The Tea: A Long, Slow Steep in the Twilight Princess Prologue
Editors note: Spoiler alert for a very old game.
I knew almost nothing about The Legend of Zelda before Twilight Princess. I mean, I knew it was about Link and Princess Zelda saving the world and/or each other from an evil dude with a fire-engine-red dye job. And I knew that in this particular game, Link was also a furry. But I certainly didn’t know that its prologue was controversial. In fact, for the first two or three hours, I thought maybe running farm-boy errands around Ordon would be the general vibe for the rest of the game, too.
In my defense, I picked the game up in 2014, amid one of my epicly long Animal Crossing benders. Unfortunately, Ordon Village’s long to-do list didn’t captivate me the way AC’s did. Maybe I would’ve spent longer on it if I could’ve redecorated Link’s tree house (really so much underutilized space) or if Zant’s curse turned the hero of Hyrule into a wolf villager instead of a “noble beast” or whatever.
Imagine my surprise when, four years later, I dove back into Twilight Princess to discover over 40 hours of dungeon-crawling and monster-fighting awaited me beyond Ordon Village, with barely any tedious chores to do along the way.
Dawn of the First (Long) Day
Really, when Link isn’t saving Hyrulians from the Twili monsters, he’s saving them from the humdrum frustrations of daily life instead. Those initial hours of herding goats and tracking down lost cradles were the perfect primer for some of Twilight Princess’ long-game side quests. If the prologue hadn’t taught me that every little peasant worry was not only important, but also Link’s personal responsibility, do you think I would’ve spent more than two seconds tracking down bugs for Agitha’s “ball”? Or single-handedly funding bridge repairs? Not in this economy, baby. The value of the rupee is going down with each HD remake.
And yet, while it wasn’t necessarily a joy to rescue Ordon’s brat pack again and again, their dependence on Link injected our blank-slate hero with some badly needed character. Unlike in Wind Waker (to which TP is frequently compared), this Link has all the lifelike proportions with none of the life. He kind of just goes with the flow, drifting from quest to quest until it seems like he saved Hyrule just because he didn’t have anything better to do that weekend.
Twilight Princess’ cast is very hit or miss for me. Arguably, the pushiest characters are the ones that exude the most personality. I remember wanting to strangle Milo (that is, if I could find his polygonal baby neck), but at least I could remember him to begin with. Meanwhile, each time Colin sniveled back onto the screen, I had to Google who he was and why I should care.
That’s a dichotomy that extends well beyond the prologue. The subtitular Midna is (rightfully) listed as one of the most interesting support characters of the franchise, while this iteration of the series name-maker Zelda is as beautiful as she is bland.
The side quests might start to pile up fast in this one, but Link wouldn’t be the hero (and there wouldn’t be a story) if he weren’t singularly driven by an innate desire to help people -- no matter what. So I caught ever stupid bug in Hyrule and I got Midna back on her Twilight throne because I could get behind a Link that would see value in both. His heroics might make for a one-note performance, but these tasks, no matter how small, keep him in tune with the world's much larger symphony.
Yeah, But Who Cares?
“Okay, sure,” you might be thinking. “The Twilight Princess prologue might thematically imbue the story with meaning, but does it have to spend so long teaching us how to do everything?”
Maybe not. But entering the series with very little base knowledge of Zelda puzzles and items, it was nice for me to ease into things (even if I would never, ever use that slingshot again).
Besides, as a launch title for the Wii, it couldn’t have been a bad idea to give us some guidance on how we were supposed to control the (newly right-handed) Link using the Wii remote. Think of it as the warm-up before we completely exhausted our noodle arms trying to get all those poorly explained sword techniques down.
At the end of the day, I’m glad Twilight Princess kicked off this infamous “gritty, edgelord” Zelda title with a Weenie-Hut-Jr. mode. It made us slow down and consider the world we're tasked with saving. Like the Shire, Ordon Village is a a home for LInk to come back to (and then leave again… after the epilogue).
As far as prologues go, it’s much more goat than G.O.A.T., but it gets the job done.
For an old game, I have an old freak-out. This concept fan art for Midna’s Twili armor is everything I wanted for my snarky warrior queen. While the Twilight Princess could serve up all kinds of realness in any outfit, I have to admit I was deeply disappointed when my fave imp (whose cursed form is a fascinating departure from the typical mold of female character design) glowed up into just another slender, scantily clad video game babe.
Silverwolf05, if you're still out there in this post-DeviantArt era, I hope you’re doing the Lord's work: boldly designing practical, stylish outfits for ladies of all body types, classes, and platforms.
Weekly questions: Which Zelda prologue stands out for you? Are we supposed to remember any of the Ordon villagers' names? Minda for Smash 2018?
Until next time. Stay steamy.
The Tea (never timely, always hot) is a weekly column steeped in gaming culture and the fandom experience. Tune in Thursdays for another cup of steamy content.