Writing for The Ontological Geek, Joey DiZoglio looks at a childhood classic through the lens of Freud. There are many parts of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that might be interesting to look at psychoanalytically, but DiZoglio chooses a particularly tempting one: the encounter with Shadow Link.
At this point a more simple interpretation must be acknowledged before unpacking the greater complexity at work. One might assume Shadow Link is inherently evil the way Phantom Ganon embodies an ethereal malevolence. This interpretation elides the actual threat present in Shadow Link’s appearance. Again, I make a move to reject the conventional Hero’s Journey interpretation that the hero must defeat himself apropos Luke Skywalker fighting himself wrapped in Darth Vader’s mask in the cave of Dagobah. Luke has desires while Link, as M has observed, is void of characterization. What we see in Shadow Link is not a dark manifestation of a character’s inner flaws, but something much more subtle: a manifestation of the game that does not need us.
Suppose Shadow Link kills Link but then continues on with the quest. Imagine this digital penumbra picking up exactly where the player left off and carrying through until he drove his sword through Ganon and became the hero of time. If the game solved itself we would be reduced to mere spectators watching a long, and at times, repetitive fantasy movie.
Yet Shadow Link is not a perfect replication. When the player makes a sword-thrust the shade has the ability to jump and land upon Link’s sword before striking a counter attack and back-flipping away. The player has no access to such agility. It’s as if the computer mocks our slow reflexes.
Head on over to The Ontological Geek to take in the full analysis, which goes to some fascinating — and very Freudian — places.