hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Horror Story: Fear, thy name is Zelda

8:00 PM on 02.27.2013 // UsurpMyProse
  @PopPopkin

Promoted from our Community Blogs!

[For his Bloggers Wanted essay response, Destructoid community blogger UsurpMyProse explains why Ocarina of Time is the scariest game of all time. Want to see your own words appear on the front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon]

Writing about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is kind of passé at this point. It's the videogame Citizen Kane; a landmark of the medium that's been pored over, dissected, and pontificated upon so thoroughly that its only purpose now is to exist for a ceaseless parade of re-released 3D cash-ins.

But this month's Bloggers Wanted topic got me thinking about one aspect of Ocarina of Time that's rarely touched upon -- the amount of pure, distilled nightmare fuel contained within the N64 classic.

And then I realized: Ocarina of Time is without a doubt the most terrifying game I have ever played.

Now, before you tell me to go back to little girl school and play with all my little girl dolls (which I am not in any way suggesting represents weakness or cowardice, because I took a class on feminism once and do not ascribe to such negative gender stereotypes), allow me to clarify just what factors into my personal fear of the defining Zelda game.

First, the majority of my memories associated with Ocarina of Time come from the game occupying a considerable chunk of my 10-year-old life, a period of time during which I thought Child's Play represented the apex of terror. Second, I'm not the most knowledgeable connoisseur of survival horror. I don't have an aversion to the genre, but I've always been fond of the Resident Evil 4 school of scary games, where the focus is less on tapping into a primal sense of fear through an endless series of maddening key puzzles and more on shooting at gross tentacles that burst out of the skulls of broad racial caricatures. And third, I'm convinced Hyrule is more of a nightmarish hellscape than Detroit, the interior of a Waffle House, and an IGN comment section combined.

One of the reasons it's such a frightening place is the game's keen awareness of the power of juxtaposition. Link's whimsical adventure takes a hard turn into heavy territory at the game's halfway mark. The entire quest for the Spiritual Stones is about as threatening as one of those direct-to-DVD family fantasy flicks where Jim Belushi has to learn what it means to be a father by defeating an evil cartoon wizard, but fast forward seven years and suddenly everything you know and love has been corrupted beyond recognition.

The dumb, lovable Gorons are on the verge of dragon-assisted genocide. Zora's Domain has fallen victim to an icy cataclysm. Your very first moments as adult Link are spent in the bombed out ruins of Castle Town. The marketplace, once filled with happily dancing couples and kindly old ladies looking for their lost schnauzers, is now teeming with sentient husks who can only communicate by latching onto the nearest living thing in a screeching struggle to the death.

But Ocarina of Time isn't just scary because the time travel mechanic serves as an apt metaphor for the dark uncertainty of adulthood. There's a lot of freaky-deaky shit that goes down in Hyrule. The list of inexplicable abnormalities includes, but is not limited to, magical stones that speak in oblique riddles and launch into space if you blow them upchickens that will stop at nothing to murder yousharksa man who challenges you to a race you can never winand a family of greedy capitalists that have been twisted into spiders in some kind of Kafkaesque morality tale. Whatever bizarre dream logic governs Ocarina of Time seems specifically designed to disorient and unsettle players at every turn.

Then there's the character design. Oh sweet merciful god, the character design. The Zelda series is notorious for going against all notions of human decency and searing such unforgettable monstrosities into our heads as those birds with creepy baby faces or everyone's favorite elfin pedophile. But the series' obsession with crafting characters that haunt the dark recesses of our imaginations seemingly started with the whacked out, disfigured denizens of Ocarina of Time. The Lake Scientist's obscene overbite served as all the motivation I needed to wear my retainer every night. I actively avoided buying potions so I wouldn't be driven insane by Granny's malicious insect eyes. Not to mention the shirtless Albino drifters, the overly friendly gravediggers, and the Gerudo gypsies I'm positive I should be deeply offended by.

There's a reason I opened this blog with the menacing visage of the Happy Mask Salesman, and that reason is because his is the last face you see before you die. Every time I entered his shop as a kid, I couldn't shake the feeling he was crafting those masks out of the skin of innocent Hyrulians.

Though maybe you're still not convinced. Maybe you're still chalking up my reasoning for being afraid of Ocarina of Time to me being the kind of rube who would invest in a home security system. In which case I direct your attention, dear imaginary Internet detractor, to the final fight with Ganon and defy you to tell me it's not a master class in scaring the ever loving crap out of an impressionable ten year old.

Admittedly, the initial encounter with Ganondorf is little more than a glorified game of racquetball, and even a child can tell you that a villain dramatically playing an organ is about as hoary as a twirled mustache. But the following sequence, in which you're given three minutes to escape Ganondorf's fabulous obelisk fortress as it crumbles around you, is despairing on a universal level. On the list of "Worst Ways to Die," being crushed to death is right up there with drowning, burning, and dying without ever knowing the intimate touch of someone you love. Even now, the only way you're able to live your life is by remaining willfully ignorant of the ceiling over your head possibly caving in at any moment.

