Tag Archives: A Link to the Past

#GameStruck4 – The Four Games That Define Me

I’m a sucker for memes, especially videogame ones, but alas, this #GameStruck4 one seems to be mega popular only on Twitter, a platform I’m not really active on anymore. So I’m doing it here instead and using it as an excuse to write about four very important games in my upbringing. As if I haven’t already touched upon these masterpieces in the past. Oh, and these are all from my SNES and PlayStation 1 days, which is really where gaming got its hooks into me–sorry, GameBoy–and I’m sure I could come up with four for every console generation I’ve gotten to experience up to this very day and date, but these are the ones that certainly shaped me early on.

Suikoden II

Ah, my sweet, sweet Suikoden II. You were everything I liked about the first Suikoden and then some, showing me that characters, that tiny bits of sprites and colors and text boxes, were just as believable and real and full of feelings as 3D polygonal dudes and dudettes. And Suikoden II has so many great characters. Here, let me name a few: Jowy, Nanami, Viktor, Flik, Bolgan, Luc, Clive, Luca Blight, and so on.

I replayed the game back in 2014 and wrote a bunch of thoughts along the way, many that I don’t need to rehash here. It’s a game that continues to live on inside me, and I often find myself comparing a lot of things to it. Or comparing it to everything. Either take works. Like, if a game lets you recruit party members, that’s cool and all, but six pales in comparison to 108 Stars of Destiny. No cooking minigame will ever beat Suikoden II‘s cooking minigame, and watching your castle grow and expand as your army increases makes going out and finding these new recruits worth it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is probably the first game to ever make me cry. Not out of joy or love or the beauty of its colorful pixels, but frustration. I was young and struggled to beat a boss, and it affected me greatly. I remember physically tossing my SNES controller, something I’ve never done again. I’ve since grown from this time and now have backpacks full of patience, but this game, if anything, taught me to take things slow, to examine and prepare, to live in these environments and not rush to the next screen just for some shiny object or plot point. There’s a good number of secrets to discover in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and playing around with teleporting between the Light World and Dark World is one of my favorite time-killers, especially if it resulted in an extra Heart Piece or path to a new area.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid oozes atmosphere without saying a whole lot directly. You really have to pay attention to the environment to rise above it and defeat all the Space Pirate bosses. The two most long-lasting memories for me for Super Metroid, a game I’ve most definitely replayed a bunch and claim (back in 2011) has the most epic scene ever, are when you first get to the powerless and ghost-infested Wrecked Ship on Zebes and learning how to wall-jump from the blue, monkey-like Etecoons.

For the former, the eerie stillness of the area is immediately unnerving, and your constants, such as upgrading the map and restoring health and missiles via the respective stations, no longer work until you switch the power back on. There’s a ton of implied storytelling here, like piecing together that the ghosts are actually the deceased crew. For the latter, you need to watch the critters work their magic leaping wall to wall and then replicate it; otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere. It’s not easy, but when you successfully climb that tall column and hit the top, getting higher than the Etecoons, it feels beyond amazing. It’s also neat to know that you can do this move at any point in the game, from the very start. You just don’t know about it until until you run into them later.

Metal Gear Solid

I’m bummed to no longer have a physical copy of this game unlike the three listed above, especially when you consider how essential the retail box is to a specific part in the story. Still, when I bought the Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012 for the PlayStation 3, it came with digital download codes for Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Sold: VR Missions. Both of which I played through relatively recently when I was on a sojourn to see this series through from start to finish; my progress came to a complete and grinding halt during Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which I did not find all that interesting or captivating, and I should probably just skip it entirely and move on to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Anyways, Metal Gear Solid taught me that games can be larger than life, that they can take their time telling whatever story they want, no matter how inane or far-fetched or action-cool it was. That your surroundings and actions matter, that you can go about a mission in multiple ways, whether it be by sneaking past unaware soldiers, sniping them from far back, or a mixture of both plans. It was certainly the first stealth game I ever played, which planted a pacifism seed in me that, to this day, no matter the game, has me always trying to accomplish tasks nonviolently, with as few casualties as possible.

What are the four games that define you? Tell me about ’em below in the comments or link to your very own hot take on the #GameStruck4 meme.

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Everything old is new again in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

TLOZ A Link Between Worlds early impressions

The first thing I did when I got my copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is make a silly Vine video. However, the second thing I did, once the game opened up enough to allow me the freedom to explore, was travel this way and that way and every way possible across the Hyrule map, seeing all my old stomping grounds. Because, in case it wasn’t clear from Grinding Down‘s never-changing header image, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my absolute favorite game of all the times, of all time. It is only closely followed by Suikoden II. And I, more or less, know it by heart.

