There has been a ton of discussion in main stream media, blogs, social media, and forums over having more female characters taking the lead in video games or at least having female characters who aren’t your stereotypical “the girl needs saving by a strong, buff male” type. When games then try to spruce up classic video game characters from established franchises to breathe new life into them and to get with the times, then you have every reason to get excited about the possibilities and potential to have female characters who aren’t just there for the male character to save or end up with by the end of the game. This is why catching a glimpse of Princess Zelda in action for the upcoming game for the Wii U in Hyrule Warriors, as a princess who can take care of herself and fight as well as Link, is an exciting and refreshing thing to see for a video game.
As someone who works a dreary desk job, I will often spend my breaks scouring the internet, looking for interesting sites to pass the time. Earlier this year, I found a fantastic Tumblr blog which serves as an archive of video game magazines. Old Game Magazines features high quality scans of covers and articles from the glory days of print gaming media (read: the 1990s). Over the last few weeks, this Tumblr page has focused on scans from my favorite gaming magazine, Nintendo Power. Along with the extensive strategy guides and fold-out posters that came standard every month, there was a period of time when comics were printed on the pages of this classic publication. These paneled stories were serialized over several issues and were normally tied to the release of a big Nintendo property, such as Super Mario World or Star Fox. Since a direct sequel for the SNES classic is looming over the horizon for 3DS owners, now is a prime time to have a look at the Link to the Past comic from Nintendo Power.
First published in January of 1992 (issue 32 of NP), the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was written and drawn by Shotaro Ishinomori. A famous manga artist, Ishinomori broke into the industry working as an assistant to animation legend, Osamu Tezuka. The story goes that in 1955, Ishinomori entered an art contest for the magazine Manga Shonen while he was still in high school. Impressed with the student’s work, Osamu Tezuka contacted Ishinomori, asking him to become an assistant on the hugely popular Astro Boy. After years of work as an assistant, Ishinomori branched out on his own and went on to create several famous series, such as Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider. Through his impressive body of work, Ishinomori successfully established an entire genre of “transforming” superhero media, and his accomplishments have been honored by numerous outlets around the world.
For the Link to the Past comics, Ishinomori focused on the story of the game, in which a young boy becomes entangled in a quest that would transform him into a hero of legend. Unlike the mostly mute hero of the video games, the Link of this comic starts out as something of a clumsy, inexperienced kid who has plenty to say. While not exactly prepared to defeat an ancient evil, Link does possess a plucky courage that causes him to run blindly into a stormy night to save a woman he has never even met. The general plot of the video game is mostly unchanged in the comic, save for some minor enemy details and quite a bit of flourish on the locations in the game world. The core story of Link acquiring the Master Sword and traveling to the Dark World to defeat Ganon and save Zelda remains, albeit with several new characters and encounters.
Probably the two most notable additions to the cast of characters are a headstrong young knight and a feisty fairy, named Roam and Epheremelda respectively. Roam serves as a sort of rival character for Link, even though the two share the similar goal of killing Ganon. A master of archery, Roam is a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule who fought to imprison Ganon many years ago. Even though he regularly shows up to harass and test Link on his quest, Roam’s efforts in finding the Silver Arrow directly aid in Ganon’s defeat. Epheremelda is a fairy who Link manages to save from a band of monsters once he arrives in the Dark World. Grateful for his rescue (and crushing on him hard), the young fairy agrees to accompany Link and help him on his quest. What is particularly interesting about Epheremelda is that no such fairy guide existed in A Link to the Past, but the idea of a helper sprite would become a recurring piece of the Zelda universe thanks to Navi in Ocarina of Time. It seems that Ishinomori was a bit of a forward thinker for the Legend of Zelda games.
The artwork is extremely impressive in the Link to the Past comics. Most of the character models would be right at home in Ishinomori’s other works, with expressive anime-style features and minimal line work. Certain designs are even taken directly from previous Ishinomori models, such as Roam who was based on the character Jet Link from Cyborg 009. The backgrounds range from dynamic splash images for action scenes to highly detailed environments that set the mood for every scene. The color work is extremely striking throughout the entire series. Ishinomori uses a sort of watercolor-style technique, where shading and elemental effects are accomplished through gradual color changes instead of bold lines. The result is a mood of epic fantasy that suits the comic quite nicely.
Once the series had completed its run in Nintendo Power, all of the comics were collected and published as a graphic novel in 1993. Now a highly prized collector’s item, this standalone version was once being sold in a bundle at the back of Super Power Supplies catalogs for the unbelievably low price of $25. I have no idea why I never coerced my parents into getting that bundle for me as an obligatory Christmas gift. Knowing me, I was probably too busy playing Donkey Kong Country at the time, and just assumed that since I had the issues of Nintendo Power with the comics, that was good enough. As an adult whose video game magazines are all in storage at my parents’ house, I would love to have such an outstanding video game comic at my disposal. Oh well, I will just take solace in fantastic sites like Old Game Magazines and spend hours pouring over my computer screen at the printed pages of the past.
