Back in the eight-bit days, you were lucky to get more than a splash screen and "CONGRATURATION" after investing however many hours in memorizing enemy attack patterns and the proper jumping techniques needed to finish an entire game. The advent of the PlayStation saw the advent of fully pre-rendered animated cutscenes and ending sequences, as well as some of the first polygon-based machinima, rewarding the player with full-fledged mini movies for slogging their way through one or more discs and, in some cases, enough play time to spread over several days. In between, however, something magical happened that managed to capture my heart for years to come.
One of my favorite parts of the movie Animal House
, despite having watched (and mostly failed to comprehend) it much earlier than I should have, was how the ending featured little pauses and captions describing where all of the characters ended up. It was a nice little wrap-up touch that implied the story was entirely over, but avoided the plague of sequelitis that would eventually infect the film industry. Whether taking a direct cue or not from National Lampoon, video games, at least on the SNES, began to feature closing sequences that touched on various characters and locations the player'd explored over the course of the game, showing changes resulting from the main character's actions. Some NES franchises also explored this avenue (the Mega Man
games come to mind) before things went sixteen-bit, but Super Mario World
's Yoshi-back traipse back to the beginning area was the first instance I really remember noticing the approach.
Some of the most memorable endings in gaming history would play out in this sort of machinima, such as Final Fantasy IV
, once it finally came over here), but the one that sticks in my mind and heart the most is from one of the earliest SNES titles: the ending to The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
. Sweet, spinning triforce bits aside, the ending of LttP
did an amazing job of touching upon almost all of the minor characters you encounter across the span of the game, giving that iteration of Hyrule so much more depth than its two predecessors, and making it seem like everyone you talked to really mattered. It made you care a little bit more about NPCs that were, in prior games, just exposition fairies that helped you along in your quest but may as well have been in-game monuments or text, given how much characterization they received. It didn't hurt that the ending theme had a perfect sort of, "welcome home," feel to it, with just enough epicness interwoven, that one can't help but remember it fondly. In all honesty, if I ran into a woman who was cool with using LttP
's closing music as her wedding march, a proposal would probably be imminent regardless of whether we'd known each other three years or three minutes.
Thankfully, this trend of seeing what was up post-Ganon would continue, for the most part, in later LoZ
titles, but one other thing was introduced aside from the world tour that really stuck with me from Link to the Past
was the fact that you don't necessarily get the girl. The original Zelda
kind of implied the princess might have a bit of gratitude for all the triangle-collecting you'd been doing, and The Adventure Of Link
closes with a curtain-down kiss from the awakened princess, but our third dance with Link has him clearly depositing the Master Sword in its foresty resting place and little else, rescued princess or not. Granted, the similarities between Marin in Link's Awakening
and Zelda could imply that Link had feelings for the princess, but nothing was ever stated as truly developing.
This ambiguity would return further down the line, with Ocarina Of Time
's Zelda sending you back to your childhood and effectively erasing any romantic progress you may have made with her, leaving you with a mostly blank slate with Zelda's younger self, though it's implied they're at least friends in the end. This sort of thing was a nice change of pace from the standard, "beat the big bad, get the girl," in-game fantasy tailored to nerdy males that'd pervaded a lot of earlier, similarly-themed titles, and it also did the favor of leaving things to the player's imagination. Perhaps Link ended up running off with Ruto, because he had a thing for seafood. Maybe he hooked up with Malon in the end, like he damn well should have in the first place. For all we know, he spent the rest of his days getting buggered by the creepy mask salesman. That sort of open ending gave the opportunity for everyone's playthroughs and sentimental attachment to what was essentially the same game to be a little bit different, every time.
Keeping the relationship between Link and Zelda less clearly defined has continued, much like the glance-around-the-world montage tradition, through pretty much the rest of the series since Link To The Past
. In Wind Waker
and the follow-up DS games, Link and Zelda are pretty much just really good friends, adventuring it up together as kids. Twilight Princess
leaves Link's best chance at romance locked back in the Twilight Realm, though his childhood friend Ilia might have a shot after everything's wrapped up. The better part of any Zelda
's finale ends up left in the hands and mind of the player, dependent upon their feelings about the characters and world Nintendo's presented them, which is a primary reason why the series persists in the face of accusations of "sameyness," and why the games, and Link To The Past
in particular, remain near and dear to my heart.
After this article, nekobun went on to realize he didn't have to relate every other one of his cblogs to a Legend Of Zelda game. However, he would eventually die alone, because he was actually kind of serious about that ending theme/wedding march remark.
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