I said here that I’m playing through three Zelda games—Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess—to eventually analyze them as an unofficial Legend of Zelda trilogy. Reconsidering what I said here about writing about video games like a journal after mostly writing about them in lists, I’ve decided to write about each installment of this trilogy as I get to it. Given how I’m now into Ocarina of Time‘s second act, this is a belated post.
So, say I wasn’t already a fan of Zelda (though not big enough a fan to have either beaten any pre-Ocarina titles or bought a new console to play Breath of the Wild by now) and am just discovering Skyward Sword, the chronologically first ever Zelda, for the first time. Would I find it as endearing as I do?
If only I could picture not knowing Zelda beforehand.
Like the Star Wars Prequel and Hobbit trilogies, Skyward Sword is a prequel made with fans of the originals in mind, perhaps becoming what Steven Greydanus would call “mythology bound”. Except whereas the Prequels and the Hobbit, whether intentionally or not, cynically insult their heritages, Skyward Sword joyously honors its own, never falling short of being a love letter to its heritage. …Or at least the 3D era of its heritage.
Even so, the game is in the odd position of sporting gameplay fit for newcomers and telling a story fit for those who are already familiar with Zelda lore.
As I mentioned in the “Video games I like” list, both the motion controll-based gameplay and the story are very linear, obnoxiously instructing us the whole way, but the story throws in so many innovative ideas, including a plot point that raises even more questions for the already convoluted mythology, that it could be too much for new players. (Whether Breath of the Wild expands upon such questions I want to find out for myself.)
The character development, however, may be the most charming in the series.
As we first meet Link, the not-Zelda protagonist (I like to name him after the game’s title, or however I can fit the title into the name slot, e.i. SkywrdSwd), and the titular Zelda herself, they’re teenage lifelong friends living in a town literally floating above the cloudline. Intruding upon their adorable will-they-won’t-they relationship is Groose, a bully to Link that’s head-over-heels for Zelda. Watching how they and their dynamics grow over the course of the adventure is an absolute joy to watch, and by the end, it feels like we’re saying goodbye to virtual friends. I even feel bad saying goodbye to Fi, the obligatory obnoxious sidekick who tells us how to do everything at every moment.
However, it also delves deeply into the spirituality of the Zelda mythos, featuring a religion towards a goddess and a goddess incarnate in human form.
More questionably, Fi makes a jab towards the idea of oral tradition, there are dualistic trials for Link that bring his spirit into an alternate dimension (which may be the second scariest stuff I’ve ever experienced in a Zelda game), and, as implied only in relation to later games, the religion towards the goddess doesn’t seem to be required to practice after the events of Skyward Sword. Most questionably of all is how a villainous character levitates in a crucifixion-style pose as he’s being sacrificed by his devilish master.
The mixed use of Christian conceits and symbolism concerns me, although it’s unlikely that it’s intentionally referencing Christianity. (Although the Zelda series did have direct though subtle connotations to Christianity before Ocarina of Time introduced the goddesses, so I could be wrong.)
Bracketing its problems, Skyward Sword is fine as escapism. The characters are lovable, the artstyle looks like a painting, and a couple of the boss battles are unforgettable. Its world is far more empty than that of the more definitive Zelda games, but it’s not supposed to be that way yet. As part of an epic that spans multiple millennia and involves a line of reincarnations, it’s a solid start.