For Breath of the Wild’s 2nd anniversary, I wanted to take the time to talk about its story. I know that fans lamented the lost potential of its story, and for the most part I agree with them. Nintendo forgot to use that famous storytelling advice: “show, don’t tell.” However, that is all I have heard for the past 2 years, and no one has mentioned any of the redeeming qualities of the story.
For me, Zelda takes a journey of self-discovery that couldn’t have come at a better time.
I was brought up in a devout religious background that in recent years has become challenging for me to be a part of. Starting in high school and continuing throughout college, my religious leaders have consistently and significantly betrayed my trust, and it has left me with these crushing, isolating doubts.
It’s not exactly a topic you can bring up with friends or family, especially in the cultural climate we are in now. They are experiences that people would not believe, or they’d brush aside, or they’d try to show how your experience was just not valid.
I tried several coping strategies, mostly ignoring my feelings and second-guessing my own life events. As if it must have been something that, somehow, I had made up. And yet my feelings would not leave me alone. The only person I’ve talked about it with is my wife, and she has helped me stay sane during the process. I honestly found homework and classes in college a bit relieving because it could help take my mind off it.
Enter a character who was destined from the beginning to use her magic powers and defeat the biggest threat to her kingdom, and yet no such powers had come. Desperate to do something, she organized her team of champions and poured herself into studying other ways of defeating Ganon. Her father continually pressured her to become someone she wasn’t. She became jealous of Link, who fit into his knightly role so easily, only to learn about the inner turmoil he was carrying as well.
All of this took me completely off guard. I was expecting Zelda to be more one-dimensional, like the tomboy Petra from Wind Waker (who I still love), or the aloof Zelda from Twilight Princess. Instead I met a Zelda who felt like an outcast in her own kingdom, who couldn’t stand the silence of the Gods any longer. Her crippling fear and unfulfilled promises hit very close to home. Seeing her try to find her place in the world, and seeing her change as she got to know Link, frequently choked me up.
Breath of the Wild’s Zelda is a strong female lead, and not in the traditional “physically strong” sense. Instead, she conveys an inner strength that I think we all need to cultivate. This is a difficult time in our country, and now more than ever, we need someone like Zelda, who will push forward despite the odds. Seeing her try, even when she and Link failed, gave me courage. Seeing her finally unlock her power and seal Ganon at the end gave me a new sense of respect for her.
Now obviously, the experiences of a fantasy princess are vastly different from a 21st Century guy. And if you give a critical eye to Zelda’s story, you’ll find plenty of flaws (the voice acting is only okay, it still lacks some character development). But regardless, I felt a blanketing comfort as I experienced the story. I too felt desperate, alone, and frustrated at circumstances beyond my control. I too felt jealous of those who made everything look easy. I wish I could just make things work like the other people around me.
But that realization that I wasn’t alone meant the world to me. Zelda gave me the strength to admit that I was in a crisis and that I could find a way through it, no matter what the outcome. She taught me perseverance, she reminded me to be kind, but most of all, she gave me hope. And a push in the right direction.
Have any of you felt a special connection with a video game character, or any life lessons gained from any story? I’d love to hear about them.