My Favorite Things in Ocarina of Time

This is a small zine I made to express my appreciation for some of the more interesting things in Ocarina of Time using graphics and screenshots from the game itself. It’s eight pages long and 4.75″ x 4.75″ (roughly the size of a Nintendo 3DS box).

It took me about four hours spread out over two days to make this zine. On the first day, I spent two hours collecting screenshots and other graphic elements like text boxes and fonts. On the next day, I spent another two hours creating the front and back covers, laying out the pages, and writing the text. My previous zines took weeks to put together, so I wanted to challenge myself to make something short in a limited amount of time.

I also made this zine to have something small to sell for $1.00 at the DC Zinefest this summer. I sold almost all of my copies at the event, and I put the remaining copies in my shop on Etsy. I think it’s probably fair to say that there are a lot of people who love the Legend of Zelda games, and it’s been fun to use this zine as an excuse to meet and talk with other Zelda fans in person and online.

What the experience of making this zine taught me is that it wouldn’t be that difficult to make something like a fake game manual that looks fairly official. What this means is that, at my current Photoshop skill level, I could make something that looks almost exactly like the official game manual for Ocarina of Time but provides “instructions” for an entirely different version of the game. For example, I could make a manual for a game in which Princess Zelda is the protagonist or a game in which it’s the player’s goal to capture and tame various monsters. I could also (very easily) reframe Ocarina of Time as a dating sim. The possibilities are endless, really.

In the future, I think it would be fun to do a similar zine about my favorite things in The Wind Waker. It might be also cool to create a fake Wind Waker game manual written from the perspective of Ganondorf, who wants the hero to stop mucking around and bring him the Triforce already. I’m planning to start work on an actual book about The Wind Waker soon, and making these two zines might be a good way to keep the project exciting and interesting.

The Legend of the Princess

This comic was drawn by Naomi Skye (@lightsintheskye on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

This is based on a scene from the sixth chapter of The Legend of the Princess, a Legend of Zelda fanfic I wrote in 2017 and 2018. I was interested in exploring the character of Ganondorf, who I don’t read as “evil” so much as taking radical action in extreme circumstances. This doesn’t mean that he’s a good person, but rather that Hyrule is an awful place. For me, Ganondorf represents a lot of the issues involved in what might be called “the ethics of rage.” He is expressing anger in this scene, but Zelda is wise enough not to make assumptions about what he means when he says that “Hyrule will burn.”

I’d always wanted to write a Gothic romance set in a haunted castle, but I wasn’t taking this story seriously until Naomi sent me this comic, which inspired me to step up my own creative efforts. The quality of Naomi’s work helped me realize that what I was doing had the potential to become an interesting and meaningful story that was worth my time and effort. Although I’d started writing a fairly basic fantasy-themed murder mystery, I ended up with an exploration of the intersections between gender, race, power, and political responsibility. It’s always a pleasure to collaborate with a visual artist, and I consider myself lucky that someone as brilliant and talented as Naomi was willing with work with me on this project.

The Legend of Comics

The Legend of Comics is a collection of drawings and short comics I posted on Tumblr between 2014 and 2018. This zine is 32 pages long, standard half-letter size, and filled with my love for the Zelda series.

I sold several dozen copies at the DC Zinefest this summer, and I also took a few copies to my local comic book store, Fantom Comics. I put the remaining copies on Etsy, and they sold out quickly.

This zine was fairly successful, but I don’t think I’ll do another print run. I had little to no idea what I was doing on Photoshop until relatively recently, and my art has evolved significantly since then. The way I drew Ganondorf in particular makes me cringe.

I also had a strange experience on Etsy in which someone bought this zine as a present for their six-year-old child. My understanding of both zine culture and Tumblr culture is such that I never would have expected someone to associate either of those things with the notion of “kid-friendly,” and the parent was (understandably) offended that the zine contains adult humor. I therefore had to put a disclaimer on the Etsy listing that reads “The zine contains two instances of strong language and one mildly risqué allusion to an old internet meme, and it’s probably not suitable for young children.”