Upon narrowly avoiding an untimely, squishy demise, Zelda then goes and utters the words you never want to hear in any life-threatening situation: "It's finally over." That line is horror movie speak for, "I am about to get a machete through the larynx." And true enough, Ganondorf springs from the rubble, gives one last barbaric yawp and transforms into Ganon. Just Ganon. No ridiculous subtitle like every other boss in the game, he's just... Ganon. Dude's like the (artist formerly known as) Prince of Zelda bosses.

I had not played enough Final Fantasy at that point in my life to know that you never beat a final boss in their first form. So in the moment that Ganondorf leapt out from beneath 100,000 tons of obsidian and turned into a beast of pure malevolence, I knew for the first time in my life the kind of core-rattling, deep-set fear that my grandfather must have felt when he stormed the beaches of Normandy. (Only much later did I realize how insensitive of a comparison that was to make, and that my grandfather had never actually seen any action during wartime. But at the time it was a very profound experience.)

Hyperbole aside, the final standoff with Ganon is legitimately tense. The fight follows the old Jaws tenant of horror theory, which states that the less you see of a monster, the more terrifying it is. Ganon spends the entire fight as a hulking mass of shadows, a set of glowing eyes and swords stalking you around a claustrophobia-inducing ring of fire. The apocalyptic music, flashes of roaring lightning, and inhuman wailing every time you wing Ganon with a light arrow all combine for a final boss fight that leaves you on the verge of cardiac arrest.

Perhaps Ocarina of Time lacks the psychological trauma of Silent Hill, or the constant threat of lurking danger of Amnesia, or even the pervasive helplessness of any game where you play an adolescent Japanese girl who vanquishes ghosts with the power of Polaroid. But whenever I think back to those halcyon N64 days, my mind can't help but wander to the Happy Mask Salesman, and ponder what evil teemed beneath the gilded surface of his cheery façade.



UsurpMyProse,
 Follow Blog + disclosure PopPopkin

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
One glorious Japanese twitter user made a custom LBX of one of my favorite Kamen Riders: [img]http://i.imgur.com/yp1oraHm.jpg[/img] It's like getting peanut butter in chocolate but with small robots and spandex banana men!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I feel terrible for not reading most of you beautiful people's blogs. Let's just say my passion is writing, not reading :s
techsupport avatartechsupport
People can debate GOTY all they want, but the real question is: D-Horse or Roach?
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
I'm dragging myself away from my PS4 long enough to say that MGS V is pretty darn awesome so far.
Myles Cox avatarMyles Cox
Down with that PAX Pox. Auhhhghghghhhh
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV: Sneaking into a heavily guarded Russian military base in Afghanistan at night, slashing throats while listening to this. [youtube]https://youtu.be/-hWZqllm3mQ[/youtube] Comes off like a perfectly planned scene in a Scorsese movie or something.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Tortilla chips: The only food I know and love to betray me by deciding to flip to a bad angle and stab me in the gums.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I'm ok with Namco shutting down Soul Calibur: Lost Souls, as long as they keep Ace Combat:Infinity running. Love that game and just hit 3 million credits.
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Holy fuck I feel new again. I've been on hiatus for a while and haven't been up to writing. I might just jump back into things after I relearn things here. Does anyone even remember me? Like damn it's been a while.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
In MGS5: The Phantom Pain, Solid Snake dies from lung cancer from all those years of smoking. #FakeSpoilers
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
[youtube]http://youtu.be/FDSHslyrxkM[/youtube] If you don't know the truth, you don't know the score. The end is coming near. MAJOR SPOILERS!
Paul S avatarPaul S
Wow, it's really easy to get people upset over video games.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
I hope MGS V is living up to everyone's expectations. I can't get enough.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I dislike the idea of intentionally reinforcing the notions that either race or gender are character traits, and those that don't match your own are completely unrelatable.
Shinta avatarShinta
Who's your favorite female black writer on Destructoid's staff? Post a comment below with your votes.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I'm ok if someone chooses a character's ethnicity in a story with the intent of being more representative, as long as the story is good. And if even SOME people feel like it helps them relate, then good! Don't bother me none.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
OK. So the Mad Max game is basically the combat from the Batman games, the driving bits from Rage and the taking over the outposts bits from Far Cry 3 and 4. I guess what I'm saying is that it's super fun and I'm really, really enjoying it.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
@Jed Whitaker I might be missing something, but does the race of the characters really matter? I'm white and if every VG character was black I wouldn't care. It's skin color... that's it. I guess others care more than me about this stuff though.
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Who is your favorite Jewish game character? I'm pretty sure BJ Blaskowicz is (right?), so I'm going with him.
gajknight avatargajknight
Interview tomorrow! Little apprehensive, I really want this job. Working with adults and children with learning disabilities, perfect experience and a worthwhile job. We'll see how it goes! :D
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -