Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Link & Zelda

The Master Sword
as found in the Twilight Princess
For 25 years young Link has taken up the wooden training sword and ventured out of his village with the hopes of rescuing the Princess Zelda.  Not because she's hot, but because it is his fate and duty.  Along the way he will gain proficiency in many weapons, most coveted of all being the Master Sword.  He's learned to time travel and brought about the geek fascination with the ocarina.  He is an expert archer, sailor, and horseman.  He reminds us that the boomerang is in fact a weapon, and that if you can't fly, you can climb.  Moreover, Link is the once and always savior of Hyrule.

The Mythical Triforce
As a young boy (although once as an adolescent) Link repeatedly must fulfill prophesy, leaving his rural utopia to rid the world of the evil inflicted by Gannon (also known as Gannondorf).  A monstrous entity, significant in power and larger than life.  Along the way Link must find the scattered pieces of the Triforce.  Only when this ancient power is harnessed may Hyrule know peace.   Link's journey is never easy, without a direct path from one point to the next, he must decide where to go, typically venturing to every corner of Hyrule, exploring numerous caves, cemeteries, and dungeons.  He is not without help.  Often he finds friendly teachers, generous merchants, and even pirates, who help him along his way and teach him to use new exotic weapons such as bombs, which enable to him access even more hidden secrets.

The Legend of Zelda was a ground breaking game when it came out 25 years ago.  When the world had just begun to understand the world of Mario (also 25 years old), Link came along in his little green shirt and pixel sword to show us that games didn't have to run from left to right and moreover that our hero didn't have to walk along a path.  Link had free reign over most of the terrain of Hyrule.  He had only clues to find the next dungeon which may be found by backtracking to somewhere you'd already been and using a new skill to unlock a secret.
Link through the games, from 8 bit to Wii

Zelda changes repeatedly with each new incarnation.  However, Link's main character traits remain, down to his trademark uniform and elvish ears.  Even when no one else seems to bear those traits within the game.  Magic abounds in the world, yet Link doesn't use any, aside from the most useful a fairy trapped in your pocket, which not only can return your health, but also saves your life.  Link teaches us that home is a special place, and nothing makes you feel better than a bit of Grandma's soup.  That empty bottles are as useful as a bomb.  That strategy is much more useful than jumping in and swinging the sword hoping for the best.  Link is one of the best game examples, of how to to do what's right, over what's easy.

Little Girl at Fan Expo 2009
Link has many admirers.  From the very young on up.  My husband and I feel this is because he is a true hero.  He does not seek fame, but fate sends him on his quest.  He is often side tracked to help those in need, with no thought of getting repayment (although it is a good way to learn new skills and get some very cool weapons, but not always).

When played in full, the games give Link the opportunity to reach out to townspeople and to make friends throughout the communities he encounters (not so much in the first couple games, but it builds).  Ultimately, we give Link the qualities we hope all of our young men, our sons to have.  He is a truly noble character.  In following his story, which does not always use violence to solve puzzles and to work his way through the world, but is equally dependent on skills, observation, and talent, Link becomes an inspiration for those who play him.  Bringing out those noble qualities we wish our modern lives had need of.  Having the chance to be the hero.

Happy Anniversary Link and Zelda!  May you have many many more to come.  To all of you updating your geek events calendars.  Feb 21st is the official anniversary of the Japanese release of Legend of Zelda.  Maybe it's time to boot up the old NES, the SNES, the N64, the Gamecube, the Wii  or any of the Gameboys and let a little of that hope permeate our lives, even if it's just to do a little fishing in Hyrule.

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