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Zelda Being Playable and Character Contradictions
Editorial by 
Editor
July 25, 2020, 18:53:51
 
Amidst the discussion of Breath of the Wild 2, Zelda's shorter haircut and role in the trailer has had fans wondering if she might be playable this time. Which naturally moves into the realm of whether a female Link should be a thing too. From what I've read, pretty much no one shares my opinion on all this which is: no to playable Zelda, yes to female Link, no to picking your gender of Link at the beginning of the game.

To elaborate, it's gotten me wondering about the nature of video games a little bit. Where established characters can be expected or even demanded to be playable solely because they're major characters. Personally, I don't want playable Zelda. At least, if she's doing what Link is normally doing. I actually think Zelda is a great character. She has a distinct part in most of the stories as both a tactician and a selfless ruler, and I think having her playable would be as strange as, say, having Tom Nook playable in Animal Crossing. She's one of my favorite female characters in gaming largely because they haven't felt the need to make her just "Link in a dress;" you can have a strong character without needing to have them fight.

Maybe part of it is that it'd be weird seeing her catch fire, tumble violently off cliffs, etc?

The larger question on my mind is, why do so many people want a well-defined character to break character in order to become playable? I don't get it. Is it a video game thing? I consider other non-combative characters in media and pretty much no one is asking for Alfred to be Batman or C-3P0 to blast TIE Fighters in an X-wing.

That being said, I wouldn't mind female Link, though. The reason why this is different from just gender-swapping Mario (or Samus for that matter) is because Link is a fairly unusual character in that he's basically several different reincarnations of a hero. And with each passing game, those versions of Link have less and less in common; before ALttP, he had no family. Before OoT, he had no origin story. Before TWW, he was an only child. Before BotW, he wore green and a cap.

Lastly, I would hate to have it be an option between male or female Link. I think picking a sex would dilute the story of the game because even though Link isn't super active in the plot, there are often plot elements that rely on him being the sex he is. OoT's Ruto had a crush on him and that tied into the Zora's Sapphire story. TWW's Ganon was specifically kidnapping Hylian girls. TP and SS had romantic interests in danger that kickstarted their plots. BotW featured sneaking into an all-woman city, etc.

So there are my thoughts that no one asked for on the Zelda series and girls. :p My larger point is about playability inherently being tied to combat and characterization contradicting that. At the end of the day, it all comes back to LUDONARRATIVE DISSONANCE.

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Posted: 07/25/20, 18:53:51  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 18:53:21    
 
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A footnote: I'm aware that Zelda is playable in Smash Bros and Hyrule Warriors! But considering those are silly non-canonical games where Pichu can launch Ridley into the horizon and Tingle can destroy Ganon, its safe to say that character accuracy isn't exactly a concern in those cases.


Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 18:59:10  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 18:59:44
Linkette -- Sure, why not?

Choose Your Link/Linkette -- Sure, why not? Maybe 1% of Link's quests are informed by his sex. That 1% could easily be rewritten to accommodate Linkette, and she could get her own 1% of exclusive lady-centric stuff. Replay value!!!!!!!

Playable Zelda -- My normal answer is, Sure, why not? I don't care much about the recurring myth of a Brave Boy and Smart Girl foiling Strong Jerk, so having Zelda playable is whatever to me.


On the other hand, my answer for playable Zelda in BOTW2 is...I'd prefer it!
BOTW2 is a better game with playable Zelda, and here's why:

1. Zelda is weak and frail -- Yes, that's a point in her favor. BOTW1 is a game that allows you to approach combat and traversal in tons of creative ways...but it's almost never worth the effort to explore the possibilities of either, because Link is basically Superman: he's got some cool, useful abilities at his disposal, but usually the most efficient solution is whacking the bad guys to death, then climbing a mountain and parasailing to the next fracas. Having a playable character who's likely to lose a swordfight with a moblin and get winded jogging up a gentle slope would force the player to actually think about combat and traversal.

2. Zelda is a brilliant tinkerer and a budding sorceress -- Most of Link's fancy iPad apps were engineered by Zelda herself: put that Telekinesis Tablet in her hands, and she can think her way through almost any situation. And with her Princess Powers finally awakened, she's primed to learn some magic tricks to employ in tandem.

