Monday, July 9, 2007

Link to the Past, Part 4

After a week of (mostly) technology-free vacation on a lake, filled with lots of spending time with my wife (who’s been more than understanding of the time I’ve spent playing games and writing this blog), I’m back! I’m sitting in the dark in a rather nice hotel room, the morning after the wedding of friends, ready to get back on track with the Zelda adventure. Yesterday was a rather miserable day weather-wise (lots of rain), so we spent a lot of time in the room, allowing me to take the advice of all of you and make some progress in Link to the Past.

It seems like a long time ago, but when we last left Hyrule, I had completed the second dungeon in the Dark World and received the Hookshot. Upon my return, I decided to undertake a bit of exploration, to uncover anything I may have missed, and also hopefully come across the way to get to the town in the Dark World, of which I hadn’t yet stumbled upon. I started my exploration at the home of the lumberjacks between the Lost Woods and Death Mountain in the Light World. There was a cave behind the cabin, which revealed a piece of heart, though unattainable through this entrance. A bit more exploration in the yard revealed a tree that looked different from the rest. I tried bombs, arrows, magic powder, and nothing happened, after which I dashed into the tree in frustration, which of course revealed the pit underneath. Jumping into the pit led me to the piece of heart I saw earlier, as expected.

Traveling just to the west of the cabin led me into the Lost Woods. I entered a path at the top of the woods, which took me into the home of a thief, I believe, as there was a thief roaming through the Woods, more than happy to steal items and rupees from me when he caught up with me as I traveled on my merry way. This thief offered to let me open any chest (and keep whatever I found there) for the low price of 100 rupees. Having some rupees to burn, I took him up on the offer, and in the chest I opened I found…300 rupees! I would have been more excited about this if there were more things to spend my rupees on in this game, but I guess I won’t begrudge ‘free’ rupees…

A quick wander to the south led me to a thief hideout, containing a piece of heart, again inaccessible from the obvious entrance. A quick look outside the entrance uncovered a hidden pit in the middle of a suspicious square of bushes (suspicious because of its perfect square formation). This pit led me into the thief hideout, coincidentally beside the piece of heart I saw earlier. One of the things about the Zelda games is that the developers tend to repeat the same tricks to find items, and the past two pieces of heart I’ve uncovered clearly illustrate this principle. The obvious entrance to an area reveals an item, out of reach at this point, but can be recovered upon discovery of the alternate entrance, usually very close by and easily discovered when actually looking for it. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, as the easier things are, the more likely I am to figure them out.

After leaving the Woods, I decided to go to the Pond of Happiness to get rid of some of the rupees I carried (I was dangerously near the cap and I hate to waste anything) and put them to good use. At the Pond, I increased my bomb carrying capacity to 50 (from 25), which is the cap for bombs, if I’m not mistaken. For symmetry’s sake, I increased my arrow capacity to 50 as well (from 40), and feeling good about myself, I decided to quit playing around, and go to the third dungeon…

…Which is where I got stuck. I could have sworn that I explored every avenue to get to the third dungeon, because the path to the town in the Dark World is blocked by a boulder too heavy to lift at this point, and there is no way to get over to the graveyard and mountain area, because there are no docks on those shores in the Dark World. I wandered around for quite a while, flipping back and forth between the Light and Dark Worlds, until I became frustrated. I’m not proud of the fact that I became frustrated this easily, and it normally doesn’t happen. The only reason I can come up with is that I was away from home, sitting in a cottage near the lake with wonderful weather and had no business being inside playing games anyway. I decided to take the easy way out, and ask all of you for your advice on what I should do, and use the time I would have been exploring in vain to soak up some sun and fun with my wife and parents. Don’t worry, I’ve got my priorities back in line, and you can expect that such lapses in judgment won’t occur again. How dare I let the real world intrude on my quest to save Hyrule?!?!

True to form, you didn’t let me down, and after getting Internet access once more, I found a flood of clues leading me to the one area I missed. One of the entrances to the Lost Woods (in the Light World) had an area, accessible using the hammer, that revealed a teleport tile. Sweet joy, my frustrations were alleviated, thanks to you! I appreciate the huge amount of responses and clues that you all gave, and it was a huge help. Hopefully you don’t think me ‘weak’ for going to this well, but regardless of that, it showed me the spirit of the people who read this blog, and it made me very happy!

