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 The Legend of Zelda series of video games that originally appeared 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, 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 to the player of her song.
Epona appears again in her young form in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, as she goes along with Link on his journey, only to be kidnapped by a creature called Skull Kid. She is later recovered by Link at Romani Ranch. In this game, Link finds his way into an alternate dimension known as "Termina". In Termina, most of the characters are doubles from his original world, but with different lives and names. Some fans argue that Epona is killed in the beginning of the game and the horse found later at Romani Ranch is actually her double from Termina. However, given that the players have the right item, they can fetch news from objects called "gossip stones". One of the gossip stones' messages reads "a small, lost horse seems to have been taken in by Romani Ranch, south of town...", clarifying that the Epona from this game is indeed the same Epona from the beginning of the game (and the same from the events in Ocarina of Time) and not a double.
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. Most recently, she appears in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and is owned by Link from the outset, unlike previous titles 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 allows for expanded weapon use, a pivotal device in the title'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 Epona the legendary horse. She receives a unique saddle and bridle upon being registered that cannot be changed. The stable hands also refuse to style her mane, claiming she wouldn't 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 max bond with Link. Unlike past games, Epona is not invulnerable to damage or attack and can be killed if she takes too much damage, though if registered, Link can revive her via the Horse God Malanya who can be found at Malanya Spring. 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 in addition to Epona.
In Hyrule Warriors, Epona appears as a selectable 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" from Twilight Princess, and Level 3 is "Epona of Time" from Ocarina of Time. Outside of the DLC, Epona also appears in Link's intro (which usually plays when Link is an enemy) and victory cutscenes (which plays after beating a level with Link), when he equipped with either a sword or the Master Sword. These cutscenes feature Epona's Hyrule Warriors design. Link's victory cutscene for Epona features Link playing "Epona's Song" on the Ocarina of Time and rides off on her.
Epona's song appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as a part of the "Ocarina of Time Medley". She also appears in Brawl as a sticker, along with Link. Since her inception, Epona has been a part of multiple merchandise promotions, such as commercials and figurines, usually accompanied by Link.
Epona has received a positive reception since her introduction in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Honest Gamers commented that the world of Ocarina of Time seemed to be designed for Epona, rather than 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 fan boys". 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, due to the large number of fan requests for a young Link to be able to ride a young Epona, this feature was included in Majora's Mask. There was some question if the boat used for transportation in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The King of the Red Lions, was intended to be a replacement for Epona.
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, and took second place in the readers' choice award.
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