To have fun the thirty fifth anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, we’re working a series of options taking a look at a particular side — a theme, character, mechanic, location, reminiscence or one thing else totally — from every of the mainline Zelda video games. Immediately, Kate compares Skyward Sword to a hall, or one thing…
Skyward Sword. A two-word title that strikes worry into the guts of many. However fear not, my expensive Zelda-loving/hating associates – I come to ‘bury’ Skyward Sword, to not reward it. A few of our Zelda essays have been about how a lot we love a specific recreation, and do not get me incorrect — I am a Skyward Sword apologist — however this isn’t a kind of essays. I need to discuss, as a substitute, about an attention-grabbing characteristic of probably the most divisive Zelda recreation – its fascination with liminality.
Ah, liminality: the good friend to all college essay-writers and pretentious video games journalists alike. The time period comes from the Latin for “threshold” — limen — and that is precisely what it means: an area between. A liminal house is the brink between doing one thing or being someplace, and what comes subsequent, an area that — maybe unsurprisingly — can elicit emotions of pleasure, reverence, trepidation, or worry.
It may be a spot in time — a sundown, for instance, which is a liminal house between evening and day — or a literal place, like a ready room, a carpark, or a hallway. It may possibly even be a sense that is exhausting to pin down, a sense as if you are stepping from the previous into the longer term, like whenever you take your remaining examination in college and also you suppose to your self, “wow, I will by no means have to put in writing one other essay ever once more,” and then you definitely write 2,000 phrases on liminality in video video games despite the fact that nobody requested you to. One thing like that, you already know.
Zelda video games are full of liminal areas. The Temple of Time is an enormous one — the brink between youngster and grownup, mortal and divine, loud and quiet — however the smaller, much less apparent ones are simply as lovely. There’s the Kokiri Forest, the final monster-free space in Hyrule, the place the Kokiri stay within the perpetual state of childhood, like Peter Pan. In a while in Ocarina of Time, Dampé mans the creepy graveyard, and finally even crosses the brink between life and demise himself, changing into a ghost like these he guards.
In Minish Cap, the portals to the world of the Picori are excellent liminal areas: hollowed-out stumps and pots that shrink Hyperlink into mini-Hyperlink, a change which takes place in an ideal sunbeam, virtually like a temple. After which there’s Majora’s Mask, a recreation so dang obsessive about liminality that it could be simpler to seek out an instance inside of a non-liminal house.
However we’re not speaking about Majora’s Masks right this moment. We’re speaking about Skyward Sword, and also you already know my emotions on it (it’s good, actually), so relatively than making an impassioned case for the sport that we’ll all presumably be replaying this summer time, I need to discuss as a substitute about how Skyward Sword makes use of liminal areas to kickstart the legend of Zelda that everyone knows so effectively.
We start Skyward Sword with a narrative of fine vs evil. A disembodied voice tells us the story of demons plaguing the newly-born world: “The earth cracked large and malevolent forces rushed forth from the fissure.” Alright, that is fairly darn liminal – the forces of evil create a literal passage from the realm beneath to the land above. However then, in fact, to guard the people of the land, the goddess Hylia sends them up above the clouds, to Skyloft – a spot neither on land, nor actually belonging to the sky. Since then, the Hylians have dwelled there for ages, and the legends of the world under have been misplaced.
So, instantly out of the gate, we now have three realms: the place under, the place evil lives; the place above, the place Skyloft is; and the place in-between, the land that may change into Hyrule. However maybe it is a good time to pause, and talk about why liminality issues, and why it is used so closely in Skyward Sword and all different Zelda video games.
Putting the gamers in a liminal house isn’t just about creating the sensation of unease or of anticipation, however of telling a narrative of transition.
Many heroic legends (and tales typically) are about transition. Changing into a hero is way extra attention-grabbing than already being one, in spite of everything. Liminality and legend go hand-in-hand, as a result of each are all about rituals – the ritual of changing into, the ritual of discovering, the ritual of shifting in the direction of the following factor. Liminal areas set the tone for one thing huge taking place, when you’re nonetheless within the deep breath beforehand.
