Besides playing 8-Bit scrollers at my cousin’s house, Ocarina of Time was my first real introduction to gaming. It was new, beautiful, daringly realistic, and so different from anything else. I was only six years old in 1998, and though I may have been easy to impress at the time, Link was pretty damn hot (my mom had multiple drawings from school where I referred to him as my husband).
Besides utter infatuation with our elfin protagonist, the world felt so expansive and the story was complex and compelling. Some of my fondest childhood memories consist of my family sat up in front of the TV, watching dad kick ass for hours — who renamed Link “Dad1” in his first playthrough. All we ate was pizza, and my parents were seriously questioned about their choices pertaining to my upbringing.
Video games are a grounding force that drives why I write and why I chose to write. I want to do for others what Zelda managed to do for me: I love to create infatuating stories that drive the audience obsessive. I remember the first time my dad willingly handed over the Nintendo 64 controller and let me explore Hyrule. Of course, the first few times mainly consisted of me making Link, or Dad1, run in a perfect circle. Eventually I lost controller privileges because I may or may not have gone in and played through two dungeons on his save file in absolute gaming sacrilege. When he had to start over (and promptly renamed Link “Dad2” the second time around), dad finally let me start my own game so long as I left his alone. The rest is history.
Zelda taught me to read, tell stories, love art, explore, problem solve, and has played a key role in my creative life. Ocarina of Time is my baby, absolutely, but I’ve probably put a decade into sailing around in Wind Waker. Majora’s Mask got me into reading and writing darker stories, and the soundtrack of Twilight Princess has since been played thousands upon thousands of times on my iPhone. When I turned seven, my mom bought me a Link action figure instead of a Barbie. She hid in the kitchen and called me down from upstairs. When I reached the landing, she pushed it out on a new skateboard towards me down the hall. Even though Link has long lost his shield and Master Sword, I still have him tucked away in my purse for good luck.
It shouldn’t surprise you that I was thrilled to hear about Nintendo’s E3 plans this year, and was even more thrilled to cover those plans in depth. Professionalism aside, the minute Reggie Fils-Amie finished his opening statements and that soft, feminine voice chimed in saying “Open your eyes,” I felt butterflies (and could have cried if I didn’t have an audience). Just moments in, and I already felt like I was being greeted by an old friend.
I’m such a die-hard for the series that Miyamoto and Aonuma could have put on a finger puppet show about the game and I would have been content, which was not improbable, but Nintendo’s presentation left me much more than just content. Instead of a three minute trailer, give or take a little additional footage, they had their specialists on the floor and treated us to over seven hours of legitimate gameplay. They were abrupt in letting us know that the E3 version of the game was immensely scaled back, omitting almost all information on the story or characters. Instead, we got a taste of the basic mechanics, new functions, and a glimpse into the massive open-world (I read somewhere that the entire scale of Breath of the Wild is about twelve times as large as Twilight Princess). Even though the presentations were limited to one world space, the trailer gave us a little taste at what to expect in the future.
Since the media onslaught ensued Tuesday morning after the initial press release, I’ve also been asked many times whether or not I was disappointed that Link was not a Linkette. Of course not! To be perfectly blunt, I chuckled each and every time, often rebutting with whether they were asking me because I was a fan of the series or because I’m a woman. Although Link was established to create a figurative link between the player and Hyrule as some ambiguous, quiet reincarnation of the Hero of Time, he has since become an established character whether intentional or no. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love playing as Princess Zelda in a full-fledged game, or if they wrote an entirely new character who in the absence of Link became our hero and also happened to be female — so long as it was justified and well written. Link is my childhood hunk kabab, and I wouldn’t have him any other way. That isn’t to say that this hasn’t triggered a great conversation, but I don’t view their choice to specifically keep him male as a fault. I don’t think I’d even care if they gave the player the choice to choose Link’s gender, as I’d probably play him as a man anyway.
Crippling arguments about Link’s hoo-ha and our need to exert controversy for clickbait aside, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks like it could be a masterpiece. I can only make it fifty-eight seconds into the trailer before it hits: the utter impulse to buckle over into the fetal position and cry ugly tears. It feels like I’m going home.
When I was little, I was in a physically traumatic accident. I cannot remember anything before I was six or seven.* Absolutely nothing. As I said towards the beginning of this article, I was about that age when Ocarina of Time was released, and therefore, my earliest memories are filled with images of Hyrule. Not to long after that, I was uprooted and moved cross country. Once, then twice, and by the time I was sixteen I had moved about five times in six years, and that’s not even the final tally (military dad). Constantly going to new schools and then leaving meant meeting and loosing friends was a hobby. I was more accustomed to cardboard boxes than bedroom furniture, and nothing felt grounded. Except Hyrule.
I played other games, I played a lot of other games and read a lot of books because I was an only child that was uprooted every ten months, but Hyrule always stayed the same. I booted up Ocarina of Time on our old Nintendo 64 just to run around on Epona. It was a world I could go to when I needed an escape. I knew that map inside and out, and each time a new game was released I memorized it just the same. Hyrule became my home when I felt I didn’t have one.
Dramatic or not, Nintendo made all of these thoughts and memories rush in like a gust of wind in three minutes and eighteen seconds. The music feels euphoric, consisting of a blissful piano score that carefully rose my heartbeat as Link ran and jumped off of a cliff with a stunning view of the Hylian horizon — a score that I could recognize even if it were muffled by a crowd. It kept going, slowly creeping into a dramatic orchestration while images of beasts and landscape flashed across the screen. A girl’s voice, comforting and somehow familiar after all of these years, and the sound of grass swaying in a breeze. Breath of the Wild is taking us home.
*I do not have long term memory loss, and the accident is only presumably linked to why I can’t remember anything before it now. When I was little, I could remember most things after I had been awake in the hospital just fine. Over time those memories disintegrated, early high school to be exact, but has not gotten worse since (I am now 23, out of college). Other than that, and maybe the occasional crappy migraine that could just be related to smite, I am totally fine. It could just be an age thing, but I’ve always associated the accident with my lack of remembrance due to the period of time. Although I suffered a nasty concussion, my thick skull managed to keep my rambunctious self just fine.