The Legend of Zelda series is going to be 31 years old this month, and for many fans of the series, those 31 years takes up most of, if not surpasses, their lifespan. So in many ways, we have literally grown up with the Legend of Zelda but have you ever considered the impact the presence of a mute, green clad, swordsman through your childhood might have had on your life? He’s been part of mine since I was three and with the hotly anticipated Breath of the Wild imminently releasing worldwide and a 31st birthday on the horizon, I thought this would be the perfect time to countdown the top 5 life lessons, I personally, took away from playing the Legend of Zelda.
5. Helping others is its own reward
In Link’s Awakening after completing the 4th dungeon, Angler’s Tunnel, Link begins to be followed by a fairly miserable ghost. The presence of the ghost prohibits you from entering any dungeons and ostensibly grinds your quest to a halt until you listen to what he’s telling you. He asks you to take him across Koholint Island to his now derelict cabin by the sea. For those of you who haven’t played the game, whilst Koholint Island isn’t the biggest map in Zelda history, walking from what is essentially one side of it to the other still takes a fair bit of time, especially when you factor in the dodging enemies, not dying etc etc. So it’s a fairly chunky quest to begin with.
Anyway, you get to his cabin and he looks around, comments how nothing has changed since he left and THEN declares he wants escorting to his grave in the cemetery. Cue another fairly arduous walk through fields and forests, lifting things and dodging things. At this point, having spent about 30 minutes in the company of the ghost you’re getting pretty excited, there must be a pretty big reward for all of this surely!?
When you drop him off at his grave, he tells you to go BACK to his cabin (alone this time) and look in a pot for your reward, the ghost then disappears and you go running back to claim what you’re imagining to be a new sword or shield or full heart container. Except it isn’t any of those things, it’s a seashell. A seashell you need twenty of to do anything good. Now, 8 year old me felt pretty short changed at all of this until I thought back over it and I realised that the only time the ghost smiled during the whole quest was when he was back at his grave to rest and that made me feel pretty good. Like a true hero, I had bettered the life (or afterlife) of a resident of the island and one step closer to completing my quest.
4. Paying attention is probably a good idea
I’m probably going to start a firestorm with this but *whispers* games are easier nowadays. I mean that most games, these days, have systems where if you miss a clue or something you can go and get it again pretty easily and if you can’t find that, you Google it. Flashback to 1998 when we’re playing Ocarina of Time for the first time and THAT owl has just popped up again. Childhood me didn’t have the patience to read ALL of that, he couldn’t POSSIBLY be saying anything important could he?
I mean I just skipped a load of text from that farm girl who gave me an egg(?) Turns out both of these conversations were fairly important. Cue me spending 4 hours wandering around Hyrule Castle getting captured by guards, not knowing what do do with my freshly hatched chicken, who the guy sleeping by a moat is and wondering where the eponymous Princess Zelda was. This being the nineties of course the only thing I had left to do was go round to a friends house and ask very nicely to read his Prima strategy guide before I lost my sanity. So there we go, now when I’m studying or learning something and the tutor is droning on and on, I imagine he/she is a giant talking owl to remind myself that I might need to pay attention.
3. How to follow a map
Seriously. Until finding the final key in Dark Palace in A Link to the Past became important to me, my head could not grasp the concept of maps. It was like some sort of mental block that I would look at a map and not recognise anything in front of me. Then the day came where I was in the Dark Palace, I had found the big key door, the map, the compass and the Magic Hammer but I could not figure out where on earth this last little key was.
It was a sneaky one, if I followed the map to the chest I met a brick wall and it couldn’t be bombed or smashed. After a lot of brain power, I suddenly realised that if I looked at the other floors, there was a room directly below the key room and that precise moment is the instance maps clicked for me. I descended to the lower levels found the room, used the staircase and was in the otherwise sealed room. Since then, if I get really lost with no Google Maps, I visualise a map into squares like a Zelda Dungeon map. Incidentally, if you need to get to the Colosseum in Rome from the main train station you go up 3 “rooms” and right one “room”.
2. Travelling is an amazing thing to do
No game sums up “a journey” for me, more than the Wind Waker. Just you, the vast sea and the your possessed talking boat. For many fans, the long travel times in Wind Waker are a point of annoyance but for me they managed to encapsulate the adventure aspect of the series it in its purest form. You had no idea what the next island was going to bring, some inhabited, some not, some dangerous, some not.
It awakened in me an amazing sense of wonder, I wanted to be like Link, just heading out, meeting new people, seeing entirely different ways of living, and experiencing things you would never get to do at home. I now travel whenever I can and love going by boat when possible I remember being amazed, when I got the sail on Windfall Island for the boat and realising there wasn’t anywhere on the map I couldn’t go to and I get the same feeling when I stand in an airport clutching my passport. Always remember, Outset Island is lovely and always nice to go back to for some of Grandma’s soup and chase a pig but it’s a big world out there!
1. Leave chickens alone
Seriously. They’re DEADLY.
There we have it, the 5 top things I have gleaned from my many years playing The Legend of Zelda. It’s always been there for me, like a sort of multi-platform big brother, to point me in the right direction and I am beyond hyped to begin the adventure again in Breath of the Wild. Now if you’ll excuse me, this article has made me realise it’s been a full year since I last completed Majora’s Mask.