Leisure Replay
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

June 3, 2014

This journal will only make partial sense unless you've played through Twilight Princess yourself.
If you haven't played it and still plan to read this, beware of spoilers!

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of my favorite games, and currently my favorite game in the Zelda franchise, mostly for the beautiful atmosphere and the expansive world within the game. I felt a sudden urge one night to explore it to the fullest, to start playing it again and analyzing it more closely than I ever had before, at a relaxed pace, constantly stopping to smell the roses. I wanted to learn more about it and pay attention to things I had never given any thought to before. All the while, I kept a journal, logging my new experiences with each night I turned on the game. A "Leisure Replay".

Twilight Princess is a particularly excellent game for this logbook experiment of mine, because it is an unbelievably detailed game full of quirks and secrets. The story can seem vague at times, so a closer look allows for easier reading between the lines. And the world of Hyrule has such a grand history, I knew it would be fascinating to consider how Twilight Princess really fits into the rest of Hylian lore. Whether or not my observations have any validity or importance, this journal was a joy to write and I'm sure I will do this again with other games.

(I played the Gamecube version.)

Session 1: Ordon Village ~ 2 hours / 12-10-13
I spent a long time in Ordon Village, throwing hawks at chickens, rolling into trees, and admiring the decor in the villagers' houses. I now remember many more villagers' names than I did before, and I've learned that you can look out the window on the top floor of Link's house. This session ended after meeting Midna.
An interesting thing to note is that when you swing your sword around the baby-faced Malo, he doesn't have just a single cowering animation like the other village kid characters do. His whole body bends over at least eight different directions depending on what angle you swing your sword at him from. It's weird how he specifically has a more advanced "sword-dodging" code than any other friendly NPC, and to me, it looks like he's legitimately getting hit with the sword, completely unphased. The silliness of this image makes me chuckle heartily.

Session 2: Twilight Realm ~ 1 hour / 12-12-13
During this session, I was tired and didn't play as long, but I got through at least most of the twilight, stopping frequently to admire how incredibly detailed the environments in this game are.

Session 3: First Tears of Light ~ 2 hours / 12-15-13
This one involved the collection of the first Tears of Light and the road to the Forest Temple. I've always heard how much people hate the Tears of Light segments, but I love them. They're relaxing, they encourage exploration, and they're a unique method of story exposition. Throughout every Vessel of Light collection segment, you're like a fly on the wall listening to people's inner monologues about the hard times they're experiencing and what is going on in the land of Hyrule.

Session 4: Forest Temple ~ 2 hours / 12-17-13
Some people say the Forest Temple isn't a great first temple, but it seems like it's designed to ease you into mechanics quite well, and the trickier puzzles are all optional. I spent a lot of time looking around the rooms; the room where there's a monkey cage on a totem pole and there's a big gap in the tree bark is super pretty.
Not that anyone cares, but the same 'tree trunk rings' texture used on the end of a 1-square-inch wooden peg in this temple is also used as the ceiling texture of a 1000-square-foot room. The moral of this story is, if you stretch a tiny image over a relatively humongous space, you get very large blurry pixels. I guess Nintendo figured they could get away with putting a painfully low-res texture on a ceiling where most people wouldn't look.

Session 5: Kakariko Village ~ 2.5 hours / 12-18-13
This fifth session involved extensively running around Hyrule Field, Kakariko Village, and Death Mountain. I've decided I really like the characters in Kakariko Village. I do think it's weird that Luda doesn't use any grammatical contractions, though. I've also always thought she looks like a mime. The part where Link saves Colin, and Colin learns what it means to be strong, is better than I remember. Afterwards, visiting Colin in the inn is an amusing sight. He's involuntarily popular with the ladies.

Session 6: Goron Mines ~ 2 hours / 12-19-13
With some effort and many attempts, I hopped onto a platform in Goron Mines that you're not meant to be able to reach. Unfortunately, there was nothing up there, but I was still satisfied with my meaningless accomplishment. It looks like I'll have to revisit the dungeon to get all the unnecessary rupee chests, and I fully intend on doing that. Did you know every Goron elder has a bed in his room? The last one definitely has the fanciest living space, though.
One thing I like about this dungeon is that it's a miniature adventure in itself--you have to collect three important pieces of an item to advance, and the premise of navigating the dungeon is cool as well, how the Gorons deliberately set lots of traps in there so that no one would have to encounter Darbus, who had gone mad from the Fused Shadow.

Session 7: Lake Hylia ~ 3.5 hours / 12-20-13
It was hard for me to stop playing this time because there was always a bunch of new things to do. Once you get to Hyrule Castle Town and Lake Hylia, there's so much to look at. Agitha's Castle is as gorgeous as I remember. This portion of the game is also full of eventful variety and cool/weird cinematics. I knew Rutella was dead, but I wasn't aware until this playthrough that she had sacrificed herself to protect the Zoras when the Shadows attacked, probably because that information is off-handedly stated maybe once or twice anywhere.
I enjoy how it's possible to kill one of the twilight bugs before you talk to the spirit Lanayru, but you can't collect the Tear of Light from it because you don't have the Vessel yet. I also seriously love how you can't exit Castle Town from the south exit when you're a wolf because there's a line of people waiting to buy hot spring water, and there's plenty of humorous dialogue if you look at the booths in your human form.