This incident helped me realize that presentation and curation are important, even for an amateur fanzine. I think it might also have been good to include captions for some of the comics whose humor is closely tied to my specific corner of Zelda fandom. I printed this zine in February; and, after six months of reflection, there’s a lot I would do differently now. Instead of trying to revise this zine, I’m looking forward to implementing my ideas into a new Legend of Zelda fanzine that I’m planning to publish next January.

Memories

This comic was drawn by Meghan Joy (@mjoyart on Twitter) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

I don’t necessary ship Link and Zelda romantically, but I like to think that they were very good friends. Perhaps Link even has a few imaginary conversations with her in his head as he travels.

I think Link’s journey is just as much about him finding himself and remembering his past relationships as it is about “saving the world.” The Sheikah Slate is therefore an interesting conceit in that, just as it allowed Zelda to record impressions of what she saw the past, it allows Link to record his own memories in the present. This is emphasized in the Japanese version of the game, in which all of the text in the Hyrule Compendium is written using a first-person POV, as if Link were making notes so that he can share them after his quest is finished. On a metatextual level, I think this is a lovely perspective on digital technology, which allows people to communicate with one another across time and space, even when the world sometimes seems empty and lonely.

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana is a charming action-adventure game about grinding for unnecessary upgrades. It’s not for everyone, but I adore it.

The game plays a bit like Kingdom Hearts in that you run around a two-dimensional isometric map and hit adorable enemies with a sword (or your choice of seven other weapons). There’s a satisfying cronch when your weapon connects, and the enemy death animations are super cute. For example, mammal-type enemies will explode in a poof of bones that make rattling sounds as they drop to the ground in a neat little pile. The magic animations are also lovely, and they become more elaborate as each spell grows more powerful.

The game’s story is about protecting seeds and saving a tree, and it’s filled with gorgeous Instagram-style ~nature~ that has its over-saturated anime filter slider pulled all the way to the top end. The tree leaves rustle gently, the grass sways in the wind, the sun sparkles on the surface of water, the frost glistens with a rainbow-hued shine, and so on. Your job as the player is to walk around these beautiful fantasy-themed environments killing critters for the points you need to max out the levels of your weapons and magic.

The way this works is that each of the eight weapons has eight magical orbs, which you earn by defeating bosses, and each orb unlocks an additional level for that weapon. Once a new level is unlocked, you can earn points by defeating enemies in order to achieve the special attack for that weapon, all of which are laughably impractical and none of which you will ever use. There’s no real reason to level up your weapon attacks; but, if you want to, it becomes more difficult with each progressive level. To get to Level 2, each enemy kill nets you 8 points (out of a necessary 100). To get to Level 3, each enemy kills nets you 7 points (out of a necessary 100). And so on. Ditto for each of the eight magic element sets.

Each of your characters has to level up all of the weapons and magic elements separately, so you’re in for some grinding. But only if you want! Again, it’s not necessary, but I find it relaxing.

The PlayStation 4 remake changes almost nothing about the original Super Nintendo game, and the updated graphics and music are wonderful. For a good six months after the release, there was some sort of bug that caused the game to crash if you went for too long without saving, but the developers have patched and fixed whatever was causing the problem.

The PS4 remake of Secret of Mana takes about ten to fifteen hours to finish if you don’t grind and a little less than thirty hours if you do, and either way it’s good wholesome content for when you need to turn off your brain and chill out for a bit.

Night in the Woods, Part Three

Night in the Woods contains universal themes, but it’s also specific to its cultural and political moment. If you ignore the context, you run the risk of misinterpreting the story (as I would argue that the person who wrote the Polygon review did). I’ve seen numerous reviewers and theorists label Night in the Woods as “cosmic horror,” but that’s not really what the game is about.

The protagonist, Mae, encounters two monstrous entities during the story. The first is an unseen creature that lives deep in the abandoned mine tunnels under the town of Possum Springs. A cult of older residents of the town have kidnapped and sacrificed at least two young people and one of their own members to this creature in return for a vague promise that the creature will somehow prevent the town’s slow economic decline from advancing. The members of this cult tell Mae and her friends that they’re getting older and would like a younger generation to take over, and the creature itself tells Mae that it’s been sending her strange dreams so that she would be more receptive to the fact of its existence (and thus presumably more willing to join the cult). The second monstrous entity is a giant cat that Mae encounters during one of these dreams, which tells her that, although it’s a “god,” it has no interest in the welfare of lesser beings.

