VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Sidequests

VR_Zelda_Month

This is the stuff that makes a Zelda game for me. The setting of a Zelda world is little more than a string of dungeons without an overworld to link them all together in a meaningful way, and that overworld is little more than a lifeless husk without people to interact with and things to do within it. If some of those things are optional (and preferably fun), that adds immeasurably to the richness of the world. In my book, one of the worst things a Zelda game can do is make you dread finishing a dungeon because it will just mean heading back to a vacant overworld. Thankfully, not too many of them do.

No self-contained minigames or optional dungeons are eligible for this list, because I’ve given them each their own lists. Because it’s kind of difficult to find icons and official artwork that depict sidequests, I’ve turned to Deviantart for this article’s images. All artists are credited on their respective pictures.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Tingle Island Statues – The Wind Waker

Credit to Aviarei

For all the positive changes that the upcoming Wii U remaster The Wind Waker HD is making to the game, which according to plenty of reviewers makes the experience better than it ever was, there is one small feature that has been cut out entirely: the Tingle Tuner. While this GBA connectivity-focused item was little more than an odd looking souvenir for most of the original Gamecube players of The Wind Waker, for me it was an integral and memorable part of gameplay.

This is because it essentially turned all five of the game’s dungeons (and some of its overworld islands) into co-op levels. If you had a friend (or, in my case, a sister) who was willing to hold a Game Boy Advance and play as Tingle to feed you hints, map information and overpriced items for use in a pinch, the game took on another layer of fun. What’s more, each dungeon hid an otherwise completely unattainable treasure chest containing a golden Tingle Statue, which only appeared when attacked with a GBA-spawned Tingle Bomb. Each statue would appear on Tingle Island with a hint leading to a hidden 100 Rupee treasure chest that could respawn. When I finally get to play The Wind Waker HD next month, I have no doubt that this is what I will miss most.
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9. Don Gero’s Concert – Majora’s Mask

Credit to Linksliltri4ce

Remember the Gekkos I mentioned a couple of lists ago? Turns out they weren’t always as irritating. They used to be brightly coloured frogs, and musically talented ones at that. Of course, defeating each Gekko is enough to magically turn it back to its harmless – and kind of adorable – original form, at which point Link can recruit it to a one-off performance in the Snowhead mountains on the final day of the Majora’s Mask cycle.

The preparation for this concert is demanding to say the least – in the same cycle you need to hunt down and defeat the Gekkos of the Woodfall and Great Bay Temples, find three other frogs scattered throughout Termina and talk to them while wearing the mask of their (possibly dead) former conductor, then defeat the boss of the Snowhead Temple, Goht, to bring the season of spring to the mountainous region, then meet all five frogs at the right time and conduct them in unison. The result, however, is immensely satisfying, and dare I say the journey itself is too.
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8. Biggoron Sword Trade Sequence – Ocarina of Time

Credit to Baconb0y

Lengthy trade sequences have been utilised in a number of Zelda games, and in fact Ocarina of Time features two of them, but the one that ends with the glorious Biggoron’s Sword is surely the most famous of them all. After a gigantic Goron offers to forge you a blade 50% more powerful than even the Master Sword, best believe you’re going to want a piece of that, 200 Rupee price tag or not.

When it prompty breaks after four swings and you storm back to the Goron demanding an explanation, he refers you to his even bigger brother, who happens to be temporarily blinded. So begins a long favour-for-favour sequence spanning most of Hyrule. The sidequest was the first trade sequence ever to feature segments with a (rather strict) time limit attached to their delivery, giving it extra memory burn-in value. But that sword!
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7. Riddle Quest – A Link to the Past (GBA)

Credit to 8wholebits

Another Link to the Past entry that comes exclusively from the GBA version of the game, the Riddle Quest appears once the player has obtained ten Medals of Courage in Four Swords. This in itself is no easy task, because to do so you need to compete with up to three other players who are trying to achieve the same milestone. Once it does happen, however, a lumberjack named Q. Bumpkin appears in a house in A Link to the Past, near the game’s version of Death Mountain.