3. Zelda has a lot to learn about this Hyrule -- If we're playing in the same Hyrule as BOTW, wouldn't it make sense to visit it with fresh eyes? Link's Encore Tour wouldn't offer much new to him, but the world's changed a lot since Zelda decided to get some beauty sleep. We've already seen how this world reacts to Link: let's see what Hyrule's many denizens think of their absentee princess, and in turn we can get her own potentially enlightening perspective on how the world has changed in a hundred years, since she's not a mute.

4. Zelda's got a kingdom to rebuild -- The main thrust of any Zelda story is the destruction of an evil legion, but it's much rarer (and arguably more rewarding) to take an active role in creating a piece of Hyrule. Tarrey Town was a hit in BOTW, and that was one little village: BOTW2 gives us the unique opportunity to architect the entire kingdom's revival. Link's no urban planner, but Zelda's got the know-how, vision, resources, and gumption to help Castle Town rise from the ashes.

5. You could potentially lightning kick Revali's ghost right in his smug face

Blah blah blah I'm so much better than everybody else--BAWK--


Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 20:38:55  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 20:41:56
TriforceBun said:
I think picking a sex would dilute the story of the game because even though Link isn't super active in the plot, there are often plot elements that rely on him being the sex he is.

Ooo, this thread could get spicy! Been too quiet around here lately...

I agree with everything you're saying. I've been thinking about it myself lately, since it ties into my never-ending crusade against difficulty options in games. I think both of these debates can be reduced to two fundamental worldviews:

1. Traditionalist. I can't articulate exactly why I don't want the option of Zelda being playable, or for Sekiro to have an easy mode, but it feels wrong. Pieces of art aren't hodgepodged-together Lego sets where you can swap out different pieces of them without affecting the experience, even if those pieces are small! And there's something to be said for having one canonical version of any given art piece. The fact that people have an aversion to tweaking stuff that works is evidence that something is happening here we might not understand.

2. Post-modernist. "I can't explain why it's wrong, it just is" is a pretty damn slippery slope, and it's not much of an argument. How dare you tell people that they aren't allowed to enjoy things in the way that they want to just because your own ability to enjoy things is so fragile?

I personally lean towards just trusting the developers when it comes to video games. I've never felt the impulse to want to change a game to better suit my own tastes; either the devs did a good job of perfectly designing it in a gestalt way, in which case I trust them and don't want to mess with their art... or they didn't, in which case I don't care about playing the game at all. I really do think that demanding more customizability options in games comes from a place of entitlement, and I think that that entitlement comes from the weird gamer Stockholm syndrome idea that everyone has to immediately beat every game that comes out. If my identity was tied to beating Sekiro in the first week, yeah, I'd probably be raging about how the game is too hard too. But for me, chipping away at it over the past year and a half has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had with a game in years.

Meanwhile, I played the first 45 minutes of The Last of Us Part II a few days ago, and despite finding some of it pretty groanworthy, I'm not over here insisting that they add in a mode where Ellie is straight and the gameplay doesn't consist of 90% holding the analog stick forward while the characters say words at you. The game is what it is, and if I don't find it interesting, or I don't relate to some of the characters, I'm not required to play it.

(I'm the kind of guy who'll go into a restaurant and order "whatever the chef feels like making." )

WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID... I keep meaning to make a thread here about GPT-3. You guys know those AI-generated posts that nate and I are always making? OpenAI just released the next version of that AI; they scaled up GPT-2 in the dumbest way possible, and somehow it's still linearly improving. It can write full short stories in the style of existing authors, it can generate web app code from natural language descriptions. Getting back on topic, it can even generate lists of things that are problematic!

This thing is ridiculously powerful, it's basically a general intelligence. Go try the seven-day trial of AI Dungeon's Dragon Mode, which uses GPT-3 as opposed to GPT-2. It'll blow your mind. This is going to be the defining technology of the next decade. Right now it can only do text, but it's already making authors and programmers afraid that they won't have jobs in four years. Now imagine this technology applied in other areas.

