By Aaron Strain / Opinion Page Editor
I’m taking a break from my usual “everything sucks” political columns to write about an iconic, and my favorite, video game series.
February 21 marked the 35th anniversary of the original Legend of Zelda’s release in 1986. Its 19 perfect main installments and several terrible spin-offs continue to entertain players with engaging stories, beautiful soundtracks and groundbreaking gameplay.
The clearest memories of my early childhood were of family gatherings at my grandparents’ house. After us grandkids grew tired of riding a swing attached to a skinny branch that amazingly never broke off its tree, we would race to an upstairs bedroom, plop down in front of a late-90s CRT TV, and flip on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES.
We had all the classics: Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, and Final Fight. But none looked more exciting to me than The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past, the third game of the series.
Unfortunately, being the youngest of my cousins, I didn’t get to play much of it while they were around.
As cousins moved on with their lives, the SNES was left alone in the room, only played when my brother and I visited with our parents. We figured out where all the secrets on the map were and made strategies to play the most of the game we could in an afternoon. I guess we developed an early form of speedrunning.
The Legend of Zelda franchise, or LoZ, evolved with gaming technology, featuring a release on all the main Nintendo consoles.
Released on the 8-bit NES, the original set the industry standard for fantasy action-adventure games – like what Mario Bros. did for platformers.
The McGuffin of LoZ is the Triforce, a sacred relic left behind by goddesses after creating the realm, called Hyrule. When its three pieces (Power, Courage and Wisdom) are put together, the Triforce fulfills the wish of its possessor, whether good or bad. So, of course, it falls into the wrong hands occasionally.
The hero (Link), who is sometimes young, sometimes hot, sometimes toon and sometimes not, saves the princess (Zelda) from the bad guy’s clutches, but sometimes he doesn’t. The timeline’s a whole, messy thing.
N64’s Ocarina of Time, the first 3D LoZ game, still ranks among gaming publications’ best games ever made. The latest, Breath of the Wild, released on the Nintendo Switch in 2017, changed up standard Zelda gameplay and won several “game of the year” awards.
As for my personal story, I lost interest in the SNES, opting for my Gameboy Advance and DS. Then, several years ago, the house caught on fire and had to be rebuilt. While the old house was still standing, I pulled out the SNES and its games. After learning about its hardware from YouTube videos and buying replacement parts, I tried restoring the console to working condition after years of neglect. Unfortunately, I’m not good at soldering, so I just bought another console on EBay instead.
This Monday, when I saw that the Legend of Zelda series turned 35, I raced downstairs, plopped down in front of an LCD TV, and flipped on the SNES.