"These dark beasties are attracted to light, and if they attack you, they may suck your life away!" — Figurine in-game description, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Ghinis (ギーニ Gīni) are a recurring ghost enemy in The Legend of Zelda series, appearing almost exclusively in the older games as well as handheld titles; in more modern, 3D titles their roles have been mostly replaced with the Poes, a similar ghost entity. They appear in the original The Legend of Zelda, as well as in The Faces of Evil, The Wand of Gamelon, Link's Awakening, BS The Legend of Zelda, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures, The Minish Cap, A Link Between Worlds, and Tri Force Heroes.
With the exception of the Philips CD-i games and the broadcasted SNES remake BS The Legend of Zelda, Ghinis are fairly unique among Zelda enemies as their design has remained constant, whereas most enemies see a redesign at some point, if not between each game that is not directly connected to another in the series. They have a rounded, almost rotund body; a single, gigantic eye; and a wide mouth that usually has their tongue sticking out.
Interestingly, in earlier titles Ghinis often would attack in groups, sharing a collective life force. This means that only by slaying the original Ghini found in the area will they all disappear. More modern titles have dropped this feature and they now mostly attack alone or in much smaller clusters. They can be dispatched with a wide array of weaponry at Link's disposal, but oftentimes require numerous hits to defeat.
The Legend of Zelda: The Hyrule Fantasy
Ghinis make their first appearance in the original The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Here, they are only found in the Western Graveyard in the game's western Hyrule (although canonically it is seen as part of southern Hyrule in the expanded map in the game's direct sequel, The Adventure of Link). Each screen of this area initially only features a single Ghini, which moves in a slow and linear pattern. This will be the only Ghini that Link needs to dispatch on the screen, and so he should keep track of it. Any time the player makes contact with a tombstone, another Ghini will spawn. Interestingly, multiple Ghinis can spawn from the same tombstone if touched multiple times. These extra Ghinis are invulnerable and unlike the original, move in random, erratic patterns, even occasionally slowing down or resting briefly, similar to a Keese.
The player must focus their attention on the original Ghini and after numerous sword swings or attacks from other weaponry, the ghost will finally be dispatched. Although defeating the original Ghini will also defeat all other Ghinis on screen, touching the tombstones will still summon more, invulnerable Ghinis and so the player must take caution.
Defeated Ghinis may drop a Heart, one or five Rupees, or a Clock (which temporarily freezes time).
The Faces of Evil & The Wand of Gamelon
The next appearance of the Ghinis was in the first two Philips CD-i games, The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon. These games are universally panned by critics and fans alike and are thus not considered canon, having never been referenced again in the series as a whole.
Here, they are much more realistic, resembling partially-corporeal, grotesque old men that float through the air. Here, they will spawn in certain locations such as haunted or crypt-like locations and fly directly at the player, but they are unable to change direction mid-flight. This is the first set of games to feature them in the typical Zelda palette swap varieties, with white- and green-colored versions existing. However, this does not appear to depict strength and very little else differs between them.
They are more common on Koridai (the setting for The Faces of Evil), where they can be found in the regions surrounding Goronu, Glutko, and Lupay's "faces of evil" monuments. On Gamelon however, they are only seen at Sakado's Crypt and the wrecked Gobiyan Ship.
After an absence of three canonical games, Ghinis finally make a return for Link's Awakening on the Game Boy. They primarily haunt the cemetery east of Koholint Prairie, but are also found north of Ukuku Prairie. They act just as they did in the original Zelda title, with a lone Ghini haunting each set of tombstones and others only spawning if Link makes contact with a tombstone. However, now each tombstone can only summon a single Ghini instead of multiple ones if the stone is touched over and over, and not all graves will summon them. When combined with the fact that these summoned Ghinis are no longer invincible and can be dispatched like the original, this makes them far easier to deal with than before. However, killing summoned Ghinis will have no effect on the others, though defeating the original still defeats all other Ghinis in the area.
Unlike their previous incarnations, these Ghinis often attack in conjunction with Zombies. Also, one tombstone will summon the Giant Ghini, which takes many more hits to dispatch but luckily is still affected by the original Ghini's defeat.
They are considered to be among the most difficult regular foes in the game, as they still take multiple hits to defeat, even from the powerful Spin Attack.
BS The Legend of Zelda
The Ghini act the same as they did in the original game, in this remake that was released only in Japan for the Satellaview add-on of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The main difference here is that their sprite was based more on the conceptual artwork, giving them two eyes instead of one.
Oracle of Ages & Seasons
The Ghinis reappear in the two Oracle games for the Game Boy Color, which was initially intended to be a remake of the original game. Here, their appearance is identical to those seen in Link's Awakening, using exactly the same sprite.
In Labrynna, the realm seen in Oracle of Ages, Ghini are only found inside the crypt-like dungeons and mini-dungeons of Yoll Graveyard, Spirit's Grave, and the Ancient Tomb. Here, the strength of a Ghini is not depicted by a color variation, but instead, weaker Ghinis will briefly flicker before they start to move. One Ghini in the Spirit's Grave inhabits a single room and must be defeated for the door to open. In contrast, whole groups appear within several rooms of the Ancient Tomb. These Ghinis do not share their life force with one another, and thus defeating one will have no affect on any of the others in the area.
