My Link to the Past: Reminisces on Legend of Zelda
Posted on Tuesday, February 22 2011 @ 05:29:52 Eastern
Today is a red letter day for video games. By red letters I mean the crimson N of course, and the brain child of Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka that I am referring to is The Legend of Zelda. The original game has just turned 25 years old , and with such a famous and adored series having a rich history that all game players can somehow relate too, I thought it would be good to make another one of those arbitrary lists that I famously hate all about Zelda.
What is this list, you ask? Well, personal memories; moments from my own past from playing Zelda that are on constant rotation in my gray matter that I would like to share. In no particular order, here are five moments that I will never forget in the Legend of Zelda series.
Finding the Moon
I was maybe six years old when I first played the original Legend of Zelda. I will be honest, I don’t think I had a clue as to what I needed to do in that game; roaming around the land of Hyrule in it’s 8-bit glory was daunting and, in my mind, served the purpose of fighting the monsters and collecting money to buy potions. I do remember the first dungeon vividly, especially since it was spelled out for you in the instruction manual on how to get there.
When I first played Zelda, I didn’t get that far, and I think most gamers didn’t for the first time. For me, the sense of accomplishment I was able to achieve at six was stumbling upon the second dungeon in the game; the Moon Dungeons as it’s nicknamed because of it’s crescent shape. Found north of the forest in the eastern part of the over world map, just trekking to that section filled me with pride, a sense of wonder and amazement. I truly thought I found something unique by exploring the game at that time, something no one else knew about! Foolish now of course, but it was 1992, and no one had any way of knowing a walkthrough without looking through magazines or talking with friends.
To this day I can rightfully access the second dungeon just as quickly as the first one. That accomplishment alone is memorable because the sense of exploration that creator Shigeru Miyamoto cited as one of the inspirations of making The Legend of Zelda truly is effective in that case. In fact, in most of the games the sense of exploration is there for us, locating a secret grotto or hidden hole in the world and finding another treasure chest or cavern to explore. It is good fun through a basic instinct of curiosity, one that doesn’t escape all of us.
“My god the 3-D looks Amazing!”
Picture, if you will, the year 1998. I was a pudgy twelve year old, a blossoming adolescent who thirsted for independence like any pre-teen would and snuck away from my parents the first chance I can get. It was a breezy November day, and my family was shopping at a local Wal-Mart for food and things that I can’t even remember what they are. What I do remember is the first time I laid eyes on it. It was a kiosk for the Nintendo 64, next to a Playstation running Tomb Raider and another Nintendo system with some sport game. But in the middle was a shiny golden cartridge of perhaps the most influential game of all time, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
For me, it was the first exposure I had of Ocarina of Time. Sure I remember seeing it plenty advertised in my recently renewed subscription to Nintendo Power (which at the time I was getting because I wanted hints on Banjo-Kazooie) but paid it no mind because I was too pre-occupied with the bear and bird. Once I saw the game in action, it was engrossed, however. I remember spending a good forty minutes at that kiosk just exploring the opening stages of the game, the Kokiri Village and the Great Deku Tree. I remember watching the long cut-scene of the Deku Tree talking, enthralled by the cinematic the game was showcasing. I remember thinking to myself that the controls were really good and the jumping mechanics made life so much easier, and a lot of fun. Hell I remember just doing backflips on the lilipads and logs in the pond in the village for several minutes before continuing with the quest.
Everything about Ocarina of Time wowed me then, and to this day it still wows me. Perhaps the most memorable moment, however, was hearing another kid around my age, over my should exclaim “My god the 3-D looks Amazing!” It did indeed, so much so that I couldn’t wait to play the game again after I bought a copy….
I do have a younger brother, born on the same day as me three years apart. No I am not making that up either, it actually happened that way. Now were opposites in many ways; I’m a short, kind of husky guy who likes writing and playing all types of video games, he’s a tall, kind of skinny guy who likes physical work and playing sport games only. But one thing that I do remember fondly was us taking turns playing several games back in the day. One of our best sessions was through A Link to the Past though.
It was actually new years 1997, me and my brother were playing the game for several hours as time clicked away, 7 PM, 8 PM, 9 PM. We put in A Link to the Past, which we rented for the evening and decided to just have a marathon with it. We didn’t follow the storyline during this play through, we just went wild and decided to see who can last the longest without dying in the Castle. For the record I won, although by maybe three minutes longer. Of course he thought I cheated somehow, which I shrugged off and we began again. Sometimes it is little things like that which make a great impact on you. Me and my brother may never see eye to eye on many things, but I still love him, and I treasure all the moments we shared playing A Link to the Past together.
I remember the first image from Spaceworld in an issue of Nintendo Power; it was Ganondorf in detailed 3-D holding a sword over his body two-handed like Conan The Barbarian. The next picture had Link slashing at Ganondorfs parry, and the third a profile shot of our Hyrulian hero in action. Little did I know that the images would end in a climatic clang of steel as the screen fades to black on the really short tech demo These three images meant one thing in my mind, the next great Zelda game was revealed, and looked amazing on the Dolphin!
Of course, the famous Spaceworld images have now become something of a scandal, since the game was retooled into the cel-shaded yet amazing Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker game for the Nintendo Gamecube. The change in art styles was a major shock, but the excitement that built up from seeing those three still images, and finally a thirty second video demo of the game in action still brings a stir of emotion in many longtime Zelda fans. It is perhaps the most famous tech demo ever made, and that is saying something for such a small clip.
After playing the demo of Ocarina of Time at Wal-Mart, I finally was able to purchase the game with some Christmas money and pretty much played it non-stop in 1999. I was able to get through most of the game on my own too, even the Water Temple, which the better of a month for me to complete. But the one memory I remember the most fondly is the first cut-scene when entering Hyrule Field. The sun was rising as the opening cut-scene played out, the overlook of the field and the skyline a rosy hue, the music kicked in in a sunny burst of midi sound as digitized trumpets and strings blared under a almost galloping drum beat. It was, in a word, magical to behold.
No matter what I think about any game I play, this moment sticks out to me because of the wonder of seeing such a great big space, fully digitized and free to explore every hidden hill and bush, from the desert-like area to the west to the streams and mountains in the east. From Lon Lon Ranch in the middle to Hyrule castle off in the distance…a little blurb in the map in the grand scheme of things. From hearing the music become a chilling symphony as the sun sets and darkness envelopes the land, and seeing skullfros emerge from the ground as a child to do battle with. Even moments like riding Epona across the plains were wonderful and bring back fond memories for me, and for many. To this day, the Ocarina of Time version of Hyrule field never fails to amaze me, and for many fans of Zelda, the first time traversing the open plains was also a magical moment for them.
But what about you guys? What moments from Zelda’s past do you remember? Please don’t be shy and share them, because it is memories like these, personal anecdotes that we all can recall from the past that is what truly makes The Legend of Zelda, or any game series we adore, so amazing. So please share your own experience if you have them, and I am sure some of you do out there.
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