Anatomy of a Game: Zelda VII

So, my original intention for the Anatomy of Zelda was to combine multiple later dungeons into single entries. That obviously hasn’t worked out, because, well, the game has more varied and interesting design than I gave it credit for. Which is fine. I’m not going to complain about a well-crafted game, although it does mean this project will last much longer than intended. I hope you’re OK with that.

We move on to the sixth dungeon, whose shape-identity is… I forget. Fetus? Seahorse? Maybe it’s Dragon, since it kind of resembles Adventure‘s duck-looking dragons turned sideways. And Zelda does owe a debt to Adventure! Probably. I guess it might be presumptuous to think Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka played Adventure, given how the Atari 2600 2800 fared over there.

In any case, Fetus here made me eat my words. I said the fifth dungeon was where Zelda removed its gloves and began playing for keeps, but holy crap, I’d forgotten how insane this level is. Blue Darknuts are nasty, no question about it, but they honestly have nothing on Blue Wizzrobes.

Wizzrobes represent this stage’s big addition to the Zelda sandbox, and it’s a brutal addition indeed. As with so many of Zelda‘s elements, Wizzrobes come in two flavors, red (well, orange) and blue. The red ones aren’t too bad; they teleport around the room, materializing on either a horizontal or vertical axis from Link. Once they solidify, they fire a beam of magic and warp away again. Their main strategy is to try and surround Link; a room full of Red Wizzrobes could potentially see Link surrounded on several sides by enemies that try and pin him down with beams. But they’re not too difficult to handle, since they always appear a few spaces from Link and take a second to materialize, giving the player time and room to maneuver out of the line of fire. And the upgraded shield can deflect their beams, so you can dash toward one as it appears, take a swing, block the attack, and then counter with a killing blow.

Blue Wizzrobes, on the other hand, are the biggest bastards in the game. They don’t behave at all like their warm-hued counterparts. They don’t teleport, instead moving in patterns reminiscent of Level-5’s Blue Darknuts. However, Wizzrobes are faster than Darknuts, fire projectiles, and can briefly dematerialize to move quickly at a diagonal angle. The one upside is that they’re squishy from all sides — but actually it’s much worse to be directly in front of a Blue Wizzrobe than a Blue Darknut, because they’re far more dangerous.

The Blue Wizzrobe wanders through the room without much in the way of an aim or pattern until Link happens to wander into its sights. At that point, it becomes the deadliest threat in the game, moving quickly directly toward Link while firing a rapid barrage of energy. Unlike Red Wizzrobes, which fire once before blinking away, the blue ones shoot over and over again quite quickly, making it difficult to do anything but stand there and block or, if your timing is very, very good, move to the side. This attack is easily the cheapest move in Zelda‘s entire arsenal against the player: Spamming you with beams practically locks you in place until the Wizzrobe closes the gap and walks through you, naturally inflicting contact damage on Link. (It never works the other way, does it?) Even with the best sword, a Blue Wizzrobe requires three hits before it goes down, so you can’t just wait for it to come to you; it simply isn’t possible to quickly take down an oncoming Wizzrobe at close range before it bumps into you. Cruel.

If I sound like I’m complaining, it’s because Fetus is the first dungeon to wipe me out. I’d cruised through Zelda just fine until this point, but I had the audacity to head into Level-6 before exploring the eastern edge of the overworld, which meant I hadn’t grabbed either of the Heart Containers over there, nor had I picked up the letter to the old lady. So I didn’t have optimal health, wasn’t wielding the Magic Sword, and didn’t have Medicine. I still managed to make it within spitting distance of the boss, but since the game decided to stop dropping health recovery items for a crucial ten-minute span, I eventually ran out of juice and could go no further. But you’ll be happy to know my second attempt (with more health, a better sword, and backup medicine just in case) fared much better.

Fetus begins with a strange design decision: The first room is locked to the west, and the room to the east has a key but also a locked north-facing door. If you use the key in the room where it drops, you just find an old man in a dead-end chamber. Keys don’t work here as they do in other Zelda games — they’re a commodity, and you can buy them at shops or carry them from dungeon to dungeon — but it still strikes me as strange that you could potentially be forced to go hunting for a shop that sells keys in order to enter the bulk of this stage if you didn’t collect all the keys in previous dungeons. (Though if you did, and you’re taking the dungeons in order, you’ll have two in reserve at this point.)