This lumberjack gives Link a series of ten riddles to solve, one by one, and each of these has an answer that takes the form of an obscure collectable item found in the game’s overworld. Observant players can find a rewarding task here, as it makes their experimental curiosity throughout the adventure worth something – specifically, the obscenely fun and powerful Hurricane Spin Attack. Nintendo seemed to be into cross-game unlockables in a big way when this remake came out and I kind of wish they did more of it nowadays.
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6. Jam Session – Majora’s Mask

Credit to Pertheseus

The Indigo-gos are just about the most famous rock band in the Zelda series. I mean let’s be honest – there aren’t all that many of them – but that takes little away from their cult status among Majora’s Mask fans. The fact that the band is made up entirely of Zoras certainly doesn’t hurt, of course. Yet when Link meets them, they are dealing with a fair pile of concerning issues.

Not the least of these is the death of their lead guitarist, which they have yet to find out about and which you get to witness (what was that about Majora’s Mask being a dark game?), and it’s up to our hero to strut through the extraordinarily pretty Zora Hall while pretending to be the deceased Zora, interacting with the members and jamming with them to put together pieces of a song. It’s a lot of fun and seeing the song played in fully realised form over the closing credits of the game is a worthwhile payoff.
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5. Paying Off the Chandelier – Skyward Sword

Credit to Toonexterminator

Technically a host of sidequests linked together under one larger goal, the Skyward Sword chandelier rebuilding project begins when you greedily shatter the centrepiece of the floating Lumpy Pumpkin pub yourself just to get to a Piece of Heart. The owner proceeds to tell you off and demand that you complete a series of laborious tasks to work towards replacing it. Needless to say this takes quite a while, with odd jobs appearing at intervals between the completion of dungeons on the surface below.

The Lumpy Pumpkin’s primary reason for existence is to house these sidequests, making them stand out in the player’s mind, while most of the work involves an interaction with one of Skyward Sword‘s more memorable characters, the owner’s daughter Kina, who is very much cut from the Ocarina of Time Malon mould. And of course the joke is on the owner, because all the player gets out of the whole deal is near-constant rewards.
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4. Romani Ranch – Majora’s Mask

Credit to GS-GameGhost

Oh, would you look at that – another Majora’s Mask entry. Romani and Cremia are sisters in charge of running the eponymous Romani Ranch, which has its fair share of problems. Two greedy brothers regularly dress up in creepy masks for some reason and try to hijack the delivery route between the ranch and Clock Town, trying to steal some of the incredibly potent Chateau de Romani super-milk without any regard for the violent consequences.

But that’s hardly the worst of the girls’ problems, because alien creatures referred to only as “them” also periodically attack the ranch to abduct its cows and, as is strongly hinted, Romani herself. Link must ride around on horseback shooting the invaders with his bow in a highly stressful nighttime gameplay sequence in order to save the ranch – if he does, he receives a precious bottle filled with the closest thing the Zelda series has to the “Milk Plus” from A Clockwork Orange. If not, the player is met with the disturbing sight of an inconsolably distraught Cremia and a mysteriously catatonic Romani…
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3. Deluxe Pictography – The Wind Waker

Credit to HokkaidoJH

By a country mile, this is the longest and most arduous sidequest on this list, but it is defintely one of the most rewarding. The Wind Waker affords Link a Picto Box, essentially an upgradeable retro-style camera he can use to take photos (known as pictographs) of just about anything he sees. A man overseeing the Nintendo Gallery on one of the game’s islands has the remarkable ability to turn pictographs of absolutely any NPC or enemy into a wax model. He requests that Link bring him enough to make a figurine of every single character in the game. Yes, that includes bosses and single-event allies.