Session 8: Lakebed Temple ~ 2.5 hours / 12-21-13
Many intentional screw-ups were had in this play session, just to see what happens in different situations. I now know that the animation for the Lakebed Temple mini-boss squashing Link is kinda funny, and the temple boss has a single attack in its second phase which takes effort to prompt. I remember Lakebed Temple being really confusing, but it's fairly linear and very logical. I like its creative design, and I discovered access to a huge room in the temple which serves very little purpose but is cool nonetheless.
After the temple, I think I roamed around with Midna's Desperation playing in the game for at least half an hour, mainly because the underground waterway passage is a lovely sight. Did you know that if you scare off the soldiers in Hyrule Castle Town, they run away and sometimes drop useful items for you like hearts and arrows? I ended this play session just before venturing into this game's equivalent to the Lost Woods.

Session 9: Rollgoal I, Oocca ~ 3 hours / 12-22-13
Intense side-questing made this play period last twice as long as I had planned. One of the things about this game is that it is amazingly easy to get Rupees absolutely everywhere. Sometimes I want to get rid of Rupees just so I can open Rupee chests. I haven't gotten the Magic Armor yet, but another great and effective way to drain Rupees is Rollgoal.
Exploring and talking to citizens in this session taught me that, according to legend, the Oocca are the beings closest to the goddesses, and that they created Hylians, which then created Hyrule. I find it hilarious to think Link, Zelda, and the monumental land of Hyrule known throughout nearly every Zelda adventure originated from creepy little half-chicken people.

Session 10: Revisiting Temples ~ 2.5 hours / 12-23-13
I've set a few unusual goals earlier in this playthrough. One was to open every possible treasure chest in the game, and another was to start doing spin attacks counterclockwise, instead of just clockwise like I'm so used to. I couldn't open all the Rupee chests in the Goron Mines or the Lakebed Temple, so I went back and opened them this time. I used the many, many Rupees I acquired in this session from various places to pay for the Castle Town Malo Mart, and it still makes me laugh. I've got almost all of the Golden Bugs, helped out some NPCs, and eventually decided to enter the Gerudo Desert, which is where I stopped for the time being.

Session 11: Gerudo Desert, Rollgoal II ~ 2.5 hours / 12-27-13
I set off wandering through the desert and found several hidden spots I was unaware existed. During the part where Link is in the burning stable with the giant boar, I sat around for five minutes or more just to see what would happen, and nothing did. I know the bomb storehouse in Kakariko Village explodes the screen and gives you a Game Over if you wait around too long while it's on fire, so I was expecting something like that.
I got to the Arbiter's Grounds with 600 Rupees, said, "I have way too much money to start this temple," and tried wasting it all on Rollgoal. I ended up beating all of the remaining levels of Rollgoal, after which the prize was, ironically, a full wallet. I'm glad I can say I beat all 64 levels of Rollgoal, even if the prize is useless and it's really just the same 8 levels repeated with different time limits.
I gotta say, I love how much stuff you can look at in Hena's shack at the Fishing Hole. It's like a point-and-click game; you can get Hena to say things about her jars, her rarely-used two-person boat, and even the rug on the floor. She sometimes cracks jokes about the nonsensical conventions of the Zelda franchise in doing so.

Session 12: Arbiter's Grounds ~ 1.5 hours / 12-28-13
This session was the Arbiter's Grounds, from the entrance to the Heart Container. I found a way to get through a certain tall cylindrical room in the dungeon a little quicker by dropping down from the ledge after going in. I also discovered, if I'm not mistaken, that you have to beat the Poe in the first room before any others. This temple is more limited than the first three dungeons, which is a bit odd. There aren't as many optional areas to explore and there's very little variety between the layouts and appearances of most of the rooms. It's also shorter and more straightforward than the first three dungeons, and it feels a tad out of place.
Another out-of-place detail is the room with six torches, five of which do nothing. My best guess is that they're there for decoration, along with the statue, but it still confuses me. The Arbiters Grounds mostly feels pretty loose to play considering how tense and foreboding it looks, but it's still a well-designed dungeon with one of the coolest items and one of the coolest bosses in the series.