Tim Soret said:
How do you compete with AI, in a world where Netflix can generate on the fly content tailored for you? Horror movies playing on your fears? Drama playing on your traumas? Where music is generated to your taste? Where your favorite game masterpiece is endless?

It will be the death of shared pop culture. Everybody in its own personal bubble of customized content. It's already happening. Algorithms are killing serendipity, reinforcing & solidifying your tastes, your interests, your worldviews instead of diversifying & challenging them.

The thing is, the post-modernists are right in the long run. Right now there are certain objective biological truths that all humans are enslaved to whether we like it or not. No matter how much you insist that obesity is healthy and beautiful, you're wrong. One could make a similar claim about Ocarina of Time: maybe Link being male says something really deep about the transition from boyhood to manhood that straight-up wouldn't work with a female lead no matter how much we insist it would. These sorts of archetypal claims are harder to defend than medical ones, but you can make a case for them.

But what happens when we have the AI Dungeon of Zelda games? Then everything is up for debate. Everyone is their own author. I don't know if this will be good or bad, but it's what's going to happen.

And then someday we'll upload our minds to virtual worlds, and all of the limits of biology will be gone. Got a god-shaped hole in your heart? We'll patch it right out!

In closing: the introduction of Peachette destroys the notion that the Mario franchise's canon is more rigidly-defined than Zelda's, and people's insistence that female Link makes more sense than female Mario reveals that they're just as helplessly traditionalist as the rest of us. But the train is already coming off the rails... will you embrace it? Or cling to your flesh-based mortality?



Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 21:03:46  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 21:22:14
The thing to me about Zelda is, we know some of what she can do, but we don't necessarily know her limitations. And maybe we thought we did, but then Sheik appeared, and I think of Sheik and I feel like half the point of Sheik is "you thought you knew Zelda's limitations, and guess what, YOU DON'T." Right? Like, it only worked as a twist because no one was expecting Zelda to be this badass shadow ninja. If she could pull that off, who knows what else she could do?

So after that, I can't really think "but she couldn't use a sword and a bow like Link because..." I feel like she could do anything, really. Of course, she could be done like Cadence of Hyrule, a bit less focus on melee combat, a bit more on magic (or stealth, which presumably she is good at because Sheik), but still basically fulfills the same role. But I think it would work while retaining who she is.

Or she could have her soul separated from her body and put into a piece of armor an... oh wait, that already happened in one of the most UNDERRATED Zelda games ever.

I don't think there is much of anything fundamental to Zelda stories that only works with a male lead. And if you approach a new game knowing you're adding this other playable character, the story would be built around that anyway.


Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 21:32:42  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 21:34:53
@nate38

It's a good case you've made, particularly kicking Falco Revali in the face. I touched upon this briefly in the initial post but my main gripe would be having Zelda basically be Link in a game. In other words, playing a Zelda game with Zelda-style gameplay as Princess Zelda. I think utilizing her unique abilities--if done right--could work in the same way Peach sneaking around Bowser's Castle in Paper Mario worked perfectly with her character. So I guess my comment is a little less general than never wanting Zelda playable (after all, she's already kind of been playable in Spirit Tracks, and other Zelda games have briefly had other playable characters like Medli, Kafei, and Groose), and more that I'd want it done in a way that'd essentially be very different from Link. An extensive side-quest where she oversees the rebuilding of Hyrule sounds kinda dope, to be honest. Go tweet that to Aonuma!

@Secret_Tunnel

I really like what you've articulated about the double-edged sword of customization in games, and you've said it better than I could. This is almost another topic entirely, but there's a big struggle between giving into the market's demands of customization and in developing the work that you're developing. Some of gaming's greatest innovations were from enterprising creators breaking from the mold: Super Mario Bros wasn't just more Mario Bros, Super Mario Kart didn't play like F-Zero, Super Smash Bros didn't play like Street Fighter II, and Kid Icarus Uprising (a classic game that everyone either loves or should love) didn't need no stinkin' dual analogue!

Sometimes by using an avatar that doesn't resemble us (or an unorthodox control scheme), we can find ourselves becoming endeared to a wholly different type of character (or style of gameplay).

