In Which the Author Gets Slightly Personal, Among Other Things

Here’s the thing – Behind the Rupees has been off the block for a while. Though at least a third of this had to do with Mother Nature dropping ‘bows on the States a while back, those of us in the team of writers took it as a welcome break. And you wouldn’t think each only writing one article per month would be all that tiring… but it was.

This, in some nebulous way, is quite like the Trouble with Adventures.

The trouble with writing article after article about a video game series which only pops one out every three years on average is that it’s easy to run out of things to say that haven’t been said. It’s easy to get complacent with repeating yourself. One can make the same statement and be met with the same arguments a dozen times before they tire of it – indeed, sometimes it’s just a warm-up. Politically, it’s rather like American partisan-ism; you have your Right and your Left on either side of a length of rope, and though the flag in the middle can dart either way in a heartbeat, you’re essentially left with two teams standing still and growling at each other over a silly piece of rope. It’s easy to repeat yourself – echoes are automatic. Like now, in fact.

How does Zelda stay fresh? The trouble with adventures is they can’t become too repetitive, or they cease being an adventure. Knowing what to expect in terms of control and playablility is one thing; if you hit upon something great you stick to it. The game mechanics have remained relatively unchanged in the three most recent incarnations, whereas another Nintendo staple, Mario (and look for an upcoming article that explains why I always use Mario in contrast), is always suffering spacial schizophrenia – in his various incarnations, Mario’s flown, flapped, swam, smashed, jumped and spin-jumped in ever increasingly complicated ways. It makes sense – Mario games are always a bit of a spatial puzzle. But Zelda found the best way of travelling through 3D Hyrule right out of the gate, and, besides, it’s never really been about how well you can jump.

Not to say that Zelda doesn’t take it’s space seriously – ways in which space is used is ever evolving. Incrementally but noticeably, each of the most recent console adventures increased the stakes – identity swapping in Majora’s Mask, horse-back riding in Ocarina, sailing and swinging in The Wind Waker. Creative movement and transportation within the game is changed drastically between titles. Hyrule is never precisely the same Hyrule through each incarnation, and the games neatly weave their plots through their innovations in transportation.

As Hyrule changes, so do the people. The baffling evolution of Zora to Ruto serves two functions – it introduces a new race to the Zeldaverse, and it’s tied to in-game history. It’s still the strangest logic I’ve ever witnessed: “Let’s flood the entire world, and turn the fish people, the only race suited to handle a flooded world with ease, into birds. Yes, birds. Because, naturally, when the habitat of any species becomes ridiculously big and lush said species has no choice but to evolve out of their situation into something more narratively dramatic.”

Really. That’s fascinating.

So Hyrule may never be the best place to learn Darwinism, but it’s population keeps growing – there’s a healthy mix of new and old faces, and a whole range of personal problems that, strangely enough, require the attentions of a hero trying to save the world. “Yes, I know the moon is falling. But you see, it’s these darn chickens…” It’s enough to make you want to slap someone and shout, “Wake up! The world is ending! Eat your damn chickens now before they mutate!” But they keep things colourful. Even familiar elements like Ganon and Zelda, monsters like Moblins or the boss Twinrova, are treated as if they are new – the developers are never afraid to mine previous games for baddies, but they always put a bit of a spin on them.

And that’s the key – spin.

What keeps Zelda grounded? As fresh as each game may be on release, it’s still distinctly Zelda, and has as much in common with it’s predecessors as it differs. These are necessary echoes, like an image in the mirror or a handful of photographs. Zelda games stay interesting because they respect their history but aren’t afraid to be daring. Each game is it’s own adventure in form. Compare The Legend of Zelda with The Adventure of Link – there’s a gap between the two where the entire structure of the game changed. Many Zelda purists look on it as the family’s fascinating mutant-in-the-attic, and A Link to the Past is largely considered a triumphant return to form, but you can’t fault them for taking risks. And few can honestly claim it’s a rotten game – it just used a drastically different approach, as any rebellious child is likely to when they come from successful parents. AlttP bred Link’s Awakening, and ultimately Four Swords Adventures – find something that sticks and work with it, remember. Spin it.

