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What Does Zelda Mean to You?


So, whoís hyped for the new Guilty Gear game?†

My eyes pretty much rocketed out of my head at the mere sight of the article headlines -- and when I watched the actual trailer, said eyes reached escape velocity in a quarter of a picosecond.† And as hyped as I am for the new game (gotta represent my boys Axl and Ky), my brotherís even more hyped.† Just yesterday he said ďWell, Iím gonna go watch the Guilty Gear trailer for a couple of hours.Ē† And I wouldnít be surprised if he actually did.

Honestly, though?† Iím surprised Iím as excited I am.† Ignoring the fact that Iím average (at best) at even the simplest fighting games, to date I have only played ONE game in the franchise -- two if you count the hour I spent trying out one of the Xbox releases, and three if you count the black sheep Overture.† To be fair Iíve played the hell out of Accent Core, including one monstrous five-hour session with my bro, but compared to a lot of other people Iím arguably ďnot a true fanĒ.† Iím true enough, I guess, but in the face of true die-hards Iím not much in the way of loyalty.

The reason I bring this up is because I acknowledge that, while I know plenty of games intimately, there are still a lot of titles and a lot of franchises that are lost on me.† Thatís fine.† Iím all right with that; I donít know every game, but I know some games.† And even if I donít know every last beat of Guilty Gear, the fact that I had so much fun with one of its games makes me as much of a fan that I am today.†

The problem, however, is that being lost on the beats of a franchise means that Iím missing the full understanding of the essence.† The design philosophy, of sorts.† I may have loved Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, but without a strong understanding of the canon thereís going to be a missing level of enjoyment.† Something that only a true die-hard can have.

With that in mind, let me make a statement: Iíve never beaten Ocarina of Time.†

Now put your halberds down, people.† Iíve never beaten Ocarina of Time, but that doesnít mean I never will; Iíve got the cartridge right next to the TV in my room, and a working Nintendo 64 not far from it.† And itís not like Iíve never seen the ending or the stuff leading up to it; once upon a time my bother finished it, and I was right there to see it happen.† But in terms of playing through and finishing the game?† Nope.†

I couldnít bring myself to suffer through the Water Temple, knowing how much trouble itís caused for gamers all over (not to mention Iím not a fan of water levels thanks to my own blinding rage against/fear of the ocean).† Worse yet, itís been ages since the game has been released, and ages since the last time I even looked at the game.† Iím convinced that I only started getting critical about things in the past year or two; anything beyond that, and Iím worried I canít report on anything with any accuracy or credibility beyond waxing nostalgic.

But the worst problem of all is that, like Guilty Gear, Iím not well-versed in the Zelda franchise.† Anything before OoT is completely lost on me.† With the exception of Wind Waker, I hadnít beaten a game in the series until Skyward Sword.† And again, Iím not as critical now as I was back then -- which means that Iím only now starting to understand just WHY so many people love the franchise as much as they do.† I can derive some understanding and appreciation of the franchise based on my experiences, yesÖbut how I view Zelda and how others view Zelda could potentially be dozens of light-years apart.

Itís something thatís been on my mind for a while -- a weakness that Iíve perceived, even if itís not as bad as I think it might be.† But itís something I know I can get over, and not just because of some quick reasoning; obviously, I have one of the greatest resources around.

And thatís where you all come in.

If youíve heard of me before here on Destructoid, you know that Iíve already done a bit of posturing when it comes to the series.† I hold Skyward Sword in EXTREMELY high esteem, and Iíd say Majoraís Mask is just as good, if not better.† Iím working my way through a playthrough of Wind Waker at the moment, and inevitably Iím going to do a post on that here and/or on my other blog. †(And I should probably put up a real post on Majora's Mask one of these days.)††But in order to decide how I feel about that game, the franchise as a whole, and ultimately try to figure out just why Zelda entertains so consistently, Iíll need more than a little conjecture.† I need to figure out why people feel the way they do about the games -- a response thatíll differ from one gamer to the next, Iím guessing.† These games have been popping up over twenty-five years, right?† So how theyíve affected us -- and by extension, how they can continue to be ďthe same game over and over againĒ -- is an answer that Iím eager to see from as many people as I can.† So the basic question here is in the title: what does Zelda mean to you?