A Giant Ghini appears as the mini-boss for Spirit's Grave, the game's first dungeon. Like the ones that appear in BS The Legend of Zelda, this Ghini has two eyes, but also has horn-like extensions from its head. It is accompanied by three miniature Ghinis as minions, which will attempt to latch on to Link and slow him down. Should they succeed, the Giant Ghini will charge at him to deal damage. Defeating the small Ghinis makes the battle easier, though they will eventually respawn.
In Holodrum, the realm seen in Oracle of Seasons, Ghinis act much more like their regular counterparts. Here, they inhabit the Graveyard in western Holodrum as well as the Explorer's Crypt. Like in previous games, a solitary Ghini can be found haunting a screen of graves and more will be summoned if any of the tombstones are disturbed. Like Link's Awakening, a grave can only summon one Ghini, but now all graves may summon them. These summoned Ghinis are again not invulnerable, and can be defeated one by one, or the original strategy of defeating the original Ghini to dispatch the lot can still be used. Interestingly, they are weak to the game's Rod of Seasons, which will defeat them in a single hit.
When linking the two games together, friendly Ghinis appear, a first for the series. Here, two are involved with the Graveyard Secret, and another can be found inhabiting the abandoned house on the Western Coast, which is instead involved with the Library Secret.
The Ghinis next appear in the short minigame Four Swords, which came attached to the Game Boy Advance remake of A Link to the Past (in which the Ghinis do not appear). This time they appear to be direct minions of the game's main antagonist, Vaati, as they primarily appear in Vaati's Palace. However, in the updated Four Swords Anniversary Edition they also appear in both the new, original Zelda-themed stage called Realm of Memories, as well as in the Hero's Trial.
In this game, they have been given a blue hue and now appear in smaller groups where they will latch on to Link to drain his health away. Again they are not connected to one another and must be defeated individually.
Four Swords Adventures
Again, Ghini appear as followers of Vaati, appearing in The Swamp's cemetery, the castle's dank basement in Infiltration of Hyrule Castle, and during a magical blizzard in Frozen Hyrule. This time they still appear in small clusters but typically can be seen in dimly-lit areas.
Their strategies have changed once more. Now they sway about in the darkness, emitting blue light that illuminates the area around them by a minuscule amount. They no longer emerge from tombstones, nor do they share the collective life force of some earlier iterations. They have gained the ability to turn invisible periodically, though they can still be tracked by following their shadow. Hyrule basement Ghinis sometimes may hide in pots. This bredd of Ghinis are also seen to be the weakest variety of all, only requiring a single sword swipe to defeat. Not only this, but the Swamp Ghinis are also susceptible to light and thus can be dispatched by lighting certain torches throughout the area. This weakness is not true with other Ghinis seen in the game, who are unaffected by torch light.
Giant Ghinis can also be found inhabiting The Swamp. This variety are invulnerable to all but torch light that must be activated by toggling switches. This is currently the final appearance of the Giant Ghinis to date. A boss by the name of Big Poe appears twice in the game, and in both battles will summon Ghinis to his aid.
The Minish Cap
Ghinis appear for the third and final time as minions of Vaati. This variety is entirely different from other appearances in terms of behavior. Here they frequent haunted locations in the region surrounding both the Royal Valley and Dark Hyrule Castle, but again do not emerge from graves. They also appear solitary and never are seen in groups. These ghosts are initially seen to be sleeping, but soon awaken to pursue Link once he draws too close.
These Ghini now act similar to both later incarnations of Gibdos and all incarnations of ReDeads, in that they will grab onto Link (in this case using their tails) and proceed to drain his health - in the case of the Ghinis, they lick him to do this. To escape Link must struggle to free himself, otherwise they will eventually kill him.
Yet another friendly Ghini can be found in this game, this time a pink-hued female Ghini named Gina. Appearing in a grave in Royal Valley, she will happily fuse various Kinstone pieces with Link.
A Link Between Worlds
Ghini make their first 3D appearance in A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS. This is surprising, as they did not appear at all in A Link to the Past, which Between Worlds is a direct sequel to. In this game, the original Ghinis are now referred to as Light Ghinis, while a new type called Dark Ghinis are black-colored and have a red eye. These two types work alone or in small groups together within the Dark Palace and the Treacherous Tower.
In Dark Palace, both appear within the pitch-dark rooms, where they move in small, lazy, elliptical patterns. They are not particularly aggressive by nature but can be a nuisance regardless as the two types each have chameleonic tendencies. Light Ghinis are invisible when it's dark, but are easily seen when the area is lit in some manner, such as with torches, the Fire Rod, or with the Lantern. In direct contrast to this, Dark Ghinis are visible in darkness but become invisible once exposed to a light source. Both Ghini types can be attacked whether they are visible or not.
Tri Force Heroes
Both Light and Dark Ghinis reappear in Tri Force Heroes, another game for the 3DS, in their final appearance to date. This time they display different behaviors, however. This time, neither type is particularly effected by light. Light Ghinis are found in the Lone Labyrinth, where they act normally as they would in other games; and the Sky Temple, where they only continue to try and hide in the darkness in the ruins-themed platform area.
Dark Ghinis only appear in Palace Noir, and only in a dark chamber seen in the second stage. Here, they can better hide in the dark than they could before, but will remain visible even when exposed to light.
- The official Zelda website actually states that Ghinis and Poes are actually the same entities, only treated differently between games, hence the different name. However, this is not generally considered to be canonical.