Diversifying into ‘party-game’ territory is a move that has yet to be judged by the fans at large. It’s too early to tell. But it’s completely in line with the other steps taken to keep the Zelda brand going strong.
Zelda manages to re-invent itself by making select changes to its description of the world and it’s assorted elements, but keeps relatively in line with all that’s come before.

Which has a valuable lesson to teach when one is sitting down in front of his computer, thinking about Zelda, and wondering what to say. A blank page can be the most intimidating thing in the world, when you’re asked to fill it. It’s easy to forget that mistakes are quickly forgiven and dissected, but monotony lasts, untouched.

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If you liked this article, we will be releasing such articles consistently over the next few months, so if you would like to be kept up-to-date, we will be updating our Facebook and Twitter pages to let our followers know of each new Zelda article. You can also just subscribe directly to our RSS Feed.

This retro article was originally posted January 5th, 2005.
  • MegaLinkX

    I still hold to my initial thought on the Zora to Ruto thing. Zoras were Freshwater animals, and couldn't survive in a salt water environment. Yes it's a drastic change, and a simpler one would have been to adapt to salt water, but thats much less fantastical, and much less Miyamoto.

  • Cole

    zelda will alway be bland

    • You commenting with no genuine purpose, save trolling, will always be bland.

      • ChainofTermina

        AND THE SLAYER POUNCES!! Troll-Slaying Slice!

        • That should be enough 24 for me, then… 😉

        • Cole

          im stating an opinion and that is how i feel about the serie, just because i dont agree with you dosent mean im a troll this is a commit board where your suppose to post your opinion. You may love zelda and that part of who you are but you shouldnt allow other people's opinion to get to you.

          • That wouldn't be a problem to me. Only, you're not stating your opinion; you're blatantly attacking the franchise and have attacked of the article writers. Maybe not so much in this one, but if you were to go look through your other comments you could tell what I mean.

            But I'll cut you a deal: you quit saying defamatory things like, "Zelda will always be bland," actually tell us what you can't stand about the discussion, add a positive if you'd like, and I will never approach you again.

          • swic11

            no i saw we still attack his opinion because he is full of crap. If he doesnt like zelda why is he in ZU in the first place?

          • Cole

            no, i say zelda is bland because the devoplers make the games for children and they use storys from children's movie and book. in every game there is save the princess stroy, sounds alot like mario if you ask me. the plots in the games arent deep at all, star wars has a deeper story then zelda and half of those movie were spaceship flying around shooting laser at each other. no one expect for link dose anything, the soldier are pussys as you can see in t wilight princess. Ganon dosent do anything evil yet somehow he the king of evil. you know for a game where your carrying a bunch of weapons you would think combat would be the staple of the series but it isnt, your sovling puzzle, the boss battle in the games arent real battles they are another puzzle in the puzzle dungoun. now let me ask you a question sir. where is this deep story line everyone keeps talking about? what is it that you guys see in nintendo because to me i feel nintendo make their games for kiddies. i want you guys to convents me im wrong.

          • Uh, you're actually right about this. Nintendo does make their games for kids, mostly, though they (the games) also feel mature enough for older people to enjoy.

            As for the stories, those are hidden within the games. They're within the problems the characters undergo. I'm going to use Midna as my standard for this, since I see you've played TP. You must know her story, how she was deposed by Zant, turned into an imp, and ran from her tribe. When she comes across Link, she is first portrayed as a jerk. But as the game progresses we see a sense of duty bursting from her–a duty to liberate the Twili from the tyranny of Zant. Each cutscene of her past helps us build an understanding of why she uses Link. That is because she'd do anything to free her people, and she did.

            So, the stories are around each character. They all face problems that reflect apart of their past, therefore making a story in the process. Be warned: the stories are subtle, but you have only to collect all the facts into your thoughts and run them through your mind until it's clear, and then you should also find the element you seek.

    • Bitf Adict

      Aww, your so cute.

  • MajinBangFlash

    @Cole If you were to play the series on an NES and a stone TV, yeah.

    @Mega I think that Zora partially evolved because of the salt water thing, and that there must have been an insane amount of predators. It was true a hundred million years ago, and it's true today :

    "If we were to measure the dangers of the land and it's inhabitants, then compare that to the dangers of the water and it's inhabitants, the water is four times more dangerous to live in.

