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.
With all the preceding posts complaining about the story, the one-dimensional characters, the voice acting, and everything else attributed to the theatrical elements of Breath of the Wild, it’d be easy to assume that the side quest involving Zelda’s memories would be something I loathe. On the contrary, Zelda’s memories helped provide a boost of empathy from me in regards to the character of Zelda herself. While her story isn’t all that new from previous incarnations, she did have something I sorely wish Link had: a personality.
Noted in a quick aside in a previous post, my previous favorite incarnation of Zelda was in Skyward Sword, because her bubbly relationship with Link made for a believably sweet-hearted girl thrown into a perilous situation. Later on in the game, though, she became a token “Character who becomes serious because the situation is serious.” One interesting thing with Breath of the Wild is that Zelda is never shown in a tangible form (except at the very end), as her experiences are technically collectibles that Link can acquire by standing in a specific spot that trigger a lost memory of interacting with Zelda, a hundred years prior to the events of the game. Kind of like a specific item that triggers memories for someone in real life.
I can say now that, despite her never even appearing throughout the game, Breath of the Wild‘s Zelda is my favorite form of her, based solely on her personality and presentation. Her voice actor is not great—but neither is practically anyone else in the game (also, why English? Why are all proper-status individuals in fiction English?)—but damn if she gives it her all. Her moods range from haughty to depressed to curious to anguished to soul-search-y. She may very well be the most complex character in the game. Her life is that of a royal daughter expected to uphold her duties as a protective sage of some sort, always being pushed by her father to better herself for any possibility of evil. As most seventeen-year-olds are, Zelda would rather be off researching things out in the field or pursuing whatever passion she desires, constantly at odds with the importance of her duties and her commitment to them. Some of the cutscenes attributed to her memories feel right out of a period drama, what with the Hyrule Castle setting and tension between her and her father, two figures fundamentally different from one another.
I can’t expect the moon from this game, especially with how expansive it already is, but I really do wish they could treat every character like this. Give them their own history, their own motivations. A lot of these guardians of individual reasons just kind of exist because they do. Mipha of the Zora at least has something in the form of a romantic interest in Link. Zelda, seeing as she’s Zelda, gets far more importance brought upon her development than all others, but the comparison isn’t even fair. One gets everything and the others get basically nil.
Actually getting to the memories consists of using the Sheikah Slate’s photo album capability to look at hint pictures to uncover specific areas in the region of Hyrule to look for places to trigger those memories. If just the images themselves stump you, there is a traveling artist who will give you further insight as to the region in where the photos take place. This is a godsend; imagine just looking for random spots in the photo album in a place as expansive as Hyrule is in Breath of the Wild. One would be at it for weeks.
I did find searching for them fun, and a few I even found by complete accident. I’m not sure if there’s some specific order one should find them in to make the memories more coherent. I found them all at random. I suppose it would be kind of alienating to find a memory of Zelda anguishing the loss of Hyrule to Ganon, then finding one where Zelda and Link are out in the field and Zelda wants Link to eat a frog she finds. As I said above, the moods of Zelda, as well as the memories, range from light-hearted to ominous to deathly serious. It offers a nice fluctuation of things to look forward to with the memories. Or, with some cases, memories to find incredibly cringey due to how cliché it is. Not all of these memories are ones I think are good, particularly ones where Zelda isn’t just being shown off.
Fetching all of Zelda’s memories will trigger a final, secret memory that one can acquire in one of the first places one explores, assuming they follow the main questline. This final memory, much like the final boss, is kind of anticlimactic. It shows the implied demise of Link, sending him to his hundred-year-sleep, fighting heroically to the end. Zelda goes off to the castle alone, determined to end Ganon’s reign. The game begins. What is does otherwise, however, is unlock the “true ending” to the game, which is code for “Happily ever after.” It’s a nice ending, nothing too substantial, but it’s nice to have. I’d recommend finding Zelda’s memories for the sake of doing all that one can with the game and adding some depth to the story, but the ending is also a nice touch.
It’s a nice edition. I like the memories. They aren’t perfect, but they’re a nice touch.
(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)