Nintendo has been a little loose with its traditionally tight grip on its characters of late. Presumably thanks to the success of Pokémon Conquest, a “crossover” game that even still seems like some kind of ephemeral fever dream, Nintendo decided to go forward with mashing up a few of its other beloved franchises with new and exciting genres and conventions. Fire Emblem is smashing into the world of Shin Megami Tensei, and coincidently, Paper Mario Sticker Star was created in conjunction with noted SMT star Lucifer, Lord of Lies and Prince of Pain. He really put a lot of effort into that game, and he hopes you all enjoyed it!
Most recently, Nintendo teamed up with Koei Tecmo, creators of the popular Gitaroo-Man franchise, to produce the first harem animé starring a Nintendo mascot. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors: The Dilemma of Link: Gaiden features the titular Link on his quest to save the kingdom of Hyrule… and maybe get into a few whacky hijinks with those fanatical ladies surrounding him. It’s not easy being the center of attention!
I understand that not everyone is a fan of animé, so, for those of you that are interested in the mythology of the Legend of Zelda series, but don’t want to touch this gobbledygook with a ten foot naginata, I’ll summarize the major players.
Link is your typical Harem Genre protagonist. He’s quiet, generally heroic, and pretty handy with a sword. His personality is a blank slate, which is there so any given viewer can project their own ego onto this hero of war, women, and song.
A necessary conceit of the Harem Genre is that any and all women involved immediately fall for the protagonist and follow him unflinchingly. It’s kind of amusing how this works so… poorly with the fact that the harem hero is traditionally milquetoast like Link here. Yeah, he’s heroic and waving a sword around like he knows what to do, but, come on, there’s about a million soldiers running about the story with the exact same characteristics, and I bet they’re all smart enough to wear a helmet to a battlefield. Normally, it’s not a big deal when the main character is innocuous, but when an entire war is fought over a queen wanting a particular knight to stick his sword in her scabbard, you better draw the damn Master Sword of men. Sure there’s historical precedent for such a thing, but at least Helen of Troy had that power to launch ships from her face or whatever.
Speaking of beauties, Zelda is the classic “first girl” that is destined to be the final “choice” of the protagonist. In stark contrast to Link and his background of who the hell knows, Zelda is very rigidly defined as a brilliant tactician and benevolent ruler of an entire kingdom. She’s also an excellent duelist, gifted musician, supernaturally fast, and possesses the ability to effectively deceive her enemies, a skill rarely seen on any Team Good Guy. She’s pretty much the pinnacle of humanity, and lacking any flaws beyond an inclination toward clothing that is perhaps not war grounds appropriate. Naturally, she’s madly in love with Link, and they will be together forever, despite the fact that this is barely even acknowledged by any actual actions during the series. I guess maybe she likes his scarf?
Lana is Zelda’s rival, and doubles as the villain of the initial story arc. Lana viewed the mechanisms of prophecy over and over again, and, having seen all the daring adventures of Link through the ages, fell for lil’ greeny fast and hard. This causes a rift in her sense of self, and Lana is split into two beings: the benevolent, feisty Lana, and the malevolent, warmongering Cia. Lana decides to sit around and pine, while Cia gathers up an army to conquer all of Hyrule to gain the power to control her crush and hopefully not literally crush the poor kid in the process. All this for a boy she’s only ever seen on the mystical boob tube.
Lana gets off her butt to beat back her worse half, and somehow winds up defending an Ewok village before joining Hyrule’s forces. Lana actually does confess her feelings for Link via a convoluted flashback to the events previously described, and Link, realizing that a colossal war that endangers an entire kingdom and all of space and time was started just to get in his tunic, says nothing and decides to just roll with this whole “gargantuan bloody conflict” thing. He is figuratively the Magical Key to everything, but he’s going to solve this problem with a magic sword. Real healthy communication skills there, bucko.
Ending spoilers and all that, but when Lana finally reaches the point that she acknowledges that Link will never actually love her, she fades from history, because she lives only for the adoration of a dude she met a couple of weeks ago. This warrants an appearance from Link’s frowny face.
Oh, and Cia got her ass killed by her “love” a couple of episodes back. You don’t get a happy ending when you dress like that, little missy.
Impa is one of the first characters introduced, but isn’t particularly relevant to the overarching plot. Her post is necessary but uncelebrated: she’s the mom/nanny of the group, and maybe a little bit of an “older sister” to Zelda. Her role is to get the ball rolling, and then stand as a pillar of strength when the protagonist is still getting his items together and Zelda is creeping around claiming that you can’t see her. Zelda, take off the stupid bandages, you’re trying to pose as a Sheikah to the leader of the Sheikah, and that’s offensive. Check your princess privilege and knock off the cosplay.
Anyway, Impa is one of the few women that doesn’t exist exclusively to send Link winks, but that’s mainly so she can send Zelda those same winks… just in a more “go for it, girl” sense than a “you like the looks of this giant blade?” thing. Impa also serves the general Worf role of being purportedly the greatest warrior of all time forever and ever and then getting her butt kicked once someone remotely actually powerful makes the scene. It kinda sucks to be the strong one, but not the main character.
