Glorious Girls of Gaming – Princess Zelda 

  

By Joshie Jaxon

Princess Zelda, much like Princess Peach has been around since the early days of the NES. Also like Peach, she was the damsel who needed to be rescued during her franchise’s inaugural adventure. Not to mention she was originally a brunette, or maybe a redhead, sprites are hard to identify. However, the similarities to Peach end there. We’re gonna explore how this princess took her destiny in her own hands. Let the geeks begin! 

As anyone who played the original Legend of Zelda back in the day will tell you, there’s no real plot to the game itself. Without reading the manual, all you know about the game is that you’re a tiny green guy destroying monsters. Now, it’s true, you could watch the small opening credit if you let the title screen sit for a while, but without it, you don’t really have a clue that there’s a princess that needs rescuing. We’ll excuse any shortcomings of NES era gaming, as the games themselves were some of the best ever made, launching several enduring series. However, Zelda was an eight-bit character back then. Get it? Moving on. She spent all of the Adventure of Link asleep in the starting castle. Since Link doesn’t swing that way, I’m guessing the thought to kiss her never crossed his mind. As such, Zelda was a damsel in distress for her second outing, while Peach had been given temporary playable character status in hers. Don’t worry, Zelda is about to take the lead. 

  

While she did have a better role than damsel in Link to the Past, it was Ocarina of Time that really allowed us to get to know Zelda and see her shine. Young Princess Zelda was suspicious of Ganondorf, and asked Link to look into it, teaching him her lullaby. However, just as kid Link returned from his initial quest, he gets to watch Impa ride off with Zelda as Ganon pursued them. She did manage to share her titular Ocarina on her way out of town. Link seizes the Master Sword and gets transported to the future, and learns of Ganon’s reign. The mysterious Sheik tells the young hero that Zelda is safe, but in hiding. At each dungeon/temple, Sheik uses his harp to teach Link a new song, and offer him information. Even as a teen, I wondered if they were going to show signs of a possible same sex attraction, but alas, Sheik was merely Zelda’s drag king persona; which confused the hell out of Link’s master sword, if you know what I’m saying. Anyhow, Zelda shows that she has the power of the Triforce of Wisdom, and is captured by Ganon. Unlike a standard damsel rescue, once Link beats Ganon’s first form, Zelda says she’ll help against the second. Skilled with a bow, and able to use the power of light, she allows Link the use of light arrows, and channels her power to hold Ganon steady while Link delivers the final blow. In the final moments of the game she sends Link back so that he can still have a childhood. How sweet of her. 

  

Not really present in Majora’s Mask, Zelda did get to play a significant role in the events of the Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. Once again we get a princess in disguise, in the form of Tetra. Tetra is a pirate, and takes Link on her ship in a quest to retrieve his sister. She loans him the use of her pirate stone, allowing him to communicate with her, and the King of Red Lions. Towards the end of Link’s quest, we discover that Tetra is actually Princess Zelda. Much like her incarnation in Ocarina, Tetra-Zelda has light powers, and is just as skilled with a bow. Once more, she assists Link, allowing him to stab Ganon in the head, turning him to stone. Can’t get her hands dirty, after all. Or can she? Twilight Zelda uses her power to heal a critically injured Midna, allowing Link to save not only his world but the Twilight Realm as well. Zelda reappears in the end, because let’s face it, these are her legends after all. 

  

Skyward Sword gave us our greatest version of Zelda yet. Hear me out. Not only has this Zelda known Link since childhood, she has her own purpose in the story, rather than just being a convenient plot point. While Link is going through the game trying to stop Ghirahim, Zelda is with Impa trying to prepare and purify herself to be a vessel for the goddess Hylia. She’s actively questing to do what she can to help save the world. She’s not captured. She’s not asleep. She’s not in drag, or an amnesiac. What’s Peach doing? Being taken, again, playing go-carts, sports, partying, etc. Zelda is working to become a freaking goddess. Even though Zelda isn’t the exact same person in each game, the developers have worked very hard to make her different and unique as time passes. The Mario series seems to go with, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The Zelda series takes risks with each new entry. They even killed her off, technically, in Spirit Tracks. Even without a body of her own, Zelda is useful, and required to beat the game. That entry was actually her legend. She’s the co-star, not just the female lead. 

  

Now, like Peach, Zelda has stepped into the Brawl universe, and even brought her Sheik persona with her. This is one princess that kicks ass and takes names. I’ve not had a chance to play Hyrule Warriors outside of Best Buy, but I know that Zelda is at the forefront of the action. From her initial appearance in the NES days to now, Zelda has become a hands-on warrior princess, lookout Xena, willing to do whatever it takes to protect her land and people, and to me, that’s pretty glorious. 

  

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Glorious Girls of Gaming – Princess Peach, aka Princess Toadstool

  

By Joshie Jaxon

Greetings, geek fans. When working on new material, I realized that I hadn’t done a Glorious Girls post in forever. I decided, what better way to get back to it, than to dive in with someone that gamers new and old would recognize, Princess Peach. Let’s the geeks begin! 

