Ok, this could be a contentious one, but before you all start throwing rotten fruit in my direction or calling me names in the comments section just hear me out.
First and foremost I love Zelda games. Always have done. I’ve finished them all at least once, the 25th Anniversary Symphony concert is rarely off my playlist, and my first child is called Saria. (My wife doesn’t actually know that, she thinks her name is Chloe and the birth certificate got blown away by a freak gust of wind. I play along, but when I meet my baby daughter’s gaze…there’s a look there. She knows.)
So, this isn’t a hatchet job, but more an homage to those flawed bits that my fellow Zelda fans will recognise. Like soldiers coming back from war, the stories of suffering are always the ones people linger on. And boy have we suffered at times.
I’ll make it clear at the outset, this is not a feature about those parts of the game where you spend ages looking for the way through, only to find it’s blindingly obvious once you work it out (or look it up). That, my friends, is Zelda, and it’s entirely subjective.
Instead, this list will feature quirks of gameplay, unfair quest requirements, frustrating fights and other moments that have had us all leaving teethmarks on our controllers.
So, buckle on your Master Sword, make sure your Ocarina is snug and let’s go forth. And if anyone sees Tingle, ignore him. He’s just attention seeking.
10. Weaponless Link
Along with exploration, rescuing a princess, and wearing a really weird hat, what Zelda is all about is collecting things to become ever more powerful. You start off as a weedy little fellow, usually with just a wooden sword (if that), and bit by bit you pick up heart pieces and weapons until you’re death on legs and ready to give the big bad boss a right good slapping. There’s no better feeling than battling away through a really tough piece of dungeon or boss to be rewarded with something like the Ball and Chain, or the Skull Hammer.
So what could be more frustrating than having it all taken away from you.
This happens on several occasions through Link’s adventures. For example, Skyward Sword features trips into the Spirit Realm where you have to collect things for some reason or other, avoiding ghosty guardians that would take you two seconds to carve up if you were allowed to take a sword, but no, that would be too easy. Instead, you have no weapons or items, and if they touch you, you have to start the whole thing again. Your only defence is to run, Forest, run!
Wind Waker is the worst. Having laughed at Link getting face-planted into the side of the tower, the smile’s quickly wiped off my face when I find out I’ve now got to break out of jail and sneak past several guards like a fantasy Solid Snake before I get anywhere near my sword again. And these guards only have to see me to catch me, because Link suddenly becomes incapable of running away, or throwing a barrel in a guard’s face so I can steal his weapon. That would be too logical; instead he just stands and gets caught.
Why would you do that Link? Why?
Frustration Rating: 7.
9. Stand Still!
Teleporting enemies. Hate ‘em. They don’t stand and fight, instead they stand off you, giving it the big one about how hard they are, and how they’re going to mess you up. Then when you rightly decide to close on them they just disappear as soon as you get near, only to reappear ten yards away again, normally lobbing a projectile at your unprotected back into the bargain. That is not a manly way to fight!
Notable culprits include Wizzrobes, who’ve been doing it from the very start, Pairodds, Zant, and Link’s most recent foe Ghirahim, whose disappearing act is only slightly less annoying than him catching your sword. (Neither of which is more frustrating than trying to spell his name right first time).
Even Gannon, big powerful “I am the all powerful evil darklord” Gannon picks up the trick every now and then. Just as you’re about to land one on him, whoosh, he’s gone and you’re swinging hopelessly at thin air.
It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it really is frustrating.
Frustration rating: 7.
8. Falling With Style
Zelda is cool. I think we can all agree on that. Every game in the series has several moments which would qualify for a “Most Stylish Moments in Gaming” compilation. It’s one of the attractions of the series.
Sword fighting on horseback? Cool.
Causing enormous temples to rise from the ground? Cool.
Leaping off the edge of the world only to be caught mid-plunge by your giant bird? Cool.
I could go on all day. But, there are some blindingly obvious things that are missed. Why, for instance, can you not jump onto Epona from a height? Plunging from the roof of a tavern to land on your horse and riding off is a cinematic classic, who wouldn’t want to be able to do it in the game?
