A Hero Takes Flight

While Link prepares for take-off, we discuss land, water and air in Zelda.

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 11/17/2011 10:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

A Grounded Theory by Katharine Byrne

Unlike the vast oceans of the Great Sea and the heavenly spheres of Skyloft, the rolling plains of Hyrule practically warrant equal billing to Link himself. Like a proud and watchful parent, Hyrule’s terrain was there from the very beginning. It supported our hero when he took his very first steps into that mysterious cave to claim his first wooden sword and it’s been there ever since, providing the foundations for every majestic Hyrule Castle and cavernous dungeon in the series to date. It’s endlessly moulded and shaped itself to nurture and challenge our hero as he’s come of age, so it probably goes without saying then that the land of the Zelda games is, and will remain, one of the most important components in any past, present or future title.

Hyrule Castle screenshot in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Hyrule Field is perhaps as integral to the Zelda canon as the Triforce or annoying support characters.

But as we’ve come to expect from Zelda, there’s often two sides to every rupee, and Hyrule’s terrain is no exception. It may not have made quite so many appearances over the years, but no discussion about Zelda’s landscapes would be complete without mention of the twilight. Although it’s most fully realised in Twilight Princess, the Twilight Realm also bears remarkable similarities to the Dark World in A Link to the Past— each time Link stumbles into these unknown frontiers he’s forcibly transformed into an animal, and both worlds eventually require a mirror to access them. They’re also intrinsically linked with the moment Ganondorf touched the Triforce in Ocarina of Time, with the Twilight Realm becoming the prison of Ganondorf and his followers, while the defiled Sacred Realm became the corrupted Dark World. On each occasion the twilight has provided new insights into the lore and overarching timeline of the Zelda series, giving us new reasons to venture forward and continue on our quests to save our dear princess– and if the driving bass line and dynamic melody of the Dark World’s main theme isn’t enough to fire up your inner hero, I don’t know what is.

But perhaps the most important thing the twilight has done for the Zelda series is to show us up front precisely what kind of damage Ganon is capable of wreaking upon Hyrule. The shadowy glades of this sinister realm make Hyrule a place of fear and oppression where hoards of grotesque and deadly monsters are out on the prowl to hunt you down, and its eerie and unnerving atmosphere gives us even more impetus than usual to get out there and get the job done. It reminds us that Zelda isn’t the only one that needs saving– the land needs rescuing as much as she does, for without Hyrule there would be no Zelda at all.

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