Where fantasy begins
Nintendo Power, 4th issue, Jan/Feb of 89.
I've had a lot of time to think, lately. Don't assume this means I sit around doing nothing; instead, realize that this usually means I am doing something which doesn't occupy my brain enough.
For lovers of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, whatever, there is usually some initial spark that ignites your imagination, leading you deeper down the rabbit hole. As a child, I grew up on He-man and Thundercats. Sure, I thought GI-Joe was neat, but those toys didn't compare to the Sword of Omens, or the Thundertank. I like to think that this was my first exposure to fantasy worlds that ignited a passion in me. I even dressed as Lion-O for halloween when I was six (or seven-my youth is kind of a blur).
However, it occurred to me today that there is a more profound moment in my life that led me to my current love of fantastical adventure. I played games as a child, spending hours on (and hours grounded from) the NES. Sure, I knew that each game had its goal, some form of victory that told me I had accomplished the task at hand. However, I believe that the cover of Nintendo Power's fourth issue was my fantasy breaking point.
Looking at the cover, you can see Link staring at the Princess Zelda, asleep in her bed. Now, I had seen Sleeping Beauty, so I immediately assumed he was there to kiss her and break the spell. However, the glowing sword in hand gave me pause. Why would he have it out? Was he there to kill her? Excited by the possibilities, I opened the issue and read about the upcoming game, Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link.
Now, let me describe this scenario to you. I read all about how the evil wizard Ganon had put Zelda under a spell, and was threatening the safety of Hyrule. It was up to Link to defeat him and bring peace to the land. I had played the original Legend of Zelda, not even considering that those little pixelated people had some sort of a story. No longer was I simply slaying monsters, I was slaying them for a reason.
I spent hours considering this cover. Of course, I had to wait to get the game, knowing that if I couldn't beat it, Zelda would remain asleep forever, her hero having failed her. I begged for it, and eventually got it some time later. When I died in the game, I would stare at this picture, hoping that Zelda would know I would try again tomorrow. For Halloween, I wanted to be Link. I remember begging my mother to make the costume for me, balking when she made me wear tights instead of actual chain-mail leggings (which I assumed were readily available for purchase almost anywhere). The kids at school teased me about wearing tights on Halloween; nobody even knew who Link was (I was in second grade). I had a sword, I had a shield, and I wore the green tunic. I remember how powerful I felt. I was a hero. I wore that tunic constantly until I outgrew it, playing games of fantasy with my younger brother where we always saved the princess in the end.
Now, these years later, I can still remember that feeling of excitement, booting up the game and watching Link stroll away from Zelda, asleep on her dais. It is the same excitement I felt when the Ohmsfords left Shady Vale in the Sword of Shannara (fun fact: after reading the Druid of Shannara, I dressed as Par Ohmsford, complete with the Sword and Elfstones of Shannara). It is that same excitement I try and capture every time I write, that sense of wonder for what is going to come next. I hope that someday, the stories of Kimberly will inspire somebody the same way this gaming cover inspired me.
As for Zelda? I never did beat the game; upon reaching the final boss (and never beating him for months), my younger brother dropped the cartridge and it never loaded. You better believe that Ganon took a pounding in A Link to the Past for the SNES, I was hungry for justice.
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