairy fountain and a rather unnecessary defense upgrade. (Seriously, it makes even Ganon a joke, especially if you've gotten most or all of the Pieces of Heart and are using potions.) At least it looks cool when you're using them.
- Least favorite minigame: This is a bit more personal than the other entries in this list, but I hate the Cucco-catching game in The Minish Cap, largely because it takes place in town while everything else that's going on in the town keeps happening, which means that various NPCs moving about (especially the Postman) are likely to block your progress in unpredictable ways in a minigame where every second counts. Also, I want to drop something large and spiked on Anju whenever I miss tossing in one Cucco by a few seconds and she says that she's still missing "a lot" and gives me absolutely nothing, not even thanks, for the ones I did manage to retrieve.
- Least favorite area: The Valley of Death in The Adventure of Link. Now, I enjoy some of the more difficult challenges in the series (despite the design issues, I did still like the second quest in the original game), but this area seems tailor-made to be frustrating as all get out. It has numerous airborne enemies hovering around lava pits, ready to screw up your jump and kill you, and to make matters worse these enemies drain your magic if they hit you, which, since magic is your primary way of healing in this game, makes it much less likely that you'll be able to heal up when you need to later. Also, although you restart from the entrance if you get a Game Over in the Great Palace, at least in the version of the game I played this only holds true while you leave the game on. If you turn it off or reset it, you have to restart from the North Castle and pass through the Valley of Death again. Speaking of which...
- Worst gameplay mechanic: The pointless lives system in The Adventure of Link. In contrast to the RPG elements that otherwise differentiate this game from the rest of the series, the lives resemble something out of a (fairly short and pre-save feature) platform game. For no particular reason, this game, like other Zelda games, allows you to resume your game somewhere near where you die, but only if you have lives, which the game is ridiculously stingy about. (There are seriously six in the entire game, and they're well hidden. And they don't respawn if you get a Game Over.) If you get a Game Over, you have to restart from the Northern Castle. Now, this isn't like, say, Super Mario Bros. 1 where you start the whole game over if you get a Game Over. You still have most of the progress you made since last time; you just have to walk from the Northern Castle to wherever you died. What does making you walk back through previously explored areas every few times you die add to the experience? Since you aren't actually losing progress, implying the average player isn't necessarily expected to finish the game in one go, the differentiation between losing a life and losing the game serves no purpose beyond annoying the player. Again, I feel bad about saying this because I think The Adventure of Link is an underrated game, but I really can't find any good reason for this mechanic to be there.
- Least favorite music: Phantom Hourglass. As with the favorite music bullet in the previous list, extremely personal. Don't misunderstand me: There are some musical tracks from this game that I quite enjoy, e.g. Oshus's theme and the boss theme. That said, for the most part any memorable original tunes play rarely, while the music you hear for the overwhelming majority of the time you spend playing the game is either (generally inferior-sounding in my opinion) rehashes of music from The Wind Waker or other Zelda games or very boring, forgettable music. I'm thinking in particular of the dungeon theme, which, in an odd throwback to the first game, is the same in every single dungeon. However, the first game actually has a distinctive and memorable tune that plays, while Phantom Hourglass uses very generic, repetitive "slightly tense mood" music that manages to be minimalist while remaining not in any way atmospheric like the dungeon themes of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.
- Worst weapon (aside from intentional joke weapons like the Giant's Knife): The version of the Biggoron's Sword found in the Oracle Series. Like its counterpart in Ocarina of Time, it cannot be used with a shield, although due to the way items work in the Oracle Series this means that it cannot be used with any other active-use item at all; it "takes up" both the A and B buttons. It has a 180 degree swing, although it doesn't move any faster than regular swords and so this swing takes twice as long. Now, these disadvantages are just tradeoffs in exchange for greater power, right? Wrong! The Biggoron's Sword is certainly stronger than the Noble Sword, but unlike its counterpart in Ocarina of Time it's only as strong as the Master Sword, which can be acquired before the Biggoron's Sword can. The Master Sword renders the Biggoron's Sword pointless, as the latter's only advantage is the wider swing, which as discussed can be a disadvantage as well.
