It has been five months since the release of Breath of the Wild and I seem incapable of moving on from this game. Breath of the Wild has introduced so much change to the Zelda franchise such as the return to open world gaming, mortal weapons, and roaming temples. There seems to me one other particular characteristic that deserves to be addressed, one looming part of this game that makes it stand out from the rest: the Yiga Clan. This Zelda enemy is the first of its kind within the legacy of this franchise. They deserve some recognition and some notoriety for doing what no other Zelda enemy has done before. With the Yiga we have an enemy who derives from the Hyrule homeland, a group who was a part of Hylian society. They were equals among all the rest until their intellect and progress made them icons of something unnatural. They became something that the public feared despite their promise to protect those that actively rejected them. From this isolation and rejection of their cultural identity the Yiga was created in retaliation. With the Yiga we get a piece of the people’s history within Hyrule and not simply the greater events of the Triforce. We see Hyrule as a nation that struggles not only against evil but against itself. The Yiga introduce complexity within the land of Hyrule.
Zelda enemies don’t always have a lot of depth. They’re typically mindless wild creatures who attack you simply because Ganon created them for that sole purpose. With the Yiga Clan there is a story and a stronger purpose to them. They’re fighting in aid of Ganon because they had been rejected and feared by their society. They’re a creation of the Hylian people’s fear of change. The Yiga are a representation of the conflict within the societies of Hyrule. With this enemy we have an expansion in story and interpersonal relationships. A great example of this is the turmoil Dorian experienced upon attempting to leave the clan. He had fallen in love and wished to live with that person peacefully in the Sheikah Tribe. Sadly the Yiga do not allow members to leave, at least not easily. In retaliation they murdered his wife and threatened the death of his children unless he acted as a spy for them. Thanks to the sinuous nature of this enemy we have the opportunity to become more invested in the world of Zelda. This enemy provides the Legend of Zelda with an introduction to experiment with different styles of narrative. Through this a wider audience can be brought in specifically those who reject the game due to its simplistic story. Every media has room for improvement and one way the world of Zelda can better itself is through the expansion of their portrayal of events.
Not only does the Yiga help improve the narrative of the Legend of Zelda but they can be expanded upon as a formidable foe in game play. Just as all of Ganon’s underlings are scattered throughout Hyrule, so too are the Yiga. What sets them apart though is their ability to blend in. With other enemies their presence is hard to miss. They gallop towards you and pounding music introduces them to you loudly. The Yiga are more subtle than this; They are masters of disguise. Whether it be through shape shifting, voice masking, or just an extreme speed at changing outfits they’re capable of becoming the average Hylian traveler. These are similar to the deceptive tricks Zelda used to become Sheik in Ocarina of Time who was able to stay hidden from Ganon for seven years. The Yiga are not to be taken lightly with abilities like that in their arsenal.
The Yiga have changed the formula of the common enemy populating Hyrule. This enemy requires the player to be receptive, alert, and prepared for an unexpected attack. I hope I am not the only one who has been desperately looking for a tougher enemy within the cartridges and discs of the Legend of Zelda. With further expansion upon the Yiga Clan future games can have battles with enemies that submerge us into the existence of Hyrule even further by forcing us to react intelligently rather than mindlessly mash the buttons on the controller. The Yiga or enemies of their same caliber can bring fear into our hearts and motivate us within the deepest trenches of our souls to defend the nation we have grown to love since childhood, whether fictional or not we are bound to Hyrule and will defend it as long as there is someone to oppose. It would be appreciated as a change of pace if that opposition happened to bring even an inkling of doubt in the capabilities of the player at their chances of success.
Fighting off a member of the Yiga Clan can be difficult if unprepared or unfamiliar. My first interaction with a Yiga in disguise was quite surprising and altered my understanding of the world I had suddenly woken into. Their sneaky approach can be quite disarming especially with how different they are in comparison to past Zelda enemies. After a little more practice against them in battle I started to notice that they wouldn’t collapse like other enemies did. Instead they’d clear some distance then jump into their puff of smoke and disappear. The Yiga Clan do not die upon Link defeating them, they simply retreat. These are the first of a common enemy in the Legend of Zelda series to choose to leave a battle instead of fighting to their last breath and in turn that shows their capabilities. They are smart enough to know when to retreat so as to fight another day. A good enemy is one that can challenge you and strategically plan out their next move which requires intelligence and skill, both of which the Yiga definitely have. Perhaps in future game releases we can find a more serious tone accompanied with the help of menacing adversaries such as these. With the Yiga there is a possibility for growth in the Zelda series to become more than what is is so far: repetitive, obvious, simple.
Not all good games have a weighty tone or themes of doom and gloom. Humor is a wonderful way to round out characters and their experiences through life. The Yiga have a silly but very adorable quality which is their obsession over bananas. Despite being a strong competitor against you and your mission they are a very adorable group of people. Their goofy personalities almost make you forget that they’re thirsty for your blood. They’re an enemy that are hard to hate. Breath of the Wild has granted us the silliest murderers to ever exist in the history of Hyrule. The Yiga are impressive simply because they have character. They are beings capable of thoughts, capable of making decisions capable of wanting; These people chose to be in service of Ganon whereas all other Zelda enemies were made to serve under Ganon by Ganon. Depth makes an enemy interesting, and giddily skipping towards bananas makes them lovable.