First, I am not gonna talk about sexism in videogames here because I don’t like the subject. But, probably a lot of gamers will strongly disagree with me.
I love The Legend of Zelda, I think it’s a saga that has developed a broad range of works of art, and it has a special place in my heart because I grew up with it. The second game I ever played by myself was Ocarina of Time. I vaguely remember playing Mendel Palace with my siblings, so you can tell that I grew up with Nintendo 64. Anyway, there is a lot of love-hate debates surrounding one very particular Zelda title (not from N64): Twilight Princess. Maybe it’s kind of late to involve in that debate, but Zelda fans ALWAYS bring the topic into the discussion table, and since I am one of them, I had to talk about it. I am gonna be honest. The first time I played it, I liked it; the second time, I hated it; the third time, I realized why I enjoyed it the first time and why I detested it the second time. Please notice that I only “liked” it the first time because there was something off, and that’s why I HATED IT the second time. Here are the conclusions I drew from my third run.
The whole visual and sound aesthetics of the game are made in such a delicate and beautiful way. From that perspective, it is a true work of art. The unsettling feeling produced by the art concept makes it by itself a wonderful title. All the Japanese symbolism behind the world and the story and the graceful clashing of the light and the twilight constitute together a sophisticated and elegant setting. The monstrosity and the beauty juxtaposing in the game world (visuals, music, and mechanics) are just precious gems that should be contemplated as art. The fragile goodness and the unstable evilness that live in both the light and the twilight were tastefully sewed into this astonishing world.
Yet, the sexiness of the graphics, the music, and the evident breathtaking beauty of both princesses, do not cover the major flaws of this title. In that regard, a friend pointed out that the world was “ok” in size, but the number of enemies wasn’t ok for THAT size. It is true, I noticed it the second time: it felt kind of empty. It didn’t feel like they were trying to portray loneliness, they just didn’t put enough challenges and enemies, so the fields just felt hollow. The gameplay also had a few more issues, but that’s not really what bothered me.
The problem for me was in the story, but it wasn’t the story by itself. The story was sweet and had these valuable teachings on friendship, responsibility, empathy, and growing up to be strong. The deal-breaker for me was the detestable characters (the spirits and sages were actually cool, so let’s leave them out). They weren’t well rounded. Zelda stories tend to be black and white, so characters are usually not THAT profound as in other games. Don’t get me wrong, Zelda has evolved A LOT throughout the saga, and both princesses were actually well-crafted in this game. They had complex emotions, had to face dense situations and took tough decisions. However, the rest of the characters are just bland, stiff, and ANNOYING as hell.
I only saved my irritating “friends” because that was what the game was about. Ilia was so stuck up, so I just wanted to continue without saving her, but she was “important” for Link, and his goal was to bring her back. I felt utterly disconnected from his quest because I didn’t feel anything for his friends. The kids were exasperating: just the fucking businessbaby, Malo, was more than enough to kill the fun, but the rest of them just kept pushing my nerves. Why was Link friends with them?
So, so far, I don’t think I have made too many enemies, but here comes the reason why I think a lot of gamers will hate me:
I HATE COLIN.
He was supposed to be one of the coolest characters by transforming from a scared kid to a brave and full of courage man just like Link and thanks to him. He was supposed to offer one of those valuable lessons for unconfident gamers: you can overcome your introversion and be responsible, strong, and even a hero. Yet, again, he was just a wooden prop. He wasn’t well developed, so his sudden transformation wasn’t really believable or meaningful to me at all. Yeah, it was “cute”, and intellectually, I obviously understood the underlying moral of his story; however, there was no emotion whatsoever in my heart. And… I started and ended up finding him quite irritating and needy. So, Colin, Illia, and Lalo are part of my list of the worst videogame characters EVER. I didn’t like Zant either, but definitely, those three were the worst by far.
Consequently, the sexiness of this shadowy and mysterious world, the delightful twilight light, and the extreme beauty and well-craftedness of the princesses do save the game and the story but just by a pinch. It’s sad that all of this only works to compensate for the other characters. That said, I do like the game, but more because of the art concept of it. We needed more scenes with Zelda and Midna, not only because they were sexy, but because they were the only good characters. As I mentioned in the beginning, I grew up with Nintendo 64, and I am a Zelda fan. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask had obvious technological limitations. Yet, the characters, the worlds, and the stories achieved way more than Twilight Princess for me. For the record, I played Majora’s too late, almost at the same time as TP, so it’s not a matter of melancholy over my childhood.
Now, this is clearly not just a problem with TP, there are a lot of games that throw sexy graphics and characters to the screen for the sake of the story. And sometimes, they do save the story, but then again, it’s just sad when all that sexiness ends up just compensating huge mistakes instead of becoming part of true masterpieces.