Session 13: Mirror of Twilight, Snowpeak ~ 2 hours / 01-17-14
Tonight is the first night in a while that I've been neither too busy nor too tired to sit down and embrace the world of Twilight Princess again.
This time, things were simple. I'm now pretty sure you can't watch the cutscene in which you discover the Mirror of Twilight in the daytime, you can't get through the Snowpeak blizzard before learning the Reekfish scent, and there's a book on Hena's shelf which hints to how you can catch the legendary Hylian Loach. When you find the Mirror of Twilight, as you might know, sages appear representing the six medallions from Ocarina of Time. During the scene with Ganondorf breaking free of his shackles, I'm surprised that the sage he hastily killed was the Sage of Water. That might explain how Zora's Domain was frozen over, I suppose. I just would have expected the Sage of Light to be the victim, to add some unconscious sense of foreboding to the story. Still, it's not like Ganondorf was aiming to stop at killing one of the sages. His plans were cut short--as were mine tonight. I wanted to start the Snowpeak Ruins, but I didn't end up playing very far into the temple because I spent most of my two-hour play time in Hena's relaxing fishing area trying out different lures. I was tired, so I saved and quit right on the thirty-hour mark, somehow not a minute sooner or later.

Session 14: Snowpeak Ruins, Hylian Loach I ~ 4 hours / 01-18-14
I spent about two hours in the Snowpeak Ruins, and it's a terrific dungeon with its mix of hostile environments and cozy living. The Snowpeak Ruins seem to be the ruins of some sort of mansion, and the yeti couple just found and inhabited the place after it was long forgotten, but I noticed a little emblem all over the mansion that made me wonder what it used to be for. The emblem looks like a winged shield with two crossed swords. The whole mansion is filled with swords, shields, spears, axes, and cannons galore, so it might have been a full-fledged castle that housed a lot of soldiers. I also noticed a lot of framed portraits of different people and locations in Hyrule, with two repeated indiscernible images of unrecognizable people. I can't say I'm certain, but I thought one of them might have been a picture of a King of Hyrule, or at least a king of something. I could spend quite some time theorizing about the contents of the Snowpeak Ruins, but what matters at this point is the lives of the yetis that live there now.
I love the fact that when you meet Yeta, the sick yeti, by the fireplace, she isn't sitting down in a chair, but she's sitting against a haphazardly piled bunch of cushions and seats. The kitchen where Yeto is preparing soup apparently also contains Ooccoo, which I never knew before. Presumably the same reekfish Yeto carried down the mountain is sliced into three pieces on a table, the head piece sticking out of the soup. That kitchen has a huge, huge butcher knife and a huge, huge ladel in it. I'd like to know how Yeto acquired those.
I made the dumb mistake of challenging myself to go through this entire dungeon with the Zora Armor on, and this decision killed Link countless times. Out of curiosity, after obtaining the Bedroom Key, I used Ooccoo to warp to the beginning of the dungeon to see if that affected the trigger to join Yeta and walk to the bedroom. This dungeon is very cleverly designed through and through, so the event trigger still makes sense even if you do that. I was a bit disappointed that the nice-looking bed in the bedroom that gets destroyed before the boss fight doesn't come back when you re-enter the bedroom after beating the dungeon, because I wanted to run around on that bed. I'm weird.
The remaining two hours of gameplay involved racing snowboarding yetis and attempting to catch the Hylian Loach. The last turn on the mountain is cheap, but the rest is fun. You can apparently cancel a snowboard race without falling into a chasm by turning completely around at the start and swerving into the frozen puddle. Then if you leave through the door on the mountaintop, the happy snowboarding music follows you, at least for a moment. It's strange how it can be the middle of the night in-game, but it always looks like daytime when you approach the ruins.
Fishing for the legendary Hylian Loach was unsuccessful, but I think I got lucky early on and came very close to catching the elusive creature. I caught a Hylian loach on my own time--not the Hylian Loach, but a small one by the bank that didn't matter because I wasn't fishing from Hena's boat anymore. I used my bobber to fish around by the Fishing Hole bridge, where I caught cans, twigs, a wheel, soggy bags of Rupees, and boots. Catching a twig is accompanied by a fun line of dialogue containing the word "detritus", and I was happy every time I caught a boot. From a gameplay standpoint, catching boots is a useless waste of time, but the way water gushes out of them is so cool-looking that it feels like a reward instead.

