Fair treatment of the fairy? The fans evaluate Navi
by on November 14, 2016

“Hey! Listen! Look!”

I assume you already know who I’m talking about. That’s correct, Ocarina of Time’s own Navi the fairy. Navi has the notorious reputation for not only being one of (or if not) the most annoying Legend of Zelda character but also one of gaming’s most irksome companions in general. Her famous phrases have made their mark on all those who have heard it, and this has presumably earned her this bothersome position. But really, is this justified?

Navi was the first ever partner in The Legend of Zelda series and for many Zelda gamers as well, and she has certainly made an impact on the gaming community, but I am curious to know if it was for better or for worse. This being said I have conducted a quick survey to find out how gamers honestly felt about this character. Is Navi truly deserving of this dishonorable ranking among the Zelda cast? Or is there something more to this fairy companion?

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Behind the voice: Navi’s personality

Generally, when we think Navi, most people will think of her infamous phrases we have mentioned before, but first I think it’s more important to take a look at her personality.

What is Navi like? In the beginning of the game, she seems bothered by the task of aiding Link, ultimately coming off to be somewhat oppressive. When she see’s Link’s heroic capabilities, she quickly softens up and acts in a more affectionate manner. Since Navi’s main function in Ocarina of Time according to Miyamoto was to act as a “navi”gator as well as being the first ever of Link’s sidekicks, her personality is very simplistic and bare-boned.

The survey results show that most people find her personality simply “okay.” When it comes to the extremes of loving or hating her characteristics, the fans are slightly in her favor with 12% of respondents loving her versus 5% hating her. To see why people chose these intense answers, I took a look at the open-ended comments to find out what the fans really felt about our fairy friend.

As mentioned previously, Navi’s character development, though present, is quite minimal, and this factor seemed to disappoint some people. Many viewed her as just a guide with not much more to offer. Navi was never given a backstory or any indications why she was so frustrated that she had to help this strange Hylian child when the game begins. That frustration also doesn’t last long as we do see Navi start to grow fond of Link rather early into the game. This we can at least understand that his heroic doings are both affecting and impressing her as well. Overall this merely changes her tone and attitude rather than reflecting any solid personality traits. The majority of Navi’s dialogue is coaching the player on what the next objective is.

I must admit myself that it is hard for me to recall Navi having any visible personality traits aside from that opening cutscene as she’s flying to Link from the Great Deku Tree. The way she flutters about to go and find Link after what appears to be an urgent message shows she can be playful and carefree, while still taking other matters seriously, such as when she see’s that Link is still asleep and has to wake him up herself. I did rewatch many of the other scenes from the game involving Navi in research, and I realized how little of a role she played in those scenes. Just from the lack of presence in the main story, it is clear to see that her personality is minimal because she was ultimately meant to be an escort. What I believe most fans are disappointed by is that she had so much potential to become more than what she was in the final product. When Ocarina of Time was still in production, it was rumored that Navi was going to have a tragic romantic relationship with Link, wanting to be with him, but knowing their love could never be. Many fans showed interest in this concept and have taken this and applied it to the Navi that we know. Why do fans do this?

There was one comment in particular that stood out to me regarding this issue, stating “I never really felt much characterization from Navi. Fans develop her personality in their head canons, but canon info leaves her super flat.” To interpret, people may tend to give Navi personality traits that are not shown in the game because she is such a blank slate of a character. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing; if it were, then people may not have such a fondness for Link. Link, more so in Ocarina of Time than most other Zelda titles, is a relatively cardboard-cutout character. While he does show certain character quirks, for the majority, we as the player share his experiences and give him a voice; we tend to push our own traits or what attributes we want to see onto Link. For example, I tend to enjoy Link doing silly things, and I generally tend to wander around Hyrule, goofing off. Another person might want to take things more seriously than I would and see Link as a strictly stoic character. The same seems to apply to Navi. Since she is mostly used as a guide, some fans have also placed certain attributes onto her as well or, as I mentioned before, there are small hints of her personality that shine through, and fans might take and exaggerate these traits to create Navi into a more fully developed character.

The ambiguity of her character also allows for mystery, to speculate about her. For instance, why did Navi leave at the end of the game? It is never explained, but it has lead to many theories and comics as to why this is. While I do believe these are the main reasons for those who like her personality to enjoy it as much as they do, there is also the case that some people do enjoy just a basic character.

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A shining design

Link_Navi_1Before Ocarina of Time was developed, the fairies in previous Zelda titles had more  human-like appearances, similar to that of classic fantasy. Ocarina of Time introduced us to a fairy design that became iconic in the Zelda universe: a fairly simple design of a glowing, circular body and four dragonfly-like wings, coming in a variety of colors. For Navi, she is a pale blue.

Simply put, this design became iconic for a reason. Fans love it. Though of course there are those who find it to be simple and bland, the majority says otherwise. It was something different to what has been seen before, and made it unique to The Legend of Zelda series. Though Navi in particular only remains in one canon game, her design lives on in future titles in the franchise, and we can’t help but think of her.

