A city at the foot of an immense castle, protected by high stone walls. Circular cobblestone pathways that lead out of gates on the eastern, western, and southern sides. Blue roofs adorn homes and shops alike — royal blue for the color of the royal family. In the western area of town resides a bell tower that stands above the surrounding buildings, and in the center of the town square is a large fountain. Red and gold flags embroidered with the symbol of the royal family (A bird with spread wings below three uniform triangles) hang along the edges of a tall stone perimeter and the path that leads to the castle gate. The symbol is seen everywhere: above each gate, on the walls, and atop the fountain in the square. This is Castle Town.

And then… Calamity.  

Tingle’s Maps is a series in which we explore the endless lands of Hyrule in search of our favorite places in The Legend of Zelda. We’ll explore everywhere: the beautiful landscapes that make us put down the controller in awe; the deadly terrain that threatens Link with the harshest of elements; the bustling towns that bring the game to life; and the abandoned grounds that evoke peace and sadness. As well as the grand locales, we’ll also discover all the secret caves and hidden crevices that lie between. Let’s adventure!

It’s rare for us to see Castle Town in this state. Not since Ocarina of Time have we seen Hyrule laid to waste as such. While signs of decay and destruction are present across Hyrule at large, the Castle Town ruins are unique for how haunting they are. The skies seem just a bit darker, dust covers the streets and rubble is strewn across pathways. Any trace of businesses or shops has been wiped away. All that remains of homes is their framing and grass where flooring should be. There are a few treasure chests scattered at random, but finding them can be a challenge due to the broken Guardians that linger along major streets throughout the village. The Guardians pose a problem in general while you explore, as many of them are mobile despite the fact they are missing limbs and appear to be dead. There aren’t many places to hide, so if you’re not prepared to battle, it can be difficult to avoid them.

Making these battles even more arduous is the presence of Malice. Black and purple spires protrude from the ground and pools of malice cover stairs and cling to the framework of destroyed houses. Glowing, orange eyes block each pathway that leads in and out of the village.  It’s cunning in a way.  Link has to be inside the square to destroy them, meaning that the malice essentially blocks all the exits.  Its intention is to ensnare and destroy.  Imagine attempting to flee the horror of attacking Guardians only to be blocked by an impassible evil, trapped or forced to find another means of exit from the chaos. It’s easy to assume many civilians were not able to make it out of this place alive.

The musical track that plays in this area is unsettling, with low, dissonant piano notes that punctuate the atmosphere in a rhythm that feels almost random or improvised. Accompanying these notes are higher ones that trill along in contrast with them. They are in tune, but not harmonious in any aspect. The combination is disturbing, and it makes your skin crawl and hair stand on end. You can tell it was written to underscore the horror of what happened here, even if we didn’t witness it firsthand.

It’s strange to write about a place that is, in essence, nothing.  All of what I described in the opening paragraph has vanished. The bell tower is gone, the front gate is in shambles, the walls that once protected the city have been blown apart, and the beautiful fountain square is in pieces. The symbol of the royal family, which at one point looked as though it was displayed so prominently, is barely discernible and its significance nothing more than a distant memory.

Imagine being Link and walking through this area, having only glimpses of what the city used to be, and knowing he should know these streets but they’re as unfamiliar to him as they are to us. The place may be nothing but a memory, but it’s a memory that Link must cling to if he is to finish his task.

I’ve mentioned before that I find Breath of the Wild to be a game full of loss, but also full of hope, and there’s still hope to be found in the tattered flags that line the walkway to the castle and past the gates that stand tall amid the destruction. Castle Town may be in ruins — its glory nothing more than a memory — but like Link, its presence in Hyrule and the few remnants it still holds mean its story is far from finished.