The Legend of Zelda was the first video game I ever truly loved. Don’t get me wrong, I also “loved” Super Mario Bros. and I played that long before I ever tried to tackle the daunting, open world of Hyrule. I liked Mega Man. I had a good time with Double Dragon. Contra and I were simpatico. But I loved Zelda.
Through the years, Zelda has grown up with me. The series has increased in complexity and richness, not unlike my own life, so when I first played through Skyward Sword, it was something of an emotional experience. It happened to come out in a week where I was due out of town for work, so I obviously had no choice but to pack it and the Wii in my bag and rig the hotel TV to be able to play it. Before and after office hours I indulged in sweet, uninterrupted Zelda time.
Skyward Sword has its flaws, I know, but the strengths outshine the weaknesses. Yes, the motion controls could be dodgy. And yes, the world could be stiflingly linear. But when the motion clicked you were Link. And while the levels were seemingly straightforward, they were also dense and Metroid-like in their layers. But more than that, for someone who’s been following the series since its inception, Skyward Sword hit like the apotheosis of this particular journey. A brave boy, a wise girl, a incorruptible sword, a powerful beast. Skyward Sword is where it all begins.
As recurring characters are introduced and story threads reveal their origins, Skyward Sword functions as a time machine. Frames of time in my life buckle and crash into each other, individual moments splintering and merging. I’m seven and working through The Legend of Zelda with my uncle. I’m nine and fighting Shadow Link in Zelda II as my friends cheer me on. I’m eleven and my mom surprises me with a copy of A Link to the Past, using money we probably didn’t have to spare. I’m sixteen and skipping school to pick up Ocarina of Time, a game to which I’ll dedicate the entirety of that year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. I’m nineteen and Majora’s Mask is the last game I finish before leaving everything to serve as a missionary in Mexico for two years. I’m twenty-one and initially disappointed and then increasingly enthralled with the Wind Waker. I’m twenty-four, newly married and playing Twilight Princess on my new Wii as my wife watches. And I’m twenty-nine, delivering the coup-de-grace to Demise as my three year old son watches intently and hugs me once it’s done.
If my hours so far with Breath of the Wild are any indication, Zelda will continue to play a part in my life for years to come. The three year old is eight now, and the majority of our conversations and play are based around whatever he has most recently read in Hyrule Historia or divined from the recent The Legend of Zelda: Art and Artifacts book. Having had years to think about it, I believe the appeal of Zelda lies in its simplicity. Put it in the sky or on the sea, 2D or 3D, closed off or blown wide open, the core is always the same. And at one point or another, we’ve all wanted to be that boy or girl, wield that sword, and confront that beast. And as we’ve gotten older, we may have wondered if something as simple and accessible as courage and wisdom could routinely defeat power.
Link and Zelda show again and again that they can. And I believe them.