Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords

Now I do realize in my The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages blog I mentioned the next game I’d play in my journey to complete all of the Legend of Zelda games would be The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker… BUT I couldn’t start (much to my brothers aggravation) Wind Waker without first completing a game that was released a mere month before Wind Waker. A re-release of a Super Nintendo classic, the much referenced, and very first Zelda title completed by me, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Originally released for the Super Nintendo April 13, 1992, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was probably The Zelda game I originally played the most, although as previously mentioned (in my The Legend of Zelda blog) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda game I ever beat. I never owned a Nintendo Entertainment System  (NES) as a child and as much as I had a chance to play it at friends houses, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link were not really games people would throw in when they had a friend over. It wasn’t until the release of The Super Nintendo (SNES) and that faithful Christmas when my brother and I received one that Link would become a household name in the Kehoe home. Now, we never actually owned The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In fact, I think the whole time we had a SNES we only owned two games: Super Mario World and Mario Paint (I’ll have to confirm this with my brother). We didn’t own games because you could walk down the street to Hollywood Video (a Vermont independent video store, different from the national chain) and rent all the latest games, so why own when you could rent. This saved us from owning a lot of really bad games, but also limited our library and our videogame playing habits (man my parents are smarter than I gave them credit for). So this made video game rental something to look forward to on the weekends and also made playing time a bit competitive between my brother and I. Which leads me to my earliest memories of playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - not in it’s glorious 16-bit color pallet, but on a thirteen inch black and white television set my great grandmother gave me, huddled together with my brother, sitting on my bed (the lower of two bunk beds) fighting over whose turn it was to be playing Zelda. Now, I’m not sure if it was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that caused the most amount of arguments and downright fisticuffs between my brother and I (it might’ve been Donkey Kong Country) but I know it must’ve been in the top two at least. This meant more often then not parental intervention, and having to turn off the game early, which in turn meant playing the game late at night with the sound off and a blanket pulled over my head and the television to try to muffle the light from the TV. It was playing this way that I remember getting the Master Sword for the first time, but I don’t believe I really made it that much farther. I mean, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was challenging and I only had the game part time.

Fast-Forward eight years later and, as I mentioned in my The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask blog, I was living away from home for the very first time. I had recently graduated from High School and moved down the east coast from South Burlington, Vermont to Woodstock, Georgia with my then girlfriend and her family. It was with my girlfriends little brother and on his SNES where I finally beat The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and for the first time faced off against and defeated Ganon. I don’t remember too much about the experience; just that I was really excited to blow the dust off a game that I held fond memories of, and even more excited when I finally beat it for the first time.   

Fast-forward two years later when I was back in Vermont and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was being re-released for the newly released Gameboy Advance SP paired with an all new multiplayer Zelda game Four Swords. Being the cool older brother that I am, I let my brother convince me that it would be a good idea to get us both Gameboy Advance SP’s and also a copy each of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords so we could play together. And, always a sucker for my brother’s happiness and a fan of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past from way back that is exactly what I did. I can tell you we did play Four Swords but it’s been so long the only info I can give you is from looking at my game save. I had three keys, which I believe means I made it to the final stage, but I can’t remember. I haven’t yet bought a second copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords so I can play through Four Swords with Jaclyn or take the time to play through The Legend of Zelda Four Swords Anniversary Edition (released as DSIWare last year as part of The Legend of Zelda 25th anniversary celebration) by myself so I’ll have to save that game for a later post. But I did sit down, replay and beat The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, something I didn’t do when I bought the game back in 2002 (for some reason I stopped at Turtle Rock and I bet that reason is because Turtle Rock is hard).

And now we fast-forward ten more years and find ourselves in the present and thanks to an excellent walkthrough by the guys over at Zeldadungeon.net I have finally beat the 2002 re-release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on Gameboy Advance. I have to make a special note that it’s the Gameboy Advance version because there are some slight changes (look for Syrup and Maple), as well as a new dungeon that you have access to only after you also beat The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, so we all know what that means… I’ll be buying a second copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords before too much time goes by just so I can play the extra dungeon and really feel like I’ve completed the game.

Skill level? I would rank this game as an intermediate. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park to beat this game. I mean, I already have several Zelda titles under my belt and I had already beat this game in the past without the help of a guide so yeah, I was feeling a little confident. I quickly learned maybe a little too confident and I’d have to use some of that patience I had developed playing the other games as well as some of my newly acquired skill. Don’t get me wrong, parts of this game were easy and it felt just like riding a bike; other parts not so easy if not down right frustrating (Moldrom, you know who you are). I’m not sure how many hours it took me to make it through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past because I once again wasn’t playing on the Wii virtual console but I don’t think it took me much more then the estimated eleven hours to complete. But thanks to the quest history, I can tell you that I did die a total of nineteen times, once each in the Castle Dungeon, Eastern Palace, and Mountain Tower, then five times in Level 1 Dark Palace, six times in Level 2 Swamp Palace, three times in Level 3 Skull Woods and finally two more times in Level 8 Ganon’s Tower. Dying nineteen times is something I think I could shave off quite considerably if I was to sit down and play it again, especially some of those pointless deaths early on in the game (that’s where the over confidence came in and was just bad gaming) but really I was just replaying the game so I could knock some of the dust off my memory when I wrote about it and, well, because although it may not be as good as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is still a classic that as I described previously holds a firm place in my heart as one of my first early gamer loves.


Okay, and more than anything I wanted to replay this game because although it wasn’t the first Zelda title I beat it was the very first time I squared off and defeated Ganon and I wanted to relive the glory of that defeat. I mean I’ve now beat the original Ganon (The Legend of Zelda), The Ganondorf Dragmire/King of Evil Ganon (Ocarina of Time), and the mindless resurrected Ganon (Oracle of Ages), but I wanted to see if the face off in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was as epic as I remembered it being back in the day. Post play, I can say it was rewarding and felt good to battle him in his 16-bit glory, but wasn’t as tough as defeating him is Ocarina of Time. That being said, Turtle Rock and Ganon’s Tower were no walk in the park; I had to leave both dungeons to refill fairies before taking on the bosses and still nearly made it out alive.  Trinexx (the boss of Turtle Rock’s battle) should’ve been as cut and dry as defeating Twinrova in Oracle of Ages, using the same fire vs. ice technique, but for some reason I struggled. And having to face off against an assault of mini-bosses who are really bosses from previous levels such as The Armos Knights, Lanmoles, and good old Moldrom in Ganon’s Tower as well as an all out battle with the dark wizard Agahnim before squaring off against Ganon himself left me all but winded. But when the time came to finally take down Ganon, the battle itself left a little to be desired. His Trident throws were easily avoidable although his circle of firebats did take a toll on my life after I continuously charged through them. Really, if I would’ve been patient and taken my time I think I could’ve navigated the battle with little damage, but even with blindly charging in I managed to only use one fairy and ironically just like my battle with Agahnim I had to use it right before I delivered my death blow. 


With Ganon defeated, I can once again retire The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with a smile on my face. This time it didn’t have the same shock and awe in beating the game, but playing through it did offer some nostalgia of a simpler time when games could be defeated in an afternoon but often wouldn’t be. And when multiplayer still meant you were in the same room, let alone the same house, town, state or continent. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was and always will be one of my first game loves, and you never forget a first, but with it now defeated a second time it’s time to move on to something new. It’s time to make my brother happy yet again; it’s time to actually play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.