By Shane Kelley
Feb. 12, 2019
Hey, listen, for it is dangerous to go alone! So, don’t. This, though not the official quote, combines the essence in which the hero Link is not alone on his travels. “Hey, listen!” is well known to be uttered by the fairy Navi who aids Link in Ocarina of Time. “It’s dangerous to go alone” is said by the first-person Link interacts with ever in the series. An older gentleman utter’s the phrase “Take this” which refers to Link’s first item, the sword. This was modified as a catchphrase for the game Tri Force Heroes to say “It’s dangerous to go alone! So, don’t,” summing up that, though you may be the hero who saves the day, you couldn’t have done it without the help of others.
Whether it’s a talking boat, wise owl, a chatty hat, a living sword, or a grown man in a tight green unitard, you always get something unique in a Legend of Zelda game. All these characters have one thing in common: to support Link in his quest to save the day. What can we speculate for the next Zelda game or games in the series? How does Breath of the Wild influence future sidekicks, and are they necessary to the story? Let’s go on a quest of our own.
Glancing at the entries in the Zelda series, one can see a plethora of characters that aid Link along the way. I further categorized them into three groups: supporting, stationary, and travel guides. Each entity has some role that will help our hero along the way and, in the process, tell the story. Though the characters vary throughout each game, you can always count on them being there when you need them.
Supporting guides can be very broad and have a wide spectrum of duties or roles in each game. Examples would be Impa, Tingle, Epona, and, most recently, the Champions from Breath of the Wild. These characters usually will come to Link’s aid at various places in the game, usually providing advice, clues, and support when summoned or happened upon. Supporting roles tend to add to the story but also try not to suppress or limit the flow of a game for long periods. One other character that plays this role is Kaepora Gaebora the owl, who plays a supporting role in Ocarina of Time. When Link leaves the Kokiri forest he makes an appearance giving him advice as to not get discouraged in the toughest of times; however, in A Link to the Past, this character is represented as a statue who offers advice within the dungeons of the game, making him a stationary guide.
Stationary guides are advisors who, given a pedometer, would not be anywhere close to 10,000 steps in a day. These guides are fixed and provide Link with information or hints on where to look or go next in the game. Some examples are gossip stones, fortune tellers, the Great Deku Tree, and the above-mentioned stone owls. Gossip stones and owl statues are scattered around Hyrule and provide hints in the present location. The Great Deku Tree from various games is in fact stationary but usually plays a bigger role in the story and could also be considered a support. Fortune tellers like rupees, so after cutting the lawns of Hyrule, you may want to spend some on the wisdom that these channelers can provide. Though their wisdom may be worth knowing, I always get a bit creeped out by Sparrot in Skyward Sword.
Traveling guides are usually the most recognizable in a game and are often the closest companion that Link mingles with along the way. Some of these world travelers are Navi, Midna, Fi, Elzo, Linebeck, and the King of the Red Lions. These hero helpers advise Link on his journey and further establish the story of the game. Some of his traveling guides also provide transportation along the way, while others become accessories such as a hat or sword. Whatever role his traveling partner takes, you know you’re in for some interesting dialogue and additional play mechanics. With a rainbow of companions in Link’s past, what does Links future look like?
The beginning entry of the Legend of Zelda series puts you into the world with minimal direction or instruction. You must explore and discover the secrets that lie within. Bring it full circle to Breath of the Wild which utilizes the same formula and puts Link in a more robust and epic Hyrule. As you may have noticed, what these two games have in common is their lack of a traveling guide, which does open up options on how the person wants to play. Without this restriction, you can move about the game freely versus a linear route or story. Guides can be helpful at times but walk a narrow path between having an open world versus linear objectives. This balance is what can make or break the experience for an audience.
Breath of the Wild took the original concept and ran with it. The game did not feature a living traveling guide but did feature the Sheikah Slate, which could be considered a guide that travels with you. It’s pretty much Hyrule’s version of a cellular phone with GPS mapping, information, and a built-in camera. Even when you get to a tower and reach the top, the Sheikah Slate receives an update of the regional map. With this technology, plus the technology in the previous Zelda game, Skyward Sword, you can see that these technical advancements are slowly creeping into the series, which can change how the game plays as we can see in Breath of the Wild. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It really comes down to how well the creator can convey it to the player.
So, what can we gather from all of this for future titles in the series? We can definitely feel a shift when it comes to the Zelda series, and we know that producer Eiji Aonuma has stated that “…the incredible freedom that this game offers you and how well that’s been received…to me, it means that freedom, that level of freedom is something that needs to be maintained in Zelda games going forward.” What form or forms can we expect Link’s guides to be in his next quest?
We know that a new Zelda open world game is coming with a similar formula as Breath of the Wild. There have also been rumors of a 2D Zelda in the works, but we do not know for certain. There is also a rumor that Nintendo reportedly wants an annual Zelda title released on the Nintendo Switch. This would be fine with me, so long as gameplay, story, and the integrity of the game do not suffer.
Whether you like being nagged by a certain repetitive fairy or prefer the technology of the Sheikah slate, there is always a fun Zelda experience to be had. What are your favorite guides in the Legend of Zelda Series? Where do you see Nintendo taking the series after Breath of the Wild? Where can I buy a Tingle outfit? All serious questions, indeed. I’m ready to see what’s next. Are you?
I’m excited to be part of the Another Zelda Podcast Universe. If you like my articles and would like to say hi, please follow me on Twitter @StillsaneShane.