Session 15: Hylian Loach II, Agitha ~ 3 hours / 01-19-14
It took an hour and a half for me to catch the Hylian Loach, but I did it. I was hoping to catch it with Hena in the fishing boat, just to see what her reaction dialogue would be, but that didn't happen, because the elusive loach didn't want to notice the lure after I stupidly messed up the catch the first time. I looked up a guide for obtaining the secret, forbidden Sinking Lure, paid for a lone fishing excursion, and sought to catch the adult loach with the illegal lure. However, I felt somehow dirty doing that, and I ended up catching the fish with the Frog Lure I had earned from Rollgoal instead.
There was something uniquely gratifying about the whole loach-catching mess. First, it's a matter of learning where the fish will be. Then, you have to seek out the fish, the one lurking hidden under the lily pads of the dark cave. You cast your line, coax the fish, hope it counts, and if the fish bites, then it's a nerve-wracking battle to reel it in. Throughout this process, I felt a sort of rivalry with the Hylian Loach, and a sense of pride in knowing that I had entered a little niche of Hyrule and took home the Holy Grail everyone in that niche strives for. It's a video game, I know, but it succeeded in making me feel like I'd become part of the characters' world in a very personal way that reminded me of how I played video games as a child.
I also went through the maze that is the Sacred Grove for the second time. It wasn't as insanely confusing as I remembered it being, once I discovered there's literally a light at the end of the tunnel you're supposed to follow. I pressed on a little further and got the final Golden Bug for Agitha's Ball. I like how unusual Agitha is as a character. If you're in your wolf form and you approach the self-confident protector of Hyrule that is Rusl, he gets scared speechless, but if you greet Agitha in the meadow south of Castle Town and approach her as a wolf, she refers to you fondly as "puppy". This is part of the reason I really appreciate Wolf Link and (again) the Tears of Light segments; you get to see sides of characters that you wouldn't encounter otherwise.

Session 16: Temple of Time ~ 3 hours / 01-24-14
The Master Sword's chamber in the Temple of Time is a wonderful sight. The actual "temple" isn't too shabby, either. I spent my time in the game's sixth dungeon slowly and ungracefully discovering small ways to sequence-break the dungeon puzzles. It was quite enjoyable, and it reminded me that when I ever make a big and complex game, it's probably okay if there are still a few exploits left here and there that speedrunners can use to break the continuity (as long as they're difficult to do and unlikely to be stumbled upon by accident). It's fun finding unconventional ways to get through a game you've played many times before.
The other main detail of note is that I entered the cave of three ice block puzzles and left victorious. I'd been looking forward to those ice block puzzles the whole game and forgot to revisit them after finishing off Snowpeak. They weren't immensely difficult, but the second one wound me up for a little while. I love these kinds of puzzles.
Renado and Telma have an interesting relationship. Telma seems to be twinkly-eyed and ready to hug Renado the moment they meet, but Renado later tells Link that he can hardly stand Telma's company. Unrequited love. Drama.
I find it cruel and humorous that Jovani is stuck inside his house, desparate for Poe Souls so that he can see his girlfriend again, and apparently his girlfriend runs a stand right around the corner from his house. It's not even a separate loading zone--it would take Jovani all of ten seconds to get up and walk to her stand in the market, if he wasn't cursed by his greed. Instead, nobody even knows he's there.
If you float down from Falbi's balcony onto the boat hanging on the side of Fyer's house, there are rupees inside that you can collect. It's cool that such an out-of-the-way seemingly only-for-show prop has a small reward hidden inside.

Session 17: Hidden Village ~ 2.5 hours / 01-29-14
Before entering the bygone village, you are told to fight off the 20 monsters within before they even know you're there. I started by doing this, sniping the enemies with my Bow + Hawkeye combo from a distance and inching my way forward. When one archer happened to spot me, it was inconsequential because he made no signals to others. Oddly enough, no matter how far away you are from the monsters, they are always staring directly at you, blankly. The "stealth" strategy was tossed when I detoured by the Howling Stone in the game. I don't know if this happens in every Howling Stone cinematic, but at the end of the wolf song, the clouds which partly obscure the full moon in the background quickly clear up. The cutscene ended, and--due to a poor oversight by the developers--the downed archers respawned for no apparent reason, which is when I decided to kill 'em all recklessly. I found this to be more fun than using stealth anyway.
A bit of story exposition later, I tackled the other task of the hidden village: the ill-fated quest to talk to 20 cats as a wolf. I took this simple challenge and gave it a completely pointless twist. My version of the mission was, "Walk around in your human form and get every cat in the village to follow you." This was mainly difficult because half the cats just want to run away, but if you chase down a cat, pick it up, and put it back down, it follows you around like it never doubted you for a second. I have photographic evidence of my completely insignificant but nonetheless entertaining achievement. Clearly this self-imposed kitten challenge, as well as inspecting the grayscale portraits of unrecognizable figures in the village, held higher priority than returning Ilia's memory, because I didn't do that until later.

When I was about twelve, I used to have a game design pet peeve where I got upset when characters in a game disappeared off the face of the map without explanation. It bothered me that the sages in Ocarina of Time usually cease to exist except in cutscenes, or that the bunny in Super Mario 64 appears randomly and then disappears back into the aether from whence it came. Twilight Princess is different, making Hyrule feel like a whole, connected world. After Darbus smashes the rockslide blocking the path to the hidden village, he doesn't disappear from the game, even though he serves no future purpose to the story; he returns to Death Mountain, and for the most part, even the most insignificant NPCs in the game are given the same geographical attention. Talking to Darbus and the Goron Elder reminded me that I hadn't told Bo about what's been happening with his daughter, so I went back to Ordon Village. This is when I learned the Ordonian named Hanch has a mustache. I always thought that dark smudge was his upper lip.
I also learned from an online search that it is impossible to ever enter Fado's house. The door is always locked. I'm almost surprised that house hasn't been suspected of secrets like Stop 'n' Swop. I guess it exists just to establish that Fado does, indeed, have a house--he's just never home.