@Zero

That's true that pushing the limits of what Zelda is has led to some very fun twists. Keep in mind though that beyond imparting wisdom to Link and teaching him songs, Sheik didn't physically do much of anything. If anything, the most physically active role she has in OoT is right at the end as Princess Zelda when she's using magic to guide him out of the castle and keeping Beast Ganon locked in position.

She's always been good with a bow though! It's not that I think she's a total pacifist or anything (TWW's take on her is enough to dispel that notion). But I do feel that due to her foresight, planning and self-sacrifice, Zelda is a great character as is to the point where she's often my favorite character within the games she's featured heavily in (let's face it, Link is often just a vessel for the player).

The only thing I really disagree with is that Spirit Tracks is underrated. Man, that game had some problems! (But actually, Zelda wasn't one of them--she was adorable and endearing. When she wasn't driving me crazy with the touch controls)


Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 22:05:01  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/20, 22:11:00
@TriforceBun Sheik didn't do much fighting... on screen. But there has to be a story there, right? The princess of Hyrule, one of the most wanted people in the entire kingdom, managed to evade a powerful enemy who controlled the lands for years and years? At the very least, Zelda became a master of stealth, but there were probably some skirmishes too over the years.

If you think of the traditional character stats in like, RPGs and such, Link could have higher strength, defense, etc. and Zelda could have higher magic, stealth, etc. And maybe the player could switch them in and out based on the situation. See a Moblin camp with a treasure up top of some platforms. Go in guns blazing with Link? Sneak in with Zelda?

And storywise they could still play their respective roles.

Now I want this game!

There could be even more playable characters too! Tingle could be there and have a high uh... luck stat I guess?


Posted by 
 on: 07/25/20, 22:16:54  - Edited by 
 on: 07/26/20, 00:51:04
Hmm, is it supposed to play like a Zelda game? A Link game? Then it shouldn't solely star Zelda, but she could be a cool alternate mode or co-op character. Like, maybe projectile magic-based, with all of the elements interacting with the chemistry system.

I wouldn't mind a Zelda spinoff title which played completely differently, either.

As far as male/female Link, why not? Does it really matter? Link is a cypher, anyway, kind of. And all of his relationships are kind of vague and implied. There could just as easily be vague homosexual overtones, rather than vague heterosexual overtones, to his vaguely implied relationships.

However, as Hyrule is a semi-established place with the typical patriarchal heroic ideal, I'd want the feel of an adventure starring female Link to somehow reflect that. Not really sure how, though, and I've probably already committed enough accidental faux pas in this thread as-is!

But, in conclusion, I don't really care. I just want a fun game.


Posted by 
 on: 07/26/20, 01:15:38
I just wanted to chime in and say Hyrule Warriors is canon. Or at least, it SHOULD be.


Posted by 
 on: 07/26/20, 02:44:58
TriforceBun said:
The larger question on my mind is, why do so many people want a well-defined character to break character in order to become playable? ...That being said, I wouldn't mind female Link, though. The reason why this is different from just gender-swapping Mario (or Samus for that matter) is because Link is a fairly unusual character in that he's basically several different reincarnations of a hero. And with each passing game, those versions of Link have less and less in common

I think you're arguing against yourself here. Every time we see a character reincarnate, they maintain their sex. Link is always male, Zelda is always female, Ganondorf is always male, Malon is always female, Talon is always male, Impa is always female, Tingle is always male, Mamamu Yan is always female, Ingo is always male, Syrup is always female, etc., etc. Suddenly giving us a female Link would go against the one of the few well-defined aspects of that character.

But ALttP, OoT, TWW, TP, TMC, ST, ALBW, SS, and BotW have all shown us Zeldas that look different, behave differently, have different interests, respond to situations in different ways... An incarnation of Zelda that decides to go adventuring would be more in line with canon than a gender-swapped version of any character.

@GameDadGrant

Maybe a remade version that doesn't contain contradictory Triforce lore and depictions of the events of OoT, TP, SS, etc. in ways that contradict the actual events of those games. But there are way too many problems with that game being canon in its current state. (Of course I'm also biased against the idea because the time travel portion of its story makes no sense - why separate Ganon's soul into four parts and seal three of them in the past... Since none of those past eras are alternate timelines, it means all of Ganon's soul is still going to be able to be found in the present without any time travel being necessary! They'll just be aged differently if they're put back together.)