- Least favorite Zelda fandom topic: "Is Sheik male or female?" Seriously, I am beyond tired of listening to people argue about this. It's fairly clear that not even Nintendo itself cares, and it really doesn't impact the story, or Sheik's characterization, in any significant way. Another wrinkle to this is that, unless you're asserting that Zelda's personality actually changes while she is Sheik, to the point that she no longer considers herself to be the same person, "Sheik" still has Zelda's personality and thus a female gender identity (she still thinks of herself as "Zelda"), whether or not the physical form changes sex. But I'm honestly not interested in trying to convince the entire fanbase of this when I'm pretty sure most humans in general aren't aware it's possible for gender identity and sexual physiology not to match, and at any rate it doesn't answer the question I think most people are really asking, which is physiological, and which I've never particularly cared about. I've never had any strong opinion as to whether Sheik has male or female features under that ninja getup, and it's never seemed to me that the game offers any "proof" one way or the other. (Neither Super Smash Bros. nor the manga count as proof. They're separate stories from Ocarina of Time, the game. Sorry, guys.)
- I very rarely care about shipping. (The statement about Link and Malon in the headcanon section is just because all of the other options can't realistically happen in canon. This, of course, doesn't mean I mind seeing the others appear in fan works.)
- Ganon's cool, but I love this series's alternate villains and would like to see more games with new non-Ganon antagonists, especially if they don't get hijacked by Ganon. Another game with Vaati could also be good.
- Link's Awakening is underappreciated. It is hands down the best original Game Boy game and one of the better games even in this all-star series. For a whole bunch of little reasons.
- I do not consider the various grunts and cries Link makes in OoT and some subsequent games (including the GBA remake of ALttP) to be an improvement. I understand that it's tempting to add some sort of sound to even small, normally silent actions in a video game, but the vocalizations are irritating and don't add anything.
- OoT-centrism in general annoys me. Yes, it is a very important game in the series's chronology, defined how the 3D games would work, had a big influence on the series's aesthetics, and introduced a lot of new fans to the series (including me; I knew of the series before OoT but it was the first Zelda game I actually played), but I don't like seeing the assumption made that the way things work in OoT is to be treated as the default for the series in general. There are many things in OoT that are distinctly different from the series norm both for earlier games and for later games. For instance:
- Both the art style and the age of Link in The Wind Waker are closer to average for the series in general than those found in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Treating The Wind Waker as an aberration is backwards. (This doesn't mean I dislike a more realistic art style or an older Link, of course. I'm very fond of Twilight Princess, as a matter of fact.)
- If you aren't playing Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask, Link isn't called the Hero of Time. This is not up for debate. Most Links don't even have "Hero of X" titles.
- There is a tendency in this fandom to claim various features debuted in OoT when in fact they predate it. (Songs, for instance.)
- There are no bad main-series Zelda games. None. The worst game in this series is still a significantly above-average game overall. (If you're wondering, I don't have a definite opinion as to which is the worst.)
- I was surprised by the timeline unveiled in the Hyrule Historia (both that they ever officially stated a timeline, and that there were three timeline branches instead of two), but for the most part I like it. It honestly makes more sense than any two-branch scheme I'd come up with or seen from other people. I'm still wondering why Four Swords Adventures is in the Child Timeline, but I suspect that will become clear when we get a more thorough translation of the HH or the book comes out in English.
- Gannon-Banned is hilarious.
- Faron is a colossal jackass. She floods the forest, which by all logic should be just as bad for the native biota of the forest as it is for the non-native monsters she wanted to exterminate (seriously, the forest should be a lifeless wasteland full of dead trees when the waters recede), and alone among the dragons she makes Link assemble her portion of the Song of the Hero because for some reason she thinks the guy who saved her life and liberated Skyview Temple and the Ancient Cistern isn't worthy.