Session 18: Owl Statues ~ 1.75 hours / 04-10-14
After a very long absence from a variety of causes, I had forgotten where I had left off in the game, but the nice thing about keeping a detailed log like this is that I could easily look up exactly everywhere that I'd been and exactly everything that I'd done.
It isn't unusual for me to want the "full immersive experience" when I play a game I really like. Usually this means playing it at night in a dark room on a big TV with no distractions. But until tonight, I'd never tried listening to the audio through a set of headphones. It mostly just accentuated background sounds I'd never given any thought to before but are nonetheless helpful in making Hyrule seem like a real, living world--the crackling flames of torches, the sound of running water, the rustling of leaves as you run through bushes, and so on. It also made entering the Kakariko Village Malo Mart especially startling.
Speaking of which, I discovered it is possible to see townsfolk walking around from outside the Hyrule Castle Town gate, and you can get a good look at their character models with the Hawkeye. Due to my earlier accomplishments, many of the civilians were (to my amusement) carrying around Malo Mart shopping bags.
This session consisted mostly of the owl statue/sky character quest. I've always liked the owl statue puzzles, and I like how the sky characters look like they're written with ink. But remember when I said that, in the world of Twilight Princess, every detail seems complete and accounted for? Well, I went looking for Shad after warping the ancient cannon to its designated location, and I'm pretty sure in that time frame, Shad exists nowhere in the in-game universe. I don't know, that just kinda bothers me.
Fun fact, the postman in this game has a rabbit logo. I like that. It goes to show just how much of an impact the Bunny Hood had on the postal service in the N64 Zelda titles.
Before venturing into the City in the Sky and catching a glimpse of the Dragon of Foreshadowing, I was one Heart Piece away from increasing my maximum health, so I went to Fanadi's in Castle Town to be given a hint. Her fortune-telling language is "Wait... loading takes awhile," spelled backwards. That makes me smirk. That statement doesn't just break the fourth wall, it shows how Nintendo is self-aware that loading bars are an inconvenience and implies that they do their best to make them as short as they can. That's what I get out of that, at least.

Session 19: City in the Sky ~ 2.5 hours / 04-12-14
Near the start of the high-flying dungeon that is the City in the Sky rests a little shop owned by the Oocca (or maybe they're supposed to be called "sky beings", because the item description for Ooccoo just says "Ooccoo the sky being"). In this little shop are a bunch of funky sleek chair-like things that wouldn't be out of place on planet Kamino from Star Wars Episode II. I noticed that they're shaped like eggs, and the Oocca look a lot like chickens. Could those Fabergé egg things be incubation devices to help the Oocca hatch from their eggs at birth? And on that train of thought, the Oocca are suggested to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, form of life in the Zelda universe. If that's the case, it's important to know how they entered into existence. So, which came first, the Ooccoo or the egg?

The chairs aren't the only egg-shaped designs in the stratosphere. I looked around, and behold, all the city buildings yield an egg shape, too. Eggs are an architectural theme here, perhaps to embody the spirit of life and new beginnings. Or maybe not.

I also had to ponder why there are so many cannons near the entrance of the city. There are two small ones in the shop and a number of large ones behind the walls in one of the early rooms. They all share the design of the enormous cannon Link used to reach the city high in the clouds, Ooccoo jumped into the cannon after Link did with apparent knowledge of Link's destination, and Fyer makes a living shooting people out of his own cannon. All of this leads me to believe that the cannons in the City in the Sky were solely intended for transportation purposes. But then, why are there so many cannons in storage? Are the small cannons in the shop useful for tiny sky beings, or are they just replicas that a tourist might buy as as souvenirs? How did they know where the cannon fire would end up, and how does a traveler by cannon know another cannon will be at their destination to fire them back? But perhaps the biggest question of all is, how did they build these cannons without hands?

Ooccoo have wings--but apparently not strong enough wings to soar through the sky. They have about the same flying ability as a Cucco--except they can disregard gravity and walk sideways up walls using only their scrawny talons. Did Cuccos devolve from the Oocca? And if the Oocca aren't majestic birds of flight, how is it that only Ooccoo and Ooccoo Jr. seem to have fallen down to the earth without a way to get back up to the sky? Furthermore, the Oocca are clearly an immensely intelligent race, because they managed to make an entire city hover in the wild blue yonder with really big propellers, they made a rod that can move statues, and they have dozens of cannons with enough power to "knock on the door to the heavens" from the ground, as Fyer would put it. Why didn't this genius ancient race build little helicopters for all the Oocca so all of them could individually have dramatically increased mobility and eliminate the need to be shot out of a dangerous piece of equipment at high velocity just to visit someone elsewhere in the sky?

