Everyone remembers their first Zelda game, especially the first one you complete. It’s a special moment that’s different for everyone, each of us enjoying our moment on completion. It spans decades, generations. I’m thirty-one, but I experienced my first completed Zelda game almost twenty years ago on a Super Nintendo. A Link to the Past was one of the first video games I ever completed, exploring the world without knowing quite what I was getting into.
You see, I never come to video games new. At least not often. Our family was gifted a Super Nintendo and some games by a kind family at church. Their son had gone off to college, you see, and he wasn’t taking it with him. We received Donkey Kong Country, Lemmings 2, a couple of fun Star Wars games, Starfox, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I picked this one at random, a friend owning an N64 and having told me that game about the ocarina was good. Thus…life changed.
This game made me a Nintendo fanboy. I’m not kidding, it took me years to give a shit about Playstation or XBox. I still don’t love either as much as I love Nintendo originals, brands like Mario and Zelda or Metroid. These franchises draw me into different systems and eras and all of them are frequent replays for me.
So why do I love A Link to the Past? Well, there are several reasons, none of which are easy. I could be the way you embody a boy that goes on an adventure, something that would readily speak to me. It could be the fact that your game progresses in a formula so tried and true that the franchise only recently broke with it. Sure, and I adore that formula. But nah.
I dig this shit for the idea that Link is living in a Lovecraftian nightmare world that is opened by possessing the souls of seven people by a wizard under the thrall of an angry devil-god that is reborn every few centuries to torture the people. You see, this franchise has developed a mythology that involves a circular existence between its main characters. Timelines divulged later in the series, but this is one of the first times a true darkness was brought in. In fact the entire world is remade in the image of the devil after he brutalizes the souls of young women. It’s really baffling when you’re a kid and no one can explain it to you. My friends told me to just enjoy playing a video game, my parents did not know because they might have tried to exorcise a demon out of me. Books couldn’t tell me, this was before there was literature on the Zelda franchise and people of academic learning took video games seriously. No, instead I was left as a child alone in the wilderness trying to understand the darkness. I knew it was screwed up, but I just couldn’t fathom the whole of it. Because I’d seen N64 graphics and this was old-school the images didn’t frighten me. Instead they intrigued me, these oddly beautiful chibby characters that were surrounded by cartoonish nightmares. There was an ugly sweetness to some of it.
And let’s talk about the music! I live in an era where things live orchestra performances exist for Zelda music or Star Wars music. Hell, there were live orchestra versions of The Planet of the Apes and Alien. We’re in a cool era for those that like scores, but this one took the cake as a kid. I can hear the music in my head still, and many of the themes still float through my brain regularly. I adore these pieces and have made them a part of my life on a regular basis.
End of the day this probably isn’t the best Zelda game. It’s far from the most influential, the recognition for that going to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (and that’s of all games ever, I’ll fight people on that one). Instead, I’ve come to consider this one the most special to my heart. That shouldn’t put people off or make them think it isn’t a great game because it’s fantastic. Sweet, charming, fun, difficult, puzzling, and a mixture of beautiful and ugly, I have to recommend it to everyone that is interested in the franchise or classic gaming in general. It’s available on your 3DS now, and the mini-Super-Nintendo release has it as well. This won’t be hard to access, so get on it!