The Swordplay of Legend of Zelda

So, as some of you other gamers may know, Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 is running now. For those of you who DON’T know, it’s basically like the Olympics for video gamers. Look it up on www.gamesdonequick.com if you’re curious. It’s a marathon livestream of gaming speedruns through various popular games.

I’ve been watching it a LOT. Did I mention that I really love video games? I also get a lot of enjoyment of watching other people play games as well, especially speedrunners who play at a truly terrifying level of skill. One of the best runs this year is a run of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – done while blindfolded! Amazing! And it got me thinking about the swordplay that we see in the Legend of Zelda.

Video game weapons are pretty silly overall. Not such a bad thing, of course, as long as they’re appropriate. (Skallagrim did a video a while back on just how good the Master Sword in LoZ is as a weapon, if you’re curious.) So let’s leave that aside for now.┬áLet’s talk a little about┬áthe swordplay of Ocarina of Time!

Here’s a pretty good example of Link taking on a mini-boss. You can see most of his moves – the thrust, the somersault, the overhead slash, the spin. Pretty standard silly videogame stuff, right?

Nope, not entirely!

Let’s start with his stance. Slow it down a little, and watch as he shimmies around the boss – his shield is forward, protecting his side, with the sword low and pointing towards the enemy, ready to attack. The thrust is quick and he leans into it, but the shield isn’t pulled back all that far. This is also good defense, and just what you’re taught in sidesword and buckler drills.

His steps off-line – to the left and right – are exactly what you’d expect for a swordfighter. Lead foot first, followed by the other foot, maintaining a good, balanced posture.

The somersault? Exceedingly silly, not possible in real life at that speed, so we’ll say nothing more about that.

The slashes are plain weak. For a fighter who uses a shield, he pulls it back almost behind him in order to slash at the enemy, and that’s a bad move! The overhead slash is easily the worst, he really leaves himself open to getting stabbed with that enormously long wind-up. The spin is just… no, bad Link! Don’t turn your back on your opponent unless you want to get a sword stuck through it!

All things considered, Link’s use of the Master Sword isn’t all that outrageous in comparison to a lot of stuff we see in video games. It’s pretty fast, but the only real grievance is the way he constantly throws the shield back behind him when slashing. It’s not Devil May Cry-level baseball bat swinging shenanigans, for example:

So you’ve gotta give Link props for not being quite as silly as a white-haired anime pretty boy. You can even look at the latest LoZ games and see the same kind of consistency in the swordplay – I took a quick look at Skyward Sword, and it did seem just as tight as Ocarina of Time, if faster.

So there you have it – a completely irrelevant review of the swordplay of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I may do one or two more on video game swordplay – it’s a very different beast to movie swordplay. If anyone would like me to look at a specific movie or video game, just leave a suggestion in the comments!

Credit to Asashi-Kami on DeviantArt for the awesome artwork I found to go with this article.

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