Skyward Sword came out after Twilight Princess, but it takes place way beforehand on the official Zelda timeline that now exists. It has already been established by Shad the Excitable Bookworm that the Oocca are the "closest race to the gods" and they founded Hyrule, meaning they existed before Hylians did and logically before Skyward Sword took place. However, in Skyward Sword, the islands in the clouds didn't require gigantic propellers to stay afloat, so why did (and do) the Oocca need such powerful mechanisms for their own "island" of sorts? What makes it so different from Skyloft, or that hunk of rock the Lumpy Pumpkin was built on?

It's amazing how many useless mythical questions can arise from a few structures and knick-knacks made by half-poultry people.

Link holds up his shield against the wind. That's a nice touch.

One of my new favorite things about this dungeon is the cinematic attention given to the boss, Argorok, both before and during your battle with him. You see the demon-like Argorok fly overhead the moment you splash into the city pool, his countenance crashes through a bridge to hinder your progress, and from anywhere in the level, you can look up and see his slender dragon silhouette circling the four grand pillars of the tallest tower like a vulture, waiting for you to confront him. It's a bit too subtle for the average player, in my opinion, but if you happen to divert your gaze from the dungeon's puzzles to the direction of the tower above you, the image of Argorok is beautifully foreboding. A similar image could have been made immensely powerful if it was laid over the entirety of a long adventure game, not unlike the mountain in Journey or Ganon's Tower in Ocarina of Time. I've always found the actual battle with Argorok enjoyable, but its action doesn't quite measure up to its exciting visuals. It plays like monkey bars at a playground while it looks like an intense scene from a high-budget Hollywood epic.

Because I'm dumb, I explored the accessible area under Argorok's battle arena after the fight was over and leapt off the cliff onto a low little grassy ledge. With the calm victory music playing in the background and nothing in sight but an endless sea of clouds, it was a very peaceful ledge, a perfect place for a nap if it wasn't so dangerous. I tried to jump into the void below to respawn myself to the level's exit, except I didn't fall, I just hung off the side, and the screen faded to black and respawned me anyway because the ledge is right on top of the invisible hitbox that represents the point of inevitable doom by falling.

Wow, I had a lot more to say about this dungeon than I thought I would.

Session 20: Palace of Twilight ~ 2 hours / 05-25-14
Back beneath the clouds, armed with two Clawshots, I made my way to the STAR game in Castle Town, owned by a somewhat frightening, overly money-conscious man in a funny outfit. Then, it was time to return to the Mirror of Twilight.

Twilight Princess is really Midna's game. She is the key to the whole story--her world is where it started, she is the reason Link got involved, the journey revolves solely around her people until late in the game, and she is how the Twilight Realm and world of light will be saved. Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as the game is titled Twilight Princess and she is revealed to be the twilight princess, but Link is a small piece of the big picture in this tale, compared to other Zelda adventures.

Midna says that her world has a serene beauty to it, and I could not agree more. In my opinion, bloom has never been used more splendidly than in the dismal vista of the Twilight Realm. Although, I have to wonder, is the Twilight Realm really as big as it is made to sound? Quick inspection would suggest the palace is the only thing in the whole dimension apart from an expanse of warped clouds. If this is all there is, how do the Twili survive? They must have a food or water source, unless they don't need one. If there is more out there, what is their mode of transportation? It is a mysterious place; I will just assume the Sols (the little orbs of light considered the power source of the Twilight Palace) have magical powers that answer all of my questions. After all, they are "like the sun in your world" according to Midna, and the sun is either a god or a symbol of power in various cultures.

The large disembodied statue hands (apparently called Zant's Hands) which clutch the Sols until you retrieve them are both right hands. I was hoping there would be a left and right hand to correspond to the east and west wings of the palace.

This dungeon is unusually designed. The minibosses are slightly irritating to battle, there are a number of seemingly optional puzzles that end up being required to progress, and if you make it to the boss door without the key, you have to do a lot of backtracking. It is not the most graceful of designs, but it is still a dungeon I enjoy playing. It's short, moody, and unique.

With the cutscene that follows entering the boss door, it's clear to me that Nintendo put a lot of thought into the story and world of Twilight Princess, and it's a shame that it doesn't seem to have the same appreciation that other titles in the series do. Because Ganondorf was banished to the Twilight Realm by the sages in the Arbiter's Grounds, he was able to appear as a god to the distraught Zant, who was neglected the Twilight throne in favor of Midna. We can now see that Zant's rigid and intimidating demeanor is a front developed from his confident position of power, and his true self is immature and nonsensical, which explains why he was not made the leader of the Twilight Palace initially and why he felt it necessary to cry to the heavens and beat against the ground like a monkey for a miracle that would allow him to usurp the throne. I did not realize until performing online research that the reason Ganon was able to appear as a fiery god to Zant and grant him power was because he wielded the Triforce of Power in his hand, the section of the Triforce reflective of the goddess Din, who is consistently represented by fire in the series.

