When I Became a Man, I Put Childish Ways Behind Me

October 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

This  has gotten me more excited than Halloween (no, my costume being accidentally destroyed a few hours before the planned outing isn’t annoying at all), and I sat down to figure out why. It got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. For those of you who don’t want to follow links, have the video.

This was originally linked to me from Kotaku and in the comments there, someone said that this didn’t really “feel” like Zelda, and that this was, although well done, just another attempt to make something cool by making it gritty and real. I wondered about that for a bit. Did I only like the mod because it was making something that I loved as a kid, and still do, somewhat more palatable to my older, more refined (hah! I don’t know what Chardonnay is!) tastes?

This phenomenon appeared before, in what we (and by that, I mean me and the Comic Book Guy) called the Dark Age of Comic Books. I’ll summarize the Wiki link by saying that in the 80s, comics tended to become darker and more “serious”. This is the age of the Dark Knight Returns, the Watchmen, and nowadays, The Boys and…urgh…Crossed. Here’s a visual example of what I mean:

Pre-Dark Age Batman:

*Insert Zoidberg "woo woo woo"

And Dark Age Batman:

Now, I suspect this was done for many of the same reasons that Hollywood evolved the way it did. Steven Spielberg, after all, was raised on schlocky crap movies that influenced him, and once combined with his actual training, allowed him to make glorious movies like Jurassic Park, something no-one would say is childish no matter the dinosaurs present.

I got this from Moviebob, a man I greatly admire, and his excellent series on the history of Hollywood. This is the first in the series, and I highly recommend watching it. It’s only about 20 minutes total, and well worth it even if you’re not a movie buff.

But is that all, I wonder? Is this simply a chance to re-live something I loved in a way that’s more acceptable as an adult? I would say no, if only because that suggests things have to be violent and based on war in order to be appreciated as an adult. Which, sadly, might be true, but isn’t necessarily so.

And, of course, this assumes that the past was entirely childish. Look at this picture, which was published in Nintendo Power when The Legend of Zelda came out, way back in 1986. Yes, that was before I was alive or even conceived.

Link actually looks human, and not just like a little sprite on the screen. The angle of his stance suggests he’s tired, anyone who’s played it will realize his shield is gone, likely wrecked, and his bearing just screams that he’s down to his last heart. Ganon, on the other hand, seems completely unaffected. It’s hard to tell, but there are skulls on his belt and pauldron, and he looks about a second away from crushing Link. What I love about this picture is that it actually shows what it would be like to go against a monster like Ganon. It shows the difference between imagination and, well, “reality”. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Battle of Helm’s Deep on-screen. I thought about what it would be like to be a Rohirrim on that wall, and it actually frightened me. It was real in a way that even the words on a page couldn’t really express.

So when I saw the trailer for Hyrule: Total War, I wasn’t excited because it was violent and “mature”. I was excited because the creators took the Zelda world and made it real. Check out the link and if you have the time, take a look at the units for each faction. The characters from the Zelda universe and put within the context of a place that has a history and a future. It took things that had relatively little background (a good example is the Lizalfos faction), and made them flesh-and-blood.

Simply, they took world-building to another step. Zelda already has a rich mythos and history. It even has super-nerds who will argue about the suggested timeline.

Yes, this is a legitimate document that has in no way been altered. I am a little frightened.

This is also why I adore fantasy and science-fiction, because they like to build worlds that are interesting to go to. It’s far easier to go there as kids, but as adults it’s still worthwhile. But only if you learn something about this one while you’re over there. For an example, let’s take the intro to A Link To The Past. If you’ve not played it (shaaaame), then here’s the breakdown of the first few minutes.

It’s a dark and stormy night, and you, as Link, have a dream where a girl you don’t know asks you to help save her. She says how a dark wizard has been capturing other girls for a nefarious plot, and has captured the castle and possessed the guards. Your father, sword and shield in hand, nonchalantly says he’s going out for a bit. Hot on his heels, you rush out into the storm and sneak into the castle through the sewers. In the sewer, you find your father grievously wounded and on death’s door, likely thrown there after trying unsuccessfully to fight the castle guards and free Zelda. He gives you his sword and shield, leaving you alone in the dark and the last hope to save the innocent women captured by the evil wizard.

You do not see your father again.

Do you know what this plot reminds me of? If we replace a few of the elements (namely the evil wizard), we basically have the plot to Man on Fire, Ransom, Kiss the Girls, and Along Came a Spider. And this basic plot tells us so much about the world.

We learn something about the personal cost of the war against evil. We learn something about how damn lonely it is to fight against something. And we learn how much it sucks to actually be a hero. At the very least, Link gets out of bed in the dark and the rain to help someone he doesn’t even know.

If any of that is childish, then let me be a child again.

Finally, for a wonderful example of how you can make something serious and interesting to a more mature audience without resorting to violence, check out Pokemon. Namely, the mythos surrounding the creation of the world and the legendary pokemon. Yes, there is a coherent and consistent story that runs throughout all the pokemon games that details the history, both real and mythic, of the world of pokemon. Did you know that there was a war fought before the events of the Red/Blue game, and that that’s likely where the father of the main character died?

And you probably thought it was just about slavery.

I admit, as someone who works and has worked in children’s stores for the past 4 years, I’m biased towards legitimizing the stories that are told to children. I think it’s not just a zero-sum game, where you are either a) for adults or b) for children. Especially since it’s adults who are making the stories that are being told.

In other news, I would like to announce that I am clean-shaven for the first time in six years. It is so weird to have a face again. I’m not sold on it, but for now it will do.

Finally, here’s something from your childhood that is totally relevant even today.

Totally.

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