Now’s when we get into what makes the Harem Genre the pile of crap we know and tolerate. Pretty much any story can have a love triangle and call it a day; what makes the Harem Genre so… unique is that it tosses the (inevitably male) protagonist any number of girls to “choose”. It’s all a ruse, of course, the real choice is already solidified before the end of the first episode (most of the time, before the end of the opening credits), but the variety does allow for many more female characters to be introduced… a blessing and a curse, really. While the Harem Genre does promote a greater number of female stars than your average piece of media, the Bechdel Test never accounted for the fact that all of these women would be the same paper-thin tropes over and over again. One step forward, two steps back into the hot springs.
Let’s start with Midna, the tsundere. This character type has become its own cliché that stretches to all of animé: we’re talking about the bizarre “grown up” version of the girl that won’t stop hitting (or insulting) the boy she likes. Princess Midna of the Twili fits this description to a T, and takes it so far to be one of the few women to initially appear as Link’s enemy. She quickly switches to the We Love Elves team, though, and proceeds to aid him through the rest of his battles. It’s not because she likes him or anything, she’s just trying to reclaim her own kingdom. And after her people are back in her thrall? Well, ya know, she just wants to help out… because… because… shut-up, dummy! I just made a little extra lunch. Do you want some or not? *blushes*
Ruto, Princess of the Zora, is a similar character type, but marginally different from the more overt tsundere. Ruto is more of a “straight” princess archetype (remember that she’s one of three different princesses in this adventure). She is haughty, arrogant, and expects everyone to immediately bow to her will. She’s different from the tsundere type in that she has no problem admitting that she likes the leading man, but she still expects the downtrodden dude to read her mind and do her bidding without provocation. She’ll fight on the battlefield, all right, but she expects to be carried to the skirmish. Not coincidentally, Ruto is the one princess of the piece that markedly needs to be rescued, which provides a handy narrative explanation for why such esteemed royalty would stoop to aid riffraff like these commoners (still mostly princesses).
Agitha, the not-at-all-a-princess of bugs is the cloud cuckoolander that always seems to pop up in these stories. Her basic purpose is to stand around, be weird, and occasionally interject a non sequitur to generate something approaching humor. Her character type is a sort of reverse of the harem’s usual standards: most of the women are overt (to the audience) about their motivations, and satisfy the male fantasy of having a collection of women that are just champing at the bit to ride the ol’ baloney pony. The cloud cuckoolander, in the context of the Harem Genre, is there for the opposite male fantasy: here is a woman that is “out of it” and “weird”, and only a big, strong man and his magic wand can bring socially sleeping beauty back to the real world of the waking. Another complete lack of a coincidence: Agitha is dressed in the traditional lolita garments, signifying that she’s more of a “girl” in need of aid than the other “women” of the piece. It probably goes without saying, but Agitha is introduced via the hero escorting/saving her and her precious bugs.
Fi is one of the more modern animé tropes: the emotionless girl. Fi is the spirit of the Master Sword, Link’s most trusted weapon, which makes her even more of an overt object than the rest of the cast. While some stories might try to avoid that comparison, Hyrule Warriors embraces it whole hog: Fi is effectively a robot in her mannerisms, constantly spouting percentages for victory and not crying out for help, but simply noting that her odds of survival are decreasing, would you kindly send some assistance at your earliest opportunity? This creates another Agitha-like situation: this woman is weird/broken, but Man is here to make everything better through boinking. Master, what is this thing I am experiencing called… love?
Oh yeah, she calls Link “master”. All the time. Even I’m going to abstain from bumping off that barrel fish.
The only other rooster in this cucoo house is Darunia, the Goron Chieftain. Don’t worry, Link, you don’t have any competition, though, Darunia is just here to be the whacky friend who is taking the asexual friend role to such a new level, he doesn’t even have genitals. Darunia is going to be there to help whenever asked, because he and Link are “brothers” and Darunia, despite being a leader to an entire tribe of people, doesn’t seem to have any hopes, dreams, and aspirations aside from “support Link at all times”. In this way, he’s not unlike the female cast, but his gender separates him and makes this kind of thinking become even grosser. The women live to support Link because they… care about him that much? Okay… and Darunia does the same thing? Is he gay? Why is that an immediate thought? Why isn’t anyone asking why these rulers of vast kingdoms are stepping out of their comfort zones and entire time periods just to help some pointy-eared twerp? Isn’t anyone in Link’s orbit allowed to have a slightly less homicidal hobby?