Anyway, with all of this new area to explore, it was a no-brainer to wander around and see what I could see (and what trouble I could get into) before rushing off to the dungeon. Looking around the town provided very profitable, as I found two separate 300 rupee chests in two houses (one of them requiring a bomb to open). One of the houses contained a chest opening game, costing 30 rupees to play. Fortunately for me (or maybe it was coded that way, as I never went back to find out), I opened a chest on my first attempt that contained a piece of heart. After all of this, I had altogether too many rupees and decided to give a few of them to the fortune teller nearby, who informed me that I should drop into the well near the smith’s house. Since this referred to the well in the Light World, I used the mirror to get there and did as the fortune teller recommended. Down in this well, I found some sort of altar containing a red liquid. Trying all of the conventional ways to interact with the altar (bombs, arrows, hookshot, ice wand, etc.), it dawned on me that I hadn’t yet even tried to use my magic powder. Dusting the altar released a rather schizophrenic demon who was alternately angry and happy that I’d released him. He then ‘cursed’ me for setting him free, which consisted of casting a spell on me that reduced the amount of magic used when casting spells, throwing powder, etc. by one half. Heck, I hope I run into more angry characters like that in the future!

Enough horsing around, I have a world to save! Gathering my wits about me, I made the short journey (in the Dark World) into the Lost Woods to meet the challenge of the third dungeon. This dungeon was made interesting by the amount of entrances (both stairways and pits to fall into) from the overworld that were necessary to explore to solve all of the puzzles contained in the dungeon proper. The biggest frustration I ran into during the conquering of this dungeon was the introduction of the Hands which fall from the ceiling that, if they landed on poor Link or I was silly enough to run into them once they had fallen before they jumped back offscreen, would take me back to the screen where I had last entered the dungeon and reset everything (enemies, blocks, etc.) back to their original state. Not a really big deal, but truly aggravating when I had made a fair amount of progress or had cleared a particularly difficult room of enemies, and having to repeat those tasks again because I lingered too long in one spot and a Hand landed on me. Even with that issue, I soldiered through, gathering the Map, Compass and big key, and finally claiming the major treasure of the dungeon (the Fire Wand) as my own.

During my initial exploration of this dungeon, before finding the Fire Wand, I had accidentally made progress all the way to the final area of the dungeon, blocked by the skeleton of some creature. My unreliable and spotty memory informed me at that point that I needed the treasure to pass that point. Returning to that area with the wand in hand, a single shot made short work of that particular obstacle, and I moved on to the final area of the dungeon. The boss of this dungeon turned out to be a moth-like beast, in a room lined with spikes and a floor that moved and continuously switched directions of movement. The spikes would also launch themselves into the room and retract at different intervals, and all of this was in addition to the moth, who would fly around and emit rings of fire. In the face of all this, I utilized a combination of the Fire Wand and my trusty sword to dispatch the beast. This victory netted me a heart container and the third crystal. I definitely felt a sense of relief as I emerged from this dungeon, more so than many of the others.

The fourth dungeon was very close to the third, being in the center of the town. Instead of my usual ration of exploration between dungeons, I decided to ‘rapid-fire’ these two, instead of trekking around the overworld and coming back. The stairway down, made up of a statue of a creature holding a trident, was blocked by said trident. Going for the simple solution, I just grabbed the trident and tried to pull it off. To my surprise, it worked. With the entrance clear, I made my way in…

This dungeon didn’t really prove too much of a challenge. The rooms definitely took advantage of the ‘semi-3D’ arrangement available in this game, as nearly all of the rooms had an upper area and a lower area, with the lower area partially obscured by the upper. Wandering around and paying attention got me all of the important items and led me to the meat of the dungeon, where I discovered the major treasure (the Titan’s Mitt). There was a room in the dungeon where many of the chests contained bombs and had a bombable area enclosed by walls. This area was also conspicuous by the fact that there was a window that allowed light to shine directly onto it. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I needed to toss a bomb there, which I did. The resulting hole allowed light to shine into the room below.

Near the bottom of the dungeon, I came upon a girl who appeared to be trapped. She asked me to take her to the surface and out of the dungeon. Again, my (apparently) fading memory clued me in to the fact that this was no girl, and that the light in the room was an important feature of this dungeon. I brought the girl to this room and led her through the sun’s friendly rays. She had none of it and turned into an evil beast covered by a sheet that eventually revealed three heads flying about the room. The beast proved no match for my trusty sword, and I soon hoisted a new heart container and the fourth crystal over my head in victory. If I remember correctly, this dungeon had something to do with the old thief’s hideout mentioned in the Light World, in the building next to the elder’s home (remember that, way back in the beginning of the game?), but I could be mistaken.

