VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Memorable Moments

VR_Zelda_Month

This is probably the most personal of all the lists I have attempted this past month. Nearly every person who has ever played a Zelda game will have some moment that sticks out in his or her mind from said game. Usually, there are more than one. Here is a list of my top ten personal (key word there) favourites. Well, sort of.

I suppose I should mention that this isn’t technically my absolute all-time list of the ten most memorable moments in Zelda games; rather this list deals with moments that do not overlap with any list I’ve already posted. For example, had I not already featured Midna’s Lament in my overall music list, the corresponding gameplay moment would absolutely appear here. A more accurate title would be “Top 10 Memorable Non-Dungeon, Non-Boss, Non-Sidequest, Non-Music-Related Moments”, but that ain’t quite as snappy. I headed back to Deviantart for the pictures to this one, because just like my sidequests list it’s hard to convey a moment with an official icon.

Finally, this list is probably the most spoiler-laden of them all as it deals heavily with story related content, so be warned.

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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. MASSIVE spoilers may follow.
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10. The First Three Days – Majora’s Mask

Credit to Ayemae

I cannot hope to describe what makes the first three day cycle of Majora’s Mask, its only scripted gameplay sequence until you enter the moon at game’s end, so memorable without entering into emotional nostalgia. I first played through it at a friend’s house (remember those days when you could take turns playing a single player game at another person’s house and everyone was just cool with it?) and the impact of the whole ordeal just blew me away. From the amazing graphical showcase of the first forest areas to the nightmarish Deku Scrub curse to showing the snarky Bombers who’s boss to the entire Astral Observatory to the epic confrontation with the Skull Kid, it was all magic to me. The sequence was more than enough to convince me to ask for the game for my 12th birthday and the rest, as they say, is history.
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9. Adult Transition – Ocarina of Time

Credit to HyruleMaster

So many incredible moments happen between the completion of the Jabu-Jabu’s Belly dungeon and the start of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time that I just had to jam them all into one entry on this list. After a weird exchange with Princess Ruto that will come back to bite our young friend Link later in the game, you rush to place the three elemental stones on the giant pedestal in the Temple of Time. Instead of saving the world, however, this only opens a power window for the treacherous Gerudo Ganondorf to slip into. This absolutely shocked me as a kid – never before had I played a game where the bad guy actually succeeded in his goal.

The next couple hours of gameplay – the seven year slumber, the awakening in the beautiful Chamber of Sages, the first meeting with Shiek, the enthralling Lon Lon Ranch escape while riding Epona for the first time, the Hookshot race (OK, maybe not the Hookshot race), the return to the now-cursed Lost Woods and finally the first steps into the treacherous Forest Temple… They all deserve places on this list all on their own. Amazing.
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8. Horseback Battle – Twilight Princess

Credit to TheMadlySane

When Twilight Princess was first unveiled at E3 2004, probably the coolest thing about the cleverly cut debut trailer was the promise of Lord of the Rings-esque horseback sword combat against Orc-like creatures. Against all conventional logic about hype versus reality, when the game shipped two years later the sequences featuring such combat somehow managed to be just as exciting to play through as they were to look at. The part where you have to defend the horse-drawn Ordon cart from aggressors while lightning crackles through the night may just be my favourite escort mission in videogame history (not saying much, but still) and the Bridge of Eldin jousting showdown against the despicable Bulblin King is just near-flawless in its combination of atmosphere and control. A lot of effort was very obviously spent on perfecting the feeling of slashing foes while riding a horse and it pays off so well that it’s a real shame there isn’t more of it in the game.
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7. Pointless Shenanigans – Four Swords Adventures

Credit to purplelemon

In the above Deviantart picture, the expressions on each of the different coloured Links happens to almost perfectly match the way each of my siblings played through Four Swords Adventures. It’s freaky, really.

At the beginning of the game, my co-op partners made full use of every possible way to enact friendly fire on one another. In the name of wrenching valuable Force Gems from the temporary corpses of their allies, they threw bombs and deliberately knocked each other (me included) into pits and enemies. Though our overall productivity did (slowly) increase as we made our way towards the end of the story, that greed never quite went away. It resulted in plenty of rage, to be sure, but occasionally led to laughing fits lasting minutes and very rarely stopped being loads of fun.
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6. The Opening – A Link to the Past

Credit to Robaato

If there’s one thing most of the modern Zelda games are accused of more than anything else, it’s starting slowly, and I can’t say I disagree in too many cases. Having said that, my favourite opening to any Zelda game in history is that of A Link to the Past, because it puts you right in the action like no other game without sacrificing atmosphere. Link is shaken awake in his bed by rumbling thunder and a telepathic cry for help from Princess Zelda. After your brave uncle heads off straight into danger, you sprint out into the savage storm outside and search frantically for any sort of hint on where to go and what to make of everything.

After discovering the entrance to a secret passage outside the Hyrule Castle walls, you enter a sewer and discover your heavily wounded uncle slumped against a wall. He gives you his sword and shield with his dying breath and begs you to save Zelda. You track down the princess, held captive in a cage, and have to defeat an armoured fiend swinging a gigantic spiked ball before breaking the princess out and escorting her through a pitch dark sewer with merely a single lamp to light your way. This is how all Zelda games should start.
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5. Farore Silent Realm – Skyward Sword

Credit to Lottie3

Tonally, Skyward Sword is pretty far from being considered scary, even by the Zelda series’ own standards. Its bright colours, impressionist painting art style and focus on the sky see to that. While it may be sombre at times, it never really crosses into unsettling or disturbing territory like some other games in the series. However, during the game’s Silent Realm sections (of which Farore is the first), it becomes straight-up terrifying, and tone has next to nothing to do with that fact. Music and simplistic graphical touches certainly play a part, but it is the gameplay thrust of these excellent segments that does the trick.

