A damsel in distress.
Those four words perfectly describe the basic plots of numerous videogames over the years. From the popular Mario series to even things like Ghosts 'n Goblins and Wizards & Warriors, a large majority of videogames, on their most simple terms, are about a hero embarking on a quest to rescue a kidnapped woman.
Take the Zelda series for another specific example. The original Legend of Zelda is one of the first games known for being about a hero (Link) saving a damsel (Zelda) in distress (kidnapped by Ganon).
With The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, though, everything about the Zelda series changed. It was in this GameCube iteration of the classic series that found Zelda as much more than a helpless princess in peril. Zelda was a real character with real emotions, a real storyline, and -- gasp! -- real dialogue.
But it wasn’t until the very end of the game when Zelda’s role in the revered series took on its most major, unexpected twist yet.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube has been featured on The Memory Card a couple times before. And for good reason: I LOVE THE GAME SO MUCH!
If you want to read more details about the game’s epic story, you can click here and here to read the previous two features. For this entry, I am going to focus on the specific moments leading up to this week’s Memory Card.
In the game, you play as Link, the green tunic-wearing hero of all the Zelda games.
After his sister is kidnapped at the start of the game (already a twist on the classic damsel in distress storyline), Link sets off on an ocean-spanning quest to find her. Along the way, his adventure transforms from a simple rescue mission to that of a quest to save the world from all evil!
During his quest, he meets a sassy pirate named Tetra. Upon finding the legendary Master Sword from the castle of Hyrule (now trapped in time under the sea), it is revealed that Tetra is actually Princess Zelda.
After discovering the true identity of Tetra, Link sets off alone on a journey to restore the Master Sword to all its glory. To do this, he must awaken the Sages of Earth and Wind and find the hidden Triforce of Courage.
Awakening the sages is not easy, but after completing two lengthy, satisfying dungeons, Link accomplishes his task.
Finding the triforce on the other hand, is a whole different story. After locating eight treasure maps, Link finds all the pieces of the Triforce, while simultaneously discovering that the true Triforce of Courage is inside Link himself. He is the hero of legend that is destined to destroy the root of all evil.
With his tasks complete, Link hurries back to Hyrule Castle.
As Link enters the castle he witnesses a shocking sight. Right before his eyes, Princess Zelda disappears, captured by Ganondorf, the source of all evil.
With a powered-up Master Sword in hand, Link breaks through a magical barrier surrounding Hyrule Castle and enters Ganon’s Tower.
It is here in the tall, foreboding tower when this week’s Memory Card moment occurs: A royal assist.
Ganon’s Tower is a treacherous dungeon full of enormous enemies and puzzling traps.
After a long journey through the interior of the ominous structure, Link makes his way to the top room of the tower.
Standing before him is a massive door.
Slowly moving forward, Link pushes the door open and steps inside.
As he steps inside the giant, water-filled room, Link sees an ornate bed in front of him. The bed is covered in a clear white curtain; two silhouettes projected by candlelight dance on its sheer surface.
Link closes in on the bed and learns that the two shadowy shapes belong to Princess Zelda and Ganondorf.
Princess Zelda lies asleep on the bed as Ganondorf towers over her.
After a dramatic soliloquy on the fate of the world, Ganondorf screams and transforms into a massive three-formed beast.
All three forms (Puppet, Spider, and Snake) are increasingly challenging, but Link manages to defeat them with the help of his handy light arrows.
Ganondorf’s final form explodes in a puff of purple smoke.
Link takes a deep breath.
But, suddenly, from the ceiling, Ganondorf returns, holding an unconscious Princess Zelda. He beckons Link to the roof of the tower.
Determined to get Zelda back, Link follows.
As Link emerges from the darkness of the tower, he steps into a huge stone circle at the bottom of the sea. The only thing holding back the water is an energy barrier created by the power of the Triforce.
Before Link even has a chance to ready himself, Ganondorf swoops forward and knocks Link back, the Master Sword flying out of his hands and landing only inches away from Princess Zelda’s still body.
Ganondorf lifts Link in the air and extracts the power of the Triforce from him.
But in a twist of fate, the King of Hyrule appears and stops Ganondorf from using the power of the Triforce. He splits apart the Triforce, causing the barrier to break, unleashing walls of water all around the tower.
As Link stands up, Zelda unexpectedly joins his side, Master Sword in hand.
