Telling a Story

I remember many years ago — I was watching the “Making of” CD for Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete, and in the feature they likened the remake of the game as a “changing of storytellers,” and not a changing of the actual story. Back then, I think that was true, but fast forward to today and we see dozens of remakes, re-releases, ports and reboots, in all forms of media, not just video games.

But it somehow reminded me of the Zelda series.  I know that Zelda timeline fanatics will jump on this, but beyond the loose overlapping between the different stories (in their various timelines), each Zelda game feels like the same story, only being retold over and over again. Actually, this is yet another theory that some Zelda timeline historians support — that there is no definite timeline found within the lore, and each story is representative of the “Legend” of Zelda that endures beyond each game.

But, I digress — each entry in the Zelda series feels like a retelling of the same story … by a different storyteller. I think this exemplifies the relationship between Ocarina of Time and Windwaker. Granted, they are both part of the same ‘lore’ timeline (the Adult Link one), but the games each emphasize a certain design aspect. For Ocarina of time, it was most definitely music. From the get-go, you are given an Ocarina and expected to use it to solve a number of puzzles. Coincidentally, Ocarina of Time is the Zelda title that established many of the series’ most familiar tunes … which, amazingly enough, span only one and a half octaves.

Windwaker, however, draws the player in with its art style: vibrant, colorful, and elegantly simple in its portrayal of the vast oceans, yet so emotive with its use of detailed facial expressions. This is the driving force of the narrative. Zelda games do not use voiceovers, which oftentimes leaves the player wondering about the exact emotions that should be apparent during conversations. Windwaker is a stark exception: a simple wink from Tetra, a look of terror in Ganon’s eyes or the subtle grimace of agitation as the young Link struggles to lift an iron hammer three times his size — they all speak louder than any words (or text bubble) could. And it’s all because of the eyes and the exaggerated art style. That’s why, from what I can tell, Windwaker tells the greatest Zelda story of all.

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