You have to dodge your way around inanimate Guardian statues to collect Tears of Light while topping up a slowly depleting meter by hitting special beacons. If you let that meter run out or touch any kind of water, the screen turns red, the Guardians awake and come straight after you. If they touch you, you have to start the whole segment again. A little bit of old school Nintendo difficulty goes a long way here.
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4. Hooded Meeting – Twilight Princess

Credit to Twisted-Oddity

When placed within the greater context of what is a very long game, TP Link’s first meeting with the barely-sighted princess of Hyrule is ultimately pretty disappointing. Considering the build-up to the scene, which includes a fantastically atmospheric run through dank sewers and across darkened rooftops as Wolf Link, you might expect Princess Zelda to feature more heavily in the story than she does. But I digress, because you better believe that the meeting itself is freaking awesome. When I first played through it, when I had no idea of what was to come in the story, my fanboy senses were absolutely overloaded. Independent Zelda biding her time in the face of evil? Check. Badass hooded cloak? Check. Sneaky Sheikah symbol on the back of said cloak (see number 1 on this list)? Check check check. 2006 me was absolutely knocked flat.
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3. The Wind Fish – Link’s Awakening

Credit to BLUEamnesiac

People talk about Majora’s Mask as the series’ main outlier in terms of tone, and probably rightly so, but I feel that Link’s Awakening gets shafted a little in these discussions. A lot of the same key people who worked on Majora’s Mask’s story worked on Link’s Awakening first and it shows. Aside from the obvious comparison of taking place outside of Hyrule, the two games share a sense of unease that slowly piles on top of itself as the narrative nears completion, growing harder and harder to avoid. In the case of Link’s Awakening, this comes to a head at the end of the game when our hero finally awakens the splendidly decorated Wind Fish, who really isn’t a fish at all but rather a floating whale.

Despite the fact that Link has spent the entire game collecting enough instruments to wake this thing up, the colourful creature’s sombre words offer no real satisfaction or closure – instead, he tells the boy in green that the entire island he has just been exploring, as well as every charming character living on it, has been but a dream. Link wakes up and all he can offer is a contemplative sigh as he stares up at the sky. The whole sequence is unsurprisingly short and minimalistic given the hardware it takes place on, but it is incredibly powerful and affecting, at least if you ask me. Link’s Awakening may just be the only Zelda game in history not to finish with a happy ending.
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2. Facing the Sunset – Spirit Tracks

Credit to aquanut

As the latest currently released game in the official Legend of Zelda chronology, Spirit Tracks has a few nice parallels with the very earliest, Skyward Sword (their relatively close release proximity probably helped this). One of these similarities is the increased focus on the interpersonal relationship between traditional series protagonists Link and Zelda. In Skyward Sword the two are childhood friends and there is a little bit of a tease towards something more, but the ending of Spirit Tracks takes things one step further, depending on how you look at it.

As the Deviantartist responsible for this picture puts it, the moment where the pair hold hands while gazing at the setting sun is just one part of “an extended field day for Zelda/Link shippers”. Realistically it was probably intended as a platonic expression of the close friendship you’ve seen develop over the course of the game, but either way it is further than Nintendo has ever been willing to go before in terms of acknowledging the crucial series relationship and it just comes off really, really well.
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1. Shiek Reveal – Ocarina of Time

Credit to LunarMew

Shiek is quite simply and without a shadow of a doubt one of the coolest characters in videogame history. Ever. Ostensibly the last of a very old race, the androgynous Shiek bears the eye-and-teardrop crest of her people and obscures everything but her upper face and fingertips with tightly wrapped bandages and a likely helping of mysterious magic. Shiek’s story role is to guide adult Link to the entrances of the five temples, teaching him a warp song via harp each time and having absolutely no qualms with temporarily paralysing him ninja-style if he tries to get too close.

She bravely faces down and deflects the powerful evil spirit from the Bottom of the Well in a memorable (and kind of emotional) scene, but that pales in comparison to the moment she reveals herself as Princess Zelda in disguise. OoT was the first Zelda game I ever played and this moment left bits of my young brain splattered all over the figurative walls. It also ensured that I made Sheik my main character in the soon-to-arrive Super Smash Bros Melee. In many ways the series has yet to top it for surprise factor.

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Honorable Mentions
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The wind, It blows… – The Wind Waker
The last moments of the impossibly epic final battle against Ganondorf in a flooding tower are some of the best executed in the entire series. Immersive music, satisfying combat and a surprisingly brutal finish lead to a mysterious but strangely fitting last sentence uttered by the suddenly philosophical demon king.

First Medal of Courage – Four Swords
I had to play through most of the original, link cable-dependent release of Four Swords with a friend who was a much better gamer than me, so suffice to say it was a tough ask to win even one Medal of Courage for grabbing more Rupees than my ally. These medals unlocked things in the accompanying Link to the Past port and thus were highly sought after, so when I finally managed to win one it was a truly amazing feeling.

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