Such a task is technically impossible after the point where Link gets the item, but once you finish the main story of the game and start a new file you are awarded a brand new Deluxe Picto Box from the very start (along with some snappy pyjamas), allowing a cautious playthrough in which absolutely everyone is snapped successfully. With Wind Waker HD coming very soon to Australian shores, Miiverse integration will no doubt make this utterly ludicrous achievement more satisfying than ever.
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2. Boomerang Trade Sequence – Link’s Awakening

Credit to EasterEgg23

It all starts with a Yoshi doll. An unassuming, curiously out of place, endlessly charming Yoshi doll won in a crane game. A woman in the first village of the game asks for something just like it for her baby and Link obliges, accepting a pink ribbon in return – the first swap of the first-ever Legend of Zelda trade sequence. Giving the ribbon to a small Chain Chomp (yep, a Chain Chomp, in a Zelda game) results in some dog food, which Link can feed to an anthropomorphic crocodile on the shoreline to obtain some bananas.

The bananas are swapped for a stick, which is used to obtain a honeycomb, which can be exchanged for a pineapple, which later results in a hibiscus. The sequence continues with a letter, then a broom, then a fishing hook, followed by a necklace, a scale, a magnifying lens and then finally the fabled Link’s Awakening Boomerang, the most ridiculously powerful version of the weapon in Zelda history. In my opinion, the original trade sequence is still the best, as it adds an intangibly vivid layer of life to a technically hamstrung Game Boy world.

1. Kafei & Anju – Majora’s Mask

Credit to ZaloHero

Rarely can a Zelda player say that the spirit of a particular game in the series is summed up better by a sidequest than by the main thread of the story, but in the case of Majora’s Mask, there are plenty who say just that. The story of Kafei and Anju is an epic, sweeping tale of romance amidst adversity that takes up all three in-game days and dozens of time-sensitive events that take place all throughout Clock Town and beyond. Anju is a mild-mannered innkeeper who is engaged to be married to her sweetheart Kafei on the day of the Carnival of Time, which happens to be the day that just ain’t coming for the citizens of Termina – the impending demonic moon crash will see to that.

She doesn’t know this when Link meets her, but what she certainly does know is that her fiance Kafei is missing. When Link eventually follows some clues to find Kafei, it becomes apparent that not only has the Skull Kid turned him into a child, but he has lost his Sun Mask (the Terminian equivalent of a wedding ring) to a super-shady thief. Describing the most intricate and complex sidequest in Zelda history in detail would take an entire article, so I won’t do it here. Regardless of how satisfying the quest may be, it is hard to deny that when the two are finally reunited after hours of planning and replays and hindsight benefits, their lonely and defiant embrace in a room facing certain oblivion within minutes perfectly encapsulates what makes Majora’s Mask stand out so much from its sister games.

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Honorable Mentions
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Malo Mart Castle Town Branch – Twilight Princess
This is honestly just about the only sidequest I can remember from Twilight Princess, but there is a reason it stands out and that reason is Malo. A creepily tiny entrepeneur with a the face of a chubby baby and an hilariously ruthless streak, Malo’s ambition upon taking over the Kakariko Village shop knows no bounds. He extorts Link, and by extension the player, to pay for the vast majority of his franchise expansion plans into Hyrule Castle Town, with the only real gameplay benefit being the acquisition of a suit of magical armour that looks ridiculous and literally runs off money. What a brilliant capitalist.

Mask Trade Sequence – Ocarina of Time
Yet another trade sequence I know, and a relatively short one at that, but this obvious precursor to one of the defining traits of Majora’s Mask is memorable nonetheless. Before his starring role in the spooky sequel, the Happy Mask Salesman appears in OoT to employ Link as a mobile sales assistant, offering him a series of cosmetic masks to sell on without offering any sort of cut to the young Hylian. That is, until the end of the quest, when the enigmatic man gives Link a mask that allows him to talk to the mysterious Gossip Stones around Hyrule.

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