||The Legend of Zelda:
Ten Questions, Ten Answers, Ten Rupees.
The Legend of Zelda was *my* game. Maybe it was yours too, but it was definitely mine. I was never very good at video games...even in the original Mario Bros., I'd get so upset when those stupid crabs found a way to reassert their balance that I'd have to stop playing altogether. But Zelda? I played it, I beat it, and I did the whole shebang over and over again. I lived the game in the same way regular people lived their lives. I was Link. I became Link. Impassioned to forest fires, my sword fightin' skills displayed incredulous amounts of moxie. Incredulous amounts! I probably had a good 50-60 NES carts in my day...and while I couldn't beat very many of these games, Zelda was my bitch. I could find Level 9 with a blindfold on and with a Nintendo controller suffering from the 'cola spill B-button effect.' I couldn't be stopped. I knew the Overworld, I knew the Underworld. I knew it all like the back of my (now that I look, rather ape-like) hand. But despite all that - there were still some things about the whole phenomenon I could never understand.THE TEN GREATEST MYSTERIES OF ZELDA!
Tonight, I'd like to go back and time, and as nothing more than a quest to find closure on my childhood questions, examine some things about Zelda I was never quite able to grasp. Along the way, we might find help from two shitty Nintendo Fun Club kids, or a guy who looks alarmingly like Gary Larson, but our goal remains simple, friends: we've got to uncover the truth about...
You have no idea how badly I wish there was a way for everyone reading to hear a big cymbal crash every time I do one of those big font 'shout' phrases.
While my questions about Zelda amount well into the dozens, I've narrowed it down to the ten inquiries I've deemed most urgent. The thing that really boils my bruhaha though is Nintendo themselves - so cocky, so arrogant, so smug and insipidly conglomeratic. They had the audacity to make us feel small by insinuating that everyone should 'get' what the game's all about, no questions asked. How? Well, in their old ad spots, they had these goofy kids playing the game and acting completely at ease with what was on their television sets. They understood it, so if *we* didn't, it's a simple mathematic equation that goes through a lot of plusses, minuses, denominators and shit...and we end up with this: Us + Questions < Zelda Commercial Kids + Answers. It wouldn't be so bad if the kids were cool. Then we'd understand...we're just less cool. But, well...take a look...
See? They're fools! The idea that we weren't able to comprehend what these kids could was bad enough in itself - it only got worse when they didn't give us the answers we needed afterwards. So, the way I see it - these kids have been gloating and holding this intangible power over my life for the past fifteen years. And I'm getting mighty sick of it. The kid on the right...I could get over the fact that he's better than me. But what about Georgie, the blonde? Am I supposed to sit here for the rest of my life thinking that this freak is more worthwhile? How am I supposed to develop the theories of self-love with that bitch of a notion stuck in my short-term mem? Well, no longer. I've had it. I can't carry that cross around anymore...I've got to respond to these Zelda mysteries the only way I know how...by making really stupid observations about stuff nobody should ever care about.
Mystery 1: Why does the Old Man disappear after giving you the sword?
When you start out the game, you're pretty frail. Let's face it, Link is fairly Elven, and the Overworld is full of monsters who have no regard for the laws of physics, much less a little green guy who makes them explode just because 'they're in the way.' Weapons are necessary. And while there's oodles of neat accessories available to aid Link in blowing shit up, the first and foremost item of weaponry is the Wooden Sword, handed to Link by the mysterious Old Man.
I wasn't sure what inner voice told me I could trust this guy, maybe I just really wanted that sword. All I know is that while I appreciated the sentiment, I really needed a little more help and guidance. Maybe a few words of encouragement...maybe he could tell me something about what needed to be done. Maybe he could explain to me why saving Hyrule was so crucial when the only people in it were me, him, and some old bag who occasionally gave me heart containers. And just when I needed that little extra boost the most...just when the sword was giving me some of that famous phallic confidence...what does the old guy do? Disappears.
