Legend of Zelda Replay Project Intro

So about one year back I saw a few news stories cropping up that the 20th anniversary of Ocarina of Time was coming- November 23rd, 2018 to be exact. Like countless others, OoT is one of my favorites in the Legend of Zelda series, but beyond that it’s special to me because it got me back into video games. Up until that point I had been riding with a (Model 2) Sega Genesis c. 1994, mostly for Sonic the Hedgehog, but in the waning years of the 1990s releases for the Genesis has started to wind down, so I wasn’t playing video games as much.

Christmas, 1998 was about to change all that. I must have been extra good that year, because my gift was a 13″ CRT television and a Nintendo 64. As per my mother, she went into (what I think was probably) an E.B. Games at Ward Parkway and asked what games were good. Allegedly, the store clerk assured here that there was one game above all the others that would be a winner, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I think about that fateful interaction sometimes- the clerk could have tried to talk her into another console or suggested the tried-and-true Super Mario 64 for less money, but he didn’t. As it turns out, the 64 and OoT were a big hit with me, and I was hooked on Zelda from that moment on.

Quickly, I developed a taste for more adventures with Link, and the following summer, after some saving, I took the plunge on my own Grape GameBoy Color and a copy of Link’s Awakening DX. At this point I was firmly entrenched as a Zelda super-fan, and I leveraged my limited resources to fill in the back-catalog in the following years. A ‘vintage’ NES and copies of the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II were my household’s first eBay purchases. While the former proved to be a formidable challenge, I was eventually able to complete it with a lot of time on GameFAQs; for the latter, I finally lost steam and interest in The Adventure of Link due to AoL’s RPG elements and difficult combat mechanics (for me, a child who was bad at games).

Nonetheless, afterward then I kept more or less current with the series, including Majora’s Mask and the Oracle titles just a few years later, up through The Wind Waker, culminating in the release of Twilight Princess (for me, on the GameCube; left-handed Link all the way!). Already though in high school I had dropped off of the mobile titles, missing The Minish Cap for GBA and both Nintendo DS entries since I didn’t own those consoles contemporaneously with their release. I even missed a ‘main’ home console one in Skyward Sword because I’d never gotten around to buying a Wii.

By the summer of 2012 it had been quite a while, maybe five years or more, since I had thought of anything Zelda, accounting for most of college and the start of graduate school. With a little turn of good luck though, I won a teaching award which carried with it a small one-time boost to my modest stipend I was receiving from the department. Instead of doing something sensible with the money, feeling I needed (deserved!) a little reprieve from grad school, I promptly spent it all on a (black version!) Wii and an unopened copy of the limited edition of Skyward Sword which came with the 25th Anniversary Concert CD. I never was a big convert to the Wii motion controls (happy though I was that Nintendo had so much success with the console), but damned if I didn’t love nearly every minute of SS. Finally having returned to Hyrule after so many years, with the concert CD playing on repeat while working through problem sets and a copy of Hyrule Historia on my bedside table, it felt good to be immersed in Zelda again.

The following years were not quite a full-throttle return, though. Most of the new games were HD re-release versions of games I’d already played, and I mistook A Link Between Worlds for a LttP remaster, so it wasn’t until 2017’s much-trumpeted Breath of the Wild (not to mention: a cross-country move, getting married, graduating, and another move) that I found myself thinking about small keys and heart containers again. Once more, as with OoT, I think I sided with the majority opinion that BotW was/is a seminal work- a masterpiece that I sunk 120+ hours of my life into through the summer of 2017 that seemed to represent the culmination of all the Legends Zelda which had preceded it. The 30th Anniversary Concert CD, along with the Music Collection, proved to be too tempting not to spin constantly in the car on my commute, and with the release of the Dark Horse’s Art & Artifacts, I could feel myself once again becoming pulled deeper into the lore of the series.

Which brings us mostly full-circle to late last year, nearing the 20th Anniversary of OoT. Since the birth of my daughter earlier that year, there wasn’t a lot of spare time for much else, but as she got a bit older and (see: learned to sleep), my wife and I were beginning to find the occasional parcel of time for diversions again. From this confluence of events was born the idea of a full-series Replay. What I really wanted was to go right back to BotW, but I didn’t want to dilute that excellent experience by simply playing it again only 12 months or so removed. I’d rather take my time getting back to it- long enough to forget a lot of the little surprises so they could be enjoyed again. What better diversion to put that off for some (indeterminately long) period of time then to revisit some of the prior games?

Through my accumulated hardware and recent virtual console releases, I could get access to the entire series relatively cheaply. Instead of the slow progression from the ‘classic’ games through to the latest ones, I’ve also decided to play them in something resembling ‘timeline order’ as is delineated in 2018’s Encyclopedia from Dark Horse. The list shakes down as follows:

Unified Timeline

  • Skyward Sword
  • Minish Cap
  • Ocarina of Time

Fallen Timeline

  • A Link to the Past
  • Link’s Awakening
  • Oracle of Seasons/Ages
  • A Link Between Worlds
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • The Adventure of Link

Adult Timeline

  • The Wind Waker
  • Phantom Hourglass
  • Spirit Tracks

Child Timeline

  • Majora’s Mask
  • Twilight Princess

Unified Timeline (Again?)

  • Breath of the Wild

As a matter of preference, I’m excluding some of the (no offense!) contrived multiplayer titles (ie: Four Swords, FS Adventures, Triforce Heroes) since I don’t have folks to play them with and also I need to cut some corners if I’m ever going to finish this. The biggest challenge for me will be the Fallen timeline. As mentioned earlier, I never beat AoL, and (horrors!) I also fell short somewhere in the 8th dungeon of aLttP, so it will feel good to finally check those off the list. This order also nicely interleaves games I’ve not played (MC, ALBW, AoL, PH, ST) with all the others that I have.

I also liked arranging the split timelines in order of how undesirable of an outcome resulted from the events of OoT. Fallen timeline? Kinda depressing to wallow in that failure for *counts* seven total games, don’t you think? Adult timeline? Sure we beat Ganon, but the intervening seven years were probably pretty rough, and then Hyrule gets flooded?! Child timeline is where it’s at- like it never happened! Plus that means we finish on the excellent weirdness of MM and the gritty realism of TP, two personal favorites. Having them near the end should provide some motivation if it becomes a grind in the middle. I’ve read somewhere that, supposedly, all of the timelines re-converge at BotW, so I’m choosing to roll with that since I wanted to play it last anyways.

So there you have it! The Replay Schedule, as it were. Recall though that this was all supposed to start a year ago! And it did. I got hung up somewhere in SS’s Lanayru Desert (the first time) about a month in, and promptly dropped the ball until this past June. I picked it back up though and soldiered on; at the moment I’ve just made it through The Minish Cap, so the progress is coming, if slowly!

Now that the project and main idea is outlined here, I’ll move to working on the little write-ups of the games. These won’t be any in-depth analysis or critical studies, just a short collection of some of my own thoughts for the sake of having them somewhere to commemorate this process. I’m looking forward to keeping at it- it will be great to revisit some of my favorites and spend some time with games that are new or still-uncompleted to me. With a little luck, maybe it’s finished up by the release of the BotW follow-up c. 2021? Not sure which half of that is the more optimistic expectation, but I suppose we’ll see soon enough…

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