Ganondorf is the big bad of the piece, making the scene after the lovelorn Cia falls. Some harem shows just use the harem or “modern life” as the exclusive source of conflict, but many more of these stories attempt to straddle the genre line and introduce a little fantastical conflict to give the animators something to do besides drawing jiggles. Ganondorf is usually what you see as a “final boss” in these stories: a sort of dark reflection of the affable hero, and a giant, hulking wad of masculinity to boot. Ganondorf wants to conquer and “rule the world” because that’s all he’s programmed to do. This is not a Ganondorf who may lament the searing winds blowing over his desert kingdom, no, this is a big greedy ball of anger that conquers and kills because that’s what he does. This Ganondorf is as manipulative and cruel as Link is transparent and caring. In the end, he loses to the hero not because of a lack of strength, but because Link was able to so effectively rally the skills of his harem and beat back the invading darkness. Also: Ganondorf’s known weakness to face-arrows.
And, because every story needs its share of mid-bosses, there’s Zant, Ghirahim, Wizzro, and Volga. These guys make even less of an impact on the story than the unnamed blacksmith that keeps forging scraps of leather into usable skills for the heroes, so there’s really no use in dwelling on any of them. They’re there because it would be boring to see Link battle 20,000 unnamed mooks before felling Ganon, so we may as well throw in a dude or two who can knock over Impa and claim to be a threat. Hell, we could just call these guys wizard, other wizard, creepy wizard, and dragon dude and be done with it. I guess every animé is required to have a few filler episodes.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors: Oh My Fairy: Another Story R isn’t bad, for the confines of its genre. Yes, it suffers from the adaptation decay you traditionally see when a sprawling, generations long story like The Legend of Zelda is modified to another medium (Much ado is made about unlocking the true power of Link’s Master Sword… while Fi, the spirit of the Master Sword is standing right there). Yes, it changes characters that have traditionally been seen as wizened old ladies to be sexy, audience pleasing badasses. And, yes, the original characters created for the piece seem to have sprung from your deepest fanfic nightmares. But on the whole, Hyrule Warriors is a worthy addition to the Legend of Zelda mythos, and should be at least some fun for any fan of the series.
But… don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to recommend it. I mean, it’s not like I like it or anything.
FGC #29 Hyrule Warriors
- System: Nintendo WiiU
- Number of Players: Two, though that “two players” feature gets used a lot more for gaming difficult Adventure Mode maps than anything else.
- Aren’t you being a little rough here? Even if we ignore the fact that this is a war based on a teenage girl’s crush, and even if we overlook how all of female playable characters have victory animations where they “flirt” with the camera, we’re still left with the fact that Zelda, proud warrior princess and general, only seems to have voice samples that feature her giggling. The bloodiest conflict in Hyrule’s history is happening under my reign, teehee.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second? The odds are always stacked against you, not in a difficulty sense, but in the sense that if you want to succeed, you need to move quickly, and every other thing the enemy does seems to be a stalling tactic. Get ready to stand around and wait for bosses to use the one attack that allows you to return damage. Your allies are pathetic, and apparently all learned at the knee of the one and only Slippy Toad. Even the mere act of ranking is balanced against the player, as somehow two A’s and one B averages out to a solid B. The “exploration” of the Adventure Mode map is just FAQ-baiting. Probably worst of all, the game is constantly shouting at you to play it the way it wants you to play. A manhandla stalk is attacking the home base, you better go deal with it right now, I don’t care what you’re doing, or you’ll fail the entire mission. And considering the average mission seems to take at least ten minutes, well, failing is just plain punishing. All that said? I’ve probably put a hundred hours into this game, and really see no sign of stopping. Baka.
- Favorite Character: Zelda, with the rapier, in the billiard room. Every moment that Zelda is slumming it with that harp is like a kunai in my brain.
- Favorite bonkers plot point: I guess there’s just a tribe of prophets in the Zelda universe that never did a thing to prevent any of the multiple Hyrule disasters throughout the millennia. Someone who has a full view of history finally pops up, and she uses her powers to obsess over boys. And she completely misses how this course of action leads to her utter obliteration.
- Whole lotta animé in this article: As always, I performed all the screen captures myself. Please don’t ask further questions about how I was able to pull this all together inside of two days.
- Did you know? A female version of Link was apparently considered at some point in development. While I assume this is a reference to simply a costume swap for our main protagonist, can you imagine how much better this whole plot would be if Darunia was the only male on the side of the angels? Would Lana have been driven mad obsessing over a dude that eats rocks, or have a homosexual crush on the one woman grunt in Zelda’s army? Can you imagine Cia’s castle decked out with Goron hentai? Or a bunch of Aaron Diaz art all over the walls? The mind boggles.
- Would I play again? This is the first FGC game that I played “for real” for the FGC, like actually saving my game and playing like I’m trying to make progress. I might have been making a beeline for specific captures, but, hey, while I’m playing this level as Ruto anyway, maybe I’ll try for an A rank and earn that heart piece. So, in a way, I still haven’t stopped playing this game to play it “again”. Seriously, with all the content in this game, if you know someone that can only afford one game a year (and has a WiiU), this would be my first recommendation.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rampage Through Time for the Playstation. Huh, every game this week apparently involves some kind of weird, off-kilter time travel. Oh well, time to make this freshly christened time travel week… history. Please look forward to it!