Posted on September 28 2018 by Kat Vadam
Who says a princess needs to stay in her castle?
If there is someone who threatens her land — or steals her body — why must she sit in an ivory tower and wait for a hero to fix everything? Heck no! Time to get out there and make sure the job gets done, and it gets done right. The hero can’t do everything himself, after all. Sometimes, he needs just as much help as anyone else.
After losing her body to that traitor, Chancellor Cole, Princess Zelda of Spirit Tracks takes up the mantle of Link’s companion, but she doesn’t just serve to give advice or tell him when to take a break. Oh, no. She takes action, using her new incorporeal form to possess the bodies of bulky, powerful Phantoms and help Link through obstacles and puzzles he could not have done alone. They have to rely on each other to halt the evil Cole and Malladus, and become a team of Courage, Wisdom, and Awesome.
And that’s why she’s my favorite.
Having a companion you can control makes for a more fun challenge.
From the standpoint of straight gameplay, having a pseudo-playable companion gave Spirit Tracks a unique spin that companions of previous games had not really had. Suddenly, I wasn’t just thinking about Link, how he moves, where he can go, and what he can do. I had this whole other character that I could control, which not only served to broaden my ability horizon, but also cranked up the difficulty. OK, the floor is literally made of spikes; obviously, I can’t make Link walk through that — I like the kid. I’d rather not impale him.
Sending Phantom Zelda through to places Link couldn’t go led to some of the most interesting, challenging, and heart-racing puzzles I have faced in the series. I am two people. I am Link, and I am Zelda simultaneously. Two separate personalities occupying two separate spaces. And potentially surrounded by monsters. I suddenly need to split my attention and make sure I know what’s around both, because while I, as Zelda, am frolicking around on the other side of that wall, poor Link can still take damage. So what happens when I stop looking at him, and some nasty little monster sneaks up behind and pokes him?
And Zelda’s movements felt a little bit clunkier and a little less graceful than Link’s, as they rightfully should. It made sense to me that this massive metal monster controlled by the spirit of a young girl unfamiliar with the controls would be… well… clunky. She played more like an awkward barbarian shield, and shifting from Link’s move set to hers in a single breath gave a sense of intensity to the game. My brain can’t always work that fast, guys! But, it certainly made for fun enemy battles, forcing me to think for two people: Zelda can distract that icky enemy with her claymore, while Link can sneak behind and stab him in the back. As long as they don’t stumble over each other.
No, Zelda, move there.
Not there, there.
Sigh. And, you’re in my way.
Oh… hey, cool. Dude’s dead. Thanks, Zelda.
Because these two worked in tandem, they had to rely on each other.
Not just to get through the Tower of Spirits, not just to fight monsters and bad guys, but to complete their mission and save Hyrule. They had to be a team, to protect each other to the very end. Without one, could the other have survived? Without Zelda, could Link have defeated Malladus alone?
Without Link, would Zelda ever have learned compassion?
To see Zelda go from, “Let’s get my body back,” to telling Link to stay safe as she struggled to hold back Malladus atop the Demon Train can only be testament to her growth. As the two fought through temple and tower, at Link’s side, Zelda matured from a shallow little girl; she learned to put the well-being of someone she cared about before her own desires. She shed her tears and stood against evil in the final battle for Hyrule. And, together, in perfect harmony, Zelda and Link channeled the spirits, wielded their sword and bow, and put that evil to rest.
The Demon Train is gone. Hyrule is safe once more. And Zelda got her body back. But the lessons she learned and the bonds she formed with Link I’d like to think carried her to the throne as Hyrule’s protector and leader. Always with him at her side.
An unstoppable tag team of legend.
Featured image, “Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks,” by tellielz.
Kat Vadam is an Associate Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She will ride the Spirit Train as long as it takes to convince more people that Spirit Tracks was a good game. Follow her on Twitter!