Pretty quickly, you meet the new Wizzrobe threat with a room full of red ones. They might catch a newcomer off-guard, but they’re really not too difficult thanks to their simple, predictable, easy evaded pattern. No, the real cruelty doesn’t kick in until you travel north a few rooms and meet the Blue Wizzrobes. Zelda doesn’t waste any time in training for these guys; your first Blue Wizzrobe encounter happens in one of the nastiest rooms you’ll encounter in the game. There are only a couple of Blue Wizzrobes wandering around, but you also have to contend with Red Wizzrobes, shield-eating Like-Likes, and worst of all a Bubble whose paralytic touch can leave you vulnerable to the Like-Likes. Let one of those guys catch you and you’ll be sans Magic Shield, which means you’ll be unable to deflect all those magic beams the Wizzrobes are flinging around. The one upside to this room is that everything (except Bubbles, natch) is vulnerable to Bombs. At this point you’ll be glad you grabbed the Bomb Bag in the fifth dungeon.

You’ll encounter several of these rooms in the game; the last throws in a couple of Red Wizzrobes, too. Their simple, predictable pattern becomes a lot less harmless amidst all the chaos of Blue Wizzrobes, Bubbles, and Like-Likes. It’s a real gauntlet for survival.

On top of that, Fetus also pits you against an upgraded version of a returning boss midway through. Level-5 saw a Dodongo triple threat, while Level-6 makes Gleeok a triple threat instead. That third head cranks up the difficulty considerably. It’s easy enough to kill the two-headed Gleeok, but with the third head you’ll eventually be at a point where you’re stabbing the last living head while the ghosts of his slain heads fly around the room, and all three are blasting you with fireballs. The upside is that once Gleeok is gone, it’s gone for good, even if you have to leave and return (for instance, to go find the Magical Sword).

This dungeon’s treasure is, once again, no good whatsoever against the boss. However, it’s invaluable in those rooms of Blue Wizzrobes and Like-Likes. The magical rod fires beams exactly like those of the Wizzrobes, and while the wizards themselves are completely immune to its power most other creatures aren’t. That means if you’re struck by a Bubble, you can still take out Like-Likes from a safe distance; a Bubble’s touch only disables your sword for a moment, not your secondary items.

After all of this, the boss — Gohma — is laughably easy. If you know its weakness (and there’s a huge clue at the very beginning of the dungeon) you can kill Gohma in a single shot. I walked into its lair, loosed an arrow, and took out the boss in about two seconds total time. Hilariously anticlimactic, but given the incredible difficulty level of this stage, it’s hard to complain.

Interestingly, there’s a second clue given in this dungeon to tip you off to the location of Level-7 — possibly the only time the game does that, I think. The seventh dungeon is ridiculously well-hidden, even with the clue, so any help comes in handy.

As always, images in this blog are provided courtesy of VGMuseum.

4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Game: Zelda VII

  1. Blue Wizzrobes are the nastiest standard foes in the game, no contest. The company they keep isn’t too difficult to manage on their own, but a Blue Wizzrobe or two flying and shooting all over the place makes it easy to screw up around them.

    Certainly not helping is that they can take about two or three (I forget which) hearts off with contact damage, and that’s if you have the Blue Ring.

    The Magical Sword, Blue Ring, and medicine make things easier to manage, but the sixth dungeon’s always going to be pretty painful.

  2. Never been a huge fan of Zelda – but I enjoyed LttP and Link’s Awakening was the first game I beat that felt like a true video game accomplishment. Always found the first one a little too lopsided in difficulty and much too obscure in its design… but I’ve never been a fan of this type of action-adventure anyway.

    Still, reading these entries, I think this weekend calls for a good dusting off of the Wii and giving this game another chance.

  3. This is the one I’ve been waiting for: Level 6 is second in difficulty and sheer brutality only to Level 9, which kind of throws the whole term of “Levels” into question.

    • I would argue that Level-9 isn’t even this tough in terms of enemy mobs… its difficulty comes more from its length, since Death Mountain has about twice the volume of any other dungeon.

Comments are closed.