Several times upon my journey I came across a young couple named Tye and Sorelia. Newly married, they were roaming the forests of Hyrule looking for the rare flower called the Silent Princess. Tye had heard rumour that, if you declare you love before a freshly plucked blossom, you and your partner will live a charmed life. He had intended to venture out into the world on his own to find his flower and swear his love by it, and Sorelia could not bear the thought of the danger he was exposing himself to on the quest. She decided to buckle on her adventurer boots and go with him, to protect him and to share in their adventure together.
When I heard their story, the first thing I did was reach for the Silent Princess in my pack. I thought to myself, “Here at last is the end to their journey! No longer will they need to huddle in the rain and fight bokoblins every day.” And yet speaking to them, they were both overjoyed in the adventure they were living, full of risk and passion. I decided not to give them the blossom they were seeking, because in a way, they had already found it.
In the village of Hateno, there was a strapping stableboy named Manny who pined after Prima, the young mistress of the inn. It was the stuff of cheesy adult fiction, except that Manny could not bring himself to utter a word to his beloved. He besought me to inquire what Prima wanted most in the world, and when I asked her, she invented the idea that she would only be interested in someone who could give her one hundred Restless Crickets. Manny begged me for ten, which I gathered for him, which he did nothing with. Apparently he was paralysed by anxiety and couldn’t bring himself to find any others.
I however had no such compunctions. I took to the field, cutting grass and sneaking up on crickets day and night until I had precisely one hundred. I went back to the inn and, five at a time, dropped them in front of Prima. She did not thank me, and with an annoyed look, simply inquired whether I wanted a soft bed or a regular bed. I left her with her plague of crickets and turned my efforts elsewhere.
As I have said previously, combat has been my favourite part of the game. Eventually I became so adept that, for fun, I would drop down into a pit full of Guardians and fight off four of them simultaneously, deflecting beams back at their owners, darting in and out of cover, electrifying some, hitting others in the eyes with ancient arrows. For the ones that still had legs, I would cut them off with an ancient weapon before they even fully initialised, swinging my ancient battle axe in wild circles to end them before they even realised it had begun.
Imagine my delight, then, to discover that in the depths of a great canyon were the ruins of a Forgotten Temple covered in the decaying remains of Guardians. I strode right through the front door without attempting to take cover or stealth past them as five or six lasersights turned and locked onto me. Batting two of the beams aside simultaneously, I continued to walk right through the temple, an unstoppable force with impeccable timing, Guardians exploding all around me as I strode every forward. They protected an ancient shrine, and a priceless treasure: a statue of the Goddess Hylia in proportions scarcely before imaginable, easily ten times the height of me. It was a profound experience humbling myself before her and receiving her blessing.
I heard rumour of a ruined coliseum that monsters had since made their home. I could not resist the call of a good fight, and made my way across the mountains to enter it from above. I scoped out the place thoroughly, working my way around it from above and identifying what manner of creatures occupied it. Rather than approaching each of them stealthily as I normally would, I equipped my full Knight Armour (84 defence) and approached them in single combat, besting them one after the other. From moblins to lizalfos to bokoblins, and finally to the Silver Lynel at the base, I conquered them all without challenge. It was a brutal slaughter, and when it was over there was no one to hear me yell “Are you not entertained?!”
I was beginning to feel like the game had no more challenge for me. Until…
Far across the sea, I made my way to an island called Eventide. Once I set foot on the beach, the voice of an ancient monk resonated in my head and darkness overtook me. When I awoke, I had been stripped of all my armour, weapons and items, on an island full of monsters. My task was to find the three orbs and place them on their pedestals while surviving the trials of the night. It was exhilarating.
The first thing I did was avoid the bokoblins and set into the forest to find some tree branches as makeshift weapons. A storm came as I was carefully making my way across a bog, and I noticed that lightning struck the water not once, but twice. Curious, I pulled out my Sheikah Slate and discovered a metal chest at the bottom of the swamp. Inside it was a soldier’s sword, a much greater weapon than my humble stick. I foraged for mushrooms and crept through the night. I found a camp of bokoblins and killed them, cautiously using their campfire to roast my mushrooms and sleeping lightly until morning. It was exhilarating feeling so vulnerable.
It was a greater challenge still to fight a Hinox, whose healthbar far exceeded the capacity of my weapons to damage. It was only in hindsight that I realised I could have taken the orb around his neck by stealth, and instead I peppered him with the handful of arrows I had scavenged, broke most of my weapons upon him, and then used Magnesis to beat him with a metal crate for several minutes while he tried to climb the hill I was on. I was not proud of that particular battle.