If you had to ask me, Iíd say that the reason I like Zelda (and why it continues to succeed in spite of being a relic of the past) is that itís genuinely an ďexperienceĒ.† Iím pretty sure that wordís been thrown out several times before by overzealous devs and marketers trying to hype up their game, but if thereís any game that deserves to use that word -- and consistently -- itís this one.† On the surface, the games are more or less the same; you play as a guy in a silly green nightcap and traverse themed dungeons, paying mind to a bunch of magic triangles, a pretty princess, and some embodiment of evil, power, and corruption.† That much is almost a constant.† Itís a formula, but itís a formula that works; you can use any sort of input (Time!† Masks!† The sea!† Animals!† The sky!) and get a high-quality output -- variations that make each game distinct enough to avoid too much eyebrow-raising.

But if thereís one thing that Iím starting to notice about these games, itís that whatís going on below the surface is infinitely more important than all the dungeon-crawling, moblin-slashing action.† SS opened my eyes to the level of depth and complexity being woven into the background; just because Link is silent doesnít mean that there isnít anything to say.† On the contrary, Iíd say that the Zeldagames -- at least based on recent experiences with SS, MM, and WW -- have more to say than dozens of games of comparable or greater length.† Thereís a level of intimacy that one canít help but register and appreciate, as long as youíre willing to look past the surface level and cut a bit deeper.

It certainly helps that whatever game youíre playing, it feels like the world actually matters.† Youíre rewarded for taking things at a slower pace and observing the areas around you, letting you pick up on tiny details, points of interest about the people youíre trying to save, and just elements that increase the scope and scale of your adventure.† Iíll hold off on commenting too much on WW for now, but I have to say it nails the ďscopeĒ of an adventure; ignoring the fact that thereís a massive ocean to wander about, you can see incredible distances to spot islands and rock formations on the horizon.† Take a brief stop during the night, and youíll be able to spot constellations.† Even in the opening half-hour, if you use the telescope to look at the pirate ship from Outset Island, youíll be able to spot some of Tetraís pirates working diligently.† In some ways, itís reminiscent of BioShock Infinite; if you take time out to observe the world around you, youíll get more out of it than just rushing from one fight to the next.† As it should be; no matter the medium, no matter the scale, the setting is a character of its own.† To under-utilize it is to cripple your work.

But this isnít about me.† This is about all of you.† Iím using this post to offer an open forum for discussion, and a repository for opinions.† No matter how much or how little experience youíve had with the franchise, if youíve got something to say about the adventures of Link and pals (and enemies), then go ahead and sound off.† Let me hear your thoughts -- thoughts, predictions, suggestions, memories, criticisms, whatever comes to mind.† The swordís in your hands now, guys.

ÖSeriously, though.† New Guilty Gear?† My pants need a new pair of pants.

- Thanks for reading! And remember -- if you want to see more content from me, anytime, anywhere, be sure to check out my blog. Give it a read, so we can all become heroes! http://cross-up.blogspot.com/

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About Voltechone of us since 10:40 PM on 02.06.2012

Long-time gamer, aspiring writer, and frequent bearer of an afro. As an eternal optimist, I like to both look on the bright side of things and see the better parts of games; as a result, I love a game with a good story and awesome characters...and anything that lets me punch the heresy out of my enemies.

I'm a big fan of Atlus' games, and I've enjoyed my fair share of fighters and RPGs. Just...please, keep Final Fantasy XIII out of my sight. It never ends well for anyone involved.

You can check out some of my game musinga/stories/random stuff at my other blog, Cross-Up. I've also got a TV Tropes thingamajig, and a web serial novel, too. Maybe my stuff here and there will be the start of things to come. Hopefully good things, but things all the same.

Be a hero. Check 'em out.

Cross-Up -- head here for posts on games, movies, and more
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I Hraet You -- the over-the-top web serial novel...of love, maybe