Second Banana

Second Banana
Hey, Listen, I Like Navi

Brendan Main | 24 Aug 2010 13:44
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While all these characters may all be annoying in their own way, there is a crucial difference that sets Navi apart. The dog and the frog are either mean-spirited or incompetent, and serve to drag you down through either outright hostility or bumbling failure. Navi, by contrast, is a consummate professional. She has your best interests at heart, and she has your back through thick and thin. In fact, even a glance at the gameplay of Ocarina shows just how essential she is.


You want advice about your next challenge? Get Navi. Don't know where to go next? Ask Navi. Is there an enemy near? Navi will glow red, and tell you to "Watch out!" Is there a secret nearby? Navi will fly toward it and glow green. How many sidekicks are color-coded for your convenience? This by itself is a marvel of physiological design.

Even more fundamentally, Navi is at the heart of the Z-targeting system, which controls and focuses your actions throughout the game. Any time you lock onto a skeleton, or target with your hookshot? That's Navi, guiding your strikes like a laser pointer. Go at it alone for even a few seconds without the help from your fairy friend and it immediately becomes apparent how much she's needed. Try to attack an enemy with your sword without locking on Link just ends up slashing the wall? Clang! Your sword recoils as you flail about like a cretin. Try it again? Clang! Without Navi, that's all the game would be. If you think about it, Navi is the real brains of the outfit, out there making the big decisions. She's there before every strike of the sword, every shot of the bow, every chest that needs opening. Forget trivial things like courage, wisdom, power - Navi deserves the Triforce of Micromanagement. As a final proof, and in comparison to her companion, she can actually talk. Forget this "Hero of Time" hokum. To an impartial observer, Navi runs the show. Link is just the opposable digits.

In a way, Navi is the purified essence of sidekick-dom, distilled down to its most basic form. Her entire lexicon consists of puzzle game imperatives - Look! Listen! Watch out! Her body itself is a gameplay prompt. She's with you constantly, yet can shrink down and disappear into your pocket. It's like she's made out of concentrated, 200 proof helpfulness, garnished with wings and a dash of git-r-done. So what if she's always nagging about this or that? So was your mother. Like your mother, Navi is always right - sometimes it just takes a little while to appreciate it.

This might seem like a little thing, but it's something that sets Navi apart in the sidekick pantheon. So often in games we are given the illusion of autonomy - the idea that we, as players, have everything under control, that somehow it's our own brilliance, bravado and mad boomerang skills that will win the day. By himself, Link is calm and collected. He is a bad enough dude to save the princess. Add a helper fairy into the mix, even one who means well, and suddenly he's the guy who can't keep his head on straight. Every reminder, no matter how benign, suggests a player who doesn't know what for what. Look! A treasure chest! Maybe that's worth opening! Watch out! A bad guy! Maybe do something about that! Listen! Did you pack the sandwiches?

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