I found Thirsty Boi outside Gerudo town’s main gate by the place where you can grab a wild sand seal, and get the snow shoes back from him. He takes the photo I took of the Eight Heroine’s sword as payment for them, and tries to ask me out on a date, and I say no.
There is a lot to be said about how this game depicts gender and relationships, and I don’t know that I’m the best qualified to do it, but this character, Bozai, who I deal with to get the shoes provides a teachable moment about how some boys will try to parlay a relationship as though it were some sort of transactional thing that is owed to them in return for their service in some capacity. This whole time, this guy has been… I don’t know what the correct way to read this is — he’s either muttering under his breath, so Link can hear what he’s planning in-game, or the dialog is providing me, the player with this character’s internal monologue, so that I can properly understand what’s going on in his head. He is, in short, plotting to get Link, who he thinks is a Hylian woman when he is dressed in the Gerudo disguise, to become his girlfriend, by having conversations where he tries to set up a supposedly impossible task for Link to perform in return for his special shoes. The plot fails because Link is a hero and can do these herculean feats that Bozai believes are impossible. His plan, to get Link to waste is time questing after this impossible task, is supposed to result in them spending time together and getting to know each other so that he can win Links affection. But when that doesn’t work, he has to live up to his end of the bargain and part with his special shoes, or else he would be dishonorable for breaking the agreement. So then after all that, he tries to ask Link out on a date, and Link shoots him down before he can even finish the question. Link never reveals his true identity or gender when in the Gerudo disguise. In other parts of the game, Link is shown to be embarrassed by wearing women’s clothing, particularly when other characters in the game pay him a compliment, or when they reveal they can see through his disguise and know that he’s really a man.
I think the game leaves open to interpretation what to take away from this, but I don’t get the sense that this is a particularly “woke” game that would satisfy the SJW crowd. In general, though, I don’t believe that it’s the purpose of a videogame to deconstruct gender norms, nor to enforce them, either. The purpose of games is various: to present a fun challenge, to entertain, to tell a story, and more. The art of storytelling in games can be used to tell stories that have a moral agenda of one stripe or another, and this can be done well or poorly, and you can agree with it or disagree with it or find yourself somewhere in the middle.
I think an artfully told story doesn’t try to tell the reader what to think, but rather helps a reader to understand how characters feel in different situations, and thus come to a greater appreciation of what it is like to have those experiences. I don’t get the sense that this game is attempting to do that; I don’t get a sense that there’s a particular agenda in the game with regard to making some kind of statement about gender. But it is certainly using gender as device in storytelling.
Whether it’s doing this for an agenda, or whether it’s doing so particularly well or poorly isn’t my main interest. But that it’s doing so at all is interesting, and there’s a lot that could be said about it by someone who wished to focus on how gender is depicted and used in the game as a play mechanic and story telling device.
I don’t think it’s my place to tell others how to feel about the game, but I’d be very interested to hear from others how they did feel about various depictions of gender in the game. For myself, I sometimes feel somewhat uncomfortable with what I see happening in the game. Certain things feel a bit… simple. Like how many characters in the game talk about what they think it must be like to fall in love, or how wonderful being married is. Some of these characters are children, and probably should be expected to have a somewhat childish understanding of these things. Some of them are young men or women, and thus have less actual experience but have opinions based on what they’ve apparently been told while they were growing up. There are even a few elderly characters in the game who talk about the life they’ve lived, and how it differed from what they had hoped it would be. There’s very occasionally some wisdom in their words, but it’s not particularly deep — kinda obvious stuff, really.
It’s hard for me to put a finger on it exactly to explain what my reaction is, much less why I feel that way. At times I do feel a bit icky about it. But I’m not sure if this is because the story tellers are icky, or if it’s because they’re portraying a world which has a lot of icky people in it who have icky ideas about gender and love, which don’t really speak in any compelling way to my sensibilities as someone who has lived the sum of my life’s experiences.
I don’t really know how to conclude this sidebar. I keep finding myself having these moments in the game where I feel a bit weird about what characters say to me. But then, I also feel weird about people in real life saying to me what they think about. I dunno; maybe it’s just me.
In video game dialog trees, you typically only have 2 or three options for how to respond to anything anyone says to you, and often all the conversational branches converge at the end to the same conclusion, and there’s not even much of an illusion of non-linearity or of choice. I think that’s part of it, too. Like, I could have paragraphs of conversation with some of the characters I run into, where I might variously lecture them on something I think they ought to know or think about, or where I might just ask them questions.
But really this is a game about climbing up high in a beautiful natural setting while finding stuff that makes you feel kindof glad you bothered to go up that mountain or whatever, even though the view itself is honestly worth it, and occasionally hitting things with a sword or other weapon, or manipulating physical objects with various magico-physical properties. And regardless of what kind of attitude someone in one of the towns is expressing about gender or romance, I’m not really going to let it affect how I’m feeling about the core game, because it’s not terribly relevant to that. I’m like, “Whatever, village person, I’m not here to talk to you about men and women, and I don’t really care what you think; I’m here to save the world from evil.” But then they go and say something, and I’m like, “Sigh. This is the world that I am saving, and I am still going to save it. But please stop talking.”
