A Link to the Past

Today I began playing Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, going on a bit of a retro kick. The game is for the Nintendo Entertainment System and is from 1991. It makes numerous Top 10 and Top 100 lists for “best games of all time”, so I was curious to play it, having missed these kinds of games in my youth.

Part of the deal I made with myself was to properly invest in the experience. What this meant initially was pumping myself up as the game started, saying “it’s 1991! You’ve just bought the latest Zelda game! You’re excited! This is the latest and greatest!” You know, in order to have the authentic experience, kind of. Oddly enough, it worked. I did feel excited as I watched the game’s introductory cut-scenes/scrolling texts about “the situation” (Zelda is in trouble!). I did feel the anticipation of a new world to explore.

After a little bit of fiddling through introductory screens, the game kicked off with Link being told to stay at home by his dad. Then I was in control. I ran around trying to figure out the controls, broke some pots in the house, opened a chest and found a lamp. The usual kind of spastic gamer opening salvo in any game. Then I headed outside into the world.

And it really is a world out there. I was really quite impressed in a “modern” sense, even as I channeled my early 90s gamer-self. It’s a cool open world, you can run around, pick stuff up and all that. Later on I got a sword and engaged in a bit of sword fightery with some knights. Some of the harder knights were… harder, they had long pointy swords. The combat was a challenge, it was refreshingly real time! Unlike today’s common cover system, which ultimately feels almost turn-based, Zelda requires me to run around tactically trying to jab my sword into the bad guys. It’s fun, though I’m very poor at it.

While I did lapse into the odd pipe-smoking haze of “is GTA so different?” (yes, it is) and “is this combat system more sophisticated than a lot of what we see today?” (maybe), I mostly managed to remain as a 90s gamer. And in retrospect, it’s exciting to be excited about such an old game (almost 20 years!).

Looking forward to going back to the 90s again soon.

6 August 2010
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