She hands Link the Master Sword and tells him that they have to defeat Ganondorf and return to the world above the sea before the water washes them all away.
With this, the final battle begins.
Instead of Zelda standing by and being the object on the sidelines Link has to fight for, Zelda becomes a major contributor to the action.
She equips herself with the light arrows and jumps into battle.
While Link distracts Ganondorf, Zelda sneaks up behind him, charges her aim, and shoots a light arrow right into Ganondorf’s back.
The impact stuns him, allowing Link to move forward and slash him with his sword.
This process continues -- Link and Zelda, working together to defeat a common foe.
After Ganondorf is injured, Zelda recommends a new technique, one sure to damage their enemy even more.
Link equips his mirror shield and holds it up, all the while avoiding the constant onslaught of Ganondorf.
When his shield is in the correct position, Zelda fires a light arrow directly at Link. Rebounding off his shield at the perfect angle, the beam from the light arrow strikes Ganon and stuns him one final time.
With a golden opportunity in front of him, Link leaps into the air.
He raises the Master Sword and plunges it directly into Ganondorf’s forehead.
For a moment, everything stops. The screen goes white.
When the action fades back in, the Master Sword is shown stabbed in the head of Ganondorf. The only sound that can be heard is the roar of the surrounding waterfalls.
Ganondorf slowly turns to stone.
He is dead.
Shocked, but happy it is over, Zelda holds up Link, exhausted from the battle.
The King of Hyrule steps forward, thanking the two for their heroic deeds.
With no warning, the barrier surrounding the tower disappears completely. An entire sea pours in, surrounding Link and Zelda.
Luckily, through the power of the King, Link and Zelda are placed inside magical bubbles, safe from the incoming water.
As they float to the surface they say their final goodbyes to the King, watching him as he disappears into the dark waters below.
Link and Zelda are safe.
They reach the surface and look to the horizon; a new land and a new future await them.
You can watch the incredible moment when Zelda assists Link right here:
The final battle in Wind Waker is absolutely breathtaking.
Before we get to the twist -- and the focus of this Memory Card -- let’s just talk about how gorgeous it is.
The cell-shaded style of the graphics alone is stunning, but surrounding everything with beautifully animated waterfalls just takes everything over the edge.
The final battle just looks incredible. It may be the best-looking final boss battle in the history of the Zelda series.
And as soon as the battle starts it takes a major twist. Instead of fighting alone as Link -- as you had done in every single Zelda game up to that point -- Zelda fights along with you.
Princess Zelda. A character that had been nothing but a damsel in distress was now fighting right next to you -- a vital part of the final battle.
Tetra/Zelda was already such an interesting, well-rounded character throughout the entire game, that ending Wind Waker with a traditional Link vs. Ganondorf battle would have been fine -- Zelda would have still been viewed as the best and most complete iteration of the classic princess yet!
But, no, the game doesn’t take that easy way out.
And, honestly, it really couldn’t have. Throughout the entirety of Wind Waker, Tetra/Zelda is a major part of the story. She helps Link in so many situations, easily becoming the game’s second main character (outside of the King of Red Lions, of course).
When Zelda is Tetra, she is a tough, strong girl, one that would never back down from a fight in order to help Link and save the ones around her.
So why would this brave, courageous young woman not help Link just because she becomes a princess?
She wouldn’t ... and the game respects this.
At first, Wind Waker has Tetra stay behind once she finds out she is actually Princess Zelda. And, then, when Link returns to her, she is immediately kidnapped and knocked unconscious by Ganondorf.
These moments are a slap in the face to the way Tetra/Zelda was developed up to that point.
But, in a way, maybe the game’s designers did this on purpose? Once Zelda is kidnapped just like in every other Zelda game, it is easy to believe the rest of the game will play out just like the others.
So when Zelda appears by your side during the final battle -- Master Sword in hand, mind you! -- it comes as a true surprise.
As soon as Zelda wakes up, she is not going to stand on the sidelines like the end of Ocarina of Time. She is there to fight. She is there to do whatever it takes to put an end to Ganondorf.
Just like Tetra.
In this last moment, Princess Zelda proves that she and Tetra are one and the same.
Watching Princess Zelda assist in the battle with Ganondorf is awesome and one of my favorite moments in the Zelda series. (One that worked so well it was duplicated in Twilight Princess.) The moment is surprising, clever, and a true breath of fresh air.
It is a moment that changed the Zelda series (and how everyone viewed the iconic princess) forever.
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