Posted by 
 on: 07/26/20, 07:52:36
V_s said:

I think you're arguing against yourself here. Every time we see a character reincarnate, they maintain their sex. Link is always male, Zelda is always female, Ganondorf is always male, Malon is always female, Talon is always male, Impa is always female, Tingle is always male, Mamamu Yan is always female, Ingo is always male, Syrup is always female, etc., etc. Suddenly giving us a female Link would go against the one of the few well-defined aspects of that character.

But ALttP, OoT, TWW, TP, TMC, ST, ALBW, SS, and BotW have all shown us Zeldas that look different, behave differently, have different interests, respond to situations in different ways... An incarnation of Zelda that decides to go adventuring would be more in line with canon than a gender-swapped version of any character.

Yeah, I feel similarly. The fact that Zelda has been so different from game to game - including a very popular pro-active version involved in combat - completely blows T-Bun's primary point out of the water. More than most game series, the structure of the timeline, the fact that these are different versions of the characters in the legend, makes it seem like there's even MORE opportunity to structure a game around Zelda and not run into any (deep breath) LUDONARRATIVE DISSONANCE!

I do agree that the game would have to be structured differently. I don't necessarily want to play a regular LoZ game where they've just swapped Link for Zelda. But the fact that these are basically distinct versions of the Link and Zelda characters means there's actually more latitude to play around with their roles, not less.

As for gender swapped Link, I don't have strong opinions either way. I think it could work, depending on the context, but I almost feel like I'd rather see a game tailored around Zelda's specific abilities than just play as Link again but this time he has boobs. I'm not sure what that really brings to the table, though I'm open minded about it if that's the direction they want to go.

You want to talk completely pointless ideas, though: Gender-swapped Samus is maybe the stupidest thing I've ever heard. "I'm just Sam, guys."


Posted by 
 on: 07/27/20, 04:20:43  - Edited by 
 on: 07/27/20, 04:21:33
You'd also have to think of the foundations if their characters being courage and wisdom, and how the gameplay could potentially revolve around that. The most obvious way would be to have Link be "the fighter" and Zelda is "the mage," but even that alone could be enough to shake up the gameplay some more.

I'm kind of hoping that we don't have a bunch of escort dungeons like in Wind Waker. They were kind of my least favorite dungeons in the series.


Posted by 
 on: 07/27/20, 05:24:50
@V_s

I was particularly interested in what you had to say about this topic because you're our resident expert on Zelda lore! That being said, doesn't SS's ending basically establish that Demise's curse will repeatedly manifest over time, and that it would continually be combated by 1) one who bears the spirit of the Hero, and 2) a princess who is the reincarnation of Hylia? By that metric, I personally feel that having the Hero's role shifted entirely is a bigger change that having a female reincarnation of the Hero.

@kriswright

I get that these are variations on a character, but they still need to share enough attributes to be recognizable. I thought Tetra worked fine due to how the game handled her sobering acceptance of her responsibility when she realized her identity--attributes I associate most strongly with Zelda are her selflessness and willingness to shoulder huge obligations (as well as utilizing her mind to avoid conflict or to buy time). All of this could be inferred as early as Zelda 1. Now, I'm not trying to say it's impossible to have those aspects on a playable character, but...I dunno, I just am somewhat repulsed by the idea of Zelda going around slaying Moblins.


Posted by 
 on: 07/27/20, 06:43:50
What if the Hero of Time was twins this go around, and so you had female and male Link but they were two separate Beings (with two different names).



Then it wouldn't just be "choose your gender" but rather "choose which twin to adventure as." I also would absolutely hate a "Choose your gender" option and think it would dramatically harm the feel of the game itself, but a Twins option seems like it could be a potential out. Your twin (that you didn't pick) can stay back on the family farm or whatever while you go off to save Hyrule. Or maybe they get kidnapped/killed by Gannon making you hate him even more. I dunno, but it could be a solution to having both gender options and not cheapening Link. (I tend to find any "create your character" options dilutes the game it takes place in. Even something as simple as gender choices. Ash/Red is Ash/Red because he is Ash/Red. The latest Pokemon made me care nothing for the character I played as. I don't even remember what I named her.)

