Most gamers have that one game that in a single moment the artwork, world, music, and characters can all come flooding back as a cherished memory triggered by nostalgia. For me that game is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (ALttP).
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System wasn’t my first system by a long shot, but it’s the one that I played ALttP on. Because that game was one that I played with my step dad, swapping in and out of our save files, racing to see who would complete the game first, it’s one that holds a special place in my heart.
My childhood was one of mixed emotions and settings, having moved a lot due to my parent’s divorce when I was four, I never felt like I fit anywhere, even within my own family. On either side of my extended family, my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins always held the opposite parent responsible for the divorce and upset that my sister and I experienced at a young age.
That opposition at times made me feel like an outcast, unwanted, and left to go through growing up without much love and care. Because of that upbringing, and the fortune of my mom’s boyfriend who would eventually become my stepdad, I was introduced to video games.
Early on it was Atari, Commodore 64, and NES games that I gravitated to and played a lot of. But it wasn’t until that all too familiar startup sound of Link’s sword and shield fading into the Hyrule landscape, clashing with the triumphant sounds of The Legend of Zelda theme that a game meant so much to me.
The opening segment during the storm as Link, weaponless and alone, traversing the castle grounds looking for his uncle and hearing the call of Princess Zelda were, and remain, immersive and captivating. My attention was glued to this new adventure.
I had just turned nine when A Link to the Past was amongst the Christmas presents under the tree in 1991. For a kid hooked on NES, SNES, and Nintendo Power, I knew video games. I lived video games. I dreamt of video games. Video games were life and they still are.
What makes my adventure alongside Link and Princess Zelda unique to me is how the game bonded my stepdad and I as we played the game. Our SNES had a weird issue where for a time turning off the SNES meant the game save file would be corrupted and lost, so we would have to start over.
We discovered that we could go back to the main screen without issue, but powering off the SNES would lose our save data. It wasn’t long though that my stepdad and I vowed to work on the game day and night completing it together.
He would play the game while I was at school and I would play when I came home while he worked the second shift. Each of us would play for an hour or two, so that we didn’t rush through the game too fast.
We started a small journal to keep track of our progress, leaving notes to one another, scribbling out directions for puzzles or locations we thought we should investigate. We wrote about our progress and would talk about our adventure during meals on the weekends. It didn’t take long to realize that Link’s quest had become our quest.
The weeks or so that it took us to chip away at the game had become a pivotal moment for me in how I bonded with my stepdad. As we shared this adventure we were excited to learn what each other had done and which direction we took in beating the various dungeons. The secrets we found and the paths we made across Hyrule.
The game wasn’t long, but it probably took us around twenty hours to beat, when it was all said and done. After completing the game we each took turns playing it again and going through the entirety of the game ourselves, though this time we had at least half the game memorized.
To this day when I want to recall my childhood, and those moments with my stepdad, I’ll think of the time we shared together with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. He passed away a few years ago from colon cancer. My memory of him, smiling from ear to ear when we would talk about Link and Princess Zelda is a memory that I cherish.
It’s this memory that helps me reinforce those gaming moments in my own children as they play games alongside me. Currently my ten year old daughter is taking her time through Breath of the Wild, while my thirteen year old daughter is playing through Dragon Quest Builders 2. Seeing them play video games reminds me so much of myself and how much I loved immersing myself in the worlds of Hyrule, the Mushroom Kingdom, Donkey Kong Island, and so much more.
To Ross, Love you [step]dad
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past Review:
Initial Release: September 5, 2019
Pricing: Free with Nintendo Switch Online Subscription
Category: Action, Adventure
Players: 1 player
From the opening scenes during a rainy night in Hyrule where Princess Zelda calls to Link, to the ending where you fight Ganon, your adventure through Hyrule will take you on a vast journey and test your puzzle solving skills. The game is only slightly ‘marred’ by its short playtime but if you haven’t had a chance to play A Link to the Past, I would advise you to give it a go. The game holds a special place in my heart and is one of my favorite stories of Link.