When people bring up horror elements in Zelda, they generally go back to the same few choices: the spirit temple, dead hand, the occasional scene from Majora’s Mask… The list goes on. Something that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is the Silent Realm in Skyward Sword, perhaps because of the game it’s in. In honor of Halloween, I thought that, rather than do an impersonal analyzation of what makes certain moments scary, it would be fun to look back on a particularly strong memory I have regarding a scary or tense part in Zelda.
I first got Skyward Sword a few months after its release. I didn’t spend too much time on gaming back then (the full onset of nerdiness had yet to come) and as such it took me a month or two before I came to the silent realms. Having played the game pretty consistently, I had gotten into a rhythm and was making good headway. The Silent Realms threw that entirely out the window. Being on the younger end of the game’s target audience, the Silent Realms scared the crap out of me right at the outset. The moody color balance, the eerie celesta renditions of area themes, and not to mention the designs of the guardians so helpfully pointed out by the camera, all got to me. The general tense atmosphere was ramped up once you stepped outside of the circle, your protective bubble broke, and the guardians, irate at their rude awakening, began pursuing the player with a vengeance.
With panic I continued onwards, carefully studying my map to determine the most effective route from one tear of light to the next. Despite all of my worries, however, that first silent realm in Faron Woods was made short work of.
Fast forward a bit. Thanks to an insatiable desire to finish the game off, I’d finished the retreads through both Faron Woods and Lanayru Desert in the span of a week. Having had an easy time with the first two silent realms, I go into the Eldin Volcano Silent Realm without a second thought. The first few tears of light come with minimal stress; after that, though, things just fell apart. My clock ran dry for the first time in my play through and, as someone with very little confidence in their gaming skills even today, I was shaken. The creepy, almost mechanical sound design coupled with the startling movement speed of the guardians made for an experience that was nothing short of intense. I was quickly killed and did what I am sure any of you hardcore Zelda fanatics would have done, by which I mean to say I turned the console off and played Skyrim instead.
So, one could say that the Silent Realm scared me so terrifically that I went on Skyward Sword hiatus.
A couple of months and forty Skyrim hours later my friend, who had beaten the title, convinced me to go back in for some more (“The Sky Keep alone will make it worth it, man,”). I spent far too much time staring at maps, looking at walkthroughs, and thinking up effective routes than I probably should have, but I was determined to spend as little time in my personal hell as possible. It was with shaking hands that I picked up the controller again and with shaking hands that I put it down after numerous attempts and, finally, fifteen collected tears of light later.
You can chalk it up to the game design, age, general lack of video game skill, or a combination of the three, but all I know is that nothing in a Zelda game since has been able to match the sheer terror brought on by that first chase with the guardians.
Now, why waste your energies telling me what a giant wuss I was when you can share your favorite scary Zelda moments? Sound off below, and Happy Halloween!