I was once an imaginative child, filled with glossy eyed wonder at the splendor all around me. It was for that very reason that I loved The Legend of Zelda. Being able to explore a vast world filled with dangers and treasure was right up my alley. That is why I had to have Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link when I saw it at the store. I didn't even have to rent it, it had to be good, right?
Given the title of the article, I am sure you can see where this is going.
My first thoughts while playing the game were ones of utter confusion. Why was I side scrolling? Monsters randomly attack me when I leave the road? Where am I supposed to go? What's this experience thing I keep getting? What's going on?
It was not long before I got in a random battle that was a bit too much for me and I quickly met an inglorious end and was further confused by what happened next. A Zelda game with lives? How could this be?
I was very careful after that first defeat, making sure I stuck to the roads as well as possible until I got the hang of the game. Caves and dungeons I knew to be unavoidable, but I would have to take extreme care to level Link up so that I would not meet another terrible fate.
I also thought towns would be a safe place, only to have villagers turn into bats! Those villagers who did not turn into bats often offered me cryptic clues, prostitution services (What are we doing those houses to refill my health and magic meters? hmm?), and the occasional magic spell or item. If I were to replay the game now, these clues would make more sense, but to my seven or eight year old mind had no idea what these people where talking about. I thought that the people of Hyrule were incurably insane and that I alone stood as the last sane man in the troubled kingdom.
Given that I was playing this game before the internet, and before I could find a Nintendo Power Guide, I was lost and hopeless. This entire game made me nervous as hell. Every time I played it, I feared for Link's life as I attempted to guide him through caves and dungeons where one bad move spelled certain doom. You may think I am silly for caring so much about my avatar's life, but his dying is not was I was afraid of. No, not by a long shot. What truly terrified me was this...
The Return of Ganon
That laugh. That hideous laugh as Ganon's shadow loomed over me in my dark, silent room. His piercing white, soulless eyes staring down on me with terrible malice. The Kingdom of Hyrule was doomed, the true Princess Zelda would slumber for eternity, I had failed. The laugh haunted my nightmares, made me clutch the blankets to my restless body even tighter. I was terrified of that game over screen. It made no sense, but it chilled me to the very core.
My once innocent childhood fantasy of adventure had been warped into a fear of failure by one game over screen. No longer did I rush in headlong with no fear of defeat. I hesitated at every turn and suddenly the game became even harder. To make matters worse, every time I failed, my experience counter reset, making me go through it all again. Worse still... I had to hear that laugh again.
So there you have it, the most significant memory I have of experiencing fear through a video game. It did not take me long, upon seeing the topic, to decide what to write about. I knew it all along. The one thing I feared in video games more than anything else was the return of Ganon.