Category Archives: games

A Hero and a Chosen One Walk Into a Bar

In every story there is a protagonist, the protagonist can either be a primary character, someone the story just so happens to follow, or in some creative cases the enemy of the “protagonist” should the story follow a villain rather than the hero (think Invader Zim). In many stories a a protagonist will more than likely be labeled a hero and in some cases even a ‘Chosen One’. Now a Hero protagonist and a Chosen One don’t have to be one and the same, but in some cases both will be merged into one character for convenience or lack of creativity. There is nothing wrong with having a Chosen One or a hero, but one can’t help but admit that it may be done a bit too much at times.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is pretty self explanatory, but just to give a little more detail as to what goes on is that your protagonist goes on a journey and through a series of events has experiences that cause change in his character which may result in heroic deeds.

I’m going to go farther back than I normally do with my references to pop culture and media and reference the poem known as Beowulf. Yes that long poem you had to read in twelfth grade english class will be talked about a little today, no I’m not talking about that weird CGI movie that came out ten years ago. Beowulf hears of the troubles the monster Grendel is causing because the tenants above him won’t turn down their partying resulting in Grendel  killing citizens under the land of Heorot. Grendel and Beowulf do battle, Beowulf rips off his arm and Grendel dies at home. His mother gets pissed.

Grendel’s Mother gets her revenge, and Beowulf travels to put an end to her too. For these two battles Beowulf is more or less just being a nice guy and is very confident in his abilities. He’s a hero because it’s the right thing to do. After fifty years and becoming a king himself, Beowulf takes on a dragon, but thanks to old age isn’t as confident in his abilities and is mortally wounded while dealing with the dragon.

The story itself isn’t too thrilling, but we have the basic hero of Beowulf who technically does go through change in his story of heroism from confident man who defeated two monsters to a king who wasn’t so sure he could defeat a dragon.

The subject of change for the hero can vary from the confidence of the hero regardless of it being a lack of confidence at the beginning to having confidence at the end or vice versa in the case of Beowulf.

There is also the ‘Zero to Hero’ story where Disney’s adaptation of Hua Mulan (just Mulan for the film) is a good example. In the original story Mulan wanted to join the army in place of her father (after she dueled him for permission and won) and was already a skilled martial artist and capable with a sword and after gaining much credit for her work returned home in retirement accepting no compensation for her work in the military.

The Disney adaption keeps Mulan replacing her father as a soldier, but takes away her badass combat abilities. She instead has to learn and earn her abilities as a soldier with the stakes increased in the film that should the Chinese military discover that she is a woman she will be executed for daring to break social norms by entering the army. Mulan is discovered, but is spared because Li is probably very relieved that Mulan is a woman meaning he isn’t gay. For all her efforts Mulan returns home a changed woman with a better understanding of honor and very happy to see her family (and is even hugged by the Emperor after she blew up his castle and earning the highest headcount of her Disney Princess counterparts).

It could be argued that the Disney film Hercules released a year before Mulan has the same Zero to Hero format and technically it does, but the character Hercules is doing it for selfish reasons at first rather than the selfless reason of Mulan and only learned to be a hero after Megara dies and the gods are freed. Technically Hercules didn’t learn a damn thing in the movie (Hades wasn’t such a bad guy and was just keeping his end of the bargain, Hercules is an asshat).

From the three examples above it could be argued that Mulan is the best example of a hero due to her compassion and will to sacrifice herself for the needs of her loved ones (and a cricket for good luck) while Beowulf was just being a nice guy and Hercules had no idea how to be a hero outside of getting a merchandising deal.

The Chosen One and The Special

What do Harry Potter and Star Wars have in common? Well besides the hero and villain relying on the color scheme of red and green to help the audience determine who is good and who is evil, not that much. Both DO have a Chosen One and do indeed play with the idea of a Chosen One. Normally a Chosen One is someone who is predicted to “save the day and put an end to evil!” Because destiny said so.

While this isn’t a bad plot device for a story, I chose the topic of Star Wars and Harry Potter because most audiences are familiar with these two franchises when it comes to having a ‘Chosen One’ despite the actual label of Chosen One being played with. In Harry Potter, Harry is known as ‘The Boy Who Lived’ and after a run in Voldemort his first year at Hogwarts is the only wizard who can defeat Voldy after Dumbledore himself. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (book 5/the one with the blue cover for you muggles) after being responsible for the death of a student and his godfather Harry demands answers from Dumbledore as to why this is happening to him.

