I think, no matter what, I’m done talking about Zelda and horses for awhile after this post. While I’ve had a lot of fun discussing both(?), I desperately need a break from both Hyrule and equines in a serious way.
How serious of a way you may ask?
And before I move on, I know what you’re thinking: “Pashford, how could you!? Using the memories of Artax casually again to play with my emotions just for a cheap laugh? How could you!” I understand where you’re coming from dear readers, but it’s hard to convey how serious about horses I’ve been, and that picture sums up horses in a serious way. I mean, I tried to go a different route, and include a picture of Elton John on a horse for the joke to work, but a Google search provided me with only this picture involving Elton John and horses:
And I’m way more serious about horses than what’s shown in that picture. Though, considering that picture says “Live Like Horses”, I would suggest if you were a horse (of course), not to live in the Swamp of Sadness. You know…for obvious reasons.
To the denizens of Fantasia: to avoid further depression involving dead animals we love, let’s just assume horses can’t go into the Swamps of Sadness, just to be safe. I mean, we can experiment all day with this shit, but if all we get is a couple hundred dead horses and therapy sessions for the rest of our lives, I’d say let’s just agree upon the “Horses Don’t Do Swamps” theory and be done with it. That sounded like a Goosebumps book waiting to happen. Also, did they explain how Atreyu didn’t just submerge entirely after losing his best friend? I mean, you sink into the swamp if you’re sad, right? What, was Atreyu popping Prozac’s like they were skittles or something?
Eh, whatever helps get you through the day…err swamp I suppose.
I mean seriously, what kind of person goes around committing genocide as a life choice? Honestly, don’t be going around hurting people for fun! While I’m at it…
I mean thinking about it (not to derail or anything here, Zelda), if we really take a look at the social and moral implications of the Triforce and the philosophy behind the series as a whole, I believe you’ll find…
I refocus my attempts at wrapping up my thoughts involving Ocarina of Time, Epona, and everything that has followed suit. I really didn’t mean to go on for so long about the event, looking back now realizing Back in the Saddle was a fine enough stand alone piece as it was. Not to say the rest has been bad, but there are just so many other great games and awesome sites I need to tend to at this very moment. This exercise in examining the merits of replaying Master Quest was suppose to be a quick effort, not a multi-part series over a period of a month. No matter what happens by the end of this post, I will take my leave of both Hyrule and horses for a time, as two things have happened since I’ve begun my extensive conversation about both:
1. I don’t stop hearing fairies I can’t see
2. I can’t stop seeing horses that don’t exist
As you can imagine, I’m deeply concerned for my own sanity, and must make way to more reasonable pastures post haste. BUT, not before bringing to light a few thoughts I hadn’t properly molded into a write up while I was explaining why Epona in Ocarina of Time represents some of the best horse action in gaming, and everything that entails.
Two posts ago, I was a little enamored by the idea of Epona’s nostalgic value, in relation to the gaming populace as a whole. I cited the regular difficulty gamers had in completing their games, even observing statistics that 90% of players couldn’t even beat the first level of Super Mario Bros. This relates to getting Epona (as I had mentioned), due in part to her not only being much later into the game, but rather difficult to eventually obtain. This speaks to the levels of dedication Ocaina instilled in it’s user base, and holds value in realizing people loved them some Zelda on the 64. The number of times I’ve personally talked to gamers about their fondest memories of Ocarina, involving riding around Hyrule Field on Epona mind you as an extremely high number, which shows you she may very well have been many gamers first horse.
Epona being many gamers first horse is fitting, as at this point I think Ocarina may have been many people’s first Zelda, so they are just impossibly interconnected for all of time in many gaming minds, resulting in kind of an “ideal experience”.
