Posted on November 13 2017 by Adam Barham
From weapons to tools, The Legend of Zelda series has always presented us with a variety of objects and abilities to use in our adventures. Yet over time, Nintendo has changed how they present these things to us. From different kinds of items, to spells, to even runes on a magical tablet, there are a variety of forms that give Link some sort of ability or skill that allows him to defeat certain enemies or to travel to new locations. Each of these types has its own benefits and disadvantages, though overall, I feel that one in particular is superior to the others.
Starting with the most recent entry in the list of forms abilities can take in The Legend of Zelda franchise, we have the Runes. These appeared in Breath of the Wild as features on the Sheikah Slate, a sci-fi hybrid of tech and magic. The runes included Magnesis for moving around metallic objects and Stasis for stopping moving objects. While these brought in abilities that had never before been seen in the franchise, they failed to include some fan-favorites, such as the Hookshot. Several of them also included cool-downs on their uses. Though they were not lengthy waits and usually did not cause any issues, they did force the player to wait a moment to try again when making a mistake in a puzzle, or they limited the use of Bombs in combat. While I do enjoy using Runes in the game, I always have considered technology in Zelda games a little bit odd. I still have no idea why Nintendo thought it was a good idea to put trains in Zelda. Now, I don’t really have a problem with tech in the franchise overall, and I appreciate a little bit of mysterious ancient technology in the series, but I feel that Runes are getting close to pushing that limit.
Another form of abilities for Link to use on his quests are Spells, though they are not commonly seen in the franchise. Some can even be debated on whether they should be classified as Items or Spells, such as Din’s Fire, Farore’s Wind, and Nayru’s Love in Ocarina of Time; the Champion’s abilities in Breath of the Wild, and a few other items scattered throughout the series. The only game in which their classification as Spells is clear is in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In that game, they provided access to new areas, some forms of protection, and a few strong attacks. Though Items were present in that game, they were used very little, and Spells took the lead. The downside to Spells such as those or the ones that can be argued as items is that they consume Magic Power, which is limited to your Magic Meter, and refills for this were not always available. I do appreciate these to a degree, but the overarching problem I have with them is that to me, Link is more of an adventurer with tools that he uses as he journeys and less of a mage. I do think he should have access to a few Spells throughout The Legend of Zelda, but he shouldn’t get many.
The last category is the most classic form of ability in the Zelda series: the Items. From the very first Zelda game on the Nintendo Entertainment System and ever since, Items have been exciting and important finds in the series. Some can be received as the result of a sidequest, others can be bought in shops, and some can be found hidden in caves. The majority are found in the middle of a dungeon, where they are almost always required to complete the challenges presented there. Many of them, such as the Beetle in Skyward Sword or the majority of masks in Majora’s Mask, can be used over and over without limit. However, some Items, such as the Bow, are dependent on a supply of something related to said Item, such as arrows. Not having enough of that supply renders the item useless until more of that supply is acquired, and that can sometimes be a hindrance to gameplay. However, that tends to be rare in my experience, and when it comes down to it, I rather enjoy enjoy the use of items best. They truly come across as the tools of an adventurer and seem to fit Link’s classic style the most.
One of the things I find interesting about each of these categories is that it would be rather simple to transfer the abilities between the forms, with a little bit of coding and graphical changes. The grappling-hook mechanic of the Hookshot could easily be a spell, Magnesis could easily be controlled by a single item, and the Jump Spell from Zelda II could have easily been a rune. It’s simply a matter of what format each ability takes. Despite the format, the abilities are, more often than not, quite enjoyable and fun to use. Though I can say with some certainty that some abilities would be quite odd in other forms, such as shooting arrows using a Rune.
Expanding on what I have already said, I think that it is best when The Legend of Zelda offers a mix of the different formats. For example, A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time each incorporated a variety of items and also included some spells as well that were granted either by Great Fairies or by the power of the Master Sword. To me, this fits Link more than simply making him a wizard. I’d like to see Nintendo use that sort of formula in the future, including a mix of items, spells, and runes, depending on the usage of each. However, if Nintendo decided to change Link’s look in the future so that his look would fit more with either Spells or Runes, I wouldn’t have a problem with those being the ability forms that were focused on.
Now that I’ve laid my opinion out for you to see, what format is your favorite? Do you prefer items, with their infinite uses for some and limits for others? Or do you prefer to cast spells and excel in magical arts? Or maybe you prefer to use runes and their technological style to perform tasks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!