To be honest, when ALBW was first announced, I was put off. Very put off. How dare Nintendo create something that seems to exist solely to play with my childhood and early gaming experience nostalgia! HOW DARE THEY. And even as time went on, as previews and early impressions leaked out to the public and even final copy reviews, I refused to give in. No, I will not stand for this. I cannot. This game needed no direct sequel, and all they really had to do was put ALTTP on the 3DS eShop and watch the rupees flood in.

For one, I thought Nintendo’s newest take on Link and Zelda and the realm of Hyrule looked terrible, like some kind of knockoff, straight-to-DVD version called The Tale of Telba: Princess Panic that you’d find in the bargain bin and toss aside without a second glance. When you think about it, the newest game’s graphics are that way and not SNES era sprite-based because you are playing on the Nintendo 3DS, a system able to produce 3D effects sans glasses. However, by the time ALBW came out, Nintendo itself was over the gimmick–and rightly so–but it had been produced that way for a reason from the very start. Which is a shame. I’d rather have had what looked like ALTTP and no 3D than what we have now, even if it does look pretty nifty in a few cinematic spots.

I’ve only played about an hour or so of ALBW since Tara and I were playing catch-up with The Walking Dead, and it’s nice and bouncy and brimming with wonder, but I’m not sure if those warm, fuzzy feelings in my belly are because the game itself is fun or if it’s just reminding me very much of the same kind of fun I had in ALTTP. I guess that’s going to be the real question throughout is whether or not I enjoyed this very same dungeon more some twenty-two years ago or if the new twist on it is enough to warrant it some distinction.

ALBW opens innocently enough: Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, wakes Link up because he has a job to do, which is deliver a finished sword to the Captain at Hyrule Castle. Why Gulley himself couldn’t do this is beyond me. However, Link eventually finds the Captain stuck inside the Sanctuary by a mysterious man called Yuga–hey, that’s A GUY backwards–who turned the Sanctuary’s minister Seres into a painting before running off. Princess Zelda informs Link that he has to obtain the three Pendants of Power to gain the Master Sword, which can defeat Yuga, and yadda yadda yadda. You kinda know the drill by now. Oh, and thanks to some strange, purple rabbit squatting in your house, Link now also has the power to turn into a painting and move along walls and into cracks.

While I still stand by my negative reaction to how the game looks, thankfully it plays like a dream. Moving around with the circle pad instead of the d-pad makes for speedy trekking, and slashing at grass, firing arrows into trees, and bothering chickens is just as enjoyable as it once was. Navigating Hyrule is a joy thanks to the timeless, slightly remixed tunes, as well as the ability for fast travel via a witch’s broomstick. You can also now acquire all of the items before tackling a dungeon by renting them from that previously mentioned purple rabbit. This allows you to take on the dungeons in your order of choice, which sounds really awesome. Alas, so far, I’ve only done the first mandatory one at the Eastern Palace so I can’t speak to exactly how effective this works. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff here to do–that chicken-avoiding mini-game in Kakariko Village is silly fun–and collect, and a lot of other parts have been streamlined for playing portably, which is always appreciated.

I’ll definitely be eating up more ALBW over the upcoming holiday break, but don’t also be surprised to hear that I went through the trouble of dusting off and hooking up my SNES to play the realest, most amazing Hyrule adventure that Link ever played part in. You know that which I speak of. It’s the one that begins with, “Help me… Please help me… I am a prisoner in the dungeon
of the castle. My name is Zelda.”

30 Days of Gaming, #30 – Your favorite game of all time

Well, this has been a long-time coming, but here we are, the final topic. “Of what?” you ask, looking around with wide eyes, a dribble of drool leaking down your chin. Clearly you’ve forgotten. That 30 Days of Gaming meme that I started back in…oh gawd, March 2011. With the new year swinging on in, we’re almost at the 365 days mark for a meme meant to be completed in thirty days. Thirty topics for thirty days. Don’t label me a slacker just yet as I was totally honest about this meme in that it was going to be a slow crawl, a thing I went to here and there to fill in the gaps when all I could find inside my cranium were dustbowls and old photograph albums. In truth, the final few topics have been pretty tough to nail down, and I’ve been less interested in thinking about them discerningly.