I've been wanting a playable Zelda since Wind Waker. And maybe that game is why, because she was a fighter just like Link (better than Link??) and if there was an option to fight as Tetra it would have felt totally natural.


Posted by 
 on: 07/27/20, 14:06:19  - Edited by 
 on: 07/27/20, 14:11:24
Playable?

To me, she's royalty.

Well, she certainly is that..


Posted by 
 on: 07/28/20, 11:12:38
TriforceBun said:
@V_s

I was particularly interested in what you had to say about this topic because you're our resident expert on Zelda lore! That being said, doesn't SS's ending basically establish that Demise's curse will repeatedly manifest over time, and that it would continually be combated by 1) one who bears the spirit of the Hero, and 2) a princess who is the reincarnation of Hylia? By that metric, I personally feel that having the Hero's role shifted entirely is a bigger change that having a female reincarnation of the Hero.

Okay, so Demise's curse is a can of worms for a bunch of reasons. But basically, it all boils down to bad translation. The English version of SS was butchered in translation. NoA kept changing things up to make Demise sound cooler and more omnipresent, but that interpretation doesn't really fit with the Japanese translation.

For example, here is the English speech that Demise gives when he eats Zelda's soul and gets his body back:

...So you are the chosen knight of the goddess. Intriguing... The goddess lowered herself to a mortal existence to keep me imprisoned. How pathetic. This bag of flesh pales in comparison to the magnificence of her previous form. Hmm... So you and that other human would stand before obliteration to aid the goddess, would you? How curious... The humans I've known were weak things. Hardly more than insects, shivering under rocks and ready to flee at a mere glimpse of me. When last I walked this world, they did little more than scream and cling to their goddess, mewling and praying... Counting on her to protect them. How amusing to think those cowards begot someone like you. You grow more fascinating by the second, human. I never imagined I'd meet one of your kind who wished to stand against me in battle. Very well, then. I shall prepare a place for us where we will not be bothered by distractions. If you still have the courage to face me, seek me there. If you fear for your life, do not follow me. You can spend what little time your world has left cowering and crying, as befits your kind. But if you truly desire to raise your blade against the world I would build, come for me. I've waited eons to return. I can spare a few more moments to let you decide. | Ah, so you've decided to meet your end in battle after all. It pleases me greatly to see such misplaced valor, human. Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings, for where we stand shall serve as your tomb for eternity. The hate for the gods that has boiled in my veins... You will taste all of it in the bite of my blade. The only question left is how long you will manage to remain standing before I take your life. Try to keep it interesting for me, would you? And when you do fall, know that your world and everything in it is mine to dominate... Mine to subjugate... Mine to rule! When I finish with you, you can take solace in knowing your friends and kin will soon follow, as I wipe all who oppose me from the face of this world! ...It won't be long now. At last, the almighty power I've sought for millennia... I will take the Triforce for my own... And the world shall be under my foot for eternity!

And now here is the Japanese version:

So! You are the Goddess' knight, then...? And... How pitiful. Even if she claims it was for the sake of eluding me, she went to the extreme of becoming a mere human... Even that the brave and so-prideful Goddess Hylia went to such ends... Hum. So both you and that human want to help the Goddess, you mean to say? Interesting... The humans I know of are all weak existences which are unable to do anything else except weeping and shouting out screams. So, even if you intend to battle me, you are no more but a human sheltered by the Goddess which tries to strike me... A mere descendant of that herd of cowards... Really interesting. A human intends to challenge me to a battle... Fine. I shall face you in place where no-one shall get in the way. If you really have such courage to go for it, then. I do not care if you value your life and run away. Go ahead and weep like a human during the little time left before I rule the world... But if you claim of having the courage to step into the Demon Tribe's world, then... Come after me. I shall wait for a little while. | Hum... You came. You seem to be be prepared, human... Contemplate. This shall become the last scenery to be engraved in your sight... The flowing hatred towards the Gods' Tribe... The joy which comes with the release of my power... I shall discharge all of them into you. I wonder how much time you will last standing against me... Will you try to make it interesting? The world shall now submit to my ruling! Those foolish herds which oppose me... Their tribes, their members... All shall be wiped out from this Land!! And when I possess the absolute power... When I possess the Triforce... The world's future shall be forever ruled by the Demon Tribe!!

