Monday, January 16, 2012

Villain Analysis: Zant vs. Ghirahim

Okay, so I guess I slacked off doing that Project Runway blog, and by "slacked off" I mean "Never put in the time or energy into doing it at all." So instead of that (or my looking at game shows which I'll get back to in time) I'm going to look at the villains of some Legend of Zelda games. Why? Well because I certainly can't look at the two different protagonists, for one, but also because in any work, it's the villain that makes or breaks it. Don't think that's an original observation or anything; Roger Ebert said something similar when he reviewed Wrath of Khan. Also, I just want to emphasize how much Nintendo learned how to properly write for an antagonist after forgetting halfway through Twilight Princess.

So let's get started. Now, I'm going to try to avoid being spoileriffic for those of you that haven't played Skyward Sword yet, but not as much for those of you who haven't gotten around to Twilight Princess, that one's, like, six years old. Get with it, you guys.

Now, for most of Twilight Princess, we have the Usurper King Zant. Zant kicks off the game being mysterious. Unlike other games, we start seeing the effects of what he's doing long before we even hear his name. Just after you get the hang of using your sword and game is really about get going, you get dragged, literally, into the Twilight Realm. Now everything is hazy, these alien creatures are running around, the music is eerie, people are no more than spirits, and , oh yeah, you're a wolf now. Once you finally get some explanation as to what's going on, you learn about the Twilight Realm and how Zant brought his army right up to Hyrule Castle and Zelda was forced to surrender the castle. Okay, right away they were on the right track establishing his sheer, dominating power, since in the world of games, Authority Equals Asskicking, his army strong-arming THE Hylian army means that he as an individual is a tempered badass when it comes to strength. And let me tell you, they went up and delivered that promised right to your face. Look at this video clip, this is just after the third dungeon and you just got all three Fused Shadows, which according to Midna are necessary to being able to defeat Zant.

BAM! Zant just shows up with no warning and without even moving, knocks over the local Light Spirit. He takes a look at your Fused Shadow and scoffs. He doesn't even take them for himself, he tosses them aside, like garbage. He jabs that nasty magic into your face, that's another thing. Okay, go back and start from 2:10. The first time I ever played this game, right at 2:41 a chill went down my spine. It's the first bit of his face we ever see and that in conjunction with that bone-chattering whisper he gives and that tension-stirring score, was absolutely terrifying. Of course it also reminds you that all this time Midna has never been aligned for good, she was clearly Chaotic Neutral. Then Zant turns right around and uses the Light Spirit's Magic to almost kill Midna right out. It was after this scene I wanted to call Zant the best thing to ever happen to Zelda. It even continued this way, Zant shows up again right before your reach the Mirror of Twilight and sicks Stallord on you, one of the coolest Zelda Bosses EVER.
But then things get bad, and they get bad fast. We finally reach Zant in his castle and he's... he's... he's a whiny little kid.

Listen, there was nothing wrong with him being a former servant of the Twili Royal Family, there was nothing wrong with him begrudging them and seeking power all his own, I'll even go so far as to say there was nothing wrong with him not having his own Boss Room, but when all of the sudden you go from intimidating badass to Wacky McCrazy for no reason, with no foreshadowing at all or anything, it's a disappointment to say to bare minimum. And Ricky said it before, but he ended up having the Villain seat stolen from under him That second video I posted is the first time we get any kind of notion that Ganondorf is even IN the game. Sure before he revealed his power was given to him from his god, but that gave no indication whatsoever that it was Ganondorf. in Ocarina of Time, we're told right away from Link's dream and then told by Zelda looking through the window in the courtyard, and in Windwaker we see (most) of him the first time we're at Forsaken Fortress and then King of Red Lions tells you it's Ganon. Here Ganondorf just shows up with no indication at all and it's unfortunate. But truly, it's Zant that suffers as what is suddenly revealed to be how he was all along doesn't compare to the sheer awesomeness of what he was and promised to be.
But wait, Zant was wacky, and Ghirahim's pretty wacky too. Why aren't you grating him on that? Well, I'll explain. Let me go through an analysis so we can be fair.
Demon Lord Ghirahim. We meet him nice and early in the first dungeon. (I'm trying to make this video start at 1:19, but if not, that's where the clip I'll be talking about is. And even if it does work, the clip ends at 3:37 for those of you avoiding spoilers.)

Right away, you're probably thinking, "Wow this guy's pretty fab-u-lous," and yes, I mean fabulous is that way. And yeah, he kinda is, but this is a good thing, trust me. See, at "Furious! Outraged! Sick with Anger!" We have established that behind his fabulousness, there is a huge amount of anger and madness that he is keeping tabs on the entire time. Then he establishes that he's capable enough to rush up behind you without you being able to even notice. If this weren't a video game, that'd mean you'd hit the ground before you realized he killed you. I'll spoil this since it's first dungeon stuff, you fight him here and his key thing is he can grab your sword with his bare hands. Frankly, establishing that he is this strong and putting it behind this extravagant exterior is terrifying.
As the game and story continue, Ghirahim stays this way and his madness continues to grow and eventually explodes once he's sick of you. It has an effect on his physical appearance as well. And none of this is ruined by his character twist once he reveals his 'true nature' to you. My mind went kablooey once that happened. Ultimately, I find all of the development we get with Ghirahim and this big reveal more engaging and just BETTER than this big Boss battle at the end. I'll spoil that too, since Ghirahim's straightforward with this fact during the whole game, but yeah, he's not the Big Bad.
And this brings me to what makes Ghirahim vastly superior. Everything about Ghirahim was established well before big things happen. Zant turned out to a the right hand man of the Big Bad, but with no warning at all. Ghirahim constantly talks about reviving his master. Zant makes a very noticeable transformation into a wacky boss. Ghirahim establishes his latent madness as early as possible, which grows as the game progresses. Am I making my point?

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