And the final topic is the topic, the one that puts it all out there. The kicker: name your favorite game of all time. OF ALL TIME.

::inhale::

::exhale::

Right. It’s actually quite easy to name my favorite videogame of all time. That’d be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I mean, the image on Grinding Down since its very birth has been the Master Sword in all its forest-hidden glory. Should’ve seen it coming, people. The hard part comes with writing about it, as it’s a game so close to my shaping, a game so perfect in memory and nostalgia that I am scared if it’s even possible to express so with an ounce of success. Guess I’ll give it a shot. Maybe even a hook shot.

I don’t remember how A Link to the Past ended up in my SNES collection. I don’t remember saving up money as a kid from mowing the lawn or washing neighbors’ cars or my allowance in general to pay for it. I don’t remember trading with friends or borrowing it from a friend and then just keeping it like a horrible goblin. I don’t remember getting it as an older boy, a teenager, or a man, meaning it had to come into my hands around the time it came into many others’ hands, near its launch date of late 1992. I don’t remember how I got it, but I’ve had it ever since, as it’s one of the few SNES carts that did not get traded in when I was young and dumb. I do, however, remember playing it. And playing it again and again.

For those that don’t know, A Link to the Past is a coming-of-age tale where a young Link has to save a princess and defeat Agahnim not once, but twice and then slice Ganon apart for peace to return to the land of Hyrule. To do this, he has to travel between a Light and Dark World to collect the Master Sword and three mystical pendants, as well as uncover the Seven Sages. In between all that, you’ll explore villages and dungeons and rivers and forests for items and people to help you along the way.

There was a time when the Internet didn’t spoil videogames for everyone, and during that time I played A Link to the Past. I found my way into the castle during a rainstorm via a hole in the ground without anyone pointing it out to me. I attacked chickens until they attacked me without knowing that would happen. I made it through the Ice Palace dungeon without a walkthrough. I totally cried in frustration when I couldn’t figure out how to beat Moldorm, and it knocked Link off the screen for the umpteenth time. I helped the lost old man on Death Mountain without knowing whether it was a trick or not. I revealed a monster with sunlight, I blew apart cracks in walls, I dashed into a tree to unleash a swarm of bees…I…I…

This is a videogame stuffed to the brim of little moments, tiny secrets, and gleeful nods. And that’s a big part of why it’s so special to me. The “main quest” of stopping the evil overlord is by the books, but it’s all the little moments that make the adventure so spectacular. And the music. And the fact that there’s an entire second world to explore, which comes seemingly out of nowhere, and you can flip to and from it with ease, on the fly, giving you freedom to explore and try things out. And the graphics, the kind that are ever-lasting, the kind that evoke warm feelings upon seeing them today, tomorrow, and years down the road.

I love it immensely, though the last time I sat down to play it on my still working SNES was many moons ago. Maybe even in the early 2000s. I’m probably overdue for a trip down memory lane with a game that has still not been reproduced today. There is nothing else like it, not even other games from The Legend of Zelda. Though the DS ones come close in spirit.

So there ya go. My favorite videogame of all time. A Link to the Past. I probably didn’t do it enough justice, but whatever. This isn’t a college thesis here. Agree or disagree or move on silently to something else on the Internet. We’re done. Though there’ll be a roundup post on the 30 Days of Gaming meme soon, too. Until the next meme, I guess!

Games Completed in 2011, #34 – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures Anniversary Edition

This year marked the momentous 25th anniversary for The Legend of Zelda franchise. Nintendo celebrated with elaborate symphonies, commercials purporting that Robin Williams and his pixie-haired daughter Zelda Williams gamed together, and a free copy of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for those rocking a Nintendo 3DS. Hey, I’m one of those! A 3DS owner, that is. Not Robin or Zelda Williams. Snartleblast, I know.

Some history first. Four Swords Adventures was originally for the Nintendo GameCube and, while containing a lot of familiar faces and gameplay aspects, was a little different than Link’s previously traditional treks to save the princess. This time, it was all about multiplayer chaos, with multiple Links having to work together to solve puzzles and at the same time trying to one-up each other in terms of collecting the most rupees. If you had friends and a lot of systems/cables, you had a solid Friday night. I never got to play it way back when, but it sounds like a fantastic party game, with plenty of room for hijinks and backstabbing.