Did I do something wrong? Was my sword-taking etiquette not up to snuff? Did I smell? I never knew. I still don't know. The Old Man never told me what I'd done wrong to make him take a powder so abruptly, but honesty is best and I confess: it really, really hurt me. Later in the game, I'd meet up with the Old Man again...and he still wouldn't tell me what I'd done wrong. I'd go up to him full of sorrow, ask him for an explanation in my own quiet, Elven way...and he'd spout off this bullshit about secrets in the northern peninsula.
Emotionally damaging to say the least. A lifetime of tripping over eggshells afraid of offending anyone to say the most. Either way, that Old Man still owes me an explanation. Someday, mark my words, I'll get it. Even if I have to pound the shit out of him with silver arrows, I'll get it.
Mystery 2: How did the Tektites learn the secret art of walking through solid objects?
You know, when Kitty Pryde did it, that was okay...that was just her mutant power. When the Tektikes do it, it's just annoying.
A few characters in the game seem to have no regard for their natural surroundings, but none to the degree of the spider-like Tektikes, who are able to leap right through boulders and mountains without so much of a hint of trouble. Now, I'd be willing to let this go...if it didn't keep me from my well-earned money. It took me awhile to get the boomerang. Until then, whenever I killed a Tektike who was phasing through a mountain, whatever goodie he left behind was stuck there, like some tempting mosquito trapped in amber, or that one quarter wedged so far under your couch cushions that there's no way to retrieve it without dismantling your living room set. Why, Tektikes, why?
Making matters worse? This is one of the first enemies Link encounters. He's new to this...it's bad enough that the first thing he sees after getting his sword is a horde of spiders roughly the same size he is, but when they start jumping through rocks? Zelda's lucky we didn't just hide in the Old Man's cave, save the game, and move on to something a little less demonic, like Castlevania. My search for answers is still going strong, but at the very least, there's hope:
If they made a book explaining the intricacies of Moblin's Magic Spear, we can only hope that somewhere, in the annals of flea markets and used book stores, lies a title with our quested knowledge: Tektike's Terrible Protean Power. For a buck fifty, it's worth the peace of mind.
Mystery 3: Since when did the Old Man become a casino host?
Okay, so let me get this straight. Sometime after he abandoned me, the Old Man went into the tawdry business of illegal gambling? How the frig did this happen? For awhile I kept trying to fool myself...'that's not the same Old Man, that's not the same Old Man.' I was like Heather from The Blair Witch and that stupid log, only I didn't have to worry about losing the map, because it's saved in the weapon options menu. Deep down, I knew it was the same Old Man - the one who gave me the sword, the one who disappeared without a trace, the one with those swank Victorian draping sleeves I sought throughout my high school years. How did he land in this?!
I'd walk into this makeshift casino, beads of sweat dripping from my forehead and trigger fingers, and try as I might, I could never resist: I had to play. It's amazing. Gambling problems even extend as far as Nintendo games where the only thing you have to gain is enough rupees to buy four lousy bombs. Thank God for support groups. But again, I was only deluding myself. Remember, this is the same bastard who skipped out on me - and in his mind, he was justified. Now he's back for revenge with some fixed money games I couldn't possibly win. Time after time, I'd watch my level of gems dwindle to nothing, negating any chance of me affording that blue candle I had my eye on. Freakin Old Man did it to me again. I still don't know why he's so miffed at me, all I know is this: he got his revenge.
As an aside, I'd also like to take a moment to ponder how the Old Man's speaking skills went right down the shitter alongside his prestige when he started this crooked casino. 'Let's play money making game.' I don't think this is one of those Japanese translation problems, either. The Japanese would never give free swords to Hyrulians.
Mystery #4: Who pushed that Moblin over the edge?