And Wind Waker. Why can you not jump from land directly onto the boat? Would it have been that difficult to accomodate? I was worried that it was just me being rubbish, but I’ve researched this on the internet for over three minutes, and I can confirm that it’s entirely impossible. As is landing on Skyloft at the exact point you leap off your bird.
I wanted to be able to do all these things and I couldn’t. It’s a question of style, and while it doesn’t affect anything, it’s frustrating that a game with so many neat touches missed these obvious opportunities.
Frustration rating: 7.
7. Link Gets The Blues
Let’s go back a bit now and visit Zelda 2. Not the most popular of entries in the series but I’ve always had a soft spot for it, maybe because I played it first time round and didn’t have the later games to spoil my perception of it.
It was hard throughout, but where you really needed to be on your mettle was when you ran into the Iron Knuckles in the dungeons. They would attack and block high and low, just like you could, and it always took a bit of skill to despatch them. It was always a good satisfying fight in which you felt you’d earned your victories.
Until you came up against the blue ones.
These walking nightmares didn’t just hit you with swords, they fired sword beams at you. Lots of them. And their ability to retreat meant that most encounters ended up with them backing off throwing things at you. Which was annoying because:
a) I’ve had blind dates like that.
b) In that really annoying eight-bit way they could also back off the side of the screen so you couldn’t see them, but they could still attack you, doing massive amounts of damage.
That’s not even the frustrating part by the way.
They were killable. Just about. But when you arrived at the great castle they’d been replaced with thinner knights, but these knights had learnt a new trick. They could jump. And not just a normal jump, they’d bounce all over the screen like they were wearing flubber armour. The orange ones and red ones were just about dealable, but the blue ones were a fully-fledged nightmare from the gates of Hell itself. Watch the first twenty seconds of this if you don’t believe me.
In researching this article I’ve found out that they’re officially called Fokkas. Some jokes just write themselves.
Frustration rating: 8.
6. Go Fish
Right, this is quite a specific one and it comes towards the end of Skyward Sword. You have to visit four dragons whose only reaon for existing is to give part of a song to the Hero of the Goddess. The other three were quite happy to pass on their bits to avert the coming apocalypse. Yet when you go and see water dragon, Faron, the snooty cow obviously feels she needs a bigger part. And just bear in mind that you’re technically in a race against the clock at this point. It’s only by some complete coincidence that Link is there each time to stop Demise when he breaks out.
You never get to read Link’s side of the conversation in the game, but I feel this is pretty accurate.
Faron: “Oh, I remember you. You’re the young hero who helped me recover from my injuries. Link isn’t it?”
LINK: “Hi, yes, that’s me. No need to thank me. Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but the world’s going to end in literally a few hours and the only way I can stop it is by listening to part of a song that you know.”
Faron :Let’s have a look at you… Yes, you seem a good deal stronger than the last time we met. And look at that sword… You’re the real thing, boy. It’s clear you have the spirit of a hero of the goddess.
LINK: That’s very kind of you, but we kind of already established that last time we met. About that song? And the end of the world?
F: Let me guess… You swam all the way here to try to get me to teach you the part of the Song of the Hero the goddess entrusted to me.
L: Are you actually listening to a word I’m saying? Yes. The song. Please.
F: That’s all well and good, but I can’t go around giving away something that precious to every hero who flounders into my waters.
L: “Every hero”? What do you mean “every hero”? You just said I had the spirit of a hero of the goddess like two sentences ago. THE spirit. Definite article, you know?
F: No, I think a final test is in order to ensure you are in fact the one meant to hear this melody of mine.
L: Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me.
And with that she sets you up with an entirely pointless fetch quest. It’s not even a good fight, or hunting for some powerful item you get to use later. No, instead she throws these annoying little fish called tadtones far and wide and you have to go and collect them all. They weren’t even lost in the first place!
