Monday, June 25, 2007

Link to the Past, Part 1

Moving on from the successful completion of Adventure of Link, this weekend I began a Link to the Past. This is a game that (judging from the general feeling and responses in the comments) many people consider their favorite game in the Zelda series, myself included. After the switch to side-scrolling action sequences in Zelda II, a switch that was received with mixed reaction at best, the series returned to its top-down roots with Link to the Past. The graphics, even today, bring a smile to my face, and while they're by no means cutting edge, I still think that they hold up. The dungeons provided a new challenge with multiple levels and an almost-3D feel (stairs,balconies and pathways above passages within the levels themselves), and the sheer variety of puzzles and enemies reinvigorated the 'feel' of the franchise, and provided a solid launching point for its many later iterations.

Blogging this game is proving to be a bit more of a challenge than the previous 8-bit incarnations, due to the added complexity that the Super NES allowed the developers to incorporate. I'm going to attempt to not write a novel for each play session, but because there are so many NPCs to interface with (many of them providing clues to present and future puzzles), areas to explore, and dungeons to conquer, I think that this is going to be far more wordy than the other games I've played so far. Hopefully I won't scare you all away, and you'll keep coming back for more. Anyway, let's get into Link to the Past!

Immediately upon firing up the emulator, I was greeted with the shiny 16-bit starting screen, and immediately became excited. I really, really enjoy this game and (not to be looking past the first two games) this is what I've been waiting for since I started this blog. Getting over my initial excitement, I named my character (Link, of course) and started my journey.

The opening scene started with me asleep in the small house shared with my father, and then night was interrupted by Zelda, communicating with both of us. She was in the dungeon of the castle and needed help. I awoke immediately, but was told to stay put by my father, who rushed out into the rainy night to help this mysterious girl. Having nothing better to do, I hopped out of bed, looked in the treasure chest in the room (and found a Lantern), and followed my father out the door. Hey, what self-respecting short elf in green who fancies himself a hero would wait inside on a night like this? So, out I went...

EDIT: As many of you quickly and correctly pointed out, the man who left the house and was found just inside the entrance of the secret passage to the palace garden was in fact Link's uncle, and not his father, as I tried to make him. So, either a) I know something you don't know, and am trying to get Link's uncle in trouble with Link's real father :P, or b) I just made a mistake and the astute readers of this blog were quick to point out the truth. Personally, my money's on option b, but you can make that call for yourself! :) In all seriousness, I checked this morning on the internet and found a scan of the original manual, and it does make a very brief mention in the prologue that Link's uncle is the man who leaves. So thank you for pointing out the mistake. Congratulations, you all passed my test! Someone really is paying attention (apparently not me though)...

Venturing out into the night, I followed the paths that were not blocked by soldiers, and following a further communication by Zelda, I made my way to a secret passage on the eastern side of the castle, that would presumably would lead me into the palace garden. After jumping down into the hole, the first thing I saw was my father slumped against the wall. He lamented the fact that I had been pulled into all of this mess, gave me his sword and shield, and sadly was no more. What better way to eliminate the possibility of a wet-blanket parent putting a damper on the adventure by getting rid of them in the first 5 minutes of the game? I can't think of one either. I took up the sword and shield and made my way to the palace garden, and from there into the palace proper, taking out any guards that were foolish enough to resist.

In the castle, I started looking for (and promptly found) the stairs that led down into the dungeon. On the way down, I found a room with a chest that contained the blue boomerang. Ah, the trusty boomerang, a constant companion in my previous adventures, and a welcome addition to my small but growing arsenal. Not long after retrieving the boomerang, I found myself in the room where hapless victims were held, and there was the princess. Before releasing her, there was the minor inconvenience of killing the guard wielding the mace, but he didn't stand much of a chance (they never do, do they?). Zelda was appropriately happy for her release, and asked me to get her to the first floor of the dungeon, where she would have further instructions. With the princess in tow, I quickly traveled back from whence I came.

At the appointed floor, the princess informed me that there was a secret passage in the throne room that would lead us to safety. I was all for that, so we double-timed it to the throne room. With her help, we pushed away a display and entered the secret passage. This passage required the use of a lantern (good thing I was nosy before leaving the house!), and contained many rats, bats and snakes. Traveling downward, we made to the sewers below the palace, where the princess said that we weren't far from the passage that would take us to the Sanctuary, where there was apparently an old man who would help us. Her information turned out to be correct once more, and (aside from a room where I chose the wrong switch to open the door, and instead triggered a shower of snakes) it wasn't long before we were talking to the old man, who instructed me to visit the town elder (he was even kind enough to mark the location on my fancy overworld map with a flashing 'X'), and said that he'd keep the princess safe while I figured out how to break the hold the evil wizard Agahnim had on the guards and the palace. Opening a chest in the Sanctuary rewarded me with a heart container (hopefully the first of many).

After leaving the Sanctuary, I traveled to town. When I arrived, I quickly revisited a pastime that I'm sure all of you have engaged in at one time or another: chicken throwing! :) No matter how many times I do it, it never ceases to amuse me. After tossing some barn fowl around, and then feeling bad for single-handedly being the scourge of Hyrule's chicken population, I continued on to the more important matter of saving the land. A wanna-be hero's got to have his priorities! I walked through the quaint little town to the house marked with the 'X' on my map, where I was met with an old lady who didn't know where the elder was, and indicated that he'd been missing since the soldiers had started to round up people and take them to the castle, never to be seen again. That made sense (I wouldn't have stuck around, either), and the old lady said that I should ask around town, because she was sure that someone would know where the elder was.

