No Link to the Past

Even if I would deny this in direct conversation, I’m probably one of those habitual gamers too. One of those who’d rather have more of the same. Sequels simply evoke a warm and cosy feeling of familiarity in me. That thrill of the unknown, getting involved in new things? Whew. Exhausting. So the day Nintendo announced “A Link Between Worlds” was a very special day for me. Finally, after all these years, a sequel to A Link to the Past, the very best offshoot of my favourite game series. It could hardly get much cozier!

But it wasn’t just joy, no, it was satisfaction: my heart’s desire was fulfilled and not that of all those know-it-alls who complained that the Zelda series would just stagnate anyway, that Nintendo should try something new instead of pushing the same thing off the assembly line forever. And they were to remain silent because of a game that consistently refused the supposed progress, all these demands for open world, for dialogues set to music, for western fantasy, but instead simply recycled a decades-old game world and threw it onto the screen in sober isometry. And I, I’ve always known it. How great the predecessor was, how much A Link to the Past influenced the whole action-adventure genre, and how infinitely perfect and timeless this game is. Why a sequel was simply without an alternative. And how those generations of gamers after me, those beginners who were softened up by tutorials, could never understand it, because they weren’t there, back then. In the early days. Like me.

But the worst thing about it is that it was all a lie. Because I had never played A Link to the Past.

And I’ll tell you that the odds were never in short supply. Of course, I owned a Super Nintendo, and even though I didn’t have enough pocket money at the time, I borrowed A Link to the Past for a weekend. But I didn’t play it. Years later, having become the ardent Zelda advocate through Ocarina of Time, Nintendo offered me another chance: a new edition of the classic, for the Game Boy Advance. I was standing in the shop on release day, my anticipation was great, and this time I played it! For 30 minutes. Then I was annoyed by the perspective, the limitations of the screen and, above all, I was annoyed by myself because I wanted to love it so much. And again a few years later, when A Link to the Past was released for the Wii Virtual Console, I didn’t hesitate for a second. But even after downloading it, I didn’t play for a second more than the years before. It just hadn’t clicked.

But as little as I really did visit the two-dimensional hyrule: As soon as I saw the first images and video sequences of A Link Between Worlds, it was just there, the feeling of nostalgia, the excitement of coming home after all these years, to a game world that once brought me so much joy. And that feeling was real. I can’t tell if it was the stories of friends, the many articles about the game I must have read over the years, the preoccupation with the Hyrule myth in all the other parts of the series, or my love of growing up over and over again, that as a player of a Zelda you get to experience once in a while.

So I bought A Link Between Worlds, of course. But this time it was different. I was thrilled how it bridged the gap between my memory of a game I’d never played before and the real gaming experience. I wasn’t just allowed to play a new Zelda, I was allowed to manifest an imaginary memory of my youth. And the feeling that I had been there even then only grew stronger. So strong that I played it through from start to finish.

The only thing I have not played until today is A Link to the Past. As much as nostalgia for my supposed gaming past drove me to play the sequel – so little does it interest me today to let my memory of a game I never played fade afterwards.

Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was a hit with action-adventure fans as early as 1991. The hype was accordingly huge when a direct successor to Nintendo 3DS appeared in 2013, a full 22 years later.

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