Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Golden Cartridge

  I don’t think that I’m enjoying it as much as I thought I would, but I’m staying with it.  Previously I made a pledge that I would mark the passing of Hiroshi Yamauchi by playing the games that he approved at Nintendo, starting with the formative 8-bit games and in particular Zelda II, that I’ve been meaning to return to.  

  I have so far stuck to that, even as I realized the costs; Animal Crossing is a game that will mark my absence for a month with some powerful penalties.  While I intend to see this through, I find that I need to have a little more flexibility…

  While I will not “play” Animal Crossing, as in make progress toward goals, participate in bug hunts, or pursue public works projects, for one month, I will endeavour to visit and hold onto progress in Animal Crossing, as in talk to villagers, refuse their make work jobs, and remove weeds that are directly in front of me as I move about (but not go looking for them).  

  Okay, with that small correction/ exception made…

  Zelda II
  This game is so different; it doesn’t even get the normal title, “The Legend of…”

  Fun fact about me and Zelda.  I first played the original, The Legend of Zelda, at a friend’s birthday party way back in 1987 (probably, it was after the 1986 holiday season).  I fell in love with Zelda immediately; like most kids, I wanted a copy of my own.  Turns out his was just rented for the weekend, so it was not like he could just loan it to me.  At the time, though, I was inconsolable until I got a NES of my own, which appeared in the next holiday season (Thank you Santa, who probably is just mom, but pointing that out would spoil the festivities). 

  I was certainly very eager, because here it was, right?  Zelda!  Well, not so much.  This control deck came with the three-in-one pack, Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet.  What?  No Zelda?  Chalk it up to being a dumb kid, but I didn’t know Zelda didn’t come in the box.  It sure didn’t take long talking to other spoiled kids that I would learn that I had to find Zelda sold separately.  Zelda was like batteries in those days; in fact, he had a battery in the cartridge, so the simile is apt.  Nobody sold a fully working toy in 1988!  Heck, WCTM didn’t even come with the “Power Pad” that it needed to play.

  Kids can’t be held down though, and Mario and Duck Hunt were no slouches.  The NES wasn’t everything my fertile, dedicate entirely to consumption imagination made it out to be, but it was plenty fine.  Dad meanwhile started taking us out to the video rental places, having learned a new trick to shut his kids up when he needed it.  Video game rentals.

  For a long time, I was a little mad, but the NES had great games, so you couldn’t let it get you down for too long.  I don’t know how long it took, some years I figure now, but I eventually found it.  The long sought copy of Zelda, complete with golden (plastic) cartridge, sitting in a discount bin at the Video store.  Though it took some skilled bargaining on my part (“Please Dad, Please Dad, Please Dad”), I found a way to put that game on my shelf.  It was the culmination of all of my time with the NES, a game that I desired so powerfully, now in my hands.  I must not have been a very literate kid… because it was the wrong one!

  What?  How could it not be Zelda?  It was golden!  Wasn’t that enough?  Oh it was golden alright, and it was Zelda, just not the one from that party in 1987!  It was Zelda II: The Adventures of Link.

  For years I retained a pretty crystal clear image of the first game, and Zelda II was nothing like it.  A profound change to the formula, Zelda was now a sidescroller with RPG elements boiled into the screen.  I was disconsolate, but being young, I got over it pretty fast.  Zelda II wasn’t like its predecessor, which I wouldn’t catch up with again until after I had started a mini Zelda collection, but it was an okay game in its own right.

  I’m playing it over again, and I remember perfectly how hard this game is.  And dark!  And pretty cheap in spots.  And I cannot get over how unfair the limited life system is: starting all of the wall back at the temple of Hylia is not cool!

  Still, it’s a very rewarding game.  The RPG elements take forever to build up, and it is frustrating loosing progress just before leveling, but when you get those levels up and revisit old choke points, breezing through with advanced damage, hit points, and magic, it is a great feeling.  More so is the feeling of growing skilled at the game, which is a feeling I’ve held Nintendo games are always the best at delivering.

  I haven’t got anywhere important yet (somewhere in Temple #2), so expect to hear more about this game going forward.

  In Memory of Hiroshi Yamauchi…

No comments:

Post a Comment