For a brief time in an embarrassing moment during my childhood, I played the role of a Sony Fan Girl. Like most people who have no clue what they're talking about due to sinful ignorance, I loudly decried Nintendo without ever really investing the time to play a Nintendo game. It was purely brilliant reasoning, I know.
I had been exposed to the NES and SNES prior in my very inexperienced and short, Nintendo life. My cousins owned the systems while my family had a Commodore 64. Ah yes, I had my start as a PC Master Race player (yeah, right. No really, I know absolutely nothing about PC Gaming) and then made my way to the grey, dirty enticing… glow (?) of the Sony Playstation: with its promises to bring me a Flower Girl, and a fight for possession and control over evil in Soul Blade.
My inability to make any sort of sense during my Nintendo bashing days got me into a tiff with a friend at the time. It was a silly, sort-of-serious argument that turned nasty when I dismissed Nintendo for Sony.
And the year I bought an N64, I ate humble pie.
It was not The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that had me singing Nintendo's praises, but Majora's Mask that did.
Majora's Mask remains to this day, the one game I have played of any system, that I herald as the most inventive, fun and terrifying game, all in the same breath.
I have been reformed in many ways since my earlier childhood shame. For me, as I think should be true for anyone with a love in this media: it's about the games. Your preferences are your own and it goes without saying that a good game is a good game, no matter what the system or developer.
It's about that sense of exploration. It's about that joy of immersion and even if there may sometimes be a lemon in the batch, it should be about consistency in high quality gaming.
I gained so much over the years, with Nintendo playing a major role in creating many of the memories I cherish.
Like any long standing relationship, the problems that familiarity bring can sometimes no longer be ignored.
I wanted to love The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
I should have loved it.
It has everything anyone could ever want in a game from the series: the temple designs are wonderful; the soundtrack is genius and it is a game that could easily be recommended to anyone as a fantastic addition to any 3DS library.
But in being truthful to myself, I found that I could not wholeheartedly do so.
The moment my sister expressed interest in starting an adventure of her own, I was pleased. She is usually not one to play these sort of games on her own, preferring to cheer me on or have the occasional laugh at my expense from the sidelines. Having completed my own file, I knew she would have little problems setting out on her own without much guidance from me.
Little cries for help were seldom heard during her quest to save Hyrule. As I watched her play or listened to her tales, I realized something of my own playthrough and subsequently spending time with her.
I found myself nitpicking: Same old trying to get through a maze. Same old sneaking past a guard... Same old volleying an attack. What's that Temple's boss? Oh, him? Yeah. I don't even remember.
I couldn't even remember the Temples' bosses a mere three weeks after having played the game.
That could very well be that I have been going through so many of these games at this point, that it really all is just a blur.
Or perhaps it's that I was just not emotionally invested.
It happens and it's a problem not unique to me. So why then am I taking the time to write about that one game (I've played) in a history of mostly stellar games just because it did not resonate with me?
It should be noted that I never played A Link to the Past. I had no prior nostalgia when booting up what would have been a familiar site in Hyrule and Lorule. Even now, I still have no idea what happened in A Link to the Past and what story it entailed. If ever it comes conveniently to a 3DS, I will certainly play it.
For now, I have to wonder if having the experience of a Link to the Past would have boosted my love for A Link Between Worlds.
But then I would have to question why that should even be a requirement. I know it should not and perhaps that would have been an extra bonus (maybe even thinking of it as a wonderful Tribute or maybe not). So it brings me right back to the why and the sinking feeling that the series has finally become too familiar for me to take notice.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about who certain games are meant to attract. Who is going to benefit from playing certain games? Who would these games appeal to the most? It began as a question when I completed my recent playthrough of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Thinking about Brothers as I was writing it, I knew it was special but then I thought, "well, this is really special because I have a brother and sister of my own that makes this story that harder to swallow." How would my experience differ from others? If I did not have those close relationships, would I feel the same?
Watching my sister play and trying to figure out what to do made all those little moments of dissatisfaction of mine during my playthrough, that much more glaring. I began to question my attachment (or lack thereof) to A Link Between Worlds and to some extent The Legend of Zelda series as a whole. Here's a series that is lauded by many - an understatement, yes - and it's about the 12th The Legend of Zelda game I have played.
Don't play coy with me, Nintendo. I know you have plenty more innovation hiding in those brilliant minds you employ.