What I find really frustrating about this is the sheer pointlessness of it. The game is accelerating really smoothly towards the climax, until this ridiculous bit of padding puts the brakes on as effectively as a dead moose falling on your car. It’s a jarring piece of nonsense that spoils hours of carefully built up tension and excitement for no real purpose, save to extend the game a bit further and incorporate a bit of swimming into the game. And nobody likes swimming levels.
Frustration rating: 8.
5. Let Me Just Interrupt You There…
Now, anyone who’s read my previous articles will know that one of my bugbears are cut scenes. In the right place, for the right length of time they’re great, but too often they’re intrusive and boring and waaaay too long.
Zelda usually gets these spot on. They’re engaging, fun to watch, and advance the plot nicely.
What they don’t get right, however, is the little ones. For instance, who groans whenever they come across the Owl in Ocarina of Time? And who has tried to shoot the damn bird without success? Forget infinite hearts, hackers, do me a cheat so I can kill the owl and you can have my PIN there and then.
And the lesson isn’t learnt. Moving on to Majora’s Mask, the Stone Temple (which for the record, is an absolute masterpiece of design) was ruined for me because I had to watch the animation for “Elegy of Emptiness” play so many times.
WindWaker repeated the problem, this time with the Command Melody having to be played a dozen or so times, but it is in the two Wii Zeldas that the frustration-ometer explodes.
Firstly: Twilight Princess. Is it really necessary to have a cut scene every time you pick up a rupee that’s not green? I know what a blue rupee is worth, you know what a blue rupee is worth, there are undiscovered tribes deep in the Amazon rainforest who know what a blue rupee is worth! I do not need a reminder every time I rejoin a save game.
Skyward Sword cleverly picked up on this really frustrating flaw and eliminates it. So how on earth they completely missed the fact it does exactly the same thing with bugs and treasure is entirely beyond me. It’s even worse than the rupee thing because not only does it give you a completely useless bit of text that even a goldfish would regard as a bit repetitive, it also opens up the inventory screen so you can see it added to the dozen others you’ve already picked up. And when you get back to the action (usually treasure is picked up in the middle of a fight) the game has helpfully put away your sword.
Thanks. For. That.
Frustration rating: 9.
4. That One. No, That One
Skyward Sword has been hailed by many as the best Zelda game ever. While it’s good, I don’t quite agree with that assessment. Firstly because it takes place in a shoebox, and secondly because the much vaunted control system is frustratingly flawed.
I love what they tried to do with it, and it’s a miracle of technological achievement that they managed to pull it off at all. Indeed, most of it works pretty well, the sword fighting is responsive but I found I was often striking with the sword instead of just moving it to a position where I wanted to strike from.
The various B items responded well to the motion, but having to move the Wiimote to select one was a complete nightmare. It was a clever idea to disguise the configuring of the accelerometer, but it meant that choosing the item was never as intuitive as pushing a direction on a d-pad and broke the flow of the game.
It was ok when you weren’t under pressure, but with enemies coming at you the feeling was akin to rummaging through your suitcase to find your passport with an angry queue behind you, and a customs officer in front of you who’s just itching to try out his new pair of rubber gloves.
Also, probably more frustratingly, they chose to change the button sequence to use and put away your items. I lost count of the number of times I fired my second hookshot instead of putting it way. And then said something rude.
Good ideas, poorly executed.
Frustration rating: 9.
3. Lost Woods
The Lost Woods is a tradition that goes back to the very first Zelda, when you wander into a section of a crossroads of dead trees. You choose a direction to go and find you’re at in the same place again. And then again. And again. And it keeps on repeating itself until you either fluke the right sequence, or think “this is a bit weird” and feel like you’re in a micro Groundhog Day, which is even weirder as the game was released a full seven years before that film.
They’re also in Link to the Past, but it’s their reappearance in Ocarina that they get really frustrating. You have to make your way through the woods, but one misstep and you find yourself warped back to the start again. The idea is to follow the funky music, which is fine if you can hear it, but if for whatever reason you need to play with the sound down, or you’re deaf you soon feel like an American trying to navigate in London for the first time.
