Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Silver Anniversary to The Legend of Zelda

It's amazing how an article about a video game can both cause me to contemplate my age - something quite out of my character - albeit with boundless joy to the point that it electro-shocked this blog out of me.

I'm absolutely floored that The Legend of Zelda (the NES original) is turning 25 years old on Monday (2/21). I still remember my birthday in 1986. There was a huge box sitting on the living room table that I just had a feeling about. Everyone knew I was eyeing it up like a hungry lion stalking an antelope, but they decided to run the 46 defense on me and kept me away from the prize.

When I finally got to that heavily guarded birthday treasure, I tore through the wrapping like FC Barcelona through a mediocre defense only to be flummoxed by the revelation of a microwave oven box. This trick had been played on me before.

I think that, somewhere in my lineage, there's some great grifter known for pulling the wool over almost all those around them. Unfortunately, not all of his skill trickled through the generations, because I saw through this one; a trick played on my cousins, sister, and me enough times that I knew how to put on a happy face for the clothes I was about to receive. It was always a tried and true technique of gift-giving to to throw certain items in a box which had nothing to do with what the items were. For instance, one year my grandmother was given a refrigerator box completely wrapped. She was so happy it was a fridge that she made my uncles drag it to the kitchen so she could start switching the food out. The stubbornness runs deep enough, that they did it anyway. I think that was the first time I can remember hearing a torrent of obscenities woven by a lady more likely to be the good witch of the north than one who verbally shatter 4 men the size of the purple people eaters. Then again, she probably tasted a bit of karmic backwash in her throat that day because I can surmise she did something similar to each one of her kids (10 that is). Plus, the actual gift was several pieces of furniture that, I think, ended up being a new bedroom set that she'd been talking about for months.

Back to the story, I opened the box and put on a shit-eating grin as I pulled out shirts and pairs of pants to the oohs and ahhs of relatives and the quiet snickering of friends (7-year-olds can be so cruel). But as I reached in and prepared another fake smile, my knuckle knocked on something cardboard, but it couldn't be the bottom of the box. Instinct took over and the rest of the clothes seemed to explode out of the box as if I'd failed to disarm a bomb. Beneath them was a pristine, unopened Nintendo Entertainment System. Needless to say, I flipped my wig. Even more so when I discovered the 3 games taped to the back of the box.

So, like that, gaming came into my life. While the Italian plumber tackling turtles and eating mushrooms is probably the more famous of the characters that waltzed into my world that day riding a soundtrack of bleeps and bloops, the one that captivated me the most was the little elfin boy named Link. Sure, Super Mario Brothers, Excitebike, and Kid Icarus were great in their own right. Kid Icarus is still one of my 20 all-time favorites, but the un-boxing of The Legend of Zelda was almost a religious experience. From the format breaking golden case, to that fantastic golden cartridge. I imagine I wasn't the only kid that felt like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone when I pulled that golden game cart from its vinyl sleeve.

Then there was the game. And what a game! The semi-open world, the levels, trying to find the levels, hell, even the instruction manual was amazing! So captivating was that first of Link's console adventures that myself and legions of others continue to revisit Hyrule whenever a new game comes out.

Thanks for 25 wonderful years!