Something from a video game that unexpectedly made me cry.
This is the Lanayru Desert, a region from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. We’re told the first time we visit there that the entire region used to have lots of large mines and was a rich green area full of life and vegetation. And then… that’s all we know. We never find out what happened to make this place turn into such a lifeless desert.
Things called Time Stones gives us a small glimpse into what the past was like in the region, by shifting time backwards in a small area around the stone. But these stones are immobile and only give us a view of whats around them. The vast majority of the desert is left as it is, leaving us wondering what the region as a whole was like back then.
Also in the region are little robots that were used for mining operations. We don’t know anything about them either. We know the were created to mine… but we don’t know WHO created them or where they could have come from. In the present state they are all rusted and broken down into lifeless heaps. Trying to talk to them just elicits a “…” with speech sounds, as if they are still somewhat aware despite being broken.
In the field of a Time Stone where things are in the past, you can talk to these robots as they are functional. They go about whatever their duty is, seemingly unaware that time has gone on without them.
Later you visit a different area of the desert referred to as the Sand Sea. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The area was once a massive sea, now completely dried up and filled with sink sand.
You find a boat abandoned at dock with a Time Stone on it. Activating it brings the area around it back to the past along with the boat’s operator, a ship captain. You use this boat to travel around the area in a view that is… hauntingly eerie and yet also kind of hard to wrap your mind around.
You eventually get to the captain’s home, called Skipper’s Retreat. You are sent in to get a proper sea chart so that you can navigate the area accurately during your journey. As you go in, the sight is nothing short of depressing.
The inside is buried in large piles of sand and small scorpions have made a home inside. As you clear the sand away you find two busted robots, the captain’s wife and kid. You can even attempt to talk to them like any other deactivated robot. As you look around the walls you can find pictures of the captain’s life around. As you leave your companion Fi helpfully points out that he lived a happy and fulfilling life.
There’s no Time Stones around to fix this home. Nothing to do to try and save this captain’s family and home. All you can do is look around at the place that has been ravaged by sand and time and despair.
And then if you talk to the captain later after you are done with the area… he laments about how much he misses his family and wonders when he can go back to them. Not too much earlier he mentioned that he was fully aware that the only reason he was up and alive was because of the Time Stone on his boat.
This was one of the most subtle yet depressing pieces of story from a game I’ve ever really witnessed. You never get a full story of what happened in this place. You never get to fix it. You never get any closure. You just… find what you need to save the land and… move on. It’s haunting… and so very depressing.
I found myself sitting inside the house with tears rolling down my face, wishing I could bring a Time Stone from SOMEWHERE and get at least one happy ending in this forsaken place. Alas… that is a wish that wont come true.