The “hey!” heard round the world

Yes, the time has come for us to analyze Navi’s voice. Navi’s exclamations were provided by Kaori Mizuhashi, who uses an emphatic yet sentimental high pitched tone in her acting. Navi was also the first character to use actual phrases as opposed to grunts and gasps.

Initially I thought this would be where Navi’s popularity would fall flat. I did not think that anyone would care for her voice acting, but to my surprise most people did not mind it at all. The votes by gamers fluctuated, but 68% of the participants found her voice work to be tolerable.

I personally find the voice acting itself to be quite fine, but I do not believe it is the actual voice that is the problem. It is the number of times you hear the voice throughout the game. I brought this up in my previous character analysis, calling it “the Navi effect.” What this means is that, at first, the voice seems fine, However once you progress through the game, constantly having to hear the same sound effect over and over again changes one’s mind on the matter. They first “Hey! Listen!” might have been fine, but how about after hearing it for three hours of gameplay? Repetition takes its toll on people, and Navi’s constant disruptions have been made even more tedious due to these vocal effects. Of course, taking out her voice, the constant interruptions of gameplay would still be aggravating, but the obnoxious statements are just icing on the cake of bothersome game mechanics.

NINTENDO64--Legend of Zelda The Ocarina of Time_Oct21 16_01_01.pngGame mechanics aside, Navi’s actual voice is rather high-pitched, probably intended to make her sound cuter or smaller. While I think this was a well-pitched idea, the execution may not have been suitable for some. Sometimes in media, characters with piercing voices just do not sit well with people.

On the other hand, it seems as though more people think that this character’s voice is perfectly suited for her. When we first saw Navi, I am certain that we would not expect of her to have a deep, monotone voice. She is a fairy. She is plucky and small, her voice should be suiting, and that is precisely what Nintendo went for.

Another reason that people may love or hate the voice is because of the phrases uttered, not the words specifically, but the fact that she could actually talk. Though there scarcely any voice acting introduced until Ocarina of Time, the fact that she said actual phrases may have estranged Zelda fans from this character. Why is she the only one that can fully speak? My belief is so it grabs the attention of the player, but maybe it could have been just for entertainment purposes. Perhaps it did just that and treated fans to a delightful surprise.

First impressions of the first companion

Navi, regardless of whether we like her or not, stands out as a first for many factors in The Legend of Zelda series, including this being the debut of Link having companions. Her role in the game is to simply serve as a guide, as commanded by the Great Deku Tree before his untimely demise. This being said, throughout the game she provides Link with guidance throughout his journey, informing him of monsters and navigating him to the next destination. She also explains the game mechanics, serving as a tutorial for the actual player. Navi was also a tool used for the newest feature to The Legend of Zelda “Z-Targeting” (or “L-Targeting” as it became known later due to controller adaptations) which allowed players to lock onto enemies, non-playable characters, and other important landmarks within the game.

A whopping 84% of gamers believed that Navi was an important asset to Ocarina of Time, and so did Nintendo since they implemented partners in nearly every Zelda title to follow. Many people said that Navi’s information was very useful, and found most of her statements to be relevant and useful. Most of them.

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I still remember Navi stopping me in the first dungeon to explain how to open a door. If that’s not hand holding, I don’t know what is.

While Navi was undeniably great for information, there are times when we really did not need her, and yet she still crept out of Link’s pocket to give him a provision of expendable advice. I still remember my first playthrough of Ocarina of Time only to have Navi stop me in the first dungeon to explain how to open a door. A door. If that’s not hand holding, I don’t know what is. This was also expressed by many participants of the survey who claimed that Navi did this far too often. She did not allow for the player to just go off and explore but instead just had to tell you how every minuscule thing worked. This is similar to Fi from Skyward Sword. Though Fi is still occasionally bothersome in this area, it was a part of her personality to give advice and guide as in game she was expressedly created to do such tasks. Navi, on the other hand, does not have a clear personality, and so her intrusion as part of the “tutorial” can make it more aggravating for the player. This isn’t her personality; it is literally the game designers thinking that we can’t figure things out on our own. We appreciate the help, but there’s a certain time when you need to let go and let players do their thing.

Others thought that she honestly served little to no purpose. “Navi is basically a notification,” stated one survey participant, “She doesn’t speak much [except] mostly to remind you where to go.” This was not the only comment I received regarding this.  She did not have a crucial role in the lore of the game. You could have simply plucked her out of the story and it would have remained absolutely the same. Many felt she had no business being there until after you completed another dungeon, declaring where you’ll need to go next. In this case, why didn’t they just project this onto another character such as Sheik? Of course, the answer is because that’s essentially what Navi was intended to do, be a guide! As discussed in the personality segment, she was more created to aid the player rather than be an important character to the story’s plot. Unfortunately many players did not want to have a walking (or rather flying) game manual but a character that we could really attach ourselves to.