One thing that still baffles me is Zant's proclamation that shadow and light must be merged to make darkness. I could understand combining light and darkness to make shadows, but shadow + light = darkness seems like a faulty equation to me. Logic doesn't work that way, Zant.

The final Heart Container of the game appears on the throne where Zant was formerly seated. So satisfying. It appears to me that there is an interesting parallel between Ganondorf and Midna, whether intentional or not. Ganondorf used Zant as a vessel to return to and regain control over the world of light, and all he was concerned about was himself. After Midna was overthrown by Zant, she left the Twilight Realm with a piece of the Fused Shadow in her possession to use Link to restore her own power and benefit her world rather than the world of light. Midna is different from Ganondorf in that she learns of the value of life and selflessness, whereas Ganondorf has a never-ending lust for power.

Session 21: Cave of Ordeals, Jovani ~ 3.5 hours / 05-27-14
My first run of the Cave of Ordeals took about an hour and ten minutes, and it was my first time in the game using the Magic Armor for anything but making room in my wallet to open rupee chests in dungeons.

At this point in the game, after having combed the whole world over, I had collected every Poe's Soul I could think of, and there were still ten left I hadn't found. I couldn't figure out where I hadn't looked, so of course, I resorted to a walkthrough. I'm not too ashamed; in a way, it's refreshing to know that with all the time I've spent exploring this game, there was still a lot left I overlooked. It goes to show how tremendous the game really is.

Jovani looks just as he should in his human form, appropriately thinner so as to look less gluttonous since his greed-based curse has been lifted. He spends the rest of the game in Telma's bar, wallowing in sorrow that his old girlfriend left him for another man in the time he was rendered a golden statue in his house. I like how his cat, Gengle, uses the word "dumped" to bluntly describe what happened to his owner. I talked to Jovani's ex-girlfriend in the Castle Town market again. The guard she's conversing with says they were looking all over for him, and it turns out he was at the bar. "Really, what a troublemaker... Don't you get involved with a man like that." How ironic it is that I've already involved myself with him by scouring the land for ghost hearts to break his curse.

Session 22: Cave of Ordeals (Round 2), Hyrule Castle ~ 2.5 hours / 05-28-14
The Cave of Ordeals is laid out to be a bit more difficult the second time around, so I embarked on a second venture through its enemy-filled floors (being more strategic than I was before) and left with a third bottle of Fairy's Tears. I filled my fourth bottle with Rare Chu Jelly, so every one of my bottles was filled with barely accessible fully-revitalizing potions with temporary attack boosts, and I wasn't going to bother using any of them. I forgot that the postman was on the last floor of the Cave of Ordeals. If he made it through everything I just did, I'm sure he'd happily defeat Ganondorf if he wasn't on a set post schedule.

It is actually possible to walk around the final Hidden Skill without learning it--not that it matters, but I'm surprised they're called Hidden Skills when most of them are hard to miss. I think the Hyrule Historia confirms, or at least implies, that the one who teaches the skills is Link from Ocarina of Time. I wouldn't doubt it after he says, "Although I accepted life as the hero, I could not convey the lessons of that life to those who came after. At last, I have eased my regrets. Go forth, and do not falter, my child!"

Hyrule Castle in the mist and pouring rain under a light overcast sky is a sight to behold. It's one of the prettiest scenes in the game, and that is saying something. I don't remember King Bulblin ever saying, "I have come to play!" before his last battle. It felt a little off to me, like it would have been more meaningful if he hadn't said anything at all until the battle was finished and he states that he follows the strongest side.

Every time I play this game and do the optional puzzles to get the secret key, I forget how to solve the riddle. The fact that the optional secret key exists at all is really cool.

I left Hyrule Castle before completing it. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the game just yet.

Session 23: Final Battle, Ending ~ 2.5 hours / 06-03-14

Before I returned to Hyrule Castle, I took time to reflect upon my travels.

Back in Ordon Village, if you enter Colin's house, there is a cutscene dedicated to Uli (Colin's mother) and how relieved she is to hear that the children are safe in Kakariko Village. She is doing fine and doesn't want her husband Rusl to worry about her. Mayor Bo has a shelf full of shoes in his house, presumably most of which belong to Ilia, if she is anything like my sister. Malo's mother is worried about Malo because he is so young, but little does she know that he practically monopolized the shopping industry and is the talk of Hyrule's most populated town. Just outside the village, Coro had some concerned tips of safety for Link's quest.

In Kakariko Village, everyone is relieved that Ilia and Ralis have recovered, but are sad that they won't be seeing them around anymore. Colin says, "When I grow up, if I have a son, I'm gonna make sure he turns into a guy who can do anything... just like you, Link!" That's heartwarming to me. Colin and his potential offspring might even grow to be braver soldiers than his father. In Death Mountain, Gor Coron mentions that Ilia resembles her mother, which led me to wonder, whatever happened to her mother? I couldn't see any evidence of her existence in Mayor Bo's house, even though she had to have once been part of his life.

