I finally bought a Switch for the husband and myself at the beginning of 2020, luckily before many of the stay at home orders went into place and everyone frantically bought them out of stock. The Nintendo Shop makes many of the past Nintendo and Super Nintendo games available to play, which is nice because I only had a few to play when I was a kid and now I can try more! One of the games I played was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but I can’t remember ever finishing it. So I decided to look up a guide online and make my way through.
There are two levels of this game: the three medallions (master sword) and the seven crystal maidens (Ganon). You have to travel around the map to collect the hero medallions to claim the master sword, which you think you are taking to defeat a wizard, but then a dark world is revealed where 7 maidens (including Zelda, who you think you’ve rescued) have been trapped in crystals in order to fuel the portal that the dark lord Ganon is trying to use to enter the light world that you’ve been playing in so far. You have to travel between the light and dark worlds to save the seven maidens, use their power to unlock Ganon’s tower, and defeat Ganon before he brings darkness to the entire universe.
I used this guide to make my way through the world. Not only does it help you through all the bosses and dungeons, but it helps you to make sure you gather all the tools and supplies you need to beat those dungeons, plus a few extra helpful ones (I’m looking at you, Bombos Medallion!). I spaced out my play by playing up to the next big thing, and then going to do something else. I’d play until I got a medallion, then stop. Next medallion, stop. And so on. This has extended my enjoyment through at least 10 days, but it’s taken more because some of the goodies you go to gather take a bit of time too.
My favorite item of all the ones you follow the guide to collect was the Cane of Byrna. I’m sure others would say it was the Magic Cape (both items protect you from damage when used) but I liked that I could still see Link when I used the cane to protect him (the cape makes you invisible and all you can see is Link’s shadow). Once you have the cane your path to beating a lot of the dungeon monsters, especially in the dark world, is basically clear. You have to stock at least one glass jar with the medicine of magic to make sure you can use it enough, but it was absolutely necessary for me to get up close to some of the big bads without taking damage to swipe with my sword.
A close second was the Bombos Medallion. This medallion is not required for any of the mechanics of the game like the Ether and Quake Medallions are, but using it will clear any room of enemies. If you can see them, the Bombos will get them, and in some of the dungeons with more annoying enemies it was worth it to throw down a Bombos to clear the way.
One of my criticisms of this and many other games like it is that most of what I’ve done would have been next to impossible without a guide. I see now why I probably didn’t finish it in the past, since having to figure some of this out on my own would have proved highly frustrating. Most of my childhood video game participation was Mario-based, and in most of those you have only one direction to go: forward, and only certain items that can help you along the way, but that you don’t have to hold onto to succeed. Zelda games require you to explore, to use logic and process of elimination to make sure you discover all paths and items in order to move forward, and to try multiple ways to solve a problem. Grown-up me wishes that kid me could have been exposed to more games like this so I could have had another venue in which to learn patience and problem-solving.
This remains one of my favorite retro games and has inspired me to try to play through any of the Zelda games that I have access to. When I do, I’ll be sure to post about them here.
Special Note: If you’re interested in playing these retro games without having to shell out the cash for a Switch (if you could even find one to buy right now), there are other ways to play. The NES Nintendo Classic Edition and the Super Nintendo Classic Edition are both preloaded with the classic games and come with the classic controllers you remember. I am not sure about their availability during this pandemic either, but it’s a cheaper way to return to the video games of yesteryear.