The potent value of nostalgia often lends itself to strengthening not only the quality of the experience, but the quality of person, too. I’m sure that’s why it will be a long while before a game comes along to top the perceived value of Ocarina of Time, and the horse it rode in on. I’d like to take this moment to contextualize “Best Horse Action”, as I know riding on Epona (at this point in time anyways) is limited in many ways, and that there are plenty of other games I’ve played and many more that other gamers have enjoyed with arguably better horse action:
Those aren’t all of them, of course, but some of the first that popped into my mind. I had a handful of other ones I didn’t even mention I thought of almost as immediately (Assassins Creed, Darksiders, Minecraft, about a billion MMO mount experiences), but thought my point was justifiably reinforced. The point I was making was in comprehension, in having a mutual understanding that while there may be great horse action out there, even mechanics that help to make or define the game entirely, Epona may yet stand as the most pivotal or valued equine when looking back on our glorious gaming history. Not just any Epona either, Ocarina’s Epona. Much like I interjected the idea of other games being able to claim “better horse action” in general that is more intertwined with the quality of the game, I take one more moment to remind everyone that another Zelda game (Twilight Princess) even had better horse mechanics (with Epona no less), that helped to differentiate and heighten Twilight Princess, by taking a page out of Ocarina’s book.
But that’s the point here, and one that shouldn’t be mistaken as contradiction or flip-flopping. My current point is not one of derailment (there’s been plenty of that going on already), I am trying to stay on point by observing….
Man, I hate when you do that, Bruce! You just Bat Bomb me when I’m in the middle of a good point! Now what am I going to do?
Yeah, go Sonic! Help me get back on point! Uh oh, looks like The Batman is activating something in response to Sonic’s attempted Anti-Bat Bombing Plan!
What kind of gloom and doom could this spell for Sonic, I wonder?
Well, things don’t look very good for our little blue running joke here, however fast he may be.
While those two are distracted fighting, I’ll take this moment to sneak away and finish up my point involving best horse action. Even with all of the given standards of games using horses (and when Ocarina launched, there really weren’t many at all), and even within the Zelda universe having another game with an arguably better experience involving a horse, the power of nostalgia transcends perhaps even higher quality, which in turn makes the memory of Epona almost impossible good. Obviously, the memories of the quality involved are genuine, and do come from a place of excellence Ocarina can indeed brag about, but it’s this sense of personal indomitable truth from our past that makes so many look back on Epona so fondly.
Putting aside the legacy of influence Epona has had, like making mounts absolute staples in the Zelda series or the impact she has on other developers who have tried to match and or beat her inclusion in Ocarina of Time, the standards for which many games are judged by gamers, is in turn from how much people enjoyed this game, Epona included, and the fun they had as a result.
Much like, say for example, Final Fantasy 7’s effects on gaming history having more to do with time and place then it’s observable quality.
While the hype for FF7 comes from a real place of quality, the game’s ultimate relevancy stems from when it came out and what it did at that time, thusly reaching a huge audience and influencing those who were not previously influenced by RPG’s in general. While the debate is seriously subjective, myself and many others could argue better RPG experiences before and after FF7 that “did it better” so to speak, even looking at games within the pedigree (like FF6 and FF9) as example. All of these games, however, did not come out when FF7 did, and in turn did not effect, influence and set the standard for new comers to the RPG scene like FF7 did, effectively memory locking the game as the “ideal experience” for millions.
I know the mention of FF7 may seem like a random aside, but I believe the related thought ties in nicely with Epona, as I could have easily replaced just about every noun in my description of FF7 with OoT, which relates to the best horse action I’ve been going on about all this time. It’s not as if Ocarina really is the end all be all Zelda or the absolute best of it’s kind in terms of video games, but it did greet gaming audiences at a certain time and place in a major way, which is something no other Zelda experience can ever completely duplicate. One of the big reasons the game is remembered, is for it’s refinement in regards to both fun and solutions, Epona a prime example of both. Everything about Ocarina came out when it did, at that specific time and place that it did, and as a result, cemented the experience in a lot of minds as “the ideal experience”.
An ideal experience exists somewhere between fantasy and reality, and one that can’t be quantified or measured, only marveled at and discussed. A preference spawned from our best or earliest moments, and one that will live on invincibly, shared between minds and preserved in culture for generations to come. This is what Epona represents, I believe, the “ideal experience”, and is the reason why I’ve been so serious about horses these past few weeks.
How serious you may ask?