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We spend countless hours playing games, but few make a lasting impression on us. This is an ongoing series that will catalog the moments that resonated with me.
Few titles have been influential enough to me that I would hold them up as a gold standard for what gaming can be and what it represents.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of those games. When I was growing up my sister and I would visit our cousins in Florida every summer. I always looked forward to these visits not because it was a fun trip to a warmer climate, but because my cousins owned a Super Nintendo.
During one of our visits we had started a game on A Link to the Past and all four of us played on one save file. We would take turns playing through dungeons, each of us giving our opinion about how to beat a particular boss or what needed to be done to that suspicious crack in the wall.
Being that we were children and we only ever played during the summers once a year, it took us quite some time to get anywhere in that game. We cleared the first few dungeons and managed to claim the three pendants to retrieve the Master Sword, all of which seemed like enormous accomplishments at the time. But I’ll never forget the moment we made back into Hyrule Castle and challenged Agahnim, the evil wizard, to a fight.
He used magic attacks that we were defenseless against, no matter what weapon we tried we couldn’t hurt him. Arrows, bombs and even the Master Sword were all useless against him. We quickly found ourselves spinning around in a circle and landing with Link’s face on the ground–luckily we had discovered that keeping a fairy in a bottle would revive Link so now it was time for round two.
My cousin handed off the remote after his death, which was our custom and now it was my turn to try. Again, nothing we tried worked, the best we could was to avoid his attacks and stay alive. I hit the pause menu and looked over our items, we collectively wracked our brains, searching for what we were missing. We had tried everything against him, we had even been desperate enough to try lighting him on fire with the lantern and nothing worked.
Eventually I couldn’t keep up with his attacks and he killed me. We had one last bottle with one last fairy in it, so luckily it wasn’t a “Game Over” yet. I handed the remote to my sister, she hit the pause button and studied the inventory for some time before landing on the bug net.
My cousins and I laughed in her face, we mocked her saying, “What are you going to do? Put that over his head?”
She just smiled and stood in front of Agahnim, waiting for him to launch one of his magic attacks at her. When he finally did she swung the bug net at him, catching the bolt and hurled it back into his face, damaging him for the first time in all of our attempts. We stood up and began cheering, none of us could believe that had worked! With a little more patience combined with some trial and error we discovered that you could only fling one of his attack types back at him.
We had unlocked Agahnim’s secret and from there it only took us a few more tries to defeat him. We had done what we thought was impossible and it felt great to have done it together. Even to this day, it’s hard for me to recall a time when I felt closer to my family than I did at that exact moment.
Of course now that I’m older I know you can just hit back his attacks with the Master Sword, but back then we were too uncoordinated to time our swings correctly, which only makes our achievement feel that much better. Together we had overcome something that was incredibly difficult and to top it off we had done it in our own way.
Playing The Legend of Zelda had brought us all together in a way that no other experience had done before. Crowding around my cousin’s tv, taking turns playing their SNES produced some of my most cherished memories and I have A Link to the Past to thank for them.