Being in a liminal house, like Skyloft, signifies that you do not belong – you are solely there till the following factor comes alongside. It is that sense of not-quite-belonging that drives Hyperlink on his quest – issues can not keep excellent and idyllic whenever you’re solely midway to the aim. Both you modify the place you might be, or one thing will change it for you.
As a result of liminal areas are sometimes issues like ready rooms, petrol stations, and that bit proper earlier than you go to sleep, they usually include emotions of nervousness and pressure. There is a sense that you just’re anticipating one thing to occur, as a result of when you wait, you are all of the sudden made weak. That pressure could be leveraged right into a cool story very simply. Essentially the most thrilling factor a recreation can provide is an enormous unknown, able to be plundered for its secrets and techniques and mysteries, simply barely out of attain – and Skyward Sword’s expanse of clouds that conceal the earth are precisely that.
Hyperlink himself is on the verge of maturity, as he normally is in Zelda video games. He additionally has actually creepy lips, however that is not related to the thesis of this text, I simply needed to say it. And, as a result of I’ve actually obtained to drive this level dwelling, his day begins in a nightmare – and desires are a liminal house between awake and asleep, the place you might be each directly.
Let’s skip ahead somewhat. Hyperlink travels beneath the clouds, and lands himself on the world under, the place monsters (which have conveniently developed to require slicing in a specific route) abound. Even additional into the story, Hyperlink will break by the boundaries of clouds elsewhere to seek out the hidden Isle of Songs, the boundaries of the spirit world to enter the Silent Realm, and the boundaries of time itself in Lanayru Desert – all because the embodiment of evil, The Imprisoned, makes an attempt to interrupt freed from the boundaries of its cell. And what are boundaries however (you guessed it) liminal areas that exist to maintain two issues separate?
Each impediment to each Hyperlink and Demise — the sport’s Massive Dangerous — lies between them, earlier than they even understand it. Each time Hyperlink breaks the guard of Ghirahim, or opens a brand new door, he strikes nearer to Demise. Each time Demise breaks freed from the seal, or makes an attempt to destroy the Gates of Time, he strikes nearer to his aim of acquiring the Triforce, however unknowingly nearer to his remaining, impassable hurdle: the Hero, Hyperlink
(And, by the way in which, the Triforce itself exists as a complete triangle damaged up by a beautiful liminal house proper within the centre. Additionally, the Goddess Harp that is instrumental — ha — to the plot? An attention-grabbing selection of instrument – maybe one of many only a few which are performed by strings between one thing, relatively than on prime of one thing. This theme goes deep. Or perhaps I simply have a fine-tuned sense of the right way to stretch out an analogy.)
It is all Matryoshkas inside Matryoshkas, all the way in which all the way down to the guts of it, the guts of each Zelda recreation: the ultimate battle between braveness and energy, mild and darkish, good and evil. There are liminal areas between the 2 in life, in fact — the gray space the place persons are neither wholly good nor wholly unhealthy — however Skyward Sword, like all Zelda tales, and all heroic legends, is about breaking by all of that and discarding all the pieces gray till there are solely two truths left: the Hero, and the Villain.
So, there you might have it. Skyward Sword is all about breaking by boundaries, dwelling within the areas in-between, and the strain of transition. Maybe a few of you might be considering, “this essay is a bit more than a janky motion-controlled Zelda recreation deserves,” and also you’re in all probability proper – however, let’s be sincere, video games journalism is mostly only a huge ol’ nerd writing about lovely toys for grown ups, and we take what we will get.
As an entry within the bigger collection, Skyward Sword itself is a liminal Zelda recreation: it is only a few individuals’s favorite, but it surely’s actually not the worst; it got here on the very tail finish of the Wii’s lifecycle, simply as Nintendo was about to transition to the Wii U; and, what’s extra, it was the sport that got here proper earlier than Breath of The Wild’s open, borderless world. Skyward Sword is stuffed with limitations, gates, doorways, hurdles, and bounds, and that is a big a part of the rationale why individuals do not prefer it. Nevertheless it’s additionally what makes the story so quintessentially Zelda, even because it throws numerous conference out the window – and what made Breath of the Wild really feel so unusually, unexpectedly free.