Cover image via.
The Legend of Zelda is my childhood, but not for the same reason as most of my peers. In 1992 when I was three years old, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was released in the United States. Like many families, mine had a Super Nintendo. My dad liked video games (my interests are genetic), and he picked up A Link to the Past in the early ’90s.
My mom and I would spend hours watching my dad play A Link to the Past in our basement. We’d pull up chairs between his desk and the tv stand and watch him run around as Link swinging his pixelated sword at long grass, shooting little arrows at knights, and catching fairies in bottles. A Link to the Past has always been one of my favorite video games, but not because of my memories playing it.
In fact, I didn’t try playing it myself until sometime in early high school when I found a copy of the game at a resale game shop. Now, I had fully adopted the PS2 at this point. Going back to a Super Nintendo, which doesn’t have analog sticks, was abnormally difficult for me. I didn’t get past the first dungeon before I abandoned my first attempt at nostalgia.
Occasionally someone would have a Super Nintendo and A Link to the Past and I would attempt to play it. I would fail miserably ever time. I eventually gave up in my quest to defeat the game.
You may be wondering if I played any other Zelda games growing up. The answer is actually no. After Super Nintendo, I moved on to PlayStation, PS2, then Xbox 360 and Xbox One. I never even owned an N64 until I bought one second-hand in high school. My sister got a Wii for Christmas one year, but the only games we ever played were Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit. It wasn’t until I bought a Wii U for myself and Terry for Christmas last year that I had actually owned a new Nintendo tv console.
And you know what Wii U has? A Virtual Console. Do you know what’s in the Virtual Console? Just about every Nintendo game ever created to buy and download and play right away. Finally, finally I would play A Link to the Past and beat it!
I was so naive.
A Link to the Past is a hard. freaking. video game. Top-down, 8-bit, retro games are hard to adjust to in the age of hyper-realistic first-person shooters, 3D movement, and analog sticks. I think I made it through two or three dungeons this time around. I abandoned it this spring.
But, the Wii U Virtual Console has other Zelda games, too! Like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time–the Mecca of Zelda, Link’s Holy Grail, everyone’s favorite Zelda game. $10 and a download later, I started my quest.
There was just one problem. The games on the Virtual Console aren’t optimized for the Wii U. They’re straight copies of the original games. So nothing has been updated or reconfigured or adjusted for the Wii U.
Which can be problematic. Remember those analog sticks I love so much? Yeah… Enter the Fire Temple.
In the Fire Temple, you have to carefully make your way around a narrow ledge to get the hammer you need to complete the rest of the dungeon. The kicker? It’s timed. So you have to gently maneuver Link around the narrow ledge so you don’t jump down two floors and have to make your way all the way back up to the hammer room.
Because Ocarina of Time wasn’t optimized for the system or controllers (yes, I tried two different types of controllers–the Wii U GamePad and the Wii U compatible GameCube controller), there is no “gently” with the analog stick. Link is either standing still or running full tilt. You cannot gently maneuver him to do anything, meaning I cannot proceed with the Fire Temple. Ocarina was abandoned. I was annoyed.
With the upcoming election (deep breaths two days we can do it), I was looking for a story-packed new video game to play for distraction and escape. Knowing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had been remastered for Wii U, Terry suggested we run to Target and get it so I could finally try my hand at a Zelda game on its intended console. When we got to Target, I saw The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD was also remastered for Wii U. I remember my best friend playing through the original Wind Waker on GameCube, and even though most people I know give it grief because “it’s not really Link,” it was also only $20 to Twilight Princess’s $60. So I got that instead.
Two weeks later, that is some of the best $20 I’ve ever spent. After 27 years of my life, I am proud to report I have finally beaten–and loved–a Zelda game. Of course there were frustrations, a couple deaths, and more than one “How do you ____” Google searches, but I did it! Link and Zelda beat Ganondorf and I was able to tune out reality for a few hours every night.
Wind Waker HD‘s cell-shaded animation may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it made all the stakes feel just a little lighter. It was still very much a Zelda game with all the same puzzles, a dozen different special weapons and items, and a big open world to explore with plenty of dungeons, fairies, and magic. There’s even a dragon.
While my childhood memories of Zelda are likely very different than most people’s, I finally have one to share with everyone else: the satisfaction of beating all the dungeons, beating Ganondorf, and having more than three hearts.