  • Your name

    "Wake up! The world is ending! Eat your damn chickens now before they mutate!" If only we could do that.

  • I've actually gone back to videos and comments on The WindWaker… I believe it mentions that Hyrule had to be hidden so that nobody discovered it – then evil like Ganon couldn't find it (along those kind of lines anyway). Therefore, the Zora would never have been allowed to swim in fear they'll rediscover Hyrule over time. If Human's went from fur and huge features, tree climbing, chest banging and all then why can't a fish turn into a form of bird. Another logic in terms of the game's production may have been to ironically have them evolve into the predator's that descend on fish in real life.

  • Sorry to double post but I just thought also, that if you look at the shape of a birds body and a fish (long body, fins/wings, tailfeather/tail) you'll notice a lot of similarities.

  • Bitf Adict

    Jesus, whats with the rise in trolls lately? (I swear to christ it isn't me: I just noticed.)

    And also, why have their been so many retro articles?

    • Peachyliogi

      Yet you're the one who ran Joko Tree off by acting like him, howbeit a retarded version. So how can we trust that you aren't now going around using different names on your single account? Any why are you being so persistent is persuading us that you aren't this troll?

      Sheesh, 12-year olds can be so annoying…

      • Bitf Adict

        Yes your right. That was also at 12 a.m. and I had 4 Dr.Peppers and just wanted to annoy someone. So I guess, at heart, I am just an annoying 12 year old. But i'm trying to fix that.

        And still, whats with all the retro articles?

  • Bitf Adict

    Oh crap, does it kinda look like put an emo-con on that?

  • I see this was written in January, 2005. Yet other articles continiue to be posted on aspects undiscovered to us. I recall one certain post pertaining to whether "the series was becoming stagnant" or not, and that we routed that possibility with pure logic instead of the similar insane assumptions brought about by another site. Of course Zelda isn't "stagnant"; it still has multiple untested ideas–we've seen Nintendo proving that with each new release. And while I'm on this I'd better make something clear: PH and ST are not proof that the big N is running out of ideas. They were just made because Aonuma's son asked to see a steamboat and then a train.

    Henceforth, discussion on Zelda isn't anywhere near "trite." If anything, it's all in the mind of the article-writers, but it is broadening. New paths are being opened as new ideas come to mind. And I look forward to what those might be.

  • ChainofTermina

    oh yeah….I remember "Behind the Rupees"……that was cool. I kinda miss that.

    and I hate to agree with a Troll, but Bitf Addict has a point; why HAS there been so many retro articles? I'm not complaining, just curious.

  • I hope I'm not being included in the trolling thing, double post was because there's no option to edit a previous post. Anyway, I was also wondering why all the retro stuff? It's interesting stuff but is there no news at all?

    • Subrosian

      They're trying not to hype up Skyward Sword…

    • Triforce of the Gods

      Yes, there is an option to edit. You just have to register an account on intensedebate and post using that.

  • bobbby

    @hyruliandigiranger, yep. There’s no zelda news whatsoever actually. Every 6 months or so miyamoto says oh yah skyward sword’s doing fine and that’s pretty much it. Ninty’s actually pissing me off. Why are they being so damn secretitive????

  • Topaz Mutiny

    In all honesty I don't really mind the retro articles. It's interesting to read them and discover how much relevance they still hold.

    In fact, many of the times I neglected to read the very fine print that holds the date of these articles, and didn't realize they WERE retro. It's interesting to see how these points shown several years later are still very much valid that you can't tell the difference between a new or old article, save a tip-off such as "the new gamecube game" or people who actually read the fine print.

  • Rurouni Rinku

    About the Zora evolving into Rito thing. Many forget that in OoA There were to breeds of Zoras, river and ocean, so it is likely that the river zoras couldn’t adapt to the saltwater enviroment and evolved, because in ST Zora warriors are enemies, meaning that not all Zoras evolved into Bird-men.
    Problems with my argument.
    In OoA, Ocean zoras were peaceful and river zoras were evil, though this may just occur in Labrynna, as LoZ has ocean Zoras as enemies and OoT shows River Zoras as peaceful.
    The Zora Warriors in PH and ST have many bird-like features, such as feathers and beaks, but they still live in water and are not seen flying.

  • MegaLinkX

    Id rather see retro articles than no articles at all!!!!