Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Dungeon: A Link Between Worlds part 4

Link goes to Sahasrahla where he finds out the elder's son, Osfala has gone to the Old Eastern Palace that is now presumably older than the Old Eastern Palace from A Link to the Past.  In order to gain passage to the Palace, Link must borrow a bow and arrows from Rafio.  Rafio gives them for free but with certain expiration fees (aka when you die you have to buy the arrows back).  He then sends Link away to the Palace.

Link reaches the Palace to meet Osfala, but Osfala is confident in his abilities as a Sage to take down whatever evil lies inside.  The lore and games in the series are a little vague on the purpose of sages in times without heroes, so Osfala's confidence may do itself some justice.  Of course if Osfala dealt with the villain here and now, there wouldn't be much of a game.  Naturally, Osfala gets turned into a painting, and after Link gets done dodging several large steel balls rolling down the hallway, he fights Yuga.

Yuga uses magical attacks.  Link outfoxes Yuga with the bow and arrows, and Yuga doesn't think Link is worth his time. Yuga goes ahead and turns Link into a painting as well.  With Link detained in the wall, Yuga declares nothing will stop him from getting the remaining sages and finally Zelda.  As Link remains motionless as a painting on the wall, the hero's bracelet he got from Ravio begins to glow.  As it shines a purple color, Link is freed from the wall.

Link finds he is now able to turn into a painting and interact on flat surfaces by the power of the bracelet just like Yuga.  Using this power, he escapes from the Eastern Palace to find Sahasrahla waiting out front.

Sahasrahla recognizes that all of the sages are in danger, but then an earthquake strikes.  Following the earthquake, Link and Sahasrahla find a dark force field has surrounded the Hyrule Castle.  Sahasrahla attempts to break it but realizes the only magic that can break the barrier is the Master Sword of legend.  To get the Master Sword, three pendants are required to awaken the sword.  The first pendant is the one Zelda gave to Link before all the business at the Old Palace.  Sahasrahla sends Link to retrieve the other two, and the game opens up to a much greater degree of free choice.

I'll talk about this choice in the next post.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Princess and Her Castle: A Link Between Worlds part 3

   By order of Ravio, Link heads out to the castle to warn about the magician who has been turning people into paintings.  He is stopped by the palace guards who think Link is being ridiculous and is looking for an excuse to see the princess.  When it seems like Link won't get into the castle, Impa, the adviser and protector of Zelda, intervenes and lets Link in.

   Link waits in the great hall of the castle where he looks at the paintings that represent the events of Link to the Past (if you'd like a recap, you can read the post from part 1 that explains it).  Meanwhile, Impa goes before Princess Zelda to pass on Link's warning of the magician.  After looking at the paintings for a while, Link is summoned by Impa to come before Princess Zelda.

   As Link enters into the throne room, Zelda immediately recognizes him.  Zelda believes she's seen Link before, but she does not recognize his name.  She does mention that she shared the dream Link had at the beginning of a monster putting Hyrule in darkness.  It's important to note that this Link has never met Zelda prior to this encounter.  This is almost always the case (with the exceptions of Skyward Sword, the Minish Cap, and the Four Swords Adventure).  There is usually some degree of familiarity since the two have been bound by fate for possibly thousands of years.  In much the same way Link knows how to use a sword simply by picking one up, Zelda's knowledge of Link comes from her many lifetimes of planning for the days in which Hyrule is in danger.

  Zelda gives Link the Pendant of Courage for reasons not yet explained, and she sends Link to an old sage named Sahasrahla.  I'm not expecting you to have to remember that name, but his deal is that he was a descendant of the same Sahasrahla from Link to the Past who was the descendent of a sage from Ocarina of Time (the sage of light if I had to guess of course there were six sages in OoT and seven in LttP so maybe there is no correspondence).

