This week the Arts section introduces a new column: “Press A.” Here find Ana Diaz’s take on her video game of choice. This week Diaz talks The Legend of Zelda.
I returned home this spring break to discover my favorite coffee shop changed ownership. None of the large stained couches nor the excessive amount of Christmas lights remained. While this represents a mild example of change, it certainly is an example of the slight variations students can find when coming back after a long time. In this coffee shop I would often chat with the barista about whatever game I happened to be playing at the time. It was my go-to place to play one of my favorite series during deadbeat summer days: The Legend of Zelda.
This break I picked up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (LBW). For those not familiar with video games or The Legend of Zelda series, it is an action-adventure game where you control a small boy clothed in green. The character runs around in an expansive world, meeting strange characters, collecting items and exploring dungeons. The driving mechanics of the game are fluid but simple. A bird’s eye view of your character makes it easy to navigate around on a two dimensional plane and fight by smashing “B” to swing a comically stubby sword.
LBW is the sequel to the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (LTP). Nintendo ported LTP from the 1991 Nintendo Entertainment System to the Gameboy Advance in 2002. As a direct port of the game, there are no differences between the 1991 version and the 2001 version I played as an eight year old.
Any gamer will attest to the extreme amount of nostalgia that lines any beloved game. However, the connection between LTP and LBW is special. The games not only use the same mechanics, but the game makers decided to keep the map the same between LTP and LBW. Thus as a gamer, you are transported to an old world in a new context. New puzzles, people and dungeons keep the game fresh. There is no doubt that LBW stands as its own game in the series with killer reviews and innovative puzzles. However, much of the value comes from connections to the game I played as a six year old on my Gameboy Advance.
The connection between LTP and the later LBW brings another layer of enjoyment to the game that has nothing to do with actual game quality. A key element of enjoyment I found in this game came from time exploring old digital stomping grounds. There is a pleasure and a sadness to returning to any place after an absence. In the game, it upset me when I went to town and a character told me the eccentric flutist that gave me an item as a eight-year-old no longer lives in the town. On the flip side, finding the same secret pathway hidden under a rock I discovered as a seven year old inspires pure giddiness. The game connects the player to their old gaming experience. As a person who has moved nine times throughout her life, I found this model endearing.
Some would argue capitalizing on nostalgia in this way is a cheap way to appeal to an old audience. This is dynamic is a cop-out of video games creators. It is cheap and easy. Game makers just take a previously created world or game and update the graphics. However, I would like to challenge this argument.
We often think of art as something that should challenge not only the viewer, but society at large. While it is important that art challenges, I would also make the case for art that comforts: art that takes us home after being away for ten years. I think this is especially salient in the case of video games. Video games provide a unique platform that allows us to connect to previous memories. Short of including smells, video games provide an immersive sensory experience through music and graphics. Due to this, I think it is not only completely appropriate, but also desirable, that video games utilize previous experiences of their audiences. That being said, there is a balance between pushing forward with new content and catering to nostalgia.
The Pokemon series possesses a gross reputation for bringing back old versions of their games. Pokemon has almost re-released every single original game created. In fact, every game released before their 2006 game “Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl” has two versions, the originals and the new, with updated graphics. Pokemon uses these reboots to pull old gamers back to the franchise. As an avid Pokemon fan, I can vouch for the value of reboots, but there needs to be a balance.
This is where LBW succeeds as a sequel. It has the same world to explore, but altered for new adventures. Unlike the perfectly replicated Pokemon worlds, it feels like the kingdom of Hyrule in LBW has changed and stayed the same in a similar manner as my previous homes.