A few disclaimers before we move forward:
- Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
- These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Now this is an area that won’t go undescribed.
Unlike Rito Village, Lost Woods is an area I stumbled upon during my Wii U playthrough of the game, so I have two experiences with this place as opposed to a lone forgettable one. Believe me when I say, Lost Woods isn’t forgettable. To even get to the heart of the forest, one has to navigate a foggy pathway with little distinction of progress. Straying too far from the correct path will trigger a cutscene that fades the screen to white and transports Link back to a starting spot of sorts as he looks around in confusion. I, too, am confused, Link.
Immediately cementing itself as a different course of action, Lost Woods strategically takes the moniker of its area and makes it as ominous as the name would imply. One can really get lost in these woods; if not by how similarly every corner looks, then by the fact that the woods is alive and can actively play tricks on you. Combined with a repetitive, minimalist track of piano keys and eerie ambiance, I was genuinely tense my first time through the trek. I wasn’t sure if enemies could pop out of nowhere, if a giant boss awaited at a single wrong turn, or if the fog would eventually consume my life as well as my sanity. Every indication that the fog would overcome my field of vision caused a mini panic attack within me as I backpedaled before it could trigger the teleportation. This is only the entrance to the main area of the woods and already I’m more invested with it than the entirety of Rito Village.
Making it past the creepy valley of mist will clean the environment of debris and unleash a vibrant green aura. Korok Forest awaits the player, and rewards them by immediately kicking the framerate’s ass in. Of every area in the game, encompassing experiences with battles of six or more enemies with different battle animations, Korok Forest is the most stressful area for the game to register, for whatever reason. Slowdown is inevitable here, even if in small spurts. It seems odd that this is the first thing I note for the area, considering there’s a lot of neat shit that occurs here, but this was the most striking to me initially, especially on the Wii U version.
Korok Forest is a tiny little grassy cove containing—what else—a colony of Koroks. Their playful banter and fear of outsiders makes for an interesting display of character among those of the race, most notable in the showing of heads quickly hiding behind trees and branches when one comes close enough. Appearance-wise, they look very little different from their interpretation in past titles, and by that I mean Wind Waker. (They’ve really never been in anything other than Wind Waker?) Also returning from Wind Waker, and Ocarina of Time, is the Great Deku Tree, who is a lot more animated this time around. And he has a voice. It’s awful. Regardless of how he says it, the words spoken ring familiar to that of past titles, almost as though there’s a special item within the area that’s yours for the takin—oh, shit; the Master Sword can be acquired here!
Of course, the player can’t just waltz over and take the damn thing. That wouldn’t make it Excalibur-like enough. What one needs is at least thirteen hearts. Why? Because trying to pull out the Master Sword with brute strength hurts like the dickens. Should one have less than thirteen hearts, they will die trying to pull it out—yes, die. Luckily for me, my brother had already relayed this information to me before I tried doing so out of ignorance, with or without the required number of hearts. Alas, dear game, you would not make a fool out of me… on this occasion.
Aside from acquiring the Master Sword and having the image of the Great Deku Tree be slightly soiled by my dismay with their C-rate voice actors, Korok Forest has a number of shrines to peruse so long as one talks to a specific Korok, who seems to be the leader (or lead spokesperson) of them, who sets them up as “trials” for “the Hero” to shore up his skills with. Otherwise, some side quests are available and some shops and an inn are situated within a tree for Link to interact with. Anything else is purely for—Oh wait, I forgot about Maraca-Korok! Back in my thoughts on Kakariko Village, I mentioned in passing a Korok that will expand one’s inventory. What I didn’t mention is this Korok loves playing the maracas, and trading him(?) Korok Seeds (more on those in another post) will have him(?) expand one’s main weapon, bow weapon, or shield inventory capacity. I’m unsure as to whether he(?) will show up in Korok Forest if one doesn’t meet him(?) climbing up to (or down from) Kakariko Village, but the entire context behind him(?) is that he(?) can’t find his way home, so he(?) appears in random spots on the map until he(?) can find his(?) way home. (Should I stop questioning the gender?)
Green and whimsical, like a Disney representation of World of Warcraft’s Feralas or… Kokiri Forest from Ocarina of Time. The aesthetic value of Korok Forest does little with its interactive environment, but it’s basic appearance does a lot for the mood, combined with the accompanying score. Its contrast with the spooky nature of what came before makes it a great relief for those going through it for the first time; such a cathartic experience goes a long way for memorability. And while the size of Korok Forest is limited to a physical parameter that Link can run through in less than three minutes, the game does well to heighten its importance as the Master Sword’s hiding place and the hangout spot for the Maraca-Korok. It feels more like a bush than a forest, though.
Unnerving, then useful and symbolic. It provides the sense of atmosphere the game tries so emphatically to present with a measure of polar opposites that work in its favor. Sure, the experience of going through Lost Woods is a one-time deal outside of the trials, seeing as one can teleport directly to Korok Forest through fast travel, but it’s enough to give it the “Ah fuck, not this part” treatment for replays. Only two other places in the game creeped me out like Lost Woods did (one already noted, one not), so it’s impressive that such a simple technique of skewing the lines of what’s known to the player creates so strongly a tensile situation. In its entirety, there’s no Divine Beast to conquer or spirits to put to rest, but the throwback to old characters and unearthing the sword of all swords makes it as important a destination as most others.
(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)