A lot more talk about the Gods' Tribe and the Demon Tribe. No praise for Hylia's old goddess form. Less emphatic in his language in general. Now take a look at the language used when he dies and casts his "curse".

English:

Extraordinary. You stand as a paragon of your kind, human. You fight like no man or demon I have ever known. Though this is not the end. My hate...never perishes. It is born anew in a cycle with no end! I will rise again! Those like you... Those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero... They are eternally bound to this curse. An incarnation of my hatred shall ever follow your kind, dooming them to wander a blood-soaked sea of darkness for all time!

Japanese:

Human! Having been able to overcome me... You are a strong human!! Splendid. But, remember... This is not over... My hatred... The curse of the Demon Tribe... They shall continuously go on reincarnating until the end of all times. Do not forget it! I shall repeat it!! You people shall... You people who possess the blood of the Goddess and the soul of hero shall... forever be unable to escape from this curse! This hatred and grudge... Its evolution shall forever painfully wander across this blood-stained "Dark Sea" along with you lowlifes forever!!


In the English version it reads like Demise is casting a curse to allow himself to forever reincarnate alongside the hero and the princess until the end of time. In the Japanese version we're told that the Demon Tribe shall go on reincarnating until the end of time. In other words, because Demise is the originator of demons, Demise is telling Link and Zelda that his death isn't going to stop demons from continuing to plague Hyrule forever. There's too many of them, and they can reincarnate just like Link and Zelda can. Demise himself is wiped out of existence by Link's Triforce wish. His hatred no longer exists to fuel any sort of magical curse. (And besides, the villain is always born before the hero and princess are both around, so the demons aren't tied to the reincarnations of the hero and princess.)

The curse seems to be more metaphorical than literal. Demise is telling Link and Zelda not to gloat over Demise's death because they may have killed him, but they and the rest of Hyrule will forever have to deal with some demon, so the land will never totally be at rest. Demise didn't create any reincarnations, and he didn't magically tie anything to an existing reincarnation cycle.


Posted by 
 on: 07/29/20, 19:48:19
V_s said:
In the English version it reads like Demise is casting a curse to allow himself to forever reincarnate alongside the hero and the princess until the end of time.

Does it, though? That interpretation of what he's saying always came across to me as really... face value? Tryhard? Lowest-tier-on-a-galaxy-brain-meme? Just because he says the word "curse" doesn't mean he's casting a magical spell that we have to bring up as unbreakabley canon every single time someone wants to talk about the story in a Zelda game. It's just lampshading how similar all the Zelda games are. I don't see how the Japanese version is any more or less metaphorical than the English version already is!


Posted by 
 on: 07/29/20, 20:36:06
@Secret_Tunnel

Well one way or the other, a LOT of people have taken the English version literally. Like the majority of people that played SS and care anything about the overarching lore of the series interpreted it as a literal curse. So the Japanese version at least makes it clearer that it wasn't intended to be taken literally.


Posted by 
 on: 07/29/20, 21:51:43
@V_s

I do think people taking events too literally is a pretty widespread issue with how people analyze Zelda's stories, haha. Like, are the Ranch Ruins in BotW supposedly to literally be the remains of Lon Lon Ranch from OoT thousands of years later? That doesn't make any sense; it'd have to be some other ranch that looks exactly the same and is also in the exact same spot.

But it's a moot point, because the Ranch Ruins aren't meant to make any sort of specific historical sense, they're just a nod to a past game. As you know, there a ton of weird inconsistencies and plot holes in the overarching timeline, so I think that the most satisfying interpretation of it is to say that the games are more like representations of blurry events in this world's history, rather than precisely accurate portrayals of events. This makes in-universe sense too; ALBW's inaccurate retelling of ALttP's story is only frustrating if we fail to recognize that that's exactly what would happen in the real world too. Why would Hyrule be capable of keeping perfectly accurate records of every event that's ever occurred over the course of tens of thousands of years?