After leaving that house, I made my tour of the town, speaking to all of the people I saw, and investigating the houses that were there. Some of the town's residents believed the lies that the wizard was spreading about me, and immediately called a soldier when I spoke to them (cranky, cranky!), but most citizens were more than happy to talk to me. One man sold me a bottle, a very handy multi-use item in Hyrule, and the more you have, the better off you are. In a tavern, a man mentioned that his son, who happened to play the flute, had gone off in search of the Golden Power, and was never seen again. In that same tavern, a man mentioned that there was a woman at the Waterfall of Wishing that I should visit. Behind the counter in that same tavern (accessed by leaving the front door and entering through the back) I found a chest containing another bottle. What a great find! There was a well on the left side of town, accessible by dropping into it from above, which held a bunch of rupees and a few bombs. After leaving the well, I entered the old thieve's hideout (right beside the elder's house, how interesting), and was able to find a piece of heart behind a doorway opened with a bomb. There also was a puzzle requiring the movement of blocks to allow access to several treasure chests containing rupees which I completed after a bit of thought. Near the south end of town, I found a boy on the street who said that he thought the elder was in the palace east of the castle, and marked his location on my map. Very nearby, I entered a home of a sick boy, who granted me use of his bug-catching net, another useful tool in Hyrule, great for catching bugs and fairies, and all manner of creatures. Near this house, I hacked my way through the overgrown front yard of a man who (after apologizing for the state of his yard) told me that there was a lake of Zoras that I should go visit. Making a mental note of that, I continued on my way.

Having dallied enough with the good citizens of the town, I moved east across the land, in search of the elder. Now that I had rescued the princess, I was a wanted me, and any soldier that saw me promptly attacked. Not that they were difficult to defeat, just annoying at times, especially when one was on a mission, as I was. Even with the inconvenience of the soldiers, I soon found myself at the hiding place of the elder, who introduced himself as Sahasrahla. He told me the story of the three pendants and how they were necessary to wield the power of the Master Sword, hidden in the forest. He directed me to recover the three pendants, scattered around the land, and after that wield the sword to eliminate the evil wizard dragging down the kingdom. Boy, maybe I should have just stayed in bed! :)

Nevertheless, I wandered over to the first location of the three pendants (called the East Palace), conveniently just a stone's throw from the elder's hideout. Doesn't it always happen that way? The palace provided minimal challenge, as it quickly gave up the map and compass. Acquiring the big key was a bit more of a problem, however. In a particular room, there was a pot surrounded by this game's incarnation of the Bubbles (in this game they look like flaming skulls surrounded by 4 rotating fireballs), four of them rotating around this single pot. Sacrificing a bit of my life, I was able to grab the pot and discover that there was a switch underneath. After spending a lot of time testing failed strategies, the only way I found to press that switch (and cause the chest containing the big key for this dungeon to appear) was to lure the large armored cyclops in the room (only vulnerable to arrows, of which I didn't have a bow to fire them yet) over the switch, thus activating it. There was quite a close call doing this (I only just was able to get a fairy out of a bottle and capture it before dying), but I finally was able to grab the big key, and thus pave the way to the major treasure of the dungeon (the bow, surprise surprise) as well as the path to the boss. The boss of this dungeon, and the keeper of the pendant, was a group of six large bouncing and circling knights, who were vulnerable to both arrows and the sword. After using a combination of the two, I was able to defeat them and claim the first pendant as my own.

After retrieving the pendant, I made my triumphant return to the elder, who congratulated me, reiterated my mission, but also gave me a present: the Pegasus boots, which granted me the power of the dash. This proves to be a very useful tool in many locations of the game, some of which I'll detail later on. The elder also pointed me to the eastern shore of Lake Hylia, where he said I would find a useful item. Not being one to question an elder (that's just basic respect), I decided to follow his advice and travel immediately to that very location, exploring all the way.

On the eastern shore, I found a cave that (after using a couple of bombs on breakaway walls) yielded the Ice Rod. As of yet, I haven't found it extremely useful, but I'm sure it will have its uses later on as the game continues. While trekking back to town (to follow up on something I'd seen earlier, more on that soon), I found a breakaway wall near the shore of the lake. Blowing it up revealed a 300 rupee chest. Bingo, I was rich!

Back in town, in the southern area, I found a building that contained a man who told me that he had, after an argument, closed off his brother's room. Sure enough, the left wall was a breakaway wall, which crumbled under the force of one of my bombs. After trying to patch things up with the brothers, I exited out the second brother's door, and found a woman who promised me a prize if I could make it through her maze in under 15 seconds. I failed on my first attempt (I used the wrong strategy and took way too much time), but my second attempt was much more successful. I arrived at the man at the end of the maze in a pretty speedy 13 seconds, and he promptly rewarded me with a piece oh heart (woohoo).

Getting back on track, I then focused my attention on the real reason I went back to town. Near the buildings I had just left was what I assumed to be a library (empty except for shelves of books, seems to make sense). On the top of one of those shelves, there was a conspicuous looking green book. My memory perked up when I came across it originally, and reminded me that I could knock that book off the shelf with the dash power (which I couldn't remember how to do, since the Pegasus boots completely slipped my mind). Now that the elder had endowed me with that ability, I thought it high time to go back and take care of something I was 100% sure I could do. Sure enough, one dash knocked the book to the floor, which revealed itself to be the Book of Mudora, which allowed the reader to translate the Hylian language. Something tells me that this will be useful in the very near future.
Wow, what a long post! I actually completed more of the game, but I'm going to wrap it up for this post, and save the rest of my progress for a post tomorrow. I'd prefer to mark my progress within the games in digestible pieces, so they're not too long that they get boring, but not too short either. Hopefully I've done the beginning of this great game justice. Let me know your thoughts, and if there's anything I've missed up to this point. Thanks for reading and I'll be back tomorrow with another installment!

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