Monday, November 9, 2020

The Price of Heroism

Breath of the Wild has already been discussed to death on other media outlets, it being the flagship game of the Switch, one of the best games in the Zelda franchise, and one of the best games of all time. Today though, I want to talk about something I realized when I beat the game. 

Ahoy, they be spoilers ahead. 

The Heroes' Journey

A quick recap on the story of Breath of the Wild

Link wakes up in a tomb (been there) and finds out he's been asleep for about 100 years. In the interim Hyrule has gone to crap due to the castle being taken over by Calamity Gannon, a giant ghost-pig monster that has dreams of ending the world. He's being held back by Princess Zelda's magic, but her strength is starting to wain so Link has to get his life together and start saving Hyrule. 

Along the way he's got to get armor, stamina, weapons, hearts and giant magicpunk robots operational to take the enemy down. He also needs to collect photos on his magic tablet that will help wake up his memories of his life, particularly his love of Zelda. 

I Have Priorities I'm not Lazy

Now the game has two endings. The true ending is if you beat Gannon and regain all your memories, and Link and the princess will live happily ever after. Now I'm not a completionism in video games... Or anything really.... I take what I like then leave the obsessive collecting to those with more patience. The part I skipped was collecting all the memories, because I just didn't care I was having fun fighting monsters and doing the puzzles. When I got the incomplete ending though the scene went as follows: 

Link and Zelda stood on the plains, Gannon defeated, and Zelda asks if Link remembers her. Link looks awkwardly at her with Zelda looking disappointed and saying "Oh". The fade to black happens and the game is over. 

Self vs Others

So pretending I'm not lazy let me rewrite the story based on the alternate ending. Link wakes up and is told he is the legendary warrior. As he adventures he sees the land devastated by the darkness unleashed by Gannon. He is driven by his quest to free this land that he vaguely remembers. He's told that he could restore his own memories, but the question is why? The memories have no combat value. They have no access to a secret weapon. They only provide a distraction from the main quest, a quest that already has enough distractions in it with all the people Link is trying to help and little leaf critters he finds. 

In this version, Link sacrifices his memories for the good of the kingdom. He's focused solely on saving Hyrule and its people, and he will figure out his own life once that is over. 

I like this version of Link a lot more than previous versions. Now I fully understand that Link is supposed to be an avatar on which we are meant to project ourselves onto, hence why he never really gets a voice or a personality. In fact in writing this blog I've had trouble keeping the tenses straight and not referring to Link as me, because I was the one making the choices for Link and not him. That being said I projected onto my Link a hero who wants to save the kingdom no matter what, not just potentially sacrificing his life but sacrificing his own sense of self, his own sense of identity. Link thus has a reason to be a blank slate, because he chose his kingdom over himself. 

Happy Ending? 

The argument against this is "What about Zelda?" She's been waiting 100 years for Link to show up and help put Gannon in the ground, and now she's got a blank faced elf and a wrecked castle to deal with. Where's her happy ending? The thing is, this may be the only way they can have a sincere relationship. From the flashbacks we get (well that I did unlock during the story), we see that their relationship was completely based on their quest to stop Gannon. With him gone though they can build a real relationship based on who they are and not what purpose they serve. 

So I say this is the better ending because they get to start fresh. They get to have a relationship with each other, and not always planning a war. They get to be a real couple, and I have no doubt that the two could go on their own quest to fill out Link's photo album, making new memories along the way. 

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