The 3DS version–well, it’s actually available as a piece of DSiWare, meaning gamers with either/or system can play–was redesigned slightly to include a single-player mode, as well as new enemies, maps, and puzzles. Thank goodness for this. I’m sure many of us went into the freebie with high hopes of playing with friends over WiFi, but the 3DS is still not a great system for online play. I have one person on my 3DS friends list that I know also downloaded the game, but for us to communicate and set up a gaming time session would probably be more hassle than fun. So yeah, more like The Legend of Zelda: One Sword Adventures. Eh…Two Swords, really.

If you don’t have anyone to play with and you’re going the single-player route, the game tosses in a second controllable Link. If you’re familiar with using the Phantom Knight from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for solving puzzles then you’ll pick up the pace pretty fast here. A lot of switching and throwing each other at levers. Strangely, at the end of each level, the game still tallies how much your Link earned rupees-wise versus how much the second Link did. Either way…um, you’re a winner. Unless you picked up too many rupoors.

So, there’s three main worlds to traverse across, split up into different levels. I’d say that each averages around 15 minutes to complete. End bosses have a pattern to discover, and there’s also a main end boss who is not named Ganon. Sure, it’s weird, but it is what it is. After completing the game, a new world opens up, the Realm of Memories, letting Link hop into theme-based worlds of Zelda yore. The one based around A Link to the Past is simply fantastic, mainly from a visual standpoint. I am now just daydreaming about getting a 3D version of it down the line. It’s okay, Nintendo. You can charge e-money for it; I’ll pay. Oh, I’ll pay.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was a free download, and I had a good time playing it. Alas, I’m not getting the mileage from it that Nintendo probably hoped for, but it’s a great experience nonetheless. Get it before it stops being free.

Link’s first outing in The Legend of Zelda is full of hard times

My first experience with The Legend of Zelda series was on the SNES in 1993 with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In that one, Link, a young boy, awakes from sleep, contacted telepathically by a kidnapped princess named Zelda. He then to journeys through a rainstorm and into secret pits next to the castle’s walls to rescue her, eventually trying to track down the Master Sword. It’s a fantastic journey, full of surprises and a killer soundtrack. I’m fine with this being my first taste, genuinely pleased to have such a perfect game start it all. It’s like if the first piece of bacon you ever had was wrapped around succulent lobster and personally served to you by Gordon Ramsay while high as a kite. No bacon could ever beat that bacon.

And so, with the 3DS Ambassador program that gave us early adopters 10 free NES games, I was looking forward to experiencing where it all truly began, back with The Legend of Zelda, no freaking subtitle needed. Little did I expect it to be so…difficult. It’s a challenging game. It’s hard because you only have three hearts to start out with, and each screen you encounter is filled with enemies, the worst being those sandbugs that burrow beneath Link’s feet, surfacing the moment he walks over them. It’s hard because it is unclear where Link should go first, often wasting time exploring the overworld and losing precious hearts. It’s hard because you only have a sword starting out, and to kill enemies you have to get right next to them (unless at full health when you can fire a projectile from the sword), a risk in that if you miss and they move a fraction closer, Link loses some health. And then there’s the dungeons. Fear Wizzrobes (blue and red) and Wall Masters.

Heck, even series producer Eiji Aonuma has never completed it. Yeah, that’s kind of crazy.

At least dying doesn’t truly restart you from square one. Instead, you revive back at that initial overworld screen, that one we’ve all seen time after time after time, with all of your items still in your inventory. Well, I think you lose your dungeon keys though. Can’t confirm that. And so back into the wild Link and I go, nervous yet aware, trying to find some kind of clue as to what’s really going on, and hoping we can at least make it into a dungeon with full health and a couple of bombs…

30 Days of Gaming, #26 – Best voice acting

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is infamous for its truculently long loading times, but I actually really liked the game, especially its voiceover work. If anything, that’s what I remember most, Kain narrating his own journey to the Pillars of Nosgoth. Now, I know the topic train for today’s meme entry calls for the “best voice acting,” but there were really too many choices to pick from these days, as the bar has been raised and re-raised over the last few years thanks to titles like L.A. Noire, Mass Effect, and Bioshock. So, instead, I went with a game that had great voice acting though I’m positive nobody would back me up if I called it the best.

As will soon be revealed, I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s a game I’ve played and replayed, discovering new things in it each time and just losing myself in the world and its characters. I can still remember how confused I was when Link switched between the Light World and Dark World, turning into a bunny elf thing, a sad reflection of his inner self. And when he…wait, no. I’m not here to talk about Link’s journey to rescue Zelda from Agahnim, as well as get the Master Sword and three mystical pendants. That’s another blog post, definitely forthcoming.

