Having a 35+ year career clearly hasn’t slowed down the momentum the Legend of Zelda series has managed to accumulate and maintain. With every sequel, prequel, and everything in between, the worlds our hero travels and resides in still has a special place in our hearts decades later. With the release of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to take a trip down memory lane.

Originally released in the latter portion of 2006, the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is, in my opinion, an underrated gem and one whose gameplay I regularly refer back to when I want to immerse myself in that world and storyline once again. Never lacking in character development and storytelling, the way in which I would describe Twilight Princess would be a fantastical, dark form of art.

There are so many concepts the game developers managed to include without it feeling forced or stretched too thin. Whether it’s your intention to follow the main story and forgo everything else and focus predominantly on the mission, expect to spend at least 30 hours just doing the primary objectives. On the road less traveled, you can spend literal days just exploring what the game developers took so much time to conjure and animate, knowing the majority probably wouldn’t take the time to do so.

Once again, you play as Link who lives in a peaceful village with his neighbors. Surrounded by green pastures and calm lakes, there’s no shortage of peace one feels as day passes into night. When invaders cause havoc, it’s up to Link to take up his sword and defeat the enemies who threaten to destroy everything good and the ones he dearly loves and reveres.

The Contrast Between Dark and Light:

Even though Link is the pinnacle of every characteristic we would perceive as “good”, the game cleverly contrasts the concepts of dark and light. Not too far into the game, Link is sucked into the twilight realm and automatically transformed into a wolf as his temporary form.

It’s not only cool that we can play as an animal, but his fighting style is completely different, obviously – much more animalistic and primal in nature. Also, the wolf tends to be of a more aloof nature in the real world, only engaging in combat when it needs to hunt or if it feels threatened in some type of way. However in this instance, the wolf, in the game, is seen running around various areas and attacking first, usually unprovoked.

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Aggressive and Unforgiving:

This violent behavior is in direct opposition to the behavior we know Link is known for and is even more apparent when we compare how helpful and courteous he was to his fellow villagers at the beginning of the game. Despite all of this, we still see Link as a good guy. The game communicates this concept effortlessly: good is not synonymous with harmless. When he and Midna decide to work together, she introduces this “shadow” side of him that easily throws us for a loop.

Initially, we are wowed by this sudden transformation and spend additional time acclimating ourselves to the new style of playing. He can move much quicker, use his senses to sniff out individuals he seeks, dig holes to escape or enter new areas, and jump across large expanses he originally couldn’t as a regular person. However, whenever he changes back into his human form, we don’t question it or feel that it was too abrupt, existing somewhere outside the realm of realism.

What I gathered was this: light and darkness are not separate beings from one another. Both are necessary in order for the other to exist. Without light, we would not know darkness. Without the darkness, light would not exist. Acknowledging this fact of life creates a more well-rounded individual and makes it easier to digest when we see such a beloved character grapple with this himself. What he has been gifted is indeed a curse and will utterly consume him if he doesn’t keep it in check.

Sometimes, we must dig deep inside ourselves and discover that part of ourselves we wish to remain hidden in the dark. Those parts of us will rise up to the surface at the most inappropriate times if we don’t make peace with it. Even the characters we admire the most have a dual side they have to fight with.

Goodness and Violence:

The Legend Of Zelda

Another concept I believe that makes Twilight Princess an underrated gem is the use of violence in order to achieve something good. When we think of something we proclaim to be “good”, we usually think of something wholesome, pure, gentle, kind, understanding, forgiving, nurturing, etc. Completely incapable of causing harm to something or someone, even if they are deserving of it.

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However, in order to achieve this end goal and maintain a peaceful and safe environment, there will be opposing factors that stand in the way, seeking to see it destroyed and riddled from the world completely. The game expertly starts off sweet and unassuming with no threatening factors present even though we know it’s only temporary. We spend an hour helping our neighbors, relishing in the calm existence, and completing domestic tasks without a care in the world. Even the music is jovial and uplifting.

When that existence is threatened, is it good to sit back and do nothing because we have a fixed outlook on what we believe “good” to be? In order to preserve goodness, we must be willing to do what is necessary, even if that means committing acts of violence. Link has no issues doing this, slaughtering invaders, traveling to different areas to defeat bosses, and leveling up his skills so he is dangerous, so he is the victor.

The Application of Learned Skills:

However, he doesn’t do this for selfish reasons. His main goal is to right the wrongs and protect his village and people. He uses the necessary force in order to achieve this goal and ventures nowhere outside of that, for that’s uncharted territory he is ill-equipped to handle. For example, when Link meets with his mentor throughout the gameplay to master certain skills so he can progress, he only learns one at a time instead of everything at once.

The reason? Because it’s unnecessary. Like most games, the enemies start off fairly easy, taking little effort to eliminate. Would it make sense to arm Link with all of these advanced techniques and strategies if the foes he’s currently going against are much weaker than he? The game subtly teaches us the importance of patience and moderation.

Not only that, but not all individuals have as much self-control and awareness as Link does. Many are unaccustomed to wielding that much power and misuse it to benefit their own selfish desires. Link is chosen to harbor this power but only because those above him know he is capable of controlling it, but only through hard work. Even the strongest of individuals can fall to temptation in brief moments of weakness.

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I have no doubt Link could easily learn all of them in one session but here’s what I think would happen as a result. First, the game would either become too easy by default or the enemies would have to suddenly be elevated to match Link’s skill level. Second, because all of the progression occurred so soon in the game, there would be nothing else to learn, albeit making the overall experience repetitive. Lastly, there is a severe lack of challenge.

How many times have gamers lost interest due to a lack of struggle, particularly on the first encounter? It isn’t uncommon to learn new strategies during frequent replays which reduces the difficulty, but that shouldn’t happen after one gameplay. Actually, I think the game should get harder as you go along, not easier. We’re forced to utilize the skills Link already has and find ways to best enemies slightly stronger than him. When you have a game that’s this long, you don’t really have a choice.

These were the main concepts that came to my attention and the ones I wanted to tackle. There’s seemingly an infinite amount of avenues one could explore but we’d be here all night. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an amazing experience and taught me how perseverance and becoming stronger for the ones I love is necessary in an unforgiving and cruel world.

A lot of what they explored can be applied to the real world, in spite of the fantastical elements. Some of the greatest lessons come in the most unexpected forms.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available on the Switch.

Jessica

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