The Legend of Zelda is a series based in a fictional world where giant blue pigs with tridents capture princesses and attempt to acquire golden triangles in order to rule the world. There are many strange creatures, perplexing structures and diverse locals. It is needless to say that The Legend of Zelda features its fair share of magic. However, it has more than often been the case that our hero, Link, does not possess magic directly. Instead, he is granted arcane abilities by items or fairies, abilities that are often useful in only one or two situations. There have been games where Link has been able to focus his mind and create a magical shield or form a sphere of fire, but the trend of magic in the series has always been below par compared to other action games. Why should our man in green be denied access to powers that could enhance the Zelda experience and provide an interesting twist to the gameplay that we are all so very accustomed to?
The Adventure of Link featured the first use of real magic within the series. It also featured the largest array of magical powers and boosts, ranging from increased defence to powerful bolts of lightning. Link was able to level up his abilities in order to make them stronger, and the player relied on these powers in order to pass the game. While The Adventure of Link featured many more RPG elements than any other Zelda title, it did make excellent use of the eight spells it offered, as well as providing a unique experience for players who were familiar with traditional Zelda gameplay. The stage for magical abilities had been set by The Adventure of Link, but Nintendo did not follow through in the same manner in future titles.
A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time were the next two titles to feature magical spells. In A Link to the Past, these spells took the form of medallions. These items were simply equipped to the item button and cast, chewing up a portion of Link’s magic meter in the process. While the end result of these medallions was the same as the spells from The Adventure of Link, no true skill was required in their use; the player simply pressed the item button and watched as the entire screen became engulfed in the power of the spell. Ocarina of Time featured three spells each linked the Goddesses of Hyrule; Din’s Fire, Farore’s Wind and Nayru’s Love. Similarly to A Link to the Past, these spells were equipped and then cast, no aiming required. The Magic Meter was an excellent element in both of these games, but its capabilities could be further explored with the return of RPG-like spells such as those from The Adventure of Link.
The effort put into the use and originality of magic in the series has continued to decline since the time of The Adventure of Link. The use of the Magic Meter was restricted to firing Fire, Ice and Light Arrows, and was altogether forgotten about in Twilight Princess, where Link relied solely on mechanical weapons such as the Clawshot and the Spinner. The spells introduced in many of the games have been bland and have not required much skill in their execution. Nintendo have stated that Zelda is making changes for the better with Zelda Wii in production, and the inclusion of decent magic spells similar to those in games such as Diablo or Fable will definitely give the game some much needed variety when it comes to both combat and puzzle solving. We can only wait and see what Zelda Wii will have in-store, but here’s to hoping that we can shoot bolts of lightning at Moblin’s and Deku Baba’s in future titles.