The Missing Link
All right, class, I know you’re going to hate me for this, but put away your textbooks, get out your quill and roll of parchment, and number your paper one through four. It’s time for a mathematics pop quiz. Ready? No? Well, suck it up and here we go:
Time’s up! Let’s see how you did. If you got 99, 200, 500, and 255, you get an A. Missed one? That’ll float you a C. Worse than that? You’re telling me some of you failed this thing? Oh come on now, this quiz is easy. None of you should’ve failed this! This is Hyrulian Mathematics 101! Well, I guess you all need a review, so let’s start with a story problem.
Let’s assume that ® is the symbol for rupees. Now, child Link is wandering through the forest with 99® in his wallet. He finds a green rupee on the ground and picks it up. How many rupees does he have now? If you said 99, you’re spot on. 99 + 1 = 99.
Not fair, you say? Trick question, you say? You bet.
The wallet systems throughout the Zelda games have never been perfect, although the further back you go, the better they were. It’s almost disheartening to say it, but the economic system of the original Legend of Zelda was one of the best economic systems I’ve seen in Zeldadom. The number of things up for sale that need to be purchased to beat the game—all of which at varying sale prices based upon locale, no less—is sufficient to teach the value of saving money to a child. The cheap shields are on the other side of the map and cost this much, but the more expensive shield is much closer. Is it worth the trek to the other side of the map? You bet. Back then, with a limit of 255® (minus the rupees you plan to use for arrows), you had to be thrifty in everything you did. You have to save up for that ring (which set you back 250 dead kings). You had to shop around to find the goods at their cheapest values. You had to find the ubiquitous old man when he was in a good mood (not when he was demanding payment for door repair—ahem, what door? I burned a BUSH to get in.). You had to get those double-shot life potions from time to time. You had to go rupee farming over in the graveyard constantly. And you had to keep a good nest egg around for that bow of yours.
I make it sound really bad, but don’t take this for criticism. Part of this had to do with the technology back then. Back in the days of yore when Billy-boy thought 64K of memory ought to be enough for everyone (ha!), every byte of space was valuable. They couldn’t waste valuable disk (or cartridge) space . For those wondering why the magic number was 255, it’s the maximum number you can represent in a byte of memory, namely 28 – 1. They had to be so stingy with memory that they couldn’t spare a second byte for money… or even another byte for arrows! Two hundred fifty-five rupees ought to be enough for everybody! (Thankfully, we can all agree today that gigabytes are wonderful creatures.) But beyond the techy mumbo-jumbo, gamers ate this up. It was a challenge, not needless scavaging. There were areas of the game that dropped tons of rupees, and all one needed to do was get there and begin hacking monsters. Most of the time, you didn’t have to worry about it, but when you just died AGAIN in Level Six and needed another potion, well, being broke hit you hard.
Link to the Past upped the ante to 999® (the interface being limited to three digits), and this pretty much was sufficient until you were going to the Fountain of Wishes to get more bombs and arrows. After all, elsewise the nastiest purchases (for savvy shoppers, of course) were the Zora’s Flippers at 500® and maybe a few blue potions, and those purchases never overlapped one another. Link’s Awkening, however, sucker-punched us when we had to buy our own bow for 980®. It was painful when, in the middle of a dungeon, you reached the 999-marker before buying the bow. All those extra rupees in the treasure chests were wasted until you got out to get it. Of course, you could bypass the whole rupee problem and pilfer the bow, but no one likes a thief, you dirty, rotten, lousy bow-stealer.
However, Link’s Awakening only pulled that trick once. The real “tragedy” was when Ocarina came, and along with it for the ride was the most atrocious monetary system ever in the Zelda empire, the 99-200-500 system. I have yet to figure out just why they thought this was a good idea, and I have two reasons for my confusion.
First, let’s assume that our wallets are NOT bags of holding. (Sure, Link does carry a lot of stuff behind his back. But bags of holding implies Infinite Rupeeland exists, but since 99 < ∞ even in Hyrule, well… you get the idea.) Now imagine plucky young Link wandering around with his 99® wallet, and he goes around collecting nothing but green rupees. He gets 99 of those crystally thingies in a bag, and that’s it. That’s all the wallet can hold. (Let’s not even go into the physics of how big that bag would be, much less how big the Goron wallet would have to be. We’re pretending.) Now, Link then replaces each green rupee in the wallet with a blue rupee? Contents of the bag? 99®. Wait… what? Yes, ninety-nine rupees of beer in the bag, ninety-nine rupees of beer. You put one in, shake it around, ninety-nine rupees of beer in the bag. The extra is completely gone. This doesn’t even begin to consider what happens if I shoved in the red, purple, silver, or gold rupees scattered throughout Hyrule. This wallet will not hold more than 99 rupees, and the leftovers? The elusive, invisible, and invincible Wallet-Monster eats everything beyond that. (Now THAT is something Ganon could take over the world with!)
Second, and this carries off of the first point, what in the world do we honestly have to buy anyways? The biggest purchase we have to make in the game is the Hylian Shield at 80® (less with the discount). Unless you’re
Wind Waker was slightly less a disaster, yet it was bad nevertheless for an entirely different reason. This time, the economies of scale tended to mess up players. Instead of 99-200-500, you had 200-1K-5K, but for those of us who didn’t immediately go for both wallet upgrades at the beginning of the game (and thus capped ourselves at 200 or 1,000® for a prolonged amount of time), when we get Tingle’s final tab of 3,385® (that’s 398® for each of the 8 Triforce maps plus the 201® C.O.D. charge for his IN-credible Map, all of which highway robbery), players can’t afford the bill, and so they have to go farm the islands for rupees when they could have been collecting them the entire game. You rarely see the 5K® mark as is in the game (all because of that greedy son of a fairy), and so what is the point of the 200- and 1K-rupee bags? They’re wastes of disk space, especially considering the prevalence of the blue 5s, yellow 10s, and red 20s in the game. Two hundred rupees is NOT difficult to come across.
When you add to this system with the fact that there are no banks, no savings accounts, no cashier’s checks, no credit cards, no debit cards, and no checkbooks… Link’s retirement will be forever linked to the poor house. (Yes, I know Majora had a bank. How many times did you accidentally Song of Time back to day one without saving your rupees in the bank? Thought so.)
Wallet upgrades need to be abandoned. Simply put, they’re illogical, inconvenient, and can easily be replaced with a more thorough economy system (a la 500-rupee Zora Flippers). While I hate to say that the only games that did a fine job of nailing this were the earliest Zelda games (and the Capcom titles, even more painstaking to admit), reverting to that system would be better than what we have now. Better yet, don’t cap us at some rupee limit that’s easy to get to.
Next week, class, I will teach you how to complain to your parents that your allowance isn’t enough.Follow This Entry