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Home > Videogames > It’s Zelda’s World, I Just Live In It

It’s Zelda’s World, I Just Live In It

July 9th, 2007

When Vic and I lucked upon a Wii console a couple of days after Christmas, the Best Buy employee told me in no uncertain terms that I simply had to pick up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And while one might cynically chalk that up to standard box-store “upselling” techniques, I believe it was a sincere recommendation. There’s no question that Zelda was the best-reviewed of the Wii launch titles, and as my new system needed feeding, I thought, why not?

My enthusiasm dimmed once I popped in the disk. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the game. While I’m a newcomer to the Zelda series (and to Nintendo gaming in general outside of my wife’s old NES), I have no reason to think that this isn’t a fine example of an RPG. It was just that I realized what I was in for: spending some seventy hours of my life playing as a mute, androgynous, man-child rescuing strange little children and trying to figure out the logic of the game’s puzzle designers without fleeing to the comfort of a walkthrough.

It took me a while to get around to embracing the Zelda experience, but several factors recently came into play: the arrival of a new big-screen TV (56″ widescreen DLP display), the need for something to do while Vic was watching Wimbledon, and the desire to finish the damned thing already so I can still get full trade-in value at Game Stop. So, I’ve spent the last week or so fully immersed in the world of Zelda.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am enjoying the game. There’s a certain satisfaction to those times I can suss out what the designer was thinking of when he devised a given puzzle. The Wii control scheme is generally easy and forgiving, though I do have an unfortunately tendency to push the nunchuk thumb stick in the wrong direction every time I’m jumping a gorge. (I hate jumping over bottomless pits.) It’s fun hacking the crap out of random monsters, firing arrows indiscriminately with my remote, and trampling goblins under the hooves of Fred the horse. (Yes, I named him.) And the visuals are wildly imaginative and gorgeous.

What annoys me is the maddeningly arbitrary nature of the world that Fred and I inhabit. There’s little commerce in Hyrule: only a handful of shops and all they sell are potions (red and blue), arrows, lantern oil, and several types of bombs. Occasionally, one of them will get a specialty item like a suit of magic armor, but there’s only one to be had. Fortunately for me, I’m the only one who ever buys anything. If you want something simple like a bottle in which to put your blue potion, you’ll find that only one guy in the world stocks them, and he won’t sell you a second one. If you need another, you’ll need to fish it out of a pond in a specific spot, or accept a stranger’s quest to journey throughout the realm, locate twenty ghosts and rip out their souls. Similarly, you can never buy a bigger quiver or bomb bag, oh no; you must first beat a minigame before being awarded with such an exotic prize.

I know that Zelda isn’t a real-world simulator, and it’s silly to complain that you can’t walk into a virtual store and find a wide variety of virtual sundries that serve no particular game purpose. It’s just that it takes me out of the fantasy world that is otherwise so carefully crafted when it becomes a major task to purchase a goddamn bottle. Bottles are apparently rarer than jewels in Zelda-land, because I can find frickin’ jewels everywhere, even hidden in random tufts of grass. Not that I can store all the jewels I find, because the only way to get a larger wallet is to talk to Princess Agitha, locate all of the golden bugs spread across the breadth of the realm, and return them to her so that she can host an insect ball. Yes, I’m indulging the delusional whims of a precocious and creepy ten-year-old, all for the sake of a bigger coinpurse.

Then there’s the capriciousness of the quests. I spent the first twenty hours of gameplay trying to capture the three “fused shadows” that Midra–the weird monkey/fairy/whatzit that rides around on my back–swore blind were desperately needed to save Hyrule. The moment I won the third, the villain’s henchperson (who would be a lot scarier if he weren’t wearing a fish mask) promptly teleported in, grabbed the shadows and tossed them aside. And no one ever mentioned them again. Thus it came to pass that I had to find the Mirror of Twilight, but (horrors!) it was shattered into (wait for it) three pieces…

Again, I know that fused shadows and shattered mirrors are McGuffins to give me a rationale for going into yet another crazy-ass dungeon. It’s just that I’d like to feel that my victories had some meaning. Don’t tell me that it’s vital to dig up the Five Toes of Lo-Rax, only to turn around and say, “Imagine that! We don’t need the Five Toes of Lo-Rax after all! Now, if you’ll just gather the Impacted Molars of Bookarest…”

And so, about sixty hours in, I’m nearing the endgame. I’ve just survived the perilous Sky Castle (lots and lots of bottomless pits there) and collected the last of the mirror shards. I’ve got all twenty-four Golden Bugs, about forty Poe Souls, and all but a few of the Pieces of Heart. I’ve collected the Spinner (a nifty, top-like device that you can hop on and ride along special tracks) and the Double Clawshot (which allows you to play Spider-Man). My pointy-eared man-child is pimped out like no one’s business. And soon, I’ll achieve my ultimate goal…

Twenty-five bucks in Game Stop store credit.

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