Many of the enemies in Zelda games seem to be inspired by odd combinations of real-life animals. For example, on the topic of Ocarina of Time’s Gohma, director Shigeru Miyamoto said in a Famimaga 64 interview, “We combined a crab with a bear to make him.”
Moldorms are enemies in the series which, like many other recurring creatures, have taken on different forms across different games. In its Skyward Sword incarnation, the immediate inspiration appears to be a centipede. Flicking through my copy of Hyrule Historia again recently, I was surprised to learn of another influence on the burrowing beast.
Princess Zelda’s Study is a series where we examine the history of The Legend of Zelda to bring you some fascinating (or just plain weird) trivia. In our studies, we’ll explore each game’s development, curiosities within the rich lore of the franchise, and the impact it has had on our culture. From time to time, we’ll also look at Nintendo’s past to unearth some facts about our favorite company.
On page 63 of Hyrule Historia, Masahiro Kawanishi, enemy designer on Skyward Sword, shares some insight into the creature’s design. “The weak spot on Moldorm’s rear end is modeled after a honey ant. The juice that sprays out from the weak spot when struck by a sword was based on an obsession of the effects designer’s. (laughs)“
Honey ants (otherwise known as honeypot ants) are a species of ant that gorge themselves on honey, causing their abdomens to swell significantly. The result looks like the ants are carrying a big balloon with a bright orange glow on their rear.
Here is some footage of honey ant workers, serving their queen and storing honey to fuel her army, courtesy of the National Geographic.
Odd obsessions from designers aside, the influence is interesting, and the end result of the Moldorm’s visual appearance also complements the game design. It may be a cliche to have a big, obvious, glowing weak point on your video game enemy, but it does provide an effective means of communicating to the player what they need to do to defeat it. Plus, it’s strangely satisfying to strike it with the Mogma Mitts and watch as the Moldorm decreases in length.
If you’d like to see Moldorms in action, check out this episode of our old Skyward Sword Let’s Play, wherein Cody struggles against them in his quest underground.