Why "The Legend of Zelda" is Flippin' Awesome
Alright guys, as I've said before (and as those who know me can attest to), I am a very passionate person. There are, of course, two sides to this coin: it can sometimes lead me to feeling some strong frustrations with certain aspects of life that leave me feeling annoyed and deflated. However, on the flip side, that same passion can lead me to feeling buoyed and excited as well.
I feel like talking about one item that fits into the latter category.
As a child of the nineties and into the 2000s, video games have been a constant presence in my life. Many of my very early memories revolve around watching someone playing some sort of brightly colored simulation on a TV screen. For instance, I remember being at some kid's house and watching him turn on the TV and turning on this large black box with a smaller black box on top of it. Just a second later, the screen turns white, a blue blur comes across the screen twice and a chorus of voices cry "SE-GA!" The funny thing about that memory is that I don't remember who the kid was or why I was there, but I surely remember the first time I laid eyes upon "Sonic the Hedgehog".
"Sonic" was my first video game impression, "Mortal Kombat" was my entry into enjoying playing games, and "Pokemon" marked the point where I found out how addictive gaming could be (for better or worse). However, I think that the first game series that brought me to the point where I would consider myself a gamer: someone who truly loved video games as much as any other form of entertainment/art was "The Legend of Zelda".
The vast majority of these origin of love stories begin with watching someone else take part in the subject of the tale, and "Zelda" is no exception. When I was a but a wee young Brendan Toungate at about seven or eight years old, I would spend weekends with my mom and stepdad at their house. Across the street, lived a family named the Woolnoughs, whom had three sons all about my age. Of course, being four boys ranging in age from twelve to seven without a ton of others our age around and nothing to compete for, we hit it off quite famously almost immediately. We would hang out together and play all sorts of things both outside where we would adventure all around our neighborhood and perform heroic deeds against imaginary foes at the Dell HQ construction site, and inside with many toys and, certainly, video games. Unfortunately, many of the games that they had were single- or two-player only, so someone was always left out. As one might imagine, this led to my boredom if I wasn't playing.
Except for one time, when I came over and I saw the middle brother playing a game I had never heard of or seen before. When I asked what the game was called, he responded with: "Zelda: Ocarina of Time". As a kid who grew up interested in video games, I had heard of Zelda before, but never had seen-let alone played-one before, so I was intrigued. How could I not be? He was playing as a young boy fighting off giant spiders with skulls on their bodies and opening chests with lights coming from them inside of what must be a four-story tall tree. That was the perfect formula for pre-teen Brendan! So I stayed awhile and I watched. And I was hooked on it. Not playing it: WATCHING it. I watched them (as they took turns) play, not anxiously awaiting my turn with the controller, but wanting to see what would come next: a fiery volcano, a giant fish, some time travel; I watched it all, completely enthralled. Hell, I even refused the controller when they offered it to me, as I didn't want to break my immersion into the game...as an observer. I hung out at their house for hours at a time (when I could) for about a month that summer, just watching the game and, though I missed some of the bigger bits-the final boss battle, for one-I saw the game from beginning to end. And I was sad when it ended, because I wanted MORE.
Well ask and he shall receive: I had my own Nintendo 64, and eventually came to have access to my own copy of the game (I can't remember if one of my parents bought it for me, or if I borrowed it, but no matter). I immediately dived right into the game, sword slashing and treasure hunting and puzzle solving and adventuring all through Hyrule. For a good two months (school had started again), I played that game whenever I could. My entire life was wrapped around it, with my dad watching all the way, as he became, hilariously, intrigued by the game just as I had been. After finally beating the game on my own (with both my dad and myself celebrating), I felt such a surge of contentedness that can only come from a strong sense of achievement from completing a nigh-perfect piece gaming software. And yet, I was still not satisfied: I still wanted MORE.
So my family obliged and I got more, either through gifts or allowance money. "Oracle of Ages", "A Link to the Past", "Legend of Zelda", "Zelda 2", "WindWaker", "Minish Cap", "Twilight Princess" and "Phantom Hourglass" are all games that I have owned at some point in my life and I have played to completion or at least through a few dungeons. Many of these games have given me the exact same feeling that "Ocarina of Time" did: enjoyment and contentedness on a grand scale. Every game bringing that utter childlike thrill of adventure and fulfilling my childhood dream of being a great hero.
And that's why "Zelda" is flippin' awesome. Every time I put in one of its games and start to play it, I get that sense of wonder and joy that I got when I first watched my friends play it so many years ago, even if its a game that I have already beaten. I last played through "Ocarina" my senior year at Cornell; I last played through "A Link to the Past" a year ago in Harlingen; I've beaten "Minish Cap" at least three times and literally every time I have turned any of them on, I'm immediately taken back to what it feels like to be enthralled by a magical world and taking part in it: to feel like a hero.
If I'm lucky enough to live into old age, I really hope that I'll get the chance to play these games at my old folks' home with a smile on my face and everyone else sitting on the couches watching, all of us enthralled once again in an adventure bigger than anything else in the world.
That would also be pretty flippin' awesome.