There’s something special about Zelda fans. The series has spawned some of the most enduring fan communities, heated theories and discussions, and in-depth fansites in all of gaming. We post articles, erect glorious
fanart, and hunt the ether of the Interwebs for any tidbits about upcoming entries. We fight endlessly about which game is better: Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. Friend turns against friend, neighbor against neighbor, in pursuit of an answer to this and other riddles – you can see this at work on Zelda boards everywhere. To outsiders our ways might seem… quaint. But to us, it’s just part of life.
You see, we Zelda fans have a very peculiar bond with the franchise around which we have gathered, one which hides a dark secret, terrible to behold. Once you delve deep enough into the hidden realm that exists within and around these games, you begin to sense a brooding, ever-growing disdain towards it all. It starts with a tease, a tiny prickle of dissatisfaction, which in time blossoms into full-fledged malcontent. You begin to loathe the things you once loved, and yet, you derive a twisted sort of enjoyment from the perverse torture which you cannot help but subject yourself to time and again.
As the years go by and our friends around us move on to new and better things – getting jobs, girlfriends, lives – we struggle, trapped by our dirty little secret. We grit our teeth as we can’t find the words to explain to them why, despite the drama, the heartbreak, the constant gnashing of teeth, we still buy each new Zelda game. And the spin-offs. And the Tingle games.
Chances are that you, dear reader, already experience some of these symptoms. If so, congratulations, you are about to reach the the final stage; your Zelda fandom is about to bud into fruition, to that highest of pinnacles, where you can’t help but hate The Legend of Zelda. You hate everything about it… yet try as you might – and oh how you have tried – you can’t let go. For the rest of you, you might be scratching your heads in wonder. “How can one of the most renowned Zelda fansites around talk about hating the series?” you might ask. If this is you, dear reader – there is so very much for you to learn…
It all began with the NES games, and our tireless hunt for that most glorious of treasures, the Triforce. Somehow, someway, magical flashing golden triangles are the source of almighty power and wisdom in the land. (Yeah, figure that one out for me.) We journeyed over mountains, through forests, fighting land-bound octopuses that spit rocks out of their mouths and spear-hurling armor-clad bulldogs as we went, only to realize that some broad-in-bedlam named Zelda broke it into eight pieces and stashed them in eight evil labyrinths across the land. Not only that, but she got herself kidnapped by Ganon, the King of Evil himself, and wants Link to get back the Triforce (that she so cleverly shattered and hid) so he can use it to beat Ganon!
To the casual onlooker, this looks like typical fantasy fare, but to a Zelda fan, it’s the beginning of a long line of travesties that get worse and worse with each new installment. Of course, every fan knows that Zelda’s got her own array of magical powers, not to mention that she’s handy with a bow – why, then, should she expect Link to go collect the Triforce and use the Silver Arrows to take down Ganon when she could just as well have done it herself? But, no, she’s got to do what every princess does and get captured. And yet Nintendo had the audacity to name the series after this do-nothing, make-it-harder-for-the-real-main-man weakling of a character who keeps getting her royal ass kidnapped generation after generation? Zelda fans hate Princess Zelda.
Don’t even get us started on the game’s other flaws: Link’s amazing array of sword-fighting moves (stabbing, stabbing some more). The stepladder that somehow gets used to cross over gaps (which, by the way, are barely as wide as Link, so why doesn’t he just jump like every other Nintendo character?) instead of, you know, to climb up things. The wise old kooks who have decided it’d be nice and clever to barricade themselves inside of caverns and dungeons instead of seeking out the would-be hero to give him the countless points of advice they have for fighting evil. The atrocity of a script that is the game’s Western translation. Zelda fans know that these are indefensible abominations, and so we can’t deny it: we hate The Legend of Zelda.
Somehow, The Legend of Zelda became more than just a video game series. In the 90s we were introduced to the Zelda cartoon – and it burned straight through to our souls. There isn’t a single redeeming factor present in the abomination that is the Zelda show. We know – we’ve watched every episode just to make sure.
