It’s time for my annual pilgrimage through the wonderful world of Hyrule.
As I embark on my 15th annual play through of iconic classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, I now have a platform to share my unmoveable devotion to a 24-year-old game thanks to Thats Not Current. I cherish everything this game is and it is the game I have completed more than any other in my life by some distance. If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life, this would be it.
For clarity purposes, I do not regard this as the greatest game ever made nor indeed do I call it my favourite ever game. It would have a decent shot at place in my top 10, definitely my top 20. For me it is simply the most meaningful game I have ever played…
When A Link to the Past was released in 1992, my cousin had a Super Nintendo already and got this game as a gift from his older brother – who probably wanted to play it for himself! As I would not get my own SNES until May ’93, I spent summer holidays and weekends at his house playing the 16bit games console and when we both clapped eyes on Link to the Past for the first time we were mesmerised – it was like nothing we had seen before.
The summer of ’92 was when we collectively embarked on completing the single player A Link to the Past, racing to try and finish it before his older brother who was working during the summer. In the days before the internet and strategy guides, we had to figure everything out ourselves, such as where to go and in what order. I remember one of my cousin’s friends had a SNES magazine that explained how to find the Cane of Byrna and the Magic Cape. Someone else told us how we could upgrade our Master Sword by doing the fourth dungeon after the first! And who can forget the process of throwing every item/weapon into the fountains hoping one of the lovely fairies would upgrade it for you!
For a couple of eight year olds, this game was absolutely nails – our first real gaming challenge. But we persevered, even when the Turtle Rock boss whooped our ass for the umpteenth time (as we never had the ice rod you see!) Despite all the adversity, I remember vividly to this day the feeling when we completed it together. At the time it felt like our greatest ever achievement and we didn’t even let the fact that his older brother had completed it a good month before us tarnish the fact.
When I got my SNES for my ninth birthday in May 1993, the new onus was a challenge between my cousin and I to see who could find all the heart pieces first and who could complete it in the fewest save games. As I never had my own copy of the game – this was done by my cousin doing a run and reporting his stats, then giving me a loan of it for me to do likewise. This continued for a few years until the 32bit generation arrived, with us both upgrading to the Sega Saturn. A Link to the Past was discarded, despite the fabulous memories we had playing it, it wasn’t as exciting as the new Saturn games.
In Easter 2001, my cousin – who as now in the army – came and stayed at my folks for a week during his leave as it was also the school holidays. We spent that week reliving our childhood – playing with Lego, board games, watching classic 80’s movies and playing the Saturn and N64. We started reminiscing about A Link to the Past while playing the equally brilliant Ocarina of Time and before I new it the old SNES was down from the attic and we once again swept up in its brilliance. We finally managed to complete the game in the single save!
“This is my favourite game ever” my cousin told me.
Tragically, the day after the horrors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my cousin (my best friend) suddenly past away. He was only 17.
In the brutal aftershock that followed as our family tried to digest to earth-shattering news and try and move on with our lives, I found myself drawn to play the game that consumed us that summer as kids. This time it was different. I soaked it in more than ever before – the beautiful animation; the engrossing soundtrack; the sublime design; the fluent controls; the igneous puzzles; the rich story. I had never fully appreciated just how fantastic this game was.
It was less about the play-through or achievement and more about the experience and the emotion. It warmed my heart, eased the pain and made me smile for the memories it conjured up. No other game ever has, or ever will, have this effect on me.
And subconsciously, that birthed a tradition that I don’t really fully understand myself, maybe its just part of my way of remembering and paying tribute to him. For the past decade and a half, in the days following my cousin’s anniversary, I have found myself playing through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Despite any perception of repetition, each time is just a joyous an experience. Everything about the game stands the test of time, showcasing exactly how it’s done to the host of modern day AAA titles that fail to deliver. It is a behemoth of a game – a benchmark that will be eternally regarded as one of the greatest titles ever released – an unquestionable icon of the 16bit era.
But for me, it is so much more. It is my own personal link to the past…