Dumbledore explains that because of a vague prediction that Voldy knew of Harry could have been living a normal wizard life while his classmate and friend Neville Longbottom could have been the one with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, but Voldy picked Harry because he felt Harry was his equal. Dumbledore mentions that Voldy didn’t HAVE to actually listen to the prediction and could have gone on causing problems in the wizarding world, but because of knowledge of said prophesy didn’t want to take risks and decided to go after baby Harry setting the story into motion.

In Star Wars we have the Skywalker family; this starts off with Anakin Skywalker who has a special talent with the force and is prophesied to bring balance to the light and dark side of the force. Anakin is a gifted padawan despite having temptations from the dark side of the force. In the tv series Clone Wars he is shown to be a competent general, but it’s all for naught when in Revenge of the Sith he falls to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader putting an end to his Chosen One status. For the original trilogy audiences figured Luke was the actual Chosen One, and the force even had a back up plan with Leia, but in the end it’s Vader who puts an end to Emperor Palpatine.

In recent movies and spin offs though in the Star Wars universe things are shifting away from having Chosen Ones save the day to a bigger picture type of story I’ll get into a little bit.

The alternative to The Chosen One is ‘The Special’ as The Lego Movie puts it. As the name suggests, the Special is someone who is special, they can be someone immune to most vampire abilities, a vampire with empathic abilities, or in the case of The Lego Movie, someone who will be the best master builder ever! I do like that The Lego Movie also plays with this with the character WyldStyle hoping that she is the special, but discovering it’s a guy who thinks inside the box in contradiction to the outside the box master builders and saves the day more frequently because of it. It is revealed that the Special is completely made up for the sake of one of the protagonists buying time earlier in the movie and that all the protagonists in the movie are ‘The Special’.

Born for the Job

A variation for ‘The Special’ is literally being born into the job. Very good examples of this are Avatar The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. In these cases our protagonist is born into the role of hero due to being reincarnated in the case of Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon), and the light spirit of Raava being transferred into each life and incarnation of the Avatar.

The approach of being a hero is taken to two different extremes with the Avatar series; in the first series Aang is just child when he is told that he is the Avatar and has to defeat the Firelord to restore balance between the four nations. Aang flees resulting in the mass genocide of Airbenders and has to clean up the mess later. The first two seasons of the series Aang focuses more on having fun since he is still a twelve year old, but grows to understand the seriousness of the situation with the Fire Nation and realizes that he is the only one who can fix his mistake. While the first two seasons are more lighthearted, the third season takes a darker approach with the final batch of episodes focusing on the conflict between Aang’s personal beliefs that killing is wrong despite his position of being the Avatar and needing to protect and bring balance to the world and that he needs to kill Firelord Ozai (he takes the third option).

In the sequel series Legend of Korra, Korra is the opposite of Aaeng, when she discovers she’s the Avatar, she’s excited and spent her whole youth training to be the greatest fighter mastering all bending outside of airbending. While Aang was primarily a defensive fighter who went to great lengths to avoid violence as a solution to a conflict, Korra was ready to kick ass and chew gum. Korra’s constant conflict throughout the series is being told that she as the Avatar is not needed anymore. It starts off small when Amon of the Equalist movement tells her she is no longer needed because ‘benders shouldn’t be superior to nonbenders.’ this continues onto the second season where her uncle tries to replace her as the dark avatar, and comes to a tragic level in season three where the radicalist Zaheer wants to kill Korra and end the Avatar cycle for the sake of chaos and anarchy. The tragedy comes at the end of the season where Korra is damaged physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally and is told by her mentor Tenzin that the newly formed air nomads will aid the people of the four nations further pushing the message that Korra isn’t ‘needed’ anymore. In contrast with most tales of the Hero’s Journey, Korra realizes that in contradiction with Aang needing to resort to violence to save the day (he technically didn’t, but there was still fighting), she needed to rely on pacifism and talked her final foe down without resorting to what she believed was needed in the form of brute force and skill to save the day a few years ago.  

Now there’s Sailor Moon; many people see it as the one of the girliest shows out there. They might be right, but who says a story aimed for girls can’t have depth? Compared to the previous two examples, Usagi Tsukino almost had to be dragged into heroics kicking and screaming. The manga, nineties anime adaption, and live action tokusatsu series do a decent job of Usagi’s growth into a hero from her usual cry baby antics (the first episode of the nineties anime is literally named Crybaby Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation). What convinces her to go out and become a hero despite being a crybaby with zero combat ability? Her friend Naru is in danger (she never turns her back on a friend, she’s always there to defend, she is the one on whome we can depend), so she leaps into action without a second thought to save her best friend. As the series continues it is shown that what Usagi lacks in heroism (there are times where Luna and Tuxedo Mask have to talk Usagi into believing in herself to beat the bad guys), she makes up for as a people person genuinely liking most of the people she meets and standing up for oddballs and social outcasts that would later become her dearest friends.

