I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 5

I really ought to rename this entire series to reference Breath of the Wild since it’s the main game I’m going to be talking about. I considered it during the inception of the second “episode,” but I didn’t want to take any options off the table so early in this series. Maybe I’ll eventually write about the music of the franchise or the way that loss and self-sacrifice play a part in every iteration of this story. Or maybe I’ll just forever write about Breath of the Wild because there’s just so much to say about this huge game. Like the introduction of falling stars and the somewhat mystic mechanics that exist around them (at least until you look them up online, anyway).

I don’t remember where I was when I saw my first falling star. It was early enough in Breath of the Wild that I was still marveling at the game and refusing to let any feelings of trepidation slow my exploration (with frequently lethal results), but I don’t remember the exact circumstances of catching sight of it. What I do remember, though, is shield-surfing across Hyrule Field to move a little faster, downing every movement speed item I had, and jumping on random 2-star instantly-tame horses that would get shot out from under me as I tried to get to whatever that big glowing pillar was.

The twist here is that I spotted it while fleeing a guardian while I only had 5 hearts (I got to 5 and then just filled out my stamina gauge since it didn’t occur to me until later that tougher enemies would start showing up as my finished shrine total went up). All of my speed and running was to avoid death, not get to the star fragment before dawn, so it didn’t much occur to me that the thing I was doing was important in any way. In fact, my next three falling star events were in similar circumstances: I was already moving quickly for a reason unrelated to the falling star and managed to get it along the way to whatever I was doing. Shield-surfing down a mountain, gliding over some lizalfos infested wetlands, and racing down a road on horseback toward a shrine I’d spotted.

My fifth falling star is where my understanding and experience started to change. This fateful fifth fell across a lake, midway up a cliff. I, in my lackadaisical way, swam across it and started hurrying up said cliff, only to get shot down by an octorok. Rather than shoot the octorok with one of my low number of arrows, I tried to get clever and dodge the shots, but kept getting nailed no matter what I did. As the first light of dawn showed up in the sky, I took the time to shoot the octorok and THEN climb up the cliff, only to discover that, at some point between swimming across and killing the octorok, the star fragment had vanished.

I was used to the glow disappearing, the pillar of light turning into a tangible object as soon as you get near enough horizontally, regardless of the vertical space between you and it. This time, I thought I’d just missed that moment and it had gone tumbling down into the water while I was distracted trying to dodge an octorok. With a few choice, frustrated expletives, I moved on with my life. It wasn’t until the 6th falling star that I realized they vanished with the dawn. This one I saw vanish. It was too close to morning when it fell and too far away for me to travel without a horse or a hill to shield-surf down, and I was still running towards it when the glow vanished in the morning light and no item appeared to take its place.

After that, I learned my lesson and started running as soon as the streak of light appeared in the sky. It took me a while longer to figure out that you had to actually see it land for the column of light to appear. If it fell behind something, it wouldn’t manifest. I also learned that looking away before the column had reached full height and lunimosity would also cause it to vanish. It was a whole series of investigations and failures before, eventually, they stopped showing up altogether.

See, early in my time with this game, I was always looking up at the sky or the horizon. There was so much out there to explore. But as I progressed, finding scenes from other games, but ruined and destroyed by the past cataclysm, I stopped looking up and out. I looked down instead. At the world around me. And that’s how I learned the final rule of falling stars. If you’re not looking at the sky or the horizon, allowing some of that starry night to fill your screen, they’ll never fall. Obsessed as I was with the ruin and devastation around me, I thought I’d just gotten lucky earlier. I thought that it was like blood moons: dependent on how much killing or progression you’d done recently. All I really needed to do, though, was look up at the sky at night.

Almost like it’s a metaphor for something.

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