I mean, even if Demise was literally saying that he's casting a curse, and Skyward Sword literally happened, and all of the games are literally connected through specific plot elements that tell one objective overarching story... who's to say there isn't some other game in the middle of the timelines somewhere where the curse gets broken? That's why I think using lore to justify design, rather than the other way around, is really misguided; Nintendo can write a Zelda game where, "Ah, it turns out there are seven sacred artifacts that, when gathered together, are capable of breaking Demise's curse" just as easily as they can add a mushroom that turns Toadette into Peach in a port of a subpar Mario game. Make a gender-bended Star Fox game too while we're at it!

The place I'm coming from here is that I actually think the Zelda games have a lot to say about interesting themes like how the passage of time impacts us as mortal human beings, but almost all of the discussion you see about these stories online is in the form of Youtube videos wondering how they got the Master Sword out of Ganon's forehead and angry people on Twitter demanding that Link be a woman because Reincarnation. Those questions are missing the point, there's so much more going on here than that!


Posted by 
 on: 07/29/20, 22:41:50
@Secret_Tunnel

Completely agreed with you on the Ranch Ruins and Demise's "curse". And regarding breaking the "curse" - that should happen in SS! Hylia could see into the future. She tasked Link with wishing on the Triforce to kill Demise. She would have been able to tell if Demise was capable of coming back, but she tasked Link with wishing on the Triforce anyway. And when he did, Fi scanned the world and said Demise had been successfully eradicated. Nothing of Demise should be left. His consciousness and hatred/grudge should have been wished away with the rest of him, making him unable to power an infinite reincarnation curse if he was attempting to cast such a literal curse.

As for the in-universe inaccurate records... I'm not sure I totally agree on that. Generally speaking, except for a small detail here or there, Hyrule has shockingly accurate history. Like, well beyond the realm of believability accurate. The people of Outset Island knew the legend of the Hero of Time despite being hundreds of years removed from the flood which was itself "generations" removed from OoT. And the only thing they got wrong was that the Hero of Time wasn't a boy (though even that's debatable). Impa and (some of) the people of Skyloft knew about Hylia and the war with Demise, despite that occurring thousands of years in the past. And as far as we know, they didn't get any of the details wrong. The Zora of BotW accurately remember Princess Ruto helping Link save Hyrule from Ganondorf despite BotW being 10,000 years removed from its back story, which is itself who-knows-how-many thousands of years removed from the events of OoT.

Because of just how little matches between ALBW's back story and ALttP, I have to assume that they're two entirely separate events, not one event misremembered THAT drastically. Besides, since Ganon isn't dead in ALBW's back story nor ALBW, and the Triforce wasn't split at the end of ALttP, the only way ALBW's back story could be a retelling of ALttP is if all of ALttP was retconned away so that nothing we played in that game actually happened as we see it when we play it. It makes far more sense to me that, like the Ranch Ruins, they're just two separate things that have a number of similarities. (Though the details between ALttP and ALBW's back story match less than even the Ranch Ruins and Lon Lon Ranch do...)


Posted by 
 on: 07/30/20, 03:13:43
@V_s

Hmm, that's a good point! I did think that some of lore references in BotW were a little on the nose; I didn't find most of the Zora tablets my first playthrough, so I thought that little things like Urbosa commenting on Ganon's Gerudo origin and the Divine Beasts being named after sages were really cool little nods to past games! And then I found the tablet that straight-up mentions Princess Ruto, and, welp, so much for subtlety. 😅 Similarly, as someone who doesn't care for the revelation that the Master Sword has had a spirit inside of it this whole time, I thought that Zelda's comment about how "some say they've heard a voice coming from the sword..." was a cool way to gesture to Skyward Sword without straight-up canonizing it, whereas the Master Sword actually communicating with Zelda in that last memory was just a liiittle too much for me.


Posted by 
 on: 07/30/20, 04:43:01
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