Of course, some of the portions that bothered me were the aforementioned stealth parts. I will openly admit that stealth in games was never my forté, nor to my liking. It would reason then that certainly that part would stick out like a sore thumb. But then, it sticks out like a sore thumb to me every single time I encounter it in a Zelda game - and by now that's a lot of thumbs up, or in this case, thumbs down - that I've encountered.
How can I complain about a game where the Legend is the same? What changes does one ask of a series whose premise is built on the notion of a cycle? A cycle by which a Hero is born and endures the challenges as written in legend? I do not even really have any complaints about that. Though maybe there is something in that to consider as for me, in thinking on this, I personally get excited for when Link finds himself the Hero outside of Time. It's that simple moment when he is whisked away to a strange place standing apart from Hyrule in Clock Town that felt daring.
I have always looked at the Zelda series as one where the obvious heart of the game is one by which the dungeons and/or Temples are the marvel. I look forward to them as they are designed to showcase a level of intelligence and careful execution. Solving a dungeon is a feat that can give you a sense of achievement. There's no better feeling than the light bulb of wonder going off in your mind. A Link Between Worlds was no different in this regard even if for me, the Temples' bosses may have been somewhat lacking in interesting.
Lies! Lies, I say!
So what exactly is it that I want? I acknowledge that if something is not broken then do not fix it. But maybe it's a little deviation that I am yearning...is that too much to ask?
I would like the sort of deviation where there feels a sense of urgency to my actions. Even if I know that one fell swoop of a sword would see my lifeless body resurrected by that fairy I planned ahead to catch for that very reason. Even if I can easily press A on a continue screen...
It's the journey and the risks in that journey that I want to take. I want a 'viable' threat of danger. I also want to have that sense of amazement in my exploration as I did with the beauty and imagination of sailing Lanryu's Sand Sea in Skyward Sword. I want something a little more than the expected.
I know Nintendo can do it because they have and continue to take chances.
In 2011, I didn't have much of a problem with some of the guards in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Certainly there was that moment when sneaking was key to clear an area in Skyward Sword, but that area was so expansive it never felt binding. Of course, applying that same expanse to A Link Between Worlds would be unjust. For me, sticking to a wall and hiding behind a hedge in that particular moment could sometimes feel much like the same thing.
Then there were the guards in the Silent Realm of Skyward Sword. Getting past one and through an area was one of the most terrifying yet enthralling experiences and memories I have of that game. The anxiety of being discovered and then running from the guards in the Silent Realm felt meaningful. That sense of immediate danger was ever present. The inclusion of the music encompassing a certain doom gave me a thrill in a way I had not experienced since the survival horror that was Majora's Mask's moon impending destruction of Clock Town.
The risks and inventiveness in the urgency countdown clock mechanic are what made Majora's Mask so unique. The twists and the fairy-tale qualities are what made the Silent Realm in Skyward Sword so frightful and awe-inspiring.
I am aware that I have written this as a person who has had many a game in the series under my belt. I am aware that had A Link Between Worlds been my first game in the series, I would have been voicing an entirely different opinion. I am aware that it is a little bit selfish to dismiss the game as 'just another Zelda game', just as I am aware it would be ridiculous of me (again) to dismiss Nintendo and tell you my faith is wavering. That's not my intent for a company who has given me more amazing memories than forgettable ones and continues to do so even now.
Dismissing A Link Between Worlds entirely would be to dismiss its own moments of greatness and memorable quirks. I can never deny its charm in its two, very distinct Overworlds and characters. Nor can I ever forget that overly mature "Hey" I was greeted with by Hilda every time I discovered a new area in Lorule, as much as I would like to.
But as I listened to my sister's gleeful squeals sprinkled in with the "oh no" moments of hearing death approaching while running dangerously on 3 hearts; I wanted that excitement too instead of the occasional jaded groan I mustered when encountering some of the same things I encountered on so many adventures before this one.
If TAY is Lorule, then what is TAY Classic? I suspect it's that awesome space in between the fissures. It's where you can talk about life, video games and everything else you wanted to talk about 24/7. If you have any questions on how TAY works, check out the tutorial for TAY.
Edit and Update on 1/06/2013: Due to a Kinja saving error, the original article as it was intended was not saved and was published from an old draft. There are very minor changes with this update, namely a few paragraphs have been swapped in placement only. The article's content remains the same.