Epona (The Legend of Zelda)
|The Legend of Zelda character|
|First game||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)|
|Created by||Yoshiaki Koizumi|
Epona (Japanese: エポナ Hepburn: Epona) is a fictional horse in The Legend of Zelda series of video games that debuted in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. She usually acts as the steed of Link, the series protagonist, and is often found in the company of the ranch hand character Malon. Her name is derived from the Celtic goddess of horses of the same name.
Concept and creation
Epona was created by Yoshiaki Koizumi for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Epona shares the same name with the Celtic goddess of horses. Epona was planned to be nameable by players in Ocarina of Time, but the feature was removed before its release. The feature was later added to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. During the development of Twilight Princess, Eiji Aonuma, the game's director, would not confirm whether or not the horse was indeed Epona.
Epona is Link's horse (specifically, a silver bay draft horse) and is mainly used as a means for transportation. She first appears in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a filly at the Lon Lon Ranch, personally handled by a young girl named Malon. She teaches Link a song that attracts Epona and serves as a device for summoning, called "Epona's Song". Malon explains to Link that Epona is shy towards most, but has taken a liking to Link after he learns the song. When Link is transported seven years into the future, Epona is a full grown mare and can be ridden, but will only come if her song is played.
Epona reappears as a filly in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, in which she accompanies Link on his journey, only to be kidnapped by a creature called Skull Kid. She is later recovered by Link at Romani Ranch within parallel dimension known as Termina.
Link appears riding an unnamed horse, bearing resemblance to Epona, in the introductions for both The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. She again appears in a minor role as a non-playable character in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, along with her owner, Malon. Epona also appears in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and is owned by Link from the outset, unlike previous games in the series. In both The Minish Cap and Twilight Princess, Epona is able to communicate with Link under certain circumstances. In Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Link has the ability to shoot his bow while riding horseback. Twilight Princess also allows for expanded weapon use, a pivotal device in the game's final battle.
Epona appears in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, wherein she automatically avoids obstacles, allowing the player to concentrate on other tasks, such as shooting arrows. Link can leap off of her and enter bullet time to better aim his bow at enemies. She can only be obtained by scanning a specific amiibo with the amiibo rune.
When registered at a stable, her name is defaulted to Epona and cannot be changed, as the stable clerks refer to her as a legendary horse. She also receives a unique saddle and bridle upon being registered that cannot be changed. The stable hands also refuse to style Epona's mane, claiming she would not like it. Epona has a gentle nature and four stars in strength, stamina, and speed. She is also fully tamed when summoned via the amiibo rune and already has a maximum bond with Link. Unlike past games, Epona is not invulnerable to damage or attacks, and thus can be killed if she received too much damage. If she is registered, however, Link can revive her at Malanya Spring via the power of Malanya the Horse God. Unlike past games, Link can tame wild horses or steal tamed horses from Bokoblin horse riders, which he can register and name at stables throughout Hyrule alongside Epona.
In Hyrule Warriors, Epona appears as a weapon for Link via downloadable content (DLC), allowing him to battle enemies on horseback. Like most weapons in the game, Epona's weapon class, Horse, has three levels. Level 1 is Epona's Hyrule Warriors design, which features a piece of armor covering her head. Level 2 is "Twilight Epona" and fittingly uses her design from Twilight Princess, whereas Level 3 is "Epona of Time", which fittingly uses her design from Ocarina of Time. Outside of the DLC, Epona also appears in Link's intro and victory cutscenes when he is equipped with either a sword or the Master Sword. Link's victory cutscene for Epona features him playing "Epona's Song" on the Ocarina of Time and rides off on her.
The Ocarina of Time incarnation of Epona appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS as a sticker and trophy, respectively. In addition, Epona's Song appears as a part of the "Ocarina of Time Medley" as of Brawl.
Epona has received a positive reception since her debut. Honest Gamers commented that the world of Ocarina of Time seemed to be designed for Epona, instead of the other way around. GameDaily listed Epona as one of their top 25 of Nintendo's gimmicks, stating that through Epona, Nintendo had provided gamers a means of enacting the childhood dream of riding a horse. They also mention that seeing Epona in Twilight Princess made them "squeal like fanboys". In fact, according to GameDaily the sight of Epona being revealed in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was enough to make some people cry. Indeed, the large number of fan requests for a young Link to be able to ride a young Epona resulted in this feature being included in Majora's Mask. Although Epona is absent in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, some questioned if The King of Red Lions, the boat used for transportation in that game, was intended to be a replacement for her.
IGN compared the smooth run of the horses in Gallop Racer 3D to that of Epona in Ocarina of Time, saying that this smoothness in riding helped her win over the hearts of millions. Gaming Age gave similar praise to Epona, commenting that it was obvious the developers had spent a great deal of effort on her. He praised the improvements on her design since Ocarina of Time, as well as her animation. Before the release of Twilight Princess, IGN's Matt Casamassina expressed hopes of an expansion of horseback combat abilities available in Ocarina of Time.
Gamasutra compared the relationship between Link and Epona to that of Wander and Agro from Shadow of the Colossus. Though he adds that while the cutscenes in The Legend of Zelda enforced the relationship between Link and Epona, the gameplay does not. He believes Epona is used more as a sidekick and game element than an ally, and that controlling Epona is merely an extension of controlling Link. Gamasutra also cited the reunion of Link and Epona in the future of Ocarina of Time as an example of a story-telling game mechanic, stating that after Link goes into the future and finds Epona, she does not initially trust him, but she remembers him once "Epona's Song" is played. He adds that this teaches players that even in a game with time travel, music is a constant. UGO listed Epona 15th on their list of "NPC Characters We Love Having By Our Side".
In an MTV vote for the best video game horse, Epona was named the victor based on the four judges, including Ken Levine, Mike Krahulik, and Leigh Alexander; she also placed second in the readers' choice award. In addition to her positive reception, Epona has been a part of multiple merchandise promotions, such as commercials and figurines, since her debut.
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