Originally called Princess Toadstool here in the states, she was the damsel in distress that Mario was supposed to save in the original Super Mario Bros for the NES. Back then, games had manuals to help flesh out the story, since the cartridges had limited memory. If you never read the manual, then you had no idea why Mario was running around stomping things until you got through the first castle, and discovered Toad waiting for you. Say it with me now, “Thank you, Mario, but our princess is in another castle”. After questing through eight worlds, we finally get the genuine article. Rather than the appearance we know today, she was a redhead, and wore a white dress. She kept the hair for another game or two, but changed into her signature pink dress for Super Mario Bros 2, where she was a playable character. Personally, I preferred to play as her, because of her ability to hover in the air, which saved me from death on more than one occasion. By the final game on the NES, Super Mario Bros 3, Princess Toadstool was kidnapped again. However, this time she was able to send us touching letters, and power-up items. I’m glad the Koopa King allowed to to send mail. For that matter, if she had things like power wings and such to send, why didn’t she just use them herself to escape? Ponder that, I’ll touch on it again later. 
  
The Super Nintendo era brought us Mario’s next console adventure, Super Mario World. Once again, Peach is kidnapped. Nintendo knows, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, just tweak it. So, even though the power-ups and locations may change, the only thing that can motivate Mario to want to play through a game is if he’s got a gal to save. Pauline, Daisy and Rosalina can back me up on this. He’s either saved them by personally rescuing them, or by completing tasks to get things going. Where was I? Oh yeah, save me, Mario! Save me! And he does, and it all goes well until the next time. The SNES brought us another chance to play as the princess, in the form of Super Mario Kart. Peach got addicted to racing, and she’s been doing it ever since. Which gives her at least a slight sense of accomplishment, seeing as how she’s always getting kidnapped left and right. In Mario 64, she was even held captive in her own castle. How humiliating to not even use any hidden exits to free yourself. Oh wait, bimbo blonde girl in the main series. I forgot. How careless of me. The thing is, I want to like Peach, I really do. She runs an entire kingdom, and deserves some respect. I just can’t get past her lack of defenses. Alright, Bowser gets her once or twice, you fortify and prevent it from happening again. Sadly, she, or her advisors, just never learn.
  
I could comment on Sunshine, Galaxy, Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros DS/Wii/Wii U you see where I’m going with this. I’ll summarize; Bowser takes Peach, Mario travels through roughly eight worlds to save her, repeat. However, she was given one chance to shine on her own, Super Princess Peach. In a twist of fate, Bowser takes Mario. Maybe he was trying to get him out of the way of future Peach-nappings. This time around, Peach needs to save Mario. Yay! Feminism! Girl power! Oh, wait, they didn’t give her fire flowers, a cape, Yoshi, or FLUDD, they made her a slave to her emotions. Yes, seriously. Joy, Rage, Gloom, and Calm are her arsenal. Joy makes her float, Rage makes her burn, Calm restores health, and Gloom makes her cry. Way to reinforce women using tears as a weapon, guys. As if that weren’t sexist, and disempowering enough, the object she retrieves from Bowser is called the Vibe Scepter. Hand to freaking god, not only did Bowser take Mario, he took Peach’s vibrator. Have that image in your mind as you look at the cover art for the game; Peach, using said scepter as she has a Mario kidnap fantasy. 
  
Moving on, we’re gonna focus on a more empowering incarnation of Peach, the fighter. The Princess has been part of the Smash Bros series since the beginning. Finally, Peach is able to fight back against not only Bowser, but Mario, Luigi and Yoshi too. She wields her Toad subjects as weapons, as well as her signature parasol. She is a lady, after all. There is a story mode in Smash, and she has the chance to be the one to take down Master Hand. Finally saving the day with the help of no man. Aside from that, Peach is a staple in the Party series, as well as the various sports games that are out there. I’ll give Nintendo credit, although she isn’t the most well-rounded person in their universe, she gives young girls, and boys, a female character in what is usually a male-dominated industry. She can go-cart, golf, play tennis, baseball, soccer, etc. just as well as the boys do. I personally don’t use her unless I have to, because I prefer my female characters to be more warrior than princess. However, that doesn’t stop me from finishing my Mario games and making sure she’s rescued. I can’t just leave her there. She’s certainly not going to save herself. Or is she?
  
My absolute, hands-down, all-time favorite version of Peach is from her Princess Toadstool days. There’s a little known gem of a comic called Super Mario Adventures. This story is great, and so is the art. I may do a separate post on it just to do it justice. Essentially, Bowser turns Mario and the Toads to stone. Princess Toadstool ain’t having that, and chases after him. Atta girl! Sadly, she still winds up captured, but in the greatest twist ever, she saves herself! She kicks some Koopaling ass, and gets away. Mario, not knowing she freed herself, and based on past precedent we can’t blame him, gets caught trying to save her. Then Princess Toadstool has to get back into the castle she escaped from to try and save her would-be hero. The story has it all. I won’t spoil the rest. As I said, I’ll do another post. I just love that at least on paper, not only did they make her a competent ruler, but a woman as well. There was no waiting around to be rescued, she did it herself. That’s the sort of a lesson a recognizable character like Peach should be showing more often. 
  