By the third arc of the manga Usagi admits that she has accepted her fate to protect the earth from all who want to do harm to it and it’s people. In the final series arc she even gives a pep talk to a future incarnation of Sailor Moon known as Sailor Cosmos that even though the fight against Chaos seems hopeless, she can’t destroy the Galaxy Cauldron because then there would be no more life and that even if the fight against Chaos seems hopeless, it’s no reason to give up.

The Legend of Zelda

Why is The Legend of Zelda getting its own portion to this essay? Because it’s just that amazing. In nearly each Zelda game, there is one constant. There’s a Link, and there’s a Zelda. Things got a little interesting a few years ago with the release of the Hyrule Historia finally placing some clarity to many fan debates of how the series worked concerning our two main heroes.

Our heroes Link and Zelda are both subversions and straight examples of a hero and a Chosen One (this can vary from game to game). Each Link is a hero earning the Triforce of Courage for their courageous deeds (and in two cases getting the complete triforce). Many fans wondered how each Link was connected, and the only connection between them outside of the green tunic was bearing the Triforce of Courage, thus being the subversion of a ‘Chosen One’.

The multiple Zeldas in the series are an interesting approach to being a ‘Chosen One’ and ‘being born into the job’. It was revealed in The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword that there was indeed a fourth goddess for Hyrule known as the goddess Hylia born into a human by choice into the first incarnation of Princess Zelda. From that point onward future Zeldas are by technicality a Chosen One in their adventures not because they are royalty, but because they have the blood of the goddess Hylia flowing through their veins and with this power are trained and obligated to protect the land of Hyrule.

In the most recent game in the series Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, this incarnation of Zelda can’t connect with the power wielded by her ancestors and doesn’t like the pressure of being needed to protect Hyrule due to her inability to connect with these spiritual abilities and would rather be a scholar aiding in the research of past technologies. In contrast the Link of the game is a stern soldier fully devoted to Zelda and to the land of Hyrule ;Zelda laments that Link may have chosen this path because his father chose it and asks him what if he had chosen a different path mirroring his own situation with her own.

Unlike the Zeldas, most Links don’t have the baggage of having a duty to protect the kingdom and are just someone who stepped up to the plate to save the day for various reasons either to save a friend, sister, or because a tree told them to do it.

Subversion of Everything I Just Talked About

I have some issues with Chosen Ones; not that a story is bad for having a Chosen One, but that in writing once you set your protagonist as a Chosen One, you wrote yourself to rely solely on a protagonist. First let’s talk about destiny.

Destiney can tie into having a Chosen One because they’re destined to be chosen (so shocking). Back to Star Wars, in 2003 the video game Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic was released; it is one of the only GOOD Star Wars games out there. You can literally make your Player Character have decisions that affect their affiliation with the Force (as in you gain light side points for giving a man money, or can earn dark side points for mugging that man instead). You can also strike up conversations with crewmembers of the Ebon Hawk, one of them being Jolee Bindo. Bindo provides some insight and an alternative perspective to  the way the Force is seeing as he isn’t on the best terms with the Jedi Order.

One story is how a force user named Andor Vex who is told that the Force has a strong interest in him. Andor takes this as a sign that he will be a great hero and is cocky, this eventually leads to him confronting a villain and is taken captive. Andor begins to mouth off and brag about his destiny, resulting in his neck getting snapped and his body tossed down a hole that leads to his captors getting blown up. The lesson from this is pretty obvious that  just because you are told you have a big important destiny, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a delightful one.

To continue on with the thought of destiny there is Steven Universe; in the later portion of the series the main protagonist Steven begins to think he exists and was created for the sake of a big fancy destiny, possibly from the influence of his friend Connie.

Steven is a unique entity on his show where he’s half gem and half human. He was created because his mother, Rose Quartz, was so intrigued by humans and their ability to choose their own destiny, decided she wanted to have a child so that said child can choose their own destiny. By the episode Lion 4: Alternate Ending, Steven becomes obsessed with finding out more about his life and what his mother wanted for him only to be told by his dad that nothing in Steven’s life was planned and that everything that has happened so far was by pure chance.

Philip J. Fry

Philip J. Fry was the protagonist (sorta) to the animated scifi comedy series Futurama! He was a delivery boy from the year 1999 who got frozen and now lives in the year 3000 (sort of) as a delivery boy. As the series goes on it is discovered that Fry is a very important and special (no not that kind) person.