- As much as I like the Rito in other respects, their stated descent from the Zoras is bizarre and inexplicable, especially since the species of Zoras the Rito descend from have been seen living in both freshwater and saltwater and the other variety of Zoras have apparently survived. The Kokiri-to-Korok transition makes a bit more sense, since the Kokiri are implied to be elemental spirits of the forest and therefore they probably change along with changes to the forest and the Great Deku Tree. The humanoid-with-fairy form is just their incarnation during the era of OoT.
- Some of the "elemental" themes for dungeons are so poorly defined I'm not sure we should even have them. I follow Hylian King's philosophy that if you have to think for any significant amount of time about whether a dungeon has a theme, it shouldn't be listed as having that theme. On that basis, "earth dungeon" probably shouldn't exist, as it's difficult to define what constitutes one and almost all the examples that are at all clear overlap with "fire dungeon". (Really, the only thing I can think of that is definitely a dungeon, is definitely not even a little fire-themed, and is definitely earth-themed if we have the category at all is the Wind Ruins from The Minish Cap.) I also think "light dungeon" isn't a very useful category, as it currently includes a) dungeons with light puzzles (e.g. the Stone Tower Temple), b) dungeons set in holy places (e.g. the Tower of the Gods), disregarding for a moment that a large portion of all dungeons in this series are repurposed, desecrated, or abandoned religious structures of some kind, and c) "good guy" locations (e.g. Hyrule Castle), despite these three types of dungeon not having anything inherently in common.
- Tingle gets a bad rap.
- The Philips CD-i games appear to be genuinely bad (and no, it's not just the embarrassing cutscenes; from what I understand the controls are awkward and poorly thought-out, it's often hard to distinguish platforms and walls from the background, and the bosses are ridiculously easy), and they certainly don't belong anywhere in canon, but at times I'm glad they exist. They give us something to laugh about as a community and they help to keep us from taking this stuff too seriously.
- The Water Temple isn't that hard. It just makes you backtrack if you screw up the water level.
- It was pivotal in deciding what the shape of future Zelda games would be, and it was groundbreaking in many respects, but in and of itself, given some of the things other Zelda games have accomplished, A Link to the Past is overrated. It's a great game, yes, but at this point there isn't really much that makes it stand out from the rest.
- Phantom Hourglass is underrated. It's not my favorite game in the series, and there are a number of features where other games clearly have the advantage (this game has oddly few distinct musical tracks, for instance, and only a handful of them are particularly memorable), but it's better than I hear people say it is much of the time. Some things I particularly liked:
- The Servant Spirits. Being able to buff Link's defense or offense or give him Sword Beams as desired is a really cool feature.
- This game has an especially fun set of items. Yes, all of them have appeared in some form in earlier games, but this game makes brilliant use of them, adapting them flawlessly to the touchscreen control scheme and adding new functionality that wasn't there in their previous incarnations. I'm thinking mainly of the post-Ghost Ship items here. Being able to direct Bombchus around corners and use them to collect items, to tightrope-walk and slingshot yourself with the Grappling Hook, and to use the Hammer at a distance (it's so weird, but so fun at the same time) and no-sell enemy defences (insta-killing those annoying Stalfos, for one) makes what might have been the same old boring items into an inventory that's very distinctive and versatile.
- Call me crazy, but I liked the Temple of the Ocean King more than the Tower of Spirits. Yes, you do have to go back through floors you've done before, but due to the clever dungeon design, each time you come back there's something different you can do on old floors, allowing you to get new items, get through the floor faster, or both. (Many of the upper floors can be completed in seconds later in the game.) And there are only about a dozen floors in total, so things don't get too repetitive. By contrast, the Tower of Spirits simply goes on for too long. You don't have to revisit old floors to complete the game, but you do if you want to 100% it, and there are over twice as many floors as the Temple of the Ocean King. Since each visit has to be its own set of several floors and there are fewer dungeon items in Spirit Tracks than in Phantom Hourglass (and some of them are barely used after their dungeon, e.g. the Whirlwind), the puzzles get considerably more repetitive.