Since I was nearby, I visited the smith’s shop in the Dark World, previously unreachable due to the large heavy boulders in the way. With the newfound power of the Titan’s Mitt at my disposal, I had no problem making it into the yard of the broken down home. There were an inordinate amount of stakes to be flattened with the hammer, but they really didn’t appear to have a purpose. If only to fulfill my sense of completeness (and the fact that I loved to flatten stuff with the hammer), I knocked them all into the ground, which revealed a secret passage to a piece of heart. This particular piece of heart completed yet another heart container, which was becoming more and more useful as the enemies sometimes took 3 or more hearts with a single touch.

While traveling to the magic shop in the Light World, to refill my bottles with potions, I happened to take a quick detour at the graveyard, to see if there was anything I had missed. Sure enough, there was a cave on a ledge, attainable only by using the mirror trick from the Dark World to the Light World. Exploration of that cave yielded yet another piece of heart. After a quick visit to the magic shop, I made my way down to Lake Hylia, the location of the fifth dungeon in the Dark World.

In the Dark World, the entrance of the fifth dungeon was completely enclosed in walls. Warping to the Light World, the approximate location of the fifth dungeon entrance coincided with the Pond of Happiness island. In front of the cave leading to the pond there was a block movable only with the Titan’s Mitt. Moving this block revealed a teleport tile, clearly the path to the fifth dungeon. Not to keep the creatures and boss waiting any longer for me, I made the trip and entered the dungeon, apparently made with an ice theme.

On my first (uh-oh, if there’s a first, clearly there’s a second) attempt into the dungeon, I actually overshot the way I should have gone, and advanced quite a way into its depths (this particular dungeon had six or seven basement levels) without gathering everything I needed, namely the big key. Since I had already expended a potion getting down this far, I decided to save my game, effectively exiting the dungeon. This would allow me to refill my potion and not have to backtrack through the rooms full of annoying stomach-sliding penguins and take the path I should have taken in the beginning.

My second journey through the dungeon went relatively more smoothly. I made the turns and entered the rooms I had not during my first sojourn, and found the key, map and compass. I also laid claim to the treasure of the dungeon, the Blue Mail, which served the same purpose as the blue ring in the original NES Zelda, effectively halving the amount of damage done to me by the enemies. The only serious hangup I experienced making my way to the boss involved the room where I had to push a block from above to activate and hold a switch that controlled the door to the path forward. For some reason, I had it in my head that I had to wait until the enemies respawned and get one of them to lay on the switch while I walked through the door. Well, 10-15 minutes of wandering from room to room, waiting for the respawn that never came caused me to rethink that strategy, and look for other avenues. It didn’t take long to find the room and the block I needed to push into the convenient hole, but it took a bit longer to find the way to get to that block, as it was behind some of the blocks controlled by the crystal balls scattered throughout the dungeon. A bit of backtracking later (and having to deal with more penguins, ugh!) and I had moved the right block and was on my way to the boss.

The boss of this dungeon proved to be a bumpy eye-thing encased in a block of ice. Thinking logically, I pulled out the fire wand and used it on the ice, which then disappeared to reveal three of the bumpy eye things which started bouncing around the room and dropping ice balls on my head from above. Utilizing the sword and liberal blasts from the fire wand, the weird beasts were soon dispatched, and I had another heart container and crystal (obviously the fifth) in my possession.
After this, I decided to call it a day with Link to the Past, as my wife, while being as patient as possible, was becoming slightly annoyed that we were sitting in a hotel room together and I had paid next to no attention to her for a few hours (ah, the joy of marriage!). I appreciate your patience as I haven’t had many updates of any substance in the past week, and hopefully this will get us all back on track. We’re packing up to go home as I finish writing this, I’ll be in more familiar surroundings and on a much more normal schedule. I hope everyone that had the opportunity enjoyed the holiday week (as July 4th fell in the middle of the week this year, many of us in the States took the entire week off), and I will join you again soon with what I believe will be the final installment of the Link to the Past. Until then, take care and be safe!

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