Every single one of us does it: We remember the specific moments in video games that accompanied us through childhood and tough times. As true gamers we recognize the importance of characters and the impact they placed on our thoughts and beliefs. We recognize the beauty that most people discard as child’s play. We see the art and the emotion and we revel in it. And when everything is quiet and contemplative, we remember everything– from the characters to the storylines. The loves and the despair. The places and the adventures. Here’s a look at some of the music that brings back memories, all from video games I know all of you have similar feelings for. Make sure you share your own experiences and memories in the comments below!
Final Fantasy VIII – Balamb Garden
The PlayStation was my official first console, meaning it stayed in my bedroom and my father (who was the one who initially introduced me to gaming) never touched it. It was mine. I was around nine years old when I rented Final Fantasy VIII. I had no idea why I even rented it. At that time gaming was just a fun hobby to do on rainy days. It was something that entertained my wild imagination when I couldn’t be outside acting out the stories in my head. Final Fantasy VIII ended up becoming one of my favorite games of all time.
The very first memory I have, the one that remains the clearest, is Balamb Garden. I didn’t understand the logic of Final Fantasy. I remember wondering why the students were called SeeD. I remember not enjoying the turn-based combat. I remember trying my hardest to pronounce Quetzalcoatl. Its name ended up transforming into Lightning because I knew how to pronounce that. I also remember giggling with my best friend over Ifrit’s Hell Fire… because hell was a bad word.
But Balamb Garden… I always wanted to explore more of it. That was one thing I remember wishing when I was younger. I wanted to explore my school even more. I wanted the elevator to move to more floors. I wanted to actually buy a hot dog in the cafeteria. My mind never understood the boundaries of video games at that time so I kept trying, thinking that there was some door I was missing or some NPC I could talk to that would introduce something more. And in the background, Balamb Garden’s music played until it was engraved in my brain.
Final Fantasy X – To Zanarkand
Final Fantasy X was my second Final Fantasy game. I was in middle school, suffering through the normal pre-teen angst and puberty fun. I hated my school and I hated people in general. Video games came to the rescue once again, and I remember renting this game repeatedly until I finally convinced my mom to buy it for me. I wanted to play way too much blitz ball and I remember swooning over the love story. Titus annoyed me a bit, but it was bearable. But it was this song that really made this game just work for me. Before then, no video game music had ever made me cry.
At that time, that was a big freakin’ deal.
Metal Gear Solid – Calling to the Night
MGS used to give me nightmares as a kid… not sure why considering I would watch friends play Resident Evil and never blink an eye. But there was something about MGS that just got to me and that time, I didn’t know what it was. Metal Gear Solid 4 was the first MGS game that I played through by myself. Granted I was older and understood what was happening, and I know I have to get the other titles to play (Don’t hurt me… I’ll do it eventually). When I heard this song… everything became epic. It became as epic as that one particular moment when I brushed my teeth with E.S. Posthumus playing in the background (look ‘em up). I sang this song. And by sang I mean I belted it repeatedly with the windows open.
My neighbors probably thought there was a dying cat or some strange mating call being performed… but it was epic for me.
TMNT 4: Turtles in Time – Sewer Surfin’
I’m sad to say that I don’t remember much about this game. I remember being able to play co-op and I remember always wanting to be Donatello. Don’s my main man, ya dig? But this song always reminds me of this game. As well as “Big Apple, 3 am.” Now I need some pizza. Cowabunga.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Chemical Plant Zone
I hated Sonic when I was younger just for the fact that I sucked at it. I was absolutely horrible and I’m still horrible at Sonic. But never before had water ever been so damn terrifying. Water had so effortlessly become one of the most terrifying villains around! Used to, this song introduced a level of pain and frustration. Now it offers some awesome daydreaming and reminiscing. Watch out for that rising water!
Donkey Kong Country – Mine Cart Madness
I play DKC for hours at a time and when it was all over and beaten… I’d play it again. I don’t know what was so captivating about this game, but it managed to entertain me way more than it probably should have. One of my favorite parts was always the mine cart level. I was always bad about timing my jumps when those pesky gaps would appear. That’s probably the same reason why I was so bad at Mario…
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Gerudo Valley
Truthfully every song in the OoT soundtrack could fit in this post. I grew up on Zelda. OoT and Majora’s Mask were highly influential parts of my childhood. I didn’t play it as much as watched my dad play at the time… but I do remember fishing with my best friend. I’d even pretend to be sick so I could stay home and watch Dad play. Or try to catch that huge fish without the “illegal” fishing lure.
And while most of the music really gets to me, there was always something about Gerudo Valley that I loved. This brings me back to the awe I felt inside Balamb Garden. I wanted to explore. I wanted to know more about this place. I always wanted to know why the women there were so freaky. I wanted to know way too many things. Shut up, brain.
Mass Effect 3 – I was Lost Without You
I was going through a tough time when I started playing Mass Effect 3. I was stuck at a job I despised despite the fact that I was making awesome money. Mass Effect was my release. ME2 was the first game of the series that I played (the 1st hadn’t been released on the PS3 yet), and the Lair of the Shadow Broker was my actual first introduction of Liara. So when she played a heavier role in ME3, I was addicted. Hearing this song reminds me of her as well as the weight of the responsibility that Shepard carried on her shoulders. And in a way, it seemed to mirror my own problems.
Besides FFX’s To Zanarkand, this was the only song from a video game that made me cry. And like I said… that’s a big deal, yo.