Link’s Number is Up

It used to be a treasured summer tradition of mine to play The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past while listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s “The Library Policeman” (read by Ken Howard). The book was on six cassettes that ran about 90 minutes each. If I timed it right, I could finish the book and the game in the same day. Usually, though, the book would finish much sooner and I’d be up half the night finishing Zelda.

When you finish this game, it tells you in the credits how many times you died, and in which dungeons. After that, your character in the file select is branded with his total number of deaths. To up the stakes one summer, I decided to finish the game in a single life to get a “000” next to my name. Nintendo Power magazine later called this the “Triple Zero Club,” and I consider myself a charter member. If you pay attention to your life meter and carry lots of potions, it’s really not that hard. You may think you can carry fairies around in a bottle and that they’ll automatically revive you if you die, but I found out the hard way that even a revived death counts as a death and invalidates your 000.

Knowing the conditions for victory much better than the map of the game itself after all these years, I set out to renew my membership on a dark and stormy night. At least in Hyrule. It should be noted that I was playing the Virtual Console download of the game on the Wii, which has one advantage over the original Super NES cart which is that by hitting the Home button on the controller, you can return to the home menu and whenever you open the game again, it will be paused right where you left off. This is not a save state feature, which would be extremely bad form to use on a 000 quest, but rather a protracted pause that allows one to turn off the console between sessions. The only way to get the 000 on an SNES is to play in a single power-on session, wasting valuable electricity as if you give a damn. Watch out for those summer squalls, though.

I beat all the light world dungeons with such speed and ease that my family, who were visiting from the States probably thought I still play this game every year. Then I remembered my family was in town and put the game on pause for a few days. When they returned home, I picked up the quest again, blazing through the dark world dungeons with similar pussy moistening grace. We had a couple of hairy situations where it looked like it might be prudent to turn around in front of a certain boss’s door to go get some more potions, but instead, I risked battle and came out victorious, bolstering my resolve to see this game through. I’ve noticed that with VC games, it is all too easy to stop playing them halfway through, but this one was going to happen, god damn it.

The afternoon turned to night, and out came the alcohol. I won’t say that I drunkenly drove Link off a cliff, because if I had, I would have played a guitar solo afterwards. Instead, I found myself taking crazy amounts of damage from wall mounted lasers, masked piglets, and half-heart penalties from falling off this hellish bridge in Turtle Rock – the second dungeon from the end. And the moment I realized, “Shit, I might very fucking well die if I don’t..,” the screen was flashing red and black. Damn my brain. God damn my brain – had it only cut the excessive profanity from its thought process, I’d have finished the thought before I shat all over my sword and shield. “FUCK!” I shouted to my family’s horror. “Fuck!” mimicked my three-year-old boy. For the next three hours I pouted and deliberated on what there was left to do, and decided to buy some more booze and a GariGariKun popsicle.

It was decided that I would take up the quest again – at midnight, this time armed with a secret weapon. A gift from the sages at Club Nintendo who saw it fit to reward my dedicated service to their products one year with a rare, enchanted gaming artifact. I hadn’t even opened the box that arrived in my mailbox, or considered it seriously before. I don’t know if I was keeping it preserved for posterity or to accrue in value, but both seemed pointless compared to my quest to attain the Triforce, deathlessly, this very night. A strange unboxing of the classic Super Famicom controller for the Wii can be found here:

Unfortunately, I also decided that this would be the night to try out a recipe I had been hearing about that involves dipping a certain popsicle into a certain Japanese whiskey, which pretty much made it certain that I was just going to fuck up whatever I tried to do that night, and I did. First I thought, “Hey 001 ain’t so bad. I’ll get that and then just do 000 next weekend.” And though I was able to beat Turtle Rock, I stormed straight into Ganon’s Tower afterward and blew the family’s pet rabbit somewhere in the basement, stabbed by some god damn fucker. I was so pissed that I erased the whole file and started over from the beginning, undaunted, and loving and caressing the new controller, determined not to blame it for my irresponsible amateurish swashbuckling. I actually started over, now around 2 in the morning, mere blinks away from passing out. And things were going well this time, too – I somehow beat all the light world dungeons again in record time, but then blew a whole litter of rabbits in the first dark world dungeon, and knew that I had failed hard.

Defeated, I finished out my big night by putting on my VHS copy of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and wept softly at its beauty as I fell into the agitated slumber of failed would-be z(h)eroes.

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