I have always wanted to write about the games that really shook me; the interactive experiences that molded a good chunk of my moral code and expanded my view of the world by diversifying it. Games can have such a diverse effect from just being entertainment to conveying fear, happiness, isolation, fulfillment, etc. Sometimes, games that are written to convey something fail to achieve that memorial status that many franchises have long established in our minds. So I want to experiment and try to understand what really fuels nostalgia, what makes certain games stay in our memories, what makes certain chimes and songs loop endlessly in our minds from past games. I’ll try to recall as much as I can from the first experiences I had with the games that somewhat shaped me to the man I am today. So without further ado, here is my first full experience with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993).-
Ahh the 90’s, greatest years of my life, ridiculous but entertaining over the top pop artists, great punk/rock bands, virtual pets, freaking Beast Wars, and swimming in the summer, hell yeah!! But with the introduction of the Gameboy in my early years I knew gaming was going to change for good. Super Mario and Megaman in my pocket!? What!? For real!? Awesome!!!!! Then, Link’s Awakening arrived when my dad surprised me with it from a business trip. This was the first Zelda game I ever played and the one game that shook my way of viewing the fact that, yes, I am going to grow up eventually and transgress from being a kid to a man, and that it was going to be one awesome experience.
First, a little about the game itself from my childhood point of view. Link’s awakening was a huge adventure for you to take anywhere since it was a Gameboy game. A lot of characters for you to talk to, and a blend of RPG item gathering, puzzle, and adventure/action elements gave me the sensation that I was in full control on how to lead this quest.
The game took place in Koholint Island, this was my first Zelda game so I had no idea what Hyrule was, it didn’t felt like a foreign scenario on a Zelda game for me. It felt more like really traveling far away from home and, as the game intends to do, be washed off on a shore with no idea on what’s going on and have to figure it out by yourself on how to get back home.
With a very simple objective in the game you think the story is going to be straight forward but no, this game made me care about the main non-playable character Marin while always giving me hints that the island was a dream and that if I woke up I wouldn’t see Marin or any of the characters ever again. That feeling of knowing that something big is bound to happen is what took me to think that I better brace myself for anything.
It’s so strange that an 8-bit videogame could really make me ponder about life in such an early age but this one did. In the closing chapter of the game you are told by the Windfish (a giant blue whale that can fly) that you need to wake up and embrace reality, that the island and everything in it was just a dream. When you choose to wake up you see Marin and everything fade away. I was under my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sheets late at night playing this and about to cry back then. This was the first time I saw something inherently good, an island that I had just saved, disappear with all the people I have helped and endeared myself with.
When Link finally wakes up he doesn’t look disappointed, sad or mad that all these characters he felt where real just vanished in a blink of an eye. He just looks at the sun as the Windfish flies and he just smiles. This made me think, -” yeah, I’m growing up, and I’m going to leave the tranquility that was childhood and take upon larger and heavier responsibilities. But why would that be a bad thing? Why struggling with finding happiness should be a burden?” - . As the Windfish flew away in my little monochromatic screen I lost all fears of growing up and embraced the idea that good and bad are bound to happen all the time and that only smiling at everything will help me to enjoy the good and overcome the bad.
Screenshots courtesy of NINTENDO EAD.
Acrylic Painting courtesy of Jacob Smiley you can buy his amazing Zelda pieces at www.jacobsmiley.tumblr.com read