September 6th, 2008
When I first bought my Wii back on release, December 7th 2006, one of the three games that I bought with it was the obligatory “must buy” Zelda: Twilight Princess. After a few days of holding off, I worked my way into the game’s first dungeon, caught myself on a puzzle, stumbled and then submitted the game, along with my years of finely honed Zelda-mastery to the shelf.
A week ago(as per when written), a year and a half after release, I finally booked the time for a long overdue return to the land of Hyrule and have a few, noteworthy observations to put forth.
The Love of the Land
Something that became significantly apparent as I made my way through the first part of the game – exchanging requests for items in a series of obstacles designed to warm me into the new gameplay additions – was how in tune the Zelda franchise is with the natural environment.
Link’s home village of Ordon contains subtle clues to the village’s native roots. The topography of the land is ruggered with a small river making its way through the heart of the village. Villagers work in harmony with the land, tending cattle, generating small amounts of power through a water wheel and planting foot to eat. Animals play a significant part also, particularly in your first time acquaintance with village life.
Off the top of my head, here are a list of examples where the game allows you to interactive with the local fauna:
-attack and float in air with chickens
-ride your horse Epona
-use Epona to round up goat-like cattle in a timed mini game
-play a context sensitive sub-game preventing your cattle from escaping the ranch
-play a music note with a horn-shaped plant to call forth an eagle
-then use that eagle to swoop on a monkey
-knock down a beehive for the bees to attack a dumbfounded villager
-fish in the river
-nurse a villager’s pet dog
-attract the attention of a pet cat by catching fish
-return to the village as a wolf and talk to the animals
As you can see, there is a wealth of opportunities that the game provides you with for connecting to the environment ad the creatures of the earth.
As the game picks up and you find reach the first dungeon, more of this connection is unveiled, the use of the the macabre twilight world is a good example of this. Before I go on though, for people unfamiliar with this series, the dungeons are a staple of the Zelda series which can best be described as capsules of gameplay which advance inventory and teach new tricks by applying inventory to labyrinth styled puzzle situations. They often make up a the bulk of the game’s challenge.
The actual happenings which first summon you to the dungeon converge with the distress of a local family of monkeys, many of which are imprisoned within the dungeon. One of the monkeys, assumingly a female – distinguished by a red flower behind the ear – makes a silent compromise with the hero in that if he rescues her other family members, then her and her family members will exchanges their collected services to guide Link through the dungeon. As a player, it’s hard to directly notice this occurrence taking place as the monkey has no language to tell you so (beyonf the pointing and squeals). At the end of the dungeon, after uniting the whole family, they chain together to form a rope for Link to swing across, providing him access to the stage’s final boss. It’s at this stage that, for many I suspect the connection will chime in and the results of your actions realized.
As you can see the connection between man and earth are subtly implemented expressing an important relationship that runs deep with the lore of the franchise. Applying this thought to other entries in the series conjures up a plethora of relative examples. The various animal/elemental themed races such as Gorons, Zoras and Dekus, the light and dark words (a metaphor for natural vs industry?) and the long gone tradition of chickens and what’ll happen if you abuse them.