Verdant and shadowy alms line the pathway down a grassy lane hidden deeply in foggy and dangerous woods. At the end of aisle a single golden beam of light descends from the entangled finger like branches and lands intently upon an enchanted stone sheathe. Resting in that stone–inscribed with a prophecy from a language so ancient that nary a tome remains to decipher it–is the blade that has been described as the bane of all evil, a weapon that only the destined hero of time, the avatar of courage may claim at the foreseen moment: The Master Sword. Upon that mythical mystical blade is emblazoned the symbol of the Triforce–the corporeal gift from the three goddesses that promises power, wisdom, and courage to the land of Hyrule.
As lovers and providers of all forms of serial–be they written, video game, or hieroglyphic we strive to share these sequential stories with you. In the realm of video games, as is the mandate of Child’s Play here at Eat Your Seria, let us this time take a gander at a true masterwork.. Ah, The Legend of Zelda is another of those landmark serial games from the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto and the halls of Nintendo. I remember as a young nerd in the late 80s I first experienced these games, uncharacteristically, from the second in the series. The Adventure of Link: Zelda II is something of an odd duck in the series (as sequels on the NES tended to be). It is a strange mix of RPG experience building, top down world maps, and side scrolling 2D action. This game was so amazingly fun for me and so unfathomably difficult that it remained a thrill and thorn in my side until I was 25 years old (when I finally beat it).
Held within a golden cartridge thar was adventure and excitement that would have a life-long impact on me. The towns and townsfolk (from the enigmatic Error, the wise men and their families, the old witches that replenish your magic, and the hookers that heal your life with filiation) to the dungeons and dungeon masters (such as Horse Head, the Skeleton Knight, and of course Shadow Link), this game did not fail to capture the spirit and imagination of the sword and sorcery genre in the tradition of dungeons and dragons. Some may call it the black sheep in the Zelda family–they are often the same ones who hate on SMB2–but some also like the twilight movies and wear jeggings.
I must admit that my exposure to the series was not followed by the original, ground breaking legend of Zelda (alas I would not give that game my fullest attention until my mid-teens) but was instead every Friday on the Super Mario Brothers Super Show. Excuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, princess if you have something bad to say about this cartoon. Sure, it was watered down and aimed at a younger audience than the material could have been, but the use of the actual Nintendo music and sound effects, and at least some adherence to the conventions of the games–and the totally apropos choice of link’s personality being morphed into that of the slacker surfer dude–makes this cartoon one of the fondest memories of my pre-school days.
But then came the Super Nintendo. Lightning struck. Nintendo released the next in the series (and you’ll notice I left out the CDI Zelda as I never played them…and also because by all evidence they are a blight on humanity). The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is arguably one of the best video games ever made. This is the game all other Zelda games chase, the one they all aspire to be, and is in my opinion the definitive aesthetic and narrative of the series.
LttP is a crystallized moment of perfection for the series, genre, an industry. There is little praise left to give this game that it hasn’t been given 1000 times before except, perhaps, that it may be God’s favorite game (after skeeball on the jersey shore of course). Through the use of a double sized memory chip, and compressing many of the native 16 color pixels to 8, Nintendo was able maximize the capacity of the game cartridge to include a free roaming world–two of them in fact–where you could only be limited by your skill and, in some cases, a necessary item. The game was, for the most part, non-linear (despite some urgings from maps) which was a very liberating option. Certainly the original legend of Zelda provided this, but the world was not as large, or encompassing. A Link to the Past is, additionally because of it cartoony use of 16 bit graphics still pretty and good looking to this day.
Likewise I remember in 9th Grade when I pre-ordered Ocarina of Time. I still have the t-shirt. This was the first video game I ever bought for myself with money I earned from my first job that issued payroll. It was a hell of an experience–while the blocky, choppy, clipping error laden affair may seem somewhat limited now, I assure you at the time the third person 360 degree experience in a game that built a world of different landscapes and races and dangerous dungeons was nothing short of breathtaking, awe inspiring, and a million other trite descriptions. It was amazing. The jump between a child friendly utopian Hyrule and a post-apocalyptic adult one–one that you could affect with your actions via time travel–was unendingly annoying and created a high rate of replay value. Also it had a talking owl in it which is always fun and a chattering fairy (LISTEN!!!!).
There are a whole bunch of games in the legend of Zelda series and honestly they are pretty much all amazing—at least the need that I have played (which is not all of them). There is a lot of hoopla over the order of the games because the series weighs heavily on rehashing the story line and reinterpreting it from platform to platform. It relies heavily on the idea of reincarnation and the eternal struggle between good (pointy eared rock star elf link) and evil (oink oink Gannon). The themes are simple, the visuals always gorgeous and timely, and the characters are classic. While recent years have seen me with less time to play long RPG and RPG adventure style games I always try to at least own the most recent iteration of Zelda. It is a cross section of so much ass kicking nerdy that I cannot stay away. So much so that I have a replica Master Sword hanging in my office. So much so that I have had lengthy discussions about the proper game timeline (a discussion for another day). So much so that I almost want to abandon my toddler in the woods with a sword so that he might one day save us all (not really…probably). So much so that I’m gonna go play Link to the Past right now.
PS Zelda is the name of the princess, not the the main character. His name is Link (or Asshole if you want to have fun with the dialogue)