Transitioning on, when Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain came out in 1996 for the PlayStation, it was like getting an adult version of A Link to the Past. There was blood and violence and cruelty and creepiness, all played in a top-down perspective with a journey across an expansive land where collecting items and power-ups would help the hero explore even further. Plus, you drank blood from unsuspecting humans to regain health. I don’t even remember how I was able to buy it at the sweet age of 13, but I had. Or maybe someone else had for me. Can’t really picture that happening, as the only times I used a neighbor’s help was for getting discounted games from the now extinct Kay Bee Toys, such as Suikoden and Wild Arms. Either way, I had a copy of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and I played it night after night, my best friend over, stretched out on the floor, wide-eyed at the crazy beheadings and bloody swordsmanship. It was crazy times back then.  And while FMVs were a new and cool thing at the time, they were bereft of voice acting. For that glorious work, you had to play the game and discover.

Going back, it’s amazing to hear how similar Kain narrates his journey in an almost Bastion-like way, commenting on items he picks and locales he passes by in real time. It’s hard to say what was more exciting: gaining a new power or hearing Kain’s description of it. Simon Templeman‘s confident, scorned voice does wonders to bringing Kain to life, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s undead. The soundtrack also plays ally, backing Templeman with bells and choir harmonies and ominously held notes. If medieval times had a soundtrack, this is it. Kain is certainly the star of the show in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, but there’s some other spectacular performances to call out, such as Paul Lukather as the ancient and reclusive vampire Vorador and Tony Jay as the cunning puppet-master Mortanius.

Some of my favorite quotes from the game follow. Naturally, they do not read as well as they are heard, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to link to a bunch of YouTube videos. Those interested can certainly seek Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen out to see and hear what it’s like. Right:

“In his life, he was unknown…a petty noble. In death, he was unknown. Yet by choosing oblivion, he restored balance to the land. Shades cast no shadows.” – Ariel

“I am the last Pillar. The only survivor of the Circle of Nine. At my whim, the world will be healed or damned. At my whim.” – Kain

“The world had changed to my eyes. I had not expected such cruelty from the light. For in the embrace of the sun, I could find no comfort, only malice. This would change in time for the worse, along with other thing.” – Kain

I never got to play any of the other games in the series, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but it seems like some of the same voice actors carried over. Might have to try and find a used copy or two. Y’know, just to hear my friends again.

Feel the Wrath of Chickens, or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

It may sound funny, but one of my all-time favorite gaming memories involves chickens.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a classic. I don’t mean that in a way to say it’s old (it was released for the Super Nintento Entertainment System in North America in 1992; still a teenager, truthfully), but rather that it’s eternal. There’s moments and scenes in this game that can never be duplicated or truly re-experienced. From the rain-laden search of the castle grounds for a secret entrance to the first time you ever switched from Light World to Dark World and saw just how twisted the map screen became, it’s no surprise this game is on my gamers’ top fives, top tens, top fifties, top one hundreds, and top whatevers. It is simply great, with mindful pacing, brilliant action, tons of secrets, and…retaliatory chickens.

Yup, you read that right.

Shortly after you sneak Zelda out of Hyrule Castle and safely deliver her to the sanctuary, you’re given freedom as Link to explore the nearby lands on your quest to destroy Agahnim. One of your first stops will be in Kakariko Village, a colorful spot with lots of interesting characters and secrets to unearth, and there you’ll also find a few chickens hopping about. I immediately went over to one, scooped it up high over my head, and tossed it at the boy to no effect. Well, the chicken was pretty flustered and tried its best to stay as far away from me as possible. Then I remembered something I overheard at school, something about hitting them with your sword. A lot. And so I did. Slash, slash, slash, back that chicken into a corner, slash some more. Those kids at school were right; this is fun and funny.

But then it all changed. Out of nowhere, a swarm of chickens come flying at you to protect their fallen cousin from any more danger. They swoop down in a thrum of feathers and bah-clawk clucks, angry as chickens can be, and they actually damage Link. Only one way out, and that was to run. Once you’re a little ways away, the chickens relent, and you’re safe to wander back over…to do it all again.

There’s lot of other great moments in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but this is the one that makes me smile the most. The fact is, these chickens exist in this world just to be abused. I know PETA won’t like that. I’m sorry, but there’s no other reason for their existence, and even though the gameworld could ultimately go on without them, I think it’s better that they are there, now and forever, those classic little chickens that take a beating and keep on clucking.