Zelda II only made things worse by introducing yet another Princess Zelda. This one’s even more helpless than the last in that she’s apparently been completely comatose and locked in a sealed room that no one until Link has been able to enter for centuries (and has somehow managed to live that long despite this). We can’t understand why Nintendo can’t get the hint: we didn’t like the last Princess Zelda, and we sure don’t like this one. Fortunately they at least gave Link a bit more credit than last time by subtitling the game “The Adventure of Link” and widened his fencing technique a bit, but we barely noticed this behind the game’s most glaring offense: the majority of gameplay is side-scrolling. Side-scrolling! Zelda is not a side-scrolling RPG; Zelda is a top-down action-adventure game.
And what happened to all of Link’s cool weapons and tools – the boomerang, bow, bombs? Instead he has a hammer that’s not really a hammer but instead just makes his sword pierce certain blocks, a candle that doesn’t shoot fire like it’s supposed to but instead just lights up dark rooms automatically, and boots that make him walk on water (but only on the overworld map!). Heck, even the stepladder made more sense! And while I’ve got the ladder on my mind let’s not forget that we hate that Link can jump in this game. Zelda is not about jumping; it is about fighting monsters and exploring dungeons…without jumping! Zelda II is so different from its predecessor that Zelda fans are too enraged to admit that it is even a Zelda game at all.
If I went on like this with every game I’d be here forever, so I’ll just cut to the chase. Fans’ hatred towards Zelda II highlights one of our greatest disappointments with the series: the constant change. With each new game comes a gimmick, like Z-targeting, time travel, shape-shifting masks, changing size, touch controls, or – most shudder-inducingly of all – traveling by vehicle for half the game. If it doesn’t succeed as a central gameplay element, Nintendo somehow finds a way to shove it in anyway in the form of a minigame. And every time these new gimmicks are introduced, there are the Zelda fans, metaphorically pounding on Nintendo’s studio doors, demanding that they be removed before they destroy the series. Every time, their cries fall on deaf ears, and they are forced spitefully to sit back, watch… and, come release date, to play…
We hate all the changes from the source material that are imposed on the Western releases. We hate that the origin story of the Master Sword was mistranslated in A Link to the Past. We hate Nintendo of America’s archaic religious censorship policies of the early 90s. We hate that, in Ocarina of Time, Ganon no longer throws up blood, the Gerudo crescent moon symbol and the Fire Temple chanting were scrapped, and change in the Mirror Shield’s design that came about as a result. (We’re going to hate the changes in the 3DS remake even more.) We hate that The Wind Waker got gimped outside of Japan because it was “too hard.” And we definitely hate that Malladus inherited Ganon’s Japanese title of “Demon King” in Western territories before the term was ever applied to Ganon himself.
We hate that the original games were so absurdly difficult, but we hate how easy they’ve become in the years since even more. We hate the stupid camera game and that ridiculous “color dungeon” which were added to the remake of Link’s Awakening. We hate that in the last few years we’ve seen as many of these cheap remakes as we have new games. Of course, we hate the new games even more, so we hate that the Zelda team can’t come up with something that we don’t hate.
What Nintendo has done to the Zelda universe is another story. Hyrule seems to change shape with every new game, with places like the Lost Woods frequently hopping back-and-forth across the map. The complaints don’t end there – each new game more or less craps on the established universe. In The Wind Waker the fish-like Zoras have evolved into bird-like Rito. And speaking of evolution, what about the Oocca? Does Nintendo really expect us to believe that the Hylians, the chosen people of the gods, created to pass on ancient legends and protect the Triforce, descended from a race of deformed chickens? All that does for us is show us that the series creators can’t seem to decide on anything, especially the timeline, as it seems like every new game has to be somehow related to Ocarina of Time despite their constantly diverging plotlines.
Nintendo tries to explain this away with talk of multiple incarnations of Link and Zelda and a “parallel” timeline, but we fans liked the chronology much better when it was as simple as “Ocarina of Time, then A Link to the Past” – and we hated it even back then because of its terrible inconsistencies. As things stand, Ganon just can’t stay dead, the gods can’t decide whether he’s worthy of the Triforce or not, and the creators seem content to pretend the classic titles don’t even factor into the story.
