And now for the second post about The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that doesn’t actually talk about the game at all.
Want to know why you’re reading this blog right now? It’s because of this book right here:
It seems like a popular interview question for any artist is “What are your influences?” It’s practically mandatory for musicians, but writers, directors, and even actors are often asked this rote question. Personally, I rarely give a damn, because the answers are inevitably “whatever was popular before I was famous, plus one weird one.” Oh, yes, I’m influenced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Postal Service. That question is about as relevant as “what’s your favorite color” because it’s difficult for any of us, famous artist or not, to truly recognize our influences. Elvis might get heavy rotation on the local stations, but it’s entirely possible your love of music came entirely from your weird aunt that always hummed show tunes during after-church lunch. Influences are, almost by definition, subconscious, so what hope does anyone have of accurately identifying such a creature?
In that vein, I hadn’t even really thought about The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past comic book in a few years. Well, alright, I did think about it when Dark Horse recently rereleased the book for a whole new generation, but before that, the last time I really, really thought about the thing was around 2001 or so when the (previous) collected edition finally left my bed stand. I had had it close at hand for a number of years, because, when I was a wee (teenage) Goggle Bob, I had like six books to my name, and most of them weren’t really “pick up and read randomly” material. The ALTTP comic originally ran in Nintendo Power, so its chapters were, what, fifteen pages long, max? And each chapter told a fairly complete story (that was part of a greater whole), so it was ideal for a quick “a few pages before bed”. Couple this with the fact that I reread Nintendo Power issues religiously during the year when the comic was first running, and I want to say that I’ve read some segments of this comic upwards of twelve billion times. I’m moderately certain I can quote the entirety of the “moldspider” chapter from memory.
But, as I said, I hadn’t really considered that book for years. It was a part of my childhood/teen years, but I only sporadically revisited it as an adult. I can still remember all the new characters, and I can still picture the amazing art, but this was just another Voltron, some artifact from my early days before I put aside childish things (note: I have never actually done that).
And then I decided to pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the FGC. Well, technically the robot decided that for me, but I’ve long lost the ability to turn down a ‘bot. No matter, what’s important is that, like many times before, I played through LOZ:ALTTP, but this time with the pending FGC article on my mind during the playthrough. (Full disclosure: that 207.1 Easter Post came to me only at the last minute, and basically mutated and grew out of a bullet point originally intended for this article. Cowardly Agahnim is just that powerful.) As I tossed and turned in trying to find a new way to approach A Link to the Past (because what’s the point in yet another gaming blogger extolling the virtues of a SNES game?) I kept coming back to the A Link to the Past comic. Seriously. Couldn’t stop thinking about the damn thing.
This article could easily be a list of all the things that comic “got right” for future Zelda games (Zora’s mask instead of flippers? A faerie companion? Link turning into a wolf? Ganondorf is vaguely Middle Eastern trappings?). This article could easily be another “fanfic” piece about living in LTTP Hyrule or its Dark World… but then it would probably be more influenced by the comic than the game (you see a lot more cyclops character development in that comic). And, hell, this article could even be about a pointed conversation I had with an ex-lover about the comic’s melancholy finale versus the nonstop happy ending of the game proper… a conversation that occurred about two days before we stopped talking to each other forever. The more I thought about it, the more I simply couldn’t get it out of my head: A Link to the Past is a great game, but that silly tie-in comic is what I remember most vividly.
And it occurred to me that that “silly comic” probably influenced my relationship with videogames more than any actual game.
I’ve discussed it before, but the “early days” of gaming was a barren wasteland for actually thinking about videogames. There is little doubt in my mind that this dessert of thoughtfulness led to the gaming journalism revolution of the early 21st Century, but back then, you were lucky if a game even had the potential to “make you think”. Pong didn’t exactly expand your consciousness, and 90% of gaming was considered exclusively “for kids”. Tie-in merchandise thus, naturally, was all cereals and Saturday morning cartoon fare, and nobody ever sat down and considered the sociological implications of King Vitamin. In short (ha!), gaming was a childish hobby for childish people, and would never reach the heights of true artistic mediums.
Then there was this comic book, written and drawn by a real comic book writer/artist. It wasn’t just a loose adaption, it didn’t randomly paint Link as some warrior in a future dystopia where Super Scopes devolve mushrooms, it was a A Link to the Past comic about A Link to the Past. Yes, there were concessions made to fit the format and pacing, but what it did to fill in the characters of brave Link, wise Zelda, and scheming Ganon influenced the franchise for generations to come. This was still a comic book, a medium is also (and still) associated with children, but it was somehow more… comprehensive than anything experienced while holding a controller.
It was a work about a videogame that made its audience think more about the videogame.
It’s basically everything I ever try to do with this blog.
So, if you get a chance, go ahead and read the A Link to the Past “manga”. If you managed to make it this far in an article about a comic about a videogame, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.
FGC #207.2 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- System: You know how the Gameboy Advance version had that multiplayer dungeon that I am completely incapable of accessing? I’m still upset about that.
- Number of players: Roam is not a valid second player.
- Hey, what about the Super Mario World Comic? That one was a lot more… normal. It was what one would expect of Mario from all his cartoon adventures, whereas Link was a far cry from the incarnation that fought Ganon riding a unicorn. Though SMBWC does get credit for being the first place I saw a yoshi that could only say “Yoshi”. He’s the original Pokémon!
- Favorite Boss: Helmasaur King is the rare Zelda boss monster that requires items, but you have your choice of offensive options. Do you wait for him to wander over a bomb, or hammer away? Everybody loves choices.
- So, did you beat it? Perfect play, every time.
- Favorite Use of the A Button for the entire Super Nintendo: Pegasus Boots. No contest.
- Did you know? Roam of the Nintendo Power comic transforms into an eagle-knight. This makes the guy look a lot like the bird-knights of the last area of The Adventure of Link. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a confirmation if that was deliberate, though…
- Would I play again: God damn I love this game. Wait, I should have mentioned that in one of these articles…
What’s next? Screw it, let’s go with a whole week of A Link to the Past. Is there any way we can swing that, ROB? Oh, there’s another game that’s the direct sequel to A Link to the Past? Rad. Let’s move on to a “new” game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds next. Please look forward to it!