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In Praise of Something Old

22/01/2010 Family Family Gamer Article
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In Praise of Something Old

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The Zelda games have been building an original world since 1989. Architecture, music and place thread through each Legend of Zelda Adventure and re-connect players at every visit. It's this mythic side to the series that makes it eminently replayable, as every new chapter encourages us back to the beginning to see how it all began.

It's been said that parenting is about introducing your kids to those things still sentimental from your childhood. If this is true, and for me it certainly is, then perhaps Zelda is the perfect game for parents. It is the master of pulling the heart strings when you unexpectedly end up back in a familiar location from both earlier in the game or even the series.

I was struck by this during my first play-through of Zelda Spirit Tracks on the Nintendo DS. Playing the game early is still a novelty of the job and I was charging through to see what new adventure and equipment Link had at his disposal this time. I was also excited to see firsthand the double screen boss battles and new modes of transport stretching the hardware to its limit.

But what excited me most about the game, was a chance to revisit familiar places and catch up with old friends. Over the years I've played most of the Zelda games so that Hyrule and its surrounding realities are almost like a second home - albeit a pixelated green suited one.

Finials, chests, cornicing, turrets and ramparts all form a sense of history and to some extents have a genuine mythology of their own.

As I played I let my mind wander back through its various incarnations and was impressed by how consistent a world it was, even going back to the Zelda Game and Watch edition. It's an architecture I've grown up with and watch slowly but surely develop. Finials, chests, cornicing, turrets and ramparts all form a sense of history and to some extents have a genuine mythology of their own. Even the flora and fauna are familiar, walking around the countryside in Hyrule feels like my home town, the sorts of planting, and shrubs that grow are all part of the fabric of the place.

Along with this goes Zelda's music and sounds of the place. Of course there is the obvious triumphal trumpet blast when you open a chest, or vanquish a foe but there are also the less obvious themes and musical motif's. Zelda's music is as much a part of the place as the architecture. All I have to do is hear the main refrain and I am dewy eyed and reaching for another go.

The magic here is that all this serves to remind us of what has gone before.

In a gaming world that is so often driven by the new, I'm learning to appreciate some of the old things. Spirit Tracks has plenty of new things to get excited about, and plenty of game play to enjoy and criticise. But the magic here is that all this serves to remind us of what has gone before.

As well as enjoying Spirit Tracks, why not also go back and sample the portable delights of Link's Awakening, Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Link to the Past, Minish cap and Phantom Hourglass. Or even crack out your old NES, SNES or N64 and enjoy The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time and Majora's mask.

You'll not only come back happier, but with a sparkle in your eye and a little part of yourself left back in Hyrule.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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