I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 8

I’ve pretty much hit my mental, emotional, and physical limit this week, so I’m going to set aside all the thoughts and plans I had for complicated, introspective, or interesting blog posts and just really dig into some Legend of Zelda stuff. Specifically, mounts.

Mounts have been a part of every single 3D legend of zelda game. From Epona in Ocarina of Time to King of Red Lions in Wind Waker to the Loftwings of Skyward sword, there has always been a mount (or mount-like vehicle I guess ince King of Red Lions is a boat) to make it easier or possible at all for you to traverse the world. While I think there could be some interesting discussion about the way the mounts in Skyward Sword and Wind Waker allow you to traverse at all and shape the way you interact with the world between land masses, I want to focus on the horses.

Most of the 3D games I had played by the time I got around to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had very small levels. Super Mario 64 had stages that were closely bordered and changed from one Star attempt to another to provide the necessary variety. Jet Force Gemini had you running around largely on paths to reach a goal area. Donkey Kong 64 had levels setup similarly to Mario 64, that changed from Banana to Banana or that kept areas locked behind special moves or certain Kongs. Ocarina of Time, though, had Hyrule Field. A wide, open expanse that is largely empty the first time you reach it (eventually it fills up with stuff once you realize how to interact with things) with nothing to guide you around except paths. Other 3D games used collectibles to tell you where to go or the path was the only way forward, so reaching this wide open place with nothing except a wordsy owl I entirely ignored to guide me meant I was wowed and a little intimidated by this huge space.

Enter the horse. In the latter portion of the game, when you are an adult, you can unlock Epona, the horse you probably bonded with as a child, so you can traverse the world more quickly and participate in certain events or minigames. Since there was nothing to draw you along, almost no collectibles to find in hidden corners except at the very end of the discoverable hidey-holes, it meant that the open map felt very empty most of the time. Unless, of course, you were riding across it on Epona. Having a mount shrunk the size of the maps to something much more manageable, something less time-consuming as the game sent you hither and yon for quests, side quests, and hidden-item searches.

While the controls for Epona weren’t great and the game had a difficult time figuring out if she could jump over stuff or not, there wasn’t a single case where you were better off on your feet than riding Epona. The controls improved over time, as more and more games came out (until Loftwings, anyway), but you were still entirely responsible for your safety the whole time. You had to monitor your movement, avoid hazards, and do you best to ensure your mount didn’t get hung up on a piece of the map they clearly weren’t even touching.

Enter Breath of the Wild. Now, once you become a good enough friend with your horse (and these wonderful creatures deserve nothing less than your best), they will safeguard you on your journey. They won’t fight for you (thankfully, since they have far fewer hit points than you do), but they will follow any path you put yourself on and are great (to a fault) at avoiding hazards. Sure, they might decide to avoid a hazard by charging down a steep incline they can’t get back up, but that’s better than running me into the Gold Bokoblin with a fiery greatsword. Now, the only issue with jumping over things is getting yourself pointed at them from far enough away because the game decides if you can jump over it or not WAY further away than I thought it would.

Unfortunately, with this improvement comes one major downside. As I mentioned, the horses in Breath of the Wild have hit points. They can die. Sometimes, it happens because you bring them too close to a fight and the enemies focused on you catch your horse in the crossfire. Or you catch your horse in the crossfire. Sometimes, you take them somewhere dangerous and, sure, you can survive a direct hit from a guardian, but your horse can’t. They don’t deserve to die like that, so you need to be cautious. Leave them further from the fight than you might like. Ride them past it, jump off, and let them keep going. Take care of your horse because they do their best to take care of you.

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