Anyway, that’s an awful lot of words for not having really said very much about a topic within the game that I think could be talked about a great deal, but not because it’s all that terribly relevant to the actual game, but because it’s pretty interesting how the game intersects with the culture that produces games like this.
I take my snow boots and travel back up into the Gerudo Highlands to try to find more shrines and korok seeds and such. And I do find a lot of those things. This part of the world has a lot of octorocks who have disguised themselves as treasure chests, so wherever you find a semi-hidden treasure chest in the ground, odds are about 50-50 that it’s actually an octorock, and not a chest with a nice sword or gem or some rupees.
As I slowly make my way east toward the central Gerudo Highlands, I see a circle of stones on a ledge below me, where I know I’ll find another korok seed if I can find a stone to complete the circle. Only, I cant find the stone right away. And as I’m looking for it, I notice that same odd glow off in the distance, that I know now is associated with the Lord of the Forest.
I’m super hyped to see the Lord of the Forest again, so I instantly drop what I’m doing, and pull out the telescope and pin the spot on the map where the glow is coming from. And this time, it’s not Satori Mountain.
This spikes my level of intrigue up to maximum, and I teleport to the nearest hub to the location I pinned; it’s in an area I really haven’t explored much yet; a bit north of Mount Lanayru. I am anxious that I probably will not be able to make it to the spot before the night ends, and will miss out on whatever this glow is.
As it turns out, I don’t make it in time. The terrain is unfamiliar, and very difficult to cross quickly, and it’s dark and it’s raining on top of that. But as I’m getting close, still about half way from the Tower that I had warped to and the pin on the map, I see a shooting star fall from the sky. The meteor falls not exactly near, but not all that far from the location of the pin where I spotted the glow. So I change course slightly, and go to retrieve the meteorite. These are some of the rarest finds in the game, and they seem to be needed for some of the fairy augmentations for my gear, and in close to 200 hours of play I’ve seen only a handful, and retrieved only one of those, so I’m not about to let this one get away.
I charge toward the meteorite site hard and relentless, and make it there. It’s embedded itself in the side of a cliff, and just as I’m getting to within about 50 yards or so of it, it tumbles down the cliff, and lands in the water of this river that I’ve been more or less following from Lanayru Tower. This makes it easier for me to get to, so I’m grateful, I jump down and grab it.
As I was heading to this spot, my Sheikah slate detected a shrine, so once I retrieve the meteorite, I backtrack and try to find it, and do so after a little bit of searching.
This shrine reminds me of the shrine that I found a few weeks ago, that was surrounded by a maze of flowers that a Hylian woman had planted around it, and I wasn’t allowed to step on. This time, though, it’s thorny spikes that look like they’ll damage me if I touch them, so I don’t. I think it’s a neat bit of design that they had a “pleasant” version of this challenge introduced to me before the “mean” version of it.
The shrine itself is really cool. There’s a cube floating in mid-air in the room, and on four faces it has torches, one of which is lit. One face of the cube is blank, and the remaining cube face has a fountain of water. The cube is hovering over a shallow pool of water, and on two opposite sides of the cube there are walls bracketing the cube, where there are two additional torches. There’s a three-way switch hovering in the air near me that I can use to twist the cube along its X, Y, and Z axis, and thereby I am required to make all five torches that are not yet lit, lighted. This is possible by using the first fire to ignite the torches on the bracketing walls, and then further rotations of the cube an get the remaining unlit torches lit. It’s tricky due to the water below, which will put out any fire if it it ends up being on the bottom face of the cube, or if the fountain is rotated toward one of the lit torches on the bracketing walls, they will also go out.
It’s easy to cheat this one with flame arrows, as the shrine does not actually care how they were lit, but the intended solution only requires a little bit of forethought. There are also two chests high on wooden shelves along the rear wall, and I bring those down with a fire arrow, burning the wooden platforms away to cause the chests to fall to the floor where I can get to them.
After clearing the shrine, I try to make my way back to where I had pinned on the map for the strange glow I’d spotted the night before. This is difficult because of the terrain, needing to cross the river, and the fact that it is raining non-stop for some reason. In the end I just transport back to Lanayru Tower and hike from there. When I get to where I had pinned, I find an abundant number of wildlife creatures — deer and boar, mostly, hanging around the area still. On the rock wall of a cliff nearby is some old carving, like a giant plaque. I read it, and it gives some backstory about the Zora. I’m not sure what the connection is between this story and the glow I observed from the night before, but it could be just a coincidence. Or not. Maybe I’ll find out one day, or maybe not, but right now there seems to be no answer.
