Posted on November 21 2018 by Kat Vadam
I do not think I can truly talk about Ocarina of Time without getting a little personal.
Of course, that is one of the purposes of this week, right? To celebrate not only one of the most defining games of a generation, but to share stories and tell tales of exactly what the game means to us, the players. And, to be perfectly honest, I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that, were it not for Ocarina of Time, I would not have the love I have for this series, and I would not be here at Zelda Dungeon.
Really, to bring it back to that whole “getting personal” aspect, were it not for a certain character, I would not be the girl I am today. Growing up, I admired her. I wanted to be her. To this day, I still adore that girl, and every iteration of her that has since followed. For all she stood for, and everything she was, I owe her my all. Within her, I found courage, wisdom, and power, and the strength to stand up on my own. If she could do it, then I, too, could take on the world.
So. Let’s get a bit personal, shall we?
When society speaks to you, after a while, you find yourself listening.
As a preteen and teenage girl, this was something I became intimately familiar with. When I got to the age where I started to notice not only a change in my own body, but the voice of society, I started to realize that I should not be the fun, loud, grade-curbing, ever-eating child anymore. Magazines like Cosmo and Seventeen kept showing me images of these women that they said I needed to try and imitate. Thin, pretty, with piercing eyes and interviews proclaiming how they had learned to make men happy. I started to look around, at all these media and entertainment influences, at the actresses, at the awards handed out, at how girls and women always came in second. I was not meant to be smart. I needed to be pretty. I needed to be submissive. And, oh, if I should ever stand out and come off as intimidating!
I needed to play my role as a woman. A victim. A princess in a world of kings.
That’s how it felt, as a young, changing girl; what I saw, what I was told, what was forced in front of me. And, despite the best efforts of my loving family, I came to believe society: I was always meant to be in another castle, waiting for a man to save me.
And then, in the early 2000’s, I was told about this game that bore the name The Legend of Zelda. I had played Link’s Awakening back when it came out on Game Boy, and I had a blast with it. I knew a bit about the series, and decided to do a bit of digging into the story of this particular entry. It sounded like something I would love. Sure, video games at the time were for boys, but I do enjoy a grand adventure. Why couldn’t I give it a shot?
So, I picked up a used Nintendo 64 at the mall’s Game Stop, snagged a copy of Ocarina of Time, and sat down.
Little did I know how much that mundane decision was about to change me.
You know, I don’t honestly remember much of my feelings about the game at first. I know I enjoyed it. Loved it, even, from the very first moment. I thought it was fun, and a bit difficult. An adventure I could put myself through. I maneuvered Link through the Great Deku, I crossed Hyrule Field to Castle Town, made my way past a bunch of guards — getting captured a fair few times along the way — and then made it to this little courtyard, where I saw this small form on tiptoes, staring into a window of the castle.
She turned around and looked at me, and I knew immediately who she was supposed to be. I had never seen her to that point, but she could not be anyone else but Princess Zelda. I have to admit, it excited me a bit. She was the titular character, so she had to be important, right?
And then she spoke to me. Of evil, of legends, of a prophecy. Inside her home, there was a terrible presence that she alone could see. She told me she was trying her best to make it right. She was doing what she could to stop it. She was trying to make everyone inside see it for the impending doom it truly was.
She refused to sit back and let it happen. Her world, her kingdom could not see the darkness on the horizon, so she had taken to devising a plan to stop it herself.
Yeah, she needed Link’s help. We all need help, and that’s okay. But here was this ten-year-old girl who had decided to stand up and seize destiny in her small grasp, because no one else would listen. She was handling things within her own home, all she needed was someone to help her outside those walls.
And I felt that. I understood. Just because she was small, a princess, no one heard her. So she was about to make them hear. She did not let what anyone else said deter her. So why should I? I did not need to play the victim, the damsel in distress.
I would eventually set the game down for ten years.
The Water Temple got to me, what can I say? No one said I had to be good to play, and I just got to a point that I could not get past at that age. But that did not stop me from loving the game, if for nothing else, than that moment in the courtyard with my princess. I had to know everything else about it, about her. I researched it, read the synopsis, the articles in magazines like Nintendo Power. I even read the manga by Akira Himekawa.
All the while, I kept that first moment in my mind.
I learned that the mysterious Sheik would be revealed to be Zelda, and I cheered. The princess did not stop her fight when her castle and kingdom fell. She trained, she built herself up to fight harder. She did not sit in the shadows, she became the shadows, to help guide Link and carry him forward.
Even in my darkest times, I wanted to do the same. I kept going forward on the strength she had laid out for me, on the will and knowledge that I did not need to take it. I found myself trying to mimic the princess and warrior. She had become everything I wanted to be. When society told me one thing, I tried to think about her. Sometimes, more often than not, I would stumble, and I would fall. I would listen to what everyone else told me, and find myself trapped. But I could find my way out, because Zelda had done the same.
I would pick the game up once more in my mid-twenties.
By that point, I knew what was coming. Sheik was Zelda. Zelda was the Sage of Time. Still, though, that did not stop my amazement, my wonder, as I played through my adventure in the shoes of Link. I met her once more in the courtyard. I played music in perfect harmony with her. I saw the Triforce appear on the back of her hand, and in a blinding flash of light, watched her stand before me, no longer that little girl, but a wise warrior, a princess with the will to carry on.
When she was called upon to gather the power of the sages and create this path so I could walk forward, I walked with pride. Without her, Link would never have made it through to defeat evil. Without her, I never would have been able to fight my own darkness. She could control the flow of time, and she could shape the path of destiny. She had, both for Hyrule and for me.
And, in the end, it was not Link who stood in the light as my hero.
It was the sage. The warrior. The princess.
Kat Vadam is a Copy Editor for Zelda Dungeon. Ocarina of Time will always be one of the most inspirational games she has ever played. Follow her on Twitter.