Because of time travel it is revealed that Fry had a one night stand with his grandmother and is his own grandfather. It seems like a throwaway gag at first, but this makes him the most important being in the universe; because of Fry’s ‘nasty in the pasty’, Fry lacks the delta brainwave making him immune to mind control and having his own mind read.

This doesn’t make him a Chosen One and Fry does qualify as a Special, but his importance is never really brought up. While the Nibblonians were aware of Fry and his importance, once his job of defeating the brainspawn is done (twice) he lives an uneventful life most of the time when he isn’t saving the universe by dumb luck alone.

I really do like the approach to Fry in Futurama since his character arc was planned from the start of the series instead of thrown in out of nowhere as the series went along. Futurama is also filled with constant subversions of science fiction and fantasy tropes that inspire the show and treated with love and respect.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Super heroes, they’re not exactly chosen to do the job of being a hero, but they do a good job of doing it. I like comicbooks, The above title for this part of the essay comes from The Amazing Spiderman as something Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben tells him shortly before being killed. And this quote does indeed echo not only through the Marvel Comic universe, but the DC universe as well.

There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of superheroes drawn and printed onto comicbooks once a month that range from being a mutant, alien, gifted with powers, and so many origin stories of how they became heroes.

A common plot involves the hero getting the power by sheer accident (like Spiderman or The Flash), they then proceed to use said power for the sake of doing good. In the case of Spiderman, it was originally just to find the crook who killed his beloved uncle (like a more sarcastic and middleclass Batman), but Spidey decided to keep on saving the day.

Honorary Mentions

  • Once Upon a Time- the first six seasons of this series followed Emma Swan and her adventures in the small town known as Storybrook as she slowly begins to understand and accept her life as the Savior with constant forks in the road of her eventual destiny of saving everyone (even the villains)
  • The Hunger Games trilogy-I’d Argue that Katniss Everdeen is only a hero because her sister just so happened to be selected to participate in the games. Had neither of their names been selected Katniss and Prim would have just continued on their lives and no big rebellion would have happened.
  • Battlestar Galactica-holy crap this series is all kinds of weird “because God wants it this way” going on.

They All Said Ouch

The hero protagonist has been here a long while and is here to stay. The same thing goes for being a Chosen One. The story of a hero can and has evolved though from basic stories of individuals doing good deeds just for the sake of doing them to complex prophecies saying ‘someone will save the day’, and even stories both real and fictional bringing in a protagonist who came from nothing and caused many great and good things to happen.

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Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild Review

Last Friday after realizing what day it was and doing some quick calculations I got myself The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U (I traded in a few games. Kind of on a budget.) I had been happily waiting for this game since it was announced in 2014 and after one week of exploring Hyrule, going through dungeons, and creating a drinking game out of dying (essentially it was a shot each time a died, two shots if it was a boss fight, down a cup if I was doing something really stupid), I have finished the game. Also BEHOLD THE FIRST (and probably only) GAME REVIEW ON THIS BLOG!

Spoilers from this point on

It was a fun game and very unique in comparison to other Zelda games starting with the fact that there is voice acting and you can’t change Link’s name. Another major change is that the game functions mostly as an open world environment meaning little to no loading screens unless you’re doing a special challenge or decided to warp to a different area in the game.

Gameplay

I was a little disappointed to see that Nintendo wouldn’t continue using motion controls with Breath of Wild after having so much fun with them in Skyward Sword. Using the Wii U gamepad wasn’t a bad experience, however as soon as muscle memory kicked in things went along more smoothly. There was still parts of the game that involved using the gamepad as a motion control that didn’t quite go as smoothly and almost resulted in me throwing the darn thing out of a window.

Having this game be an openworld game was an interesting experience since I never had played one before and didn’t fully get the concept. There were a few times I was lost in the game and had to backtrack some steps and take things more slowly rather than running around gliding from place to place for the sake of doing things the fast way.

The dungeons in this game are Divine Beasts you have to purify from Calamity Ganon’s control. My only complaint is that at times going through the dungeons themselves seemed too short with boss fights essentially being “stab it until it dies” rather than using strategy the whole time to fight the boss. Fighting bosses at times could be breezy so long as you timed dodging an attack perfect to unleash fury on the boss, or just came fully prepared. The lack of finding hearts and rupees in grass was a very welcomed change in Breath of Wild bringing in a new challenge of how to prepare for boss fights by cooking specific food dishes out of the ingredients you find around Hyrule and creating very useful potions out of the remains of monsters you kill in battle.

The game also takes a step away from other Zelda games by not having specific items and weapons needed for dungeons. Weapons could also be broken with the sole exception of The Master Sword, and even then it would need recharging at times. This got annoying at times since very useful weapons got destroyed out of sheer anger with minor enemies.