Deep within Hyrule, there's a Moblin with a secret - he hates Ganon, and he wants to restore peace and order. Somehow, the way to restoring that peace is by giving Link a few extra dollars. I've always wondered what brought the Moblin to this way of thinking...all the other Moblins were more than content shooting arrows at me and through trees...what's the story with this Moblin? This one eccentric Moblin. Was he fed up with the elitist attitude of the Underworld villains? Sick of being treated like one of those expendable 'Overworld losers'? Maybe this Moblin's just clairvoyant...he sees Link ruling all in the future, and wants to make good before he ends up in one of those really poor prisons Hyrule is famous for. You don't want to know what goes on in those places. Picture your smallest orifice. Now picture Digdogger. Put the two together, it's not a pretty thought.
When I first got into the cave, I instinctually shot arrows at the Moblin. He didn't seem to mind too much...good thing I have such bad aim. I wasn't sure if I was walking into a trap...maybe those rupees were actually trick exploding rupees. But sometimes, you've just gotta take a leap of faith. I'm glad I did. Those bombs I bought with the cash sure came in handy during that whole Level 6 fiasco.
Moblin, I don't know where you are today...and I still don't know what your motives were. But if you're out there...if you're out there and you've managed to grow out of your pixelated form...if you're out there and you've got enough money to afford a computer and the Internet...if you're out there at all, there's just one thing I've gotta say to you.
Mystery #5: Color-Chaning Link Phenomenon
When I heard that getting a power ring would increase Link's powers and invulnerability, I was thrilled. When I found out that he'd also get an expanded wardrobe, I was positively floored.
Green's great, but I don't think it's really Link's color. I understand the need for camouflage in the forest, but let's face it, those monsters just aren't looking at what they're shooting rocks and sticks at. I don't think they're blind...just a little slow. Either way, maintaining a color balance between Link and Hyrule's many bushes isn't really necessary. Red's really his color...brings out his pointy ears. But the question remains: how does wearing a ring change Link's clothes? I've seen a lot of magic come out of Hyrule...swords that throw silhouettes of themselves...flutes that call upon tiny-sized tornados with a travel schedule...fairies that own entire lakes...but this? Too much. I wonder if Link considered going back to all the people who gave him free stuff to try to trick 'em into giving him more free stuff. After all, Link wears green, so whomever's wearing that red shirt assuredly isn't him. And he could use an extra red potion. Afterall, we all could.
Or maybe Link just changes clothes really quickly before putting on his rings. It's like 50,000 fashion bonus points to coordinate color between your warrior smock, power rings, and cherub hat.
Mystery 6: Dumb Level 1 Dragon...What's He Shooting At?
Target practice? Invisible enemy? Surplus fireballs okay to waste? You be the judge.
Mystery 7: Why does Link stab chocolate?
There's a lot of strange villain characters in Zelda. Hands that pull you through walls. Giant kangaroo heads. Bats, ghastly Ghinis, and the sporadic triceratops. But of all these wondrous bad guys, one stands out in mind as being particularly sense-invasive. Aside from half-horsemen and metal-clad swordspeople, Ganon's braintrust also hired out some of the Underworld's tastiest no-gooders...
They start off looking only somewhat like chocolate candy. Then you stab them, and they turn into two perfectly delicious Hershey's Kisses! Link, this is even better than finding that money-giving Moblin or the white sword! Free chocolate! Unfortunately, as escapist a world the video game dimension is, sometimes the truth remains: chocolate isn't good for you. Every time I tried to make Link eat chocolate, he'd lose half a heart. Perhaps the fact that this chocolate moves under it's own power should've tipped me off, but how could I resist? It's Hershey's!
By the way, many of the creatures of Zelda seem to be derivative from some other type of animal or object. In the case of this fellow, I was torn between going with a Hershey's Kiss or a pile of steaming cow shit. Be thankful I remembered my PG-13 pledge, otherwise these past few paragraphs would've proved grosser than a full set of Garbage Pail Kids cards with punchlines from various episodes of Veronica's Closet written on the backs.
Mystery 8: Vengeful Fire, Flame Me Good.