My least favourite iteration of the Lost Woods is in Twilight Princess. They may call them the Sacred Grove, but you can’t fool me. Not only do you have to trek your way through the Woods, you’re constantly hassled by some puppet scarecrows who follow you and cluster round like those green-bibbed maniacs in the high street who want you to adopt a granny or something. You can whack them with your sword which keeps them off you for a bit (and the same goes for the puppets too, hoho) but they’re soon back in your face again and the only way you can get rid of them and escape the Sacred Grove is to chase the Skull Kid round for ages to give him the righteous kicking he deserves.
And he’s a teleporting git too.
Frustration Rating: 9.
2. Subgame Insanity
One of my favourite parts of any Zelda game is the minigames. Alright, so you’ve got to rescue a princess and save the world from a devastating evil, but who doesn’t have a bit of time to shoot a jumping fish every now and then? They’ve ranged from maze running, to bomb basketball, to carrying pumpkins (yes, the minigames sucked in Skyward Sword), to Battleships with everyone’s favourite host, Salvatore.
Most of these require skill, and occasionally a bit of luck, and result in a heart piece or some cash. One game though, requires insane amounts of skill, immense luck, and more often than not results in apoplexy from sheer frustration.
No, not the bombchu game, that’s just annoying.
It’s in Twilight Princess oddly enough, an entry not usually known for its range of subgames. But, if you make your way up to the Fishing Hole, not only do you get a chance to fish, you can also play Rollgoal for the tiny price of 5 rupees. And your sanity.
It doesn’t look much. There’s a simple wooden track which you need to roll a ball on by tilting the Wiimote. If it falls off, you start again. And, just to add to the “fun” there’s a time limit too.
It starts simply enough, and the first three or four are fairly easily defeated. That’s just to lure you in. Then they start adding hairpins. Switchbacks. And halfpipes which you have to roll the ball down with enough momentum so that it can make it up the other side. These are usually followed by 90 degree turns which you always miss because you’ve put too much speed on the ball. Gah! And there are 64 levels of this!
It’s been speculated that armies are using Rollgoal as a torture technique now that waterboarding and sleep deprivation have been banned.
And, and, just to rub salt in the wounds, Hena stands in the corner, smugly watching your increasingly desperate efforts and taking your money. If you talk to her she quite cheerfully says with no sense of shame: “I made that game, y’know!”
Did you? DID YOU? Then die, hellwitch, die!
There’s a reason you’re not allowed weapons in the Fishing Hole and that’s probably it.
Frustration rating: 10 million. It’s only because you don’t have to do this bit to complete the game that it’s not number one on the list.
1. Put Me DOWN!
Zelda is all about the dungeons. There’s plenty else around it, but the core of it all is going through the dungeons and defeating the bosses. So naturally, these are vast sprawling affairs, full of fiendish traps, brain mangling puzzles, and vicious fights. They take a long while and a lot of work to get through is what I’m saying.
So the worst thing you can encounter, the most terrifyingly frustrating thing that can happen, is seeing that round shadow appear which heralds the presence of a Wall Master.
No, actually, the worst thing is you don’t see it, because you’re too busy concentrating on getting the quest done, and the hand swoops down, grabs you, and puts you right back at the start of the dungeon meaning you have to do all that work AGAIN!
The Masters have been a part of Zelda games since the very start, acting like over-zealous bouncers who have got it in for Link because he’s wearing boots instead of shoes or something. They’re doubly frustrating because they either get you and dump you at the start again, or you’re so busy trying to avoid getting grabbed by them that you get lamped by all the other monsters in the room you were trying to fight in the first place.
And just in case they weren’t frustrating enough, in Ocarina of Time the developers decided to create invisible ones.
Because they care.
Frustration Rating: 10.Disclaimer: This article was originally released at WhatCulture.com and is written by guest writer Richard Revell. It has been republished here at Zelda Informer and we were given expressed permission to do so by the author himself.