But if there’s anything that Zelda fans hate more than change, it’s how lazily similar the games are to one another. In every single game it seems as though Link has to run the all-too-familiar gauntlet of meeting an annoying sidekick, searching his village for find a sword and shield, collecting three magical relics from the Forest, Fire, and Water dungeons, using them to unlock the Master Sword – oh wait! Watch out for that plot twist! – then heading off to beat more temples to collect seven color-coded whatnots so he can reach the final boss and – whoops, not so fast! You didn’t think he could skip the mandatory game-lengthening sequence where you have to find items hidden through out the map, did you? Of course not – these diversions give each game a nice couple of hours of padding. And when he finally reaches the last boss, it turns out to be Ganon after all! – or if not, then a carbon copy of him, as with Spirit Tracks‘s Malladus.
If you weren’t already tired of acting surprised by this point you’re sure to give up here. Zelda fans know this structure by heart, as it has remained relatively unchanged for the past twenty years. And speaking of the past twenty years, Link’s still fighting many of the same bosses and using many of the same items from the 80s and 90s. I swear, if I see that Gohma one more time…
Someone on the Zelda team apparently refuses to acknowledge the fact that the series is old and tired and could use a thorough dusting. This man is of course none other than the father of the series himself, the man who changed the face of gaming forever [ago]: Shigeru Miyamoto. Idolized by all Nintendo fans around the world, the man is a legend and thus beyond criticism – or is he? You’re hearing it here first folks: Zelda fans hate Shigeru Miyamoto.
They hate him so much, in fact, that it ought to be a godsend that Nintendo has been trying to replace him with the new guy, Eiji Aonuma, for years. But Miyamoto-san always marches into the conference room and upends every teatable that stands in his way. Whether the Zelda team is working on ways to improve the storyline or trying to actually meet the deadlines they’ve set for themselves, it’s never good enough for Mister Nintendo. No sir, this is the man we blame for the overall story being completely incomprehensible due to his “story last” policy. We blame him for making false promises for release dates. We blame him for repeating the same patterns with all the games and just throwing new gimmicks on top to try to make them sell more (an exercise in futility, we’ve noticed, as we hate the series just as much as ever).
Most of all, we blame him for making the series too easy with his philosophy that games should be “simple” and “accessible.” We hate the always-present “sidekicks” like Navi and Ezlo who annoy you every five seconds with directions to the next area or solutions to the next puzzle. Of course, we also hate him for the unfair, childhood-ruining difficulty of the classics, but that doesn’t excuse him in the slightest – he’s the freakin’ God of Gaming; he should know what we want.
It would be unfair, however, to place all the blame on Miyamoto, so we’re of course obligated to hate Mr. Aonuma also. It’s Aonuma who spearheaded Wind Waker with its kiddy graphics, which absolutely ruined Zelda (not that we liked the ugly art of the classics or the blocky polygons of Ocarina in the first place), and he clearly didn’t get the message from the overwhelming fan backlash because he went on to make Twilight Princess, with its bland browns and muddy textures – what a terrible waste of potential.
The upcoming Skyward Sword isn’t exempt from our wrath, either, for we’re destined to hate it also. We already hate the graphics for being too much like those of either Wind Waker or Twilight Princess (whichever you hated more). We’ll hate its story, too, either for messing up the Master Sword’s origins worse than A Link to the Past did already, or for trying to force elements of change like the new Gerudo symbol or those godawful Oocca. And if it doesn’t screw unforgivingly with the established story, that can’t be good either because it’ll mean it’s Yet Another Legend of Zelda Clone.
So if we hate this series so much, why do we keep coming back to it? That’s a question I’ve struggled to answer for all the long years of my painful addiction, but I think I’ve finally arrived at the reality of the thing. We hate everything about the Zelda series as it actually is, but if it were the way we imagine it to be, complete coherent timeline, perfectly-tuned difficulty, gameplay heaven on earth? Ah, we could never get enough of that…
Inspired by and in loving memory of Jive Magazine‘s “Star Wars Fans Hate Star Wars.” Happy Valentine’s Day, Zelda Informer!
Navi artwork by Genzoman.