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“Now, a new legend . . . stands ready to be revealed. A legend that will be forged by your own hand.” – Fi, Skyward Sword introduction
Fans of The Legend of Zelda series are well aware that developer intention is for Link to be a blank avatar for players to project themselves on to. This sentiment could not be truer for the exploring and adventuring aspect of the franchise. As players we do not simply follow Link’s journey but we very directly define the path that he, and we, take as the protagonist.
Link is destined to become the hero of legend, but that is not a certain predetermination. He is chosen by the Gods, yes, but that is merely a path that he must take which goes in many directions and not all to the same end. Players have the choice to explore, diverge into side-quests and—especially in older installments—tackle dungeons in a flexible order.
The journey we take on the way to our ultimate goal as the hero is never set. The climax of our journey depends wholly on what we make of it. In the final battle of Ocarina of Time we can either succeed or fail to defeat Ganon. In Majora’s Mask players either succeed or fail to save the world before the moon falls. Each success or failure spurns a whole new destiny not just for Link but also for the world around him.
Players of The Legend of Zelda quickly learn that although they have a heroic destiny nothing is guaranteed and the path is, as Fi of Skyward Sword puts it, ready to be “forged by your own hand.” The hand of the player decides where Link goes in a world where the path is rarely linear and mostly a vast open world ready to be explored.
In Ocarina of Time Kaepora Gaebora counsels that it is “fate” to “encounter many hardships” along the path of life, but how you respond to such trials is all a part of defining your life. How we tackle roadblocks and handle adversary is a part of each individual player realizing their destinies. How we forge our own path through the quizzical depths of the Water Temple is all a part of defining our path and living our destiny.
It is made clear that Link is not blindly towing a path that will lead him to success. Failure is always a possibility, and the Hero’s Shade of Twilight Princess stresses that. He tells Link that although he “may be destined to become the hero of legend” his current power would “disgrace the proud green of the hero’s tunic” that he wears.
It is an important message that whatever your destiny may be, it must always be earned and is not guaranteed. Just as not every player who begins a Zelda game actually completes it, so too can some destinies be left unaccomplished.
Majora’s Mask adds further insight into the prospect of destiny with the premise that there is only one true destiny for us all. It is the “terrible fate” that we must all meet with according to the Happy Masks Salesman. It is, in the words of Kaepora Gaebora, the fate of being “destined to fade.”
With our only ultimate destiny being to fade away, it becomes crucial to define our very lives before then. Kaepora Gaebora goes to on talk about having the “courage to proceed in the face of destiny” which is our very potential to soar in our lifetimes. With the apparent one true destiny being to fade, to define our very destiny along the way is the very viewpoint of life promoted in The Legend of Zelda.
Players of The Legend of Zelda embark on adventures that completely change the lives of their avatar Link within the game, but the series also sparks something beyond. Zelda is a story, a journey, a quest that encourages players to get out there and live their lives; to get out there and define their destinies.
While gaming is a means to escape from reality, franchises such as Zelda have a knack for bringing players closer to reality than they were previously. The intention of the Zelda series is not to encourage players to sit idly by, but rather to give them a taste of adventure. The message behind The Legend of Zelda series is to get out there and to live the adventure that is your life.
Zelda games are a window into the open world around us. They are a taste of what series creator Shigeru Miyamoto experienced as he explored the caves, forests, rivers and fields around his home as a child. It is unlikely that a series founded upon such an inspiration would intend to keep us locked away from the world, but rather it wants us to get out there and define our own very destinies.
“The world is not in your books and maps. It's out there.”– Gandalf, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by Peter Jackson
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