In conclusion, Peach currently holds the honor of being the female character with highest amount of game appearances, at a whopping total of 78 to date. Thanks, to multi-series repeats like Mario Party, Mario Kart, etc. In fact, she was the only female racer in that opening game. Despite being portrayed as clueless, Peach Toadstool really is competent in a lot of ways. Perhaps it’s her security detail that needs an overhaul. No longer a simple damsel in distress, Peach has expanded her skill set, if not her mind, to show that pretty women can be just as capable as men, and to me, that’s pretty glorious. 
  

Glorious Girls of Gaming – Birdo

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by Joshie Jaxon

Birdo started out as a villain in Super Mario Bros 2. Unlike Wart and Fry Guy, Birdo is a boss that we encounter several times through the game, with various abilities. Mostly an egg spitter, occasionally fireballs are hurled at Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach/Toadstool.
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Although the events of SMB2 turned out to be nothing more than a dream. Oops, Spoiler Alert on a 27 year old game, my bad. Where was I? Oh yeah, even though it was a dream, the Shy Guys and Birdo made the leap into Mario’s reality. While the Shy Guys appeared as villains in other games, like Yoshi’s Island, Birdo wasn’t cast as a villain again. Instead, Birdo was invited to go karting, play golf, party and even went to the Olympics with Sonic and the main Mario cast.
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You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to Birdo by name, but not she or her. That’s because I wanted to touch on the alleged controversy about Birdo. In the original manual for SMB2, we learn that Birdo is male, but thinks he’s a girl. Granted this was 1988, but since then people have been confused about what gender Birdo is.
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I don’t understand the confusion. Birdo identifies a a girl. I don’t know what her species is, or what level of gender reassignment is available in the Mushroom Kingdom, but that shouldn’t matter. For all intents and purposes, Birdo is a girl, and should be treated as such. It isn’t our place to push onto her what we feel is right or wrong.
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She’s been paired as a couple with Yoshi, and the two have been called boyfriend and girlfriend. That should speak volumes. I’m sure they’ve spoken, and Yoshi knows all about Birdo’s history, and loves her for who she is. Most modern game descriptions refer to her as “she”, but is that a sign of respecting who she is, or are we trying to retcon her status as the premier trans character of gaming? That’s not for me to decide.
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In the end, Birdo knows exactly who she is. She was a villain that found an accepting group of friends that love and support her. She is the first transgender woman of gaming, and to me, that’s pretty glorious.
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-JJ


Glorious Girls of Gaming – Eiko Carol

by Joshie Jaxon

Glorious Girls of Gaming – Eiko Carol

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Now, before I even start, I know what you’re thinking; Joshie, Eiko isn’t glorious, she’s just a stupid kid. Give me a few moments of your time, and I’m sure I can make a believer out of you. If not, I apologize in advance for wasting your time. We good? Alrighty then.

It’s true that Eiko doesn’t have the leading lady appeal of Aerith, Rinoa, or Garnet. She doesn’t have a royal title like Peach or Zelda. Eiko most likely will never hold her own series spanning three decades like Samus. Why then am I devoting my post, and your valuable time, to her, instead of one of the ladies listed above? The answer is simple, I feel for her.

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When we meet Eiko, she is the only citizen of Madain Sari, the lost village of summoners. She lives alone, with only moogles to keep her company. Kupo! Sorry, had to. Eiko is only six years old, and is living on her own. She knows how to cook, and take care of others, despite her young age. Yes, she’s a bit clingy, and kind of a brat, but she’s had to rely on herself. She has no parents, or grandparents to teach her right from wrong. Again, it’s just the moogles.

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She steals from the citizens on Conde Petie, and you can’t really blame her. She has no way to earn money, as the Outer Continent has no real job market for a six year old. At least I assume there are child labor laws, I could be wrong, although the shopkeepers of FF IX all seemed to be adults. When she meats Zidane and the others, she is so starved for human contact, wait, is Zidane human, he has a tail, is he saiyan, never mind, she takes the party to her village and tries to make friends, and even get a boyfriend. Again, raised by moogles. Not exactly her fault. All she knows is their love, kupo!

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Even though she is only six, the kid has power. She’s able to summon four different Eidolons on her own. Not only that, but when she combined her power with Garnet’s, they were able to call Alexander, which was strong enough to stand up against Bahamut. She gladly stands with her newfound friends to defend the world from Kuja. Not just power, she’s got guts.

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As I mentioned, Eiko speaks to me, as I’m sure she does to a part of all of us. Look past the surface, and there is a scared child that just wants somewhere to belong. A person or a place to make us feel safe, and to call home. Even when we find a group of friends, are we ever able to truly connect, or do we wander, alone in a crowd, the sole member of our kind? Longing to find another like us, but knowing we never might. As Eiko says, “I don’t wanna be alone anymore.” She has the strength to keep looking, and finds friends greater than what she could have imagined, and to me, that’s pretty glorious.

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-JJ