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The Casual Gaymer: the next Zelda game might fix my biggest problem with Breath of the Wild

Welcome to another edition of “The Casual Gaymer!” This is a bimonthly column from AiPT! Gaming in which I’ll share my thoughts, questions, and concerns about video games and the gaming industry as a queer person with limited free time. Missed the last edition where I spotlighted an excellent queer indie dev everyone should be keeping an eye on? Check them out here!

This week, put on your Goron Tunic, because I have a take which some may consider warmer than room temperature.

Breath of the Wild? Not my favorite Zelda game. Not even in my top five. I know, I know, and I respect the game for Breathing new life into the franchise, allowing the player tons of room to play with physics, trying out full, voiced dialogue (sub>dub, by the way), etc. But even while gritting my teeth and getting through the game’s ugly transphobic moment, there were some major elements that just felt missing for me which holds the game back from being anywhere near my favorite Zelda game. The most major of those elements being Ganondorf.

As my author bio says here at AiPT!, my favorite Zelda game is The Wind Waker and while I do indeed like the sailing, I also love the game’s characters and the way it develops Ganondorf as an antagonist throughout the game. Before playing Wind Waker, I only knew of Ganondorf because of his place in the roster of Super Smash Bros. Melee, and learned of his role in the Zelda franchise through his trophy description. Wind Waker was my first real introduction to him as a Zelda antagonist and the game which cemented him as one of my favorite villains of all time.

I’m about to spoil some scenes from a 17-year-old game whose remaster is six years old. Also major stuff from Breath of the Wild, which is already two years old! I remember that first glimpse of the infamous Ganondorf the game allows you as he orders the Helmaroc King to hurl Link from his beak out to the sea and how foreboding and chilling a figure he cut on the highest balcony in Forsaken Fortress. I remember how imposing he seemed when Link confronts him face-to-face after saving his sister and the other girls from Windfall Island. The way the camera cut away after Link charged him only to cut back to show Link collapsed on the ground at his feet really sold how completely unmatched Link was against this avatar of Malice.

I would be remiss to reminisce about Wind Waker‘s portrayal of Ganondorf without mentioning the humanizing detail they revealed about the character and his fraught relationship with wind, the very force with which you make your way through Link’s journey on The Great Sea. Not only did the developers sell the idea of Ganondorf as the reincarnation of an ancient, powerful evil, but they injected pathos into him as well. Granted, he still punches a ten-year-old kid around moments after said pathos is conveyed, but how could I not fall in love with him as a key character in what my idea of a Zelda game is.

To be clear, I genuinely am happy that Nintendo never fails to try new things, shake up formulas, and make big, risky moves with their IPs. I don’t think that Breah of the Wild‘s Calamity Ganon was a misstep (especially with a name like Calamity Ganon), but I deeply missed Ganondorf as a big bad against whom Link could clash swords with at the game’s end. I loved the idea of Calamity Ganon being this ever-present force of evil, permeating throughout the game like an underlying sickness to an otherwise lush and beautiful world. However, the payoff at the end didn’t have me singing, “Shalaka lala!” Calamity Ganon and Dark Beast Ganon’s designs felt lacking and the fights just felt like an afterthought, though I didn’t love any of Breath of the Wild‘s combat outside of doing fun stuff with the physics and rune powers. I understand that these entities are physical manifestations of energy, which justifies some of the design choices. Regardless, I missed having a villain that was all the more malevolent because of his human–or in this case, Gerudo–appearance. A big monster is a big monster, but a person, one with just enough pathos to humanize them, no less? That’s a much more intimidating (and interesting) threat.

You can imagine my joy when we saw this fabulously decorated raisin in the teaser for the upcoming Breath of the Wild sequel:

Now, it obviously has not been confirmed that this is indeed the King of Evil himself, but the hair and jewelry–particularly that jewel on its forehead–have led to most people assuming that Ganondorf is on his way back. What’s interesting to note, is during the final fight with Dark Beast Ganon, Zelda mentions that Ganon has given up on resurrection and instead chooses to embody itself as pure, hateful energy. So if this is Ganondorf returning, it could be that the sequel will focus on Ganondorf the individual looking for vengeance or conquest, rather than a dark force of nature infecting everything. By specifying the source of conflict through an antagonist’s goals or motivations, the sequel will be much more compelling to me when it comes to plot than Breath of the Wild was. The flashback collecting was a cool way to keep the plot’s progression completely compatible to the player’s choice, but I want just a little more urgency and anxiety about there being a thinking, scheming person out there for me to eventually confront.

Nevertheless, it’s all speculation for now. Hopefully we’ll get another trailer next E3 or in some Nintendo Direct before or after and glean a little more about this next iteration of Ganondorf. Until then, I am more than happy to scroll through the pages of horny fanart people have rendered of a “hydrated” Ganondorf. For all we know, the mummy in the teaser is just one boss they defeat quickly and the Malice swirling about peaces off somewhere else.

If it really is Ganondorf and he really is back, I will fully scream if the first words we get from him are, “It’s been a while, boy.”

Because you know, Link still has to be canonically male, I guess.

That’s all from me this week! If you have any hydrated Ganondorf fanart you feel deserves attention, please send it to me @Brisuuve on Twitter. These artist’s are out here doing Hylia’s work and deserve the boost.

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