By the time I climbed the summit of Eventide, I had acquired most of the weapons of the enemies on the island. I was once again a walking badass, a big fish in a small pond, and I was sad to end the challenge. The Trial of the Sword DLC looks to be exactly what I’m craving.
I always felt a little guilty exploring Hyrule, completing shrines, hunting dragons and spending weeks in the game chasing wild horses and falling stars while Zelda was locked in a life-or-death battle with Ganon. Whenever I spoke to Impa, she reminded me to save the Princess as soon as I could because she had been struggling for one hundred years straight and could use a break. When at last I unlocked the final memory, I realised that I did not want to delay any longer, and even though I had five shrines yet to be discovered, the time had finally come: I was going to assault Hyrule Castle.
My preparations were extensive. I made one hundred ancient arrows to deal with the Guardian Stalkers, Turrets and Skywatchers. I had already upgraded every single piece of armour in the game to maximum defence (save one pair of earrings which required a fragment of a falling star). From my home in Hateno, I took from their displays the weapons of the fallen Champions: the Lightscale Trident, the Boulder Breaker, the Scimitar of the Seven, Daybreaker and the Great Eagle Bow. As I was preparing, a blood moon began to rise so I cooked dozens of dishes to maximise my health and defend me against every element and condition I might face. And the dawn broke, I made for the Castle, not wanting to risk another blood moon whilst I was inside.
Inspired by the final memory, I chose to wear the Hero’s tunic and Hylian trousers, wielding nothing more than the Master Sword and a shield. It would have been safer to equip full Guardian armour, but I wanted the Ganon to know I wasn’t scared of him and was more than a match for his sentinels. I enabled the four talents of the Champions (I usually kept Daruk’s Protection and Urbosa’s Fury disabled because they interfered with my playing style) and strode right up to the Castle gates, cutting my way through dozens of Guardians and reflecting their beams right back at them.
Having announced my presence and defeated all of the sentries perched on the exterior of the Castle, I began to explore in earnest. I wasn’t expecting such a complex dungeon, and it took me several hours to uncover each of the rooms and their many secrets. I loved discovering the ancient barracks, whose inhabitants reached for the gleaming weapons on the walls when they noticed my intrusion. It was a great pleasure, too, swimming through the docks and finding the many ways which the palace might be breached. I felt a chill run over me as I returned to Zelda’s study and the lone Silent Princess growing there. When I discovered her bedroom nearby, I loved that she had a Royal Guard Bow on her mantelpiece, and I was deeply moved by finding her journal on the table. I was stunned to find that Link was not in fact mute, and chose to be silent for his own personal reasons. And what a thrill it was to find King Rhoam’s hidden study, where he wrote in his journal about the struggle he had with himself for pushing Zelda so hard to be the Princess his Kingdom needed.
Most exciting of all though, earlier in the game I had paid an absurd amount of money to a crazed shield surfer and he imparted on me the rumour that a legendary shield lay waiting somewhere in the Castle. After many hours of searching, deep in the bowels of the dungeons I came upon a test for knights who wished to prove their skill. The skeletal giant, Stalnox, lay waiting in a chamber for me to approach, and I defeated him swiftly and without issue. And then, after so many hours of dreaming, it was finally before me: the iconic Hylian shield, to join me at last, in the last of my adventures.
It’s hard to describe how much I love Hyrule Castle, and how much it means to me. It’s dangerous enemies, secret passageways and powerful items and that incredible music tantalised the adventurer in me. It might well be my favourite place in the game.
When I finally entered the Inner Sanctum to confront Ganon, we battled magnificently, and I loved every moment of it. After it was over. my save file+ told me that I had completed 46.15% of the game after sinking 185 hours into it. At first I didn’t know what to do with my life: I had been so invested in the adventure, and now it was finally over. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to 100% the game (those Koroks, man, I still had 635 of the 900 to find), but would at least find the remaining shrines to free those monks from their 10 000 year wait, complete the compendium (I had about 18 photos to go) and finish off the last side quest, cooking royal cuisine for that enthusiastic stablehand. I had finally relieved Zelda from her long struggle, and there will still adventures yet to be had. Hyrule is a large place with many secrets yet uncovered, and I have many hours ahead to experience them yet.