Imagination and reading between the pixels.

With talk of Majora’s Mask getting an overhaul as it heads to Nintendo 3DS in February, I started thinking about Ocarina of Time and its debut on the handheld.

Ocarina of Time 3D was a beautiful remaster of a classic, but there was always something special about its original incarnation. I’d venture to say kids today don’t quite understand the imagination conjured by our games back in the ’90s and before, but with the ridiculous popularity of Minecraft and its exceptionally rudimentary aesthetics, maybe they do. Maybe kids today do understand where I’m coming from.

When I was five, I got my first Game Boy, which came bundled with Link’s Awakening. It was my first experience with a Zelda game, and it thoroughly confounded me.

It was the first game that really required me to think, because it wasn’t a linear game set in two dimensions, based on jumping around and going from left to right.
I actually had to traverse an entire world and keep track of my location on a map. I had to read and comprehend what the NPCs were telling me – which, as a kindergartener, was something I’d only just learned to do – in order to know what to do, where to go, and have any idea what was happening. I had to solve puzzles and do battle with monsters who could only be defeated in very specific ways that were often not at all straightforward.

It wasn’t until years later that I actually, finally beat Link’s Awakening, but throughout elementary school, even without being able to progress past certain points, I still loved exploring Koholint Island and listening to the music.

I didn’t know about any other Zelda games until about the third grade, when someone mentioned A Link to the Past for SNES, a console I didn’t own. However, in fifth grade, I caught wind of a new Zelda game. It was for Nintendo 64 – a system I did own – which meant it was in a real 3D environment. From that moment, my imagination went wild. All I could think about was how amazing the game world must be a in fully-realized, three-dimensional setting.

I begged my mom take me to Toys “R” Us to get it, and she finally did. I remember taking the slip from the clear plastic sleeve that was attached to the glass on the front of the display case, walking up to the counter where a clerk would take your slip, handing the slip over, seeing the clerk disappear through a doorway, and then finally reappearing with that glorious, gold, Nintendo 64 game box with “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” emblazoned on the front.

When I finally got home and crammed that cartridge into the top slot of my Nintendo 64, I was enamored for life.

I watched the opening scene play out on the start menu, as Adult Link rode Epona all around Hyrule Field. As a ten-year-old, it was, and still is, the most beautiful sight my young self had ever beheld.

So you can understand just how much this image speaks to me.

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