So the stupid Old Man shows up yet again to spout off some cryptic bullshit I never paid much attention to, and since I was frustrated having spent a good amount of bombs and time locating him for this pointless message, I gave him a quick sword to the jaw. Just to, you know, let him know that I didn't appreciate the hassle. The Old Man already got his revenge on me for whatever misdeed I perpetuated back in the beginning of the game - we were even, we were square. This was just overkill, so I stabbed him in the face.
It's not that I didn't expect anything in return, it's just that I didn't expect the fire to take such offense to my actions. After all, in all previous cave sequences, the fire never tried to hurt me. Never gave me any indication that it even knew I was there. But now...offff course, the SECOND I show any amount of ill-will to that friggin Old Man, it starts shooting blue fireballs at me, continually, until I leave the room. Hey fire things, I was only gonna slice his face once. It was a warning slice. You don't have to shoot me sixty times in return. A little friendly fire would've been enough.
The really creepy part is that of the seemingly thousands of times you run into the Old Man, whether he's an advice guy, casino host, store owner or sword keeper - this is the only instance where you can get out some rage and actually hit him with something. I think the game developers realized what an annoying shitbag he was, and threw this little scene in to make us feel better about the situation. I guess having the fire shoot things at us was just their way to speed things along, otherwise I would've sat there hitting him in the face with things for hours.
I don't know what happened to the Old Man after this. It's possible that he returned in Zelda II, but it's impossible to tell, because everyone you encounter in that game either looks like a goblin, a hunchbacked ogre, or Carmen Miranda.
Mystery #9: What's the deal with the keys inside those Skeleton Monsters?
I know it seems like I'm reaching here, and I am, but in passing moments, this really has bothered me. Honest. The skeleton guys you fight in the Underworld are fairly easy adversaries, especially since they're all blind and their attack consists of a weird walking-version of the Indian Rain Dance, but they've got more worth than meets the eyes. Some of them hold door keys in their rib cages. Now, I've got a list of theories about how these keys got inside skeleton monsters...I'm not sure which is correct, but I'm sure one of the following scenarios holds the answer:
A) They're actually wearing necklaces with the keys fastened to them. It's a visual trick.
B) They've all got flip-top heads like that dude from the toothbrush commercials.
C) A long time ago, a group of morons tried eating giant keys, and died from it. Ganon resurrected them as his evil bony minions, but even his unearthly power wasn't enough to lodge the keys from their gullets, because as stated, they're big keys.
D) Keys in Hyrule are different from ours. They're made of a soft, malleable material, possibly cartilage or those dinosaur capsule sponges.
E) Nintendo figured that they put enough effort into this game, especially considering that the primary competition at that time had you shooting ducks while dogs laughed at you.
Either way, it was a lot more fun getting keys from a Skeleton's ribcage than buying it for 100 rupees from one of the Old Man's cousins.
Mystery 10: What kind of ending is that?!
Fighting and defeating Ganon was tough...finding out that all I got was a triforce-holding ceremony for three seconds before having to beat everything over again wasn't the ending I was hoping for. I mean, you go through nine levels of Hell, the Old Man, Moblins, skeletons who eat keys, and all that other assorted bullshit...you expect a big payoff, right? Since I didn't get it, I've always pondered what they could've done to make things seem a little more grandiose, and a little more worthwhile.
I think I know what we should've been awarded for defeating Ganon and restoring order to Hyrule...
STEAMY GEORGIE ZELDA GALLERY!
I think I, and everyone who's ever played Zelda, can sleep a little easier now.
PS - our weeks-long celebration of Halloween is coming soon, complete with oodles of classic horror flick reviews, something to do with pumpkins, and if I'm not mistaken, at least one article where I dress up like an idiot. In the meantime, you should do yourself a favor and check out our Quickies section on the main page. Some new ones up - Transformers Jumpstarters and The X-E Cryptozoo! Keep the e-mails coming, we love them down here in the Underworld.
Oh yeah - check these sites out. Ogrish - Stile - SA - Fark