Mae and her friends don’t join the creepy death cult, of course. At the end of the game, Mae explains that what she’s taken away from this experience is the conviction that, if there is no benevolent higher power in an absurd and hostile universe, then she and her friends will just have to help and protect each other while doing the best they can for themselves and their community.

I’ve read a few interesting theories about the relationship between the mine monster, the space cat, and several mysterious incidents in history of the town of Possum Springs, but I don’t think any of that is really the point. What’s more compelling than any of the elements of cosmic horror in Night in the Woods is the fact that the game is filled with commentary on large, impersonal systems that exploit hardworking but vulnerable people.

Mae feeling forced to drop out of college while her brilliant friend Bea can’t go to college is an example of this. Mae’s parents being afraid of losing their house to the bank because of a usurious mortgage they took out to finance Mae’s tuition is another example, as is the fact that entire neighborhoods in Possum Springs consist of little more than similarly repossessed, unsold, and subsequently abandoned buildings. Mae’s friend Angus was abused as a child, which was observed but ignored by his isolated religious community. Meanwhile, the pastor at the church where Mae’s mom works wants to open a shelter for the railroad drifters, but she fails to obtain a permit from the city council, which is afraid that lowering the property values in that neighborhood will fatally disrupt an already struggling real estate market.

In other words, Night in the Woods suggests that it’s not individual activities such as “going to college” or “owning a home” or “participating in a religious community” or “being engaged in civic service” that’s the problem; the problem is but larger economic forces that steamroller over working-class people in small towns. None of the people Mae interacts with are stupid or unaware of what’s happening, but most of them aren’t given any real choices. For example, Mae’s aunt, who is a local police officer, is doing the best she can, as is Mae’s father, who was laid off from his job and now works at the new large supermarket that forced the local grocery store to be shut down.

There’s an ongoing side story (largely told through optional sidequests) about the historical tension between the mine owners and the labor unions in Possum Springs, and it’s clear that the mine owners were evil while the labor unions were brave and valiant. At the end of the game, Mae’s father is seriously considering starting a chapter of a labor union at the grocery store chain where he works, but the game’s presentation of unions isn’t entirely positive. The unions are male-dominated, for one thing, and there’s a scene in which Bea explains to Mae, from her own experience, that homosocial labor solidarity lends itself to an atmosphere in which overt sexual harassment is swept under the rug. In addition, Mae’s friend Selmers, who started writing poetry as part of the rehab program she entered after becoming addicted to pain pills at her job as a pharmacy, performs a reading of an incredible piece about how even unionized jobs are becoming unsustainable in the face of global capitalism.

What I’m trying to say is that the “horror of an absurd and uncaring universe” in Night in the Woods has very little to do with the mine monster or the star cat. Meanwhile, the death cult of older people who will literally sacrifice the lives of younger people for the vague promise of being able to sustain an imagined standard of living is about as clear of an allegory of the months leading to the 2016 U.S. presidential election as you can get.

According to Scott Benson, the game’s writer and artist, Night in the Woods is supposed to be set in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, but Possum Springs could be anywhere, really. The first time I played the game, I thought it was set in an area of rural north Georgia around Athens, but it could be anywhere – upstate Michigan, rural Kentucky, eastern Washington State, Baltimore, St. Louis, Portland, San Jose, Fairbanks, Cleveland, Buffalo.

The game is so well-written, and it’s so relevant and important. The scariest thing about Night in the Woods is the sheer number of reviews I’ve read that brush it off as a boring platformer with unexplained cosmic horror and an unlikeable protagonist. I’m strongly considering writing about the game for a professional venue, but I need to figure out how to do so without referencing (and thus reinforcing the validity of) these reviews.

Wild Child

This comic was drawn by Leslie Wernert (@leslietries on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

If you’ve never played Breath of the Wild, the joke is that the game not only allows but actively encourages the player to stage elaborate selfies in all sorts of dangerous situations. As a result, Link comes off like an absolute maniac, but he’s so charming that it’s difficult to dislike him. Probably even the creepy physical embodiment of Ganon’s spiritual corruption has a crush on Link.