Feel the Hatred: Zant (Twilight Princess)

[Editor’s note: SWE3tMadness kicks off September’s promotions with her hatred for Zant from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Spoiler alert! — CTZ]

(MAJOR SPOILERAGE ahead! You’ve been warned!)

There are many things in videogames that I despise. Cheap deaths, framerate slowdown, and ridiculously charted Guitar Hero songs are just a few examples, but while they can elicit frustration and anger, true hatred can only be brought about by emotional attachment. You have to be able to like something at first, then when a major plot point, or twist, or action involving that character goes awry, it all comes crashing down, Like a jilted lover, my bitterness at this deception has mostly been related to one character, the example I use in this post: Zant, the self-proclaimed King of Twilight.

So this may seem a little strange that I pick one of the main villains in what is by and large a very respectable game. I, in fact, know a lot of Zelda fans that love him. So what in his character utterly pissed me off when I played through the game? Hit the jump to find out.

Well, first of all, I didn’t hate Zant all the way through. At the beginning of the game he was downright intimidating when he confronted Zelda with his horde of Twilight creatures – a scene with a spooky atmosphere almost reminiscent of Silent Hill rather than the Legend of Zelda. His presence as a major evil player in the storyline is furthered when Midna reveals her background and explains that Zant was passed over for the throne because of his ambition and greed. So he forcibly seized the throne and cursed her to the impish form that you find her in. And he isn’t necessarily a “sit back and watch my minions do all the work” sort of bad guy either, numerous times throughout the game he gets hands-on with his evil mission. Once you finish collecting the Fused Shadow pieces, he doesn’t steal them but simply throws them away. He then claims that his power is so immense that he doesn’t even need the Fused Shadows, which are, by the way, ancient Twlight relics so powerful they were sealed away and turn innocent creatures into monsters when they come into contact with them. Zant then goes on to demonstrate his power as he binds Link in his wolf form and nearly kills Midna.

Figure A. – Badass.

Later on when you get to the shadow temple of the game (Fine, Twilight Palace, if you’re picky), you see just what his twisted schemes have brought on even his own people. They’re all transformed into the red-marked Twilight beasts, much like the one you battle throughout the game. I went to attack one and Midna had to remind me that they were just innocent civilians twisted by Zant’s dark rule. As you get closer to the final battle with Zant, he sends giant versions of his freaky mask that shoot balls of magic at you. And did I mention that they’re invincible except to their own magic attacks? Those apparitions scared me the first time I ran into them because I couldn’t figure out how to kill the damn things. But while these moments were sad or scary, they didn’t make me hate Zant, they only strengthened my resolve to defeat him and bring back light and justice to the world. These moments all but cemented him as a major, powerful villain in the franchise, and I even began to respect his character quite a bit.

Unfortunately, it’s this buildup to the final showdown with Zant that makes his downfall all the more infuriating.

As you walk into the Twilight throne room, the obligatory villain monologue starts. At this point, I’m eagerly paying attention because I want to know more about Zant and his motives, and see his true character behind the mask. Of course by this point I have an idea that he really isn’t the main bad guy (that honor is always reserved for Ganondorf) but that doesn’t mean that he can’t go out with a bang. I’m waiting for some huge plot twist that shows us what an awesome character he really is.

Figure B. – Even more badass.

And boy was I mistaken.

It turns out that Zant here just bitches throughout the entire scene about “Oh, I really deserved that throne! But noooooo, everyone was just a poopyhead and wouldn’t let me have it!” while prancing about the room like a demented clown. Not like Kefka though, just a demented clown.

Then the bomb drops — he’s merely a PUPPET for Ganondorf. Throughout the game he was just a whiny pansy with delusions of grandeur until Ganondorf (quite literally) drops out of the sky and bestows him with great power to do his evil work in the Twilight realm. So none of the truly malicious deeds he committed were due to his own cunning or abilities, only in service to what he sees as a sort of twisted god, Ganondorf. Instead of the badass I expected, a character that used his own power and plans to seize control of two worlds, he is quite powerless except for what was given to him by Ganondorf.

This theme is further emphasized in his fight where he simply copies other boss fights, and you can easily defeat each stage of the battle by utilizing the items that you used on the respective bosses beforehand (Forest temple = Gale boomerang, Water Temple = Hookshot, etc). Then even when defeated, he can’t taunt with any threats of his own retribution, all he can spit out is that since it was Ganondorf’s power that cursed Midna to her current form, only killing him will change her back. Which promptly infuriates Midna so much that she destroys Zant anyways. Nice going, dude.

Figure C. – FAIL.

So essentially, in two cutscenes and one short boss fight, Zant is reduced from supreme usurper King of Twilight to an irritatingly whiny lackey of Ganondorf with no real power of his own. Even the final showdown with Ganondorf felt less epic than other titles like Ocarina of Time, simply because I associated the great evil that I struggled against the entire game to Zant (the puppet), and not Ganondorf (the puppetmaster). And even the emotion I felt against that evil was lessened, defiled if you will, because the character that I associated it with was nothing more than a pawn.

I really did like Zant at the beginning, but instead of elevating him to a sort of Villain-Hall-Of-Fame in my opinion, the abrupt change of power after defeating him kept the story, character, and even the actual final boss, from achieving the kind of fond remembrance and respect reserved for other videogames. And it’s that one fault that makes me hate it all the more.