Things are not looking great in terms of climate change. Permafrost is thawing, the water level is rising, and the consensus solution seems to be that we should all watch more movies that are vaguely critical of The Rich. But as our cities are submerged, maybe what we really need is a change of perspective! The world isn’t ending: It’s becoming a water level.
We all remember water levels for their disorienting design, clunky game mechanics, and generally exasperating nature. But if we squint really hard, maybe we can force ourselves to see that these stages actually presented an exciting new challenge and a refreshing change of pace, without which the games would become stale. You don’t want life to become stale, do you? With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the water levels of yesterday to see what the cities of tomorrow might look like.
New York – Clanker’s Cavern (Banjo Kazooie)
The use of the word “cavern” in the name of this level is odd because frankly, Clanker lives in a sewer. The water is filthy and the pipes are crawling with pests. It’s one of the more trying levels in the game but, like they say: if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.
New York’s famously polluted East River has improved in recent years but still remains tainted by chemicals, pesticides, and general runoff. What’s more, Brooklyn boasts two toxic waste sites of its own: the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek. It’s not hard to imagine a situation where rising seas and changing weather patterns produce the kind of flooding that blurs the lines between streets and sewers. And if that happens: fuck it, why not build a giant mechanical shark?
Boston – Water Temple (Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time)
The Water Temple, from the first 3D Zelda title, is a noted pain in the ass. Getting around involves collecting keys, moving around large blocks, and traversing underwater passageways. It is infamously hard to navigate, making it a fitting comparison to Boston, Massachusetts.
Beantown (as it is inexplicably known) is a maze of streets meandering nonsensically into one another, in tribute to their origins as colonial era cow paths. When combined with a class of drivers who prize aggression above all else, Boston can be exhausting to traverse. The addition of several feet of seawater is not likely to change this. In addition, you need specific clothing to safely traverse the Water Temple (iron boots and Zora tunic to aid in underwater exploration), much like in Boston (Red Sox hat and Patriots jersey to avoid getting jumped at Dunks).
San Francisco – Wet Dry World (Mario 64)
The land of innovation! Modern San Francisco has shed its Summer Of Love image for a sleeker, more modern vision based around Silicon Valley: a tech hub with massive wealth stratification that simply will not do anything to solve its housing crisis. Likewise, in Wet Dry World, advanced technological solutions have resulted in water levels that can be raised and lowered by needlessly complex mechanisms only accessible to the ruling class (associates of certain princesses). Low lying areas are often fully submerged while high altitude areas with heavy zoning restrictions remain conspicuously dry.
London – Winter Tundra (Spyro 2)
What a twist! Contrary to popular belief, climate change isn’t solely about rising temperatures and a scarcity of white Christmases. Changing global temperatures will have a significant effect on all manner of other natural phenomena, including ocean currents. This includes the Gulf Stream which provides the British Isles with a fairly temperate climate relative to their northerly location. In the event of the current shifting, we could see UK weather patterns more in line with the upper limits of Canada’s Quebec province, which falls on a similar latitude. If you want to see the future: imagine snow piling up in front of a kebab shop forever. Winter Tundra, with its snowy landscape, medieval castle, and flocks of penguins offers us a glimpse of the London of 2050!
Florida (The Whole Thing) – Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker (The Whole Thing)
Look, guys, Florida’s gone. Eight of the top ten US cities projected to be flooded by climate change are in Florida. The state is surrounded by coastlines, battered by storms, and barely above sea level as is. The most we can really hope for after climate change is an archipelago of islands and partially-submerged retirement communities populated mainly by pirates.
Enter The Wind Waker! The first Zelda title for GameCube is centered around exploring the handful of islands and shipwrecks in the great sea above a sunken kingdom. As you gaze out across the barely visible rooftops of a submerged Magic Kingdom, there will be little to indicate who once lived here, or how angry they were about critical race theory. Still no word on the Hero Of Time who will be able to restore Miami-Dade to its former glory.