In 2016, frogs in gaming had a banner year. Now, to follow Slippy Toad and Frog Fractions 2 is... The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I know, I know, this game isn’t really about frogs, but look at this gif and tell me it shouldn’t be. In fact, frogs haven’t gotten the credit they deserve for their rich Zelda history. Today, we’re going to fix that.
Link got turned into a frog in the 1989 animated series, but no frogs showed up in the games until A Link to the Past in 1991. A Dwarven Swordsman got stuck in frog form, and this noble sacrifice paved the way for his slimy-skinned brethren to become a mainstay in Nintendo’s popular franchise. Before The Breath of Wild brings us the freshest new frogs, let’s take some time to remember the greatest frog heroes and villains of Link’s long career. Gulp down your frog legs and turn on your favorite frog sleep track, because we’re hopping in.
—————Mild Spoilers For Old Zelda Games Past This Point—————
Link’s Awakening is our first big stop on the 2017 Frog Remembrance Tour. In this title, Nintendo gave us what we were all craving after A Link to the Past’s mere frog imitation. No Zelda? No Hyrule? No problem, because this game delivers some real-ass frogs. Led by Mamu, aka Mario 2's Wart (yes, Nintendo has featured the same frog in Legend of Zelda and Mario), the Frog Choir teaches Link the lovely Frog Song of Soul on the Ocarina. After doing Link this generous favor (for the low, low price of 300 Rupees), Mamu and his frog choir leave their cave to travel the land and bring music to the people of... wait, where was Link’s Awakening again?
But wait! That’s not the only frog-related crossover in the game. There’s also a gang of frogs in Richard’s Villa, chilling with Richard. Richard is a character from Nintendo’s Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, or The Frog for Whom the Bell Tolls, which is an awesome name. You may know the game from its assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. 4, where the Prince of Sablé beats your character mercilessly after transforming into a snake or (you guessed it) frog.
Frogs (and Link) triumphantly returned in the series’ next game, Ocarina of Time. Nintendo was all in on Ocarina, and that meant delivering some excellent frog action. The Fabulous Five Froggish Tenors generously give Link 50 rupees per song (take note, Mamu) and grow larger after each. They’re also kind enough to offer 2 pieces of heart. One for playing the Song of Storms, their favorite, and another for making them all giant. The ethical implications of doubling the size of five frogs with magic are unfortunately left out.
Let’s also not forget the poor Eyeball Frog, who’s dragged through all of Hyrule even though he can’t survive there longer than 4 minutes. The frog goes through all this just to be turned into a bottle of eye drops, which is... strange. If anything, it’s strong evidence that frogs shouldn’t let Link near them.
Yet another frog choir can be found in Majora’s Mask. But first, Link must defeat two Gekkos, nasty frog-creatures who reside in the Woodfall and Great Bay Temples. These guys have a variety of tricks, from bringing turtle friends into the fight to becoming a blob of jelly. When defeated, they become normal frogs again, which marks the first and only time Link helps out any frogs in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
The transformed frogs, just a few of the game’s innumerable reused Ocarina assets, are two of the five total frogs scattered about Termina. All five must be reunited for Link to get a piece of heart. These guys are a bit more wary of strange boys who like to magically inflate frogs, but can be talked to after Link acquires Don Gero’s Mask. When all are gathered and Link ends the perpetual winter in the Snowhead, the frogs will sing a short song and give Link a piece of heart.
After suffering through bizarre sidequests in Ocarina and Major’s Mask and a brief appearance as an ice statue in Four Swords Adventures, the frogs of Legend of Zelda were finally ready to hit the big time. It’s rumored that The Wind Waker originally had an amphibian partner for Link, but Nintendo decided to leave Link alone in the final game (for once). The frogs made out okay, though. The Wind Waker instead featured Zephos and Cyclos, the two greatest frogs in Zelda history.
These two literal frog gods grant Link the some of the most important songs in the game. Zephos is actually only in the game briefly. He appears on Dragon Roost Island to compliment Link’s sick wind-changing beats, after the player discovers Wind’s Requiem, then disappears entirely. His shrine, however, is pretty important, since it teaches Link the sick beats in question.
Cyclos is more infamous, and anyone who played Wind Waker likely ran into him a few times. After his shrine is destroyed, he decides to take it out on the world and roam the open seas atop a cyclone. He’ll scoop Link up and fling him all over the map unless Link manages to hit him with 3 arrows. If shot, the usually cantankerous frog grants Link the Ballad of Gales, which mercifully allows Link to teleport. This alone makes Cyclos the Zelda franchise’s most heroic frog.
Unfortunately for frogs, Cyclos remains their greatest Legend of Zelda triumph. Twilight Princess features a frog who tells Wolf Link, “I didn’t think anyone would come calling, so I haven’t thought of anything to say... Sorry...” This about sums up the contribution frogs make to Twilight Princess. There’s a few chipper ones hanging around Ordon village, and another in the city around Hyrule Castle. But it’s a bleak game for frogs otherwise.
There’s the rather unflattering Deku Toad seen above, and he’s related to the even uglier Toados and Toadpolis. And of course, there’s the frog lure, an insulting effigy of the many frogs who have died in the jaws of the Hylian Loach. Of all the annoying sidequests frogs are dragged into, the lure might be the worst. It consists entirely of an infuriating, imprecise Wii Motion marble game. Frogs died for this, Nintendo.
The company threw Anura (look it up) a bone in Phantom Hourglass, although not without the usual appetite for destruction. Golden Chief Cylos (who is a giant gold frog resembling Cyclos from earlier) grants Link the Cyclone Slate, another object for fast travel. How do you use it? You brutally shoot Cylos’ “gilt minions” (golden frogs) with cannonballs, of course. They’ll croak out symbols used to fast travel, probably right before they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Will Link’s appetite for frog destruction ever be sated?
Actually, yes - the frog hatred slowed for a while. Frogs are nowhere to be found in Skyward Sword, aside from a few thirsty frog statues. Link treats the statues better than any real frogs he encounters in earlier games, actually. There are also some strange frog-pufferfish guys, Froaks, but they look more fishy than froggy if you ask me.
Frogs totally skipped Spirit Tracks. A Link Between Worlds ignored the species even though A Link to the Past introduced frogs to Zelda. The golden frogs of Phantom Hourglass made an appearance and were beat up in Hyrule Warriors, but who doesn’t that game beat up? Frogs also skipped Tri Force Heroes, a game that I completely forgot existed.
Thus, we can chart the frog species’ path in The Legend of Zelda as a rise and subsequent fall. Frogs gained momentum in Link’s Awakening that they carried all the way to The Wind Waker. It appears that Nintendo then started to get tired of frogs. Gradually, they were phased out in favor of octopi (maiamai) and ridiculous penguin plants.
But now frogs are back! Frogs, and maybe even more than one kind of frog, will be showing up in Breath of the Wild. Will they figure out how to fix their complicated relationship with Link?
Mmmmmmm. Doesn’t look like it. Good luck, frogs of Zelda.
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