  I write all of this to say that if you don't know these games that well, Zelda will get captured or kidnapped some time between now and the end of the game.  Some critics have said some very strong remarks on how this objectifies Zelda in some manner in that she is frequently kidnapped and doesn't really exhibit much personality.  Let's get the record straight on one thing.  Link just does things because he's told to do things.  I'm not saying he doesn't have some interest in the well-being of Hyrule, but he is not the strategic mind who knows how to stop the forces of evil. Zelda is the master planner.  Throughout all of time, Link receives the Triforce of Courage whereas Zelda receives the Triforce of Wisdom.  She always delays her capture long enough to allow Link to have the necessary means to defeat whatever evil he must face (usually Ganon).  It's also important to note she is the only apparent form of government in Hyrule, which may sound like a foolish means of governance, but it actually makes sense given past attempts at shared power usually lead to the person that isn't Zelda to try and take power over the land in one form or another.

  In this sense, it is sort of like a queen in a game of chess.  The queen holds the most mobility on the board, but the queen is best used when positioned to thwart enemy mobility.  It is the other pieces that take advantage of the queen's position by catching and cornering the enemy pieces to open a way to take the king.

  I will also go ahead and say things don't go perfectly according to plan, but the pieces are picked up by someone who has also been planning.  We shall see this other planner later.  For now, Link must go to Sahasrahla's house in the village.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Get Out of My House: A Link Between Worlds part 2

Ok, so back to the regularly scheduled adventure.

After going unconscious in the chapel, Link wakes up back in his house.  He looks around to see everything in its place until a man in a strange purple rabbit costume comes out.

There's some major spoilers on this guy,
so I wouldn't recommend looking him up if you don't know his deal.
He introduces himself as Ravio, and he is apparently the guy who dragged you back to your house.  He has a small winged bird friend named Sheerow.  When he finds out from Link about the magician turning people into paintings and how Link tried to fight him, he declares Link is a hero with great cheer.  He states that he is a merchant who sells items to heroes, but he is in need of a place to set up shop.  He then passively coerces Link to let him stay in his house and offers a musty old bracelet thing as rent.  To add extra worth to the bracelet, he calls it the Hero's Bracelet.

He then admits it does absolutely nothing, but it's too late because you already agreed to let him stay.  Before Link can object, Ravio sends Link out saying the kingdom is probably in danger, and he needs to warn Princess Zelda because that's what heroes do.  So Link leaves the house and goes to the castle to warn of coming disaster and the true nature of the vandalism as told to him by his mysterious friend in a rabbit costume.

Even though Ravio may seem like a handful now (and he will only seem like more of a handful in very little time) circumstances will reveal near the end why he's probably one of my favorite Zelda characters.  Generally, my most beloved Zelda characters are the ones that are helpful but also some definitive character flaw.  Tatl is bossy, Midna has ulterior motives, and Ravio likes your money and your property.  In the end, your uneasy alliances with these characters work out, but at first they seem questionable.  I feel like this makes them more memorable since you constantly find yourself guessing what they're all about.  We will return to Hyrule Castle next time

(also, if you know Link to the Past and what it had to do with rabbits, that will help you learn something about Ravio)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ocarina of Time, The Poet's Tale and the Legend of Life

I'm taking a quick pause from A Link Between Worlds for exam week (especially since we're about to address my favorite character in that game).  However, I wanted to write something in light of having beat Ocarina of Time yet again recently.

Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest video game ever made.  On metacritic, it holds a rating of 99 for universal acclaim.  If you know me personally, I've never been much of a fan of representing quality by a quantifiable number, but I think it is a start in the beginning of understanding this game's impact and what it means for the art and industry of video games.  

At the beginning of my series on Majora's Mask, I briefly described the world of Ocarina of Time when it first came out.  It moved the two dimensional world of Zelda into the third dimension and took the traditional alongside the new and exciting.  There was mystery and fear and love and life and death and power and weakness and responsibility and everything that makes a legend legendary.  However, this is merely the sum of its parts, and Ocarina of Time exceeds these qualities.  While the polygon world of Hyrule has long since been exceeded graphically, Ocarina of Time was a piece of art extending beyond its story and its gameplay.  Ocarina of Time is a symphony and an epic told by a poet's look upon the universe.  

And by poet, I mean this poet.  

Sheik is one of the defining features of Ocarina of Time.  He shows up shortly after Link's gone to the future where everything is terrible and guides Link on his quest by discussing the fate of the world and the truths of life.  Sheik usually appears when Link is off to see someone or do something that involves his past in light of the present.  Finally, Sheik does so through poetry and music using the harp that has made him famous.

