Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Post-Apocalyptia Done Bright

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker opens the words "This is but one of the legends of which the people speak..." and presents a montage retelling the events of Ocarina of Time. A great evil steals the golden power of the land, and a Hero travels through time to defeat him and restore peace to the land. I'm sure it brought a smile to the face of those players who played Ocarina. But then the story continues. Some time after the Hero of Time completed his quest, the great evil returned and apparently destroyed the land. The Hero never returned, and the ultimate fate of that kingdom was forgotten.

The story is presented in a primitive art style that emphasizes that the story has been passed from generation to generation. A specific time frame isn't given, but I get the feeling that several centuries, or perhaps even a millenia or two, have passed since the events told in the legend. At the beginning of the game, on the aptly named Outset Island, boys who have come of age dress in green clothing on their birthday to celebrate the legendary Hero and to hopefully inspire them to act with the same maturity and bravery that the Hero himself showed.

While the legend speaks of a land of mountains and green hills, the world as it stands now is nothing but several islands scattered across a vast sea. There doesn't seem to be any government or group to unify the people. The people of each island take care of their own affairs and only sporadically trade with the other islands. A race of birdmen take to the skies to deliver mail to the islands, and are probably a more reliable means of communication than shipping letters on boats. Strangely, even though the world is dominated by the sea, few people seem to have the knowledge or skills to take to the ocean themselves. On the commercial hub of the world, Windfall Island, sailors and civilians tend to avoid each other, and more unsavory types gather in the pub at night. Perhaps the lack of a more pervasive seafaring culture is explained by the dangerous creatures, cyclones, and whirlpools that can spell doom for the careless sailer. It also seems that pirates roam the seas, including a band led by a girl who may be around the same age as the pirates gunned down by US Navy SEAL snipers the other day.

The world seems to have experienced its great cataclysm, and moved on. So much time has passed that the broken, isolated groups of people now see their lives as normal. In Fallout 3 only two centuries have passed since nuclear Armageddon and evidence of the old way of life still litters the landscape. Anyone can look around and see what kind of life they could have had if only things had turned out differently. In The Wind Waker, the world is perhaps just as dangerous as the Capital Wasteland, but the tragedy of what's befallen the people isn't nearly as evident. It's presented in the isolation of the people, in the glimpses of strange lands that dot the ocean, and in the remnants of powerful magic that anyone who played Ocarina of Time will recognize. How sad is it to see the great Deku tree tormented by mere Chu Chu's? The world is a pale but beautiful shadow of its former self, and the great evil seems to have won, though where he went off to remains a mystery. It's a world that the player wants to save so that the former glory might be restored.

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