However, Navi did her job, and, as claimed by gamers, she did excellently. Even those who did not necessarily like that she lacked a distinct personality knew that she did her job and fulfilled her main purpose. If you needed information on how to defeat an enemy, Navi was there to tell you how to do it. If you forgot where you were heading after a barrage of side quests, Navi was there to instruct you to the next location. She gave exposition, advice, and even a target lock system. Navi got the job done. 

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A word of advice for the advisor

All praise and critique alike, when asked about improvements that could have made Navi a more suitable accompaniment, survey participants had much to say.

The obvious improvements were offered. Fans wanted fewer interruptions and less (and I quote) “Hey! Listen!” According to some players, Nintendo did make some changes to Navi in Ocarina of Time for the 3DS. Gamers who have played this version and compared it to the original claim that it has fewer interruptions as she does not talk as much. If this is in fact true, thank you, Nintendo, for listening to your loyal fans.

01However, there is the issue of personality or, rather, her lack thereof. For every improvement in disruptions, there was another requesting an extensive personality. Some comments compared Navi to Link’s next fairy companion, Tatl. They said how they wished that Navi would have been more like her when it came to personality. Tatl had a clear part in the story of Majora’s Mask and distinct character traits. She was a tough little pipsqueak who deeply cared about her friends, and Tatl would do anything for them. This was presented front and center, and she was given a major role. We saw how she and her brother bonded and made an impact on Skull Kid. This is very much unlike Navi; we know she has clearly made an impact on Link enough to search for her after disappearing, but we as the audience haven’t a clue on why that is.

As much as many grew sad to see Navi leave in the end credits, there are just as many who couldn’t care less. I, unfortunately, am in the latter group. I cry at just about every Legend of Zelda ending, but I did not during this final scene. I feel as though Navi never gave me a reason to latch onto her. I must agree with all those who wanted Navi to have a clearer, prominent personality. I was so interested when I heard the rumors about her falling in love with Link! I would have loved to see her playful side shine! I wanted to see her be a snob that would eventually warm up to the protagonist in the end! There was so much potential for her to be more than just a chaperone, as we saw in later characters such as Tatl and Ciela.

“Listen!” A conclusion has been made

In the end, survey participants were asked to rate Navi overall on a scale from one to ten. Her ranking among fans is 6.5 out of 10. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was not as awful as her reputation made her out to be. I expected to see all the comments on how annoying she was and how often she delayed the gameplay with her  “words of wisdom,” but I did not expect to see all of the kind words about how much she meant to others. There are so many different ways we can appreciate Navi, whether it’s strictly about her role in the history of Zelda gameplay or the way we laugh when our friends mimic her trying to grab our attention. Everyone has the right to love or hate this character respectively, and in the end, I hope we can all appreciate the good, the bad, and everything in between about the first partner Link ever had.

Stephanie Cusumano
Stephanie Cusumano is a columnist and feature contributor on Zelda Universe, as well as a cosplayer and artist who is always ready to show off her Zelda side. The Legend of Zelda began her journey as a Nintendo gamer, and her love for it shows no sign of stopping.
  • Wonderfully written thinkpiece about such a pivotal component of OoT 😊

  • John Robert Pond

    Great feature. Makes me want to dust off the 64 and hear her annoying, yet familiar, voice again.

  • Noshpan

    For me, Navi wasn’t as annoying as everyone makes her out to be. There is one spot in OoT that is annoying because, after playing the game so many times, you get tired of being forced to experience the tutorial. But at least Navi was useful, unlike Tatl. Personally, the most annoying “helper” was Fi, whom I have dubbed “Captain Freaking Obvious”. Fi once told me that there was an 85% chance of me catching on fire… when I was already on fire. Gee, thanks Fi.

  • Ryan Haney

    I like Navi. I like how she tells you the monster’s weakness if you target them and ask her to. I wouldn’t know the monster names without her. The only thing I didn’t like was in OoT 3D, they had her tell you to stop playing if you play for hours. It’s Zelda. I’m gonna be playing it for hours.

  • Matthew Krankall

    Thanks for your analysis. I’ve been looking forward to reading it as I was quite fond of Navi as a companion, a literal light in the darkness for young Link as he is sent away from home to save the world. A shame she didn’t have more backstory, but I could say the same about *all* the fairies, so, hey, maybe someday!

  • Aaro

    “Navi was also the first character to use actual phrases as opposed to grunts and gasps.”
    Not a very incredible feat in the Zelda franchise when they still do it to this day. Out of all the games in the world, you say? Then you’re plain wrong. Mario in Super Mario 64 uttered actual words two years before Ocarina of Time, and this is just one example. I don’t actually know who spoke the first words in gaming.

    Small detail, but jeopardizes everything you don’t source refer. 🙁