One item of importance is the Sheikah slate; it’s Link’s smartphone. It can be used to download maps from various areas, take photos, become a makeshift pokedex for enemies, wild animals, and other things, set reminders on quests, and everything but make a phonecall.

Another nice twist is that the start of the game involves you avoiding most of the monsters in the game similar to one would do in the first Legend of Zelda game (well that’s how I played it anyways). You couldn’t just barge into a room killing all the enemies without some serious consequences of either nearly being dead, losing a valuable weapon, or just plain dying.

I also liked the inclusion of the environment affecting Link in the game; you had to change Link into different clothes to suit the condition he was in. Hot volcano area? Special Goron armor. Wanna swim faster? Zora armor. Wanna sneak around? Use the Sheikah clothing (which was THE BOMB to use when exploring while wanting to avoid enemies).

Finally a love and hate thing I had with the game was the fact that the game didn’t hold your hand while you were playing it. Unlike in Orcarina of Time and Skyward Sword, Breath of Wild gives you little to no hint of what to do outside of “go to these places” which was kind of bad for me since I would rush to marked areas, die, and start over. It was when I slowed down and took the rout to areas marked on the map that the game became easier to play.

The Story

I’m still having trouble trying to figure out where Breath of Wild takes places in the timeline of The Legend of Zelda. The only clue given is that there is still reference to the goddess Hylia still being worshipped, but in the stages of being overlooked by the citizens of Hyrule. There is no ill will to the Gerudo tribe and the royal family, oddly both the Zora and Rito tribes coexist, the Kokiri have become the Koroks, there is still a Sheikah population beyond Impa, and the royal family is all but dead.

The game starts with Link awakening from a hundred year slumber to Zelda calling out to him. From that point on Link is placed on his quest by the spirit of the King of Hyrule (who now slightly resembles the late Robin Williams) to save the land. Link is giving the Sheikah slate instructing him to go to Impa to figure out how to save Hyrule.

The story concentrates mainly on Link and Zelda’s relationships with the citizens of Hyrule in the past and their fallen comrades at the hands of Calamity Ganon. In this version of Hyrule things are not going good at all with the castle destroyed and Zelda being the sole survivor of the royal family.

The background of the story is that Hyrule has gone to shit with Calamity Ganon corrupting ancient technology the Hyrulians and other species were using to banish him once and for all leading to not only Link being mortally wounded, but all of Link and Zelda’s allies being killed. As mentioned in gameplay Link is required to purify the Divine Beasts and free the spirits of his fallen friends in order to bring peace back to Hyrule.

A major theme in the story is doubt and having the ability to overcome doubt and what others think is destined for you. During game flashbacks Zelda heavily questions if she, Link, and their allies can defeat Calamity Ganon constantly thinking Link isn’t skilled enough to win against Calamity Ganon and hating herself for not having the power of the goddess Hylia despite Hylia’s divinity flowing through her blood. Another key point is that Zelda is more interested in doing research and studying the past rather than her role as princess and relying on prayer and meditation to use her powers.

There is a better explanation on some background events seen in Orcarina of Time and other games when it looked like there was friction between the Sheikah and the royal family by introducing the Yiga who are Sheikah who broke away from the clan and seek to kill Link.

There is no mention of the Triforce, it is there, but I’d rather not say what happens for the sake of a lovely twist in the Legend of Zelda series.

Artwork

Breath of Wild is beautiful; the game continues using the same cellshaded artstyle seen in both Wind Waker and Skyward Sword leaning more towards the later. The game also seems to lean more towards Wind Waker HD with a beautiful combination of cellshading and HD. I will admit I was hoping the game would be like a watercolor painting the same way Skyward Sword tended to be at times, but I got over this desire pretty fast.

I played the Wii U version so I think I got the less fancy one. If I ever get a Switch I’ll do a comparison of both games to see which system brought out the full beauty of the game.

The music also compliments the artstyle of the game very much with music increasing in tension at times of danger and turning light and soft in times of normality in the game.

Final Thoughts

Waiting two and a half years for the game was worth it, trading in Pokken, Professor Layton, and Animal Crossing was worth it, literally spending all of last Friday playing the game and making some friends think I’d been kidnapped may have been going a little overboard.

But the game brings out the best of the Wii U and possibly the best of the Switch (I’ll probably have to buy one if Nintendo kills off the 3ds). There is so much to do in the game both in the main story and side quests and even just screwing around and exploring Hyrule is worth playing the games at times considering how huge it is now.

I give The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U and the new Nintendo Switch five out of five Sheikah Slates.