Along Zora River, I discovered the in-game daylight time still passes inside the Fishing Hole building, because I saw the lights go on the moment the night sky was visible through the window. I was never able to get Hena's bird Purdy to talk to me. Maybe some other time. I had some fun shooting bomb arrows at a pot decoration in Hena's sister Iza's river game shop, and soon thereafter paying compensation for damages--or, as Iza put it, "COM! PEN! SA! TION!" Reminds me a lot of the contact lens debacle in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and the way Zess T. emphasizes every syllable while saying, "Com-pen-sate me, Mr. Clumsy!"
I got a red rupee for playing with the cats again in the hidden village, and when I visited the doctor in Castle Town, he was surprised to learn that Ilia's memory had returned, but he cares less about his patients than his paychecks.

With my visits out of the way, I pressed on through Hyrule Castle once more to witness what I had always considered the most pointless cutscene in the game, in which a small swarm of enemies charges at Link and one of them shoots an arrow at his head, but Link is protected by the Resistance (the group always hanging around in Telma's Bar). The monsters would have been no match for Link, and I put on my Magic Armor before the cutscene to further invalidate the damage the monster's arrow would have done to Link's head. However, this scene had a different meaning to me when I played the game this time. It's not that Link couldn't have taken on all of those enemies, but the Resistance is a friendly reminder of what he's fighting for, and that it's good to have friends looking after you.

It's eerie that in the castle, the spirits of fallen Hylian soldiers are more helpful to you than any of the incompetent soldiers who are alive. What does this say about the Hyrule army? Were the soldiers of the past simply braver soldiers in general, or were they just as cowardly as present soldiers, but through death, they have seen the magnitude of what they failed to prevent? Perhaps, filled with regret, they are using their lifeless ghosts to guide Link through the castle to accomplish what they did not? This is just my own theory.

I saved my game for the last time just before battling Ganon, so my file says I played the game for 56 hours, 23 minutes. But I put on a timer to determine how long I'd really played this time, so the final count after the ending and credits should be 57 hours, 9 minutes.

Partway through the multi-phase battle, Hyrule Castle is obliterated in a mass of dust and smoke. What happened to Castle Town when the castle exploded? The horseback phase of the battle takes place in a section of Hyrule Field I once thought was nondescript, but it is the same battlefield as the horseback battle with King Bulblin when Colin was kidnapped from Kakariko Village. It's crazy and worrisome to picture that the same evil king who was a threat in the era of Ocarina of Time is mere moments away from the Twilight Princess-era Kakariko Village where the Ordonian kids are.

There are a number of ways to interpret the scene following Ganondorf's defeat. My interpretation is that the soul of Zant, Ganondorf's most faithful follower and the reason for his return, has just seen his master--his god--fall in battle, and denied him, just as Midna risked everything to deny him. In that instant, when Ganondorf's remaining power turned against him, his life ended.

I didn't know before what brought Midna back to life, although upon doing some research, it appears she is brought back to her original self by the Light Spirits. Considering she almost died when Zant controlled the Spirit of Lanayru to decimate her shadow after Lakebed Temple, I'm unsure of how the same light is healing to her, but I can't complain. I prefer her as an imp, but she is the same silly Midna.

The credits roll with gentle music. King Bulblin and his cohorts are roaming the fields, but I guess they won't be causing unruly mischief anymore, now that they are on Link's team. The soldiers of Hyrule are drinking away, possibly thankful that they didn't have to do any of the work to save the land. It looks as though Castle Town was unharmed by the massive explosion and Hyrule Castle itself was amazingly rebuilt to be brighter and shinier than ever. Colin is following in Link's footsteps, sword and shield ready for anything. Talo, Beth, and Ilia return to Ordon Village, but I don't know about Malo--and when Bo and Ilia reunite, it almost seems like Bo sees his wife in her, like Gor Coron said. Hena, Coro, and Iza all seem to get along well as siblings, even with their disagreements. Shad's determined research is admirable, even though he is just discovering what is old news for Link. Uli had her child, and Rusl returns home, his cause fulfilled.

Midna is able to shatter the Mirror of Twilight because she is the realm's true leader, but I must ask, why does she shatter it? It seems too deliberate an act to be an accident, so perhaps she knew deep inside that destroying the link between Hyrule and the Twilight Realm was the only certain way to prevent another clash between shadow and light. Midna is truly a great character, so it's dismaying to think we may never see her in another Zelda adventure.

The credits sequence has a certain completeness to it if you've beaten the Cave of Ordeals, because all the springs displayed behind the credit text have fairies floating above them. The game ends like it began, with Fado calling for Link in front of his treehouse, but Link is already riding Epona away from Ordon Village, for reasons that will remain a mystery.

Giving this game the utmost attention, taking it all in bit by bit, was a magical experience that has taught me a lot. I'm excited to leisurely replay other games I love, and to connect to them in a new way.

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