Monday, August 27, 2012

Top 5 Legend of Zelda Enemy Designs

I think I have made it pretty clear by now just how big a fan I am of the Legend of Zelda series. There are only a handful of other video game series that I feel are as consistently good as Zelda, and one of the things that I love most about it is the fact that each game perpetuates a sense of "everything old is new again". Sure, there are familiar plot points and characters, but they are portrayed in a new light with each additional game. One of my favorite examples of this approach comes in the form of the many enemies that populate Hyrule and its neighboring nations. For this list I am not necessarily identifying my favorite enemies in particular, but rather my favorite versions of said enemies. Keep in mind that this list is limited to standard enemies, and that bosses and mini-bosses are not eligible.

#5 - Poes (Ocarina of Time): Poes are generally few and far between in Ocarina of Time, save for the Big Poes that litter Hyrule Field after Link becomes an adult. The place you first encounter them is the Kakariko Village graveyard. They aren't too difficult to dispatch, as long as you are patient and wait for them to show themselves to you. There have been a number of radically different versions of Poes since, but the idea of a cloaked phantom carrying a lantern is just so classic and perfect. They disappear just to mess with you, and fighting them is as much about them toying with you as it is about you quelling their torment.

#4 - ReDeads (Wind Waker): When I first played Ocarina of Time, I was eight years old, and the ReDeads scared the crap out of me. Every incarnation of the ReDeads since has put me on edge, simply because I know that as soon as they begin wailing, I need to mash the controller as fast as possible to avoid them humping and choking the life out of me. For 1998, the Ocarina of Time ReDeads are way creepy. But the Wind Waker ReDeads are so much cooler looking with their tribal African earrings and disproportionate bodies. They appear to be wooden and are a pale navy color, which adds an air of mystery about them. Are these ReDeads actually undead or are they some sort of possessed dolls?

#3 - Shadow Beasts (Twilight Princess): As I have mentioned before, I wasn't as much a fan of Twilight Princess as I was of most other Zelda games. But it does present a number of pretty realistic enemy designs. The Stalfos look like actual skeletons, the Poes look like scythe-wielding dolls, and the ReDeads look like mummies. All of these are interesting enough to look at, but the real winner for me has to be the Shadow Beasts. In truth, their story is quite sad, considering Zant transformed his own people to serve him as monsters. But they are so alien and weird with those tendrils that hang down like hair and the stone helmets - they are one of the most bold and artistically inspired new enemies to grace the series in a long while. I know they aren't that difficult to defeat, but I still have a soft spot for them.

#2 - Darknut (Wind Waker): There are actually quite a few enemy designs that I love in Wind Waker, and it was a bit difficult to narrow the list. But easily my favorite from that game are the Darknuts. The Darknuts have always been presented as classically trained knights, though their physical forms are often shrouded in mystery - like the Twilight Princess versions, for example, whose armor falls off only to reveal chainmail covering every inch of their body, and masks over their faces. But in Wind Waker you get to see them as wolf men, which I assume is due in part to the fact that Wolfos were left out of the game, and thus Nintendo used them as inspiration for this vastly different approach to the knight look. It's very fitting actually, as the Darknuts prove the most honorable fighters in the game. They never spam randomly or sneak up behind you. They are always waiting for you to make the first move, and will continue to fight intelligently even when their sword or chestplate is lost. And their armor looks super cool to boot - my personal favorite being the crimson armor set with the cape, as worn by the Darknuts you face immediately before fighting Puppet Ganon.

#1 - Stalfos (Skyward Sword): Without a doubt, my favorite enemy across all the Zelda games has to be the Stalfos. A skeleton soldier - it's such a simple yet perfect inclusion to the series medieval fantasy motif. Where the Skyward Sword Stalfos differ so greatly from Stalfos in other games is in both their physical design and combat style. Most other games portray Stalfos as being roughly the same height as Link, but the ones in Skyward Sword tower over him and carry massive swords. And since they both attack and block with those swords, Link has to be careful and accurate with his own Master Sword when striking back. They are only so many times over the course of Skyward Sword that Link encounters Stalfos, but each is intense and thoroughly enjoyable.

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