When I was a kid, like many others, I fell in love with the first Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). There were a number of titles that I played for hours and hours–Metroid, various Mario Bros games, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Tecmo Bowl, to name a few. One game, though, has always held a special place in my heart that no other title has ever approached: The Legend of Zelda. I can’t honestly recall the first time I played Zelda, but I will never forget the seemingly endless fun I had exploring every aspect of a game which didn’t constrain me to time limits, forced side-scrolling, or plot/strategy linearity. Fearless, clever, able to carry an awesome array of weapons, tools, and gadgets, and decked out in all green, Link was always my favorite video game character.
My family was always a bit behind the times when it came to this sort of thing–video games–and my parents weren’t keen on buying new games for us. I was generally only able to play the games that came bundled with the console or that I could borrow from neighbors. When I was in high school, we got a Super Nintendo (SNES), but to my recollection never purchased any games for it (which wasn’t all bad–Super Mario World was fantastic and very repeatable. Just before I went on my mission, Nintendo released the N64 with its widely expanded and more complicated controller.
While I saw a few guys at college playing GoldenEye, I never actually held an N64 controller in my hands, and by the time I returned from my LDS mission and had escaped from the post-mission “I’m too busy doing Really Important Things to play video games” phase, Nintendo had released the Game Cube (GC), Sony had the Playstation 2, and Xbox was in full bloom. The once-simple gaming industry had completely morphed during my mission, and I was passed by. I recall, one afternoon, sitting down at a friend’s house while he played Metroid Prime on the GC. He handed me the gigantic (for me, anyway–I’d never used anything beyond the SNES controller!) controller and I was immediately turned off by the complexity. This was not the same Samus I knew and loved. It was just…too much. So I recoiled further away from video games.
It would be around 5 years since I had played a video game when my wife, of all people, convinced me to buy a GC. She was a big fan of “party” games like Mario Party and MarioKart, and I slowly and grudgingly warmed to them myself. Still, I was not willing to play any new titles in the old series that I loved. Zelda’s Windwaker, Metroid Prime, even the GC Mario Bros titles–I was too protective of my childhood to have any interest in these games. As the years rolled by, my attitude remained the same, and though we purchased a Wii last year, this was solely for Netflix purposes, and I really had no interest in using it for any gaming.
Last June, my wife and children went to Europe for a month to see family. I was chatting with Supergenius about possible activities for the nearly 5 weeks of boredom–movies & TV shows to watch, stuff to read, and so on. He mentioned video games, and I related the background story above. He persisted, though, and we eventually discovered our mutual love for The Legend of Zelda–except that he had kept up with all of the titles in the series. Using much patience and long-suffering, Supergenius persuaded me to have a little faith in Zelda and give some of the newer games a chance. He insisted that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was, quite simply, the greatest video game in history–and provided the Internets as evidence to back up his claim (he is correct–it is widely regarded as such), and suggested that I start there.
Importantly, Supergenius pointed out to me that a new Zelda title–Skyward Sword–was coming out later in the year, so this was a good time to recommit to the series.
So, using the Virtual Console on the Wii, I shelled out the $8 for the download and sat patiently through the opening story sequence of Ocarina. I played the game for a total of maybe 10 minutes before realizing that this was just all wrong. You see, I had locked Link, Princess Zelda, and the evil Ganon away in my heart for so many years that it was just impossible to start in the middle. Before I could move forward with these new-fangled titles, I needed to explore the Hyrule of my childhood and rediscover to my Zelda roots.
I went back to the Virtual Console, coughed up another five bucks, downloaded the original Legend of Zelda, grabbed the “wooden sword” and set out on my own Master Quest.
In Part 2, I will describe the experience of playing all of the console titles in the Legend of Zelda video game series over the past 4 months. In Part 3, Supergenius and I will provide a review of the newest addition–The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword–which was released this past weekend.