I decide to return to Rito village and take on Vah Medoh. To get started, I’m supposed to find one of the Rito soldiers at the Flight Archery course, but I haven’t seen him there. It turns out that I needed to talk to his wife in the village first; I find her and do this, and then she tells me to take off from a specific point and it’s a straight shot to the Flight Archery range.
I take off, and it’s actually a straight shot to the stables. Since I’m there, I talk to the old man who wanted the Goron spice to make curry dishses with, and give him some curry that I purchased from a woman at the Serenne Stables when I was there to show the scientists the photo I took of the Gerudo Leviathan. He thanks me and gives me some rupees, and talls me how to make my own curry dishes with Goron Spice.
I take Horsey out from the stables and we ride up the road to the archery range. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, as I’ve already unlocked the shrine right next to the flight range, but I figure maybe there’s some scripted story event that I’ll miss if I don’t go this way, so I go with the flow. Nothing special happens, though, and I get to the range, and there’s my dude, Teba. He wants me to prove myself first, so I have to pass the archery challenge by hitting 5 targets in 3 minutes. I’ve practiced this some already, and it’s very easy, I do it in well under 3 minutes.
Teba is impressed and we quickly “hatch” (lol) a plan for taking on Vah Medoh. He flies me up there and drops me in the sky to glide, and while he distracts the gun turrets of Vah Medoh, I’m supposed to take them out, targeting them with bomb arrows. Teba gives me an additional 20 bomb arrows, and I’ve bought a ton of these recently, so I have over 110 now. But I only have 15 normal arrows, so I need to buy more before we can take this on.
I quick-travel to Kakariko and Hateno villages, and buy out all their stock of normal arrows, but that only amounts to around 45. I hope it’ll be enough.
I return to Teba, and we take on Vah Medoh. Taking out the turrets is very easy. I really have the knack for gliding and then switching to target with the bow, and then switching back to glide. It seems that the game refills my stamina meter if I ditch my glider and then re-up it. Without this, it’d be just about impossible to do this part of the mission.
I take out the four turrets, and this brings down a magical energy shield that protected Vah Medoh, and prevented us from getting in. Teba is injured in the leg, and can’t continue the mission, so has to drop back, leaving me to finish this myself.
I land on Vah Medoh, and the general idea is the same as for Vah Naboris. There are several switches that I need to get to and activate, and then I can activate the main switch and regain control over the Divine Beast, and, I’m sure, fight another boss. Complicating this are puddles of evil eyeball goo, and inconvenient platforms, machinery, and floorplanning.
I manage to access the first four switches, but the last one, in the tip of the left wing, seems to be a trick to get to. There doesn’t seem to be any way to walk to it. It’s in the wing tip, in a round hub at the bottom. I head to the lower deck of the Beast, and there’s a doorway leading to the exterior, where there is a walkway that I can get to where I can see the chamber where the final switch is, from the outside, and it looks like there should be an extensible walkway that would allow me to walk the rest of the way, but it’s not there, and there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism to deploy it.
I give the matter some thought, and realize that the answer is to angle the wing of Medoh so that the tip is lower, which will allow me to glide to it. I do this, and it’s a simple matter to just glide across. I activate the switch, then tilt the wings the other way, glide back across, and get back into the main body of Medoh.
I get onto the dorsal surface of the body, and activate the main switch, which triggers the boss fight. This boss is called Windblight Ganon, and I find it is an easier fight than the one against Thunderblight Ganon in Vah Naboris. This boss doesn’t seem to use melee attacks, and doesn’t like to get close. It teleports and flies, and it fires scary looking energy blasts at me, but I find they don’t do much damage at all. I take more damage in the fight from falling when I run out of glide stamina than I do from Windblight Ganon.
The pattern is to ride an updraft high enough to hit him more easily with an arrow, and nail him, ideally in the central eye, and dodge his blasts. If you hit him square in the eye, he’ll fall to the ground, momentarily stunned, and then you can open up on him. I do this about twice, and he’s down to half his life energy, and starts flying higher and shooting more. I find that his fire is easy enough to dodge as long as I don’t stand still, which is not a problem. When I fly up, I’m able to nail him with 2-3 arrows per flight, and sometimes I can resume gliding and catch the wind again and hit him more times. He only gets stunned and falls to the the ground two or three times, though, and I’m only able to get to him to do melee damage on him two of those times. Toward the end, he starts charging up what looks like a super-blast, and I don’t know if I can dodge this or not, so to bring it home I switch to bomb arrows and plug him with 4-5 or so, bringing him down.
I defeated him on the first try.
After the fight, I return to Rito village, where Vah Medoh perches on the top of Rito village, and fires a laser beam at Hyrule Castle. I talk to the owl chieftan of the Rito, and he gives me an awesome bow, which I am sure going to be sad about breaking. It fires triple shots, and has a high attack rating and rate of fire. I hope I don’t waste it on unworthy enemies.