Sheik teaches Link:
The Prelude of Light
The Minuet of Forest
The Bolero of Fire
The Serenade of Water
The Nocturne of Shadow
and The Requiem of Spirit

With each song Sheik says these words before teaching it.

Minuet of Forest
The flow of time is always cruel
Its speed seems different for each person
But no one can change it.
A thing that doesn't change with time
Is a memory of younger days
In order to come back here again
Play the minuet of forest

Prelude of Light (technically taught after Minuet of Forest)
     There really isn't anything too poetic said with this song, but it is where Sheik gives Link his quest and tells him that the Master Sword and Ocarina of Time will give him what he needs to succeed.  
Bolero of Fire
It is something that grows over time
A true friendship
A feeling in the heart that becomes even stronger
Over time
The passion of friendship will soon blossom into a righteous flower
And through it
You will know which way to go
This song is dedicated to the power of the heart
Listen to the Bolero of Fire

Serenade of Water
(This one's probably my favorite)
Time passes, people move
Like a river's flow, it never ends
A childish mind will turn to noble ambition
Young love will become deep affection
The clear water's surface reflects growth
Now listen to the Serenade of Water
and reflect upon yourself

Nocturne of Shadow
This is the melody that will draw you 
Into the infinite darkness that absorbs even time
Listen to this
The Nocturne of Shadow!

(admittedly, Sheik is in a hurry with this one given a demon gets released into the world and the village where he meets Link is on fire.  The song itself is very chilling and really stuck out to me this time through.)

Requiem of Spirit
Past, present, future
The Master Sword is a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream
Through time's river
The port for that ship is in the Temple of Time
To restore the Desert Colossus and enter the Spirit Temple
you must travel back through time's flow
Listen to this Requiem of Spirit
This melody will lead a child back to the desert.

The music in this game is fantastic by the way.

After hearing Sheik say these words, I realized what Ocarina of Time is really all about.  

Shigeru Miyamoto, the man responsible for Mario and Zelda and many other famous Nintendo characters made the first Legend of Zelda game inspired by the caves around his childhood home.  He revisited those caves as an adult after Mario and Donkey Kong had put him on a track for being the future of video games for the next ten to fifteen years.  Ocarina of Time is the culmination of that journey and is a timeless lesson for the target audience of children in the 90s.  It is a lesson of life.  

Link, who begins the game as a child, sees seven years into his future where all of his friends and loved ones could be one day. His friend Saria and the forest represent his past and all things that remain timeless in the past that give us our beginnings but only carry with us to the present and future in memory. Darunia the brother in arms of the fiery mountain represent the challenges of life that will not be faced alone by the strength of the bonds we build with others.  Princess Ruto of the aquatic Zora people represent the love and ambitions of childhood that will either live or be left behind with the passage of time but should be looked upon and celebrated for all they represent.  Impa of the destroyed Sheikah people represent the loss experienced in life that all must go through but the resolute strength that must be kept to keep living.  Finally, the desert, which has always represented strife and its sands that represent time, recognizes that what we do in the past is not without consequence and we can always remind ourselves of the past to do what must be done in the present.  Link saves the thief Nabooru from her mental imprisonment, and she remembers Link as the kid who had helped her seven years ago.  

Life is a matter of time, something Miyamoto recognized, and in life all things that were, are, and could be are instrumental in carrying us through.  A prelude suggests all that is to come, so the Prelude of Light suggests that though the journey is tough and there will be sacrifices, it will be vibrant and worthy of celebration if we respect the past and work in the present for a brighter future even if hardships seem to be all we are destined for.  

At the end, Sheik turns out to be Princess Zelda (y'see, you thought I was making typos this whole time, I know that everyone knows Sheik is Zelda now, but back in '98 everyone thought Sheik was a man. It was a shocking reveal.)  Zelda has lived the seven years Link has been absent, and she has learned all the lessons she taught as Sheik.  In the end, she returns Link to his childhood telling him to live now that his quest has ended.  She gives Link a second chance in life to do all he can for a brighter future following what the two  had seen and fought for as adults.  Link is a vicarious representation of that first audience back in '98 who have this game as a formative part of their childhood and all the lessons it shared.  

I feel this is really what makes Ocarina of Time the enduring title it continues to be.